Rest In Power Mehmet Aksoy

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on October 4, 2017

Mehmet Aksoy It was a horrible shock to hear the news that my good friend and comrade Mehmet Aksoy had been martyred at the hands of the ISIS. I have known Mehmet for over five years. When I was in the UK, I had worked with him on building solidarity between the Kurdish and the Tamil struggles. I admired his piercing political clarity, uncompromising commitment to the struggle of his people, and his principled approach to fellow oppressed nations. The Kurdish people have lost a great activist and the Tamils a great comrade.

The last time we met in 2015, he said that I should join with him on a trip to Rojava to study the movement there first hand. This was not to happen as I had to return. I do hope to visit Rojava, the most important site of Revolution in the 21st century, at some point of time in the future. But this will be a trip without dear Mehmet.

Here is a video where I had interviewed him for TamilNet. Comrade Aksoy’s poignant words still echo:

“The system that oppresses us is global. The system that oppresses us is united and in solidarity with each other. So we need to be in solidarity with each other against the same system that oppresses us. The Tamil national liberation struggle is a case in point. Your enemies are our enemies.”

Salutes to you my friend! Your martyrdom will be avenged by the victorious Revolution of the Kurdish people.

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Why I Refuse to Share Aylan Kurdi’s Picture

Posted in Liberation Struggles, War by Karthick RM on August 14, 2016

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.

Aylan Kurdi and his family hail from Kobane, the town in Northern Syria where the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been putting up a fierce and principled resistance to the ISIS gang. YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that is struggling for autonomy and a democratic confederalist model in the Kurdish regions in Turkey. While these Kurdish organizations have been consistent in their opposition to ethnic fascism and religious fundamentalism, the Turkish state has been consistent in its efforts to hurt them militarily and politically.
Even as the Turkish President Erdogan mourns the death of Aylan Kurdi, the Turkish police continue to kill children as young as the 13 year old Cemile Cagirga in counterinsurgency operations. The offices of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have been attacked and their cadres arbitrarily arrested by the police. Erdogan’s assertion that they are more concerned about the PKK than the ISIS is quite revealing of Turkey’s priorities.

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.

But while it is anathema for liberals to support such a radical organization, images of dead Kurdish children find many takers. What is to be mercilessly questioned now is not just the xenophobia of right-wingers in Europe, but also this depoliticized humanitarianism that loves victims and ignores revolutionaries.
A similar thing happened in the case of the Eelam Tamils and the genocide in Sri Lanka. Western liberals, at their best, were ignorant of the resistance of the Tamil Tigers, the leading representatives of the Tamil Eelam national liberation struggle. At their worst, they condemned without heed to context the ‘excesses’ of a popular movement that sought to create an egalitarian, secular, gender-just state because it did not adhere to their human rights standards. Of course, these liberals and their allies were on the forefront marketing gory images and humanitarian sad stories of Tamil victims who were brutalized by the Sri Lankan state – after subtracting core political questions.
But then, it is easier to garner cheap sympathy – and costly funding – with pictures of broken bodies; conveying solidarity with militants fighting for radical change requires a different mindset than what the dominant liberalism offers. At the risk of sounding cold, we must resist the temptation to be charmed by the outpouring of sympathy for images suffering refugees, and also to market such images to feed into the political economy of white guilt. As a lead character in Dostoevsky’s The Devils observed, there is something morally depraving about charity. What is even more depraving is this charitable human rights sentiment shamelessly catering to its own narcissistic guilt by weeping over images of dead refugees while conveniently ignoring those fighting to end the system that creates dead refugees.
Or to put it simply: If you cannot support the Kurds fighting to end the brutalities of racism, fundamentalism and genocide, fighting to create a system based on social and economic justice, do not bother to shed tears over Aylan Kurdi.
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The Promise of the Women of Kobane

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on April 13, 2015

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.

10647061_622770834499068_4673590614763759272_nRejecting 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.

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Excerpt from my review of Chomsky’s On Anarchism

Posted in International, Liberation Struggles, Politics by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

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.

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The battle for Kobane offers a glimpse of Kurds’ new model democracy

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 8, 2014

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.

