From AlJazeera English
Omar al-Saleh reporting
09 January 2013
From AlJazeera English
From AlJazeera English
Omar al-Saleh reporting
09 January 2013
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
San 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.
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
As 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.
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
An Interview with a Kurdish Icon: Former Radio Anchor Khalaf Zebari*
By Sirwan Kajjo
I remember it as though it happened yesterday. His moments of excitement were known only when his ancient radio would release an unclear sound in Kurdish! My father was complaining about the bad quality of the Kurdish broadcast of Voice of America (VOA). He would fearlessly curse the Syrian government for jamming the only Kurdish news outlet we were getting at the time. But when the deep, manly voice would come out of the radio, the whole household had to be in dead silence. “Hush, Khalaf is starting!” my father would announce.
This is how I first came to know of Khalaf Zebari, one of the most prominent radio broadcasters in the history of Kurdish journalism. I visited him at his house last month. He lives, along with his small family, in Springfield, Virginia. He retired from VOA earlier this year after his health deteriorated. While he runs down to the basement, his son tells me he still smokes two packs of cigarettes every day. Doctors have already warned him about the danger of smoking but Khalaf remains an avid smoker.
Born in 1948 in Zebar region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Khalaf grew up loving nature. You can easily tell that from the various types of trees he has in his backyard. Nature drove Khalaf to poetry at an early age. Who doesn’t know about “Nesrin”? He wrote the famous poem in 1967. Eight years later, Mihemed Şêxo, a legend of Kurdish music made Nesrin into a song. Ever since, the song has become a symbol of love among all Kurds.
He brings me an album that only has old pictures from back home. He tells me about the story of each picture with precise details. His memory functions outstandingly when to comes to the old days. While checking out the photos, he also narrates his years in Mosul, where his studied economics and met “Nesrin”, the girl whom he wrote about in his most known poem.
In 1974, Sabri Botani, another Kurdish poet, called Khalaf to ask him to work for Voice of Kurdistan radio (Dengê Kurdistan). In April 1974 the Voice of Kurdistan broadcast its first program in Kurdish to become a mouthpiece of the Kurdish revolution in Iraqi Kurdistan. Khalaf says the radio was functioning underground. But the broadcast didn’t last for long. In March 1975 the Algiers Agreement was signed between Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran. The infamous agreement ended the Kurdish revolution, and with that, the Kurdish dream of freedom was postponed. Consequently, the Voice of Kurdistan team, including Khalaf Zebari, fled the country to Iran. After staying two years as a refugee in Iran, Zebari finally made it to the US in 1977. In America, Nashville, TN was his first stop.
In 1992, the US Congress decided to a Kurdish Service at Voice of America. The VOA’s first show in Kurdish was aired from its headquarters in Washington D.C. on April 26, 1992. Khalaf Zebari and Homer Diyezi were the first anchors in the Kurdish service. In the beginning, they only had 15 minutes. Presently, VOA broadcasts three hours daily, one of them is also aired on TV. Shortly after its 20th anniversary, Khalaf announced his retirement.
I ask him what he has given and gained in these 20 years of experience. He says he has met great people from different parts of Kurdistan, shed light on unrepresented Kurds, especially those in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon and even in Syria and Turkey, and learned so much about the world.
But these long years didn’t take Khalaf Zebari away from poetry. On the contrary, being away from back home pushed him to write extensively about his beloved Kurdistan. His poetry collection Lion’s Den (Warê Şêran in Kurdish) was published in 1999 in Stockholm, Sweden. He also has enormous numbers of unpublished poems. These too will one day find their ways to a publishing house.
Perhaps the most striking characteristic of all of this living legend is after living in the United States for 35 years, Khalaf’s heart still leaps from his chest when he hears the word Kurdistan.
*Republished here at the request of the original author. This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Kurdish Review.
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 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.
“I am sitting here. Numb. Dizzy. Beheaded. Without any arms or legs. Without any eyesight. More a concrete flower than a human. Living against all odds.
Yet I see more clearly than you, who are whole. Who can walk wherever and say whatever.
