This morning on NPR, I heard a Republican commentator say our government works best with a “loyal opposition.” He was referring to those of his party who did not support overthrowing the most recent election results.
That, I thought, is a low bar. Members of this loyal opposition have had no problem with disenfranchising people in districts that are likely to vote for Democrats. They were fine with exploding the national debt to provide tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest U.S. citizens. They were fine with the rise of the homeless population, the impunity of the police state, families going hungry and without healthcare. And when I say, “fine with,” I mean they enacted legislation knowing that their votes would result in these violations of human rights.
When I think of a loyal opposition, I think of those people who have challenged the corporate Democrats: the people who have hit the streets, sometimes for decades, demanding that politicians reallocate money from the police and military to communities in ways that would end homelessness, provide affordable housing, employment, food, and healthcare. I think of the politicians who have primaried incumbent Democrats, saying they no longer represent the people they serve, but the donors who fund them.
A few months ago, I heard another Republican on AM Joy say that he no longer saw a future in the Republican Party because it had stopped generating new ideas. It simply said, “no,” to everything. Does anyone think, he said, that the U.S. will not have some form of universal healthcare like most of the developed and developing world? The debate on what that will look like is happening between the two factions of the Democratic Party. He wanted to be a part of that discussion.
In the past week, the progressive nature of Joe Biden’s executive orders has surprised me. I am still not enthusiastic about some of his cabinet appointments. The Border Police are still holding children in cages. I think his response to the climate crisis is not crisis-y enough. But it seems that he is listening to the people who put him into office—including the loyal opposition.
Since the coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, online publications and social media have received renewed scrutiny for allowing hate speech on their platforms as well as providing a venue for domestic terrorists to connect with each other. Breitbart, VDare, Daily Caller, Gab, 4Chan, 8Chan, DLive, and Parler often come up in these discussions. Quora doesn’t.
Founded in 2009, Quora is a question-and-answer site visited by 300 million people a month who can ask or answer just about anything. I’ve gotten advice on my fruit trees, acrylic nails, appliances, and answers to quirky science questions.
Quora is also a place for political dialogue, and in this area, it skews far to the right of what I have experienced on Twitter and Facebook. On Quora, I learned that social justice is a bad thing, and social justice warriors are despicable characters out to ruin anything enjoyable. (My response, always: “I am a social justice warrior and I am delightful.”) Racist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic questions, answers, and comments appear regularly.
As does fascism. Quora has an entire space ostensibly for people interested in fascism, but after reading a few entries, one understands the space is a discussion group for fascists. A few days ago, a Quoran asked me a question about what white supremacists or fascists want to achieve. I checked to see if others had answered the question and found a person who presented himself, without apology, as a fascist. “I look at the modern west and see the uselessness of Democracy,” he wrote, citing Europeans allowing Muslims to flood their countries and leaving their traditions and freedoms to focus on hedonism. He continued:
Fascism is the answer. Fascism will destroy the socialists for their many crimes, forcibly repatriate the foreigners who do not belong in our countries, and harshly punish the elites who have so damaged the west that they might enrich themselves further.…
Violence is going to be necessary to restore the west, and fascism is the necessary vehicle.
I complimented him on his honesty, noting that a lot of fascists participate on Quora who do not acknowledge their fascism (and who for some reason think ANTIFA are fascists.) I wrote, “Maybe those of us working for human rights could finally wake people out of their apathy and bothsidesism if the Right had the integrity to name what they are.”
His response: Your side never will. You talk about “human rights” a lot, maybe you even think you actually care about them, but you don’t.…”
He then accused my “side” of violence, censorship, and suppression. “I know exactly what you socialists are and your intentions are, which is why I hate you and support using the same tactics against you.”
The difference between you and me comes down to two things. One, I’m honest about my intentions and what I am. Yes, I want sides to no longer exist in my country. I’ve listed my reasons why and I think they’re fairly rational.
You people would round my side up for the cattle cars without a second thought and try and somehow justify it or pretend it isn’t happening.
