Kurdish issues in the latest HRW World Report

hrw2013reportThis year’s Human Rights Watch World Report details events around the world from 2012. The report assessed progress on human rights during the 2012 year in more than 90 countries.

Kurdistan Commentary has selected issues relating to the Kurds from this massive 665-page report and posted them below. Turkey continues to garner to bulk of the Kurdish-related news in the HRW report, as it has in years past. In the Syria section there is no mention of the Kurds at all. That chapter is focused on abuses taking place in the ongoing civil war in Syria, with no reference to Kurdish regions. The Iran chapter contains minimal information and the Kurdistan section of the Iraq chapter focuses, as in previous HRW World Reports, on freedom of expression and female genital mutilation.

Excerpts below.

Turkey

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government maintained economic growth in 2012 despite a slowdown, and a strong focus on developing a leading regional role, but failed to take convincing steps to address the country’s worsening domestic human rights record and democratic deficit. Prosecutors and courts continued to use terrorism laws to prosecute and prolong incarceration of thousands of Kurdish political activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, and trade unionists. Free speech and media remained restricted, and there were ongoing serious violations of fair trial rights.

Cross-party parliamentary work on a new constitution to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights continued, although it was unclear at this writing whether the government and opposition would reach a consensus on key issues such as minority rights, fundamental freedoms, and definition of citizenship.

In March, parliament passed legislation to establish a National Human Rights Institution, and in June, an ombudsman institution to examine complaints against public officials at every level. Human rights groups criticized government control of appointments to the national institution’s board and its failure to meet the test of independence from the government that United Nations guidelines recommend.

With the AKP condoning the mass incarceration of Kurdish activists, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) escalating attacks, 2012 saw a spiraling descent into violence with armed clashes resulting in hundreds of deaths of soldiers and PKK members, significantly higher than recent years. Throughout 2012, the PKK kidnapped security personnel and civilians, including local politicians, one parliamentarian, and teachers, releasing them periodically. A suspected PKK attack in Gaziantep in August left nine civilians dead, including four children. The non-resolution of the Kurdish issue remained the single greatest obstacle to progress on human rights in Turkey.

Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly

While there is open debate in Turkey, government policies, laws and the administration of justice continue to lag behind international standards. The government has yet to carry out a comprehensive review of all existing laws that restrict freedom of expression, although a draft reform package was expected in late 2012 at this writing.

The so-called third judicial reform package came into force in July 2012. It ends short-term bans of newspapers and journals, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has criticized as censorship. The law suspends investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of speech-related offenses carrying a maximum sentence of five years that were committed before December 31, 2011, provided the offense is not repeated within three years. Critics fear the threat of reinstatement will continue to muzzle debate.

Thousands charged with alleged terrorism offenses remained in prison throughout their trials. Most of those in prison are Kurdish activists and officials of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) standing trial for alleged links to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK/TM), a body connected with the PKK, and in general the ongoing clampdown on the BDP and Kurdish political activism intensified in 2012 with repeated waves of mass arrests and prolonged imprisonment. The trial of 44 Journalists and media workers (31 in detention) began in Istanbul in September. They are among the many journalists, students, lawyers, trade unionists, and human rights defenders imprisoned and prosecuted for association with the KCK.

There was little progress in the main Diyarbakır KCK trial of 175 defendants. The 108 defendants who have been in custody for up to three-and-a half-years include Human Rights Association Diyarbakir branch head Muharrem Erbey, six serving local BDP mayors, several local BDP council members, and five elected BDP parliamentarians.

The July reform package also introduced and encouraged alternatives to remand imprisonment pending trial. But there were no indications that courts apply this to those already held in prolonged prison detention under terrorism charges. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice from May, the most recent data available, indicated that 8,995 of the 125,000-strong prison population were charged with terrorism offenses, and that half of the 8,995 were awaiting an initial verdict.

Combating Impunity

Great obstacles remain in securing justice for victims of abuses by police, military, and state officials.

In December 2011, a Turkish airforce aerial bombardment killed 34 Kurdish villagers, many of them young people and children, near Uludere, close to the Iraqi-Kurdistan border, as they crossed back into Turkey with smuggled goods. Concerns that there had been an official cover-up were fuelled by repeated statements by the prime minister rejecting calls by media, opposition parties, and families of victims for a full explanation of the incident, lack of a public inquiry, and a protracted criminal investigation that had not concluded at this writing.

Key International Actors

Turkey’s European Union accession negotiations remained stalled. The election of France’s President François Hollande helped to improve French-Turkish relations. In October, the European Commission in its annual progress report voiced strong criticism in most areas relating to human rights, emphasizing the importance of work on a new constitution, and stressing “the Kurdish issue remains a key challenge for Turkey’s democracy.”

The United States government remains an important influence on Turkey, sharing military intelligence on PKK movements in northern Iraq.

In January, a groundbreaking report by the Council of Europe (CoE) commissioner for human rights focused on “long-term, systemic problems in the administration of justice,” and its negative impact on human rights.

