Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 11 – 18 October 2013

NEWS
1. BDP kicked off electoral campaign
2. Journalists and Media Gripped By Government-Police
3. BDP Opposes Proposed Electoral Reforms, Despite Supposed Benefits
4. Öcalan still hopeful process can progress
5. Police to be given more powers
6. Protest against “wall of shame”
7. Turkey’s wall plans face Kurdish opposition
8. Thousands of soldiers deployed on South Kurdistan border
9. Report: Obama confronted Erdoğan over support for radicals in Syria
10. Turkey returns fire at Syria militants’ targets
11. HRW calls on Turkey to avoid being a safe haven for human rights abusers
12. Thousands bid farewell to Sherzan Muslim
13. Syrian Kurds fight off jihadist rebels, and protect oil fields
14. Syrian Arab Village Welcomes Kurdish Fighters
15. PYD: News Briefing Regarding Events in West Kurdistan (Northern Syria)
16. Syria’s Kurds Divided Over Geneva II Conference
17. Lawyers of Rojava: We Have Freed Ourselves From The Dirty Law Of the Regime

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
18. Abdullah Ocalan: the Kurdish Leader’s Life’s Work Is at a Critical Crossroads
19. Kurdish Question
20. The EU’s Mixed Report on Turkey
21. Turkey: Do Ankara’s Reforms Go Far Enough for EU?
22. Turkey’s Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria
23. Dark Affairs Across Turkey’s Border
24. Pressure Mounts on Turkey Over Radical Groups in Syria
25. Pale eyed portraits of Kurdistan: Haunting photographs offer insight into the lives of refugees forced from their homes by the conflict in Syria
26. Syria’s first Kurdish-language newspaper
27. Syrian Kurdish Leader Urges Turkey To End Support for Salafists
28. Kurds Build Bridges At Last

STATEMENTS
29. Statement by the Executive Council of the KCK

REPORTS
30. Full report on the KCK Trial of Lawyers in Istanbul
31. EC Turkey Progress Report 2013

ACTIONS
32. Exclusive interview with David Barsamian

BOOKS
33. In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria

 

NEWS

1. BDP kicked off electoral campaign
8 October 2013 / ANF
The BDP and HPD have officially kicked off their campaign for the 2014 Turkish Municipal Elections to be held this coming March. The two parties are running in an alliance, with the BDP running candidates in Kurdish provinces in the East of the country and the HDP in the West. In complying with party statues, a large percentage of the candidates will be women. According to a report by DİHA, the parties will run under the slogan “Moving toward Democratic Liberation and Construction of a Free Life, Lets Build Our Own Genuine Systems of Self-Government.” In a statement issued by the BDP leadership, the party emphasized that their  “measure of success would be a strategic approach to the elections.”

2. Journalists and Media Gripped By Government-Police
10 October 2013 / Bianet
Bia Media Monitoring July-August-September 2013: Throughout the Gezi Resistance protests, police broke up demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons, rubber bullets as well as by dragging on the ground and assaulting. 48 journalists were injured while reporting news under these circumstances and at least 11 were detained.  Government policies during Gezi Resistance marked the prominent factor in the drafting of BIA Media Monitoring July-August-September 2013.  While journalists were targetted by policemen in urban sqaures, the Turkish government led by by PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were giving directives towards media authorities.  Result: At least 10 journalists and 1 academician were forced to resignation because of their opinions on Gezi Resistance. At least 11 journalists and 6 academicians were laid off. In an environment where auto-censure ruled the media, editorial freedom and reader’s right to be informed almost shot down.

3. BDP Opposes Proposed Electoral Reforms, Despite Supposed Benefits
15 October 2013 / Rudaw
Changes to Turkey’s electoral system proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will favor the Kurdish Peace and Democracy  Party (BDP), analysts say, but the party itself says that is not true. Erdogan  announced a “democratization package” last month which includes a proposal to lower the threshold for a political party to enter parliament to 5 percent of the national vote, instead of the current 10 percent which is among the highest in the world. The higher threshold has kept Kurdish groupings out of parliament. Dr Seyfettin Gursel,a prominent academic known for his extensive work on electoral system reform in Turkey, said that with the lower threshold the BDP can look to occupy more than 30 seats in parliament.

