Friday, February 12, 2016

In memoriam or A Kurdish Woman in a Turkish Dystopia

As I came across today a set of deeply disturbing photographs of Turkish soldiers having stripped off the clothes of a young Kurdish girl after killing her, posing with her naked body, shared on social media, I remembered Klaus Theweleit's book Männerphantasien (1977), translated in English ten years later as Male Fantasies.

In this unique book, Theweleit, provides an insightful analysis of the proto-fascist consciousness of the Freikorps fighters who roamed the Weimar Republic during the interwar period to fight communists and 'other' enemies. Their ambivalent but, at their core, deeply misogynistic attitudes were central in their worldview and eventually formed one of the cornerstones of national socialist ideology as it was eagerly adopted by the Nazi party and, later on, by state discourse and policy. 


The Turkish state, waging war against its own Kurdish citizens allows and encourages similar fantasies to be enacted at the 'battleground' and buttresses its legitimacy by integrating them to its misogynistic ideology. ‪The photographs of the body of a killed, an apparently Kurdish girl, stripped represent a fusion:
- of the fantasies of sexually frustrated young men, conscripts in an army that inculcates them with a conservative ideology that turns the often unattainable object of their sexual desire, woman, into the cause of their frustration.
- of this very conservative, nationalist ideology that turn Kurdish women into the ultimate enemy (already unavailable and frustrating in the men's psyche), threatening the state, the nation and the patriarchal order that underpins them. This is after all a state that until recently was condoning the performance of routine 'virginity' tests on Kurdish and leftist female prisoners for the very same reasons.

Back in the 1990s I had the sad opportunity to witness and document the very same processes of dehumanization of women in the context of the Bosnian war and the devastating effects this had on the societies that were drawn to this conflict. I thought that this was a stark reminder of the need to be vigilant and intolerant to attempts to repeat the same mistakes. Sadly, today we seem to be turning a blind eye to Turkish atrocities as the country is prepared to support the European 'response' to the refugee crisis.  

UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura has asserted that "(s)exual violence in conflict needs to be treated as the war crime that it is; it can no longer be treated as an unfortunate collateral damage of war" but this is not merely a war crime, it is part of a systematic attempt to turn desire and frustration into part of a political ideology, of a virulent hateful fascist nationalism that treats any type of deviance from the prescribed roles for those it interpellates with extreme prejudice.

In this envisaged Turkish dystopia it is increasingly hard to be a Kurdish woman.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

As #Grexit looms in the horizon

Until yesterday morning I was arguing that although I did not support the 'no' vote I would support the government in its negotiations. I criticized people who were drawn to the vortex of the polarization the referendum had caused and suggested we all needed to look ahead. 
Yet, the government itself arrived in Brussels with no proposals. Alexis Tsipras snubbed the European Parliament before he finally accepted to appear there today. He invited the leaders of the Greek political parties in a conference about the country's next moves and called for national unity while winking at those who at the same time vilified figures who supported the 'yes' campaign. The silence that shrouds the inclusion of the half million of nazis who voted no into the 'progressive' 'people' was in sharp contrast with the wanton and determined campaign to bundle together and brand those who voted 'yes' as collaborators of the Germans (resurrecting terms that were used in the Greek civil war). 
The proud oxi campaign has dissimulated existing deep divisions in present-day Greece, notably between those allied to or supported by the state and those who are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness of the private job market, those who are safely employed and a generation of young adults that have never been economically active. 
The country is obliviously sliding into the abyss. To the manual of Europe of multiple speeds Mr Tsipras has added a reverse gear. SYRIZA has mesmerised domestic and international audiences alike by claiming it is the incarnation of Europe's left reflexes and the voice of resistance. It has done so though by choosing a nationalist idiom and by working to bring the changes it wants to bring (whatever these are) in the context of 'one country' - one that will soon be economically and politically isolated if things keep on developing as they are now. SYRIZA's leadership has consistently disregarded the possibility of Europe being the battlefield for change, not in the form of one state challenging the others but in the form of building political and social alliances, not in the form of requiring war reparations but of building common futures. 
It requires solidarity selectively - it has conveniently forgotten that Germany has been the major country that financed the structural funds that have been pouring into Greece since the 1980s but has stubbornly chosen to remember and remind the role of the Germans in WWII. It claims that present and future generations should not be held responsible for the debts accrued by older ones but asks that principle to be waived in the case of Germany.
In short, what I see behind this government's proud anti-neoliberal discourse is a short-sighted isolationist and nationalist obsession. To the neoliberal argument that punitive austerity is the solution its own response is that proud isolation is the solution. In both cases the question is what kind of poverty is the Greek people going to be condemned to and therefore I will not take any of the two, thank you. At least living outside Greece I have the choice but I am really concerned about millions of people who live there like my family and close friends who will have to live with the consequences.