‘Innocence’ or ‘Schadenfreude’


Written on October 16, 2012 by  Kani Xulam: Kurdistan Tribune

As the explosive power of the film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” ricocheted across the Middle East—violently sparking its own grim trail of fire, blood and death—I became weary of part of the title:  “Innocence.”

I began looking for its hidden meaning, its sinister part, as it were.

Even before the toxic dust settled on the barbaric bloodbath—dozens assassinated, including at least four Americans, with the U.S. ambassador to Libya, murdered and dragged through the streets like a dog and allegedly sodomized—I found it.

Sadly, it came in a shocking ugliness where I least expected it.

The new “innocent” shocker arrived courtesy of the International Crisis Group (ICG), a nonprofit group in Brussels, Belgium.

It was their annual report ambitiously titled, Turkey: the PKK and a Kurdish Settlement, Europe Report # 219 (Last year they had issued another report, with somewhat academic wishful thinking, entitled, Turkey: Ending the PKK Insurgency, Europe Report # 213).

What the California film did for pious and impious Muslims across the world, this Crisis Group report did far more—and with a lot less fanfare—to maliciously malign and callously trample the Kurdish cause of freedom across the globe.

The Crisis Group is headed by a former Canadian judge, Louise Arbour, whose exalted resume includes stints at United Nations as High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

One of her online biographies says that while editing the school magazine at the Canadian convent she attended, she developed “a reputation for irreverence.”

I can believe it, considering the scorn shown to Kurds.

Unfortunately, she’s backed up by former President Bill Clinton and Colin Powell, former secretary of state, and retired four-star army general.

President Clinton boasts on the ICG website—crows may be a better word—that the Crisis Group is “the eyes, the ears, and the conscience of the global community.”

Biased eyes and bigoted ears might fit better.

General Powell outshines the pompous Clinton: “We should all be thankful that we have an organization like Crisis Group that contributes to peace and security in helping to resolve conflicts, to ring the alarm bells of the international community, and to be a mirror for the conscience of the world.”

Hot Diggity Dog!

Fine, high-sounding words—but they turn out to be merely air, sound, devoid of any real meaning.

They are like the wind—soaring high but resting nowhere!

Pardon me while I gag on this proliferating pretense!

Why so cynical?

Maybe I’ve acquired a whiff of the “irreverence” of the Crisis Group’s leader, Judge Arbour.

These grand luminaries and their field researchers would have you believe that the lowly Kurds are not a part of their much-touted “global community,” to use President Clinton’s words, or the “international community” to borrow from General Powell.

Kurds are just pests!

They’re “in the way,” as the French aristocrat contemptuously said when the fine horses of his imperial coach ran down a peasant child in the street, in Charles Dickens’ celebrated novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Kurds should quit causing trouble, and get out of the way!

They would—if the Crisis Group could only gut the Kurds’ silly desire for what Americans love most—and burns most deeply in the hallowed inner sanctum of their hearts: Freedom, the sacred spark in their illustrious Declaration of Independence, and the eternal flame of liberty that still burns brightly in their blessed Constitution’s freedom-protecting Bill of Rights!

The Crisis Group is highly selective in its misapplied compassion.

It parades tons for non-Kurds—but barely a thimbleful for Kurds.

The people of misruled Darfur, a part of Sudan, get favorable treatment.

But what about the abused Kurds?

See—somebody has to get picky!

In misruled Kurdistan, a part of Turkey, the Crisis Group bows respectfully to the merciless prejudices and stinging superstitions of the Turks!

But Kurdistan is heartlessly buried as “southeast Turkey” and its longsuffering Kurds are sneeringly slapped with the typical circus-barker scolding: “Go away, kid—you bother me!”

Be patient.  Just wait:

A: Until hell freezes over.

B:  Until the Turks develop wisdom.

C:  Both.

That anti-Kurdish slant couldn’t be linked with the fact that the Turkish Foreign Ministry is a financial contributor to the Crisis Group, could it?

In Kosovo, the Crisis Group went on a limb and supported the rights of Kosovars to a state of their own.

But for Kurds, the Crisis Group sawed off the limb—with Kurds hanging helplessly from the severed limb!

Year after year, the Crisis Group avoids any mention of “independence” or “self-determination” for Kurds—just as bats automatically shun daylight!

In short, the people of Kosovo deserve their own state.

The Kurds don’t.

Did I miss something?

What’s that elusive word?

Oh, yes: Equality.

When pigs in George Orwell’s inimitable book, Animal Farm, said that, “some animals are more equal than others,” Orwell probably never dreamed that those satirical words would one day flow with two-faced ease from the Crisis Group!

