After CIA-trained Cuban exiles seeking to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government were crushed in the 1961 Cuban Bay of Pigs adventure, a humiliated President John F. Kennedy groaned:
“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”
When we Kurds win our freedom, we will have 1,000 fathers.
We may also have two mothers.
Two Ohio women have grasped the cudgel of freedom and are graciously wielding it for our cause: Janet Biehl and Janet Klein.
Rudaw readers may recall Ms. Biehl, since I recently reviewed a book she had translated into English, Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan. She was a long-time companion of Murray Bookchin, an American libertarian whose books are admired by Abdullah Ocalan.
Dr. Klein, professor of history at the University of Akron, goes back to the late 1990s, when she toiled on her PhD at Princeton, the Hamidiye Light Cavalry, now a book, The Margins of Empire, Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone.
I’d like to send Mr. Ocalan an autographed copy of Dr. Klein’s book—if it would not get “lost” or branded “contraband.”
The fans of Turkish prime minister may think I’ve been away so long that I can’t know what is going on in Turkey, that books are no longer banned—and Mr. Erdogan doesn’t brandish censorship.
That jaded half-truth is highly optimistic, and a “half-truth,” says a Yiddish proverb, “is a whole lie.”
Superficially, it may appear grand that Mr. Bookchin’s books, The Ecology of Freedom: The Rise and Dissolution of Hierarchy and Urbanization Without Cities have pierced Imrali prison barriers.
But “one swallow does not make a summer.”
My doubts were red-flagged while assessing the books allowed Mr. Ocalan, not for what was tolerated —but what was not!
Edward Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was —well, almost there.
The third volume was conveniently denied—and no wonder.
Gibbon’s first two volumes are important, but the third one is vitally insightful for Kurds, because Gibbon describes the savage, merciless Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
A Turkish director, Faruk Aksoy, recently made a film of it, glorying the valor of Turkish warriors and the extolling the “magnanimity” of their leaders, Fetih 1453, or Conquest 1453.
This big-budget Turkish film is smashing box office records. Turks flock to theaters in droves, sometimes shouting Allahu Ekber (God is Great) not just in Turkish cinemas, but also European ones.
I don’t know how many Kurds are watching it, but I am worried about its effects on impressionable Kurdish youth.
I wonder what Mr. Ocalan thinks of it. He loves to debate critical issues. Fetih 1453 and Gibbon’s third volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire could offer that chance.
But he can’t see the hit Turkish movie in lockup, where he’s also denied Gibbon’s final work—so he can’t ponder the truth. Mr. Ocalan’s favorite author, Mr. Bookchin, loved truth—which is strangled in Turkish prisons.
The disciples of Mr. Ocalan might say: “Kani, you have never spent time in a Turkish jail.”
No—and thank God for that.
They may also argue that since 420 inmates have been beaten to death in Turkish prisons, Mr. Ocalan is simply playing along—while ordering the formation of a parallel government to take over northern Kurdistan when Turkey explodes like the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia choose your pick.
I only hope they are right about the first example. I don’t like it when blood is shed like water.
Whatever his confinement has produced, Mr. Ocalan deserves kudos for silencing Turkish and Kurdish guns. For every Turk that was killed on the mountains of Kurdistan, we were sacrificing eight Kurds to atone for that death. It is great our name is not associated with such madness.
But it is troubling to see Mr. Ocalan espouse the reckless Islamic rhetoric of Prime Minister Erdogan, craving the “good old days” of the Ottoman Empire as a cure-all for Kurdish ills.
Janet Klein’s book details how, long before Mr. Ocalan rebelled, the Ottomans branded Armenians as “suspect”—while simultaneously arming Kurds with the “Hamidiye Light Cavalry.”
Powerfully arming Kurds, next door to Armenians denied guns because of their Christian faith, exploded in predictable tragedy.
Brazen atrocities were perpetrated by Mistoye Kecel (bald) of Cizr-a Botan, Iboye Diz (thief) of Weranshah and Husoye Kor (blind) of Panos to name just a few.
These Kurdish thugs, with the blood of hundreds dripping from their hands (some of their victims were Kurds), were glorified at Yildiz Palace in Istanbul and declared Ottoman “pashas.”
But when Europeans pressured the Ottomans to protect the Armenians, their co-religionists, they were as quickly discarded like filthy diapers.
No Kurd should be a party to resurrecting a rotten scheme that teases Kurds like cats delight in toying with mice.
We are not helpless mice. We can effectively resist, as Gandhi proved, without great expense or bloodshed. When he urged Indians to burn their western clothing, millions hurled them into blazing bonfires across the country.
This cheap, nonviolent action, like the Salt March that came later, sparked a purifying, liberating power among Indians, eventually winning their freedom. Even Winston Churchill, who helped crush Hitler, felt outmaneuvered by Gandhi.
Kurds can likewise outsmart the Turks through nonviolence. We will never persuade them, with words, to free us. “Persuasion is the resource of the feeble,” Gibbon eloquently said, “and the feeble can seldom persuade.”
But we can create a massive nonviolent uproar—as Gandhi did in India and Martin Luther King in America—until the Turks are forced by internal and external pressures to free us, as Indians and blacks were.
The Turkish-Kurdish ceasefire is fine, so far as it goes. But nonviolent action should continue—until real victory is ours.
Please send me your ingenious thoughts on how to outfox the Turks. We must bracket our minds to it, like Sir Isaac Newton did in solving the mystery of gravity. When he finally won, someone asked him how he did it. He said: “By thinking about it all the time.”
We need to think about our freedom all the time—until we win it.