Homage/ Chp. 3

S c e n e T h r e e

“The Special Period in Times of Peace”

Havana, Cuba 

September 3rd, 1991

Comrade Norma Sanchez has jet black hair and is petite. She’s vaguely malnourished for a Cuban, but still attractive and dynamico. Of course. She is and always will be a member of the Committees for Defense of the Revolution. The vigilant internal defense mechanism against Yankee imperialist aggression and unrestrained, insatiable sex tourism. Her mother was a fairly high ranking person in the Party, told her of the struggles to defend socialism during the cold war years. Told her of the deprivations and economic siege beginning in 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed and virtually all proto-communist regimes along with it.

“The U.S.S.R. was the sun and we were just a proud and tiny fortress; that when the sun went out, when we lost our greatest, sturdiest ally; we would be in the dark and there were many things in the dark that could ruin us.”

There would be no more petrol for the cars and tractors, buses and power plants. There would not be fertilizer for growing food. There would be shortages of absolutely everything on every level of consumption. There would be long lines and no electricity. There would be no fans or air conditioners, there would be zip-zero-nada. And in this proverbial darkness of our times ahead, our enemy which had sought to ruin us from the very day of our independence would move in, emboldened by the so called end of history.

I have some understanding that were it not for decisions made during the revolution, if not for our Russian friends and of course the own solid base of our people in the historical context; we could be living in an illiterate and deeply unhealthy place; with a brothel and gambling embankment running from Miramar to Varadero. 500 kilometers long where foreigners could just cheaply, scenically fuck our women, drink our rum and smoke our cigars in the sun.

I knew, I knew the minute I was called to the office that we would not surrender, our great leaders, well the two brothers still alive; would not for one human second consider that the fight was lost.

I was there the day they called us all together. The top nine, the big two; the Ministers and the deputies of industry, defense, finance, agriculture, espionage later. We had known it was coming the fall of our protector and benefactor. In embassy cables and diplomatic whispers; we also knew, it was our job to know that when the big bear fell down, died, and became reborn as god only knows what under American guidance! And its brightest, newest oldest and also highly questionable satellites began dropping from the sky; that nothing not one thing would stop the aggressors to the north from moving in upon us.

We knew this was the beginning of the end of the revolution as we understood it, but what could we do? We suspected the Syrians and the Libyans would not give in easily to them at all. And we watched one after another as communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe and Africa. It was really our estimation, that by the time the dust settled; it would be only us, the Vietnamese, the People’s Republic of China (both which had embraced capitalism in most regards five years ago, Laos, and whatever the backwards hell they were doing in North Korea!

We assumed Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Namibia and Angola would remember what we did for them but be in no position to reciprocate. And between 1989 and 1994, it would all come tumbling down. The failed architecture of a dystopian dream.

We sat together at a time when even the leaders were hungry and when anyone looked in a mirror they would not always recognize their own faces, for a look of despair had set in, inside oneself. All that we had willed as a people could be undone in just one year. We were all the same outside, for the siege had not begun yet, it would begin tomorrow and the next day and for the next ten or twenty years. And the Yankee enemy in the North, the pale colder place just a few days out by raft or one hour by plane; it would either soon invade, or try and starve us out. The ten million that had refused to defect. And the accomplishments of the last fifty years could go up in smoke, or simply in a long whimper, as the Dominoes began to fall.

But I understood, it was my training from Moscow to understand and my own Cuban sense of putting it together and taking it apart and refashioning. I knew that there was only one thing that could hold the country together, and so did Fidel and Raul. We needed to buy the time it required us to shore up. I am not sure that we prepared adequately for this day, actually. I’m not sure really we believed this day would come.

They drove us out to, well of course they didn’t tell us and we didn’t ask. And we were told in a meeting this was going to be a special period in times of peace, which was to say all the conditions of a siege and a war were to be upon us and really the only question was how long could we last until the U.S. gets bored, not tired for they have never been in a rush. More until the empire is bored with us, less obsessed with us. Long enough for the opposition to imperialism to recoup.

I remember in the car to the ranch which disguised the room for these situations. I remember wondering if this was the end of our experiment and life as we understood it.

“This comes right from Fidel; you’re all going abroad in a week. Some of you will join embassy staff or medical missions, some as private people with foreign passports. You will be going to allied countries and Western countries, you will be going to make some hasty business.”

