The proper definition of the relationship between social tradition and the current situation is still a major challenge for the social sciences. But how well can we understand the current phenomena, events, and processes without establishing their connection with tradition? How much influence does tradition have on the present? To what extent and how does the society experience tradition and present reality coterminously? Until we answer these questions, it will be difficult to come to a realistic and correct assessment of the current situation and the probable developments. Absent the necessary answers, any attempt at implementation will be inadequate and rife with errors. That is why our methodology is to constantly try to link history and the present. I am of the opinion that tradition is always embedded in the present, albeit for the most part encoded. The present moment and conditions change the parameters of tradition less than is generally assumed. But to be able to trace this in the world of facts, it is necessary to break a few of the codes. The reason I am engaging in extensive historical interpretations is to decipher the current implicit codes.
An example will make this clearer. Anyone—or at least those who are ideologically and politically interested in the twentieth century—who has heard of Lenin knows that his revolutionary integrity is beyond doubt. Nevertheless, I do not think that Lenin, in his theoretical and practical engagement with the question of power, succeeded in cracking its codes. And because he couldn’t decipher them, he laid the basis for the defeat of his own goals with the kind of system he built, which shows how important it is to correctly crack these codes. There are innumerable sages who analyzed and defined power in ways that are much more accurate than the analyses of today’s revolutionaries. They may not have smashed power, but they also did not become tainted by collaborating with it. Can we dismiss them as unimportant? The socialism that Lenin built using the old Russian power blocs from the czarist era survived a mere seventy years. Having provided a historical service to the system it opposed, it simply disintegrated without offering as much resistance as Saddam Hussein, who was just a run-of-the-mill rival power. Soviet socialism did not even warn the worldwide movement it was in agreement with and with which it shared the same goals of its coming collapse, in what was almost a betrayal of sorts. I do not see the point of engaging in endless criticism of the Leninist system. I think our clear observation needs to be that it failed to decipher the heavily encrypted code of power.
Without decoding the many layers of the traditional codes found in all revolutionary phenomena, events, and processes that we are working on currently, particularly those that are defined as periods of qualitative leaps, it would be very misguided to think that we could achieve developments that are genuine, desirable, and in accordance with our goals. My only concern is that without such historical social definitions, including mine, that may be inadequate and rife with errors, we cannot correctly and fully describe the present. The disastrous and horrifying life in the Middle East in the past, and even more today, clearly shows us the importance of deciphering these codes. Even if the latest technology is used, the consensus is that these problems cannot be solved with widespread violence. Nor can this situation, which is worse than brutal, be changed solely by economic, financial, political, and educational efforts. Nonetheless, it is obviously necessary that we strive to resolve the situation. This is why developing key concepts that aid in our effort to unravel tradition is important—and in this regard we are open to criticism. I deeply believe this is necessary for any present-day effort to be meaningful and yield success.
If we start from this point and mentally visualize the Middle East and all its capitals, the denunciation of Babylon in the Old Testament springs to mind, as does the aversion Sumerian poets felt for the Akkadian Empire,1 along with the Christians’ contempt for Rome, of course. Are Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca, Ankara, Istanbul, Kabul, Tehran, Cairo, and Islamabad not modern versions of Babylon? How is it possible for people to live in such a violated, desperate, and despicable way, despite the great culture behind them? How were people forced into this situation? Such an understanding and methodology cannot be found in any book—not in any art of war or the art of becoming a ruler?2 Even cannibalism means something where it occurs. But the same meaning is not to be found in the despotic monsters of the Middle East subjecting people to physical annihilation and the annihilation of meaning. It is difficult to find anywhere else where killing is as despicable, treacherous, and immoderate—the perpetrators call it “masterful”—as in the Middle East.
I still have to address a methodological problem. The contemporary priests of the West, the literary figures, philosophers, scientists, and artists of various sorts, investigate a phenomenon, event, or process by dismembering it and discretely analyzing its parts. They believe that research and study are possible only if its object is dissected and reduced to a cadaver. This always reminds me of the Sumerian priests’ method of reading the fate of humans in the movement of the stars in the sky. One is science, the other, mythology, but the outcome is the same.
I am convinced that the conduct of our “contemporary priests” is much more despicable. Why, despite all their detailed knowledge, are they unable to understand the twentieth-century campaigns of physical annihilation and the annihilation of meaning, which exceed anything we have seen in previous centuries many times over? Why are they unable to offer effective solutions? No phenomenon, event, or process that is not looked at in its entirety can be correctly defined. Analyzing things by boundlessly dismembering them, substantially overlooks or misses the truth and is not instructive but prevents a sound learning process.
Humanity’s formation needs to continue in a way that does not change its essence. The Western capitalist system results in excessive fragmentation and modification that makes this impossible. This is why it makes sense to call this system the society of crisis. Arts, philosophy, and science determine a person’s mentality. Mentality or spirituality cannot be dismembered. Such dismemberment kills. In the West, this is the dominant manner of killing, and it is spreading to the rest of the world. The most important aspect of human wisdom is its representation of this wholeness. Prophecy is a form of wisdom that has attained more sacredness. The difficulties and problems that wise people and prophets have faced were the result of their ability to take a holistic approach. On the other hand, any social institution or representation that doesn’t internalize science, philosophy, and the arts impairs the actuality of formation. In the final analysis, every perversion stems from a lack of holistic understanding. To look at phenomena, events, and processes with a singular mindset—more precisely with a dismembered mentality—is the most dangerous form of ignorance, because it destroys reality; this is the disease of this epoch and system. The perspective generally regarded as particularly scientific should actually be considered the most deceitful form of ignorance. A scientism—which is actually unrestrained analytic intelligence—that lacks spirituality and has lost touch with emotional intelligence is open to all kinds of dangers. It’s a kind of cancer: discourse cancer.
The problem is not about knowing too much but about living on the basis of that knowledge. The essence of social existence is to carry forward this knowing—science, philosophy, the arts—in all of its dimensions and in its wholeness as society’s mentality. This is the reality that our age has destroyed. This is also the reason for the destructive character of science. Nuclear annihilation, for example, is just the symbolic expression of this reality. The fact that humanity uses nuclear weapons against itself is no less brutal than cannibalism. While the real task of social science should be to prevent this dismemberment and preserve wholeness, it has itself become increasingly fragmented, thereby becoming the main source of danger. The result is innumerable local, regional, and global wars, nationalism, fascism, and every imaginable form of violence. I have, therefore, tried in this book to integrate religion, mythology, philosophy, science, and literature into a harmonic state of mind. A defense of the people,3 a defense of human essence, can only be developed on this basis. Ultimately, the strength of such a defense will depend on the degree to which the imposed civilizational paradigm is successfully analyzed and resisted.
The Middle East Today
The reality behind the chaotic situation of Middle East is to be found in the region’s roots in a millennia-old civilization. These roots and the influence of European culture over the last two hundred years has produced a deadlock instead of a solution. While European civilization has been developing habitable systems in all geocultures, it has been unsuccessful in the geoculture of the Middle East, and this problem is by no means merely regional. Huntington’s concept of the “clash of civilizations” has been roundly criticized, but it is actually realistic in some respects.4 There is a clash of civilizations, but it is not a struggle between Islamic and Western civilizations. The problem is deeper and more far-reaching. Even if Islam disappeared from the scene, the foundations of the conflict would continue to exist. The evil that escaped Pandora’s Box in Iraq in particular shows that the roots of this conflict run deep. A careful analyst would immediately recognize that all sorts of contemporary and historical figures have appeared on the scene of the Iraqi quagmire to peddle their various “solutions,” which might well lead to a historical solution but are just as likely to go nowhere at all. The parties to the conflict are not the caricatured Saddam and Bush but, rather, the numerous intertwined systems. The systems that have emerged since the Neolithic Age, with their ethnic, religious, and sexist shadings, are either trying to secure a place for themselves in the US-led empire of chaos or are attempting to exit the chaos.
In military conflicts, it is understandable that parties try to achieve a balance of power. But in conflicts and struggles between civilizations, the existing balance of power is difficult to determine. The substance of the conflict is complex. The use of military weapons in the conflict only plays a small part. The truly decisive factors are experienced at the level of the mentality and political and social structures, and it can take centuries for a conclusion to be reached.
Solutions can range from restoration to radical change. In a confrontation between two systems, the time factor must be taken into account. Even though the Middle East resists through the last Islamic civilization, this resistance is nothing beyond symbolic. Islam had its most productive period from the eighth to the twelfth centuries CE. Everything else is just a shell; it has nothing to offer beyond the grandeur of its past. Islam is so out of touch that it cannot even be reformed. The resurgence of Islam in the last thirty years is entirely artificial. Its resurgence within a Western civilizational environment is itself because of the West. It has no originality. Opposition in the name of Islam means accepting defeat right from the start.
What model should the Middle East follow? Adopting the innovations of European civilization cannot be anything but artificial. The contributions made by European civilization to politics, society, and economy don’t really provide a solution but, rather, lead to stagnation. There is no place that people could migrate to in the way that Jews migrated to Israel. It is also impossible to imitate Africa. African culture may struggle within itself, but it can only try to replicate European civilization. A conflict wouldn’t make much sense and could only have limited success. Asian and Pacific systems, such as those in China, India, and Japan, could achieve results by skillfully transmitting the European system. Their cultures enable harmony, not resistance, to be more meaningful and successful. The cultural framework of Latin America has lived with the European system for five hundred years. This cultural framework can achieve a sustainable life by being a little more creative, although it is difficult. But the culture of the Middle East does not resemble that of any of these regions. From its regimes to its understanding of individuality, from its mentality to its economic structures, unsustainability and chaos are on the agenda.
Today, the mentality of the Middle East is in complete disarray. It is very far removed from the revolution in mentality that took place in Europe. There is no apparent desire for a Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment adapted to the specific conditions of the region, although there is no inhibition to mimicking the latest trends or drawing upon the practical advances the European Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment have given rise to. There is also no great understanding of the historical roots and development of the mentality of the Middle East that people in the region think of as their own. For all groups, interpreting history is nothing more than trite self-adulation. For mentality communities, examining history is nothing but an opportunity for self-praise and for declaring their opponents to be enemies. There is no other, no third, side.
Even the question of how objective or subjective these interpretations are never arises; there is neither a synthesis of the templates of mentality nor a habit of thinking in terms of opposites, i.e., thesis and antithesis. Rather, the thinking is paradigmatically closer to viewing things as black-and-white. Nature is not seen as something animate and ebullient, as it was during the Renaissance or the Neolithic Age, but is portrayed in a hopeless, worn-out, and pessimistic way. The way society is viewed not only lacks utopia, but the magnificent elements of tradition—mythology, religion, and wisdom—are also entirely lost. Neither what lays behind nor what is to come are approached with any hope or excitement, and without hope and excitement there can be no creativity. The scientific, philosophical, and the artistic fruits of mentality have dried up. It does not have much of an assertion anymore. Instead, a spiritual atmosphere that is worse than insanity is a constant. Pride in the past and hope for the future are long gone. Any thought as to the meaning of life is vague and distant, and no one feels confident about anything they do. The desire to understand has withered away. People devote all of their energy to just getting through the day.
Even people who are generally regarded as particularly socially skilled are unable to develop relationships that go beyond cliques and cronyism. Their commitment to an organization or party is based on a deep-seated egocentrism. As such, they are very insidious and exploit existing values. Their last refuge is a symbolic familialism that has long since lost its original meaning and is now perhaps one of the most reactionary spheres of life. There is no longer a profound love for human beings, no humanism. There can be no love if there is no definition of what it means to be a human. Even the greatest nationalists have a self-interest that is tightly knit with expediency. In short, what is left of the historical mentality of the Middle East is little more than obliviousness, an embrace of it in ignorance, and illusions so totally devoid of creativity that they cannot even be called fantasy. At the same time, however, pride prevents the adoption of the mentality of Europe and the Far East—the strength is simply lacking.
Regardless of the phenomenon, event, or process these definitions of the mindset, which could be further developed, were applied to they would not allow for an enlightening analytical result. The blockage lies with the mentality. When patterns of mentality, including religion, nationalism, and socialism, combine with the existing mentality in the Middle East, they are denatured and turn into blunt tools with nothing to offer. The nature of the existing mentality prevents it from solving any problem. Furthermore, because of the nature of this mentality, no synthesis with other mentalities is possible. As a result, all proposed solutions are doomed to failure before they even get off the ground. The give and take necessary for meaningful development is lacking. There is not even a mentality that, as was once the case in Europe, could be the target of a Praise of Folly.5 In the mentality reflected in the medieval epic Layla and Majnun, there is at least blind love. Today, however, there is nothing left of that love, even if it is blind. The result is nihilism—suicide. The final stage in the loss of meaning in human existence. Beyond this, all manner of madness is possible, and this is exactly what we find. Where else in the world is there as much madness as we find in the area stretching from Afghanistan to Morocco, and how much longer can this go on?
