The Kurdish National Movement and the Philosophy of Non-Violence

KurdishAspcet.com
May 1, 2006
By Eamad Mazouri

USA {KurdishAspect.com} May 1, 2006 - Dear reader, this article was published in kurdishmedia.com back in 2001. In light of the demonstrations in Western Kurdistan and the most recent demonstrations in Northern Kurdistan and especially Amed city, I deemed it necessary to republish this article. I believe armed struggle has greatly harmed the Kurdish cause and if non- violent struggle is staged correctly, and managed properly it will bring about positive results and gains much sooner than armed struggle with less sacrifices on both sides of the conflict.

Unlike armed struggle which benefits only from limited Kurdish resources, this method of fight which is newly introduced to the Kurdish effort to liberate itself from slavery and servitude can muster and dislodge all the potentials of the Kurdish people reserve of supplies to serve the cause while the whole world is watching with an understanding and sympathetic eye Non-violence is a term we have heard so many times, but hardly considered its underlined philosophy and the likelihood of its application to Kurdish long-term struggle for legitimate Kurdish national rights. We have read about it in India's fight for freedom led by the great Mahatma Gandhi against the British colonialism. We have heard about it in South Africa, when Gandhi tried it first and later his son. Also, in America's Civil Rights Movement led by late Martin Luther King.

One of the reasons behind this or people’s inclination to resort to violence, is the fact that there is a deep-rooted perception in us as human beings that violence is the only way, best way or fastest way, we can resolve our differences and problems and perhaps gain some rights. It is usually an instinct that prompts us to resort to violence as soon as a conflict arises.

Non-violence has been described as Passive Resistance or Civil Disobedience. However, Gandhi refused to characterize his philosophy of non-violence as either one. He called it "Satyagraha" this is a combination of two Sanskrit words "Satya" meaning truth and "Agraha" meaning the pursue of; Thus the combined meaning is The Pursuit of Truth, as all aspects of philosophy have been after within the main stream of man’s curiosity and wonder about, life, existence and universe .

Today, there are many non-violent movements around the Globe seeking social, political, and economic changes. Like any other philosophy, non-violence does not guarantee success. But so is the armed struggle with far more sacrifices. It is worth mentioning that, while non-violence worked in India and the United States it failed appallingly in South Africa, at least during its initial stages.

Historically non-violence had been seen as either, an expression of the religious order "Christianity" or as a variant on the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. But neither one's teachings provided a method to deal with injustice except through ENDURANCE. In the face of the horrors of the WWII, there was a sense that peaceful means alone are not good enough. Communism offered an answer expressed by Lenin and Trotsky in which the ends justified the means.

Non-violence philosophy assumes conflict is inevitable because change is inevitable, and with change comes conflict. Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence assumes that the "reality" we sense is transitory; that change and struggle are the rule not the exception as a conservative mind like to believe. This view in philosophy is old and goes back to Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher who lived about 535-475 B. C. He taught that there was no permanent reality except the reality of change. That was illustrated by his Maxim “you cannot step twice in the same water”. In many ways that resembles the essence of Marxism that everything we see, is in a state of constant change. In practical terms, there is no difference between Marx's "Material Dialectic" and Gandhi's thought, though one was rooted in the rejection of religion and the other was deeply rooted in it. For Marx, all history was the process of a "Material Dialectic" between human race in conflict with its environment.

The Kurdish National Movement and Non-violence

Many people claim that in order for non-violence to work it really needs a humane, decent, perhaps democratic, and civilized adversary. And regrettably, we Kurdish people are at the forefront of this notion. However, Kurds have many reasons to rationalize their stance. The most important one is that Kurdistan is not occupied by traditional Western colonial powers, but rather by third world countries that are ruled by tyrannies, militaries and fundamentalism. These regimes are riddled by corruption and poverty with no traces of any democratic values or tradition, except of an infant one in Turkey that is under a close watch of military, which has a long way to go in order to be called real democracy.

Second, these countries are very brutal in dealing with Kurdish people and their national aspiration to a degree that until recently their very existence was denied with the full suppression of all aspects of their lives. They do not tolerate any Kurdish national sentiments. Therefore it was not unusual for Kurdish liberation movement to dismiss the idea of non-violence and resort to armed struggle since the very beginning. Kurdish people used violence because they felt that their opponents understand only the language of violence as the actions and practices of the respective governments had perpetuated this erroneous concepts in the Kurdish minds.

