Originally published on Huffington Post
For the past few days, liberal activists have been busy on the social media sharing the picture of a Syrian Kurdish child, dead on the shores of a Turkish beach, owing to the refugee boat carrying his family to Europe capsizing in the seas. Liberals lament the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and urge for Western governments to be more welcoming of refugees, using this image as an emotional rallying point. Indeed, the image of the lifeless 3 year old Aylan Kurdi is soul-crushing.
But I refuse to share it.
Turkey, a NATO ally, is encouraged by the fact that the PKK is still a banned organization in several Western countries and that the US has remained mum over its continued assaults on Kurdish forces, democratic organizations and armed revolutionaries alike. Victory of PKK and their affiliates will alter the entire region of the middle-east. Not only will it halt the march of Islamist fundamentalism, it will also place a check to political and economic systems that engineer conflicts that generates refugees. In other words, a Kurdish victory would mean no more Aylan Kurdis.
Originally published on TamilNet
The assassination of ‘Taraki’ Sivaram, political analyst and senior editor of TamilNet, ten years back by the Sri Lankan state was a blow to the intellectual world of the Eelam Tamil nation in particular, the Tamil civilization in general. While 20th century Tamil nationalist movements in both Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam saw the rise of orators, poets, writers, novelists and dramatists of fine standing, and who had made no mean contribution to shaping modern Tamil identity, Sivaram was a unique phenomenon.
Informed by Tamil literature as much by Tamil history, Marxism as much as Poststructuralism, Thucydides as much as contemporary COIN theorists, Sivaram worked for the Eelam Tamil cause as a leading politico-military analyst and as a true “organic intellectual.”
The organic intellectual, as Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci defined him, gives a group an awareness of its functions and strategies in political, social and economic fields. What differentiates an organic intellectual from a tradition intellectual is that the latter claims neutrality but serves the status-quo; the former is a partisan for a cause.
Sivaram, without doubt, was a partisan for a sovereign Tamil Eelam. But what differentiated him from other writers was his no-nonsense, non-sentimental approach to politics and military affairs. Engaging with latest theoretical and practical developments in the military and the geo-political field, he wrote to inform both the fighters and masses of the designs of world powers in the island. In as much as he wrote about the military maneuvers of the Sri Lankan military, he also gave adequate focus to the global dynamics that were shaping politics in and geo-politics of the island.
In fact, Sivaram was most apprehensive of the manipulation of the US led axis during the peace process and the Oslo accords.
In an article written in the North Eastern Herald in March 2003, Sivaram said that the geo-political interests of US and India would “want Thamileelam to continue in its current ‘limbo’ statehood for their respective strategic reasons or precipitate its withering through ‘containment.’”
The manner in which this containment played out during the CFA, how supposedly ‘neutral’ observers like the SLMM tilted the balance in favor of the GoSL, has also been documented by the LTTE’s Peace Secretariat.
This grand strategy of containment of the LTTE while giving political and military legitimacy to the GoSL ultimately led to the escalation that was the Mullivaaykaal genocide.
In a follow-up article in the North Eastern Herald in April 2003, titled “LTTE’s big mistake: falling again for federalism”, Sivaram notes how the big powers and their comprador intellectuals were trying to trap the Tigers into working within a unitary Sri Lankan state. Condemning such Tamil intellectuals for their laziness to challenge this manipulation, he writes “by no logic can anyone gloss over the stark fact that political apathy is quite widespread and growing among the Tamils today, much to the delight of India and the US-UK combine that is masterfully choreographing the peace process.”
The Mullivaaykaal massacre, the protracted genocide in occupied Tamil Eelam, the pathetic sham of the LLRC and the several pro-LLRC resolutions that the US sponsored in Geneva must have shaken the apathy of several Tamil intellectuals post-2009. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
The regime change in Sri Lanka and the regime change in India have changed local dynamics. If reports of the US Pacific Command are anything to go by, the ‘Look East’ policy of America is being pursued aggressively. Modi India’s tilt towards Russia and China – preferring to have stronger relationships with regional hegemons – will also have deep consequences for the whole South Asian region in the future. All of this warrants deep, unemotional, sober analysis – Sivaram style.
Sadly, the vast majority of the Tamil intelligentsia has not lived up to its historical responsibility. From the Oslo fraud to the ‘human rights’ festivals in Geneva, from Geneva to the ‘Singapore principles’ of 2013, Tamil intellectuals and political activists are being taken for a ride. Along with powerful global organizations like the ICG, mediator countries like South Africa are also heavily involved in thrusting a ‘reconciliation’ discourse on the Eelam Tamils.
While the pro-establishment Tamil intellectuals blindly toe the line set by the powers, the mainstream Tamil left, or whatever is left in it, is only mouthing empty catch-phrases and pipe-dreaming. Questions around the larger narrative of struggle and the core question of geo-politics are diluted and instead human interest, personalized sad-stories, narrow identity politics, apolitical accounts of human rights violations and defeatist conclusions are drawn.
