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Kurds, Syria and Europe: yesterday like today

by Pietro Kuciukian

From the villages of North-eastern Syria a human river is winding through the desert and heading south. Sixty thousand, one hundred thousand unarmed civilians are fleeing. The number is destined to increase. First bombings, then the artillery and finally the land invasion. “Source of peace”, a bitter irony in the name given by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the military invasion announced some time ago at the UN. Its goal: create a buffer zone, a safe zone, eliminate “Kurdish terrorists” and transport Syrian refugees in their place. A goal in disguise, take back lands belonging to the Ottoman empire defeated 100 years ago.

In the past I went from Aleppo to Ras Al Ayn, to Raqqa, to Deir es Zor along the Euphrates River to look for remaining bones of Armenians in concentration and extermination camps. We, Armenians, are haunted by the ghosts of the past, the images of today’s exodus overlap with images taken by Armin Wegner: women, elderly, children, death marches in Der es Zor desert. One and a half million Armenians exterminated in 1915. The Kurdish population in the area is two and a half million. What will happen if we do not act? While allowing a country to invade a sovereign country, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg hopes that the operation is “proportionate and measured”, the UN security council does not manage to reach a common statement, Europe simply levies economic sanctions and blocks arms supplies. Today, like 100 years ago, civilized people prefer “indifference”, the most powerful word used by Liliana Segre to describe the obscene violence of human beings over human beings. Europe that established the European Day of the Righteous upon Gariwo’s proposal, has made its voice heard before the barbaric killing of Kurdish activist Hevrin Khalaf, a protector of the weak who fought for the rights of women and for peaceful coexistence of Kurds, Christians and Arabs. She was raped and stoned by Ankara’s mercenary militias. She was a 35-year-old engineer, appreciated by all communities and also known abroad. I hope that all the voices of European and global states will join Davide Sassoli’s voice.

Vittorio Emanuele Parsi titled his article in daily newspaper Avvenire of 12th October, “I balbettii degli ignavi” (Stuttering of the lazy). A reflection has never been more suitable to explain the hypocrisy of Europe on the ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people perpetrated by Ankara government. Will the Turks arrive in Vienna for the second time? Probably they will, but they will not be armed, there will be no need to do that. The European Union will have dissolved, hit at the heart by migration issues faced with unprecedentedly serious moral failure: we paid Erdogan to lock up Syrian exiles in camps, and we will give up our founding principles if we fail to stop the second genocide of the Middle Eastern area, that of the Kurds. On this path, Europe will not choose violent suicide, but rather euthanasia.

The Syrian-Turkish border is the area where resistance of the Kurdish people has been exemplary, has involved men and women committed to facing ISIS, ensuring a truce in Europe against terrorist attacks.

What should have been Syrian Kurdistan, Rojava, has experienced self-determination and democratic coexistence and political pluralism, as the Rojava Charter states: “Under the Charter, we, the people of the Autonomous Regions, unite in the spirit of reconciliation, pluralism and democratic participation so that all may express themselves freely in public life… The Charter recognizes Syria’s territorial integrity and aspires to maintain domestic and international peace”.

How can Europe forget today the days of resistance in Kobane? How can it accept Erdogan’s blackmail? What will remain of the European Union if legal civilization is lacking that is founded, among other things, on the principle of the right of asylum for the persecuted and on the commitment to react to any oppression by the strong on the weak? It is not sufficient to put into words solidarity with the Kurdish people and cry over the victims of an “unfair” invasion.

Europe reborn from the rubble of the Second World War, which ensured peace and progress for years to the peoples of the Union, can collapse precisely due to the “stuttering of the lazy” that conflicts with the principle of taking responsibility. Not reacting before the Turkish invasion of the Syrian territory, refusing to defend those who need to be defended, means that Europe is failing in its founding values. For geopolitical reasons we do not consider as necessary to start a humanitarian action, such as the one in Kosovo where Europe faced a weak “enemy”. But this blindness dictated by fear can have a high price.

If Turkey had not exterminated Armenians and had not expelled Greeks, it could have been one of the founding states of the European Union and if today it granted large autonomy to its Kurdish citizens, it would be accepted in the European Union.

In my opinion, the time has come to bring Israel into the European Union, a stronghold towards the increasingly common pressure coming from the east.

Gariwo has been committed for years to disseminating the principle of ethical responsibility. The political crisis we are experiencing today is committing us to accept the principle of global responsibility at all levels. The freedom of human beings passes through the ability to choose. 

Translated by Valentina Gianoli

Pietro Kuciukian, Honorary Consul of Armenia in Italy and co-founder of Gariwo

Analysis by Pietro Kuciukian, Honorary Consul of Armenia in Italy and co-founder of Gariwo

29 October 2019

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