Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 1 – 7 March 2014

Case against Kurdish politician Adem Uzun dropped

 

Peace in Kurdistan campaign is delighted to hear the announcement that the case against Adem Uzun, predicated on baseless and conspiratorial charges, has been dropped. Adem had been on remand having been released from prison in Paris, where he had been held since his arrest on 6 October 2012. Peace in Kurdistan campaign would like to thank everyone who became a Friend of Adem Uzun, signed our petition for Adem’s release and sent postcards to the French Justice Minister to demand his freedom.

Read a message Adem wrote to his supporters giving thanks

NEWS
1. Öcalan: Everyone must do their bit for Rojava, the future of the Middle East
2. Court bans ‘Freedom for Öcalan’ signature campaign in Amed
3. Peace Mothers send letter to the Ministry of Justice
4. Military shipment sent to Turkish-Iraqi border
5. BDP co-chair Demirtaş says peace process to continue even without ruling AKP
6. Pro-Kurdish HDP: ‘They Attacked to Lynch, Destroy and Kill Us’
7. Turkey’s Kurdish Hasankeyf becomes a prohibited zone: Ilisu Dam project
8. New English daily offers Turkish government perspective
9. Erdoğan insults Milliyet owner after PKK top story, reduces owner to tears
10. SNC Leader: The Only Guarantee for Syrian Kurds is Participation in the Revolution
11. Writers from Rojava refused entry to Turkey
12. Charter of the Social Contract
13. Human Rights Watch: Ankara and Hewler must open borders to Rojava
14. Rights Official Speaks of Situation in Rojava, PYD Challenges
15. We are waiting for KRG to recognize Syrian Kurdish administration: official
16. Syria’s most hardline jihadist outfit retreats from parts of north
17. Syria civil war ‘horrors’ lead US human rights report
18. European academics: The Rojava model is a great opportunity for the Middle East

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
19. Turkey and the Kurds: From Predicament to Opportunity
20. The Turkish-Kurdish Peace Process Stalled in Neutral
21. An ill-managed process
22. Can Turkey’s Erdogan Stay in Power?
23. Crisis, City and Democracy: on the uprising in Turkey
24. What is ahead for Turkey?
25. Turkey, Land of Irony
26. Not such a trusted friend
27. The Syrian Kurds: out of nowhere to where?

REPORTS
28. Syria and Its Neighbours: Regional Dimensions of the Conflict

ACTIONS
29. PEN International calls for charges against Ayşe Berktay, Büşra Ersanlı and Zeynep Kuray to be dropped: International Women’s Day campaign

 

NEWS

1. Öcalan: Everyone must do their bit for Rojava, the future of the Middle East
4 March 2014 / ANF
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan was visited by his brother Mehmet yesterday on İmralı island. Mehmet Öcalan told DİHA about his visit.   The Kurdish leader told his brother Mehmet Öcalan that: “We discuss the process and make evaluations, but this is actually illegal. It is not taking place within a legal framework. The infrastructure must be made ready so that the second phase may commence within a legal framework. Öcalan also called on everyone to make a contribution to the revolution in Rojava, which he called the “Future of the Middle East”.

2. Court bans ‘Freedom for Öcalan’ signature campaign in Amed
1 March 2014 / ANF
A court in the main Kurdish city Amed has banned the ‘Freedom for Öcalan’ signature campaign launched by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) for the liberation of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan. The ban has reportedly been introduced on the basis of the anti-terror law after police forces denounced the signature collection at stands set up by the party on Friday across the city. The court ruled the confiscation and seizure of the forms opened to the people for signature for they were allegedly intended for turning the campaign to a movement for the embracement of Öcalan, thus enabling the Kurdish movement and its leader to be adopted and embraced by the society, and in contemplation of its probability to constitute a crime of spreading propaganda for the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

3. Peace Mothers send letter to the Ministry of Justice
5 March 2014 / Kurdish Info
Peace Mothers in Mardin and Siirt have sent letters to the Ministry of Justice to demand to meet Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı prison. The letters sent by activists of the Peace Mothers Initiative from post offices contain their demand to have a meeting with Kurdish people’s leader with an aim to provide contribution to the democratic resolution process. In a statement outside the Yenişehir post office in Mardin, Peace Mothers spokeswoman Emriye Ektiren underlined that like anywhere else in the world, it was mothers who suffered the greatest pains and tragedies in the war going on in the Kurdistan territory for 35 years now. “We buried our daughters and sons at very young ages. They didn’t have even a grave where we could pray for them”, Ektiren said.

