Locked away on an island
Not allowed to see the world
Guarded by a thousand rifles
In a prison lined with dirt
There's a man who inspires millions
to live like they are free
He's a guerrilla in the greatest sense
He took up arms in '84
to fight the Turkish state
- Lee Brickley
Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ Fridays at Noon – NOVEMBER 26, 2021
This week’s show is all about Kurdistan. We chat to Rebekah Dowling from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)* about struggles for peace and justice in Iraqi Kurdistan, and also to Fionn Skiotis from North East Syria Solidarity for an update on Rojava’s attempts at creating a green direct democracy in a warzone.
“We were just peacefully asking for our rights,” recently released Badinan Prisoner, Badal Barawri, told a room full of international representatives in Erbil in early November 2021.
Christianity has a long history in Iraq.
The Assyrian people adopted Christianity in the 1st century and Assyria in northern Iraq became the centre of Eastern Rite Christianity and Syriac literature from the 1st century until the Middle Ages. The Kurds have had a troubled history with Christianity so it is interesting that they should invite the CPT into northern Iraq to assist them in their struggle for autonomy.
Northern Iraq remained predominantly Assyrian, Eastern Aramaic speaking and Christian until the destructions of the 14th-century Muslim warlord of Turco-Mongol descent, Timur (Tamerlane), who conquered Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria.
The Kurds moved into northern Iraq in the 16th century from Persia.
During World War I the Assyrians (many who were Christian) of northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest Iran suffered the Assyrian genocide which accounted for the deaths of up to 65% of the entire Assyrian population. In the year of Iraq’s formal independence, 1933, the Iraqi military carried out large-scale massacres against the Assyrians who had supported the British colonial administration.
The Christians of Northern Iraq were tolerated under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who made one of them, Tariq Aziz, his deputy.
Which brings us to the 21st century.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)* is a multifaith NGO in Iraqi Kurdistan that “partners with local communities, grassroots organisations and civil society to transform violence and oppression.” Christian Peacemaker Teams came to Iraq just before the 2003. The invasion by the United States was justified under the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion persecution of Christians in Iraq increased. CPT was started and is funded by the Mennonite Christian Church in the United States. This is a pacifist religion.
One of the human shields in the first Iraq War (1991 Gulf War) built our first radio transmitter (4PR – Voice of the People) in the late 1970s. We used it to make Pirate Radio broadcasts from Mt Cootha in Brisbane. We used to call Steve ‘George Orwell’ because he shared the real name of the original G. O.
Notes by Ian Curr
28 Nov 2021
Transcript of Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon
Fri, 11/26 5:22PM • 40:55
people, kurdish, kurdistan, iraqi kurdistan, turkey, solidarity, syria, kurds, areas, region, bombings, support, happening, iraq, gender equality, hear, called, protest, government, organizing
Rebekah, Andy, Fionn Skiotis
Welcome to the Paradigm Shift on four Triple Zed 102.1, where we challenge the assumptions of our current society to resist oppression and investigate alternative ways of living. For a world based on justice, solidarity and sustainability.
Welcome to the Paradigm Shift. For 4ZZZ is the station you are on 102.1. FM, or on the internet as you may be listening to it. My name is Andy and … we are going to be talking about Kurdistan.
Of course, it’s been a long struggle for freedom for Kurds. Ethnicity, divided between different nation states, and we’re going to hear from a couple of different people about what’s going on over there. First off, we will hear from Rebecca Dowling, who is a very good friend of mine. And it’s very exciting to have her on the show. She is currently in Iraqi Kurdistan, where she works as a human rights worker for Christian Peacemaker teams. And we’ll hear all about what’s been happening in Iraqi Kurdistan, some inspiring stories of struggle there.
And then after that, we will hear from Fionn Skiotis from North East Syria Solidarity, a group in Melbourne that’s just formed North a serious solidarity, who are trying to support the Kurdish people in Syria, what was previously known as Rojava, and who have had plenty of struggles, but who are committed to democracy, gender equality, and ecology. And that’s pretty inspiring, too.