I feel more vividly the pain of others and I inflict them upon myself to be able to help out. How can I help out if I do not feel their agony, if I cannot hear their pleas?
I am numb as it has continued for centuries and I can only take so much pain and sorrow. The humming of the bees is drowned out to the violent humming of warplanes and drones.
I try to mask them and only hear the music in my heart, but as the cries from those who struggle gets louder, they add the lyrics to my heartfelt music.
I am dizzy, as so many roads have been shut for me in the past. So many borders have been set up where there were none before. So many villages burnt, the smoke fills my lungs and clouds my eyes. Blinding me.
I am without arms and legs as I am not a whole. I have been divided. Cut. The sharp rulers of despots past have set the lines, which I am not allowed to cross. I am without arms and legs.
I am beheaded, as I do not know where to look. Only cure is a joint action by my partitions to join each other and together look for one.
If I have managed to come this far beheaded, arm- and leg-less, imagine what I can achieve if whole!
The music of the past guides my way, puts the notes on my sheet and tells me what to expect next. I just need to read them.
The single words coming in the past started a song I wish to see finished. The past 63 days these single words have turned into lyrics. Into music I can understand.
I can feel it. I can feel their pain. Their hunger. Their determination. I can see the words turning into lyrics on my note sheet.
I can see them but you cannot.
To see them neither, head arms or legs are necessary.
You need an open mind. Filled with the music of your heart, music of the past and the lyrics of the present.
An open mind only a flower nurtured from concrete can have.”
UA: 329/12 Index: EUR 44/022/2012 Turkey Date: 9 November 2012
HUNGER STRIKERS DENIED MEDICAL CARE
Hundreds are on hunger strike (some of them since 12 September) in prisons across Turkey. Lawyers told Amnesty International that prison authorities have denied many hunger strikers access to medical care, further threatening their health.
On 12 September, around 60 prisoners began a hunger strike in seven prisons across Turkey. The hunger strikes were initiated as a protest against the authorities’ longstanding refusal to allow Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan to meet with his lawyers and to demand the provision of education in the Kurdish language. Since September, the number of hunger strikes has grown. According to the Ministry of Justice, 682 prisoners in 67 prisons had joined the hunger strike by 2 November.
Lawyers representing the hunger strikers told Amnesty International that prison doctors are routinely refusing to conduct medical examinations of the hunger strikers, including checking the prisoners’ blood pressure. Lawyers also said that in some cases, hunger strikers are being denied access to vital vitamins taken to the prison by the lawyers. One prisoner on hunger strike in Sincan F-type prison was allegedly made to travel 36 hours for a court hearing, despite severe mobility problems and a doctor’s report advising against the travel.
There are further concerns regarding reports that prisoners on hunger strike in Silivri and Şakran prisons have been placed in solitary confinement, and guards at Tekirdağ prison were ill-treating prisoners as a result of their participation in the hunger strike protests.
Please write immediately in Turkish or your own language:
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 21 DECEMBER 2012 TO:
Ministry of Justice Sadullah Ergin Adalet Bakanı Adalet Bakanlığı 06659 Ankara, Turkey Fax: +90 312 417 71 13 (keep trying) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Salutation: Dear Minister
Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights Ayhan Sefer Üstün Commission Chairperson
TBMM İnsan Hakları İnceleme Komisyonu Bakanlıklar, 06543 Ankara, Turkey Fax: +90 312 420 53 94
Salutation: Dear Mr Üstün
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.
HUNGER STRIKERS DENIED MEDICAL CARE
In Turkey, prison hunger strikes have been repeatedly used as a method of protest. On 20 October 2000, more than 1,200 prisoners went on hunger strike; this was in protest at plans to move them to new prisons where they were to be housed in small cells, rather than dormitories that hold up to 60 prisoners. Prisoners were concerned that they would be at greater risk of assault or torture. When raids began on 19 December, some 200 were still on hunger strike and many of them were reportedly close to death. Turkish authorities intervened by force to end the hunger strikes with the operation they termed “return to life”. This operation led to the deaths of 30 prisoners and two soldiers during raids into 20 prisons. The Justice Minister reportedly stated that “at least 16 prisoners died, most of whom set themselves on fire”. He did not say how the other prisoners had died.
