An historical account of the establishment of Radio Voice of Kurdistan on the 34th anniversary of its establishment!

Below is an historical account written by my father Omar Amini on the occassion of the 34th anniversary of the establishment of Radio Dengi Kurdistan. A radio station which has had great impact during many years of guerilla warfare against the iranian military and a historical period in Kurdish history starting after the fall of the Shah of Iran, a radio station of many which he played a central role in founding.

Omar Amini

Omar Amini

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After the revolution of the peoples of Iran and revival of political awareness together with the opportunity for free political expression in Iran and especially in Kurdistan, the seeds once planted by the great Qazi Mihemed in Chiwarchira square in Mahabad, had strengthened its roots. With the force that had been built up during the past 30 years, these roots sprung above the surface during these tumultuous times and manifested its force in the region, first as a delicate plant and later tall and regal with majestic branches spread out.

This was the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, PDKI.  A tree which gave shadow to the people of Kurdistan in the shape of both hope and security. This was the case until the theocratic regime of Iran with the mullahs in the forefront established itself and started a wave of threats and violence and a devastating war against the people of Kurdistan and the PDKI.

A destructive war that would come to be known as the “Three Month War” started throughout Kurdistan but was heroically resisted by the brave people of Kurdistan and the untiring struggle of the Peshmergas of the PDKI. The daring efforts of the people and the Peshmerga forces led to an end to the war and the declaration of a cease fire by the Iranian military as well as dialogue between representatives of the people and regime forces. It would soon become clear however that this was no attempt at peace making from the Iranian side but merely a halt in military operations while regrouping and repositioning the forces. After the experiences of the Three Month War and the subsequent peacemaking efforts which did not bear any positive results, the PDKI gathered the Peshmerga forces and prepared them for an extensive revolution.

A modern and proper propaganda unit was needed for the developing revolution and the political work ahead. The leadership of the PDKI thus decided to establish a radio channel as a counter voice in the revolution and to both reveal the propaganda spread by the regime forces but also make sure truthful information relating to the ongoing war would reach the Kurdish population in the region. The historic decision was taken in 1979.

The Kurdish revolutionary with Azeri background the late Reza Xeyati, known as Engineer Xeyati, and I were given this important mission and so this esteemed and important radio station was built and moved on the backs of and with the tireless help of the villagers in the Sershaxan region and the attributed Peshmergas from the village of Ligbin through the valley of Babekrawe and was finally placed in a cave near the village of Keli Sershaxan in the valley. On 6 November 1979 I proudly started the very first test broadcast of “This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan” with the songs of late Kurdish singer Mohammed Mamle.

First broadcast

First broadcast

Sershaxan and Babekrawe village was located in a very rough terrain and transport was problematic leading to difficulties transporting necessities for the radio station. Had it not been for the weekly attention of K. Sh and S. Agha as well as the late commander Seyid Rasoli Deqan, who was known as Seyid Resuli Babigewre, may he rest in peace, life in the valley would not have been bearable or even possible. Therefore merely two months after arriving at Babekrawe Valley, the decision to move the radio station reached me.

Also this time around, a great number of tireless volunteers arrived to help us. The people of Ligbin and Sershaxan came together and with the use of home woven rope and strong wood, every single item was moved by hand and on the strong shoulders of the helpful villagers. This time we moved to the Lacan region and Kelekokey Sere and made the green and heroic lands of Lacan the home of the radio station.

Moving the radio equipment

Moving the radio equipment

Despite the fact that the majority of the force of the PDKI was located elsewhere in the cities and the villages, my colleagues and I proudly took on the task of protecting the radio station and our newly started test broadcast and continued our work, being far away from all sorts of settlement and human life.

While I was busy with my duties as a Peshmerga and while continuing to develop the work of the radio station, the situation in Kurdistan had turned even more tumultuous and there were talks of the situation “exploding” any day now. Subsequently the different units and logistical groups within the PDKI started to relocate in the remote villages outside of the cities while the situation turned more and grim with each new day. It was during these procedures that the PDKI was labeled an illegal organisation by the Iranian state in an effort to halt the growing Kurdish revolution. Within the same period different groupings formed within the party which aimed at dividing the PDKI and regrouping independently. In the midst of all these events, the news of relocating the radio station reached me once again. My colleagues and I moved the broadcasting equipment of the radio station yet again, some of it by car, but most by foot and on our shoulders and backs, including the now full storage rooms, and began our journey for the third location.

