The following is an account of the uprising in Kurdistan in 1991 together with an historical critique of the Kurdish nationalist parties. It buries the lies of the western media which presented this proletarian uprising as the work of nationalist parties in the north or Shi'ite religious fanatics in the south.
The great popular uprising of the exploited of Iraq in March this year threatened the aims and interests of both contending sides in the Gulf war. From Kurdistan to southern Iraq the poor rose up against the Baathist/Fascist regime and against the consequences of the war created by both this regime and the coalition allies. The allied coalition of western capital - particularly Bush, who was worried about extending the war into another Vietnam scenario - stopped the war in order to allow Saddam to crush this uprising. Essentially, they didn't want a successful uprising because it would be an inspiration throughout the Arab world - and probably elsewhere. The Saudi government was especially worried about this as the Iraqi uprising - in the form of pIacard carrying demonstrations - had already begun before the ground war got underway. These demonstrations on the whole condemned both sides, although in some pro-western sympathies were expressed - for example, a demo with photos of Bush held aloft: this didn't mean that the demonstrators were for Bush like that, merely that their hatred was so intense that they were prepared to use anything and anybody to express that hatred. Sadly, though the vast majority were not pro-Bush, many had illusions in being 'saved' by the West. Saddam was prepared to give in to all the coalition's conditions in order to crush the uprising and stay in power. His fascist regime was taking revenge on the uprising for losing the war. That's why, in a very barbaric way, he attacked the very soul of the uprising from Basra, Dewania, Kabala and Najaf to the Kurdish cities of Kirkuk, Sulliemania and Hawlir. Like a butcher's shop they had on display the carcasses of Turks, Arabs, Assyrians and Kurds (footnote). In that sense it was an international, and not just a Kurdish, affair: a truly public and popular uprising.
The very barbarism of the regime's army and police, and the nightmare of another Halabja was enough to drive 3 million rebellious (mainly poor) people into the mountains, all the while being targeted by helicopter gun-ships towards the disease, starvation, cold, misery and death of the Kurdish mountains in the north and to the parched deserts of the south. In the mountains they went right up to and over the Turkish/Iranian border, thus threatening the stability of national frontiers enough to bring in the Turkish and Iranian army and police. We all witnessed the inhuman treatment meted out by, in particular, the Turkish armed militias. They treated Kurds like enemies. On the other hand, we saw hundreds of thousands of Iranians - not all of them Kurds - generously giving as much help as they could. So much so that it nearly became a threat to the internal stability of Iran (footnote) and Turkey. There was Kurdish unrest in the Kurdish part of Turkey and there were demonstrations in the city of Diyarbakir and other large towns in Turkey. Indeed, some Kurdish towns in Turkey were bombed by the RAF and USAF during the war One must also remember that a Iot of Kurdish workers were involved in the Turkish rolling General Strike which took place during the war build-up and which certainly had a big impact on the strong anti-war movement within Turkey.
The refusal of several millions to submit to the regime, preferring to choose the terrible mountainous terrain, brought the Kurdish question to world attention via the TV, the newspapers and the U.N. But the allied coalition was to deal with the problem in the same way as they deal with the mass starvation in Africa. Their solution is to send in the "too little too late" charities (with food parcels which are surplus to the western economies) at the same time as they send in their armies to further their interests and maintain some of their control over the situation. (footnote and further discussion)
Photo: KURDISH REFUGEES ON THE WAY TO THE MOUNTAINS
The Kurdistan nationalist shop front is a continuation of the reactionary social and political relations left behind from a feudal, tribal system (landowners etc.) and a more recent, weak, small-time bourgeoisie. Their wheeler-dealing with the central government in Baghdad in the name of the rights of the Kurdish people has always turned against the interests of the majority of Kurds. There is no doubt that there is a direct relation between this form of negotiation and a recognition of their mutual class interests. As much as they call themselves representatives of Iraqis and Kurds, both are criminally responsible throughout their history for the past and present situation of the people of Iraq and Kurdistan.
