Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 16 – 22 November 2012

We are pleased to announce that Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh, has become a patron of the Peace in Kurdistan. We thank him for joining us in support and look forward to working with him in the future.

 Also, please note the 9th International EUTCC Conference will be held on 5 – 6 December in the European Parliament in Brussels, and this year is titled ‘The Kurdish Question in Turkey – Time to Renew Dialogue and Resume Direct Negotiations’. See the events section  for details on how to register.

NEWS
1. Turkish PM seeks talk with jailed Kurdish leader
2. What Abdullah Öcalan told his brother
3. Turkey says it will hold talks with Kurdish militants
4. Indication of Peace Talks Following End of Hunger Strike in Turkey
5. Ocalan wants end to Turkey hunger strike
6. Hunger Striker Journalist Emphasizes on Dialogue
7. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
8. Kurd militants end hunger strike in Turkey, deal seen
9. Kurdish issue in Turkey and the idea of a united Kurdistan
10. Syrian Kurdish leader rejects new opposition coalition
11. US Pushes Syrian Kurds to Join Rebellion
12. Turkish Army bombs Syrian Kurds
13. Dozens dead after clashes in Syrian border town
14. Dozens die as Kurds, rebels clash in north
15. On Syrian border, mixed feelings for rebel ‘liberators’
16. Public Protest Against Iran’s Decision to Execute 27 Kurdish Prisoners
17. Kurdish commander warns of battle against Iraq

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
18. It is over, but not really
19. Rapprochement in Turkey, by Michael M Gunter
20. The Power of the Hunger Strike
21. A gritty bite of Turkish delight
22. Turkey’s Kurds Want More Freedoms, Autonomy
23. Report from visit to Turkey 15-17 November
24. Inter-Kurdish tensions mounting against FSA
25. Kurds oust Syrian forces from northern towns
26. Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan Moving Closer
27. Iranian Kurds Fight Discrimination, Hope for Change

STATEMENTS
28. Joint statement by international observers of the lawyers’ KCK trial

ACTIONS AND APPEALS
29. Kurdish Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Turkey: An Open Letter
NEWS

1. Turkish PM seeks talk with jailed Kurdish leader
20 November 2012 / AFP
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was not opposed to talks between the state and the jailed Kurdish leader in a bid to bring an end to the insurgency, media reported Tuesday. The National Intelligence Organisation “can do the talks, we see nothing wrong in that,” Erdogan was quoted as telling reporters who asked about such talks with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. “The goal is to solve the problem,” he said on his way back to Turkey from Egypt on Monday, according to Hurriyet daily. Erdogan’s comments came after hundreds of Kurdish prisoners ended a 68-day hunger strike on Sunday, following an appeal by Ocalan, who said the action had achieved its goal.

2. What Abdullah Öcalan told his brother
20 November 2012 / ANF
Mehmet Öcalan had said that he had been taken to Imrali Island by ferry, the same ferry which has been defined as ‘not working’ for over a year. The message the Kurdish leader gave to his brother was this, as reported by DIHA news agency, “I’m calling from here to ask you to end the hunger strikes now. This action has achieved its goals.  Abdullah Öcalan’s brother said: “I met my brother, who hasn’t been allowed to see his lawyers for more than 15 months, for about 45 minutes. It was a face to face meeting and we obviously talked about the hunger strike. Everyone knows that only leader Apo can end the hunger strike”. said. Öcalan has repeated to his brother that “the hunger strike has achieved its goals. This action is very meaningful for me. And because it was carried out in prison it is even more meaningful for me”.

3. Turkey says it will hold talks with Kurdish militants
19 November 2012 / Reuters
Turkey opened the door to talks with Kurdish militants it brands terrorists on Monday, raising hopes of a push to end a conflict which has killed tens of thousands of people and stunted development in its mainly Kurdish southeast. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said talks would be held with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, Turkey’s main domestic security threat, which took up arms almost three decades ago and seeks Kurdish autonomy. “These talks have been held as and when deemed necessary in the past, and will be held in the future,” Ergin told reporters in Ankara. He did not elaborate. Talks between the Turkish state and the PKK were unthinkable until only a few years ago and more recent contacts have proved highly controversial, with parts of the nationalist opposition strongly condemning any suggestion of negotiations.

