Muzaffer Ayata is a Kurdish politician and author. He was arrested during the 12 September 1980 military coup and tried. He was sentenced to death in the main trial of the PKK back then. After 20 years of imprisonment he was released. He later took part in legal democratic activities. Due to continuous political oppression he took refuge in Germany. Here too he worked in the political and social institutions of the Kurds. He was also tried by the German state and imprisoned for three years and two months. Upon his release he was forced to reside in a certain city and to give his signature every day. His two volume book called The Diyarbakır Dungeon is seen as an essential work in this area. He is a columnist in newspapers Yeni Özgür Politika and Özgür Gündem. The following is his contribution to the conference Challenging Capitalist Modernity—Alternative Concepts and the Kurdish Quest in 2012.
The Middle East is a region in which the whole world is settling their differences, where contradictions are multiple and conflicts intense. But despite all this a solution cannot be foreseen in the near future. Why is the Middle East struggling amidst all these profound contradictions? The Middle East has been a fertile site for the rise of civilisations and monotheistic religions. It is a centre around which many primitive beliefs — mythology, god-kings and monotheistic religions — have developed. How can it be that such a region, a cradle of civilisation, has ended up going through such contradictory and severe crises, as well as becoming one of the regions that has been worst affected by imperialism, and simultaneously most dependent on it?
The Middle East, under the administration of the Ottoman Empire, consisted of traditional, feudal-tribal relations. At that time there were no severe conflicts emerging due to nation-statism, civil wars or the partitioning of the region. The state had no profound and widespread influence on the society’s way of life. Communal and natural societal relations continued to a large degree. However, things began to change, especially within the last 200 years, as capitalist interests have been identified and pursued in the region.
In the second half of the 19th century, as the Ottomans gradually weakened and turned into a semi-colony of the European imperialist states, the foundations were laid which would eventually lead the Middle East into more profound impasses. Occupation and exploitation by capitalist states on the basis of their own economic needs made matters worse. The Ottomans were weakened. They tried to benefit from the conflicts between the imperialist states and to prolong their life span. The English empire, on the other hand, possessed transoceanic colonies. For the English to secure the path to India they needed outposts like Egypt.
Europe, which was the centre of capitalist modernity, was splitting into two around the English and the French. Then the First World War erupted, in which all the influential powers of the time were involved. This war involved masses. As a result, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were disintegrated. Capitalist states began to have a greater influence than ever before, from Africa to Asia and around the world. It is institutionalised colonialism. English imperialism propagated nation state structures all around the world and contributed to their formation. In order to dictate more easily, to operate its ‘divide and rule’ policies, it was beneficial that such small states be formed.
After the war, when the world was divided once more between powers, the Middle East became one of the most important centres of this division. In Anatolia, the territory left over from the Ottomans was left to the Turks and the Republic of Turkey was established. From the Balkans to Libya tens of states surfaced. Arabic society, which previously sat over a large geographical area, found itself divided into more than 20 different states. These nation states were not established as the result of natural developments among people, or the fruit of their desires and organisations. Rather, they were formed, above all, with the intent to place the oil reservoirs and all the other wealth of the region largely under the control of the English and French. The borders of the Middle East are superficial and have been drawn up by hegemonic powers. In this way, Kurdistan ceased to exist and was partitioned between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Kurdistan was thrown totally out of the world system and also out of history.
Nation states that were formed in the region did not bring the people of the region more freedom, equality and democracy. Instead they amplified, or even instigated, either religious or nationalist rhetoric, which was in essence a local manifestation of imperialism. This eventually led to an internal occupation and was used to justify governance by repressive dictatorial regimes against the people.
From the Second World War up to the present day, Middle Eastern societies have been subjected to severe exploitation and repression, as well as cultural and environmental devastation under the structures of nation states. The War also had very important consequences in the Middle East. Instead of England and France, the USA began increasingly to be the hegemonic power. To the profound problems that already afflicted the Middle East, was added the foundation of Israel, which functioned as an extension of the USA. The Jewish elites, who had played an important role in the development of world capitalism, began to commit genocide through systems that were reminiscent of the Nazis. The Israeli state, by driving the Palestinians out of their land, plunged the Middle East into the blind yet raging Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel kept hold of the Palestinian territory it had occupied through earlier actions, relying on the protection of USA and the Western world. Palestinian people now faced the same situation that the Jewish people had faced earlier; to be scattered around the world. Israel tried to protect itself against the Arabic states through military power and security policies. The Arabic and Israeli conflict now includes an Islamic and Jewish conflict within it, whereby it has become even more difficult to negotiate politically. Religion, at this point, began to develop a nationalist character. Neither the Arabs nor the Israelis have managed to find a peaceful and democratic solution to this question.