But this should not be a cause for pessimism. It is quite natural for a people who endured an atrocity at the level of Mullivaaykaal to be shaken for a while. Other oppressed nations like the Kurds also have gone through such phases. We must learn from them that a nation’s ability to spring back to its feet politically depends on how soon it is able to organize itself intellectually.
“My interest is to create a body of knowledge to help oppressed people all over the world help themselves get out from under oppression,” Sivaram told his biographer Mark Whitaker.
Only a new generation of organic Tamil intellectuals, who have a clear understanding of changing global paradigms and who are able to create paradigm shifts in Tamil political discourse, can preserve and take forward Sivaram’s legacy.
This is the need of the hour.
Originally published on Huffington Post
A few years back, a cartoon was doing its rounds on social media. It shows a White woman in a skimpy bikini and a Muslim woman in a full burka, each thinking that the other is oppressed. Both are right.
Or, both are wrong.
Why is this? This a false ultra-simplistic binary that we should avoid like the plague. Today, liberal hedonistic permissiveness and primitivist religious adherence are two sides of the same coin. One privileges material freedoms without commitment and the other privileges commitments without material freedom – and the ideology of the global order is fine with both. The alternative is to find radical freedom through commitment, in commitment for a genuine emancipatory project. And that is something neither the liberal hedonists nor the religiously motivated can offer.
But this is precisely what the women in Kobane are struggling to bring to fruition. French philosopher Alain Badiou says that according to him, “something is universal if it is something that is beyond established differences.” And if there is anything that is to be learnt from the struggle of the women in Kobane, it is that it consciously strives to transcend all established differences and particularist fetishes.
Rejecting both a nihilistic capitalist modernity and primitive religious and sectarian thought, the fighters of the Kurdish YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) are building a radical democracy that aims to shatter long held gender prejudices, promote an equal division of work in private and public spheres, with an emphasis on local self-governance and the building of an economic system that is based neither on the exploitation of human labor nor on the pilferage of natural resources.
The Western media’s general coverage of these revolutionary women has been miserable to say the least. Either there is ignorance, or a bizarre exoticization – something on the lines of “Here are beautiful Kurdish angels fighting ISIS devils.” A Kurdish feminist academic rightly denounces such views as “they cheapen a legitimate struggle by projecting their bizarre orientalist fantasies on it – and oversimplify the reasons motivating Kurdish women to join the fight.” The Kurdish women are not just involved in a fight against Islamism – they are also fighting for something more. And that is the real beauty – the beauty of their politics – that eludes liberal Western eyes.
What is this politics? This is the politics of Democratic Confederalism as espoused by the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. A novel experiment for the Kurdish regions which, as a system of governance, will rely more on collective consensus of the peoples involved and voluntary participation of individuals. Rejecting the traditional state-centrism, Democratic Confederalism is meant to be “flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented” where “Ecology and feminism are central pillars.”
Ocalan is light years ahead of several postcolonial academics in his courage to note that “Islam’s perception of sexism has produced far more negative results than Western civilisation in terms of the profound enslavement of women and male dominance.” He also rejects capitalist modernity as “a system based on the denial of love”, whose unrestrained individualism corrupts society, turning individuals into automatons. And it is a society that is corrupted neither by feudalist bigotries nor the brutalities of the industrial capitalist state that Ocalan imagines.
It is this politics that the women of YPG are putting into practice in Kobane. And it is this politics that is being ignored in the West. It is quite ironic that for all their claims to be opposed to Islamofascism, many Western governments still consider PKK and its affiliates – the organizations waging the most resolute and principled war against Islamism – as terrorists. One is compelled to think that the West – conservatives, liberals and mainstream leftists alike – are more frightened of what the PKK is fighting for than what it is fighting against.
A sensible thing for sensible leftists to do would be to reject the vulgar exoticizing that the Western media indulges in, and try to probe the theoretical and practical implications of the Kurdish struggle for the global feminist movement. Also, the Left in the West should push for a delisting of the PKK from the “terror list” and also urge the Western governments to secure the release of the PKK leader Ocalan who has been languishing in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison for over 15 years now. Most importantly, we must appreciate the women of the YPJ for the beauty of their politics and the promise it holds.
The promise of the revolutionary women of Kobane is poignant. It is a promise that democracy, radical freedom and social justice are not meaningless terms, but are lived realities. It is a promise of a society where equality is a practice, and not a word on paper. It is a promise that generations of progressive women activists have been fighting for across the world. The Kurdish women of Kobane are fighting for this promise and they are extending their hand of universalism, a universalism that is desperately needed in these times. Let us reciprocate with the solidarity that they deserve.
