Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 15 – 21 February 2013

This Thursday evening (28.2.13), Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) and CAMPACC are holding a public meeting in Parliament to discuss Turkish anti-terror law and continuing mass arrests of lawyers and human rights defenders.

All welcome!

 Lawyers on Trial in Turkey: Implications for Establishing Peace and Justice

 Thursday 28 February, 6.30-8pm

 Chair: Ali Has
Speakers include Michael Mansfield QC, President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Prof Bill Bowring, President of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH); Melanie Gingell, barrister Tooks Chambers and member of the Bar Human Rights Committee: observed hearings in Turkey on 6 November 2012 and 3 January 2013; Margaret Owen OBE, barrister and member of the Bar Human Rights Committee: observed hearings in Turkey on 16 July 2012 and 6 November 2012.
Venue: Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Westminster SW1 0AA.

Please arrive at least half an hour in advance to give yourself time to go through security.

Download a flyer for the eventhere

 

NEWS
1. Police Rounds Up Workers Union Members
2. Turkish jets strike Kurd rebels in Iraq: military source
3. Turkey agrees Kurdish delegation to meet jailed militant leader
4. Öcalan: Our proposal for a solution conveyed to the government
5. Turkey’s Kurds Protest Öcalan Arrest Anniversary
6. Kurdish protesters clash with Turkish police
7. Erdogan Seeks Kurdish Allies For New Turkish Constitution
8. Turkey frees Kurdish ex-mayors, Ocalan warns on peace process
9. Turkey frees Kurdish ex-mayors, peace process edges forward
10. Turkey frees 10 pro-Kurdish politicians in mass trial
11. UN to debate Paris killings
12. Turkey meddling in Syria stirs clashes with Kurds: Analyst
13. Syrian Kurds who fled to Iraq have mixed feelings about Syria, in no rush to go home
14. Islamists and Kurds End Hostilities, to Fight Syria Regime
15. Iraqi Kurdistan: Genocide To Be Discussed In British Parliament
16. Tens of thousands protest 15 February conspiracy in Strasbourg
17. Abertzale Left condemn repression of Kurdish activists

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
18. A Woman, a Kurd, and an Optimist
19. Ocalan goes from enemy No 1 to potential peacemaker in Turkey
20. What does Öcalan want?
21. Another Kurdish Initiative in Turkey: Is Peace Finally Achievable?
22. The Kurds: Surprise Victors of the Iraq War (For Now)

STATEMENTS
23. Trade Union raids: KESK Statement, We will not be silent! We will resist! Repression cannot intimidate us!
24. Trade Union arrests: Egitim Sen Trade Union Central Management Council statement
25. International Initiative Press statement: Somersault alaturca – Play it again, Sam!

 

NEWS

1. Police Rounds Up Workers Union Members
20 February 2013 / Bianet
Turkish police have carried out an operation across 28 cities yesterday morning, detaining 167 individuals suspected for being a leftist DHKP-C organization member. Police operations also targeted the headquarters of a major workers union, KESK, located in Ankara. “I’m calling to police forces here. We know that you have been unlawfully monitoring our activities for several years. You don’t need to do that. We can provide anything if asked. We think you are launching this operation to denigrate and criminalize our struggle,” Lami Özgen, KESK chairperson, said in a statement. Özgen reminded that 59 active members of KESK have recently been jailed for being a KCK organization member. “They were only involved in workers union related activities,” Özgen said.

2. Turkish jets strike Kurd rebels in Iraq: military source
21 February 2013 / The Daily Star
Turkey sent jets across its border with Iraq to strike separatists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a local military source said Thursday. The jets bombed 12 targets in the Kandil Mountains in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq on Wednesday, the source told AFP without providing any casualty figures. Pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency confirmed the raid, saying it targeted two villages and destroyed many farms and orchards. The raid comes amid nascent peace talks between Ankara and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in prison.

3. Turkey agrees Kurdish delegation to meet jailed militant leader
21 February 2013 / Reuters
The Turkish government approved on Thursday a list of pro-Kurdish politicians to visit jailed militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, a justice ministry official said, a long-awaited step to advance peace talks on ending a 28-year-old insurgency. Turkey launched tentative negotiations with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Ocalan in his jail on Imrali island near Istanbul in October, drawing up a framework to end a conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people. But there has been little sign of progress since two Kurdish politicians met Ocalan on January 3 to discuss ways to end violence which has destabilised Turkey and stunted development of the mainly Kurdish southeast since the PKK took up arms in 1984. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has made clear that prominent Kurdish deputies who were filmed embracing militants would be barred from meeting the head of the PKK, deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Bowing to that pressure, parliament’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said it proposed three MPs, rather than the party leaders they had initially intended, “so that the process does not become deadlocked”.

