About KB

Inveterate blogger, newshound, media junkie, mostly interested in politics, language rights, media freedom, human rights.

Video: No friends but the mountains

No Friends but the Mountains
A nomadic Kurdish family raises sheep near the Iranian border.

A video by Shivan Sito of the Tiziano Project.

Shivan lives and works in Hewlêr (Erbil), primarily as a graphic designer and is also an aspiring photographer.

Shivan says he ‘would like to make documentaries about problems which are pandemic in Kurdistan region, like children working and honor killings. Also, it would be nice to make documentaries also about Kurdish traditions, ancient places and new aspects of Kurdish society in the last decade.’ [from The Tiziano Project website].

You can see Shivan’s photography on his flickr site here.

Poll finds Turks and Kurds are brothers!

Eye chart reads: Kurd; General says 'Turk!'; Erdoğan says 'Voter!'

Yesterday findings were announced from a survey carried out amongst readers of three leading Turkish newspapers: Zaman, Cumhuriyet and Hürriyet. The conclusion was that there is no strong ethnic polarisation in Turkey! One of the reasons must be, as the readers think, that Kurds and Turks have been brothers for a thousand years.

The survey was aimed at learning about the perceptions of respondents regarding the relations between Turks and Kurds in Turkey. Two professors polled 829 readers in Ankara. To see the original article with the results, click here. The article didn’t say whether or not the respondents were Kurds or Turks, but the way the questions were phrased, it seems that they were designed by Turks for Turks.

These respondents were given a series of statements to which they had to select whether or not they agreed with the statement using the following scale:
0. No answer, 1. Strongly disagree, 2. Disagree, 3. Neither agree not disagree, 4. Agree, 5. Strongly agree and 6. No idea.

I would like to know how the readers of Kurdistan Commentary would respond to the same statements. Below are a few of them. (Number 6 however, was not on the original survey).

1. Kurds and Turks have been brothers for a thousand years.

2. Kurds, but for a small number of members of terrorist organisations, are loyal to Turkey.

3. Steps should be taken in the field of democracy and human rights as well as producing economic and social projects for the settlement of the Kurdish question.

4. Kurds are an inseparable part of Turkey.

5. I support the idea of being close friends with Turks. (original statement said ‘Kurds’)

6. I am: Kurdish-Turkish-Both-Neither

Please respond to the six statements below so we can compare your votes with their results. The poll will be up for a week. I want at least 829 votes!

No, Syria will not be next

As tensions escalate in Egypt, it is impossible to predict what’s going to happen next there or anywhere else in the Middle East. Having said that, I will now ‘predict’ that Syria will not be the next ‘Arab dictatorship’ domino to fall. No, my friends, Syria will not go the way of Tunisia or Egypt. I am not saying I do not wish this to happen, rather, I am ‘predicting’ what I think won’t happen there. The conditions just aren’t set up for it. And I don’t think the planned protests will really set anything in motion as we have seen in Egypt.

There are literally scores of articles, tweets (check #angrysyriaday, #syriarevolution, or search for يوم الغضب السوري) and newscasts predicting that the regime in Syria will be the next casualty of mass protests in the Arab world. Some, more cautiously, disagree. I am in this latter camp.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said that Syria wouldn’t be affected by the unrest currently gripping the streets of Egypt ‘because his country is different.’ How is it different and what are the differences that will supposedly shield Syria from getting caught up in the string of revolts?

Bashar al-Assad has been in power since the summer of 2000 when his father, Hafez al-Assad, passed away after 30 years of iron-fisted rule. Al-Assad, unlike Ben Ali or Mubarak, is relatively young at 45. He is also far more popular than either the former Tunisian dictator or the current, embattled Egyptian one. He stands up to the west and is tough with Israel.

Bashar al-Assad

Not everyone likes him, of course. But if you don’t like him, expressing that opinion can be dangerous to your health. Freedom of expression is relatively non-existent in Syria. Kurds, who make up 10% of Syria’s population, are particularly aware of this and suffer disproportionately under the repressive regime there.

Protests against the regime in Syria are scheduled for later today and again tomorrow in Damascus, Aleppo and other major cities. Opposition groups in Syria have planned the ‘Day of Anger/Rage’ protests for Saturday, but the Islamic Independent Democratic Current planned today’s protests, which are scheduled to begin after Friday prayers. At this point it seems that events have been blurred into one long protest.

Mohamed Masri of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Amman says that ‘[w]hat’s happening in Egypt is going to reshape the region.’ That’s a given. In some places this will mean a thorough house cleaning from top to bottom. In others it will mean only minor adjustments to the status quo. Syria I believe will fall into the category of ‘minor adjustments.’ But even these minor changes could come at a heavy price.

One journalist said to AlJazeera about the planned protests in Syria, ‘I think the day of anger will turn out to be no more than a day of mild frustration.’

However, given the regime’s penchant for non-tolerance of disobedience and ruthless repression of dissent, the other possibility is violent suppression of the protests. Some reports, including those from the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (Yekîtî), say that the Syrian military has already deployed army battalions in Aleppo and al-Qamishli (Qamişlo), two urban centres with substantial Kurdish populations. In fact, the deployments in Aleppo have been in the Kurdish neighbourhoods of Ashrafiyyeh and Sheikh Maksoud. Extra police are out around the city as well.

Two nights ago, according to Human Rights Watch, Syrian security forces violently dispersed a candlelight vigil held for Egyptian protestors held in Bab Touma, a Christian neighborhood in old Damascus. The police beat those gathered and arrested activists.

While preparing his military to put down the protests, Bashar al-Assad is also talking of reform and implementing measures in the hopes of pre-empting any unrest. Since Ben Ali’s dramatic departure from Tunisia, al-Assad has announced a $250 million aid package for families in poverty and a 72 percent increase in heating oil subsidies.

This, however, has been in concert with the deployment of security forces, the reduction of Internet access, the closing down of Internet cafés, and the confiscation roof antennas and satellite dishes in some places like Aleppo. In other words, al-Assad is saying ‘I’m offering you reforms, on my terms; don’t ask for anything and don’t protest.’

In his lengthy interview with the Wall Street Journal a couple days ago he said he would push through political reforms this year aimed at initiating municipal elections, granting more power to non-governmental organisations and establishing a new media law. He said that the ongoing protests in the region were ushering in a ‘new era’ in the Middle East, and that Arab rulers would need to do more to accommodate their people’s rising political and economic aspirations.

A savvy leader, he understands that he must change. But he will not appear to change due to pressure from protesting Syrian citizens. The ‘new era’ will be on his terms, if it comes at all to Syria. The big question, of course, is whether or not the Kurds in Syria will be included in the ‘reforms.’ Will their political and economic aspirations be accommodated or constrained even further?

What’s really at the core of these protests around the Middle East? Christopher Hitchens summed up what he thought were factors in provoking these mass demonstrations happening at the moment. It is not poverty, unemployment, dictatorship or repression, he said. It is more a factor of indignity and shame. ‘People do not like to be treated like fools, or backward infants, or extras in some parade.’

The indignity and shame stem from the poverty and bleak living conditions brought about by the dictatorship and repression. So I’m not sure if I’d separate them completely. However, I will agree that dignity is key. Just the other night we saw vigils in Damascus with participants holding up signs that read: bread, freedom, dignity.

Organisers of this weekend’s scheduled protests demand an improvement in living standards, respect for human rights, freedom of speech for all Syrian citizens, and greater influence for Syrian youth. Greater dignity.

According to some, Facebook and Twitter have been at the forefront of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. And it is through Facebook that Syrians are currently mobilising, albeit many of the organisers are in Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East.

David Kirkpatrick, author of the book ‘The Facebook Effect’ said that ‘[m]any countries where Facebook is popular have autocracies or dictatorships, and most of the countries have passively tolerated [its] popularity. But what’s happened in Egypt or Tunisia is likely to change other countries’ attitudes, and they’ll be more wary of Facebook operating there.’

Well, Facebook doesn’t have to worry about Syria. Syria didn’t tolerate Facebook before (it has been banned since November 2007) and certainly doesn’t tolerate it now. Traditional Syrian media are tightly controlled and this is reflected in the government’s approach to online media and expression.

Syria is consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst web oppressors, ranked at #3 (Iran is #2). Internet penetration is low at 17.7% and more people are working there to censor the Internet than develop it. While blogs are bringing in new voices, which previously had no outlet, and challenging the norms and expectations governing public political discourse, the Syrian regime keeps a tight lid on the Internet and most in the country probably have no idea that all these Facebook groups exist and are calling for demonstrations. So is social media just a sideshow here?

Thousands have mobilised online on Facebook. They come from a small group of the population in Syria and mostly from those outside the country: Syrians in Europe, Egyptians, other Arabs, human rights activists from around the globe, Kurds, etc. There are and anti-government groups (Day of Rage/Anger) and pro-government groups (Salute President Bashar Assad). We saw what happened in Tahrir Square in Cairo when Mubarak unleashed the pro-government forces. It will be far, far worse if Assad allows clashes like this to occur. His forces will not gallop into Omayyed Square on camels either. It will be nothing short of mayhem.

Summary of Kurdish issues from 2011 World Report (HRW)

Human Rights Watch released its 2011 World Report last week. The 638-page report emphasises ‘the failure of the expected champions of human rights to respond to the problem, defend those people and organizations struggling for human rights, and stand up firmly against abusive governments.’

Kurdistan Commentary has highlighted noteworthy points from those sections reflecting the situation of the Kurds in the four country chapters mentioned in HRW’s World Report: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The chapter on Iran has little on the Kurds except for the mention of the executions of Kurdish activists. The Iraq chapter discusses gender-based rights issues and failures to uphold freedoms of expression. The chapter on Syria highlights the Syrian regime’s continued persecution of members of Kurdish political parties and the general repression of Kurdish cultural expression. Finally, the Turkey chapter examines the use of anti-terror laws, the PKK, restrictions on freedom of expression and the KCK trial of Kurdish politicians.

The report’s introduction mentions that the report is not comprehensive. The fact that certain issues are not included ‘often reflects no more than staffing limitations and should not be taken as commentary on the significance of the problem. There are many serious human rights violations that Human Rights Watch simply lacks the capacity to address.’

