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!

We promised ourselves it would not happen again…

…after the Dersim genocide in North Kurdistan. After the massacre of Qarneqelatan in East Kurdistan. After the Amude cinema fire in West Kurdistan. After the Anfal campaign in South Kurdistan. After Halabja. After the imprisonment and torture of youngsters during the 1980s coup in Turkey. After the Qamishlo massacre in the aftermath of the football game in 2004. After the murder of Shwane Seid Qader in Mahabad. After the assassination of Qassemlou in 1989. After the Roboski massacre. After the Kurdish exodus following the uprising in 1991. After the assassination of our Kurdish heroines Sakine, Fidan and Leyla in Paris this year. 

 

Yet it is happening. Everyday. In front of our eyes, may it be through television screens, Facebook ‘journalism’ or Twitter feeds. We know what is happening and yet we do nothing. We say nothing. We are failing the ones we promised. We are failing ourselves as a group. As an ‘imagined community’ of sisters and brothers. We are failing the people of the West, as Kurds, as fellow war experiencers, as fellow humans.

 

While innocent people are being slaughtered in the Western parts, the leaders of the South decided that the only passage out of enemy hands should be closed. While Kurdish families in Syria are without food and water, Kurdish families in Sweden are discussing which fancy new restaurant to try the coming weekend. While old Kurdish women and men in SereKaniye are taking up arms to defend their families, old Kurds in Europe are discussing whether or not ‘the time for guerilla warfare’ is over and done with.

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And then the always reoccurring questions; but what can we do? How can we help? What can I as an individual change?

 

It was an individual the helped launch the greatest non-violent uprising in the world, it was one young individual who took a bullet for her belief in educating women and opened the eyes of an otherwise sleeping world community. It was the act of one woman on a bus that set of a civil rights movement that would come to change much, if not everything. It was the acts of a group of friends that set of a national struggle and awoke a sleeping Kurdish community in the north.  It was the acts of one man, imprisoned on an island that initiated a peace process between the two giants of the Middle East. It was many individuals and small groups of friends and family who hid illegal immigrants in their homes in Sweden in the 1990s, who hid wounded peshmergas in their homes in Kurdistan during the many Kurdish wars.

 

We as individuals and groups of friends made promises to each other. To the people of our bleeding land. We promised to never let them suffer in pain again without us reaching out. Without us doing whatever we could to stop their agony. Their pain. Their hunger.

 

I am a woman of my promises. Let us honour our words!

 

 

Recent fighting in Til Temir escalates

The following report was submitted by Rodi Khalil

Til Temir is a small town of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians, situated on the road between Serê Kaniyê and Al-Hasakeh. Despite its population of only 7,000, it is an important town because of its strategic location, serving as a gateway to all Kurdish cities in the region.

teltemirOn 25th April an armed gang, led by Hasan To’ama (Secretary of the Ba’ath Party Brigade in Til Temir) attacked the city centre of the town and shot live bullets to scare and terrorise its citizens, spreading chaos and looting shops. But the Kurdish defense units, YPG (Kurdish initials for Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, or Popular Protection Units in English) immediately intervened to stop them. The armed group shot randomly towards YPG forces, which led to the death of a child and one YPG member.

The YPG forces spread throughout the entire city and gained control all of city outlets. The conflict in Til Temir has links to the conflicts in Serê Kaniyê, which continued for months and ended with the victory of YPG forces against the terrorist armed gangs – including Jabhat Al-Nusra, which has links to Al-Qaeda.

The FSA has put a new plan into place to fight YPG, but different from how it was in Serê Kaniyê. It is designed to push Arab clans to fight YPG in Til Temir by persuading these clans that Kurds are going to take control of the area, and that they will eventually displace Arabs and divide Syria. The FSA is providing Arab clans with money, weapons and training. The result is that FSA’s hands are ‘clean’ as the fighting is only between YPG and Arab clans. The FSA then appears innocent. But in actuality, many FSA groups are fighting with those clans against YPG, for example: Ghuraba Al-Sham, Moota, Omar bin Al-Khattab, Ahfad Al-Rasul, and Al-Faruq. Ten members of these armed gangs were killed in clashes with YPG forces when they tried to storm the city.