So that is what’s coming up. Hopefully, it will be educational for us all because we don’t hear much about Kurdistan in the media. And there’s all kinds of issues.
One being that groups like the PKK, who advocate for Kurdish independence are considered a terrorist group. And so, journalists report on what they do at their peril. But stay tuned in and by the end of it, we will be better acquainted with the Kurdish struggle and Kurdish music. Let’s start off with hearing from Bek.
Can you start by introducing yourself?
Hello, my name is Rebecca. I’m working in Iraqi Kurdistan with Christian Peacemaker teams.
So before we get on to what Christian Peacemaker teams does, a lot of people probably have heard of Kurdistan, but maybe don’t know much about the Iraqi part of Kurdistan. And it’s kind of status of semi autonomy and things like that. So do you want to start by giving a bit of a brief background about Iraqi Kurdistan and how it came to be?
Sure, it will have to be very brief. But after World War, one Kurdistan was split up by France and England and split into Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. And the Kurdish people in those current trees became persecuted minorities. And in all of them, they started struggles against the ruling party powers there. And so in Iraq, this armed struggle continued through the 60s.
And Saddam began the The Anfal Campaign when he was in power, which was a genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq. And this continued through to the 90s, with the chemical bombing in Balisan, where most of the population was killed, and the mass exodus of Kurdish people trying to get to Iran, where a lot of people died in the mountains in the modern rain. And so, the world began noticing what was happening and a no fly zone was imposed in 1991. Over the Kurdish area, and Saddam could no longer control it, and it became semi autonomous. And this power was kind of cemented in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq when Saddam was overthrown. And since then, Iraqi Kurdistan has achieved quite a level of autonomy from the rest of Iraq, although technically still under the power of the central government.
So then, the organization that you’re working for Christian Peacemaker teams was also in Iraq around the time of the Iraq War (2003), one of a number of kind of peacemaking organizations that made their way there amid the kind of carnage of that war. How did they end up in Iraqi Kurdistan as a permanent presence?
So CPT had decided to move out of Baghdad, and then they were invited up to Kurdistan by some activists living up here. CBT never goes into areas unless they’re invited there by local people. And so they ended up moving up there this year is 15th. Here, we’ve been in Kurdistan.
But there’s other CPT groups in other countries around the world conflict areas.
Yeah, so CPT was started by the Mennonite Church, and kind of came out of the US. And their mission was to go to areas of conflict and non violently resist or end oppression. With his idea, they came from a pacifist tradition. So this idea that if they truly believed in the nonviolent message of the Bible, they should be willing to risk their lives to protect people non violently. And over the years that mission has changed. And so now, the mission statement is building partnerships to confront violence and oppression, transform it. And we have groups in Lesbos in Greece and Palestine, in Colombia, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and also a presence on the border of the US and Mexico helping migrants there, and in Canada, working with First Nations people.
So in Iraqi Kurdistan, what projects does CPT work on to try to make a more peaceful and just society there …
are main projects working on the cross border bombings. So for the past 35 years, the border areas of Iraqi Kurdistan had been bombed by Turkey and Iran. And we work with a villager communities, their farmers and pastoralists who are impacted by those bombings and very little notice is taken of, they’re killed, their livelihoods are lost, their farms are burnt. They’re displaced regularly. And so part of our work is amplifying their stories and trying to tell people here and internationally what’s happening, as well as working with other organizations to provide support for them, and documenting what’s happening.
And then there’s an ongoing civil war in Turkey between Kurds and the Turkish Government.
Yeah, so like I said, Before, the Kurdish people in all those countries have been mounting an armed struggle against the oppression they’ve received and in Turkey, that groups of PKK and which is now registered (as a) terrorist organization. And they believed in the unified Kurdistan, and don’t recognize these artificial borders put in place, originally by the UK and France, and traveled regularly across the mountains. So they exist in Iraqi Kurdistan as well. And that’s kind of the reason Turkey gives for bombing these areas, is the presence of the PKK. And there’s a similar group in Iran. And so Iran uses the same excuse. But they show very little regard for the fact that there are a lot of civilians living in these areas that have lived there for 1000s of years, and don’t want any part in this war.
