Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 2 – 8 November 2012

NEWS
1. Turkish PM Calls Hunger Strike by Kurdish Prisoners a “Show”
2. MPs, academics and many more sign PiK open letter to Erdogan
3. MEP writes about hunger strike
4. Swoboda asks Erdogan to recognize the demands of the Kurdish hunger strikers
5. Turkey to allow Kurdish in court as hunger strike enters day 56
6. Turkey offers concession to Kurds
7. Around 100 students taken into custody in Denizli
8. CPT: It’s Ocalan’s fundamental right to meet his lawyers
9. IHD: 26939 rights violations in first nine months
10. Turkish police fire tear gas at hunger strike supporters (PHOTOS)
11. Turkey in cross-border raid on Kurd militants in northern Iraq
12. Özgür Gündem appeal for jailed journalists
13. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
14. NUJ calls on Turkish consulate to demand release of jailed journalists
15. Turkish FM to meet EU officials in Brussels
16. Fighting between Arab and Kurds raises spectre of escalating conflict in northern Syria
17. Turkey preparing major Kurdistan oil entry
18. Kurds Reject Maliki’s Demand For Control of Peshmerga Militia
19. A present to Erdogan: Switzerland extradites Kurdish activist
20. Pardon in sight for shoe-throwing Kurd

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
21. Trial of Kurdish Lawyers in Turkey. Monitoring by Margaret Owen. Day 1
22. Kurdish hunger-strikers fight for rights
23. Of Hunger Strikes and Role Models: An Interview with Bilgin Ayata
24. Will Erdogan do nothing to save the lives of Kurdish hunger strikers?
25. It’s Time for an Independent Kurdistan
26. Victory to the Kurdish Hunger Strikers, Freedom for Abdullah Ocalan!
27. Hunger Strike: The Irish Experience
28. Turkey’s Interests Clash in Iraq Over Energy and Security
29. In Turkey, Syria poses a new test for Erdogan’s authority
30. Syrian Kurds residing in Iraq long for a solution
31. BDP Representative in Washington: It’s Important to Tell Our Side of the Story in America

REPORTS
32. KCK trial of Kurdish lawyers

PRESS RELEASES
33. Leading UK lawyers to observe anti-terror trial in Istanbul, Peace in Kurdistan campaign

STATEMENTS
34. Turkish Academics’ Statement of Solidarity with Kurdish Detainees on Hunger Strike

 

NEWS

1. Turkish PM Calls Hunger Strike by Kurdish Prisoners a “Show”
5 November 2012 / Rudaw
The ongoing hunger strike by 688 Kurdish prisoners in 76 different Turkish prisons has provoked responses by various writers and intellectuals who have called upon the Turkish government to answer the demands of the strikers. Experts say that if prisoners lose their lives in this strike, it will negatively impact Turkey, both on a domestic and an international level. The prisoners began their hunger strike 55 days ago. It was initiated by Faysal Sariyildiz, a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MP, in the Mardin jail. The protestors have a number of demands, including allowing Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to meet with his lawyers. Ocalan has been denied access to his lawyers for more than 400 days. Another demand is allowing political prisoners the right to defend themselves in their native language, which in this case is Kurdish.

2. MPs, academics and many more sign PiK open letter to Erdogan
5 November 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan
A list of prominent members of parliament, members of European parliament, academic, trade unionists, political commentators and friends and supporters of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign have signed an open letter to PM Erdogan, in support of demands being made by the political prisoners on hunger strike.

3. MEP writes about hunger strike
6 November 2012 / ANF
Marie-Christine Vergiat – Member of the European Parliament, Front de Gauche, has released a press release about the ongoing hunger strike in Turkey.  Vergiat stated that “Currently in a mission of the “ANECR” in the Kurdish part of Turkey, I have to denounce the lies that were told last week by M. Erdogan during his visits in several European States. How dare he say that there is no hunger strike going on in Kurdish jails considering that his own minister of justice was at the same time in Ankara expressing concerns for the life of several hunger strikers”.

4. Swoboda asks Erdogan to recognize the demands of the Kurdish hunger strikers
7 November 2012 / Ararat News (ANP)
The president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, today expressed serious concerns about the 654 Kurdish prisoners who have now been on hunger strike for 57 days. He called on the Turkish prime minister to show more flexibility on this humanitarian issue. In a press release, the Socialist President of the second largest political Group in the European Parliament (EP), Swoboda, called on Turkey to “show more sensibility” and to recognize “the justified Kurdish demands”. Turkey’s indifference to the Kurdish demands could create problems for EU-Turkish relations,” warned Hannes Swoboda.