To describe the situation only in narrow economic, political, and military terms is insufficient. The malady is in the mentality. The only way to overcome this is by waging a substantive struggle for meaning. There is a need for contemporary figures like Mawlana and his dancing dervishes, Mani and his synthesis of religions, Suhrawardi with his Philosophy of Illumination,6 examples of which are common in the history of the Middle East. Today’s scene is dominated by a fake sectarianism with a diseased mentality that must be overcome if these respectable historical values are to once again give us strength. The other mentalities of our time are in deep crisis. What contribution can they make? This is why grasping the meaning and importance of the struggle for a suitable mentality and making an effort to that end is one of the fundamental tasks at present.
Obviously, a general understanding of the essence of history and a familiarity with contemporary science and philosophy are prerequisites for a successful process of mentality enlightenment. Without absorbing Western science and philosophy, it will be impossible to connect with history and to create the necessary synthesis. This is not something that can be carried out with Islamism or Buddhism. While, in my books, I am also in conflict with Western mentality, this is not a blind conflict. I want an honest and genuine rapprochement, but Western mentality does not in and of itself seem satisfactory to me. It has immense moral shortcomings, but it nonetheless possesses enormous scientific knowledge. The aspect of Western thought that I envy and respect the most is the ability to successfully achieve this scientific knowledge. At the same time, I’m sure that a huge malady or deficiency stems from this very fact. I am convinced that with regard to moral and ethical questions, Western scientists are no more than a contemporary version of the Sumerian priests. Moreover, I don’t believe they can overcome this flaw. The mercilessness of their approach to nature and society—almost devouring them–is frightening. They should have created ethical values that kept pace with their scientific knowledge.
How do these scientists reconcile letting the system be unethical with their consciences and their enlightened minds? Who or what has caused them to do so? Perhaps the ruling power bought them off long ago. The situation of the class of scientists may well be one of greater dependency than that of the working class. This is the basis of my despair. That said, during the Renaissance, scientists displayed a fierce resistance. Can we revitalize the spirit of people like Giordano Bruno in the present? Will we succeed in letting the voice of a Socrates ring out anew? Nobody can claim that the mindsets of these great men have perished forever. Rather, their spirits, along with those of Mawlana, Mansur al-Hallaj, Mani, and Suhrawardi must be revived. The soul and the essence of things that are prophetic also need a contemporary form. It is necessary that we live with the understanding that, in a certain sense, these figures have not died and must be genuinely represented. Doing so, these links, could bring us closer to the mindset that we need today. This does not mean that I do not appreciate the values of our age, and it would not be very creative to do nothing more than revive these past forces who were defeated long ago and from whom alone no positive impulses will emerge.
I am aware that when there is a need to defend a people, the Kurdish people, and with them, all of the people of the Middle East, the greatest power would be a new or transformative power. I fully understand that taking refuge under the wings of this or that political power will only continue the current deadlock. In the same way, I am also aware that any help received in that context might well foster weakness rather than conferring strength. The refusal to seek refuge under the wing of a guardian angel may provide the opportunity to develop the intellect. Solitude, if one can cope with it, may even give rise to the mentality that is required for our time. The whole world system piled on top of me when I was in the Middle East. It does not really matter whether it was intentional or spontaneous. But if NATO, the system’s largest military power, and the US, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the scheming Greek state consciously participated in putting me in this enormous solitude, having had many reasons to be made enormous and terrible, what I must do is wage a war of morality and the intellect, a war that will be the greatest war of all. Such a war could perhaps bring them to their senses and, thereby, possibly contribute to successfully ending the real war that has begun in the Middle East.
State power in the Middle East is an imposing obstacle to development in mentality and is far from paving the way for civilian initiatives to open up the society. A historical definition would illuminate what it is today. Its despotic character has hardly changed, even though attempts have been made to refurbish it with the contemporary polish of nationalism, republicanism, or socialism. Its posture over the last two hundred years is not based on its own power. Internal conflicts within the West have played a fundamental role. Then, in the twentieth century, it could only sustain itself by creating a balance of power between fascism and real socialism. In fact, at the moment, it is experiencing an extremely frag-ile balance of power with the world’s leading power blocs, which is why some states are now being described as “rogue states.” After the disintegration of the Soviet Union this fragility gave way to precarious blocs of power and government blocs that resemble icebergs floating in the ocean, which makes them dangerous. The winners and losers of wars can find a place of some sort within a new balance of power. Ruling powers in the Middle East, however, see sealing themselves off from a solution to be the highest art of power—likely adopting this position in the service of the most despotic of interests. Of course, they hide this very efficiently, using pretexts like “elevated national interests,” the “unity and integrity of state and fatherland,” or “the well-being of society.” That the people suffer, that their country is in ruins, and that the society is far from being healthy doesn’t matter to these ruling powers in the least. For them, demagoguery is the most effective approach to politics and the subtlest forms of populism have been developed, all putatively in the name of democracy. Disguising the state’s true machinations with shameless lies is seen to be mastery in the art of politics. Kicking the people from one political corner to the other, as if they were a soccer ball, is called “effective leadership.”
Politics is the art of solving the vital problems of society, but in the current reality in Middle East it has become the mastery of occlusion. It does not even have as much value as conservative politics. Under certain circumstances, fascism presents itself as a solution. The Middle East, however, is ruled by archaic forms that go beyond fascism. It is most unfortunate that at the very moment when this system was on the verge of collapse and should have been destroyed, the balance of power unnecessarily prolonged its life for two hundred years. When modern military technology was added to this, it became a true Leviathan.
Theocracy as the Foundation of Every State
The foundation of the state is theocracy. This has never changed no matter what form it has taken. One should see the theocratic state as essence rather than form. It is important to see the ideological essence in the ferment of this institution that arose around the priest’s temple in the Middle East. Without establishing a bond of credibility in the mindset it would be difficult to make thousands of people work for a very long time in the service of the temple with naked force alone.7 The divine, or “sacred,” quality of the state arises from this need. The state construct cannot be made solid and long-lasting without relying on the dominant mentality and ensuring legitimacy, whether based on mythological or religious belief.
The leitmotif of the Old Testament is the need of the Hebrew tribe—which played a huge role in the formation of monotheistic religion—to become an authority and to establish a state distinct from the Egyptian and Sumerian states, which, in all their grandeur, stood on either side of it. In this sense, the Holy Scripture forms a kind of ideological foundation for the kingdom of the Hebrews. The First and Second Books of Samuel in particular are close to being a foundational manifesto for the state of Judah—a god-state. While Zoroastrianism was the decisive religious factor at the base of the Median-Persian Empire, Christianity became the common gene of all post-Roman European states. The Islamic state, for its part, was religion in and of itself at its very birth. All medieval Islamic states necessarily regarded themselves as religious states. In Iran, Shiite Islam, which replaced Zoroastrianism, is still the state’s official ideology. Islam is the religion of the state and the official ideology in all Arab countries. The Republic of Turkey, which has declared itself to be secular, has the largest staff for religious affairs—the official ideology and official state religion being Sunni Islam. Islam is the official state religion. Pakistan and Afghanistan are officially Islamic states, and Israel is also a theocratic state.
Without a radical revolution in thought, the idea of a secular state will remain utopian. However, we can speak of implicitly or explicitly religious states. Unless the state transforms itself into a transparent institution that serves general security and the necessary common good, it cannot liberate itself from its religious structures and attain a truly secular character.
Society in the Middle East is dominated by the state to a degree unparalleled in any contemporary regime. The more the state grows in opposition to society, the more powerful it feels itself to be. It sees the totalitarian state as its ultimate guarantor and the source of its strength. Thus, attributes of the state, such as traditional, sacred, motherly, and fatherly, are never lacking. The state feeding the people has become a classic expression of this. But first the state steals from the people, then it playacts the role of the bighearted philanthropist distributing alms to beggars. Thus, it is more dangerous than the worst criminal, because it can legitimate any misdeeds by invoking its authority. We indeed have many reasons to say that the real Leviathan is the modern-day state. The bitter irony is that to the people this state appears to be the guarantor of work and bread. The very state that drained everything is now expected to provide the services that will bring about everything.
Without an analysis of the state in the Middle East, we will not be able to overcome any economic or social problem. That today’s state in the Middle East can neither be like the state the West favors, with its developed
democratic sensitivity, nor an openly—as opposed to implicitly—fascist state is the source of all of the problems. It must be restructured. The problem cannot be resolved, as if often claimed, by solutions based on concepts like “unitary,” “local,” or “federal.” Above all, there is a need for a state that is open to finding a solution. At the very least, the state must cease to be an obstacle to the freedom of the individual and the democratization of society. It not only has to downsize; most of all, it has to become more functional. Except for those devoted to reasonable general security and true common good, it must abandon all other unnecessary institutions and rules. Without that sort of reform, seeking to resolve any problem will end in a deadlock because of this inert and cumbersome nature of the state.
Today, the problem of state power poses itself more urgently than ever before. Without falling into the malady of the real socialist, social democratic, and national liberation states of the recent past or, indeed, falling for delusions of conquering the state through compromises or by destroying it and erecting a new one in its place, our fundamental task must be to create the possibility of a principled democratic compromise or solution. This task must become the goal of all political activity.
The social fabric of the Middle East is where the crisis is experienced most intensely. All social establishments, such as the family, aşiret, city, the peasantry, the unemployed, religious communities, intellectuals, and popular health and education institutions, are experiencing their most nihilistic and crisis-ridden period. The social body resembles an obese patient cordoned off by power and the dominant ideology from above and squeezed by an economy characterized by scarcity from below. However, it is not the obesity we come across in the US or the EU, but, rather, calls to mind the swollen bellies of the starving children in Africa. The people, as the social fabric in these institutions, no longer play any real role. The institutions themselves do not generally play any meaningful role. Reality is only found in the cafés and tea houses. The institutional reality that should be an instrument for socialization of the individual has turned into a trap that ensnares people,8 leading to a further degeneration of the already compromised health and socialization, exacerbating the existing crisis. The arabesque music, with its wailing tone and its resignation to fate, is the sick artistic reflex in the face of this reality. Moreover, the social fabric that comes from the outside is inadequate and hasn’t even developed defense mechanisms against attacks, because it lacks the necessary mentality and moral wherewithal to do so. Since the social structure is determined by the political structure, the social revolution reflexes have also largely been blunted. Only very rarely do we find spontaneous social dynamism that does not originate from within the state or result from some demagogic policy. Sociality is unable to function as anything other than the ballyhooing of the state and its politicization, because it is not accustomed to having any other role. This is how the principle works: it is squeezed by the economy and drawn out by the state, and the greater the economic problems become, the louder the cry goes out to the state, which exploits this to the maximum. Civil society’s search for solutions and its efforts to this end, on the basis of its own interests, are limited.
The Situation of Women
The social tragedy generated by the mercilessness and hopelessness of politics in the Middle East shows itself the most in the reality of women. As the prisoner of a five-thousand-year-old hierarchy and state tradition, no other life is harder than that of today’s woman. The difficulty does not merely arise from the tradition. The feminine values produced by European civilization are at least as destructive as the dogmatic traditions. Women are horrified at being caught between a culture that embraces pornography and the culture of the pitch-black veil—they are entirely disoriented.
The woman of the Middle East is an artificial figure who is even older than the state. All the virtues of being a woman have been flipped on their head. Everything about herself that she can be proud of and that can be shared is dominated by the moral law. The only activity open to a woman in a situation where religious tradition has deprived her of herself and turned her into a man’s most valuable property is absolute compliance with the wishes of her man. What an emperor is for the state, men in general and husbands in particular are for women. In the vocabulary of masculinity, a joint decision or a compromise made with a woman is seen as shameful. Absolute and unconditional commitment—with no principles—to her husband is regarded as the highest virtue of a woman within this morality. She is far from being able to freely claim that she has a body and soul. The political, economic, and social structures have weakened and excluded her to the degree that she eagerly searches for a man she can slavishly devote herself to. She is lonesome, and her situation appears to be worse than death.
Since all other women are in a similar situation, there is hardly anyone who is in a position to understand them and give them hope for a truly humane life. The reality of being culturally besieged forces women to constantly surrender. No matter how much they resist—unless they consider suicide—they will be broken. Thereafter, all the excessive modes of femininity are taken on. Each part of her body is marked with a sign from these modes. Womanhood is truly the most difficult craft. The period when a woman is single can be compared to being an appetizer at the table of hungry wolves, while the period of motherhood is filled with the endless pain of many births. Raising each and every child becomes true torture. Furthermore, women are permanently disappointed by a world that offers no hope for her offspring. One pain is added to another. The social status of women in the Middle East is the cruelest of practices. The slavery of women resembles the slavery of the people, the difference being that the slavery of women is even older.