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Tamils Stand With Rojava Kurds And Condemn Ethnic Cleansing By Islamists

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on September 23, 2013

“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.”
-Pablo Neruda

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!

KCK’s Solidarity Message to Eelam Tamils’ Struggle

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on March 19, 2013

See original here

Dear Friends and Comrades,

Your solidarity message against the brutal execution of our three women comrades by the deep dark forces of the Turkish state in Paris has reached to us. Your written and video messages of solidarity for the freedom of our leader Mr. Abdullah Öcalan have also reached us. As the people and the movement, we took strength from your revolutionary friendship and solidarity. On behalf of our people and movement, we send our revolutionary regards and thanks because of your international sentiment and solidarity.

As a movement, we are closely observing the Tamil people’s action for freedom and revolutionary struggle, thanks to the relation that was established by our friends in Europe. This friendship has vitalized our struggle. We consider the continuation of dialogue with your representatives in Europe via our friends to seeking some common works of great importance, because just like the Kurdistan people, Tamil people carry out a struggle of liberation against exploitation for a very long time. We understand your struggle very closely.

Unfortunately, in spite of the high price, these struggles couldn’t yet reach their aim. In this respect, imperialist powers play a determinant role by supporting the local exploitive powers. These powers can vary but they carry out a similar savagery, both in the Tamil territory and Kurdistan.

The Middle East borders that were drawn by the imperialist-capitalist states in the beginning of the 20th century have lost legitimacy. The Middle East is experiencing the stage of revolution of freedom for women in particular, oppressed peoples and classes, construction of the peoples’ self-governance and the establishment of the societal system in favour of the oppressed people. The USA in particular Western countries, global capitalist powers, and exploitative powers in the Middle East conduct a third world war in our territory against the revolutionary will of our people. They aim to re-divide the natural and human resources of the Middle East among themselves, promote a new exploitation process and eventually re-impose capitalism onto the Middle East.

In this respect, the ongoing war in our territory is between the global capitalist powers on the one hand and the peoples conducting a struggle for freedom and equity, labourers and women on the other. Our Freedom Movement of Kurdistan and the liberation movement of the women of Kurdistan with the leadership of the PKK carry the responsibility of finalising the struggle with a success for all resisting peoples like you, classes and women. In this regard, the liberation of all the Middle Eastern peoplesis our central objective as much as the liberation of the Kurdish people.

The Kurdish people are currently empowering their struggle for freedom with the aim of carrying out the democratic autonomy system with the other oppressed people in West Kurdistan within the border of Syria. The Kurds in North Kurdistan are also carrying out their struggle assertively for freedom and equity either by democratic political struggle or by guerrilla fights on the basis of self defence. Leader Apo is exhibiting a great resistance in accordance with this purpose under the heavy isolation conditions for last 14 years.

The colonialist state of Turkey and its proxy the AKP Government try to carry out an annihilation against our movement with new methods by practising ‘either talks or imposing annihilation’ at the same time. The Government calls this process ‘to integrate on the one hand and to attack on the other’. If the talks don’t give positive results, our leader Abdullah Öcalan, our people and all the bodies of our movement will further increase the people’s revolutionary fight against the attacks in 2013. We consider the talks between the Turkish State and our leader Abdullah Öcalan significant when our revolutionary resistance continues against the annihilation and quashes attacks of the Turkish state. We believe that the success of our struggle against the totalitarian AKP government and its global capitalist supporters will have historical significance and experiences for all of the resisting movements like yours.

We sustain our struggle against all local and international retrogressive powers without interruption. Because we believe that a democratic solution and peace that will be gained in Kurdistan will be the gain of all of the peoples that are seeking freedom and liberation. We think that you know that we are struggling for all of oppressed peoples.

In this regard, the massacre and humanitarian tragedy that were executed by the occupying army of Sri Lanka with the support of imperialist powers is unforgettable. A savagery and tragedy was executed before the eyes of the entire world. Unfortunately the United Nations in particular and entire world sat back and watched this massacre. The reactions were to ease their conscience. We condemn once more the Sri Lanka administration and their collaborationists before history and Humanity. And we deeply believe in the reality that in spite of the imperialist system and their collaborators, the winners will be the peoples seeking their freedom.

