Dilar has been on a six-day hunger strike in Germany, in solidarity with the Kobanê resistance.
KT: Why were you on hunger strike?
DD: We have been on hunger strike to condemn the IS-attacks on Kobanê and the silence of the international community in the face of this genocidal threat. We resorted to this form of protest in order to pressure politicians to action and to draw the attention of the media. While media has been covering Kobanê recently, we want to emphasize the political dimensions behind this rise of IS and the attacks on Kobanê, specifically the role of Turkey. It is not enough to talk about the siege of IS without giving context on the background. Without the international and regional marginalization of Rojava and Turkey’s support for IS, we would not be in this situation. Turkey’s aim is to create the buffer zone that it long wanted to establish inside Syria, in order to undermine Kurdish autonomy in the region by emptying Kobanê.
Turkey long benefitted from jihadists inside Syria to topple Assad, but more importantly, to attack Rojava. In the early years of the conflict, the Turkish state had said that they could not tolerate a terrorist entity at their border. They were not talking about IS, Al Nusra or any other jihadist group, but about the Kurds in Rojava. In their attempt to destroy Kurdish self-determination in Rojava, Turkey allied with jihadists and supported or at least tolerated them, inside Turkey, as well as in Syria.
We want all the states that have fuelled ISIS to be sanctioned
We also wanted to highlight the asymmetrical nature of the war that IS, with its sophisticated weaponry, pursues against the people in Kobanê, who have nothing but light arms and their will to resist. Though we have always opposed the arms trade and military intervention, we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation in which we no longer have the luxury to say ‘no’ to international military action against IS, whose forces completely besieged the surroundings of Kobanê. The Kurdish forces inside Syria need urgent support in their fight. However, we want all the states that have fuelled IS logistically, militarily, and financially, including those who are now suddenly part of the international coalition against IS, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to be sanctioned. And lastly, we demanded the recognition of the three cantons in Rojava, which have so far been politically and economically marginalized on a global scale, in spite of having established secular, democratic, inclusive and gender-egalitarian self-governance structures in the midst of a war, while having proven themselves to be the strongest and most successful force against IS. IS is not only a military phenomenon, but also a social and political problem. A solution to the problem can only come with the recognition of actors such as the cantons of Rojava, because only the people themselves can liberate themselves.
KT: How many of you were on hunger strike?
DD: In Wiesbaden (Germany) alone, we were 50-60 women and men. The youngest were 18, while the oldest must have been in their 70s. Among us were refugees from Rojava.
Hunger strikes for Kobane took place in Cologne, Strasbourg, London, Berlin and Hamburg. There is one in Finland now. In short, hundreds of people were or are on hunger strike across Europe. A central hunger strike will continue in Brussels.
KT: What responses have you had? Are any politicians supporting you?
DD: During our strike, we have been in touch with the press and political parties, in order to draw attention to Kobanê. We had a successful meeting at the Hessen state parliament (Hessischer Landtag) in Wiesbaden with members of the state parliament from the Left Party (Die Linke) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). We knocked on the doors of different press offices to urge them to cover the threat of genocide in Kobanê in a manner that includes all the complex dimensions of the situation, including the international marginalization of the Kurds in Rojava and the role of the Turkish state in the rise of IS. We talked to them about the situation and gave them information dossiers. We put special emphasis on IS’s war on women that uses sexualized violence as a systematic tool of war. Soon, both our hunger strike, as well as the battle for Kobanê, were covered by the press outlets we met.
Kurds in Europe are in a state of emergency
Members of the state parliament held speeches at our tent. They expressed their solidarity with the people in Kobanê and promised to emphasize the urgent need for support for the Kurdish resistance and to condemn the policies of the Turkish state in their parliament sessions. They also want to campaign for improved refugee policies in Europe, as well as better educational policies in Germany in order to halt radicalization in Germany by providing youth with perspectives. (During our strike, we were subject to provocations during the night by sympathizers of IS). In this sense, we evaluate our hunger strike as very successful. We have ended our hunger strike, but actions like spontaneous occupations, demonstrations, panels, etc. will continue. During our strike, parliament buildings, Party headquarters, airports, train stations, and Turkish and US embassies were occupied as well. Kurds in Europe are in a state of emergency. So, in short, this hunger strike was only one of many actions.
KT: Why do you think there isn’t more awareness and support in Europe?
