Challenging Privilege: On Solidarity and Self-reflection
Dilar Dirik, Roar Magazine, May 4, 2016
Solidarity is not a one-way charity undertaking by privileged activists, but a multidimensional process that contributes to the emancipation of everyone involved.
A German man is not impressed with the grassroots democracy project in Rojava because he has seen something similar decades ago in Latin America. A French woman reproaches Kurdish women for a lack of preparation for her visit because they are not as organized as the Afghan women she observed in the 1970s. A person passes as Rojava’s revolutionary insider after a one-week trip and without access to media and literature in any Middle-Eastern language, but his opinion is regarded as more legitimate and authentic than that of struggling people.
What do these people’s experiences have in common?
They all show genuine interest and care, and their efforts deserve due credit. But there’s something more: the element that underlies a system that enables people to complete the checklist of revolutionary tourism — in the past decade especially in Palestine and Chiapas, now in Rojava. This element is something that revolutionaries must actively problematize: privilege.
To clarify from the start: as someone who writes mostly for an international audience, who facilitates communication and encourages delegations to Kurdistan, I belong to the people who fundamentally value such exchange and work. But people who claim solidarity and who are in a privileged position that enables them to travel and be listened to have a moral obligation to use this privilege for the better. The intention of this article is to contribute to a conversation about problems that emerge when hierarchical relationships are established in the name of solidarity.