Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 21 July – 2 August 2012

NEWS
1. Turkey’s military planes pound Kurdish rebels
2. Kurdish Guerrillas Take Over Military Posts around Şemdinli
3. Press Freedom Day with 95 Journalists Behind Bars!
4. VIDEO: The 8th Annual Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression.
5. “Human Rights Defenders in Need of Support”
6. Court Relieves Kurdish Mayor of His Duties
7. European Court of Human Rights Convicts Turkey of Torture
8. Strong reactions against Kurdish name ban in Diyarbakır
9. Turkey ‘willing to hunt down Kurds in Syria’
10. We can’t remain spectators over Aleppo: Turkish PM
11. Kurds in Syria Celebrate Freedom in Street Party
12. Kurds in Syria ‘want to become semi-autonomous’
13. Kurdish Forces Kill Six Syrian Troops in Aleppo
14. Kurdish Syria: From cultural to armed revolution

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
15. The Arab Spring is Now the Kurdish Spring
16. Turkey’s uneasy friendships
17. By Ceding Northeastern Syria to the Kurds, Assad Puts Turkey in a Bind
18. Barzani’s Kurdish initiative in Syria takes Turkey by surprise
19. Attacking Kurdish militants in Syria: Dangerous adventure for Turkey
20. Turkey Edges Toward Syria Invasion, Iran Threatens Response
21. The Kurds Stir the Regional Pot
22. Crisis in Syria emboldens country’s Kurds
23. Syria’s Kurds Unite against Assad, but Not with Opposition
24. Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

STATEMENTS
25. KNK Statement: A full year has passed and still no news from Ocalan
26. PYD Statement: Call for support and protection of the peaceful establishment of the self-governed Syrian Kurdish region

BOOK REVIEWS
27. The Kurdish Quest of Countering Capitalism to build a Democratic Civilisation, by Felix Padel. Review of Abdullah Ocalan’s Prison Writings.

 

NEWS

1. Turkey’s military planes pound Kurdish rebels
2 August 2012 / AP
Turkish warplanes and attack helicopters pounded Kurdish rebel positions Thursday in a rugged southeast region, a clash that comes as Turkey grows increasingly concerned that Kurdish rebels may be trying to expand their reach by establishing bases in conflict-ridden Syria. Thursday’s fighting pitted Turkish troops against Kurdish rebels who were allegedly planning to seize the town of Semdinli. The town sits on a high plateau, about 14 kilometers (9 miles) north of the border with Iraq. It is located in an area where the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq converge.

2. Kurdish Guerrillas Take Over Military Posts around Şemdinli
2 August 2012 / ANF
Clashes between People’s Defense Forces (HPG) and Turkish army continue in the region of Şemzinan (Şemdinli) for the last ten days as more and more posts and military positions have been taken over by Kurdish guerrillas. The HPG activity in the area is called a ‘siege’ by the organization itself and a ‘state of war’ by the local community and authorities.  The Turkish army operation in the area is backed up by high technology war planes and artilleries to which HPG units respond with howitzers and heavy weapons. Goman, Gostê and Karker hills and Gediktepe in the clashes area have been taken and controlled by guerrillas who on the other hand have been launching continuous attacks on military posts on the borderline.

3. Press Freedom Day with 95 Journalists Behind Bars!
25 July 2012 / Bianet
A total of 95 journalists and 35 distributors have spent the  Press Freedom Day on July 24, which marks the publication of the first uncensored newspapers 104 years ago, behind bars in Turkey this year. Courts have also sentenced 24 people, including six journalists, to a total of 91 years, nine months and 18 days in prison, as well as to pay fines in the amount of 40,000 Turkish Liras during the same period in connection with charges stipulated in the country’s infamous Anti-Terror Law (TMK.) As of July 2011, some 68 journalists were residing in Turkey’s jails. Courts had handed out sentences totaling 44 years and eight months in prison, while prosecutors had demanded 223 years for the suspects. Journalists poured out onto the streets and flocked into courts to show their solidarity with their colleagues and oppose their plight.