Hunger strikes continued in the following two years, claiming the lives of dozens of people – some of whom were not prisoners.
Amnesty International does not support hunger strikes, nor does it try to persuade hunger strikers to end such a protest. The organization opposes any punishment of hunger strikers and attempts to coerce them to end their hunger strike. Such measures violate their right to freedom of expression, and may also amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The authorities have an obligation to ensure prisoners’ right to life and health and must ensure that hunger strikers, like other prisoners, have adequate access to qualified health professionals and any medical assessment, advice and any treatment that they will accept voluntarily based on this assessment.
Name: Almost 700 prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey Gender m/f: both
UA: 329/12 Index: EUR 44/022/2012 Issue Date: 9 November 2012
Your help is needed!
What Kurdish Matters is all about…
Do you ever hear them? The stories of Kurds, sharing their hopes in life, their sorrows, their choices, dreams, pains? Probably, you never do. Because the stories that are usually in the media about Kurds in Turkey, are about violence.
Violence is part of the Kurdish problem, but not the root of it. The root is that people’s human rights are being denied. With Kurdish Matters, I want to tell the story of the Kurdish issue through the eyes of average Kurds. Villagers and city dwellers, students, workers, housewives, activists, mothers, fathers, children. Their lives tell the true story of the Kurdish issue in Turkey.
Writing this book is going to require about €40,000, most of which will come from fundraising. Please consider helping Frederike Geerdink in her fundraising efforts so that she can continue her research and publish this important book, and bring out the voices of the Kurds in the region.
Go to http://www.indiegogo.com/KurdishMatters to make your donation today!
URGENT CALL TO INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION FOR SOLIDARITY WITH HUNGER STRIKERS
Today, it has been 53 days since Kurdish political prisoners in the Turkish prisons began indefinite hunger strikes on September 12, 2012. At this moment, health status of prisoners on hunger strike is severely impaired and came to a very critical stage. This announcement is prepared in order to inform international public opinion that we are extremely concerned that loss of life may be imminent and ask your solidarity to prevent it.
On September 12, 2012; 64 Kurdish political prisoners have started an indefinite and irreversible hunger strike in 7 Prisons in Turkey.
On 22 September 2012, ten days later 79 more prisoners joined the hunger strike. With new participants these numbers have been continuously increasing. According to joint research of Human Rights Association, Progressive Lawyers Association and Law & Human Rights Commission of Peace and Democracy Party, at least 654 Kurdish political prisoners and convicts in prisons are on an indefinite and irreversible hunger strike in 66 prisons. Imprisoned members of parliament, Mr. Faysal Sarıyıldız, Ms. Gülser Yıldırım and Ms. Selma Irmak and Mayor of Derik, Ms. Çağlar Demirel are also participating to the indefinite hunger strike.
Specifically, the health status of 154 political prisoners that began the hunger strike with the first two groups is severely impaired and their life is under extreme danger and at great vital risk.
In a press release to the public, political prisoners on a hunger strike have made two specific demands and stated that they will not reverse their decision unless their demands are meet. These demands are:
1- The right to education and legal defense in mother tongue.
2- Ending the isolation of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan in Imrali prison in order to creating the conditions for dialogue and negotiation.
According to the above mentioned demands, reason of the hunger strike is not for individual interest or awful conditions of the prisons in Turkey. Political prisoners believe that their existence in prisons is directly related with the conflicts between the Turkish Government and Kurdish political movement. Therefore, the prisoners and arrested politicians are considering themselves as “prisoner of war” or POW. The existing judicial system, the anti-terror law that amended in 2006 and security oriented governing are created a total war against Kurds’ fundamental rights. Freedom of speech, right to demonstration and demanding collective rights of the people perceived as “terrorist activity” by the prosecutors and the government as well. The existing Anti-terror law allows prosecutors to arrest everyone without concrete evidence. Therefore, more than 8000 Kurdish politicians, journalists, advocates, trade unionists and NGO members have been in prisons for many years without any verdict by judges. Many of the participants of the hunger strike are victims of the existing law system. Their legal defenses in mother tongue are not provided due to the monist mentality. This situation is one of the reasons of the hunger strike.