This time around we headed towards the green plateaus of the region of Qelaty Shay and the Shexan Valley, opposite the village of Shexan, in the high plateau behind Hesenchep village under a hill. In houses built on stone foundations, with mice and snakes and scorpions as our only neighbours, we slowly settled in.

Setting up the antenna

Setting up the antenna

The selection of locations where the radio station was settled as well as security and appearance of buildings and houses built in these places was all done according to the plans and knowledge of Seyid Rasoli Babi Gawre.  It was here, that is Shexan Valley, we thought we would  remain permanently, or at least for a long time to come and so we started to settle in properly. It was also here that we, with the participation of late Dr Qassemlou and late Dr Seyid  as well as the Peshmergas of the PDKI, started the official broadcast of the radio station on 17th of June 1980 with our first radio program under the name of  “This is the voice of Iranian Kurdistan”. It has now been 34 years since that day and the sound of the radio is today still reaching the ears of the people of Kurdistan with news and information about the situation in the region but now under two different names; “This is the voice of Kurdistan” and “This is the voice of Iranian Kurdistan” respectively, but still with the aim of setting the record straight about the constant lies and propaganda spread by the Islamic regime of Iran.

"Êre Radyo Dengî Kurdistana" - This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan!

“Êre Radyo Dengî Kurdistana” – This is the Radio Voice of Kurdistan!

This was a very short piece on the most basic events leading up to the establishment of this very important and revolutionary radio station during a historic period for the Kurdish people, prepared for the 34th anniversary of its establishment. There is however much more to be told and remembered in relation to the radio station and the work put in to make the broadcasts possible such as the unselfish acts of volunteers working day and night and the heroism of people making it all possible once upon a time.

I hereby congratulate Radio Dengi Kurdistan on the 34th anniversary of its establishment and hope to see it strive and continue to be successful for the future!

 

Omar Amini

Stockholm, June 2014

The Un-academic Nature of the Third World Kurdish Congress- A Personal Account of a Peculiar Conference

Attendants during the WKC 2013

Attendants during the WKC 2013

It has now been 10 days since the third World Kurdish Congress ended. I decided, while still on the second day of the three-day conference, to write a blog post about how I experienced the conference and the lack of academic content, which was very evident.

Before I develop my argument I however wish to mention that this blog post is in no way an attempt to undermine the efforts of the many volunteers who helped organise the conference, nor is it a critique of the works presented by the speakers or the attendants’ discussions.

The aim of this post is merely to give my thoughts on what I expected from this conference and why I was disappointed at the management of a conference, which claims to be both “scientific and cultural”.

The conference took place in Stockholm this year, in Musikaliska, a venue where mainly concerts are held, located in the central parts of the capital and it was held during 11- 13 October.

The first day of the three day conference was dedicated to opening statements, after which the first panel consisting of representatives from “successful Diasporas” was presented. The panel consisted of Natan Sharansky, Former minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel for a talk about the experience of the World Jewish Congress and how they managed to create a successful diaspora, and Jim Karygiannis member of the Federal Parliament of Canada for a talk about the experience of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association and last but not least Kaspar Karampetian, President of European Armenian Federation for a talk about the experience of the Armenian Diaspora.

It is here where I start to scratch my head and think: “Is the first panel really going to consist of politicians and nationalist representatives of equally nationalistic movements in an academic conference?” But as it is the first day and I am not sure if these are prolonged opening speeches, I listened to the talks, many of which were very interesting, although un-academic.

The following Q&A session was not helping my mood in any way either, with attendants asking the panel;

  • how they thought the Kurds should go about becoming a state
  • what they thought the world community’s response to a Kurdish state might be
  • what they could advise us (i.e. “poor Kurds”) to do to achieve unity amongst ourselves.

This was truly upsetting but as organisers cannot be blamed for what the attendants talk about and discuss, I took deep breaths and continued listening.