5. Turkey to allow Kurdish in court as hunger strike enters day 56
6 November 2012 / Reuters
The Turkish government has said it will soon submit to parliament a reform allowing defendants to use languages other than Turkish in court, a key demand of jailed Kurdish militants whose hunger strike entered its 56th day on Tuesday. The refusal of courts to allow defendants who speak Turkish to use Kurdish in their defence has been a source of controversy in ongoing court cases against hundreds of defendants accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group. Some 700 Kurdish inmates in dozens of prisons are refusing solid food to try to exert pressure on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government to grant greater Kurdish minority rights and better conditions for a jailed militant leader.

6. Turkey offers concession to Kurds
6 November 2012 / Financial Times
Turkey sought to head off a spiralling political crisis on Tuesday by promising greater legal rights for Kurdish defendants, amid fears that more prisoners could join a mass hunger strike that has shaken the government. The move to allow people in court cases to defend themselves in Kurdish languages, spoken by up to a fifth of the country, came as Kurdish politicians warned that thousands more prisoners could join a hunger strike in which more than 600 detainees are already taking part. As the strike has dragged on for more than 50 days, doctors warned that some participants could die within days. “Even as we tell them to end terrorism and give up guns, they hug death and blood all the closer,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, referring to the Kurdish party backing the strikers. “Isn’t it unjust to force people who are already in prison to go on hunger strike?”

7. Around 100 students taken into custody in Denizli
2 November 2012 / ANF
Around 100 students of Pamukkale University were taken into custody in the western province of Denizli on Friday afternoon when police severely attacked the demo in support to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Party (PAJK) prisoners on fast.  Tension broke out in the campus when private security officers of the university tried to prevent the march and then attacked the demonstrating group. Students were soon later attacked by hundreds of riot policemen who had already been waiting outside the campus ready for an intervention in the demonstration.

8. CPT: It’s Ocalan’s fundamental right to meet his lawyers
5 November 2012 / ANF
In a briefing to the press on Monday, law professor Lətif Huseynov, President of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, said that it is Mr. Ocalan’s fundamental right to meet his lawyers. “It is a person’s inalienable and primary right to see his lawyers to avoid unfair judgment, ill and insulting treatment”, CPT President said concerning the situation of Ocalan.  Concerning the hunger strike going on in Turkish prisons, Huseynov said that they were watching the protest with deep concern.  Asked about the fact that the CPT delegation did not go to Imralı island during its trip to Turkey 21 to 28 June 2012, Huseynov said that; “During the visit, we gave priority to allegations of ill-treatment of juvenile prisoners at Pozantı Prison and others but we also conveyed our expectations and concerns over Imralı to Ankara”

9. IHD: 26939 rights violations in first nine months
7 November 2012 / ANF
Human Rights Association (IHD) Diyarbakır Branch presented the Kurdish region rights violations report for the first nine months of 2012. According to the report, 26939 rights violations and a substantial rise in the number of deaths in clashes have been registered in the region in the first nine months of the year. The report puts emphasis on the ongoing hunger strike in Turkey prisons and the cases of violations in prisons. Speaking at the press conference on the report, İHD Diyarbakır Secretary Raci Bilici pointed out that all disadvantageous circles of the society have been subjected to various violations of rights in the mentioned period. Bilici underlined that; “No progress has been made to prevent the cases of torture and ill-treatment as well as the obstacles to the freedom of thought and expression.”

10. Turkish police fire tear gas at hunger strike supporters (PHOTOS)
4 November 2012 / Russia Today
Police in Istanbul have used tear gas and water cannon on protestors supporting a hunger strike by Kurdish prisoner’s.  The Turkish PM branded the strikers actions a “complete show”, but doctors warn they will start to die in the next 10 days. About 400 protestors were gathered outside the headquarters of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) when police fired water cannon and tear gas without warning, according to an AP photographer who was at the scene. The protestors were chanting “evacuate prisons” and “freedom to inmates” as well as slogans supporting Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

11. Turkey in cross-border raid on Kurd militants in northern Iraq
7 November 2012 / Reuters
Turkish ground forces carried out a two-day cross-border operation targeting Kurdish militants in northern Iraq on November 5-6, Turkish media reported on Wednesday. Turkey’s military, which rarely talks to the media, could not immediately be reached to confirm the reports. Broadcaster NTV said Turkish commandos had gone up to 5 km (3 miles) into Iraq to target camps belonging to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. It said the offensive, which followed a Turkish air operation in the area, was finished. Turkey’s parliament last month extended by a year a mandate allowing the government to send troops into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK fighters, despite objections from Baghdad. The mandate was first passed in 2007 and has been extended every year since, permitting the army to enter Iraq to strike the PKK, which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