The reason your side focuses so much on propaganda and censorship of your opposition is that your ideology can only exist unchallenged. That’s why your activists are far more confrontational, violent, and prone to rioting than mine. Fascists arrive at fascism as a result of a realization of the true nature of society and humanity and a realization of the incredible weakness of democracy…
I find it really interesting that you don’t understand at all what it means to be an advocate for human rights — everybody’s human rights — but your description of what it means to be a fascist is pretty much how human rights advocates understand fascism.
Him: “I do support human rights, for the right people.”
He followed with a screed condemning human rights advocates who support ISIS widows, adding that Israel’s subjugation of Palestinian savages only makes sense. He shared his approval of the AUC paramilitaries in Colombia, noting they are more effective than the Colombian army in stamping out communism. (I want to add here that Colombian paramilitaries commit by far the most vicious human rights atrocities against Colombian civilians.)
The discussion continued, but you get the idea. Note to self: do not argue with fascists.
Quora claims to be non-partisan, stating its site exists to “share and grow the world’s knowledge.” Its moderators do not monitor the postings. Instead, it asks its members to police the site and report objectionable content.
And therein lies the problem. Women, racialized people, queer people, disabled people, and Muslims have their content downvoted and reported to the moderators consistently by white male Quorans. One woman told a journalist that she tried rephrasing some of the most sexist questions she found on Quora so that they pertained to men. Almost immediately, her questions were downvoted or reported out of existence. A similar pattern of harassment, downvoting, and reporting routinely happens to members of marginalized groups. The result? Most of them leave Quora, making it a very white, troll-y space.
If you’re Palestinian, Quora is an incredibly hostile environment. You will be told that you and your country do not exist. That you are innately savage. That everything about your history and culture boils down to one Hamas or Islamic Jihad training video. Quora has banned the space Palestine Today — where people discuss Palestinian culture, history, politics, and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine — at least three times since I joined in 2017. It has banned Rima Najjar, a Palestinian professor who has compared Zionism to fascism. Her expulsion begs the question: If fascists are welcome to post about fascism on Quora, why can’t someone compare another ideology to fascism on Quora?
My detractors have downvoted and collapsed many of my own answers about the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These answers did not express opinions so much as provide accounts of what I had witnessed in the Al-Khalil/Hebron area over two decades of work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I appealed, and Quora moderators usually restored them, but then the partisans of Israel downvoted them again.
I also created a space, Allies and Accomplices, which was popular for the two weeks it existed. Allies and Accomplices provided space for people to report oppressive behavior they encountered on Quora since reporting this behavior to moderators didn’t seem to work for people of color, Muslims, and other marginalized people. I learned about oppressions that I hadn’t considered. For example, I had noticed an obsession in the questions about personality disorders. I had not considered how the plethora of those questions would affect people who struggle with them. Membership in our space increased rapidly, and we even generated automatic congratulations from Quora for doing so well.
My co-moderator and I appealed when Quora moderators suspended and then banned the space (one post had mentioned a Quoran’s name, and he reported us for that.) We said we could adapt the space to bring it into compliance with the rules. We never heard back from Quora.
Both accused of anti-Semitism, but treated very differently by political and Jewish establishment
“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted these words from a Puff Daddy song in 2019, referring to the role Israeli lobby money plays in congressional foreign policy. (Turns out, a lot.) Republicans, Democrats, and the establishment Jewish organizations pilloried her, calling her anti-Semitic. Even progressive Jews called her out, claimed she had used a trope about Jewish money controlling the world. The young congresswoman removed the tweet and issued the following statement:
Anti-Semitism is real, and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.
At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.
Nonetheless, if you google “Ilhan Omar” and “anti-Semitism,” you will see her detractors did not find this apology adequate. In January 2020, StopAntisemitism.org named her “Anti-Semite of the Year,” choosing her over Louis Farrakhan and actual Nazi, Richard Spencer.
This week, news came out that freshman congresswoman and Qanon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greenfield has suggested a giant space laser funded by the Rothschilds was responsible for the California wildfires. In other words, a Jewish space laser.
