People-to-people Solidarity for the Survival of Kurdish and Jewish communities

The image was made by author in Jerusalem during an event of the Israeli Kurds!

The Iranian and Turkish regimes, as well as their Shia and Sunni-Islamist proxies in Syria and Iraq, have intensified their political and violent attacks against Kurdish populations in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Since the killing of the Kurdish woman, Jina (Mahsa) Amini, the Iranian regime’s military forces and militias have slain over 400 people. Kurds made up the vast bulk of these victims. Last week, the regime’s troops alone carried out a carnage, killing at least 40 Kurds and detaining many more. They have also targeted Kurdish refugees and dissidents in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, murdering and wounding a large number of people. While the Iranian government conducts extreme restrictions on Kurdish communities both inside and outside of Iran, the Turkish government’s oppressive actions are equally savage. In recent days, the Turkish government has imprisoned a large number of Kurdish residents within Turkey. Furthermore, it has targeted the Kurdish population in northern Syria, killing 13 people, injuring a large number of Kurdish civilians, and demolishing their homes as well as a civilian hospital. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers issue daily invasion threats against the Kurds of Northern Syria and their international coalition partners fighting ISIS.

The screenshot was made by the author from the twitter account of a Journalist based in Lebanon.

While these regimes have taken aggressive stances, representatives of Turkish Arab and Iranian NGOs and Journalists follow the regimes’ line by labeling Kurds “terrorists” and holding them responsible for the unrest and violence that the ruling regimes’ repression and authoritarian approach has sparked in Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Furthermore, the oppositions in Turkey and Iran have not only failed to demonstrate support for the Kurds, but have also opted to express their animosity in a variety of ways. For example, in the Iranian diaspora in Europe, the Iranian opposition frequently participated in violent clashes with Kurdish activists and prohibited symbols and signs characterizing Kurdish identity during anti-Iranian regime rallies. The Turkish opposition has the same anti-Kurdish stance and shows no support for the Kurdish population. In other words, because their regimes are at odds with the Kurdish populace, Kurds in the Middle East and Europe have been unable to receive and benefit from the support of various prominent societal factions in Turkey and Iran. In contrast, when it comes to Kurdish aspirations for human rights, recognition of their fundamental cultural rights, and justice, the Iranian and Turkish governments, major opposition parties, and Turkish, Iranian, and Arab civil society organizations join together.

Only members of the Jewish community in Israel and abroad have provided Kurds people-to-people solidarity in opposition to the hostile positions of Iranian, Turkish, and Arab nations. To demonstrate their solidarity for the Kurdish people and to let them know they are not alone, members of the Jewish community in Israel and throughout the world have produced a number of videos as part of an Indigenous Bridges effort ( Messages of solidarity were sent in Hebrew, English, and Kurdish by a diverse group of Jewish women and men from Israel and North America, including academics, journalists, students, business owners, religious figures, and advocacy groups. Various Jewish organizations have stated their willingness to struggle with the Kurds against attacks from hostile regimes such as Iranian, Turkish, and other Arab regimes, as well as their extremist Islamic proxies.

The image is from an anti-Iranian rally in Jerusalem. It was organised by the civil society organisation called Indigenous Bridges based in Israel to show solidarity with the Kurdish and Iranian women.

They support the Kurdish people’s aspirations for fundamental human rights, freedom from authoritarian politics, and self-determination in the form of regional autonomy and cultural sovereignty. Why do Turkish, Arab, and Iranian societies, which share an Islamic faith with the vast majority of Kurds, fail to show their support for the Kurdish population, whereas the Jewish community in Israel and elsewhere, which practices a different religion, expresses its sincere solidarity with the Kurds?

There are a few elements to consider in order to comprehend the hostile policies of the Turkish, Iranian, and Arab governments, which are primarily backed by their “ethnic” societies. Among these are the nationalistic visions of the Turkish, Iranian, and Arab regimes, as well as their ambitions for colonial conquest and imperial control. Additional causes include the Kurds’ and Jews’ shared history of persecution as ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East, the current threat of ethnic cleansing from the aforementioned regimes, and the shared Kurdish and Jewish desire for peaceful coexistence, equality, and justice in the area.

Since the emergence of nation states in the Middle East inspired by the European form of nationalism following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish, Iranian, and Arab regimes, to varying degrees, have aspired to assimilate and eradicate diverse ethnic and religious communities in order to create homogenized ruling nations and repressive state apparatus colonizing and dominating the homelands of ancient and indigenous communities like the Kurdish, Jewish, Assyrian and Yazidi and Baloch communities. The organized groups within these indigenous communities were suppressed by these state regimes, who also exiled them from urban areas to rural areas and outside their homeland, renamed their towns, outlawed their symbols, languages, and cultural identities, and over-exploited their lands and natural resources. Indigenous communities were disempowered and uprooted as a result of the goals and policies of the dominant colonial states, which resulted in continuous hardship and anguish of aforementioned oppressed communities.

These authoritarian regimes in Iran and Turkey are presently attempting to establish Sunni and Shia domination in the Middle East by eliminating and subjugating any communities who do not adhere to their ideologies. Understandably, the Jewish and Kurdish populations are forced to deviate from the Turkish and Iranian visions shaped by nationalist and radical-Islamic discourses. Simply put, both the Jewish and Kurdish populations in the Middle East face ongoing challenges to their existence and share identical concerns about their extinction in the region. However, although the Jewish community has the autonomous and powerful state of Israel, which is constantly threatened by the aforementioned regimes, the Kurdish population remains unprotected and faces daily violence and persecution in the region. Kurdish actors failed to secure significant support from Middle Eastern or European powers to deal with their politically fragile conditions, antagonism, and tyranny in the Middle East, which Kurdish activists in Germany described to as the “hell of the earth.”

The image is from a webinar organised by the Israeli Civil Society organisation called ISR- AEL- IS in solidarity with the Kurds!

However, more Jews in Israel and North America began to show inter-group and people-to-people solidarity. As a method of strengthening mutual understanding and communication, these individuals and organizations naturally respond to dangers their community encounter. They promote solidarity, friendships, and engagement with Kurds without the assistance and involvement of any formal state bodies or organizations. This is due to common Kurdish and Jewish concerns that the Iranian and Turkish governments deploy antisemitic and Kurdophobic strategies to eradicate the social and political existence of Jews as a religious community and Kurds as an ethnic entity.  Nevertheless, the Kurdish and Jewish people-to-people solidarity does not imply a threat to Turkish, Arab, or Persian societies, but rather the promotion of peace and equality. These may be effectively realizable when these indigenous people construct a staunch coalition of communuities under threat and work together to combat colonial and hostile activities, as well as the outdated views of Iran’s and Turkey’s nationalistic and radical Islamic regimes. Therefore, people-to-people solidarity between the vast majority of the Kurdish and Jewish populations as well as other threatened communities is a prerequisite for their survival and serves for all groups to interact, work together, and provide support for one another. Thus, the continued collaboration of Kurdish and Jewish communities on shared initiatives for the advancement of peace and democratic ideals in the Middle East is crucial and could contribute to terminating the looming threats that emanating from the Iranian and Turkish regimes.

About the Author
The author is a research fellow at the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working on the governance structures of the Kurdish diaspora community in Berlin and the structures of the Kurdistani Jews in Jerusalem.
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