De Syrische Koerden dansen op strijdliederen

Qamislo – Twee meisjes van een jaar of zeven staan vervaarlijk te dansen op de dwarsijzers van het hoge hek dat de tribunes van het speelveld scheidt. Vaders erachter, om ze op te vangen als het misgaat. Een van de meisjes zingt uit volle borst de nummers mee, net als de hele tribune, die volgepakt is met families. ‘Guerrilla! Guerrilla!’ scanderen ze een refrein mee.

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Crop fires in Iraq and Syria may be start of larger disaster

In Iraq and Syria, fires are destroying wheat, barley and lentil crops. Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells may be to blame, but other factors should not be ruled out.

Rainfall was abundant in the north of both countries over the winter, reaching levels that had not been seen in at least two decades. It was a welcome sign of hope for farmers, a prediction of good harvests and a much-needed income in a still harsh economic climate.

Continue reading on Fanack!

Is Turkey trying to suffocate life in Kobani again?

‘We cannot do anything to stop them coming back’, Fayza Abdi, co-president of the Legislative Council of Kobani, tells me. We talk at a conference on the rebuilding of Kobani, after in January the YPG, YPJ, the peshmerga and US bombs kicked ISIS’ butt and chased them out of the canton. ‘We tell Kobani citizens who want to return home to wait, but what can we do if they don’t listen?’
The only thing the administration of Kobani can do is to plead with Turkey to open a customs gate at the border, so not only people, but also materials can pass through. But Turkey doesn’t listen to Kobani’s pleas. What this implies really disturbs me. Continue reading “Is Turkey trying to suffocate life in Kobani again?”

The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders

(Turkce burada okuyabilirsini)

Infighting in the AKP. I’m sure many people are gloating, less than three months before the elections in which the AKP wants to win enough votes to single-handedly change the constitution. But what does it mean for the (so called) peace process? Especially when you add the possible weakening of Öcalan to the equation? The peace process, after all, has survived the total lack of progress partly because of the total faith the two leaders are shown by their constituency. What if that trust disappears? Continue reading “The ceasefire depends on two strong leaders”

How to get into Kobani, or: charade in a refugee camp

There we were, some sixty mostly foreign journalists, brought together in a large tent in the newly opened state refugee camp for Syrians. We were listening to the governor of Suruc, Abdullah Ciftci, who was pointing out how wonderful the camp was. I didn’t get all the details of what he was saying, since I wasn’t sitting close enough to hear. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to be there at all, just like, I can safely say, any of my colleagues. We were all just wondering about one question: when does this charade end?

Journalists on a forced tour in the stsate refugee camp, talking to the governour.
Journalists on a forced tour in the state refugee camp, talking to the governor. click to enlarge.

We, the journalists, had been pressing the governor’s office to allow us to cross into Kobani for a reporting trip. We were modest in our wishes: if we could have a few hours there, we would be satisfied and we could make our stories. Last week on Wednesday a group of journalists had already gone in, and we claimed the same right.

But apparently there was something about the first group. Their entry into Kobani went somewhat awry, and according to the governor’s office some of the reporters in that group didn’t get back to the Mürsitpinar border gate on time. This angered the authorities. Continue reading “How to get into Kobani, or: charade in a refugee camp”

The cynism of taking the PKK off the terrorist organizations list now

The US army has started arming the Kurds in Iraq to fight Islamic State, who have been making huge advances in the country. The weapons will be provided to the peshmerga forces of the semi-independent Kurdistan region. They are fighting IS alongside forces of the PKK, the group that is on the list of terrorist organizations of both the US and the EU. There are voices now to take the PKK off that list. However necessary such a step is, it would also be very opportunist now.

The US has seriously underestimated the power of IS, that much has become clear, and overestimated the Iraqi armed forces, who ran off as IS suddenly started to make advances in early June.

PKK and YPG troops protect sacred Yezidi site in Lalish, Iraqi Kurdistan.
PKK and YPG troops protect sacred Yezidi site in Lalish, Iraqi Kurdistan.

IS radically increased it’s operational capacity by seizing weapons and military equipment from the Iraqi army, all provided by the US. It became more difficult for the peshmerga forces, with less advanced weaponry, to fight IS, which started to make advances into the Kurdistan region. Only when the armed forces of the PKK and the YPG came to strengthen the peshmerga, the Kurdish fight against IS in Iraq started to become successfull. Bombardments by the US on IS positions also made a contribution. Continue reading “The cynism of taking the PKK off the terrorist organizations list now”

Kurds aren’t sexy

‘So’, the young man in the group I talk to in a park in Sirnak summarizes, ‘you are looking for several Kurds to interview about the situation thirty years after the first PKK attack on the Turkish state, and that will be published in the Netherlands? Somebody is interested in that?’ He laughs; he just cannot believe it. I can only say: ‘Yes’, and shrug my shoulders.

I understand why he doesn’t believe it. The world’s media don’t have history of showing much interest in the Kurds. And if the Kurds are written about, it is often in the context of the country they are living in. Kurds as a nation of their own, with their own history, their own culture, language, politics, dreams and problems, are somehow not very ‘sexy’.

Abdullah Öcalan after being capture in 1999.
Abdullah Öcalan after being captured in 1999.

Examples? It’s been hard to write about the thirty year struggle of the Kurds against suppression in Turkey. It’s a long-lasting conflict, which usually only attracts the media’s attention when something exceptional happens (like in 1999, when Öcalan was captured) or when the violence takes a higher than usual toll (like when more than 20 soldiers die in one attack). Human rights abuses? They happen anywhere in the world, so they have to be exceptionally cruel to make it to the media. Tortured Kurds? Who cares? Continue reading “Kurds aren’t sexy”