4. Öcalan still hopeful process can progress
17 October 2013 / ANF
Extending her bairam greetings to the people in the province of Iğdır on Wednesday, BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) parliamentary group deputy chair Pervin Buldan talked about the most recent meeting she, together with İdris Baluken, held with Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı prison. According to Öcalan – Buldan said – the fact that no life has been loss, due to the unilateral PKK ceasefire, has been the only positive side of the resolution process going on for the last one year now. Buldan said Öcalan believed the Turkish state and government should form the necessary legal ground if they want guerrillas to lay arms down and to get back into the society. “I still feel hopeful about this process which however requires some urgent legal arrangements from the government’s side.

5. Police to be given more powers
7 October 2013 / ANF
According to a new regulation to be run jointly between the Interior and Justice Ministries, police could detain anyone who they suspect “could hold or organize a protest” for up to 24 hours without any court decision. A judge will also be able to extend the 24-hour detention period should he find it appropriate. At present a judge’s or prosecutor’s order is necessary to detain people in such cases. And organizations considered known or likely to “hold protests” will be monitored while their members could be detained by police if intelligence reports suggest they are planning to organize a demonstration or action. At the same time, penalties for resistance to police and damaging public properties will also increase.

6. Protest against “wall of shame”
17 October 2013 / ANF
Executives and members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) staged a demonstration against the ‘wall of shame’ currently being built between Mardin’s Nusaybin district and the Qamishlo city in West Kurdistan. The demo was joined by a large number of civilians and politicians including BDP Mardin deputy Erol Dora, DTK (Democratic Society Congress) permanent council member Osman Özçelik, mayors of Mardin’s Kızıltepe and Nusaybin districts, city council members and BDP and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Mardin executives.

7. Turkey’s wall plans face Kurdish opposition
16 October 2013 / Al Jazeera
There is a controversy on Turkey’s border with Syria’s biggest Kurdish city of Alqamishly. It started early October when Turkish military excavators started construction work here. Now the people of Nusaibin, who are also Kurds, accuse the government of digging the foundations to build a wall. They call it the wall of shame … some even compared it to the Berlin Wall. Others bluntly say that this is an attempt aimed at dividing the Kurds on the two sides of the borders. Work stopped. Not clear why or if it will resume again. The mayor of Nusaybin is quite clear that she and her Peace and Democracy Party, the biggest Kurdish party in Turkey, will not allow that to happen. “This is political … there are no attacks coming from Rojava (or Western Kurdistan, a name Kurds give to Kurdish areas in Syria)” says Ayse Gokkan.

8. Thousands of soldiers deployed on South Kurdistan border
11 October 2013 / ANF
Thousands of soldiers from the 48th infantry brigade in Şırnak’s Sêgirk (Şenoba) town have been deployed on South Kurdistan border on Friday. Gendarmerie units have recently withdrawn from the South Kurdistan border after the transfer of the “border protection” authority from the general commandership of gendarmerie to the land forces command. Caravans have reportedly been sent to the border region where soldiers are currently staying in tents. The military deployment on South Kurdistan border came after the Turkish parliament has recently extended the government’s authorization for one more year to launch cross-border operations in the guerrilla controlled Media Defense Areas.

9. Report: Obama confronted Erdoğan over support for radicals in Syria
10 October 2013 / Todays Zaman
US President Barack Obama reportedly confronted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a “difficult meeting” in May about what Washington saw as indiscriminate support for fighters seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a sign of disagreement between the two NATO allies over how to respond to the crisis in Syria. Erdoğan met with Obama during a visit to Washington in May, and the two had talks focusing primarily on Syria. The two leaders projected a united front after the talks despite disagreement over how much the US should intervene to end the Syrian crisis. Turkey has pressed the US for a more aggressive stance to bring down the Assad regime while the Obama administration, partly out of concern over radical Islamist groups within the opposition, has refrained from military action or more active support for the opposition.

10. Turkey returns fire at Syria militants’ targets
16 October 2013 / Press TV
On Tuesday, the Turkish soldiers shot four rounds from self-propelled artillery guns at positions in the border town of Azaz under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the army said on Wednesday.  There were no immediate reports of any possible casualties or damage.  After fighting with forces of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) on September 18, the Takfiri militants overran the northwestern town, a former commercial and industrial hub located five kilometers (two miles) from Syria’s border with Turkey. This is the first time for Turkey to get engaged in such an attack. The Turkish government has itself been blamed for supporting al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

11. HRW calls on Turkey to avoid being a safe haven for human rights abusers
11 October 2013 / ANF
Armed opposition groups in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 as hostages during a military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on August 4, 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages, HRW highlighted. The 105-page report, “You Can Still See Their Blood: Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside” presents evidence that the civilians were killed on August 4, the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children.