After the Second World War, the socialist bloc enabled a balance within the region and around world. National liberation movements were, in general, backed by the Soviet Union. According to the analyses at the time, national liberation movements were seen as a component and ally of the socialist struggle. Many national liberation movements were supported by the Soviets and were thus victorious. On this basis, as long as the Soviet Union continued to exist, it supported the Palestinian revolution in one way or another. In addition they made alliances with Baathist nation states such as Syria and Iraq.
As the Soviet system failed to demonstrate a true alternative to capitalist modernity, it collapsed. The nation states that were established as a result of national liberation movements all gradually moved away from their democratic essences, and fell into the position of being mere extensions of hegemonic powers. It had become difficult for imperialist states to physically occupy and openly colonise other countries. However, these established collaborationist nation-states turned into the internal mouthpieces of colonial power. Whilst the region is in dire need of democratisation, a drastic change in mentality, and enlightenment, the nation state worshipping and nationalism which have begun, on top of all the historical backwardness, as well as the plunder, robbery and intervention of imperialism, have greatly aggravated the existing conflicts.
The Middle East in the post-Soviet era
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, similarly to the aftermath of the World Wars, areas of influence were re-determined. The partitioning and adjustment that resulted was named, by the USA, as the new world order. With regards to our region, it was called The Greater Middle East Project. According to this project all regimes in the area that were unsuitable, or ‘in contrast’, with the interests of the US would be eliminated. The West wanted a regional adjustment that would be more open and accommodating of capitalism.
Nation states were instated on top of the historical traditions based on families, dynasties and kings, which became evermore stronger. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, the Arab Emirates and Egypt turned into states that were practically the property of families and kings. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict, an open wound in the region, erupted once more but with different outcomes. As you will know, the US and Europe had prepared and supported the green belt project against the Soviets. From Turkey to Pakistan they would instil hostility against socialism in the region through the manipulation of Islam. Indeed, the US supported the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the Soviets’ defeat and subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan, Islamic movements gained power and trust, and gradually they turned against the US.
One of the most fundamental reasons for this ideological shift is the continuous support given by US to Israel against Palestine. Palestinian people took their place within the Arabic and Islamic world as the aggrieved. The US was seen as a tyrant who supported Israel against those aggrieved. In addition, the US and other capitalist countries had always supported the collaborationist and despotic regimes in suppressing and eliminating the democratic, socialist and revolutionary forces in the Middle East. The serious consequences of this can be seen today in what is called the ‘Arab Spring’. As the democratic opposition was crushed internally, only the Islamists stood untouched. Then they, as a result of the accumulating suppression by the US and Israel, partially turned against the US. In addition, the US supported Iraq against Iran because of Khomeini’s Islamic emergence and rhetoric. The Iran-Iraq war left millions of people dead and crippled as well as causing catastrophic economic and environmental damage. The region witnessed a civil war in Lebanon that stretched into many long years. As the Iran-Iraq war ended, Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait which brought on the US military intervention. The first Gulf war began. Right after 11 September 2001 twin tower attacks, the US occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. The cost of these occupations were the horrifying losses of human lives, the devastation of nature, and with an incalculable economic dimension, this led to an inextricable situation. What the Americans called the New World Order left behind a more complicated, bloody region than ever before.
The US, after bringing down Saddam Hussein, turned its head towards Syria and Iran, which were seen to be the last obstacles to complete control of the region. However, it faced an unexpected resistance in the Sunni areas of Iraq which drastically reduced the speed of the operation. Today, the US has withdrawn most of its forces from Iraq. But Iraq seems far from reaching peace, tranquillity and democracy. Different structures are being established within the Shi’a, Sunni and Kurdish regions; all the necessary elements of a new civil war and crisis are present.
