In recent days, the Kurds and their friends have been preparing to celebrate their revivial festival of 15th August, the anniversary of the firing of the first bullet against colonial rule by a group of guerillas led by Mahsum Korkmaz, nom de guerre Heval Agit, in Eruh town, North Kurdistan in 1984. This took place during some of the darkest times ever for the Kurdish people, under the rule of the Turkish Republic’s military junta, which was sponsored and supported competely by NATO and the USA during the critical period of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
From that time until the current day, 37 years of full resistance and self-defence-oriented armed struggle, have ensured that the Kurds have been revived and resurrected, and have once more become known, respected and recognised worldwide. All this despite the fact that Kurdistan still does not have a legal status independent of the four colonialist nation states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They currently have legal autonomy in Iraq, known officially as the Kurdistan Region of Iraq or Başur (Kurdish for south, referring to South Kurdistan). In Syria they have a de facto federal status, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), also known as Rojava (Kurdish for West, referring to West Kurdistan). The resistance movements in North Kurdistan or Bakur (Kurdish for north, the biggest part of Kurdistan, under the rule of Turkey), and East Kurdistan Rojhilat (Kurdish for east, located in Iran’s territory) have persisted adamantly against these totalitarian governments.
When the legendary liberation movement of the northern Kurds against Turkish colonialism was intensified and expanded with reference to an updated paradigm (Öcalan’s writings from solitary confinement since 1999, containing such pillars as new internationalism, the balance of universalism and particularism, radical democracy, gender equality in the name of women’s liberty, ecological society free from the chains of power and hierarchy, diversity in unity and more, that cannot be included in this short article), and praxis (democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism containing a performative communal organisation with social economy, on a basis of self-defence and structured as anti-patriarchy and anti-gerontocracy), it became the most inspiring example for similar struggles worldwide, and for socialist/anarchist movements from mass mobilisation to enduring organisations.
The determination of the status of Kurdistan as a colony owes much to Franz Fanon, the most avant-garde theorist of the last century, a revolutionary social scientist and a soul devoted to the struggle of self-determination of peoples under colonial rule. Fanon filtered his magic perspective through the resistance with peoples in the field and proved it in practice to be a major contribution to the socialist paradigm. We know him through compulsive bedtime reading books, such as The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks among many others.
He reminded us of the millions of colonised nations putting up resistance for survival against the savage imperialist superpowers of post World War II, to whose unauthentic beings he held a mirror through which the first explosive action of freedom had to start in the great struggle in their mindset of self. The North African revolutions and especially the legendary resistance of Algeria, which defeated French colonialism for the first time and inspired many others over the world, took their great incentive from Fanon`s writings.
To him, the pure courage required for self-existence, and the defence of self-being were the unappeasable truths of lives without which liberation adventure and freedom struggle could not be conducted either individually or socially. His unique difference from his contemporary socialist authors was to let ordinary revolutionaries know that they can be free whether or not the objective conditions of liberty are well-enough matured in accordance with a materialist substructure based on positivist paradigm, which was unfortunately the backbone of scientific socialism.
The irresistible drive and stimulus of Fanon for freedom came through his own experiences of exposure by black peoples of racism and all sorts of exploitation, and his radical stance in favour of the brilliant fight of the North African peoples against French colonialism. The relationship in any context between settlers and natives, or coloniser and the colonised, can only be fixed by a true definition of people who have been exposed to torture, violence and oppression. The only way to get rid of colonialist rule is by the use of such cathartic methods as violence in self-defence, and the knowledge of the spirit of revenge in one’s self-esteem and self-respect.
In his memoirs, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of Kurdish people, writes about the overall process, and particularly the exact moment, when he realised the definition of the status of Kurdistan to be: “Kurdistan is a colony, and must be liberated via armed struggle”. And he shares with readers that with the power of that deep understanding, he fainted slightly for some moments. The process of decolonisation of mindset demanded of the founder of the modern Kurdish Liberation Movement such a degree of activism, reading, discussion, debate and finally comprehension, of the reality of Kurdistan.
The action of a leading group of revolutionaries was soon superceded by a super-organised resistance movement of millions. The mass uprisings in the early 1990s, the great successes in the field of democratic politics, the recognition of Kurdish identity and autonomous rule in South Kurdistan, and lastly the revolution of Rojava would not have been possible if the leap of 15th August had not been carried out. In this respect, 15th August is not an ordinary anniversary or just a day of remembrance; 15th August is the historical beginning of the revolutionary transformation process in the larger region of the Middle East and North Africa.
What the Kurds, the oppressed and exploited classes and nations of the world, and especially the most colonised gender, women, are involved in here is a universal resistance movement which shows the first leading signs of the end of the existing world capitalist order, and yet also heralds news of a shining era of world democratic confederalism.
*Sinan Önal is a political scientist, currently an envoy of the Kurdistan National Congress who formerly acted as an adviser in policy-building and international affairs to the left-wing alternative and pro-Kurdish parties DTP, BDP, and HDP in Turkey. Mr Önal also represented the pro-Kurdish party in the United States in 2012/2013, and in Germany in 2017/2018