Campaigners win a Parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq, following more than 27,000 signatures on Government e-petition
13th 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From AlJazeera English
Omar al-Saleh reporting
09 January 2013
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
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:
- Reminding the authorities that hunger strikers are engaging in a peaceful form of protest and the Turkish authorities have an obligation to respect their right to freedom of expression, including their right to protest; Calling on the authorities to ensure that the hunger strikers have adequate access to qualified medical professionals and any medical assessment, advice and any treatment that they will accept voluntarily based on this assessment, and to ensure that there is no unjustifiable restriction on hunger striking prisoners from receiving vitamins provided by their lawyers or family members;
- Calling on the authorities to ensure that no punitive measures are taken against prisoners on hunger strike and the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment is upheld; and to institute a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into allegations that prisoners in Silivri, Şakran and Tekirdağ prison were ill- treated or otherwise punished for their participation in the hunger strikes.
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
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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
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
That’s the amount of time the Adana 8th High Criminal Court sentenced a deaf-mute Kurd to prison. Mehmet Tahir Ilhan, aged 37 and father of six, was charged with ‘committing crimes in the name of the PKK’ and ‘making propaganda of the organisation’ and ‘resisting to security officers.’
The evidence against the bazaar porter from the city of Mersin was the possession of a half-lemon. Lemon can ease the effects of tear gas. Using sign language at a hearing in the south-eastern city of Adana, Mr Ilhan said he had got caught up in a violent pro-Kurdish demonstration and denied all charges against him.
Defense lawyer Tugay Bek said his client is also illiterate and that the ‘charges are contrary to logic and reason, because the situation of the accused does not enable him to have any physical condition to make propaganda for the organisation.’ The prosecution had demanded 25 years imprisonment for Mr Ilhan.
Will botched airstrike lead to regional policy changes?
by Christian Sinclair
In late December 2011 Turkish military forces bombed a group of Kurdish civilians along the Iraq-Turkey border, killing 34 of the 38 in the group. Eighteen of the 34 who died in the attack were teenagers. The group came from the villages of Gülyazı (Bujeh) and Ortasu (Roboski) in the Uludere district of Sirnak and the attack has now been dubbed the “Roboski massacre” or the “Uludere massacre.” Ankara said it mistook the group for PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) fighters.
Suddenly, five months after the airstrike against these Kurdish civilians, there is intense media coverage of the Roboski massacre. Previously, there had been precious little coverage outside of Kurdish media circles of what is the largest civilian death toll in Turkey’s decades old campaign against the PKK. So why now? Why the coverage?
The 38-person caravan was en route back to Turkey after a trip across the border for fuel, cigarettes, sugar, and other items typically smuggled over the desolate, rugged mountain terrain in this region. As the group came within 50 meters of the border, the sky lit up with bombs dropped from F-16s in a raid lasting 40 minutes. When it was over, 34 charred bodies were left on the snowy mountain trails. The tragic loss of life sparked protests across Turkey but prompted only half-hearted, inconclusive investigations. Amnesty International says it has “doubts about whether [the investigation] is thorough and impartial and will be effective in identifying what happened and those responsible.” Even with international agencies investigating and protests across Europe, there was still very little coverage of the attack in the mainstream Western press.
Last Wednesday, however, the Wall Street Journal injected new life into the story by reporting that a U.S. drone was involved in passing along the intel to the Turkish military about suspicious activity along its border that night in December. Now many Turkish and Western media outlets are covering the story, albeit with competing narratives about who saw what first. It seems that the media interest now comes from the drones, Washington-Ankara relations, and who saw the caravan first, rather than the fact that Turkey, a member of NATO, killed almost three dozen of its own citizens in a questionable air raid.
In Ankara there is what is called a Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell where U.S. and Turkish personnel sit side by side to watch drone feeds in real time. That night, according to U.S. military officials, a predator “was on an eight-hour patrol along the Iraqi-Turkish border when its American controllers spotted the convoy walking toward the Turkish border.” That information was then passed along to the Turkish military, who then directed the Americans to move the drone out of the area.
But Turkey is insisting that there was no U.S. intelligence provided or that the action taken was based on Turkish intelligence. Turkish President Abdullah Gül said before flying to the U.S. for the NATO Summit in Chicago, that “[i]f the [Turkish] government, concerned authorities, the General Staff make a statement, we all should trust that.” He added that he does not “think it is not right to make such useless polemics.” Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan said the Uludere operation was “action from footage provided by our aircraft not by U.S. predators” and that particular region “was an area of terrorism.” It seems then with this blanket pronouncement that since Ankara had deemed it “an area of terrorism” then it should not be held responsible for what they have called an “administrative accident.”