Well really the whole speech was so much longer. But this was the short of it. We were not told in any specific terms how long supplies and foreign currency reserves could hold out on the island. We were told in no uncertain terms that things were going to run out, and that our job was to generate hard currency through the operation of a variety of legal and illegal businesses to shore up the essential purchase; food, fuel and probably armaments.

“They’re rioting in Moscow and Warsaw and Budapest. It’s all coming down. Even the Chinese are talking about calling it something else.”

I tell you it wasn’t all cigar smoke and mirrors and fake foreign names, Cubans look like everyone and we had trained long ago to act like anyone, and we’d been assimilating for years into the second world and there was a contingency planned for a cut off over time from USSR foreign aid, not overnight.

“What brought it all down?” Norma asks.

“This wasn’t a polite or immediate question,” she was told. But the answer was several things. First, the West was economically more exploitative and comparatively more ruthless. Second, the Russian Communist Party lost its popular imperative, and third, the endless wars in proxy had sapped its will. But there was something else no one said, which was being said in the West; that Capitalism was simply a better system, no-no no one would say that. But everyone was always hoping blue jeans and popular gringo music would fall of a favela cart or plane hatch back from Miami. And it often did. Luxury carrots for all or for none says the evil murderous and often sloppy C.I.A.! But ours was a hard won thing that had the support of the people and would not be defeated by American imperialism and temptation.

We will do what we have to do to survive this! Too much is historically on the line, if we fall like the others this idea and all our sacrifices and gains will have been for nothing. We would plot and organize, mobilize and do anything we had to do to secure the revolution. We would survive this coming Special Period in Times of Peace. We will break the grim Yankee blockade and ensure the relevancy of Cuban style Marxist Leninism for ten thousand years to come! And I will wear blue jeans when I have to.

Four people with exotic features enter the room, two men and two women, clad in loose army green tunics.

“I would like to introduce the delegation from the Kurdistan Workers Party,” declares my chief, “They are quite expert in smuggling, establishing European business fronts and of course they are committed revolutionaries.”

Homage/ Chp. 2

S c e n e T w o

“The Party Provides”

Diyarbakir, Turkey 

November 25th, 2004

Says Heval Commander Cancer, pronounced ‘Jansher’ the Guerrilla from his notes,

“Actually, I tried to prepare them for a lifestyle of revolutionary militancy. Kill the enemy. Kill the enemy before the enemy can airstrike, execute, torture or disappear you and your friends. I don’t think they all got it. The training was just too short. They retained much of their Western bourgeoisie privileges. They thought it would maybe be like a movie. It’s a shame the woman died, she was the one with possibly the very most potential, excluding the Germans. That’s all I can say about that, Heval.”

Heval is the Kurdish Kurmanji word for friend, or comrade. In case you had forgotten that. Sometimes I find it best just to repeat myself over and over and over again to make sure you’re paying attention.

Within the Kurdish movement there is a tendency to imbibe a rather endless amount of black tea. A tendency to have poor sleeping habits. A tendency to chain smoke. But, they also light their own cigarette. To let another light your cigarette is ideologically suspect.

Sometimes the Party has debated on banning cigarette smoking, like it has alcohol, drugs, sex, romance, having kids, having a family, contacting your immediate family and acquiring any material things beyond what fits in a ruck sack, in service of the war effort. However, being a revolutionary militant is quite stressful actually. And there sure are a lot of things that can kill you faster than a cigarette. A whole lot of things, actually.

“The legend goes that in a meeting in a tea house in the village of Lice near Diyarbakir City, on November 25th of 1978 a group of young students lead by Abdullah Ocalan founded the Kurdistan Workers Party and launched a revolution unlike anything the world had ever seen before it,” explains Heval Jansher. A Guerrilla in good standing with the Party. Good standing means trust. Good standing means not being a problem. Band standing, means re-education, prolonged isolation or indefinite detention. Eventually it means a bullet.

I was born in Diyarbakir City, the place we call Ahmed, the capital of all Kurdistan. A poetic if not epic place. An ancient citadel of giant black stone walls and total martial law. A town of prisons, stories, heroes and valance in the epoch of the Kurdish people. Little wine bars, a thriving literary scene. It cannot decide whether to be eastern or western, Turkish or Kurdish. The epicenter of a great revolt, or the dystopian mockery of the full blown repression of a colonizing power forcing a boot heel on our neck.  As Kurdistan is a powerful and long repressed enduring idea, that idea is becoming a reality on the barricades here and long running fight in the mountains. An imagined community of over forty million souls who are wrongfully, shamefully divided between the imposed nation states of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran all things have two names, all things are both real and imposed upon us. As if to be a Kurd requires an act of insanity, and an act of double thinking. A persistent zealous fight to make the world acknowledge our rights and identity. To admit we have a right to survive as a nation beset with enemies on all sides.  