Unfortunately, AKP Government has not any sensitivity or attention to the ongoing hunger strike. Prime Minister Erdoğan clearly lied when he was in Germany. According to Erdoğan, only one prisoner is continuing to the hunger strike. At the same time Minister of Justice announced that 683 prisoners and arrested people are in hunger strike. It is very tragic that, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice are not from different countries. But their speeches are totally different. Unfortunately, PM Erdoğan is not focusing on solving the issue. The main approach of the government is disinforming the hunger strike.
On the other hand, while the people who protest the government because of its insensitivity, AKP Government and its police forces are continuing arrest BDP members and protestors. Yesterday, 97 students were taken custody during the protests in order to prevent democratic opposition. Today, 20 people from BDP, press and NGOs are take in custody by the police raids in Mersin. We believe that, the reason of the ongoing arrests is to prevent solidarity with the hunger strikers.
Therefore, we as BDP, call government to stop accusing BDP or hunger strikers. Government must respect to the Kurdish prisoners demands. The demands are fundamental rights of humanity. Therefore, PM Erdoğan must end this meaningless obstinacy. In case of insist to this negative manner, AKP Government will be main responsible of the closing tragedy.
No time to wait! Everyone from the earth should react to the AKP Government’s totalitarian approach on Kurdish People and their fundamental rights. No state or power can prevent a human’s freedom of speech or defense in mother tongue in democratic countries. No one should live without collective identity in their home country.
BDP urgently calls to government, international public opinion and institutions to prevent losing lives in prisons.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSION OF PEACE AND DEMOCRACY PARTY
Events on Hunger Strikes
1. Prisoners who are on indefinite hunger strike since September 12 in Siirt E Type Closed Prison have learned aggravate health problems. İHD (HRA) lawyers Roja Arslan and Yavuz Çelepkolu who met with the prisoners on hunger strike in prison, said hunger-striking prisoners does not accept liquid.
2. Rıza Turan who is in Siirt E Type Prison has loss of sight and also director of prison didn’t deliver blanket which is given to him by his family.
3. Eleven women prisoners who are started the hunger strike in Diyarbakır E Type Prison some findings on their health status; weakness, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sound and noise, irregular blood pressure, excessive weight loss and nose bleeds
4. Four prisoners who are in Şakran T type Prison No 4 were single cells and a place to sleep, clothes, pen and paper to tell their status are not given.
5. Although Berivan Elter who is in hunger strike has health report, a new report was taken and she pick up from Ankara to Diyarbakır ( round trip 36 hours)
6. B1 Vitamin is not given any prisoners in Adana F type Prison
Eastern Kurdistan (Iran): Thousands of prisoners of conscience are being tortured, abused and treated in the most inhumane way possible. Many of whom have been executed in the past such as Shirin Elemhuli and Farzad Kemangar, and many are under threat of execution as I am writing this. Kemangar being merely a teacher with a strong civic conscience and a fearless belief in the unity of the people once said to his students in a letter from prison: “I leave you to the wind and to the sun so that, in the near future, you will sing lessons of love and sincerity to our land”. New reports on executions reach me on a daily basis as well as reports on Kurdish workers on the borders between the Kurdish parts being killed by Iranian military. Furthermore, Kurdish women and children are yet again discriminated against by the anti-female policies of the Iranian state. Imagine living as a young Kurdish woman in the anti Kurdish, anti female, anti youth society of Iran.