The proposition that women’s reality largely determines social reality is certainly correct. In the Middle East, the extreme masculinity and extreme femininity represent a dialectical contradiction. The resultant negative features for men from this relationship is the hollowness of the dominant masculinity. The rule of the powerful over men is projected onto women by men and then onto children by women. Therefore, the permea-tion of domination from top downward to the bottom is all-encompassing. The level of woman’s slavery constantly reproduces the most unfavorable of conditions, thus further deepening the level of slavery in society. The power at the top can easily rule the feminine society born in this manner. As well as suffering the greatest cruelty against their will, women are also turned into means that allow society to live even more cruelly. The Middle East is forced to capitulate by outside forces, and it has internal difficulties because of the relationships it has imposed upon women.
For these reasons, the chance of any movement that is not based on women’s freedom leading to a genuinely and permanently free society is limited. This is also why attempts at targeting power first, for example, socialism and national liberation, did not lead to the longed for results. The work to achieve women’s freedom goes far beyond the question of equality of the sexes; it is the essential substance of democracy, human rights, environmentalism, and social equality.
The first step to be taken toward women’s freedom is to avoid treating them like property and to make sure they become forces for action in their own interests. The currently fashionable concept of “love,” overloaded with feelings of property ownership, is rife with danger at its very core. In a society with hierarchical and statist traditions, love is the greatest of all deceptions. It is a construct meant to cover up the crime committed. Respect for women and support for their freedom means, above all, admitting the existing reality and working honestly and sincerely to overcome it in the pursuit of freedom. A man who lives out his dominant masculinity, however he may perceive it, to the detriment of women cannot himself be considered a sound value for freedom. Achieving a physical, mental, and intellectual strengthening of women is perhaps the most valuable of all revolutionary efforts. In the Middle East culture, which was once the center of the mother-goddess cult, a true heroism of freedom is required to make a contribution to reenable women to have the power to make independent decisions and make their own choices, alongside their other advanced social values.
The role of economy within the overall mentality, power, and social status is one that complements social integrity. Liberal economy has no place within traditions or at present. The biggest monopoly is the state, which makes it possible to run the economy in the interests of political power. While, in Western civilization, the economy partially determines ruling power, in the Middle East mainly it is the ruling power that determines the economy. The presumed economic laws are barely valid in the geoculture of the region. On the one hand, there are small household and family economies—a remnant of the Neolithic period, and, on the other hand, there is the state economy. In between, there are shopkeepers and merchants who are dependent on the state. The middle class has limited prospects for influencing the state and its policies based on its economic power. The state, on the other hand, can’t function without the economy, because it is the indispensable source of its rule. Only when the state in the Middle East is completely restructured on the basis of the Western model will its influence on the economy recede.
This economic structure explains why the state in the Middle East has often in the course of history been called a “merchant state.” Its economic character serves to explain the many wars that have flared up around trad-ing routes and why states have collapsed when cut off from these routes. While the Western states mainly developed by capital accumulation and industrialization, the Eastern states did so through trade, confiscation, and unearned income. Instead of relying on capital accumulation and industry, they used the values they amassed in this way to run the state. It is part of ancient political craftiness to regard everything that belongs to the society, the homeland and all its resources, including the human being, as the private property of the state and to try to sell everything. The state’s behavior resembles that of a thief distributing stolen goods.
Therefore, any economic development in the Middle East requires that the present status quo within society be disentangled. The present structure of the states impedes their integration into the global economy. With its current economic framework, the chaotic and crisis-ridden system will be unable to prevent the accelerating process of society’s dissolution. That states find it necessary to resort to heavy-handed despotic methods is best understood as an attempt to prevent this dissolution.
The Western system has long supported despotism for exactly this reason. This support mainly served to open access to a larger share of the oil wealth and to prevent movements that could create problems for the system. Today, the harm caused by these methods outstrips the profits they bring in. The system has rendered itself superfluous, as further impoverishing the masses decreases the population’s purchasing power. The events around the regime in Iraq illustrate this very clearly. As the falling purchasing power makes it more difficult to control the masses, the despotic state structure begins to obstruct the global system. Being squeezed from both sides is the material basis for the Greater Middle East Initiative.
In short, in today’s Middle East, the status quo can no longer be sustained. It took advantage of the balance of power created by fascist Germany and Soviet Russia to extend its lifetime for a hundred years. The demise of both of those systems substantially limits its new policy of achieving a balance of power. The contradictions between the US and the EU, on the one hand, and between the US and China, on the other hand, do not allow for a new balance of power ploy. For similar reasons, Turkey’s attempt to lead a new solidarity alliance does not have much potential of success. Power blocs that do not integrate into the system to an acceptable degree create the most dangerous but also the most dynamic region in today’s world. Power blocs that deny individual freedom and prevent the democratization of society are becoming increasingly unacceptable to the global system. In much the way they entered into World War I and World War II, the bloc made up of the US, the leading power in the empire of chaos, and its allies has now, in a certain sense, begun World War III with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. While NATO steered to the region, other important powers, including Russia, China, and India, are neutralized. With the Greater Middle East Initiative, they are attempting to find a way out of the chaos and toward a solution. In response, people too can formulate an option, thereby putting more democratic, free, and egalitarian solutions on the agenda.
We are quite obviously going through a period of chaos. There were similar phases during World War I and World War II. The emergence of the Soviet Union during World War I and the defeat of fascist Germany during World War II led to the formation of power blocs that, having come out of chaos, were unstable. All the states that emerged out of the remnants of two big empires—the Ottoman and the Persian Empires—proved unable to adopt either the Soviet system or the classic Western system, but they were able to extend their lifetime into the 1990s by taking advantage of the balance of power between these two systems. When the balance of power was destroyed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, parts of power in the Middle East increasingly became “rogue states.” It was impossible to live with the new global system, so the US-led coalitions entered the region. The system’s partial crisis situation has the traits of a complete chaos in the Middle East. Under these peculiar circumstances, the analogy of a World War III cannot easily be dismissed. In fact, this is a consolidation of unsettled accounts from World War I and World War II. Allowing new despotic regimes to rise would not make sense within the logic of globalization.
The system must open up to the demanding masses of people, not to those of the state blocs, and this will require getting a share of the wealth and democracy.
Can we speak of a new stage in the imperialism phase? To what extent does the talk about “democratic imperialism”—according to the system’s standards, of course—correspond to reality? Are other options possible? What are we to understand by the concept of “moderate Islam,” i.e., the Turkish model? To what degree can Western democratic models be modified to suit the requirements of the Middle East?
What, on the other hand, can the social democratic globalization, even if weak, which has begun to raise its voice with the World Social Forum–Porto Alegre, mean for the region? Can a Democratic Middle East Federation be developed as a realistic utopia? Can a Democratic Iraq Federation be the prototype for such a tendency? For an idea like this to have a chance in this historical period, there is much work to be done by social science and morality. A social science that escapes the monopoly of power-knowledge and dares to build its own science would be vital to finding fruitful solutions for exiting the chaos. To arrive at a societal structure that is more democratic, favors woman’s freedom, and is ecological, we first need a new social science framework. What follows is an attempt to sketch a draft for this noble and exciting undertaking.
If September 11, 2001, is to be truly considered a turning point, it should not be seen as the beginning of World War III but as the beginning of a strategic stage of the war that followed the Cold War—we could call it the “postmodern war.”
To what extent did the plot that led to my abduction play a role in this? Was it a provocation by the global system? Compared to the objective developments, the answers to these questions are mere details. Many thinkers, groups, and political forces find the US offensive senseless and regard it as a violation of international law and ethics. There have been many negative reactions. But despite all obstacles, the system’s dominant power carried out a strategic offensive.
In light of our social and historical analysis to this point, it appears that the US is acting as an empire within the chaos. Just because we find this immoral and illegal does not make it any less true. At the moment, many nation-states, particularly the nation-states in the democratic republics of the EU, are very concerned, maybe rightly so. All the same, they are not being realistic. The globality of systems and their tendency to turn into empires has existed since Sargon of Akkad (c. 2400 BCE). Should we be surprised that the US carries forward these world empires, handed over by the British and the Soviets practically without a fight, by unifying them into a single empire, hundreds of links having been added along the way?
We can discuss the third big global offensive of capitalism and the depth of its crisis. Its chaotic features can be listed. All of which would confirm that this period requires a regime with imperial qualities. As civilization advances, many people insistently point out that states don’t accept lacunae and politics can’t tolerate a vacuum. It is, therefore, inevitable that the US, site of the most recent scientific and technological revolution, has established its leadership and created immense military and economic power and continues to expand, as the system’s structure dictates. This is the nature of politics and the state. Noting this, as we said above, does not mean that we think that the US is in the right.
Similarly, saying that the age of nation-states is over is not tantamount to approval of global imperialism. The truth is that the forces behind the global economy and the military and political reality no longer regard this nation-state model as fruitful but see it as a hindrance. Contrary to what nationalist discourse suggests, a nation-state is not a completely independent state. There is no such concept as complete independence in the world of any phenomenon. The actual universal reality is interdependence. There is no object and subject that are not mutually dependent. The fetishized independent nation-state is a petite bourgeois utopia. Neither the independence of states nor the independence of nations is real.
States and nations depend on one another because they have different properties. The form of dependence imposed by the US imperial tendency is the most flexible. It doesn’t rely on outdated methods like rigid colonialism, ethnic cleansing, or religious fanaticism. Rather, it experiments with forms of dependency that are even more postmodern than neocolonialism. In any case, because of the structure of their rule, a large number of nation-states perceive dependence on the US as rewarding. The nation-state has not been abolished, but it is also not permitted to behave as recklessly (i.e., as a “rogue state”) as was previously the case. In this new phase of globalization, nation-states will inevitably have to reorient, a process that is taking place right now everywhere from Europe to China. This is not about a new war but about either bringing the ongoing war to an end or making it profitable for the system. When and where necessary, the US imposes the system’s chaos regime, using economic and military means to preserve the status quo, to prevent further decline, or to renew structures and make them more expedient. It tries to realize its own alternative plans by developing far-reaching solutions and exiting the existing chaos. If this reality in the Middle East is our starting point, what possible developments can we predict?
We must always be aware that the US worldview is based both on the scientific revolution and its own interpretation of religious and philosophical reality. It develops its own models, projects, and plans by putting hundreds of thinktanks into action, constantly checking data, rarely slipping into dogmatism, and making frequent corrections. In all of this, historical developments are not ignored. The US tries to meaningfully develop its own models by finding a historical basis for them. All of this provides the US with the opportunity to flexibly plan new nuanced projects.
The Greater Middle East Initiative, as it has come to be called, targets the post-1990s with an analysis of recent imperialism and of attempts to solve current problems. It finds the order established by France and England after World War I flawed and inadequate. It even includes a self-critical reflection that after World War II its own practices strengthened despotism in the name of security and stability. The extreme impoverishment of the people of the Middle East is regarded as detrimental and dangerous to the system. Therefore, they seem to want to address economic development, individual freedom, democratization, and security simultaneously. In an attempt to prevent new explosions, it hopes to use this model to solve chronic problems like Israel-Palestine, Kurds-Arabs, and Turkey-Iran and to find a solution to the social fabric that has been shredded by despotism. In a way, this is a new Marshall Plan, like that once realized in Europe and similar to the approach taken to Japan but adapted to the Middle East. When a region so extremely important to the system—and this one certainly is—undergoes a period of chaos, a project like this is both necessary and realistic. It is actually surprising that it took so long. But now the system’s project is taking shape step by step and picking up speed.
But the big problem standing in the way of such a project is the fact that the Middle East is in a totally different position than post-collapse Europe and Japan were. The Middle East has never experienced an Enlightenment or an Industrial Revolution. Democratization was never on the agenda. Without destroying the despotic political systems based on denominations and ethnic groups that are weighed down with nationalism and religionism, which are worse than fascism, there can be no renewal of the kind that occurred in Europe or Japan. The existing regimes are constantly producing crises. The local state blocs, which are very crafty, are masters at securing their existence at any cost. Those who masquerade as the opponents of the system are nothing but despotism’s spare tires. The main goal is advocacy of the state, and the remnants of the god-state are stronger than presumed. The current states are merely empty shells with no historical role. In a way, they are the strongest of all the religious communities. The individuals produce them, and they, in turn, produce the individuals. Even the opposition considered the most revolutionary does not have any goal other than determining how it could better run the state.
