Kurdistan, the invisible Shoah

Choose your reading level:

STANDARD

Kurdistan, the invisible Shoah

Written by Marilù Mastrogiovanni

We all know where Mesopotamia is, having studied it in school as the cradle of Mediterranean civilisation, where writing was born: the vast territory between the Tigris and Euphrates, the fertile crescent, inhabited by the Sumerians, the Medes, the Assyrian-Babylonians. And we have all read the story of Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian woman murdered […]

We all know where Mesopotamia is, having studied it in school as the cradle of Mediterranean civilisation, where writing was born: the vast territory between the Tigris and Euphrates, the fertile crescent, inhabited by the Sumerians, the Medes, the Assyrian-Babylonians.

And we have all read the story of Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian woman murdered by the religious police in Tehran in 2022 because a strand of hair had escaped from her headdress.

But what do they have in common?

Mahsa Amini was Kurdish, and Mesopotamia was the land of her ancestors.

It was.

Because today, more than six thousand years after the golden age of that ancient culture, the descendants of those peoples cannot find their place on the map of the world and have been forced for more than a century into one of the most numerous, painful, and long-lasting diasporas of the last hundred years.

Kurdistan, their homeland, spans six states in the Middle East and Asia: Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are no accurate figures on the current Kurdish population: An estimated 80 million people live in Kurdistan, plus some 35 million Kurds in the rest of the world and five million in Europe.

They are a “people without a state” and for more than two centuries have been pursuing the dream of reuniting in the land that belonged to their mothers and fathers, where most of them still live today. Their land, however, is crossed by the borders of several “modern” nations, more modern than their millennia-old history, on which “modernity” has been imposed, and that is why the Kurds have come into conflict with the states in which they find themselves and are caught in the grip of an iron colonisation, especially by Turkey, which persecutes them in various ways and carries out a veritable ethnic cleansing.

This dynamic is in many ways reminiscent of another colonisation that is much more recent: Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Turkey’s persecution of Kurds

Mahsa Amini was not actually called Mahsa Amini: his real name was Jîna Emînî, in Kurdish (in Persian مهسا امینی ).

Depriving people of their identity by changing their names to Turkish names is part of Turkey’s ethnic cleansing strategy, which includes not only changing names, but also banning people from speaking in their mother tongue, persecuting them on ethnic grounds and bombing their lands.

Turkey’s repression intensified in 2016 after the failed coup that attempted to overthrow the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who, after regaining control, stepped up the persecution of Kurds, arresting thousands of people, especially among the brightest cultural figures – academics, journalists, activists, feminists – and shutting down their newspapers and social profiles.

The Syrian war

The situation is no simpler in Syria, where the Kurds, who initially fought the army of dictator Bashar al-Assad, were later deployed to fight Isis, the Islamic State known in the West for terrorist attacks such as that on the offices of the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

In fact, the Kurds have been one of the most tenacious, organised, and capable opponents of ISIS, retaking strategic areas overrun by Islamic State militias by force of arms. These include Rojava, an area in north-eastern Syria where the city of Kobane, defended by Kurdish women during a 134-day siege, has become the symbol of the Kurdish independence movement.

In fact, it was mainly women who organised the resistance against Isis and laid the foundations for a new organisation called “Democratic Confederalism”, based on the principles of “Women, Life, Freedom”. Sound familiar?

That’s right: it’s the motto of the movement that was born in Iran and spread around the world after the assassination of Jîna Emînî, alias Mahsa Amini.

The origin of this movement and this slogan – in Kurdish, Jin, Jîyan, Azadî – is rooted in the Kurdish language and culture and is not only about Iran and the fundamental freedoms of all people, including women, but also (or rather, above all) about liberation from all oppression and colonisation. However, the Western media has conveyed the idea that this is an Iranian movement for women’s liberation and not a broader cultural revolution that includes the self-determination of the Kurdish people, who are persecuted in all the states where they are rooted and forced into diaspora.

What do the Kurds have to do with the war in Ukraine?

The experience of Kurdish women’s struggles against Isis has reinvigorated the Kurdish self-determination movement, which, following the theories of Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey – which sentenced its founder to life imprisonment – launched the “Rojava Social Contract” in 2014: This is a real pact between the regions or “cantons” of north-eastern Syria, which have declared themselves autonomous and organised themselves into a confederation.