Following the Turkish military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was prohibited in public and private life. The prison of Diyarbakir filled up and the endless wails of rape and torture propelled the movement to full mobilization and to take up arms again.

 Diyarbakir, which in my people’s tradition is also called Ahmed has now swollen to nearly 4 million people since the eradication and ethnic cleansing of over 5,000 Kurdish villages in the great ranges of mountains to the east. The primary battle grounds between the Party and the Turkish State. Growing up there, there was of course no Kurdish allowed in school, no Kurdish books or music except deeply underground. Were in within the Turkish State’s power, we would not even have Kurdish names! We would admit to being a backwards people of “Mountain Turks”. I was born in the year of the largest, latest and greatest uprising. And although since the days of the Medes there have been  “one thousands sighs and one thousand failed revolts”, this uprising was to be completely different.

 In 1984 Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdistan Workers Party simultaneously attacked three Turkish army posts and police stations in Bashur and announced the beginning of their revolution. For the next thirty years, almost without pause the P.K.K. and it’s armed guerrilla would battle the Turkish military across Bashur, the name we call the Turkish occupied zone of Kurdistan which means “the North”. Over 50,000 would die, the Turks would engage in vast acts of scorched earth barbarism and we in the Party would eventually turn to out right terror. In the end, the majority of the deaths were Kurdish civilians. In the end the only liberated ground was a handful of villages deep in the mountains of North Iraq, the Qandil.

Now, Kawa is not my real name. It is the name given to me by the guerrillas of the P.K.K. when I joined the Party at age 16. In the year 2000. By that time we were fully surrounded in Qandil being attacked on all sides and death seemed certain. Total defeat as well. Our great leader had been kidnapped in Kenya. Major leaders of the movement including the brother of Abdullah Ocalan, Osman, had completely betrayed us. Our own Iraqi Kurdish brothers in the K.D.P. and P.U.K. Peshmerga were collaborating with Turkey and American to annihilate us.

How do I tell you my story? How does this even begin or end for an outsider. For people who do not even know where Kurdistan begins of ends, or even care. As Turkey is a N.A.T.O. ally, and no matter what it says or does will remain a beneficiary of great power largesse.

I cannot tell you my real name. I cannot speak for the Party, not can I fully disclose the deepness of my hope and my hate to a stranger.

I will try and say somethings for the benefit of doubt, that non-Kurds could care about us so much that they would come to our land by the hundreds. To fight and die alongside us not simply fighting in resistance to Islamic radicalism, genocide and repression, but also because they grasp the larger idea. The total an utter radicalism and implications of Abdullah Ocalan’s vision. For the survival of the revolution rests not in securing a Kurdish State, but instead to export these ideas abroad. To make the blood of the martyrs raise the flood waters of all mankind and provide a blueprint for liberation.

Of course we began as communists, we began admiring the Cubans and it was the Russians and Palestinians that first trained armed the resistance in the early days in the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. But we are not Communists or Nationalists anymore. Our thinking on the subject of liberation has evolved. The Cuban connection and the Palestinians connection are very real and enduring parts of the story.

But, when we all almost died on the mountain top, surrounded and out gunned in 2000 there were no Cubans, or Russians or Palestinians to help us as they were all defeated or fully besieged. By some miracle, or just by sheer will the Party survived. And the 1989 defeat of Communism internationally required us to climb higher, dig deeper to criticize and self-criticize. To adopt an evolution in our thinking. With our ranks decimated, the armed struggle In a complete stalemate, declared a terrorist organization by almost every European country; we evolved. The revolution could not ever be won with arms and ideology alone. Nor could we secure Kurdistan while every other nation on earth embraced “Capitalist Modernity”. To secure our victory and survival as a people in Bakur, Bashur, Rojalat and Rojava we would embrace the ideas of a Jewish anarchist from Vermont, as re-interpreted in prison by Ocalan and implemented by the new largely female leadership of the Party. This methodology called “Democratic Confederalism”, adopted by the Party in 2004 would soon find actual expression in Rojava. The Wild West of Kurdistan, the North most area of Syria. In 2014 when the Civil War broke out the Party and its allied militias seized control of major towns and cities across Syria abandoned by the Assad regime.