On the other hand, historically, the region has a federative character. It cannot endure so many nation-states. The number of existing states itself breeds a deadlock. Under such conditions, denominations, ethnic structure, sects (tariqat), and other religious community–like groups bind the states to themselves and enter a period of mutual bolstering. This structure itself is the dead end, and it is this structure that the Western states have always supported. If their project is to have the desired effect, the first thing they will have to do is discard these regimes.
The US finds itself at an impasse in the truest sense of the word. After September 11, 2001, it took steps that may well have more serious consequences than the decision to enter World War I or World War II. For the US, the consequences of World War I were not too profound and did not reach a threshold where they affected the fate of the system. The war did, however, demonstrate the importance of the US. Even had it been defeated in the war, it could simply have retreated to its own continent and carried on without any problems. Then, after World War II, it succeeded in encircling the Soviet system. Even though the US lost some wars, as well as control over some territory, it succeeded in retaining, even expanding, its power. In both world wars, it was dealing with more modern state structures that it shared a Christian culture with. Under these circumstances, there were only a limited number of factors that could have deepened any clash of civilizations. Although the parameters of a certain chaos became apparent, they were not significant enough to threaten the system.
But in the Middle East, we find very different and clearly distinct factors. The US must either risk war with this despotic system, which has been becoming increasingly conservative since 1250 CE, or retreat. Wars such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq are insufficient. Without breaking up the power blocs in the region, each step taken will mean even more serious failure. Relying on one despotic state to defeat another is certainly not an effective tactic. The culture of the Middle East is skilled at reproducing despotism in situations like that. But should the US decide to take the whole thing down, it will be faced with the problem of controlling the masses. The deadlock in Iraq provides numerous lessons that could explain not only what is happening now but also what could happen. The US was a long-time supporter of the regime, which just made the problems worse. The regime is now ravaged, but both the general cultural milieu and various power blocs stand ready to foster new structures that are either identical or very similar. It is very unlikely that the cultural milieu can be overcome simply by introducing Western individualism. Dismantling the power blocs would be a truly revolutionary step. Such are the dialectics of the current impasse.
It seems inevitable that the UN and NATO will enter the picture. But this can’t happen in a superficial way, as it did in Afghanistan or Somalia. The situation requires a lasting and comprehensive effort. It is only gradually becoming clear how important it is to actually analyze the Middle East. The problems that accompany its dissolution will be many times more complex than the difficulties raised by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The consequences we can anticipate from breaking the molds of power and the mentality in the region, which have become increasingly conservative over the last eight hundred years, have no parallel anywhere in the world. The unfettered sociality of individuals, tribes, and religious communities would be a powder keg that could be set alight at any point.
What revolution in mentality or economic revolution could dismantle these little despotic blocs and establish a new mentality and economic structures in their place? With what and how will the gulf between the European individual, that product of deep-seated traditions created by the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, and the individual in the Middle East, as defined here, be overcome? Even though East European culture is not all that different from the culture of the rest of Europe, it has taken a quarter of a century for the transition from a highly modernizing system like real socialism to a liberal system and this is only now beginning to show some success, even though this is a system-immanent solution. Whether or not a similar dissolution in the Middle East could result in a system-immanent solution is a subject for extensive discussion. Clearly, a future rife with problems awaits us.
On the other hand, a failure on the part of the US-led coalition would create even more strategic problems. For the US, it would be a blow of global proportions that would serve to hasten the decline of the empire. Should the US suffer a defeat in the Middle East, it would set in motion a period of US defeats in Asia, Europe, and Africa. It might even be unable to retain its positions vis-à-vis South America, Mexico, and Canada, finding itself in a position similar to that of Russia. But given the current balance of power, for the US to accept such a drastic outcome is against the reality of being a ruling power. Therefore, the US will proceed strategically. Whatever it may cost and whatever the worldwide objections may be, it has to remain in the Middle East and produce some results and some solutions.
If we were to put the short-term, medium-term, and long-term problems that the Western capitalist system will have to solve into a hypothetical order, Afghanistan and Iraq would be the first in line in the short-term. In both cases, the idea of a democratic federation is being discussed, and feder-ate structures are thought of as the new model countries for the region. Their draft constitutions envisage democratic federal systems, at least on paper. This is clearly an approach that involves innovations and ideals. The practical outcome is awaited with much anticipation. The encounter between cultures that include many ethnic and religious groups, on the one hand, and democratic federalism, on the other, could lead to a major civilizational transformation. In a way, it would have an impact comparable to the French and Russian Revolutions. Be all that as it may, the restoration of the old despotic regimes certainly seems very unlikely.
Democratic federalism is a structure that could only function with great difficulty in the empire of chaos. Where would the forces that could lead such a structure be found? The aspirants to power, which are at least as despotic as past regimes, are far removed from the mental and political structures that would be required to bring the ethnic and denominational character to a positive synthesis. The liberal free individual has still only developed a little in the Middle East. Democratic and socialist idealists are practically nonexistent. The nostalgists are so shallow that they are unable to assume any responsibility even for themselves. So trust is displaced onto the UN, NATO, the EU, and the coalition forces. The democratic federalism of an externally dependent structure would be highly questionable.
The most important medium-term problems are the Arab-Israeli conflict and Kurdish-Arab, Kurdish-Iranian, and Kurdish-Turkish relations. No doubt, the new distinct efforts of the UN, NATO, the EU, and the coalition could accelerate solutions to these historical problems. These problems are complex and have historical roots that reach far back into the depths of civilization and a relationship to modernity that is rife with contradictions and tensions. The solution to the Arab-Israeli problem largely depends on peace and strengthening democratization in the region. Contrary to popular belief, saying that the Israel-Palestine problem must be solved first creates the risk of deferring a solution for another fifty years. At the root of the problem lies Arab society and states that are not democratizing. A democratization of state and society in the Arab world would create the conditions for Israel-Palestine peace. If this democratization is not achieved, the conflict will further strengthen the conservative mentality and structures in Arab society and states that are far from democratic or orientated toward freedom and egalitarianism, as has been the case to this day.
The Kurdish question is even more complex and multifaceted. Kurds have deep-seated problems with the Arab, Iranian, and Turkish states and social structures. Kurds are denied even the most basic civil rights, and their political and economic rights are not even on the agenda. They are subjected to cultural genocide. The recent impositions of the US might lead to a few tentative steps and may result in some limited developments. The Iraqi federal state of Kurdistan is particularly open to provocation. Under the influence of the UN, NATO, and the coalition, further flare-ups can be expected. The current status of the Kurds effectively forces them to revolt. If a sustainable and a meaningful democratic solution proves impossible, we can expect a bloody geography that is even worse than what we see in the Israel-Palestine conflict. A conflict with a Kurdish population of forty to fifty million in the most inaccessible geography would further aggravate the problems of the region and would leave the region open to all sorts of possible developments.
A long-term solution will only be possible through advances in human rights, democratization, and economic development in Iran, Pakistan, the Turkic republics, and the Arab states and societies. Conservatism and the powerful interest blocs within states and social structures will fiercely resist any such development. However, there can be a limited system-immanent transformation if the dominant system succeeds in reaching out to the people and offering them feasible, constructive alternatives and the pressure put is never absent.
In the short, medium, and the long run an extensive use of military and economic power will be necessary. The execution of the Greater Middle East Initiative will require continuous military and political operations. Furthermore, the oft-referenced women’s freedom and the development of liberal individuals will be indispensable. Without an awakening of women and minimal freedoms, no other efforts can bear fruit. Without the liberation of individuals—both women and men—being generally ensured no social group can achieve liberation.
To summarize, we can sketch three scenarios for ways out of the chaos of the Middle East. In the first scenario, the forces that want to preserve the old status quo, namely, the states created after the world wars, will insist on the nation-state model politically and economically. But since the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the US has been disrupted, and because the US approaches the region in an imperial manner, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the former nation-state model.
Its economic, political, and cultural transformation appears inevitable. The old-fashioned political and economic structures that are statist, nationalist, and religious now represent an obstacle to the new globalization offensive in every respect. It is expected that they will reintegrate into the system, because the era of national capitalism is long since obsolete, and there is very little likelihood of the sort of balancing act seen in the twentieth century at this point. In this context, the states want to push up their price at least a little bit before they reintegrate. They will attempt to achieve this by presenting themselves as nationalist, conservative, or social and by using the media and various PR ploys to try to win the support of “their” masses. Although these shallow and inefficient efforts—we cannot even call them developments—are already being forcefully projected as politics, they are pure deception and demagoguery. These interest groups that are traditionally statist—it is unimportant whether they are republics or kingdoms—religious, and denominational primarily aim at securing their economic and political rentier rights. It is unlikely that the prominent capitalist centers, i.e., the US, the EU, Japan, and even China, that are promoting a restructuring in keeping with the information age will cooperate with these rentier-based economic and political structures, whose representatives will, thus, have to accept that the days of classic comprador capitalism are over. The status quo that Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran in particular are trying to prop up will face significant difficulties as the system ramps up its engagement in the region. They can no longer maintain themselves with new alliances either among themselves or with the outside, as was once the case. However reluctantly, they will have to accept that there are no obvious rational options to reintegrating into the system under the leadership of the US and into the framework of its project for the region.
The second scenario is a restructuring brought about by US influence. There are plans for a process similar to the one carried out by France and England after World War I. We can imagine this as creating a status somewhere in between the nation-state and neocolonialism. Continuing to use the new NATO—enlarged and more dependent on the US—to target the regional status quo, with the involvement of the UN, would be the US’s preferred scenario. As we previously said, this is a restructuring similar to the reconstruction of Europe in the framework of the Marshall Plan and of Japan after World War II. We can add to this the US’s immediate neighbors Mexico and Canada. But it is quite obvious that a restructuring in the Middle East has to unfold very differently than was the case in these examples. Since the states characterized as Arab, in particular Egypt, as well as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Turkic states, including Turkey itself, cannot be sustained as before, they will, therefore, have to do their homework seriously in restructuring.
The main logic behind this restructuring is related to economic liberalization, freedom in the social sphere, particularly for women, and democratization of politics within the framework of the system itself—i.e., bourgeois democracy. The US will secure the support of Europe and Japan, procure legitimacy with the UN, and bring out the new NATO stick when necessary to ensure short-, medium-, and long-term transformation of these countries . Those who oppose this will be forced into line by a whole range of military, political, diplomatic, and economic (IMF and World Bank) measures. This scenario is not so much about changing the borders, as in the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Georgia and the Balkans, as it is about a more democratic political structure that can make the transition from a rigid, centralized bureaucratic structure to a federation with more flexible and stronger local governments. Alongside this, statist economies will be dissolved, priority will be given to an economic structure based on privatization and a mixture of foreign and multinational corporations. The media sector in general will be restructured so that it is at the service of this project, and there will be investment in cultural and artistic work, especially to promote individual rights and women’s freedom. It is possible that Afghanistan and Iraq are envisaged as prototypes for this scenario.
The weakness in this plan is that it will not work if it is only accepted by one side, namely, the system. Resistance on the part of the nation-states that defend the old status quo and the increasing demands of the social opposition will force concessions. Since it is impossible for a one-sided integration by the system to succeed, it will have to be open to mixed structures.
The third scenario will be developed in response to this necessity. The US will impose a compromise on the nation-states and the social opposition, premised on the US becoming the dominant hegemonic power. Under today’s conditions, what we used to call subjugation will be transformed into compromise. Neither self-sufficient nation-states with wasteful and inefficient economies nor widespread uprisings or protracted national liberation struggles on the part of the people will be tolerated. The option will be rapid compromise or being crushed. The current status of Western European and former Eastern European countries can perhaps be seen as a concrete example of this scenario. They will not become Canada or Mexico but also will not remain like Turkey, Egypt, or Pakistan. The goal will be more toward a developed bourgeois democracy. We can also expect that people’s forces will gain more influence, while the influence of nation-state forces that are pro–status quo will steadily decline. Perhaps we will see an interesting experiment involving both popular democracy and bourgeois state–based democracy.
In coming out of the chaos, the balance of forces necessitates that such options are not ignored. The main issue when addressing the restructuring of the system is to neither mount a blind resistance nor enter into an unprincipled compromise. It is important not to lose everything by trying to win it all.
It is likely that over the next quarter of a century there will various attempts to exit the chaos of the Middle East, with solutions developed toward this end, which will doubtless increase the number of available options, as different scenarios intermix. What will be even more important is how the scenario or utopia of the people, laborers, and social forces—evident at the Porto Alegre meetings—develop. History has never been determined by the unilateral will of the ruling powers alone. A lasting result has always been determined by the communal and democratic stance of societies.
