Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 7 – 13 September 2012

NEWS
1. Turkey court tries 44 pro-Kurd journalists in biggest media case
2. Keskin, Peache in press conference in front of court
3. Dozens of Kurdish journalists face terrorism charges in Turkey
4. Judge Censures Defense Lawyers’ Pleas in Press Suit
5. Journalists tied mouth with black band in protest
6. Fourteen Eğitim Sen members arrested in Diyarbakır
7. Woman prisoner in death fast for Öcalan
8. “The Government Has Taken Over the Judiciary and Parliament”
9. CHP Objects to Resolution on Kurds
10. Diversion of Tigris river completed, construction of actual dam starting
11. General Staff: 88 Troops, 373 PKK Militants Die in 2012
12. Turkey ramps up war threats against Syria
13. News briefing from the PYD Foreign Affairs Office
14. Plans to Unite Kurdish Armed Forces in Syria
15. Demands for referendum on self-determination in East Kurdistan
16. VIDEO: 80 policemen injured, 31 detained in Kurdish festival clashes
17. PiK hosts a public meeting in response to KCK trials

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
18. The Kurdish Factor
19. Turkey’s War Against the Power of the Pen
20. From Tansu Ciller to Tayyip Erdogan
21. Turkey’s economy runs out of steam
22. Democratic Janissaries? Turkey’s Role in the Arab Spring
23. Rape, abortion and the fight for women’s rights in Turkey
24. PKK policies in Syria

STATEMENTS
25. Doğan Özgüden: “A shameful press trial for Turkey as for Europe!
26. Reporters Without Borders statement: Authorities asked to stop criminalizing journalism as trial of 36 detained pro-Kurdish journalists gets under way
27. YEK-KOM Press Release:
Dialogue not violence: Lift the PKK ban now

REPORTS
28. International Crisis Group Europe Report No. 219: Turkey: The PKK and a Kurdish Settlement.

ACTIONS
29. Appeal to delegates at the TUC Congress 2012, by Kurdistan National Congress, Kurdish Federation and Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

 

NEWS

1. Turkey court tries 44 pro-Kurd journalists in biggest media case
10 September 2012 / Reuters
Forty-four pro-Kurdish journalists went on trial in Turkey on Monday, charged with belonging to an armed rebellion in the country’s largest media case, intensifying concerns about press and political freedoms. Thousands of pro-Kurdish trade unionists, politicians, academics and journalists have been jailed since 2009, accused of links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 28-year campaign against Turkey. “The clampdown on the Kurdish press … raises major concerns about the treatment of minorities and minority opinion,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

2. Keskin, Peache in press conference in front of court
10 September 2012 / ANF
In a press conference in front of the Çağlayan Court in Istanbul, chief editor of Özgür Gündem newspaper Eren Keskin said that the repression against the Kurdish press has been the symbol of the repression against the freedom of thought in Turkey. Referring to the bombing events and journalist killings that the Kurdish press has faced so far, Keskin noted that; “Today also, they force us to make a choice between death and imprisonment.”  Keskin’s statement was followed by that of UN law expert and former Parliamentarian and journalist Norman Peache who, speaking on behalf of the German delegation in Istanbul to follow the trial, voiced deep concerns over the recent developments in Turkey and pointed to the removal of the principle of separation of powers in the country.

3. Dozens of Kurdish journalists face terrorism charges in Turkey
11 September 2012 / Guardian
The biggest media trial in Turkey’s history has begun in what human rights groups say is an attempt by the government to intimidate the press and punish pro-Kurdish activists. A total of 44 Kurdish journalists appeared in court in Istanbul on various terrorism charges, including accusations that they have supported the KCK, an illegal pan-Kurdish movement that includes the PKK, the armed Kurdistan Workers’ party. Of those, 36 have been in pre-trial detention since December. The hearing was delayed after the defendants made an attempt to defend themselves in Kurdish, their mother language, a request denied by the judge. Twelve of the defendants are said to have led a terrorist organisation and 32 are accused of being members of a terrorist organisation. Prosecutors have demanded prison sentences ranging from seven and a half to 22 and a half years.

4. Judge Censures Defense Lawyers’ Pleas in Press Suit
12 September 2012 / Bianet
The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trialof 44 journalists kicked off on Monday at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court in an electric atmosphere with Chief Justice Ali Alçık and defense lawyers exchanging angry words, while the judge also refused to enter the defense lawyers’ pleas into the court records on Tuesday and filed a complaint against the court audience who applauded him in protest of his refusal to allow lawyers to speak. Judge Alçık announced a recess even before the trial began during the first hearing on Monday following a spat with the defense lawyers. He also demanded that the audience leave the courtroom, but the suspects’ families and others observing the trial refused to comply with his request. The court accepted the defendants’ response “Ez li virim” (“I am here” in Kurdish) during the initial roll call.

5. Journalists tied mouth with black band in protest
12 September 2012 / ANF
The third day of the trial against 44 Kurdish journalists (36 have been in detention since December 2011) has witnessed loud protests as lawyers left the hearing room and journalists tied their mouths with black band to condemn the court board’s denial to self-defense in the Kurdish language. The court board adjourned the trial to 12 November and ordered the next hearings to be held at the Silivri Court in Istanbul. The detention of journalists will be evaluated after taking the prosecutor’s opinion on their situation. The court board also rejected the request by lawyer Ümit Sisligün to be part of the defense on the grounds of his being tried in the scope of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) case against lawyers.

6. Fourteen Eğitim Sen members arrested in Diyarbakır
11 September 2012 / ANF
Nine members of education union Eğitim-Sen were taken into custody on Tuesday as a result of police attack on a group of union members staging a protest against the recently approved 4+4+4 law on national education. Speaking before the police intervention in the protest march of unionists, Eğitim-Sen Diyarbakır branch chair Kasım Birtek said that protest demonstrations aren’t allowed in Diyarbakır and asked “Is there a special law in Diyarbakır and for Kurds?”. The police attack against the group ended up with the detention of nine unionists including Birtek himself and Branch Secretary Ramazan Kaval.

7. Woman prisoner in death fast for Öcalan
07 September 2012 / ANF
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) prisoner Gönül Erdoğan started a hunger strike to demand an end to the isolation of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan. Erdoğan is in Bakırköy Women’s Prison and said she would not give up her act until Öcalan is provided with the right to self-defense, healthcare and freedom. Striker Erdoğan said the followings in the Kurdish petition she sent to the Ministry of Justice about her action which she reportedly started on 1 September World Peace Day: “The inhuman treatment Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan has been subjected to for the last 13 years and the aggravated isolation he and his other five prison-mates are subjected to for the last one year, as well as the denial of meetings with his family and lawyers constitute an obstacle to the resolution of the Kurdish problem and an end of the war in the country…”

8. “The Government Has Taken Over the Judiciary and Parliament”
8 September 2012 / Bianet
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent comments on the encounter between BDP members and militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Aug. 17 demonstrated how far the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had gone to concentrate all the power in their own hands. “We spoke to the judiciary. They have initiated the relevant procedures. We are also going to follow this through in Parliament,” Prime Minister Erdoğan said in relation to the encounter between PKK members and BDP deputies in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Aug. 17, once more raising the specter of abolishing the parliamentary immunities of BDP members. Those comments constitute the gravest profanity against the independence of the judiciary, according to Ertuğrul Kürkçü, a BDP deputy from the southern province of Mersin. “These remarks by Erdoğan are striking words that illustrate how far the government has gone with respect to the separation of powers in Turkey, the independence of the judiciary and to construe a dictatorship, independently of what [they] want to do to the BDP,” Kürkçü said.

9. CHP Objects to Resolution on Kurds
11 September 2012 / Journal of Turkish Weekly
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has publicly registered its reservations with a Socialist International (SI) resolution that recommended creating a special working group on the Kurdish question, noting that the platform had originally only agreed to form a committee on the matter. The CHP conveyed its reservations and its objections to the General Assembly, the president and the secretary-general of the SI, CHP Deputy Chair Umut Oran said yesterday in a written statement.  “The Congress of the Socialist International has decided to re-establish a Special Working Group on the Kurdish Question with the aim to advance and protect the rights, the security and the improvement of the living conditions of the Kurdish people in accordance with international law,” SI said in its resolution adopted at its 24th Congress held in Cape Town between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

10. Diversion of Tigris river completed, construction of actual dam starting
13 September 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
A new construction phase was celebrated at the Ilisu dam site with a big ceremony last week: The Tigris river has been diverted at the construction site now flowing through three big tunnels. This diversion will be maintained for several years. Now the construction of the actual dam in the dry river bed begins. The Turkish Minister of the Environment Veysel Eroglu called the Ilisu dam an “important strategic and economic project”.  He stated that the project will be finished in summer 2014. After that it will take one more year to flood the reservoir.

11. General Staff: 88 Troops, 373 PKK Militants Die in 2012
13 September 2012 / Bianet
The Turkish General Staff announced that 373 militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had died as a consequence of military operations during the past six months, while 88 troops had also lost their lives in the last nine months, 54 of them being professional military personnel. The General Staff said the announcement was a response to claims that appeared in the media which suggested that the losses were due to inadequate intelligence, unpreparedness, late arrival of reinforcements in outposts that came under attack and lack of sufficient military training. Such claims lead to the misinformation of the public, the military’s announcement said. Allegations that the troops who lost their lives were mainly draftees with limited training are untrue, as 54 of the 88 troops who died as of Sept. 6, 2012 were professionals, according to the General Staff.