Sidebar: AN ACCOUNT OF HALABJA, MARCH 1988
After the Kurdistan shop front used the genocide in Halabja, at the same time washing their hands of it, their credibiIity was extremely weakened in Kurdistan (this was compounded by the fact that different nationaiist factions brutally fought each other, dragging innocents into their sectarian battles). Their ensuing weakness and increasing lack of support among the local population caused the different factions (KUP/KDP) to re-think and join forces to form the Kurdistan Front. They started to lavishly spend money on expensive trips to adjacent countries (Iran, Syria, Turkey, Lybia), searching for commercial and political contacts in the name of the Kurdish people. After that, they really tried to sell themselves to rich western countries, receiving a little success in Europe, but none in America. It's worth adding here that there seems to be a growing difference, as yet tentative in its outlines, between the proposed new federal superstate of Europe and America. Europe sees its interests in having influence through a Kurdish State, just as they favour having a Palestinian State. America wants a Baathist regime without Saddam and for Israel to continue in its present form with a few modifications. 'The proposals for a "safe haven", as a possible prelude to a mini-Kurdish State, originated in Denmark, then France, before the UK's P.M. Major opportunistically made a big thing about it.
Photos: SOME KlLL WITH A SWORD, SOME WITH A KISS
SADDAM HAS THE BEST OF BOTH.
When the spontaneous popular uprising began in March ( footnote) '91 (it was so completely spontaneous because the parties had lost all credibility), the Kurdistan Front had in mind to control it by taking charge of the money in the Kurdish banks and by controlling government Kurdish buildings, Kurdish State institutions and the arms trade in the area, which was being conducted at the time through open street markets. In those crucial days this is what they were doing - not assisting the uprising. A lot of people complained about this aind worried about that lack of real, on-the-ground organisation which was one reason for the speedy defeat of the uprising (it was so easy for the Baathist regime to re-take the Kurdish cities). Some of the arms at the time came via arms traders in northern Iran, others were seized from the army secret militias and police or handed over to the insurgents by the Jash, the armed Kurdish units of the Iraqi army. In practice, they turned out to be far more radical than the peshmergas, in so far as they were mutinying against their masters, whereas the peshmergas were submissive to theirs'. (footnote) The insurgent public in Kurdistan were well in front of the Jash and the Peshmergas, who played virtually no useful part in what happened. In no sense was the Kurdistan Front like a western trade union with a rebellious membership at certain moments getting completely out of hand and the bureaucrats just looking on bewiIdered, trying for ways to pick up the reins once again. They exerted a tight control over their units.
The uprisings took different forms in different areas of Kurdistan. In Sulliemania, for example, the revolt was started by students taking to the streets against the secret police. The secret police responded by shooting some of them and, as a consequence, the revolt became more general and more people joined in. From reliable hearsay, it seems that about 50 spontaneous, self-organised workers' shoras (councils or soviets) were formed in Sulliemania by the people in popular quarters, squares, small factories, etc., in order to discuss practical problems. The nationalists didn't recognise them and waiked all over their form of democracy (revocable delegates etc.). During the Iranian revoIution in 1979, shoras (workers councils) were formed everywhere, including amongst the Kurdish peasants of northern Iran. At the time speeches in assemblies would end with shouts of "Long live the shoras!" (repeated 3 or 4 times, accompanied by ioud cheers). Many of the most vocal elements ended up being executed by the Iranian mullahs (footnote). In Hawlir, the uprising was started by a woman who, desperately furious at the killing of her son by a security cop, disarmed the cop, killed him and then stormed off to the building of the security cops to shoot some more, followed by a snowballing crowd of angry, curious, people. In fact, angry people throughout the whole of Kurdistan attacked, wrecked and torched poIice stations, local government buildings, Baathist centres, army bases, security headquarters etc. - often making off with various trophies. Baathist officiaIs and secret police were executed. Such a general pattern of spontaneity remains; The bombing of a police station in the coalition-controlled area of far nothern Iraq in late spring '91 was the work of the public again (although, perhaps, this time with some peshmerga support, probably aimed at helping to gain some credibility ).
The northern insurrection, although nationalist in form (it was confined to the geographicaI parameters of Kurdistan), was nevertheless against the nationalist parties. We've heard reports that peshmergas were excluded from Sulliemania for some time and that Talabani, the exiled leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was prevented from entering the city too. Apparently when Barzani, the leader of the KDP, went to Chamcharnal, near Sulliemania, he was attacked and two of his bodyguards were killed,
Of course, many other groups and leftist factions (even ultra-leftist) were invoIved in the uprising, but one musn't overemphasise their impact, if indeed they had any. As individuals they made contributions along with everybody else caught up in the euphoria - but not as groups with some message or other. The insurrection was almost purely spontaneous without much ideology - and that was a good thing. Although it wasn't simplistically nationalist (generally peopIe were too involved in attacking government institutions to care about raising nationalist slogans) it would be wrong to dismiss the popular Kurdish sense of identity that many of the insurgents had. Nevertheless, at its height,.the uprising did threaten to overflow into the rest of Iraq, but wishfuI-thinking can make too much out of all this - for example, the slogan, shouted by a few peopIe, "We will celebrate our new year with the Arabs in Baghdad" (we all tend to indulge in this wishful-thinking, but it obscures an understanding of the problems and contradictions in any particular situation). On the other hand there was trouble among the Arabic population of Baghdad at the time among the poor, students, office workers and other workers. But the capital is so well-policed that it was easy to suppress. Insurgents in Kurdistan were even handed guns from Arab conscripts but the peshmerga, trying to keep everything neatly nationalist, sent some Arab deserters back to Baghdad, although their main concern was to stop Arab conscripts from joining the uprising.