The armed gangs have built barriers on the roads around Til Temir, preventing the entrance of foodstuffs, water tanks and medicine to the city. They even stopped Kurdish citizens at the barriers and insulted them, and kidnapped some.

On 30th April, eight members of armed gangs killed and some were arrested by YPG forces after they shot at vehicles belonging to YPG forces near the village of Ain Al-Abd. Two YPG members sustained injuries. Later, clashes continued near Til Temir and one YPG fighter, Hogir Qahraman, was martyred in the clashes, and more than ten members of the armed gangs were killed.

Military reinforcements of YPG arrived in Til Temir on Wednesday, 1st May. After midnight, Kurdish YPG forces attacked a barrier of armed gangs near village of Ain Al-Abd and killed more than 20 members of the armed gangs there, and one YPG member was injured. YPG forces gained control of the barrier.

YPG forces entered the village of Ain Al-Abd yesterday, 2nd May, and took complete control of the village. Later they went to the villages of Dardara and Mujebra to free them as well from the armed gangs. Clashes are still continuing there.

The armed gangs, including some groups of FSA, are persistent on entering Til Temir and kicking the Kurds out of the city, while the Kurdish defense units are insistent on destroying and controlling all the barriers of the armed gangs around Til Temir.

Ossama Al-Hilali, who led some of FSA groups against Kurds in Serê Kaniyê is now fighting YPG forces in Til Temir, and he is wanted by the Qamişlo court, and Kurdish Asayish are looking for him.

In a call I made to one of the YPG leaders, he told me that YPG advances day by day and they will not leave Til Temir. He also added: “We have enough numbers of fighters and plenty of weapons to defend all of Rojava, and we’ll win in Til Temir as we have done in Serê Kaniyê.”

/Rodi Khalil/

I Spent My First Newroz in 2013

Since the very first time I watched the Newroz celebrations on television, live from the Kurdish city of Amed in northern Kurdistan, I have been mesmerized by the thought of participating at least once during my life time.

This past Newroz it finally happened. I decided that this Newroz would be the one. Did it have anything (or everything) to do with the then rumoured speech by the Kurdish leader Abdulla Ocalan? Or was it the images of the early Newroz celebrations from the city of Wan that captured my heart and would not let go?

Either way I picked up the phone while watching the singer Ciwan Haco enter the stage on TV, live from Wan, and be greeted by thousands of expecting fans with loud cheers and slogans: ‘Biji Newroz’ (Long live Newroz) being one, ‘Biji Serok Apo’  (Long live leader Apo) another, as if they were each other’s missing pieces, conclusions or just like the water to the plant and vice versa.

Before I knew it I had booked the tickets, packed and was with a crew of six, boarding the flight that would take me to the utopia of my heart, which I was hoping would be anything but a utopia. I was so excited, so happy yet I was still miles and miles away from what would come to be the best trip in my life so far. The first Newroz I can count as having celebrated to the full. Kurdish style. ‘Kesk u sor u zer’ style (the colours of the Kurdish flag: green, red and yellow).

I have cried during this trip and cried some more. I have laughed on this trip and held hands on this trip. I have let my sentimental Kurdish heart be filled to the brim with goodness and kindness and Kurdishness and respect and everything that is good in this world and makes me want to make it even better.

My first tears came on the flight. I saw young and old, bashuri and bakuri, rojhelati and rojawayi Kurds on the Turkish airlines carrier to Amed, to celebrate a Newroz, which is still not recognised in Turkey.  I was delighted that we were all united in our wish to see the fire of Newroz burn freely in yet another part of our wonderful land, but at the same time sad that we had to endure the fear that comes along with having the Kurdish colours or Kurdish dresses in one’s luggage at a Turkish airport security control.

I was not worried about the over weight of my bags due to me over packing running shoes, comfortable clothes and scarves for the hostilities and clashes that happen every Newroz in Amed and the rest of Northern Kurdistan. I was ready to be a part of that. To partake in the resistance against Turkish police brutality. To partake in the unity that came along with being a group standing up to a bully. I was ready to say that I had been to Newroz in Amed and felt and experienced what my people experience every Newroz, every time, every day.

