Never Again: On the Responsibility of Western Societies to Take a Stand Against Genocide

Arif Rhein, staff member of Civaka Azad - Kurdish Center for Public Relations e.V.

The current conflict in the Middle East is about more than partial military successes or the selective change of borders. The existence of entire peoples is being called into question. Their customs, cultures, values, languages, knowledge and achievements are being declared null and void, destroyed or distorted. This is the experience of the Arab nation - fragmented into more than 20 nation-states - which seems omnipresent in the region but all the more powerless. The Armenians were once again made aware of their role in the conflict over Arzakh/Bergkarabakh just a little more than a year ago. The Kurdish nation, too, has been subjected to such massive, systematic attacks that it is difficult not to speak of genocide - not to mention the Greeks, Assyrians, Circassians, Lazes and many other peoples whose colors are today only dimly discernible in the mosaic of the Middle East.

States are the ones that arrogate to themselves the right to decide the fate of entire peoples in the Middle East, peoples whose thousands of years of history constitute the foundation of human history. NATO - the most powerful global alliance of capitalist modernity - plays the leading role in planning and implementing this genocidal strategy. The societies of Great Britain, the USA, France or Germany thus have a special responsibility. For them, the pressing question is what alternative relations they seek to establish with the very peoples and societies that their respective states intend to annihilate.

Kurdish Genocide as a prerequisite for restructuring the Middle East

Without the full integration of the Middle East, capitalist modernity will not be able to overcome its profound crisis. Despite more than 200 years of imperialist interventions, the region remains a kind of gray patch on the map of global capitalist hegemony. Neither have the Middle Eastern peoples been able to completely escape capitalist influences, nor have they willingly adopted the canon of values of liberalism and the accompanying political-economic structures such as the nation-state, industrialism, and the profit fetish. The result is a chaotic mixture of self-alienated adoption of Western capitalist clichés, insistence on feudal-religious dogmas and self-conscious actualization of democratic-cultural values. Capitalist modernity has never really been satisfied with this. In view of the deep systemic crisis, it therefore insists on the complete subjugation of the Middle East and its total integration into the capitalist process of exploitation. The system hopes to thereby gain the necessary air it needs to prolong the capitalist power relations by a few decades.

The Kurds are one of the oldest peoples in the region. Their role in the Neolithic revolution, in the emergence of the first Sumerian city-states, and in the politico-economic shaping of the entire Middle East is immense. Those who wish to shatter the region's culture, historical consciousness, and political order will have to devote most of their energy to the Kurdish people. Only those who view the decades-long assault on Kurdish achievements and the resulting resistance in this broad historical context will be able to understand the global and strategic scope of the current conflict.

Abdullah Öcalan has also repeatedly spoken very deliberately of a genocidal strategy being used against the Kurds. This theme runs like a thread through all his speeches and writings over the past decades. Perhaps the most concentrated presentation of his thoughts in this regard can be found on the first pages of his book "The Kurdish Question and the Democratic Nation "1: "The real suffering inflicted by capitalist modernity, which is geared to limitless profit, on all peoples, oppressed classes and classes left without work, consists not in their material exploitation, but rather in the complete destruction of their cultural values. All material and ideal cultural values that are outside the official culture of the nation-state are destroyed. Otherwise, it would remain completely impossible to transform humanity and the natural environment into resources that can be consumed. [...] The situation of the Kurds represents the most concise and tragic example of cultural genocide. The nation-states that rule over the Kurdish people make their entire material and ideal cultural values groan with the help of their crucifixion-like mechanism. Their labor power and ultimately all social wealth and natural resources are bluntly plundered. What remains is left to destruction, left without work, left to rot. It is disfigured in such a way that one neither wants to live it nor to look at it. It seems as if only one way is left to the Kurdish people: to dissolve in the ruling nation-state and to give up the own values completely! No other way of life exists for them. From time to time, the Kurdish genocide also reaches the level of physical genocide. It is perhaps the most concise and tragic examples that expresses the essence of capitalist modernity in all clarity."