12. Özgür Gündem appeal for jailed journalists
7 November 2012 / ANF
Daily Özgür Gündem paper released a statement on the trial of Kurdish press members on 12 November. The paper called for support during the hearing of the trial against Kurdish journalists arrested in the scope of so-called KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) operation on 20 December 2011. The operation mainly targeted the workers of Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Özgür Gündem and Azadiya Welat papers, Democratic Modernity magazine and Fırat distribution company. 44 Kurdish journalists (36 have been in detention since December 2011) are being accused and charged for the news they wrote which are considered evidence of their ties with the KCK organization.

13. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
6 November 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) launched an international campaign to set free all journalists in Turkey. See the latest news update here.

14. NUJ calls on Turkish consulate to demand release of jailed journalists
6 November 2012 / National Union of Journalists
A delegation from the NUJ  visited the Turkish consulate and embassy to deliver letters addressed to the Turkish authorities calling for the release of the 76 journalists in jail in Turkey.The letters asked the Turkish ambassador in the UK Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz to convey to his Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the call by UK and Irish journalists for all charges against their Turkish colleagues to be dropped and that all journalists in jail should be released forthwith.

15. Turkish FM to meet EU officials in Brussels
7 November 2012 / Hurriyet
Almost one month after the European Commission released its tough “progress report” on Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will travel to Brussels Nov. 7 for talks with leading EU officials. During the visit, Davutoğlu will meet the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, as well as the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle, the Foreign Ministry announced in a written statement on Nov. 6. In its report released Oct. 10, the EU’s executive body expressed serious concerns about Turkey’s progress in meeting the political criteria for full membership in the bloc, paying significant attention to freedom of expression, assembly and association, lengthy prosecution and detention periods and the failure to find a political solution to the Kurdish issue.

16. Fighting between Arab and Kurds raises spectre of escalating conflict in northern Syria
1 November 2012 / Independent
The leader of a Kurdish faction embroiled in clashes with the Syrian rebels has vowed to repel further aggravation, as fighting between Arab and Kurds raises the spectre of a new front in an increasingly multifaceted conflict. Kurdish representatives today remained locked in negotiations with elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) after clashes in northern Syria which killed dozens and sparked mass kidnappings. Around 50 Kurdish hostages are still being held by a rebel brigade, according to several Kurdish politicians.  “We will defend ourselves, we will defend our people” said Saleh Muslim Mohammed, the head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is fighting a separatist guerrilla war in Turkey. “There are parts of the Free Syrian Army who seem to be working for Turkey and have a strategy to hurt the Kurds.”

17. Turkey preparing major Kurdistan oil entry
8 November 2012 / Iraq Oil Report
A new Turkish state oil and gas company is negotiating with Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to take stakes in several exploration blocks – a development that would signal dramatic headway for the Kurds in their quest for oil sector autonomy. No contracts have been signed, but four officials familiar with the talks confirmed that negotiations have reached an advanced stage. The new Turkish company is looking to enter at least five Kurdish exploration blocks.

18. Kurds Reject Maliki’s Demand For Control of Peshmerga Militia
7 November 2012 / Al Monitor
A senior official at the Ministry of Peshmerga in Iraq’s Kurdistan region has called the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to place the Peshmerga forces under the jurisdiction of the federal government an “illusion.” He vowed to make an official response in the next week to the accusations by Maliki. Meanwhile, a Kurdish lawmaker accused the prime minister of obstructing the ongoing negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil. In an interview with Al Sumaria TV on Monday evening [Nov. 5], Maliki declared his willingness to release funding for the Peshmerga forces if they place themselves under the jurisdiction of the federal authorities, since the constitution prohibits the financing of the Peshmerga, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

19. A present to Erdogan: Switzerland extradites Kurdish activist
6 November 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hardly left Germany, had barely ended amicable talks with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the joint struggle against the PKK, when the theory was immediately put into practice. On 1st November, the Swiss justice ministry extradited the Kurdish activist Metin A. to Germany, and this was despite the fact that the Kurd had been on hunger strike for over 50 days, with serious health consequences. He is now in the prison hospital at Stuttgart-Stammheim auf dem Hohenasperg, where he is at least taking some liquids once again, which he had strictly refused in Switzerland.