Thus we came down from the mountains, out of the underground and prepared to make a stand in Rojava where the radicals of the Islamic State were terrorizing out people and butchering everyone in the their path. If we go back to the mountains it will signal only our isolation and defeat. If we hold these cities, if we showcase that we are fighting to defend not just for Kurds but for Arabs, Assyrians, Yazidis, Circassaians, Chechens and the Turkmen too; if we show that Democratic Confederalism is the solution, the way ahead for all oppressed peoples; then others will join us. And like the Nawruz mountain fires this uprising will eventually spread everywhere.

Out of habit, he lights a cigarette and pours himself a cup of tea. On the walls of the small office set up at the training base, which is also his room, Jansher looks the dead in the eyes.

Homage/ Chp. 1

ACT I: 

BAKUR

S c e n e O n e

“A Cradle of all out Warfare”

Deir Ez-Zor, Syria 

November 25th, 2017

Deir Ez-Zor was one of the very first Syrian cities in 2011 to stage large scale demonstrations against the Assad Regime. In 2014 ISIS took over the city with little resistance leaving only a small pocket of pro-Assad military and perhaps over 100,000 civilian supporters cut off in an airbase and small section of the city. Supplied by helicopters and high altitude drop services the besieged garrison deep inside the ISIS control zone resisted capture for over 3 years and 2 months.  

The siege of Deir Ez-Zor Airbase garrison lasted a very long time. Daesh controlled everything except a small military airport which the Russians and Regime supplied by air for all of the war, but could not re-take, along with the city until just a month ago when it was “liberated” on 3rd November, 2017 by the SAA and the Russians.

At some point the Regime soldiers made the local women trade sex for basic rations of food. There were rarely sympathetic forces in the war, besides ours. But even the Y.P.G. conscripts children, forces Arabs off their land and dabbles in war crimes from time to time, to time. Now, on the South bank, Assad Regime forces, Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary guards and Russian special forces push south east down the southern bank of the River while Syrian Democratic Forces and United States lead coalition forces pushed rapidly south to the Euphrates North bank, both sides maneuvering to secure the majority of the Syrian oil fields. The S.D.F. capturing most of them. Now we slowly begin the final offensive to capture Isis’s last strongholds, moving down the river toward Hajin. Trying not to kick off World War Three.

“Perhaps I am not where I am supposed to be,” muses Heval Ciya, “Perhaps here, I will die for nothing at all. We can be killed so easily by anything, then they will dance about with my corpse making speeches in Kurmanji for a day, until my death takes on significance that it probably never had.”

Heval Ciya Zinar is the name they gave me. “Comrade Friend Mountain Rock”. I am a separatism minded Scottish Soldier. Although still a member of the British army, I voted for independence in our latest failed referendum. I am gentleman by most accounts and a Y.P.G. International Volunteer. I have absolutely no political sympathies with the Kurdish lead formations, though I possesses formal military training, making me more valuable than most of these preachy, useless ideologically motivated volunteers. 

“There’s dust in my beard and men dying all around me.”

As we grew closer to the Euphrates we can see fire in the sky and the night is lit up with heavy coalition airstrikes somewhere far away to the south. The convoy of nine trucks had left Al Hasakah the largest rebel held city in the morning and drove about five hours south toward some forward operating base. The eight of us internationals had not been issued weapons until half way to the front. We stopped of course several times for obligatory tea and some volleyball. The sport of Apoist revolution. Sometimes we’d stop at what seemed like the same identical store front kiosk, next to well stocked pharmacies. The road bodega of Kurdistan stocked with energy drinks, smokes and Turkish day to day items, never toilet paper. All the toilet paper in Syria was now gone. There we bought energy drinks and cigarettes of a more potent type, as the party issued Ardens were lights or ultra lights at best. There was Pepsi, but no Coca-Cola throughout the liberated zones. Real freedom was not won yet.

In the first battle that I participated in during the Syrian Civil War five Arab soldiers in our S.D.F./ Y.P.G. unit were blown to bits by mines and mortars as we stormed the river basin a little after midnight. Evidently, there were far more Daesh entrenched than we had thought. From a dirt sand trench I fired my AK-47 shiftlessly over the wall, peaking out I saw an Arab comrade ripped apart by gun fire an collapse in the sand.