IS exploits the interests of the hegemonic powers
DD: I found that the public in Europe is often simply not informed enough to form an opinion. They don’t know who the Kurds are, where they live. And they have also seen their governments start unjust wars in the Middle East, the results of which we are seeing today. Everyone is terrified by the Islamic State, but action remains inadequate. The lack of support from the international community for Rojava and Kobanê has many reasons: the importance of NATO-ally Turkey, the lack of interest in a genuine solution to the war, the criminalization of the PKK and the fact that a truly autonomous grassroots-organization of the People would pose a threat to the status quo. Though Rojava has been fighting IS for two years, nobody listened to their warnings and they still have no military or political support. Instead, they were politically and economically embargoed. The KDP has also played a key role in this marginalization of Rojava. The interests of Nato-ally Turkey are prioritized over human life in Kobanê, in spite of the fact that everyone knows about Turkey’s support for IS. Due to the terror listing of the PKK and the Rojava administration’s ideological affiliation with the PKK, the cantons were criminalized from the beginning. Kurds were even excluded from Geneva II. The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) on the other hand, immediately received international military support, when its territories were attacked.
This ‘Good Kurds – Bad Kurds’ gambling is degrading and completely based on interest-oriented politics. IS cannot be fought selectively: when air strikes hit IS in Iraq, IS focused back on Syria, and when they were hit inside Syria, IS focused on Kobanê, knowing very well that Kobanê would not be targeted as easily, due to the position of Turkey. It is obvious that IS exploits the interests of the hegemonic powers. In this sense, we must work to expose all of these disgusting politics and mobilize for a genuine solution. Support for Rojava seems to be a no-brainer, but it simply does not fit the status quo. However, with recent events – especially after the IS-attacks on Shengal and the YPG/YPJ as well as the PKK guerrilla’s intervention and rescue of tens of thousands of Ezîdî Kurds from Shengal – there seems to be a change of attitude towards Rojava. Too late, unfortunately, and still inadequate. Kurds in Rojava have, with all of their actions, asserted their will and capability to resist IS for two years. Now it is up to the world community to support them back. The People are defending human dignity in Kobanê against a disgusting mentality that beheads, crucifies, rapes, and brutalizes all who are against their ideology and hegemony. The least that can be done is to support Rojava. Not only for the Kurds, but for justice.
KT: What else can be done to build international solidarity with Kobanê and Rojava Kurds?
These women fight because … they also want to create a free society through social transformation
DD: It is crucial that people realize that IS is not only a threat to Kurds in Kobanê, but to the entire world. They are a threat to humanity, Democracy and freedom.
It is disgusting to see how power politics is prioritized over the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings. IS is an international phenomenon. Let us keep in mind that a large number of the jihadists are from countries all over the world. People must understand that the battle for Kobanê can be a turning point. It is a matter of one’s conscience to pick a side now. Whoever wants to act, must do so now. In order to advocate solidarity for Rojava, we must inform the global public on the incredible democratic achievements of the cantons, of the women’s Liberation movement in Rojava, of the cooperation of ethnic and religious communities. For instance, you now find many international news outlets reporting about Kurdish women who fight against IS. But nobody asks why. These women fight because they have a bright future to look forward to. Because, apart from the existential fight against IS, they also want to create a free society through social transformatation. The world must see this. The Peoples of the Middle East are not victims. They can very well take care of their own Democracy and freedom. This is trying to be achieved in Rojava, in spite of attacks from all sides. Spreading this kind of awareness and building solidarity ties is a job that Kurds in the diaspora can take up. Solidarity must come with recognition. All of those that consider themselves as Democratic People, as believers in freedom and justice must take an active stance for Kobanê. Today, not tomorrow.
KT: What do you think will happen if Kobanê falls to ISIS?
DD: Should Kobanê fall, this would be a human tragedy. Many have said that it could turn into a second Shengal – a second genocide on the Kurds only a few months apart from each other. It would be yet another genocide that could have been prevented, yet another massacre happening in front of the eyes of the world. I agree with those that have stated that the battle for Kobanê will change the course of history. Many have compared this to the battle for Stalingrad. We see the brave and courageous resistance of People that have mobilized collectively to fight against a Fascist, inhuman, murderous ideology. Everyone, civilians, including old grandmothers, as well as the Rojava administration, have taken up arms to fight alongside the YPG/YPJ against IS. Especially women are defending their bodies, their dignity against the feminicidal IS. Kobanê is one of the three cantons of Kobanê in which secular, democratic, inclusive and gender-egalitarian self-governance structures have been created, in cooperation with other Peoples in the region, in spite of all the marginalization. The Rojava project has the potential to be a model for the region that is torn by sectarian conflicts, political religion, hatred, and patriarchy. In this sense, the lack of support for Kobanê is a missed opportunity for everyone that believes in Democracy. If Kobanê falls, we will hold all of the states that supported IS, as well as those that deliberately looked away, accountable for a modern-day genocide. If Kobanê falls, it will expose the international community’s hypocrisy and its lack of genuine interest in resolving this crisis. Kobanê’s fall will also affect the peace process between the PKK and Turkey. It could mean the re-escalation of a war. In short, the impact of Kobanê ‘s fall will be felt across the region. In this sense, the battle for Kobanê has historic importance. Nevertheless, the brave resistance of the people in Kobanê will forever be remembered. In order to be on the right side of history, it is important for everyone to act right now.