IRAN
In October 2010 the UN secretary-general’s office released its report on the situation of human rights in Iran, pursuant to UN General Assembly resolution 64/176. The report noted ‘further negative developments in the human rights situation’ in Iran, including ‘excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, and detentions, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of opposition activists’ following the June 2009 election.

Evin Prison

Reports by international human rights groups indicate that prison authorities are systematically denying needed medical care to political prisoners at Tehran’s Evin Prison and other facilities.

The government systematically blocks websites that carry political news and analysis, slows down Internet speeds, jams foreign satellite broadcasts, and employs the Revolutionary Guards to target dissident websites.

In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, authorities executed 388 prisoners, more than any other nation except China. Iranian human rights defenders believe that many more executions, especially of individuals convicted of drug trafficking, are taking place in Iran’s prisons today.

Authorities have executed at least nine political dissidents since November 2009, all of them convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) for their alleged ties to armed groups.

Among those executed are Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam Holi, and Mehdi Eslamian by hanging on the morning of 09 May 2010 in Evin prison without informing their lawyers or families. Another 16 Kurds presently face execution for their alleged support of armed groups, notably PJAK.

The government restricts cultural and political activities among the country’s Azeri, Kurdish, and Arab minorities, including the organisations that focus on social issues. The Kurds make up Iran’s second largest minority group.

IRAQ
The parts of this chapter that focus on the Kurdish north relate to issues of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, which the report states ‘is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.’

Kurdish midwife, from WP report by Andrea Bruce 'Female Circumcision in Kurdistan'

In November the Ministry of Health completed a statistical study on the prevalence of FGM and the data suggests that 41 percent of Kurdish girls and women have undergone this procedure. On 06 July 2010, the High Committee for Issuing Fatwas at the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars Union—the highest Muslim authority in Iraqi Kurdistan to issue religious pronouncements and rulings—issued a religious edict that said Islam does not prescribe the practice, but stopped short of calling for an outright ban. At this writing the women’s rights committee of the Kurdistan parliament had finalized a draft law on family violence, including provisions on FGM, and the Ministry of Health announced plans to disseminate information on the practice’s negative health consequences. But the government has not yet banned FGM or created a comprehensive plan to eradicate it.

Journalists in Iraq also contended with emboldened Iraqi and Kurdish security forces and their respective image-conscious central and regional governments. On 04 May, assailants abducted, tortured, and killed Sardasht Osman, a 23-year-old freelance journalist and student in Erbil. Friends, family, and other journalists believed Osman died because he wrote critical articles about the Kurdistan region’s two governing parties, their leaders, and the ingrained patronage system. Security forces attached to government institutions and political parties harassed, intimidated, threatened, arrested, and physically assaulted journalists. Senior politicians sued publications and journalists for unflattering articles.

Minorities remained in a precarious position as the Arab-dominated central government and the Kurdistan regional government struggled over control of disputed territories running across northern Iraq from the Iranian to the Syrian borders. Leaders of minority communities complained that Kurdish security forces engaged in arbitrary detentions, intimidation, and in some cases low-level violence, against those who challenged Kurdish control of the disputed territories. In other parts of Iraq, minorities have not received sufficient government protection from targeted violence, threats, and intimidation. Perpetrators are rarely identified, investigated, or punished.

SYRIA
There was no significant change in Syrian human rights policy and practice in 2010. Authorities continued to broadly violate the civil and political rights of citizens, arresting political and human rights activists, censoring websites, detaining bloggers, and imposing travel bans.

Emergency rule, imposed in 1963, remains in effect and Syria’s multiple security agencies continue to detain people without arrest warrants, holding them incommunicado for lengthy periods. The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), an exceptional court with almost no procedural guarantees, regularly sentences Kurdish activists and Islamists to long prison terms.

Twelve leaders of the Damascus Declaration, a prominent gathering of opposition groups including Kurdish political parties, finished serving 30-month prison terms imposed in October 2008 for ‘weakening national sentiment.’

The SSSC sentenced dozens of Kurdish political activists to prison in 2010, including many members of the PYD political party, which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In April the SSSC sentenced four members of the Kurdish Yekîtî Party (Yasha Wader, Dilghesh Mamo, Ahmad Darwish, and Nazmi Mohammad) to five years in prison on the charge of undertaking acts ‘to cut off part of Syrian land.’ Three other prominent Yekîtî members (Hassan Saleh, Muhammad Mustapha, and Maruf Mulla Ahmad) face the same charges in their ongoing trial before the SSSC.

In June a military judge sentenced Mahmud Safo, a member of the Kurdish Left Party, to one year in prison for ‘inciting sectarian strife’ and membership in an unlicenced organisation.

Syria’s press law provides the government with sweeping control over publications. The government has extended this control to online outlets. Internet censorship of political websites is pervasive and includes popular websites such as Blogger (Google’s blogging engine), Facebook, and YouTube.

In March Military Intelligence in Aleppo detained Abdel Hafez Abdel Rahman, a board member of the unlicenced Kurdish human rights group MAF (‘Right’ in Kurdish), and along with another MAF board member, Nadera Abdo. The security services released Abdo and referred Abdel Rahman to trial on charges of ‘undertaking acts to cut off part of Syrian land.’ A military judge released him on bail on 01 September. His trial was ongoing at the time this report was published.

Pir Rostom

In April authorities released on bail Ahmed Mustafa Ben Mohammad (known as Pir Rostom), a Kurdish political activist and writer, whom they detained in November 2009 for articles he wrote online.

The government continues to prevent activists from traveling abroad, including Radeef Mustapha, head of the Kurdish Human Rights Committee.

All Syrian human rights groups remain unlicenced, as officials consistently deny their requests for registration.

Syria’s multiple security services continue to detain people without arrest warrants and frequently refuse to disclose their whereabouts for weeks and sometimes months, in effect forcibly disappearing them. The authorities have also kept silent about the fate of at least 20 Kurds detained since 2008 on suspicion of ties to a separatist Kurdish movement.

Authorities suppress expressions of Kurdish identity and prohibit the teaching of Kurdish in schools. In March 2010, security forces shot at Kurds celebrating the Kurdish New Year in the northern town of Raqqa to disperse them, killing at least one. In July a military court sentenced nine Kurds alleged to have participated in the celebrations in Raqqa to four months for ‘inciting sectarian strife.’

The report does not mention the many cases of arrest and torture of those Kurds who were forcibly returned to Syria from Europe.

TURKEY
The government made little concrete progress towards realising its 2009 plan to improve the human rights of Kurds in Turkey. The Constitutional Court in December 2009 closed down the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) for alleged separatist activities, and hundreds of officials from the DTP and its successor, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), faced trial for membership of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), a body connected with PKK.

There is increasing agreement across the political spectrum on the need for a rights-based and non-military approach to ending the conflict with the PKK. Armed clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK continued.

Journalists and editors remained targets for prosecution. Legitimate news reporting on trials was deemed ‘attempting to influence a judicial process,’ reporting on criminal investigations was judged as ‘violating the secrecy of a criminal investigation,’ and news reports on the PKK was deemed ‘terrorist propaganda.’

Vedat Kurşun

Some editors and journalists faced scores of ongoing legal proceedings in 2010. The case of Vedat Kurşun stands out among those convicted in 2010. The editor of Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, Kurşun received a 166-year prison sentence in May for 103 counts of ‘terrorist propaganda’ and ‘membership’ in the PKK. At this writing he remained in prison pending an appeal.

Courts continued to use terrorism laws to prosecute hundreds of demonstrators deemed to be PKK supporters as if they were the group’s armed militants. Most spent prolonged periods in pre-trial detention, and those convicted received long prison sentences. A legal amendment by parliament in July will mean that convictions of children under the laws will be quashed. The laws remain otherwise unchanged.

Hundreds of officials and activist members of the pro-Kurdish party DTP and its successor BDP (which has 20 parliamentary members) were prosecuted during the year, including for links to the KCK.

In October seven mayors, several lawyers, and a human rights defender were among 151 officials and activists tried in Diyarbakır for alleged separatism and KCK membership. At the time of the writing of this report, the mayors had spent 10 months-and the 53 other defendants 18 months-in pre-trial detention, while around 1,000 DTP/BDP officials and members suspected of KCK affiliation were in pre-trial detention nationwide, raising concerns about the right to political participation.

Muharrem Erbey, vice-president of the Human Rights Association (HRA) and chair of its Diyarbakır branch, was arrested in December 2009 for alleged KCK membership and held in detention until his trial in October. Vetha Aydin, chair of HRA’s Siirt branch, was arrested in March for alleged KCK membership.

Download complete country chapters here (in .pdf):

Iran

Iraq

Syria

Turkey

EU Legal Observers Barred from Turkey’s ‘Landmark’ Trial on Kurdish Rights

Richard Howitt, MEP

RICHARD HOWITT MEP
LABOUR’S MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

News release for immediate use
28 January 2011

EU LEGAL OBSERVERS BARRED FROM TURKEY’S ‘LANDMARK’ TRIAL ON KURDISH RIGHTS

European observers were barred from a Turkish court room today (Friday), after judges denied the right of 102 defendants to use the country’s minority Kurdish language in what are alleged to be political prosecutions.

Representatives of ten EU countries in an official delegation of the Party of European Socialists were denied access to the ‘KCK’ trial at the Sixth Heavy Penalty Supreme Court in Diyarbakir, Turkey, in which they were due to be international observers.

The trial concerns charges of membership of an illegal organisation – code for terrorism in Turkey – but defendants claim they have been arrested for taking part in peaceful political, trade union and human rights activities.

British Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt who is Human Rights Spokesperson for the European Parliament’s Socialist and Democrat Group was one of those barred and says that personal assurances from Turkey’s Minister of Justice received by the group that defendants were able to mount their defence in their mother tongue had proven to be false.

Richard Howitt MEP said:

It is extremely worrying that the one thing we have been able to witness today is a continuing confrontation over the use of the Kurdish language, which has prevented the proper conduct of what are said to be landmark trials.

It is impossible for us to comment on whether or not these are political prosecutions, but it is right for us to protest against the judicial decision to prevent observers from seeing the cases proceed in the defendants’ absence.

The court room was empty, so why not let us in? Justice was not seen to be done.