The second really upsetting aspect of the conference however came later before the keynote speech of Michael Gunter. Minutes before, the panel was told that they would have to shorten their speeches as the conference has not gone according to the time table and they were behind schedule, but when Gunter takes the stage he starts with saying that he will not accept 20 minutes even but wants his full 30 minutes.

This is not what upset me, I have been to enough conferences to know that conference attendants always conduct a war over minutes to prolong their talks.

No it was the fact that the conference organisers, in this case Alan Dilani and KRG representative Falah Bakir, shouted aloud “ Not this guest of ours, he is a special guest. Let him have his full time” while pointing to the stage in a manner resembling old stereotype images of Ottoman Sultans half sitting in Harems pointing at their subordinates.

The looks on the panel members’ faces were heart breaking at this moment, but the show went on as if this was perfectly fine.

Next Gunter presented his talk, which was more a summary of the last years’ events in the Kurdish regions than anything substantially analytic and academic. He however mentioned these facts, which did not please the organisers;

  • The Goran party is an anti-corruption party- (as professed by themselves, no matter what one may or may not think of them).
  • The PYD is a political party of importance in Syria (Western Kurdistan) (Yet another fact, no matter one’s own political views)
  • Kirkuk will be hard to return to Kurdish governance no matter efforts that may be made by the KRG (Also a fact, although a tragic one)

After the talk the floor was open for questions and in normal procedure being the WKC, Falah Bakir was given the first opportunity to talk whereas he expressed his discontent with Gunter’s talk.  Not based on critique of Gunter as an academic though, but based on Bakir’s personal preference of the details of Gunter’s talk.

His main points for his harsh criticism were that Gunter apparently “talked less of political unity and more of party politics” which was his expectation as a friend of Gunter’s (!?) and he continued with the below points as a reply to above statements by Gunter.

  • Goran was a part of the PUK until disputes occurred.
  • Why do you say that Goran is an anti-corruption party, as if the rest are corrupted?
  • Kirkuk has not been forgotten so nobody can claim that. We are working on returning Kirkuk but it is difficult.
  • Why do you mention PYD in Syria and no other parties? They are not the only actor you see!

Gunter in turn replies: “I try to be an objective scholar. A friend tells you the truth and not propaganda!”

By this time I wonder where I am and whether this is a parallel universe where this conference is being held.

If that comment had been directed at me I would have dug a hole and escaped from it out of shame for what that really means.

It does not stop there however.

During the last session yet another peculiar aspect of the conference is to take place, namely the WKC’s annual report and KRG’s statement.

Why oh why is there need to dedicate one whole day, of a three day conference during which only one day has seen panels being held, on something the organisers and financial supporters could deal with themselves before or after the conference?

But it was held and the organisers entered the stage, shared some (long) views about their ideas for the future of the WKC, most of which first praising the WKC for excellent academic work.

After this, the microphone was sent around the room for the audience to speak and give their suggestions to improve the WKC.

I had not intended to speak but as I was sitting in the back and they were waving the microphone at me and nobody else was in line to speak, I rose up and started to talk.

I had not prepared any notes besides, in my opinion, the hilarious comments above. I did however give suggestions from my heart, as a Kurdish academic, feeling strongly about my homeland and wishing to improve this great platform for exchanging research on Kurdistan, that unfortunately has seen fewer and fewer attendants for each year since the first congress was held merely three years ago.

My points for suggestions were;

  • Could there perhaps be a board for next year which could deal with questions about nomination and future prospects etc. instead of using up a whole day of the conference?
  • We need to see greater gender balance amongst the speakers. I have several women sitting here who all have submitted papers, which have been accepted as posters but not for the panels.
  • Last but not least there needs to be a clear divide between politics and academia and in this case between the WKC and the KRG. This is not a political platform in which to discuss political unity in Kurdistan and how to achieve statehood for the Kurds. This is an academic platform (or aims to be) and I wish these discussions could be shaped into academic ones where proper analysis of the current situation in Kurdistan can be made.

I was still on the second point when a member of the first panel by the name of Jim Karygiannis started shouting and pointing my way. I had preciously engaged in pleasant discussions with him about his work and had formed the opinion of him as a social figure who loves to talk and gather crowds for good laughs over alcoholic drinks. You know, the kind of prejudice you might have of people when you hardly know people.