4. Öcalan: Our proposal for a solution conveyed to the government
19 February 2013 / ANF
Mehmet Öcalan, brother of Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), spoke to Dicle News Agency (DİHA) about the details of the meeting he had with his brother on Imralı Island on Monday. Öcalan said that the Kurdish leader had asked him about the feelings in the country and what the public opinion thought of the process of talks. “I told him that 70 percent of the public opinion sided with a genuine and real process of negotiations”, he said. Mehmet Öcalan quoted the Kurdish leader as saying the followings; “I am a prisoner and I therefore don’t have the opportunity to deal and come up with a solution. Here I have had talks with intelligence officers (referring to National Intelligence Organization, MIT officers) who treat me with honesty but the truth is there are some other people and powers involved in this issue. I do not know to what extent those powers will support the process.

5. Turkey’s Kurds Protest Öcalan Arrest Anniversary
15 February 2013 / Bianet
Kurdish demonstrators rallied in almost every major city in Turkey, protesting the 14th anniversary of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s arrival to Turkey in 1999 after a military operation led by the U.S. Local businesses except pharmacies and bakeries were reportedly kept shut in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Urfa, Batman, Şırnak, Van, Hakkari, Ağrı, Muş, Kars, Iğdır, Adana, Mersin, Osmaniye and Hatay provinces. In Istanbul, a masked group attacked a commuter bus with molotov cocktails, police reported. In Diyarbakır province, thousands of demonstrators launched a protest walk, which was intervened by the police.

6. Kurdish protesters clash with Turkish police
16 February 2013 / Press TV
Kurdish protesters have clashed with police in Turkey during demonstrations marking the 14th anniversary of the arrest of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.  The clashes broke out in several southeastern provinces and in the city of Istanbul on Friday.  Police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse protesters in two towns in Hakkari province, while in Mardin three demonstrators and a police officer were injured in clashes.  Security forces also arrested dozens of protesters in Sirnak and Sanilufra.  Demonstrations were also held in Istanbul, in which protesters set two buses on fire.

7. Erdogan Seeks Kurdish Allies For New Turkish Constitution
13 February 2013 / Al Monitor
All four political parties represented in the Turkish parliament want a new “civilian” constitution to replace the one imposed by a putchist military 31 years ago. The problem is that the same four parties that agree to “no’’ on the September 12 military constitution cannot agree to “yes” on a new draft constitution. There are two main reasons for the discord. The first is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to replace the Turkish parliamentary regime with an executive presidential regime on his own terms. A proposal for Erdogan’s “à la carte” authoritarian presidential system has been submitted to the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission.

8. Turkey frees Kurdish ex-mayors, Ocalan warns on peace process
19 February 2013 / Yahoo News
Turkey freed a group of Kurdish former mayors accused of links to militants on Tuesday in a further small step towards halting a Kurdish insurgency, but the rebels’ jailed leader was reported as saying he could not stem the violence single-handedly. After more than three years in prison, 10 Kurdish defendants including six former mayors hugged family members as they emerged from jail at dawn in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, and were greeted by the city’s mayor. Their release coincided with fledgling peace talks between Turkey and the jailed leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, aimed at ending a 28-year-old conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people.

9. Turkey frees Kurdish ex-mayors, peace process edges forward
19 February 2013 / Reuters
Ten Kurdish defendants, including six former mayors, were released from jail on Tuesday in a trial of 175 people accused of links to militants, a further small step in Turkey’s efforts to end a Kurdish insurgency. After more than three years in prison the defendants hugged family members as they emerged from the prison gates at dawn in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, and were greeted by the city’s mayor. Their release coincided with fledgling peace talks between Turkey and the jailed leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, aimed at ending a 28-year-old conflict which has killed more than 40,000 people. “We will move hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder to advance this developing process and, with this responsibility, get on with our lives,” Firat Anli, former mayor of the Diyarbakir district of Yenisehir, told reporters after his release.

