“Is the era of the Kurds approaching?”
Here, Nilüfer Koç, Co-chair of the KNK is interviewed for the latest issue of the Kurdistan Report, a bimonthly publication produced in Germany, about the 15th General Assembly Meeting of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK). This is a translation of the German original.
You held your general assembly meeting at a period favourable for the Kurds in the Middle East. How did this affect your meeting?
The political and social developments of the last year once more have been reflected on our 15th General Assembly Meeting. The countless successes against the Islamic State (IS) in Rojava [kurd.: Western; Western Kurdistan/North Syria] and Başur [kurd.: Southern; Southern Kurdistan/North Iraq], Abdullah Öcalan’s three years long political struggle of negotiations with the Turkish AKP (Justice and Development Party) government, the consolidation of the democratic autonomy in Rojava and the increasing international political interest in Kurdistan were the significant common denominators of the debates. Despite their political differences the 52 speakers of various Kurdish political parties were in agreement on many issues: that it was now indeed the era of the Kurds.
Margaret Owen, who took part in a delegation to southeast Turkey to monitor the recent snap elections, has produced this report based on her observations. Alongside Margaret were several others, including barrister Melanie Gingell, John Hunt, journalist; and Kawa Besarani, human rights advocate and political analyst; and academic David Graeber, among others.
The results, that came in on Sunday night took many of us, the international observers of the election, by surprise. Last night we wept, as the first fireworks, music and song, of what everyone thought would introduce a night of celebration, turned into dark hours of grief and anger, which ended when the armed police arrived with their tear gas and water cannon, stone throwing from the youth, arrests and more violence.
How will the peace process with the Kurds be resurrected after this result? When Erdogan himself has stated that it is in tatters. But perhaps all is not lost for ever. The AKP got a majority but not a “super” majority in numbers. He will still need support from the other parties to rewrite the Constitution in the way he wants, that is, to give himself a life presidency and in reality, a dictatorship, far removed from Ataturk’s creation of a secular republic. At least the HDP kept its 10% threshold. Although they lost many votes they still have representation in parliament. It could have been worse.
On Wednesday 23rd September at 4pm, a delegation of women delivered an open letter signed by a coalition of prominent women’s rights activists to 10 Downing Street. The letter urgently calls on David Cameron to use his influence with the Turkish government to stop the violence being perpetrated against Kurdish civilians in the south east of the country.
The delegation includes Michelle Allison (Kurdistan National Congress), Evrim Yilmaz (Roj Women Assembly) and human rights barrister Melanie Gingell, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Cizre, south east Turkey, which has been under curfew for several days and which has been a flashpoint of violence between Turkish security forces and Kurdish civilians in recent weeks.
Cameron has long insisted that Turkey, a NATO partner, is a strong friend to the UK. On his last official visit to Ankara, Cameron stated that Britain and Turkey would work “hand-in-glove” to combat ISIS. And yet he has turned away as the Turkish government used their apparent entry into the anti-ISIS coalition as a veil to break the ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and attack Kurdish towns and villages. Continue reading
Wednesday 23rd September, 4pm
Join us for a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street!
“Help build peace with the Kurds, rather than extend the war.”
On Wednesday 23rd September at 4pm, a delegation of women will deliver an open letter signed by a coalition of prominent women’s rights activists to 10 Downing Street. The letter urgently calls on David Cameron to use his influence with the Turkish government to stop the violence being perpetrated against Kurdish civilians in the south east of the country.
Article and photos by Yasemin Kazan.
The event was organised by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and chaired by Melanie Sirinathsingh. The meeting was held to provide insight into the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the HDP’s democratic project and to evaluate the progress of the party, in addition to the implications of the HDP’s electoral success for the Turkish-Kurdish peace process.
On 7th June, the HDP won a victory in Turkey’s general elections and gained 13.1% of the national vote, surpassing the 10% threshold for the first time with 80 seats a pro-Kurdish party will be represented in the parliament.
The success of the HDP has shifted the balance of power and ended 13 years of AKP (Justice and Development Party) rule and the dominance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of which the HDP has been a stern critic.
The HDP was formed by a coalition of socialists, left-wing democrats, LGTB activists, greens and individuals from different ethnic groups and embraced the principles of democracy and human rights. Continue reading
Leading Scottish writer James Kelman was among the speakers at a ceremony to honour imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan held at the University of Strathclyde Students Association (USSA) in Glasgow on Saturday 20 June.
Kelman reflected on history and recalled how,
“The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been a legitimate political party until the Turkish State began its operation to have the party criminalised as a terrorist organisation. In the 1990s they discredited PKK by blaming them for a massacre in an attempt to influence members of the European Parliament. This was later exposed as a fabrication of the truth, but the Turkish State succeeded in its aim, and the PKK leadership, including Abdulla Ocalan, was outlawed as a result.” Continue reading
Many of the participants of the conference, which was organised by MAF-DAD and Azadi Freiheit, have also been a part of ajoint ELDH appeal which has been collecting signatures from lawyers, barristers and legal professionals who support the abolishing the ban. This campaign is still open, and lawyers from across Europe are encouraged to sign on.
In addition, the conference strongly asserts that the Kurdish people have a right to self-determination, and have taken this right in the establishment of an autonomous region in Syria – Rojava. It also calls on the EU to support the reconstruction of Kobane following a 6-month siege on the city by the so-called ‘Islamic State’.
by Michael Knapp, Historian; Translated from German original by Richard Braude
The revolution in Rojava (West Kurdistan/ North Syria), which started in Kobanî (Ain al-Arab) and spread like wildfire through Afrîn, Dêrik (Al-Malikiya), Qamişlo (Al-Qamishli), Amûdê and Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn) – the regions lying on the Turkish-Syrian border – has launched an alternative development in all aspects of society.
Inspired by the model of democratic confederalism and democratic autonomy, democratic assemblies, women’s council and other democratic organisations have been established. Every ethnic and religious group must be represented in these councils, and the leadership of each evenly divided between the sexes. This is not a project striving towards a nation state, but for democratic autonomy in the region and a democratic Syria. Continue reading
The EUTCC conference was closed last week with a resolution again calling for all parties take the opportunity for negotiations for peace and democracy in Turkey and for several measures to support the peace process such as delisting the PKK; third party mediation; recognition of the Democratic Autonomous Self-Administration of Rojava and more logistical support for the people of Kobane who have been resisting a siege on their city since August.
Kurdish Info has also published all the papers that were presented at the conference, as well as a videos of the discussion and a message to the conference by Abdullah Ocalan. The conference, now in its 11th year, was attended by Selahattin Demirtas and Salih Muslim, as well as several prominent academics and activists.