It does not take a genius to find out that as Kurds , their sacrifices do not match in any shape or form their national gains and achievements (except of course in Southern Kurdistan, and only since 1992).

Kurds, have adopted many philosophies followed many paths for over a century, stretching from fundamental religion to most extreme Marxism and Maoism without even gaining an autonomy in any part of Kurdistan. Today in the face of the most sophisticated weapons they find themselves helpless, vulnerable and powerless. If the Kurdish national movement continues on the path of armed struggle, it will be sheer suicide and that will bring the total isolation and destruction  pon Kurdish people and whatever is left of Kurdistan. Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating putting a stop to the Kurdish legitimate fight for freedom. Simply, I am being realistic. Therefore, I am asking Kurdish Leaderships to explore and consider other methods such as non-violence.

Let’s ponder upon this for a second. If you have a conflict with somebody, what would you do at your first encounter? Would you give that person a blow on the jaw or rather try to reason and negotiate? An ordinary person might react violently, thus  confining his/her options only to one, without even realizing that, however, any wise person will try to reason and explore the possibilities of resolving the conflict peacefully without resorting to violence, even though the action against that person was violent. The significance of this concept might not show as vividly as it is on individual level, but it does on the group level and the picture is clearer on the national level, especially when you are dealing with life, struggle and rights of an oppressed nation such as the Kurdish.

While today's technology has put sophisticated weapons in the hand of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, it has provided the Kurds with equally important means of struggle they couldn't dream of awhile back. These include satellite TV, modern communication networks and internet services, just to mention a few. This is perhaps the very first time in Kurdish modern history that they are able to identify themselves as one nation divided against its will, something that has not escaped the attention of their rivals; therefore, it should enjoy the focused attention of the Kurds themselves. They have to know that all these means of support and struggle are only indicators that the days of armed struggle are over and they have no choice but to abandon violence and resort to more civilized, effective, and acceptable ways of struggle in order to prove to the civilized world that they are the oppressed with a just cause not merely some pariah terrorists as Kurd’s opponents are trying to portray them.

We must remember that, throughout the history of man kind, it was the less strong side in a conflict who came up with the new ideas and philosophies that changed the face of earth. Today it is the Kurdish people who need to think and seek alternatives and do what is best for their people. As I write about this, I realize that justice will not get done by other than Kurdish people themselves. They will do it or it doesn't get done. That doesn't mean there are no friendly individuals, organizations and even countries who are interested in helping out. But Kurds have to remember constantly that they are the ultimate source of power and change. That is true for a simple fact that nobody and I emphasize nobody at all has as much interest in Kurd’s freedom as they do. It is them or nobody, who have to fight and make sacrifices.

However, first they have to learn more about this non-violence philosophy and the possibility of its application to the Kurdish cause. In order for Kurds to adopt and follow this movement they have to grasp it as a whole and abide by its strict rules and that is the hardest part for Kurds who got so used to armed struggle.

First, they have to search for the truth. The search in this path is both external and internal. It requires tremendous sacrifices. It means moving from greed, selfishness and possessiveness. It means loving and respecting others, becoming compassionate and understanding. It means to be true to their faith, values, and cause. Kurds have to promote and apply the principles of non-violence to prevent violence and resolve their conflict through peaceful means. The more people become possessive the more they have to secure their possessions generating feelings of jealousy and the desire to resort to force and violence. Life is not fair as Gandhi said. That is the reality of life. To bring about changes to eliminate injustices carries in itself a load of pain, suffering, and sacrifices. God is our witness that Kurds have a rich experience in that field. Through non-violence they can stay true to their cause when they face their adversaries and they will not shy away from demanding their total national rights and liberties and even independence of Kurdistan but only by using peaceful means. When they fight, they might lose a battle because they cannot win all the time, but ultimately they will win the war, a result that is inevitable. By following non-violent methods, Kurds will spare not only their people, but the other side as well, the catastrophic consequences of tragedy and war while achieving their national goals at a much lower sacrifices.

Gandhi gave Indians a pride in themselves, courage, and audacity to face the British soldiers fearlessly with their bare hands. He showed them how to defy the unjust laws while constantly demanding their national rights without any compromise or concessions. At the end this struggle brought the British colonials to their knees and forced them to leave India. Also, there is another element of non-violence which is painful, and that is the fact that Kurds have to remember non-violence, means seeing and living through the full truth of the process of oppression and still be able to see your opponents as humans you will have to negotiate and deal with when this whole conflict is over.