Because the insurrection lasted such a short time positive link-ups weren't made. The uprising in the marshlands of The south didn't 1ast long enough. Presented by the western media as Shia-inspired, it's far more complex than that. Basra (before it was virtually destroyed by the Iran/Iraq war and the coalition's bombs) was a city of great contrasts. It has a strong secular tradition of various old time socialists, togetlier with a Pan-Arabic nationalism that has social dimensions (workers' rights, weIfare rights, etc.). There's also a considerable amount of people like the religious Shias who go to the mosques, though there are a helluva lot of atheists who openly reiect the mosques too. This is all made more complex by the tribal system in the marshIands, with one tribe ailied to the C.P., another Baathist, etc., although by far the strongest influence among the tribes is the C.P. But one must remember that CP allegiance goes hand in hand with nationalism. Recently there's nearly been a split between the Kurdistan branch of the CP and the others (although most Iraqi CP leaders are Kurds). There's even a branch in the middle trying to reconcile both factions. It's all over national definitions. Iraqi CP members feel attached to the Iraqi borders, even though they were drawn up arbitrarily, in the space of a few weeks, at the inception of the British and French Mandate under the auspices of the League of Nations at the conclusion of the First World War. They only want self-determination, and not independance, for Kurdistan and get quite heated about it.
Photo: The carpet bombing of the deserting Iraqi army by the USAF and the RAF on the road to Basra destroyed a mutinying armed force capable of defeating Saddam's murderous Republican Guards which could have brought some kind of success to the upnsing in the south. The coaIition wanted at all costs to preserve the Iraqi State - even if that meant keeping Saddam temporarily in power. So much for refusing to interfere in a country's internal affairs.
Kurdistan's reactionary nationalist movement has always shown its basic class loyalties to the central State in Baghdad by displaying its policing services when required - i.e. when the central reglme was incapable of carrying out direct repression because of its periodic weaknesses. However, before the Baathists came to power Kurdish nationalism as an organised political force didn't really exist, at least, in any modern capitalist sense.
Before Baathism - between 1958 and 1963 - there took place some quite radical developments in Iraq partly under the influence of Nasserism in Egypt. A kind of state welfarism came into existence as a result of the massive uprising of the Iraqi poor in 1958, when generals, landlords and bourgeoises were attacked and killed by the working class in revolt. Out of this came health and education reforms and major building programmes for poor people and the government confiscated land from rich landlords. A law of work was passed defending workers and peasants from arbitrary sacking. Under the influence of the Communist Party becoming part of the government coalition, atheism, to some degree, became part of the whole culture, although one shouldn't overemphasise this. Although the Koran was publicly burnt, this didn't happen on anything but a small scale. Most workers under the sway of 'radicaI' ideas went to the mosque too. However, at the time one heard more damning things against Islam from communist-influenced workers in Baghdad's popular quarters than ever came from Salman Rushdie.
In 1963 the national chauvinistic Arab Baathists came to power on a tide of blood, mainly attacking the Communist Party. About 10,000 people were killed and many workers were strung up with telegraph wire. The Baathists were a party moulded by British Intelligence in the late '50s in Lebanon. They mimicked Nasserism but with a more aggressively capitalistic edge which became stronger and stronger over the years. Initially the Baathists didn't abolish the reforms, and in some cases extended them. The reactionary movement of Kurdish nationalists made deals with these 'civilised' barbarians with the aim of setting up a quasi-autonomous regional government assembly, subservient to the central state. This was the basis of the network of contacts between them. Essentially though, modern Kurdish nationalism started the moment the Baathists took over. After the deaI, Kurdish nationalists launched armed attacks on rebels in the Kurdish mountains - on places like Sharazoor, Garmyan, Zardy, Kharadakh, Klakasmak and other bases in the Hawlir and Badinan areas, which were hideouts for people with some kind of basic radical communist outlook (in the sense of being against property and money, etc.). Some were Communist Party members. From these hideouts, the rebels had attacked army and police units. The nationalists killed hundreds of them, sending the rest to Kurdish nationalist prisons in Mawat and Khalan (a lot of these creeps who are into this dirty policing are still around). In these 'liberated' areas in the mountains,Baghdad's authority was weak and had no control over these prisons. In fact, the Baathist government never became really strong until 1972 after nationalising the oil (the previous Dutch, British and American owners were mightily compensated, just as happens with nationalisation virtually everywhere else). Before that, it merely controlled the major cities.