Editor’s Note:

The Diyarbakir case is one of 15 cases which Turkey’s Kurdish BDP political party claims have targeted its officials, mayors as well as other political activists. International organisations have recorded that the prosecutions result from 1650 arrests, with a majority of defendants having served 17 months in jail awaiting trial. The BDP says it is committed to wholly peaceful means to achieve civil, political and cultural rights for the country’s Kurdish minority, but PKK terrorism particularly in the mainly Kurdish South-East of the country continues to be a serious threat. The BDP is an observer organisation to the Party of European Socialists, including Britain’s Labour Party.

Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet: Turkey’s economic, cultural and political re-occupation of Kurdistan, Part Two

Written by W. Karda (W_Karda@yahoo.com) with editorial assistance by KB

Part Two

The story continues from yesterday’s analysis of the economic invasion with an in-depth look at the cultural and political invasions happening in tandem with the economic one.

While the ‘economic invasion’ seems to be the core of many reports and articles, Turkish control goes beyond simply building shopping malls and kebab shops. Perhaps one of the more insidious and threatening issues that has accompanied the earlier mentioned topic is the ‘cultural invasion’ that is spreading like wildfire throughout the Kurdish population in South Kurdistan.

Turkish National Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu

Today local channels in the Kurdistan region show several Turkish songs for each local or western one. They present Turkish soap operas and series, even ‘Valley Of The Wolves’ (Kurtlar Vadisi), which is basically about a Turkish superhero agent, a combination of Rambo and 007, coming to Iraq on a mission against the Americans. The Kurds are portrayed as backwards or as terrorists in these shows, but they are still watched by the locals with great enthusiasm.

As a part of this issue, the Turks seem to have concentrated their efforts on the education system in Kurdistan. Last December, the Turkish National Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu attended an international conference on higher education in Erbil; supposedly to improve education in the region. Her ministry stated that ‘Ankara attaches high importance to Iraq’s initiatives in the education field.’ Çubukçu met several Iraqi officials at the Turkish Consulate General in Erbil, then she visited the Turkish Cihan and Fezalar Universities, built in Erbil by Turkish companies, and afterwards visited several Turkmen schools. [1] [2] [3]

But the genuineness of such ‘help’ from the Turks is questionable. This is all the more apparent if one exams the oppression of the Kurds in Turkey. Restrictions on the Kurdish language prohibit its use in public education, Kurdish TV channels and publications in Kurdish are banned or forced to close down, and Kurdish is not allowed in parliament or in the courts.

Riding the coattails of this cultural invasion is the spread of the Turkish language. The fact is that within a couple of years Turkish could easily replace Arabic, which is used as a second language in Kurdistan. One reason for this is that many businesses are controlled by Turks. Kurdish youth realise they are pretty much obliged to learn Turkish so that they may have better a chance of getting a job and communicating with the Turkish management at these companies.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at opening of Işık University

This linguistic Turkification phenomenon can be dated back to 1993, with the establishment of the first Turkish school in Kurdistan. That first school was Işık College in Erbil, and it was followed by the opening of Nilüfer College in 1994, Işık Primary School in 2005, and Işık Kindergarten in 2006. Işık University was opened in 2008 in Erbil. The Gülen website says about these schools that what ‘makes us so happy is that each and every one of these kids grows up as lovers of Turkey and the Turkish people.’ [4]

Today there are about 15 of these Turkish schools in Kurdistan, with an enrolment of over 5,000. They are, to a certain extent, propaganda machines used to brainwash Kurdish youth and teach them from a very young age the ‘greatness’ of Turkish ‘superiority.’ One student explained that the schools are there for ‘nothing more than teaching naïve pupils in southern Kurdistan how great Turkey, the Ottoman and the Turkish people are.’ [5]

Another Turkish school is slated to open in the Kurdish town of Halabja in which education will be in English, Arabic and Turkish languages, but unsurprisingly, not in Kurdish. [6]

Why do the local KRG authorities tolerate and even support such so called ‘schools?’ While the whole region had one hour of electricity in the 1990s, the Turkish schools had 24 hours of electricity. They were given the best buildings and the best services. Even Nechirvan Barzani himself, the then Prime Minister of Kurdistan, attended the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish university, while neither he nor any other high-ranking officials attended the opening of any of the other university in the region, not even the American University of Iraq-Suleimaniya (AUI-S). And, of course, a Turkish firm is building the new AUI-S campus. [7]

The Gülen organisation has openly supported the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the ruling party in present-day Turkey. It is a highly religious movement, believing in the theories of the most influential Islamic thinker in Turkish Republican history, Said-i-Nursi, who was a Kurd. Hence, they are using the religious background in an attempt to turn the Kurds into state puppets.

‘The AKP and Gülen share a common vision of how to solve the Kurdish problem,’ says Hakan Tahmaz, the author of a book on the Kurds. ‘Both use the rhetoric of a Golden Age at the time of the Ottoman Empire, when Turks and Kurds were united by their Muslim faith.’

The Gülen movement has ties to various Turkish media outlets including the newspaper Zaman and the TV channel Samanyolu TV. Until 2006, Zaman used euphemisms such as ‘eastern tribes’ to refer to the Kurds. Samanyolu TV airs programmes such as Tel Türkiye (One Turkey), which reflect a similar position. Liberal Islamist intellectual Serdar Yilmaz compared Tel Türkiye to the modernist ideology of the early Republic. ‘It doesn’t ask why villagers are sceptical of the newcomer, or why they support the PKK. It presents them as imbeciles who can only be sorted out by an enlightened westerner,’ he said.

The fundamental aim of the Gülen Movement and its schools, Yilmaz adds, is to create ‘moral, obedient citizens.’ Hence their interest in the Kurds. ‘For them, the Kurds are the [Turkish] Republic’s naughty children who need to be taught proper manners.’ [8]

Fezalar's Selahadin Ayyubi College

With this knowledge, why do the Kurds in the South, and especially the elites, allow their children to be taught by the Turks when they think that Kurdish should be annihilated? When speaking it is enough to be labelled a ‘terrorist’? When members of parliament turn on their colleagues for using it? When it is still considered a ‘non-existent’ or ‘unknown’ language? When towns and villages and even animals names have been changed? When Kurdish letters of the alphabet are banned? When Kurdish channels and publications run the risk of closure and Kurdish writers and journalists are put behind bars for hundreds of years?

As a rightfully worried writer stated: ‘What’s bad is to fill Kurdistan with only one type of investment…Turkish. For a day to come in which [the Turks] seize what is behind and in front of the Kurds, for a time to come in which our children forget how to say kaka and replace it with kardeş. Hence, we will lose the whole of Kurdistan not just Kirkuk…It seems like this excessive “goodwill” from the Kurds will become a nightmare for eternity…The balance must be restored to its natural condition before Kurds become strangers in their own Kurdistan.’ [9]

While it seems like Turkey has been able to completely integrate the Kurdistan region through economic and cultural means, its influence politically is no less dominant, and it has also been able to direct much of the political machinations in the cities which lie outside the borders of Kurdistan region, namely Kirkuk and Mosul, hence completing its dominance over the region once called Mosul Vilayet.

In a recent article ‘Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman Policy’ the author also questioned Turkey’s involvement in Kirkuk. ‘Is the present dispute over Kirkuk between the Iraqi Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans or between the Iraqi Kurds and Ankara? While Ankara tells Iraqis that they “cannot impose a solution on the others [Turkmans],” it turns around and dictates its own solution on them by calling for a special status for Kirkuk in order to empower its Turkman proxies in Iraq.’ [10]

Turkey’s role in Kirkuk and its influence on the decisions of political issues in the city were explained earlier, but what is also worth noting is that in 2003, the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yaşar Yakış stated that Turkey wants a representative of its own in the Iraqi government that will be established after the fall of Saddam Hussein. ‘Because we know the people involved better than anyone and we can stop the Americans from making mistakes,’ Yakış explained. [11]

In fact Turkey already had a representative in Iraq, namely the ITF (Iraqi Turkmen Front), a Turkish political puppet-party that was founded by the Turkish army in 1995 with all its usual anti-Kurdish slogans and decisions made and refined in Ankara but publicised and implemented in Iraq. [12] [13] [14]

And through its influence, Turkey with its puppets has played significant roles in delaying the national census and Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. They also have increased tensions amongst the ethnic groups of the city who had previously coexisted peacefully for centuries.

Turkey is also heavily supporting the anti-Kurdish Al-Hadba party in Mosul in various ways. For instance, Turkey is working on opening a satellite TV channel for al-Hadba. As one politician clarified: ‘Since 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Turkey has worked effectively to organise nationalist Arabs in Mosul with the aim of using them against Kurdish power in the province; moreover, Turkey also seeks to control the province’s economy, which has been very successful.’

Al-Hadba political poster from 2010 elections

This politician also mentioned that most of the support for al-Hadba comes from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, which Turkey opened after 2003. ‘Until recently, Turkey’s only consulate in all Iraq was in Mosul city…the Turkish consul in Mosul is the true governor of Mosul.’

Turkey’s support for al-Hadba was also mentioned in the WikiLeaks cables. An April 2009 cable noted that Turkey ‘played an unhelpful role in recent Iraqi provincial elections through its clandestine financial support of the anti-Kurdish al-Hadba Gathering.’ [15]

It is also worth noting that today there are 13 permanent Turkish military bases as well as 3,235 Turkish officers, spies and gendarmerie inside KRG territory, with all sorts of military equipment ranging from BKC guns to armoured vehicles and tanks. These bases were established in early 1990s to carry out military activities, intelligence gathering and spying and they still seem to function and operate their anti-Kurdish agendas from inside Kurdistan. [16]

In late December 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan denied the existence of Kurdish nationality and language in his country when he said, ‘[t]here is one and only one language in this country and this is Turkish. There is one and only one nationality and this is the Turkish nationality. There is one and only one flag and this is the Turkish flag.’

This is the kind of rhetoric that has dominated Turkish-nationalist discourse since independence. As a result, massacres, genocides and total annihilation have been the only policy the Turks have utilised against the Kurds. As such, one must wonder why the KRG greets such Turkish invasions with open arms, and whether the Turkish stance will be any less-nationalistic, chauvinist and fascist towards Kurds across the border.

There are nationalist slogans posted as you enter the cities of Diyarbakır and Van such as ‘Happy is he who calls himself a Turk’ or ‘Be proud of being a Turk!’ It is not impossible to envision the day when upon entering Suleimaniya and Erbil visitors may be greeted with signs like ‘A Turk equals the universe’ or ‘A Turk among humans is like a lion among animals!’

