Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 9 – 15 November 2012

NEWS
1. Leyla Zana MP on hunger strike
2. Journalists leave hearing room
3. Second day of trial against journalists
4. Turkish President tells PEN free speech violations cast shadow over Turkey’s progress
5. KCK: We will increase our resistance
6. Kurdish politicians join militants’ hunger strike in Turkey
7. Government moves to end hunger strike
8. Turkey should consider return of death penalty, says Erdogan
9. Fatal Turkish bombing prompts call to defend Kurdish civilians
10. Kurdish militia seizes key Syrian city
11. Kurds seize ‘three towns in Syria’s northeast’
12. Syrian Air Force Kills Many in Kurdish Town of Sere Kaniye
13. Syria Kurds flee regime shelling in terror
14. Tension Between Syrian Groups Threatens Factional War
15. 2,000 march in support of Kurdish hunger strikers

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
16. Behind the Kurdish Hunger Strike in Turkey
17. Video:
Kurds Have New Hopes Amid Mideast Changes
18. Hunger and thirst
19. After quiet revolt, power struggle looms for Syria’s Kurds

SPECIAL BULLETINS
20. BDP Special Bulletin: Hunger strikes in prisons in Turkey
21. KNK Hunger Strike Information Dossier: 61st day of hunger strikes by Kurdish prisoners

STATEMENTS
22. Call from the BDP’s elected mayors to the public on the hunger strikes

ACTIONS AND APPEALS
23. The lives of hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey must be saved
24. Chomsky’s Urgent Call to the Turkish Government – VIDEO
25. More letters from Kurdish hunger strikers
26. EU Parliament President Schulz on the situation of hunger strikers in Turkey: LETTER TO ERDOGAN

NEWS

1. Leyla Zana MP on hunger strike
15 November 2012 / ANF
Democratic Society Congress (DTK) co-chair Ahmet Türk held a press conference on Wednesday to announce that Diyarbakır independent deputy Leyla Zana has started indefinite-irreversible hunger strike at her office in the Parliament in Ankara.  At the press conference which was also attended by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies İbrahim Bilici and Altan Tan, DTK co-chair Ahmet Türk said that Zana has started her action in her office to give a message to the public with an aim to pave the way for a dialogue environment. Türk noted that they respected Zana’s determination to take part in the protest despite the health problems she is facing at present.

2. Journalists leave hearing room
12 November 2012 / ANF
The hearing of the trial against Kurdish journalists arrested in the scope of so-called KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) operation on 20 December 2011 has started at Silivri Prison Complex on Monday. Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission co-chair French Helene Flautre and Commission members as well as Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies are also attending the trial in Istanbul.  The hearing of journalists has once again witnessed protests as journalists on trial left the hearing room when the court board denied journalist Kenan Kırkaya permission to speak about the ongoing hunger strike by Kurdish political prisoners.

3. Second day of trial against journalists
13 November 2012 / ANF
Second day of the hearing of journalists tried in the scope of the so-called KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) at Silivri Prison Complex in Istanbul after yesterday’s hearing was held without defendants, lawyers and audience.  44 Kurdish journalists (36 of them 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. Lawyer Sinan Zincir demanded the rereading of the indictment during today’s hearing as journalists and lawyers left the hearing room yesterday when the court board denied journalist Kenan Kırkaya permission to speak about the ongoing hunger strike by Kurdish political prisoners. The court board rejected lawyer Zincir’s demand, defending that it would be unnecessary to do that as journalists and lawyers protested and disagreed to attend the trial yesterday at their own request.

4. Turkish President tells PEN free speech violations cast shadow over Turkey’s progress
13 November 2012 / English PEN
In a meeting today with a PEN International delegation including English PEN director Jo Glanville, President Abdullah Gül expressed his personal commitment to free speech. Responding to PEN’s concerns over a rising number of writers, journalists and publishers in prison or on trial in Turkey, the president assured the delegation that he has been following the cases closely. “There are many good things unfolding in Turkey, but these concerns cast a shadow over the progress we are achieving,” the president told PEN. “They also have international repercussions. These developments deeply sadden me, and as President, I more than anyone else want to see that they are resolved and no longer on the country’s agenda.”

5. KCK: We will increase our resistance
13 November 2012 / ANF
Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) executive council presidency has released a statement on the ongoing irreversible-indefinite hunger strike in Turkey prions and called on all parties and establishments in Kurdistan to enhance resistance and struggle. KCK pointed out that “Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan has paved way to deaths in prisons by giving no answer to the constructive efforts given for the fulfillment of the fair demands highlighted by Kurdish political prisoners”.  “Erdoğan himself will be responsible for deaths in and outside prisons in this critical time”, KCK underlined and added that “resistance is the only choice in the face of the fact that all constructive efforts have remained inconclusive due to the government’s attitude towards the Kurdish people and their demands”.

6. Kurdish politicians join militants’ hunger strike in Turkey
10 November 2012 / Reuters
Six of Turkey’s leading Kurdish politicians have joined hundreds of jailed militants and activists in a hunger strike now in its 60th day to call for a rebel leader to be allowed to see lawyers, one of them said. Osman Baydemir, mayor of Diyarbakir in predominantly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey, said in a statement on Saturday that he had stopped eating. Five Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament, named as Sirri Sureyya Onder, co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Gultan Kisanak, Aysel Tugluk, Adil Kurt, Sabahat Tuncer, were also on hunger strike, he said.

7. Government moves to end hunger strike
13 November 2012 / UPI
Turkey’s government has submitted a proposal to Parliament that would allow Kurds to address courts in their mother tongue, a government spokesman said. The move is aimed at ending a hunger strike in Turkish prisons in which some 700 Kurds are participating, Today’s Zaman reported Tuesday. In addition to the language change, the government is proposing to improve inmate conditions by allowing conjugal visits from spouses every three months and permitting inmates with serious diseases to apply for temporary release from prison.

8. Turkey should consider return of death penalty, says Erdogan
12 November 2012 / The Guardian
Political commentators accused the Turkish prime minister of populism ahead of the 2014 presidential election in which he is widely expected to run.His comments, in a speech on Sunday, follow an increase in violence over Kurdish militancy which has increased pressure on Ankara to act over a 28-year conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. “In the face of deaths, murders, if necessary the death penalty should be brought back to the table [for discussion],” he said. Turkey ended the death penalty in peacetime in 2002 under reforms aimed at joining the EU, abolishing entirely in 2004 during Erdogan’s first term. Abolition of the death penalty is a pre-condition for EU entry. But Turkey’s progress towards membership has ground to halt in recent years amid opposition from France and Germany and Erdogan has become increasingly dismissive of the EU, focusing instead on Turkey’s role as a regional power.

9. Fatal Turkish bombing prompts call to defend Kurdish civilians
8 November 2012 / CPT Net
Turkish air strikes in northern Iraqi Kurdistan on 7 November killed two civilian men and injured two others. About 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 November, Turkish military jets attacked a group of Kurdish men while they were resting during their journey, transporting goods over the mountains between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. The CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team met with one of the survivors, Rebaz Ahmed Ismail, and his family at a hospital in Sulaimani on 8 November. Rebaz told CPT that he and his group had been traveling this specific road into Iran for at least three years. He stressed that neither he nor any of his group were armed.  Rebaz lost one leg in this attack; the other was seriously injured. Two of Rebaz’s friends were killed and another was seriously wounded. A large number of jet planes were observed flying over the mountain region in the two days prior to the attack.

10. Kurdish militia seizes key Syrian city
13 November 2012 / Daily Star
There were scenes of wild jubilation in this northeastern Kurdish city after Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces overran Syrian intelligence and military institutions, driving out regime personnel in a sign that Kurds say are strengthening their position in the region.  Residents of Malikieh, known in Kurdish as Derik, cheered and chanted as the PYD militia, known as the Popular Protection Committees (YPG), stormed the central political intelligence and municipal headquarters. A brief exchange of gunfire was reported before Syrian intelligence officers were escorted from the building, to chants of “down with Assad” and “YPG, YPG.”

11. Kurds seize ‘three towns in Syria’s northeast’
12 November 2012 / AFP
Kurdish residents have taken control of three towns in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey after convincing pro-government forces to leave, a watchdog said on Saturday. The region’s Hasakeh province has seen heavy fighting in recent days between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels, with 46 combatants killed in two days as the opposition seized the border town of Ras al-Ain on Friday. The Kurds took control of the towns of Derbassiye and Tall Tamr late on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They were backed by militia from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has links with Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), it said. The residents and militiamen surrounded government and security offices in both towns and convinced pro-government forces to abandon their posts, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and residents on the ground.

12. Syrian Air Force Kills Many in Kurdish Town of Sere Kaniye
13 November 2012 / Rudaw
The town of Ras al-Ayn — known in Kurdish as Sere Kaniye — was bombed by fighter jets and helicopters on Monday. News agencies reported that more than 18 people were killed; six of them Kurdish. Kurds have suspicions that Turkey is supporting the takeover of Ras al-Ayn by Syrian rebels. Faruq Hadji, a journalist based in Kobane, told Rudaw that two Kurdish houses were targeted. “The house of Mele Derwish and the house of Azadi (Kurdistan Freedom Party) member Eli Mela were bombed,” he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that dozens of civilians were injured, some severely, by the aerial bombardment on the Kurdish neighborhood al-Houranieh in Ras al-Ayn. Twelve were killed, including seven from the Nusra front, a paramilitary group with ties to al-Qaeda. At least 40 people were injured when a bomb was dropped on a building in the neighborhood of al-Mahata.

13. Syria Kurds flee regime shelling in terror
11 November 2012 / AFP
Thousands of Kurds have fled Syrian army attacks on the strategic town of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border, running for their lives after their homes were shelled and the corpses of fighters left strewn on the streets. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, grandparents, women and children rushed to the border and, when their numbers turned to thousands, Turkish soldiers opened the gates and offered them refuge. Ras al-Ain is one of just two Turkish border crossings still controlled by the Syrian army. Rebels fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad have captured four others while a seventh is controlled by Kurdish militia.