Read full review at The Oxonian Review
Inspired by anarchist ideas, the Kurdish struggle in the Middle East led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated groups is a particularly successful and spectacular movement. Though initially conceived as a Kurdish nationalist-cum-Marxist-Leninist movement, it evolved into a movement that seeks to transcend barriers of nations and states, and seeks instead to establish autonomous sovereign communes of peoples based on equitable distribution of resources, mutual recognition, and tolerance. The PKK-led Kurdish struggle, under the theoretical guidance of its founder-leader Abdullah Ocalan, is based on direct democracy and grassroots participation. It is of note here that Ocalan was greatly influenced by the ideas of the American anarchist Murray Bookchin. The latter’s idea of “libertarian municipalism”, the creation of local level democratic bodies as opposed to a centralised state apparatus, contributed to the development of Ocalan’s idea of “democratic confederalism” which forms the theoretical basis for the praxis of the PKK. Even though a critical situation like the one with which the Kurds are now faced—confronting ISIS—requires strict military discipline, the vanguard of the Kurdish struggle has not established a vertical decision-making process, choosing instead a more horizontal approach to cultivating cadres and leaders.
The effects of such an approach can be seen in the enthusiastic participation of Kurdish women in the struggle. Unlike most nationalist movements that symbolically use the bodies of women in the peak of a military campaign but send them “back to the kitchen” once the goals are achieved, the Kurdish struggle in Kobane involves women as an integral, organic part. Kurdish women in Kobane are the agents of their own liberation, and are as politically equipped at resisting chauvinism within their own communities as they are fierce in resisting the brutalities of ISIS. Few movements in the world have been able to rival the PKK when it comes to gender parity. And, while Chomsky himself has written little on the Kurdish struggle, it might actually be the best contemporary example to validate his own position on the moral superiority of anarchism.
Originally published on Sangam
Is Pirapaharan dead?
Ten years back, TamilNet senior editor and military analyst Taraki Sivaram wrote a brilliant piece on the political legacy of Pirapaharan at fifty. Come 26 November this year, the founder-leader of the LTTE and one of the most brilliant military minds of South Asia will turn sixty. Quite a lot has been said, by both admirers and adversaries, about the life of the man. But what is his meaning?
It is impossible to understand Pirapaharan unless one understands the interrelated essences of Sangam poetry – love and war – and its influence on the Tamil military tradition. The ethics of Tamil akam poetry, that of unconditional love towards the object of concern influences the ethics of the puram poetry, which calls for unconditional fidelity to the king and the kingdom. However, even this unconditionality carries within it a condition that reinforces the unconditionality. For instance, the woman of virtue (Tamil progressives will, and with ample justification, criticize this, but let us leave discussions about gender problems in epic poetry for another day) is the object of love because she is a woman of virtue, the love has a platonic character because of the virtuous nature of the object. Likewise, the soldier’s fidelity to the king is because the king is loyal to the kingdom, and the king’s loyalty to the kingdom commands the soldier’s fidelity. The object of love and the object of fidelity function as cornerstones in a discursive network, without which the network would collapse. In other words, they provide meaning to the meaning of things.
In a sense that is Pirapaharan. At sixty, in what some call the ‘post-conflict era’, the symbolism of Pirapaharan speaks that Tamil nationalism is alive and kicking. The 5 lakh students who got out on the street in Tamil Nadu in early 2013, and thousands of protestors in the diaspora who challenged the injustice of the international community carried his image. These activists believe that this image signifies Tamil nationalist resistance to oppression. But isn’t this ‘idol worship’ problematic?
Commenting on the veneration of revolutionary leaders, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle writes “‘Hero-worship’ becomes a fact inexpressibly precious; the most solacing fact one sees in the world at present. There is an everlasting hope in it for the management of the world. Had all traditions, arrangements, creeds, societies that men ever instituted, sunk away, this would remain. The certainty of Heroes being sent us; our faculty, our necessity, to reverence Heroes when sent: it shines like a polestar through smoke-clouds, dust-clouds, and all manner of downrushing and conflagration.” An oxymoronic, mostly moronic, ‘liberal left’ discredits the idea of leadership. No less a person than Lenin believed that a revolution required revolutionary leaders who stuck to their principles, and were willing to make decisions that the ordinary could not make. This belief is reinstated by contemporary philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou, who also argue that a true revolutionary leader represents a Universal over and beyond narrow particulars.
While Lilliputian minds would fix a region, religion or caste label to Pirapaharan, the real ideological significance of Pirapaharan is that he transcends these narrow particularities and serves as a Universal referent for Tamil nationalists. Not only is Pirapaharan now a symbol of Eelam Tamil nationalism, he has also transfigured as a symbol of Tamil civilizational consciousness. What else explains the tens of thousands of youth in Tamil Nadu considering an Eelam Tamil leader as their own Tamil hero who provided a promise of Tamil renaissance?
But every great uniter is also a divider. As Pirapaharan becomes the symbolic standard that unites patriots, he is also the standard that separates traitors. The Pirapaharan school of thought, which is the radical extension of the thoughts of V. Navaratnam and SJV Chelvanayagam, as much as it is a standard for evaluating patriotism, also becomes the scale by which treason is judged. To be a true Christian, it is imperative to believe in the struggle between Good and Evil, not just external Evil, but also the Evil that is internal. Likewise, to be a Tamil nationalist in the footsteps of Pirapaharan means not just an opposition to the Sinhala state and its allies, but also traitors who undermine the struggle from within. And for that, we need to keep reminding ourselves what Pirapaharan means, what is the idea of Pirapaharan.