In all regards, it almost seems like total dominance by the Turks in the Kurdistan region is imminent. The census and Article 140 have been delayed repeatedly because of Turkish interference in Iraqi internal politics. Turkmen (ITF) have been used against the Kurds in Kirkuk. And in Mosul, Turkish influence seems to be on the rise. A local politician remarked how he occasionally heard from Arab sheikhs close to al-Hadba praising the Ottoman Empire and remarking that ‘Mosul had a golden time when it was under the Ottoman Empire,’ and ‘they don’t mind if Mosul is again controlled by Turkey.’ [15]

Turkish Consul, Aydın Selcen, says about Turks and Kurds: '...our past, our cultural heritage and even our DNA is common.'

Aydın Selcen, Turkey’s General Consul in Erbil, has said: ‘Turks and Kurds have lived together for a thousand years, and they created a common culture and a common heritage together. Their past is common and their future is also in common…we have many things in common. Our frontier is common, but also our past, our cultural heritage and even our DNA is common.’ He also pointed out there is a common language between the two nations. [17]

This, of course, is absurd. It seems as though they are once again trotting out the old Turkish myths about ‘brotherly coexistence.’ And how can the ancient Hurro-Median history of the Kurds have commonalities with the more contemporary history of the Turks of a different geographic origin? For that matter, Kurdish is an Indo-European language while Turkish belongs to the Altaic family. In fact everything about Kurdish culture is different from that of the Turks. If there is commonality, it is the result of assimilation that the Turks have carried out in the North for more than a century. And it is already in covert motion in the South. What will be next then? The announcement of Sun Language Theory 2.0?

In conclusion, the fact must be clarified that no one is against friendly diplomatic and economic ties between any two countries or nations, so long as they are based on mutual respect and mutual interest, aimed at helping each other to develop, guaranteeing respect and each other’s sovereignty. But the case here is completely different. Turkey is trying to establish a stranglehold in Kurdistan to drain its goods, undermine its sovereignty and ultimately crush its rightful hope for freedom and liberty. The Turks, showing their forte in hypocrisy, on one side pretend to help the region rebuild itself with ‘investments,’ and on the other, support and push other ethnic minorities and nationalist groups to stand against the Kurds’ rightful demands for freedom.

Map of 'Turkey' on CD-Rom prepared by Istanbul’s provincial education directorate. A harbinger of Turkey's grand vision for the region?

What is most surprising is that it seems that the KRG tolerates and in fact, even supports this insidious spread of the cultural and political dominance of a nation notorious for its abusive manners and practices towards Kurds for centuries. A message from a representative of Barzani in 2003 stated: ‘We welcome the Americans and are waiting for them to liberate Iraq, but if they end up bringing a Turkish occupation instead of Saddam Hussein, we may be forced to fight.’ [11]

What seems to be the fact these days is that they themselves are bringing a Turkish occupation on the Kurds of the South and sponsoring it wholeheartedly. Some have falsely interpreted the recent developments perhaps to assuage Turkish tensions with the KRG. But even in a scenario where Kurdistan one day gains independence with the blessings of Turkey, it will still be captive to Turkish dominance due to the KRG’s extreme and singular reliance on Turkey. This would render independence futile, for Kurdistan would be at the mercy of the Turks and have to rely on the not-so-gracious hands of the Turks for decades to come.

In the end, despite all the preposterous remarks made by the Turkish Consul in Erbil, he was right in one thing when he said: ‘[in the next three years] the frontier dividing us will be rendered obsolete.’ Indeed, in the near and foreseeable future, the Kurdistan region may end up, just as the Mosul Vilayet was, a fully integrated part of Turkey in everything but name.

sources:

[1] Education minister to attend conference in Arbil. Today’s Zaman, 14 December 2010.

[2] Turkish National Education Minister in Irbil. The Free Library, 15 December 2010.

[3] Turkish National Education Minister Cubukcu in Irbil (video). Cihan Medya, 14 December 2010.

[4] Gülerce, Hüseyin. Turkish Schools in Northern Iraq. Today’s Zaman (via Fetullah Gülen’s Website), 14 November 2007.

[5] van Wilgenburg, Vladimir. “They taught us how great Turkey is”. Kurdnet, 29 August 2006.

[6] Turkish school to open in Halabja. AKNews, 25 August 2010.

[7] Acar, Yusuf. Northern Iraq’s first Turkish university opens. Today’s Zaman, 25 November 2008.

[8] Turkey: The Country’s Biggest Religious Movement Educates Kurds, and not Everyone Is Happy. EurasiaNet, 02 March 2009.

[9] Talabani, Abdul Wahab. اليس غريبا؟! الاتراك يطورون التربية والتعليم في كوردستان. PYD Rojava.

[10] Ahmed, Mohammed M.A. Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman Policy. KurdishMedia, 16 January 2011.

[11] Bar’el, Zvi. Nightmare scenarios for all. Ha’aretz, 28 February 2003.

[12] An Evaluation of Turkey’s Turkmen policy: (Part I) The unconstructive role of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in the Turkmen Policy. Iraqi Turkmen Journal, 27 March 2009.

[13] Alasor, Roni. Kirkuk Meeting without Kurdish representatives!!! Kurdish Institute of Brussels, 03 July 2008.

[14] Iraq’s Neighbors: Help or Hindrance? United States Institute of Peace.

[15] Turkey meddles in Mosul province. Kurdish Globe, 25 December 2010.

[16] Iraqi Kurdish Paper Says Turkish Military Bases Inside Kurdistan Region. iStockAnalyst, 01 August 2008.

[17] In all aspects our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. The Kurdish Globe, 08 January 2011.

Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet: Turkey’s economic, cultural and political re-occupation of Kurdistan, Part One

Written by W. Karda (W_Karda@yahoo.com); editorial assistance by KB

Part One

‘The Turks have come to conquer not with tanks but with cranes.’
Wood, Graeme. Temporary Autonomous Zone. The Caravan, 10 December 2010.

Iraq 1914. Click to enlarge.

And conquer they have. Turkey is back in full force after a many decades long absence from what was the Ottoman Vilayet of Mosul. On 23 January 1919, the Ottomans handed over to the British forces the last of its territory in that region. In January 2011, 92 years later, you might not recognise that they had ever left.

The Mosul Vilayet was one of the many provinces in the former Ottoman Empire. It was formed in 1879 by breaking away from the Baghdad Vilayet and included the cities of Suleimaniya, Hewlêr (Erbil), Duhok, Kirkuk and parts of Mosul.

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War, the Vilayet fell under the rule of the victors, namely Great Britain, and became a subject of contest amongst all the other groups; Kurds, who made up the vast majority of the population of the Vilayet wanted independence. Turkey on the other hand, considered the territory theirs and did not recognise the British authority over the area. They also wanted it because Turkish leaders were afraid that Kurdish nationalism would thrive under the British Mandate and cause trouble with the Kurdish population in Turkey. Faisal ibn Husayn, who had become the king of the newly established country of Iraq, wanted the Vilayet to be a part of the country because of its natural resources, mountainous borders (which provided security), and also to balance out the Shi’a population in the south. Ultimately the British incorporated the Vilayet into Iraq, but maintained control over the oil in the region, agreeing to give a portion of the oil profits to the newly established Republic of Turkey to calm their anger over the decision. The Turks begrudgingly recognised Iraqi control over the area in a treaty signed with Britain in 1926.

Turkey, however, never entirely lost its interest in the former Vilayet of Mosul. Every now and then the Turks have reiterated that the areas which were included in the Ottoman-era Mosul Vilayet must be reclaimed, and there are those who believe that the entire Vilayet rightly belongs to Turkey.

Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991 and the establishment of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, the Turks have been grumbling about their claim on the region, and especially the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, which lie just outside the ‘official’ borders of the region. To achieve such a goal, they have even militarily invaded the region dozens of times under the pretext of ‘protecting the Turkmen of Iraq’ or ‘fighting the PKK.’

The late Turgut Özal, Turkey’s former Prime Minister and then President, flirted with the idea of re-integration of this region with Turkey. He appeared to believe that a form of federation between Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq would be mutually beneficial and could potentially solve Turkey’s Kurdish problems. [1]

In 2003, with the American-led invasion of Iraq, hopes for an independent country were renewed by the Kurds and with it, Turkish claims over the region. The Turks began threatening and intimidating the Kurds of Iraq. During those days, two cardinal issues were at the centre of many discussions between Ankara and Washington: compensation for the damage the war would cause Turkey, and more importantly, the prevention of the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. [2]

This prompted Turkish Parliament speaker Ömer Izgi to state that ‘Turkey will not allow a Kurdish state to be established. Turkey would be involved in Mosul, Kirkuk and Suleimaniya. We will prevent a Kurdish state from being established.’

Turkish soldiers on the ground in Kurdistan, Feb 2008.

The then parliament deputy speaker Murat Sökmenoğlu mentioned that Kirkuk is a Turkmen city. He also stated: ‘Attempts to open a second gate drove Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP) leader Mesoud Barzani crazy. Spoilt Kurds like spoilt Greeks get U.S. support and have spoilt manners.’ [3]

The most interesting of these comments came from the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yaşar Yakış, who announced that Turkey was inspecting old treaties to ‘find out whether or not we have lost our rights to this region,’ indirectly trying to renew their claims on the long lost Vilayet of Mosul. [4]

Again in 2007, Turks insisted on their claim over the region by using other excuses, such as the Kirkuk issue. The Turks expressed their concerns over the fate of Kirkuk, fearing that if the Kurds annexed Kirkuk into their autonomous region they would eventually want to carve out an independent Kurdish state. As a result, the Turks launched a two-day symposium titled ‘Kirkuk 2007,’ which ended in the Turkish capital Ankara with a final declaration calling for ‘the suspension of the referendum (Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution) until the Iraqi constitution is reviewed.’ The irony was that members of all segments of society were called upon to participate in the conference (Iraqi Sunni, Shi’ite, Turkmen, Assyrians, etc) except for Kurds, who have always made up the majority of the population in Kirkuk.

Turkish military convoy en route to South Kurdistan, Feb 2008. AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

On 15 January 2007, Turhan Çömez, who was a leading member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stated that ‘Turkey should announce that it will not recognise the results of a referendum on the future of Kirkuk under these conditions. And we should also announce that we are going to intervene if civil war erupts in Kirkuk.’

