Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 21 December 2012 – 4 January 2013

NEWS
1. Turkish Kurd deputies meet jailed militant leader Ocalan: lawmaker
2. Intel agency starts fresh talks on İmralı island
3. To End Kurdish Conflict, Turkey Calls on Archenemy
4. Turkey, jailed Kurd leader discuss disarmament: report
5. Turkey: Military will keep fighting rebel Kurds
6. Thousands Commemorate in Roboski, Demand for Justice
7. Turkey’s human rights record deteriorates in 2012 with persistent problems
8. Turkey takes second spot in ECHR violation cases in 2012
9. 401 years and 9 months prison sentence in KCK Şırnak case
10.  Court Rejects Testimony in Kurdish
11. Demirtas criticizes Erdogan Roboski remarks, derides opposition leaders
12. HPG’s war statement for 2012
13. Human Rights Watch: Turkey Must Account for Roboski Bombing
14. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
15.
Turkey arms Syrian rebels against Kurds: BDP leader

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
16. Will Turkey Squander Its Opportunity to Lead?
17. Erdogan Talks Turkey with the Kurds
18. Turkish talks offer hope of peace with Kurdish militants
19. Erdogan’s troubling shift toward repression
20. The Kurdish Issue in Turkey: An Interview with Selahattin Demirtas
21. Solidarity Letters from Political Prisoners in Turkey
22. We Need Mother Tongue Education for a Democratic Citizenship
23. Turkey: Where the Army Can’t Protect Its Own Troops
24. Statehood for Kurds?
25. An Interview with Nechirvan Barzani: Will There Be an Independent Kurdistan?
26. Syrian Kurdish Plight Requires Independence
27. The Kurds, Syria and the denial of Kurdish Rights
28. Map of Western Kurdistan – First stage

STATEMENTS
29. PROTESTS AGAINST MASS TRIALS IN TURKEY: ELDH Statement

NEWS

1. Turkish Kurd deputies meet jailed militant leader Ocalan: lawmaker
3 January 2013 / Reuters
Two Kurdish lawmakers made a rare visit to Abdullah Ocalan at his island prison on Thursday, signaling that Turkey is negotiating with the influential militant leader over ending a conflict that has killed tens of thousands over three decades. Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Ayla Akat Ata and prominent Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk went with a lawyer to Imrali, where Ocalan has been held in virtual isolation since his capture in 1999, a Kurdish lawmaker said.

2. Intel agency starts fresh talks on İmralı island
1 January 2013 / Hurriyet
Turkish intelligence officials are holding talks with the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, in an effort to convince his organization to lay down their arms, daily Hürriyet reported yesterday. Officials from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) held a four-hour meeting with Öcalan Dec. 22 on İmralı Island, where he has been serving a life sentence since 1999. During the meeting, Öcalan reportedly demanded direct contact with his organization and better prison conditions as a first step toward the militants’ disarmament.

3. To End Kurdish Conflict, Turkey Calls on Archenemy
2 January 2013 / IHT Rendezvous
Turkish intelligence agents have been making the short hop from Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara to the prison Island of Imrali in recent weeks for talks with a jailed Kurdish separatist leader who was once Turkey’s most wanted man. Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the P.K.K., has been languishing on Imrali since he was captured in Nairobi in 1999 while on the run. He is serving a life term after a death sentence was commuted. Now the Turkish government wants his help to end a resurgent war with P.K.K. rebels that has claimed around 900 lives in the past year and a half.

4. Turkey, jailed Kurd leader discuss disarmament: report
31 December 2012 / France 24
Turkey’s intelligence agency has discussed the issue of disarmament with the jailed Kurdish leader in a bid to bring an end to the nearly three-decade old insurgency, a newspaper reported on Monday. Officials from the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) held a four-hour meeting with Abdullah Ocalan on December 23 to urge outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to lay down their arms, the Hurriyet newspaper reported. But Ocalan demanded that he must have a direct contact with the PKK and his detention conditions must be improved, according to the paper.

