9 September 2020
by Rûnbîr Serkepkanî
I was talking to a relative, who told me about his brother, a combat pilot until he retired. “Defending the nation,” said my relative, concluding the conversation. I did not say anything. I asked myself, how can a jet plane pilot defend the nation? All the images of people I know who had gone to those front lines, shooting at enemies with sniper guns and Katyushas, killing them with bombs and daggers. BKC machine guns and Kalashnikovs. Each of them justifying their actions with the excuse that they were defending the nation. Then I remembered my friend Saman, whose two legs were cut off by a bomb that fell on his home when he was just a baby.
My son is nine-months-old, the same age as Saman when an Iranian jet plane cut off his legs. All of a sudden I could see jet planes coming. My frightened soul could hear them coming closer and closer and then dropping the bombs over us. And then fire, destruction, darkness, limbs spreading all around and an uncertain future. A Saman growing up without his legs and his parents.
I also remembered my friend Fatah who told me about his experiences during the Iraq and Iran war. He saw thousands of dead soldiers: Christians, Madeans, Shias, Sunnis, Ezidis, Arabs, Kurds, Persians, Balochs, Lurs, all of them slaughtered together by a gas poured over them by Iraqi airplanes. “Both fronts were silent in death,” Fatah said. They were all united. In death.
My earliest memories are about jet planes bombing my village. From the Iranian government because we were “Iraqis”. The Iraqi government was bombing us because we were “Kurdish Separatists”. And my life is full of people who lost their lives, limbs or became disabled by trauma because of helicopters and jet planes dropping bombs over them. To be a jet pilot is to be my enemy. To be the defender of a nation, means to be the bomber of my community, the amputator of my friend Saman’s nine-month-old legs.
What were the Iranian and Iraqi governments thinking? Were Saman’s legs just a tiny part of an ink drop with which the leaders of the Iranian and Iraqi nations wrote their fiery speeches, which made soldiers go into the hell they had created? What did the pilot think? What orders did he have? “Go and bomb that town to make a statement against the enemies of the Iranian nation?”
Well, when an Iranian combat plane fell into my home valley and the pilot survived, my fellow valley people saved his life. They did not give fiery speeches. They did not think twice. They did not follow the laws of any governments. According to the unwritten law of my valley, you help people who are in distress. The Iraqi forces tried their best, with threats, manipulation and many other methods to make the people of the valley hand over the pilot. But they protected him, hosted him, gave him the care and help he needed in order to heal and go back to his family. The members of my community did not see him as the enemy of “our nation”. They did not take it into consideration that this same man came to bomb our valley. That he was probably the pilot who had taken the legs from my friend Saman. They did not see him as a representative of the Iranian government. They did not let the Iraqi government take him, execute him and bury him in an anonymous grave, where his family could not visit him on Thursday mornings. They saw him as a father who needed to go back to his children, a son who needed to go back to his mother, a husband who needed to go back to his wife. They saw him as a human being with wounds. They risked their own security to protect him from anyone who wanted to harm him. When he was healed, they smuggled him all the way back to his family and those who loved him.
Nation-States need to destroy people with bombs and drones without ever knowing who they are. They dehumanise so many people by making them into statesmen, living propaganda machines, soldiers, and pilots. Indoctrinating them with false promises, false stories and false borders.
Most people in my community would not be less oppressed if their land was occupied by an Iranian or Iraqi army. It would not change so much if our land were included in the imaginary maps of Iran or Iraq. WE are people of the valley and we follow what we think is right because regardless of how many bombs they drop over us, we will not be dehumanized.
When my valley was liberated from the Iraqi occupation in 1991, the former pilot came back on his own feet, walking over the soil to his friends. He was demilitarised, denationalised. He was forgiven. He was free. He was grounded. He was reunited with his friends. In life.