The Future of the Region
We can draw a number of parallels between the situation in the Middle East today and the situation in the Roman Empire in the fourth century, when, with the exception of the areas east of the Tigris, the region consisted of Roman provinces. Christianity expanded quickly and conquered Rome from within, while “barbarians,” comparable to the national movements of our time, attacked and attempted to defeat it from the outside. The imperial system reacted to this by absorbing both movements. Throughout the second and third centuries CE Rome tried to brutally crush the ethnic and social movements. Later, it used a policy of concessions to integrate the upper echelons of these movements into the system. This latter undertaking didn’t work out particularly well. In fact, it set the stage for greater decay and growing signs of collapse. In 263 CE, Emperor Julianus II attempted to revive ancient paganism, to emulate and become the second Alexander the Great, and to wage war against the Persians. This campaign came to a sad end on the shores of the Tigris. The current president of the United States, George W. Bush, who is apparently now trying to become the next Alexander the Great, is also driven by religious belief. But, as is well known, his goal may not be the dissemination of paganism but, rather, of Evangelical Christianity—a denomination that mixes Judaism, Christianity, and in some respects even Islam. Evangelicalism is a form of paganism that opposes scientism—which is, in a sense, today’s religion. The similarity lies in the rejection of the dominant mentality in the name of something even older. After Julian II, the Roman Empire declined rapidly, splitting in two in 395 CE.
There are other remarkable parallels as well. At the time, Christianity was much more of a movement of the poor than real socialism ever was. The communal order was maintained with great care. The monasteries were genuine communist institutions. The Christians resisted Rome for three hundred years before being integrated in a compromise engineered by Constantine the Great. The indigent base, however, continued to resist, one of its forms being Arianism.9 In a certain way, the people of the Migration Period who were called “barbarians,” particularly Teutonic and Hunnish ethnic groups, were comparable to today’s national liberation movements, and they resisted and attacked the empire for centuries before their upper echelons were assimilated, a process that hastened the integration of the ethnic groups as a whole. Even though the Roman Empire appeared to grow and become stronger through new alliances, it was essentially shrinking and falling apart. This became increasingly clear over time. It finally fragmented and disintegrated, because the values that had defined Rome had been lost, and the empire no longer met the needs of the people.
There are similarities between Rome and today’s US Empire. Both reached their zenith as world empires. The US becoming a world empire is what lies behind the third great globalization offensive. When Rome was at the zenith of its power, it had already begun to decay, disintegrate, and fragment. The US empire of chaos is itself now showing a number of signs of disintegration, and the extreme geographical extension of its power is one factor contributing to this. It is in the case of the EU that we see fragmentation. We can perhaps compare the emergence of the EU as a second power bloc with the partitioning of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western Rome.
A more profound parallel is the absorption of real socialism—the Christianity of its time—by the capitalist system. To this degree, the similarity of 1990 and 312 is striking.10 Led by Soviet real socialism and after a long period of resistance, the “modern form” of Christianity struck a compromise with the main system, with the bureaucratic upper class betraying the poor. Another similarity can be found in the regimes that emerged from the broader national liberation movements. They too have entered into compromises with the US Empire. One after the other, the chiefs of the national liberation movements—the Teutons and the Huns of our day—became the US’s provincial governors.
Today, in the 2000s, we are at the pinnacle of this process of dissolution and fragmentation. However you look at it, the offensive after September 11, 2001, was not an expansion of the system but a move to stop the disintegration, fragmentation, and decline. It is important to understand the difference.
Of course, such similarities do not mean that the developments will follow a similar course. The US is extremely pragmatic. Rather than eventually leading the system to the kind of collapse suffered by the historical empires, it may transform itself and make a smooth transition based on a policy of far-reaching concessions. This possibility must also be taken seriously. The US’s growth so far is closely linked to an approach based on pragmatism and compromise. The key to the success of the capitalist system is its ability to simultaneously use repression and compromise, using its military, intelligence, economic, cultural, media, artistic, advertising, and scientific-technological power. It is also possible for the peoples and the laborers to avoid being integrated into the ruling system, which was the fate of Christianity and the barbarians. To do so, they will have to combine their intellectual power with a democratic and communal stance. While they should not ignore the possibility of principled compromises, renewing their offensive for democratic civilization and obliging the ruling system to accept it could allow them to elude integration.
Just as the historical development of the dominant forces in its totality needs to be seen as links in a chain, much the same is true of the freedom forces. Even though the shape of each may be different, they have all been links in the ongoing demand for freedom throughout the ages and into the present. Once again, the role of each distinct shape becomes clear: to preserve the essence of the demand for freedom and allow it to be carried forward. Essence, however, has the capacity to gain richness and depth. The richness of the historical chain was determined by the particular shape of each of its links. In the language of society, these links are called structuring and organizing.
Because of domination, the need for freedom is universal. The need for freedom and the form that freedom will take for various people depend on the kind of domination they face. As long as domination is universal, whether individually or socially, both the need for freedom and the struggle to achieve it will continue. The need and desire for freedom is essential for development. Nonexistence would only be possible if the need and desire for freedom were obliterated. As long as nonexistence is not actualized, when necessary, the will of freedom—like that of the plants that shatter rocks—will pierce through every wall of repression and, like a river, will seek its bed and flow ceaselessly forward.
To arrive at a holistic perspective on the problem of freedom for the people of the Middle East, we have to evaluate it in connection with historical tradition. The struggle for freedom has an everlasting history; the important thing is to determine the particularities of this history at given points. One of the dominant power’s important achievements has been leading people to believe that there is no problem of freedom for society and the people, neither at a collective nor at an individual level. The only valid, universal, and absolute history is the dominant power’s own history, full of gods, sumptuousness, heroic acts, and sacredness. They are masters at negating the extraordinarily rich history of society with abstract and meaningless figurative values of this sort and presenting this fictional and bloody beyond brutal exploitative history as if it has been a godlike march.
One of the crucial reasons for the defeats of social libertarians is that they succumb to these dominant historical discourses. The very first thing they need to do if they are to succeed is to have the strength to live their own history. They must continue to affirm their own history of freedom, or at least its tradition, as a moral attitude. As long as there is repression, there will also always be the desire for freedom.
These abstract elaborations are meant to give meaning to society in the Middle East, which appears so static on the surface. There is a history of social freedom in the Middle East, and it is very powerful and profound. It is the primary duty of freedom fighters to discern this history and bring it back into daylight. Every plant needs its roots to blossom. Our present-day freedom struggle can only grow and flourish if it is based on the roots and traditions of freedom.
We live within the borders of the contemporary Roman Empire and are besieged by the various provincial powers. The provincial governors, who today are embodied by the regional states, are cruel, as has so often been the case throughout history. Jesus was crucified by the proconsul of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Therein lies the symbolism of Jesus. The history of Christianity is the history of thousands of similar events flowing together to become a great flood. On the other hand, provincial governors have also frequently plotted uprisings and have sometimes been successful. After a while, they either become emperors themselves, give in to the system, or are buried under their own rebellion. This is something that takes place within the system that has no value regarding freedom and in social terms, or, when it does, only indirectly. This kind of resistance on the part of provincial governors must not be confused with that of societal freedom movements. If our understanding doesn’t rise above the reality of the contemporary empire, the struggle against it either has no chance of winning, or even if, by chance, we are victorious, it can’t be worth much. The restructuring of the provinces in the Middle East is, however, due to the current chaos.
We often talk about the unique reality of the chaotic situation. Because chaos is a short time interval when the possibility of freedom and formation is at its greatest. In this short time interval, what is most needed from the freedom front is the necessary power of meaning—and knowledge of its history and its era. It is a fact that the system is exploding at just such a chaos interval, after an approximately five-thousand-year period of hegemony, and, more recently, the last 260 years of capitalist hegemony. This situation must be rigorously evaluated. We have highlighted the main scenarios with which the US-led contemporary empire might try to address the chaos, which we did to make a realistic description of the situation and the options available to the people and to societal freedom forces. The reaction of these social forces cannot be the same as that of the Christians in the Roman Empire or the barbarians on the outside. We can learn from them but should not imitate them. Nor would reproducing real socialism or the national liberation movements be useful at present, because, as a result of their fundamental flaws, whenever they were successful they failed to avoid being integrated into the system or even actively pursued integration. Our response must reflect our way of knowing.
What the term “mentality revolution” implies is a consciousness of and belief in a free society. Consciousness means more than knowledge of what is. It also means knowledge of how to. Belief, on the other hand, means trusting what you know and doing what is necessary. This denotes the capacity and the determination to act on your beliefs. To correctly and skillfully lead an ideological strugle in the Middle East requires a true understanding of the structures of the mentality that dominates society. It is necessary to distinguish between the aspects of society that need to be overcome and those that need to be preserved. Similarly, a thorough knowledge of the mentality molds that must be struggled against is also necessary. To gain a new mentality requires an immense labor and moral attitude to attain the necessary social consciousness and belief. Those who cannot expand their mental world cannot wage a long-term freedom struggle.
Degeneration begins where and when the mentality is drained and exhausted. Essentially, all of the wise people and prophets of the Middle East have led struggles around mentality. Mentality, in and of itself, is worthless if it is not linked to morality. Morality is the strength to continue to walk on the path illuminated by one’s consciousness despite all obstacles and errors. It is the insistence on society’s indispensable values of conscience. Breaking the bond between consciousness and morality casts the door open to hooliganism and irresponsible idleness.
We must also understand our opponent’s mentality and, as much as needed, nurture ourselves upon it. The mentality of state power has always been very well organized and should never be underestimated. If we don’t succeed in hemming it in, there will be no successful advance and solution. Politics and action, including military action, detached from our mentality and morality can always backfire like a rogue mine. Our politics and actions must always be clear-minded and morally exacting. Otherwise, there can be no escape from being an instrument of the political offensives of counter-mentalities. I have consistently pointed out the drawbacks of embarking on political offensives without waging successful struggles for the mentality, as outlined here.
History’s great ascetics have tried to gain the necessary mental capacity by retreating into great hermitages, trying to find a way to prevent the repetition of these errors, as well as a way to teach humanity a bit of a lesson. It is not an accident that, although an imperial power, the US works with hundreds of think tanks, i.e., organizations of mentality and thought. It knows from historical experience that the better it understands the areas where it operates, the more successful it will be in securing its interests. The revival of Islam and the tariqat in the region arises from the desire of certain social groups to achieve the mentality necessary to serve their interests.
Without understanding and disentangling the tariqat and, more generally, without researching the effects of revived Islamism on society, a correct mentality struggle cannot be waged. The same is true for the various forms of nationalism. Without understanding how the nationalist mentality, which is in a way contemporary ethnic mentality, was born and organized and how it gained validity within society, the ideological and practical struggle in the Middle East cannot be skillfully led. The still prevalent mentality of ethnic power, including familialism and tribalism, must also be well understood and countered. It is essential that all of these mentalities are understood, hemmed in, and those concerned are given the true mentality values they need. This is much more difficult than carrying out practical struggles but must be recognized as an essential task.
When entering a mentality struggle in the Middle East it is necessary to be like Moses leading the Hebrew tribe, like David fighting Goliath, like Jesus mobilizing his apostles, and like Mohammad motivating his faithful to work. Moreover, we must know how to say “know thyself!” with the excitement of Socrates, “value democracy” with the enthusiasm of Pericles, and “make way for Alexander” with the science of Aristotle. What we mean by acquiring a new mentality in the Middle East is to turn to nature with the excitement of the Renaissance, to love humans, and to thirst for knowledge. It is to pierce through religious dogma with a Reformation, acquiring the necessary belief that exists in our essence, to take science, philosophy, and the arts to the people through an Enlightenment, and to mobilize movement of intellectuals for freedom.
In the Middle East, walking while thinking and thinking while walking only become meaningful if accompanied by such a definable mentality. When this is the case, we will once more attain the natural liveliness of the Neolithic Age and the power to approach all things with sacred enthusiasm. The mythological thought of the civilizational eras abounds with lessons, and the books of wisdom will open themselves up to us one after another. Then the history of humanity and civilization will reveal itself, this terrible and sacred, numbing and exciting history that denigrates and exalts life. The true meaning of the Holy Scripture and the great prophetic experiences will come alive. The revival of the dried-up streams of civilization, the urbanization of the ruins, and the awakening pure peasantry of the höyük will, each in turn, appear to us.11 The cruelest to the richest, from Nimrod to Croesus, and the resistance fighters, from Job to Mazlum Doğan, Ferhat Kurtay, and Kemal Pir,12 the black and white values, will step forward into the light of day. The mentality struggle is how these values express themselves, how they blossom in our hearts and souls. Under these conditions, no force and no mere necessity of life will hold us back. We will resolve and transcend all obstacles with a consciousness as deep as the sea and a will roaring with the excitement of a flood. Then we will ingeniously review all issues, whether political or military, and act in an epic manner.
