Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Kurdish Village Governed by None


By NAMO ABDULLA - The New York Times


Bouzan Tekin, deputy leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, center, with other party leaders.


QANDIL, Iraq — The Land of the Medea is a nickname given to a group of villages located here in the Qandil mountains — in the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq — where the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the P.K.K., are active. The name comes from the ancient kingdom of the Medes.

It is a place without a government, yet also without disorder. It is, perhaps, in many ways, an ideal example of what philosophical anarchists wish to see in a larger community.

The rebels, who are the sole maintainers of security, hold a Marxist view of the state: It is a tool of the bourgeoisie to suppress the working class.

Thus, they have organized villagers to manage their own affairs through a local elected body called a “sharewani.” Each village has its own sharewani, independent of the others.
The P.K.K., which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey and the West, has been in a deadly conflict with Turkey since 1984, demanding an independent region for Kurds. Since then, more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have been killed.

Turkey has long pressed the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq to blockade the rebels and stop visitors from bringing them supplies to maintain their war against Turkey.

The rebels first moved here to Qandil in 1999, after their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was expelled from Syria.

More than 150 families are thought to live in the mountains, which are about 11,500 feet high and straddle the Iranian border some 60 miles from the Turkish frontier.

Recently, the P.K.K. declared its seventh unilateral cease-fire, to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. That drew a rare visit from journalists.

Bouzan Tekin, one of the rebel leaders, said the cease-fire followed a message from the still-imprisoned Mr. Ocalan and calls from prominent politicians such as the the Kurdish leader of northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani.

“This is our own decision made under no pressure,” Mr. Tekin said. “But of course we have taken calls of many public figures into consideration. His Excellency Barzani is one of them.”

As we arrived in Qandil, Ahmed Deniz, a spokesman for the rebels, took us to a village populated by Iraqi Kurds. This village and a handful of others are not under the practical control of the Iraqi government or the Kurdish regional government. Their security is maintained by the rebels.

The one we visited looked normal. Fighters and families were living together. Children were playing hide-and-seek on the ill-paved streets. A few kilometers away, we saw smoke rising from the intermittent bombing by Turkish planes. Turkey has not recognized any of the P.K.K. cease-fires, saying that it does not negotiate with terrorists.

In this village you see a life different from elsewhere in Iraq. The fighters are both men and women, but they are prohibited from having sex or getting married.

“We cannot marry until we make our wish come true,” said Azima, a 33-year-old Syrian woman who joined the movement when she dropped out of high school 15 years ago. In 1984, the dream was to create a Kurdish state within Turkey. But now the P.K.K. has compromised, seeking more political and cultural rights for ethnic Kurds. Even that is uncertain.

“My generation may never see it,” Azima said wistfully.


A group of women who fight for the P.K.K.

“I admire Ocalan’s views on women,” she said. “He says that justice will never be achieved if women remain subordinated.”

Here you can see a number of cross-cultural contradictions. In the house of one villager in which we had lunch, a picture of Mr. Ocalan hung next to a portrait of Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani.

However, the television was set to a Turkish channel broadcasting the news of the end of the term of the chief of the Turkish general staff, Ilker Basbug, who assumed office in 2008 and had launched a number of deadly assaults on the P.K.K.

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