Turkish frozen chicken, eggs, and falling bombs on the Kurdistan Region

7/15/2019 3:44:37 PM

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Fazil Moradi
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In early May 2015, I was traveling from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, to Mardin in Turkey. The bus stopped at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing for four hours at the bridge before crossing the Khabur River. During this time, oil tankers were constantly passing by into Turkey. Before going over the bridge, a Kurdish passenger asked me to carry a pack of cigarettes for them. “I am not allowed to enter Turkey with more than a pack of cigarettes,” he told me. While, it was forbidden for these Kurdish Turkish citizens to import more than a pack of cigarette each from Kurdistan, the hundreds of oil tankers that crossed into Turkey daily and the hundreds of other trucks carrying Turkish frozen chicken, eggs, and innumerable other kinds of goods crossed into Kurdistan unchecked. Though nominally under federal control, Ibrahim Khalil is run by the Kurdistan Democratic Party. It is not strange, this old and intimate relationship of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Turkish state?

Turkey is the largest country of origin for imports into Iraq, followed by China, according to a 2017 analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. Among Iraq’s top imports are jewelry, packaged medicine, poultry meat, and cars. Conversely, India and China are Iraq’s top export destinations for petroleum products, gold, and tropical fruit.

The study says little about the import of arms and says nothing about the social, cultural, economic, and political life on the ground. While Iraq’s positive trade balance of $31B may have ostensibly pointed to economic stability Iraq in 2017, it leaves the political violence, everyday poverty and lack of clean water, electricity, unemployment in the three biggest oil producing cities, Basra, Kirkuk and Khanaqin unaccounted for. The social, economic and cultural infrastructure in these Iraqi cities are practically nonexistent, whereas oil does not stop flowing into certain countries in Asia, Europe, and the US from Basra, to Turkey from Kirkuk, and to Iran from Khanaqin. Today, statistical analysis is a preferred state technology for managing population worldwide. As such it is important for the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to use the same methods themselves. Sociologically and anthropologically speaking, the governments in Baghdad and Erbil and all the political parties that shape and control them have favored oppression, extreme violence, and exploitation than social justice and the well-being of the civilian population.

The political parties that have divided the state institutions in Baghdad and Erbil have welcomed the production of Iraq as a free market and the people are seen not as cultural, social, economic and political agents, but as docile consumers. It is no surprise that the political systems in Baghdad and Erbil are interested in purchasing all kinds of weapons rather than books or militarizing the everyday social and cultural life rather than promoting cultural and social infrastructure and networks within the country and between it and the rest of the world. During my time in the Iraqi Parliament, researching the Iraqi state response to the persistent call of the survivors’ of al-Anfâl genocide in Kurdistan for justice and reparations in 2012, I witnessed how the Parliament is turned into a classroom where those parliamentarians who attended various sessions signed in those who were absent as present. The political theater in Iraq never considered al-Anfâl genocide as an Iraqi history or to call for a more responsible political system as a response to it.

In fact, the Islamic Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the Kurdistan Region, as the four historically dominant political parties in Iraq since 2003 have clearly shown that none of them is capable of imagining any other political order than embracing the Ba’athist bureaucratization of oppression, torture, and death.

The promise that, once “free” from the genocidal reign of the Baʿath party, the Iraqi state and political parties would respect human dignity and capabilities has turned farcical. Lies, corruption, political violence, militarization, and movement of capital to faraway lands and lack of absolute interest in recognizing the importance of an independent legal systems and universities are how the Iraqi political parties become visible as the emblems of deception. The civilians’ demands, whether it is coming from the oil rich cities of Basra, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, or other parts of the country, are not only the human experience of the political life in Iraq that reflect catastrophe, but also testimony of a dystopic world.

Since the eradication of the Islamic state as an organized genocidal force, Turkish fighter jets have been bombing the human ecology of the Kurdistan Region. The Turkish state has justified the bombings as self-defense against the Kurdistan’s Workers Party, or PKK, which it announces as a terrorist organization. The death of civilians and destruction of ecology are sacrificed to Turkish national security interests. Turkish frozen chicken and eggs, among many other goods, enter through Ibrahim Khalil unchecked, while Turkish bombings are witnessed by all states worldwide, especially the members of NATO. The falling bombs have not only turned the everyday life of civilians, women, children, men, young, and old into horror, but also Iraq into a world where human life and ecology do not count. The falling bombs speak to the militarization of the world and the global politics that live off absolute violence, turning the majority of the population in Iraq into what Frantz Fanon called, the damned of the earth.

It is hard to ignore the unambiguous complicity of the NATO countries in the Turkish colonial violence in the Kurdish populated parts of Turkey, the Kurdish populated parts of Syria like Afrin, and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including the Sinjâr area. The Turkish military operations in the Kurdistan Region are welcomed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Democratic Party has been unwilling to hide its direct collaboration with the Turkish bombing in the Kurdistan Region.

The KDP and PUK have demonstrated that none of them aspires to fundamental human rights and dignity. The two parties’ Baʿathist mode of governance and political violence is indistinguishable from everyday crime. The increasing militarization of the Kurdistan Region, especially since 2014 has led to the increase of KDP and PUK’s appetite for denial of humanity to the Kurdish civilians and abuse of national resources. Militarization has become the best of what science and technology can offer these two political parties, as well as the Iraqi state and other states in the region.

There is no ambiguity in the violence involved in the historical evolution and future survival of the KDP and PUK. Any reading or condemnation of the abandonment of the Iraqi Kurdish citizens and civilians including the environment to the ongoing Turkish state-sanctioned bombardments needs to include (1) the absolute abandonment of Ezidis both to the Islamic state in August 2014 and to the camps where majority of them live until today, (2) the transformation and control of the civilian population in Kurdistan into party members and clients, (3) the constant violence against critical journalists and even politicians, and (4) the Iranian state sanctioned bombardments, targeting the border areas in Erbil province in July 2019. Moreover, by confining an entire political party such as the New Generation to Shaswar Abdulwahid, the current leader of the party, whose body is subjected to constant humiliation and imprisonment, the KDP and PUK render public how their survival means living off political violence.

Yet, living off political violence or opening up to the political demands of the civilians and political critics, point at a global political condition that shapes the temporary political life of both the KDP and the PUK. The fact that the two Kurdish political parties rely on the colonizing political culture is nothing new in what is called Middle East. Kurdistan is as much a part of the Middle East as global capitalism or the neoliberal condition and the United States’ imperial networks. To live in Iraq is to live in a world where the everyday violence that reproduces the political parties in Baghdad and Erbil is so woven into the ever expanding networked empire and neoliberalism. Indeed, this global network that is intimately intertwined with the rhetoric of “war against Islamic State or terrorism, development, peace, security, and progress in the Middle East” has turned human life into a biological duration.

Perhaps the human condition is as Sinan Antoon’s novel, The Book of Collateral Damage, narrates: to be a human being or an Iraqi citizen is to live in exile and at the same time be a foreigner in one’s own home. Violence has turned Iraq into a world where “nothing has managed to escape turning pale.”


Dr. Fazil Moradi is a sociologist and anthropologist. He is currently a lecturer and at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. He is the editor of Memory and Genocide: On What Remains and the Possibility of Representation (co-edited by Ralph B. and Maria S-H. Routledge, 2017); “Tele-evidence: On the Translatability of Modernity’s Violence” (co-edited by Richard R. Special Issue, Critical Studies Journal, 2019). His writings have appeared in Swedish newspapers, opendemocracy and culture magazine. @FazilMoradi


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NRT.