FAMILY PORTRAITS (photograph, extract) by Ibrahim Quraishi
DREAMING ARIZONA (video still, extract) by Ibrahim Quraishi
DE PERSPECTIVA (installation view, extract) by Ibrahim Quraishi
RADIUS 1 & 2
LOST CODES (video still, extract) by Ibrahim Quraishi
THE CITIZENS (photograph, extract) by Ibrahim Quraishi

Against Demagoguery: The Rojava Case

by Ibrahim Quraishi

One dares to offer a staunchly opinionated narrative on the current situation. For, it is indeed visible for everyone to see the fiasco that is taking place given the urgency and the current horrors that are being endlessly inflicted in and outside Syria by the complex web of players: The Assad forces, ISIS (Daesh / ISIL), Turkish military and the ever-ready Russian planes. More specifically, we are at a point where constant terror has become a sort of normative reality as more and more bodies pile up and more people are implicated inside a web of death and destruction.

Every military operation and its ensuing terror attack throughout the globe has immense implications not only on the lives of those directly affected, but also on the numbing psyche of most of us globally here. We can no longer ignore the vast implications of war and terror in and outside the Middle East theatre of operations. We can no longer allow the radical right in all its colors to take over the socio-political discourse that needs to be desperately addressed.

The current philosophical symbiosis between ISIS and The Turkish State are not so dissimilar when looking back at recent Turkish military history and its expansionists adventures at the cost of innocent lives. Turkish military for example has a long history of ruthlessly targeting The Kurdish Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK) bases by her impeding airstrikes. Those legal organizations engaged in a struggle for the ‘right to have rights’ were and are in constantly hampered, restricted and closed down. Their members are endlessly investigated, detained, imprisoned, and even killed. The violence in Turkey is spilling over across its Southern and Eastern borders. For there is direct and deliberate AKP strategy to (re)produce and portray the Kurdish movement as a terrorist / military movement, so it can dealt with deadly force instead of working with it politically.

It would stand to reason that the international power brokers i.e. The United States and The European Union would demonstrate some strength. Instead of allowing T. Erdoğan and V. Putin to take over the political narrative and impose some puny sanctions against Russia and quietly allow Erdoğan to threaten the West over the complex refugee question. Again, the question begs itself, why is the International Community abandoning one of the few legitimate resistance entities that makes part of Northern Syria in Rojava? And, why is the West again opting for religious fundamentalism, totalitarianism while pretending otherwise?

Having personally witnessed this, I would dare to say that regardless of the imperfections inside Rojava, the urgency of the Kurdish Question cannot back-tracked. They cannot and must not be abandoned. Unlike the ideological cementation inside the Iraqi Kurdistan region of Masoud Barzani, where the Mosque, the Mall and Gulf petro dollars have become imbedded and thus solidified a visibly staunch Islamist ideology. In contrast, within Rojava there is a genuine attempt and practice on numerous levels the evolution of home grown secularism and real serious attempts on gender base equality. This is the one and only place in the entire Middle East that currently offers a radically different narrative from the rest.
Upon the first visit, I was shocked, amazed and happily surprised that what one had previously heard and read as rumors was indeed a living complex reality and not just some fictive show-case for the Western media. The Rojava women were not some kind of lionized HE-women, but in fact intellectuals, politicians, soldiers and academics. These women are struggling against patriarchy, political Islam and extreme authoritarian State oppression on a daily-basis. They are not merely juggling a complex set of social norms while simultaneously striving to gain an equal foothold in-the midst of an imminent threat of a constant onslaught of war. And yet, they are contemporaneously trying to re-conceptualize gender norms and the complex web of relations in their daily lives.

Trying to re-conceptualize gender norms and relations in their daily reality is not some kind of pro-Kurdish propaganda here that one is attempting to promote. But one must be honest, given the larger politically right radicalization in much of the Western World and more specifically the legitimation of various Islamist agendas in much of the Muslim world, it is with an absolute breath of fresh air, to see, to witness and to even participate a bit in the counter narrative. Regardless of the extreme oppression under the Baathist Regime for decades on end and now the multiple attacks from ISIS, Turkish forces, and even the Russians, here in Rojava there is a real social, political and economic change that is not only actively pushing total equality for all, but also pro-actively aims for the first time inside the Muslim World since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk a moral compass on human progression and more specifically on the equal participation of women in all walks of life, as equal to men folks and not some 1/3 value disparity as prescribed in the literal reading of the Koran.

This is not just a feminist agenda, this is a human agenda where both genders women and men have a vested interest to actively to stop the onslaught of ISIS and other misogynist political, social and militarist organisms that have risen in the last 30 years in both the Occident and the Orient. It is indeed time to turn the clock back to the gains that were just in their infancy during the late 1960s and 70s. It cannot be that much of the social progression that was at its infancy then can be so easily and systematically truncated by the deadly cocktail of the ever insistences of neo-liberalism and the dogma of religion raising its ugly head in such a strident way as it has in most of the world especially since the legitimation and triumph of D. Trump’s presidency in United States. It is also pronounced in most of the Muslim world where inflicting terror on innocent civilians domestically and globally in the name of a religion has become just part of a vicious norm without a single successful strategy or even example to stop this horrific cycle. For, it is high time that there is an International will and massive collective support for the Rojava experiment against the onslaught of radicalization of this very desperate region! And only then we might find a reasonable solution to the horrors of constant terror that is being inflicted globally in the name of political Islam. Finally, it is only then that we can collectively battle against the extreme right white supremacists and their neo-fascists brothers and sisters in our own midst who are euphorically riding high on using radical Islam as their own personal pawn in a web of endless demagoguery.