The Latest Erdogan-ISIS Plot against Kurds

On August 24 Turkish-backed Islamists entered Jarablus without any resistance from ISIS. The Turkish pretext was to expel ISIS from Jarablus, but all the signs suggest that the military invasion is in fact directed against Syrian Kurds.

Each one of Erdogan’s conspiracies against Kurds in Syria and south east Turkey begins with a terrorist attack, supposedly by ISIS, which for some mysterious reason keeps silent, neither claiming nor denying responsibility. Thus, whenever there is a terrorist attack on Kurdish civilians in Turkey, one can bet that a Turkish plan has just begun to unfold.

Here is the scenario this time: on August 20 a Kurdish wedding in a city near the Syrian border was attacked, and we have been told by Turkish officials that the attacker was an ISIS member. ISIS did not respond to this allegation one way or the other, like all the past cases of terrorist attacks in Turkey for which ISIS has been blamed. However, ultranationalists carrying Turkish flags and shouting “Allah u Akbar” attacked the Kurdish mourners who were trying to bury dozens of victims, most of whom were children. The aftermath followed a similar pattern to that of other terrorist attacks on Kurds for which Ankara has blamed ISIS.

In spite of the mounting evidence of Ankara’s support for and collaboration with ISIS, Erdogan would have us believe that the latest Turkish military invasion in Syria was launched with the express purpose of expelling ISIS from Jarablus. It is obvious that the preparations for the invasion were not the work of a couple of days. In addition to the ten Turkish tanks and special forces that took part in the invasion, more than 5,000 heavily armed Turkman and Arab Islamists were involved.

The bottom line is that, contrary to what Joe Biden has been told, the Turkish invasion has nothing to do with expelling ISIS from Jarablus. If anything, Ankara’s aim was to protect Islamists including ISIS from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). Since the liberation of Manbij, the YPG, YPJ, and their allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces have been advancing quickly to Jarablus, which is exactly why Turkey decided to make a move.

Turkey had more than two years to “expel” ISIS. Why is that Erdogan has only now chosen to actively address the “threat” of ISIS? Also, is it not strange that ISIS withdrew from Jarablus without fighting, enabling (other) Turkish-backed Islamists to take complete control of the city within hours of the beginning of the operation? ISIS has never withdrawn from any town without first putting up a furious fight.

Once again, the signs speak to this invasion being yet another manifestation of the strategic alliance between Turkey and ISIS to deceive the world. Erdogan’s regime repeatedly warned Kurds not to advance to Jarablus and even called the Euphrates a “red line” after Kurdish forces liberated Kobane despite Erdogan’s support for ISIS in the fight for that city. It is very telling that Erdogan chose to call his military intervention Euphrates Shield; ISIS had been entrenched on the west side of the Euphrates for more than two years and Kurds were primed to change that reality.

To make things worse, Biden, deceived by another Turkish maneuver, has not hesitated to deny support to Kurdish forces west of the Euphrates, in spite of those same forces having been referred to again and again as the “best ally on ground” in the war against ISIS.

Turkey has been busy expanding its alliances in the region, including those with countries such as Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, Al-Assad’s recent aggression in Hasaka and Ankara’s friendly language towards Damascus signal that Al-Assad is also included in Turkey’s new circle of trust.

If there is one thing Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have always agreed on it is their absolute hostility towards any Kurdish political sovereignty. Everyone knows it is perhaps too late to stop Iraqi Kurds from declaring their own state, so Erdogan has been actively using Barzani to further his anti-Kurdish politics in both Turkey and Syria. Erdogan knows very well that the only way to effectively break the Kurdish spirit is to secure a Kurdish ally, and Barzani has been playing that role for years in opposition to the progressive liberation movement in both Northern Kurdistan, in Turkey, and Western Kurdistan, in Syria.

The Islamists who entered Syria from Turkey today will open a new front against Kurds. Jarablus is just the entrance point. The goal is all of Rojava. Of course, Kurds will not give up easily, but being under an embargo from all sides and without American or Russian support, the rest of the story will prove to be awfully familiar: once again Kurds have been betrayed and left to be torn apart by their colonizers. This tragic cycle has been reoccurring since the emergence of the first Kurdish liberation movements in the early 20th century immediately after the division of Kurdistan among its new colonizers.