4. Military shipment sent to Turkish-Iraqi border
6 March 2014 / ANF
Following the operations Turkish army carried out at the border of Şırnak’s Uludere district and Media Defense Areas for ten days as of 15 February, the military activity in the border area has once again intensified since early Thursday morning. According to the information obtained from local sources, a group of villagers involved in border trade were stopped by soldiers early this morning and kept waiting somewhere near the boundary stone no 15 when sound of two explosions were heard from the area. An armored vehicle has reportedly been destroyed in the area of the explosion which reports say has left casualties. Soldiers in large numbers have been dispatched to the region.

5. BDP co-chair Demirtaş says peace process to continue even without ruling AKP
28 February 2014 / Hurriyet
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said Feb. 27 his party would continue the peace process even without the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).  “We will work for a solution to the Kurdish problem regardless of which party is in government. If the AKP ceases to be the addressee, then we will continue the peace process with alternatives,” Demirtaş told CNNTürk late Feb. 27.

6. Pro-Kurdish HDP: ‘They Attacked to Lynch, Destroy and Kill Us’
7 March 2014 / Rudaw
Crowds of hundreds attacked members of the pro-Kurdish and leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Tuesday, hurling rocks at the party building and a bus carrying co-chairperson Sebahat Tuncel. The attack, at an opening ceremony for the HDP’s district headquarters in the central Anatolian province of Aksaray, followed for two days. Crowds first tried to attack the building and stoned a bus transporting the party’s activists, as well as Tuncel. The next day, about 5,000 returned and attempted to storm the HDP building in Aksaray. At least 30 people were reportedly injured in the violence.   “We went to our party building to hold an opening ceremony two days ago. But I was shocked to see hundreds of people gathering in front of our party building within an hour and starting to attack us with whatever they could find,” Muhittin Yilmaz, the head of the HDP’s Aksaray branch, told Rudaw.

7. Turkey’s Kurdish Hasankeyf becomes a prohibited zone: Ilisu Dam project
1 March 2014 / eKurd
Hasankeyf, which is threatened by the Ilısu Dam project in Turkish Kurdistan, is becoming a prohibited zone. Despite a judgment of the Council of State suspending work on the project due to the absence of an Environmental Impact Report, barriers have been put up around the bridge in the 12,000 year-old town to prevent visitors gaining access. The ban on visitors going to the caves in the town introduced after a rock fall is also still in place. Although efforts are continuing for Hasankeyf to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list tourists wishing to see the town are encountering new obstacles. The police have put up a road block preventing access. And finally, security guards from the company in charge of the project are stopping tourists who want to take photos of the old bridge, after barriers were placed around it to protect it from the water that will rise once the dam is built.

8. New English daily offers Turkish government perspective
27 February 2014 / Al Monitor
The Turkish daily Sabah, often identified as pro-government, has launched an English edition, allowing English speakers more access to the news and viewpoints surrounding the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). There are dedicated search engines doing the same job. I generally use Zite, which you can access through your smart phone or tablet. Just mark the topic that interests you. Then, with a single click, you can access all news and comment, in English, from newspapers, journals and blogs. Zite also has a “search” function. When you type Turkey you get all the news about Turkey, including news about “turkey, the bird” as an added bonus. Whenever I typed in “Turkey” in the search box, most of the news and comment used to be from the daily Today’s Zaman. What is Today’s Zaman? It is the English-language newspaper of the Gulen Movement.

9. Erdoğan insults Milliyet owner after PKK top story, reduces owner to tears
6 March 2014 / Todays Zaman
A newly leaked audio recording allegedly reveals Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insulted a media mogul for running a critical news story and reducing him to tears. Erdoğan is heard in the audio clip, leaked by Twitter user Başçalan and uploaded onto YouTube on Thursday, bashing the owner of the Milliyet daily, Erdoğan Demirören, for a story run by the newspaper about the minutes of a meeting between pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) deputies and the imprisoned leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, in March 2013.

10. SNC Leader: The Only Guarantee for Syrian Kurds is Participation in the Revolution
6 March 2014 / Rudaw

George Sabra, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) which is a coalition of Syrian opposition groups based in Istanbul, said that Syria’s Kurds should not be insisting on guarantees of self-rule in a future government. “The most important mission is to topple the Syrian regime and give the opportunity to a new Syria,” he added in an interview with Rudaw. Sabra claimed that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is not included in the SNC, “is implementing the agenda of the Syrian regime.” He thinks that the PYD’s declaration of autonomy in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) will not last. Here is an edited transcript of his interview.