In its October review of Turkey, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended reforms including amending the National Human Rights Institution law, introducing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, and addressing the vagueness of the definition of terrorism in law and prolonged pretrial detention.

Iran

Death Penalty

In 2011 authorities carried out more than 600 executions, second only to China, according to Amnesty International. Crimes punishable by death include murder, rape, trafficking and possessing drugs, armed robbery, espionage, sodomy, adultery, and apostasy.

Authorities have executed at least 30 people since January 2010 on the charge of moharebeh (“enmity against God”) or “sowing corruption on earth” for their alleged ties to armed groups. As of September 2012, at least 28 Kurdish prisoners were awaiting execution on national security charges, including moharebeh.

Treatment of Minorities

The government restricted cultural and political activities among the country’s Azeri, Kurdish, Arab, and Baluch minorities.

Iraq

In April, Iraq’s parliament passed a law criminalizing human trafficking, but has yet to effectively implement it. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not taken steps to implement a 2011 law banning female genital mutilation (FGM).

Freedom of Assembly

Security forces continued to respond to peaceful protests with intimidation, threats, violence, and arrests of protesters. On February 17, hundreds of security forces of the KRG surrounded a peaceful demonstration in Sulaimaniya’s Sara Square. Dozens of men in civilian clothing attacked protesters and made many arrests.

Freedom of Expression

The environment for journalists remained oppressive in 2012. The Iraqi parliament was at this writing considering a number of laws restricting the media and freedom of expression and assembly, including the draft Law on the Freedom of Expression of Opinion, Assembly, and Peaceful Demonstration, and a draft law regulating the organization of political parties that punishes expression “violating public morals” and conveying “immoral messages.” In September, the Federal Supreme Court denied a petition by a local press freedom organization to repeal the Journalists Protection Law on the basis that it fails to offer meaningful protection to journalists and restricts access to information.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Iraq at the top of its 2012 Impunity Index, which focuses on unsolved journalist murders, and reported that there have been no convictions for murders of journalists since 2003. Iraqi authorities made no arrests for the murder of Hadi al-Mahdi, a journalist critical of the government, killed in September 2011. Another journalist, Zardasht Osman, was abducted and murdered after publishing a satirical article about KRG president Massoud Barzani in 2010. The KRG never released details of the investigation into his death.

Women’s and Girls’ Rights

In June 2011, the KRG parliament passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes provisions criminalizing forced and child marriages; abuse of girls and women; and a total ban on FGM. Implementation of the law is poor, and dozens of girls and practitioners said that they had either undergone or performed FGM since the law was passed. The authorities took no measures to investigate these cases.

To see the entire 665-page report, go to the World Report 2013 page on the HRW website.

Leading Female Kurdish Politicians Murdered in Paris

2013 started out with many prospects for peace for the Kurds. Finally it seemed that proper negotiations would take place and that the brave resistance of the approximately thousands of Kurdish hunger strikers in the Turkish prisons had paid off. Kurdish BDP politicians Ahmet Turk and Ayla Akat Ata went to see the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in Imrali. Talks resumed between the PKK and the AKP government of Turkey in what was expected by many to be the resolution we all had been waiting for.

Then last night at around 1 am, the bodies of Sakine Cansiz, one of the co-founders of the PKK, and Kurdish activists Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez, were found in the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris.

There are many question marks as to why this has happened and why these three female politicians have been targeted. It is yet to soon for concrete answers but many questions have been raised as to why, and how this happened and who ordered the murders.

While old wounds from the assassinations of Kurdish politicians Qasemlou and Sharafkandi from the PDKI  in 1989 and 1992 respectively, are still unhealed, suspicions rise as to the role Iran might have played in this tragedy.

The current situation in the Middle East leaves no country unaffected and a peace process underway in Turkey with the Kurds would mean a more likely transition to re-negotiations between the Kurds and Iran, or an outbreak of war.

Another aspect is the role NATO could have played in this tragedy to discreetly stir up the tensions and thus allow for movement in the region, and as a result benefitting NATO’s own aims and aspirations in the Middle East.

Last but not least, Turkey is seen as the perpetrator even though random murders such as these are more something expected from Iran. What would Turkey gain in murdering these Kurdish politicians? Many claim that it is not about gaining as much as about having an opportunity to continue as before but now being able to hide behind the safe walls of a “peace dialogue”.

The hope of 2013 becoming the year of peace is still there.

It now all depends on how much support Turkey and the International community can show the Kurdish people and how long it will take to heal these wounds of 2013.

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Interview with a Kurdish Icon: Former Radio Anchor Khalaf Zebari

An Interview with a Kurdish Icon: Former Radio Anchor Khalaf Zebari*

By Sirwan Kajjo

Khalaf Zebari (click for larger image)

I remember it as though it happened yesterday. His moments of excitement were known only when his ancient radio would release an unclear sound in Kurdish! My father was complaining about the bad quality of the Kurdish broadcast of Voice of America (VOA). He would fearlessly curse the Syrian government for jamming the only Kurdish news outlet we were getting at the time. But when the deep, manly voice would come out of the radio, the whole household had to be in dead silence. “Hush, Khalaf is starting!” my father would announce.