The Kurdish question in the Middle East and quest for a solution
The Kurds are one of the oldest settled peoples of the Middle East. They were partitioned into two between the Ottomans and Iran in 1639 under the Treaty of Zuhab. With this treaty, the position of what is still the present borders were protected. A major section of Kurdistan was kept within the borders of Turkey. In the final years of the Ottoman Empire, as Kurdish autonomous areas were reduced, Kurds rebelled and these rebellions were suppressed. However the aggravation of Kurdish question and the denial of the Kurdish people, began with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The nation state project of the Kemalists was like a strait jacket forced over the Anatolian and Mesopotamian communities. The pashas and civil bureaucratic elite remaining from the Ottoman Empire planned and imposed a project of one nation, one language, based on a single ethnic identity of peoples. This was an insane project, and resulted in numerous genocides and annihilations of different peoples.
The Armenian genocide that began in 1915 was undertaken. They were forced out of their land and the area was ethnically cleansed. Pontus and Anatolian Greeks were also cleansed through wars, exiles and population exchanges. Balkan and Caucasian immigrants, together with other minorities in Anatolia, were considered to be Turks and quickly assimilated. The Assyrians too were ethnically cleansed. Alevi belief was considered nonexistent. In 1919, Mustafa Kemal came to Samsun, where he sought to unite and make an alliance with the Kurds. He could see that in the absence of an alliance between Turks and Kurds, the Turks would not have the chance to form anything. M. Kemal always focused on winning Kurds over. Until the 1923 Izmir economy congress, he defended giving autonomy to the Kurds. He mentioned over and over again, at the time, that Kurdish people’s identity and culture would be recognised. In the First Grand National Assembly many discussions and work has been taken up.
The real problem began after 1923. The Turks changed their minds and decided not to recognize Kurdish people’s identities and rights. The Kurds began to be rejected and denied their identities and names. Up to the 1938 Dersim massacre, many Kurdish rights movements, both small and large (including the Sheikh Said and Ararat rebellions), were violently suppressed. Through imprisonment, execution and exile, the Turks aimed to dissolve Kurdish society, to slowly break them down, and eventually to achieve a total surrender. The Kurds were one of the Mesopotamian peoples who paid the heaviest price. Even Kurdish people’s language was banned, as they were the subject of a cultural genocide. The names of hugely important people from Kurdish geography and life were being erased. What we call ‘white genocide’ was implemented very harshly and absolutely.
The white genocide of Kurdistan did not adhere to usual colonial policies. Kurdistan was a colony, but in order to prevent people learning of it, and for ultimately to render it invisible, there were additional measures. Kurdistan became Turkey, at least all the land it had left within Turkish borders, and Kurds were simply considered another part of the Turk population. This was presented as fact to the whole world. After the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, this status was accepted by the whole world. The Republic of Turkey was one of the most racist states ever seen in the world. The region was turned into desert by pouring Turkishness acid over multicultural, multi-belief, historically rich cultural land of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. According to the official rhetoric, Anatolia was the home of Turks and would remain so. The Kurds had no other alternative but to become Turkish.
After entering NATO in 1945, Turkey became one of the most loyal allies of Western capitalism. In order to continue with its nation state project based on race, and to complete the white genocide of the Kurds, they had to ensure the renewed approval and support of the West. Turkey thus became an indispensable ally for the US and Israel. This alliance, and the intertwining of interests, has continued to date, and has even become more profound. In the aftermath of the 1960s the development of Turkish capitalism accelerated. Together with social changes, new schools of thought, pursuits and organisations appeared. Especially after the political tremor of 1968 European youth movements in Turkey, there was a more general revival of revolutionary democratic youth movements. Kurdish youth in universities were also influenced by these schools and movements. They had long searched for ways of organising themselves. Some joined left parties such as the Labour Party of Turkey.
However, the military intervention by the Turkish army on the 12 March 1970 interrupted this development. The leaders of the youth movement were killed, executed and arrested. Despite this the movement could not be totally crushed. After the 1970s there was serious discussions and organisation around the Kurdish question. The most prominent ideological trend at the time was socialism. Nearly all Kurdish movements were accepting a national liberation program based on socialist thought, having been inspired by the developments in Cuba, Palestine and Vietnam. The principle of the right of nations to self-determination, along with the project of an independent united socialist Kurdistan, which also entailed a nation state, were widely accepted. Amidst these groups there was the Apoist group who were led by Abdullah Öcalan. This movement became a party in its first congress in November 1978, and adopted the name: PKK.