Our movement have always placed an importance on international solidarity and never remained local since its foundation. Direct relations could not be possible because of limited opportunities. However, we have considered as a responsibility being in solidarity in idea, emotion and practice with the peoples and labour groups.

We thank you once more for your revolutionary solidarity for the martyrdom of our three women comrades. With this occasion, on behalf of the liberation movement of the Kurdish people with the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan, we state loudly that we are in revolutionary solidarity with you and your people and we support your struggle.

With kind regards

KCK Executive Council
10. March 2013

PJAK’s solidarity message on occassion of Tamil Eelam Heroes’ Day

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 4, 2012

Original article here

Happy Tamil Eelam Heroes’ Day to Tamil Nation
Revolutionary greetings for the heroic and steadfast nation of Tamil

Dedicating campaigners and activists of Tamil’s freedom path; our pains and sufferings, our hopes and aspirations are the same. Not we do only share them together, but with all the oppressed peoples in the world who are struggling to attain freedom. In the same manner; all the inhumane fascists and chauvinists in the world share their way of thinking, ideology and paradigm.

History of the world has been full of clashes between the occupiers and the occupied. As a result of struggles, resistances and sacrifices more of the occupied people have been liberated and the fascist and chauvinist occupiers are being destroyed successively.

In the last century more than 122 nations have been liberated and achieved their rights. Many more are leading liberation struggles and the bodies of their daughters and sons are becoming the fuelling logs of revolution blazes while their villages and cities are being destroyed; the Tamil and Kurdish nations are just samples of those peoples.

History and the philosophy of those liberated nations give us a lesson as the campaigners of liberation. The lesson is that campaign for freedom means; struggle, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; struggle again, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; once more struggle, devastation, resoluteness and resurrection; and ultimately triumphant and freedom will prevail.

Each damage and devastation would push us a step forward once we stand up, this is the dialectic of struggle for freedom and liberation. We have also experienced damages and devastations, but we never gave in and stood up again. Any nation who is scared of damage and devastation will never triumph. We should learn how to stand up from the way we get damaged and are devastated, any nation who learns how to stand up, will triumph.

In the hope of revitalization of the heroic nation of Tamil Eelam, in the hope of triumphant and freedom for the resolute and revolutionary nation of Tamil Eelam; never rest unless triumphing!

The Secretary General of Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK)
Rehman Haci Ehmedi 29-11-2012

Observations on the LTTE from a Kurdish Comrade

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on December 2, 2010

I would like to offer my deep condolences to the people of Tamil Eelam for their immense losses in recent months.

As a Kurd, I have followed the liberation struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka-along with my own people’s fight for an independent state-since mid-1980s, when I first saw the pictures of uniformed female cadres of the LTTE in Jaffna and fell in love with them. The LTTE, in my view, is the gold-standard for all national liberation struggles despite its defeat. And what a glorious defeat it was! My people suffered many defeats too; in 1925, 1938, 1946, 1975, 1988, 1991 and 1999. None could match the glory of LTTE’s fight to the death. This was a struggle against overwhelming odds that ended in martyrdom for your leaders, but their memories and their struggle will live in songs and stories of all Tamil people for a thousand years to come.

That the LTTE managed to keep its leader and senior cadres alive right down to the last day and the last fire-fight before they too succumbed to the vastly superior man and fire power of the SLA is a testament to the intelligence, strength, discipline and dedication of the organisation. V. Prabhakaran and his senior commanders could have ordered the rank and file LTTE personnel to lay down their arms, before fleeing the island for a third country. The fact that they -as well as their families-did not flee the conflict zone nor surrendered, but chose to fight to the death like tens of thousands of other LTTE cadres that preceded them is a lesson to all leaders who ask others to sacrifice their lives for a cause. I doubt many insurgent leaders, Kurds included, would show as much courage and offer as much personal sacrifice in similar circumstances.