On social media, I see most people treating her comments as a joke, with the exception of progressive Jews, and even they are employing gallows humor. Are Democrats and Republicans passing resolutions in response to her clearly anti-Semitic accusation as they did with Omar’s tweet? Nope. The hearts of Republicans still seethe over her audacity — as a black, Muslim, immigrant, leftist — to believe she had the right to run for public office.
What do we hear from the major Jewish organizations? From Mort Klein at the Zionist Organization of America? He called Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib “frightening insensitive terrorist supporting, Jew hating, America hating Israelophobes,” and “a curse on America.” What about the American Jewish Committee, who misrepresented her comments as saying that Jews were buying off members of Congress, rather than the Israeli lobby had too much financial influence on the Congress?
Crickets. Even the Anti-Defamation League, which has called out Marjorie Taylor Greene for past anti-Semitism, hasn’t gotten around to mentioning the space laser yet.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of her trauma during the recent failed coup, describing what it was like to be trapped in a room with fellow legislators who wanted to see her harmed. I want to ask those who condemned Ilhan Omar in 2019 this question: if you found yourself surrounded by people who wanted to hurt you, would Ilhan Omar or Marjorie Taylor Greene be the one more likely to help you to safety?
Rochesterians observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
by Kathleen Kern with Rochester Witness for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace-Rochester
November 29, 2020 marks the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. As residents of the Rochester area, we know Palestinian-Americans as friends, colleagues, students, doctors, shop owners, and educators. Many of us have worked in Palestine or traveled there on delegations. We have mourned with Palestinians who have lost land, homes, and livelihoods to voracious Israeli settlement expansion. We have witnessed with our own eyes the abusive behavior of Israeli soldiers and settlers towards Palestinians, and the apartheid network of checkpoints, walls, and roads, intended to maintain Israeli hegemony over the region.
With the Biden Administration and the new Congress taking office in January, our country has a fresh opportunity to do justice by the Palestinian people. Doing so promotes the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens. Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians has been used as an excuse for violence by Middle Eastern actors for years, including violence directed at United States citizens. Furthermore, our government sends more than 3.8 billion dollars in aid to Israel every year. Of the 75 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, Rochester ranks third in child poverty, behind Gary, Indiana and Flint, Michigan. Yet Monroe County tax dollars go to pay for Israeli weapon systems that bomb impoverished families in Gaza and military infrastructure that strangles the economy in the West Bank.
Biden and Harris won this election only because a coalition including young people, Black people, Native Americans, and other U.S. citizens yearning for a more just and equitable nation turned out for them. These citizens will no longer accept the Democratic National Committee’s tacit support of the Israeli government’s cruel and racist treatment of Palestinians. We certainly will not and ask that readers hold their elected leaders responsible in the coming year.
We ask that you support Rep. Betty McCollum’s House Bill (formerly H.R. 2407) when it comes up for a vote again in 2021:
“To promote human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli military occupation and require that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill- treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.”
Because not paying for the abuse of Palestinian children with our tax dollars seems like an excellent way to show solidarity. Please ask Representatives Joe Morelle, Tom Reed, and Chris Jacobs to sign the bill as well. They have yet to support it.
The spider web stretched across your woodpile this morning — the perfect pearls of dew on each strand — after you saw it, every piece of jewelry you owned seemed lusterless and tacky. You sat in the rich black dirt of your garden and ate a tomato right from the vine. Yet, as you dug your toes into the soil, you knew, you knewyou had to get closer to the earth, connected, rooted.
It’s time to buy an SUV.
You can choose to become like Matthew McMonaughey and drive your SUV to an old growth forest. Become entranced by the birdsong that is somehow as loud with your window up as when you are running on the trail. But picture this: you and your SUV driving intothat same forest, becoming one with the ecosystem of plants, fungi, bacteria and duff, listening to the microorganisms you release from their captivity on the forest floor screaming with delight as they fly past your windshield.
