Chapter (8) Eight
“The Airstrikes on Mt. Qerechow”
On April 25th, 2017. A few hours ago the Turkish State rocket bombed our training academy on the plateau of Mt. Qerechow. 18 Hevals died, some of them foreign volunteers. 5 Peshmerga also died in the strikes. The training base has been moved down the ridge into the oil pumping facility. It is unclear what makes the new location any safer. A new batch of internationals has just arrived from Sulaymaniyah. The lessons and training must continue.
Jansher is a mustached bear of a man, clad in a forest green multicam uniform gesticulating all his lessons with his animated hands.
“People were being massacred and sold into sexual slavery. Gang rapes and decapitations were gleefully being live streamed. What exactly would you have done?” recounts Heval Jansher the intellectual Georgian Kadro responsible for the ideological and historical training of new Internationalist volunteers.
“We came down from the mountains in convoys of pick up trucks, semi-armored school buses and on foot. We moved in fearless columns committing perhaps half of our remaining beleaguered armed forces. Tens of thousands of Yazidi men, women and children were huddling helplessly and exposed in the Shengal mountains. Without our intervention all their men would have been massacred and their women sold off in markets. In Kobane around this same time Daesh has surrounded our Syrian Kurdish brothers and sisters and were on the verge of wiping us off the ground in North Syria. At that time ISIS was 30 miles from Baghdad and 100 miles from Damascus. Every day hundreds of foreign fanatics were joining them. Entering easily with the help of the Turkish state.”
“We broke through the Turkish lines and along with American airstrikes saved Kobane from total destruction. We literally saved the lives of over 50,000 Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar facing Daesh genocide. We took up positions in Kirkuk awaiting an inevitable Daesh or Iraqi Army attack.”
Perhaps sometimes we changed out of our baggy green guerrilla uniforms into those of local forces or simply took the uniform off. Without the Party, without the People’s Defense Forces which bolstered every Y.P.G./Y.P.J. position there would have been no one for the Americans to arm as it would have all been Islamic State territory.
It is possible that the P.K.K., that is to say the Kurdistan Workers Party did some very nasty things internally and externally during its thirty year war with the Turkish State. Certainly there were both internal purges of real and imagined counter revolutionaries as well as deliberate attacks on civilians, but war is war and war is very brutal on absolutely everyone.
The P.K.K. was trained in war by the Palestinians in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in the 1970’s. There is a historic sympathy that the Party has to the cause of Palestine as a thankful result of this early collaboration. It is completely unacknowledged, and unsubstantiated that the Russians also trained the P.K.K. But that’s who was hanging out in the Bekaa Valley in the 1980’s. Palestinian guerrillas. Iranian special forces. Lebanese Shiite partisans. Russian spies.
The P.K.K. got openly involved in the fight against ISIS first in Kobane and then in Sinjar. It can be said in unambiguous terms that without the leadership of the Party, assisted by coalition air power the revolution in Rojava would not have survived the Islamic State onslaught. Abdullah Ocalan has been in prison since 1999.
A variety of tactical and ideological innovations have had to have been made for us to survive. However, the adaptation of Democratic Confederalism is not a publicity stunt or mere revisionism. The Party has had to adapt, Ocalan has helped us find the context to adapt. Without his leadership the P.K.K. would not have withstood the tumultuous collapse of global state socialism in the 1990s.
The Revolution in Rojava is of course a product of Party discipline and functionally speaking there is very little difference between the Y.P.G./Y.P.J. and the People’s Defense Forces of the P.K.K., the majority of the Y.P.G./Y.P.J. commanders are P.K.K. cadres.
In the insurrection against the Turkish State which began in this phase in 1984, over 50,000 people died and the majority of them were Kurds. If nasty, brutal violent things such as burying people alive, executing busloads of Turkish civil servants, carrying out suicide bombings, periodically purging the ranks of real or accused counter revolutionaries.
But even though we are declared a terrorist organization because Turkey is so important to N.A.T.O. and the Kurdish issue is so intractable, the U.S. led coalition of course used the Y.P.G./Y.P.J. dressed up as the Syrian Democratic Forces to annihilate ISIS. The Turkish state had a daily telephone riot with their American counterparts. No one was stupid. Everyone knew every dollar, every rifle and every bit of training given to the Syrian Democratic Forces which was over 60% Kurdish Y.P.G./Y.P.J. anyway would be routed to the P.K.K. when the war with ISIS was over and the fighting resumed in earnest between the Kurdish allies and Turkish Army. But, in 2015 after Kobane there was no other reliable ally on the ground and the Turks had to wait for the dust to settle. In Kobane the tide was turned for ISIS and the S.D.F. became the default U.S. Coalition proxy in Syria. Between 2015 and 2018 the S.D.F. smashed ISIS towns and cities from the North and the Assad Regime aided by the Russians hit them from the West. With no friends, under attack in every direction the once seemingly invincible Jihadists of Daesh were defeated, falling back to Ar-Raqqah and holes in the desert to hide. The Regime forces, Hezbollah, the S.D.F., the P.K.K. the Coalition, the Iraqi Army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the al-Hashid ash-Sha’bi Popular Mobilization Forces we all ground them under our boot heels on all sides. Now only Deir Ez-Zor is left to liberate. But once these Cheta Daesh are temporarily defeated, isolated, trampled on and crushed in some shitty desert town that will change nothing. The Saudi funded and Pakistani spread Wahabbi-Salfist virus By no means will this war be over any time soon.
By 2014 around the time that the Y.P.G./ Y.P.J. militia, assisted heavily by the P.K.K.’s People’s Defense Forces, the K.D.P. Peshmerga and the Coalition airstrikes were battling their way out of the ISIS siege in Kobane, effectively cementing for five years an American led Coalition- leftist Kurdish alliance and changing the dynamics of the Civil War in the North of Syria completely. But no one was stupid, not Turkey, not Daesh not the American Special Forces sent to arm and coordinate airstrikes with us. There were acrimony upon acronyms, there were shells of meaningless letters to make the American Congress feel better about releasing military aid. But, no one Heval was completely stupid. We all knew that the very minute Daesh was defeated we’d be alone and that all these enemies and friends knew the truth. That nothing happening politically or militarily in North Syria would be decided except by the Party.
The P.K.K. Our Party, the Kurdistan Workers Party! To the Turks we are nefarious terrorists. They want to hunt us down and kill us all. For we are an existential threat to the Turkish State. All states, really Hevals.
They convinced America and Europe to adopt that line. To the Kurdish people the premier Party of Resistance to oppression and total annihilation as a coherent people. The very last defense against seemingly triumphant Capitalist Modernity. The only military force capable of defeating I.S.I.S. on the ground. An entity that is outside the immediate theatre of war, with the possible exception of Russia and China, still very much considered a terror group by the West and N.A.T.O. forces of which Turkish State contributes the second largest military force. Over 250,000 combatants.
No one in their wildest dreams can imagine that when the smoke clears and ash settles that the first Democratic Confederalist polity, safeguarding some 4-5 million people will be allowed to survive. But for now the total rubble of what was left from the siege of Kobane has in defiance been rebuilt in the sprawl of white brutalist two to six story dwellings buttressing in defiance the long white wall and treacherous minefield the Turks built across the entire northern border.
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 British woman died, she was the one with possibly the very most revolutionary potential, for a foreigner 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. I was born in Georgia. I’m not even ethnically Kurdish, actually.
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 Pizkarek; a problem. Bad standing, means re-education, prolonged isolation or indefinite detention. Eventually it means a bullet.