Other Kurdish groups followed similar pursuits and organised themselves. This attempt to organise a revolution in Kurdistan led to the political awakening of the people. Against this, the racist, militarist state looked for ways to intervene. In light of the December 1978 massacre in Maraş, martial law was declared in some important cities of Kurdistan. As they realised they could not halt political activity and organisation, the army took control of Turkey through the 12 September 1980 military coup. All left and opposition movements were suppressed, and all political work prohibited. Prisons and torture houses were filled up. The country sank into darkness. The state was reorganised under the hegemony of the army. The devastating effects of this reorganisation continue to be felt to date. Aggravated oppression and years of terror crushed and eliminated almost all the left and opposition movements in Turkey.
The situation was not so different for the Kurds. Cadres and organisations who were able to escape abroad were not able to stand against the oppression and re-organise themselves according to the needs of the time. Most of the organisations and their cadres were eliminated, or if they remained to exist they had no influence. The most distinguishing and extraordinary development of the time was being experienced within the PKK ranks led by Mr. Öcalan. He settled in the Middle East — Syria and Palestine and developed ideological, political and organisational work with the cadres able to escape. They re-organised themselves according to the needs of the time and took the decision to return to Kurdistan. Such work was literally and figuratively sustained by the tremendous resistance of the PKK prisoners of war, and especially those in the Diyarbakir prison. Besides the congresses and conferences done in the meantime, some groups began to enter Kurdistan in 1982. Despite the many delays and shortcomings, on 15 August 1984 armed guerrilla resistance began.
This was a historical beginning. At a time when all people were intimidated, when every opposition force was wiped out, and under an age so dark and deadly, such a risky and deadly beginning in the name of Kurds and Kurdistan was not something everyone could have faced.
The national liberation struggle waged by the PKK was restricted to guerilla actions, which were confined within mountains until the 1990s. At the beginning of the 1990s the movement became a popular movement and entered the political arena strongly at a time when the Soviet bloc disintegrated. Many of those who were treading carefully along the balance of the bi-polar world system were affected. Although Kurdish people made a legitimate, and spectacular beginning, next to the Palestinians in the Middle East they did not receive the necessary interest and support.
A. Öcalan, who led the Kurdistan national liberation struggle, was consistently critical of the Soviets, although he conceded they were socialist. In the aftermath of, and despite the collapse of the Soviet bloc, he continued to focus intently on the struggle and its obstacles, with a steely determination which prevented any negative influence on the movement and its supporters.
The PKK tried to keep a unique and independent policy. Although it relied on both on the bi-polar world system and the balances in the Middle East, it did not rest on any regional or international power. The Soviets and the Arabic countries, as well as the international public, gave a huge support to the Palestinian movement. The problem was taken to the United Nations and they achieved international legitimacy. Although Kurdistan was a fundamental problem in the region, and although ideologically and organisationally they had reached a more advanced level, they never saw the necessary interest and support internationally.
There was no support to compare with that given to Vietnam in the 1970s. There was no strong socialist and anti-imperialist wave rising on the horizon. On the contrary, with the collapse of the Soviets socialism had lost prestige; there was a huge depression amidst the left and democratic circles around the world, as well as a contraction.
Aside from this, Turkey was a member of NATO. The fact that the PKK was a socialist and revolutionary movement was received very coldly, especially by the US and Israel, but generally in the capitalist imperialist world. As a result a stance was gradually adopted resulting in it exclusion. The growing strength of the Kurdish movement, its ability to insist on a statute for the Kurds in the Middle East, agitated the imperial powers further. The problem was that it was not just about the oppression, torture and human rights violation of the fascist Turkish rulers. The struggle raised by the PKK was striking against these restrictions. The European countries began to adopt a stance against the emerging national liberation struggle, and began to adopt a stance which was more openly supportive of Turkey.
The PKK, although defending the classical meaning of a nation’s right to self-determination through people’s warfare, was defending a more progressive, democratic and secular system than all the other states and movements in the Middle East, including the Palestinian movement. Despite this, western forces, especially the USA and Israel, continued to support Turkey, who had the most powerful army in the Middle East.