Southern Kurdistan (Iraq): Despite having a Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which deals with the international community as a de facto state, more than merely having autonomy within Iraq, the Kurdish region is always under the threat of the Iraqi regime. Forced displacement of Kurds from the time of Saddam Hussein’s rule are still not reimbursed or even dealt with properly with refugee camps for Kurds within the multicultural city of Kirkuk which if anything should be declared a Kurdish- Arabic- Turcoman city. Never mind the constant bombardment of Kurdistan by Turkey, as if this land was only a sovereign region ruled by Kurds on paper, never mind the many civilian deaths due to this shelling or the environmental damages done to our precious landscapes of Kurdistan but yet Turkey has the audacity to intervene when murdered Kurdish guerrillas are being sent back to the KRG region for burial?! Seems Saddam Hussein’s ways just won’t leave the rulers of Iraq and thus also affecting South Kurdistan.
Northern Kurdistan (Turkey): With more than 700 Kurdish prisoners hunger striking for more than 52 days, this if anything should tell you how the Kurds are doing in Turkey. Use of chemical weapons against Kurdish guerrillas, Mass arrests, torture, disappearances, rape, burning of Kurdish forests and crop fields, disturbance during Newroz celebrations, closure of news papers, TV stations, political parties, forced name changes of scientific objects as to erase the Kurdish reference to certain objects, prohibition of use of letters X, W and Q, imprisonment of children under 15 years old and of women above 70 years old for participating in demonstrations etc. While the Turkish PM acts as saviour of the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Somalis and more or less anybody who is a Muslim, he keeps forgetting that he is treating his own Muslim population which is Kurdish more inhumanely than the world will ever know.
Western Kurdistan (Syria): Last but not east, Syria.With news reports of the so called ‘Free Syrian Army’ killing the female YPG commander named Nujin Derik yesterday, I can think of many more suitable names for the FSA. While Turkey is doing its best to intervene and disturb the unstable unity shown between the different Kurdish groups in Syria, the FSA is instead aiming at erasing Kurds, no matter whom, one by one. Strategic planning by those who do not want to see another free Kurdish region, have disturbed many good projects which the Kurds in Syria had planned and set up such as Kurdish language schools and Kurdish security forces for protection. While the world looks on, the FSA is ruining the historic wealth of Syria, killing any counterpart to their aims, no matter anti-Assad or not and first and fore most EVERYTHING pro-Kurdish, leaving me worried for whatever evil which will replace the current evil in Syria.
From AlJazeera’s ‘The Stream’ on Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Please urge all concerned to contact all appropriate media outlets and use all their contacts to spread the below brief in order to draw international and local media attention to the ongoing human tragedy with the prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey:
I am writing to inform you about an international petition campaign launched in with regards to the hunger strike protest that has been carried out by Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey since September 12, 2012. The petition emphasizes the imminence of a human tragedy, given that the strike is as of today on its 49th day, and calls on the Turkish state to urgently address the prisoners’ demands. A brief bulletin about the contents and participants of the petition is below.
Thank you for your consideration.
An international group of social scientists with research interests in the Kurdish issue launched a petition campaign calling on the Turkish government to address the demands of the Kurdish political prisoners whose hunger strike protests have entered a critical phase.
Over 700 Kurdish prisoners are on the 49th day of a hunger strike as of October 30, 2012, for the right to defense in their mother tongue and the ending of solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s imprisoned leader. Medical experts confirm that the 40th day is a threshold in hunger strikes where physical and mental dysfunctions commence, as well as cases of death begin to occur.
Petitioners declare their full support to the Kurdish political prisoners’ demands, which, they believe, are among fundamental human rights. The petition emphasizes that the international community’s opinion on Turkey will be strongly shaped by the way the present hunger strikes are handled and reminds the addressees, including the President, Prime Minister and Justice Minister of Turkey, that they will be personally responsible should this protest end in a human tragedy. Recalling the devastating cost of the prison operations of the year 2000, the petitioners warn the Turkish government that any attempt at forceful intervention would cause irreparable harm and destroy the already dim democratic ground for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue.
The petition has received great interest and support from academic circles around the world, reaching over one thousand signatures on its first day. Some internationally renowned social scientists sent support messages to the campaign. Professor Michael Taussig of Columbia University, an international authority in anthropology, signed the petition with the following note: ‘To the Turkish State: please attend immediately to the welfare of these courageous prisoners’. The preeminent feminist theorist Professor Judith Butler of University of California, Berkeley, wrote: “Turkish government must enter into serious dialogue with these prisoners, who now risk their lives to expose the injustice under which they live.” And Noam Chomsky stated: “Elementary humanity requires that the just and desperate plea of these prisoners for dialogue should be answered quickly and appropriately, without delay.”