4. Indication of Peace Talks Following End of Hunger Strike in Turkey
19 November 2012 / Rudaw
Kurdish prisoners ended their 67-day hunger strike on Sunday. Deniz Kaya, a spokesperson for the strikers, said that the prisoners received a call from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan who asked them from his prison on Imrali Island to end their strike. A Turkish newspaper attributed the end of the hunger strike to the possible resumption of negotiations between Turkish Intelligence (MIT) and Ocalan. Meanwhile, Ocalan’s brother, Mehmet Ocalan, said that realizing that only Ocalan could end the hunger strike, the Turkish government has been holding talks with him for several days. Seven hundred Kurdish prisoners went on a hunger strike in prisons across Turkey, demanding the ability to use the Kurdish language in court and better conditions for Ocalan. As the days went by, Turkish authorities were concerned about the worsening health of the prisoners and feared their imminent deaths.

5. Ocalan wants end to Turkey hunger strike
17 November 2012 / Info-Turk
Jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan called for an end to a hunger strike by hundreds of his supporters in prisons across Turkey on Saturday, raising hopes of a push to end a decades-old conflict. The hunger strike by at least 1,700 people to demand an end to Ocalan’s isolation is in its 67th day and doctors have said prisoners could soon die. The protest has posed a growing challenge to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and risked fuelling tension in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. “Today I went to see my brother Abdullah Ocalan face-to-face in Imrali prison,” Ocalan’s brother Mehmet said in a statement. “He wants me to share immediately with the public his call about the hunger strikes …. This action has achieved its goal. Without any hesitation, they should end the hunger strike.”

6. Hunger Striker Journalist Emphasizes on Dialogue
20 November 2012 / Bianet
On Monday, representatives from Turkey’s two main media associations visited Temel in a Diyarbakir Province hospital. Ercan İpekçi, head of Turkish Journalists’ Union, told bianet that while Temel’s general health is improving, he is still suffering from fatigue, sensitivity to certain sounds and difficulty in speaking, walking and reading. Hunger striker inmates in Diyarbakir Prison with grave after effects will remain in the hospital for another ten days, İpekçi said. There are currently 49 inmates from Diyarbakir prison, who suffer from after effects and remain in hospital care. Most inmates refused to take solid food for a period of 68 days until PKK leader Ocalan made an appeal to end hunger strikes.  İpekçi and Yaşar, along with other members from Turkish Jornalists Association, have scheduled appointments with two female hunger striker journalists, Fatma Koçak from DIHA and Ayşe Oyman from Özgür Gündem.

7. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
19 November 2012 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) launched an international campaign to set free all journalists in Turkey. Here is the latest update.

8. Kurd militants end hunger strike in Turkey, deal seen
18 November 2012 / Reuters
Hundreds of Kurdish militants ended a hunger strike in jails across Turkey on Sunday in response to an appeal from their leader, fuelling hopes a deal had been struck that could revive talks to end a decades-old conflict. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his supporters to end their protest after holding a series of discussions with Turkish MIT intelligence agency officials, according to one media report. Top MIT officials have held secret meetings with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in September more talks were possible.

9. Kurdish issue in Turkey and the idea of a united Kurdistan
18 November 2012 / Globalia Magazine
Interior Minister Besir Atalay recently announced details of the government’s long-awaited plan to give more rights to the Kurdish minority. The blueprint includes establishing an independent authority to investigate cases of alleged torture against Kurds, as well as measures to ease current restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language. The cabinet of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already taken measures to expand the cultural rights of the Kurdish community through the launch of a state television channel that broadcasts in Kurdish. In addition, Kurd-dominated towns and cities will be allowed to reclaim their former Kurdish names. The main opposition parties oppose the reforms, arguing they undermine national unity.

10. Syrian Kurdish leader rejects new opposition coalition
20 November 2012 / Ma’an News Agency
A party that controls much of Syria’s Kurdish region on Tuesday rejected the new opposition coalition, highlighting the deep divisions still remaining between the many Syrian armed groups 20 months into the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Saleh Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party, said he had not been invited to talks in Doha this month in which the Syrian National Coalition was formed, and he labelled the group a proxy of Turkey and Qatar. The coalition, led by moderate Sunni Muslim cleric Mouaz Alkhatib, was meant to unify Syria’s myriad opposition groups in a bid to secure Western backing in their efforts to topple Assad, and has been endorsed in the West by Britain and France.