20. Pardon in sight for shoe-throwing Kurd
1 November 2012 / El Pais
A Syrian Kurd imprisoned for throwing his shoe at the Turkish prime minister outside Seville’s City Hall moved one step closer to receiving absolution on Tuesday. The public prosecutor’s office has ruled in favor of pardoning Hokman Joma, who has been serving jail time since launching his shoe at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he left Seville City Hall after collecting a prize on February 22, 2010. The shoe failed to hit its target, but Joma was nevertheless handed a three-year sentence for a crime against the international community for attacking an authority figure.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

21. Trial of Kurdish Lawyers in Turkey. Monitoring by Margaret Owen. Day 1
4 November 2012 / International Criminal Law Bureau
I am Margaret Owen, a new door tenant at 9 Bedford Row. I am setting the scene for those who wish to know more about how Turkey is manipulating anti-terror legislation to crack down on its Kurdish population. I will be blogging this week whilst in Turkey. I have just arrived in Istanbul, one of six UK lawyers, to observe the trial of 35 Kurdish lawyers who have been detained in prison since November, 2011. They are the lawyers for the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been incarcerated on the isle of Imrani for the last 12 years. Two of us were here in July to observe the first hearing, but on Tuesday 6 November 6,  2012 we expect that long prison sentences will be given. The July hearing lacked all the components of a “fair trial” and we fear that this week’s process will expose similar defects.

Read Day 2 here

Read Day 3 here

22. Kurdish hunger-strikers fight for rights
5 November 2012 / Al Jazeera
Death by starvation or long-term health damage are what Mazlum Dikmen and hundreds of other Kurdish prisoners in Turkey are now facing. About 70 Kurdish prisoners started an indefinite hunger strike in prisons across the country on September 12. In the following weeks, more than 600 prisoners have joined them.  Their demands include increased cultural and political rights for the Kurdish community, the country’s largest ethnic minority that now makes up between 15 to 20 million people in Turkey. In their two bedroom flat in a mostly Kurdish populated shanty neighbourhood of Istanbul, the Dikmen family tell a tale that is common among the Kurdish community. Out of eight family members, two are in prison and one has fled Turkey to seek political asylum.

23. Of Hunger Strikes and Role Models: An Interview with Bilgin Ayata
5 November 2012 / Armenian Weekly
Hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners have been on a hunger strike in Turkey for the 56thday now. On Nov. 4, the Armenian Weekly editor conducted an interview with Dr. Bilgin Ayata about the reaction the hunger strike in Turkish prisons is receiving and the demands of the hunger strikers. Dr. Bilgin Ayata is an Assistant Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. She received her Ph.D. from the department of political science at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Her research interests include the politics of displacement, trans-nationalism, social movements, and migration.

24. Will Erdogan do nothing to save the lives of Kurdish hunger strikers?
8 November 2012 / Guardian
If you knew that more than 700 of your citizens might die soon, what would you do to stop it? That is the question that the Turkish government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, faced with the massive hunger strike by Kurdish prisoners, now in its 58th day, need to answer. But the answer so far seems to be “nothing”. Very few in the west seem to be aware of the issue, with international media focused more on geopolitical concerns and the ongoing Syrian crisis. Yet they have a question of their own to answer: can Turkey still be held up as a role model for the Arab spring movement as it becomes more and more apparent that the Turkish government is apathetic towards the democratic rights and demands of its almost 20 million-strong Kurdish minority?

25. It’s Time for an Independent Kurdistan
5 November 2012 / Huffington Post
Had the course of history taken a modest swerve, the United States and Kurdistan might have celebrated their independence on the very same day. It was July 4, 1187 — 825 years ago — that Saladin, Islam’s greatest ruler, defeated 20,000 outmatched Crusaders at the bloody Battle of Hattin. The victory ultimately delivered Jerusalem into the hands of Saladin, the crown jewel of an Islamic caliphate stretching from the shores of Tunis through Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus. If the Kurds’ most famous son had bothered to identify himself as such, it may well have been the beginning of a Kurdish empire to rival the Ottomans or the Persians. But Saladin fought for God and not for country, leaving his hapless compatriots at the mercy of Ottoman chieftains, British cartographers and malevolent Arab strongmen.