The campaign initiators state that they were inspired by Turkey’s great novelist Yasar Kemal’s recent statement on hunger strikes: ‘Watching death is ill-suited to humanity’. The petition can be reached online at the link below:
The list of Initiators
Can Ağar, Translator, İstanbul, Turkey
Ahmet Hamdi Akkaya, Ghent University, Belgium
Emek Alici, University of London, UK
Ahmet Alış, Bogaziçi University, Turkey
Seda Altug, Bogazici University, Turkey
Shiler Amini, University of Exeter, UK
Mizgin Müjde Arslan, Bahçeşehir University, Turkey
Dr Mehmet Asutay, Durham University, UK
Ebru Avci, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Dr. Bilgin Ayata, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
U. Rezan Azizoğlu, Ankara University, Turkey
Hanifi Barış, University of Aberdeen, UK
Luqman Barwari, president, Kurdish National Congress-North America (KNC-NA)
Oyman Basaran, The University of Massachusetts, USA
Dr. Bahar Başer, University of Warwick, UK
Dr. Derya Bayır, University of London , UK
Fırat Bozçalı, Stanford University, USA
Dr. Katharina Brizić, Linguist, Austria
Adnan Çelik, EHESS, Paris, France
Umit Cetin, University of Essex, UK
Cuma Cicek, Paris Institute of Political Studies, France
Ozgur Cicek, Binghamton University, NY, USA
Ayca Ciftci, University of London, UK
Deniz Cifci, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey
Dr Barzoo Eliassi, Lund University, Sweden
Secil Dagtas, University of Toronto, Canada
Engin Emre Değer, Istanbul Şehir University, Turkey
Esin Düzel, UCSD, USA
Burcu Ege, Independent Researcher, Turkey
Delal Aydin Elhuseyni, Binghamton University, NY, USA
Muhammed Mesud Fırat, Bilgi University. Turkey
Bahar Şahin Fırat, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
Özlem Galip, University of Exeter, UK
Başak Gemici, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey
Frangis Ghaderi, University of Exeter, UK
Onur Gunay, Princeton University, USA
Azat Z. Gundogan, Binghamton University, NY, USA
Saed Kakei, Nova Southeastern University, USA
Fethi Karakecili, York University, Canada
Maryam Kashani, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Dr Janroj Keles , London Metropolitan University, UK
Yeşim Mutlu, METU, Turkey
Dr. Nilay Ozok-Gundogan, Denison University, USA
Dr. Cengiz Güneş, The Open University, UK
Serra Hakyemez, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Wendy Hamelink, Leiden University, Netherlands
Murat Issı, University of Panteion, Greece
Mithat Ishakoglu, University of Exeter, UK
Erkan Karaçay, University of Exeter, UK
Elif İnal, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey
Dr. Iclal Ayşe Küçükkırca, Mardin Artuklu University, Turkey
Dr. Kamran Matin, Sussex University, UK
Caroline McKusick, University of California Davis, USA
Dilan Okçuoğlu, Queens University, Canada
Ergin Opengin, Paris 3, Paris, France
Omer Ozcan, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Dr. Hisyar Ozsoy, University of Michigan-Flint, USA
Prof. Dr. H.Neşe Özgen, Ege University, Turkey
Erlend Paashe, Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway
Berivan Sarikaya, York University, UK
Dr. Besime Şen, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Turkey
Dr. Birgül Açıkyıldız-Şengül, Harvard University, USA
Ruken Sengul, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Dr. Serdar Şengül, Harvard University, USA
Dr. Prakash Shah, University of London, UK
Christian Sinclair, University of Arizona, USA
Prof. Dr. Nükhet Sirman, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
Ülker Sözen, Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Turkey
Marcin Starzewski, Sabanci University, Turkey
Kelly Stuart, Columbia University, USA
Dr. Engin Sustam, EHESS, Paris, france
Dr. Raja Swamy, The University of Arkansas, USA
Mohammedali Yaseen Taha, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Dr. Latif Tas, Humbolt University, Berlin, Germany
Salima Tasdemir, University of Exeter, UK
Omer Tekdemir, Durham University, UK
Dr. Sebahattin Topçuoğlu, Hamburg, Germany
Dr. Nazan Üstündağ, Bogazici University, Turkey
Dr. Kamala Visweswaran, The University of Texas At Austin, USA
Muge Yamanyilmaz, Bilgi University, Turkey