This is how I first came to know of Khalaf Zebari, one of the most prominent radio broadcasters in the history of Kurdish journalism. I visited him at his house last month. He lives, along with his small family, in Springfield, Virginia. He retired from VOA earlier this year after his health deteriorated. While he runs down to the basement, his son tells me he still smokes two packs of cigarettes every day. Doctors have already warned him about the danger of smoking but Khalaf remains an avid smoker.

Born in 1948 in Zebar region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Khalaf grew up loving nature. You can easily tell that from the various types of trees he has in his backyard. Nature drove Khalaf to poetry at an early age. Who doesn’t know about “Nesrin”? He wrote the famous poem in 1967. Eight years later, Mihemed Şêxo, a legend of Kurdish music made Nesrin into a song. Ever since, the song has become a symbol of love among all Kurds.

He brings me an album that only has old pictures from back home. He tells me about the story of each picture with precise details. His memory functions outstandingly when to comes to the old days. While checking out the photos, he also narrates his years in Mosul, where his studied economics and met “Nesrin”, the girl whom he wrote about in his most known poem.

In 1974, Sabri Botani, another Kurdish poet, called Khalaf to ask him to work for Voice of Kurdistan radio (Dengê Kurdistan). In April 1974 the Voice of Kurdistan broadcast its first program in Kurdish to become a mouthpiece of the Kurdish revolution in Iraqi Kurdistan. Khalaf says the radio was functioning underground. But the broadcast didn’t last for long. In March 1975 the Algiers Agreement was signed between Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran. The infamous agreement ended the Kurdish revolution, and with that, the Kurdish dream of freedom was postponed. Consequently, the Voice of Kurdistan team, including Khalaf Zebari, fled the country to Iran. After staying two years as a refugee in Iran, Zebari finally made it to the US in 1977. In America, Nashville, TN was his first stop.

In 1992, the US Congress decided to a Kurdish Service at Voice of America. The VOA’s first show in Kurdish was aired from its headquarters in Washington D.C. on April 26, 1992. Khalaf Zebari and Homer Diyezi were the first anchors in the Kurdish service. In the beginning, they only had 15 minutes. Presently, VOA broadcasts three hours daily, one of them is also aired on TV. Shortly after its 20th anniversary, Khalaf announced his retirement.

I ask him what he has given and gained in these 20 years of experience. He says he has met great people from different parts of Kurdistan, shed light on unrepresented Kurds, especially those in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon and even in Syria and Turkey, and learned so much about the world.

But these long years didn’t take Khalaf Zebari away from poetry. On the contrary, being away from back home pushed him to write extensively about his beloved Kurdistan. His poetry collection Lion’s Den (Warê Şêran in Kurdish) was published in 1999 in Stockholm, Sweden. He also has enormous numbers of unpublished poems. These too will one day find their ways to a publishing house.

Perhaps the most striking characteristic of all of this living legend is after living in the United States for 35 years, Khalaf’s heart still leaps from his chest when he hears the word Kurdistan.

—–

*Republished here at the request of the original author. This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Kurdish Review.

The State of My Country, Kurdistan, and My People 2 November 2012

Eastern Kurdistan (Iran): Thousands of prisoners of conscience are being tortured, abused and treated in the most inhumane way possible. Many of whom have been executed in the past such as Shirin Elemhuli and Farzad Kemangar, and many are under threat of execution as I am writing this. Kemangar being merely a teacher with a strong civic conscience and a fearless belief in the unity of the people once said to his students in a letter from prison: “I leave you to the wind and to the sun so that, in the near future, you will sing lessons of love and sincerity to our land”. New reports on executions reach me on a daily basis as well as reports on Kurdish workers on the borders between the Kurdish parts being killed by Iranian military. Furthermore, Kurdish women and children are yet again discriminated against by the anti-female policies of the Iranian state. Imagine living as a young Kurdish woman in the anti Kurdish, anti female, anti youth society of Iran.

Southern Kurdistan (Iraq): Despite having a Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which deals with the international community as a de facto state, more than merely having autonomy within Iraq, the Kurdish region is always under the threat of the Iraqi regime. Forced displacement of Kurds from the time of Saddam Hussein’s rule are still not reimbursed or even dealt with properly with refugee camps for Kurds within the multicultural city of Kirkuk which if anything should be declared a Kurdish- Arabic- Turcoman city.  Never mind the constant bombardment of Kurdistan by Turkey, as if this land was only a sovereign region ruled by Kurds on paper, never mind the many civilian deaths due to this shelling or the environmental damages done to our precious landscapes of Kurdistan but yet Turkey has the audacity to intervene when murdered Kurdish guerrillas are being sent back to the KRG region for burial?!  Seems Saddam Hussein’s ways just won’t leave the rulers of Iraq and thus also affecting South Kurdistan.