5. Turkey: Military will keep fighting rebel Kurds
4 January 2013 / Associated Press
Turkey will press ahead with military operations against autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels even as Turkish officials hold talks with the rebels’ jailed leader to end the 28-year-old conflict, officials said Friday. Last week, the government confirmed that Turkey’s intelligence agency was talking to rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan with the aim of convincing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to disarm. Ocalan has been serving a life sentence on a prison island off Istanbul since 1999. Yet Turkish officials said Turkey had no intention of halting its military drive against the group, which took up arms in 1984 and is fighting for self-rule in southeast Turkey, often from bases in northern Iraq. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.

6. Thousands Commemorate in Roboski, Demand for Justice
28 December 2012 / Bianet
Today marked as the anniversary of Roboski Massacre, killing of 34 Kurdish civilians from Roboski and Bujeh villages–which are officially recongnized as Ortasu and Gülyazı respectively–after a Turkish military air strike days only three before 2012. Turkish state officials claim that killings were caused due to false intelligence reports provided by U.S. Army, an argument that created controversy in Turkey. Turkish police tightened security on Riboski entrance, controlling human circulation in and out of the village with barricades. Last night several vehicles heading to Sirnak province has been halted by the police for vehicle license checks. Many individuals said they were IDed by the police in downtown Sirnak.

7. Turkey’s human rights record deteriorates in 2012 with persistent problems
28 December 2012 / Todays Zaman
Human rights activists in Turkey agree that serious problems are still waiting to be addressed in the field of human rights despite positive efforts having been made. While steps such as facing the troubled history of the country’s civil-military relations, legislative changes to protect women and the establishment of a commission to draft a new constitution are listed among the most important achievements of 2012, the failure to illuminate the complete background of the Uludere incident, the controversial election of the first ombudsman of the country, the lingering headscarf ban, the failure to abolish military courts, torture under custody and the abuse of children in jails remain among the serious issues Turkey will face in the next year.

8. Turkey takes second spot in ECHR violation cases in 2012
2 January 2013 / Todays Zaman
Turkey was the country against which the second-highest number of cases of violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was filed in 2012, an ntvmsnbc.com report said on Wednesday. There are almost 18,000 cases currently ongoing against Turkey, making it the country against which the second-highest number of cases has been filed. Turkey follows Russia, which has nearly 30,000 cases filed against it. The cases filed against Russia last year constitute 22 percent of the total caseload of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), while the cases filed against Turkey last year constitute more than 13 percent of the ECtHR caseload. Russia and Turkey were followed by Italy, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland and the UK, respectively.

9. 401 years and 9 months prison sentence in KCK Şırnak case
3 January 2013 / ANF
The hearing of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) Şırnak case was held at Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court on Wednesday. 41 of the 55 Kurdish politicians tried in the case have been jailed for years, including Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Şırnak deputy Faysal Sarıyıldız. The court passed a total of 401 years and 9 months prison sentence on 40 Kurdish politicians for allegedly being members of the KCK organization and holding explosive substances.  Following the protest of defendants against the court decision, lawyer Fethi Gümüş objected to the sentence which he said was passed without defendants being given the right to defend themselves in their mother tongue Kurdish. Defendant Metin Fındık also asked the court board to postpone the trial until after the imminent legislation of the mother tongue arrangement by the Parliament. The court board replied that the present legislation didn’t allow mother tongue at courts.

10.  Court Rejects Testimony in Kurdish
3 January 2013 / Bianet
The 6th Diyarbakir High Criminal Court found 40 defendants guilty for being a KCK organization member, ordering prison sentences from six years and three months to seventeen years. In 2009, police raided several apartments in Şırnak province, detaining dozens of individuals suspected of being a member of KCK, an organization recognized as the urban branch of PKK. On the 24th session of Şırnak KCK trial, the judge ruled to prosecute 12 suspects–including Şırnak province deputy Faysal Sarıyıldız–under a separate trial. Defendant attorneys requested that suspects testified in Kurdish, a proposition rejected by the court. The judge ruled that legislation regulating testimonies in other languages than Turkish has not yet implemented. The judge also rejected defense attorneys’ request for additional time until the the suspects could testify in Kurdish.

