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You may be sur­prised to find an arti­cle com­ment­ing the Pope’s vis­it in Irak on Kedis­tan, but we con­sid­ered impor­tant to pro­vide anoth­er point of view than that of the usu­al defendors over here of the “Chris­tians of the Ori­ent” that are usu­al­ly more on the “Cru­sad­er” mod­el than on that of good Christians.

Indeed, apart from the fac­tu­al reports with pho­tos, many of the media com­ments in Europe came from those who reg­u­lar­ly attack Islam and immi­grants assigned to the Mus­lim faith. The vig­or­ous stag­ing of “Ori­en­tal Chris­tians mas­sa­cred in the name of Islam” dur­ing these past years in Irak and in the Mid­dle East is a recur­ring theme in the xeno­pho­bic envi­ron­ments of the right and extreme right. And if this requires shame­less­ly amal­ga­mat­ing the Yazi­di pop­u­la­tions with “Chris­tians”, these com­men­ta­tors will not hes­i­tate for a sec­ond, so as to talk of “geno­cide against the Chris­tians” and the “Islam­ic threat”.

We also thought it would be use­ful to com­ment this vis­it by Pope Fran­cis in Irak, beyond the “ecu­menism for peace” pro­vid­ed as the main­stream tonality.

On site, this “offi­cial” vis­it found more res­o­nance with­in the pop­u­la­tions, Kurds in par­tic­u­lar, than at the lev­el of the Ira­ki State. In fact, although this State is dom­i­nat­ed by the pro-Iran­ian par­ty, it has become the shad­ow of its for­mer self. It is con­front­ed by eco­nom­ic ruin as well as by pro-Iran­ian and/or nation­al­ist mili­tias fight­ing one anoth­er over who exerts the most pow­er. The street is against it, the glut of gas feed­ing both cor­rup­tion and social mis­ery. In this con­text, where inse­cu­ri­ty com­bines with the risks from the pan­dem­ic, the gov­ern­ment is reduced diplo­mat­i­cal­ly to the pomp of a papal vis­it. It is thus para­dox­i­cal that this vis­it should have proven more exten­sive in ter­ri­to­ries that are not direct­ly under gov­ern­men­tal admin­is­tra­tion, apart from the cer­e­mo­ny in Bag­dad’s Chaldean cathedral.

The term Kur­dis­tan was pro­nounced, as a kind of “recog­ni­tion”. At least, this was the inter­pre­ta­tion placed on it by the Kurds of Irak, who went so far as to sug­gest in their com­ments that Pope Fran­cis might be the car­ri­er of a “new West­ern vision” in the con­text of the changeover in the White House.

Two sym­bol­ic terms spe­cif­ic to the Vat­i­can, the “inter-reli­gious dia­logue”, this time with the Chi­ites, and “peace and recon­struc­tion” took up the major part of the meet­ings, there again scaled down offi­cial­ly for secu­ri­ty rea­sons. Com­pared to the young age of the Ira­ki pop­u­la­tion, the image of the two old men, aya­tol­lah Ali Al-Sis­tani and Pope Fran­cis is a strik­ing one when they claim to speak about the future.

Despite the “high secu­ri­ty”, there were a few “pop­u­lar moments” that were not sim­ply planned and staged mobi­liza­tions of crowds. And the “offi­cial” words acknowl­edg­ing the “suf­fer­ing”, “mur­ders”, “rapes”, “enslave­ment” were “new” for these peo­ple, since gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ties do not pro­nounce them on their own, being per­ma­nent­ly embroiled in polit­i­cal divi­sions and repres­sion of protests. These emo­tions expressed by the Pope could not be inter­pret­ed as oth­er than a “West­ern” recog­ni­tion, yet will not be fol­lowed by con­se­quences. And of course, these talk­ing points were about the Chris­tians remain­ing in Irak after ISIS assas­si­nat­ed so many as “infi­dels”.

For Ira­ki Kur­dis­tan, this pop­u­lar per­cep­tion com­bines with the ambi­tions of the Barzani clan cur­rent­ly in pow­er in the Ira­ki entity.

Thus a polit­i­cal aspect, rather than a reli­gious one emerges as a gen­er­al feel­ing. And nec­es­sar­i­ly, a read­ing of the gaps is what mat­ters most.

Our friend Zehra Doğan, present­ly in Kur­dis­tan, inter­vened yes­ter­day pre­cise­ly on this top­ic, when answer­ing ques­tions on a TV station.

Call­ing on her sta­tus as a jour­nal­ist, she described very well this pop­u­lar inter­est in the Pope’s vis­it, and the way in which the Barzani clan claimed the cred­it for it, when this very polit­i­cal clan is respon­si­ble for social mis­ery and divi­sion. She also denounced the way this same clan made claims counter to the truth con­cern­ing the aid and the sav­ing of the Yazi­di pop­u­la­tions. “How can such a high ‘inter­na­tion­al author­i­ty’ as a Pope, as informed as he must be, accept that still be hid­den the way the Pesh­mer­gas aban­doned these pop­u­la­tions when ISIS advanced, and the abom­i­na­tions that ensued? Why not go to Sin­jar in order to meet and col­lect tes­ti­mo­ni­als, and say who tru­ly rushed to their res­cue? What real pres­sures were exert­ed to avoid his going there?”

These ques­tions illus­trate both the instru­men­tal­iza­tion of this vis­it by the Kur­dish nation­al­ist Barzani clan for whom Kur­dis­tan is in no way the polit­i­cal uni­ty of the Kur­dish peo­ple in a mod­el based on mul­ti­cul­tur­al and mul­ti-reli­gious liv­ing. And Zehra rais­es the ques­tion of the absence of any men­tion of Roja­va in the evo­ca­tion of a ter­ri­to­ry of peace.

As will be under­stood, the polit­i­cal aban­don­ment of the Kurds by those known as the “inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty” will bare­ly be evoked by this papal vis­it. Even the illu­sions it may fos­ter will serve the nation­al­ist cause, cur­rent­ly com­pos­ing con­stant­ly with Turkey in its demands against the Kur­dish unit in North­ern Syria.

Thus there is no sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage to be read in the vis­it by the leader of the Vat­i­can. The dom­i­nant polit­i­cal aspects in it may well pro­vide a hint at a shift in Amer­i­can pol­i­cy, with its eyes set on the Iran­ian pres­ence and on pos­si­ble nego­ti­a­tions for the recon­struc­tion, and, obvi­ous­ly, on issues of con­trol over fos­sil energies.

If the Kur­dish part under­stood this as a recog­ni­tion, you only need to step back to note how the Syr­i­an demo­c­ra­t­ic forces in North­ern Syr­ia have been betrayed and iso­lat­ed, to see how, once the plane has bare­ly tak­en off, the papal sequins scat­ter on the ground.

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.