Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 12 – 19 September 2013

 

UK delegation returns from observing KCK trial of lawyers

This week a UK delegation of six barristers and solicitors travelled to Istanbul to observe the sixth hearing of the KCK trial of lawyers, a major anti-terror trial in which 46 lawyers representing Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan are being tried on mass for their association with him as their client.

The delegates included international human rights barristers Margaret Owen OBE, Hugo Charlton, and Mark Jones of St Ives Chambers, as well as Tooks Chambers’ Bronwen Jones and Law Society Human Rights Committee member, Tony Fisher and Ali Has, solicitor and representative of the Law Society Human Rights Committee International Action Team.

A public event following the delegation will take place in Garden Court Chambers on 9 October 2013.

In the meantime, Margaret Owen has written three blog posts giving her observations of the highly political hearing, which you can read here.

NEWS
1. News of consulting Öcalan on democratization package causes controversy
2. Northern Kurdistan Conference offers an eight-point solution proposal
3. Öcalan proposes “new format” for PKK-Turkey truce
4. Why is the Turkish government delaying the Kurdish package?
5. Turkish and Kurdish Officials Working on Peace Package
6. Öcalan: Dialogue process should advance in a new format
7. CPJ calls on Erdogan to embrace press freedom
8. KCK calls for school boycott to demand education in Kurdish
9. UK lawyers condemn jailing of 21 journalists in Turkey
10. Gezi protesters detained and released in Ankara to face trial
11. Kurdish Leaders Apologize for Genocide During Monument Inauguration in Turkey
12. Syrian opposition agrees to include more Kurds
13. Syria: Kurdish Group Calls for Autonomy
14. Court Case Reveals Turkey Arms Flow To Syrian Rebels
15. Turkey Establishes Kurdish Jihadist Brigade to Fight Against Syria
16. Kurds push jihadists from Syria village: activist group
17. Turkish army opens fire on YPG fighters in Susikê village in Tal Abyad
18. UN to Investigate Claims of Kurdish Massacre in Syria
19. In Iraqi Kurdistan, former refugees embrace new ones
20. Kurdistan Region Elections: A to Z

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
21. Inch by inch: New tensions emerge between the government and the PKK
22. Al Qaeda’s Turkish base?
23. Analysis: ‘Unprecedented’ events in and around Turkey likely to increase regional turbulence
24. Turkey’s Syria Border on Edge
25. Middle East reconfigured: Turkey vs. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia
26. Kurds Caught in Throes of Syria’s War

ACTIONS
27. Open letter to Erdogan: CPJ calls on Erdogan to embrace press freedom

STATEMENTS
28. UK trial observers arrive in Istanbul amid demonstrations to witness mass trial of lawyers

REPORTS
29. FPC Briefing: What differences will the Fourth Package of Reforms make for Turkey in international judicial co-operation?
30. Kurdistan Region: Enticing Investors, Guardian Report

 

NEWS

1. News of consulting Öcalan on democratization package causes controversy
13 September 2013 / Todays Zaman
Reports alleging that the government showed a democratization package that it has been working on to the leader of the terrorist Kurdtan Workers’ Party (PKK) and discussed its contents with him have caused quite a stir in the capital. A report published in the HaberTürk daily on Friday claimed that the package, whose contents have not yet been shared with the public except for a few indications as to what it might contain, was shared with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on the island of İmralı, where he has been imprisoned since his capture in 1999. T he report said National Intelligence Agency (MİT) officials showed Öcalan the package, convinced him to support the changes regarding Kurdish rights, which, the story asserted, will effectively end the recent crisis between the terrorist group and the Turkish state stemming from the former’s insistence that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government isn’t doing its part in the settlement process.

2. Northern Kurdistan Conference offers an eight-point solution proposal
13 September 2013 / ANF
Components of the Northern Kurdistan Unity and Solution Conference issued a press conference in Amed about the recent developments in the democratic resolution process and the Kurdish people’s basic demand to be educated in their mother language. The press conference was attended by DTK (Democratic Society Congress) co-chairs Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk, BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş,Diyarbakır Chamber of Doctors Chairperson Kenan Karadaş, KADEP President Lütfi Baksi, Azadi Initiative Deputy Coordinator Muhammet Dara Akar, GÜNSİAD former chair Şahismail Bedirhanoğlu, TUHAD-FED President Zübeyde Teker, Peace Mothers Initiative as well as representatives of NGOs and political parties serving as the components of the Northern Kurdistan Unity and Solution Conference.