And now you come to a pristine stream. As our Indigenous brothers and sisters say, #WaterIsLife. Are you going to settle for watching the sun sparkling on the ripples? No. All life came from the water; drive right back into it. Climb onto the rocks. You have recreated the primordial drama of the first creature emerging from the sea!
And now that that you’re in love and loving nature with the one you love, you must have an SUV to haul all your stuff as you drive around looking for the peak natural experience. You might want to try out the Peninsula Trail. First, stop at a small country store. A mysterious blind man will approach you and tell you the trail is not on a map. And though you thought “trail” implies, perhaps, a narrow ridge overlooking the ocean, the trail turns out to be an asphalt highway along the coast. Don’t ask yourself why a paved road running alongside the Pacific Ocean complete with a demarcated scenic overlook wasn’t on a map, and why you needed a blind guide for that. Or why you must hold your arms out like you’re pretend-flying an airplane in order to hear whales at the scenic overlook. As the night approaches, he will take you to a dark forest so you can hear a snowy owl. And then you realize: he was never going to murder you, he is of the Ancient Ones, forged from the soil and the iron at the heart of the earth itself, and he not only hears the whales and the owls, he speaks their language.
You and your partner breathe deeply of conifer-scented air before you drive him 200 miles back to his house.
And then you create life. You become Gaia, earth mother, and continue the cycle that the Ancients Ones sparked into being. You drive to the ocean in your SUV. As a wispy voiced singer reflects on the merits of swimming in clean water, you speak to your unborn child about the sounds the ocean makes; you drive her to an old-growth evergreen forest and other heartbreakingly beautiful locations in the Pacific Northwest, the natural habitat of the SUV.
Do you understand what we are telling you? When you calculate the cost of having a child, the Earth obligates you to factor the price of a new SUV into that cost. Otherwise, your precious son or daughter will grow up to despise nature — and none of us wants that.
Sponsored by Heirloom Fuels for a New Green New Deal
[I wrote this a few months ago for McSweeneys, before Elizabeth Warren was in ascent. They didn’t take it. ]
To: The Buchanan County Ohio Democratic Central Committe
From: Betty Pannabecker-Garcia
Hello fellow Dems! I know it’s early in the election cycle to be endorsing a candidate. But one candidate running in the Democratic primary makes my heart star beating a little faster and start tallying up my posterboard and Sharpies budget at Michaels. Not Biden is the nonbinary, multiracial, multigenerational, and bisexual candidate, I think, that looks like America and could get our country back on the rails.
Not Biden is a proud social progressive; they believe that all Americans have a right to affordable healthcare and housing; they at times have even called for a universal basic income. Even better, they have a plan to make it all work out! And having governed in California, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Montana, Vermont, and Washington, which have large agricultural economies, they understand the needs of people in rural areas like us.
As for their voting record, Not Biden’s is mixed; I don’t support everything they’ve supported, but they are the only candidate never to have voted for the Iraq War. They believe that women should have control of their own bodiesand they’re not so handsy-sniffy. Also, I told my Uncle Ray a quarter century ago to stop telling my son that it’s his job to protect his sisters’ virginity and that’s not something I’d appreciate in a president either.
And you know what I’ll be bringing to the table at next month’s meeting? That’s right, my famous Pannabecker potato salad! And Jorge will bring his mama’s chilaquiles. Bring your own dish to pass, and I hope I can convince you over some good food that Not Biden is the way to go!
So I’ve been experimenting with writing humor. This Father’s Day piece was turned down by McSweeneys.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. As a symbol of the love that you chose to give my brothers instead of me, I will again settle on a box of English Leather cologne products as my gift to you. My vague memories of physical affection from you are all associated with that smell.
Which gift box will it be this year? Should I choose the one with the cowboy on the front? Why would they put a cowboy on a box of English Leather? Why not show someone riding English style—as opposed to Western style, in which you break a horse rather than train it. Just like you tried to break my spirit when you sent me to fat camp, Dad. But Patches didn’t body shame me; we rode like the wind.
