Demirci Kawa and other Kurdish heroes
As the conflict in Syria grows more complicated, concern is rising that we’re on the brink of World War III. With Russia and the U.S. representing two sides in the Syria crisis, Turkey’s Olive Branch Operation to take control of the Syrian town of Afrin poses a big question mark about the future.
After the Olive Branch Operation is complete and the Turkish forces pull out, it is still unknown who will end up occupying that territory, but the images that will remain in everyone’s mind are the destruction of the Demirci Kawa statue and the forced evacuation of the people in the region.
In a previous article, I wrote about how Kurds have never had their own superhero. However, if we consider Demirci Kawa, Kurds have actually had many ‘’superheroes’’ throughout history, and in today’s world of anime and computer games, Kurdish heroes have achieved global popularity.
Let me briefly explain briefly the story of Demirci Kawa for those who have never heard of him. According to the legend in the Sagas of Firdevs, the people were ruled by the evil king Dehaka, who ordered the murder of all the children and youths in the kingdom. He did this because he was cursed with two large snakes on his shoulders, and the only way to cure this curse was to feed the snakes with children’s brains. In the end, as the children were dying, it was Demirci Kawa who organized the people to storm the castle in an act of defiance. He killed Dehaka and burned his castle to the ground.
In short, contrary to the Free Syrian Army’s claim that the statue was an idol, Demirci Kawa is the legendary hero of Nevruz, the spring holiday that Kurds still celebrate today. In other words, Kawa is a character that resembles Asena, the Gray Wolf of the Ergenekon legend, who led the ancient Turks to freedom after they were trapped in the Ergenekon Valley for four centuries.
Before moving on to the Kurdish-origin heroes created by the Japanese, let me first provide a quick definition of anime. The Japanese art of drawing and animation is called “anime.” Anime drawings have some important differences from regular comic book drawings, and comic books drawn in the anime style are called “manga.”
Setsuna F. Seiei is undoubtedly the most popular Kurdish hero. He appears in Mobil Suit Gundam 00, part of the popular Japanese TV series Gundam. Setsuna, whose real name is Soran Ibrahim, is a child soldier born in the 23rd century. When Setsuna was young, someone called Ali Al-Saachez brainwashed him into demonstrating his love for God by killing his family. Later on, Setsuna’s belief in God is lost and the Gundams rescue him just as he is about to get murdered.
The story of Mobil Suit Gundam 00 takes place in the 24th century. The world’s fossil fuels have been used up, and the Sunlight generator system provides energy for developed countries. The world has been divided into three major states. The American continent, Japan, and Oceania are called the Union; China, Russia, and the former Eastern Bloc countries are the Human Reform League; and the European Union countries (including Turkey) are called the Advanced European Union. The countries outside of these are in a constant state of war and poverty because they do not have access to the Sunlight generator system.
Gundam is a group that has decided to end all wars in the world. With their army of robots, they are more powerful than all the military forces in the world, and they work to bring peace everywhere. Gundam carries out its mission of peace using powerful technology that is reminiscent of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Arthur C. Clark’s Childhood’s End, and it’s a really good example of anime.
What will surprise many people is that the first episode begins with a 24th century war in the Republic of Kurdistan (Krugis). Director Seiji Mizshima believes that even if three centuries passed by, there will never be peace in places like Kurdistan, Sri Lanka or Ireland. Although the story of Setsuna is based on the idea of using war to bring about so-called peace, young audiences will find they don’t have much in common with the main character.
Despite this contrast, Setsuna (that is, Soran Ibrahim) is wildly popular in Japan. He’s the narrator of the entire second season, and he is the hero of several films and manga comics. He’s so popular that in 2008, he was chosen in a vote sponsored by Newtype as the second best male character.
Another Kurdish hero to emerge from Japan is Jiro Manabe, who is actually half Kurdish and half Japanese. Jiro is the hero of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s six-part comic book series Rebel Sword (Kurudo no Hoshi). He is 15 years old, and when he receives a letter from his mother he hasn’t seen in 10 years, he comes to Istanbul, immediately finding himself in the middle of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. After Turkish soldiers pursue him for a short time, Jiro goes to Van in Turkey’s southeast, and as he discovers the truth about his past, thereby beginning his tansformation from a normal child into a warrior.
Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s manga is full of errors about what Turkey suffered in 1983, but regardless, he ended the series after one episode because it was not as successful as he’d wanted it to be. Nevertheless, Jiro Manabe is one of the first Kurdish-origin heroes in manga, and perhaps he will be the source of inspiration for future heroes.
In the fight against ISIS, Kurdish women in particular have come to the forefront. Fans of computer games will know one female Kurdish warrior from a long time ago—a character named Sniper Wolf from the 1998 game Metal Gear Solid. She is an Iraqi Kurd, and her true name is unknown. When they were creating the game, Sniper Wolf was planned as a male character, but developer Yoji Shinkawa recommended making the character a woman.
Sniper Wolf, who can shoot and kill from long distances, is killed later in the story, but her name still comes up as one of the most beloved computer game characters.
When we look at the Kurdish-origin heroes in anime, manga, and computer games, we see that that many of them resemble Japanese or Russian people. This is one of the shortcomings in their depiction. However, these characters hold a special place, especially in terms of explaining the wars and pain that Kurds have endured for so long.