Turkey also had amassed 240,000 soldiers along the Iranian and Iraqi borders and they were awaiting orders to enter the Kurdistan region under the pretext of going after ‘Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighters’ and to ‘protect the Iraqi Turkmen population.’ [5]

In late 2007 and early 2008, Turkey indeed muscled its way into the Kurdistan region. The invasion by the Turkish military ‘coincided’ with a visit to the city of Kirkuk by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which once again highlighted the real heart of the issue. That is, it was all about the Kurds in the South and their approach for independence which made the Turks so nervous and impatient that they had to ‘warn’ the Kurds not to go too far with their endeavours. [6] [7]

Walking past Turkish shops inside Sofy Mall (Hewlêr). Photo credit: REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

Ever since then, relations between the two sides have been relatively calm, with no more talk about invasions or occupations from the Turkish side. It may seem as if in the end the Turks have given up on achieving their long cherished dream of controlling what was once the Mosul Vilayet. But in fact, now Turkey is closer than ever to taking control of the area, as if they have finally learnt that in this modern era of fixed borders one cannot just force its way into other countries and try to take their land by force, especially not at a time when there are much easier and far more furtive ways to do that.

From then on, what is seen by distant observers is that the gap between Southern Kurds and Turks is narrowing, and to them this has been achieved through Turkish economic investment miracle. But the truth is hidden behind the scenes, and this is what many, if not almost all, usually miss. That is the Turks of yesterday, whose greatest achievements can be summed up by the many genocidal campaigns perpetrated against those around them, especially the century-long ethnic and cultural genocide against the Northern Kurds, which still continues to this day, are the very people that are ‘investing’ in Southern Kurdistan. It is frightening to think that the very people so well known for their extreme oppression of the Kurds and devastation of Kurdish culture there are now ‘helping’ the Kurds in the South with their economic recovery.

Trucks lined up at Ibrahim Khalil border crossing

Turkey, through its ‘economic investment,’ or as some might call it, ‘economic invasion,’ has seemingly taken almost complete control over the Federal Kurdistan region. Wherever you go you see Turkish shopping malls, Turkish supermarkets, Turkish hotels, Turkish housing units, Turkish clothes, Turkish furniture, Turkish this and Turkish that. [8]

Statistics indicate that about 55 percent of the foreign firms in the Kurdistan region – 640 of 1,170 – were from Turkey, while by comparison, only 31 were German and two were French. [9] Some estimates put the number even higher at 700 Turkish companies, roughly accounting for two thirds of the foreign companies in the region. [10] Even at the four-day Erbil International Fair, which took place at late October 2010, close to 850 companies participated; with Turkish ones at the forefront of the list with 76 companies. [10] It is also estimated that about 15,000 Turks work in Erbil alone. In fact, one report by the Economist put the number of Turkish citizens in the Kurdistan region at around 50,000 and the number of Turkish companies at around 1,200. [11]

Shopkeeper sells Turkish alcohol at shop in Hewlêr. Photo credit: REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

This in fact is a one-way deal in which Turks sell, Kurds buy; Turks build and Kurds pay, and has made the Kurdistan region fully reliant on the Turks. One example is the Ibrahim Khalil Border Gate in the northern Kurdish town of Zakho where 1,500 trucks pass daily, bringing Turkish building materials, clothes, furniture, food and pretty much everything else that fills the Turkish-built shops in Kurdistan.

Aydın Selcen, who heads the Turkish consulate in Erbil, put it correctly when he said ‘We are going to integrate with this country. Roads, railroads, airports, oil and gas pipelines—there will be a free flow of people and goods between the two sides of the border.’ [12] He recently noted too that ‘[i]n all aspects, our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. So this means we are going to have an increased flow of people and goods and information between the two sides. We will see more joint ventures here; we are going to see not only increased contracting business but also more direct investment from Turkey.’ [13]

Some refuse to recognise the dangerous potential of what is happening. They instead write columns praising this new ‘positive dynamic between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan’ and ask ‘[t]o whom should we give credit for this?’ [14]

This one-sided ‘deal with the devil’ deserves no ‘credit’, but rather careful scrutiny. In the short run it may seem as it has given a boost to the Kurdish economy, but in the long run, what can be predicted is that Turkey will use its dominance in the region and will use such influence and total control for its own objectives, with the most important to be the prevention of any sort of self-rule, liberation and freedom by the Kurds in Kurdistan region.

Part Two of ‘Reclaiming the Mosul Vilayet’ will be published on Kurdistan Commentary tomorrow, Tuesday, 25 January 2011.

sources:

[1] van Bruinessen, Martin. The Kurds, Turkey and Iran after America’s Iraq war: new possibilities? Summary of paper presented at the IDF Meeting on “Justice, Security and Democracy”, The Hague, 25 May 2003.

[2] Bar’el, Zvi. Nightmare scenarios for all. Ha’aretz, 28 February 2003.

[3] Rozoff, Rick. Turkey Threatens N. Iraq Invasion; US Ambassador Supports Turkey. Stop Nato, 17 October 2002.

[4] Turkey claims Kirkuk and Mosul oil-producing areas in Iraq. Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connections. v8, #4, 20 February 2003

[5] Senanayake, Sumedha. Turkey keeps nervous eye on Kirkuk. Asia Times Online, 24 January 2007.

[6] Turkish troops enter north Iraq. BBC News, 22 February 2008.

[7] Bruno, Greg. Turkey’s Iraq Surge. Council on Foreign Relations, 19 December 2007.

[8] El Gamal, Rania. Turkey, Iran battle for clout, deals in Iraq. Reuters, 08 December 2010.

[9] Aqrawi, Shamal. Investment a “success story” in Iraqi Kurdistan. Reuters (via KurdNet), 30 September 2010.

[10] Schute Jr., Harry. Missed business opportunity in Kurdistan. The Washington Times, 02 December 2010.

[11] Iraq’s Kurds and Turkey: An unusual new friendship. The Economist, 19 February 2009.

[12] Shadid, Anthony. Resurgent Turkey Flexes Its Muscles Around Iraq. New York Times, 14 January 2011.

[13] In all aspects our relations will diversify, deepen and expand. The Kurdish Globe, 08 January 2011.

[14] Romano, David. When the Cup Is Half Full. Rudaw, 20 January 2011.

Kurdish approved for use in Iraqi parliament

Iraqi Council of Representatives

Beginning next month, Kurdish-speaking members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (parliament) in Baghdad will be allowed to use Kurdish during parliamentary sessions.

The new Iraqi constitution was approved in June 2004 and Article 4 states that ‘Arabic and Kurdish languages are the two official languages for Iraq.’ However, according to the constitution, the manner of implementing the rules of this article ‘shall not be direct but will be defined by a law.’

Apparently, that legal ‘definition’ will now include its use in Parliament and at the meetings of the Council of Ministers.

Kurdistan Alliance member Mueyed Teyib remarked that Kurdish parliamentarians could have demanded to speak their native language in previous sessions but had not introduced a demand given their knowledge of Arabic as well. He also said that ‘[a]lthough Kurdish parliamentarians know Arabic, we introduced a demand in this session to speak Kurdish for the recognition of Kurdish in the parliament as a Constitutional right.’

Teyib expressed that technical preparations are being made for Kurdish in the parliament hall, saying, ‘After the end of parliament abeyance, each Kurdish person will be free to speak Kurdish by the beginning of February.’ Teyip added that translation services will be provided in this respect, calling attention to the translation services given in other parliaments where different languages are spoken.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives has 325 seats. Forty-one of those seats (13%) are held by representatives from the three northern governorates under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Dohuk has 10 seats; Erbil, 14 seats; Suleimaniya, 17 seats.

In Turkey, home to some 20 million Kurds, the use of Kurdish is not permitted in parliament or in the courts.

Sources:

Kurdish allowed in Iraqi parliament. ANF News, 20 January 2011.

The legal status of the Kurdish language in Iraq. Niqash, 07 November 2007.

Kurdish Culture, Literature and Art Conference in Diyarbakir

Notes from two conference attendees, Amir Sharifi and Luqman Barwari
14 January 2011

As 2010 was coming to an end, one could make a forceful argument that the year was an intriguing and fruitful one when it came to the long neglected Kurdish language, art, and literature. Kurdish intellectuals, politicians, and activists in the homeland and Diaspora for the first time discussed their shared interests and aspirations to ensure that they re-discover, reassert and regain their role in studying, safeguarding, and representing their cultural legacy and ethnic and linguistic identity.

From Dec 11 to Dec 12, 2010, many well-known Kurdish intellectuals, artists, and performers met in one of the cultural capitals of Kurdistan, Diayarbakir or Amed, an old city on the plains of Tigris River to discuss Kurdish history, both ancient and contemporary, the current situation, and future directions and perspectives on the Kurdish culture. This was the first Kurdish Culture, Literature and Art Conference organized by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Mesopotamia Cultural Centers (MKM) and Diyarbakir Municipality. This pioneering initiative had received the support of Kurdish politicians, activists, intellectuals and artists from different parts of the land. The conference organizers deserve congratulations for two days of stimulating and inspiring talks on the issues that the Kurdish nation faces in these difficult but promising times. Indeed, the conference promoters deserve the immense success that their conference enjoyed. For the conferees it was a great joy and privilege to have met many fellow Kurds from different parts of our land. Kurds from Western, Southern, Northern, Central and Eastern Kurdistan had converged on Amed as had Kurds in Diaspora: from Russia, European countries, and the U.S. Some participants, particularly women organizers were dressed in the brightly colorful Kurdish dresses, giving the event a festive mood, accentuated by podium sized floral designs made of colorful fabric, emblematic of the Kurdish flag. The stage in the Cegerxwin Cultural Hall was decorated with iconic images of Kurdish prominent literary and historical figures such as Ahmad Khani, Baba Tahir e Oryan, Malaye Jaziri, Hemin, Fatma Isa, Musa Anter, Cegerxwin, Osman Sebri, Aysha Shan, Ibrahim Ahmad, Hejar, and Qanate Kurdo on a backdrop. The organizers were very earthbound, offering their guests; more than 250 delegates the legendary Kurdish hospitality. To facilitate communication among speakers of different dialects of Kurdish and non-Kurdish speakers, simultaneous interpretations were provided in Sorani, Kurmanji, English, and Turkish. Through the efforts of the organizers, scores of well known participants from different domains of knowledge and academic disciplines exchanged ideas and debated their perspectives on a variety of topics. Community leaders and associations such as The Kurdish Institute in Istanbul, Mesopotamia Cultural Centers were represented. Browsing through the program schedule, one could see many prominent figures such as Ozkan Kuchuk, Kurdologist, Jalile Jalil, Kurdologist, historian, and writer, Hashem Ahmadzadeh, author and director of Kurdish studies, Sami Tan, the Director of Kurdish Institute in Istanbul, Mikail Aslan, composer and musician, and Mushin Osman, film director.