The fire fight resumed immediately after a short re-calibration of the battle plan, after Heval Commander Dalil’s men were buried. A larger number of Kasadeh were trucked in, barely trained. Half or more might have fought for Daesh or the Regime at some point. Child soldiers all over the place. A major conscription drive happened, even some cadro tabors were moved in. This was a race to secure as much turf north of the Euphrates as we could as quickly as we could, creating a defensible buffer against the regime, Russians and Iranians to secure the oil fields. Of course, implicit in all that was to finish Daesh for good. Smash their final positions along 60 to 100 hamlets and miserable dust cake boney towns leading to Hajin, for the very last stand of the caliphate. 
Very bad intelligence friends! The bandits were still very well dug in, refugee were swarming out and among them suicide bombers. Five so far. it was impossible to know anymore who was Daesh or not among the refugees flooding out. Some two dozen Arab Hevals were martyred the first night of operation. We were down the hardcore of the elite, the foreign fighter zealots, their families. Motor cycles with snipers affixed to re-position.  Sleeper cell deployment, suicide bombers, booby traps, tunnel mines, the usual. Now they would in four battalions capture about fifty tiny key destitute towns working south in several prongs toward the river. 
“If you see a helicopter, don’t shoot at it!” Dalal had said, it was our new resupply drop copters. we allegedly had an very, very small air force now. “Do not shoot at the helicopters in general,” was repeated several times in Arabic and Kurdish.
“Also, also! If the regime forces fire, return fire, but do not engage them. Unless they actually cross the river.” Declared Commander Heval Brusk, which means ‘commander lightning’. Commander lightning then personally presided over a few hours on conscript drills. None of these bearded partisans were trusted with grenades.
So the very next day, at early dawn, ten of the destitution ridden little seemingly strategic ISIS hamlets were again stormed. 
There was chaotic gun fire erupting everywhere. There were utterly ransacked two story brown buildings all unfinished, all about the same shattered look. From several positions Takim commandos were firing endlessly from roof tops and sniper holes out toward where it was believed the enemy was hiding. A mosque about half a kilometer away. Well of course every Daesh position was in a mosque, hospital or granary since nothing else was defensible. 
This was a mostly one sided AK-47 and mortar barrage. Much of the war had proceeded like this, pick up trucks dripping light infantry to storm abandoned Arab homes and light up anything that moved. Loot absolutely anything that wasn’t made of sand and carry it back north. One pipe, one water basin one carpet at a time.
A small child ran out into the road was blown away. Briefly a pause, until he was clearly limp and dead. A day or two more of endless AK fire, sometimes at night too. Eventually the Americans were told to bomb the mosque. Spotters transmit grid coordinates. Soon, about 5 minutes later an airstrike riots apart the mosque. Battle won! 

Many people have written at length about “how boring” it can be to be at war, but it is more terrifying than boring, actually Heval. You do your best to not think about how men and women far more prepared than yourself took a wrong turn and then just exploded. Or how a sniper cut them down. Or how they died in a Turkish airstrike. Or contracted hepatitis because of poor local appreciation of pooping with toilet paper and hand washing, then eating.
The boredom of war Heval is perhaps a cover for a sneaking debilitating fear, so that is what people write about. Being bored, instead of being afraid. And in a war such as this certainly you sit around quite a lot drinking tea, smoking weak Party issued cigarettes and standing guard. Or looking for strategic places to jerk off or poop without setting off a mine. But nothing for us was the same for very long and thus all the time you spend sitting around was better spend ‘conversating’ on the Revolution’s bleak future, or studying some Kurdish, or horsing around with the Arabs. Who loved to try and communicate actually. And also show you pornography and awkwardly try and steal, trade for or buy your hand grenades. Or ask you to bring them to America or Europe hidden in a bag. Jokes abound, but really it is only you who will be brought back to Europe or America in a bag.
While very few of us actually spoke any real Kurmanji Kurdish or Arabic, it seemed that the Arabs were far more interested in us than the Kurds though. I would call the Kurdish commanders attitude, begrudging appreciation and that of the rank and file borderline insulting. I would go so far as to say that at this stage in the war, being fought in majority Arab zones now by the Euphrates river that an increasing number of the front line fighters were Kasadeh, non Kurdish Arab S.D.F. fighters. The Assyrians too had a small group, less than a few hundred men many little kids and old men. Many poorly trained and poorly paid semi conscripts. Many not even very against the Islamic state more eager to shoot at the Russians and regime forces on the other side of the river. With the Kadros being withheld in clear preparation for the impending defense of Afrin Canton.