How sad that those pithy words of Orwell, banned in the Soviet Union, have come to represent the unstated ideals of an American organization called Crisis Group.

That conclusion is inescapable when the Crisis Group vigorously supports greater rights for the people of Darfur and independence for Kosovo—but cavalierly ignores the same God-given rights for the subjugated Kurds.

Yes, some animals truly are “more equal” than others.

Who says George Orwell is dead?

It may be 2012 by the Gregorian calendar—but it’s 1984 in Orwellian time!

Alas, one could even say not much has changed:  In 1775, when British colonists in America were clamoring for greater rights—just as the long-suffering Kurds do today—Edmund Burke penned his famous “Reconciliation with America,” urging the Crown about the pitfalls of criminalizing an entire population.

Britain should not indict a “whole people,” Burke said—as the Kurds have certainly been habitually indicted with indifference by the Crisis Group—because: “For wise men, this is not judicious; for sober men, not decent; for minds tinctured with humanity, not mild and merciful.”

Amen, Edmund!

Alas, there is no such wisdom in the Crisis Group’s Reports 219 or 213.

Nor was there any decency or mercy for Kurds.

If the report had been in German, it would have been “Schadenfreude,” or “pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune.”

It might not be so funny if it were their misfortune—instead of the Kurds.

Perhaps it would help if their much-vaunted “field research” teams could live and suffer among the maltreated Kurds and see if they can, as Abraham Lincoln said, “feel the lash on another man’s back.”

It looks like, Crisis Group observers have no need to read Burke as long as they seem to gullibly swig without shame the sneaky snake-oil tonic, venomously hawked by despots masquerading as democrats, trying to sucker us into swallowing the monstrous fairytale that the ruthless domination of one race over another is actually a good thing.

Maybe it’s even “an advanced form of democracy.”

Believe it or not, those are the exact, incredibly contemptible words of the Kurdish-hating Turkish prime minister.

He actually said: “What we have [in Turkey] is an organic and advanced form of democracy,” at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC.

I can think of many terms to use here, but “advanced form of democracy” is not one of them!

“Backward form of tyranny” is more like it.

Thomas Jefferson explained exactly how “advanced” democracy works: “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”

The Turks know that song quite well—and have harshly crooned it to the Kurds for decades!

The latest Crisis Group report entices Cicero’s wisdom to it, like the needle to the pole: “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

Kurds have certainly suffered punishing abuse at the hand of the Turks—even without the assistance of Crisis Group!

Let’s start with one section of Report 219, which reveals the astonishing transformation of the author from a former child of liberty into a naive puppy of despotism.

The anonymous Crisis Group agent details a meeting with a journalist who had just returned from the Qandil headquarters of Kurdish warriors in the Zagros Mountains.

Many things could have been asked of that journalist, with his first-hand knowledge.

What the Crisis Group agent chose to highlight in addition to a few useless tidbits was how the journalist had asked the Kurds if they used BlackBerry messaging to communicate.

When the Kurdish warrior looked blank, “I asked if they even had BlackBerries.”

The reply: “Sure, we get lots of blackberries here, but it is not the season.”

I cannot but marvel in astonishment at whether slimy ridicule or a traitorous effort to aid the Turks was behind that biased blurb.

Was Crisis Group spitefully mocking this Kurdish freedom-fighter’s unfamiliarity with cutting-edge technology?

Or—even worse—do they want the Kurds to buy BlackBerries, with their Global Positioning System, so the Turks can pinpoint the Kurds and wipe them out like sitting ducks?

Is this a marvelous example of how the Crisis Group works “to prevent conflict worldwide”?

God help us if it is!

This report gives me the shivers!

This author of their “acclaimed reports” comes across, not as a neutral observer, as he should, but a biased Turk, as he surely should not.

I’ve seen lots of Turks become Americans, but this American seems to be the first one who has decided to become a Turk—and a bigoted one to boot!

Maybe that’s why he remained “anonymous.”

This obscene “report” is less of a report than it is a brazen belittlement of Kurds and their valiant struggle for equality with their brutal occupiers.

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party in English), although the largest Kurdish organization fighting the Turkish government, does not by any means speak for all Kurds.

It has, for example, abandoned its original goal of a free and independent Kurdistan, but that does not mean all other freedom-loving Kurds have forsaken that noble ideal.

We have not—and we will not!

I am convinced that the “Silenced Majority” of Kurds wants nothing to do with the Turks or Turkey, with the Persians or Persia and with the Arabs or Syria and Iraq and if they could they would choose a government “of the Kurds, by the Kurds and for the Kurds,” as Abraham Lincoln might have put it had he been in our shoes.

Unfortunately, the Crisis Group report does not even acknowledge that remote possibility—let alone recommend such fundamental human rights.

It vilifies the Kurds more than the independent Turkish news media does.

After years of calling Ahmet Turk and Leyla Zana Turks of “Kurdish origins,” most of the Turkish press has stopped that awkward nonsense and now calls them Kurdish leaders, or simply politicians.

But our Crisis Group author can’t resist dubbing Ahmet Turk a “Turkish Kurd leader”—and uses that odious label so tiresomely I wanted to scream: It doesn’t even make sense translating it back into Turkish!

Leyla Zana is a duly elected representative of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the parliament.

But the Crisis Group cynically refuses to honor her party or position.

It has come up with something that might be news to Leyla Zana: “a Kurdish movement leader.”

You can almost see the grimy filth oozing out: Ooffhh!  Don’t touch me!

Now may be the time to tackle this Crisis Group epithet: “movement.”

In its reports, don’t expect to find a reference to Ismail Besikci who first “discovered” Kurds in Turkey and was awarded 17 years behind bars for his “treasonous” efforts nor a mention of Giuseppe Mazzini who had the likes of Kurds in mind when he said,  “without [a] country … you are the bastards of humanity,” nor an acknowledgement of Tacitus who had the likes of Turks in mind when he said, “Master race and liberty do not go together.”

Instead bigoted Turks define the Kurds and turncoat Kurds act as exhibits of why Kurds should never enjoy a place of their own under the sun.

There is, for example, a reference to a “region” (put the word Kurdish before it), that was under martial law from 1925 to 1964 and was off-limits to foreigners—remember Turkey was established in 1923. Since 1960, Turkey has had three real coups and one “soft” overthrow.  Kurds living under the menacing shadow of conquering guns for generations cannot express themselves freely under such horrifying conditions.

Those who dared, some 650,000 souls, mostly Kurds, found themselves agonizing behind bars in the coup of 1980.  Many were tortured to death.  Many more suffered life-crippling wounds.

Their loved ones unleashed a war of necessity on August 15, 1984 under the banner of Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK).

Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of PKK, has been callously caged in a maximum-security prison on a remote island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999, when he was betrayed to the Turks through an underhanded international cloak-and-dagger conspiracy deviously hatched by intelligence operatives from several countries, luring Mr. Ocalan into believing they were helping him escape capture—when they were actually ensnaring him in a life-threatening trap!

For the past 13 years, he has pleaded with Turkish authorities to broker peace with the Kurds—but to no avail.

“It’s like they want me to swim in an empty pool,” he once told one of his lawyers.

His demands—which the Turks have steadfastly rejected—generally reflect mere basic human rights:

    Establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Write a civic constitution that reflects the Kurdish reality.

    Finalize procedures for demilitarization of the conflict.

In fact, the head of the Turkish intelligence service, Hakan Fidan, officially said (on tape) he felt that 95% of the issues had been resolved, after meetings with Mr. Ocalan in his jail cell and his representatives in Norway.

But that wasn’t good enough for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who capriciously killed negotiations on June 9, 2011.

He belligerently snarled that he would have “hanged” Mr. Ocalan had he been prime minister when he was captured.

He has all but lynched Mr. Ocalan’s lawyers, who were all promptly arrested—and can be held for five years under pretrial detention.

They now languish in prison with some 8,000 Kurdish activists.

Turkey, in fact, “holds more journalists in jail than China and Iran combined,” says the Washington Post.

It now seems clear that 12 years of “negotiations” were nothing but a cynical hoax: “The cat always eats the mouse it plays with,” says an African character in Alex Haley’s book, Roots.

Sensing the deliberate treachery, Mr. Ocalan’s fighters have resumed fighting.

But the Crisis Group touches only tangentially on the hideous government foul play and doesn’t even urge Ankara to resume talks that almost put the Kurdish struggle for liberty on the path of nonviolence.

Instead it belittles Kurds as Zombie-like sleepwalkers, although dangerously armed, who “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

But Kurds are not the children of yesterday.

They are far more than that.

For liberty, they will suffer the insufferable.

For freedom, they will endure the unendurable.

To leave a legacy of independence, they will tolerate the intolerable.

They epitomize, I believe, what the much-loved apostle John grimly penned from his bleak prison on the isolated island of Patmos: “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.” – Revelation 7:14

There is no pulpit like the martyrs’ pile!

In death, they still awe-inspiringly chant the ageless, undying song of freedom!

You’ve heard: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

But that’s not all: “The blood of the martyrs is also the seed of Kurdish nationalism.”

Get the picture?

The Crisis Group author certainly didn’t.

Either that—or his bigwigs want to suppress it.

I won’t hold my breath, waiting from the Crisis Group to stop suppressing truth.

