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(en) FAU for Communalism and Peace in Iraq - A LONG WAY TO KURDISTAN, A LONG WAY TO PEACEף Global background II. By Steff Brenner (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 5 Jan 2022 10:53:59 +0200

In this part the author reports subjectively about his participation in the # Delegation4Peace in the autonomous region of Kurdistan. This article first appeared in abridged form in the September issue of the Grassroots Revolution. ---- Mid-June 2021. We're driving through the mountains of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in Northern Iraq, our buses are full of internationalists. The rattling of the engines mixes with the horns of overtaking pickups, the clicking of cameras, the concentrated stapling of the keyboards, snippets of lively discussions in English, German, Kurmanji and French.
As FAU trade unionists, we are part of an international delegation to support the communalist movements in the region and to protest against an impending Turkish war of invasion in northern Iraq. The buses wind their way up the steep gravel roads of the Zagros Mountains (Çiyayên Zagrosê), we are less than 20 kilometers from the front.

In the next few days, our heterogeneous delegation is to grow to over 150 representatives from various organizations, parties, trade unions and media from over 20 countries. We should meet with representatives of political parties and civil society, but also with refugees and war victims. The aim is to get an impression of the situation in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, where a large-scale Turkish military offensive began on April 24, 2021 (the anniversary of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians). Officially, this applies to the suppression of the PKK in the Zagros Mountains, but many observers fear a permanent Turkish occupation, expulsion and resettlement policy in the attacked areas.

2012: We are at the anarchist world congress in St. Imier (Switzerland) with over 25 friends. In this melting pot of libertarian movements, news is making the rounds and appears every day in various conversations: The Kurdish PKK, linked to internal party power struggles and purges, has turned around. From a Marxist-Leninist cadre party it is said to have approached the anarchist ideas of anacho-communism and communalism. I am hesitant, as I am not aware of any example in revolutionary history of a similar development in such a short period of time. At the congress I meet long-time friends, exiled anarchists from Turkey - they confirm to me that there is something to it,

At home I start researching to get more information, but the information situation remains poor. A few articles on the Internet give very different assessments as to whether all of this is really a change of concept or simply a PR gag against the background of the global decline of the authoritarian-communist camp.

Two years later, the northern Syrian city of Kobane is besieged by Daesh (also known as Islamic State). In my city, where the Kurdish movement was previously largely isolated from the left of German roots, there will be a first large demonstration on October 10, 2014. It should be the demo that passed Lutz Bachmann and moved him to found Pegida, which connects many anti-fascists in Dresden in a special way in their common struggle with the movement.[1]For many of the leftists of German origin who emerged, it was their first contact with their Kurdish comrades: inside the city. We were amazed and touched by the crowd and the atmosphere of the demonstration, tried our first bits of Kurmanji and exchanged cell phone numbers.

Like me, it happened to many in and outside of our union movement. We began to look through reports, assessments and documentaries and to get an idea of the situation, at the same time the movement became world famous due to its successful ground fight against the Daesh, Rojava a catchphrase that became known to many people outside of the left movement.

In addition, as the East German left, local events in particular kept us busy at this time: The number of right-wing attacks and acts of violence skyrocketed, 35 right-wing radical demonstrations per week (!) In Saxony were not uncommon for well over a year. My comrades and I drove off several times a week, in front of some refugee accommodation, where we, armed with only a few flagpoles and pepper spray, organized makeshift self-protection against a better armed and far larger right-wing mob. Heidenau, Freital, Bautzen, Dresden and Clausnitz are just some of the place names that sounded more in our ears at that time than Kobanê, Dirbêsiyê, Qamislo or Afrîn.[2]
Nevertheless, especially during this time, we kept getting to know people who had been there who, with different perspectives, with fundamental criticism or even full of enthusiasm, allowed us to develop a differentiated picture of the social dynamics that existed in north-east Syria and little later also played in the Sinjar Mountains (Çiyayê Singal).

