Kurdish News Weekly Briefing, 26 April – 1 May 2014

PUBLIC MEETING

Turkey’s Municipal Elections: Implications for the Kurdish-Turkish Peace Process

DATE AND TIME: Thursday 8 May, 6.30-8.30pm | VENUE: Room L67, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

Speakers: David Morgan, historian and writer, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Father Joe Ryan, Chair of the Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace Commission
Barry White, National Union of Journalists representative to the European Federation of Journalists
Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK

Chaired by Evrim Yildiz, SOAS Kurdish Society

Find the event on Facebook

 

NEWS
1. Öcalan: We will implement autonomy unilaterally if requirements not fulfilled
2. May Day message from Abdullah Öcalan
3. Turkey: Riot police in reprehensible crackdown on peaceful May Day protest
4. Police Siege, Tear Gas, Clashes: May Day in Istanbul
5. Kurdish BDP official outlines vision for Turkish Kurdistan region

6. Abuse of process by Turkish government in extradition case ‘a serious indictment of the Turkish state’, says barrister
7. Turkey Convicted of Banning Kurdish in Prison
8. Turkish journalist sentenced to 10 months for tweet ‘typo’
9. CPJ calls on Turkey to address press freedom challenges
10. Turkey strategic route for European energy markets
11. IRAQI KURDISTAN: Syrian and Iraqi Kurds protest separation ditch
12. Interview with David L. Phillips: Iraq will disintegrate. Then Iraqi Kurdistan will realize its national aspirations
13. The UK Government Signed Off Arms Exports To Turkey Just Weeks After Police Killed Peaceful Protesters

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS
14. Debate: The result of Turkey’s local elections will change its foreign policy
15. Turkey: Justice Central to Kurdish Peace Process
16. Kurdish Peace in Syria
17. “Trench of Treason” divides Kurds like no occupation force ever did
18. $46b-worth of projects to boost Kurdistan’s economy

ACTIONS
19. International Bar Association: Open letter to the UN Secretary General, Emergency Relief Coordinator, the heads of UNICEF, WFP, UNRWA, WHO, and UNHCR, and UN Member States

REPORTS
20. International Crisis Group: The Rising Costs of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire

STATEMENTS
21. Syria: Failure to uphold UN resolution requires decisive Council action

 

NEWS

1. Öcalan: We will implement autonomy unilaterally if requirements not fulfilled
30 April 2014 / ANF

Abdullah Öcalan’s niece Dilek Öcalan spoke to Dicle News Agency (DIHA) about the details of the meeting she and her mother, Fatma Öcalan, had with the Kurdish leader on Monday. Dilek Öcalan who met her uncle for the second time in prison said they faced no obstacles or problems before and after the visit apart from the difficulties caused by her mother’s disease. Dilek Öcalan said that her meeting with the Kurdish leader lasted 40 minutes while that of her mother lasted 20. She said Öcalan made very short statements about the process, saying that he had already conveyed everything in detail during the recent meeting with the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) and HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) deputies.

2. May Day message from Abdullah Öcalan
30 April 2014 / ANF
Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan has issued a May Day message, saying: “The Middle East is the weakest link in the current hegemonic system. A kind of third world war is going on in this region, of which Kurdistan is the centre. The freedom movement is in the vanguard of the struggle of all peoples, nations and communities against this hegemony.” Öcalan’s message for International Workers’ Day, 1 May, is as follows: “Although there is now an unprecedented need for socialism, the lack of a socialist ideology and practice is an expression of the crisis of socialism at least as much as of a crisis of capitalism […]”

3. Turkey: Riot police in reprehensible crackdown on peaceful May Day protest
1 May 2014 / Amnesty International
The use of tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters today by police in Istanbul is a reprehensible move to crack down on free expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said.  Riot police sealed off the whole of central Istanbul near Taksim Square to ensure that no protesters made it to a peaceful demonstration planned there to mark May Day.  “A peaceful march this morning was cut off by a human wall of riot police blocking the main access road from Şişli  into Taksim Square, the epicentre of last year’s Gezi Park protests,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey expert, who witnessed the events first-hand. “In a repeat of the abusive tactics that have sadly become the Turkish authorities’ stock response to peaceful protests, tear gas and water cannon were fired to disperse the crowd assembled there.

4. Police Siege, Tear Gas, Clashes: May Day in Istanbul
1 May 014 / Bianet
Following the governor’s statement yesterday on the ban of Taksim Square for May Day demonstrations, Istanbul police restricted the access of main avenues and other side streets in Besiktas, Sisli and Taksim districts with barricades. The restrictions included halting public transport towards Taksim Square which affected local businesses, leaving their shutters down in Taksim Square. On the other hand, several clashes were reported as demonstrators initiated to reach Taksim Square to celebrate the May Day.