This is troubling and the U.S. and other NATO partners need to understand the lens through which Turkey views any shared intelligence. A former senior U.S. military official told WSJ he and fellow officers were sometimes troubled by Turkish standards for selecting targets in their long-running battle with the PKK.
There are other, perhaps more troubling, theories about the WSJ report. In a very “creative” spin on the report, Turkish PM Erdoğan said late last week that he thought it “may be part of a project to undermine the Barack Obama administration as the U.S. presidential election approaches” and his take on this report is that it “is meant to make life difficult for the current [U.S.] government.”
The political opposition in Turkey has been quick to criticize Erdoğan and his party. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party), says he has “difficulty understanding this government’s mentality. This government failed in the Uludere case. It murdered 34 citizens.” Deputy CHP Chair, Sezgin Tanrikulu, says that the “reason why the government is keeping quiet now is that it wants to avoid political responsibility.”
Mayor Fehmi Yaman in Uludere charged that the attack was part of a series of government efforts to intimidate the local population and called it deliberate. “The orders for this attack came from the very top level and they will do everything to protect themselves,” said Yaman. Families of the victims said that the “Turkish army knew very well that the villagers, who are poor and uneducated, have used the route to smuggle for generations” and they could not have mistaken them for PKK militants.
Etyen Mahçupyan, columnist for Today’s Zaman, wrote in January that soldiers knew the caravan was coming, stopped them to gather them all in one spot, and then the soldiers “lit a flare to illuminate the region and allow warplanes to savagely shell the region and tear the smugglers’ bodies to pieces.” In fact, says Mahçupyan, it is “very hard to justify the argument that this incident was really an accident; there are a whole host of signs that suggest the massacre was deliberate.”
The questions surrounding this attack on innocent civilians should be raising alarm bells in Washington and elsewhere. U.S.-Turkish military cooperation is in need of review to better control how Ankara uses the information is receives from its American counterparts. There should also be a review of military aid to Ankara and strict controls on its use. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said he wouldn’t “comment on intelligence-sharing with our Turkish allies” and instead remarked that the U.S. has “an enduring relationship with Turkey.” Perhaps someone at the NATO Summit in Chicago should take the opportunity to raise the issue with President Gül and lay out plans of how this relationship will endure.
In the end, we can only hope that the coverage continues, for whatever the reasons, and that the 34 Kurdish victims of this botched airstrike become a catalyst for policy change in the region. If that happens, their unfortunate deaths won’t be for naught.
(follow Christian Sinclair on Twitter: @sinclair_c)
I exist, said the Kurdish dragon
Submitted by Naila Bozo
There was a dead town in Syria. The tombstone read ”Qamişlo” and on the grave lay red, yellow and green plastic roses. My knees are still hurting because I often kneeled down by the grave and begged the town to come back to life. Sometimes I threw myself on it to prevent the dazed youth from joining their parents in the soil. They merely looked at me pitiyingly and pushed me away. They had good reason to do so because what human is alive if he does not exist?
A Fatal Census
Kime ez? asked Cegerxwîn (1903 -1984), a celebrated Kurdish poet. Who am I? Nobody, the Syrian government answered, you do not exist.
In August 1962 the Syrian government ordered a census in the province of Hasakeh which was carried out in October 1962. The province is situated in the northern parts of Syria and mostly inhabited by Kurds seeing as this area is the western part of Kurdistan that was divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria as a consequence of the Lausanne Treaty in 1923.
The census was fatal for the Kurds as it resulted in 120.000 Kurds loosing their Syrian citizenship and thus their rights. The number of stateless Kurds has according to Human Rights Watch since then only continued to grow to a number of 300.000 because children of the stateless, born and raised in Syria, have not been given citizenship either.
In April 2011 the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad said he would grant the Kurds citizenship. This did not cause much joy for two reasons. First, only registered Kurds would be given official identity papers while non-registered would remain stateless. Second, it was a poor way to keep the Kurds, who consitute 10 -15 % of the Syrian population, from joining the anti-regime protests that had begun only weeks earlier.
You Deserved To Be Gassed!
They say the uprising started in Damascus, March 2011. No, it started in Qamişlo, March 2004. A report from KurdWatch that gathers information about violation of human rights against Kurds within the Syrian borders closely describes what happened on March 12, 2004.
A football match was to be played at the stadium in Qamişlo. The team al-Futuwah was an Arabic team from Deir ez Zor and the other team, al-Jihad, was from Qamişlo. According to the Danish Refugee Council quoted in the report, an eyewitness said that the supporters of al-Futuwah had not been checked by security before entering the stadium and that they brought weapon in the form of knives, sticks and stones with them.
