No Friends Except For The Mountains: Italy, Turkey And The Kurds

“If you hear RATATA, that's Isis, but if you hear TUM. TUM. TUM. That's PKK and YPG”. “And SBOOOM?”.

Turkey Italy Kurds

“If you hear RATATA, that’s Isis, but if you hear TUM. TUM. TUM. That’s the PKK and YPG.” “And SBOOOM?”

“We don’t have friends, except for the mountains.” As a woman who has lived her whole life in the Alps, I can completely relate to that quote. When you are betrayed, the only place that can give you back some kind of safety is in the mountains. They are there, always, and they watch over us, regardless of the time that passes. That phrase is actually a Kurdish expression, and those people are quite well-versed in both those things: betrayal and mountains.

SBOOOM, RATATA and Zerocalcare

Back in 2016, I was in Turin buying a copy of the magazine Internazionale, issue 1085 to be exact. On the front page, there was an illustration made by the Italian comic artist Zerocalcare which represented himself in a wasteland with a heavy-looking backpack. I already knew the artist from his comics, and I was surprised to see him in that magazine. The small part of its reporting comic book Kobane Calling that was in that issue, for me, was heartbreaking. In the books, the protagonist (Zerocalcare himself) travels to Syria to understand the situation.

“If you hear RATATA, that’s Isis, but if you hear TUM. TUM. TUM. That’s us [the PKK and YPG]”. “And SBOOOM?”. “SBOOOM, it depends. Fire and SBOOOM are Americans. Just SBOOOM is Isis.” These lines (probably the most famous of the entire comic) gave me chills. I could hear the suffering of the Kurdish people fighting against Isis helping Americans and others to fight the caliphate. Now, three years later, those sounds still resound among the mountains, but the SBOOOM is no longer Isis. It’s Turkey. Back on October 8, the country, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, attacked Syria.

Turkey, the PKK and Italy

But why am I writing about that topic in an online magazine about Italy? Well, both Turkey and the Kurds have some history in common with us. Italy found the Turkish market interesting back in the 60s, when some big companies, such as FIAT, Piaggio, and Pirelli landed there to expand their profits, shortly followed by Ferrero. Everything was quite good for both countries (if we exclude the different economical strength and the substantial exploitation of the Turkish people). But on November 12, 1998 something changed. Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the PKK (Kurdistan’s Worker Party) landed in Italy seeking political asylum after he had fled to Russia with the help of some Greeks. He was (and still is) considered the most dangerous terrorist in Turkey, so his presence in the Italian prisons was a diplomatic problem.

The Italian government, only recently under the control of Prime Minister D’Alena, wasn’t able to handle the issue properly. Large companies were scared by the situation and the EU couldn’t clearly protect him. Officially, the EU considered the PKK a terrorist organization. So, Öcalan was sent to Nairobi, but there he was arrested by the Millî İstihbarat Teşkilâtı, the Turkish intelligence. That led to worldwide protests, and in Italy, the start of the decadence of the government. Back then, nobody could openly approve of the PKK, and still cannot: Turkey is the owner of the so-called Gas Corridor, and makes the whole continent vulnerable to the country’s decisions, not to mention the migrants crisis, which is now under Turkey’s control.

Foreign fighters and resistance

Right now a big issue that Italy (and others) have to handle is the foreign fighters affair. According to the EER (European Eye on Radicalization) most of them are anarchists that moved here to participate in the socialist-libertarian state made by the YPG (People Protection Units) and the PKK, known as Rojava. The state was created after Assad’s withdrawal from the area in 2012. Along with the anarchists in the area, there were many components of violent far-left-wingers that could become dangerous once back in their country of origin. That’s why many cities like Turin decided to arrest them, even if they fought against Isis.

Now, the new enemy of the still not-recognized Rojava is Turkey which (officially) in order to protect its border from the YPG and PKK terrorists, attacked the Syrian region populated by Kurdish. According to Adnkronos, The Turkish ambassador Morat Salim Essenli declared that the Italian government attitude seemed, to say the least, strange. In fact, according to him, they were quickly informed of Turkey intentions, so they didn’t get why they seemed surprised.

In the end, it’s hard to describe such an intricate situation, where national interests sometimes don’t pay proper attention to important issues like human rights. Moreover, according to the YPG press, that attack could give the last caliphate fighters an opportunity to try to gain back the land, sinking the whole area back to an endless fight. Because that’s what we are talking about: a fight that started back decades ago and is still going on, with different people, different reasons, but still doesn’t seem to have the end.

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