Maybe I should give you the classic wooden box again. You know, like the one I got you last year from Ebay because it was like the ones you had when I was a kid. I thought it would evoke some nostalgia for that time before you told Tim you couldn’t believe I came from the seed of your loins. Do you remember your reaction Dad? You half smiled, nodded and then reached for Tim’s present, which was a “Best Dad Ever” mug. With faux modesty, you rolled your eyes and said, “Well that’s a little hyperbolic, don’t you think?”
“It’s insanely hyperbolic,” I said.
You know what you’d say if I gave you another wooden box set this year?
“Didn’t Tim give me this last year?”
Of course the year I gave you English Leather Black was a disaster, even though that variation at least has a picture of an English saddle on it. I thought it would be funny to go full Goth. So I when I made the presentation, I wore fishnet stockings with skulls, black nails, lipstick and hair. You remember Troy? He was the one that did that fake English Leather tattoo, matching the script on the bottle. I remember you saying, “Aren’t you a little old for dress up, honey?”
You liked the English Leather Soap on a Rope I gave you one year. You twirled it around over your head, glint in eye and said, “You know, I could probably kill someone with this thing.” Then you looked meaningfully in my direction.
When I tried to mix things up with English Leather Lime the on the Father’s Day after Mom died and a bottle of your favorite tequila, you told me, “I hope you kept the receipt.”
“Of course,” I said, “It’s from Walmart.” But I was gracious. I told you I was glad you were taking $4.72 out the Walton family’s pocket and thanked you for doing your part to rein in capitalism run amok.
Googling the options, I see I haven’t given you the box of four travel size English Leather aftershave balms and skin softeners yet.
To: Customer Service, Dana Classic Fragrances
Subject: Idea for new products
Have you thought of an English Leather skin softener, but for the heart?
Photo by Joe Carr. Carr worked with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza and later with CPT in Hebron and At-Tuwani. His sequence of photos showing the bulldozer running over Corrie was not enough to convict the driver of her death.
by Kathleen Kern
Note: Our director asked if we were going to remember Corrie in some way, so I wrote this for CPTnet. Not sure if I hit it out of the park, but I don’t necessarily have to do that every time.
In 2003, when the Hebron team heard that the Israeli military had crushed Rachel Corrie to death with a Caterpillar bulldozer, the news hit all of us hard. Some of us had conducted nonviolence trainings for the first waves of International Solidarity Movement volunteers that had poured into Palestine to address violence of the Second Intifada. These volunteers had included Corrie, and Tom Hurndall who was shot and later disconnected from life support, as well as Brian Avery, also shot and permanently disfigured. Most of us had at one time or another stood in front of a bulldozer or had friends who had stood in front of bulldozers in an effort to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home. Israeli soldiers and police had roughed us up, detained us or arrested us. Until Corrie died, I don’t think we believed that soldiers would run us, our friends or the Palestinian homeowners over.
Sixteen years later, if I heard soldiers had deliberately run over anyone with a bulldozer in Hebron in this current political climate the news would not shock me. The number of extrajudicial executions that happen in this city simply because Palestinians make soldiers nervous is frightening. Yet right now, less lethal things chip away at my soul: for example, young Israeli soldiers addressing professional Palestinian men in their forties and fifties as “walid” or “boy” as they walk through the checkpoint. Also, can you think of anywhere else in the world where elementary schoolchildren are regularly, routinely blanketed with teargas as they walk to and from school? And little children scurrying from teargas aren’t even the images that haunt me. It’s the faces of soldiers laughing I can’t shake. They laugh as they load the teargas grenades into their launchers, preparing to shoot them at the children.
Adam Serwer, a writer for the Atlantic, wrote an article last year about the Trump era, entitled “The cruelty is the point.” Nothing is quite so demoralizing as cruelty for the sake of cruelty, as watching grown men and women in uniform taking pleasure in mistreating children and our other neighbors in the Old City of Hebron.