In retrospect I assume that Heval Fermander Dalil probably saved our lives by abandoning us in a rear fox hole in the dead of night. The ten internationalists that I was aware of were placed further back in the rear, but Heval Shervan ‘the crazed Irish gypsy’ commandeered a Humvee and caught us up, without any invitation to the troops of “Fermander Dalil”.

I remember freezing out in the dunes all night long while the Arab fighters shared neither bedding nor blanket. It was so bitterly god damn cold!

Sometimes Heval Kawa the idealistic New Yorker and I talk about the girls back home. I talk about my Ms. Ashley. He talks about his Daria. Some escort Russian he has some arty muse thing with. Pretty much this is what men at war do. Although in my case, I motor boated my female best friend. In his case it seems a bit more fucking dark and tragic.

Sometimes I close my eyes and remember your lips. Late into the long trip back to Brighton to you home. I have no home, only ugly little flats around Brooklyn soviet which I rent out of poverty, artless and shared. Decorated with trinkets. I’ll never go back! To you or to Russia, or Haiti, nor to Mehanata the tavern or even dear Cuba! All these things are a form of slavery now. Your lingering Daria, it takes the form of ruminations on WhatsApp messages telling me to come home”. But to what? To nothing. Life here is hard, but it is free life as they say.” Kawa, the American,  is more a poet than a medic in his heart of hearts. Me I am simply a Scottish warrior. I long for the fight and I got some.

I was deployed into the Deir Ez-Zor Province wastelands about ten days ago to the front near Omar, Daesh is nearly completely defeated they say, but everyday we are taking martyr bodies back to Al-Hasake. Assigned briefly to the Tabor Shahid Lawrence; we lost fifty men in the first few battles to advance south on the mighty Euphrates river. After all that initial death it seems they aim to break up our group of internationalists into different places. The do not want us all to die at once. They do not really seem to have achieved consensus or a plan on where we should be or when and if we should die, or what we are actually even good for. Or what to do when ISIS is finished, and America abandons them and the Turkish Army rolls over the border to kill us all. A heated internal debate is constantly held in both Turkish and Kurdish. Sometimes also in Arabic. Which always ends inconclusively. Well its a complex matter anyway. So many ways to die out here for the greatest cause of our time.

On this matter Kawa and I agree, that whatever motives brought us all to this wasteland, this place of dying and suffering over made up Gods and ideologies, invented ethnicities and world war three style great power politics; this was the resistance of the age. This was a battle good men, bad men and crazy men could not sit out. Because when the smoke clears there will be a different Middle East, a different world. I am no ideologue. I am no dreamer or religious fanatic. I am a professional soldier. While it is not unreasonable to say the Assad Regime backed by Russia and Iran, the Turks, Al Qaeda and of course the Daesh, are unequivocal the forces of religious fanatical reaction, of fascism, or totalitarianism and death, well they are. While the Kurds and Arabs of Y.P.G./Y.P.J./S.D.F. are not saints of course. We are not angels here to help. We are fighting for democracy, feminism, ecology and tolerance in the heart of the Middle East. As opposed to all the other groups that are fighting for radical Islam, chauvinism, fascism and the right to impose the will of the minority on the majority. 

Did you know that when you take off a person’s uniform to bury them, you cannot tell a fascist corpse, from a democratic corpse from a Daesh corpse not even from the length of the beard? Those three and letter affiliations, they doesn’t matter anyway. It matters more, the stuff inside a person heart. Their moral compass. Not the length of the beard or who they pray to. Not the historic struggle of their people or their claim to the rivers. When warriors die, they might not end up anywhere glorious. They might just be dead. The immortality we are achieving in out death here is thus rooted in the way the story is framed. Which is to say, who ever wins the war. But can you really win a war like this at all? I see absolutely no good end in sight.

Homage/ Prelude

Al Prelude

It is not that any of us longed to die. It was only that we believed that in this transience, this short human life, it was preferable to die on ones feet moving towards a just idea. Moving in solidarity, in defense of the powerless. Then it would be to die on our backs or our knees, half lives, shuffling along like zombies. Always asleep. With meaningless, un-free lives wasted. Lives spend like serfs and slaves.  

Have you ever had an amazing noble idea in your head? That simply refused to translate itself or find traction in reality? Have you ever risked everything, sacrificed absolutely everything for such an idea? Myopically, almost psychotically pushing forward in the face of a stubborn, intractable cruel reality. When you can bring yourself to do that. To engage in nothing short of overwhelming zealotry. Pursuing a new reality, a reality where the vast suffering of this world is mitigated. Where the chaos and carnage and daily humiliation that is the lot of most humans is undone by rights, by hope, by heroism. That is called the motivation for the fight.  

