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Home » Refugees - Victims of War and Messenger of Peace

Refugees – we are the victims of war and the messengers of peace!

War against Iraq will create millions of refugees. Like us, they will be unwelcome in Europe. Those who manage to get to Europe, like us, will face abuse, social exclusion and ultimately deportation. Like us, they will be called ‘economic refugees’.
It is interesting that the vast majority of the population in Germany and even Chancellor Schroeder will agree that this war against Iraq is rooted in US economic interests. Is it not ridiculous for these self-same people to call, the victims of the war ‘economic refugees’? Ah, but some of you will say ‘granted, the Iraqi’s fleeing the war cannot be dismissed as economic refugees - but many of the others who are here can be’.

Every refugee on this demonstration, in fact refugees in general have a similar story to that of a refugee from Iraq. Each and every one of us have had to flee different combinations of war, terror, vicious discrimination, abuse, starvation and untold hardship. Further, the economic interest of one or other western power can be traced as being the root cause of the problem that each and every one of us faced in our home country. Leaving our brothers and sisters, our homes, has been painful for us and we cannot forget the people that we have left behind. We all have a burning desire to alleviate the suffering of the people in our countries of origin and to help to lay the basis for sustainable peace in our land – in other words - peace with justice.

But what happens when we try to do something about it?

The Kurds tried

In 1993, not long after the first Iraq war, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish Movement launched a peace initiative. This initiative was intended to stop the vicious circle of violence and polarisation and to attempt to build bridges and solidarity between the Kurdish and Turkish people. Just after the USA had demonstrated its willingness to use its massive firepower in the middle east to pursue its interests, the message that Abdullah Ocalan gave was that any conflict within the area was extremely dangerous to the whole of the middle east and that the external powers are sure to utilise it to further their interests.
The Kurdish refugees in Europe took up the peace initiative of Ocalan. They gave a message to the people and the governments of Europe that peaceful solution of conflicts in the middle east was in their interests too. But there was hardly any response.

This was during a time when the competition between the USA and Europe was rapidly intensifying. As the French Prime Minister was to put it a little later (in 1999), the Euro will allow Europe “to escape the domination of the of the Dollar..... as the organiser of the international community”. Certainly, a united Europe is the basis for a formidable power block. The combined population of the 11 Euro-Zone members is 292 million, compared with the USA’s 268 million: the gross domestic product (GDP) is $6.26 trillion, compared to the USA’s $8.11 trillion; and Euro-Zone exports are 18.8 % of the world total compared to the USA’s 14.1%. As European unification and the expansion moved on Europe increased its economic power became a fear to the USA. This was a time that even Britain, which for a long time played little brother to the USA, and specially during the Thatcher era balked at jumping the European hurdle, seemed to be on the European bandwagon. ‘Britain is forging a new relationship with Europe… I have no doubt at all that is where the future interests of my country lies’ proclaimed Tony Blair on December 4th 1998 announcing the St. Malo declaration together with the French Prime Minister. This, a declaration of intent to build a European unified military force just before the launch of a single currency would certainly have worried the USA. As well as challenging the USA economically, the US military domination of Europe was being called into question. European leaders, conscious that economic power is unsustainable without the independent military capabilities to protect it was mumbling why NATO, which was formed as a military block against the Soviet Union, was necessary now. The USA aggressively promoted the expansion of NATO into even the former Soviet Block in order to counter the above said development (much of the material in the above paragraph is contained in the excellent article Fortress Europe and the British Trojan Horse in FRFI issue Feb-March 1999)

‘When elephants dance it is the grass that gets crushed, when the elephants fight it is also the grass that gets crushed’ African proverb

With the Soviet Union gone and with it one of the important reasons for USA and Europe to unite also gone, the contradictions between them came rapidly came into play. Close analysis will show the conflict between USA and Europe was the basis for many of the destruction in the world from the first US led attack on Iraq , through various interventions and calamities in Africa and other parts of the world to the NATO strike on Yugoslavia and after. As the African proverb goes ‘when the elephants fight it is the grass that get crushed’. It is the USA’s attempt to convert its superior military fire power into economic advantage in its battle against Europe that has been the driving force behind the destruction. The difference between this war and the first world war and the start of the second world war is that this time there are hardly any deaths from those whose power conflict on which the war is based – this time it is only ‘the grass that gets crushed’ – and the ‘grass’ is of course the people from the countries that we come from.

The importance of Ocalan’s intervention is not so hard to see. He wanted to de-escalate the conflict to protect the Kurds from being caught in the middle of the struggle between of ‘two elephants’. Of course, both Europe and the USA were and are against the Kurdish Liberation Movement, because they saw it unlikely that it could be manipulated to reflect their interests.. When  Further, Europe, Germany being the most important in this case, collaborated with the Turkish authorities the repression of the risen Kurdish people. ‘When the elephants dance, it is the grass that gets crushed’ is relevant here. But now, the USA was locked in a desperate struggle with Europe. It was clear that if it was left to economic competition alone Europe would win easily both in the middle east and in ex-soviet block regions – due to many factors including the physical nearness to Europe. The a strategy to throw the middle east into strife, when the idea of military intervention can be sold, was crucial for the USA, because then, the deciding factor would be superior fire-power. Of course with military intervention it would have a good chance to have, amongst other things, the control of the Oil resources of the whole region. It is now recognised widely in Europe and the rest of the world that this is the basis of USA’s intervention.

Abdullah Ocalan was willing to sacrifice himself to risk implementing his peace project. But he overestimated the democratic and human rights sensibilities of the people and the governments of ‘Old Europe’. Europe failed the test of stand up to the USA, on the basis of democracy, human rights and peace. This is a crucial test, as if human aspect is taken out of the European opposition to the USA, then what is left is brute force -  so the USA will win any way. But European progressives take the human aspect – ie connect with the billions of humanity which is only regarded as grass – then there is hope for the future.

In terms of Ocalan, history repeats itself. He is so isolated that for 9 weeks he has not had any contact to the outside world. No one knows If he is alive or dead. If he dies or is isolated in this way – then the possibility of  peace he brought will also die. The peace movement has an important test.

The Tamils tried

refugees tried to explain to the German people and their government that, it was Chandrika Kumaratunge (the president) who was the obstacle to peace and not the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But the German government always insisted it was the LTTE that was the obstacle to peace. Even though the LTTE had several times implemented a unilateral cease-fire, at one point for four consecutive months, Chandrika’s government continued the war. During that time we proposed to the German government to use its influence on Chandrika to stop the war and to enter into talks for peace. But Chandrika’s policy was not talks for peace but ‘war for peace’! The German government ignored us and accepted Chandrika’s policy. In fact, the last time Chandrika was in Germany - 2001, the German government stated that it has complete faith in Chandrika’s politics. But now everyone can understand the consequence of Chandrika’s politics. Chandrika is making every effort to destroy the peace talks that are taking place now. German government must understand that they have made a serious mistake of backing Chandrika and ignoring us, and they must learn from this and work with us for peace. But, German government’s response (to the period of peace) is to use force to deport us, the Tamil refugees, who are the messengers for peace.

The Togolese tried

The Togolese refugees have also tried. So have refugees from many other lands. We appeal to peace activists to contact us to root your struggle with the mass of people in the world. We are the missing link – but it is easy to find us!