Kurdish people will have to go through serious changes in their hearts and souls. They should not hate their opponent, simply because hate generates more hate that eventually leads to violence. Political dialogue and peaceful means are the answer. We have to admit that the ultimate source of violence is hate, and it become more dangerous when directed towards a group of people regardless of the criteria. 

By following violence or armed struggle Kurds, are giving their opponents only one option. That is exactly the option they are seeking, or at least the fundamental and fanatic elements in their ranks that are for the continuation of chaos and turmoil. That is the fertile ground where they feed from and breed on. In other words, Kurds are falling in the trap that has been prepared for them. While by following non-violent means, Kurds are giving their opponents two options to choose from instead of one. They must choose between violent repressions as it is the case or negotiate and initiate a dialogue. Unfortunately, non-violence does not mean violence will not be used against those following it. It only means they should refrain from using violence that eventually forces the other side to relinquish violence and resort to dialogue.

Non-violence works through organized efforts, such as "sit downs, sit ins, boycott, peaceful demonstrations etc. " In this people need to be creative in devising new methods that fit into non- violence struggle according to their environment and the most effective way to paralyze the system and force the government to negotiate.  By doing so Kurds are causing a disruption in the existing social order of that country, not to mention the threat they could pose to economy if their demands are not met. Non-violence works because it will change the way Kurdish people think of themselves. It gives them pride and confidence. At the same time, non-violent tactics absorbs the pain and sufferings. By behaving always with dignity, Kurds will compel their opponents to see them in totally new ways unfamiliar before to Arabs, Persians and Turks. Unlike armed struggle which is usually limited only to young and healthy, non-violence struggle, empowers all the people, the whole nation, old, young, we ak, strong, educated, illiterate and women with no exception.

By adhering to non-violence principles, Kurds can win the hearts and minds of the Turks, Arabs, and Persians and the sympathy of the whole world. When they stand their grounds and suffer in dignity, without retaliation just like Gandhi preached and did, accepting blows but not inflicting them, by doing so Kurds in fact, are forcing their opponents to see them as human beings just like them, an image their respective governments have worked for decades to erase from their People’s minds. At that point, people will start to question their government’s barbarian and uncivilized behavior in dealing with peaceful Kurds who are only seeking their legitimate rights. Kurds have to realize that for years the governments of these countries have reduced their image in the eyes of the non-Kurdish people of these countries to sub-humans or lower. It is Kurd’s job to tell them the truth and widely open their eyes to atrocities committed against them. They have to tell their own people about the real history, because history books in every one of these countries have been fabricated and changed to fit their government's devilish schemes against Kurdish people. It is Kurd’s duty to let the world know that they have stolen their rich culture, music, and even their beautiful and magnificent language.

One of the other powerful characters of non-violence is it unites the Kurds while dividing the ranks of their opponents. By following the principles of non-violence, Kurds will be united in their just cause. Because in doing so, they are basically eliminating the weapons that their opponents have been using for decades to divide them. Since the time of the great Ahmede Xane and perhaps before him the two empires of the East and the West were using Kurdish people as pawns against each other on their own ancestral land and never on theirs.

Unfortunately, until recently they were doing it very successfully and are still trying.

Kurd’s adversaries for years have banked on the Kurdish differences. Whenever, their interests are not served right they have played on that tune leading to internal killing amongst the Kurds themselves by the same weapons they are using to stage their armed struggle. This is a very powerful weapon in the hand of their adversaries. By abandoning armed struggle and confining their fight to non-violent means, the Kurds are in fact taking away this potent weapon from their adversaries disposal while empowering themselves. This will put an end to Kurdish internal fighting.

To pursue this peaceful philosophy it will unite the Kurds, while divide the other side. Therefore by adhering to NV, the Kurds are actually turning the table on their adversaries for the first time in their history. Naturally, this will get their people to question their government's behavior in dealing with the Kurds. They want to see Kurds as an object while Kurds should insist on treating their opponents as unique individuals who do not deserve to die or be killed.

To follow and apply non-violence philosophy, Kurds need to change their mentality and start a new beginning all over Kurdistan. Kurds should not give their opponents the satisfaction of hating and killing their people. This will only facilitate the task of those who have interests in keeping the old order in tact. Kurds have to prove to them that they are human beings with feelings and compassion capable of thinking and exploring other methods of struggle while insisting on their full national rights. Naturally, this whole thing needs an organized effort on the national level. It requires national programs; universal strategy to prepare for the new strategy, which if adopted will push the Kurdish cause a long way towards achieving the ultimate goal which is the dream of every Kurd to be free again.