So as well as the border bombings is other projects that you’re involved in it.
Yeah, so we work closely with civil society here as well, supporting civil activists and independent journalists, who are both documenting those border bombings and corruption within the government here. This year, we’ve been focusing on the case of 81 Badinan prisoners, who were journalists and activists from the bottom nine region of Iraqi Kurdistan and were imprisoned last year and a series of arrests that was really a crackdown on freedom of expression here by the local government. So a few of them, we had no one where that from where there were intersected with the cross border bombings, and they were documenting what is happening there and protesting the presence of Turkish bases. And in 2019, there was a number of arrests to do with people protesting the presence of Turkish bases and the deaths of five civilians in dere, Luke, and then, last year 2020, a number of those same people were arrested again, along with some others, and they were accused of being a threat to national security, and on spying on the Kurdish government passing information on to the German, US, UK and French consulates, and a number of them had since been released.
You’re on a Paradigm Shift, and that song you just heard was Farhad, Bandesh with ‘You can’t kill me’. Of course, Kurdistan seems a long way away. But there are a number of Kurds in Australia, people who’ve come as refugees over the years, one of them being Farhad Bondesh, who spent a long time in Manus Island and then in detention in Australia, but he’s now out and free to play music. Before that, we have been talking about Iraqi Kurdistan. And with Rebekkah Dowling, and we got up to talking about the Badinan prisoners, group of 81 journalists and activists who were arbitrarily imprisoned by the Iraqi Kurdish government. Let’s go back to hearing a bit more about that.
So these activists and journalists locked up, they didn’t have contact with their families. And then there was a Kafka-esque kind of court process.
Yeah, that’s right. So the arrests themselves were illegal, they were often arrested, from their homes in the middle of the night, by people who had no identification that they were and police were wearing masks and had guns and would handcuff them put bags over their heads and carry them off, and their families would have no idea where they were, or who had taken them. And that’s kind of the point where we would be contacted. And we would work with the families and lawyers to try and locate them in prisons. And then once that had happened, try and advocate for their release, and also for them to have access to their families or to lawyers. Some of them were able to see their families, but most of them didn’t have any contact apart from a few phone calls here and there.
And all the trials I attended, the prisoners hadn’t seen a lawyer until the first trial where they would arrive in court. And this volunteer group of lawyers who had got together to represent them would say, do you want us to represent you? And in front of us all, they would have to say yes or no. And we also heard from a number of them that they were being threatened, that they shouldn’t have legal representation, and that they might be released if they didn’t. However, most of them chose to take on these volunteer lawyers, who then represented the people in all the cases we attended. However, there was some people as well who were convicted in secret trials, so didn’t even have access to that volunteer group. And no one knew their trial was happening until afterwards, where maybe a family member would get a phone call with them. And they would say, oh, no, I’ve already I’ve already had my trial. It was held in the secret court, and I’ve been sentenced to seven years in prison. So we were advocating for these rights as well to be met alongside … and some of the consulates here.
So it sounds like a pretty terrible situation for civil society in Iraqi Kurdistan, although some of them have subsequently been released.
Yeah, and that? Well, we can’t really know that all the reasons that we believe it’s because of the pressure being put on the government here. Like I said before, it’s been all over the media, these cases, and there’s been a lot of protests. And now a lot of foreign governments involved, especially after they were accused, through their prisoners being accused of espionage and spying for them. And so … (sighs) … there’s 27 released last week, and there was a trial where five of them were released, and also another trial where one of them was released.
But a number of the release still contain convictions because they’ve been in prison for over a year. So they will be convicted with the charges of threat to national security or similar charges, but then be given time served and released, which is still an issue because those convictions mean they can’t be employed in their original jobs often, and it’s on their record and they also there’s some distancing from people that I knew previously who don’t want to get caught up in the similar situation.
