“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it [is] he who is asked.”
~ Victor Fankl.
~ Victor Fankl.
It may come as a surprise to those who don't know any better, but PKK's ranks have never been closed to non-Kurds. There's an interesting story that came out last weekend in Der Kleine Bund about a non-Kurd who joined HPG. He is the subject of a documentary by Kurdish filmmaker, Mano Khalil.
According to Der Kleine Bund, David Rouillet was born into a well-to-do family in Lausanne, Switzerland, the same place from which the Treaty of Lausanne gets it name. David's father was a professor, former president of the Federal Court in Lausanne, lawyer and judge. His mother studied economics and actuarial science while his brother followed in their father's footsteps and became a lawyer.
David became interested in political science and active on behalf of minorities and the disadvantaged. It was probably through his political activism that David grew close to Kurdish circles in Switzerland, and traveled with a group of Kurds to Rome in 1998, to show solidarity with the Kurdish people's leader, Abdullah Ocalan. By that time, David had already been a regular at other Kurdish demonstrations.
David disappeared at the end of December, 2001, after telling his family he was making a trip to Paris. An SMS text message with greetings to his mother was the last that the family heard of David until August, 2004, when David made telephone contact with his family for the first time since his disappearance.
The Rouiller family had quietly contacted the police two months after the disappearance, and then turned to the International Committtee of the Red Cross. David's Kurdish acquaintances were also contacted, but no information was forthcoming.
It wasn't until the family made contact with Ismet Sherif Wanly that the truth of David's disappearance began to dawn on them. It was through this Kurdish intellectual that the family slowly learned that David had left for Kurdistan in late 2001, and that he was most likely living in the Kurdish mountains. The phone call from David in August, 2004, seemed to confirm that David had, in fact, become a freedom fighter for the Kurdish cause--an HGP gerîla.
David's mother, Ursula Rouiller, became determined to go to the Kurdish mountains to see her son, the gerîla. By accident, at a small film festival in Lausanne, somehow the Rouillers and Mano Khalil formed a common cause. Ursula Rouiller was willing to risk everything to go to the mountains; Mano Khalil was interested in David's story, and it was through Khalil, that Ursula did make her way to the mountains. Khalil agreed to go to Kurdistan to look for David at the end of 2005. By April, 2006, Mano Khalil caught up with David in a remote camp in the Kurdish mountains, and captured his story on videotape.
David's family was relieved to see and hear David in the documentary. The agony of not knowing his fate was over.
A few weeks after Khalil's return to Switzerland, with video footage of David, he returned to the mountains with Ursula Rouiller. David's mother did not go to the mountains to "make a scene" or to reproach him for his decision, although it was clear that the family had suffered much in not knowing what had happened to him. Perhaps the desire in Ursula's heart was a desire similar to those who long for a loved one after a sudden, unexpected death. She only wanted to see David one more time with her own eyes, to reassure herself that he was alright. For her, seeing him was enough; nothing else existed in the world.
She was received in a "friendly manner" by David's comrades, no doubt with all the legendary Kurdish hospitality that the extreme circumstances could afford. David acted as translator between his mother and his comrades. Ursula also found the assurance that David was not held against his will, but that he was free to return to his family at any time he so chose, with the help of HPG.
So David's family hopes. But Mano Khalil believes that David found something in the Kurdish mountains that is missing from the "paradise" of Switzerland, and the West--friendship, comradery, living in modesty, possessing nothing, and never knowing what the next day will bring. In other words, life stripped to its essence, and a rejection of the egoism of a Western society which is built on individualism. David's transformation is complete; he no longer speaks of "the Kurdish people," but of "our people."
David "of the Tolhildan" (Vengeance), as he is referred to in the documentary, has become a Kurd, and it may be more appropriate to refer to him as Tolhildan. Throughout David's transformation, it is apparent that it was David making the choices. Even the choice of renaming, symbolizing the transformation, was David's.
Tolhildan connects with his father and brother through the documentary, explaining that the ideals which they stand for in their practice of law, are the same ideals that he stands for, and acts on, as a Kurdish gerîla: as a defender of justice for an oppressed people, to obtain for them the rights that are theirs by virtue of their dignity as human beings.
Claude Rouiller, Tolhildan's father, gives his blessing to his son's choices through the words: "If my son has found meaning through this work he is doing, then I am the happiest person in the world. Even though some might not like this, I am proud of him."
For the entire article, in German, see the first page of "Our Son, the Guerrilla," from Der Kleine Bund, and the second page. See also an item from Hurriyet.
Tolhildan's story reminded me of another non-Kurd, one who became a şehîd for Kurdistan: Ronahî (Andrea Wolf), and since she was martyred in the month of November, it's fitting to remember her. See "November: A Film Treatment", by Hito Steyerl, Şehîd Ronahî's best friend. Note the statement of a former fighter:
The whole war zone of North Kurdistan is a white spot on the map. The war took place in a vacuum. There are no witnesses. And in this situation everything is possible. Everything which hurts your soul everything is possible, all the bad things you could imagine are possible, and they all happened there, too.I could smell the smell of war in all it´s facets right from the start. It was absolutely mandatory to carry weapons at that time. It was emotionally repulsive for me to carry weapons, because it was clear that these are not accessories like a filmcamera, but weapons have an extremely precise purpose.
And the struggle continues . . .