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Emancipating Space: The Female Body vs. the Sacred

Striking

Controlling the female body and hegemonizing public space are two integrated processes of the same patriarchal politics of domination. In the most patriarchal societies, women are simply denied access to public space, or allowed only as disembodied figures. To enforce this there are nuanced policing systems in place that have been completely normalized as a crucial part of dominant value systems. The female body, like the body of the colonized, is perceived as both dangerous and exploitable. Therefore, patriarchy has adamantly sought to confine the female body within the boundaries of commodified sexuality, to be owned, hidden, packaged, priced, traded, or trashed depending on the commodity cycle and exchange value. Of course, at the heart of all this lies the patriarchal private-public division of space.

Any intentional disturbance of the spatial balance between private and public thus agitates patriarchy’s faithful sons. Yet, to accomplish more than just agitation, the “sacred” must be strategically targeted; this is perhaps the most effective method of undermining the symbolic capital of patriarchy. The sacred is nothing but patriarchy’s rules of domination symbolized, mystified, and sanctified in order to eternalize the conditions of oppression.

The sacred is inherently fragile. In fact, the power of the sacred lies precisely in that fragility, but it is, of course, sanctified fragility. Deliberately, publically, and unapologetically disrespecting the sacred is, therefore, a highly effective strategy. The reason the sacred has gained the socio-historical status of sacredness is that the oppressed buy into its mythology, lending it an oppressive socio-psychological power. Once the oppressed subject confronts the sacred with her rebellious body, the fetish character of the sacred starts to wither away. In the beginning, the oppressed masses would feel disturbed, confused, and, very likely, insulted, but that could mark the beginning of a revolutionary change in the common modes of perception.

While male sexuality is universalized and celebrated through various forms of the sacred, e.g., the phallic structure of some spaces of worship, the female body is reduced to sexuality and sexuality to either a commodity or a sin. What if that reality were negated by re-politicizing the body in such a way that the male cult rather than the female body would be shamed? The male cult can easily be shamed when its taboos are broken as part of a strategy of rebelliousness that does not pause to allow it to use its hysteric mobs to harm or eliminate the rebellious body, as it did with Farkhunda, and as it does on a daily basis with women around the world.

Revolutionary feminist women have been continually challenging fascist space in places where male fascism is at its peak, but for that very reason, they are tragically eliminated before they even have a chance to spark broader revolutionary movements. Liberal democracy, despite all its limitations, has the benefit of making it possible for the marginalized to make themselves visible without immediately risking their lives. Indeed, some feminist movements have effectively used that liberal space to break the sacred borders of patriarchal spatial division.

Patriarchy is, for the most part, the hegemony of a mythology normalized as a common mode of perception. Once the mythology is exposed, once the sacred is disrespected, patriarchy will instantaneously lose some of its hegemony. Crucially, the spatial production of sacredness is instrumental to the patriarchal hegemony. The female body, precisely by virtue of being the obsession of patriarchal power relations, can be the most revolutionary agency in terms of emancipating space from the naturalized norms of oppression.  As a revolutionary self-invention, rather than male-imposed femininity, the female body can disturb the patriarchal spatial regime globally, inflicting fatal injuries on sacredness as such.

In short, patriarchy’s spatial domination belies its extreme fragility, represented at its purest by the sacred. Accordingly, the revolutionary feminist does not avoid patriarchy’s sacred. On the contrary, she targets it consciously, strategically, and unapologetically.

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Diyarbakir: The City of Resistance, the City that Refuses to Die

Amed day 95 

There is nothing more representative of civilization than cities. Cities have complex lives, and when a city dies, a whole system of spatial aesthetics, an entire social world, and the habitat of infinite interwoven memories whither away. This is the tragic fate facing Diyarbakir, or Amed as the people of the region call it.

Its history goes back to pre-Roman times, and it has been home to Assyrians, Armenians, Kurds, Alevis, Jews, Yezidis and other peoples. For more than 100 years, genocides have left scar after scar on Amed. First, its Armenian and Assyrian inhabitants were mass murdered. Then, its Kurdish dwellers became the target of the same fascism. Now, the old Amed, also known as Sûr, is in the midst of its tragic last days as the Turkish army, NATO’s darling, is destroying it completely.