I think about the many stops up to the point where I was in Iraq as we get out and look at the Iranian mountains and the Cheekha Dar (the highest mountain in Iraq). After 40 ° C in the dusty, exhaust-polluted Erbil and a 5-hour bus ride, we finally breathe cool mountain air. Unfortunately, we only have a little time to absorb the calm, the mood and the altitude, but everyone who is visiting Kurdistan for the first time knows that this moment will remain indelibly in our minds and hearts. It is my third day in Kurdistan and our hosts: First of all, we want to introduce us to the beauty of the country. That succeeded! With a view of the rugged mountains, the painful history of the minorities in the region and the ever inadequate support for them,

The journey continues, projects are discussed, press releases are written, perspectives from different countries are exchanged. The hustle and bustle is interrupted by the checkpoints of the Peshmerga units, which are usually either subordinate to the strongest ruling party PdK (in German KDP) or the second largest YNK (in German PUK). Within two days I see as many assault rifles as I have probably never seen in my entire life. Yesterday a delegation from our delegation wanted to go to parliament and meet with representatives of the various Kurdish parties. Nothing came of it, armed forces stopped the journey in front of the hotel. We also made our first acquaintance with military transporters and agents in plain clothes who are accompanying us.

During our journey today, security forces of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan begin to refuse entry to members of our delegation arriving at Erbil Airport. In the end it will be well over 50. Many are stuck in the transit area for days with insufficient supplies, some go on hunger strike. The German consulate in Erbil is silent about the events. On the same day, three members of the Syrian PKK sister party PYD, some of them official representatives in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, were arrested in Erbil and taken into custody without trial, assistance or information about their whereabouts. Two are released after 50 days without explanation. The third activist is still missing in early August.

In 2016 and 2017 we in our syndicate (local trade union of FAU) dealt intensively with the impending establishment of our new trade union international, the International Confederation of Workers[3]and, in the course of this, with the similarities and differences between the Zapatista, communalist and syndicalist movements. It became clear to us that these three currents represent the most organized attempts to organize thousands of people with libertarian-oriented concepts and to coordinate themselves with other movements worldwide. Motions to set priorities for the new international flowed in from our local considerations and were accepted.

A big problem for the communalist movements in Turkey, north-east Syria, Iran and northern Iraq is that they usually only received international attention during times of acute war. Unfortunately, I was no exception at first. On January 19, 2018, the revolution in north-east Syria was faced with another Turkish invasion. Unlike in previous conflicts, this time I took part very actively in the solidarity work, got to know local people, watched daily reports on the front lines, human rights violations and also videos of the jihadist militias who, as allies of Turkey, raped, mutilated and killed Kurdish fighters . Of course all this had preoccupied me before, but this time I couldn't sleep anymore,

For me, an intensive examination began with myself, with the own privileges that we enjoy as members of left movements in consumer countries like Germany, how these forms of society shape our negotiation of individual and collective goals and our sense of responsibility. The communalist movements of the so-called Near and Middle East remained relatively inscrutable for me. It was not to be overlooked that in the reporting of the movement for a left, German audience, the own successes were painted all too rosy, so that they unfortunately often lacked credibility. It was not to be overlooked, however, that the achievements of the revolution in north-east Syria and also those of many resistant communities in Turkey were a blatant improvement above all

At the end of the deliberations, I decided to get involved in the International Committee of the FAU Federal Federation and to familiarize myself as much as possible with the situation through correspondence and research.

Back on the bus, day 4 of my stay. We sing revolutionary music or look after our thoughts from the bus into the fading daylight. We're done from the day. Not because we only slept three or four hours, the sun burned tirelessly all day, or because we haven't eaten for 12 hours. It is the contradictions of the day that gnaw at us and turn their circles in our heads.

In the morning, after a journey of several hours, we met the religious head of the Yezidi, the "Bavê Sêx" Ali Elias, who has been in office since the end of 2020. The Ezidis are a religious minority that has been persecuted for centuries. They received international attention from August 3, 2014, when the Daesh stood in front of their main settlement area, the Sinjar Mountains, with the firm intention of destroying the Yezidi people and their cultural sites. The Sinjar Mountains in western Northern Iraq, near the autonomous region of Northeast Syria, were under the protection of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan at that time. The Peshmerga of the PdK, later equipped with weapons by the Federal Republic of Germany for the defense of the Daesh, evacuated the positions in the Sinjar Mountains without firing a single shot and left tens of thousands of previously disarmed Ezidis to their fate. Ultimately, it was revolutionary units from north-east Syria and the PKK who fought an escape corridor with US air support. For thousands, however, this help came too late.