10. Turkey frees 10 pro-Kurdish politicians in mass trial
19 February 2013 / The Daily Star

A Turkish court released on Tuesday 10 pro-Kurdish politicians who were among hundreds, possibly thousands of people on trial accused of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir freed the politicians on the grounds that the time they spent in custody had now exceeded any prison term they would serve if convicted, court sources told AFP. Turkish authorities first launched a major campaign of arrests in 2009 against the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) which is considered a terrorist organisation and an urban wing of the PKK. Critics of the crackdown say the number of people arrested pending trial in the KCK case tops 3,500 while official figures from late 2011 say over 600 people had been arrested.

11. UN to debate Paris killings
21 February 2013 / ANF
The execution of three Kurdish politicians in Paris on 9 January will be debated at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s twenty-second regular session at the UN Office at Geneva from 25 February to 22 March. Sakine Cansız, a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Fidan Doğan, representative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) in Paris, and Leyla Şaylemez, member of the Kurdish youth movement, were killed in Paris on 9 January. No light has been shed yet by French authorities on the execution of three Kurdish women, Sara, Rojbin and Ronahi. Gianfranco Fattorini, UN Representative of French NGO, Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP)  will be directing questions to the UN mechanisms on the issue.

12. Turkey meddling in Syria stirs clashes with Kurds: Analyst
17 February 2013 / Press TV
Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian crisis will backfire by putting Ankara at the risk of a new series of violent confrontations with its minority Kurdish population, a political analysts tells Press TV.  Since Ankara opened the lid to the conflict in Syria, the crisis has been “dragging [Turkey] in, in a very direct way,” William Jones from the Executive Intelligence Review weekly newsmagazine told Press TV in an interview.  He described the prospect of new clashes with Kurds as “a definite threat to Turkey,” which Ankara can only contain through “the use of police and military force.”

13. Syrian Kurds who fled to Iraq have mixed feelings about Syria, in no rush to go home
18 February 2013 / Washington Post
Syrian Kurds who fled their country’s civil war have mixed feelings about a future without Bashar Assad: They hope to win a measure of autonomy after the fall of the regime, but fear chaos and the rise of Islamists could instead make their lives worse. More than 81,000 Syrian Kurds have found refuge in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region in recent months and hundreds more arrive every day. Few seem in a rush to go home. The Kurdistan Regional Government allows fellow Kurds from Syria to work and move freely in the three provinces of northern Iraq it controls. Some 30,000 refugees still live in a camp of tents and cinderblock shacks near the Syrian border, while the rest have found jobs and homes in towns across the autonomous region, some staying with relatives.

14. Islamists and Kurds End Hostilities, to Fight Syria Regime
19 February 2013 / Naharnet
Islamist rebels and Kurdish militias have ceased hostilities in the northern Syrian city of Ras al-Ain after sealing an accord that will see them fight together against the regime, activists said Tuesday. Intermittent and sometimes deadly clashes have taken place between the two sides since rebels entered the majority Kurdish city, located on the border with Turkey, several months ago. A statement was issued at the weekend detailing the terms of the final accord between the rebel Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish popular committees. A Kurdish activist from Ras al-Ain confirmed to Agence France Presse over the Internet on Tuesday that “there have been no confrontations following the agreement.”

15. Iraqi Kurdistan: Genocide To Be Discussed In British Parliament
20 February 2013 / UNPO
Concerted efforts over the last year by Kurdish and British campaigners have scored a major result. The British Parliament will discuss the genocide against the Iraqi Kurds in a special and historic debate from about 2.15-5pm on Thursday 28 February. The title of the debate is “the 25th anniversary of the Kurdish genocide and its contemporary relevance.” The motion says that Parliament “formally recognises the Genocide against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and encourages governments, the EU and UN to do likewise. It adds that “that this will enable Kurdish people, many in the UK, to achieve justice for their considerable loss” and also enable Britain, the home of democracy and freedom, to send out a message of support for international conventions and human rights, which is made even more pressing by the slaughter in Syria and the possible use of chemical arsenals.”

16. Tens of thousands protest 15 February conspiracy in Strasbourg
16 February 2013 / Mesop
Tens of thousands people across Europe have gathered early Saturday in the French city of Strasbourg to mark the 14th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), on 15 February 1999. Kurds coming from different European countries started to gather at Rue de Nancy as of early morning hours for the march which is organized by FEYKA (Federation of Kurdish Associations in France). Demonstrators will also call on the French state to shed light on the execution of three Kurdish politicians, Sakine Cansız, a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), fidan Doğan, representative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) in Paris, and Leyla Şaylemez, member of the Kurdish youth movement, in Paris on 9 January. French police has taken intense security measures in the area. Some buses were stopped and searched before entering the meeting area.