The conference organizers had also brought together a great many Kurdish politicians and parliamentarians and officials such as Ahmet Turk, co-president of the Peace and Democracy Party, Osman Baydemir, the mayor of Diayarbakir. A delegation from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) was also present throughout the conference as there were several panelists from KRG. As noted by the organizers, “For the first time in the history of our people, Kurdish intellectuals, writers and artists had the opportunity to discuss the historical resources, current situation and future perspective of the Kurdish culture”.

Ahmet Turk, in inaugurating the conference spoke of the rich history of Kurdish people and its colorful culture. He called for improving conditions for Kurdish people and the major dialects. He stressed the need for the unwavering participation of politicians and the internalization of the democratization process. He described the Kurdish people as friendly and peace loving but resistant to discrimination. He concluded by emphasizing the right to education in the mother tongue as an inalienable right.

One of the underlying themes in the panel on the ancient history of the land and its culture was the originality of Kurdistan geography and its autochthonous people. The Kurdish contribution to the Neolithic era was acknowledged, particularly the distinct role of women in the evolution of communal life, language, and culture. It was stated that archeologists have established based on their findings in Kurdistan that Mesopotamia has long been a haven for human life and one of the loci of human civilization in the beginning of sedentary life, agriculture, and invention of tools, a history traceable to 8000 years BCE an evolutionary process that originated in what is now the Kurdish ancestral land and then spread to other parts. Kurds were defined as creators of culture, institutions, animal domestication, and agriculture. Ahmet Yildrim referred to the Diyarbakir basin and Hasankeyf as key sites for many civilizations. It was argued that the ancestors of Kurds have made tremendous contributions to the material conditions for the emergence of civil structures and that Middle Eastern people should be indebted to the Kurds for their preservation of and respect for nature. The panelists bemoaned the fact that Kurds are now suffering and derided by forces of tyranny and subjected to “two hundred years of genocide and assimilation.”

The panels on culture and literature discussed the development processes, the problems that the Kurdish literature confronts along with the Kurdish language itself. A broad concern was how to develop Kurdish literature and art in the absence of the most fundamental rights, literacy, and channels of communication and dissemination of literature in the face of restrictions, linguistic, political and cultural divisions that Kurds are grappling with. Hashem Ahamadzadeh spoke about the relation between language and political power, the modern legacies and historiography of state making, dialectal variations and conditions of repression as impediments to communication among Kurdish literates. Abas Wali focused on the interdependency of literacy and socio-political processes and the role of intelligentsia in defining culture. A considerable amount of time was devoted to delineating the roles and responsibilities of the intellectuals and artists. Jalile Jalil, a Kurdologist and historian observed “Our language is wounded; we have yet to understand the richness of our language… that terminological and literary niceties are all great, but how can literature grow if Kurdish children can not read what we write? We do not understand the language of our Denbejs (traditional Kurdish singers or bards) our neighbors.” Film makers, actors, and playwrights stressed the need for exploring and producing films and plays on local and universal themes; however, As Shirin Jihani, the first Kurdish woman film director pointed out, in the absence of such a culture and independent institutions, film makers face major difficulties in producing, presenting, and promoting their work.

The panelists in discussing the state of Kurdish music, argued that despite customary celebration of music in Kurdish daily, ethnic, social and political life and its lofty and sacred position, particularly in religious practices and cultural rituals and the distinct place of musicians and vocalists in Kurdish culture, we do not really know what an original and varied treasure we have. They stressed the need for ethno musicological research to identify different types of genres, compositions and their aesthetic modes in different areas, particularly those rich in musical traditions such as Hakkari… It was pointed out that our musical tradition has been threatened and now is lending itself to imitation. Mikail Aslan, composer, musician, and vocalist spoke about the deplorable condition in which Zaza speakers and their music once lived and how they had become alienated and removed from themselves once the language was colonized and conquered. “If one is separated from language, one loses himself or herself. This is how our music was seized’ then they humiliated us by saying that this is the language of peasants; many lost their psychological balance by subjecting themselves to self-censorship. He argued that the youth fall prey to this ideology easily and we have to fight against this ruthless assimilation.

The importance of language standardization on the basis of the common features of the different dialects was discussed. At the end a flexible linguistic identity inclusive of all dialects was what many panelists and members of the audience called for instead of a fixed, homogeneous linguistic identity.

It was noted that although Kurds face similar problems in neighboring countries, the Kurds in Turkey have faced frightening discrimination, a belligerent nationalism and a ruthless repression of their language and identity. Some of the presenters highlighted the dogmatic and assimilationist ideology that has penetrated the very fabric of the Turkish society and the media. It was pointed out that despite some positive developments; the Turkish media continues to portray Kurds in a negative light as an affront to Kurdish ideals. The presenters stressed the need for debunking these misguided and dangerous images by reclaiming the rich and colorful life and traditions of the Kurdish people through creating and expanding Kurdish media for self-representations.

The Kurdish intellectuals were called upon to be ready to take up new and dynamic challenges to reexamine and adapt to their conceptions of their identities. They were urged to develop new paradigms which would illuminate their political and social responsibilities towards freedom, peace and justice. “to stop cultural genocide and recreate ourselves” Kurdish women were described as the main bearers of the struggle of Kurdishness.”

We should register our regret at the absence of the term language in the very title of this conference, on which depends the very foundation and existence of the other categories that the conference discussed. Needless to say that relentless repression of the Kurdish language in Turkey would have merited special attention, particularly in a country that to this day, the public use of the language in what it has been termed a liberal milieu is still frowned upon and its educational use as a mother tongue continues to be forbidden. Although the conference was attended by several prominent novelists, writers and poets, issues of language and ideology, and language discrimination could have been constructively and effectively discussed by linguists and anthropologists; there were many occasions that linguists could have made informative contributions to the discussions. Although Dillan Roshani, was given a few minutes to present a proposal for unifying the various dialects, linguistics, not to be confused with general notions of language, was peripheral to the conference.

Likewise, although all the experts in attendance made a tremendous contribution to the conference, the relative absence of anthropological and sociological expertise may have left some unanswered questions. Experts in these fields would have been able to provide both theoretical and methodological insights and outlooks into the broad sociocultural and linguistic issues by presenting their research and identifying and setting goals for new research in anthropological and sociological investigations.

One issue that received the wide presence of the Turkish media was the signing of a resolution by Ahmed Turk and DTP representatives. The resolution stressed the importance of the peace process and the need to put an end to repression and urged the Turkish government to recognize the sociocultural and political rights of the Kurdish people with particular emphasis on the right to education in the mother tongue.

One of the highlights of the conference was a tribute paid to Aram Tigran, the famous Armenian singer, musician, and composer, who has created a vast and varied musical repertoire in Kurdish, thus contributing to the preservation of musical and oral traditions of Kurds. His wife related the passion Aram had for singing in Kurdish and celebrating Kurdishness to the last moment of his life.

The conference ended with a resolution formulated by a working committee and endorsed by the attendees. It was agreed that the working committee would plan the second conference to be held next year in Hewlêr (Erbil). The overall proceedings can be summarized as follows: increasing pressure on the Turkish government to allow public education in Kurdish, creating the contexts for and increasing dialogue among different Kurdish intellectuals and artists, pursuing the objectives of the conference persistently, working on overcoming the challenges of reclaiming and reconstructing Kurdish cultural heritage, resources, and past, recognizing diversity among Kurdish communities as a historical and political reality ,working on the challenges of connecting with the general public, setting objectives and pathways relevant to future conferences. The working committee will be publishing the proceedings and the presentations. A cursory search of the main stream media both Turkish and Western media shows fragmentary and sporadic coverage of the conference. Perhaps the conference organizers should launch the official website of the conference as soon as possible to post the conference proceedings and start blogging and tweeting to communicate the ideas discussed in the conference to other Kurdish intellectuals, artists, and the general public. This conference’s best practices in general and more specifically the contributions of the Kurdish intellectuals and artists to cultural preservation and promotion of Kurdish cultural values that embrace democracy and diversity, could serve as a platform for other Kurdish communities to exchange, debate and share their experiences, proposals, practices and processes for the development of Kurdish national aspirations.

The conference culminated in a dinner reception where the mayor of Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir, once again highlighted the significance of the conference in the resurgence of Kurdish identity and the quest for fundamental rights and freedoms; he thanked the participants for contributing to one of the greatest events in the contemporary history of Kurds. Then an array of famous and popular musicians, vocalists, and composers from different parts of Kurdistan performed multiple pieces of authentic Kurdish music in different genres such as dengbeji, loosely, bards’ tradition, stranbeji, minstrels , heyrans, and love songs as the audience sang and danced along to the accompaniment of musical instruments all night.

Iran’s hanging frenzy

Less than three weeks into 2011 and Iran has executed 47 prisoners. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) spokesperson, Aaron Rhodes, says ‘[t]he Iranian Judiciary is on an execution binge orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies.’ At one execution every eight hours, it is a hanging frenzy. Iran executes more people per capita than any other country in the world.

While 47 is the number officially reported ICHRI reports that the number of executions in Iran is apparently much higher. Multiple and reliable reports indicate that secret, mass executions of more than a hundred have taken place in Mashad’s Vakilabad prison.

Most recently, Iran hanged Kurdish activist Hossein Khezri, who was put to death this past Saturday. Kurds are disproportionately targeted by the regime. ‘The execution of Kurdish activists, without fair trials and following torture,’ says Rhodes, ‘increasingly appears as a systematic, politically motivated process.’