After the barbarian Baathists established themse!ves thev also started attacking the Kurdish people even as early as the summer of '63. They buried hundreds of Kurds alive and destroyed and burnt a large number of villages (a hundred or more), which had stood opposed to the new central regime in Baghdad. The Baathists did this after the negotiations with the Kurdish nationalists had made no progress.
In 1964, after the Abdul Salam Afrif coup d'etat (a national bourgeois socialist unionist effort), the Kurdish nationalists movement, like a pet puppy being offered a munchie, started wagging its tail in front of this mad chauvinist killer who had insulted the Kurds by openly refening to their origins as "ghostly apparitions", and reconvened negotiations. Again the Kurdish nationalist movement turned on the Kurdish population. They unleashed their cut-throat gangsters on the Kurdish areas because of their constant resistance to the central regime in Baghdad. For example, in Kanymacy, in broad daylight, the psychotic Osmani Amu gang, following orders from their nationalist superiors, committed an horrendous crime, killing 9 heroic and faithful sons (footnote) of poor Kurdish people (Hama KolabaI and his comrades) from nearby Sulliemania. They were particularly fine people who, through the way they lived, were a kind of general inspiration (people really rated Hama Kolabal; these murders went down like a lead balloon among the local population).
After a short while, the Jalalists, followers of Jalal Talabani (the one on TV screens seen recently adoring and kissing Saddam his opinions ranging from left to right, depending on the circumstances) signed an agreement in July 1966 giving his organisation official status as mercenaries of the State. They started to take over the role, with Baghdads' assent, of fully policing the Kurdish areas. They killed and tortured thousands of young Kurds in faction fighting between them and the more feudal, tribalist, Barzani KDP faction. Both factions were fighting for preeminence over who should control the Kurdish areas. Often taking sides themselves, but just as often not, young kids were killed all over the place.
In 1968 the Baath fascists came to power again by means of a military coup. The Jalalists became closer to the Baathists, continuing their pact with the central State, this time presenting the Baghdad government as an anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist progressive regime on the side of the so-called socialist bloc. The faction fighting got even worse. After a time the Baathists realised that they could have control over Kurdistan through making deals with Barzani's KDP because the Jalalists were too much into power-broking with Baghdad and had therefore too little credibility in the eyes of the Kurds. The Baathists in some ways also disliked the Jalalists left-wing rhetoric. In 1970, for the first time, the KDP got an agreement granting some autonomy for Kurdistan. It involved power sharing with Baghdad. During this period after 1970, because they were having some power, the Kurdish bourgeoisie came to life somewhat. The KDP still had a policing role against the opponents of the regime who'd fled to Kurdistan to seek safety. For example, they handed over to the authorities several members of the Liberation Army (a mainly Arabic outfit living in Kurdish areas because it was safer) to the Baathists to face immediate execution. In turn too, the KDP handed over the fate of the Kurdish people to Parastin - a party within a party - which directed the movement of the KDP, and also invoIved an informal alliance of Mossad, Savak (the Shah's secret police) and the CIA who spread their influence mainly through money and guns. Parastin decided policy and controlled the movement's finances. The top bods in the KDP knew all about this as did Kurds outside the party network. Indeed, Mossad helped train guerillas and at least one Israeli officer was in the mountains teaching armed techniques. It was during this time that the Parastin-run KDP handed over Iranian Kurdish opponents to Savak. The KDP also killed some of these opponents. People like Mala Awara and Sulliemanny Moeny - Kurdish nationalists in the Iranian KDP (which had strong connections with the Iraqi KDP) - principIed good people were handed over to the Shah. Their bodies were then dragged through the streets of Iranian Kurdish towns.