Coming back to the original question – Is Pirapaharan dead? This might confuse some people, but I would say that Pirapaharan the individual died when he founded the LTTE. Ever since, what has existed is an idea. An idea that means sovereign Tamil Eelam; the creation of a society that is based on universal principles of justice and equality; a society without regionalism, communalism, sexism or casteism; a society where the love of heroic passions replaces the lust for trivial sentiments; a society without particularist chauvinism or cheap liberal cosmopolitanism; the creation of a people who resonate the glories of the Tamil past purging it of all darkness and enriching it with the emancipatory narrative of a universal future; the idea that the impossible can be made possible by the Will to Freedom.
And ideas, like heroes, are immortal.
Finally, when people ask questions like “Will Pirapaharan come back,” I remember a conversation I had with a Jesuit in Chennai. I asked him “Do you really believe in the Second Coming of Christ?” He replied nonchalantly, “I do not know if he will come or not. But if he does, I want to be sure that I have remained a true Christian, that I have done all in my power to serve the humanity he so loved so that he will be pleased on arrival.” This is precisely the spirit that Tamil nationalists must adopt now.
Article originally published on The Conversation
As the battle against Islamic State fighters draws in viewers across the world, there has been some attention given to the men and women resisting them in northern Syria. The Syrian part of Kurdistan, or Rojava, as the Kurds would like to call it, has been fighting Islamists for well over two years now but only recently has the battle for the border town of Kobane brought them to light.
And while it’s easy to portray the Kurdish people as pitted against this new terrorist threat, they are actually involved in something far more profound. Kobane is symbolic and the conflict there carries a universal significance. Not only are the Kurds battling the Islamists, but they are also attempting to create a model of democracy that might actually bring stability to a war-torn region.
The Kurdish political vision is not founded on any particular racial, ethnic, regional or religious belief but rather on an idea, or a set of ideas, that should resonate with people everywhere.
Fighters in Kobane claim to be standing up for the freedom of everyone in the region, be they Kurds, Turks, Arabs or anyone else. The way the fighters in Kobane have challenged stereotypical gender roles is just one example.
As far as religious difference goes, Kobane disproves both Islamophobes who believe the Middle East to be incapable of progress and politically correct Islamophiles who push the patronising idea that religious identity is a top priority for Muslims the world over. In their readiness to defend the Yazidi minority against persecution from IS, the Kurds have essentially been promoting a radical secularism and a vision of tolerance in a region torn by religious strife.
What is novel about the Kurdish struggle for self-determination is its very definition of self-determination. The concept, when applied to nations, is generally taken to mean the right of nations to secede and form states of their own, but the Kurds see it differently. Many believe an experiment in democratic confederalism is what the region really needs.
This is an idea espoused by PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, who is a central intellectual and moral figure for Kurds. The PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been fighting Turkey for greater autonomy since 1978 and has also trained Kurdish fighters in Kobane. Ocalan’s writing, compiled from within the confines of a Turkish prison where he has languished for about 15 years, has provided a solid ideological plank for the Kurdish struggle. He believes nation states are inherently oppressive. While oppressed groups might have a legitimate desire to form states of their own, even such newly formed states only serve to replace one form of domination with another. For him, the nation state is linked to xenophobic nationalism, sexism and religious fundamentalism.
Democratic confederalism is a system of governance that would be based on greater collective consensus and voluntary participation. Ecology and feminism are seen as central pillars for local self-governance. It calls for an economic system that should be based neither on exploiting human labour nor the unsound use of natural resources.
Kobane has essentially implemented this theory in practice. The ideas might seem utopian and realists may, quite legitimately, question the sustainability of autonomous communes that do not have the political or military backing of a centralised state. But as Oscar Wilde said, progress is the realisation of Utopia. Maybe Kobane’s progress is just that.
The struggle for Kobane is an event of global significance on a par with the Declaration of Independence, the Storming of the Bastille, the Paris Commune, or the Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu. Success for the Kurds would challenge established intellectual, ethical and political horizons.
At a time when right-wing parties are growing in Europe and elsewhere, and minority fundamentalism is growing in parallel, the Kurds are offering something different and it should not be ignored. In that sense, they are fighting for everyone.
Originally published on JDS
“Hope has two beautiful daughters – Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that things do not remain that way.”
-Quote attributed to St. Augustine
Five years after Mullivaaykaal, the worst slaughter in the history of not just the Eelam Tamil nation, but the Tamil civilization as a whole. A few resolutions have been passed at Geneva asking the Sri Lankan state to behave itself without, of course, any mention of genocide. The same applies for several reports by high-profile international NGOs that talked about torture, militarization, sexual abuse, human rights etc. A few popular documentaries have been released by media organizations that have shown their audiences the suffering of the Tamil people in the island during the war and after. But as a nation, where are the Eelam Tamils? As a civilization, where are the Tamils?