11. Demirtas criticizes Erdogan Roboski remarks, derides opposition leaders
24 December 2012 / Kurd Press
The Leader of pro- Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahhatin Demirtas criticized Turkey prime minister remarks over last year Roboski Massacre where 34 Kurdish civilians were killed in an army air strike.  Addressing BDP fans in southern Turkey province of Mersin, Demirtas said more than a year has passed but the result of the case is still vague and undecided. “More surprisingly is that Erdogan (Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) voices remarks that prove he is thinking of a new plan over the case,” Demirtas said, adding that Erdogan has asked judiciary system and security officials to count some of the Roboski victims as members of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to decriminalize the operation. “The operation was a war crime even if all the civilians are proved to be PKK members,” he further said.

12. HPG’s war statement for 2012
3 January 2013 / ANF
HPG (People’s Defense Forces) Press Office (HPG-BIM) released its statement about the 2012 balance of operations and clashes. The statement remarked that the Turkish army had carried out 320 ground operations and 184 aerial attacks in the last year. According to the statement, guerrilla forces carried out 736 actions and 314 guerrillas lost their lives in clashes during the year.  The war statement for 2012 shows that the year has been the severest one of late years as clashes are seen to have intensified the most in the months of August-September-October, three months when guerrilla actions reached an all-time high.

13. Human Rights Watch: Turkey Must Account for Roboski Bombing
28 December 2012 / Rudaw
On the first anniversary of a Turkish airstrike that killed 34 Kurdish villagers near the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Turkey of failing the families of victims in their search for justice. “One year on, no one has been held (to) account for ordering the F-16 jets to drop the bombs that killed the 34 villagers,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior researcher for Turkey at HRW, said in a statement on Thursday. “The Turkish government, parliament, and Diyarbakır prosecutor have so far failed the families of the victims in their search for justice,” she added.

14. Set journalists free in Turkey: EFJ campaign update
3 January 2013 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
The latest updates from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) this week includes news of ODA TV’s Sonar Yalcin ‘s release from prison.

15. Turkey arms Syrian rebels against Kurds: BDP leader
17 December 2012 / Kurd Press
Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-Chair Gultan Kisanak said Ankara government is meddling in Syria Kurdish regions by arming Arab rebels to fight against Kurdish parties in Syria Kurdish region of Sarikani in the north of the country. Addressing a group of BDP fans in southeastern province of Batman, Kisanak said Turkey has ordered an illegal and secret group to fuel tensions in Sarikani and make Kurds and Arabs fight against each other.  “We talked to dozens of People in Jilanpinar (southeastern Turkey city in Syria border). We fortunately have achieved undeniable documents that prove Turkey is arming and paying hireling and urges them to make Sarikani biggest war scene between Arabs and Kurds.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

16. Will Turkey Squander Its Opportunity to Lead?
30 December 2012 / IHT Rendezvous
Instead of Turkey leading the post-Arab Spring Middle East, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting a new standard of intolerance. Fourteen months after he touted Turkey as an example for the region, Mr. Erdogan is polarizing politics in his country and squelching dissent. Turkey is, at last, in a unique and enviable position on the world stage: sitting astride Europe, Asia and the Middle East, culturally as well as politically, and relatively strong economically. As post-Mubarak Egypt grapples with old demons in new forms, Syria approaches a bloody denouement, and Saudi Arabia and Iran offer little in the way of viable paths to progress, this could be Turkey’s moment.

17. Erdogan Talks Turkey with the Kurds
2 January 2013 / The American Interest
Turkey is talking with the Kurds, the FT is reporting. A senior political adviser to Prime Minister Erdogan has admitted that his government has opened disarmament discussions with the jailed leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan: “Pointing out that after close to three decades of armed struggle with the PKK neither side had achieved its aims, Mr Akdogan explained that Turkey had tried to negotiate with the PKK before and was doing so again in an effort to end the conflict.”

