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15 September 2011
*IRAQ REFLECTION: “Violence attracts violence.”*
by Stefan Warner
I recently attended a funeral for a Kurdish family killed by the Turkish
military while it was conducting air strikes in Northern Iraq. It launched
a rocket that hit the family's truck, killing seven people, including a
I do not understand Kurdish, which gave me time to contemplate as I sat
there. Why did this family die? Why will this six-month-old baby not grow
old, be loved, and love others, like I will? Why did the Turkish military
send warplanes into Iraq that killed this family?
The Turkish military would say that the PKK (an armed Kurdish group fighting
for an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey) claimed responsibility for an
ambush that left fourteen Turkish soldiers dead. So some might say that if
only the PKK would stop the violence against the Turkish state, then Turkey
would not retaliate and innocent people wouldn't die. Possibly. But before
condemning an oppressed group for using violent tactics, we need to
understand the conditions that lead up to this behavior.
Starting in the 1930s, the Turkish government started a policy of
assimilation and "turkification." Thousands of Kurdish people died as a
result, usually during forced resettlement. Well into the 1980s, Human
Rights Watch documented numerous examples of the Turkish military forcibly
evacuating villages and destroying homes to prevent the return their Kurdish
inhabitants. Earlier this year, Turkey's electoral board barred prominent
Kurdish candidates from running in elections, and to this day the Turkish
government refuses to recognize the Kurdish people as a distinct minority.
I do not support the violence done by PKK and I mourn the deaths of Turkish
military personnel. But what can be expected when a nation-state oppresses
an ethnic group for eighty years? I think Archbishop Hélder Câmara sums it
up in his tract, /The Spiral of Violence/: “ Violence attracts Violence.
Let us repeat fearlessly and ceaselessly: injustices bring revolt, either
from the oppressed or from the young, determined to fight for a more human
Archbishop Câmara explains that there are three levels of violence.
Number one is some injustice such as slavery. Number two is revolt.
Number three is repression. In U.S. history, one can look at the Nat
Turner uprising as an example. Nat Turner was born a slave in Virginia and
eventually led a slave rebellion, which, when put down, was followed by even
more brutal treatment of slaves in the south. The violence of Nat Turner
and his followers was not senseless. It was the result of intense violence
and oppression done to him and his people by white slave masters, who I
believe bear the ultimate blame for the violence of the revolt.
I'm still a pacifist. I am still a follower of Jesus and I hope his example
of non-violence can lead us all out of oppression and domination. However, I
hope we who are proponents of love and non-violence will fight the temptation
to condemn the oppressed, and look past the layers of violence, to see where
the original violence started.
CPT's MISSION: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline
and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized,
nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in
regions of lethal conflict.
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