It has been a very long hard bloody road to the mountains and back from them. From Manhattan to Jerusalem to Havana. All the trips to the City of Port-Au-Prince. To Greater Boston. Back to Brooklyn then to out Russia. Across Russia on a train then into the Middle East to fight in Rojava. Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Egypt and then back to the Big Apple again. Riding on the backs of armored trucks and flying carpets. On horses, on tanks on airships. Over the great rivers and through the woods. Mountains beyond mountains beyond mountains. With stopovers where all civilization has come to a resolute end in the Fertile Crescent. Smoldering villages. Enormous cities razed to the very foundations. Once historic places, simply crushed and undone. Burning down river by river shore to deep sands of desolation. A revolution within a civil war within an endless third world war. A place called Kurdistan which exists not on maps but in the hearts and dreams of perhaps forty million stateless, long oppressed people. Engaged a very long fight for their right to exist.  

How do you make any sense of such carnage to people that were not there? How do you make an enjoyable narrative about bloody chaos? Articulate ideas that when they become facts on the ground, have vast contradictions. Have improbable capability to survive.  

My name is Sebastian Adonaev, but the Kurds named me “Blacksmith Winter”, or Kawa Zivistan. The Arabs, they needed to name me too so they called me “Abu Yazan”. Because my then part-girlfriend, part-confidant Polina has a son named Yazan. I was 33 when I deployed but looked and felt a bit younger. I felt brave or stupid enough to volunteer for a war. At the most desperate heights of the conflict, which would end up killing over 500,000 people, there was a cry for some extra hands, some Hamsas. Every side called up all available reinforcements. Just before Baghdad almost fell, the mostly Shiite al-Hashid ash-Shabi Popular Mobilization Forces called up half a million Iraqis to hold I.S.I.S. back.  The Assad Regime enlisted thousands of Russian, Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah to fight Daesh and other Sunni rebel factions aligned with ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army brands and the Al Qaeda reboot H.T.S. The Islamic State took in over 40,000 foreign fighters and the mostly Kurdish forces in the “Syrian Democratic Forces”  enlisted just 500. I fought alongside the Iraqi Special Operations Forces in Iraq and for the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the Y.P.G. Militia defending the idea of Rojava in Syria. I contributed very few bullets, mostly serving as combat medic during my time there. Mostly stopping hemorrhage and carrying the wounded to ambulances. Mostly trying to train people to save lives, actually, at a time when almost everyone wanted to kill.

After defeating the so-called “Islamic State” as a force holding any territory, the United States military all but completely abandoned their Kurdish allies and Turkey invaded Rojava.

We who survived to talk about the Syrian Civil War, we often found there were not easy words to describe what we took part in. This is story grounded in history and ideology. The tale of a stateless people spread over 4 nations, 40 million strong. This is a love song after a series of hard fucks in Spanish and some love making in Russian. This is a Post-Soviet Lullaby, written in Imperial English about Western privileges. I have heard on the wire that the Turkish Army is fully mobilizing to crush Rojava. A fully modern army of over 435,000 soldiers. That Anya is losing her mind in Baghdad and Ana Campbell, that optimistic young woman I once gave hand grenades to, well she died in an airstrike in Afrin. Here I am in Capitalist Modernity’s very heartland and loving embrace. Doing nothing useful for Kurdistan. Just writing stupid love songs. Composing vain self serving propaganda plays.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m supposed to hide and what I can give away. I’m actually very detached from Western thinking so I don’t even know what actually makes compelling propaganda in the West anyway. Actually, the sly and looming enemy knows most of our real names, and frankly were there not many informants amongst us, it is simply a matter of sad fact that to get their passports back many of the French and British volunteers gave us away. Not to snitch jacket, but with a little lean on anyone can make a person flip. Really, there were not that many of us internationalists to keep track of. As the mad China-man Andok said, “the hard drives containing our data were barely even secured and this place is awash in spies.” Our overall numbers were estimated to be around 500 strong of which around 50 later perished. Mostly in combat, some in a wave of alleged suicides. We were small enough therefore for the various security services to keep track of.