Compared to armed Kurdish movements, the LTTE had many strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths were too numerous to count. Its weaknesses and mistakes were few but deadly in the long run. In my view, there are two generalised, structural weaknesses of the LTTE, followed by a few specific mistakes they made.

Firstly, the LTTE was extremely inflexible in its political expectations. In the absence of international support for an independent homeland, an autonomy agreement for a federal Tamil state in Sri Lanka was the most realistic outcome for the LTTE. It was the responsibility of a new generation of Tamils to take the struggle to its next stage, if Sri Lankan state continued to be ill-disposed towards Tamil people. By then, of course, the federal Tamil state would have gained some international recognition for the status quo and thus would have been far less isolated as a ‘terrorist’ outfit. That V. Prabakharan instructed his bodyguards to shoot him if he deviated from the demand for independence is a clear sign of the inflexibility of the LTTE leadership.

Secondly, the LTTE put unnecessary emphasis on revenge and retaliation. As Clausewitz famously said, “war is politics by other means”. In politics,-as in war-revenge and retaliation is always secondary to the main objective. Every political act must be judged by its consequences; that is, whether it helps bring the main objective closer to reality, not whether it satisfies primitive urges for some injustice done in the past. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and many attacks on Sinhala leadership, some of whom were useful and could have been of further use to Tamil struggle in time, are cases in point.

In more specific mistakes, the LTTE should have pushed on to re-capture Jaffna at all costs after liberating the Elephant Pass in 1999, even if this meant losing ground elsewhere. The cost could have been very high with tens of thousands of SLA soldiers still occupying the peninsula but the SL political and military forces were in complete disarray. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity was lost and the LTTE eventually found itself fighting on more than one front.

The ceasefire agreement of 2002, following the 9/11 events, was correct; perhaps inevitable. However, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of late 2004 and its devastating effect on Tamil territory should have humbled Prabakharan and the LTTE into seeking a genuine half-way compromise with the SL government. It should be noted that the Tsunami and its effects ended the Aceh independence movement and it should have played a role in LTTE’s political calculation as well.

Another grave error was the boycotting of elections in 2005 that brought hardliners to government in Sri Lanka. As a general rule, people should never ever be asked to refrain from voting in an election under any circumstances. The benefits of election boycotts, such as refreshing community spirit and as gestures of dissatisfaction, are small and ephemeral. They are far outweighed by the dangers as well as the real and lasting costs of handing the power to a less amenable adversary.

Karuna’s rebellion should also have been foreseen and dealt with quite early and sincerely. As a faraway, non-Tamil observer, nothing disappointed me in LTTE as much as the Tiger vs Tiger violence. I can imagine its demoralising effect on all Tamils. As a Kurd, I am not unfamiliar with infighting among our people and between many of our political parties, but never has a single, Kurdish military outfit turned its guns on to itself. Perhaps, Karuna was also motivated by Prabhakaran’s inflexibility, the effects of the Tsunami and the result of election boycott of 2005.

If, as was charged, Prabhakaran committed the grave error of ‘narrow regionalism’ in LTTE, then Karuna could have only compounded the error with his rebellion. (’Narrow regionalism’, that is, giving preferential treatment to people of certain regions, is considered a great sin among Kurdish movements. Still, it’s inevitable and widespread) But more likely, being the supremo of the Eastern Tamils must have gotten to Karuna’s head, and he must have considered himself a better leader for the entire LTTE than Prabhakaran.

History will never forgive Karuna for betraying his commitment and turning his guns on his leader and comrades no matter what the real reasons for his defection might be. The best and most honourable action for Karuna, as well as for his movement and for his people, was to either resign altogether from all his functions and duties within the LTTE -after voicing his grievances in private, even if it meant death for him-or seek a less active role in the movement.

He did neither, preferring to be an active turncoat. Beloved, respected and trusted neither by Tamils nor Sinhalese, Karuna will surely meet a violent end, with each side crediting the other for it, and with very few people shedding tears for his demise.

People of Tamil Eelam are smart, talented and resourceful. You shall rise again from your ashes. By ballots or bullets, Tamil Eelam shall become a reality so long as you keep up your hopes and dreams alive.

– Shexmus Amed


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