14. Tension Between Syrian Groups Threatens Factional War
9 November 2012 / Rudaw
Clashes between the Salahaddin Ayubi brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and armed units of People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Aleppo last week signaled the threat of a possible Kurdish-Arab war. Tensions also flared when the YPG – an arm of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — raided bases in the Kurdish city of Kobane. Kurdish parties say the PYD violated the Erbil Agreement by removing Syrian revolution flags in Kobane. Muhammad Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD, said that these Kurdish parties “did not react” to last week’s events in Aleppo and that reports of the incidents in Kobane were “distorted.”  Meanwhile, the leader of the Salahaddin Ayubi brigade criticized the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying that they are “carrying out the agenda of the Syrian regime” — referring to the YPG and PYD, affiliates of the PKK.

15. 2,000 march in support of Kurdish hunger strikers
12 November 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
On Sunday, 11th November, more than 2,000 Kurds marched five miles across North London in solidarity with the Kurdish hunger strikes in Turkish prisons, which have reached their 61st day. The hunger strikes are reaching a critical stage, and some hunger strikers may be near death. The 680 hunger strikers include elected representatives who have been jailed under the repressive policies of Turkish Prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They are demanding Kurdish language rights, and the end of the isolation in jail of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), to help to negotiate a political settlement to the Kurdish Question. Other Kurds have joined the strike by refusing food in solidarity, including MPs belonging to the pro-Kurdish BDP (peace and democracy) party.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

16. Behind the Kurdish Hunger Strike in Turkey
8 November 2012 / Middle East Research and Information Project
To hear Mazlum Tekdağ’s story is enough to understand why 700 Kurdish political prisoners have gone on hunger strike in Turkey. His father was murdered by the state in front of his Diyarbakır pastry shop in 1993, when Mazlum was just nine years old. His uncle Ali was kidnapped by an army-backed death squad known as JİTEM (the acronym for the Turkish phrase translating, roughly, as Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terror Unit) two years later. Mazlum never saw his uncle again, but a former JİTEM agent later claimed they tortured him for six months before killing him and burning his body by the side of a road in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır. Such experiences have moved thousands of Kurds in Turkey to join the armed rebellion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which has been outlawed since its inception. But Mazlum, along with thousands of others, chose to fight for his people’s rights through the non-violent means of pro-Kurdish political parties, a succession of which have been allowed to operate by the Turkish state before then being shut down.

17. Video: Kurds Have New Hopes Amid Mideast Changes
13 November 2012 / Voice of America
The upheaval from the “Arab Spring” across the Middle East has given the 30 million Kurds, who live mostly in parts of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, new hopes of their long-held dream of independence. In a series of stories, VOA correspondents in the Middle East and Washington found that Kurdish aspirations are met by a complicated reality on the ground.

18. Hunger and thirst
15 November 2012 / The Economist
WHAT happens if they start dying? The question weighs ever more heavily as hundreds of Kurds in prisons across Turkey continue the hunger strike they launched on September 12th. Human-rights activists are saying that many have reached “a critical threshold.” The hunger strikers, surviving on sugar water and vitamins, vow to keep up their fast until the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party meets their demands for greater linguistic rights and better prison conditions for the leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has responded with threats to reintroduce capital punishment, to which Mr Ocalan was sentenced after his capture in 1999 (and which AK abolished when it took office in 2002, in line with European Union demands.)

19. After quiet revolt, power struggle looms for Syria’s Kurds
7 November 2012 / Reuters
In the northeast corner of Syria a power struggle is developing over the promise of oil riches in the remote Kurdish region, threatening to drag Kurdish rivals, Arab rebels and Turkey into a messy new front in an already complex civil war. Quietly and with little of the bloodshed seen elsewhere in Syria’s 19-month popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, the Kurdish minority is grabbing the chance to secure self-rule and the rights denied them for decades. With Syrian forces and Arab rebels entangled in fighting to their west, a Syrian Kurdish party tied to Turkish Kurd separatists has exploited a vacuum to start Kurdish schools, cultural centers, police stations and armed militias.

SPECIAL BULLETINS

20. BDP Special Bulletin: Hunger strikes in prisons in Turkey, November 2012 (pdf, available to download).

21. KNK Hunger Strike Information Dossier: 61st day of hunger strikes by Kurdish prisoners, 11 November 2012 (pdf, available to download).

STATEMENTS

22. Call from the BDP’s elected mayors to the public on the hunger strikes, 11 November 2012.

ACTIONS AND APPEALS

23. The lives of hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey must be saved, 10 November 2012.

24. Chomsky’s Urgent Call to the Turkish Government – VIDEO
12 November 2012 / ANF
Noam Chomsky calls on Turkish government to attend to Kurdish prisoners’ demands.

25. More letters from Kurdish hunger strikers
12 November 2012  / Rojhelat
Below are the letters written by the Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike sent to daily Kurdish paper Özgür Gündem.

26. EU Parliament President Schulz on the situation of hunger strikers in Turkey: LETTER TO ERDOGAN, 13 November 2012.

 

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