We Fought for Our Democracy. Now Turkey Wants to Destroy It.

We Fought for Our Democracy. Now Turkey Wants to Destroy It.


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Turkish-backed fighters in Azaz, Syria last week. CreditOzan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

AFRIN, Syria — For more than a week, my home in northwestern Syria has been under a full-scale assault by the Turkish Army and thousands of Turkish-aligned Islamist jihadists.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been threatening this invasion for a very long time. The Turkish Army has been targeting our villages with mortars and artillery for many months now.

I and my fellow members of the Kurdish Women’s and People’s Protection Units, often known as the Y.P.J. and Y.P.G., have fought hard for years to keep the Islamic State out of this autonomous region of Syria known as Rojava. We endured Turkey’s barrages and avoided returning fire, even after civilian casualties, so as not to provide a pretext for this invasion.

But Mr. Erdogan has nevertheless unleashed airstrikes, tanks and troops on this area that was once a relative island of peace in this war-torn country.

One would imagine the international community and especially the United States, which has been more than happy to partner with us in the fight against the Islamic State, would firmly oppose such an unprovoked attack executed in the name of racial hatred — Mr. Erdogan has stated his intention to commit ethnic cleansing of Afrin’s Kurdish population, or, as he says, to give the region to its “real owners” — but instead, it has been greeted largely with silence, and therefore tacitly condoned.


A demonstration in Amuda, Syria, this month against the Turkish invasion.CreditDelil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Does the Trump administration now care about nothing but its own immediate tactical interests? Wavering messages or calls for “caution” will not be enough. In addition to exerting real pressure on its Turkish ally, the United States should press for a no-flight zone over Afrin and the rest of Rojava. Leaders in Britain, France and elsewhere must also take a moral stand and demand a stop to this carnage.

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The Turkish Army has been training the most extreme Islamist gangsters it could find as part of the so-called Free Syrian Army that is part of their assault, including members of the fascist Gray Wolf death squads and Qaeda affiliates, with high-tech weaponry purchased from the United States, Britain and Germany. They are being sent into our country backed by F-16 aircraft, German-made Leopard tanks and regular Turkish soldiers.

Yet Mr. Erdogan calls us terrorists, asserting that we and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that he has warred with in Turkey are identical. The hypocrisy of this transparent justification for his invasion is astounding. Our forces have led the fight against the true terror represented by the Islamic State — even while Turkey provided it support and its oil was sold in Turkey.

Now Turkey is allying itself with jihadists and backing them with NATO weaponry to attack us. Is the world really willing to believe we are terrorists because we share the Kurdish freedom movement’s goals of democracy, environmental protection and women’s liberation?

We proudly admit we support these ideas, as do members of the Kurdish movement in Turkey and elsewhere. But our forces have been focused on the fight against the Islamic State, one in which we’d rather have had Turkey as an ally, not an enemy.

Do Western powers now believe that too strong a commitment to their own professed democratic ideals is terrorism? Mr. Erdogan, on the other hand, is an enemy of women, whom he has called “half persons,” and the views of his fundamentalist minions are even worse.

There’s much worth fighting for. Until the Turkish invasion we had been able to maintain Afrin as a haven for anyone fleeing the terror of the civil war. We worked to develop our own democratic institutions.

Though poor and largely without outside aid, we have shared what we have with refugees, to the point where the region’s population ballooned in size.

In keeping with our philosophy of democratic confederalism, we established local councils so that all can participate in the decisions affecting their neighborhoods and communities. We hold independently monitored elections and ensure that women and all ethnic groups are strongly represented in governance. Our democratic system is increasingly the opposite of Turkey’s, where President Erdogan is crushing dissent and centralizing more power every day.

We have lost thousands of our brothers and sisters in the war against the Islamic State, and if this invasion continues, it will be only a matter of time before the jihadist remnants return to gain control of places we had liberated.

