It was a viral delirium, a snapshot taken in the margins of reality three months before the fall of Raqqa or, to be precise, on July 23, 2017.
23/04/2019, 15:54:56 / By Ferran Barber / Crónica de El Mundo
It was a viral delirium, a snapshot taken in the margins of reality three months before the fall of Raqqa or, to be precise, on July 23, 2017. What it showed resembled more a cyberpunk rant than an episode of a war. In just a couple of days – and thanks, among other things, to the push of a tweet by Ricky Martin – the photo began to bump around the planet’s networks and raise questions that were never answered.
“These fagots kill fascists,” someone in English had written about a large banner held by two foreign militiamen who traveled to northern Syria to fight Daesh. A few meters away, amidst the rubble of a city they identified as Raqqa – the fief of Al Baghdadi and his henchmen – four other hooded guerrillas held a rainbow flag and a second banner with a Kalasnikov printed on a pink rag. It was an act of hallucinatory provocation.
Who were these international brigade members that no one had ever heard of and who had gathered the insolence necessary to portray themselves between anarchist anagrams and LGBT slogans in the heart of the caliphate of Daesh, three months before his fall?
Until today, we had not known that the great Queer Liberation Army known as Tqila’s alias was actually a 30-year-old kid – two years younger, when the events now unveiled happened – raised in Massachusetts. To execute his plan, the American of Greek-Kurdish-Iranian origin was supported by his brothers-in-arms. Now we have learned that he was obsessed with the idea of destroying the morale of the wrathful animosities of Daesh. For its symbolic value, I wanted to hit them among the ruins of the city where they were dying.
“I took it personally, as a visual revenge”, says Agit -nom de guerre of the militiaman- after finding him somewhere in the European anti-capitalist catacombs, when he was about to travel from Brussels to Athens, his current residence .
About two years has led us to track it to know, the making of its spectacular staging. “I felt invested with the power and the need to raise the flag of the rainbow in Raqqa, less to turn that into a homonationalist statement than to convey a simple idea: ” Fuck you, Daesh. Fuck you, jihadists. We are radical queer and we can also fight. Everything was part of a psychological war. “
It was a real scandal, not only in the most homophobic environments on the planet or among the conservative local Arab population, but even, or above all, among the supposedly progressive Kurdish militias (YPG),
That was a punch in the belly of the beast. And probably – many agreed – the most revolutionary of the acts carried out in the Kurdish scenario of the Syrian war since the reconquest of Kobane. Among the anarchist comrades of the unit to which Agit-IRPGF belonged, there was also a Spaniard known by the nickname of Siwan who took part in the masquerade, although it does not appear in the photo.
Agit refers to himself as a queer and as a libertarian communist. In a literal sense, queer or, as some propose, cuir , is an English adjective that literally means strange or crooked. In non-heterosexual environments, it is used to refer to people who resist being stuck in the cork of gender categories proposed by the official entomology of alternative sexuality. Queers do not want to endorse any of the labels that define LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities.
The banner of Tqila and the ephemeral invention of an army of Queers that never existed outside the headlines of the Western press cost Agit to be expelled from the front where he fought. And with him, the rest of his companions. It was a real scandal, not only in the most homophobic environments on the planet or among the conservative local Arab population, but even, or above all, among the supposedly progressive Kurdish militias (YPG), in whose ranks they fought.
“Notice that a year before someone from the YPG had tweeted a message saying that with the help of God (Inshala), the rainbow flag would be raisedin Raqqa when the Daesh was defeated. So we designed the banner in our base in the capital of the Caliphate and we went to take the snapshots in the vicinity of buildings that we had reconquered shortly before. We had to make the rainbow sculpture by hand in Kamisli, “explains Agit. “We took a first picture in which we all appeared hooded, and a second in which our commander, Mahir Bakirciyan, showed his face in anticipation of someone supposing it to be a fake. We left quickly because we were only two blocks from the sniper line of the Daesh. The two pictures were taken by one of our Greek companions ».