Northern Kurdistan (Turkey): With more than 700 Kurdish prisoners hunger striking for more than 52 days, this if anything should tell you how the Kurds are doing in Turkey. Use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas, Mass arrests, torture, disappearances, rape, burning of Kurdish forests and crop fields, disturbance during Newroz celebrations, closure of news papers, TV stations, political parties, forced name changes of scientific objects as to erase the Kurdish reference to certain objects, prohibition of use of letters X, W and Q, imprisonment of children under 15 years old and of women above 70 years old for participating in demonstrations etc.  While the Turkish PM acts as saviour of the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Somalis and more or less anybody who is a Muslim, he keeps forgetting that he is treating his own Muslim population which is Kurdish more inhumanely than the world will ever know.

 

Western Kurdistan (Syria): Last but not east, Syria.With news reports of the so called ‘Free Syrian Army’ killing the female YPG commander named Nujin Derik yesterday, I can think of many more suitable names for the FSA. While Turkey is doing its best to intervene and disturb the unstable unity shown between the different Kurdish groups in Syria, the FSA is instead aiming at erasing Kurds, no matter whom, one by one.  Strategic planning by those who do not want to see another free Kurdish region, have disturbed many good projects which the Kurds in Syria had planned and set up such as Kurdish language schools and Kurdish security forces for protection. While the world looks on, the FSA is ruining the historic wealth of Syria, killing any counterpart to their aims, no matter anti-Assad or not and first and fore most EVERYTHING pro-Kurdish, leaving me worried for whatever evil which will replace the current evil in Syria.

One year anniversary of #TwitterKurds

It’s coming up later this month. The one year anniversary of #TwitterKurds!! Never heard of it? It’s a campaign on Twitter to raise awareness of Kurdish issues. It’s for anyone who wants to give voice to the Kurdish struggle for freedom of expression, freedom to be Kurdish, and freedom to speak Kurdish. It is a movement to raise awareness of human rights abuses perpetrated against the Kurdish peoples of the Middle East. It is a powerful social media tool to overcome media bias and spread the truth. #TwitterKurds has even been mentioned on Al Jazeera’s The Stream. It is a force to be reckoned with!

The power behind #TwitterKurds comes from the hundreds of dedicated global voices sending out 140-character messages hour after hour, day after day, gathering followers, users, believers; changing minds, changing hearts. When #TwitterKurds knocks on your social media door you might ask, ‘Who’s there?’ and #TwitterKurds responds, ‘The truth.’

In honour of #TwitterKurds‘ first anniversary, there will be a mass tweet campaign to raise global awareness of the issues in all parts of Kurdistan. Join us on 25th May from 10 to 10GMT.

Want to learn more? Go to Twitter. Follow #TwitterKurds for more information. You can also join the #TwitterKurds FB page!

Imminent Risk of Execution for Hebibula Gulperi

Hebibula Gulperi has been in the custody of the Iranian authorities since 27 September 2009. He was arrested during a trip from Mahabad to Urmiye, located in Eastern Kurdistan (Iran). He has since his arrest been subjected to both psychological as well as physical torture and denied basic rights. Human rights reports tell of ill-treatment including prolonged solitary confinement, broken arms and legs, interrupted sleep, electrocution, poor or non-existent meals etc. Gulperi appeared before the Mahabad branch of the Revolutionary Court in 2010 where he was convicted to be a mohareb i.e. an ‘enemy of God’ death in accordance with articles 186 and 190 of the Islamic penal Code.

Defend International (DI) has in a press release stated that Gulperi has been transferred from Urmiye prison to Semnan prison in Northern Iran, without notifying his family or lawyer. In March 2010, another Kurdish prisoner, Hussein Khezri, was transferred during similar circumstances from Urmiye Central prison to Qazvin prison where he stayed for nearly forty days only to be transferred back and executed on 15 January 2011. The situation for political and human rights activists in Iran is worsening on a day by day basis and there are now more than 22 Kurdish activists on death row in Iranian prisons.

“Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet? Is it possible to be in the year of no justice and fairness and fail to teach the H for Hope and E for Equality, even if such teachings land you in Evin prison or result in your death? (Ferzad Kemanger, in a letter titled “Be Strong Comrades”, written in prison prior to his execution in 2010)

On 9 May 2010 Ferzad Kemanger, a teacher and human rights activist was executed in Evin prison in Iran together with Ali Heyderyan, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alamhouli and Mehdi Eslamian. The international community raised their voices as much as they thought possible to bring about a halt in the execution of these five prisoners of conscience but as words cannot catch bullets or stop the Iranian regime, the execution was carried out.

Writers, political activists, human rights activists and now teachers are being executed and eliminated. The ones with the knowledge or language to speak, or just the ones brave enough to risk their lives now for a better future for generations to come.

Humanity have lost many brave people for the sake of change, the promise of a better future and freedom and we can do much more than just raise our voices and watch more brave women and men face the same fate.

I wish to tell these prisoners that their efforts were not in vain and that those who share their ideas and hopes for the future are not arrested and executed today while the world remains silent, but I cannot do that.