3. Öcalan proposes “new format” for PKK-Turkey truce
17 September 2013 / Asharq Al-Awsat
Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan called for a “new format” in the stalled peace process with Turkey on Sunday after the Kurdish movement stopped the withdrawal of its fighters last week citing Ankara’s failure to meet the conditions of a nascent peace agreement.  Öcalan issued a statement—released by the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)—calling for “thorough negotiations” to restart the peace process. The latest statement comes after secret meetings between Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MiT) leader, Hakan Fidan, and Öcalan in Imrali Island where he is currently being held.  While Öcalan remains head of the PKK, day-to-day running of the group is currently held by military commander Cemil Bayik, who was recently elected to lead the group at its Mount Qandil base in Iraqi Kurdistan. Bayik has issued escalating threats to the Ankara leadership over the stalled peace process, warning that the PKK will send its fighters back to Turkey if the Erdoğan government refuses to implement the provisions of the peace agreement.

4. Why is the Turkish government delaying the Kurdish package?
19 September 2013 / Hurriyet
The upcoming package is not only a Kurdish package, corrects Hüseyin Çelik, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) spokesman, and continues: “It is a conceptual work for a relief of all layers in Turkey who feel themselves as ‘others’ of the establishment. That includes groups like non-Muslims, pious Muslims, Alevis and Kurds as well. That is why we call it a ‘democratization’ package.” The “package” was expected to be revealed in August. It was the reason for the warning by both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which share the same grassroots, urging the Tayyip Erdoğan government to take steps before Sept. 1. The deadline passed, but in the meantime Erdoğan has said they are at the final stages of work on the package, so needed some more time.

5. Turkish and Kurdish Officials Working on Peace Package
14 September 2013 / AINA
Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey say they are hopeful going into continued talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a democratization package. Erdogan on Friday met with Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) officials to finalize the democratization package, and is expected to announce the details of the package next week, Hurriyet Daily News reported. “We are not expecting that this package will include and meet all demands, but there is hope, at least. The government should include some issues which will relieve the Turkish public opinion and offer solutions to the peace process in the package. There are expectations on amendments to the Anti-Terror Law and Turkish Criminal Code, release of KCK [Kurdish Communities Union] members under arrest, sick prisoners, freedom of belief, removing discrimination, the issue of the mother tongue and issues concerning women,” said BDP deputy group chairman Pervin Buldan.

6. Öcalan: Dialogue process should advance in a new format
15 September 2013 / ANF
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and group parliamentary deputy chair Pervin Buldan have released a statement after returning from İmralı island where they have visited Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan on Sunday.According to the statement of the BDP, Öcalan said the dialogue process which began one year ago should advance in a new and more purposeful format, be intensified and evolve to negotiations. Öcalan who said he had already conveyed his proposals to the Turkish state and Kandil (referring to the executives of the Kurdish Movement, KCK) about the means and possibilities required for purposeful negotiations.

7. CPJ calls on Erdogan to embrace press freedom
17 September 2013 / ANF
In a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Committee to Protect Journalists voiced its concerns about the continued press freedom crisis in Turkey. The CPJ letter was delivered yesterday to Kenan Özdemir, deputy undersecretary in the Ministry of Justice, who met with a delegation from CPJ to discuss the organization’s concern. The delegation consisted of CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, board member John Carroll, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Turkey correspondent Özgür Öğret. Referring to the special report CPJ published in October 2012, which highlighted the widespread criminal prosecution and imprisonment of journalists and the government’s use of various forms of pressure that promotes self-censorship, the Committee remarked that almost a year later, the media environment in Turkey remained extremely difficult.

8. KCK calls for school boycott to demand education in Kurdish
14 September 2013 / World Bulletin
KCK is planning to prevent Kurds from sending their children to school for the first week of the school year in protest of the government’s inaction on taking concrete steps regarding education in the Kurdish language. There is still debate about whether or not the right to be educated in one’s mother tongue will be included in a new package of democratic reforms the government is working on and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) — an umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – has called on all Kurds to boycott the first week of school to promote their demand for an education in the Kurdish language.

9. UK lawyers condemn jailing of 21 journalists in Turkey
13 September 2013 / Press Gazette
On 5 August, 21 Turkish journalists were sentences to jail terms ranging from 6 years to life in solitary confinement on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. As the dust settles over the latest wave of imprisonments, a delegation of UK lawyers is speaking out against a criminal justice system mired in political corruption.

