Commenting directly on developments in Afghanistan is impossible for me because I have never set foot there and don’t know enough about the dynamics at play to write anything about it. But of course, following the take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban it sent chills running down my spine. Just like the defeat of ISIS – at least, robbing the group of its territory in Iraq and Syria in early 2019 – was a blow to islamic-extremist violent groups everywhere, the rapid advance of the Taliban is empowering their kind all over the world again.
In other words: the Taliban’s renewed power is bad news not only for Afghanistan, but for all the lands where extremist groups with similar ideologies haven’t been dealt with. ISIS isn’t dead, which for sure worries the Yezidis in Iraq and Syria – and not only them but everybody who has suffered under their rule.
The problem of Turkey and its jihadist mercenaries in Syria isn’t addressed in any serious matter at all, which worries everybody in North and East Syria who appreciates their freedoms. The Taliban sees Erdogan as an ally, which worries everybody in Turkey and Kurdistan who fights for democracy. The PMF (also known as Hashd Al-Shabi), officially under the command of the Iraqi army but controlled by Iran, is solidifying its foothold in Iraq, eagerly awaiting full US withdrawal.
I am specifically mentioning the Yezidis because this weekend, on Sunday 15 August, I attended a gathering in Amsterdam to commemorate and to reflect on the ongoing Yezidi genocide. On 15 August in 2014, ISIS attacked the Yezidi town of Kocho, killed almost all the men and adolescent boys and abducted the women and children. Many of the mass graves have yet to be opened, many of the women and children didn’t return.
The organisers of the event also included the bombings of 14 August 2007 in their program. So, last Saturday fourteen years ago. On that day, four bombs went off simultaneously in the Shengal region, killing almost 800 people and wounding more than a thousand. And still, the genocide continues: in Afrin, under occupation of Turkey and its jihadist mercenaries, Yezidis have been displaced, abducted and murdered, their shrines desecrated. Genocide comes in many forms, but the outcome is that a group of people is annihilated, their legacy and their heritage destroyed and erased.
For me, it is impossible not to link these horrific events in Shengal and in Afghanistan to another change history made on 15 August, but longer ago, in 1984. On that day, the PKK carried out its first attacks against the Turkish state in Semdinli and Eruh. It was commemorated and yes, celebrated by many in the Kurdish movement as a day on which finally, some people decided to take up arms against their decades long supression, against the will of the state to annihilate their people.
In many of my writings, I have put the start of the PKK’s armed struggle against colonisation in the context of those days, in which the leftist movement in Turkey – from which the PKK originated halfway the 1970s – debated about the question of whether ‘The East’ (don’t say the K-word!) was colonised or not. The general consensus was that Turkey itself was colonised (by American imperialism) and that a colonised country couldn’t be a coloniser itself. In other words: the liberation of ‘The East’ of Turkey could only be reached through the liberation of Turkey. The group around Öcalan begged to differ: Kurdistan was indeed colonised, and needed to become independent.
This sounds like a very old-fashioned debate. And indeed, the PKK has advanced since then, and changed the paradigm in the 1990s: no longer do they strive for an independent Kurdish state, but for a post-nationalist solution. No longer do they strive for a society in which one group defines the rules of the land, but for a system in which is done justice to the very diverse ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic reality. The PKK’s struggle and that of the wider Kurdish political movement has taken so long and has deepened so significantly, that it is now perfectly in tune again with the era we live in. What they propose isn’t 20th century at all. It’s a recipe for a less violent 21st century.
It’s these forces that can undermine not only the resurgence of violent islamic extremism, but also the totally bankrupt Western imperialist, capitalist, nationalist, patriarchal hegemonic structures that claim to fight extremism but are themselves rooted in 19th century fallacies.
Did I mention that the PKK has even progressed so far that they no longer consider Kurds the most suppressed group in society, but women? And that they believe the liberation of all groups in society goes via the liberation of women? Keep that in mind while watching the news.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.