In today’s Middle East, we can’t make headway with classic left, right, religious, or nationalist positions; in prophetic terms, we cannot be free of impiety. We also can’t make any headway with the New Left, a civil society with its head in the clouds, and a women’s movement that is unaware of history and of labor. One could at best have a picnic with the urban petite bourgeoisie, which is being tightly squeezed and has simply withered or engages in mindless activities with no real conviction. Those who are convinced rentiers or who are primarily committed to attaining a higher social status make for even worse companions when it comes to advancing any idea or belief. None of these options would do justice to the individuals and peoples of the Middle East, who have already gone through so much and been hurt a thousand times.
As we begin to take action in response to social reality of the Middle East, embracing and walking with a mentality defined as such will lead us to the region’s buried history and unite us with its faded heart and its reality that seeks the light. Only then will we be able to begin a noble struggle worthy of the region’s true history and its freedom lovers. This struggle will always rise anew and continue the march toward its goal—it can never be stopped, even when it is distorted, betrayed, or destroyed. Then history will be ours, and our hearts will always beat in unison. And when this happens our social reality will become a creative divinity. Our people, the people of the Middle East, will finally achieve the freedom that they have longed for and deserved for millennia.
The Middle East’s political option for exiting the chaos must be one that addresses the question of freedom not only on a regional level but also on a universal level. The fate of the global offensive will be determined in this region, because the success or failure of the US-led system will have a determinant influence on the future of the entire world. The attempt to carry on with the power blocs that were pieced together from the twentieth-century feudal powers without being transformed is the most difficult option to implement. This is why the broad base of society, which has traditionally been dominated in the extreme, has to some degree come into play. The global capitalist powers that want to restructure the region also understand that this is necessary. It is very doubtful, however, that it will be possible to limit the masses to the particular wishes of the capitalist powers once they have been awakened. Nonetheless, it is unclear what will actually emerge from Pandora’s Box. This uncertainty can only be resolved by creative and liberating efforts during the current interval of chaos.
There will be a period of practical change that can’t be compared to anything that has happened at any other point in history. A historical time for restructuring society that bears certain similarities to the founding of new cities has come. This reality underlies the difficulties in the Middle East. This restructuring will give rise to a complicated mélange of relations and contradictions between the dominant system, on one hand, and the struggles by the freedom forces of the people and society, on the other.
Before we turn to the blocs to be restructured, we need to define the concept of “politics” in a way that is specific to the region. We can define politics as the practical management of society in both the short term and the long term. Politics is conservative if it hampers social change and progressive if it leads to leaps forward. A third dimension of the definition concerns content. We can define politics as statist when it is centered on the state bloc and as democratic when it concerns the masses separate from the state. It can also be defined relative to areas like the economy, culture, social affairs, or the arts. We can call it high politics if it is about far-reaching changes to society and basic or limited politics when it has a narrower focus. The common point in all the definitions is that politics is defined as the art of societal guidance, change, and transformation. Political activity is society’s construction work.
If efforts around mentality mean working on utopias, projects, plans, and programs, the political undertaking is the work of education, organizing, and action. It is important not to confuse the efforts around mentality with the political undertaking, and even more importantly the opposite is also true. The work of the architect, the foreman, and the construction worker all require particular expertise and much more care when it comes to the social realm and can be defined as an art, the art of politics.
This means that political activity requires a special preparation in the field of mentality. In the practical realm, however, it requires the ability to educate, organize, and act to guide, change, and transform society. It is not for nothing that politics is regarded as a “divine art.” When talking about god-kings, the sultan as the “shadow of God,” and the state as the incarnation of God, the emphasis is actually on divine art. If we want to disentangle and analyze religion and mythology, we need a certain competence in sociology and social science.
The US and its prominent partners are now carrying out an intense military and political restructuring of the Middle East. We should not see military practice as separate from politics. In an environment where there is a fierce armed conflict, war is just another word for politics. In such an environment, militancy is decisive. Politics as an extension of military practice comes to the fore once the weapons fall silent. This is the inverse of Clausewitz’s famous formula: “war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means.”13 It is not politics that determines war, but war that determines politics. This can be seen very clearly in Iraq. What paves the way for politics—a new politics—in Iraq is the state-of-the-art technological war conducted by the US. In any case, in the entire history of Mesopotamia, war has always stood at the crossroads of politics. This latest war faithfully reflects this historical truth.
Once the war is low-intensity or stops altogether, political activity, as its extension, gains momentum. Which is to say, politics is the part of war not executed with arms. It is the part that is carried out with education, organizing, and action without resorting to arms but based on the same mentality. In this sense, with massive military support, the US and its partners are conducting, adjusting, and continuing political restructuring, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, based on the mentality of their Greater Middle East Initiative.
In the previous section, we presented three scenarios that summarize these efforts. Now it is important to clarify the kind of political struggle based on the defense of people and society that the freedom forces opposing domination must adopt. We have already defined our priorities: developing both the necessary mentality and our concept of “politics.”
Turning to concrete policies, our first task is to carry out, develop, and qualitatively improve a process of democratization that emanates from the non-statist communal society and the democratic stance of the people. Not focusing on the state must be a point of principle. Societal freedom stands in contradiction to the state-focused work. State-focused work can only be carried out on behalf of the dominant power. For social forces whose goal is freedom, it is entirely obvious that their focus must be on democracy as a “non-state” policy, because they have a fundamental duty to oppose domination rather than be associated with it.
We distinguish our definition of democracy from democracy as a bourgeois veil for the state. Even when addressing Athens and the first Sumerian urban democracies, we must carefully differentiate between true democracy and the state. One cannot be an extension of the other; the proliferation of one decreases the other, and the end of one represents the complete victory of the other. The kind of democracy the US and its partners impose is the bourgeois-feudal democracy of a very small group that relies on the extensive military-ruling power apparatus. On the other hand, although relying on a society’s minimal defense forces, the forces of societal freedom regard democratic politics as their main work. Democratic politics subsumes all the activities, including education, organization, and action, of all individuals and social groups suffering at the hands of the dominating power. The means used to achieve political, legal, and economic goals can range from demonstrations, rallies, protests, and uprisings to war, should it become necessary. These activities are generally necessary daily tasks or ongoing undertakings meant to achieve reform or change. When they include major qualitative change, they can be considered revolutionary. The more the dominant system strives for power and control over democracy, the more intertwined and confrontational the freedom forces efforts for democracy will become.
It is also important not to repeat the mistakes made in the English, French, and Russian Revolutions. This means ensuring that care is taken so that the democratic efforts of any one side don’t end up being absorbed, negated, or destroyed by the other, as this would be a catastrophe and a grave historical mistake, which could also be called a forced correctness. There will likely be both a relationship and contradictions between the two democracies. They can either coexist in harmony or confront each other as opponents. The main thing to avoid is the danger of one side becoming the only one by being absorbed by the tendency to negate and destroy the other. The rules, conditions, and principles of either coexistence or confrontation must be clearly defined. Singularity is always dangerous in democracies, because it leads to the negation of democracy. Being attentive to the distinct democratic option of each group, both internally and externally, is the superior aspect of democratic genius. The opposite would be the politics of Plato’s philosopher kings or the mythological god-kings—the politics of fascism and totalitarianism, hierarchy, despotism, and dictatorship of all kinds. This is, after all, the antidemocratic character of all dominant systems.
The democracy that will develop in the Middle East will probably be of a mixed nature. It will need to address both feudal bourgeois demands and the demands of the social groups and working classes in an intertwined way. We are past the point where an exclusively bourgeois democracy is an option. In any case, it has never existed in a pure form, and the same is true for a pure democracy of the societal and people’s forces. This does not mean that a societal and people’s democracy and a bourgeois democracy can never exist independently. Each group of people will profoundly experience its own form of democracy, and that is a good thing. The more a group internalizes its own democracy, the more able it will be to carry out, change, and transform the common democracy together with other groups and classes based on shared principles and experiences.
In light of this analysis, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between democracy and social reality in the Middle East. We have seen that democratizing the state is not something that can be done. Instead, what is necessary is that the state be receptive to democracy. Being receptive means accepting democratic mentality and structures and their practices. One might object that this would limit the power and size of the state, and that is correct. After all, the existence of democracy is tantamount to constraining and downsizing the state. In countries where democracy functions effectively, the state has to be redefined as the organization and institutionalization of the mandatory overall security and related needs within the common public sphere. In democracies, there is no place for the classic dominant state.
The state and democracy can only coexist within this basic framework. Under the present conditions, neither the classic state nor a democratic leadership can exist exclusive of the other. In this sense, we could see the current period as an era of transition from the state to democracy. Generally, in times of transition, the fundamental institutions of the past and the future coexist, as was the case during the period when feudalism and capitalism coexisted.
Religion and ethnicity must also change during the democratization phase. Religion and ethnic groups can be represented by modern political and nongovernmental organizations. Democratic and political structures could take the place of the classic religious and tribal structures. Neither states and democracies based on religion or ethnicity nor formations that totally ignore and negate the two have much chance of success. The key reason for the failure of European-style liberal and left tendencies to gain a base is that they fail to correctly analyze and connect with religion and ethnicity. However, the social fabric is largely the product of these two phenomena. It is unlikely that politics, particularly democratic politics, will succeed without developing radical approaches to religion and ethnicity and the related structures. If this is not done, success would only be possible with an extremely violent revolutionary or counterrevolutionary dictatorship, but whether this could endure is another question altogether.
In this connection, we must also take a look at the denominations and brotherhoods. In both cases, we can see a kind of monastic order reminiscent of the Middle Ages. They resemble medieval forms of civil society. Genuine efforts must be made to orient these still existing institutions toward democracy. It would be best if they were neither negated nor repressed but were accepted as sociological phenomena and integrated into the tendency working for freedom. Women’s rights and freedom are also indispensable components of a democratization process and will thus play an important role, a point we will return to.
In the concrete case of the Middle East, the development of democracy has been very limited. Democratic thought and its reflexes are not yet fully awakened. Despite the deep longing of many groups, the millennia of brutal state repression have put these longings to sleep. Even though these longings manifest in the form of outbursts and rebellions from time to time, the brutal despotic character of the state has repeatedly buried them. However, the radical contradiction between the reality of our age and this state structure is awakening the longing for democracy, freedom, and equality. The twentieth century showed us many signs of this development. In the twenty-first century, however, a development from longing to realization seems increasingly likely.
The Arab states are lagging behind. The subordination of the religious and ethnic structures to the state, as well as the statist character of their upper layers, which are bound to the state through strong ties of interest, hampers the awakening of democratic reflexes and the drive to take action. An intervention from the outside is needed.
Although the development of the state of Israel in the midst of the Arab states has strengthened Arab nationalism and religionism up until now, it is now at a point where it will have a reverse effect. Everyone has now realized that the chronic Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be solved by nationalism and religionism. Overcoming the nationalist and religious leadership and the emergence of a group of democratic leaders is the only thing that can overcome the current deadlock. As we can see in the case of Cyprus, internal and external conditions provide a strong opportunity for a democratic solution tendency. This is also why the Greater Middle East Initiative comes into play with more concrete plans. The democratization of Saudi Arabia and Egypt are seen as particularly important. The other smaller Arab states have begun perforce to take an interest in democracy, as if they have learned their lesson from the example of Iraq. On the outside international public opinion and on the inside the longing of communal society and a democratic stance that has been suppressed and distorted for thousands of years are about to awaken. It is unlikely that the despotic Arab states can hold out for long against these two developments and totally close the door to democracy. In terms of democratization, it is unimportant whether the states in question call themselves kingdoms or republics—both are inclined to despotism. The important thing is that they are receptive to democracy and are ready to allow for the restriction and downsizing of the state.
We have established that the existence of these states was dependent on the traditional balance of power between systems. Since 1990, the situation has become more difficult for these states. The hegemonic presence of the US in the region has increasingly reduced them to a provincial status and will continue to do so. To survive as states, they will most likely move toward a democracy that suits US principles. It will be increasingly difficult to sustain their power based on blocs that previously relied on the US, and before that on England, France, and even the Ottomans. The Greater Middle East Initiative is the result of this difficulty. Though democratic structures may look different in every country, there will also be commonalities. Human rights, nongovernmental organizations, elections, multiparty systems, pluralist media, stronger parliaments, and greater individualization are commonalities that will increasingly be on the agenda. We can also expect constitutional and legal improvements. The emerging democracies will be neither entirely feudal bourgeois democracies nor entirely people’s democracies. Democracy might initially express itself in limited advances against the state but will eventually spread to the rest of society.