A hitherto unheard of student uprising took place in Tamil Nadu last year, opposing the pro-LLRC US resolution in Geneva. This uprising triggered off similar protests in the diaspora, where grassroots organizations and activists united on a principled political platform. More than anything, the protestors were united by Hope, Anger and Courage. It was also obvious by the protest symbols used, that these activists from Tamil Nadu and the diaspora are ensuring the survival of the Tiger legacy of uncompromising resistance to oppression.
Liberal feminists like Radhika Coomaaraswamy claim that Tigers promoted a “culture of death”. However, any genuine revolutionary fighting a brutal state would know that the Tiger’s culture was a celebration of life and all the best elements in one’s culture.
“Words are weapons” said Latin American writer Eduardo Galeano. Let us have a look at some the words that the LTTE used in the course of their struggle. They did not say that the cadres who fell in battle “iranthu poanaar” – “they died”. They said “kaaviyamaanaar” – “they became poetic history”. Those who became poetic history were not “buried in graveyards” – “kallaraiyil pithaikkappattaar”. They were “sown in resting abodes” – “thuyilum illathil vithaippattaar”. Those sown in the resting abodes were not “thyaagi” – “martyrs”. They were “maaveerar” – “heroes”. The Tigers, we must understand, used the martial elements from traditional Tamil culture to give a people resisting genocidal oppression a sense of hope, destiny and faith in the future of an independent Tamil Eelam.
However, after a colossal tragedy like Mullivaaykaal, it is but obvious there would be some sense of loss among the Tamils. But the strong ones and the politically principled recover while the weak and politically vacillating elements become victim to the enemy’s psychological war. Confusion, distrust, loss of faith, cynicism, fear, death wishes, suicidal impulses, “auto-oppression”, reluctance to identify with one’s own people, a perverse comfort in promoting disunity, a contempt for one’s culture – all of these are effects of psy-ops on a victim.
The genocide may have been executed on the Eelam Tamil nation. But it is the Tamil civilization, which constitutes over 80 million Tamils world over, which is at war now. A genocidal state and its international abettors have thrown us a challenge. It is not “submit or perish” – it is “submit and perish”. What happens in Tamil Eelam affects Tamil Nadu. What affects Tamil Nadu affects the diaspora. More and beyond the physical deaths of our brothers and sisters in the Tamil Eelam homeland, it is the death of our souls that the oppressors aim at. They want us to reek in despair, desolation and denial.
We must respond with Hope, Anger and Courage.
We need to have Hope. Hope in ourselves as individuals, hope in our people, hope in our language, hope in our culture, hope in our martial legacy, hope in our destiny, hope in our victory. Above all, hope in our Heroes, and hope in LTTE leader Pirapaharan’s school of thought.
We need to have Anger. Anger against the killers, anger against those who assisted them, anger against those who deny what happened, anger against those who obfuscate the Truth, anger against the sell-outs, anger against those who sow disunity, discord and depression.
We need to have Courage. Courage to stand by our identity and ideals, courage to speak Truth to power, courage to uphold the national flag, courage to celebrate our Heroes, courage to belive in the triumph of our civilization, courage to sacrifice, courage to Love, courage to fight.
And we also need Vision. To end with the words of Maximillien Robespierre, the ideological patriarch of modern day revolutionaries,
“We wish in our country that morality may be substituted for egotism, probity for false honour, principles for usages, duties for good manners, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, a contempt of vice for a contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, magnanimity for vanity, the love of glory for the love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for tinsel show, the attractions of happiness for the ennui of sensuality, the grandeur of man for the littleness of the great, a people magnanimous, powerful, happy, for a people amiable, frivolous and miserable”
In a word, all the virtues and miracles of a sovereign Tamil Eelam, instead of all the vices and absurdities of unitary Sri Lanka.
மரணக் கலாச்சாரத்தைப் புலிகள் பின்பற்றிணார்கள் என்று ராதிகா குமாரசாமி போன்ற ஒரு சில பெண்ணியவாதிகள் பழி சுமத்துகிறார். ஆனால் இனப்படுகொலைக்கு எதிராக, ஒரு ஒடுக்கப்பட்ட மக்களின் தாயகத்தை மீட்க்கும் ஒரு போராட்டத்தை நடத்துபவனுக்குத் தான் புரியும், புலிகளின் கலாச்சாரம் வாழ்க்கையின் கொண்டாட்டமென்று. இது அவர் பயன் படுத்திய ஒரு சில சொற்களிலிருந்து நாம் அரிந்துக்கொள்ளலாம்.
“வார்த்தைகளும் ஆயுதமே” என்று லத்தின் அமெரிக்க எழுத்தாளர் எடுவார்டோ கலியானோ (Eduardo Galeano) சொன்னார். புலிகள் பயன்படுத்திய ஒரு சில வார்த்தைகளைப் பார்ப்போம். போர் களத்தில் விழுந்த போராளிகளை இறந்துப்போனார் என்று சொல்வதில்லை – காவியமானார் என்று சொல்வார்கள். காவியமான போராளிகளைக் கல்லறையில் பிதைப்பதில்லை – துயிலும் இல்லத்தில் விதைக்கிறார்கள். விதைக்கப்பட்ட போராளிகளைத் தியாகி என்று அழைப்பதில்லை – மாவீரர் என்று அழைக்கிறார்கள். களத்தில் நின்ற கடைசி நாள்வரை, ஒவ்வொரு சொல்லையும் மக்களுக்கு வாழ்க்கையிலும் வெற்றியிலும் நம்பிக்கை தரும் முறையாகப் பாவித்தார்கள்.