11. Writers from Rojava refused entry to Turkey
3 March 2014 / ANF
Writers invited from Rojava to attend a panel named ‘Pira Bakur û Rojava” in the town of Viranşehir in Urfa Province were unable to attend due to difficulties crossing the border. Other guests on the panel reacted to their absence by affirming that “writers do not have borders.” The panel had been organized by the local municipality and took place in the meeting room of the Med Culture and Art Center. Mehmet Burun, a member of the  Viranşehir city council, as well as  Viranşehir district BDP co-president Halis Aktaş joined scores of local party officials and activists in attending the panel. Berzo Mahmut, Konê Reş, Analita Hemo, Abbas İsmail and Deham Ebdulfettah – all writers from Rojava – had been invited to attend but were unable to take part when they were denied permission to cross the border by Turkish officials.

12. Charter of the Social Contract
6 March 2014 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

13. Human Rights Watch: Ankara and Hewler must open borders to Rojava
7 March 2014 / ANF
Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has carried out observations in West Kurdistan, described it as “the safest and most table region of Syria ” and called on Turkey and the Federal Kurdistan Region to “put politics to one side” and assist the people there. Fred Abrahams from HRW spoke to Murat Çiviroğlu from the Radikal newspaper about their impressions of West Kurdistan. He said: “We have both positive and negative impressions. The most pleasing thing is that this region is more secure and stable than the rest of Syria. We saw there were some difficulties regarding human rights.” Abrahams summarised the aim of their visit thus: “We wanted to give them this message: even if this is a ‘de facto’ administration, it still has legal obligations. You have international norms with which you must comply.”

14. Rights Official Speaks of Situation in Rojava, PYD Challenges
2 March 2014 / Rudaw
A delegation from New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited Syria’s Kurdish regions, or Rojava, last week, where the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has declared a Kurdish  autonomous government with the help of its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). In an important and detailed interview with Rudaw Fred Abrahams, a special advisor to HRW who was part of the delegation, spoke about whether the autonomous government declared by the PYD is truly inclusive as claimed, if local authorities are observing human rights, the status of women, the PYD’s legal reforms and its relations with the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Abrahams said that the greatest challenge for the PYD is transitioning “from a movement — an opposition group — into a governing body, or into creating authorities, systems and structures that would represent everyone.” Here is an edited transcript of the interview

15. We are waiting for KRG to recognize Syrian Kurdish administration: official
2 March 2014 / Bas News

The foreign minister of the Syrian Kurdish Jazeera canton Salih Gado says they are still waiting for the Kurdistan Region to officially recognize their local administration. Gado, also a member of the politburo of the Kurdish Left Party in Syria, explained that their administration is waiting for the new Iraqi Kurdish government cabinet and parliament to be formed in order to get a response. “The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not said anything regarding Rojava’s administration, because the new government has yet to be formed and we are waiting for this process to take place,” said Gado in a press conference in Amuda, Syrian Kurdistan.

16. Syria’s most hardline jihadist outfit retreats from parts of north
28 February 2014 / The Telegraph
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has begun withdrawing from parts of northern Syria ahead of a deadline set by a rival group, a monitor said Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the group was retreating east towards its stronghold in the city of Raqa.  The withdrawal comes four days after the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front issued ISIS an ultimatum to go before an Islamic court for mediation or face being forced from Syria altogether.  The deadline expires on Saturday. “ISIS has withdrawn from Aazaz, its most important bastion in Aleppo province, as well as the Minnigh military airport, the Mayer region and the villages of Deir Jamal and Kafin,” the Observatory said.

17. Syria civil war ‘horrors’ lead US human rights report
28 February 2014 / BBC News
A global human rights report released by the US has singled out Syria’s civil war as a tragedy that “stands apart in its scope and human cost”. The US said a chemical weapons attack in Syria that it says killed 1,429 was “one of many horrors” in the war. The annual state department review also noted the increased crackdown elsewhere on protesters and civil society groups. The report cited official persecution of dissidents in Ukraine, Venezuela, Turkey and China in 2013. The review known as the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices includes indictments of countries in every corner of the world.

18. European academics: The Rojava model is a great opportunity for the Middle East
5 March 2014 / ANF
Academics in Europe have called for support for the Democratic Autonomy declared in the Rojava cantons of Cizîrê, Afrîn and Kobanê, saying they are an opportunity for freedom in the Middle East and democratisation of Syria. Neither the regime, nor ‘opposition figures’ who do not live in Syria, are able to produce a solution to the civil war, in which around 150,000 people have died and millions have been displaced. The Geneva II conference which took place in the Swiss city of Montreux last month ended without agreement. Whereas in Rojava the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Chechens and Circassians are showing the way to a resolution by declaring Democratic Autonomy.

 

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

19. Turkey and the Kurds: From Predicament to Opportunity
19 February 2014 / Middle East Institute
Ninety years after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, Ankara appears to be on the verge of a paradigmatic change in its approach to the Kurdish question. It is too early to tell whether the current negotiations between Ankara and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) will manage to accommodate Kurdish cultural and political demands. Yet, for perhaps the first time in its history, the Turkish Republic seems willing to incorporate Kurds into the political system rather than militarily confront them. For decades, Turkey sought to assimilate its sizable Kurdish minority, about 15 million people, or around 20 percent of its total population.