This policy, described so clearly by Abdullah Öcalan, denies the Kurdish people their place in the world. It considers Kurdish history, values and social traditions as obstacles to be disposed of. In its crudest form, the advocates of this policy simply deny the existence or deny the raison d'être of the Kurdish people. The most offensive representatives of this policy are to be found in the German and Turkish state bureaucracies, but can also be seen in the ranks of Arab Baath ideologues, such as in the Syrian Assad regime. A more subtle genocidal strategy is the approach, pursued primarily by Britain, the United States, and Israel, of creating an artificial, liberally distorted, powerless "modern" Kurdish identity with which to play politics at will. The lighthouse project of this line is undoubtedly the political entity in South Kurdistan (North Iraq) and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) as its supporting pillar. Yet, what both of these policies have in common is that they want to prevent a Kurdish nation that is conscious of its identity and strength at all costs, in order to remove a decisive obstacle to the reshaping of the Middle East and thus of the global capitalist system.

KDP, AKP and MHP: local enforcers of an international strategy

For the past 100 years, the Turkish state and its changing governments have been charged with direct, day-to-day attacks on the existence of the Kurds. The current coalition of AKP and MHP joins seamlessly as the latest link so far in the line of Turkish governments that have actively participated in NATO's genocidal strategy in line with the Turkish state's anti-Kurdish tradition. The spiral of violence in Kurdistan that Turkey has steadily escalated since the summer of 2015 must therefore be understood in the context of this international strategy. In particular, the NATO powers that set the tone are very aware that they must preserve the appearance of their own distance from and criticism of the crimes in Kurdistan at all costs if they want to protect themselves from massive protests by their own societies. Accordingly, German, British, U.S., or French government representatives are happy to condemn the Erdoğan regime's policies in official statements, and there is no lack of critical media reporting in these countries either. But the deeds of these states speak a very different language. For example, the AKP/MHP regime never runs out of much-needed things such as weapons, money or political legitimacy, with the help of which it systematically expels, tortures and kills the population of predominantly Kurdish regions such as Efrîn, Serêkaniyê, Heftanîn, Metîna or Xakurkê.

In the course of the past two years, one aspect has come to light very clearly that observers in the region have been pointing out for years: the KDP's inglorious role in the Kurdish genocide. The KDP, which has been organized as a party since 1946 and is currently the dominating part of a governing coalition in South Kurdistan, has maintained close relations with Turkey for about ten years, which today have taken the form of an economic, military and political Turkish occupation of large parts of South Kurdistan. While it had so far tended to accept this silently and conceal its own partisanship of Turkey's occupation and genocide policies, the KDP changed its policy in the course of 2020. Since then, it has massively moved troops into areas along the Turkish-Iraqi border that have been controlled for decades by the guerrilla units of the People's Defense Forces (HPG), conducted aggressive media campaigns against the PKK on a virtually daily basis with the help of its Kurdistan24 and Rudaw media outlets, and responded with arrests and heavy torture to expressions of sympathy by the South Kurdish population for the resistance against Turkey's policies and the NATO strategy behind them. Raperîn Mûnzûr, a coordinating member of the PAJK (Partiya Azadiya Jin a Kurdistan - Free Woman's Party in Kurdistan), once described the role of the KDP as follows: "In the framework of the Kurdish genocide carried out by the international powers and Turkish fascism and the plans to crush our movement, the KDP plays the role of a local collaborator. It is trying to benefit from the international conjuncture and the war conditions and has gone on the attack accordingly. It is a basic aim of the enemies of the Kurdish people to completely crush the PKK in Kurdistan and the whole Middle East and to prevent the Kurds from gaining their freedom. This is a plan of NATO. It can be seen that the Turkish state and the KDP are a part of this international policy, they have been assigned certain tasks within this framework and the way is being paved for them. They are supported, they are given permissions, and they are actively encouraged to act. The KDP intends to find its place in these circumstances and to secure profits for itself. "2 It is important to keep in mind that the KDP represents the organizational center of a political line that propagates Kurdish nationalism, a politically authoritarian understanding of the state, and economic cronyism. The unbearable consequences of this for the population have been demonstrated time and again in recent years in the form of heavy protests by the South Kurdish population that lasted for days and weeks. This KDP line is also organized beyond South Kurdistan, for example in the form of the ENKS ("Kurdish National Council") in Rojava or as the so-called `Kurdish Community of Germany`.

Organizing yourself against genocide

Understandably, the Kurds are actively resisting against these annihilation plans. If one compares their defense against genocide, which has been ongoing for many decades, with the strategies of the Arab nation or the Armenian people against similarly aggressive attacks on their existence, a crucial difference becomes apparent: the Kurdish nation has built up a firm organizational framework that allows it to stand up effectively and in the long term against genocide. Neither the `Arab Spring` nor the defense of the Armenian presence in Arzakh/Moutn Karabakh had this form of social organization, and they therefore failed to achieve most of their goals for the time being. The Kurdish people, on the other hand, have hundreds of political organizations in all parts of Kurdistan and in the diaspora that pursue a self-confident political strategy based on clear ideological convictions. This strategy has not only been limited to the defense against the genocide strategy, but is actively working to build a political-social alternative. The best-known examples of this are Rojava and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), but also the self-administration in Sinjar and the self-administered refugee camp Mexmûr in South Kurdistan.

One of the main organizations that the Kurds have built up to defend their existence as a people and society is the PKK. It brings together the necessary ideological vision, organizational strength and political perspective that are so urgently needed in the face of the massive attacks by NATO, Turkey and the KDP. Besê Hozat, co-chair of the KCK (Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union) and a long-time member of the PKK, describes the PKK's role as follows: "What is the PKK? The PKK represents the resistant Kurdish identity. It represents the Kurds who are resisting. The PKK represents all Kurds who are fighting against genocide. [...] It is resisting in all four parts of Kurdistan. In South Kurdistan, it resists for the dignity of all Kurds. The PKK is fighting for their dignity. For their freedom. It is fighting against the colonialist and fascist AKP-MHP-Ergenekon government that is committing genocide." So the massive attacks on the PKK - whether regular media campaigns, military operations, or the imprisonment of Abdullah Öcalan for more than 23 years - are not directed against a single organization. They are an expression of the refusal of NATO and its local allies to recognize a self-confident Kurdish identity that acts on its own and is culturally consolidated. The PKK's political struggle for this very identity, which has been going on for decades, can only be explained by the fact that a large part of the Kurdish nation is involved in building up and continuing this very organization and its struggle. How else would the PKK be able to stand up to all the relentless attacks? It is not difficult to foresee that the resistance of the Kurds against the genocidal plans will continue in the future and will gain more and more intensity. Because, just like any other people in the world, Kurdish people are not willing to be forced into denying their identity or adopting liberal-distorted identity clichés.

German lessons and current responsibilities

German society knows what genocide means. It has followed it with its own eyes, participated in it and also resisted against it. In the 1906s and ´70s, its youth fought to come to terms with the responsibility for the Holocaust, thus making an important contribution to exposing the weaknesses of German society and the ruthless nature of the German state which seeks global power. The lessons of this confrontation shape to a significant extent the self-image of German society until today. In 1966, Theodor Adorno warned against refusing to accept the practical consequences of these insights: "The fact, however, that the demand, and what questions it raises, are so little made aware of, shows that the monstrous has not penetrated people, symptom of the fact that the possibility of repetition persists as far as people's level of consciousness and unconsciousness is concerned. Every debate about educational ideals is void and indifferent to this one thing, that Auschwitz needs to never repeat itself." He surely had good reasons for his urgent warning, since he had experienced German fascism himself and had intensively studied formative features of German social identity. As a result of his experiences and research, he described the German society of that time as "a gathering of cold people who cannot bear their own coldness, but also cannot change it. Every person today, without any exception, feels too little loved, because everyone can only love too little. The inability to identify was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for something like Auschwitz to have been able to take place in the midst of reasonably well-mannered and harmless people."3 Adorno's urgent call at that time for active resistance against the repetition of the systematic annihilation of entire peoples is and remains up-to-date for German society. For even today it faces an alliance of German state bureaucracy, economic elite and military strategists who directly and indirectly plan, enable and support fascism, genocide and war. It is difficult to describe Germany's unwavering support for the Turkish dictatorship and its systematic human rights crimes in Kurdistan in any other way. Another example is the political debate about deporting Syrian refugees to the Turkish-occupied and depopulated regions of Efrîn, Serêkaniyê, and Girê Spî and paying millions of euros to build the infrastructure needed for them to settle there. The support for the resistance of the Kurdish people, which has been provided by German society for decades, thus has a far greater significance than local projects or temporary campaigns may make clear. Every person who opposes the NATO strategy of a Kurdish genocide and Turkish fascism as its stooge helps the Kurdish people to stand up even better for the protection of their culture, language, history and values. And he or she proves that German society has taken Adorno's call 55 years ago seriously and will never again allow genocide to be committed with the help of its resources and in its name.


1The quote is a provisional translation from the original Turkish (p.35 of the book Kürt Sorunu ve Demokratik Ulus Çözümü). The book itself is still in translation.


3Theodor W. Adorno, Education After Ausschwitz