Other Kurds on death row in Iran include: Zeinab Jalilian, Habibollah Latifi, Shirkoo Moarefi, Rostam Arkia, Mostafa Salimi, Anvar Rostami, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Aghooshi, Ahmad Pooladkhani, Seyed Sami Husseini, Seyed Jamal Mohammadi, Hasan Talei, Iraj Mohammadi, Mohammad Amin Abdollahi and Ghader Mohammadzadeh.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the Iranian Parliament and the Judiciary to immediately institute a moratorium on executions and to move swiftly to abolish the death penalty, in the face of skyrocketing executions following unfair trials and opaque judicial proceedings.

sources:

Iran on “Execution Binge;” Immediate Moratorium Urged. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 16 January 2011.

Cartoon found at Nûkurd, Dewleta Îranê xwe bi çanda dardakirinê têr dike!

Resisting Turkification policies, then and now

‘O people of the fatherland! You are aware of the injustice and oppression of the Turks. With a small number of themselves they have ruled over you and enslaved you… They have passed regulations to destroy your noble language.’

Crowd in Diyarbakır protesting KCK trial

Today Turkish police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse dozens of young Kurds at a demonstration in central Istanbul. The unrest erupted after about 2,000 people marched down Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s main pedestrian area, to denounce the trial in Diyarbakır of some 150 Kurdish leaders on charges of links to Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, the alleged urban branch of the PKK.

Last Thursday in Diyarbakır some 8,000 people gathered in front of the Diyarbakır Station Square during the Thursday hearing. The meeting then turned into a protest march joined by more than 10,000 people, including BDP deputies and members of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK). Kurdish politician and DTK co-chair Ahmet Türk addressed the crowd in Kurdish and criticised the policies of the ruling AKP and the KCK trial. He emphasised the demand for a democratic autonomy.

The demonstrators remained in front of the courthouse after the members of parliament had returned to the courtroom. After the protesters lit fireworks, the police intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II

There was another point in history when a different group fought against the same policies of linguistic repression and forced Turkification, which mirrors what is happening today. The similarities between what happened 100 years ago in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire and now are remarkable.

The adoption of Arabic as an official language in the Ottoman Empire was one of the main demands by the Arab elite during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1880 and 1881 a series of placards appeared in Damascus, Beirut, and other cities announcing these linguistic demands. The third placard, dated 14 January 1881, included this:

O people of the fatherland! You are aware of the injustice and oppression of the Turks. With a small number of themselves they have ruled over you and enslaved you… They have passed regulations to destroy your noble language.

Autonomy was the first demand in this placard. Recognition of Arabic as an official language was the second.

Secondly, recognition of the Arabic language as official in the country [Syria] and of the right of those who speak it to complete freedom in publishing their thoughts, books and newspapers, in accordance with the demands of humanity, progress and civilisation.

This is all too familiar in the current call for Kurdish linguistic and cultural freedoms.

With the Young Turks Revolution in 1908 and their rise to power in 1909 a rigorous policy of Turkification was implemented in the Arabic-speaking provinces of the empire. This was led by the more extreme elements of the movement who sought to save the Empire by forced assimilation into Turkish language and culture of non-Turkish subjects. This policy was mainly directed at the Arabic-speaking populations of Syria and Lebanon as they were seen as the biggest threat to the Empire. This was, in effect, a realisation of some of the dominant Turkist themes of the Hamidian period of 1876-1908.

Ankara today, like its Ottoman predecessors, is trying to ‘save the Empire’ by enforcing compliance of its anachronistic language laws. The state still sees the use of any other language apart from Turkish as a threat to the territorial integrity of the state.

Kurdish youth clash with police (Istanbul, 16 January 2011)

The intended result then of the forced assimilation policy was to counter nationalist tendencies amongst non-Turkish populations and bring them into the Turkish fold. The actual result was the alienation of the Arabs and a transformation of the Arab nationalist movement into a political one.

The parallels to the current relationship between the Turks and the Kurds are striking. The policies of assimilation have failed and have only served to reinvigorate Kurdish linguistic pride and, with it, Kurdish national identity.

The Young Turks forced the reinstatement of the 1876 Constitution, set aside some 30 years prior by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. With that, Turkish was imposed as the language of instruction in all state schools. Arabic was outlawed both inside and outside the classroom at all times. Students caught using Arabic were publicly shamed and subjected to corporal punishment. Arabic was outlawed in the courts and in all correspondence with the government administration. All members of Parliament were required to speak Turkish.

Also around that time, articles began to appear in the Turkish press attacking the Arabic language. The following quote appeared in an editorial in Tanin, an Istanbul daily newspaper of the time:

The Arabs do not stop prattling in their language and they are total ignoramuses in Turkish, as if they were not under Turkish rule. The government is obligated in such a case to force them to forget their language and to learn the language of the nation that is ruling them.

Language is a key marker of identity. It is the essence of identity. The KCK trial in Diyarbakır is no longer about whether these 152 defendants are ‘members of an illegal organisation.’ It is about the survival of the Kurdish language, culture, and identity. The mindset in Ankara, however, harkens back to the days of the Young Turks Revolution and the idea that it is a government obligation to force non-Turkish speakers ‘to learn the language of the nation that is ruling them.’ This myopic, ultra-nationalist approach cannot accept the existence of another nation or another language.

So how did the Arabs at the time resist the intense push for Turkification?

First and foremost was the call to make Arabic, alongside Turkish, an official language of the state in the Arabic-speaking parts of the Empire. The Decentralisation Party, established in 1912 by Ottoman Arabs, stated in Article 14 of its platform: ‘Every province will have two official languages, Turkish and the local language.’ Other parties and societies espoused similar demands.

In 1913 Arab elites gathered at the Paris Congress where declarations were drawn up to press their demands on the government in Istanbul. Paragraph 5 of the draft resolution stated that the ‘Arabic language must be recognised in the Ottoman Parliament and the Parliament must decide that it will be an official language in the Arab [provinces].’

Ahmet Riza, one of the early leaders of the Young Turks

The Young Turks, however, met in January 1914 and only pushed their Turkification agenda further by deciding to eliminate the ‘nationalist societies’, which, in their eyes, were becoming much too assertive.

The second method of resistance was through active promotion of Arab culture and the Arabic language. Organisations, societies, and cultural clubs were formed to promote Arabic and its usage. One of the better-known groups was the Society of Arab Revival (est. in Istanbul in 1906), which had to change its name to the Society of Syrian Revival due to escalating Turkification in the government. The word ‘Arab’ was not allowed.

The aim of the Syrian Revival group was to spread Arab culture and language. It did this by organising meetings to study language, literature and history. Turkish borrowings in Arabic were banned during these sessions.

The third method was the use of poetry to rebut the attacks against Arabs and Arabic. One poem by Fuad al-Khatib rejected Turkish claims that the Arabs’ attempts to modernise their culture through language were a form of dissension or civil strife in the Empire.

Several months ago, TZPKurdî (Tevgera Ziman û Perwerdahiya Kurdî) began a campaign called ‘Read, Speak, Write in Kurdish Everywhere’, launched against the prohibition of the Kurdish language in certain spheres in Turkey.

TZPKurdî suggests three measures to resist the repression of Kurdish in Turkey: 1) to promote the Kurdish language in education, 2) to speak the language in private as well as in public venues and 3) to speak it at all political events. Currently, the use of Kurdish in the political arena is forbidden according to the Law on Political Parties.

In the early 20th century the nascent popularity of journalism in the region and the introduction of modern printing presses pushed the Arab language agenda and supported it. One hundred years later, in addition to the street protests in Diyarbakır, Istanbul, and elsewhere, it is online citizen journalism, Twitter, facebook and YouTube supporting the linguistic revolution.

The KCK trial resumes on Tuesday and the struggle for recognition of Kurdish linguistic rights will continue…online and in the streets. Ez li vir im.

sources:

Suleiman, Yasir (2003). The Arabic Language and National Identity. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Müge Göçek, Fatma (2002). Social constructions of nationalism in the Middle East. State University of New York Press.

Kurdish protesters clash with Turkish police in Istanbul. Hürriyet, 16 January 2011.

Who’s as mad as hell? Anyone? Kurdistan Commentary, 16 November 2010.

KCK trials and the Kurds. Kurdish Info, 14 January 2011.

Hossein Khezri executed in Iran

Hossein Khezri

UPDATE: 21.30GMT Hossein Khezri’s brother tells RAHANA they ‘are unaware whether the death sentence has been carried out.’  Apparently neither the family nor the lawyer has been officially informed of the execution.

——-

With the world’s attention focused on the events unfolding in Tunisia, hardly anyone noticed that Hossein Khezri, a 28-year-old Kurdish activist, was quietly executed this morning by the Iranian regime. He was hanged at Orumiyeh Prison for his alleged involvement with the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK).

Hossein was arrested in the summer of 2008 and spent the next two-and-a-half years in a living hell. Khezri had been arrested for ‘participation in the armed killing of a police officer at the outpost in Gol Sheykhan in Orumiyeh in 2005′ according to IRIB. The abuse during his detention was so severe that he lost much of his eyesight. During the eight months he spent in solitary confinement his mental state was affected to such an extent that he tried to kill himself twice. He wrote that he ‘thought death will be far better than this daily torture and inhumane conditions.’

In October of last year, Hossein wrote a letter addressed to international human rights organisations regarding his case and the torture he endured. Here is an excerpt:

On July 27, 2009, two weeks before the final verdict, I sent a formal complaint to the Attorney General of the Orumiyeh Military Court about the of inhumane and illegal behaviour [toward me]…On February 2, 2009, right after I sent the complaint and submitted my evidence to the medical examiner, I was detained for three days by the Ministry of Intelligence under the supervision of armed guards. I was threatened during this time about the complaint I had submitted. I was asked why I dared to complain. I was told that I must appear on camera and read off the confessions they have written for me and deny that I had been mistreated in any way. I was told if I cooperate, they may lessen the charges and reduce the punishment…whenever my father attempted to find out any information about me, he was given confusing and conflicting answers. He was so scared that I had already been executed that he suffered a fatal heart attack at the office of the Ministry of Intelligence…Barely 20 days following the death of my father, I was exiled to Qazvin prison [approximately 200 miles away from his home in Orumiyeh]…So far no one has followed up on my complaints or my request to be sent to the medical examiner. So far there has been no reason given for not following up on my complaints.