12. Thousands bid farewell to Sherzan Muslim
11 October 2013 / ANF
Shervan Mislim Mohamed, the son of PYD (Democratic Union Party) co-chair Salih Mislim Mohamed, was laid to rest following a ceremony joined by thousands in the city of Kobane in West Kurdistan. Shervan had died following clashes between YPG (People’s Defense Units) and militants from al-Qaeda linked ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in Tal Abyad, some 15 km from the city of Kobani on Wednesday. Shervan was buried in the Martyrs Graveyard following a military ceremony by YPG fighters. His coffin was covered with a YPG flag.

13. Syrian Kurds fight off jihadist rebels, and protect oil fields
16 October 2013 / Digital Journal
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Kurdish fighters are engaged in fierce conflict with jihadist fighters in the oil-rich Hasake province of Syria. At least 41 fighters have been killed in violent clashes pitting Kurds against jihadists and Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria, a monitoring group said on Wednesday. The Observatory claims: “At least 41 fighters were killed, including 29 ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and Islamist fighters,” 12 Kurdish fighters were also reported killed. Both the the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) sometimes called the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) as well as Al-Nusra front are radical Al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups. The ISIL is trying to crush competition from all other armed groups and gain new territory. There are oil resources in the area.

14. Syrian Arab Village Welcomes Kurdish Fighters
13 October 2013 / Al Monitor
In the northeast of Syria, near the border with Turkey, Kurdish fighters of the People’s Defence Units (YPG) captured the Arab village of Alouk, close to the Kurdish-Arab inhabited city of Ras al-Ain (in Kurdish known as Serekaniye) from al-Qaeda-linked groups after on Sept. 14-18. The Arab villagers are thankful for the YPG support. “If there was no YPG, none of us would be here,” said villager Abu Hamza Kamal. The mixed city of Ras al-Ain was taken over by YPG fighters July 16, after days of tension between Islamist fighters and the Kurds. The city was divided in a YPG- and an Islamist-controlled zone after agreement was reached Feb. 17 between the different factions. After the YPG took over, Turkey closed the border and sealed it off.

15. PYD: News Briefing Regarding Events in West Kurdistan (Northern Syria)
17 October 2013 / Peace in Kurdistan campaign
Latest news briefing from the PYD media and public affairs office – Europe.

16. Syria’s Kurds Divided Over Geneva II Conference
9 October 2013 / Al Monitor
Representatives of the Syrian Kurdish parties visited Turkey on Oct. 8 to discuss border issues and Kurdish participation in the Geneva II peace talks, which will most likely take place in mid-November. However, the Syrian Kurdish parties are divided on how to participate. They all want to be represented independently from the opposition, but not necessarily together. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Kurds should be part of Geneva II. “We would like the opposition to represent the entire spectrum of the opponents of the regime, including the opposition which is active inside Syria such as the National Coordinating Committee and the Supreme Kurdish Council,” he said.

17. Lawyers of Rojava: We Have Freed Ourselves From The Dirty Law Of the Regime
16 October 2013 / Rojava Report
One of the most significant developments of the revolutionary struggle in Rojava has been the institution of a new system of law and the opening of people’s courts. The Rojava Kurds did not have any legal rights, and now they are laying the groundwork for an alternative system of law that would fairly represent their rights and demands. The lawyers of Rojava explained the new legal system in a report by DİHA. Rojava Law Committee member Emina Omer said that they are founding a new system in Rojava, which they hope to base on a true and fair legal system. The law committee, Omer said, has female lawyers, as well as representatives of the people: “We are constantly in touch with other NGOs (…) women’s organizations, institutions of public order, municipalities, and human rights organizations in Rojava. When there are legal problems, we try to solve them.”

