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Fashionable Guerrillas By: Theodore Dalrymple
City Journal | Thursday, May 25, 2006


Notwithstanding the political catastrophes of the twentieth century, the notion of the noble guerrilla persists on the left. According to this notion, a man or woman who takes to the hills, gun in hand, must be fighting for a good cause, and bringing about a better and more just world. The Guardian, Britain’s left-liberal newspaper, which (alas) is also its most serious paper, can’t get enough of the noble guerrilla.

The Guardian’s latest glossy weekend supplement carried a photographic essay about PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) guerrillas on the Turkish-Iraqi border. Romanticizing them could hardly go further: in rugged landscapes, we see fresh-faced young men and women in gray-green fatigues either in pensive, poetic mood or happily singing revolutionary songs.

How purposefully authentic their existence seems compared with ours, who live in large, comfortable, and wealthy cities, selfishly enjoying the rotten fruits of a decadent civilization. One almost wishes one could shed the veneer of sophistication and join up, to breathe the crystalline, unpolluted air of Kurdistan.

How many times in the twentieth century did we see the same photographic essays about noble guerrilla movements!

In the brief commentary that accompanied the pictures, not a single word appeared about the PKK’s history of hard-line Marxism or its alliance with the Shining Path, the monstrous Peruvian guerrilla movement of the Pol Pot tendency. Nor was there a word about the 30,000 people who have died as a result of its insurgency. All we get are the words of “a female fighter.” “We don’t want a utopia,” she said. “Like all people around the world, we simply want the right to enjoy our culture and use our language.”

Perhaps the best gauge of the depth and sincerity of the average Guardian reader’s interest in and commitment to the Kurdish liberation struggle—a struggle that, if successful, would almost certainly result in the establishment of a nasty little totalitarianism—is the article on the following pages about fashion, with the legend “Elegant drapery with metallic details[—]take inspiration from ancient Greece this summer.” The article invites female supporters of Kurdish liberation to buy a blue, one-shoulder Lanvin dress for just over $2,900, together with a wide silver belt for $280 and a silver charm chain (worn around the shoulder) at $500, or alternatively a black dress with metallic detail by Marios Schwab for just over $3,000, together with gold sandals for $640.

Could solidarity with the Kurdish people go any further? The PKK are a fashion accessory: bought, of course, at the expense of others.

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.


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