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

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

Omar Amini

Omar Amini

~~~~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

First broadcast

First broadcast

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

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

Moving the radio equipment

Moving the radio equipment

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

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

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

Setting up the antenna

Setting up the antenna

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

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

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

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

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

 

Omar Amini

Stockholm, June 2014

Campaigners in UK win a Parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Ends—

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

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

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

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

Kurdish school children learn in Kurdish (video)

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

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

Kurdish issues in the latest HRW World Report

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

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

Excerpts below.

Turkey

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

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

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

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

Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly

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

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

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

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

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

Combating Impunity

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

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

Key International Actors

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

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

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

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

Iran

Death Penalty

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

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

Treatment of Minorities

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

Iraq

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

Freedom of Assembly

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

Freedom of Expression

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

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

Women’s and Girls’ Rights

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

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

Kurdish Studies journal

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

The inaugural issue is to be released in October 2013.

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

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

4th Annual Kurdish Youth Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey’s Kurdish Impasse: The View from Diyarbakır

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

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECOMMENDATIONS

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

To establish mutual trust between Turks and Kurds

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

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

To guarantee use of mother languages in education and public life

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

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

To ensure a fair debate and eventual consensus on decentralisation

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

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

To assist Diyarbakır’s economic, social and cultural development

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

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

Istanbul/Diyarbakır/Brussels, 30 November 2012

Interview with a Kurdish Icon: Former Radio Anchor Khalaf Zebari

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

By Sirwan Kajjo

Khalaf Zebari (click for larger image)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

Amnesty International: Hunger strikers denied medical care

UA: 329/12 Index: EUR 44/022/2012 Turkey Date: 9 November 2012

URGENT ACTION

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: sadullahergin@adalet.gov.tr 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

Email: insanhaklari@tbmm.gov.tr

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.

URGENT ACTION

HUNGER STRIKERS DENIED MEDICAL CARE

>>>ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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

Kurdish Matters in Diyarbekir

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!

—–

Solidarity with Hunger Strikers: Urgent Call from BDP

03/11/2012

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

 

ANNEX 1:

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

8 years and 4 months

Mehmet Tahir Ilhan is sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in prison for possession of half a lemon.

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.’

Mehmet Ilhan

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.