Well that opinion of Mr Karygiannis changed quickly when he interrupted me for the second time. I asked politely if he could let me finish my talk but he was screaming and pointing fingers at me accusing me of inexperience of conferences and claiming that this conference met all and more of his demands as a seasoned conference attendant and speaker.

That did not bother me as I had formed a whole new opinion of him by then, expecting nothing less than what he was delivering. I was upset that he was allowed to continue with his at times furious and static repetitions claiming indirectly how he was a better academic, conference attendant and “Kurd” than me as he was appreciating it all and not criticising, while I was interrupted several times and also the people that stood up and agreed with me.

I was also interrupted by the panel chair and ended my talk abruptly.

What follows next is disturbing as Mr Karygiannis is given the microphone to continue his harsh speech directed straight at me. Next after, attendant after attendant, with the few exceptions being those who thanked me for speaking up about the WKC, takes the microphone and teary-eyed they describe their love for Kurdistan and how they would do everything for that flag (pointing to the Kurdish flag on the main stage). This includes Mr Bakir when he finally ends the session, but not before he adds; “It is enough now. It feels like we are on trial here. It all went wrong with that first woman speaking. There are people here who can improve the WKC the way we want it. I wished some of you would have spoken instead. You know who I mean. But now we will end this session.”

I had suggestions to improve something that claims to be scientific and a base for academics working on Kurdistan or with an interest in Kurdish issues. Do not make this about a national pledge to let all evil pass by in order to save our Kurdish faces. This conference is not a reflection of me as a Kurd, or as someone who loves their country. This conference is a reflection of the organisers.

Having said that I agree with the last sentence of Mr Bakir. Let us end this session. And hope for the best!

I Will Not Forget Helebce

It was 1988.

In 1988 we; my parents, my two sisters and I, were living in a city filled with ultra-nationalist MHP supporters in Turkey. We “were Persian” while living there as to avoid being harassed due to our Kurdish identities.

‘Kurd’ was still a swear word then and I learnt early on to protect my identity, from being exposed and expressed, but also from being exterminated and extinct.

I was 5.  I was trying not to speak when out of the house. Police were everywhere. I was told that they could hear me speak Kurdish and send us back to Iran so I kept shut and watched the police. There were so many of them everywhere.

It was still a few more months before we would come to Sweden and start a new life for ourselves.

It was a Wednesday and people were going on about their business as they would any other day except this day was the day many of them would not live to see any other days.

It was March 16th 1988, any other day everywhere else, in any other place except this was Helebce; “the Kurdish Hiroshima”, “The Kurdish wound”, “the day I lost my whole family”, “the day my body survived but my soul died”, “the day Omer Xaweri tried to protect his baby with his body but failed”.

So many names and descriptions for one city, yet not all of them. Only a few from the few that survived.

It was the day which resulted in the deaths of more than 5000 people. From one city. Of less than 80 000 people. That is 6% of the population killed painfully, slowly and coldheartedly.  I choose not to write inhumanely as who else than humans would do this to one and another, yet choose to label everything executed unsympathetically as inhumane?

I was 5, living in Turkey, being called “Persian”, having just left Iraq, waiting to go to Sweden, just witnessing one of the many tragedies experienced by the Kurdish people.

Today I am 30. Living in Sweden.

The Turkish president came to visit this past week. I was out to demonstrate against his visit. I was carrying the Kurdish colours and shouting slogans in Kurdish. I was not calling myself Persian. Police were guarding us. There were more policemen than protesters. I am used to this situation.

The Turkish president on a visit to Sweden. Sweden, which  just a few months ago announced that they recognise the Helebce genocide as genocide. People applauded. Many were happy and thankful.

Should we be? Should we forget that Sweden was one of the countries that had a direct hand in distributing the weapons used by Saddam Hussein in the attack in the first place?

Should we also forget about the use of chemical weapons by Turkey against the Kurdish guerrillas?  And the visit of the president of that country to Sweden?

Should we overlook that the Swedish MP Carl Bildt is protecting the country that is giving us the sequel to Helebce but in another region of Kurdistan?