Here we musn't forget the role of the central committee of the Iraqi Communist Party. Between 1973 and 1978 there was a Baath/CP pact. The CP had no governmental power but were used as a fighting militia to put down the Kurds. In the name of a progressive national patriotic front they served the Baathists both nationally and abroad. Because of the ferment in Kurdistan (autonomy hadn't been granted - it had all been a card-sharper's trick) and because it had got too much out of hand, the Baathists launched a brutal attack on Halabja and Kalalze in 1974. The inhabitants were napalmed with chemicals made in the USSR - part of the deals made via the auspices of the Iraqi CP. The CP supported this genocide because for them the Kurds were agents of the CIA through the Shah of Iran's influence. The CP compared Saddam with Castro at the time. In Kurdistan, it all went to show yet again how inter-imperialist rivaIry and conflict cynically and bIoodily uses a national terrain and often well-meaning but naive insurgents for its own ends.
This is how the people of Kurdistan were treated as a pawn in the chess game of improving relations with the west and of rival political factions (nationalist and socalled communist). March 1975 and the Barzani leadership calls everything off as a resuft of the agreement between the Shah of Iran and Saddam in Algeria. Saddam gave the right to look for oil in the Gulf to Iran in exchange for Iran backing off from Kurdistan. He also handed over to the Shah 3 islands in the Gulf. Unofficially the deal invoked more imports from the West as opposed to getting more east European commodities. The Kurdish leadership, literally with their suitcases full of money, cleared off to Iran, Europe and America. The burden on the Kurdish people after the relinquishing of struggle, meant that the Baathists forcibly transported thousands of Kurds to the desert camps of southern Iraq whilst their villages were destroyed. They then had to fend for themselves, although many southern Iraqi Arabs helped them - or else they went to southern towns and got jobs in the construction industry etc. This is how for several years faithful peshmerga and Kurdish people were sacrificed to the class interests of nationalist and Baathists who now took over more completely than ever the Iraqi areas of Kurdistan which had previously escaped their control.
The people's revolution in fran and the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, followed by the intercapitaIist war (Iran v. Iraq), initiated by Iraq with the support of the USA, which was ranged against the Iranian and Iraqi poor - all this created new conditions for a further uprising in Kurdistan. Whilst the Baathist regime was weakened, the fore-runner of Kurdistan's Shop Front - the PUK - in 1985 started once more to negotiate with the Baathist Fascist regime - and their role became clear yet again: undermining the uprising which again was in the offing, Through their radio station they called on the people to call off the uprising after many demonstrations in major towns, student ferment, etc. (There was agitation but not strikes in the Kurdish oilfields - most of the oil workers in the oilfields around Kirkuk in particular were now Arabic, as a result of the Arabisation policy throughout Kurdistan, which included the sacking of Kurdish workers. Link-ups between Arabs and Kurds - that essential jump - was not made at the time). The PUK started killing many opponents of the Baathists regarded as rivals. This inc!uded killing CP members. In Pshtashan; one of the strongest CP bases, they killed 80 Kurds and Arabs.
It was the same Talabani, this creep now bevying with Saddam and kissing all of his four cheeks, who said at the time in 1986, "Saddam is not the enemy but the referee between the different factions of the Iraqi people" and also, "Anybody who is fighting the Iraqi army is committing a crime and a backstabber of the patriotic Iraqi army," - this army which has never been anything but the blood-curdling torturers of poor Iraqis and Kurds in the hands of various - mainly Baathist - regimes.
The negotiations between the PUK and the regime, as before, ended with fighting again in Kurdistan because the negotiations did not succeed. But this time the new PUK strategy was to "liberate" Kurdistan via a co-ordination with the Iranian army and the Islamic revolutionary guards, the latter being a professional army elite and not conscripted soldiers.
Saddam's fascist regime attacked Kurdistan once more and for the first time used chemical weapons against Kurdish people and Shi'ite Arabic people in the south who opposed the war. So in March '88 Saddam's military killed over 5000 people in Halabja and more in nearby villages. When the Iran/Iraq war ended, referee Saddam, in systematic miIitary attacks under the codename "Anfals" (meaning Rentokil-type insect exterminators), destroyed some more villages in Kurdistan. Many more were killed and 8000 disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to them (sold into slavery? maybe to Kuwait?).
Saddam's regime, with 8 years of war aid killing and a million Iranians and Iraqis dead, still wasn't enough. So, with his military advisors, he invaded Kuwait, killing further thousands and 1aying the ground for the most concentrated forces of world capital to destroy the whole social and economic structure of Iraq (of Kurds, Iraqis and minorities) and the first step of the New World Order (perhaps, more appropriately, the New Old World Order...?).
The Kurdistan Shop Front, as a representative of the exploiting Kurd class, shows through its nature and class history that it could never defend the exploited of Kurdistan. Both the Kurdish PUK and the Baathists represent the same barbaric and ugly system against Kurds and Arabs alike. The life of one depends on the other even if they've got some differences at times - largely over the spoils and their share of power. Both are pitted against the interests of the people, which is why they see their solution for Kurdish people in these negotiations.