But while this cruelty can haunt and even paralyze those who care about Palestinians, that’s not the lesson to take away from Corrie’s life. I remember reading emails to her family after her death and being struck by her optimism and her plans for the future. Her final email to her father particularly moved me:
Thanks also for stepping up your anti-war work. I know it is not easy to do, and probably much more difficult where you are than where I am. …
Also got an invitation to visit Sweden on my way back – which I think I could do very cheaply. I would like to leave Rafah with a viable plan to return, too. One of the core members of our group has to leave tomorrow – and watching her say goodbye to people is making me realize how difficult it will be. People here can’t leave, so that complicates things. They also are pretty matter-of-fact about the fact that they don’t know if they will be alive when we come back here.
I really don’t want to live with a lot of guilt about this place – being able to come and go so easily – and not going back. I think it is valuable to make commitments to places – so I would like to be able to plan on coming back here within a year or so. Of all of these possibilities I think it’s most likely that I will at least go to Sweden for a few weeks on my way back – I can change tickets and get a plane to from Paris to Sweden and back for a total of around 150 bucks or so. … Let me know if you have any ideas about what I should do with the rest of my life
As the cruelty of the Israeli military occupation increases, and internationals find it increasingly difficult to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territories because the Israeli government denies them entry, Corrie’s words remind us that Palestinian resistance ultimately does not rely on outsiders. And, that like Corrie’s father, internationals can undertake much of that resistance in their home countries and communities. Corrie’s words also remind us that while internationals can seriously commit themselves to the cause of Palestinian liberation, they do not have to take themselves so seriously. We do this work knowing the risks, but assuming there is a future. And that even if we cannot envision the change that is going to occur, we know that something will change.
Kurdish villagers are dying at the hands of a war the world has ignored for too long
Because we didn’t pay attention to the thousands of Kurdish villages Turkey destroyed in the 1990s, the Turkish state still believes it can act largely without scrutiny.
Family mourning Himdat Osman Darwish – a Kurdish villager killed during a bombing – by his grave ( Lukasz Firla )
We arrived in Barmiza village one year to the day that the Turkish military bombed the car of 20-year-old Himdat Osman Darwish as he was driving to work. Other civilians were on the road as well – not PKK guerilla fighters, the ostensible reason that Turkey uses for bombing these areas where Kurdish villagers live. Himdat left behind a wife and four-month-old son.
Dressed in black, the women of the village gathered with the family’s mothers and sisters in observation of the anniversary of Himdat’s death. The men told us how the 13 Turkish military bases on the hilltops around Barmiza are strangling the village – bases built inside the internationally recognized borders of Iraq.
They detailed what appears to be the Turkish military’s current strategy to empty Barmiza of its inhabitants: villagers who take their flocks more than 400 meters in the direction of any of the thirteen bases are at risk of getting shot or bombed.
Dozens of Kurdish villages along the border are facing an identical situation. Both Iran and Turkey also bomb these villages from across the border, because guerillas resisting their governments make their homes in Iraqi Kurdistan’s mountain caves.
European and US allies of Turkey – because of lucrative weapons contracts and because it serves as an attractive location to base Middle East military operations – do not seem to care that the warplanes they sell to Turkey drop bombs on Kurdish civilians, nor that Turkey seems to have a long-term plan of re-establishing its Ottoman Empire.
“They want us to disappear,” Sumaz, our Kurdish colleague, had said that day as we discussed Turkey’s displacement of more than ninety villages closer to the border in 1995.
Himdat’s mother, Shema appeared in the doorway. Leaning against the frame, eyes downcast, she broke into our conversation to ask us if we needed anything else, because she was preparing to leave with the women for the cemetery.
I winced when the freelance photographer traveling with us asked if he could follow them, but she stood taller in her black clothes – a color she would now wear for the rest of her life, according to Sumaz – and nodded her head in urgent agreement.
When we arrived at the cemetery, the mourning ritual had begun. Shema was singing a traditional Kurdish dirge, in which the mourner recounts the attributes and actions of her beloved.
