Now that Arab Iraqi citizens are victims of Turkey’s violence, the Iraqi government and other political actors in Iraq speak out harshly against Turkey’s occupation and violence. The governments of other countries also speak out, although most of them do not mention the fact that Turkey was the perpetrator. Understandably, many Kurds are angry that it is exclusively the death of Arab citizens which has such an impact, while hardly anybody seems to care when Kurds are massacred. But what exactly is the problem here – and where lies the solution?
Perhaps the most cynical thing I can say about the aftermath of the massacre is regards the approach of those in power in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. President Nechirvan Barzani was present at Erbil Airport when the bodies of the nine victims were placed into a plane to be flown to Baghdad, and the authorities organized a trip to the crime site for foreign journalists. As far as I know, the Barzanis have never shown such sympathy for Kurdish citizens who have been bombed to death by Turkey, nor has the KDP taken foreign journalists to other massacre sites in the mountains. Maybe because they would see the proximity of his own peshmerga forces to the Turkish occupation forces – end of cynicism.
That international actors and even a Kurdish leader himself react harsher when Arab citizens become victims of Turkey’s war politics, is nothing else than the result of political dynamics between states (and within those states). And Kurds have no state, so when they are massacred by state armies, they can not raise it internationally. They have to wait and see which state is willing and able to instrumentalize their suffering for its own (geo)political goals.
It seems only logical to take this reality further by demanding a Kurdish state be founded. But wouldn’t that be cynical? To reason that when you have a state, at least you have a government to stand up for you in the international arena when you are bombed to smithereens by another country’s army? For starters, it doesn’t always help: you need to have a strong position in the international community for injustice to be heard. Second, however you carve out any country, including Kurdistan, there will be minorities who are not fully represented by the state’s government, or even killed by it – the Kurds know all about that.
That many nations in the world have put the cart in front of the horse the last century or so, is not a good reason to follow an obviously bad, inefficient and dangerous example.
Putting the horse in front of the cart would be to strive for the end of massacres. Sounds totally logical and illogical at the same time. Aren’t such events part of life, however gruesome and horrific? They are, clearly, but they shouldn’t be. This particular massacre in Zakho, like the Roboski massacre in December 2011 -in which 34 Kurdish citizens were deliberately bombed to death by the Turkish army while transporting goods over the border to make a living- originates in the fascist ideology of the Turkish state. Core to the ideology is that everybody in Turkey is a Sunni Muslim Turk, as well as those who are not. In this ideology to demand rights based on any other ethnicity or religion is considered to be separatism, and separatism is terrorism.
The Zakho massacre shows it is not solely Kurds who are victims of this ideology. It shows that it renders every human life worthless, including that of Arabs. Even the life of Turks are sacrificed to protect the state, although Turks are made to believe that they die for the homeland, and that is sacred and against terrorism, or other such nonsense. That is why any solution that only (superficially) solves the problem of one ethnic (or religious) group, will only exacerbate the situation and cause more bloodshed among ordinary citizens in all groups in society. What is needed, is to get rid of the ideology.
This is what the struggle of the Kurdish movement is about. This is why not only HDP, but also PKK and KCK speak out just as harshly against the Zakho massacre of Arab victims, as against massacres in which Kurds die. It’s not about ethnicity, it’s not about religion, it’s about all ethnicities, about all religions, about every single human life. Those who only speak out now that Arab children, women and men are the victims of Turkish brutality, but never speak out about Kurds, are not only hypocritical, but also part of the problem.
And for those who get angry because Arab lives seem to matter more than Kurdish ones: step up the struggle, in whichever way you can.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.