10. Gezi protesters detained and released in Ankara to face trial
17 September 2013 / Hurriyet
A Public Prosecutor’s office in Ankara will launch a mass case against individuals accused of attending Gezi Park protests in the city, with nearly 500 people who were detained and released in early protests estimated to be tried in the case in Ankara alone. One prosecutor has already opened six criminal files against some 137 individuals and a new mass case is set to begin soon, daily Cumhuriyet reported today. The first case regarding the Gezi protests was launched after a protest on June 16 in Ankara’s central square Kızılay against some 35 people who assembled to denounce the fourth death since clashes between riot police and protesters began in Turkey.

11. Kurdish Leaders Apologize for Genocide During Monument Inauguration in Turkey
18 September 2013 / AINA
The Sur Municipality of Diyarbakir held the official inauguration of the Monument of Common Conscience on Sept. 12, with mayor Abdullah Demirbas apologizing in the name of Kurds for the Armenian and Assyrian genocides. “We Kurds, in the name of our ancestors, apologize for the genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians in 1915,” Demirbas declared in his opening speech. “We will continue our struggle to secure atonement and compensation for them.” The mayor called upon the Turkish authorities to issue an apology and do whatever needed to atone for the genocide. “We invite them to take steps in this direction,” he said. The inscription on the monument at the Anzele Park, near a recently restored historic fountain, reads, in six languages including Armenian: We share the pain so that it is not repeated.

12. Syrian opposition agrees to include more Kurds
16 September 2013 / France 24
Syria’s Kurds reached an agreement with the main opposition coalition to include more members from the minority in the body, the Kurdish National Council and the opposition said Monday. The deal reached between the KNC came after months of stalling, as the Syrian National Coalition’s general assembly meeting came to a close. “The National Coalition and the Kurdish National Council voted in an agreement on Sunday, that will bring in more Kurdish members,” Coalition spokesman Louay Safi told AFP. “We think it’s important because it builds trust. We want Syria to be a country where equality and political rights are guaranteed for all,” said Safi.

13. Syria: Kurdish Group Calls for Autonomy
11 September 2013 / Israel News
The People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (also known as the PYD) has released a draft proposal calling for Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria – along similar lines to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) which currently exists in northern Iraq. The introduction to the proposal stipulates that it is not calling for a complete “split” from the rest of Syria, and stresses that such an autonomous region would not pose any threat to neighboring states. Rather, it is meant as a vehicle to achieve stability and security for Syria’s Kurdish population, as a first step towards a free and “pluralistic” Syrian state. Among other items, the proposal – launched jointly with Kurdish officials in the northern Syrian city of Qamishli – outlines plans to establish an independent committee to draw up a draft constitution, as well as for the establishment of interim social, economic and security institutions in Kurdish-held territories. Under the proposal, democratic legislative elections would take place six months after the establishment of an interim Kurdish government, allowing half a year for the drafting of a constitution.

14. Court Case Reveals Turkey Arms Flow To Syrian Rebels
13 September 2013 / Al Monitor
“To tell the truth, it’s a flat lie when the state claims it does not help provide the opposition with weapons,” Cihat Acikalin, a lawyer in the Turkey-Syria border town Reyhanli, told Al-Monitor. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected all conjecture regarding the transfer of weapons to the Syrian opposition through Turkey as recently as May 10. Erdogan stressed that Turkey only provides humanitarian help by opening its borders to nearly 300,000 refugees, costing the country roughly $1 billion. The conjecture about Turkey’s assistance to the opposition peaked after Syria allegedly shot down a Turkish warplane in June 2012. Erdogan said at the time, “Turkey and the Turkish people will provide all sorts of support to the Syrian people until they free themselves from this persecution, this bloody-handed dictator and his gang.” This statement led to much speculation and brought the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s policy toward Syria under a domestic and foreign spotlight.

15. Turkey Establishes Kurdish Jihadist Brigade to Fight Against Syria
14 September 2013 / Global Research
According to the Intelligence Online, a  professional French journal closely following the activities of intelligence services in the world, Ankara established a Kurdish jihadist brigade to fight against the main Syrian Kurdish party PYD (Democratic Union Party). “To fight the troops of the Syrian Kurdish movement PYD , which is part of the border between Syria and Turkey , Ankara has encouraged the formation of a jihadist brigade composed almost exclusively of Kurds and called Katibat al- Taliban ( KaT ) . The fighters of the movement , mostly young Kurdish penniless receive nearly $ 1 000 when they engage . They are then sent to fight the PYD on the Turkish- Syrian border alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA ) and jihadists Jabhat al- Nosra . Many of them were killed in late July during an assault in the town of Tell Halaf “, Intelligence Online said.