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

18. Abdullah Ocalan: the Kurdish Leader’s Life’s Work Is at a Critical Crossroads
10 October 2013 / OpEd News
Recent nominations for the next Nobel Peace Prize range from a Pakistani school girl to superpower leader Vladimir Putin. Some scientists and whistle blowers of note have also been mentioned. But a significant Middle Eastern peacemaker listed in Time Magazine’s ranking of the most influential figures of the year failed to make the grade. Because he heads an organization branded by Middle Eastern power brokers such as the U.S., the EU and Israel as anything but peaceful, it is not surprising that imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan is not a Peace Prize nominee. Confined on the Turkish Island of Imrali off the coast of Istanbul for the last fifteen years, Ocalan has provided ideological support for millions of Kurds and their guerrilla army of men and women who fight to realize the elusive dream of an independent Kurdistan, committed both to self-determination and human rights.

19. Kurdish Question
14 October 2013 / Hurriyet
The BDP and KCK expressed their disappointment with the latest “democracy package” and stated that this may be “the end of so-called peace process.” This is so not because they had high expectations, I think. In fact, they were not assuming that the package would promise some radical chances concerning political autonomy and Kurdish-language public education. Nevertheless, they were expecting positive hints concerning the future of the peace process. First of all, the basic problem is still about the negotiation process. From the beginning, Öcalan has been demanding better conditions to play a role, yet nothing has changed concerning the “conditions” apart from betterment of his individual wellbeing. It was not what he meant by “better conditions,” he rather means to have channels of communication not only with the KCK and BDP, but also with intellectuals, NGO’s and all independent platforms.

20. The EU’s Mixed Report on Turkey
16 October 2013 / Al Monitor
A half century since Turkey’s relationship with the European Union actually began, Turkey’s volatile relations with Europe keep its foreign policy agenda under a tense grip. Today, Oct. 16, the European Commission released its eagerly anticipated progress report, raising new questions and concerns, while cautiously praising some reforms. Overall, the report’s findings are not expected to help accelerate Turkey’s membership process into the EU, but should be seen as a balancing act to keep the process from derailing. Not surprisingly, the report has been received in a cool fashion by Ankara. Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, refused to comment on the report, complaining that the commission insisted on releasing it during the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

21. Turkey: Do Ankara’s Reforms Go Far Enough for EU?
16 October 2013 / Eurasianet
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described his recent “democratization package” of reforms as an “historical moment” for Turkey. But his failure to revamp controversial anti-terror laws is complicating relations with the European Union. On October 16, the EU published its annual membership progress report on Turkey. The text contained no surprise criticisms. At the same time, it foreshadowed difficulties for EU-Turkish relations. Officials in Brussels are wrestling with the idea of proceeding on the regional policy aspect of membership talks with Turkey as a way to reanimate the currently moribund accession process. According to an EU status report issued in August, membership talks have been “stalemated” for at least the past 18 months.

22. Turkey’s Spymaster Plots Own Course on Syria
10 October 2013 / Wall Street Journal
On a rainy May day, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led two of his closest advisers into the Oval Office for what both sides knew would be a difficult meeting. It was the first face-to-face between Mr. Erdogan and President Barack Obama in almost a year. Mr. Obama delivered what U.S. officials describe as an unusually blunt message: The U.S. believed Turkey was letting arms and fighters flow into Syria indiscriminately and sometimes to the wrong rebels, including anti-Western jihadists. Seated at Mr. Erdogan’s side was the man at the center of what caused the U.S.’s unease, Hakan Fidan, Turkey’s powerful spymaster and a driving force behind its efforts to supply the rebels and topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

23. Dark Affairs Across Turkey’s Border
15 October 2013 / Al Monitor
Poet-author Bijan Matour tweeted the other day, “The martyrdom of [Democratic Union Party (PYD) head] Saleh Muslim’s son is proof of the dignity of the resistance at Rojava. Everyone is at the front lines and all are fighting for their land.” This sad testimony of dignity is the death of Shervan Muslim, the son of Saleh Muslim. He died as result of gunfire by an al-Qaeda extension near Tel Abyad, while his father was abroad making contacts for Syrian Kurds. Saleh Muslim hails from Kobani [in northern Syria], a bit west of the location where he lost his son, just opposite the Turkish region of Suruc-Mursitpinar. I remember that when I asked Saleh Muslim where he was from, he responded, “Urfa” [a Turkish border province], instead of Kobani. He was right. Kobani is as close to Urfa as Suruc. The nearest place you can call a town near Kobani is Urfa.

