Peace in Kurdistan Campaign Commentary
6 AUGUST 2015
Last week, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign’s website was blocked to users in Turkey in the latest government crackdown on Kurdish and pro-Kurdish news and media.
As part of a broad ranging attack on internet freedom, 77 million websites hosted by WordPress.com were temporarily blocked under Turkey’s Internet Law 5651. After WordPress challenged the ban, the Turkish government lifted restrictions to the majority of sites, leaving just five – which included peaceinkurdistancampaign.com and four other pro-Kurdish sites – inaccessible inside Turkey. WordPress’s appeal to the courts regarding our site and the others is still pending.
The move came as the Turkish Air Force’s heavy bombardment of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) sites in northern Iraq and Rojava, the first such strike since 2011, threatened to put a definitive end to the more than two year peace process. Using their participation in the US-led anti-ISIS campaign as cover, the Turkish government has taken the opportunity to wage war not against ISIS at all, but against the Kurdish movement, human rights defenders, activists, and the peace process by breaking the 10th ceasefire called by the PKK in the last 15 years.
What is especially galling for the Kurds is that this new clampdown on freedom of expression, combined with the renewed offensive against the PKK, comes in the wake of the Suruc massacre of young Kurds who were preparing to take part in a voluntary mission to aid the people of Kobane – the city that became a symbol of Kurdish resistance to ISIS.
The massacre, carried out by an ISIS inspired suicide bomber, left 33 youths dead and hundreds more badly injured. The Kurds immediately blamed Turkey because of its complicity in aiding ISIS – assistance which has been well documented. However, the AKP government has quite cynically used the outburst of popular anger at the massacre as a pretext for launching its attacks on the Kurdish movement both within the country and across the border by systematic bombing of PKK camps in Iraq. Hundreds have since been killed and maimed by indiscriminate bombing, including many civilians, according to reports.
At the same time, the Turkish authorities steered by an increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan, have started moves to lift political immunity from HDP parliamentarians which will pave the way for their prosecution and possible disqualification from standing for re-election in the event of the President calling a snap general election likely if coalition negotiations fail.
The latest wave of censorship included a temporary ban of Twitter, a platform used by nearly a third of the country’s population. In total 96 sites have been blocked the grounds they are publishing ‘terrorist’ propaganda. The vast majority of these were pro-Kurdish or leftist political sites. This duplicity was mirrored in police raids and air strikes that took place the same week, ostensibly also the name Turkey’s fight against ISIS: Of the 1050 arrests that took place across Turkey in nationwide ‘anti-terrorism operations’ last week, 137 were alleged ISIS sympathisers while 847 were Kurdish activists suspected of links to the PKK. Similarly, on the day the supposed anti-ISIS air strikes began, just one sortie was sent to attack ISIS targets, while 75 F-16s and F-4E 2020s dropped some 300 smart bombs onto 400 PKK targets in just two days.
For those us familiar with Turkey’s repressive, vague and draconian anti-terrorism legislation, these moves come as little surprise. Over the years we have campaigned for journalists imprisoned for speaking in support of Kurdish rights and for the reinstatement of media outlets after they have repeatedly banned or taken off the air. One such campaign was for the Kurdish-language broadcaster Roj TV, which, although based in Denmark, was forced from the air after the Turkish government agreed to support former Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s appointment as NATO Secretary General. Well aware that we too are working under the suspicious gaze of an integrated surveillance system with global reach, our peaceful activities that advocate for the inviolable rights of Kurdish people and a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict are still seen as a threat.
For more information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall