Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 14 – 20 September 2012

NEWS
1. Press Freedom Associations Call for Journalists’ Release
2. Turkish PM Calls for End to BDP Immunity
3. New sentence against Tuncel MP
4. CHP publicizes Oslo protocol between PKK and government
5. Protests and Controversy Shadow KCK Press Case
6. Karayılan: AKP government should hold referendum on autonomy
7. 500 Kurdish rebels killed or captured in past month, says Turkish PM
8. New Statistics Reveal the Size of Turkey’s Kurdish Population
9. Turkey border gate marks key gain for Syria rebels: experts
10.  136 years for 6 Kurdish political activists
11. Eight people detained in connection with Roj TV funds
12. Public meeting condemns show trials in Turkey and plans action
13. ‘These latest trials are very worrying to friends of Turkey’: UK government minister

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
14. Turkey would rather jail journalists than address the Kurdish question
15. Turkey: Will Kurdish Rights Be Hurt by a Hug?
16. The Love Affair with Erdogan
17. Kurds OK with federalism for now: BDP
18. Turkey: Solving the PKK Puzzle
19. Erdoğan tells media not to cover Kurdish conflict
20. Turkey’s Syrian Misadventure
21. VIDEO: Uneasy Balance: Weighing Turkish, Syrian, and Kurdish Interests
22. The Kurds: A Historic Opportunity?

REPORTS
23. Al Jazeera Centre for Studies: Iraqi Kurdistan & the Syrian-Kurd Pursuit of Autonomy.

 

NEWS

1. Press Freedom Associations Call for Journalists’ Release
13 September 2012 / Bianet
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement calling for the release of 36 journalists arrested pending trial in the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) probe. “This mass trial recalls darker times that we had hoped were a thing of the past,” the RSF said. Some 44 journalists are currently standing trial in connection with terrorism related charges in the KCK probe.36 of them are under arrest pending trial. “Despite all the promises and some marginal improvements, the judicial system is persisting with the serious abuses that we have been condemning for years – criminalization of critical and activist journalism, articles treated as acts of terrorism and systemmatic abuses of the anti-terrorism law and pre-trial detention,” the statement said. The RSF called for the release of all reporters who remain under arrest in relation to their journalistic activities and demanded a fair trial for them.

2. Turkish PM Calls for End to BDP Immunity
14 September 2012 / Voice of America
The immunity of nine parliamentary members in Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) is under threat, following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning he will do whatever is necessary to facilitate their prosecution. The deputies are under investigation after TV images were broadcast of them embracing Kurdish rebels, who stopped the convoy they were traveling in.  But BDP deputy Ertugrul Kurkcu says hugging is not a matter for prosecution. “They talked to us and we talked to them and they gave us a hug what can we do? We reacted like a civilized person maybe some of us had more smiling faces than others. But this is not a matter for the judiciary,” said Kurkcu.

3. New sentence against Tuncel MP
18 September 2012 / ANF
BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) Istanbul deputy, Sebahat Tuncel, has been sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison by an İstanbul court on charges of membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The court has also issued an international travel ban for the deputy. Sebahat Tuncel was jailed for membership of the PKK and was released after being elected as a deputy for Parliament in 2007.

4. CHP publicizes Oslo protocol between PKK and government
18 September 2012 / Todays Zaman
Haluk Koç, the deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has made public the text of the protocol allegedly signed by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and representatives of the Turkish Government at the negotiations in Oslo. England, in the capacity of an arbitrator country, signed the text in the name of the two parties, Koç said. According to the text the two sides agreed upon, military operations and terrorist activities would be stopped by both sides; committees would be set up to find a solution to the Kurdish problem; two persons would visit Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the terrorist organization, on behalf of the PKK; politicians arrested in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) investigation — the KCK being an umbrella organization that includes the PKK — following Newruz of 2011 would be released; and negotiations would be restarted after the general elections of June 12.

5. Protests and Controversy Shadow KCK Press Case
15 September 2012 / Journal of Turkish Weekly
The mass trial of 44 journalists, newspaper staff and distributors in the scope of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case opened in Istanbul this week amid concerns of journalists groups and human rights advocates that the trials are politically motivated to silence opposition press. The suspects, 36 of whom have been under arrest for more than a year, are accused of working for the “press and distribution network” of the outlawed KCK, the alleged Kurdish umbrella organisation that includes the PKK. An indictment more than 800 pages accuses all the major Kurdish media organs and news agencies of being under the direct orders of KCK. Journalists, editors, accountants and distributers are accused of “being a member of a [terrorist] organisation,” among other things.

6. Karayılan: AKP government should hold referendum on autonomy
17 September 2012 / ANF
In an interview with ANF about the recent developments in Turkey, Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council president Murat Karayılan called on the ruling AKP government to hold a referendum on democratic autonomy under the supervision of international observers so that the people themselves could be asked about what they want.  Karayılan remarked that the denial of any contact with PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) leader Abdullah Öcalan is a cause of concern and evaluated this approach as very dangerous. Karayılan warned that the Turkish government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be responsible for any potential negative consequences. KCK leader urged immediate end to the “severe isolation circumstances Öcalan has been subjected to”.