I will instead share with you the explanation Kemanger wrote for the title of his letter;

“Eight years ago, the grandmother of one of my students, Yassin, in the village of Marab, played the tape of the story of the teacher Mamoosta Ghootabkhaneh. She told me then, “I know that your fate, like the teacher who is the writer and recorder of this poem, is execution; but be strong comrade. The grandmother said those words as she puffed on her cigarette and stared at the mountains. “

I hope that you understand his meaning and that you comrades also remain strong and always keep your faith in the mountains of Kurdistan.

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Conference: On the Way to a New Constitution

Click for full-size conference poster

The organisers of this conference have asked us to announce this on Kurdistan Commentary. The overview and programme are below. The programme concept (in .pdf format) can be downloaded here (Turkish & English). The conference will be livestreamed at this site: http://www.anayasayolunda.com. Looks as though there will be lots of room for discussion about the Kurds given the topic of the conference and the line-up of speakers.

Conference Overview:

The events of the Arab Spring brought tremendous change for all Arab countries. Old dictatorships had collapsed, governments had to introduce reforms; the whole process is still ongoing and the results of the events are yet to be seen. In many countries a process of replacing or at least reforming the constitution started. Different models of participation of society and various forms of demands from the people are to be observed.

This conference wants to bring together the various experiences from around the region with a comparative civic/human rights perspective. It intends to focus on the question as to what does it meanto be “free” after the revolution, and try to understand the current dynamics that shape the very basis of a social contract in respective countries? This is an important task, given that for the first time since the modern state building experiences, people of the region now have the chance to develop a common vision on issues pertaining to democratic citizenship, based on their will and internal dynamics in a mutually learning environment. As such, the conference will be dealing with issues and problems of the following sort and similar others:

Programme:

On the Way to a New Constitution:
Middle East, North Africa and Turkey
28th April 2012, Istanbul
Point Hotel Taksim

09:30 Registration
10:00 Opening Remarks
FES Turkey & Helsinki Citizens Assembly

10:15 1st Panel : Regional Caucus on Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey
- Iran:
Abbas Vali, Boğaziçi University
- Syria:
Christian Sinclair, University of Arizona
- Kurdistan Regional Government:
Rebwar Kerim Wali, Rudaw
- Turkey:
Cengiz Çandar, Radikal Daily

Moderation: Nigâr Hacızade

12:00 Coffee Break

12:15 Discussion

13:30 Lunch

15:00 2nd Panel: Regional Caucus on Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey
- Egypt:
Amr Shalakany, American University of Cairo
- Tunisia:
Choukri Hmed, Université Paris-Dauphine
- Algeria:
Omar Benderra, International Committee of Solidarity with the Algerian free Trade-Unions
- Turkey:
Ayhan Bilgen, Democratic Constitution Movement

Moderation: Işın Eliçin

16:45 Coffee Break

17:00 Discussion

18:15 Concluding remarks: Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Former Minister of Justice, Germany

English-Turkish simultaneous translation will be provided during the conference.

SPEAKERS:

Abbas Vali
Vali obtained a BA in Political Science from the National University of Iran in 1973. He then moved to the UK to continue his graduate studies in modern political and social theory. He obtained an MA in Politics from the University of Keele in 1976. He then received his PhD in Sociology from the University of London in 1983. This was followed by a post-doctoral research fellowship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in 1984. Abbas Vali began his academic carrier in 1986 in the Department of Political Theory and Government at the University of Wales, Swansea. He was invited by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to establish and lead a new university in Erbil in 2005. He was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kurdistan before he was removed for disagreements with the KRG over the management of the university in May 2008. Professor Vali has since been teaching Modern Social and Political Theory in the Department of Sociology at Bogazici University in Istanbul.

Rebwar Kerim Wali
Rebwar Kerim Wali started to work as a journalist in 1995, and is currently the editor-in-chief of the Rudaw Newspaper which is being published in Iraqi Kurdistan and Europe. Furthermore he is also the chief editor of the newly formed Rudaw TV. Rebwar Kerim Wali worked as a journalist during the civil war that erupted due to the dispute between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Kurdistan Partriotic Union. Before he was imprisoned in 2002 because of his articles, he continued to work as a domestic journalist. In 2003 he started to work as a correspondent and representative for foreign press agencies such as BBC Turkish, RFI Farsi, Independent Europe Radio. In 2004 he established the Peyamner News Agency, the first independent news agency in Kurdistan. He is also the founder of Zagros TV where he functioned as the chief editor for 1,5 years. Furthermore, Wali is the founder of the following newspapers: Hewler Post, Bevada, Rudaw. Hewler Post was also the first newspaper to be published online in Turkish. His mother tongue being Kurdish, Wali also fluently speaks Persian, Arabic and Turkish. He also has intermediate knowledge in English.

Christian Sinclair
Christian Sinclair is deputy director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and director of the university’s program in Jordan. He is also a member of the executive committee of the US-based Kurdish Studies Association. Sinclair teaches “Democratization and Human Rights in the Middle East” at UA and “Ethnography of the Middle East” in Jordan. He has given more than a dozen talks in the past couple years in the US and Europe, mainly on the human rights situation of the Kurds, with particular focus on media, language, and politics. His most reason article, published in MERIP, is “The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria.” Sinclair lived in Syria for seven years in the 1990s and has returned regularly since then.