4. VIDEO: The 8th Annual Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression.
June 9, 2012 / International Freedom of Expression Exchange

5. “Human Rights Defenders in Need of Support”
30 July 2012 / Bianet
Front Line Defenders (FLD) has launched a social media campaign entitled “Olympic Dreams” to raise international public awareness about 15 human rights defenders from different corners of the globe who were subjected to harassment, threats, repression, imprisonment and violence. The campaign calls upon all participants to roll into action for them and write a letter to the officials and the heads of the National Olympics Committees in the respective home countries of the 15 human rights defenders. Their names go as follows: Osman İşçi (Turkey,) Biram Dah Orud Abeid (Moritania,) Yacine Zaid (Algeria,) Roza Tuletaeva (Kazakhstan,) Ajimzan Askarov (Kyrgyzistan,) Gao Zhisheng (China,) Temogen Tulawie (Phillipines,) Juan Vasques (Honduras,) Marianela Sanchez Ortiz (Venezuela,) Alexandre Anderson de Souza (Brazil,) Kahsa Jacqueline Nabagesera (Uganda,) Magodonga Mahlangu (Zimbabwe,) Samar Badawi (Saudi Arabia,) Habiba El Hinai (Oman,) Kavita Srivastava (India.)

6. Court Relieves Kurdish Mayor of His Duties
1 August 2012 / Bianet
The Eigth Chamber of the Council of State ruled to relieve Mayor Selim Sadak of the southeastern province of Siirt of his duties in connection with a sentence he received on terrorism related charges. The Ministry of Interior had filed a suit in the Council of State for Mayor Sadak to be dismissed from his post after the Supreme Court of Appeals ratified a verdict by the Fifth High Criminal Court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır to sentence him to 10 months in prison. Authorities had filed the suit against Sadak on the charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” due to a speech he delivered in relation to the death of Fatma Saka, a militant of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who fell during a clash with security forces in the southeastern province of Şırnak in 2008, according to the Fırat news agency.

7. European Court of Human Rights Convicts Turkey of Torture
31 July 2012 / Bianet
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sentenced Turkey to pay a fine in the amount of 45,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damages to Tamer Taylan, a casino operator who was tortured by three police officers after they took him under custody on March 8, 2000 in the northwestern province of Bursa. Taylan filed the suit against Turkey on the grounds that the three officers had battered and cursed at him and tortured him with electricity. A high criminal court in Bursa then sentenced the officers to 10 months in prison but also suspended the sentence. Tanay finally brought his case before the ECHR and requested 100,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damages, after the Police Headquarters also announced they were not going to take disciplinary action against the officers.

8. Strong reactions against Kurdish name ban in Diyarbakır
24 July 2012 / ANF
Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Language and Education Commission released a written statement in Kurdish in response to the name ban imposed on Cegerxwin Cultural Center and 19 parks on the grounds of being Kurdish and consisting of letters borrowed from foreign languages. DTK commission called on the Turkish Parliament to make new legal amendments and to end assimilation policies in the soonest time. DTK evaluated the court ban as AKP government’s violating the laws and democratic steps it has introduced itself and underlined that these kind of bans and prohibitions will not end until the status of the Kurdish people is recognized by the constitution.

9. Turkey ‘willing to hunt down Kurds in Syria’
27 July 2012 / Morning Star
Turkey said today it would have no hesitation invading Syria’s north in its hunt to crush Kurdish separatists said to have taken control of five towns. In a televised statement Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Bashir al-Assad’s embattled regime of handing the north of its country over to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which he branded a “terrorist organisation.”  Mr Erdogan added ominously: “There will undoubtedly be a response on our part.”  His country has repeatedly deployed forces into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish guerillas, a policy which he promised would be extended to Syria.  “That’s not even a matter of discussion, it is a given,” he said.

10. We can’t remain spectators over Aleppo: Turkish PM
28 July 2012 / Kurdish Globe
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged international action in Syria, saying it was not possible “to remain a spectator” to the regime’s offensive on its second city Aleppo.  The Syrian regime has ramped up its pressure on the key northern hub over the last two days as world powers expressed fears of an all-out onslaught against rebel forces and civilians there.  Erdogan, speaking after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron at his Downing Street residence, urged joint action from the UN Security Council, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League.