7. 500 Kurdish rebels killed or captured in past month, says Turkish PM
17 September 2012 / Guardian
Turkish security forces have killed or captured almost 500 Kurdish rebels in the past month, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said. Erdogan said military offensives against the Kurdistan Workers’ party, or PKK, would end only after the rebels laid down arms. The group is fighting for self-rule in the Kurdish-dominated south-east of Turkey. An upsurge in violence between government forces and the PKK has dimmed hopes of a resolution to the conflict, which has killed tens of thousands since 1984. In the latest violence, suspected Kurdish rebels detonated a roadside bomb in eastern Turkey on Sunday, killing eight police officers.

8. New Statistics Reveal the Size of Turkey’s Kurdish Population
20 September 2012 / Rudaw
The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) recently published the birth records of Kurdish citizens in Turkey. According to these records, there are 22,691,824 Kurds in Turkey, mostly born in Kurdish cities in the southeast of the country. Therefore, out of Turkey’s 74.7 million citizens, more than 30 percent are Kurds. These records only include people who have been registered at official government institutions. After the founding of the Turkish Republic, the first census was carried out in 1927. According to that census, the Turkish population was 13,464,564. At that time, Serhat was the most populous Kurdish city with 38,000 residents. The second most populous city was Dilok.

9. Turkey border gate marks key gain for Syria rebels: experts
20 September 2012 / The Daily Star

Rebels are consolidating potentially strategic territorial gains in northern Syria, having seized yet another border crossing into Turkey from already stretched regime forces, experts say. But as they do so, they are heightening tensions with local Syrian Kurdish militia, who are suspected of collaborating with the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad and with whom they have already clashed. On Wednesday, after two days of fighting, rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) seized the Tal al-Abyad border crossing. That would give them control of as many as four of the seven posts in the north.

10.  136 years for 6 Kurdish political activists
20 September 2012 / Roj Helat
The Iranian Revolution Court has handed 136 years imprisonment on 6 Kurdish political activists based in Sine (Sanadanj) and Meriwan cities. The Islamic Revolution Court in Sine handed 120 years sentences on 4 Kurdish political activists for their alleged affiliation with the Kurdish political organisations. Eyub Esedi was sentenced to 20 years, Chengiz Qedemxer to 40 years, Fexre Fereci to 30 years and Mihemmed Husen to 30 years, the report said. The Islamic Revolution Court in Meriwan has also sentenced Kawe Fereci and Kawe Muradi, two political activists who have been held incommunicado for the last year, to 8 years each.

11. Eight people detained in connection with Roj TV funds
19 September 2012 / ANF
Eight Kurdish people were taken into custody in Denmark accused of funding ROJ TV. Detentions followed simultaneous raids in a number of houses early on Monday morning. Among the eight detainees are also members of People’s Assembly in Denmark. Detainees are expected to appear in court on Wednesday. Speaking about the detentions, police inspector Jens Moeller Jensen stated that they wanted the trial to take place behind closed doors and added that the investigation could go beyond Denmark.

12. Public meeting condemns show trials in Turkey and plans action
20 September 2012 / The Spark
A well attended meeting in London sponsored by the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers held on 18 September condemned the recent trials of lawyers and journalists in Turkey and decided to set up a co-coordinating group to build a stronger solidarity campaign. I joined a panel of speakers including Margaret Owen, barrister and member of the Bar Human Rights Committee, Ali Has solicitor, who attended the lawyers’ trial in Turkey in July and Tony Simpson, a member of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and editor of ‘The Spokesman’. The meeting was chaired by Professor Bill Bowing from Birbeck College and President of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights. What follows is my speech to the meeting.

13. ‘These latest trials are very worrying to friends of Turkey’: UK government minister
19 September 2012 / Kurdistan Tribune
“If lawyers can’t do their job for fear of arrest, that’s a country with no democracy or rule of law and a pariah among the nations of the world”. Human rights barrister Margaret Owen OBE last night addressed a well-attended London meeting of British lawyers and others opposed to Turkey’s mass political show trials. The trial of 36 lawyers – illegal under Turkey’s 1961 Lawyers Act – is one of a series of prosecutions of Kurdish political and human rights activists, trade unionists, students, journalists and legal representatives accused of involvement with the umbrella Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and, thereby, of ‘terrorist offences’.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

14. Turkey would rather jail journalists than address the Kurdish question
14 September 2012 / Guardian
Turkey has put 44 Kurdish journalists on trial this week in what Reporters without Borders called the “criminalisation of critical and activist journalism”. They are among about 100 Kurdish journalists who face lengthy jail terms on various terrorism charges, including accusations that they have supported the KCK – an illegal pan-Kurdish movement that includes the armed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). While the crackdown on the press has escalated in recent years under the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has always had a chronic problem with tolerating a free press. From 1959 to 2011, out of 479 cases brought to the European court of human rights under freedom of expression, 207 originated from Turkey.