5. Kurdish BDP official outlines vision for Turkish Kurdistan region
1 May 2014 / eKurd
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy co-chairman in charge of local administrations, Demir Celik, has outlined the roadmap to Kurdish autonomy. Here is how he describes the milestones in an intriguing interview with Taraf’s Tugba Tekerek, published by Turkish milliyet newspaper: “A free, autonomous Kurdistan should be bound to Ankara in terms of finance and diplomacy (or foreign policy). Yet, it should be able to make its own economic decisions,” Celik said. “‘Self-defense’ is a major aspect of autonomy. Autonomous Kurdistan will have its own ‘police’ and ‘municipal police.’ We are not there yet, but our people are on watch against [the construction of] fortified military posts. And this is, no doubt, self-defense.” “We will open Kurdish-language nurseries and kindergartens. Children are not supposed to learn Turkish before they can speak Kurdish. The Turkish language will be taught in secondary school, along with Kurdish.”

6. Abuse of process by Turkish government in extradition case ‘a serious indictment of the Turkish state’, says barrister
1 May 2014 / Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Deniz Akgul, a British citizen originally from North Kurdistan, recently had an extradition request dismissed after the Westminster Magistrates Court found that the government of Turkey had deliberately misled British courts and abused the extradition process. In a remarkable ruling, the district judge Shenagh Bayne dismissed Turkey’s request to extradite Mr Akgul, who was accused of providing ‘material support’ to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the form of food, books and cameras under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code. In her final judgement, the judge not only concluded that the Turkish government abused the extradition process, but she also accepted evidence that Mr Akgul had been previously tortured by Turkish authorities and would face a real risk of further ill-treatment were he to be returned to Turkey.

7. Turkey Convicted of Banning Kurdish in Prison
29 April 2014 / Bianet
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a verdict on the case of Nusret Kaya and Others v. Turkey, a case concerned the fact that Turkish prisoners were not allowed to use the Kurdish language in their telephone conversations with their relatives. The court found Turkey guilty of violating “right to respect for private and family life and correspondence”, ordering the Turkish state to pay non-pecuniary damages to the applicants. Some of the principal facts and applicants’ complaints read as follows: Applicants Nusret Kaya, Ahmet Gerez, Mehmet Şirin Bozçalı, Mesut Yurtsever and Mehmet Nuri Özen, who were inmates of prisons in Muş and Bolu, were prevented by the prison authorities from conducting telephone conversations in Kurdish with their relatives. They called upon the competent sentence-execution judges to have those restrictions lifted, but each of their requests was denied in decisions given between 29 May 2006 and 10 June 2008.

8. Turkish journalist sentenced to 10 months for tweet ‘typo’
29 April 2014 / Russia Today
A Turkish journalist was sentenced Monday to 10 months in prison for a tweet that was critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a comment that he has described as a typing error. Önder Aytaç, a former police academy instructor who later became an influential columnist for Taraf, one of Turkey’s primary opposition newspapers, is also a member of the Gülen movement, which used to support the Erdogan government but is now against it. The tweet in question was posted in 2012 after Erdogan announced he would be closing down private schools that the Gülens operate.

9. CPJ calls on Turkey to address press freedom challenges
30 April 2014 / Committee for the Protection of Journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by reports in Turkey’s pro-government media that made false claims about CPJ. The reports said CPJ made a statement on April 18 saying Turkey holds only 15 journalists behind bars. CPJ did not issue a statement.   “The government’s strategy is to attack its critics rather than address legitimate concerns. These concerns stem from the fact that Turkish authorities continue to unjustly jail journalists for carrying out their work and to systematically suppress critical reporting,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “CPJ calls on the Turkish government to respond to our April 9 letter addressed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which details our profound concerns about Turkey’s anti-press policies, including the jailing of journalists, the censorship of social media, and adoption of restrictive legislation.”

10. Turkey strategic route for European energy markets
29 April 2014 / World Bulletin
Turkey is emerging as a strategic transit route for natural gas after the Ukraine, experts agreed in Washington D.C. on Monday during an energy conference held by the Brookings Institution, a foreign affairs think-tank. Senior energy experts discussed Turkey’s energy policy, the importance of natural gas to the Turkish economy, the prospects for Turkey as a gas transit and emerging trading hub, and the energy dimensions of Turkish-U.S. relations, in a Brookings session entitled “Turkey’s Energy Security Calculus: Aspirations and Realities”.

11. IRAQI KURDISTAN: Syrian and Iraqi Kurds protest separation ditch
24 April 2014 / CPT Iraqi Kurdistan
Streamers of blue, green, yellow and brown election pennants crisscrossed over the street and almost blocked out the sun. The symbols of the major parties in Iraqi Kurdistan for the 30 April election dominated the landscape.  However, on Tuesday, 15 April, new flags waved from hand-held flagpoles. Many Syrian Kurds who have fled their country because of the turmoil marched through the streets of Sulaimani.  They were crying out because the government of the region in which they have taken refuge has decided to create a dividing ditch.  The KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) that governs the area of Iraqi Kurdistan bordering Syria has sent workers, bulldozers, and security guards to facilitate the digging. It claims that the seventeen-kilometers-long, three-meters-deep, and two-meters-wide ditch will prevent terrorists and smugglers from entering the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