And then it finally happened. Our plane landed and as the plane acted as a taxi taking us to our final destination, I looked around to take it all in.  What I was met with was nothing short of a heartbreak. An abrupt end to an illusion I had carried with me. I am not a child. I know what is going on. I have seen it on TV. “Seen it on TV”, that says it all. I had not experienced it with my own eyes since I grew out of my pink pony pyjamas at the age of 5.

Now I was seeing it live and what was I seeing?

Military trucks. Military people. Military tents and military planes. My beloved Amed was a military station in every sense of the word. My heart was broken and I had not left the plane yet.

But it was to be mended as soon as I heard: “Hun bixerhatin Amede” (Welcome to Amed). I realised then that many other things had changed since I was 5 besides the colour and design of my pyjamas. People greeted me in Kurdish wherever I looked. I was home. I was finally home!

A quick gathering of the group, checking up on impressions and the warm winds blowing our way and we were soon in a car heading for the Sur district of Amed to meet with district mayor Abdulla Demirbash.

No appointment. No official procedures. No stiff bureaucracy. Just plain humanity welcomed us at the door, decked out in green, red and yellow balloons in honour of the approaching Newroz celebrations.

We met with this humble man, protector of ethnic diversity. Protector of minority languages. Protector of religious diversity. Abdullah Demirbash was wearing Kurdish clothes in a beautiful dark green colour, reminiscent of the dress worn by the Kurdish guerrillas. One of his sons, Baran is a Kurdish guerrilla, another has been called to do military service in the Turkish army.

“Baran’s mother and I cannot sleep at night whenever we hear the military planes rise above Amed. What if another attack occurs? What if Baran and our other son meet on the battle ground?”

Two brothers, left with no alternatives than to take up arms and fight on two sides of the same battle, within one land.

One land with its borders decided over on a negotiating table while fat cigars were smoked and middle aged men in suits decided what once belonged to one united group of diverse people, now would be cut into streaks and pieces between those whose lungs bore to scream the highest.

We thanked Demirbash for his hospitality and promised to meet again during the Newroz celebrations the next day. We left for the hotel. Stepped out of the car. Took out our luggage. Inhaled the scent of resistance and hope while a white minibus drove past us with  large speakers on the side proclaiming: “Newroza we piroz be” (Happy Newroz) followed by information about the importance of 2013’s Newroz, namely freedom for Ocalan and a political recognition of the Kurdish people.

This was our first day in Amed. I was already in love and I was already fearing the moment I would set my foot on the plane home.

The morning of the 21st I woke up, dressed up in my Kurdish dress from eastern Kurdistan with that specific waistband and shoulder shawl. The group of six all did the same, and as we were from all parts of Kurdistan except rojawa, so were our clothes.  While on our way to the Newroz field we saw young and old people decked out in the Kurdish colours and Kurdish dresses decorated with sequins and pearls, waving, laughing, and jumping of joy.

The 20-minute car ride felt like a few seconds as the anticipation was high and everywhere I looked, I was met with a smiling face wishing me a joyful beginning to the New Year.

We arrived. Went to the security control. Passed by a few police vehicles. Police vehicles that only a few months ago had been used in disturbing Kurdish events by the use of water canons and teargas. They were covered with dots, marks after stones thrown at them during past events.

There were the only police vehicles I saw.  It bode well for the Newroz celebrations but also for the always-unstable peace dialogue that has just begun standing on formerly crippled feet.

The event itself cannot be described. The songs. The yellow, green and red flags. The scene decked out in the same colours. The people in the same colours. The Kurdish dresses sold in the same colours. The incredible feeling of pride when 2 million eager Kurds sing the Kurdish national anthem, not once but twice in one loud voice. I did not know if to take photos, sing along, say hello to all friendly faces or to ease my goose bumps.

Newroz in Amed cannot be summarized by a 3-page retelling, or by a 10-page booklet or a 300-page book. It has to experienced.

You have to go and eat newly made bread from the people on the festival area.

You have to sit next to a “dayiken ashti” (peace mother) and let her tell you about the two sons that she has lost due to the war.