The PKK’s quest for change and a solution
When the PKK began to exert greater power in the Middle East in the 1990s, it focused more on the resolution of the Kurdish question. It could not overcome the nation state, or the classical understanding of a nation’s rights to self-determination. In order to resolve the question together with Turkey it declared a cease-fire in 1993. In addition, the PKK questioned the ideas of sovereignty and a state based on the proletariat to a higher, more critical, degree after the collapse of the Soviets. It decided that nation states, playing by the rules of imperialist systems, necessarily evolved into regimes that oppressed domestically. Thus ideological and theoretical pursuits remained on the table.
Whilst the PKK continued to search for solutions, no international power wanted to become a mediator in the Kurdish question and take it up with the international institutions. The Kurdish movement did not have its rightful levels of interest and support from around the world. Especially after the 1990s, with the renewed re-arrangement of the Middle East by the USA, there was no room for a Kurdish movement led by the PKK. As the USA was trying to establish its New World Order in the Middle East, it targeted the PKK foremost, which did not accept the imperialist hegemony, had an independent stance, and had the potential to provide an alternative in the Middle East. The US and England especially targeted Öcalan and the Kurdish national liberation movement. Regionally, Turkey, Israel and Egypt were the pillars of this bloc. On the 9 October 1999, as a result of threats made by the US (that Israel and Turkey would launch a war against Syria), Öcalan had to leave Syria.
To hasten a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question, the PKK leader travelled to Europe. Europe had given refugee status to tens of thousands of Kurds, but refused to give it to their leader. The pressure applied and efforts made by the US and England led to Europe being shut down for the Kurdish leader. Europe violated its own laws and democratic value system, bowed to American pressure, and cooperated. They included Russia in the same deals and pressure. Mr Öcalan was, as a result, handed to Turkey over Kenya. A. Öcalan has described this as the period of an international plot. The most powerful international forces had united to hand the Kurdish people’s leader to Turkey, thereby abandoning the Kurds into a space of uncertainty and darkness. Such actions showed once again that imperialist and hegemonic states would place their own interests, through secret deals, before their avowed principles of law, justice and freedom.
In the face of what seemed to be an ending, the Kurdish movement reached a sharp junction and reviewed its own situation once again. Öcalan yet again left his mark on this period, just as he had since the foundation of PKK, and as the PKK had become a big mass movement. Through his profound historical knowledge, social analysis and philosophical knowledge of democracy, class struggles, women’s questions, nation states and questions of power, he produced from his prison cell his most profoundly insightful analysis yet. Above all, he came to the conclusion that the nation state, especially in the light of the forms it had adopted in the Middle East, must be overcome and that one should abandon statist solutions. Ever since its foundation, the Kurdish national democratic movement has gone through the most profound intellectual and theoretical change. The developing theoretical analysis suggests an alternative model for both the local and regional levels as well as the international level. Neither the imperialist system nor the socialist state with centralised power was embraced. The development of the civilisation was analysed and instead of a power or statist centred capitalist modernity, democratic modernity was developed.
Instead of a solution relying on nation states and borders, a model based on the unity of peoples and cultures is embraced. This is because neither the classical Middle Eastern hegemonies and dynasties nor the nation state forms imposed on the Middle East by the imperialist systems have developed people’s unity and democracy. By adding a Kurdish nation state to this bottle neck one would not be doing a new thing. Thus, instead of creating a nation state, the project of a democratic nation was put forth. Accordingly, all beliefs, cultures and other peoples that form a nation can come together by preserving their own colours and diversity. This is because solutions based on homogeneous nation and state create authoritarian and fascist regimes.
A democratic nation model is the most realistic model for the resolution of all the problems in the Middle East. Nation states based on religion and nationalism have turned the Middle East gangrenous and have thrown it into the turbulence of never ending conflicts and wars. The interventions by imperialists do nothing more than exasperate the conflicts and clashes as well as the environmental devastation. Insisting on the same methods will not resolve the problems faced by these communities.
