Needed: Radical Change for Peace!

Humanity is in a battle against barbarism. 

nonfiXe looks ahead.

After humanity has won – and it will win, humanity always wins as long as people are involved – the global community will have one chance to seize the moment and create a better world. A world where all are welcome, included, equal and participating, no matter where one is born.

Frank van Empel & Caro Sicking for nonfiXe

A Joint Effort Society [1], as we like to call it, is based on peace, equality and participation. To prevent barbarism from taking over, Eleanor Roosevelt and others wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [2] in 1948. We installed courts to judge crimes against humanity. Robert Schuman and Jean Monet brought their idea of a united Europe to the world[3]. One of the main concepts underpinning the European Union is, as in the French national slogan: brotherhood. The concept Brotherhood bridges differences between people leaving room for variation.
‘The European Union is a good example of cooperation rooted in a simple insight: countries are better off when they work together than when at war with each other. Large areas of Europe previously have been brought under one banner by empires built on force, such as the Roman Empire and Nazi Germany. Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Bismarck and Hitler were Lords of War, not of Consultation. The result: destruction.’[4] The EU has proven until today – although there have been many disagreements – that it is a machine for Peace. Such has been the case for more then sixty years.

Looking at it from this perspective, Kurdistan can become a strong symbol of peace, right at the heart of the Middle East. What if, instead of the romantic notion of an independent state, turning back the pages of history 2600 years to days of the Median Empire – ‘When things were good for the Kurds’ – what if the Kurdish people started a peace offensive never seen before in that part of the world. They connect Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Armenia. They are looked upon as prospect friends by Israël. They can bridge adversaries and can do so in a peaceful manner, by trade, by improving economic conditions and by rebuilding society. The same way Germany and France were reconciled in the ECSC after WWII.

Many will react to such an idea as crazy. But, try to imagine what is possible. Search for opportunities. There have been more crazy ideas that changed the world for the better.

Kurdish line dancers at the Komalah meeting, Rotterdam, NL, 02.14.15
Kurdish line dancers at the Komalah meeting, Rotterdam, NL, 02.14.15

Kurdish communists
Last Saturday, Valentines’ day, we attended a meeting of the Communist Komalah party of Kurdistan in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It was the celebration of the 38th anniversary, somebody told us. The square room was filled with tables that had bananas, tangerines and baklava on them. Red drapes and portraits of Marx and Engels hung at the walls. Men and women, children, were listening to speeches we didn’t understand a word of, lacking the Kurdish tongue as we do. We were there in the company of a friend, a former member of this party who had to flee his home country some twenty years ago. Our friend is no longer a communist. He came to greet his old companion, one of the present leaders of Komalah, Hassan Rahman Panah. They hadn’t seen each other these twenty years our friend lived in exile.

The atmosphere was friendly, although some peshmerga were present wearing uniforms. After the speeches there was music. The community rose to their feet and performed traditional line-dances with clicking cloth and waving shawls. It all looked quite innocent and somewhat out-dated.

The empire strikes back
That is when we saw them. A group of bikers, some covered with tattoos, was standing at the entrance. They wore black sleeveless jackets. The back pictured a skull and white letters saying: Median Empire, Germany[5].

Median Empire, Germany
Median Empire, Germany

Our first association was with extreme right motor clubs.‘Who are they? What are they doing here?’ As it turned out the majority of these young men were second generation Kurds. They were the children of former communists and peshmerga who fled the country after the Khomeiny regime hit hard on them, killing 3000 people. In their early childhood Papa and Mama both carried around a gun or an automatic weapon in one hand, a radio in the other, as to follow the enemies’ movements. Brought up in a militant dissident environment they followed their parents’ footsteps in the struggle for an independent Kurdistan. When ISIL attacked Kurdish towns, of which Kobani may be the best known, and killed women and children, destructed homes and schools, the bikers here present went to the mother country to defend the innocent. They were heroes to the men and women in the room. Still we felt a chill going down the spine.

Weapons everywhere
Looking at the map of Northern Iraq you can find several compounds of Iranian dissidents, like the small Komalah party. Saddam Hussein gave them refuge against the Ayatollahs, who were also his enemies. They are set up in camps with training facilities and weapons to defend themselves. Saddam has gone, but Iran is still in the ban of the Mullahs. Next to this in the same region ISIL has grown fast into the worlds’ most cruel terrorist group.
All parties attract youngsters to fight for some ideology that claims to be The Truth. Everybody is armed. The world’s gone berserk.

21 Egyptians beheaded
One day after the meeting of the Kurdish communist party, on Sunday February 15 2015, ISIL released a video showing 21 men in orange jumpsuits walking a death row on a beach in Libya. They were led by an equal number of black masked terrorists. The men in orange had to kneel, while one of the terrorists, dressed different from the others, addressed the camera in North American-accented English. ‘All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together,’ he stated. ‘The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah, we will mix it with your blood.’ The prisoners – all Egyptian but one – were forced to lie face down. Twenty-one knives, at the look of it not even sharp knives, pointed at the throats of the innocent. No one uttered a word. There must have been some sort of a sign. All twenty-one prisoners were beheaded simultaneously. The last expression of angst, courage or resignation, froze on their faces. The killers put the heads of the men on the shoulders of their lifeless body. Then the jihadist speaker pointed his knife northward and said: ‘We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.’ The sea coloured red, mourning these innocent victims of hatred.