ஹுசேன் புல்ஹான் (Hussein Bulhan) என்னும் மனத்தத்துவ விஞ்ஞானி சொல்கிறார், தொடர்ச்சியான, ஓய்வுப்பெராத ஒடுக்குமுறையைச் சந்திக்கும் மக்களுக்கு வாழ்க்கையில் வெறுப்பு வந்து, தன்னைத்தானே அழித்துக்கொள்ளும் நோக்கங்கள் வரும். இது இனப்படுகொலை புறியும் அரசின் ஒரு உளவியல் போர் தந்திரம். மனச்சோர்வு, குழப்பம், “அய்யோ இப்படி ஆயிருச்சே” என்ற வருத்தம், அரசியலிலும் போராட்டத்திலும் அவ நம்பிக்கை, மரண ஆசை, போதையின் மீது காதல், வாழ்க்கையிலிருந்தும் சொந்த மக்களிடமிருந்தும் தப்ப வேண்டும் என்ற ஆசை – இது அத்தனையும் உளவியல் போர் உண்டாக்க கூடும். முள்ளிவாய்க்காலுக்குப் பின், இந்த உளவியல் போருக்கு பலியான பல நபர்களை நம்மாள் அடையாளம் கான முடியும்.
இதனை எதிர்க்க ஒரே வழி தான். நம்பிக்கை. ஒவ்வொரு விடுதலைப் போராட்டத்தின் அஸ்த்திவாரமே நம்பிக்கை தான். வாழ்க்கையின் மீது, மக்களின் மீது, உங்கள் கலாச்சாரத்தின் மீது, உங்கள் மொழியின் மீது, உங்களின் மீது… மிகவும் முக்கியமாக, உங்கள் மாவீரர்களின் மீது, தலைவரின் சிந்தனை பள்ளியின் மீது.
நம்பிக்கையின் இனைப்பிரியா சகோதரி சிந்தனை. நம்பிக்கை இல்லாத சிந்தனை தோல்வி மனப்பான்மையையும் துரோக அரசியலையும் உண்டாக்கும். சிந்தனை இல்லாத நம்பிக்கை எங்கும் போகாத பாதைக்குள் இழுத்துச்செல்லும்.
நம்புங்கள். சிந்தியுங்கள். தமிழீழம் நாளை பிறக்கும்.
“Our struggle will be everywhere,
and in our hearts, these flags
that witnessed your death,
that were bathed in your blood,
will be multiplied like the leaves
of the infinite springtime.”
We received the news of the horrible ethnic cleansing of Kurdish civilians in Rojava with great anguish. It is reported that Islamist thugs affiliated with the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra front carried out this brutal massacre in Rojava/Western Kurdistan, located in Northern Syria, over the last few days. It is also reported that civilians were butchered inside their homes, women and children were raped, and that there were also beheadings.
In a revealing report on OpenDemocracy, a Kurdish activist says “The people attacked us Kurds just like that in Tal Abyad, because Arab Imams had announced fatwas declaring it is religiously ‘Halal (permissible)’ to kill Kurdish men, then take their property, women and children as slaves. It is really scary to hear it when the mosque is next door to your house in a small town like here, Tal Abyad.”
Rebelling against a tyrannical regime is not just the right but also the duty of an oppressed people – this is the valuable lesson that the oppressed have learnt ever since the glorious Jacobin revolution in France. The French Revolution of Robespierre also taught us that a rebellion that forgets virtue and replaces one sect of tyrants with another is not rebellion, but barbarism. We understand that these so-called al-Nusra ‘rebels’ and the other Islamist ‘rebels’ in Syria represent precisely this barbarity. All progressive activists must rebel against the brutal and inhumane actions of these pseudo-rebels.
True to their hypocritical nature, the Americans have been harping only about an alleged chemical weapons attack by al-Assad’s forces. But the US has only given a half-hearted condemnation of the massacres of Kurds. AKP ruled Turkey has also shamelessly disregarding its peace process with the PKK and flouting all norms of humanity, has helped the anti-Kurdish Islamist gangs in Syria.
When the news of the atrocities committed on the Kurds reached grassroots activists in Tamil Nadu, they reacted with righteous anger. Activists from Tamil Nadu, urban mass political movements like the May 17 Movement, Balachandran Students’ Movement, Islamic Youth Movement Against Genocide, and others from across the world, stand in solidarity with the Kurds in this time of pain and resistance. We strongly condemn not just the brutalities of the al-Nusra hoodlums but also condemn the international powers that aid and abet such savage forces.