Also in his letter, Hossein graphically described the torture methods used against him in detention centres belonging to the Revolutionary Guards in Kermanshah and Orumiyeh, and also at a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility. These included beatings for several hours a day, threats against himself and his family, kicks to the genitals which caused bleeding and severe swelling for 14 days, kicks to the legs resulting in open wounds, and harsh baton blows to the entire body for 49 days, causing bruising and inflammation.

Timeline of events:

31 July 2008: arrested in the city of Kermanshah by Nabi Akram Sepah branch, suffered physical and psychological torture while under interrogation for 49 days

18 September 2008: transferred to Sepah al Mehdi in Orumiyeh

06 January 2009: transferred to Information Department of Orumiyeh

15 February 2009: transferred to Western Azerbaijan’s Information Ministry headquarters

19 April 2009: 104th branch of the criminal court of Orumiyeh released its judgment against Hossein. The indictment, based on the intelligence ministry and court, ruled that Hossein Khezri was an armed combatant.

11 May 2009: transferred to Orumiyeh Prison and tried at the Revolutionary Court. Convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) and ‘endangering state security.’ The representative of the Information Ministry was present at the court, along with the Orumiyeh prosecutor. Before the proceedings Hossein was cautioned that he may not speak of torture or mention any of the interrogations methods or what happened during these sessions. He was also threatened not to mention that his ‘confession’ was obtained under torture. Hossein, however, defied prosecutors and brought up these charges. Judge Darvishi, head of the 1st branch of the Revolutionary Court, proceeded with the sentencing without any attempt to investigate Hossein’s claims of torture and in 10 minutes delivered the sentence of execution.

27 July 2009: Hossein sends a formal complaint for inhumane and illegal behaviour to the attorney general of military courts in Orumiyeh

08 August 2009: Death sentence upheld

11 April 2010: transferred from Orumiyeh Prison to an unknown location

10 October 2010: appeals are exhausted, and he is considered to be in imminent danger of execution

Late October 2010: writes a letter from Section 12 of Orumiyeh Prison to human rights organisations and activists, calling on them to share the details of his case with the international community. In the letter, he pleas for the international community’s help in securing him a fair and open trial and has ‘formally recognised’ all concerned activists as his lawyers.

6 November 2010: letter is published on the website of an opposition political party, after which his death sentence was sent to the ‘section for implementation of the verdict’

17 November 2010: The Supreme Court issues a memo to Orumiyeh Prison officials ordering Hossein Khezri’s execution. The enforcement unit of the prison asks for permission to carry out the order. He is in imminent danger.

19 November 2010: Iran’s Islamic Supreme Court orders the 6th District Court of Orumiyeh to carry out the execution of Hossein Khezri

19 November 2010: Amnesty International issues an urgent action statement for Hossein Khezri. Amnesty urges people to write to the Iranian authorities and appeal for Khezri’s life.

02 January 2011: Hossein Khezri is removed from Orumiyeh Prison by agents from the Intelligence Ministry. He is considered in extreme danger of imminent execution. Although the exact reason for his cell extraction is not known, this is typical before a scheduled execution.

05 January 2011: Hossein Khezri’s brother and other family members are able to visit him in Orumiyeh Prison. According to an interview, it was staged as a final visit and prison authorities told the family that he will be moved and ‘this is the last time you will ever see him.’

13 January 2011: Hossein Khezri’s family is still unable to obtain information about his whereabouts or condition. Authorities have told them simply that he was moved to Tehran for the completion of his sentence.

15 January 2011: execution carried out

There are more than 10 million Kurds in Iran who make up approximately 15 percent of Iran’s population. Expression of Kurdish culture is somewhat tolerated and the Kurdish language is used in some broadcasts and publications. However, political activity based on Kurdish identity is banned and linked to separatism. Kurds, as a result, are disproportionately targeted using security legislation such as the capital offence of moharebeh. Punishments are often entirely at the discretion of the presiding judge.

More than a dozen Kurdish political prisoners in Iran are now facing the death penalty. Many, many more are imprisoned for their beliefs and activities. Late last month, Habibollah Latifi’s execution was postponed after an international campaign to save his life.

sources:

Hossein Khezri, Kurdish Political Activist Sentenced to Death as “Enemy of God”, Persian2English, 22 November 2010

Hossein Khezri: Stop the Executions

URGENT ACTION: Kurd’s death sentence to be carried out [88/10 Index: MDE 13/104/2010], Amnesty International, 19 November 2010. (.pdf)

Husen Xizri executed today. Rojhelat, 15 January 2011.

Hossein Khezri executed.  HRA, 15 January 2011.

First Kurdish undergraduate programme in Turkey

Muş Alparslan University (MŞÜ), a newly founded public university, has announced that it will open Turkey’s first Kurdish Language and Literature Department, offering a 4-year undergraduate degree. The university decided to open the department during a meeting late last month and will start accepting students in 2014.  The university aims to be a research university in the region and a leading internationalised, contemporary university with universal values.

‘The Kurdish Language and Literature Department was an issue on our agenda. YÖK (Turkish Council of Higher Education) approved the project we had presented and gave permission for the foundation of the department. This way Kurdish will be a known language,’ said University Rector Nihat Inanç.  Inanç was appointed as MŞÜ Rector in September 2008 by Abdullah Gül.

Kurdish will no longer be an unspoken language says Inanç

The university also has plans to cooperate with universities from northern Iraq, Iran and France on Kurdish language and literature. ‘We will have meetings with universities from northern Iraq and Iran. There is also a department in France. We might get in touch with them.’

Mardin Artuklu University’s Living Languages Institute already offers a graduate programme with master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Kurdish language and culture.

Last month MŞÜ sent out a call for applications for full-time positions in Kurdish Language and Literature.

sources:

Boyutu, Yazı. Kürtçe Bilinmeyen Dil Olmaktan Çıkacak. Sark Telegraf, 06 January 2011.

First undergrad Kurdish department to be established in E Turkey, Hürriyet Daily News, 06 January 2011.

Position announcement. MŞÜ International Affairs Office, H-Net, 20 December 2010.

Kurdish publishing in Turkey

In the year 2010 at least 115 Kurdish books were published in Turkey. The number of books published in Kurdish in 2007 was 109, and 97 were published in 2008. The 2010 figure is slightly down from 2009 (118 books), but marks an upward trend in publishing in Kurdish, particularly since 1990.

Lîs Publishing House (Weşanên Lîs) published the most books with 21 copies, Avesta Publications printed 17 and Do publications 16. A substantial increase in the number of books translated into Kurdish accounts for much of the overall rise in numbers. Lîs, for example, translated 10 books into Kurdish.

From 1923 to 1970 only six books were published. From 1971-1979, ten books. There were no books in Kurdish published in Turkey from 1980 to 1989 (the coup and subsequent years). During the 90s, 212 books were published. And from 2000-2005, 367 books.

Recently Kurdish publishers have been specialising in certain fields. For example, Nûbihar Publishing House mainly publishes religious literature, Lîs and Belki publish fiction, and Vate Publishing House focuses on books in the Kırmancki (Zazakî) dialect.

Kurdish books published in Turkey typically sell between 100 to 1000 copies a year. Some of the best selling books are dictionaries and grammar books, such as Ferhengok Kurdî-Tirkî (Pocket Kurdish-Turkish dictionary, Welat Publishing House) and Dersên Zimanê Kurdî (Lessons in Modern Kurdish, Deng Publishing House). The pocket dictionary in 2002-2003 had a print run of 13,500.

In recent years some Kurdish publishing houses and Kurdish periodicals have moved their centres to Diyarbakır, and new publishing houses have been established there. Of the publishing houses with central offices in Diyarbakır, Deng, Bîr, Lîs and Belki, the last three were founded between 2003 and 2005. Previously all Kurdish publishers had been based in Istanbul and Ankara.

Here is a list (from 2006) of Kurdish publishers, opening date, and address:

Aram Publishing House (Weşanên Aram)-1997
Cağaloğlu Yokuşu Hobyar Mah.
Cemal Nadir Sok. Uğur Han No: 18/305
Eminönü/İstanbul

Avesta Publishing House (Weşanên Avesta)-1995
Avesta has published more Kurdish books than any other publishing company.
Evliya Çelebi Mah.
Aybastı Sok. No: 48/4
Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Tel: 0090/212 251 44 80

Bîr Publishing House (Weşanên Bîr)-2005
İnönü Cad. Ma-Gül İş Merkezi No: 49
Dağkapı/Diyarbakır
Tel: 0090/412 228 78 28

Deng Publishing House (Weşanên Deng)-1989
Kurt İsmail Paşa 5. Sok.
Fırat 5 Apt. No: 2/1
Ofis/Diyarbakır
Tel: 0090/412 223 89 23

Doz Publishing House (Weşanên Doz)-1990
Taksim Cad. No: 71/5
80090 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Tel: 0090/212 297 25 05

Elma Publishing House (Weşanên Elma)-2002
İlk Belediye Caddesi 37/6
Tünel/İstanbul
Tel: 0090/212 243 01 56

Kurdish Institute in Istanbul (Weşanên Enstîtuya Kurdî ya Stenbolê)-1992
Mesih Paşa Mah. Ordu Cad.
Hadi Han. No: 305 K: 5
Laleli-Eminönü/İstanbul

Komal Publishing House (Weşanên Komalê)-1974
Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mah.
Hasnun Galip Sok.
Uğur Apt. No: 25 Kat: 3 Daire: 4
Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Tel: 0212 243 83 97

Lîs Publishing House (Weşanên Lîs)-2004
Ma-Gül İş Merkezi Kat:1 No: 66
Dağkapı/Diyarbakır
Tel: 0090/412 228 97 76

Nûbihar Publishing House (Weşanên Nûbihar)-1992
P. K. 80 Fatih İstanbul

Pêrî Publishing House (Weşanên Pêrî)-1997
Osman Ağa Mah. Söğütlü Çeşme Cad.
Pavlonya Sok. No: 10/19
Kadıköy/İstanbul
Tel: 0090/216 347 26 44

Vate Publishing House (Weşanxaneyê Vateyî)-2003
Katip Mustafa Çelebi Mah.
Tel Sok. No: 18 Kat: 3
Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Tel: 0090/212 244 94 14

Sources:

Malmisanij, Mehemed (2006). The Past and Present of Book Publishing in Kurdish Language in Turkey. Next Page Foundation.

Books published in Kurdish on the increase. Firat News Agency, 04 January 2010. (Translation: Berna Ozgencil)