24. Pressure Mounts on Turkey Over Radical Groups in Syria
15 October 2013 / Al Monitor
Turkey continues to deny that it is lenient with radical groups fighting to establish an Islamic regime in Syria, let alone actively supporting them, and the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now much more open in its criticism of these groups than was initially the case. The Erdogan government also announced measures in the Official Gazette on Oct. 10 freezing the financial assets of 349 people and 67 legal entities said by the UN Security Council to be linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Despite these steps, however, Ankara continues to be accused of turning a blind eye as members of these groups use Turkish territory for various purposes in their fight not just against the Assad regime, but also the moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Kurds.

25. Pale eyed portraits of Kurdistan: Haunting photographs offer insight into the lives of refugees forced from their homes by the conflict in Syria
16 October 2013 / Daily Mail
Staring into the camera, the girl’s striking blue eyes are full of unshed tears. And she isn’t alone. The girl in the polka dot headscarf and her family are just some of the thousands of people who have crossed the border into Iraq in a bid to escape the slaughter in Syria. Although the raging civil war has cost her family their home, the girl is luckier than most. An ethnic Kurd, she has managed to escape the fighting that has taken the lives of thousands of her compatriots as well as the bouts of ethnic violence that have taken the lives of Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran over the last century. Now she and other Kurdish refugees are the subject of a series of stunning photographs by French snapper Eric Lafforgue who travelled to Iraq last month to meet them.

26. Syria’s first Kurdish-language newspaper
18 October 2013 / Al Jazeera
At first glance, nothing makes Nu Dem – “New time” in Kurdish – stand out from any other newspaper. Only its staff knows the extreme challenges that the first Kurdish-language newspaper in Syria faces: hardly any electricity, no Internet, no rotary press, and not even a salary. “Publishing an edition every 15 days is a real challenge for all of us. That is our contribution to society in these war times,” said Qadir Agid, the editor-in-chief, from Nu Dem‘s headquarters in Qamishli, 680 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Agid, a teacher in a nearby village, has taken time away from his family to work on the newspaper, launched this May with a circulation of 3,000 copies. The ruling Assad family – first Hafez and then his son, Bashar – has long taken harsh policies towards the Kurds: forbidding the use of the Kurdish language, forced population displacements, and denial of citizenship to thousands of them amid aggressive Arabisation campaigns.

27. Syrian Kurdish Leader Urges Turkey To End Support for Salafists
9 October 2013 / Al Monitor
Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) — which controls a string of mainly Kurdish-populated towns and villages in northern Syria and administers them through “popular councils” — has a few tempered messages for Turkey in an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor on Oct. 7. A few days later, on Oct. 9, as this article was about to be published, news emerged that Muslim’s son Shervan, a fighter with the Popular Defense Units (YPG), had been shot and killed in the town of Tel Abyad by a sniper from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Muslim could not be reached for comment.

28. Kurds Build Bridges At Last
13 October 2013 / IPS
After fleeing the war three months ago, Gulnaz is headed back for Syria to bury her brother within the 24 hours Islam stipulates. But it is far from easy to take the coffin across the Syrian-Iraqi border. Located 460 northwest of Baghdad, the Kurdish town Peshkhabur has witnessed unusual traffic of people over the last months. Most are refugees coming from Syria but there are also those forced to go back to the war-torn land they left behind. Gulnaz is devastated so it’s her companion who provides the details. “After the Islamists’ offensive in July we moved to Erbil (the administrative capital of Iraqi Kurdistan 390 km north of Baghdad) but in pure bad luck her brother died in a car accident,” he tells IPS as they wait patiently for the Kurdish border officials on the Iraqi side to check their documents.

STATEMENTS

29. Statement by the Executive Council of the KCK, 9 October 2013.

REPORTS

30. Full report on the KCK Trial of Lawyers in Istanbul, by Bronwen Jones, 15 October 2013.

 31. EC Turkey Progress Report 2013, 16 October 2013.

ACTIONS

32. Exclusive interview with David Barsamian
18 October 2013 / Le mur a des oreilles
We spoke to David Barsamian, founder of Alternative Radio and author of numerous books (with Noam Chomsky, Edward Said…) on Wednesday 16th October via skype.

BOOKS

33. In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria, by Andrew J. Tabler

 

 

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