15. Turkey: Will Kurdish Rights Be Hurt by a Hug?
13 September 2012 / Eurasianet
A government-backed campaign to strip nine Kurdish MPs of their immunity from prosecution could take Turkey back to the future in its decades-long conflict over Kurdish rights. In the 1990s, fighting between the Turkish army and Kurdish rebels in the country’s southeast claimed over 40,000 lives, and led to the displacement or imprisonment of thousands of citizens. Now, amid the worst violence in more than a decade, many observers fear that ethnic Kurds’ rights may again be sharply curtailed in the interest of national security.  Pressure to lift the Kurdish MPs’ immunity has been building since the group was filmed in late August embracing alleged fighters from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the fighters stopped the deputies’ convoy on a road in the southeastern Hakkari region.

16. The Love Affair with Erdogan (Part 1)
4 September 2012 / Jadaliyya
Since his election to the helm of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2003, but even more so following the party’s reelections in 2007 and 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has played the darling of the proverbial international community. Gradually relinquishing their fear of an Islamist agenda, European and North American governments and think tanks made Erdoğan the linchpin of a “modern” Middle East. He became the embodiment of a benign Islam embedded in the kind of secular, democratic, and neoliberal economic structures the  “West” yearned to see modeled in the rest of the Middle East. His wife wore a headscarf, yet he spoke the language of democracy and rights. He commanded a powerful army advancing the geopolitical interests of NATO, but promised to curb its extraordinary domestic political power and mitigate the draconian secularism that many found increasingly oppressive.
Read The Love Affair with Erdogan (Part 2)

17. Kurds OK with federalism for now: BDP
18 September 2012 / Hurriyet
While Kurds in the Middle East deserve to run an independent Kurdish state they would rather opt to live within their existing borders under a federal or autonomous model for a number of reasons, a leading Kurdish politician has said. Co-chairperson of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtaş also described the Kurdish people as among the most important power players in the region and a group that Turkey should better align itself with.  “Kurds will never accept living under the direct rule of a specific country or nation. Their will to establish an independent state and [to draw] their own borders is perhaps not very strong at this time.”

18. Turkey: Solving the PKK Puzzle
16 September 2012 / Eurasianet
As the Kurdish issue in Turkey continues to heat up, both politically and militarily, the question of how Ankara should deal with the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) becomes one that’s both more urgent yet also harder to answer. In a new report released last week, the International Crisis Group steps into the breach, urging both the Turkish government and the PKK to step back from further confrontation and providing some very sensible suggestions that provide a way towards finding settling the long-standing Kurdish conflict in Turkey.

19. Erdoğan tells media not to cover Kurdish conflict
12 September 2012 / Committee to Protect Journalists
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey is known to lash out publicly at journalists of whose coverage he disapproves. He has called on media owners and editors to discipline reporters and columnists critical of his policies, particularly when it comes to the sensitive Kurdish issue. In more than a few cases, to avoid trouble, newsroom managers have listened and dismissed the staffers in question. But Erdoğan’s most recent televised “message to all the media” crosses from reprimanding into directly instructing journalists to stop covering the long-standing conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This is unthinkable.

20. Turkey’s Syrian Misadventure
15 September 2012 / Palestine Chronicles
Turkey’s intervention in Syria has been an act of unprecedented folly. Not since the republic was established in 1923 – not even when the military was in charge – has a Turkish government sought ‘regime change’ in another country.  In sponsoring armed groups seeking to destroy the Syrian government, the collective calling itself ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’ appears to be committing serious violations of international law. While the focus has to remain on the prime victims of their intervention, the Syrian people,  it is also the case that  more than a year later the policy has not worked for Turkey and is blowing up in the face of its architects, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

21. VIDEO: Uneasy Balance: Weighing Turkish, Syrian, and Kurdish Interests
10 September 2012/ Foundation for Defence of Democracies
Since July, Syria’s rebels have taken the battle to the Assad regime in the country’s largest two cities, Damascus and Aleppo. While the regime has been able to counter the offensive in Damascus, the situation in Aleppo has proved far more difficult resulting in a stalemate. To fight these battles, the regime has concentrated its limited forces by drawing manpower from elsewhere in the country. This has led to a situation where much of northern Syria has fallen out of the control of the regime. 

22. The Kurds: A Historic Opportunity?
13 September 2012 / World Policy Institute
With the political and ethnic fractures following the Arab Awakening, the historic dream for Kurdish nationhood is reemerging. In war-torn Syria, the Kurdish quest for autonomy has become a central goal of the conflict. Since July 2012, Syria’s armed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has taken over some of the country’s northeast, annexing the municipal offices in Afrin and Korbani in Aleppo Province in the north and Amude and Deirik in the east. The independent Kurdish flag now flies in these Kurdish towns. Having taken over government buildings and infrastructure, the heavily armed PYD is reportedly providing security to the inhabitants of the Syrian northeast. At the same time, this militia is also fighting the anti-Assad opposition rebels, who are alarmed by the rapid Kurdish rise over the past three months. PYD’s success brings the Syrian Kurds one step closer to gaining a long-desired constitutional autonomy when peace finally reins in the country.

REPORTS

23. Al Jazeera Centre for Studies: Iraqi Kurdistan & the Syrian-Kurd Pursuit of Autonomy. 20 September 2012.

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