A journalist sitting in the press box observed that the supporters of al-Futuwah prior to the game had kept shouting: “Fallujah, Fallujah!” after which they started attacking the other team’s supporters with the sticks and stones they had brought with them. According to the report, “Fallujah” was a way for the supporters of al-Futuwah to show their support to Saddam Hussein, one of the worst oppressors in the history of Kurds, who in 1988 ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town Halabja which killed more than 5.000 people and injured more than 10.000.
While the attack took place, three young men came to the press box and asked another journalist, who was to comment on the match on radio, if he would announce that three children had been killed during the attack. The news spread and people from the nearest towns came to the stadium in such large numbers that the journalist described the stadium as being besieged. But the death of the three children soon proved wrong and people both inside and outside the stadium grew calm.
The peace did not last long as people soon began to throw with rocks and the police, military and intelligence service arrived to the stadium.
The report remarks that the security made a mistake by shooting into the air and thus frightening people; they should have instead tried dissolving the growing angry crowd with other measures. The first mentioned journalist said according to the report that supporters of al-Futuwah called out to the Kurds: “Saddam Hussein treated you they way you deserve to be treated!”
At this point the security people stepped in and split up the two groups. The Kurds were told to leave while al-Futuwah supporters remained inside the stadium.
According to eyewitnesses the security consisting of the police, military and intelligence shot and even killed Kurds who protested al- Futuwahs discriminating heckling by saying “Long live Kurdistan.” A witness said that security was being untruthful when it later claimed that the Kurds were shooting back: “Even the government have not stated this.”
9 people died on the 12th of March 2004. The Kurdish parties made an agreement with the government; if they were allowed to bury their murdered Kurds without the involvement of the police, they would make sure to keep the funeral procession under control. A journalist described the procession joined by tens of thousands of people as being quiet. Kurds waved the Kurdish flag, a few cried out in anger at Bashar al-Assad and others threw rocks at a statue of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, a man so feared and infamous that before one did not even dare point their fingers at pictures of him. But other Kurds stopped them from throwing stones and the mourners continued walking towards the city hall.
At some point during the march one could hear shots from a military base nearby. Nothing happened and the procession continued. The journalist who had walked with the mourners left them to visit a lawyer whose office had a view over the square where the march had passed through. He was standing near the window when a car drove by. The car was open in the back and 7-8 men were sitting facing the square with their machine guns. They drove up to the few mourners at the back of the funeral procession and shot them. That day 23 people died.
The word about the killings spread and soon hell broke loose. People in the Kurdish towns set public buildings on fire while large demonstrations were held abroad in solidarity with the Kurds and support of the much anticipated uprising against al-Assad.
According to the report sources say that the Kurdish TV-channel ROJ TV, broadcasting from Denmark, was an important factor in mobilising the Kurds and gathering them at demonstrations in dimensions never seen before in West Kurdistan. The government’s crack down on the protests was brutal, and the Kurdish voice was once again brought to silence.
A Kurdish Dragon
Ketin xewê, ketin xewê, ketin xewa zilm û zorê, ketin xewa bindestiyê. They have been lulled into a deep sleep by the oppressor, Cegerxwîn said about the Kurds.
In the time after the uprising no one dared say a word about al-Assad. Many families had either lost a son to death or to the security service who usually came early in the morning and took the young Kurdish men away. My friend, who had only been out to buy bread on March 12, was brought home to his mom alive after one month in a jail in Damascus, tortured and with his teeth missing.
The grief of Kurds was deeper than the wells in their garden, it was a grief that paralysed the town and rest of West Kurdistan. Qamişlo was dead because its sons were dead. The Kurdish mothers tore their hair and ripped their clothes apart, the Kurdish fathers rocked back and forth with tears dripping down on the palms of their hands and the Kurdish sisters and brothers sat side by side, numb and with their heads falling first against their chest, then the wall.
The windows of Qamişlo are barred. The bars are shaped as flowers, fountains and sunrises but it does not change the fact that the town is a prison. The question is how can dead people tear off the window bars and demand freedom?
I was sitting in a livingroom in Qamişlo in January 2011, only weeks before the uprising in Syria began, and watching the people in Tunis overthrow Ben Ali. I once again asked the elder Kurds what this meant to them and what they would do. Nothing, they answered, never will we rise against al-Assad. I asked the young Kurds what they would do. They did not answer but I could see a fire in them I had never seen before.
Belê em in ejdehayê, ji xewa dili, siyar bûn niha, Cegerxwîn writes. The sleep of the Kurds will not last forever; the Kurdish people is a dragon that will awaken, ready to fight all injustice done to it.
The dragon is my generation, the dragon are the young men and women. Their sleep is not as deep as the sleep of their parents.
They are alive. They are Kurdistan.