Still the blood of Kurdistan hasn't dried up. The Kurdish children in their shrouds took ages to be buried. Mothers still haven't got any news about their dead sons. People separated from each other in the rush to get away from the exterminators still haven't found each other. Everyday in the winter of this year they were dying from starvation and disease in the mountains. But the ruthless and shameless leadership of the Kurdistan Shop Front, before the eyes of the world, were kissing Saddam and presenting their smiles in a cynical embrace.
This at a time when Saddam's regime has been weakened and is opposed by the majority of the Iraqi people. Under the pressure of world public opinion, even those who yesterday supported him financially (arms purchases, etc.) don't dare make deals with him. The majority of people in Kurdistan and southern Iraq are very angry. But in reverse we see the smiler's cynicism of the nationalists shaking hands with Saddam, This must be the plan of world reaction against the Kurdish people's movement: to save the Baathist regime and the Kurdistan Shop Front from their demise.
The Kurdish uprising was for liberation from slavery and the half dead/half live existence that goes with it and not for a renewal of the March 11th 1970 agreement under the same regime. Three million Kurdish people have lost their homes, land and villages, choosing death on the mountains rather than death under Saddam. So under whose auspices have the Kurdistan Shop Front been doing the negotiations? There's no force to save Saddam's regime from imminent extinction (although Saddam does keep selected groups of workers around Baghdad reasonably content through big wage hikes; they're the ones on recent demos supporting the regime). But the hatred and misery of the Kurds and southern Arabs against the dirty plans of the negotiations and any attempt to re-invigorate the dead duck institutions of Saddam's rule is stronger. The coalition of world capital are against the interests of the people of Kurdistan and Iraq - as eIsewhere.
The various recent deals between the Kurdish nationalists and the Baathist state is just so Saddam can bide his time and get stronger again. It's all manoeuvring with false programmes of democratisation. And he can get stronger through making surreptitious deals with the West by, for instance, sending oil to Kuwait and other western countries. Also, despite the bombing, there's unlikely to be mass starvation in Iraq as the rich agricultural land in the north and south can feed the cities - although disease and malnutrition, particularly amongst children, will be massive.
In Kurdistan everybody wants to get back to their buildings and homes they left during the winter migration. It was a migration based not just on fear of a bloodbath threatened by Baathist army units, but also caused by peshmerga encouragement: they knew jt would look good on western TV- and helpful for them. And so it has been. All the aid and charities are controlled by the nationalists. The money has mostly gone to the peshmergas for politicaI purposes and virtually none to the poor distressed people. With factories, hospitals and schools destroyed, kids are queuing up to join the peshmergas for at least it means reasonable wages and some job security (one shouldn't underestimate another factor the romantic image of being a guerilla, with its Guevarist-type dreams, which lures many a young Kurd into the peshmergas; the reality of following orders in a highly hierarchical structure proves, however, to be somewhat mundane, banal even). The charity organisers have been able to present themselves as liberators - angels from helicopters - as if the war hadn't existed. The £30 million, for example, collected by former Tory Party chairman, Jeffrey Archer and his 'Simple Truth' rock concert (footnote) went to the K.C.C. (Kurdish Cultural Centre, a registered charity organisation and an outfit which publishes Kurdish books, Iiterature and music as a front for the Kurdistan Front) and then was almost certainly syphoned off into the political parties' bank accounts. They're just doing business in the name of the poor Kurds. In Halabja and Iots of other areas absolutely nothing has got through to the people.
Elsewhere there's one or two sops to help people survive but more or Iess you've go to have some commercial project or scam to ask the nationalists for dosh. Or, if the money hasn't been given to peshmerga cadres in the form of salaries and wages, it's remained in the banks earning high interest rates. All charity foods given to the Iranian government has been passed on by them to black marketeers who then sell it for high prices to needy Kurdish people. Charities became a tax rip-off source of revenue for the Turkish government, whilst the Iranian government complained about the fact that many foodstuffs were beyond their sell-by date, and then promptly sold them off on the black market. To add insult to injury, on the Iran/Iraq border the nationalists are taking extra taxes from people and on the streets of Kurdish cities are openly stealing anybody's car to sell them off in Iran! A dog eat dog situation has quickly come into existence. The fate of all charities was repeated yet again: a handy means of lining the pockets of gangsters and spivs!
