Do you see how the powers that be, define the conversation again? About NATO, Sweden, Finland and the PKK I mean. Nobody is zooming out to see the bigger picture. Shall I?
The BBC talked to a few people who are on the list that Erdoğan gave to Sweden and Finland. A list of people Turkey wants these countries to extradite. A well-known Gulenist is interviewed, two other people. I myself talked to Ragıp Zarakolu – Turkey requested his extradition already a few years ago and Sweden rejected it, and no way Sweden is doing the whole procedure again because nothing in the case file changed.
What hardly anybody talks about, are the people who are actually put on a plane back to Turkey. Not too long ago, that was a young man who was reportedly involved in the city war in Cizre. His name is Resul Özdemir. I don’t have his file, I don’t know what his involvement really was, it could be that he was a fighter but it’s also possible that he wasn’t and Turkey just made it up. He’s an example for the point I want to make.
Let me explain what was happening back then in Cizre. In late 2015, early 2016, there was a war going on in several towns and cities in the Southeast of Turkey, also known as North-Kurdistan. In short, youth groups affiliated with the PKK were fighting the Turkish army to defend the autonomy that had just been declared there. This happened after the peace talks, which had begun in 2013, broke down. Since the aim of the Kurdish movement – decentralisation and autonomy – hadn’t been achieved during this peace process, they decided to declare autonomy unilaterally. The youth was there to defend this autonomy. Then the shit hit the fan.
According to the rules, it is totally legitimate to extradite a person like that. Nobody will make a fuss. After all, the PKK is recognized as a terrorist organisation by all countries involved, this person took up arms against the state which is illegal, and that’s that. But there is more to it.
Do you see the Kurdish movement’s demand there? Decentralisation, local autonomy? This demand is of course only the context within which other demands can be realised. Or maybe it’s better to not call them demands, but rights. Education in mother tongue. The full freedom for people to live according to their culture, traditions and religion, whether they are Kurdish or any other religious or ethnic group. Local councils, in which the residents of a neighbourhood or town really have control over their own affairs.
These rights are solidly rooted in international law. Right to self-determination, it’s called – sorry for being a bit patronising here. Every single human rights treaty that matters mentions it, often in the first article. The right to self-determination, in other words, is an inalienable part of how the international order is supposed to be arranged. If states don’t give any space to their people to actually live these rights, what are they supposed to do?
What if it’s worse, and the state doesn’t just deny these rights, but actively undermines them? Tramples them, even? Forces people to live another culture than theirs, to speak another language and forget their own, to lock them up when they organise to get their rights and govern themselves? What are the suppressed supposed to do? The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
Rebellion against tyranny and oppression is not politely asking if you can please have your rights. Rebellion against being jailed and murdered is not turning the other cheek. Rebellion against being erased is not letting it happen. Rebellion is struggle, armed if necessary. If the Kurds hadn’t done it, Turkey would have annihilated them by now, one way or the other. Should they have let that happen?
So if (if!) this person that Turkey extradited was involved in armed rebellion against tyranny, should not the international community protect him? Shouldn’t he be safe somewhere, regardless of having used violence – in self-defence? Shouldn’t those who fight for their rights, even if violently, have some solid protection? I’m being naive, I know. But I truly wonder that if these treaties didn’t exist since the 50s and 60s of the previous century, would the powers that be in the world today write and implement them now? No way they would.
Are they regretting they did draw them up all those decades ago? Probably not. It helps them to whitewash the crimes they commit in unison. They can hide behind solemn preambles and articles, which were rendered void.