We are aware of how an imperialist-sponsored genocide was carried out on out brethren in Tamil Eelam. And we are also aware of how the US – which give Sri Lanka military advice to cluster bomb the Eelam Tamil people and silently watched as the genocidal Sri Lankan state used chemical weapons on the Eelam Tamils – is now crying foul at supposed chemical weapons use by al-Assad. The US’ tacit support for the Islamists that carried out the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds is condemnable and shameful.
The Kurdish struggle led by PKK leader Ocalan’s ideology and the Eelam Tamils’ struggle which was led by Pirapaharan’s LTTE indeed share a lot in common. They are the most progressive struggles of their respective regions. They are militantly secular. Their implementation of gender-justice is far advanced of the conditions in their respective regions. And both are opposed, oppressed and repeatedly betrayed by not one just country, but by the International Community of Establishments. Thus, the solidarity between global Kurds and global Tamils needs to grow.
More than any other struggle in the Middle-East, the Kurdish struggle for national liberation represents the quest for reason, modernity and egalitarianism, and a just, secular and inclusive society. One can legitimately argue that the Kurdish struggle represents the ONLY hope for the blossoming of such values in the region.
The PKK has rightly called for the Rojava revolution to be expanded to the other parts of Kurdistan.
The resistance at Rojava for peace, justice and self-determination will not be intimidated by Islamist gangs or their imperialist abettors!
Let a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand Rojavas blossom wherever there are justice-loving people in the world!
Article originally published on Sanhati
Co-Authored with Dr. N. Malathy, key member of NESoHR, and author of ‘A Fleeting Moment in My Country: The Last Years of the LTTE De-Facto State”
My fellow Tamil women
What have you done for peace in the isle?
Take off your clothes and open up your vagina
For the Sinhala warriors of the land of Buddha
– Poem by an Angry Tamil Woman
On February 26th 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on sexual violence perpetrated on Tamil detainees by Sri Lankan security forces. The 140 page report, titled “We will teach you a lesson – Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces”, contains 75 cases of Tamil men and women who were tortured and sexually abused repeatedly by Sri Lankan forces. The HRW report further indicates that these cases are but examples of a much broader pattern in the abuses perpetrated by Sri Lanka’s security apparatus.
“The sexual violence that we are talking about in this report, it is not random, it is not some criminal element engaging in violence. There is method in it. It’s deliberate, it’s premeditated. This is coercive, designed to intimidate, to instil fear, to extract information, sometimes to extract confessions… This is a deliberate policy,” David Mepham, UK director of HRW said at a Press Meet in London.
He further stated an independent international investigation needs to take place in Sri Lanka to probe allegations of such abuses. However, in an interview to TamilNet , Mr. Mepham said that while HRW was of the view that “systematic human rights abuses have been perpetrated by the Government of Sri Lanka against elements of the Tamil population”, they have not concluded that this was part of a genocidal plan.
Before 2009, the prominent organizations like HRW that were carrying out the public discourses were focussing more on blaming the LTTE on ‘child soldiers’, ‘forcible recruitment’ etc and had little or no focus on the systematic rapes committed by the Sri Lankan army. With the recent admission of a UN official to HRW that “a large number of women fleeing from the conflict areas during the peak of fighting were sexually assaulted” and that “The abuse was extensive, causing a large number of civilians to flee back to the theatre of conflict to escape the abuse,”  even the allegation that the Tigers were using civilians as ‘human shields’ falls on weak grounds.
Rapes against Eelam Tamils have been used by the Sinhalese in riots, pogroms, police and military operations ever since the Sinhalese took to power and gained a constitutionally sanctioned monopoly over violence in the colonially created unitary state. After the onset of the Eelam Tamil liberation struggle, if there was one period where the rapes dropped to the lowest levels, it was after Pirapaharan’s LTTE crippled the Sri Lankan military in the Unceasing Waves operations and effectively challenged the Sinhala monopoly over violence through its de facto state. After the internationally aided counterinsurgency operation against the LTTE which led to its military defeat in May 2009, along with a massacre of epic proportions in Tamil history, the Sinhala army went on an orgy of rape of the remaining Tamils, civilians and LTTE cadres alike. The abuses in the IDP camps, aptly described by some as “Concentration Camps”, have been well documented by numerous sources.
A cruel logic for the rapes can be that they were war time ‘excess’ as has known to happen in many wars across the world. But facts on the ground show that it is precisely in the ‘stabilized’, ‘post-conflict’ Sri Lanka that the vulnerability of Eelam Tamil women to sexual abuse has reached levels hitherto unheard of in their history . Indeed, many of the cases in the HRW report are post-2009 and HRW personnel claim that these are but samples of a much larger problem.
One of the authors had already written about the ideology behind rape in united Sri Lanka.  The ideology of a ‘united Sri Lanka’, Sinhala colonization and militarization of the Tamil homeland, requires rape of Eelam Tamils as a practice for it to sustain itself. Rape of Tamils is ingrained both in the neurotic-pathological desire of Sinhala nationalism to penetrate and possess the Tamil homeland and in the political economy of the Sinhala military apparatus that colonizes it. HRW is right to note that rape of Tamils was deliberate and methodical. However, HRW would have been closer to the ground reality had it recognized this systematic rape as a weapon of genocide.