Every so often, her strength gave out and she vented her grief in wordless anguish while older women tended to her. Himdat’s father, who had accompanied us to the cemetery, crouched away from the group in his green workman’s overalls, his back hunched in solitary mourning, wiping his eyes.
Two Kurdish members of our team prayed through their tears.
I glanced at the Turkish military base overlooking the cemetery, one of the thirteen that made it so deadly for the villagers to tend their flocks and fields. Perhaps Shema was willing to have the photographer record this occasion of mourning so that her son’s death would not become another of thousands in the ongoing Kurdish genocide that passed unnoticed.
After another attack of sobbing had wracked her thin body, she drew a breath. Her pale brown eyes met ours. “Do you see? Do you see how much we loved him?” they seemed to ask.
The next day we visited the family of Dunya Rasheed. Dunya died this June in a mortar attack near a Turkish military base as she gathered seeds from the kanger plant (also known as gundelia) with other villagers from Halania.
We had shared Dunya’s story widely through our internet platforms, along with a family photo of her with her brother’s disembodied hand resting on her shoulder.
I had looked at her amiable face so often, that when I had a chance to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan last month, I wanted to ask Dunya’s family what she was like as a person.
I had no intention of reviewing the tragic events of her death. But her mother, after sharing briefly how sociable, smart and respectful she was, slipped into an altered state and, as though she could not help herself, began in a monotone detailing what happened on the day she died.
She said that Dunya at first didn’t want to go collect the seeds, and her father said she could stay home. That she changed her mind, because all her friends were going. That her mother had brought her an extra bottle of water and told her to drink, because the day was hot, but she said she was fine. That her daughter’s body had floated into the air in an explosion of dust when the mortar hit her.
That her son had placed his sister’s body – its arm, shoulder and leg ripped away – on his mother’s chest so she could hold her. That after the Turkish soldiers collected the mortar fragments, they ordered the family to say that a landmine had killed her.
Kurdish journalists never contacted the family about Dunya’s death, and Dunya’s father bitterly complained that he had seen no mention of it in any Kurdish publications. (The Kurdish political parties control all the major media and the KDP, which controls the region where the family lives, is friendly to
“When an American woman was killed in Duhok, the whole world knew,” he said. The fact that his oldest daughter’s murder by the Turkish state would pass unnoticed still gnaws at him, because her absence has left such a giant wound in this family.
“If Dunya were here, it would be different,” her mother finished. “She would be happy you were here. Everyone loved her. Everyone who knew Dunya is like me now. All of her teachers. All of her friends. She was so different, so lovely; God didn’t want me to have her. She is always in front of my eyes. This has been a great disaster for all of us.”
Here is a picture of Dunya. Her name means “world”.
Both the Talmud and the Quran have some variation on the saying, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered by scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by
scripture to have saved the whole world.”
Because the international community did not pay attention to the thousands of Kurdish villages Turkey destroyed in the 1990s and the unknown number of Kurds it killed and disappeared, the Turkish state believes it can kill a Kurdish civilian here and depopulate a Kurdish village there largely without scrutiny.
But for Himdat and Dunya’s families, for the hundreds of families mourning the losses of their loved ones and their villages in the last two decades, Turkey has destroyed, and continues to destroy, entire worlds.
Mariel Hemingway was 16 when she started working on Manhattan. Allen tried to lure her away on a weekend trip to Paris after the filming. Her parents encouraged her to go, but unlike her character in the movie, once she found she would not have her own room she decided the invitation was creepy and said no.
But, my liberal film aficionados, are you planning on seeing Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel when it opens and comparing it to his other masterpieces over dinner with friends?
You cognoscenti who judge the white evangelicals in Alabama for supporting a man who dallied after teenage girls in a mall — you are hypocrites if you think an artist’s comedic genius, his directorial brilliance somehow justify a selective amnesia on the part of your conscience. If you must see Wonder Wheel, so be it, but your penance is this: when you walk up to the box office, you have to say, “I am financially supporting a child molester.”