STEVE SWEENEY writes on tomorrow’s Huseyin Celebi literary festival, held in memory of the British-Kurdish film-maker Mehmet Aksoy, who was killed by Isis
TOMORROW, the 25th Huseyin Celebi literary festival — organised by the Kurdistan Students’ Union (YXK) in Europe — takes place in London.
It will be the first time that the festival has taken place outside of Germany and is held in the memory of British-Kurdish film-maker and journalist Mehmet Aksoy, who was killed by Isis fighters in northern Syria last month.
It is fitting that the festival is held in London days after Isis was defeated in Raqqa where Aksoy had been filming a documentary on the YPG People’s Protection Units.
Like Huseyin Celebi, Aksoy saw the importance of culture in the fight for Kurdish liberation. Both were talented and extraordinary men, and both dedicated their lives to the struggle for the Kurdish people.
The struggle for Kurdish freedom has also led to a cultural renaissance that has given new life to Kurdish traditions of music, art, literature and dance.
The internationalist perspective of the Kurdistan freedom movement’s struggle draws on a rich cultural tradition but at the same time reflects a deeply universal humanist vision.
Organiser of the London event Elif Sarican explains how arts and literature play an important role in challenging neoliberalism and capitalist hegemony.
She said: “In the early 1990s, this festival signified a historical step in retaliation to assimilation policies that Kurdish villages, towns and cities were subject to in the Middle East.
“In addition to recovering Kurdish culture, literature and arts, the aim ever since has been to revolutionise Kurdish identity in the Middle East and Europe — defending one’s freedom of existence through the love for humanity, diversity and peaceful coexistence.”
Celebi was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1967 during a period of heightened revolutionary struggle, with left-wing youth movements being built across Europe.
He was a poet and political activist born to parents who migrated from the Kurdish city of Dersim.
One of his first political actions was at the age of seven when his father and a family friend took him to a demonstration against the deportation of 169 Kurds from Turkey to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the treatment of Barzani and the displacement of Kurds.
After leaving school he focused almost entirely on political work and saw links between the Kurdish struggle and the developing national liberation movements of Latin America, Africa and other oppressed peoples.
Celebi was able to recognise the importance of linking the fight against the oppression of the Kurdish people to wider working-class struggle and followed the political situation in his home country of Germany closely.
He acted as a bridge between the Kurdish struggle and progressive organisations in the West — never separate from the Kurds in the mountains, never separate from the Kurdish struggle and never separate from the workers.
He recognised that the campaign for Kurdish liberation had to move beyond the Kurdish community.
Celebi worked long hours to produce literature and edited Kurdish Report, which gave information on the political situation both in Germany and internationally to the Kurdish community and information about the Kurdish struggle to the German people.
It was this solidarity that the authorities feared and they placed Celebi under constant surveillance. In 1988 he was arrested and charged with terrorism offences during an operation against suspected PKK sympathisers.
Celebi was the youngest of those who went on trial, yet despite being jailed, he continued to fight for freedom and justice for Kurds both in Kurdistan and in Europe where they faced poverty and oppression.
Following his release in 1991, he left Germany and travelled to Kurdistan where he joined the PKK’s armed struggle.
However, he was to be betrayed by the Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani’s forces in collaboration with the Turkish army and was killed in 1992.
Celebi was open about his politics and made no attempt to hide them. He understood that freedom for the Kurdish people meant organising among workers and supporting their struggles too.
It is an important lesson for today as Kurds face continue to face persecution and oppression.
At present, pro-Kurdish MPs are languishing in Turkish prisons and political censorship has seen the Turkish state shut down pro-Kurdish TV stations, newspapers and other media outlets.
Kurds played a leading role in driving the Isis death cult out of Raqqa and the future viability of their attempts to build an autonomous state in Rojava, northern Syria wil now come into focus.
But it is unity and solidarity between Kurds and the wider progressive movement that authorities fear as it is this unity that can bring about freedom and end oppression.
nSteve Sweeney is a Morning Star reporter
8The organisers invite all who strive to contribute in an imaginative and inspirational manner to defending freedom and living life in all its richness to the Huseyin Celebi Literature Fesitval which takes place tomorrow October 21 from 5-10pm at Gracepoint, 161-169 Essex Road, London, N1. Tickets cost £10 and are available via Eventbrite: bit.ly/2yckJtz. Come along and celebrate a memorable day of poetry, music, dance and food. The festival will hold an awards ceremony for poetry and short stories.