Exercise of Collective Punishment
Who are we?
As people, as citizens of a country what are we? How can we define ourselves? Each time I raise the question I am not able to come up with a definite answer.
I realize if I can’t define us, how am I able to describe us to others. Well, I can describe events in our long history, attributes of our versatile culture and multifaceted society.
But does that really define who we are? Perhaps in reality we are not anything. The problem is that constantly we are defined by somebody else. It has been a common occurrence for centuries to our people to be defined by anyone but ourselves.
Defining us, telling us who we are.
We are Muslims, we are communists, we are Asiatics, we are Europeans, we are…
Historically, the occupying powers have used it to deter attacks of the resistance movement, resulting in violation of basic human rights and mass abuse of a group with the same background and culture.
Geneva Convention set up laws to protect the civilians of a country in a time of war against collective punishment. Yet collective punishment has been exercised against our people as a whole throughout centuries.
Mostly the punishment not in time of war, but punishment in time when we attempted to define ourselves. Each time the executioners exercised the power of collective punishment against us to make us somebody we are not. The punishment whose scars we bear until today.
Many people are being told who they are every day around the world. Their basic human rights are violated, their self-identity destroyed, they are told it is not good enough to be them.
They should be this or nothing else. Mostly these people are found in places with strict societal norms, severe economic conditions and authoritarian regimes. They are told to be Muslims in a “right way,” straight, partisan, Westernized, traditional and everything else that is not really them.
But these are individuals.
Many of those individuals either fight for themselves, to define who they are, or they choose to conform. Yet, no matter what they choose they understand what it means to be defined by somebody else. To lose one’s identity is the harshest punishment.
What about if this punishment is inflicted not on an individual but on a group, on people, on a nation as a whole? How to heal the scar of the people? How to fight?
One of the many times this scar was deepened when our solidarity was divided between two sides of the southern river. We weren’t a whole then. It almost became a forgotten element of our self. We were not us anymore. Our identity was split. Then, someone else determined our identity for ourselves. Again we were collectively punished.
Self-determination is a right. I support the idea. To be what one wants to be is the true prerogative of anybody or any group. Put aside if that inflicts harm on the other that seeks the same right, there are laws to protect such incidents.
However, there are many groups around the globe that are fighting to self-determine. Palestine has been struggling for half a century to define who they are. Yet, their identity has been defined for them.
They are the Hamas, they are a terrorist group, they are Arab, they are everything but what they want to be. Israel on the other hand was successful in defining what their identity is.
It is my belief, that at the expense of the other group that are entitled for the same right. But that’s a long and itchy subject.
1918. The year we tried to define ourselves once again. The closest we came to our firmest and most true self determination. That was the year we independently could choose who we were and who we wanted to be. Of course, the collective punishment took its course once more as the vicious northern neighbor executed its definition of who we ought to be.
Since then we are being collectively punished. Punished for being southern, punished for being Muslim, and punished for not fitting any of the definitions that was set up for our people. Our punishment continued until 1990 when we stood once again to define ourselves.
January 20, 1990. Collectively punished by the Russian aggressors for trying to define ourselves. Our movement for independence, to be who we wanted to be. Our strongest effort to self-determine. We sacrificed many individuals in this path.
Someone said if you have made sacrifices for an objective it means it is a worthy goal. We sacrificed hundreds just at this point in time. Yet, we sacrificed thousands perhaps millions throughout centuries to define who we are. The problem is our sacrifices have not ceased.
Who is executing our collective punishment now?
As existential puppets we continue in our efforts to define ourselves. And this time it is not our close neighbors or distant enemies that are executing our collective punishment. It is the aggressor within our borders.
We are European. We are tolerant. We are progressive. We are wealthy. We are open-minded. We are democratic.
But this time is much more different than all times in the past. This time our executioner is not forcing its identity on us. Because this this executioner has no identity.
This executioner is thriftier, trickier and much more dangerous. This executioner is creating a façade of a true identity. A new, deceiving realm of self-determination. The scary part is we are starting to believe it, we are adopting it. It is becoming part of us.
We are turning into something unchangeable.
Isn’t it time to stop the collective punishment of our people and define who we really are?
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