20. The Turkish-Kurdish Peace Process Stalled in Neutral
March 2014 / Insight Turkey
The current Turkish-Kurdish peace process that began with cautious hope early in 2013 stalled soon after it was launched. What caused this situation and what might be done to restart the process? Peace can be a relative concept. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is first and foremost an adept politician. Thus, his main purpose appears to maintain and even expand his electoral mandate as Turkey enters its next electoral cycle in 2014. In so doing, he has many opposing constituencies to appease and satisfy. If he goes too far in satisfying the Kurds, he will surely alienate other, maybe even more important elements of the electorate.

21. An ill-managed process
2 January 2014 / Turkish Review
In March last year, the prospects for a political process leading toward an enduring solution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey seemed bright. Though no one expected miracles in this grinding problem, boiling down to (a lack of) democracy and citizenship rights and discharging itself in armed struggle, the idea took hold that the parties in this conflict, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as its main actor, were willing to find a settlement. Against the background of a Kurdish issue smoldering for nearly a century and igniting with almost 30 years of asymmetric warfare, the parties to the conflict could not be other than deeply suspicious of each other.

22. Can Turkey’s Erdogan Stay in Power?
27 February 2014 / Time World
In its first eight decades as a republic, the biggest question facing Turkey was one of identity. Would it be the secular democracy envisioned by its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or a nation governed by the Islamic faith that defined the Ottoman Empire from whose ashes it rose? Ataturk did his best to secure the former option, sending the Caliph packing (on the Orient Express) and ordering Turks to use second names, abandon the fez and write in Roman letters. After he died, his acolytes enforced his vision with a rigidity grounded in an abiding mistrust of the masses. Four times in four decades, Kemalist generals deposed elected governments they deemed dangerous to secular rule.

23. Crisis, City and Democracy: on the uprising in Turkey
3 March 2014 / Roar Mag
The June 2013 revolt in Turkey was marked by the heterogeneity of its participants, united by their common contempt for the country’s authoritarian prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The uprising spread like wildfire across the country and brought together many different sectors of society that felt sidelined, belittled and trampled upon by his autocratic rule. Although lost in its international reverberations, the initial struggle that gave birth to the uprising was much more than saving a park and definitely much more than trees. It arose from an economic model emphasizing development that acted as a response to a financial crisis knocking at the door.

24. What is ahead for Turkey?
6 March 2014 / Today’s Zaman

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to be giving instructions in one voice recording after another. We have heard him instructing the justice minister to make sure that the court’s decision is overturned at the Supreme Court of Appeals and that the executives of the Doğan Media Group are punished. In another recording, he tries to manipulate the election of the chair of the Council of State, an appeals court for administrative courts. While trying to digest all of these, in other recording, Erdoğan appears to change the outcome of a tender. And it continues like that.

25. Turkey, Land of Irony
6 March 2014 / Rudaw
The online Free Dictionary defines ‘irony’ as “The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.”  The source adds that “Something is ironic if the result is the opposite of what was intended; an ironic event is an incongruous event, one at odds with what might have been expected.” The Meriam-Webster Dictionary offers two similar definitions of ‘irony’: “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny;” and “a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.”

26. Not such a trusted friend
27 February 2014 / Al Ahram Weekly
In yet another twist in the on-and-off relationship between the Iraqi Kurds and the United States, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has cancelled a trip to Washington, apparently in anger over Washington’s reluctance to support his rush for a fully independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. The hidden crisis was made visible by an unexpected return to a hush-hush detail in the US-Kurdish relationship when it transpired that Barzani and his comrade-in-arms the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani were on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists.

27. The Syrian Kurds: out of nowhere to where?
2 February 2014 / Turkish Review
When the Kurds in Syria suddenly became effectively autonomous, the situation also had grave implications for neighboring Turkey and the virtually independent Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. The rise of the Kurds in Syria may prove to have been the tipping point in changing the artificial borders of the Middle East established after World War I by the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement. Among pan-Kurdish nationalists, Syrian Kurdistan is often referred to as western Kurdistan or Rojava (the direction of the setting sun). Since this region contains the country’s most fertile areas and is also home to most of its oil reserves, the Kurdish-populated areas of Syria have been well worth struggling for.

REPORTS

28. Syria and Its Neighbours: Regional Dimensions of the Conflict, Chatham House Meeting Report, February 2014.

ACTIONS

29. PEN International calls for charges against Ayşe Berktay, Büşra Ersanlı and Zeynep Kuray to be dropped: International Women’s Day campaign, PEN International.

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