What if Alan Kurdî did Grow up in France? – An Open Letter to Charlie Hebdo

by Dilar Dirik/Guest

We publish this letter here on Love and Rage from Dilar Dirik, a committed activist in the Kurdish liberation struggle. It is an open letter in response to the recent publication of a racist cartoon depicting Alan Kurdî in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Kurdî was a three-year old Syrian refugee who died while fleeing his home country. A picture of his dead body which washed up on a beach in Turkey became a famous image around the world last year. The cartoon in Charlie Hebdo suggests that if the boy did grow up in France, that he would most likely become a groper and sexual assaulter. This is a timely piece, given the recent controversy surrounding the Islamophobia and bigotry expressed by the Utica Phoenix. The Love and Rage collective has also published stories in the past and will continue to do so in the future about the Rojava Revolution and the Kurdish liberation struggle.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoon in question.

Dear Charlie Hebdo,

Free speech blabla/it’s not racism blabla aside, your latest cartoon depicting Alan Kurdî as a groper in Europe if he had grown up is neither funny, nor does it express anything meaningful in any way.

It is tasteless anyway, but since you have chosen Alan Kurdî to be the protagonist of your cartoon, let us look at the context of this child that was drowned in the Mediterranean and that you are mocking now beyond his death: Alan Kurdî was a Kurd from Kobane, the bastion of resistance against ISIS. Kobane restored hope in humanity, and above all, it has shown the world the strength and power of women against fascism.

If Alan Kurdî had grown up — and he would have, if states like France wouldn’t turn Europe into a supremacist castle of untouchability to protect themselves from the results of their colonial legacies, if they wouldn’t have destroyed countries from which millions of Alans now flee partly as a result of French policies and arms sales, if France hadn’t drawn these artificial borders in the Sykes-Picot agreement, the devastating outcomes of which we now experience exactly 100 years on — he sure would have known throughout his life what the meaning of Kobane is.

He would have known that it was women who liberated his hometown. Perhaps, like most organized Kurdish youth in our communities in Europe — most of whom also once arrived as refugees there — he would have become an active advocate of free speech, a political activist, a defender of rights. He would have grown up with, and gotten used to women in leadership roles all around him. Photos of women guerrillas on walls would have been normal to him.

If he had studied, the jokes about how Kurdish students always study sociology, politics or law would have also applied to him. He perhaps would have challenged the fact that France purposefully still doesn’t expose the role of the Turkish secret service in the murder of three Kurdish women activists, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan, and Leyla Saylemez in Paris, who were killed almost on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, but two years earlier.

He would have perhaps protested that the French state creates reasons to arrest and terrorize Kurdish activists in France for their political activities and opinions. The same French state that yells “freedom of speech” and which has revoked the broadcasting license from the Kurdish television channel Medya TV in 2004, which was the only way for the millions of diasporic Kurds in Europe to get news from their home and have a voice.

But yes, Alan Kurdî died, his future was taken away and your racist imagination of his future is laughable when you try to decorate it with free speech, when it is among other things the fascism and the silence of the French state that is directly responsible for refugee bodies being rendered disposable!


Dilar Dirik is part of the Kurdish women’s movement and the broader Kurdish liberation struggle. She is a writer and PhD student at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. Her work has been published in Al Jazeera, Telesurtv, ROAR and Kurdish Question. This article was also posted on ROAR Magazine and reposted here with the permission of the author. For a great interview with her on the Rojava Revolution, check out Antidotezine.com

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