Narrating Anti-War

2006-09-18 - coco

(This is a translation of an article written in early September by Dick, an editorial member of, who initiated the anti-war protest in summer. Dick studied in Iran for a year and has recently travelled to Iran for a book project.)

In order to arouse Hong Kong public concern on the war in Middle East, I have written several articles and petitions (which are despised and considered as propaganda by many others) during these several weeks. Now Israel and Hezbollah have stopped fighting for several weeks. Hong Kong people did not even bother to care the killings during the fiercest battles. How less after the appearance of the nude spy-cam photos of Gillian Chung from pop group Twins? Still I will write. I will ask the following questions whenever I can breathe:

Can our international society merely use literary resolutions and splendid international meetings to pick up the bits, while there is no sense of right and wrong, nor the ability to uphold justice? Israel killed thousands of Lebanon civilians indiscriminately under the sun, reducing the reconstruction efforts in Lebanon more than ten years in nothing. UN officials had repeatedly accused Israel of committing war and humanitarian crimes. However, when ceasefire is observed, Israel can withdraw without being asked to take any responsibility. Ministers from rich countries act now as good guys, promising financial assistances for reconstruction in Lebanon . They might think that they have upheld justice with dollars covering blood and bodies.

Back to the point. These days whenever asked by friends of why I care about the distant wars in Palestine and Lebanon , I tell them the story of Ghobadi, a Kurdish friend I met in Iran . I would like to tell his story once again here.

In late August, several days after the second anti-Israel rally in HK, I found Ghobadi was online using yahoo messenger. I was excited to show him the photos of our anti-war rally to win his recognition.

He said, "I'm happy that you are still living. Living means that you can continue doing meaningful things."

So what is the meaningful thing for you?
"I plan to go to Ghandil mountain region in the borders of Iraq and Turkey, staying with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla. Iran and Turkey are going to take offensive actions against the guerrilla. I am worried that I can't come back this time, but I can't sit to see Iran and Turkey going to war with the guerrilla."

Go alone?
"Yes, go alone. Friends of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP, the Kurdish ruling party in northern Iraq ) are not as enthusistic as me."

You do not know how to use gun. How can you go to war?
"Whether you can or you can't is not important. What is important is that you are with those great people, let them feel that they are not lonely, and let them know that I am supporting them with my whole heart."

While I was embarrassed by my self-satisfaction, Ghobadi said,
"Things are strange. You oppose war, I go to battleground. After all, my situation is different from you. My nation has 40 million people, divided by four countries (Turkey , Iran , Iraq and Syria)."

The days with Ghobadi wandering Kurdistan came back to me. Ghobadi is several years younger than me, but physically stronger and psychologically more open than me. It seems that he was born at odds with all that normal rules. Since his teenage years, he had started organizing poet society in his Kurdish hometown and was sued by religious leaders of disrupting public safety. He went alone to defend himself in court, and he won. He refused to do military service because he could not bare paying tribute to the religious regime which had been discriminating the Kurds. Thus he lost the lucrative job in the revenue bureau. He then opened a sandwich stand and spent his time organizing cultural activities, promoting Kurdish youth learning Kurdish language and writing Kurdish poems.

Persons of this kind born in peaceful places will sure become the core of social movements. Born as a Kurdish like him, he is predestinated to throw himself into the national struggle movement(like Palestinians). I remembered a moment one and a half year ago when he was smoking marijuana, he said, "Everyone will die. Nothing has to be afraid. I will fight for Kurdistan until the end of the day." He really proceeded to the core of the struggle. Escaping from Iran to the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq , he joined a political party and picked up organization work. Now the poet is in the front-line fighting against the Turkish soldiers. I don't know whether he is still alive.

When I searched Kurdish news online for this article, I found that Western media concentrated as usual on the series of bomb attacks in a Turkish seaside resort and how Turkey sought US support on fighting terrorist groups. Only in Kurdish media in Iraq could we learn the other side of the story--the bombings of Kurdish mountains by Turkish and Iranian troops. "Turkish troops bombed the PKK stronghold in Ghandil mountains. PKK threatened to bomb Iranian and Turkish pipelines for retaliation. Turkey has refused PKK's proposal of ceasefire," reported Al-Sharqiyah, a Kurdish Iraqi television network, on 29 August. "The Iranian army launched attack in 14 Kurdish villages inside Iraq , leaving two dead, several injuried and lots of families homeless. The Kurdish Autonomous government and ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) officials, however, have no response yet...A 13 year old teenager from Sharosha said that Iran was hostile to Kurds. It did not like Kurds and therefore bombed us. It is not the fault of PKK," reported Hawlati newspaper on 23 August.

One might notice that Ghandil mountains, the staying place of my friend Globadi, is the Turkish army's fierce bombing target. As a sudden, I 'discover' that the lad, who pursues the ideal of national determination to the call of his heart, has joined the 'terrorist group' and become a 'terrorist' ironically (the PKK has been listed as a terrorist group by the US and EU).

The story stops here. It opens to any interpretation. You can cynically point that everybody has their own interests. Or you can have a post-colonial nationalism analysis...for me, I felt regretted after hearing what he said. I reflected that our enthusiasm during the previous protest against the Lebanon war is probably an enthusiasm under certain type of structure (anti-US imperialism). In fact, much more oppressions and injustice happen beyond the scope of anti-US structure. However, we are indifferent to these kinds of things, like the rival killings between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, the more marginal waiting of the Kurds as mentioned above, etc. I did not think that I 'care' the Middle East more than the general public. Instead I felt more guilt, for I seemed to concern more of who the 'abuser' was, rather than who the 'victim' was.

I have mentioned this in a seminar earlier and someone responded, roughly like this, "There are so many killings and an individual is so small. How can we concern them all?" A friend appeared displeased immediately and asked, "Do you care people?" He then pointed out the case of the South Asians and Africans living in HK as an example, "Middle East and Africa are not that far away. Middle East and Africa are over the street." I felt that he correctly described my inner guilt. Open one's own heart. Follow the conscientiousness. Not to be trapped inside the structure of anti-US imperialism. Maybe these are the ways of anti-war. It is in fact the way of love for men.

Notes 1: For articles on the Lebanese war and Middle East affairs, please refer to or

Notes 2: Readers must have heard about the miserable Kurdish history. Famous Kurdish singer Cloth Bais said, "Palestinian problem attracts so much concern because the population of Arabs is large enough. However, it is a fact that the Kurdish nation is very big, with a population possibly ten times of the Palestinians. If you really talk about human rights, Kurdistan should be the priority." Among the Kurdish regions in the four countries, the fate of Iraqi Kurds is the most gruesome. During the years of Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Kurds were killed, of whom at least 5,000 died at chemical attacks during the late years of Iran-Iraq War. In the other three regions, Kurds have suffered different levels of discrimination. The movement of independence struggle has long centered in south-east of Turkey. PKK, led by Abdullah Ocalan, has been battling with Turkish soldiers in the mountains and is accused of responsible for the attacks in various parts of Turkey . Mainstream media say that more than 30,000 people died during the violent conflict which has lasted for more than 20 years. Ocalan was arrested in 1999 and sentenced to life. He changes his violent struggle attitude in prison, seeking to solve the Kurdish problem with the Turkish government peacefully. He proposes to build a borderless democratic Kurdistan federal. The federal implements three sets of law at the same time, namely, the EU law, Turkish/Iraqi/Iranian/Syrian law and Kurdish law.

Photo:Dick and Friend

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