16. Kurds push jihadists from Syria village: activist group
18 September 2013 / Daily Star
Kurdish fighters have forced jihadists to pull out of a village in northeastern Syria after clashes that left 21 dead on both sides, an activist group said Wednesday. Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been battling jihadists from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front for months. “The YPG fighters took control of the village of Aluk, to the east of the town of Ras al-Ain,” on the border with Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Kurdish fighters seized the town after four days of clashes with ISIS and Al-Nusra, who had entered it from the border area, the Observatory said.

17. Turkish army opens fire on YPG fighters in Susikê village in Tal Abyad
19 September 2013 / ANF
Turkish army opened fire on People’s Defense Units (YPG) fighters in the Susike village, 10 km away from the Tal Abyad (Girê Spî) city bordering Turkey, on Thursday. According to the reports received from YPG sources, units of the Turkish army deployed on the ‘Ceman Beg’hill on Turkey’s side have launched an attack targeting YPG forces in the Susikê village at noontime. Two fighters of the YPG have been killed in the attack which was reportedly carried out by snipers. The Turkish attack came after the eruption of fierce clashes between YPG and al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist gang groups which launched artillery attacks against the Susikê village at around 5 a.m. on Thursday.

18. UN to Investigate Claims of Kurdish Massacre in Syria
12 September 2013 / Rudaw
In a report this week, the United Nations accuses Kurdish armed groups of committing human rights abuses in the Syrian civil war, and says it will investigate the killings of Kurdish civilians by anti-government groups outside the city of Aleppo. In a report released this week, and based on 258 interviews, the UN accuses both the government in Syria and pro-government forces of crimes against humanity. The report says the UN sees no military solution for the Syrian conflict and believes that “a political solution” is the only path to peace.  The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), backs a political solution and rejects foreign intervention. It also supports the UN position for more diplomacy. The UN says it will investigate claims by the PYD of human rights abuses in Til Aran and Aleppo in its next reporting period. The PYD claims that a brutal massacre of Kurdish civilians took place in the countryside of Aleppo in late July by jihadi fighters involved in Syria’s complex civil war. But the armed Islamist groups have denied they target Kurdish civilians.

19. In Iraqi Kurdistan, former refugees embrace new ones
17 September 2013 / World Bulletin
For many Iraqi Kurds, being a refugee is an experience they vividly remember. For decades, they had to flee Saddam Hussein’s tyranny and take refuge in neighboring countries, such as Iran and Turkey, and some even migrated as far as Europe, North America and Australia. But the newfound prosperity and security of the Iraqi Kurdistan region have meant they are now hosting refugees from elsewhere. Syrian Kurds are just the latest group. With the civil war in Syria showing no sign of abating, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, mostly Kurds from the northern and northeastern parts of the country, have fled to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Kurdish authorities put the number at more than 200,000 people.

20. Kurdistan Region Elections: A to Z
17 September 2013 / Rudaw
Here are some facts about the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which goes to the polls on Saturday to elect its next regional legislature:
GEOGRAPHY: Iraqi Kurdistan, or the Kurdistan Region, is an autonomous area in northern Iraq where the country’s five million Kurds exercise self-rule over the provinces of Erbil, Sulaimani and Duhok.  The predominantly Sunni Kurds and the Shiite-led Arab central government in Baghdad both also lay claim to large tracts of disputed lands, among them multiethnic Kirkuk, an immensely energy-rich province over which the two came close to war early this year. The Kurdistan Region covers an area of more than 40,000 square kilometers and borders Iran to the East, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. Its capital city is Erbil, which is 400 kilometers north of Baghdad.

 

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

21. Inch by inch: New tensions emerge between the government and the PKK
14 September 2013 / Economist
THE peace process between Turkey and its rebellious Kurds is crawling at a snail’s pace. Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has moved to a larger cell on the prison island where he has been bargaining with Turkey’s spy chief. The semi-official Anatolian news agency has launched its first Kurdish-language service. “What of its content though, further lies?” asks one Kurdish tweeter. And what of the government’s reforms, which Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister promised in “a matter of weeks” (they may come this weekend)? In a statement on September 9th peppered with accusations of treachery against Mr Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AK) party, the PKK said it was halting the withdrawal of fighters from Turkey to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Mr Erdogan said he would not budge until all had gone. The PKK says it needs a gesture from the government.