26. Victory to the Kurdish Hunger Strikers, Freedom for Abdullah Ocalan!
5 November 2012 / Queens University Republican Congress
Today will mark the 55th day of the Hunger Strike in Turkey being carried out by imprisoned members and supporters of the KCK (Union of Communities in Kurdistan). The KCK includes members of the armed resistance groups the PKK and PJAK, alongside Kurdish politicians, trade unionists, journalists, students, lawyers and human rights activists. Despite there being roughly 776 prisoners currently refusing food, civil disobedience in all areas of Kurdistan and demonstrations across Europe, there has been little, if any, coverage in the western media. This hunger strike has arisen amidst the context of the ongoing state repression against the KCK since the mass trials of October 2010, where 152 members and supporters were tried in Turkish courts. 7748 people have been imprisoned and over 3800 people have been arrested during operations against the KCK in the past nine months.

27. Hunger Strike: The Irish Experience
5 November 2012 / Bianet
The hunger strikes of 1980/1981, in which ten men including Bobby Sands died, are the most famous use of that political weapon. Yet hunger striking has a long history in Irish political culture. It is said that the ancient Celts practiced a form of hunger strike called Troscadh or Cealachan, where someone who had been wronged by a man of wealth fasted on his doorstep. Some historians claim that this was a death fast, which usually achieved justice because of the shame one would incur from allowing someone to die on their doorstep. Others say it was a token act that was never carried out to the death – it was simply meant to publicly shame the offender. In any case, both forms of protest have been used quite regularly as a political weapon in modern Ireland.

28. Turkey’s Interests Clash in Iraq Over Energy and Security
6 November 2012 / Al Monitor
With rising global energy demands and its position between producing and consuming states, Turkey is primed to become a regional energy hub. By diversifying energy supplies and transit routes, Ankara hopes to enhance its economic leverage and geopolitical clout while meeting its own growing domestic energy needs. The problem however, is that Turkey’s energy strategy is clashing with its national-security interests and similarly, its foreign policy is impeding energy-hub expansion. In particular, Turkish Prime Minister Ecep Tayyip Erdogan’s soft-power politics in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and his sectarian-based agenda have alienated Baghdad — the real source of Iraq’s oil and gas wealth — while encouraging trans-border Kurdish instability.

29. In Turkey, Syria poses a new test for Erdogan’s authority
3 November 2012 / Washington Post
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged during the past decade as a transformative leader of Turkey, pledging to make his country a model of Muslim democracy while presidingover an economic miracle of China-like growth and building a new brand of neo-Ottoman clout in the Middle East. All those goals are now under threat. A convergence of challenges are rocking this nation that straddles two continents, with the escalating crisis in neighboring Syria leaving the Islamist leader struggling among foreign allies and within his own electorate to muster support for a more forceful international response. Many observers still see Turkey as a model for the budding democracies in the Muslim world. But thousands from the secular opposition here faced water cannons and tear gas last week during a protest against what they decry as Erdogan’s increasingly religious and autocratic bent in a nation where the separation of church and state were once a jealously guarded nationalist ideal.

30. Syrian Kurds residing in Iraq long for a solution
7 November 2012 /Daily Star
Key rings and umbrellas in the colors of the Kurdish flag are on sale at a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, where thousands of Syrian Kurds who have fled war at home are enjoying the freedom to flaunt their ethnic identity like never before. Long-oppressed, Syria’s Kurds see the conflict ravaging their country as an opportunity to win the kind of liberty enjoyed by their ethnic kin in Iraq who live autonomously from the federal capital in Baghdad. The war between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and rebel fighters has so far driven some 30,000 Syrian Kurds over the border to Camp Domiz, where breeze-blocks are gradually replacing canvas as residents hunker down for winter and beyond. A further 200-300 people are arriving each day, according to international disaster relief charity ShelterBox, which is helping put up tents.

31. BDP Representative in Washington: It’s Important to Tell Our Side of the Story in America
3 November 2012 / Rudaw
In this interview with Rudaw, the representative of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Mehmet Yuksel, says that his office aims to build good relations with the US government and provide a Kurdish perspective on the political situation in Turkey. Yuksel says his office is in touch with the Kurdish community in America and takes their opinion into account. Since the start of hunger strikes by Kurdish prisoners in Turkey, the BDP representation in Washington has actively worked to draw attention to the prisoners’ plight and their demands. Yuksel says that vague legal codes have given the government in Turkey a free hand to detain and imprison anyone who may ask for his rights, including thousands of BDP members.

REPORTS

32. KCK trial of Kurdish lawyers, 6 November 2012. By Tony Fisher, Human Rights Committee of the Law Society.

PRESS RELEASES

 33. Leading UK lawyers to observe anti-terror trial in Istanbul, Peace in Kurdistan campaign, 5 November 2012.

STATEMENTS

34. Turkish Academics’ Statement of Solidarity with Kurdish Detainees on Hunger Strike, 4 November 2012, Jadaliyya.

 

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