Serkan Yaralı, EHESS, Paris, France
Güllistan Yarkın, Binghamton University, USA
Prof. Dr. Mesut Yeğen, Istanbul Şehir University, Turkey
İsmail Hakkı Yiğit, Fatih University, Turkey
Dilan Yildirim, Harvard University, USA
Emrah Yıldız, Harvard University, USA
Cagri Yoltar, Duke University, USA
Dr. Zafer Yörük, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey
Ayse Seda Yuksel, Central European University, Hungary
Dr Welat Zeydanlioglu, Kurdish Studies Network, Sweden
Max Zirngast, University of Vienna, Austria
This article was originally published in The Kurdish Review and is reprinted here at the request of the author. Father Paolo is a well-known advocate of federalism in Syria, especially for Kurds.
By Sirwan Kajjo
Reverend Paolo Dall’Oglio, head of the Deir Mar Musa monastery in Syria, was expelled from the country by the regime. He was accused of supporting the revolution and plotting to destabilize the sovereignty of Syria.
Father Paolo is currently visiting the United States in an attempt to lobby for the people of Syria who strive for freedom in Democracy. He has been working tirelessly while using all of his connections in America to persuade decision-makers to step up their approach regarding the Syrian crisis.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted him on July 23, 2012. I was lucky to be one of the very few people who were invited to attend the little event. He entered the room after everybody was already seated and waiting for him. His features were those of someone who’d been the hardships throughout his life. When he was offered a drink, he refused to have it, saying it was Ramadan. He never eats or drinks in public during the holy month of Muslims.
Father Paolo was an imperative figure in promoting religious tolerance in Syria. Throughout his many years there, he worked intensely on the idea of coexistence in the heterogonous nation and many of his closest friends were from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
At the Carnegie event, the originally-Italian priest gave a lecture on the stamina of the Syrian people against its brutal regime. He said when people first took to the streets; the purpose was to demand their freedom and dignity back. After several months of perpetual atrocities by the regime, according to him, protestors were obliged to take another path of their struggle and to shift their peaceful efforts to bring Syrian to Democracy. Arming the revolution was an option that the people didn’t want to choose. “The conflict in Syria has a sectarian dimension now whose end is uncertain”, says Father Paolo.
I asked if he thinks a potential Kurdish-Arab confrontation would erupt. He said Syria has already been slipped into a civil war. According to him, anything is likely to happen in a country where the number of causalities is increasingly at ridiculously high rates around the clock. He also blamed the Arab opposition for not embracing the Kurds.
One of the aspects that make this man so unique is his endless support for a federal Kurdish region in Syria. He also believes that the West should realize that a federal state in Syria is the only way to protect the country’s integrity. What also surprised me about this man was his aspiration for four Kurdish federations in the greater Middle East. He thinks this soon will be a reality.
The Kurdish Arts Festival will be the premier annual Kurdish artistic and cultural networking event in the United States and one of the most exciting Kurdish showcases in North America, with performances by Kurdish artists and creative talents from the United States and around the world. The aim of this annual festival is to present the rich history of the Kurdish heritage and encourage students to study, develop their talents, intellectual interests, and creative abilities. Most importantly it will assist in building a scholarship foundation for Kurdish students both in the United States and abroad who are in need of financial assistance and to give them a chance to study and further their education in the areas of arts and music at Tennessee State University. For more information, see: http://kurdishartsfestival.org/