You have to visit the great wall of Amed and dance with youngsters singing songs praising the liberation movement and the Kurdish guerrilla fighters.

You have to drink dew (cold yogurt drink) and eat newly peeled cucumbers from a stand after your dance.

You have to visit the mayor of Amed, Osman Baydemir, and give your opinions on improvements for the city and hear him reply: “We are not leaders, we are the servants of our people and I carry your suggestions close to my heart”.

You have to answers questions of where you are from only to be given hugs and kisses and gifts when they realise you are not from bakur but from another part of Kurdistan.

You have to ease your goose bumps whenever they tell you: “You are our guests from our common land. You have come all the way from rojhelat to spend Newroz with us. This makes us proud, this makes us united! Bixerhatin, ser sera, ser chawa”! (Welcome from the depth of our hearts).

That is when you will feel at home, and realise that the utopia of your heart is reality in Northern Kurdistan today and that neither military stations nor over weight luggage can take that feeling away. You will know in your heart that in Amed you will always be welcomed by a friendly face decked out in “kesk, u sor u zer”.

A few photos from Newroz 2013 in Amed.

The photos are property of Shiler Amini

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.
———————————————————————————————————————–
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
———–
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 school children learn in Kurdish (video)

From ActuKurde: Kurdish children are now educated in their mother tongue in Kurdish regions of Syria. February 3, 2012, a young Kurdish teacher teaches in a school Dêrik (al-Malikiyah, in Arabic).

Mother-tongue education has changed considerably. The creation of the Association of Kurdish has played a part in these advances. In a few months, more than 100 schools were opened throughout Western Kurdistan and a thousand teachers have been trained.

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.

Kurdish Studies journal

logoKurdishStudiesJournalKurdish Studies journal is a new interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing high quality research and scholarship in the field of Kurdish Studies. The Kurdish Studies journal aims to contribute to and revitalize research, scholarship, and debates in this field in a multidisciplinary fashion. The journal embraces a wide range of topics including history, society, politics, language, culture, the arts, and education. The Kurdish Studies journal is an initiative of Kurdish Studies Network members and supported by a large group of academics from different disciplines. Kurdish Studies journal aligns itself with the KSN’s mission to revitalize and reorient the research, scholarship and debates in this field, Kurdish studies, in a multidisciplinary fashion covering a wide range of topics including but not limited to economics, history, society, gender, minorities, politics, health, law, environment, language, media, culture, arts, and education.

The inaugural issue is to be released in October 2013.

Kurdish Studies journal aims to offer a universally accessible venue where sound scholarship and research as well as reviews and debates are disseminated, the journal establishes a forum for serious discussion and exchange within the Kurdish Studies community. Kurdish Studies journal aim to disseminate fresh original research and provide a genuine forum for thinking and scholarship in Kurdish studies. The journal aims to maintain a fair balance between theoretical analyses and empirical studies. Critical and novel approaches and methods are particularly welcome. Kurdish Studies journal do publish readily accessible scholarly articles and aim to reach out to a broad audience of specialists and non-specialists, students, professionals, policy makers, and enthusiasts alike.

For more information on Kurdish Studies journal and the Call for Papers for the inaugural issue, visit kurdishstudies.net.

4th Annual Kurdish Youth Festival

THE FOURTH ANNUAL KURDISH YOUTH FESTIVAL WILL SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT ON THE NEXT GENERATION OF KURDISH ARTISTS AND LEADERS

Kurdish Youth in Diaspora Will Explore Their Identity through Competitions, Shows, Festivities and Intellectual Endeavors during Three Unforgettable Days in San Diego, CA January 2013

logoSan Diego, USA. November 2012- The most anticipated gathering of the year for Kurdish youth across the US and Diaspora at large will be held at Hotel Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, in sunny San Diego, Ca on January 4-6, 2012. The Kurdish Youth Festival committee would like to extend their warmest welcome and invite guests to register online in advance in order to take part in this memorable festival. All of the programs of the festival will be held at this four star hotel; therefore, the committee has arranged for the attendees to receive unprecedented discounts on their room rates. Hotel guests will also be able to attend a free boat tour of the San Diego Harbor.