In the Arab region, Israel and Syria are two strategic elements that are key to democratization. Israel has a well-established democracy, which is not a weakness for Israel but an important factor of its strength. It is difficult to say the same thing about Syria. Syria is at a serious crossroads. If it doesn’t accelerate its steps toward democratization with serious reforms and resolve its problems with Israel, it might become a second Iraq. Syria’s democratization and peace with Israel could enable the transformation of the regime in Syria without resorting to force. The presence of powerful intellectuals, its diverse ethnic and denominational structure, and middle and poor classes could all lead to a more fruitful process of development in a joint democracy. The role of the Kurds in Syria is not like that of the Kurds in Iraq; in Syria, there is more likely to be an opportunity for liberal democratic transformation. The receptive approach by the state will be decisive. Berbers, for example, could play a similar role in North Africa.
Iraq is a candidate for being a democracy laboratory for the Arabs, or even for the entire Middle East, a feature that is further strengthened because it contains almost all of the region’s ethnic, religious, denominational, political, and social elements. The increasing efforts of the US and its allies, on the one hand, and the increasing democratic initiatives from below of the various ethnic, denominational, and social groups, on the other hand, put this country in a strategic position in terms of democracy. A rich history and its oil, if used correctly, could give democracy a chance. The insistence of the Kurds on democratic federalism will have important regional consequences beyond the areas where they can be found. A Democratic Federation of Iraq could serve as a prototype for a Democratic Federation of the Middle East, a factor that will become increasingly evident in the future. The reason that developments in Iraq are so important is that solutions there could spread to the entire Middle East.
The democratization of Iran is also becoming an increasingly timely issue. The classic state finds it more and more difficult to bring its powerful tradition in step with the present. Iranian people increasingly and enthusiastically long for democracy. After Iraq, democratic federalism could also be on the agenda for Iran. Iran is more inclined to federalism than division. Elements similar to federalism have prevailed in Iran’s 2,500-year state tradition. If the intensifying longing of the people is coupled with a contemporary federalism, Iran could become the strongest democratic federation in the region, a kind of second Russia. Instead of engaging in resistance to the increasing pressure from the US à la Saddam Hussein, moving toward democratic federalism could be a realistic and sustainable option for Iran. The extreme politicization of religion negatively affects democratization. Religious ideology may become increasingly ineffective and could easily backfire. Iranian culture is particularly susceptible to democratization. Its historic traditions of resistance and its personalities, from Zoroaster, Mazdak, and Babak to Hassan Sabah and others,14 provide the basis for democratic culture. The recent experience of highly colorful opposition could help to create a coherent democracy if the Iranians can free themselves from their various maladies. Communication technology could serve to speed up this process. If the state leadership shows the necessary flexibility, we might see democratization in Iran similar to that in Spain.
In Pakistan, religion plays an even more negative role. Religionism, fostered by anti-Hinduism and tribalism, has literally taken both the state and society prisoner. However, the end of US support for religion and the experience in Afghanistan might weaken the religious fabric and could lead to a secular democracy. Otherwise, Pakistan cannot compete with India, Iran, and Afghanistan. The Pakistani model needs to be rapidly transformed. Afghanistan could be a template for the entire Central Asian area, similar to Iraq for the Middle East. A democratization of Afghanistan would exert massive pressure on Central Asia to change. The democratization of the Turkic republics, however, depends more on Russia. But it is possible that the influence of elements in their immediate environment could trigger distinct developments.
Because of its fragmented mentality and states, the political structure of the Middle East does not easily turn toward EU-like developments, but the region’s historical base makes cooperation more rational. Today’s Islamic Conference is not particularly functional. On the other hand, a Democratic Federation of the Middle East can be an idealized concept. The fact that the US and its allies find democratization more appropriate for their interests increases the likelihood of such a development. Before 1990, antidemocratic and despotic forces were generally supported, but in this new phase the opposite approach is increasingly on the agenda. The accelerating tendency toward democracy in our age cannot tolerate the region being ruled with outdated state structures for very long. The fifty-to sixty-year-old nation-states that once based themselves on the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the US have become unproductive, crisis-ridden models that can no longer be tolerated by globalization. A downsized and restricted state that listens to the people at the bottom as much as it does to the system and that is receptive to democracy as a result is a strong possibility. These factors mean that the transition of the Middle East into a democratic civilization could also make an important contribution to the transformation of the world.
These predictions about developments in the Middle East in the near future obviously do not provide the ideal for the democratic and communal system of the people; it is an ideal like the past socialist utopia, but a more realistic ideal. It is important that those who campaign for social freedom and equality do not sacrifice their principles for state-focused solutions—or, rather, non-solutions. They must never give up their principled position in exchange for certain concessions, as was the case with real socialism, social democracy, and the national liberation movements. Insistence on and depth in democracy is the surest way to gain freedom and equality. As Lenin once noted, even if too late, our goal can only be achieved through the tenacious pursuit of the broadest possible long-running democratization.
The Freedom of Women
In the civilization of the Middle East, the situation of women is central to solving all social problems. We won’t repeat our earlier brief historical elaboration here. In the coming period, our fundamental objective must be achieving the third great sexual rupture, this time to the dis advantage of men. Without the social equality of the sexes, any demand for freedom and equality is meaningless and out of reach. Woman’s freedom is the most enduring and encompassing part of any democratization process. The question of women’s freedom is the weakest point of the system that first turned women into a property and now horrendously commodifies them in every possible way. The role once played by the working class must now be played at its best by the lineage of women. The analysis of the lineage of women must take precedence over any class analysis if class division and the division into nations is to be better grasped, analyzed, and resolved. Genuine freedom for women requires the removal of feelings and will that enslave them, that of their husbands, fathers, lovers, brothers, friends, and so on. Under such feelings and will, the greatest love has actually become the most dangerous property relation. The identity of the free woman can only be illuminated by a rigorous criticism of all the molds of thought, religion, science, and the arts produced by the dominant male world as they relate to women. The woman must first and foremost belong to herself if she is to cease being a “commodity.” When a woman becomes a commodity or property, it also prevents a man from behaving morally. Living with that sort of a woman is also an obstacle to being a free man. A woman debased in that manner is a debased man, but in reverse.
It is correct to say that the level of freedom in any society depends on the level of women’s freedom. If we look at the issue in terms of aesthetics, we will see that those who are not free cannot have anything that is aesthetic about them. A life that is aesthetically empty borders on the life of a primate. It may make more sense and be more critical to view the phenomenon of the woman as an artistic phenomenon, rather than viewing her as a commodity or as property, or in the way a worker or peasant is viewed. For an aesthetic life, women must be understood to be the most functional and receptive aspect of nature, even sacred in a certain sense. Furthermore, they should not be addressed using male-dominated language, but an understanding the language of the woman that is laden with secrets is important. The worst imaginable social practice is imposing male domination and male selfishness upon women. Nothing seals the fate of a woman who has been deprived of all her options more than the vulgar male attitude. In my view, the democratic man, i.e., a man who is strong, mature, and receptive and who understands something about freedom and equality and the corresponding society can only come in to being by creatively adhering to the criteria we have outlined here and the implementation thereof. A society where slavery runs the deepest is a society that looks down on the woman the most. A society that has no understanding of how to live life is a society that has accepted living with the woman aimlessly. Additionally, the worst and emptiest possible life, a life devoid of enthusiasm and meaning, is a life lived with an enslaved woman.
If we look at society in the Middle East in this light, we will begin to understand why a backward, senseless, cruel, ugly, and intolerant life prevails. It is so clear that a male society that treats women in such a crude and unaesthetic manner, as if a worthless commodity, possibly even a problem to dispose of if incorrigible, can only live in strife, deprived of peace and surrounded by ugliness. Male societies of that sort cannot create the sacredness of life, the eminence of a homeland, true virtue, or a sensi-ble approach to animate nature. When they fail in this way, they often find their pretext by pointing at the “demon woman.” The woman that is called “demonic and deficient” is the vilest lie told by a male society that has suffered a huge loss. Free life cannot be attained without an intense struggle against the dominant male ideology, morality, and social forces and the adherent individuals. Without this struggle it will also be impossible to create a genuinely democratic society or, concomitantly, socialism with equality. The people’s political option is not simply a democratic society; it is a society that is democratic and that promotes woman’s freedom.
Concretely, the women’s freedom struggle has to be carried out in conjunction with the establishment of a women’s political party, building a broad-based mass women’s movement, setting up nongovernmental organizations, and establishing structures that advance democratic politics. The more women can rid themselves of male domination and male-dominated society and gains strength by acting on their own initiative, the more women can develop free personalities and identities. Marrying women off at an early age is the cruelest kind of slavery; the noblest behavior is not to marry women off but to free their minds.15 The abject practices imposed upon women by the male hand—ranging from the burka and hijab to pornography—are eviler than any class- or nation-based cruelty. Therefore, the highest expression of comradeship and humanism on the part of men would be to support women’s rage and struggle for freedom and consciousness, as well as women’s movements. The Middle East is more than familiar with civilization and is the site of both the strongest goddess cult and the deepest enslavement of women. To bring about a third great sexual rupture, the space must be created for a great march forward to the advantage of women that is worthy of the region’s history. Sharp declines are followed by breathtaking ascents. On this basis, if we proceed as if we are the believers in a new goddess religion, we may well reach the well-deserved sacredness of the mother and the womanhood of love.
I don’t find questions concerning economy, class, and socialization in the alternative society of the Middle East very meaningful. In my view, the issues that need to be resolved are those raised above. Recognizing the workers or the unemployed and the peasantry is not revolutionary but not recognizing them truly is. Imagining these class divisions to represent the servants of an aga or a chief might well bring us closer to reality. Freedom is achieved to the extent that we overcome being workers or peasants, if not economically, at least in our mentality and in the realm of democratic politics. It is out of necessity that one becomes a worker or a peasant. If freedom means the transcendence of necessity, then being a worker or a peasant must also be surpassed. If a genuine class struggle is carried out with this mentality and in a democratic manner, socialism begins to acquire its real meaning as equality.
Unemployment is the result of a lack of democracy. A democratic society can never have unemployment. The greater the level of unemployment, the lower the level of democracy. Unemployment is a disorder, a disease of class civilization in general. People and communities who know how to oppose it will never end up with unemployment. Since the greatest work is the work for democracy, if no other work can be found, there still remains the best work for all. Be a good democrat, and fight for freedom; you will soon discover that you will never in your life have an idle hour. People and communities unable to wage a struggle for democracy will always remain idle, unskilled, and unemployed. Thus, the struggle against unemployment, idleness, inebriation, and laziness can be won if individuals and society are educated and organized as part of the struggle for democracy and begin to take action.
If the people of the Middle East do not stand up for democracy, they will also be unable to free themselves from the centuries of indolence, idleness, and unemployment. Societies that know how to be democratic can also enjoy their homeland, their resources, their achievements, and their cultures and make human labor productive in the process. When this labor is combined with today’s science and technology, there should be no trace of hunger and unemployment. Unemployment and idleness are products of a lack of democracy and a habituation to slavery. Those who want to put an end to this situation will get the best results by establishing democratic organization and democratic action not by begging at the feet of the state and the boss—the two main sources of unemployment and every sort of debasement. As such, the real economic struggle is intimately intertwined with democratic action. All other labor disputes are stage-managed by the yellow unions and the bosses’ agents.16 With cheap concessions they see to it that people remain slaves their entire lives, either as workers or as peasants. Countries and societies that have understood and embraced democracy have always been prosperous and successful, from Athens in its day to Switzerland or England today.
The history of the Middle East is also the history of the death of ecology. Since class society–based civilization has become alienated from nature, the permanent destruction of the environment has continued day by day, year by year, century by century. All the forests and the soil that were once humanity’s fertile lifelines are now almost deserts. These forests and this soil, along with animals and plants, provided the original basis for civilization. At the point that some humans put other humans in servitude, they set about destroying nature with their cruel axe, transforming areas that had sparked dreams of paradise into wastelands. Soon after the forest disappeared, the land was spent, and as the land was lost, so too were the plants and animals, leaving humans hungry and thirsty, so they left. In the end, the most fertile land became the most depleted, and this led to massive migration. The land that people had flooded from all four directions became steppes and deserts, and the people fled from it in all four directions. Like the history of women, the history of ecology in the Middle East also remains unwritten. Just as to be free a woman must know her history, to have an ecological society we must know the history of the region’s ecology. A democracy and a society that promotes women’s freedom that is not based on environmental awareness, and action is not a real option for the people.