The situation Kurds find themselves in is a difficult situation to understand. They have been partitioned between four states, each of which is trying to assimilate the part it has under its control and distance it from its own historical and cultural values; to exterminate it. These four states for many long years continued with their alliance, or what we call “The Kurdish Trap”. The Kurdish national liberation movement, despite the forces acting against it both regionally and internationally, has managed to walk a tight rope, and come out of it without becoming dependent on any power. It has managed to remain independent. This was possible due to the extraordinary sensitivity and efforts made by the leader of this movement, Öcalan. Kurdish people, who were almost suffocated and were left extremely weak, have now achieved one of the most challenging beginnings in history, and now the solution lies before them, both regionally and universally.
Kurds have achieved what seemed impossible by unfolding the most widespread and organised political women’s movement, in an environment in which the most backward characteristics and Islamic culture have heretofore reigned. Even the strongest countries who have become part of the Western system, like Turkey, were not able to include women in their socio-political fabric at such a level. All the other movements in the Middle East are very backward when it comes to this topic. From women who were lost, who no longer had names, who were severely exploited, rises a women’s movement who have become a political party, and who have fully entered our political and social life.
Instead of an organisation based on a state, an organisation based on villages, towns and cities, as well as on communal civilian societies was established. No longer was the aim to destroy the state and take it over, but to transform the state, and to reduce its influence in social life. Principally: “less state and more democracy” was embraced. Instead of animosity against the state, and the according attempt to seize it, it is seen as more appropriate to democratize society and to develop the civilian society movement. There will be no animosity against the state, and the state, in return, will not prevent society from organising itself by repressing it. Because at this point, there is still a need for a state to ensure social justice and security. By strengthening the society and making the state smaller one should widen the areas of freedom. Just as in despotic and fascist state and structures the individual should not be suffocated but at the same time as in capitalism there should not be an exaggerated individual and weak communality. The equilibrium between a progressive individual and communality should be protected. Against the exaggerated state which becomes a power of repression on the society one should develop an organised society.
There is a need to prevent the alienation that humanity faces, and the destruction of local cultures, together with the exploitation and commodification of women. In place of nation states, democratic nations should be established. The unity between nature and humans should be protected. Instead of profit centred monopolies, production based on needs should be targeted. In his books, A. Öcalan has analysed universal questions and has re-interpereted them. We could talk about such issues for days, however in such a limited conference we can only open some important headings for discussions.
Instead of an independent united Kurdistan (as a nation state), according to the new paradigm each part should organise itself with the democratic nation perspective, and should thereby attain a degree of governance itself. Becoming a democratic nation of Kurdistan which has attained the strength to organise, govern and make its own decisions shall compel the societies of Turkey, Syria and Iran to democratically transform themselves, thereby allowing for the resolution of the national question, as well as attaining unity amongst the people. Thus the unification of both the free Kurdish nation as well as borders will be rendered meaningless. The path to unity of the Middle East shall be paved with much more ease. Such a resolution model is much needed in the Middle East at present.
The Arab Spring and Change in Middle East
As I have tried to explain, Kurdistan’s national liberation movement could not be defeated throughout the 30 years of its resistance, and warfare and has thus proven itself. This movement’s ideology, program, organisation and tactical capability has increased. By way of continuous discussion and gaining depth it has sustained its transformation and development. At present it is the most progressive and experienced movement in terms of its intellectual, philosophical and organisational capacity. However, despite this wealth and historical legitimacy, it has been targeted continuously for annihilation by Turkish racism. These movements with a desire for elimination have always been supported by imperialist forces. When viewed from this perspective, the Kurdistan democratic nation movement is struggling with great dangers on the one hand, and on the other hand, through its resistance and development, is representing the democratic nation option as a viable solution in the region as opposed to the nation state solution.
The rebellions that began in Tunisia last year and spread over to Egypt and Libya became widespread. These uprisings were generally viewed with sympathy by the Western media and its political institutions, and they were supported. Gaddafi, who came into conflict with the West from time to time, became the subject of a military intervention. Libya was devastated as a result of bombardments, and Gaddafi was savagely killed in a brutal way; hence the rules were changed. In Egypt, Mubarak was pulled out of rule and put in prison. Today in Syria, alongside people’s movements, there is an opposition that is being supported and armed by Turkey and some Western circles.