Amr Shalakany
Amr Shalakany has served as associate professor of law in American University of Cairo since 2004. He served for four years as LL.M. Program Director since the Law Departments establishment in 2005. He also holds a joint appointment as Assistant Professor of Civil Law at Cairo University Faculty of Law. Before joining AUC, Shalakany was the Jeremiah Smith Junior Visiting Assistant Professor at Harvard Law School, where he taught Comparative Law and Islamic Law. Earlier, he served as legal advisor to the PLO Negotiations Support Unit in Ramallah during the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, and also taught at Birzeit University and helped set up the Law Clinic at the Law Institute. His recent projects include completing his Carnegie Scholar book manuscript tentatively entitled “The Redefinition of Shari’a in Modern Egyptian Legal Thought: 1798 — Present;” co-editing with Prof Khaled Fahmy the collected papers from “New Approaches to Modern Egyptian Legal History,” a symposium held in June 2009; and “A Short History of the Modern Egyptian Legal Elite” (forthcoming in Boutiveau & Maugiron eds., Egypt and Its Laws (2011).

Choukri Hmed
Choukri Hmed is an Associate Professor in Political Science at the Paris-Dauphine University since September 2007. He is also Visiting Associate Professor at Bing Overseas Stanford Program in History and International Relations (Centre of Paris). He is currently director of the Master, Social and Political Researches, at the Paris-Dauphine University, and associated researcher at the Institut de recherche interdisciplinaire en sciences sociales (IRISSO, UMR CNRS 7170). Since 2011 he carries out a fieldwork research on the revolutionary process and contentious politics in Tunisia. Among his publications are: Choukri Hmed, 2011, “Apprendre à devenir révolutionnaire en Tunisie”, Les Temps modernes, 664; Choukri Hmed et al., eds, 2011, “Observer les mobilisations”, Politix. Revue des sciences sociales du politique, 93.

Omar Benderra
Omar Benderra, born in Algiers (Algeria), now living in Paris (France), has studied economy and finance in Algiers. He is the former chairman of an Algerian state-owned bank for the period 1989-1991. Since then, he’s been working as a consultant and journalist. Omar Benderra is member to the International Committee of Solidarity with the Algerian free Trade-Unions (CISA) –Paris, director of the Frantz Fanon Foundation, and a fellow of the Centre for North African Studies in Cambridge University.

Cengiz Çandar
Cengiz Çandar is a journalist and former war correspondent from Turkey. He began his career as a journalist in 1976 in the newspaper Vatan after living some years in the Middle East and in Europe due to his opposition to the regime in Turkey following the military intervention in 1971. As an expert on the Middle East (Lebanon and Palestine) and the Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Çandar worked for the Turkish News Agency and for the leading Turkish newspapers Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet, Referans and Güneş. Currently, he is a columnist at Radikal Daily. Çandar served as special adviser to Turkish president Turgut Özal between 1991 and 1993. Between 1999 and 2000, he conducted research on “Turkey in the 21st Century” as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and as a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.

Ayhan Bilgen
Ayhan Bilgen is a journalist and Kurdish human rights activist. He studies Public Management at Ankara University and functioned as the Head of the Ankara Office of MAZLUMDER and was a member of the board of directors in the very same association. In May 2006 at the 7th General Assembly he was elected to become the president of the association for two years. Furthermore, Bilgen works as a columnist for the Ülkede Özgür Gündem newapaper. In the general election on 22 July 2007 he ran as an independent MP candidate from Konya as part of the Bin Umut Adayları (a campaign backed by mainly Kurdish independent MP candidates in response to the 10% threshold). He has recently been working on issues relating to the writing of a democratic and encompassing new constitution.

Kurdistan Commentary announces two new authors

Shiler Amini and Christian Sinclair will be joining Kurdistan Commentary as regular authors.

Shiler Amini

Shiler Amini is a PhD candidate in Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter. She is a news journalist with a background in sociology, with interests concentrated around Kurdish politics, media, women’s rights, linguistics and the Kurdish diaspora. Amini currently writes editorials for online journals such as Rojhelat: The Kurdish Observer and Kurd.se | Den Kurdiska Rösten and will now be doing the same for Kurdistan Commentary.

Christian Sinclair

Christian Sinclair, who has posted with Kurdistan Commentary before, is assistant director of University of Arizona’s Centre for Middle Eastern Studies. He is also on the Kurdish Studies Association’s executive committee. Sinclair’s interests — as they relate to Kurdish Studies — include human rights, politics, media, and language and he is a frequent speaker on Kurdish issues. His article, The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria, was published by MERIP last August. He will write a fortnightly column, which will appear Mondays beginning on 7th May.

Kurdistan Commentary is very excited to have these two join the team. Their expertise in the region and exceptional writing skills will afford Kurdistan Commentary’s readers new insights into the field of Kurdish Studies.

