The Statement of Kani Xulam
June 5, 1999
I want to start by expressing my own words of gratitude to the organizers of this march to sound a call for an immediate end to the war in Kosovo and Serbia. I am a stateless Kurd from a country called Turkey, a member of NATO, part of the assault force against Yugoslavia. I oppose the war. For one thing, I am a peace activist. For another, I dislike it intensely when an organization like NATO whose time has come and gone resorts to killings to prolong its life.
On March 24, 1999, when this nation goaded 18 others to turn a defensive organization into an offensive force, it gave the deaths of hundreds of ethnic Albanians as an excuse for casus belli. The Washington Post yesterday claimed that NATO has killed 5000 Serbs with 0 NATO casualties. For us peace activists the death of ethnic Albanians was wrong then just as is the death of 5000 Serbs now. An elementary school student could tell you that two wrongs do not add up to a right. Wake up America. Washington waged this war to keep NATO alive, not to punish Milosevic or bestow liberty on the Kosovars.
NATO, supposedly, came into existence to safeguard freedom. If it were so, my own rights as a Kurd should have been protected in Turkey. My language would not be banned. Asserting my Kurdish identity would not amount to a crime in Turkish Kurdistan. Turkey’s 15 year old war to keep me in subjugation would not have been legitimized as a war on so called “terrorism”. I see cynicism in those statements. Those who oppress can never be free. Those who call themselves free can only safeguard their freedom if they stand against oppression not only here in America, but also in Kosovo, Kurdistan, Tibet and East Timor and many other troubled places in the world.
Turkey, a third world country, was accepted into NATO, not because it knew and respected the freedoms of its citizens, but because it was conveniently located to the south of then Soviet Union. Throughout the Cold War years, there were crocodile tears for the captive nations behind the Iron Curtain, but not a murmur was heard for campaigns of terror that were undertaken by Ankara against the Kurds. From 1984 onward, the year the first shots of liberty were fired by the Kurdish rebels, Turkey’s war on Kurds has cost 37,000 lives, the destruction of over 3,500 Kurdish villages and the displacement of more than 3 million Kurdish villagers.
I am a part of the spoils of war. I belong to the unaccepted and disrespected Kurdish nation. My homeland is called Kurdistan. The world is supposed to be my home as well. It is not so. NATO member Turkey controls half of what I call home. It does so, by the force of arms. Despite the suppression of their political rights, the existence of the ethnic Albanians is not questioned in Serbia, but in Turkey, it is a crime to be a Kurd. This iron yoke is sustained on our shoulders by the arms of NATO, primarily of the United States, to deny us the opportunity to assert ourselves, to claim our rights and to stand for ourselves.
If NATO claims to stand for stability, democracy, and peace, it should start practicing these concepts and these values in its backyard, before assuming the role of exporter of liberty and humanity to the Kosovars. War is ugly. It is another name for organized crime. We do no one a service by being quick with force, slow with discussions and impervious to our shortcomings. It is easier to be a bully; much harder to be a peacemaker. If America wants to be a savior in the world; it should first be a curator of nations it has destroyed on these shores. Greatness can only be sustained with humility; otherwise, it is fleeting. This country can only remain free, proud and perhaps long-lasting, if it remains true to its ideals.
So I thank you for your principled stand for opposing violence, supporting negotiations, and sounding the alarm bells that this war, like many others, is wrong, immoral and will deliver neither liberty nor humanity. Serbs and Albanians may be at odds with one another as are the Turks and the Kurds, but we all need to communicate, a place to talk, rather than resort to arms to for our not-so-irreconcilable differences. The bombs donÕt help. The war must stop. Peace for racism infected nations and their neighbors can only come when the will of the oppressed is accepted and respected.