Saturday, July 13, 2013

Noam Chomsky on the Kurds

By Namo Abdulla  -- for Rudaw

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted with Noam Chomsky in April 2012 for Rudaw TV. 
CAMBRIDGE, United States - There’s little doubt that Noam Chomsky is the world’s most influential  and greatest thinker alive.

He has written more than 100 books on a variety of topics, ranging from linguistics to politics, people and power, liberty, oppression, resistance and imperialism.  

I came to know Chomsky shortly after I graduated from high school through a profile of him that I read in a Kurdish-language newspaper in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

I learned that Chomsky was critical of the policies of Israel and those of the United States in the Middle East.

I also found out that he has long been a supporter of the oppressed peoples such as Palestinians and the Kurds.
As my curiosity led me to more readings about him, I learned that he was the co-singer of a 1975 open letter titled, “The Plight of the Kurds” that asked the world powers to stop the Iraqi government from massacring the Kurdish minority. 

Chomsky’s plea was ignored. The world didn’t act, and sure enough, genocide followed.

Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds with chemical weapons while the Western powers stood by, and even supported him throughout the 1980s. Chomsky has written about all of this in great detail.

“You can’t look at history and believe governments act out of a kind of moral commitment,” Chomsky told me. “And the Kurds have a history, which demonstrates this with horrible reality.”  

The first time I interviewed him was several years ago when I was an undergraduate student in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region. It crossed my mind to send him an email in my broken English. 

Of course, it seemed unrealistic to wait for a reply from such a renowned author. So I never did. 

But a few days later, he replied with willingness to talk to a Kurdish student journalist. At that moment, I felt I was the luckiest person on earth and went around telling everyone I knew of the great news. Then I picked up the phone and called the editor of Kurdistan’s most-read magazine, Lvin, which would publish the interview as its cover story. 

Then in February 2010, I had another opportunity to conduct a 30-minute phone interview with him. It was again focused on the Kurds. 
After that phone conversation, I began to hope that I would one day meet Chomsky in person. 

In 2011, I arrived in the United States to study a master’s program at Columbia University’s journalism school in New York.  Shortly after my arrival, I sent Chomsky an email asking whether he had time for a television interview with me. 

By this time, many things had changed. The so-called Arab Spring had brought profound changes to the Muslim world, almost of the same caliber as the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of a new Middle East.

I’m curious whether this time around the more than 30 million Kurds would have an opportunity to achieve what they did not as the Ottoman Empire collapsed nearly a century ago. 

But in the words of Chomsky, no matter what is happening around them, the "Kurds should always remember their famous slogan that the Kurds have no friends except the mountains."

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