Category: Political

The Return of Muqtada al-Sadr

I first heard of the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr soon after American forces occupied Baghdad in 2003. His men were implicated in the stabbing murder of Sheikh ‘Abd al-Majid al-Khoi, who was a custodian of a Shia holy mosque in Najaf. Soon after, Sadr’s men launched attacks on the US forces as well, and the occupation authorities issued a “kill or capture” warrant for Sadr that was not enforced or pursued with conviction.

To me, Sadr represented what was wrong with the ‘new’ Iraq. Though his father was murdered by Saddam Hussain, Sadr and his supporters never waged a war against the regime, unlike other opponents like the Kurds or, in the case of the Shia, the Badr organisation which had a few hundred armed men in the PUK-controlled territories of Kurdistan. Sadr was late to the party and picked a fight with the wrong guy.

Continue reading “The Return of Muqtada al-Sadr”

Bernard Lewis dead at 101

Bernard Lewis is dead. May the concept of “modern Turkey” that he popularised for so long in diplomatic world and public imagination follow him to the grave. Lewis’s 1961 book on Turkish history normalised the racist fascist dictatorship of Attaturk and made him a hero in the west.32923363_10216458673729480_1069285005156417536_o

Continue reading “Bernard Lewis dead at 101”

Back to school in Turkish-occupied Afrin

This is the first day of school in Afrin under Turkish occupation.
Children are forced to wave Turkish flags.
Children are made to thank Erdogan.
Children are taught Quranic verses in the class.
Children are segregated.
And in this primary school, not one adult female is seen teaching or protecting children.
Such is the new Turkish order in Syria.
2018-03-27

Inside Syrian Kurdish prison system

There is a fascinating France24 news story that takes the viewers inside Kurdish jails and courtrooms for the captured ISIS prisoners in Syria. Even if one removes all the positive spin and all the pro-Ocalan propaganda from the footage, Kurdish authorities still shine as genuine humanists seeking to civilise a hitherto brutalised society.

There are shots of a prison dormitory, the barbershop, the visiting hall, workshops, and the courtroom. Inside the dormitory look much better and less crowded than I expected; they have electricity and a big screen TV. The guard actually asked for the prisoners’ permission before allowing the cameraman to film them.2018-03-26 (3)

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Happy Newroz

The myth has it that 2600 or so years ago there lived on the outskirts of Zagros Mountains a people ruled by a cruel king named Dehaq. King Dehaq was a supernatural evil as evident in the two snakes that grew on his two shoulders; snakes that demanded special delicacy for food. Thus, two children would be plucked from among his subjects, and their brains fed to the snakes.

Below the darkness of the evil king’s castle lived an ironsmith named Kawa. Kawa had sacrificed all his children except one. Dehaq ordered for the last one too to be brought for his snakes. Kawa, with the help of the king’s cook, tricked him by offering a sheep’s brain instead. Thus, his child and other children were saved and were sent high up in the mountains where they lived free and grew into a small army.

When the time came, Kawa led the small army in revolt, broke into the king’s castle and smashed Dehaq’s head with his hammer. The people were freed and the news spread around the kingdom by fires lit on the mountaintops. A new day, Newroz, was declared. And those saved children who led the people to liberation became the ancestors of Kurds.

Happy Newroz! Newroz piroz be!17362636_10212694349143718_5288903149413333688_n

Big Brother is working you.

“Announcement:
All employees on our hospitals’ payroll must attend the arrival ceremony prepared by our Chancellery for Mr President before the State Water Works on Elazig road at 12:00 tomorrow. Those who attend are required to take photos with their smartphones for evidentiary purposes. The photos will later be presented to the Chancellery.
Dicle University Chancellery.”

So there! Big Brother -also known as ‘the Chief’- is coming over; stop whatever you are doing and go meet and greet! Your livelihood depends on it!

This is not Kim’s Korea or Saddam’s Iraq, but Erdogan’s Turkey three days ago.

erdgodan dicle uni1-horz.jpg Continue reading “Big Brother is working you.”

Turkish character and Fabian tactics in Afrin

When I was in high school in Istanbul in the mid-1980s’ post-coup Turkey, we had a class named Milli Guvenlik (‘National Security’) and we had a retired colonel as a teacher for it. The subject itself was a form of military indoctrination in the line of ‘every Turk is born a soldier’.

It was also a set of instructions on the superiority of the so-called Turkish nation. There was a section in our textbook, for example, that described ‘Turkish character’ which included generosity, mercifulness, and humility. I kid you not.

As for the Ret. Colonel, the consensus among my fellow students was that he was a complete nutter, even though he did indoctrinate well like that US Marine trainer in Full Metal Jacket. I have about 10 schoolmates from those times on my FB friends’ list who can jump in to correct me if I’m wrong.

One of the favourite lines that this Ret. Col. repeated often -he taught the same subject in all other classes so he must have repeated that line dozens of times- was “zafer sungunun ucundadir”; that is, ‘victory is at the tip of the bayonet’. This meant that a state cannot win a war by destroying a target from the air or from the sea. The state must send in the infantry to destroy the enemy at bayonet point.

Another one of his lines -this one not oft-repeated but stuck with me for decades anyway- was that “you cannot win a war by taking enemy territory, you win wars by destroying the enemy army”. This line to me was always counter-intuitive. How is it that you do not achieve victory by taking territory?

It was only later in life, when I developed an interest in Roman history, that I understood what the Ret. Col. meant. During the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), also known as the war of Hannibal, the Roman army suffered successive devastating defeats against the Carthaginians in the Italian peninsula. Rome raised another new army and this time appointed Quintus Fabius as the new consul and general.

Quintus Fabius decided that he was not going to risk losing another army in battle, so he avoided a direct confrontation with Hannibal. Thus the two armies chased and harassed each other across the peninsula for 5 years until Hannibal’s army was worn down and he was ordered to retreat to Carthage. It was the ‘Fabian Tactic’ of preserving the army, not the direct confrontation, that eventually won the war for the Romans.

The moral of the story is that the Turkish-jihadi barbarians won territory in Afrin, yes, but they failed to destroy the lightly-armed YPG forces there. The YPG avoided a certain defeat by not engaging in a direct confrontation with the invaders. The pull out of thousands of fighters in battle conditions appears to have been smoother than Peshmerga’s chaotic retreat from Kirkuk.

The second moral of the story is that Afrin is largely intact, although the enemy’s bayonet has reached it. The city has not been destroyed along with thousands of civilians, not because of the invaders’ genius, but because of the defenders’ wisdom. The invading barbarians are now looting the city and are trashing the character of the Turk.29340349_10215987172902254_442099022639923200_n