So what is the actual purpose of this little manuscript? It is certainly not to glorify or denigrate the volunteers. I think it brave we went there but I don’t think we game changed a single thing. Perhaps we were all only there to bear witness that the revolution has even happened. It is surely not my aim give away military secrets and name names, because I am many things but not a Josh, a ‘donkey ass betrayer. Suffice to say the C.I.A., MI5 and the M.I.T. know all our names.
I heard some comrades sang like little opera singers to get their European passports back. All speculation, none can actually say. Americans, we had the easiest deal. After ISIS is finished maybe it will not be so black and white, fighting a N.A.T.O. ally and what not. Assisting a revolution for stateless democracy, womens emancipation and social ecology in the heart of the war torn Middle East. ‘Heval Ciya’ the Scott always used to say that the 231 Sniper Unit changed the entire game, but really only the United States and the Coalition airstrikes probably, certainly did. When the last of the under 2,500 U.S. Special Forces leave the Turks will invade in force and try and undo everything.
There’s a story we heard about a Y.P.G. Euro volunteer vacationing in Turkey immediately after his tour. He was of course arrested and will serve life in prison. He probably should have made better choices for leave and decompression. There are lots of crazy people here. You have to be little crazy to travel half way across the earth to enlist in a revolution inside a bloody brutal civil war amid a great power confrontation placing Russia and Iran directly against the United States and N.A.T.O.
I was told by ‘Heval Jansher’ the Y.P.G. guerrilla who helped train us that, that if I survive the war I should “write something about Rojava that does justice to the over 12,000 martyrs. That does justice to the cause of Kurdistan. Honors Abdullah Ocalan and upholds the values of the revolution.” That it should humanize this resistance struggle inside a revolution inside a civil war inside a great game for the Middle East.

Maybe Heval, just make it a kind of strange fucked up love story,” Jansher joked with me over cigarettes and endless black tea. 
So I hope this account manages some of that, compiling the oral history, experiences and many martyrdom’s shared amongst the approximate 500-600 foreign Y.P.G./Y.P.J./I.F.B. Internationalist fighters. At the very least I’d like to capture what it was that made us enlist in this hell to take part, to fight and die and kill and try and help, to be less than a foot note in the epic tale of Kurdistan. But still a part.
“It has to be a love story or they will never make a movie about it comrade,” Heval Jansher once said, “to the West without a Movie, it is perhaps like this struggle is not even happening at all.” But he also said a ‘real revolutionist’ has no love except for his or her people. That any romantic love is a “bourgeois luxury for civilians”.

“Our love story is for the Resistance of the Age” he used to say, but then Heval Jansher also laughed and noted Jake Gillenhaul was then already shopping around a script where he plays an anarchist falling in love for a beautiful Y.P.J. fighter and another action exploitation of the Y.P.J. was coming out soon in France. But that will likely not go anywhere useful.
“You see, in real life we would probably platform and deport this stupid volunteer and the Y.P.J. comrade, she would be shamed and sent briefly to prison” Heval Jansher told me. A famous saying states that the “Kurds have no friends besides the mountains.” Well that’s no longer completely true. The 500 who served and the 45 who died besides the 12,000 Kurdish and Arab martyrs of the battle to defeat ISIS and defend the Rojava Revolution will live forever in the Kurdish tradition, since in Kurdistan ‘Martyrs never die’. Shahid Namarin. These were kind of talks we had at the Qerechow Academy.

That then said this is not a love story at all. It’s not even “a Middle Eastern Western”. The revolution itself has hardly been secured. The struggle is hardly over. The iron heel and might of the Turkish army looms right over the border to the North. Ready to descend quickly and murder us all. Undo everything that has been fought for against the so-called Islamic State. The Forces of the bloody dictator Assad backed by the Russian army and Hezbollah dig in to the south of the Euphrates river. The collaborationist Iraqi Kurdish K.D.P. Peshmerga, the Iranian supported Hashid Ashabi popular mobilization forces, the Shi’a dominated Iraqi Army and all manners of Iranian revolutionary guards to the south east in Sinjar. To the West the Jihadists of Al Qaeda’s latest rebrand and Islamists of different types in Idlib.

Enemies of the revolution on every single side! In fulfillment of my promises I will try and present our little part of the story as the defense has really only just begun. Everything might be wiped away before you even paid attention to vastness and hope of it. I worry, no sadly I expect, that long before this manuscript is ever published anywhere, all will be lost. My remaining Hevals will all be killed. The Turkish Army will literally roll over the border and everyone will be slaughtered. This isn’t really speculation, since it has happened many times before.