And it’s a, it’s proof that the government here really has absolute control over these things, even though they’ve come forward and made statements about not wanting to get involved in the court process and how they can’t overturn the decision. It’s been very obvious that they’ve, previously before the court even began decided what sentences they were going to give out. And, like a number of family members said to us, these courts are just a theater, there would be evidence presented by the Security Council, and then the lawyers for the defense wouldn’t be able to pursue it properly, they wouldn’t be able to ask questions. They tried to present evidence in the defence, and it would be dismissed. And the primary accusations would be these witness statements of witnesses who were never brought into court whenever cross examined. And while the prisoners denied all the accusations, and their own confessions, were read out, and then by the judge in court beginning with, ‘I am a criminal, I’ve done this, I’ve done this. I organized this assassin, I’d planned this assassination. I wanted to overthrow the government.’ And then the prisoners would get up and say, That’s not my statement. I’m not a criminal, either. I didn’t sign that at all. Or I was forced to sign that. And I never got to read it.
Well, for people of Iraqi Kurdistan, there’s border bombings on one side and a repressive government on the other. Are there other issues facing people living there?
Yeah, I mean, we’ve got a lot of issues with climate change now, as well. There’s been a big drought this year (2021). And there’s a lot of talk about how Iraq has grown to be one of the most severely affected countries with climate change. A lot of the border that comes through Kurdistan and then flows further down into Iraq, comes from Turkey and Iran. And they’re building dams that cut off that water flow, which is a real issue, both for drinking water and the farming, that many people are subsistence farming that many people rely on, as well as general pollution, oil wells being built and blocking farmers off from access to their land.
The war with ISIS, which is still affecting parts of Kurdistan, continued conflict between the Kurdish Regional Government and the central government over wages and these disputed land areas that are rich in oil. And then also, the another big concern is the withdrawal of the US, which is meant to be happening at the end of this year. And what that will mean for areas like Kurdistan, which was surrounded by countries like Iran and Turkey, and then groups like ISIS and al-Hash’d al-Shaabi ( a para militry group in Iraq) as well. And what that could mean if there is not the US support here.
Well, certainly some issues there, what you’ve lived in Iraq and Kurdistan now on and off for a few years. And I guess it’s not all negatives for people there. What are the things that you see as positives about Iraqi Kurdistan or positive signs for the future?
Yeah, I think the people here always inspire me this year, this week sorry, again, it’s been mass student protests in Soleimani, the city I live, in protesting against the government, which hasn’t been paying the students allowances since 2014. And that’s what sparked it. But the students are saying, that’s not all that the issue, that’s not the only issue. The issue is also an education system, and the lack of opportunities for them once they finish study.
And we went out yesterday to one of the protests on the street on the main street of Soleimani (?). And there are hundreds of students there from all the different universities. And they were being met by the security forces who were using rubber bullets live ammunition shooting in the air, lots of tear gas and water trucks to push back the students and try and disperse them. And they were still they’re refusing to move and calling for their rights and then coming out the next day as well. Refusing to be silenced and not afraid of these threats.
There’s one of my friends was telling me about a video they saw of two of the students sitting at the front of the protest line, which had started completely as a peaceful protest marching from the university to the center of town. Then they were met by security forces at one of the political buildings. And these two students were sitting on the ground, legs crossed, just sitting in front of the advancing security forces, and the water truck was spraying water all over them. And they were just continuing to sit there refusing to move, there was the smoke from tear gas all around as well. And in our work, we meet lots of people like that, who are standing up to this oppressive regime, as well as to the bombings and refusing to give up or move. We met so many families on the border regions, who are losing their livelihood from the bombings have lost family members from the bombings. And now with the new Turkish bases being built in the area, continually having their movements monitored, and unable to move freely, because the truth is soldiers are setting up checkpoints and not letting them through, and they’re still refusing to leave. They say this is our land. We’ve lived here for generations, and we’re going to stay here and resist by refusing to give in and be displaced.