Korang Abdullah (Kae Kurd), Kurdish youth’s dynamic comedian, along with female co-host Helat Tahir, will entertain and enlighten the guests, and lead them through a fantastic weekend of events. The festival will include well-respected guest speakers, interactive round-table discussions on returning to Kurdistan, and panel discussions on women, tolerance, and the Kurdish language.

Crowd favorites, such as the Art Auction, Film Competition, and a more elaborate version of the trivia contest, will return for another round of applause. While new events, such as an interactive Helperkê workshop with audience participation, will bring fresh energy and excitement to the line-up.

There will be a gripping short one-act play by Cklara Moradian and Soraya Fallah. Kurdish Rapper Serhado will give a sensational performance. He will also act as one of the judges of the festival’s most popular event: Kurds Got Talent. The grand prize of the talent show will be a round trip flight to Kurdistan. Talent show hopefuls should sign up online as soon as possible.

As in every year, the festivities will come to an end with a grand Kurdish concert with live performances by two well known and loved artists. The spectacular festival finale is expected to fill up to capacity. The committee has invited award-winning photographers and directors to photo/video document the entire event.

Thanks to Diamond sponsor Asiacell, who is sponsoring the festival for the second year in a row, the committee is able to extend scholarship opportunities to youth pursuing an education. This year there are eight opportunities to win a scholarship through the annual essay contest. The committee encourages all current undergraduate students or high school seniors applying to a college or university to enter the contest.

The annual Kurdish Youth Festival is a volunteer run non-for-profit non affiliated organization and is only able to operate through sponsorships from organizations and individual donations. The financial commitment of sponsors makes every one of the above events possible. Every dollar invested in the Kurdish Youth Festival is a dollar invested in the future of the Kurdish Youth. The committee is dedicated to providing quality programming with minimal administrative costs. You are invited to make a direct difference in strengthening the Kurdish identity of youth in Diaspora.

Email:  kyf@kurdishyouthfestival.org
Website: http://kurdishyouthfestival.org
Twitter: @KurdFestivalUSA | #4KYF
www.facebook.com/kurdishyouthfestival

Turkey’s Kurdish Impasse: The View from Diyarbakır

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has published a new report, Turkey’s Kurdish Impasse: The View from Diyarbakır. ICG’s summary of the report and recommendations are below. To view the full report, download it here.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

turkey-30nov12.ashxAs Turkey’s biggest Kurdish-majority city and province, Diyarbakır is critical to any examination of the country’s Kurdish problem and of the insurgent PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The armed conflict has deteriorated in the past year and a half to its worst level in over a decade, with increased political friction and violence leading to the deaths of at least 870 people since June 2011. While as many Kurds live in western Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, as in the south east, grievances that underlie support within Kurdish communities for the PKK’s armed struggle are more clearly on display in predominantly Kurdish areas like Diyarbakır: perceived and real discrimination in the local government and economy, alienation from central authorities, anger at mass arrests of political representatives and frustration at the bans on the use of Kur­dish in education and public life. Yet Diyarbakır still offers hope for those who want to live together, if Ankara acts firmly to address these grievances and ensure equality and justice for all.

Across the political spectrum, among Kurds and Turks, rich and poor, Islamic and secular in Diyarbakır, there is a shared desire for a clear government strategy to resolve the chronic issues of Turkey’s Kurdish problem. Official recognition of Kurdish identity and the right to education and justice in mother languages is a priority. The city’s Kurds want fairer political representation, decentralisation and an end to all forms of discrimination in the laws and constitution. They also demand legal reform to end mass arrests and lengthy pre-trial detentions of non-violent activists on terrorism charges.

Control of Diyarbakır is contested on many levels. The state wants to stay in charge, channelling its influence through the Ankara-appointed governor and control over budget, policing, education, health and infrastructure development. The municipality, in the hands of legal pro-PKK parties since 1999, most recently the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is gathering more power against considerable obstacles. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) that rules nationally has ushered in a more progressive approach to police, but this has not ended confrontations and defused local hostility. Turkey as a whole, and Kurdish-speaking cities like Diyarbakır in particular, need a coherent, informed debate on decentralisation and a strategy to implement it.