Most of the infantry fighting in the Democratic Forces of Syria (SDF, according to its acronym in English) in Raqqa were Arabs of the city and its surroundings, absolutely committed to tribal thought and certain Muslim convictions close to Salafist conservatism . The viral explosion of that kind of attack against the morale of the bulk of the troops was enhanced by the dozens of reports that, throughout the entire world, published the photographs. When ?, what ?, who were part of that army of Queers? The bulk of the answers were based on the speculations of the outsiders and on the smoke screens raised by the protagonists of this act of agitation and queer propaganda “for security reasons”.
By then, nobody among the Kurdish commanders remembered that tweet in which someone was committed to raising the LGBT flag in Raqqa. And the commander in chief himself appeared before them to abroncarles for what happened. Remember Agit that they were forced to apologize. «We had no choice. The SDF spokesman rushed to issue a statement to say that there was no sub-unit with the name of Tqila within the Democratic Forces of Syria. They were furious and yes, they definitely forced us to write a collective apology in writing, although, to be honest, I never thought we would have done something we had to repent of. “
That put to the test the own Kurdish commanders who fought against the Daesh in Syria. “Everyone knows that the majority of the kadros (non-commissioned officers) of the YPG and other militias affiliated with the PYD come, in fact, from the Turkish PKK, and their mentality remains deeply Stalinist and very homophobic,” says Agit. “They are very retrograde with gays. I call them the monks of the mountains because, unlike what happens in groups like Tikko, in the ranks of the guerrillas sex is not tolerated, and even less if it is between equals. Although none of this transcended, they took it fatally. “
The nickname with which he fought means literally hero and was also that of Mahsum Korkmaz, the first martyr of the PKK fallen in combat against the Turks (1994).
That was, in truth, the biggest scandal, and the one that never made itself known.He was buried among the unknowns, the conjectures and the trinkets. In order to confuse the journalists who tracked their identity, Agit even went so far as to invent his true “nom de guerre” and to provide instead two alternative nicknames (Rojhilat and Black October), with which he was mentioned in Newsweek or Telegraph , among other means. The nickname with which he fought means literally hero and was also that of Mahsum Korkmaz, the first martyr of the PKK fallen in combat against the Turks (1994).
Curiously, it was the YPJ Kurdish militiamen – including their commanders – who most applauded the provocation. Her reaction was also fascinating because, in the opinion of Agit, that alleged feminist revolution of Rojava, mythified and misinterpreted by the Europeans in reports and documentaries about Kurdish Amazons “is extremely conservative and reactionary”. Even so, they tolerated it better than men. Much more than the men , the militiamen warned of the protesting power of the flag that the American and his comrades nailed in the bowels of that brutal state imitation sponsored by the Islamist assassins.
“Do not forget to mention that I was trained by Nubar Ozanyan”, Agit insists when we try to delve into the reasons that led him to fight against the Daesh when he was 28 years old. Nubar was a legendary Armenian commander – a native Turk and known by the nickname of Orhan Bakirciyan – who died in combat during the Battle of Raqqa.
Although first-generation American, Agit grew up in an environment of fervent devotion to Mao, Enver Hoxha (Albanian Communist) and Che Guevara, which also explains their different commitments. “My father is a Kurd from Iran, and my mother is Greek. I grew up in the United States, but within a very political family that carries the anti-imperialist struggle in its DNA. The men of my maternal family fought in the Greek Civil War and in the fight against the fascists,within the Communist ranks of the Resistance, so it is an undeniable and tremendous legacy. My mother used to tell me that I never had photos of rockstarsbecause I preferred Lenin. “
In his hometown of the state of Massachusetts, Agit earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science, before traveling, very young, to China to attend a master’s degree in Marxist Philosophy, one of four postgraduate degrees he is about to obtain. “I came to receive training from the US Army to become a parachutist,but I refused to take part in the war against terrorism because of personal convictions. All that military background was useful to me during the nine months I was in Rojava [Democratic Federation of Northern Syria].
«Today I am 30 years old. I fought in the conquest of the capital of the caliphate; I became commander of the International Battalion of Freedomand, although there are many controversial aspects in the political project of the Kurds, we all agreed on the need to defeat fundamentalist Islamism. “
In one of the videos of the unit where he served, he is seen sitting with his leg in plaster after a shooting. «We knew you were looking for us. But that was not the time to reveal all the details of this story to the press … If you want a summary, this fagot fights against fascism. Not pass”.
Copyright by Ferran Barber & Crónica de El Mundo