International appeal for solidarity: Protest over the arrests of Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Busra Ersanli

PEACE IN KURDISTAN APPEAL, 10 November 2012

On 28th October, Ragip Zarakolu, the director of Belge Publishing House, Honorary Board member of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Chair of Turkey’s Publishers Association Freedom to Publish Committee and Professor Büşra Ersanli, a constitutional analyst, lecturer at the Faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations at Marmara University and member of the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP’s) intra-party constitutional commission were detained, alongside over 40 others in raids that were conducted by the Turkish authorities.

As the Director of Belge, Ragip has published key path-breaking books on the Armenian, Assyrian-Syriac, Greek, Kurdish and ‘Other’ genocides and the nature of Turkish state terror. He is the recipient of Turkey’s Journalist’s Society’s (2007) Press Freedom Prize, the International Association of Genocide Scholar’s (2007) Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Battle Against Deniers of the Armenian Genocide and All Denials of Genocides, the International Publishers Association’s (2008) Freedom to Publish Prize and the Hakop Meghapart Medal of Honour Lifetime Achievement Award (2011) from the Armenian Human Rights Association. He is currently a nominee for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. With the detention of Büşra Ersanli alongside other BDP members, the government has sought to frustrate any ‘pro-Kurdish’ party’s initiatives that are aimed at constructively contributing to the new constitution-making process. As Selahattin Demirtas, BDP co-chair clarifies: “We will not be able to talk about a healthy constitution-making process if we go ahead like this. We will have no party member who can join efforts for [drafting] a new constitution”.

These latest high-profile detentions have exposed the psychological war that is being waged by the government and the state against all those who have sought to advocate a peaceful resolution to the ‘Kurdish Question’ and who have raised cultural, constitutional and political/human rights concerns relating to the targeted ‘Other’. Nearly 4,000 people have been arrested in the past 30 months alone. According to the worldwide writers association PEN, Turkish authorities have arrested up to 1,000 scholars, writers, publishers and rights advocates alone during a two-year crackdown. The head offices of the Human Rights Association (İHD), the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) and the Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES) in the south-eastern city of Urfa have also been raided with members detained. Even Kemal Aydin, Executive of the Association for Solidarity and Support of Relatives of Disappeared People (YAKAY-DER) has been detained.

Alongside these arrests, the state has continued to wage a war against Kurds and even extended its assault into northern Iraq (South Kurdistan). A report by the Human Rights Delegation from Hamburg and Stuttgart recently concluded that “the number of war crimes committed by the Turkish military has risen sharply again since 2009. These crimes include torture and the mutilation of dead guerrillas, extra-judicial executions of civilians and captured guerrillas, and the use of chemical weapons … We condemn in the strongest terms the repeated and targeted killing of civilians and BDP officials by Turkish security forces”. Other human rights reports have arrived at similar conclusions, even as the British, German, French and US governments have continued to extend diplomatic and even military/psychological warfare oriented support to the Turkish state in its highly questionable ‘anti-terrorism’ drives that are targeting academics, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, relatives of the disappeared, ‘pro-Kurdish’ politicians, musicians, trade unionists and students, amongst ‘Others’.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Group Vice President Hasip Kaplan has noted that ongoing ‘operations’ in Turkey represent a “policy of war”, not “a policy of negotiation”: “The Kurdish issue is a problem with political, economic, social, cultural, historical extents and its solution must be ensured at the Parliament through peaceful and democratic means … [But] the way [it is] following is the way of crimes against humanity and genocide ”. The genocide claims have been backed up by the findings of key genocide scholars, including Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (Professor Emerita at Abo Akademi University, Vasa, Finland).

For Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch: “The arrests of Ragip Zarakolu and Büşra Ersanlı represent a new low in the misuse of terrorism laws to crush freedom of expression and association in Turkey … We are seeing the Turkish police casting the net ever wider in the crackdown on legal pro-Kurdish politics ”. In his first letter from prison, sent through his lawyer Özcan Kiliç, Ragip has stated that: “My arrest and the accusation of membership of an illegal organization are parts of a campaign aiming to intimidate all intellectuals and democrats of Turkey and particularly to deprive the Kurds of any support”. The International Publishers Association’s is also concerned that Ragıp Zarakolu’s imprisonment, alongside several other writers and intellectuals like Professor Büşra Ersanlı, is in violation of Turkey’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Indeed, under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’ initiatives, no one is safe any longer. The Turkish Prime Minister’s warning to those protesting against Zarakolu’s and Ersanlı’s detention merely highlights the extent to which matters have reached crisis point. As European Federation of Journalists President, Arne König, clarifies: “The arrest of a journalist and well-known intellectual under the pretext of terroristic activities is clearly arbitrary and abusive … It shows how eager the government is to muzzle any critical voice by using anti-democratic methods”.

Several intellectuals, including Murat Belge and Yaşar Kemal, have clarified that: “The detention of Professor Büşra Ersanlı is a heavy blow dealt to Turkey’s efforts towards a real democracy with equality, peace, social justice and academic and political freedoms. We demand the immediate release of Professor Büşra Ersanlı and all other jailed politicians, academics and journalists who work for peace, democratic rights and freedoms in our country”. The Platform for Solidarity with Arrested Journalists (TGDP) has also cautioned: “Who is next? The terror of mass detentions and arrests against Kurdish politicians who act in accordance with the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) and against journalists is a direct attack on free speech, freedom of demonstration and assembly and press freedom. TMY operations have no credibility at all with unfounded allegations”.

In light of the above, we urge concerned MP’s to sign EDM2400: “RECENT ARRESTS IN TURKEY”:

·  Date tabled: 08.11.2011
·  Primary sponsor: Williams, Hywel
·  Sponsors:

  •         Corbyn, Jeremy
  •         Durkan, Mark
  •         Lucas, Caroline
  •         McDonnell, John
  •         Russell, Bob

That this House deplores the recent arrest by the Turkish authorities of the respected professor and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Assembly member Büşra Ersanli and the veteran publisher and writer Ragip Zarakolu; believes that the arrest of two such distinguished figures in Turkish public life has rightly provoked outrage inside the country; Notes that there are growing calls inside Turkey for an end to the policy of confrontation and of sweeping criminalisation of Kurdish organisations and for a move to reconciliation and conflict resolution through negotiation; And urges the Government to lend its support to those calls and for it to make clear to the Turkish government its disapproval of those arrests.

We also urge all other concerned people and organisations to join in protests against the detention of Ragip Zarakolu, Büşra Ersanlı and others, as well as the Turkish state’s war crimes and genocidal policies and practices.

 

For further information, please contact:

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 4131

Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas, Bairbre de Brún MEP