The current government has done more than any previous one to permit Kurdish language use in Diyarbakır and elsewhere, but most Kurds want nothing less than a com­mit­ment to education in their mother language. The government’s initiative on optional Kurdish lessons should be fully supported as a stepping-stone in a structured plan to achieve declaration of that goal as a right.

Once Turkey’s third best off economic centre, Diyarbakır and its surrounding province have fallen to 63rd place at last measurement. Investment has long been low due to violence, flawed government policies and PKK sabotage, kidnappings, terrorist attacks and extortion. But residents show their faith in the city’s future through their investment, particularly in marble quarries and the booming real estate sector. Diyarbakır’s location at a regional historic crossroads still makes it an important hub for elements of the service sector, such as courier businesses and hospitals. Thousand-year-old monuments could make it a tourist magnet.

Fighting between the security forces and the PKK, mostly in the south east, is rising. While Diyarbakır has mostly been spared the worst of the recent violence, the civilian population and local politics are nonetheless increasingly stressed and polarised by events. The AKP is losing its appeal, and the BDP, while uncontested as the strongest political force in the city, has yet to prove its political maturity and ability to be more than a front for an increasingly violent PKK. The moderately Islamic Gülen movement is trying to offer another way, and as a negotiated settlement seems less likely, Kurdish Islamic groups are boosting their already substantial influence.

Yet, voices from Diyarbakır insist that common ground exists, as it does throughout the rest of Turkey. Crisis Group, in two previous reports in 2011 and 2012, recommended that the government announce a clear strategy to resolve the conflict, focusing in the first instance on justice and equal rights for Kurds. It suggested that the government work pro-actively with Kurdish representatives on four lines of reform: mother-language rights for Turkey’s Kurds; reducing the threshold for election to the national parliament to 5 per cent from 10 per cent; a new decentralisation strategy; and stripping all discrimination from the constitution and laws. Once these steps have been taken, it could then move to detailed talks on disarmament and demobilisation with the PKK. In short, both sides need to exercise true leadership, by eschewing violence, committing to dialogue and achieving the Kurds’ legitimate aspirations through Turkey’s existing legal structures, especially in the parliamentary commission working on a new constitution.

This companion report additionally offers recommendations specifically for urgent action by the government and legal leadership of the Kurdish movement in Diyarbakır to strengthen Kurds’ trust in the state by working to resolve pressing local problems and to ensure the long-term development of the city and province.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Turkish Government and Diyarbakır community leaders, including the Kurdish movement’s legal leadership:

To establish mutual trust between Turks and Kurds

1.  The Turkish government should pass and implement legal reforms to allow the use of mother languages in trials, shorten pre-trial detentions and ensure that Kurdish and other suspects are taken into custody in a humane manner. It should encourage local police to continue improving engagement with the Diyarbakır community and end use of excessive force, even in response to unauthorised public meetings and demonstrations.

2.  Community and Kurdish movement leaders should comply with procedures on public meetings and dem­on­stra­tions; renounce all PKK violence; and continue civil society efforts, such as the recently established “Dialogue and Contact Group”.

To guarantee use of mother languages in education and public life

3.  The Turkish government should complete the implementation of optional Kurdish classes in the 2012-2013 academic year transparently; define a timeline for full education in mother languages wherever there is sufficient demand; continue to prepare teachers and curriculums for this transition; allow local elected officials to change relevant laws and regulations so as to restore or give Kurdish names to local places; and relax the ban on the use of Kurdish in public services.

4.  Community and Kurdish movement leaders should acknowledge the government’s positive steps in these areas, and stop boycotts of optional Kurdish classes.

To ensure a fair debate and eventual consensus on decentralisation

5.  The Turkish government should lead a debate in Diyarbakır, as well as nationwide, about municipal governance and decentralisation.

6.  Local government leaders should cooperate and meet with central government representatives who visit the province and clearly express their commitment to achieving Kurds’ democratic demands legally.