It has been 25 years since Omer Xaweri’s baby boy died in his father’s arms. 25 years since I was hiding behind my parents trying to find an alley free from Turkish police to be able to walk home. 25 years since the pomegranate trees in Helebce stopped producing the fruit of life but the fruit of death. 25 years since the black dust and destruction silenced children singing in the alleys of Helebce.

25 years yet we are “honoured” with the label of genocide now. As that will bring them back, put the responsible behind bars, stop the use of chemical weapons used against us by others such as Turkey, stop the sale of dreadful weapons to dreadful states.

I am not ungrateful but please remind me again what I should be thankful for?

While bombs produced in the west are sold to the east and mines produced in Sweden harm children on the streets of Kurdistan, while plants growing kill animals feeding on them in Helebce.

Remind me again why I should applaud?

While police are hindering me from expressing my contempt against a state that arrests, imprisons, kills, tortures, rapes, executes and uses chemical weapons as easy as diplomatic politeness.

Remind me again why I should be happy?

Omer Xaweri with the infant he was trying to protect.

Do not forget Helebce is the reoccurring slogan this week.

I will not forget Helebce; by always fighting against use of chemical weapons, by never allowing another Helebce to occur anywhere in Kurdistan, ever again, by promising myself to shout louder next time I protest against Abdulla Gul, by promising to taste a pomegranate from Helebce at least once more before I lay my head next to Omer Xaweri for my last sleep.

25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halabja Genocide (Washington, DC)

cuakrglogo
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The Kurdistan Regional Government Representation to the U.S. and the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law cordially invite you to the 25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halabja Genocide
On 16 and 17 March 1988, Iraqi government airplanes, under the command of Saddam Hussein, dropped chemical weapons on the town of Halabja. Approximately 5,000 civilians, including women and children, were killed.  The horrific tragedy of Halabja was part of the genocidal Anfal campaign against Kurdistan’s civilians, which included mass summary executions and disappearances and widespread use of chemical weapons. The Anfal campaign also saw the  destruction of some 2,000 villages and of the rural economy and infrastructure. An estimated 180,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed in the campaign between 1987-1989.
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Save the date!
The morning of Friday, March 15th, 2013
  
Event to include panel discussion with genocide expert and survivors
  
At Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law,
Washington, DC
  
3600 John McCormack Road, N.E.Washington, D.C. 20017
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For more information visit: www.krg.org
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Campaigners in UK win a Parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq

Campaigners win a Parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq, following more than 27,000 signatures on Government e-petition

kurdishgenocide13th February 2013: It has been announced today that the British Parliament will debate a motion calling for formal recognition of the mass murder of Kurdish people in Iraq as genocide. The news follows a tireless campaign for recognition, supported by more than 27,500 British citizens, who have all signed an e-petition demanding justice for the murdered Kurds.

The debate will take place in the main chamber at 1:30pm on the 28th February. It will be based on a votable motion, the successful end result of which is that Parliament will have recognised the genocide.

The debate itself represents a significant victory for the campaign e-petition, sponsored by Nadhim Zahawi MP, which was launched in March last year in a bid to urge the British Government to debate the mass killings and recognize the truth. The campaign has since been supported throughout the year by the Kurdish community, the Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation, and British MPs from all political parties, especially those who are members of the highly supportive All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan including Robert Halfon MP, and Meg Munn MP. Together, they recently made a successful presentation to the Business Committee which allocates time for debates in Parliament.

During the presentation, Nadhim Zahawi MP told the Committee that his father was forced to flee Iraq simply because he was Kurdish and he was not willing to join the Baath party. He said that Britain has been heavily involved with the Kurdish people going back to Sykes-Picot, but more recently with Sir John Major who saved the Kurdish people with the no-fly zone and Tony Blair who is seen as the liberator of the Kurds.

Robert Halfon MP said that unless the genocide is recognised internationally, people cannot be brought to justice. Meanwhile, Meg Munn MP said that the debate would have a wider resonance given events in Syria, and Fabian Hamilton MP cited good cross-party support for a debate. Jason McCartney MP, who served as a Royal Air Force officer in the no-fly zone in Zakho, said it would be a fitting tribute to have the debate on the 25th anniversary of the chemical weapons attack on Halabja.

The Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK, Ms. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman said:
“The genocide brought unimaginable suffering to our people: families were torn apart, sons and fathers killed en masse or simply buried alive, women and children bombed with poison gas. We believe that this suffering needs to be acknowledged, not just by us Kurds and Iraqis, but by our friends too, so that the victims’ families and the survivors can reach closure and a message is sent out to any other regime oppressing its people or considering using chemical weapons. Imagine how heartened the survivors who are now British citizens would feel to be in the chamber, listening to such a debate.”

Ms. Rahman also told the committee how the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments recently debated the genocide and the Kurdish community is wondering why Britain had not yet done the same.

In January, the British Government issued a response to the e-petition which acknowledged that no group suffered more than the Iraqi Kurds. However, the Government response went on to say that It remains the Governments view that it is not for governments to decide whether a genocide has been committed in this case, as this is a complex legal question.

The debate on the 28th February may encourage the Government to change its position.

—Ends—

For further information, please contact Stephanie Blott or Helen Ayres at KRG@luther.co.uk or call 0207 618 9193.
The Government response to the e-petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014
The e-petition can be found here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014
Campaign website: http://www.justice4genocide.com/index.php

The motion to be debated is as follows:
The 25th anniversary of the Kurdish genocide and its contemporary relevance

That this House formally recognises the Genocide against the people of
Iraqi Kurdistan and encourages governments, the EU and UN to do
likewise; believes that this will enable Kurdish people, many in the
UK, to achieve justice for their considerable loss; further believes
that it would also enable Britain, the home of democracy and freedom,
to send out a message of support for international conventions and
human rights, which is made even more pressing by the slaughter in
Syria and the possible use of chemical arsenals.

Some key facts about the genocide
· The genocide of Kurdish people in Iraq began in the 1960s and continued until the late 1980s.
· In 2006, the International  Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) estimated there being 270 mass graves in Iraq containing between 10 and 10,000 bodies in each grave.
· An estimated 180,000 Kurdish people were killed between 1987 and 1988 alone during Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign called Anfal. The true scale of the killing from the 1960s to 1990 is not yet known.
· In the 1980s, the Kurdish population was also attacked with chemical weapons. During the most vicious assault, Saddam Hussein dropped bombs containing chemical weapons on the Kurdish city of Halabja gassing as many as 5,000 men, women and children to death indiscriminately and leaving tens of thousands of people injured. They died slowly, in unimaginable pain from chemical burns. Of those who survived, many still live with painful injuries and many children are born with birth defects.
· In 1983, 8,000 men and boys of ‘battle age’ from the Kurdish Barzani tribe were rounded up on trucks and vanished. The bodies are now being discovered in mass graves. From then on, men and boys as young as 13 were targeted , driven far away from their homes in trucks and executed en masse. Many victims were tied together, made to stand on the lip of pre-dug graves and shot in the back so they would fall forward into them. Others were made to lie down in pairs, sardine-style, next to mounds of fresh corpses before being killed.  Some, who didn’t die from gun shots were then buried alive.
· Of the total Kurdish victims, an estimated 70% were men, according to Human Rights Watch
· 90% of Kurdish villages and more than 20 small towns and cities were completely destroyed during the campaign to wipe out the Kurdish population in Iraq.
· In 1993, US-based Human Rights Watch launched an extensive investigation into the attack on the Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime and concluded that it was genocide.
· In 2005, the court in the Hague established that the chemical bombing in Kurdistan constituted genocide in a landmark case in 2005 – the Frans Van Anraat Trial. During the Appeal, it was later referred to as ‘war crimes’.
· The Iraqi High Tribunal found Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, and Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as Chemical Ali) guilty of genocide in 2007.
· The research institute Swiss Peace recognized the genocide in 2008.
· In 2008 the Iraqi Presidential Council approved Resolution 26 ratifying a parliamentary resolution condemning the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Kurds as acts of genocide. This resolution affirmed the previous parliamentary resolution that declared all acts committed against the Kurds in Iraqi-Kurdistan by the former regime were to be considered genocide.
· In March 2010, the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled that the 1988 attacks on the Kurdish population were indeed genocide.

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.