And Turkey’s forces themselves, allied as they are with extremist groups, pose a serious threat to our Assyrian and Armenian Christianand Yazidi communities. Turkey’s planes are killing children and civilians and destroying our villages. Those who had taken refuge here are fleeing and have no haven left.

We are asking the Western powers to act on their principles. Why are you not condemning a flagrant and unprovoked assault on the very men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder with you against the darkness of the Islamic State? Now a different evil, that of Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly undemocratic Turkey, aims to destroy our fledgling democracy. And this time, it’s claiming to act in your name.

Nujin Derik is the commander of the Women’s Protection Units in Afrin, Syria.

Translated from the Kurdish by Elif Sarican.

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Mars hi-res


A car crashed into the second story of a building in Santa Ana, California, this morning

Plastic in the Arts Isn’t Normal – First steps…

Friends and colleagues in the performance / touring world – please read and share this if you have a moment.

Following the logic, or the spirit, of not-doing-nothing-cos-you-can’t-solve-everything, I’ve decided to try and launch a “campaign of encouragement” with the aim of reducing the use of plastic in arts festivals (bottles, cutlery, packaging) and normalise the idea of avoiding its use.
Why? Because the global situation now is so obscene, and so critical (see link below for a start) that every time I’m at a festival and there are plastic plates for lunch or plastic water bottles at a conference (etc), I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of terrible dissonance or hypocrisy, and i guess i’m not alone. The arts are so often touted as ‘factories of possibilities’, coproducing and presenting work which tries to imagine alternatives, or at least exposing problems… and this one (unlike for example air travel) is not even that hard to solve.
We know this, because some festivals and organisations out there have already figured it out, so I wanted to start with pooling those positives, to be able to articulate solutions, not just lay down a challenge. Two questions –
a. do you know, or are you, an organisation who has an effective no-plastic policy, or is trying?
b. what are the steps taken which worked / didn’t work / continue to cause problems?
c. are there any existing campaigns that I could help with and which would render this unnecessary? (please say yes…)
I have a few ideas, but as a dilettante in the art of campaigning I’d welcome any suggestions for how to go about this with care and understanding as well as effectiveness
with thanks and hope,
ps. apologies to Jacques Rancière for the image



The other day I was thinking about the terrible Beslan Massacre which happened on my birthday 1 Sep some years ago. And then, about how commemorations of catastrophe are usually measured in years (10 years since 9/11 etc). I wondered if matters of human pain or anguish wouldn’t be better considered in terms of hours, if not minutes and seconds. There’s a website where you can put in a date and get how many hours have passed – it turns out that Beslan happened 100 thousand hours ago, today. But now that I have this round number in front of me, I’m not sure what to do with it.

the Extra People in America

here’s an email I sent to my contacts in the States prior to the upcoming mini-tour and premiere

dear friends in NYC, Philly and beyond,
I’m coming over with a big new thing called The Extra People, which I’d love to share with you. I don’t think i’ve ever worked for so long on something – it’s been a long journey. And yet despite that, due to the nature of the project, crazy thing is it’s also one of the first truly experimental works i’ve made. I like to think that we do our experiments before we present the work and that the tag doesn’t really apply for the most part – but now, with 30 people at any one time all listening to binaural audio compositions together in sync… and in overlapping cycles for anything up to 6 hours… well we’ve done as many trial sessions as those kind of numbers allow, but the final piece has evolved beyond the last one, so we’re coming with truly new material. But, i’m in luck – we premiere at EMPAC which means EXPERIMENTAL Media and Perfoming Arts Centre. And beyond that, I’m quietly confident that this ship will sail rather beautifully. So join us upstate, or in Philly (at the huge Merriam theatre), or finally at FIAF in NYC, and be part of something which for sure will be memorable – even if the experience aims more for oblivion…

I’m so lucky to have shown a lot of work in the States over these last years. Many of you have shared my different forrays (with different collaborators) into live performance which is also automatic, and unpeopled beyond an unrehearsed audience. After the early shows with curated guest performers – from BLOKE (1999) to Doublethink (2004) – things took a turn for the micro, and for several years my work was better known for its intimate and reciprocal nature (Etiquette, GuruGuru, Cue China, The Quiet Volume).