12. Turkey ramps up war threats against Syria
11 September 2012 / World Socialist Website
Turkey has dramatically escalated its war rhetoric against Syria, placing itself at the forefront of any military intervention to depose the regime of Bashar al-Assad. On September 4, at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Syria as a “terrorist state.” He complained that the “massacres in Syria” had gained strength “from the international community’s indifference… The regime in Syria has now become a terrorist state. We do not have the luxury to be indifferent to what is happening there.”

13. News briefing from the PYD Foreign Affairs Office
11 September 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
The People’s Council of Western Kurdistan condemning the brutal massacre in Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood, Kurdish populated area in Aleppo. The People’s council of Western Kurdistan condemned the massacre on 6 September 2012 committed by Syrian brutal air craft bombardment and shelling the Kurdish populated Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood in Aleppo targeting civilians Kurdish people resulting in killings of 21 civilians and more than 45 civilians wounded, among them children and women most of the victims were from Afrin, where the victims were buried in a mass demonstration condemning the killings and chanted to protect the Kurdish region from the violence.

14. Plans to Unite Kurdish Armed Forces in Syria
12 September 2012 / Rudaw
The Kurdish Supreme Council in Syria is planning to establish a military force that would include armed groups from all parties in Syrian Kurdistan. The move follows an announcement by some deserters of President Bashar al-Assad’s army of the creation of a force known as the Syrian National Army (SNA). The SNA has apparently called on Kurds to join them. “We are trying to establish an army for Syrian Kurdistan and are seriously working toward that end,” said Ismael Hama, a member of the Kurdish Supreme Council. The Supreme Council was formed in July after an agreement between various Syrian Kurdish groups was made in Erbil. The dominant force in Syrian Kurdistan is now the Democratic Union Party (PYD) who politically and militarily controls the Kurdish areas which Assad’s forces have retreated from to fight rebels in Aleppo and other areas of Syria’s Sunni Arab heartland.

15. Demands for referendum on self-determination in East Kurdistan
10 September 2012 / Roj Helat
A group of Kurdish academics, artists, journalists and civil activists have declared in a statement that they demand a referendum to be implemented in East Kurdistan to decide the future administration of Kurdish people in this part of Kurdistan. In response to the antagonistic statement of the Iranian opposition group against the agreement reached by two Kurdish political parties to launch a unified front, a number of Kurdish academics, journalists and activists demand a referendum to be conducted in East Kurdistan on self-determination of the Kurds.

16. VIDEO: 80 policemen injured, 31 detained in Kurdish festival clashes
10 September 2012 / Russia Today
At least eighty police officers sustained injuries after violence erupted during a Kurdish cultural festival in the southwest Germany city of Mannheim. More than 30 people were arrested.  The clashes were sparked after the police intervened in an argument between organizes and a 14-year-old teenager who tried to sneak into the event with the flag of a banned Kurdish organization. The situation spun out of control when Kurdish festival-goers started throwing bottles of water, stones, and other objects at security guards, who had been specifically hired to keep order during the event.  About 2,500 Kurds were in an hours-long stand-off with 600 police officers, German Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported.

17. PiK hosts a public meeting in response to KCK trials
11 September 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
The Peace in Kurdistan Campaign is holding a free public meeting next week about the KCK trials, to highlight the connections between the various mass trials of Kurds that have been taking place in Turkey over the last two years. The event will feature contributions from recent international observers of these hearings, such as Margaret Owen OBE; Ali Has, solicitor; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and Barry White, NUJ and EFJ. The title of the event is Mass political show trials in Turkey.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

18. The Kurdish Factor
10 September 2012 / The Weekly Standard
If Syria is a testing ground for the larger struggle of the American-led order in the Middle East against the Iranian-led resistance bloc, it’s also an example of the importance of the Kurds. An ethnic community with almost 30 million people spread across the Middle East—most densely in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria—the Kurds have become a major player in this larger struggle, with regional powers, like Turkey, Iran and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, courting various Kurdish parties and figures in order to advance their own interests.

19. Turkey’s War Against the Power of the Pen
10 September 2012 / Alliance for Kurdish Rights
The headlines out of Turkey today are dramatic. In what Reuters has called the “Biggest Media Case” ever in Turkey, 44 pro-Kurdish (whatever that means) journalists are on trial for charges of terrorism. Enough journalists are on trial today to create a moderately sized news agency of their own. In fact, the news agencies DIHA News, Özgür Gündem paper and Fırat News Agency were specifically targeted, although the journalists come from a broad range of liberal and Kurdish independent media.