Alright, thanks very much Bek, if any of our listeners are interested in finding out more how can they do that?
We have a website, https://cptik.org/ And it’s got all our reports and articles on that. We also give regular updates through our Facebook page, Christian Peacemaker teams, Iraqi Kurdistan, and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram as well.
Alright, Thanks, Bek. Thanks.
You just heard they’re one of the biggest Kurdish rock bands and that song, they’re a bit of a protest song called democracy.
We have been talking about Iraqi Kurdistan with Rebekah Dowling. And it’s not the only region of Kurdistan. Of course, there’s a long struggle from within Turkey by Kurds for independence struggle in different ways. In Iran, there’s plenty of Kurds and many who have come to Australia as asylum seekers, which is another political issue. But of course, one of the most prominent struggles of Kurdish people in recent years has been in Syria, where there was the Syrian civil war, and then there was Islamic State.
And in the middle of all this, the people of Northern Syria, who mostly Kurds, tried to set up a kind of direct democratic society that would be ecologically sustainable and have a real focus on gender equality. It’s an incredibly interesting story and inspiring, and plenty of people around the world have tried to show solidarity in different ways. In Australia, there has been groups doing that and there’s a new one as well called North East Syrian solidarity.
And I spoke with Fionn Skiotis from the group about what’s latest in North Syria and how can we show support? Could you start off by introducing yourself?
Yeah, sure. My name is Fionn Skiotiss. I live in Melbourne. I’ve been involved for a few years with a solidarity group called ‘Australians for Kurdistan’. And recently I’ve set up a new group, or myself and some friends, have set up a new group called North and East Syria solidarity (NESS) with the aim of providing aid and support where we can to the people of North and East Syria.
So north and east Syria was in the news a few years ago. People may remember then being referred to as Rojava when during the Syrian civil war, but also due to some of the ways are setting up society there. Can you give us a bit of background around North and East Syria?
Yeah, sure. So in the north and east areas of Syria as a Kurdish majority of the population, it’s also a very diverse population in 2012, but in the middle of 2012, the Assad regime withdrew its forces from that area in a largely peaceful way. And the Kurds who were had been organizing for many years prior to that organizing resistance They took that opportunity and began to organize themselves along autonomous lines, they established communes, work in cooperatives, and other systems, councils and so on, which would allow them to manage their own affairs in a way that’s quite decentralized, very democratic. And they also have very strong principles of pluralism, or multiculturalism.
So all peoples, all faiths, ethnicities, and so on in the region, respected. Now they’re also extremely strong on women’s rights and gender equality. And the fourth leg to their system of beliefs is a strong support for environmentalism or ecology. And since that time, they’ve been able to do a great deal, despite very significant challenges, probably the most significant was the invasion of the region in 2014 by Islamic State, which was catastrophic, they succeeded in occupying most of the region.
And it wasn’t until the Kurds and their allies stopped the invasion at Kobanî, towards the end of 2014, that the tide was turned, and then the Kurds and others, supporting them with a bit of help from the international community, mainly in the form of air support, they managed to beat back Islamic State until the territorial defeat in 2019.
So that was really quite a significant achievement, good for the Kurds in that region, but good for the world as a whole. And, and that’s something that the North and East Syrian region has never really been properly thanked for, or taken into account. It’s largely just been taken for granted, I think.
So they’ve, they’ve organized themselves in very interesting ways. They’ve achieved a lot, as I said, they’ve looked after huge numbers of, you know, hundreds of 1000s of displaced people, and are caring for guarding and caring for a very large number of Islamic state prisoners and their families. And have, you know, run and organize this society, a very vibrant way, very interesting way. Quite a radical approach to organizing their political system and social system, their economy. And they’ve done that against many, many challenges, including invasion by Turkey and its proxies.