This wind of freedom did not please Turkey, which resumed bombing the Kurdish regions of Syria from 2019 until today.

And that is where we are today: the Kurdish question is precisely where the balance between the United States and Russia hangs in the balance. Indeed, at the negotiating table on NATO’s expansion to include Sweden and Finland, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan expressed his opposition to the idea, setting as a condition the cessation of arms supplies to Kurdish fighters in Syria and the extradition of some Kurdish PKK activists who had fled Turkish persecution and had been accepted by the Scandinavian countries as political refugees. Erdogan’s demands were accepted and thus Turkey withdrew its veto, becoming the needle in the balance of the cold war between the USA and Russia, since Sweden and Finland will now be able to join NATO, which will extend its borders to Russia in northern Europe, while in the south there will be Turkey, which will act as a mediator for peace between Russia and Ukraine on the one hand, and peace between Israel and Hamas (the terrorists in Palestine) on the other, thus strengthening its power and crushing the Kurds. They are increasingly oppressed in the face of the West’s silence.

complementary activities

EASY

Kurdistan, the invisible Shoah

Written by Marilù Mastrogiovanni

We all know where Mesopotamia is, having studied it at school as the cradle of Mediterranean civilisation, where writing was born: the vast territory between the Tigris and Euphrates, the fertile crescent, inhabited by the Sumerians, the Medes, the Assyrian-Babylonians.

And we have all read the story of Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian woman murdered by the religious police in Tehran in 2022 because a strand of hair had escaped from her headdress.

But what do they have in common?

Mahsa Amini was Kurdish, and Mesopotamia was the land of her ancestors.

It was.

Because today, more than six thousand years after the golden age of that ancient culture, the descendants of those peoples cannot find their place on the map of the world and have been forced for more than a century into one of the most numerous, painful, and long-lasting diasporas of the last hundred years.

Kurdistan, their homeland, spans six states in the Middle East and Asia: Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan. There are no precise figures on the current Kurdish population: an estimated 80 million people live in Kurdistan, plus some 35 million Kurds living in the rest of the world and five million in Europe. Yet they have found no place on the world map.

Turkey’s persecution of Kurds

In reality, Mahsa Amini was not so called: her real name was Jîna Emînî, in Kurdish (in Persian مهسا امینی ).

Depriving people of their identity by changing their names to Turkish ones is part of Turkey’s ethnic cleansing strategy, which includes not only changing names but also banning people from speaking in their mother tongue, persecuting them on ethnic grounds and bombing their lands.

The Syrian war

The situation is no simpler in Syria, where the Kurds, who initially fought the army of dictator Bashar al-Assad, were later deployed to fight Isis, the Islamic State known in the West for terrorist attacks such as the one on the offices of the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

In fact, the Kurds have been one of the most tenacious, organised, and capable opponents of ISIS, retaking strategic areas overrun by Islamic State militias by force of arms. Among them is Rojava, an area in north-eastern Syria where the city of Kobane, defended by Kurdish women in a 134-day siege, has become the symbol of the Kurdish independence movement.

In fact, it was mainly women who organised the resistance against Isis and laid the foundations for a new organisation called “Democratic Confederalism”, based on the principles of “Women, Life, Freedom”. Sound familiar?

That’s right: it’s the slogan of the feminist movement that was born in Iran and spread around the world after the assassination of Jîna Emînî, alias Mahsa Amini.

The origin of this movement and this slogan – in Kurdish Jin, Jîyan, Azadî – is rooted in the Kurdish language and culture.

Ethnic cleansing continues

The experience of Kurdish women’s struggles against Isis has reinvigorated the Kurdish self-determination movement, which, following the theories of Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey (which sentenced its founder to life imprisonment), launched the “Rojava Social Contract” in 2014: This is a real pact between the regions or “cantons” of north-eastern Syria, which have declared themselves autonomous and organised themselves into a confederation.

This wind of freedom did not please Turkey, which resumed bombing the Kurdish areas of Syria from 2019 until today.

This is still going on in the face of the silence of the West, Europe and the USA.

☑️ Test your knowledge

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Skip to content