In the summer of 2015, I visited Amed. The colleague with whom I was traveling invited me to an Iranian-Kurdish artist’s studio that was located in the ruins of an old Armenian house. The remaining corners of the house still spoke of its absent inhabitants. The ornaments on the basalt stones carried traces of authentic lives that had been ruthlessly stopped from beating. It was as if the daydreams of the absent inhabitants were frozen in the air, unable to move with the flow of time but also refusing to leave their space.

Carvings in the black stones of the Armenian house, a crowd of surrealist figures sculpted by an exiled Kurdish artist, and two exceptionally shy cats made the space something of a Foucauldian heterotopia, a space hanging on to a reality that ceased to be real. A broken shell, incapable of hiding any daydreamers, the roofless house exposed a 100-year-old wound beyond all linear spaces and times. As if making a statement against the existence of any universal justice, the roofless house continued to bleed memories of a Bachelardian corner for hiding, of being there, being in a house. Without touching its walls or stepping into its corners, I spent the evening watching the wounded house sink into the silence of night. I wanted to spare the house another invasion by a stranger, and I was afraid that I would scare away an Armenian memory. Walking into a house whose dwellers were murdered is the worst spatial violation I could think of.

Later, that evening, with two colleagues and the artist I went to a café where dozens of women and men (many with their books on the tables and musical instruments on their laps) were eating, drinking, smoking, chatting, and occasionally laughing under a dim light in a large cool yard surrounded by old stone walls. There were many such cafés packed with artist-looking young people, bohemian-revolutionaries. Each café was different from the next but also connected in the sense that they formed a public space that defied fascism. It was the space I could only theorize until then. I finally found a place I could be from. I decided to be from Amed.

As if I knew that I would never see Amed again, that night instead of sleeping I wanted to explore all its streets, commit all its scars to memory. Amed for me was a city that embodied the power of free will, but precisely because of that free will, it is now being destroyed so barbarically. It is not considered a holy city in any religion, so its destruction is of little concern to anyone but those whose lives are damaged as a result and those who can relate to them due to similar experiences in other Kurdish cities and villages.

No, Amed is not a holy city. On the contrary, it symbolizes Kurdish resistance against the rise Islamism. Thus, its destruction brings satisfaction, if anything, to Islamists and their sympathizers. Over the last few years, the Kurdish municipality and local activists even dared to renovate Armenian cultural sites and were struggling to make the city a model for diversity. Amed’s embracing of plurality, peace, direct democracy, and its genuine apology to Armenians was seen as a challenge by Ankara’s Islamist and nationalist elites. The peaceful all-inclusive movement threatened to undermine the officially sanctioned image of Kurds as “terrorists”.

In 2014, Amed’s people and the municipality also challenged Erdogan by standing with Kobane as the latter withstood months of continual attacks by the Islamic State. In the two parliamentary elections that followed in 2015, Amed voted for the progressive Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose victory in the Kurdish region prevented Erdogan’s party from winning a majority. Erdogan’s response was befitting of a fascist dictator.

He appealed to Turkish nationalists to form a front composed of both Islamists and nationalists united in their hatred of Kurds and progressives. Today, Amed is paying the price of not submitting to Erdogan’s politics.

Amed is also being punished for refusing to renounce its Armenian and Kurdish identities in favour of the one-language, one-flag, one-God of the colonizer. This time, the target of the violence is not only Amed’s inhabitants, who refuse to forget Kurdish language and music, but also the very physical being of the city with its historic black fortresses that seem to lodge a perpetual spirit of resistance.

Amed will not be the last city to be destroyed by the rising wave of Islamism, nor will it be the last Kurdish city to resist Erdogan’s empire, but its destruction could mark the beginning of a much darker era. Motivated by religious fascism and with the support of millions across Turkey and the Arab world, Erdogan’s crusade against cities will sooner or later betray its barbarian face far beyond Kurdistan. Amed is in the peripheries of geographies of privilege and tourism, but it is the capital of resistance for some of the most oppressed peoples. Its victims do not make it to news reports even as mere numbers, but the oppressed are used to that. It is the oppressed who rebuilt Amed after every invasion, for hundreds of years, long before NATO’s armies and bombs were born, and they will rebuild it again one day despite all the injustices. The roofs and the walls may disappear, but they have fostered a will that can only grow stronger and freer.

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