The public discourses of prominent international organizations like the HRW is sandwiched between two other layers of discourses that continue to take place but do not become very public. One layer of discourse considers the strategies to be used by the real power centres and its military arms for containing the restless masses also known as the counter insurgency strategies. The other discourse in the other layer is indeed that of the restless masses like the poem cited at the beginning. Tamils knew of the strategy of sexual violence used by the Sri Lankan military, its extent and its nature. Several Tamil activists, in the island, from Tamil Nadu, and in the diaspora, have been stating much before the so-called end of the war in 2009 that rape was used as a weapon of genocidal war by the Sri Lankan state forces. For example see the video clip  for comments made by three Tamil women as early as 2006. One of them is one of the authors. This author has in possession 60 handwritten affidavits made in 2006 by Tamil political detainees describing in detail the very violent sexual assaults on them by both male and female Sri Lankan armed forces. Another commentator in the video clip, Dr Elumathy Karikalan, was disappeared by the Sri Lankan military after she walked out of the war zone.
While the three Tamil women noted above were able to document and describe the sexual violence in the safety of Vanni under the LTTE in 2006, today no Tamil living in the island has the safety to record them. After marginalising the Tamil women activist through the genocide of the Tamils, organizations like HRW, however, through their vast resources are able to gather and record these thus monopolising the human rights reporting of the Tamils.
The latest attention to the sexual violence against Tamils by the organizations like HRW after neglecting this issue for years is a good example of how these organizations remain loyal to the power centres and selectively focus on the discourses of the masses in their service to the power centres. In this case, the need of the power centres to change the regime in Sri Lanka.
Carolyn Nordstrom who had carried out extensive field work in war zones writes, “‘Rape stands as a powerful example of physical assaults that are intended to carry deeper, supraphysical, impacts. I have listened to hundreds of accounts of rape, and few focus primarily on the physical pain. It is the emotional trauma, the social shame, and the violation of humanity that is conveyed most strongly in these accounts. What makes rape so grievous an act isn’t just the assault against the body, but the attacks against family, dignity, self-worth, and future. I have seen women suffer tremendously, even die, in difficult childbirths. I have seen devastating vaginal infections women have carried for months, even years, on front lines devoid of medicines. The physical pain involved in these is often as severe as that suffered in rape, and the grief over the deceased and the infirm as great as any war casualty. But these don’t invoke the horror of rape and the intent that underlies such aggression.” 
Kevin Gerard Neill also commenting on sexual violence perpetrated against women during war writes “Like any rifle or shell, rape in war assumes the level of being a weapon. It serves a specific military purpose. Putting aside for a moment the unforgivable defiling of an individual woman, rape in war achieves the goal of demoralizing and intimidating the side of the victim. It wounds identity and pride. And, in a traditional society, rape will likely be internalized by the victim, her family and, in the end, by the community in which she lives. In this manner, raping the women of a defeated people or nation becomes part of the effort to destroy them.” 
Abjectness, in effect, is worse than being objectified because the person is made to feel that they are a polluted object or a despicable thing. The women rape survivors know that they were raped not just because they were women, but because they were Tamil women. Unlike other rape victims, the appearance of PTSD in such women is marked by anxiety about their sense of identity as well because they were defiled by an enemy whom their kith and kin are fighting to preserve their identity. The individual trauma is experienced by those subject to abuse also as cultural trauma, leaving psychological scars on the subject, their families and the community, thus preventing them from creative political participation. The climate of Sinhala omnipresence and dominance perpetuated by the Sri Lankan state in the occupied Tamil homeland only accentuates this trauma. Which is why the argument that the abuses committed by the SL state apparatus should not be seen as individual human rights violations or as ‘sad stories’, as is the fashion with some liberal bleeding hearts, but rather as part and parcel of an intended genocide of a protracted nature.
As noted by the disappeared Dr Elumathy Karikalan in the video clip noted above, on the part of the Tamils at large too, a substantive social change is expected. Vietnamese resistance led by the Vietminh, noticing the stigma that the women raped by American troops faced from their society, declared rape survivors as national heroines. Considering the extent of sexual violence perpetrated in the occupied homeland of Eelam Tamils both during the war and after, Tamils world over should also consider dramatic changes to their social approaches to rape and torture survivors.
 ‘Sexual violence against Tamils is premeditated, deliberate’: HRW UK Director
 “We Will Teach You a Lesson: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces”, Human Rights Watch Report, 2013, p7
 Former LTTE cadres are in a particularly vulnerable position. See “Genocidal sex abuse of ex-LTTE female cadres becomes routine in North and East”
 “Ideology behind military rape in ‘United Sri Lanka’” by Karthick RM
 Rape – A Poem and Comments by Three Tamil Eelam Women
 Carolyn Nordstrom, “Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the Twenty-First Century”, University of California Press, 2004, p63
 Kevin Gerard Neill, “Duty, Honor, Rape: Sexual Assault Against Women During War” in Journal of International Women Studies, Vol. 2, Issue 1, Nov-2000, p47