18. Turkish talks offer hope of peace with Kurdish militants
31 December 2012 / Guardian
If you were looking for some new year cheer, you could do worse than look toward Turkey, with confirmation this weekend that talks between Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), are continuing and that the focus of the negotiations was getting the movement to lay down its arms. Any glimmer of hope for an end to an insurgency that has cost at least 40,000 lives is to be welcomed. Especially since the last 18 months have witnessed a surge in violence the like of which has not been seen since Ocalan was seized by Turkish special forces in 1999.

19. Erdogan’s troubling shift toward repression
28 December 2012 / CNN Global Public Square
Editor’s note: Mehmet Yuksel is the BDP representative in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the author’s own. Many U.S. officials still consider Turkey a model for the Middle East, crediting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with ushering in reforms that have excised the presence of the Turkish military from the political sphere. They are wrong. Erdoğan’s recent treatment of political opposition suggest that rather than democratize Turkey, he is instead following the model employed by Vladimir Putin in Russia or Mohamed Morsy in Egypt. Erdoğan entered office promising a new approach on the Kurdish issue, a topic which the predominantly Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] holds dear. But his outreach was insincere.

20. The Kurdish Issue in Turkey: An Interview with Selahattin Demirtas
17 December 2012 / Foreign Policy Association blog
At thirty-nine years old, Selahattin Demirtas is the Chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Turkish parliament. He has held this position since January 2010 and was first elected to parliament in 2007 as the MP for the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir, after which he joined the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP). After the DTP was dissolved, he joined the BDP and rose to his present rank. A controversial figure, Demirtas was sentenced to ten months in prison for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after suggesting that the Turkish government talk to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. He has been extremely outspoken regarding the inclusion of Ocalan in political negotiations and the creation of some sort of autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish population.

21. Solidarity Letters from Political Prisoners in Turkey
23 December 2012 / Alliance for Kurdish Rights
The number of political prisoners in Turkey is increasing on a daily basis. Despite Turkey being criticised for its crackdowns on mostly Kurdish but also Turkish journalists, lawyers, politicians and activists, there hasn’t been sufficient pressure on Turkey to end these mass and arbitrary arrests. The violations of Kurdish rights in Turkey have been ongoing for decades. The struggle against the Turkish state to stop the unjust and degrading treatment of the Kurds seems never-ending. The number of Kurdish political prisoners strikes us as infinite, and consequently the prisoners are faceless to the outside world; just a mere number in a Turkish prison. An often forgotten statistic. However, an initiative attempts to put a face and give a voice to those unknown defenders of human rights.

22. We Need Mother Tongue Education for a Democratic Citizenship | Levent Pişkin
6 December 2012 / Turkey Constitution Watch
Mother tongue education has become one of the most hotly debated topics of the constitution-drafting process. But what exactly does this issue entail? The republican regime and the nation-state have imposed an essentialist view of society by both de jure and de facto means. For years, the phrase “mother tongue education” meant only teaching Turkish. “Citizen, Speak Turkish!” campaigns were organized, while any questioning of the unified, state-led education system was forbidden. According to the most recent edition of the Turkish Language Association’s Turkish dictionary, “mother tongue” is defined as “the language a child acquires from its family or the society in which it lives.” The definition widely used in the social sciences does not differ to a great extent from that of the Turkish Language Association. A survey of their definitions might lead us to the following synthesis: “Mother tongue” is “the language that a person acquires by skill and from the extended family into which he or she is born, is developed within that person’s social network, and enables his or her socialization.”