11. US Pushes Syrian Kurds to Join Rebellion
16 November 2012 / Voice of America
As the Obama administration pushes to solidify Syria’s political opposition, it also is working to improve ties between Syrian Kurds and groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Concentrating control in their own areas of northwest Syria, Kurdish leaders have been slow to join the broader rebellion against Assad, preferring to seek greater regional autonomy with Kurds in neighboring Iraq and Turkey. Before the rebellion accelerated, Assad granted new political freedoms to Syrian Kurds who have long sought greater autonomy inside and outside of Syria.

12. Turkish Army bombs Syrian Kurds
20 November 2012 / KNK statement, MESOP
Since 8th November 2012, armed groups infiltrated by Turkey entered Serekani (Ras al-Ain), the city of Syria. These armed groups affiliated with and are being supported by Turkey. The Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians have been living in Serekani, which is the border city with Turkey. Armed groups first entered into Arab districts. As well as Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians have been affected by the clashes between Syrian regime and armed groups. The president of Serekani Kurdish Council Abid Xelil and another person who went to discuss the conflict with the armed groups this morning (19th November 2012), were attacked by the mentioned group and died. Five Kurdish were also injured. The clashes, then, have started between People’s Defense Units (YPG) and these armed groups.

13. Dozens dead after clashes in Syrian border town
21 November 2012 / CNN
A flashpoint Syrian border town recently captured by rebels was reeling Tuesday after deadly clashes erupted between Syrian rebels and a Kurdish militia. The battle left dozens of fighters from both sides dead, including one prominent ethnic Kurdish leader. “Today it is quiet. I hope in my heart that there will be no more fighting between Kurds and Arabs because we are all brothers,” said a Kurdish activist and resident of Ras Al Ain, who asked only to be named “Baran” for his safety. “But I am sure there will be more fighting,” he predicted, adding that both the Syrian rebels and Kurdish fighters were calling for reinforcements.

14. Dozens die as Kurds, rebels clash in north
20 November 2012 / The Australian
FRESH fighting between Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebels has erupted in the northern Syria town of Ras al-Ain, where dozens have died since the new front in Syria’s complex civil war opened last week. Elsewhere in northern Syria, several rebel battalions went on the offensive on Tuesday and attacked the Sheikh Suleiman air defence battalion west of Aleppo city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The clashes came less than two days after rebels, armed with at least five tanks according to a military source, took full control of the sprawling Base 46 in the same province. The Britain-based Observatory said that at least 29 people had died in clashes in Ras al-Ain, near the Turkey border, over the past 24 hours.

15. On Syrian border, mixed feelings for rebel ‘liberators’
17 November 2012 / First Post
From a park on the outskirts of Turkey’s Ceylanpinar, Farhad watches with unease as his would-be liberators, guns slung across their backs, roam through his town just over the border in Syria. “I don’t want the rebels in my town,” the 25-year-old Kurdish man laments. “Why would I want Assad’s planes to come and bomb us? I don’t want Assad, nor do I want the rebels.” His is a familiar sentiment among refugees from Ras al-Ain, a mixed Arab and Kurdish town on Syria’s border with Turkey that was dragged into Syria’s civil war last week with the arrival of rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

16. Public Protest Against Iran’s Decision to Execute 27 Kurdish Prisoners
16 November 2012 / Rudaw
Activists in Iranian Kurdistan have called on people to stage a public strike to protest the death sentence on 27 Kurdish prisoners in Iranian jails. A group of human rights activists encourage Iranian people to not report to work starting Saturday, November 17, to boycott classes and close the markets. In open letters published on the Internet, the activists have urged people to visit the families of the prisoners on this day in solidarity with their plight. Part of a letter published on Kurdpa, a Kurdish website, says that Kurds everywhere and in every position should object to this anti-human right action. According to the International Campaign for Human Right in Iran 28 Kurds are on death row in Iran in five different prisons of Sanandaj, Uromieh, Semnan, Rajai shahr and Saghez.