22. Al Qaeda’s Turkish base?
18 September 2013 / Deutsche Welle
From Nevroz Algiç’s restaurant one can taste the spicy local food while enjoying the best views over the front line, literally across the street. The fighting is so close that gunfire can still be heard over the arabesque music blaring out of the loudspeakers. Located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Ankara, Ceylanpinar was once known for its gigantic agricultural complex. However, this city with a population of 40,000 is now yet another victim of the Syrian war. Since October 2012, four residents have been killed and dozens have been wounded by stray bullets, mortars and rockets. “Before the new teachers would eat here and stay in this guesthouse but none of them wants to come here now. No one knows when the shooting will start or when will it finish,” Algiç tells DW. The bullet holes on these walls are a stark reminder of what’s happening round the corner. Still, material losses are not that important.

23. Analysis: ‘Unprecedented’ events in and around Turkey likely to increase regional turbulence
18 September 2013 / Armenia Now
Some unprecedented events are taking place in Turkey that potentially can have significant consequences for the entire region in general and neighboring Armenia, in particular. The global analytical community has long called Turkey one of the main actors of the international operation in Syria. Moreover, in the light of this conflict, leading experts say that a struggle has begun in Turkey between the Alawites and the Islamists – parallel to the movement of the Kurds who recently suspended the process of withdrawal of militants abroad.  In addition, the Kurds held a strike yesterday in the province of Van, demanding to be allowed to teach their children at schools in Kurdish. All Kurdish children yesterday boycotted school classes.

24. Turkey’s Syria Border on Edge
13 September 2013 / Al Monitor
Last week, I traveled to Turkey’s border with Syria. I was planning to cross into the Kurdish-controlled northeast to find out how the country’s most influential Kurdish group, the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), was running the string of towns and villages that fell under its control last summer. I would have to cross into Syria illegally because Turkey’s formal border crossings with the Kurdish region remain sealed. My destination was the PYD-controlled town of Ras al-Ain, or Serekaniye in Kurdish, that stands opposite Ceylanpinar on the Turkish side. Colleagues who had used smuggler routes to get in assured me that I would sail through. But when I arrived in Ceylanpinar, I learned that the trip across included wiggling my way through barbed-wire fencing and risking being spotted by trigger-happy Turkish border guards. I dropped the idea, deciding instead to investigate widespread claims that Turkey is propping up Syrian rebels in a little-reported proxy war against the PYD.

25. Middle East reconfigured: Turkey vs. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia
13 September 2013 / CNN
Turkish-Iranian posturing on Syria, with Ankara arguing for more than limited strikes against the regime and Tehran saying that whoever strikes President Bashar al-Assad must bear the consequences, serves as a harbinger for the birth of a new Middle East order. Just as World War 1 transformed the Middle East by ending the Ottoman rule and creating contemporary nation states, so the Arab Spring has recalibrated this regional system by ushering in a tri-axial Middle East composed of: a Turkey-Kurdish-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) axis; an Iran-Shiite axis; and a Saudi Arabia-pro-status quo monarchies axis.

26. Kurds Caught in Throes of Syria’s War
12 September 2013 / Voice of America
Syrian Kurds are caught in the middle of Syria’s civil war, fighting among themselves and also battling Islamist extremists for control of pockets of the country. When Soaad Zenno left Syria with her three children a year ago, she left a country that banned Kurdish holidays and wouldn’t allow Kurdish history or language to be taught in schools. But for families like Zenno’s, crowded into two rooms near the Syrian border as refugees in Lebanon, there is nothing good about the war for Kurds.Talking about the hardship of living displaced from her war-torn homeland, Zenno said her children did’t even go to school. Syrians Kurds have fled by the tens of thousands as fighting rages in Syria not only among Kurdish factions, but also between Kurdish groups and Islamist insurgents.

ACTIONS

27. Open letter to Erdogan: CPJ calls on Erdogan to embrace press freedom, 16 September 2013.

STATEMENTS

28. UK trial observers arrive in Istanbul amid demonstrations to witness mass trial of lawyers, PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN Press Release, 16 September 2013.

REPORTS

29. FPC Briefing: What differences will the Fourth Package of Reforms make for Turkey in international judicial co-operation? Foreign Policy Centre, September 2013.

30. Kurdistan Region: Enticing Investors, Guardian Report. 19 September 2013.

 

 

 

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