To assist Diyarbakır’s economic, social and cultural development

7.  The Turkish government should ensure that Diyarbakır receives a fair share of public funds, particularly for education, international airport facilities, railway connections and industrial zones, equivalent to that of comparable cities elsewhere in Turkey; and pro-actively promote domestic tourism to this and other historic cities in the south east.

8.  Community leaders should reach out to Turkish mainstream opinion to help overcome prejudices about the Kurdish-speaking south east through the exchange of business delegations, school trips and professional conferences.

Istanbul/Diyarbakır/Brussels, 30 November 2012

Kurds in Syria and the Old Concept of “Good Kurds” and “Bad Kurds”

republished here with the permission of the author

Kurds in Syria and the Old Concept of “Good Kurds” and “Bad Kurds”
Dr Janroj Keles

My Critique of the Henry Jackson Society’s Report on “Unity or PYD Power Play?: Syrian Kurdish Dynamics After the Erbil Agreement

Compared to the Kurds in Kurdistan regions of Turkey and Iraq, the Kurds in Syria have been invisible in political and public spheres in the Middle East for decades. They have been described as “forgotten people” or “the silenced Kurds” in a few academic works and articles. Indeed they are the largest ethnic group after the Arabs in Syria and are the potential catalyst for a possible pluralistic and democratic process in Syria.

They have suffered for decades under the policies of the Arab imagined political community and their ethnic identity and existence have been denied by “Syrian Arab Republic”. They have been subjected to ethnic discrimination, political prosecution, displaced as part of Syrian government’s Arabization policies. After stripping of Syrian citizenship from 20 percent of Syria’s Kurdish population in 1960 [sic], many Kurds were classified as the Ajanib (foreigners) and maktoumeen (meaning “hidden” or ” muted”) and become refugees in their own country for decades before and during the Bath regime. However since the Kurdish Serhildan (Uprising) in 2004 in Kurdish populated Qamishli and so called “Syrian Revolution” in 2011, the “forgotten people” have been receiving increasing attention from the international communities and also considerable attention from journalists, political analysts and the Middle East “experts” who have been publishing some interesting reports and articles on the Kurds in Syria. But some of these reports and articles are problematical because they look the Kurds in Syria from the perspectives of dominant nationalistic discourses in the region e.g. Turkish and Arab nationalism and/or from the perspective of the “common sense” of global powers. In this sense a recently published report[1] entitled “Unity or PYD Power Play?: Syrian Kurdish Dynamics After the Erbil Agreement” needs to be read critically because it is biased, one-sided and political and makes unsubstantial claims about the Kurds in Syria and about Kurdish political organisations in the region. Moreover it attempts to justify and legitimize the hostile intention of Turkish policies toward Kurds in Turkey and Syria in criminalizing and delegitimizing Kurdish political parties. The authors use an old concept of “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds” without any analytic skill and academic credibility and knowledge of multi-connected, multi-referential relationships among Kurdish organisations, parties and networks and between Kurdish and Syrian groups, parties and people.

First of all I would emphasize that I agree with some issues highlighted in conclusion in particular issues related to the KNC and PYD that they should find a rational ways to respect their political differences and share power for a pluralistic and democratic process in the Kurdish populated region. I also firmly agree with the authors that both KNC and PYD should be integrated into the political establishment in the region. However I think the report is also problematic in various respects. Firstly the report divides the Kurdish political groups sharply into “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds”. This old concept has been used by the regional countries and also by USA in accordance to their “national interests” and at the expense of subordinated Kurds. This report repeats the same, old and trivial concept. The “bad Kurds” who are “the militant”(p6),” terrorist” (p11), “radicals in the PKK linked Democratic Union Party (PYD)” (p5), “the Turkish PKK” (p17) and the “good Kurds” who are “moderate Kurds”. It is unclear what the characteristic of “moderate Kurds” (p6) are and how they are qualified as being “good Kurds” and who decides on which criteria that certain groups are “moderate” and others “radical” and therefore need to be isolated (p24). There is a discourse throughout this report based on creating a “folk devil”, a political group who is labeled as a threat. It does not matter for me whether this otherized group is PYD or any other political group. My concern is that a particular group which has considerable popular support in Kurdistan region in Syria is labeled and its legitimacy questioned because it has ideological and political links with the PKK.

