The Kurds are Dirt

A scene from “Hotel Rwanda” is always on my mind: a conversation between Paul (A Hutu businessman) and the Canadian commander of the UN peacekeeping forces who are protecting the Tutsi women and children taking shelter in Paul’s hotel (a safe zone hosting European guests). At this point in the plot, the genocidal Hutu mob just outside the hotel gates is growing impatient and threatens to break in, and Paul has been calling on the international community for help and intervention for days, but when help finally “arrives” in the form of a small battalion, the Canadian commander is told that these forces are there to protect and transport the Europeans, not the Tutsi refugees. Over a tense glass of whisky, the Canadian commander confesses to Paul:

“You’re dirt…We think you’re dirt, Paul.”
Paul asks, “Who is we?”
“The West, all of the superpowers, everything you believe in, Paul. They think you’re dirt, they thing you’re dung, you’re worthless.”
Paul retorts, “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re talking about, sir.”
“Oh common, don’t bullshit me, Paul…You’re black. You’re not even a nigger. You’re an African. They are not going to stay, Paul.”
For me, this conversation allegorizes the plight of the people of Afrin – and the Kurds in general. More than forty days ago, when Erdogan’s Turkey began its “Operation Olive Branch” against the only egalitarian and ecofeminist enclave in the Middle East, I asked my fellow Kurdish friends to not even bother with asking for help from the West. I asked that they instead criticize the West for arming Erdogan. I asked that they never stoop to asking Donald Trump for help. I even asked them to not ask for solidarity from the “left.” After all, we are dealing with the same left who wouldn’t vote against Trump just to save the rest of us – the rest of us, whose vulnerability to an openly racist Trump apparently did not constitute enough of a “difference” to force a tangible distinction between Hillary and Trump.
The bottomline is that we, Kurds, are not even black Americans. We are not indigenous Canadians. We are not even Palestinians, the darling Middle Eastern subaltern of the Western left. We Kurds are dirt. Even our singular radicalism and anarchism did not merit an ounce of attention. What is more, solidarity with our struggle does not help the Western left wash its hand from racism at home in order to ignore the expansion of imperialism and neocolonialism abroad. We do not fit into the easy project of what Levians called a “Europe against Europe”:
“A weariness of Europe!…the affirmation and valorization of particular cultures at all corners of the world. An affirmation finding an echo and recognition – and often an origin – and always a sympathetic intelligence at the summits of the European University itself…An exaltation which is perhaps explained by a remorse nourished by the memory of colonial wars and of a long oppression of those who were once called savages, of a long indifference to the sorrows of an entire world. And thus, the contestation of the centrality of Europe from Europe itself. But perhaps, precisely in this way, a testimony to a Europe that is not simply Hellenic!…Universalism or imperialism! European empires extending beyond geographical Europe, rivaling one an­ other in power, to the point of preparing – if necessary – to destroy the very earth that bears humanity.”

Rojava does not fit into this neat discourse of separation, which is really project of unification. Rojava is a revolutionary project, not a melancholia for rehabilitation. The Western left would rather echo the Middle Eastern left’s attempts to level and label all alternative resistance movements in the Middle East as “puppets” of the West – which ultimately only enables the postcolonial but neoliberal administrations in charge of the Middle East – because it is easier to insist that “they’re all the same” out there (so Europe is the best of the rest), than to admit that the Middle East does not have to imimitate the utter failure of Europe. Indeed, it was only inevitable that the left wouldn’t come to Rojava’s aid, or at least mobilize against seven years of war in Syrian with 500,000 dead and more than three million displaced. And I am not writing these words as a statement of blame, but as a description of facts. No hard feelings, it is what it is, after all.