Lone Wolf in Copenhagen
In the meantime, in north-west Copenhagen, among the quiet, graffiti-tagged streets of red-brick blocks and low-rise social housing bordering the multi-ethnic Nørrebro district[6], the police continued to cordon off roads and searched a flat near the spot where officers killed a twenty-two year old believed to be behind Denmark’s bloodiest attacks in over a decade. Two people were killed and several injured at a cultural centre and synagogue in an outrage that has left the whole country in fear and mourning.

Franchisers in death
Up to now ISIL was characterized by keeping its’ atrocious actions inside the Iraqi and Syrian borders. Their alleged aim is to found the fourth Caliphate. The ones who suffered the most are people from the Muslim community. Now ISIL stepped up to Libya and threatened to march to Rome. It affiliated with Al Qaeda by revenging the death of Osama Bin Laden. But weren’t these groups at odds with each other? Both claiming The Truth? Are Allah’s franchisers in death cuddling up to each other? Next to ISIL different terrorist groups fighting a religious war that holds nothing religious nor human are: Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Shabaab (Somalia), Al Qaeda Afghanistan & Pakistan, Jamaah Islamiyah (Indonesia).

Apart from these organized death squads there are the so-called lone wolfs. They are inspired by the terrorists and come up with their own attacks on innocent victims, such as is presumed to have been the case in Denmark, and as we saw in the Charlie Hebdo assault. Even Europe is no longer a safe haven. What the hell is going on?

Gee! You exist ?!?
Severe inequality, exclusion and discrimination led to uprisings in French suburbs during the early eighties. Second generation migrants claimed their rights as French citizens. All of a sudden France realized it wasn’t a homogeneous society anymore[7]. There were these kids, grown up in Marianne’s lap, who felt outsiders, were jobless and hopeless. One of the voices was a musical one, the group Carte de Séjour with lead singer Rachid Taha was among the Rock dissidents. They sang about their existence between two cultures, belonging to neither.

Not only in France, in the whole of Europe, the population had changed, seemingly at a blink. This also led to the rise of extreme rightwing political parties, who fed the fear. Now they are proven right? Or, have the Europeans created their own monster by excluding large parts of the population from equal participation in society?

Us against Them
The current generation of politicians is polarizing and adding up the fear. The Danish prime minister, Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt acknowledged ‘We are not in the middle of a battle between Islam and the west’, but the battle is against those with a ‘dark ideology’[8]. Immediately after the attack she said the Jewish community is a strong part of Denmark, and that ‘we will do everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country’[9] . This was probably an answer to the call of Benjamin Netanyahu from Israël, who invited Jews from all over the world to come ‘home’, that is, migrate to the state of Israël, for protection, thus fuelling polarization.

It is about us against them. It is all about exclusion leaving room for extremist ideologies of both sides to lure the excluded, the adventurous and those attracted by a false romantic notion of war and heroism. How do you think the Muslim community of Denmark feels right now? In many places innocent Muslims are blamed for the atrocities of extremists. It is generally expected of them to apologize for attacks they have nothing to do with. They are pressed to disassociate themselves from shoot-outs and murder. What are we thinking? How can one disassociate one-self from something that one was never associated with? Why do we believe ordinary men and women, our neighbours and colleagues, with an Islamic background have anything whatsoever to do with terrorist attacks? Because they themselves, or their parents or grandparents have been born in an Arab country? Because they are or look like worshippers of Allah? This is a severe blow back on freedom of religion as well as a jump shot for discrimination: judging a person by the looks.

Then what should we do?
We need a radical change for peace! And we have the proof it is possible. Peace was the goal of the EU from the beginning. Sworn enemies have united through mutual interests, starting with economic interests, and none of the EU members has fought one of the others since membership.
Today, humanity has to stop barbarians like ISIL. We can only do this together by standing next to each other, trusting on humanity and searching for what we have in common instead of looking for what divides us.

Humanity today has one common enemy: those who kill innocent people at point blanc, like ISIL is doing. We can unite on putting ISIL and affiliates to a halt. We can stop them in various manners, not in the least by getting to know our neighbour, who may have a different background, worship another God, or no God at all, or who lives according to other cultural standards. Curiosity is an important quality nowadays. We need to be curious after one another and nurse an empathic attitude that roots from the concept brotherhood.

Now, more then ever, we will have to use our fantasy, creativity, energy and will power to steer the whole globe into a sustainable direction. This will not be easy. Systems, especially systems fed on fear, are hard to change. Intervening requires curiosity, sensitivity, agility and flexibility, but above all awareness. Today the overall convenient action is not to fight and divide, but work together and unite. Cooperation leads to different paradigms on sharing and accumulating learning. It leads to different paradigms on possession and on power. Which is exactly what the world needs now: Power for humanity. So everybody is able to live the life she or he has reason to value[10], safe and in peace.

Post script: We did not link to the atrocious video of the killing of 21 innocent men by ISIL for the obvious reason that such footage does not support peace and freedom in any sense.

1. JES! Towards a Joint Effort Society, Van Empel & Sicking, 2013
2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
3. Founding fathers of the EU. Robert Schuman and Jean Monet came up with the Schuman plan
4. JES! Towards a Joint Effort Society, JES! § 9.3 Van Empel & Sicking, 2013
5. NPO broadcast, Vrije Radicalen, Dec 20, 2014
6. From the Guardian, Febr 16 2015.
7. See Al Jazeera Documentary ‘Muslims in France’
8. Danish prime-minister one day after the assaults in Copenhagen
9. Helle Thorning-Schmidt at the attacked synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark
10. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, 1999

nonfiXe, February 16, 2015