The Extra People brings you back to the theatre building and its scale, but the system (a synthesized child’s voice) seems not to know what a theatre is, or what it’s for. We don’t use the building’s lights or sound – it’s all in the headphones, and in your hands (powerful LED flashlights). You’re given a high-visibility vest, and you’re cast as an Extra. But for what?

The overal picture is out of your reach: too big, beyond your comprehension or simply not your job to know. With hints of today’s fast-developing “voice-directed” warehouse management systems, the child / system leads you through the cracked dreams of today’s temporary, ‘flexible’, high-viz and debt-ridden worker. Highly realistic binaural recordings lend this stark zone, somewhere between Beckett and Ballard, a hallucinatory edge: an audio landscape so real and complete that at times you may mistrust your eyes. Public-private divisions are also messed with: the voice reverberates off the walls of the auditorium – and yet not-one else can hear it.

In a challenge to the assumption (often taken for granted) that collectivity is what you find in the theatre, the building here reflects society rather differently, with its audience situated as atomised individuals adrift or even asleep among both seating and stage; plugged into their own audio streams, patiently awaiting their call, and eventually acting upon it. And all the while the fabric of their realities disintegrates until the proceedings on stage resemble, from within, a looping, dementia-ridden process, where roles of attendant and dependent rise to the surface, before switching as easily as the flashlights changing hands. An initial sense of exposure is slowly overcome by one of oblivion until the memory of what it was like to sit quietly with critical distance seems as far away as the seats – somewhere out there in the dark.


That’s the pitch.

One final thought – in going over the shows i’ve presented over the years in New York, one was left out – Five in the Morning. Jason Zinoman totally got what it was about, writing in NY Times here. Somehow i found myself going back to this work a lot during the writing for the Extra People. Those of you who remember it at PS122 may enjoy some echos this time.

The dates and links are below. If you’d like a little more info there’s some here on my website
and a nice interview here where I expand a little on the thinking behind it

I hope to see you soon



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September 10 > EMPAC, Troy, NY, USA
September 17 – 18 > FringeArts, Philadelphia, USA
September 25 – 26 > Crossing the Line, NYC, USA

The Extra People

written and directed by Ant Hampton

sound design and composition – Sam Britton

artistic advice – Kate McIntosh

editing / system design / tech director – Hugh Roche Kelly

early development / brainstorming at Empac – Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford

assistance at Empac – Julia Asharaf

commissioned by Ash Bulayev / Empac

Creative producer – Katja Timmerberg

Extra People was commissioned by EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, USA)

with coproduction from Kaaitheater (Brussels) and Malta Festival (Posnan)

supported by the Culture Program of the European Commission via the House on Fire network, French Institute Alliance Française (NYC), Kingsfountain (Paris)

Thanks to Vallejo Gantner, Britt Hatzius, Matthieu Goeury / Vooruit, Edmund and Tina Manwarren Roche-Kelly and to the many volunteers who have helped with tryouts and development in Troy, Brussels and Gent.

Special thanks to Coda Cola, London, for generous studio support

For next assignment, say ‘READY’.

Continuing work on THE EXTRA PEOPLE, I’ve been investigating the strange new world of voice-directed warehouse managment systems.

Hi-lights on youtube include some great ‘testimony’ to camera from Roy Andersson-tinged employees and bosses from Finland (see pic below, and here)  and this promotional video from DematicCorp where we’re told at the end that

“You can even ask the system, HOW AM I DOING? – or, HOW MUCH MORE?”

Finally, a worker (or ‘associate’ in Amazon-speak) on the job (‘temporary assignment’) with Voxware at ‘Performance Food Group’ in Richmond, USA, here. Grab one, position Alpha, confirm.