Secondly I also criticize the report for ignoring multi-connected, multi-referential relationships among Kurdish organizations, parties and networks and between Kurdish and Syrian groups, parties and people as well as between Kurdish leaders, parties and Turkish government. These multi-connected, multi-referential relationships influence the political position of differently positioned groups, parties and even governments. Let me clarify this with an example. On his way back from a visit to Germany, the Turkish Prime minster Mr Erdogan responded to a question about the “threat” of PYD in Syria and to Turkey as follows: ‘…Barzani… even tried to explain that PYD is not like PKK’ (Barzani … hatta PYD’nin PKK olmadığını anlatmaya çalıştı bize (Hurriyet, 02 November 2012). This statement shows clearly that President of Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Barzani mediates between PYD and Turkey in an indirect way and attempts to include PYD into the political field in the region. So the division between “bad Kurds “ and “good Kurds” are not as clearly delineated, because of their multiple connection, attachment, loyalties etc. Therefore I find the language used in this report is based on the deictic juxtaposition and distance rhetoric which attempt to show the “good Kurds” as “moderate” and “bad Kurds” as “threat”. I think that there are no such sharp boundaries in the region. The political positions of parties and groups in the Kurdish populated region and in Syria are constantly changeable due to local, regional and international conditions, search of security within an instable region and hunger for power.

My third reservation about this report is that the accusation of PYD working with Assad regime has been mentioned in this and other reports without any reliable evidence. Instead there is a reliance on suspicions as in the following sentence: “Nevertheless, the fact that the regime ceded such large swaths of territory to the PYD without a struggle raises suspicions that this was a tactical move designed to strengthen the PYD in order to enervate Turkey, which views any build-up of a PKK apparatus in northern Syria as a direct national security threat” (p11). The only supporting statement for this claim highlighted in the report is that “analysts and scholars have speculated as to whether or not the Assad regime withdrew independently from Kurdish areas, or whether it did so in direct collaboration with the PYD” (p11), however there is not any reference to those “analysts and scholars”. Some Kurdish groups I talked to, see such claims made in Turkish and Arab sources as a “conspiracy theory” to delegitimize the political production and position of a certain powerful Kurdish political group within Syria and beyond, in particular on the international level. The report repeats the same “conspiracy theory” without providing any reliable evidence to its readers. The Christian and Druze communities in Syria have been blamed by the so called “Free Syrian Army” in a similar way for working with the regime. I have to emphasize that I do not have any evidence for or against the truth of this claim. I assume that only after the fall of the regime we will know this.

The authors provide space for such accusations made by Syrian-Arabs and highlight that there is a “frustration and anger at the Kurds for not sufficiently participating in our uprising” (p15). However there is no statement of some Kurdish groups who are for a “peaceful transition from dictatorial regime to a democratic and pluralistic system”. There are clearly two different positions. The first one (mainly Sunni-Arabs) believe that Assad regime can be changed by armed struggle, the other one (mainly held by minority groups including Kurds, Christians, Armenians, Assyrians and Druze) who distrust the Muslim brotherhood and nationalists and prefer to seek a peaceful rather than militant solution, they are scared both of the regime and also of the Islamist opposition.

The report goes further: “The KNC failed to reach an agreement with the SNC, as was demonstrated in the July Istanbul meeting, and the PYD refused to even attend”. However the Kurds I spoke to blame the SNC for blocking the Kurdish active participation in “revolution” because SNC insists to continue the policies of Baath regime in the way in which SNC has reject the Kurdish demands for constitutional recognition of Kurdish ethnic group and their political representation through autonomy or federalism, secularist, pluralistic and democratic Syria. The Kurds from Kurdistan region in Syria I have connection with, see SNC as “still an Arab nationalist organization with strong tendencies of Arab Islamists” which does not recognize the ethnic and religious plurality of the country’s population.

I am really disappointed to see that “intellectual and moral leadership” in the political reproduction of the hegemonic form of Turkish and/or Arab nationalism over subordinated Kurdish people are legitimized through Henry Jackson Society.

25.10.2012, London