However, the southern rebellion refuses to give in and shows remarkable spirit despite the murderous forces unleashed against it. At the same time attacks on the Iraqi army in the coalition/UN zone of Kurdistan have increased so consequently the peshmergas are now openIy collaborating with the Iraqi army in order to put a stop to it. Recently a big demonstration in Hawlir was put down by 150 peshmergas. Basically they discourage people by speaking to them at demos, brandishing their weapons, and if that doesn't work, using`force. There have been big demos all over Iraqi Kurdistan (particularly Sulliemania) and Saddam has specifically asked the nationalists to put down the demos (which are both about basics - food and money - and aIso against the collaboration).
This collaboration has now become so blatant that leftist guerilIa groups have suddenly swelled in number and taken to the mountains again, openly despising the nationalists. The Maoists have made the most capital out of this. The PKK (Kurdish Socialist Workers Party) guerillas situated in Turkey have moved across the border and have become active there, linking up with the recently formed PAK in Iraq (Kurdish Socialist Party) which describes the nationalists as a club of feudal landlords. But the PKK is used by Syria because they're against the dam built across the Euphrates by the Turkish government and which starves Syria of water. Patronising the PKK, the Syrian govemment has given the leadership safe headquarters in Lebanon's Bekhar valley. The Maoist-oriented parties go back to the early 70s and they want a system of peasant collectives, nationalisation of the land, etc. But throughout their 20 year history they've killed people they've got minor ideological disputes with - individuals who leave the party, etc. Also, in attacking collaborators they tend to kill simple and harmless peasants from the same villages as the collaborators - creating a climate of fear.
But the majority of the exploited cannot possibly give up the fight as they have no stake in the racketeering or party organisations.
SHAME ON THOSE WHO MAKE BUSiNESS FROM THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS!
VICTORY TO THE UPRISING OF THE ARABS, KURDS AND OTHER MINORITIES AGAINST SADDAM AND THE COALITION!
STATEMENT BY A FORMER PESHMERGA WITH SOME ASSISTANCE AND ADDITIONS FROM ENGLISH FRIENDS (from someone who left the nationalists before the real heavy inter-fratricidal killings because it was becoming like a partisan army - killing soldiers, etc. - and completely outside the real movement).
Produced by: B.M.BLOB, London WC1N 3XX and B.M.COMBUSTION, London WC1N 3XX July 14th 1991
P.S. This text went to press almost at the same time as renewed fighting developed between people in the Kurdish areas and the Iraqi armed forces. The news so far is of the destruction of the town hall in Hawlir (Arbil in Arabic), of rioting in Tuz Khurmatu, and of the surrender of over 1000 Iraqi troops (it appears that they had no desire to fight whatsoever) and of the capture of 14 tanks in Sulliemania. Barzani, head of the KDP, clearly revealed his collaborator role by denouncing "people opposed to any deal" for instigating the clashes. The Baathists have denounced "Iranian infiltrators". At first glance this appears to be pure propaganda. But it probably has a partial truth to it. Certainly in March the Iranian government tried to intervene throuph the intermediary of an islamic fundamentalist organisation - the Al Dowa party - in the hope of using the uprising fo further their aims. At that time they supplied lorry loads of food, together with placards saying "No to the Communists! No to the Baathists!" They know they can use the desperation of the people to manipulate their allegiances through the power of money and food.
Desperation has produced two tendencies. On the one hand, many Kurds are flocking to the poIitical parties (especially the Kurdistan Front, but also many of the Marxist-Leninist groups) as a means of survival and protection, finding in these organisations some form of external "hope". In fact, many, whether they join the KF or not, are looking to their negotiations with Saddam as their only hope. This is ironic, since Saddam is ciearly playing a waiting game, dragging out these negotiations for as long as possible, whilst, in the meantime, the KF is splitting up into fratricidal antagonisms - with fights and killings between the small social democratic Socialist Party of Kurdistan (part of the KF) and the larger stronger sections of the KF (the PUK and the KDP). On the other hand, there is an increasing hostility on the part of much of the population towards all these political groups. Whether these two tendencies come into open conflict remains to be seen. Clearly this text will be partly overtaken by events, and we obviously have no pretensions to providing a definitive analysis of the situation there.
Photo: THE MONUMENT. OTHERWISE KNOWN AS 'THE VICTORY ARCH', BAGHDAD, 1989.