One of the regions of northern Syria, called Afri (?) was invaded and occupied in 2018, the beginning of 2018 and late 2019, Turkey invaded again, we stumbled on quite a lot quite a broad front and occupied quite a significant zone coming in from the border about 20 to 30 cars. That was eventually stopped through international negotiations and other things. Once again, today, Turkey is threatening to invade even further. That’s, that’s in the hasn’t done it. But that is a constant threat. And in addition to that, Turkey does attack on a smaller scale on a daily basis in quite a few areas, and does other things to undermine the region. Just one example. The region’s going through a significant drought at the moment. And Turkey controls the water of the Euphrates and other rivers I think, up upstream and it is chosen to use that as a kind of weapon against the people of Raja by reducing the water flow significantly. So, water has become a really critical issue for the people their
That is KEDER SALIH there with the song Ez Şervanê azadî me, which does translate as I am a freedom fighter. And Keder is from Rojava, North Syria. We have been speaking with a fuel stewardess from northeast Syria in solidarity about what’s happening there in North Syria, with Kurdish people and others.
And let’s go back to hearing from Fion. They certainly have the challenges there and like any oppressed group deserve our support. But there are interesting things, as you said about how they structure their society. He has to elaborate a bit more on that on how they try to, you know, live democratically.
Yeah, look, from what I understand there’s a there’s a system of smaller bodies that federate up to larger bodies that go across the nine regions that make up Rojava, and ultimately cover Rojava as a whole. So, they start at the bottom level with what are called communes. They can be, or they are local areas in towns, they can be as small as 150 people or up to I think 1000, I’ve seen that figure. So that so, they generally local in nature, a small area in a town or a larger area in the rural areas, or they can be workplace based. And these, these elect representatives up to councils. And there are a whole range of these, which in turn, elected delegates up to high level councils, and so on.
You have 10, councils covering broadly what we would consider sort of ministerial areas of responsibility, health and so on, in each of the regions. And it says, I think there are nine regions. And then there are also the same 10 areas covered at the across all of North and East Syria, Rojava.
So it’s, it means I mean, not every single person is about every single decision, obviously, but it is a system for control from the bottom up. So delegates sent to represent the views of those who are sending them, they can be recalled at any time. And also the very work very well established system now of gender equality. So that every organization, every committee, every council, has uses what’s called the co chair systems has to be teachers, one female, one male, which effectively means that women are, you know, they’re at the forefront running, helping to run every body in northern Syria.
They’re also women only bodies, in many areas as well. So it’s a form of, I guess, you’d call it decentralized democracy. And direct democracy its direct control. It’s different to our parliamentary system where we put a vote in a box once every three or four years. And, and to a large degree, between those events, we don’t control what are politicians do with the power that we supposedly give them?
In Rojava very different, there is very direct control and very direct participation. You know, anecdotally, I’ve heard, for example, that there’s just so many meetings going on all the time, and Rojava. And of course, that’s, you know, perhaps one of the burdens of direct democracy, you are expected to step up, take part in meetings, discuss things and exercise that control that you have.
Well, there’s great things going on there, as you said, and but also a lot of threats to it from Turkey and other hostile neighbors. So you’ve mentioned that you’ve just started a new group, new solidarity. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah, so we just started a new group called North and East Syria, solidarity. So ne Ws, we’ll be launching our website and starting to get active soon. Our aim is to, you know, show solidarity with the people and the institutions of northern east Syria. We think that’s all worthwhile. We think it offers a, what’s been called a beacon of hope in that middle east and region, in fact, to the world.
It’s a different way of doing things based on equality based on participation in running their own affairs, based on gender equality, as I said, care for the environment. So a whole lot of really good things that are happening there. And unfortunately, they’re just facing these very significant challenges. on many fronts, you know, they have Turkey has invaded some areas that’s threatening to invade again, they have the Assad regime on the other side, relations are not quite that bad, but they’re trying to talk to each other. But it’s not an easy discussion. The Assad regime isn’t into direct democracy or anything like that.
Then they have, you know, the KRG government in Iraq, which is very different to the approach taken in Rojava. That sometimes they blockade the border. So they can be quite isolated at times. Then you have, of course, the COVID 19 pandemic is going on at the moment that as I said, there’s a severe drought. And Turkey is using water resources to you know, as a weapon against the people of Rojava.
