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.