Kurdistan Commentary welcomes other authors/bloggers to share their stories. If you are interested in joining the Kurdistan Commentary team, send an email to us at kurdistancommentary@googlemail.com. There is no editorial oversight for authors with a proven track record. Authors will be given an author account and post directly to Kurdistan Commentary.

Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies at University of Exeter

Centre for Kurdish Studies, University of Exeter

Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies

‘The Kurds and Kurdistan: Considering Continuity and Change’

Exeter, 6-8 September 2012

 

Since our first international conference on Kurdish Studies in 2009, the States where Kurds live have seen tumultuous events. The Iranian elections and their aftermath have been followed by the protests in Iraq, anger over the referendum and elections in Turkey, and huge violence in Syria.

As many ask whether the so-called ‘Arab spring’ will bring change to the Middle East, we would like to interrogate the very ideas of continuity and change themselves across a number of disciplines. Does complete ‘rupture’ ever occur in history? Does regime change bring real differences in people’s lives? When migration brings change to individuals and families, what continuity is maintained in order to re-produce identity? How does language change and how far should linguistic change be managed? How should we study cultural continuity which exists over ethnic boundaries and international frontiers? What have been the changes and continuities within the field of Kurdish studies itself?

Our Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies will be held in Exeter on 6-8 September 2012. We aim to bring together scholars from all over the world, working in political science, geography, anthropology, history, literature, linguistics, gender studies and other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.

We invite abstracts for individual papers of twenty minutes, or proposals for panels comprising three or four papers. Abstracts should be 250 to 300 words in length, clearly stating the contributor’s name, institutional affiliation and contact details. There will be some limited bursaries available to cover expenses; preference will be given to junior scholars and those from countries outside Western Europe and the USA without funding from their own institutions. If you wish to request one of these, please state clearly whether you have other sources of funding and give a reasonable estimate of your costs.

Please send abstracts to cks-kurdishconference@exeter.ac.uk by 30 November 2011. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 15 January 2012.

KHRP Report: Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions

Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) today published a briefing paper entitled Culture and Language Rights – Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions. The paper concludes that mother-tongue education, which in itself may be regarded as a fundamental right under international law, is not adequately recognised, protected or promoted in the Kurdish regions, serving as a barrier to conflict resolution in that area. The paper provides a comparative legal and practical overview of the use of mother-tongue education in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey today and makes some key recommendations for governments, civil society organisations and the international community on how to resolve the outstanding issues.

Summary

The use of mother-tongue languages is a crucial means for minority groups to express their cultural identity. The use of mother-tongue languages in education, both as the language of instruction and as an academic discipline, is a basic right, which serves to protect and promote this aim. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey (hereinafter referred to as the “States”) are obliged under international human rights law and standards to guarantee this right.

However, to varying degrees, these States are failing to fulfil their international legal obligations in this regard, resulting in many individuals from minority groups being denied the enjoyment of this and various other fundamental rights.

The KHRP Briefing Paper provides an overview of the use of mother-tongue education in the States mentioned above and provides some key recommendations on how to tackle language right issues, which hinder conflict resolution in that region. The Briefing Paper is divided into five main parts:

(i) an overview of the relevant obligations under international law;
(ii) an overview of the national legal framework in each of the States;
(iii) a discussion of the importance of the right to mother-tongue education;
(iv) an analysis of the current status of the use of mother-tongue education in the States; and
(v) key recommendations for governments, civil society organisations and the international community on how to resolve the language rights issues discussed in this Briefing Paper.

**Click here to download the full (19 pg) report in .pdf.**

Kurdish Genocide Conference

Conference organisers from the American Kurdish Council have announced that the Kurdish Genocide Conference will be broadcast live online from Tennessee State University in Nashville on Sunday afternoon, 22 May 2011.

The conference will focus on the different genocides perpetrated by the governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey against the Kurds. The conference will also feature a monodrama, Pakiza, performed by Kurdish actor Sarkawt Taro.

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Tune in here to watch the conference. To find out what time Opening Remarks begin in your area, click here.

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Conference Programme:

1.00-1.10pm Opening Remarks

American Kurdish Council

1.10-2.30pm Kurdish Genocide: Beyond the Borders

Speakers: Kirmanj Gundi, Kamal Artin, Kani Xulam and Sirwan Kajjo

2.30-3.00pm Anfal: The Exploitation of the Qur’an

Speaker: Dr. Zaid Brifkani

3.00-4.00pm lunch break

4.00-5.30pm Kurdish Genocide: Witnesses and Survivors

Speakers: Azad Hamad, Yonis Haji, Amina Mahmood Ali, Neaamat Torabian and Dilovan Parwar

5.30-6.00pm Pakiza – Monodrama

Performed by: Sarkawt Taro

Execution of Sherko Moarefi imminent

Iran: Halt Execution of Kurdish Activist
Story from Human Rights Watch, 30 April 2011

Sherko Moarefi

The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt any planned execution of Sherko (Bahman) Moarefi and rescind his death sentence, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch believes that Moarefi, currently being held at Saqez prison in Kurdistan province, may be at imminent risk of execution.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the authorities have set May 1, 2011, as the date for Moarefi’s execution, following a death sentence imposed in 2009 for belonging to a banned Kurdish separatist group, but his lawyers have been unable to get official word of the date. On April 28, Moarefi began a hunger strike in Saqez prison in order to protest his “vague and unclear” legal status, according to several Iranian human rights groups.