17. Kurdish commander warns of battle against Iraq
20 November 2012 / Yahoo News
The commander of Kurdish Peshmerga forces warned Tuesday that his troops might attack Iraqi government soldiers at “any minute” after the central government sent tanks and armored vehicles toward the disputed city of Kirkuk. The threat was the latest sign of increasing tension between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad after the central government sent forces last month to the area, including disputed sites in a new military command. Already poor relations between the central government and Kurds worsened after an Iraqi government decision last month to set up a new military command there. The force also oversees disputed areas claimed by Iraqi Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds, in particular the areas surrounding Mosul and Kirkuk.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

18. It is over, but not really
18 November 2012 / Today’s Zaman
The crisis was averted just before it turned into tragedy. After the intervention by Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), more than 500 prisoners ended their weeks-long hunger strike. Now we know that while the prime minister was loudly objecting to the attempts to end the action, humiliating and mocking the strikers, there were three contacts between Ankara and Öcalan in the past month and a half. Sources in Ankara say that the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the Ministry of Justice facilitated the communication. The final move to end the deadlock came from the local branch of the BDP in Diyarbakır, which, through the Ministry, managed to have Öcalan’s brother, Mehmet Öcalan, visit the İmralı Island prison where Öcalan is being held and leave with the message that it all stop immediately, “without any hesitation.”

19. Rapprochement in Turkey, by Michael M Gunter
16 November 2012 / Encompassing Crescent
During the summer and fall of 2009, the continuing and at times still violent Kurdish problem in Turkeyseemed on the verge of a solution when the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi [Justice and Development Party] or AK Party (AKP) government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul announced a Kurdish Opening. Gul declared that “the biggest problem of Turkey is the Kurdish question” and that “there is an opportunity [to solve it] and it should not be missed.” Erdogan asked: “If Turkey had not spent its energy, budget, peace and young people on [combating] terrorism, if Turkey had not spent the last 25 years in conflict, where would we be today?” Even the insurgent Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (PKK) or Kurdistan Workers Party, still led ultimately by its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, itself briefly took Turkey’s Kurdish Opening seriously. For a fleeting moment optimism ran rampant. Why did this hopeful Opening fail?

20. The Power of the Hunger Strike
19 November 2012 / Counterpunch
The hunger strike has a long political pedigree.  It combines sensationalism with moral anger, but it also minimizes harm to others who are not directly involved in the conflict.  “Collateral damage”, the military argot’s most vicious euphemism, is avoided – at least in principle.  Instead, harm comes to the person initiating the strike.  Privations are made public.  The demise is gradual.  There is no spectacular image of a man set on fire, or the instantaneous moment of bomb blast.  The hunger strike enables a narrative to be fashioned by the protester. That said any political weapon has its limits.  Measuring the success of the hunger strike is no different.  Illusion can be as convincing as fact.  Legends are easily born – and a legend, claimed the habitually acerbic H. L. Mencken, is often a lie that has merely attained the dignity of age.

21. A gritty bite of Turkish delight
17 November 2012 / Irish Times
Mention the name Tarlabasi to any Istanbul resident and their reaction will put you off going there forever. “Tarlabasi is dirty,” they say. “Tarlabasi is dangerous!” Looking for an affordable place to live, I had no choice but to at least consider an area where the rents are low. With Istanbul’s most famous main shopping avenue, Istiklal, only yards away, I also found myself drawn by the fact that you could not get any closer to the commercial and cultural heart of Istanbul. A feeling only emboldened by passing landmarks on the way such as the Grand Hotel De Londres – where it is said Agatha Christie wrote Murder on The Orient Express – and the even grander British Consulate nearby. The only thing I could think of as I crossed the single, busy highway that conveniently amputates Tarlabasi from the next-door tourist meccas of Istanbul was: how bad can it really be?

22. Turkey’s Kurds Want More Freedoms, Autonomy
20 November 2012 / Voice of America
Tensions in heavily Kurdish areas of Turkey are highlighting how the nation’s decades-old “Kurdish question” remains unresolved. Turkey’s prime minister says the government has given Turkey’s Kurds unprecedented freedoms. But most Kurds say they continue to suffer discrimination and alienation.  And there are increasing skirmishes between Turkish forces and Kurdish insurgents, causing an outcry among Turks and harsh crackdown rhetoric from Ankara.  At the Tigris-Euphrates Cultural Center in Diyarbakir, inside the walls of the Old City, Kurds are trying to revive traditional Kurdish culture, which has been under threat since the creation of the Turkish Republic nearly 90 years ago.