12. Interview with David L. Phillips: Iraq will disintegrate. Then Iraqi Kurdistan will realize its national aspirations
15 April 2014 / Gulan
Gulan: Your Excellency was one of the diplomats and academicians that had a research about “Power Sharing” before the fall of former regime in Iraq, in which you had mentioned that the only way for Iraq to remain is through limiting the authorities of the Central Government and widening range of authorities of local regions. Iraq is currently, somehow, contrary to what you have stated. What is your opinion about Iraq now?
Phillips: Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has serious and objectionable authoritarian tendencies. He often behaves like Saddam Hussein by arbitrarily imposing his will on Iraqis, abusing their hard-fought democratic and community rights. In the name of fighting of terrorism, he has undermined the constitution and, in the process, destroyed the vision of Iraq as a democratic federal republic with power-sharing between its regions. It is time for a regime change in Iraq, but this time through the ballot box.

13. The UK Government Signed Off Arms Exports To Turkey Just Weeks After Police Killed Peaceful Protesters
28 April 2014 / Buzzfeed
According to a Freedom of Information request made by BuzzFeed, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills granted multiple export licences to arms companies to export sniper rifles, bullets, gas masks, drone parts and other assorted military equipment to the country. Ministers scrutinise the export of weapons, ammunition and other military technology to foreign countries and have to grant an explicit licence to companies looking to sell controlled goods. Responding to the official request for information, the department told BuzzFeed that there had been 196 licences awarded by the UK government to firms since the clashes began in May, with only five requests refused.

 

COMMENT, OPINION AND ANALYSIS

14. Debate: The result of Turkey’s local elections will change its foreign policy
29 April 2014 / Asharq Al-Awsat
Unfortunately, once again the Turkish government has fallen into the trap of overconfidence, not just in its domestic politics but also its foreign policy. The latest victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in local elections has only contributed to the party and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political delusion arising from overconfidence. After the latest victory, Erdoğan feels that his politics is vindicated on the principles that “might makes right.” Besides, he thinks that “might” in politics derives exclusively from majority support, and political legitimacy is solely based on the defeat of the opposition. In the circumstances, Erdoğan and his subservient government do not show any signs of changing course either in domestic or foreign policy, since they do not think that they need to.

15. Turkey: Justice Central to Kurdish Peace Process
25 April 2014 / Human Rights Watch
Justice for the thousands of state-perpetrated killings and disappearances of Kurdish civilians in the 1990s should be an essential part of the peace process under way in Turkey, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch released a video outlining the events of that era, with family members whose loved ones were killed describing the lack of justice ever since. Ongoing talks between the Turkish government and Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), aim to end a decades-long conflict to further human rights and democracy in Turkey.

16. Kurdish Peace in Syria
29 April 2014 / Brown Political Review
As the Syrian civil war approaches its fourth year, prospects for peace are dim. Western-led negotiations have proved unproductive. The United States has no visible strategy for ending the conflict, much less for assisting in a democratic transition. But while the armed opposition within the country is rife with extremists, Washington has been ignoring a natural and potentially valuable ally: the Kurds. Since the uprisings against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, the Kurds have taken control of their lands in the northeast. Constituting about 10 percent of Syria’s population, the Kurds are the largest minority group in Syria and the largest ethnic group in the Middle East still without a state of their own.

17. “Trench of Treason” divides Kurds like no occupation force ever did
25 April 2014 / Your Middle East
Protests, unrest and hunger strikes across the Kurdish regions in the Middle East condemn the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Iraqi Kurdistan for digging a 30km-long trench on its borders to further blockade neighbouring Kurds in Syria. The KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan openly stands against Kurdish-led autonomous canton governments in northeast Syria, shutting its borders last year to impose an embargo and now digging a trench to entirely block crossings with Syria. Syrian Kurdish journalist Rodi Muhammad Amin first broke the news of the trench digging on Iraq-Syria border earlier this month, but he was faced with KDP peshmerga militia threatening him to leave or otherwise get shot.

18. $46b-worth of projects to boost Kurdistan’s economy
28 April 2014 / Saudi Gazette
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has long been considered as a business-friendly environment for foreign companies and a gateway for doing business elsewhere in the country. But recent developments have seen an upsurge in business activity making it one of the fastest growing economies on earth. The region’s projects market reflects the growing demand for all types of goods and services. There are approximately $46 billion-worth of projects currently planned or under way in the energy, construction, tourism and basic infrastructure sectors that make the Kurdistan Region one of the most dynamic projects markets in the world.

ACTIONS

19. International Bar Association: Open letter to the UN Secretary General, Emergency Relief Coordinator, the heads of UNICEF, WFP, UNRWA, WHO, and UNHCR, and UN Member States, 28 April 2014.

REPORTS

20. International Crisis Group: The Rising Costs of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire. Europe Report No. 230, 30 April 2014.

STATEMENTS

21. Syria: Failure to uphold UN resolution requires decisive Council action, 30 April 2014. Amnesty International

 

 

 

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