But if they did, I would I expect a full and open admission of bias, such as:

“We regret that we have erred factually, and manipulated other facts, revealing bias by our reporter-researchers.

 We apologize, and ask Kurds to forgive us for insulting them with condescending commentaries.

 We have clearly failed in our mission to prevent conflict, relative to the Kurds and Kurdistan.  We will try to do better.

 There are too many specific errors to correct, but here are some of the most blatant:

 We told you that PKK was founded in a “teashop” in Fis, Lice.  That is not true. It was founded in a secret house in Fis, Lice.

 Saying that the PKK was founded openly, in a teashop, implied that Kurds were free to engage in politics.  They were not, which is why it was founded in a secret house.  We regret the error.

 Back then, Kurds were not allowed to speak their mother tongue in public.

 Even today, it is better to hide one’s Kurdish identity in certain parts of Turkey.

 We told you that Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of PKK, was a graduate student.  He was not.  He was kicked out of school for taking part in a demonstration.

 We told you that PKK changed its flag in 1991.  We erred.  They did so in 1995.

 We told you that the PKK at one time went with another name, ERNK.  They never did so.  ERNK was related to the PKK, as Sinn Féin was associated with the IRA—but ERNK was never the PKK.   

 As to manipulating facts, we now realize that the ruling circles in Turkey, be they hardcore Kemalists or the newly minted Islamists, have a hard time accepting the reality of the Kurds and Kurdistan.

To them, all Kurds are branded criminal at birth.  We never pointed that out.  We now realize that should have been the Holy Grail of our report.

In fact, it is now clear that our reporting has only exacerbated the conflict instead of preventing it.

For example, we make a reference to Nebahat Akkoc, a human rights activist, and say that she visited [northern Iraq] in brackets.

In fact, she visited Kurdistan region, and says so as part of her everyday diction.

We should have respected her right to her freedom of expression and quoted her accordingly.  We didn’t.

Worse, we allowed ourselves to parrot the prejudices of intolerant Turks, calling Kurdistan region northern Iraq for their sake.

We say that in a Wikileaked document Ambassador James J. Jeffrey meant to say [Democratic] opening, referring to a policy of Turkish government.

In fact, the ambassador was far more frank and revealing, believing his correspondence would remain secret, and referred to the plan, as a “Kurdish opening.”

But our staff didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the Turks who get hives when faced with words such as Kurds, Kurdish and Kurdistan.  In fact, the so-called “opening” took a bizarre turn for the worse and acquired a new name: “National Unity and Brotherhood Project.”

We don’t quite understand how a brother, a Turk, could ban the language of another brother, a Kurd, and call the whole thing “National Unity and Brotherhood Project,” but that is a subject for another report.

Going back to our ambassador, our staff should have respected the sentiments of the American diplomat instead of “correcting” him, to the delight of Turkish racists. We have erred in other aspects as well.  For example, our staff has used the testimony of an inveterate Turkish bigot on the Kurds as if the fellow was an impartial expert and quoted a migrant Kurdish laborer as an all-knowing authority on Kurds.

Both were done with an ulterior motive.  Both have cast aspersions on the Kurdish struggle for freedom.  Both have blamed the Kurdish side with grotesque human rights violations while downplaying the scandalous sufferings inflicted by the Turkish government.

Umit Ozdag and an unnamed Kurd, respectively, are the sources of our author.

We disassociate ourselves from their statements, and associate ourselves with the opinions of two great Americans closely associated with freedom.

First, Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Second, Abraham Lincoln: “Self-government is better than good government.”

If Kurds would like to pursue a policy of emancipation of the Kurds and liberation of Kurdistan, we are for it and pray for its success.

We will end our mea culpa with a letter that was written to high school teachers by a survivor of German concentration camps, Haim Ginott.  Like the Hippocratic Oath, we have decided to have our field researchers apply its tenets to their work.

“Dear Teachers…

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes have seen what no one should ever have seen.

Gas chambers, built by approved engineers.

Children, poisoned by university-educated doctors.

Infants, killed by registered nurses.

Women and babies, shot to death and burnt by people with a college degree.

Therefore I am suspicious of education.

 My demand is that teachers help their students to become truly human.

 Your efforts must never yield studied monsters, educated psychopaths and learned Eichmanns.

 To learn how to read, write and count is only important if serving to make our children more human.””

Yes, that’s what I would like to see.

Am I dreaming?

Even if I am, I love how the English poet Robert Browning magnificently hammered heavenly, yet earthly realistic, rivets into our august dreams:

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,

Or what’s a heaven for?”

Kani Xulam is a native of Kurdistan from Amed. He dabbles in ideas the way a chemist experiments with elements.  He is looking for the elixir that will emancipate the Kurds and liberate Kurdistan.