The audience is contradicting itself. On the one hand because there is a dispute over the person of Ali Elias, as well as other recently elected heads within the Ezidi communities. In addition to the traditional electoral process (the leaders of the Ezidis are principally men, must come from certain families and are usually only elected by the elites), special political influence and a closeness of the candidates to the PdK party was assumed in the last elections. Sections of the Ezidis do not recognize the choice. Furthermore, children who have been raped by ISIS are still not recognized by the Yezidi leadership and many women affected feel rejected and stigmatized. According to statements from Yezidi and former YPG fighters whom I meet, there are hundreds of affected children in YPG orphan camps in north-east Syria, left behind by desperate mothers. The suicide rate among Yezidi women also remains high. Finally, I hear that female fighters of the Yezidi self-defense units YBS and YJÊ (built by communalists after 2014 based on the north-east Syrian model) are said to have been excluded from the Yezidi community by the Bavê Sêx. On the other hand, the Bavê Sêx still represents thousands of Yezidi women, brings us close to many problems of the religious community at the audience and with its audience also legitimizes our delegation on the diplomatic floor of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. Finally, I hear that female fighters of the Yezidi self-defense units YBS and YJÊ (built by communalists after 2014 based on the north-east Syrian model) are said to have been excluded from the Yezidi community by the Bavê Sêx. On the other hand, the Bavê Sêx still represents thousands of Yezidi women, brings us close to many problems of the religious community at the audience and with its audience also legitimizes our delegation on the diplomatic floor of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. Finally, I hear that female fighters of the Yezidi self-defense units YBS and YJÊ (built by communalists after 2014 based on the north-east Syrian model) are said to have been excluded from the Yezidi community by the Bavê Sêx. On the other hand, the Bavê Sêx still represents thousands of Yezidi women, brings us close to many problems of the religious community at the audience and with its audience also legitimizes our delegation on the diplomatic floor of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan.

This is followed by an impressive visit to Lalisch (Lalis), the highest shrine of the Ezidis. Here, too, we have the most contradicting impressions and we meet a conspicuous woman who was already glued to our heels on the outward flight and whom we still meet on various occasions - it is difficult to determine whether she is a BND agent or a member of another secret service.

Then we drive to the Sheikhan refugee camp in Ezidi without an official permit. Seven years after the genocide of 2014, around 12,000 refugees are living here in tents - it is just one of many camps in Syria and northern Iraq and the Yezidis only one of many groups affected. In the Dahuk (Dihok) government alone, there are over 700,000 "displaced persons" living on a map in the camp administration. Only a fraction of our delegation is allowed into the camp, only for a short time and with police escort. The rest of our delegation, at this point 60 people, is invited to tea by the camp management. Here, too, ambivalence: The camp manager himself has a history of escape, even seems to be happy about the delegation and yet the people here remain in miserable camp conditions because the Barzani regime, who is responsible for the camp management, guarantees neither material nor military security for the Yezidis. Many of us therefore refrain from drinking the inmates' tea rations under Barzani portraits and lettering and seek a conversation with those affected on the edge of the camp - including myself with two comrades: inside.

We and others receive similar assessments of the current situation in our conversations: The people do not trust the Barzani regime, it was PKK and north-east Syrian forces that would have provided both military and humanitarian support. They say that they have no hope because the Daesh is still strong in the region, many Muslims are otherwise hostile to the Ezidis and even Daesh prisoners are now being housed in the same camp complex. The PKK had finally withdrawn in order not to provide any legitimation for further Turkish attacks on the region, and the Yezidi self-defense units were being opposed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments. International aid for the construction of Yezidi villages would be put into its own pocket by the Kurdish government, government militias prevented reconstruction and traffic in and out of Ezidi villages. The picture that remains: hunger, misery, trauma, standstill and resignation. Since sleep is out of the question, we formulate a press release that night.[4]
The fifth day begins with a surprise: the Federal Police themselves took action at Düsseldorf Airport and prevented around 20 of our delegates from leaving the country. Since this also affects German parliamentarians and everything looks like the German security organs are acting here on direct request from the Turkish secret service, the story is getting more public in left and right-wing media. For us, the day essentially consists of press work in the hotel.

Due to various media reports about our delegation, the ruling party PdK changed its tactics the next day: After various meetings of one of our delegations with various parties and unions in the autonomous region, the government officer for foreign affairs surprisingly promised a short-term meeting. Two days earlier, his party had insulted us as terrorists in press statements.

