by Gordon Taylor | 2/23/2008 08:01:00 PM
I make no apology for the Audenesque title. This piece will not be Audenesque, either in the spirit of idealism and drama which inspired the first publication of "Spain 1937", or the middle-aged fastidiousness which led Auden later to expunge "Spain" and "1 September 1939" from his canon of approved works. The banking of youthful fire into aged embarrassment is a tale as old as humanity. Still, the spirit of idealism and struggle does exist in this world, and not only among hard-eyed Islamist fanatics. The example, of course, is in Kurdistan.

For a lot of very young kids in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, today really is Spain 1937. On Friday, 22 February, the Turkish Army began yet another ground operation into lands which its enemy, the PKK, refers to as the Medya Defense Zones; i.e., those steep and remote regions which adjoin the extreme southeast border between Turkey and Iraq. Fighting is reportedly intense, and the conditions, in freezing snow-covered mountains, as bad as anything that can be imagined. So far the Turks claim 79 "terrorists" killed, while the PKK says they have lost 2. The PKK claims some 22 Turkish soldiers have died, and they report the downing of a Cobra helicopter near the River Zab. (If true, the latter would definitely be a coup. And it is not, it should be noted, the first time that the PKK has taken out a helicopter.) First touted as a "major" incursion, it now appears that only a limited number of elite mountain troops, equipped with snow camouflage and winter uniforms, are taking part. These are undoubtedly picked men, all volunteers and probably all career soldiers--not draftees like the eight unfortunate young men who were captured by the PKK in October and ended up being imprisoned by their own army after they were repatriated.

Usually the average American newspaper or TV channel would have virtually nothing on this story. This year at least the Houston Chronicle has picked up a report from PKK headquarters on Kandil Mountain. There a PKK spokeswoman with an AK-47 lashes out:
"If wanting peace means you're a terrorist, I have nothing to say," she said. "If wanting to speak your mother tongue, if wanting freedom for your ethnic group to organize freely, if those things are terrorism, I have nothing to say. If wanting your natural rights makes you a terrorist, I have nothing to say."
Meanwhile the Bush administration, going on in its dazed, robotic way, continues to incorporate the PKK, a tiny group which has never attacked Americans, into its Global War On Terror. Both the EU and the United States, it should be noted, officially regard the PKK as a "terrorist" organization. Since the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Washington in November 2007, the U.S. also officially regards the PKK as a "common enemy". Why? Because they have to. The Turks have officially decided that the PKK are terrorists; therefore, they are terrorists. If we didn't go along with the Turks, they would throw a major tantrum. Perhaps (horrors!) they will throw us out of Incirlik Air Base; perhaps they will no longer buy weapons from us, weapons from companies whose profits have fueled regular contributions to the GOP. Stephen Kinzer, writing in the 6 June 1999 New York Times, laid out the official nomenclature. Because of mixed messages coming from government, the Ministry of Interior at that time made it official. Kinzer explained:
In the Government's view, violence in Kurdish provinces is simply terror sponsored from abroad, mainly by Iraq, Syria and Greece.

Officials reject the idea that it is a war, that the insurgent Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., has any popular base, or that there is any political aspect to the fighting. They often insist there is no ''Kurdish problem'' in Turkey.

Supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party, however, say that what has been underway in southeastern Turkey since 1984 is a war to free Kurds from oppression. The Kurds have been blocked from all forms of legal protest, they assert, and have taken up arms as a last resort.

Some foreigners agree, in whole or in part. Turkey's treatment of its more than 10 million Kurds has been widely criticized abroad, and has come under new scrutiny during the trial.

The Interior Ministry directive said that the Government needs to adopt a ''unity of terminology'' in presenting its case to the world.

''Taking recent developments into consideration,'' it said, ''we do not want to leave room for future discussions or ill-intentioned debates stemming from terms that have been used.''

These are the unacceptable terms, followed by what the Government says are correct ones that should be used in their place:

Guerrilla -- Terrorist.
Urban guerrilla -- Terrorist element.
Rural guerrilla/Rebel -- Bandit.
Refugee -- Shelter seekers.
Rebellion/Kurdish uprising/Kurdish rebellion/ Kurdish national independence war/Kurds' independence struggle/revolution/armed revolt -- Terrorist actions.
P.K.K./separatists/separatist gang/separatist groups -- Terrorist organization P.K.K./ Bloody terrorist organization/murder gang.
Operation/military sweep/security operation -- Search for terrorists and criminals/pursuit of criminals.
Kurdish/of Kurdish background -- Turkish citizen/our citizens who are identified as Kurds.
People of the Kurdish race -- People from separatist environments.

The document goes on at length, through dozens more similarly Orwellian terms. This is the kind of thing that Turkish citizens regularly have to endure: a government with no shame, a government willing to say and do anything in order to ignore reality. Remember again the guiding principle of Turkish politics: in Turkey, the elected government pretends to govern, and the Army pretends to let them.

Satellite maps tonight (1:20 AM, 2/24) show a large weather system that has come off the Mediterranean, now covers northern Syria, and soon will be in Iraq. Forecasts for Mosul call for rain, and rain in Mosul means snow in Kurdistan. Meanwhile, the Kurds of southeast Turkey, having held mass demonstrations repeatedly in the past three months, are planning another for Diyarbakir on Monday, February 25. It should be a big one.




Anonymous Anonymous on 2/25/2008 11:58 AM:

This is the first I've heard about mass demonstrations by Kurds. So ***ing typical of our media. When people try nonviolent protest, they are at best ignored. When in frustration they try violence (perhaps pushed by agents provocateur in some cases), they are demonized.

Bottom line - any resistance is to be destroyed. We saw some of that in the Seattle Gatt protests of 2000(?). Until the violence broke out there, it was absolutely impossible for people to get the issue of Fair Trade anywhere near public debate. Now, as wrong as the violence was, there's no denying that Fair Trade IS an acknowledged issue, however hypocritical and insincere the acknowledgement.

So you can't get heard until you become violent, and then you're demonized. Now there's a law that effectively labels any environmental activism as terrorism.

I'm for non-violence, so I'm not advocating violence. I'm just pointing out the Catch-22 that is constantly created for anyone with an view that challenges the establishment.


Blogger Kristiina Koivunen on 2/25/2008 11:17 PM:

Hi Gordon, I just ordered from Amazon your book "Fever and thirst". It looks interesting, I have read just a few pages. Great that there are now more and more books about Kurdistan, the work what you have done is very important.