Interestingly, in Kurdistan, a people’s movement which is legitimate, right, and one that has proven itself, is being excluded and accused of terrorism. But in Libya and Syria the West can arm some circles whom no one knows, with whom they prepare the ground for a bloody civil war. To top it all they are being portrayed as legitimate opposition by Turkey and imperialists. It has not yet been a year since the uprisings; look at what has happened to those they called the Arab spring. Imperial forces kept the oppressive bloody regimes on its feet for many long years by allowing suppression of democratic opposition. And now it is as if they are supporting these uprisings; but through it they are trying to white wash their bloodied hands and vindicate themselves.
But we see that this is not possible at all. Although in Libya and Egypt the rulers have changed, nothing much has changed in terms of their essence. Imperialist countries, by way of supporting those forces that are closer to themselves, and by reconciling with them, did not change the systems, and have stolen the ‘springs’ of the people. Present Syrian opposition, if in power, will be weaker than the one before, but would be a better ally to the West. This is what happened in Libya too. The devastation experienced and the loss of human life, the pain suffered shall be their only gain. Just as in Iraq, the Western states shall make more profit than ever through “re-building”, and will make these states more dependent on themselves.
Through an open intervention by the US, Saddam Hussein was brought down. As can be seen, there is no established and stable democracy yet in Iraq. Iraq and the region has been left open to sectarian clashes. There are no objections and intervention by the west to the despotic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other gulf countries because they create no problem for the US.
In all these countries, including the ones where uprisings have taken place, there does not seem to be a strong democratic opposition, an alternative ideology and deep-rooted organisations. The strongest opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood, and similar Islamic nationalistic parties and organisations. These movements may be against Zionism and imperialism in form and rhetoric, but in essence they have no complaints with the nation state and with reaching a compromise with imperialism. They do not have a holistic intellectual and social project that can overcome this system.
The Palestinian movement, which has a long history of organising itself in the Middle East, and continues to do so, has nonetheless been divided into two. On the one hand El Fatah, on the other Hezbollah. In one Islamic, in the other nationalistic rhetoric is at the forefront. All the Islamic movements in the Middle East are based on an anti-Israeli sentiment. They are power or nation state centred organisations. Only thoughts resting on neither Islam nor nationalism have a chance at being an alternative, to democratise the Middle East. This bloody vicious circle has continued since the 1900s, becoming ever more profound.
The Middle East is the prototype of all conflicts and different types of politics of the world. Although solutions based on nation states have been made to dominate over the region, what we have before us are states that have turned into despotic regimes and dynasties, more like states run by families. Why is it that the Middle East has not been able to find tranquillity and peace, neither in the bi-polar world nor in the ‘settled’ one? The nation state has been raised almost to the level of a religion, and rulers have been sanctified to the point of being worshipped.
We know that state power is centred and concentrated on the exploitation of its society. In the Middle East, kings and dynasties have sunk into such an aimless consumption and exploitation that it should discomfort humanity. Peoples are poor, with insufficient education, and have become worn out due to the wars and oppression caused by their rulers. Large masses have been excluded from societal dynamism and politics. The situation of women, who comprise half of the population, is much worse than before. Rich resources and oil of the Middle East are being looted by the international monopolies and their regional collaborators. The environment and nature are destroyed, and the rich culture of the region is facing a terrible degeneration and destruction.
In order to be able to come out of the Middle Eastern impasse that has been created by imperialist interventions, capitalist modernity, and the local backwardness, the most progressive model for resolution is the alternative confederal system suggested by A. Öcalan, that is based on democratic modernity and a democratic nation. A free society and a democratic Middle East where wealth is shared between the peoples, borders become absolute, cultures and beliefs are freely practised, women can take their place in social life in an organised way and with their identities recognised, all can benefit equally from education, health and nutrition are possible. However, for this to happen there needs to be a change in mentality and an enlightenment in the Middle East. Intellectuals should lead these changes. In the absence of a change in mentality, and the enlightenment of society, deep-rooted projects cannot be implemented. There may be uprisings such as the Arab spring, but they will not result in permanent solutions.
The Kurdish democratic movement and Arab spring have shaken up the status quo in the Middle East. The obstacles before change and transformation have been removed. If we are able to organise ourselves on the basis of democracy, pluralism and freedom, and unite our efforts, we may establish permanent peace and democracy in our region. The Arab spring shall become the Middle Eastern spring, and thus to all our people’s freedom and amity.