11. Kurds in Syria Celebrate Freedom in Street Party
31 July 2012 / Rudaw
Tens of thousands of Kurds took to the street in Kurdish cities across Western Kurdistan on Sunday demanding the end of Bahsar Assad’s regime and freedom for Kurds in that country. The demonstrations were organized and led by Kurdish parties—the Kurdish National Council [KNC] and the Council of Western Kurdistan–united under the Erbil agreement of June 11. The Erbil agreement that was initiated by Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani brought together Kurdish factions who had different views to the revolution in Syria and ways to achieve Kurdish rights in that country. This is the first time such mass demonstrations by Kurds happen in Western Kurdistan. Demonstrators shouted slogans as:

12. Kurds in Syria ‘want to become semi-autonomous’
1 August 2012 / Somaliland Press
A prominent Mideast expert at the University of Michigan, Professor Juan Cole, has said the Syrian Kurds want semi-autonomy in Syria, but are not pursuing the idea of joining with Kurdistan in northern Iraq. “There is not a kind of pan-Kurdism going on here. This issue of Syrian Kurds being stateless is a very important background to their current activism. They have taken advantage of the political turmoil in Syria to press claims for semi-autonomy,” Cole, who was targeted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush because of his critical views on the Iraq War, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on July 30.

13. Kurdish Forces Kill Six Syrian Troops in Aleppo
27 July 2012 / Antiwar.com
Fighters from the Kurdish YPG faction have attacked and killed six Syrian soldiers today, saying it was “retaliation” for three Kurds killed in a previous attack, and promising further moves in the Syrian military does not stop targeting Kurds. The fighting reflects the ongoing struggle of Syria’s Kurdish minority to stay on the sidelines of the ongoing Syrian civil war and even establish themselves as a distinct third force outside of both rebel and regime. Longstanding acrimony between the Assad regime and the Kurds had many rebels assuming they could count on their support. The Arab nationalist sentiments of the rebels, along with the Turkish government’s involvement in propping them up, has left the Kurds suspicious of them as well.

14. Kurdish Syria: From cultural to armed revolution
28 July 2012 / Egypt Independent
The Kurdish rebellion in northeastern Syria intensified in fighting that erupted Saturday 22 July, as militias raising the slogan “Free Kurdistan” swarmed police stations and military outposts across the region. The rebels have been preparing and training with the support of Turkish members of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and Iraqi Kurdish fighters, according to Egypt Independent’s sources. In the town of Derik, militias from the People’s Defense Union, known as the YPG, appeared well-trained for the fighting — 150 fighters captured 30 Syrian army soldiers.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

15. The Arab Spring is Now the Kurdish Spring
28 July 2012 / Gatestone Institute
Turkey Wakes Up to a Nightmare of its Own Making: While there is a hint of hysteria in this column by Ertuğrul Özkök in Hürriyet, translated today by the Hürriyet Daily News staff, it is important both because what he says is to a large extent true, and because it suggests the way these developments are being received in Turkish nationalist circles. I reproduce the column in full: “Our Foreign Minister is reported to be “looking for a place for Bashar al-Assad. You know what, while he is looking for a place, let us, ourselves, look for a new place for Turkey. We may or may not support our country’s Syrian policy. That does not matter in the least. We are all aware of the picture in front us, aren’t we?” (…)

16. Turkey’s uneasy friendships
9 April 2012 / Hurriyet
Turkey is at the center of the “Syrian affair,” but there is no serious discussion on Syria for various reasons.  First of all, the Turkish media has always been rather indifferent to foreign affairs and particularly to Middle Eastern affairs. Most of the columnists who are eager to discuss the recent crisis in Syria are simply ignorant of Middle Eastern politics; that is why they are busy patting themselves on the back by discovering simple facts like the complexity of Syrian society and politics or by realizing the existence of the great alliance between Iran and Syria.

17. By Ceding Northeastern Syria to the Kurds, Assad Puts Turkey in a Bind
27 July 2012 / Time World
The retreat of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from parts of northeastern Syria along the Turkish border might have been welcomed by Turkey, a key supporter of the Syrian rebellion, except for one thing: The region is predominantly Kurdish, and Ankara fears the resulting power vacuum will be a major boon to its number one enemy, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) whose three-decade separatist insurgency has seen some 40,000 people killed. Until recently, Syria’s Kurds had been divided. A coalition of roughly a dozen Kurdish parties had tentatively backed the popular uprising against Assad, while the PKK’s Syrian ally, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), appeared to align itself with the Syrian regime, intimidating opposition activists and quashing popular protests.

