Stateless nations: Tamil solidarity with Kurds

February 28, 2016
PKK fighters.

Since the Mu'l'livaaykkaal killings of 2009, the Tamil diaspora has mostly focused political efforts towards demanding justice for the inhuman crimes committed against Tamil civilians.

While such efforts have elevated international awareness of the gross human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan military during the war, the approach has not yielded results on prosecuting the perpetrators of the international crimes.

In light of this situation, it is imperative for the Tamil diaspora to establish alliances with the Kurds and other peoples marginalised by oppressive states and the international community.

This is not to say seeking justice through established legal channels is not productive. However, Tamils, especially the diaspora, should also pursue building alliances outside the circle of the “International Community” to not fall prey to efforts to suppress liberation ideals and to guard against the apathy that can grow as the Tamils' struggle proceeds with limited resources.

One way to do this is to form concrete political alliances with other nations and peoples who have suffered in similar ways and have principles comparable to Tamils.

The Kurds stand out as a key people with whom Tamils should prioritise building linkages with. In the US's fight against ISIS, the Kurds have proved themselves as the most effective on-ground fighting force. The Kurds also ideologically oppose ISIS with ideas of radical democracy, feminism and ecology, a fact that is not reported widely in mainstream media.

It is hard to miss the common threads between the Tamil and Kurdish liberation struggles. Both have a history of progressive secular militancy. Moreover, both have aimed at fostering more equitable social conditions for women that are above and beyond the status quo of their respective regions.

It should also be noted that both Tamils and Kurds have found themselves facing not only oppressive states like Turkey and Sri Lanka, but also regional and world powers due to the geopolitical games played by various states. So there is both affinity of crucial social ideas and shared experience in the struggle for freedom between Tamils and Kurds.

While there has been informal solidarity between Tamils and Kurds in the past, the present conditions of both struggles suggest that a more concrete Tamil-Kurdish alliance is politically and morally necessary.

The successes the Kurds have had in recent years are truly of historical significance. As a people they have been able to stay politically conscious through a thoroughly progressive ideology that also appeals to other Middle Eastern communities.

This is why the Kurds have been able to get people of different ethnic backgrounds to join them in their experiment in Rojava for “Democratic Confederalism”, a political system in which the economy and social affairs are controlled by networking local communities, instead of the state.

This is also why non-Kurdish individuals from outside Syria, like the now killed-in-battle British citizen Konstandinos Eric Scurfield, have joined the Kurds' military forces in fighting against ISIS.

Ultimately, the material consequences of the revolution the Kurds have put into place in Rojava is a paradigm of government for the Middle East that is neither Islamist nor secular dictatorship. Thus, the Kurds are no longer fighting just for their people but for everyone else who wishes to live with peace, freedom and dignity in the Middle East and beyond.

With the gains the Kurds have made, many regional powers are alarmed of the role the Kurds are playing in re-shaping the Middle East. The regional power most worried about these “winds of change” is Turkey. It is no secret that Turkey has given ISIS some support largely aimed at curbing Kurdish advances in Syria.

However, such efforts have largely failed as the Kurds have proven to be a most resilient force. Couple this with the fact that the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) party denied Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) an absolute majority in last June's parliamentary elections, it is unsurprising that Turkey has opted for war to solve the Kurdish question.

Since August last year Turkey has been prosecuting a genocidal war against the Kurds in an effort to crush Kurdish resistance. The nature and intent of Turkey's “counter-terrorism” campaign can be deduced from earlier declarations by the AKP to implement the “Sri Lankan model” in destroying the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

To create the conditions for such a war, Turkish forces have been repeatedly imposing curfews in towns in Northern Kurdistan. During these curfews, Turkish military, police and unregistered armed individuals kill Kurdish civilians and destroy buildings and infrastructure. Civilians are not allowed to leave their residences while these curfews are imposed because otherwise they will be shot or arrested.

This dirty war is accompanied by a media blackout. Like in Sri Lanka's civil war, there are no independent observers in the war zone, and the war has been largely ignored by mainstream Western media.

Turkey is not only waging its war on the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan. It has also recently begun a military campaign against Rojava with bombings and incursions across the border by the Turkish military. At the same time hundreds of Islamist fighters are crossing over from Turkey.

This war continues on against the Kurdish diaspora with the help of Western governments as the proscription of the PKK by the US and EU persists. This continued proscription of the PKK enables Western governments to conduct operations aimed at suppressing the Kurds such as forced closure of pro-Kurdish institutions and arbitrary arrests of individuals for “supporting terrorism”.

These efforts have happened, and continue to happen, in parallel with the US and European governments giving material support to Turkey that is used in military operations against the Kurds in their homeland.

Mainstream media often projects global conflict as one between Western liberalism, epitomised by the US, and Islamic fundamentalism, as exemplified by ISIS. Considering the geopolitical games played between the West and Turkey, it is clear that this binary just obfuscates how the “war on terror” is aimed not only at Islamism but also any other peoples, like the Kurds and Tamils, that challenge a world order that prioritises existing state interests over peoples' right to self-determination.

In working towards more concrete alliances with the Kurds and other similar peoples, Tamils can help consolidate the third way opened up by the Kurds which combats the ISIS-US paradigm. Doing this is a crucial step towards fighting against states' attempts to conduct genocidal wars under the guise of counter-terrorism against people who resist them.

[Sitharthan Sriharan is an Eelam Tamil diaspora youth intellectual residing in the US. Reprinted from TamilNet.

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