They have to care for and guard the very large number of Islamic state prisoners which countries around the world will not repatriate, be great if they did So I think there’s something like 60 or 70,000 prisoners and, and their families as well. So it’s a really big burden on a under resourced region, then have very large numbers of displaced people internally displaced, including from the Afrin region, which was occupied by Turkey and its proxies. So, you know, they’re really behind the eight ball as they say. And they could really do with people’s help, and support and advocacy.
So what we seek to do here in Australia is to provide some support. So we’re looking to ship for example, a container of medical equipment and medical supplies, as soon as we can organize that. We’re also seeking just to raise awareness about North and East Syria here in Australia, many people don’t know that they don’t know what they’re about. They don’t know what the issues are. So we will try and get the word out about that.
We’ll try and do what we can to advocate for north and east Syria here in Australia, the government generally isn’t very interested in what’s going on there. And for many people, it’s seen as being a long way away, which it is, but we think there is still a lot of relevance. And it’s good for people to know about what’s going on there and to, you know, act in support. So we’ll try and do what we can here with various, you know, political parties and systems, civil society, and so on to enlist and encourage support for northern and east Syria. And we’re working in close contact with the Kurdish community here our friends in that community. And we have to give them the best shot we can.
Okay, thanks very much Fionn.
No problem. Yeah, thanks for the opportunity.
That is Fionn Skiotis, they’re talking about northeast Syria, also known as Rojava, one of the parts of Kurdistan, of course, that are not recognized as a united nation. But that group, they’re really interesting ways of organizing society, and trying to live in a just way and now actually trying to break out of just Kurdish ethnic nationalism, hence, the fact that it is no longer being called a Rojava, a Kurdish word that they’ve gone for north-east Syria as a way of including other ethnic groups in the area, which we certainly need. There’s enough ethnic nationalism in the world already. And so yet another thing that we can be inspired by from the Kurds.
Of course, on this show, we also spoke to Rebekah Dowling about what’s happening in Iraqi Kurdistan, where there’s been some really inspiring struggles from journalists and activists fighting for transparency and democracy in that country paying the price but staying true to their struggles. So if you do want to hear more about what CPT up to Iraqi Kurdistan, CPTIK.org is the website and north-east Syrian solidarity, I think he’s just starting up as a group, but they will have presence soon, I’m sure.
And, of course, all humans deserve our solidarity, across any borders. But Kurds in particular, as we’ve heard, they face their own unique challenges, and are trying to struggle in a way that is very interesting and inspiring and so, it’s very hard to do as well with hostile neighbors.
It’s very hard to get good democracy working in Australia, let alone in places where you’re essentially in a war zone. And these activists really have targets on their head.
One of the things that we haven’t mentioned is that there is a kind of father figure of Kurdistan, a figure of great political influence. His nickname is Appo which means Uncle, but his name is Abdullah Ocalan, and he has been in prison in Turkey for almost a quarter of a century.
And, from there, he’s continued to write political theory about a democracy about a non western way of thinking about democracy, about ecology, about socialism, and anarchism. And he is a lot of the inspiration for some of those experiments in democracy that are happening in North Syria, so Ocalan and he can read his writings, translations of his writings, very interesting and in a great contribution to global political thought as well from behind prison. walls.
And so there as well as campaigns of solidarity with Kurdish people. There is a global campaign to free Ocalan and we will go out with this song dedicated to Ocalan from Lee Brickley. It’s an interesting thing as well, I haven’t mentioned that there is a lot of music from around the world made in solidarity with Kurds and with people of North Syria in particular, there’s a punk label, I think called punk for Rojava, which has put out a bunch of records, especially in the hardcore, cross punk kind of style, and electronic artists as well. And then a lot of protest folk singers like Lee Brickley here who are inspired by what’s going on there.
So that’s all for us on Paradigm Shift for another week. I’ll see you next week.