The meeting takes place in our hotel, over 80 members of the delegation are present. After diplomatic niceties, the quasi-foreign minister begins a lengthy monologue and repeats the common narratives of the PdK: That the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan is a constitutional state, the PKK does not recognize it, that the Turkish attacks are the fault of the PKK and they also do so are responsible for the fact that the Yezidi did not return to their settlement areas. Some participants become more insistent in their inquiries: Wouldn't different democratic concepts have their justification and in any case more than Turkish despotism? Wasn't the enemy more likely to be the aggressive Turkish autocracy than the PKK? Our counterpart falls into real talk: What options would the autonomous region have against the NATO country Turkey? Would the governments of our countries of origin do anything to protect the Iraqi Kurds in the event of a war? The words "Politics is a dirty business!" And when asked whether at least the borders to north-east Syria could not be opened to supply the bleeding population there with the bare essentials, the clear answer: "No, because we want to survive! "After this battle of words, the politician and his bodyguards leave the building in a hurry and visibly angry.

The presence of civilian agents increases unbearably during the night. Already in the last few days hotel rooms had obviously been searched in our absence and there were always some informers against them, but from now until the departure of the delegation from Erbil whole crowds populate the lobbies of the hotels in which we move.

In an evaluation of the talks with the other parties and organizations, two core demands emerge on which everyone agrees: 1. The PKK must disappear from the international terrorist lists, as this classification is unjustified on the one hand and the international legitimation for the Turkish wars of aggression on the other supplies. On the other hand, there must be no fighting between the PKK militia and Peshmerga.

The following day, our planned demonstration, including a press conference, in front of the UN headquarters in Erbil is banned. Our hotel is surrounded by armed forces with assault rifles, we are only allowed to leave the building individually for errands. Without further ado, the press conference was held in the hotel lobby in the presence of the police and Peshmerga. I am writing a press release, surrounded by Turkish-speaking agents and less than 20 meters from the nearest AK 47. Despite the ban on protest, a success remains:

All the well-known media in the region are represented, the local public is fully aware of the issue, critical voices from the region, presented by us internationalists, cannot be silenced by the Barzani regime.

On the eighth day I leave with a heavy heart, many others stay. On the flight we meet the alleged BND agent again. In Düsseldorf we are greeted by a large solidarity rally and an equally large number of police, but they are holding back - we are probably protected by the increased attention of the German media.

The rest of the delegation then moved to the YNK-dominated area, where the repression pressure subsided. There are trips close to the front, meetings with war victims, demonstrations and appearances in various Kurdish media. The later our fellow delegates return to Germany, the more unfriendly the reception. Finally, luggage is illegally searched and stolen, returnees are sometimes thrown to the ground, held for several hours and questioned. Further repression is sure to follow when media interest has completely ebbed away.

It's the beginning of August. There are lectures and interviews on the subject behind me, as well as everyday stress and wage work. The journey seems unbelievably long ago, surreal and remote. And yet the lines are still not enough to tell what I would like to convey to the readers.

Our delegation trip can certainly be understood as an attempt to create public debate even where it is suppressed. It was also a search for new concepts in a situation in which great powers with unprecedented military superiority threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people and the hope for (basic) democratic and humanistic forms of society. At the end of June one could read in an Austrian newspaper that, at least in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, there was increasing resistance to acceptance of Turkish aggression on the part of the major parties and the Peshmerga units.

Nevertheless, a feeling of relative powerlessness remains in me, because the PdK representative was right at one point: Even the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan and the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria would hardly stand a chance against the NATO army of Turkey alone, even if they did they could and would fight together effectively. The war will be decided in the countries that keep the Erdogan regime alive economically and politically, including Germany.

The longer I deal with the social struggles outside of Europe, get to know friends and comrades who fall in battle or tell me their stories of loss and privation, the more strange it is which judgments, which luxuries and which privileges even a radical left in Germany seems to take it for granted. This lack of empathy and responsibility is a big problem. Another, even more serious problem is that public relations and protest in Germany and elsewhere will achieve little or nothing if economic interests point in a different direction.

As internationalists and humanists, in my opinion we have no choice but to critically review our own privileges again and again, to get involved in the broadest possible, global and radical democratic organizations and to work towards preventing economic damage ourselves to such an extent that we have to be heard in the face of economic interests in supporting one or the other dictatorship and autocracy.

This path is long, stony, a struggle against one's own resignation and the resignation of others. Along the way, as internationalists, we keep seeing friends and comrades dying. I can therefore only ask all readers to join the necessary organizational and educational processes and accelerate it.

In the third part, Steff Brenner writes based on his experiences and perspectives on possible problems and strategies of internationalist strategies of anarcho-syndicalist movements.


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