20. From Tansu Ciller to Tayyip Erdogan
10 September 2012 / Kurdish Matters
Today, the biggest court case against journalists in the history of the Turkish republic starts. No less than 44 Kurdish journalists are being tried for ‘membership of an illegal organisation’, namely the KCK, the Union of Communities in Kurdistan. To cut it short: they are not members of any group, there is no proof against them whatsoever, the indictments are full of nonsense. They are being put on trial just because of their writing about the Kurdish issue. The journalists were taken into custody on 20 December last year. Nine of them were released, but 35 have been in jail ever since without any charges being laid against them. Most of them work for Kurdish news agency DIHA (Dicle Haber Ajans), some write for daily papers Özgür Gündem and Kurdish language Azadiya Welat, some work for the company which distributes these media.

21. Turkey’s economy runs out of steam
10 September 2012 / Financial Times
Surveying rows of gleaming, unsold cars in his Ankara showroom, Ersan believes the Turkish economy is running low on fuel. His sales are down 10 to 15 per cent on last year – reflecting trends in the country rather than his ability to close a deal. Turkey’s economy grew by just 2.9 per cent in the second quarter compared with a year before, data released on Monday revealed – a marked contrast with growth rates of more than 8 per cent in both 2010 and 2011.   High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article.  “In our showrooms you will see lots of people who look as if they are going to buy, but they only pass through and leave,” says Ersan, who has experience of many such disappointments. After the recent years of economic boom, many customers have already traded up their cars and increased their debts, he surmises.

22. Democratic Janissaries? Turkey’s Role in the Arab Spring
July – August 2012 /New Left Review
The political upheavals of the Arab Spring and electoral victories of Islamist parties have brought a resurgence of talk about the ‘Turkish model’—a template that ‘effectively integrates Islam, democracy and vibrant economics’, according to a gushing New York Times article last year, which hailed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as ‘perhaps the Middle East’s most influential figure’. White House officials stressed the positive example that Turkey could play, as a Muslim country that maintained diplomatic relations with Israel; in 2009 Obama hailed the Justice and Development Party (akp) government as a ‘model partner’ and pillar of the nato order on a much-trumpeted visit to Ankara. The International Crisis Group describes Turkey as ‘the envy of the Arab world’, delighting in ‘a robust democracy, a genuinely elected leader who seems to speak for the popular mood, products that are popular from Afghanistan to Morocco—including dozens of sitcoms dubbed into Arabic that are on tv sets everywhere—and an economy that is worth about half of the whole Arab world put together’.
The article as also available as a pdf.

23. Rape, abortion and the fight for women’s rights in Turkey
9 September 2012 / Guardian
In Turkey, outside big cities, social life concentrates on coffee houses, that is, if you are a man. This week, the customers of a coffee house in a village in the Mediterranean region saw a young woman carrying a bloody sack. Inside was a severed head. She hurled the sack towards them and said: “I saved my honour. Do not talk behind my back any more.” The woman was 26-year-old Nevin Yildirim, a mother of two. Her husband had been away working at a seasonal job in another town. In his absence Nurettin Gider, aged 35 and a father of two, had raped her repeatedly, taken photos of her naked, and blackmailed her. She had become pregnant. He had been boasting about his visits to her house to his drinking buddies, and there were people in the village who knew what was going on.

24. PKK policies in Syria
11 September 2012 / Kurdistan Tribune
“A Kurdish youth kissed my hands when he saw pictures of Murat Karayilan in my camera,” a photojournalist told me in Hawler last week. We’d last met, two years ago, with the PKK’s acting leader Murat Karayilan in the Qandil Mountains. The photojournalist had recently been to Kurdistan of Syria.  The next day, I went back to the Qandil Mountains and met several PKK politicians who were very much aware of the situation and latest developments in Syria. Since Syria’s Revolution began, many journalists and analysts have discussed and often distorted the PKK’s stance and politics on Syria. And many people have been influenced by the Turkish media’s allegations. Some Kurdish journalists and even politicians in the Kurdistan region of Iraq have misunderstood the PKK’s Syrian policies.

STATEMENTS

25. Doğan Özgüden: “A shameful press trial for Turkey as for Europe!, 9 September 2012.

26. Reporters Without Borders statement: Authorities asked to stop criminalizing journalism as trial of 36 detained pro-Kurdish journalists gets under way, 10 September 2012.

27. YEK-KOM Press Release: Dialogue not violence: Lift the PKK ban now, 9 September 2012.

REPORTS

28. International Crisis Group Europe Report No. 219: Turkey: The PKK and a Kurdish Settlement. 11 September 2012.

ACTIONS

29. Appeal to delegates at the TUC Congress 2012, by Kurdistan National Congress, Kurdish Federation and Peace in Kurdistan Campaign. 11 September 2012.

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