18. Barzani’s Kurdish initiative in Syria takes Turkey by surprise
28 July 2012 / Hurriyet
Ankara was caught off guard when Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani began cooperating with Kurds in northern Syria who are affiliated with Kurdish militants in Turkey, according to an analyst. Turkey became uneasy after the coalition between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Barzani and the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD), which is close to the outlawed Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK), took control of several northern Syrian districts along Turkey’s southern border, Nuh Yılmaz of Istanbul’s Marmara University told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

19. Attacking Kurdish militants in Syria: Dangerous adventure for Turkey
27 July 2012 / Middle East Online
Turkey this week cranked up its already-heated rhetoric against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, saying it would not hesitate to go after PKK fighters, just as it has in northern Iraq. Analysts warn such a move would be dangerous for Turkey and further complicate Syria’s deadly conflict and the volatile regional situation. “If you implement a hot pursuit against the PKK militias in northern Syria, the government in Syria will react very differently from the Iraqi government,” Osman Bahadir Dincer of the Ankara-based USAK thinktank said.

20. Turkey Edges Toward Syria Invasion, Iran Threatens Response
31 July 2012 / The American Interest
The world is a couple of steps closer to a new Middle East war this morning. Even as the bloodshed in Syria gets worse and government gunships and artillery pound rebel controlled neighborhoods in the country’s largest city, Turkey is moving closer to striking Syria, and Iran is threatening to respond. Turkey has sent troops and missile batteries to its border with Syria as a precautionary measure, ratcheting up fears that the Syria’s mess may start spilling over its borders. Parts of the north of Syria are under Kurdish militia control, a fact that’s keeping Ankara up at night.

21. The Kurds Stir the Regional Pot
31 July 2012 / Middle East Online
While the world’s gaze is riveted on President Bashar al-Assad’s life-and-death struggle with his domestic and foreign enemies, the Kurds have seized the opportunity to boost their own political agenda. In a dramatic development, Kurdish forces have in recent days seized five Kurdish-majority towns in northern Syria, which lie in a strip of territory along the Turkish border. The Syrian Government has allowed them to do so by withdrawing its troops. These events have aroused ancient fears in Turkey and Iraq, as well as quiet jubilation in Israel, which has long had a semi-clandestine relationship with the Kurds, and welcomes any development which might weaken or dismember Syria.

22. Crisis in Syria emboldens country’s Kurds
28 July 2012 / BBC News
What is happening in Syria cannot be taken in isolation. The protracted upheaval in one of the Middle East’s biggest, most powerful and most influential countries is affecting the entire region and, most critically, its immediate neighbours. Like Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon Turkey has already absorbed – almost without hesitation – thousands of Syrians fleeing the fighting, in particular from the northern cities of Hama and Aleppo. Turkey is understandably concerned that the number of civilians fleeing across its relatively open southern border will increase as the fighting intensifies in Syria.

23. Syria’s Kurds Unite against Assad, but Not with Opposition
31 July 2012 / The Washington Institute
A sudden political shift among Syria’s three million Kurds, who now control much of the country’s border with Turkey, provides an opportunity for the United States to better coordinate its policy with regional allies and to encourage the Syrian opposition to respect minority rights. While world attention focuses on bombings and clashes in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s Kurds buried their internal differences in mid-July, with Iraqi Kurdish help and Turkey’s blessing, and then promptly kicked Syrian regime forces out of their territory. This is a major blow to the regime, potentially clearing the northern approaches to Aleppo for opposition forces. But Kurdish relations with the rest of the Syrian opposition remain a deeply divisive issue.

24. Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy
29 July 2012 / The Independent
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I’m not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I’m referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

STATEMENTS

25. KNK Statement: A full year has passed and still no news from Ocalan, 26 July 2012.

26. PYD Statement: Call for support and protection of the peaceful establishment of the self-governed Syrian Kurdish region, 1 August 2012. 

BOOK REVIEWS

27. The Kurdish Quest of Countering Capitalism to build a Democratic Civilisation, by Felix Padel. Review of Abdullah Ocalan’s Prison Writings.

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