“The uncertainty surrounding Moarefi’s pending execution causes extraordinary hardship and suffering to both him and his family,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “And we strongly suspect that his conviction was based on an unfair trial. Moarefi may be at imminent risk of execution and we urge the authorities to rescind his death sentence at once.”

A Revolutionary Court sentenced Moarefi to death following a closed-door trial on terrorism-related charges in early 2009. In April Moarefi’s lawyers informed Roozonline, a Persian-language media outlet, that the Supreme Court was still reviewing their client’s case and rejected reports that an execution date had been set. Later, in a public letter reportedly written by Moarefi from prison and dated April 15, 2011, the detainee wrote that on March 22 authorities at Saqez prison verbally informed him that his execution was scheduled for May 1, 2011. On April 29, in an interview with the Persian-language Radio Zamaneh, one of Moarefi’s lawyers, Ahmad Saeed Sheikhi, said that the Supreme Court had apparently confirmed the death sentence and Moarefi’s execution order had been sent to prison authorities for implementation on April 26. He noted, however, that neither he nor his colleague had received any official confirmation from the Judiciary regarding the date and method of their client’s execution. Saeed Sheikhi maintained that the execution order should be rescinded because the head of the Judiciary had previously acknowledged that the death sentence had been issued in error.

Authorities arrested Moarefi in October 2008 close to the Iran-Iraq border on suspicion that he was a member of Komala, a leftist Kurdish separatist group branded as a terrorist organization by the Iranian government. The Revolutionary Court in the Kurdish-majority city of Saqez sentenced Moarefi to death for the “acting against the national security” and moharebeh, or “enmity against God,” a term usually applied to persons accused of taking up arms. Moarefi’s lawyers maintain that their client was a supporter of Komala but not an active member. They also contend that Moarefi was involved in peaceful dissent at the time of his arrest and Komala had officially renounced armed struggle in the 1990s. They appealed the lower court’s ruling both on substantive and procedural grounds.

An appellate court later affirmed the revolutionary court’s ruling. In October 2009, a judge in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj ordered the execution of Moarefi and two other Kurdish political prisoners, Ehsan Fattahian and Habibollah Latifi, for the crime of moharebeh. Authorities executed Fattahian on November 11, 2009, allegedly for his involvement with Komala. Latifi was due to be executed for his involvement with “anti-revolutionary groups” on December 26, 2010, but his sentence was not carried out after Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations launched an international campaign to save his life. However, Latifi remains on death row.

At least 15 other Kurdish political prisoners are known to be on death row awaiting execution on various national security charges including moharebeh.

Under articles 186 and 190-91 of Iran’s penal code, anyone found responsible for taking up arms against the state, or belonging to an organization taking up arms against the government, may be considered guilty of moharebeh and sentenced to death. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases where Iranian security forces used physical and psychological coercion including torture to secure false confessions in security-related cases, and courts have convicted defendants of moharebeh in trials where prosecutors relied primarily if not solely on confessions and failed to provide any convincing evidence establishing the defendant’s guilt.

On January 15, 2011, Iranian rights groups reported that authorities had executed Hossein Khezri following a revolutionary court conviction for moharebeh. State-controlled media announced that day that prison authorities in West Azerbaijan province had hanged a member of the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an armed Iranian Kurdish group, but did not reveal the person’s identity. Mohammad Olyaeifard, Khezri’s lawyer, earlier said that Khezri had joined PJAK militants in Iraq when he was younger, but that he had never participated in the group’s military wing and that his interrogators tortured him to falsely confess to taking part in a violent attack that happened in 2008.

On May 9, 2010, authorities executed five prisoners, four of them ethnic Kurds charged with having ties to an armed Kurdish group. Authorities failed to notify their lawyers in advance and prevented delivery of the bodies to the families for burial. Human Rights Watch documented numerous trial irregularities in these cases, including credible allegations of torture, forced confessions, and lack of adequate access to a lawyer.

“Given what we know about how Iran’s revolutionary courts operate, the government’s treatment of Kurdish dissidents, and the vagueness of the charge of moharebeh, there is every reason to believe that Moarefi did not receive a fair trial,” Stork said.

Fears surrounding the possibility of Moarefi’s imminent execution are heightened by the sharp rise in the rate of executions in Iran since December 2010 – Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations documented at least 86 executions during the first 45 days of 2011 alone. According to official sources, Iranian authorities executed least 135 people so far in 2011, but the actual number is believed to be higher. At least two of those executed in 2011 are believed to have been juvenile offenders.

In a report released in March 2011, Amnesty International said that “Iranian officials acknowledged the execution of 252 people, including five women and one juvenile offender in 2010.” But the organization reported that it had received “credible reports of more than 300 other executions which were not officially acknowledged.”

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Read letter from prison by Sherko Moarefi here.

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

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!