A movement for democracy and women’s freedom can be no different from any dominant male world if it is not based on something as basic as a major commitment to reforestation and to protecting the land from erosion. An ecological movement is one of the indispensable components of the new society we hope to build. Ecology cannot simply be reduced to economy. It is a mentality in its own right, the return to a lost conception of animate and sacred nature. Living a life in the absence of an awareness of nature that is animated, that talks to us, that comes into being with us, that calls us into being, instead of seeing a nature that is inanimate and has lost its sacredness. A tainted land that is as black as death amounts to a life that has largely eroded. Environmental consciousness means more than addressing water and air pollution; it means being completely at one with nature, turning back from a nature divided into plots to a nature that is a whole. This would be to arrive at a democratic and socialist society. The interconnection really is, in fact, this profound. It is, after all, respect for the chain of evolution that has brought about the human being.
Today, with the help of science and technology, we are able to recreate the natural society that was once brought about spontaneously by primordial communal society. Compared to the bloody problems of the Middle East, ecological problems might sound like imaginary problems. We must not forget that these problems of bloodshed, hunger, and unemployment are the result of betraying ecology. Just as there can be no sound treatment for a disease without an understanding of healing, there can be no sound society that is not based on ecology, which means that without sound ecology no society that is democratic and pro–women’s freedom can be established.
The Middle East and all of its people are at a crossroads. US hegemonic power, with its imperial tendency, has little in the way of solutions to offer. But it’s not realistic to fight the US by calling for new Vietnams or attempting to repeat the experience of 1920s Turkey.17 Since there is no longer a Soviet Union to provide a balance of power and, more importantly, imperialism no longer takes the form that it previously did, national liberation like that of Turkey or even that of Vietnam is no longer an option. Every historical stage has its own conditions and goals, which is why organized struggles are also different. The most meaningful response to the US and its allies is to mobilize society and all of the people’s freedom forces around a coherent and implementable democratic, libertarian, and ecological program and integrate them into extensive organizational networks. This might be a way to wage a very conscious and effective but less bloody war.
When necessary this can be done through principled compromise. Where that is not possible, we can set up our own democracies in villages and towns in the mountains and deserts supported by our self-defense forces. People who fail to democratize themselves have no chance of success. The people will see that there is no social cause that they cannot accomplish if, broadly speaking, they set to work based on congresses and act through all sorts of nongovernmental organizations, cooperatives, and communal working groups. When the people rise up in this way in the new historical period of the Middle East, they will not only thwart encroachments similar to the former imperialist interventions but, with meaningful and principled compromise, will even be able to guide efforts toward peaceful democratization. Rising up in this way would be worthy of the Middle East’s historical civilizations.
One might ask what role remains for revolutionaries. First and foremost, they must act in a way that is consistent with the social science conclusions outlined above. Revolutions or social transformations lacking social science can inadvertently clear the way for treachery and crime. This can only be prevented by taking our social science out of the hands of the ruling powers and forces that have a monopoly over knowledge and by restructuring it. Given that the mentality underlying our politics must be based on social science, it is essential that we create our own social science schools and academies.
Perhaps even more importantly, we must prioritize social morality. An appropriate moral policy requires the aspiration, belief, and patience to pursue the path one has chosen to its end. We must not back down, betray our principles, or find excuses to retreat or sell out. Morality means being in tune at each and every moment guided by our mentality, which has been shaped by science, and always means living consciously. When science, politics, and morality all join hands, there will be no social cause that we cannot tackle and successfully address in the service of humanity in general and the people of our region in particular. More than ever before, our morality, as the conscience of history and society, demands that we implement a policy that is loaded with such consciousness, so as to bring about the social changes and transformations we anticipate and desire.
In the age of the transition to democratic civilization, the people of the Middle East have three main options. First, carrying on with the existing status quo remaining unchanged. However, the system that profited from the twentieth-century balance of power is now coming to its end. The dissolution of real socialism accelerated the current crisis and led to an increasingly unipolar world. I described above how US hegemony and its empire of chaos are trying to overcome this crisis. At the same time, the third major offensive of capitalist globalization is occurring. The surplus of supply, which has grown enormously with the revolution in science and technology, encounters the poor masses as an obstacle. Globalization cannot reach its goal without resolving this contradiction. The nation-state structures, which are pro–status quo, are the main barrier. The goal is to overcome these structures on the basis of individualization, liberalization, and democratization, and this restructuring is gradually gaining traction.
This development harbors both positive and negative aspects for the people. It can be seen as an objective factor in accelerating democratic awakening and mobilization. Therefore, both the system’s hegemonic power and the increasing awakening and mobilization of people from below make the status quo more and more unsustainable. The status quo tries to turn this impasse into a way of life and, when the pressure mounts, polishes things up a bit or, on other occasions, uses provocations to extend its life but is now increasingly isolated. This system, which no longer has the backing of the US or Soviet systems, has become more aggressive and is trying to win some time by treading water.
It also seems that, unlike in the past, the status quo is no longer succeeding in its efforts to use pseudo-left-wing or pseudo-right-wing demagoguery. The control of the state and of society with fascism or totalitarianism no longer enjoys the support it once did. As it increasingly loses the support of the people, the status quo nation-state is disintegrating, with the upper layers integrating into the new hegemonic structure. However, the popular masses’ grassroots search for a democratic system stands to sideline this option based on force.
Even if this intense process, which is unfolding daily in the Middle East, does not lead to an all-embracing solution of the profound problems, it can contribute to a situation in which the status quo forces are no longer an obstacle. The Arab states, particularly Egypt, vacillate between the status quo and change, as do Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran. They are unable to make clear decisions about the process ahead. However, influenced by the Greater Middle East Initiative from above and under pressure from the democratic, pro–women’s freedom, and ecological society project of the people from below, there is a strong possibility that they will embark on a process of change.
The second option is a mixed democratic system, which is limited and more practical. The time when imperialism could unilaterally build an order at will is over. It is unlikely that the US, as the new hegemonic power, will establish and maintain a similarly one-sided system. On the other hand, the nation-states created by various national communities in the recent past can no longer solve problems and have become problems themselves, both at home and abroad. In this intermediary stage between systems, where there is an equilibrium, fully independent positions are becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain.
The age we are in emphasizes interdependence, and the third great offensive of globalization accelerates this process. The era of international relationships is being replaced by an era of corporate relationships. The nation-state is transforming itself into a corporate state. National capital is being replaced by inter-corporate capital. On the other hand, local cultures are awakening and showing a great deal of dynamism. The concept of “local” is an increasingly important value. In this light, we can define our time as one when both the global and the local are moving to center stage.
The political system that corresponds with this cannot be either an advanced national-bourgeois democracy or fascism, nor can it be the underdeveloped nations’ real socialism or the national liberation totalitarianisms. Perhaps democracies of a mixed character based on the coexistence of the two systems will emerge. The soundest approach would be democratic alliances of national and local social groups. Both the one-party models of the left and of the right, with their internal and state administrations, are being replaced by multiparty systems and effective democratic administrations. Any group capable of self-representation will be in a position to enter into more direct and flexible contact with the global system and increase the ebb and flow of surplus supply.
It is becoming increasingly likely that this global process will affect the countries of the Middle East. The necessity to overcome the very old structures of the status quo puts this option on the agenda, which is what underlies the US’s Greater Middle East Initiative. The people of the Middle East, on the other hand, lack the consciousness and the necessary level of organization to develop their own democracy. The fact that their will is fragmented and they are only just now awakening and beginning to act means that it will be difficult for them to unilaterally formulate a democratic option, making it no more than a future utopia. Nevertheless, it is indispensable and essential that we diligently and skillfully develop our own internal democracy to lay the groundwork for principled compromises. It is the possibility of freedom and creativity in the interval of chaos that makes this age of transition so important and provides an opening for the people to play a major role in mixed democracies.
The third option is to a large extent a utopic vision of the future: a democratic, pro–women’s freedom, and ecological society that prioritizes morality and is not state-centered. The fact that it’s a primarily utopic vision doesn’t mean that nothing about it can be lived today. Quite the contrary, it is our current task, always and everywhere, to carry forward this noble cause with modest steps. Sometimes only a little of it will come alive, but sometimes and in some places great progress can be made. We can draw a little closer to this society and this democracy every day by learning to live in a way that improves the internal democracy practiced by the people and by various free communities, ensuring woman’s freedom and meeting the needs of an ecological society. Communities that cannot govern themselves without relying on a state can never attain the freedom and equality they long for. To expect democracy and socialism from the state amounts to the very negation of democracy and socialism. There are hundreds of historical examples of this approach, and every time it has further strengthened the oppressive and exploiting powers. In nonstate-oriented democracies, communities must provide their own self-defense. The people’s defense militias must be able to protect all of the people’s essential values, in particular the people’s democracy, against usurpers, tyrants, and thieves wherever necessary, be it in the village, the city, the mountains, or the desert.
With communes, cooperatives, and various other working groups, it is possible to develop an economy that is not based on commodification, does not threaten people’s health, and does not harm the environment. Unemployment is a structural feature of exploitative systems and, therefore, cannot be a problem in a people’s democratic and ecological society. This society, one in which morality not law plays an essential role, whose passion for life and creative education is highly developed, with no room for internal war, and where fraternal and amicable relations prevail, is the best way to make the transition to a highly egalitarian socialism. A synthesis of communal society and ethnic groups, with their high level of equality, that has been experienced in the longue durée of history in the Middle East combined with today’s scientific and technological potential will finally facilitate a more developed democratic, pro–women’s freedom and ecological society, and this will become meaningful as the most noble of values.
1 One of the humanity’s oldest traditional narratives is the “Curse of Agade.” It was written in the twenty-second century BCE after Akkadian troops had laid the Sumerian city of Nippur to waste.
2 Books like The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
3 The original title of this book is In Defense of the People.
4 Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
5 The main work of the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam; see Desiderius Erasmus, In Praise of Folly (Grand Rapids: University of Michigan Press, 1958 ), accessed July 17, 2021, http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/1466-1536,_Erasmus_Roterodamus,_In_Praise_Of_Folly,_EN.pdf.
6 Mawlana is the honorary title given the Islamic mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi (1207–1273). Mani (216–276) was the founder of Manichaeism, which unified elements of Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism. Suhrawardi (1153–1191) was an Islamic mystic; see Shihäb al-Din al-Suhrawardi, The Philosophy of Illumination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).
7 This thesis about the emergence of the state is extensively developed in Abdullah Öcalan, Sümer Rahip Devletinden Demokratik Uygarlığa: AİHM Savunmaları I. Cilt I. (Neuss: Mezopotamien Verlag, 2002).
8 Called kahvehane or kıraathane, it is an exclusively male place, where tobacco products, but not food or alcohol, are served, card games among other games are played, and discussions and many different activities take place. These cafés have served different purposes over time but have become a sites of decay rather than enlightenment over the last fifty years or so.
9 Superficially, the dispute known as the Arianus controversy was about theological questions. For a long time, the followers of Arius were primarily found in the Eastern Church.
10 Emperor Constantine claimed to owe his victory in the Battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE to a vision of Christ. This victory made him the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire. His tolerance edict of the following year is regarded as the end of the persecution of the Christians.
11 The höyük are hills where the remnants of Neolithic settlements have been found.
12 Mazlum Doğan and Kemal Pir were both founding members of the PKK. At the age of twenty-four, Mazlum Doğan began the resistance in the Diyarbakır prison to end the severe repression both in prisons and outside, he is famously quoted as saying: “We love life to the point of dying for it when necessary.” He lost his life on Newroz, March 21, 1982, while protesting the repression. Ferhat Kurtay, one of the leading PKK cadres, immolated himself along with three others on May 18, 1982, in the infamous Diyarbakır prison, following Mazlum Doğan’s lead in protesting both the brutality in prison and against the society at large and the freedom movement. Kemal Pir, from the Black Sea region and Laz, lost his life on hunger strike on July 14, 1982, in the same prison.
13 “War is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means”; Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), accessed July 21, 2021, https://antilogicalism.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/on-war. pdf, generally quoted in its shorter form as “war is the continuation of politics with other means”; ibid .
14 Mazdak was a religious leader whose followers (the Mazdakites) formed a social revolutionary movement during the fifth century that lasted for several centuries. They promoted equality and communal property. Babak Khorramdin (798–838) led a twenty-year uprising against the Abbasids.
15 In the Turkish original, baş bağlama is an expression that refers to getting engaged or married, literally meaning tying or covering the head, in this sentence Öcalan uses a word play and paraphrases this expression to include the mind as well as the head not being tied down or covered, which is, of course, also the literal meaning for a headscarf.
16 The term “yellow union” refers to a union that works hand in hand with the state and the employers and not in the interests of the workers it allegedly represents.
17 In the aftermath of the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, a war of independence was waged under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from May 1919 to June 1923. In those years and the early years of the Republic of Turkey, many radical reforms were implemented. The 1920s were therefore a transitional period in which the ultimate direction of the republic was not yet clear.