23. Report from visit to Turkey 15-17 November
20 November 2012 / The Spark
As part of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) campaign in support of journalists held in prisons in Turkey, or under threat of imprisonment, I visited the country as an EFJ observer between 15 and 17 November. Other members of the EFJ’s governing board have also attended trials and will continue to do so in acts of solidarity. Friday 16 November saw the reconvening of the OdaTV trial at the Judgement Palace in Istanbul. This was the 14th hearing. Together with representatives from the TGS, we arrived early to see meet defendants and their supporters outside the courts. My first (and brief) meeting was with Mr. İlhan Cihaner, a Member of Parliament from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Before taking his seat in parliament, Mr. Cihaner was a prosecutor in the provinces of Adana and Erzincan. However, during his tenure in Erzincan, circumstances surrounding his investigations into İsmail Ağa and Fethullah Gülen groups led to his arrest and he was held prison being accused of being connected to the Ergenekon terrorist organisation.

24. Inter-Kurdish tensions mounting against FSA
20 November 2012 / Daily Star
Unwilling to fight alongside the Syrian Army while they targeted civilians, young Kurdish conscript Novin defected, fleeing his hometown of Qamishli to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he ended up in the Diwan refugee camp. Now, he proudly wears a crisp new uniform of a different kind – with the Kurdistan flag, with its yellow sun – sewn on the sleeve. Novin, one of two new officers of the so-called “Syrian Peshmerga,” spoke to The Daily Star from the outskirts of one of the new training camps established by the president of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, in the northern Duhok region bordering Syria. Barzani confirmed his government has provided training to Syrian Kurds to protect Kurdish areas in the event of a security vacuum in Syria. There have been conflicting reports, however, as to the number of recruits and whether any have yet entered Syria.

25. Kurds oust Syrian forces from northern towns
19 November 2012 / Al Jazeera
“Assad is gone! I am very happy. Until now, we didn’t even have ID cards,” says Abdi Karim, 56, with a tired but big smile. Karim is a fighter in the People’s Defence Units (YPG) in Derik, a city in Syria’s Kurdish area in the northeast near the borders of Turkey and Iraq. The YPG is an armed militia that has been publicly active in this region for at least the last four months. Recently, the YPG and residents of Derik – known as al-Malkia in Arabic – forced the last of the regime’s troops and police to leave the city.  “We have the rifles to protect the people here, just to protect,” Karim said pointing at his old AK-47 and talking in the building where President Bashar al-Assad’s intelligence services once had their base in Derik.

26. Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan Moving Closer
20 November 2012 / Middle East Online
Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minster recently visited Iran. He met with Iran’s top officials. The talks included a wide range of issues. The visit is important given serious internal and regional developments. The bilateral relations have deteriorated and, of special importance, the visit would improve relations and the two would cooperate on an amalgam of issues including political, security and economic. Domestic and regional developments deteriorated the relations between Iran and Kurdistan Region. In a series of reports, Iranian officials and media attacked Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party in particular. Throughout them, sensitive cases were used. The Kurds were tried to be portrayed as pro-Israel, pro-Sunni and anti-Shiite.

27. Iranian Kurds Fight Discrimination, Hope for Change
19 November 2012 / Voice of America
The Kurdish minority in Iran has for decades suffered discrimination and many Kurds have been thrown into prison and executed for seeking equal rights from the Islamic government in Tehran.  But “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East and threats of military attacks to stop Iran’s nuclear program have given some Iranian Kurds hope for change. An estimated 12 million Kurds live in Iran, mostly in the northwest of the country bordering Kurdish-majority areas of Iraq and Turkey. Tehran says it has generally improved living conditions and education for Iran’s Kurds and they are integrated into the political process.  But Kurds say they have lesser rights and a rebel group, known as PJAK – the Free Life Party of Kurdistan – has been waging an insurgency based in the Qandil Mountains.

STATEMENTS

28. Joint statement by international observers of the lawyers’ KCK trial, 19 November 2012.

ACTIONS AND APPEALS

29. Kurdish Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Turkey: An Open Letter, 15 November 2012.

 

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