17. Abertzale Left condemn repression of Kurdish activists
21 February 2013 / ANF
T
he Abertzale Left would like to denounce the harassment of Kurdish activists by the
French and Spanish authorities. We call both states to stop any collaboration with
Turkish government´s war strategy and to put an end to all detentions and
imprisonments. While the investigation on the killing of three Kurdish relevant activists last January in Paris has no yet any clarification, the French government continues with a strategy of criminalisation of the Kurdish Diaspora. 16 Kurdish people have been arrested following the political pressure of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan last weeks.

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

18. A Woman, a Kurd, and an Optimist
19 February 2013 / New York Times
At 51, she is petite yet powerful. Arriving at a cafe in a crowded shopping mall, she sits only after her brother has checked out the locale. Generally reluctant to speak to journalists, Leyla Zana has come by caution the hard way but has lost none of her determination to fight for the rights of Kurds, and of women. Born in the province of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey in 1961, she dropped out of elementary school because she could not understand the language of instruction — Turkish — and was forbidden to speak her own.  Married at 14 to Mehdi Zana, a political Kurd some 20 years her senior who became mayor of Diyarbakir and spent 16 years in jail after the 1980 military coup, she found herself the single mother of two children. Learning Turkish with them as they were schooled, she also found her political voice — and went on to become, in 1991, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish Parliament.

19. Ocalan goes from enemy No 1 to potential peacemaker in Turkey
19 February 2013 / The National

He is the founder and leader of the main Kurdish separatist group, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). He was long regarded as Turkey’s public enemy number one for leading a war of independence against the Turkish state. Yet now, from his jail cell in on the prison island of Imrali near Istanbul, he is poised to become the key to ending a three-decade war between the army and the PKK that has killed more than 40,000 people. In December, the Turkish intelligence service started talks with Ocalan on the island, where he has been held since Turkish agents snatched him in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1999 and smuggled him back to Turkey.

20. What does Öcalan want?
16 February 2013 / Hurriyet
Friday, Feb. 15th, was the 14th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Öcalan, the founding leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On that date in 1999 he was forced to leave the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in a joint operation between the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Four months earlier in October 1998, following an ultimatum by the Turkish government, endorsed by Egypt and Iran, Hafez (the father of Bashar) al-Assad had to end his long stay in Syria. After spending months on the run between European capitals such as Athens, Moscow and Rome, he was brought to and jailed in Turkey on Feb. 16, 1999. For the last 14 years he has been in a room that is slightly larger than 11 square meters.

21. Another Kurdish Initiative in Turkey: Is Peace Finally Achievable?
15 February 2013 / Informed Comment
The last year saw a significant escalation in the armed conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish insurgency (PKK) fighting for autonomy. 2012 was the most violent year since the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. At least 541 individuals lost their lives, a significant increase from the previous years. As the meetings between the representatives of the Turkish government and the insurgents came to an end in summer 2011, the Turkish security forces and the PKK militants engaged in frequent skirmishes. The gains of the Syrian Kurds led by the PYD, an affiliate of the PKK, further aggravated the threat perception of the AK Party, which has been in power since 2002. The Turkish government responded by sponsoring Islamist Arab militants that who engaged in heavy clashes with the PYD militia for the control of Ras al-Ayn (Sêrekaniyê) since November 2012.

22. The Kurds: Surprise Victors of the Iraq War (For Now)
19 February 2013 / Counterpunch
The Kurds of Iraq are the big winners in the 10 years since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. They have also been lucky. Up to a few weeks before the invasion in 2003, the US was intending to invade northern Iraq from Turkey, along with 40,000 Turkish troops. The Kurds were horrified at this, suspecting that once the Turks were in northern Iraq it would be impossible to get them out. I remember the Kurdish relief and jubilation when the Turkish parliament voted against participating in the US invasion.

STATEMENTS

23. Trade Union raids: KESK Statement, We will not be silent! We will resist! Repression cannot intimidate us! 19 February 2013.

24. Trade Union arrests: Egitim Sen Trade Union Central Management Council statement, 19 February 2013.

25. International Initiative Press statement: Somersault alaturca – Play it again, Sam! 15 February 2013.

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