The techniques used by Saddam to consolidate the Baathist regime combined terror and mass spectacles obviously indebted to German fascism and, further back, to Bolshevism - and urban re- (de-) generation. Popular quarters were bulldozed and the centre of Baghdad turned into a monumental post-modernist (or "regionalised international style") exhibit, echoing Baron Hausmann's transformations of Paris in the 19th century but with a far greater empphasis on sculptural monumentalism, This uncomprehended dream - nightmare, rather - could easily be taken from the outside as an example of cynical "art/anti-art" domination if it wasn't so deadly serious, covering layer upon layer of horror. Going back to 1968, the Baathist rise to power is comparable, for example, with Premier George Pompidou's plan in the early 70s to turn the central core of Paris into a necropolis of art, finance and overpowering monuments from which all popular life would erentually be banished. Saddam's version, though obviously not in response to an insurrectionary anti-art movement (which aspects of France May '68 were), nonetheless focussed on bringing artists "from the atelier into the street" (to quote from the Arabic daily Al Hayat) creating a kitsch version of ancient Babylon, Aladdin/Sinbad etc. and filtered through Saddam's favourite Hollywood movie, Errol FIynn's "Thief of Baghdad". But Saddam's swashbuckling erections have been more or less confined to the capital. Kurdish cities like Kirkuk or Mosul, despite Arabisation policies, have been virtually left untouched.
THE MONUMENT was built after the conclusion of the Iran/Iraq war. The Pop Art/Hollywood-style sculpture built at the base of Saddam's arms holding the crossed swords forming the 'Victory Arch' is of a giant torn peanut bag out of which is pouring 2500 Iranian helmets. It's like a horrendous diversion of the Surrealists' urban proposals for the transformation of Paris.
"Simple Truth" recognised the obvious 'moral defeat' for the coalition which the coalition's decision to let Saddam crush the uprising exposed for all the world to see, and tried to obscure and compensate for this to the West's advantage. 'Operation Desert The Kurds' (as the superficial critics of Private Eye and Spitting Image called it) was meant to be exorcised by Archer & co.'s Nice Image of the West: forget the horror of the war and the political hypocrisy - just sit back, watch and listen to the Fun and Musical Frolics on behalf of the starving Kurds. Before the concert Chris de Burgh, one of the organisers and performers, said "We supported this Gulf War, so it's only right we should give something to the Kurds": hoping by this charitable means - along with all supporters of the war - to be absolved not only of all responsibility for the massacres there but also to be patted on the back for giving with the Ieft hand what had been machinegunned with the right. Many people know that this is true, but say that nane of this critique matters - all that's important is that lives are saved. Apart from the fact that this is hardly true, it ignores the fact that charity supports and is part of the whole system that starves and kills in the first place (e.g. Bob Geldof saying how vital it was to uphold the monarchy) .
Before Live Aid, the tendency was for people to give money, but not make a song and dance out of it, with a lot of people even feeling a bit embarassed about giving. But since Live Aid - which invoIved a big leap in the spectacularisation of Giving - the tendency has been to make a big moral thing about how much or often you give, people more and more feeling the need to wear their pure hearts on their designer sleeves. And of course, now the rich and famous become even more rich and famous through their apparent altruistic charitable efforts, for them, above all, charity begins at home. And the higher people are in the hierarchy, the cruder the hypocrisy. What could be more gross than BP's chairman being kissed by Lenny Henry in front of millions of people watching him give a cheque for £1,200,000 to Comic Relief, money not given away by BP but accrued from the sale of red noses at BP garages, just a few weeks after one of the biggest massacres in the 'Third World' fought to defend, amongst other things, oil comganies like BP? If Hitler had given money to the oppressed Jews, maybe we'd have seen Mel Brooks kiss his arse on the telly.
This is not to contemptuously dismiss alI rhose who give to charity - merely to point out that if they were genuineIy concerned about saving lives they wouldn't just opt for the easy short-cut of money generosity, but would also subvert the brutal world that charity, and the system of which it is a part, depends on. Unfortunately, for most of those who caugh up to these rackets, charity is simpiy an instant redemption for the 'sin' of being better off than someone lower down the international hierarchy, who are seen merely as victims to be pitied, not fellow proletarians in struggle with whom one can express practical solidarity. "There's always someone worse off than yourself" just keeps the international division of labour going: on the one hand, it provides 'solace' to those who remain passive before their own misery, on the other hand, it substitutes mutual recognition and a sense of responsibility for changing the world with mere guiIt. Is it just coincidence that 'Simple Truth' arose in this country, the one country directly involved in the war which had such a pitiful opposition to it? Isn't all the £30m. given an attempt to be fargiven for having been so passive before this horror? Charity has become the all-forgiving Great Redeemer.
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