23. Turkey: Where the Army Can’t Protect Its Own Troops
21 December 2012 / American Interest
Turkey’s Islamist government started life planning to spread peace and security around the Middle East. With war in Syria and tensions building with Iran, that ambition isn’t looking so good. And now the Turks are discovering that the peace of their own country isn’t that secure; the long sputtering Kurdish revolt is back with a bang. Things are so bad that the Turkish army can’t protect its own troop convoys on Turkish roads anymore; Turkey’s armed forces are going to begin transporting troops to bases in the southeast by commercial aircraft in order to avoid roadside bombs set by the Kurds. Reuters reports: Turkey’s government and military began discussing alternative transport arrangements with the airline [Turkish Airlines] after a bomb attack on a security convoy in southeastern Bingol province which killed 10 people in September. […]

24. Statehood for Kurds?
4 January 2013 / LA Times
The Baghdad newspaper Sabah published a surprising article a few weeks ago. Its editor, Abd Jabbar Shabbout, suggested it was time to settle the “age-old problem” between Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds by establishing a “Kurdish state.” Never before had I heard such a once-heretical view so publicly expressed in any Arab quarter. And this was no ordinary quarter: Sabah is the mouthpiece of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Shabbout went on to suggest a negotiated “ending of the Arab-Kurdish partnership in a peaceful way.” He called his proposal Plan B, Plan A being the “dialogue” between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq that emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But Plan A, he said, was getting nowhere. Differences over power and authority, oil and natural resources, territory and borders were so deep that the dialogue repeatedly failed. In December the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga faced off in an atmosphere so tense, according to Shabbout, that hostilities could have broken out at any moment as a result of the slightest miscalculation.

25. An Interview with Nechirvan Barzani: Will There Be an Independent Kurdistan?
21 December 2012 / Time
If there is one man who deserves the credit for the growing Turkish-Kurd rapprochement, it’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan. Five years ago Kurds and foreigners alike laughed in his face when he told them that not only did he want Iraqi Kurdistan to export its own oil, but that he wanted to export it to Turkey, which has had an intractable problem with its own large Kurdish minority. Barzani’s strategy was one of patience: starting with confidence-building with the Turks and then coaxing small oil companies and then larger ones to risk Baghdad’s ire to drill for oil not only in the autonomous region but in territory disputed by both Barzani’s government and the Iraqi central government.
Barzani sat down with TIME on December 13 to talk about the Turks, his stormy relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the potential for an independent Kurdish state–and how that would affect members of the non-Arab ethnicity, which lives in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

26. Syrian Kurdish Plight Requires Independence
2 January 2013 / The Front Page Mag
Once again the Kurds find themselves in a humanitarian crisis not of their own making.  The Syrian Kurds are caught between the Assad regime and its allied forces, (including the Kurdish PYD – Union Democratic Party, which is linked to the PKK), and the Syrian opposition, principally the Free Syrian Army and its radical Islamists affiliates (such as Jabhat al-Nusra, with close ties to Al-Qaeda).  Both are seeking to draw the Kurds, who are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, to their side. In the meantime, both groups are confiscating vital supplies destined for the beleaguered Syrian Kurdish region.

27. The Kurds, Syria and the denial of Kurdish Rights
6 December 2012 / Stop the War Coalition
For the last twenty months Syria has provided the scenery for a longstanding and violent upheaval. News coverage of events taking place in the country has been narrowly focused on the conflict between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian opposition on one side and the Syrian regime on the other. Northern Syria, or “West Kurdistan” as the Kurds call it, has had very little media coverage during this period. The situation there is an entirely different story. This region of Syria is home to approximately 3 million Kurds. The Kurds make up the largest ethnic minority group within Syria.

28. Map of Western Kurdistan – First stage
YASA – Kurdish Centre for Legal Studies and Consultancy
After many months of work and cooperation with many Kurds both inside and outside Syria, YASA, the Kurdish Center for Legal Studies & Consultancy, has created a map of Western Kurdistan.
The first phase of the project is completed, and we are currently working on the second phase. People and experts who want to join us or have any comments or suggestions can contact us using the following e-mail address: info@yasa-online.org.

STATEMENTS

29. PROTESTS AGAINST MASS TRIALS IN TURKEY: ELDH Statement (update), 24 December 2012.

 

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