EUTCC resolution calls for restart of direct negotiations

The EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) held its 9th International Conference last week In Brussels, with politicians, academics, NGO workers and political activists from Kurdistan, Europe and across the world gathering for two days of discussion. The final resolution, which is reproduced below in full, reflected the main focus of the conference this year by calling for direct negotiations to resume between the Turkish government and the PKK. This echoes the call made made Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Despond Tutu at the recent launch of the International Peace Initiative (IPI). A special resolution was also passed calling for the release of Kurdish politician Adem Uzun from French custody, which is also below.

Prominent MP and Rafto Prize Laureate Ms Leyla Zana opened the conference, and a copy of her speech in English is opening speech (pdf). Also available is Dutch academic Joost Jongerden’s conference paper entitled Rethinking Politics and Democracy in the Middle East (pdf).

FINAL RESOLUTION OF THE 9TH INTERNATIONAL EUTCC CONFERENCE, BRUSSELSTHE KURDISH QUESTION IN TURKEY: TIME TO RENEW THE DIALOGUE AND RESUME DIRECT NEGOTIATIONS

The 9th Annual EUTCC International Conference met on 5-6 December 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels. All of the presentations elaborated on the findings of the European Commission’s most recent (2012) Progress Report on Turkey’s EU accession process that unfortunately: “The Kurdish issue and . . . the 2009 democratic opening aimed at addressing amongst others the Kurdish issue were not followed through. . . .  Overall, there was no progress towards a solution as regards the Kurdish issue.” Continue reading

The Kurds and Human Rights

David Morgan asks what the Kurdish people have to celebrate on International Human Rights’ Day 2012.

The Kurds constitute one of the world’s largest populations without a nation state of their own. This great injustice is the root cause of the abuses and discrimination to which Kurds are still subjected to at the present day.  This occurs despite the fact that the Kurds are one of the oldest peoples of the Middle East and can trace their lineage back thousands of years; the first mention of the existence of Kurds is traced to reference to ‘Karduchoi’ made by the classical Greek historian Xenophon in The Expedition of Cyrus.

Today, the actual size of the Kurdish population is very hard to establish because of the difficult circumstances in which the Kurds find themselves, but the number is usually estimated at approximately 40 million. The majority of the communities of Kurds are distributed unevenly between the four states of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The borders of these contemporary states only came into being following the First World War with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the reshaping of the region by the imperial powers. Britain, France and the US share much of the responsibility for the denial of social, cultural, political and citizenship rights to the Kurds and which is still the condition of existence for the majority of Kurds today. Continue reading

Behind the Kurdish Hunger Strike in Turkey

Journalist Jake Hess has written this article for the Middle East Research and Information Project on the on going hunger strikes and their political context:

To hear Mazlum Tekdağ’s story is enough to understand why 700 Kurdish political prisoners have gone on hunger strike in Turkey. His father was murdered by the state in front of his Diyarbakır pastry shop in 1993, when Mazlum was just nine years old. His uncle Ali was kidnapped by an army-backed death squad known as JİTEM (the acronym for the Turkish phrase translating, roughly, as Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terror Unit) two years later. Mazlum never saw his uncle again, but a former JİTEM agent later claimed they tortured him for six months before killing him and burning his body by the side of a road in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır.

Such experiences have moved thousands of Kurds in Turkey to join the armed rebellion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which has been outlawed since its inception. But Mazlum, along with thousands of others, chose to fight for his people’s rights through the non-violent means of pro-Kurdish political parties, a succession of which have been allowed to operate by the Turkish state before then being shut down. He was first arrested in 2001, when he was 17. Now 28, Mazlum has been in jail for three and a half years, though he has not been convicted of a crime. His trial is deadlocked because Turkish courts refuse to let him or his fellow political prisoners offer their legal defenses in their native Kurdish language. All of them speak fluent Turkish; they are making a political point. Continue reading

2,000 march in support of Kurdish hunger strikers

By Paul Burnham

On Sunday, 11th November, more than 2,000 Kurds marched five miles across North London in solidarity with the Kurdish hunger strikes in Turkish prisons, which have reached their 61st day. The hunger strikes are reaching a critical stage, and some hunger strikers may be near death.

The 680 hunger strikers include elected representatives who have been jailed under the repressive policies of Turkish Prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They are demanding Kurdish language rights, and the end of the isolation in jail of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), to help to negotiate a political settlement to the Kurdish Question. Other Kurds have joined the strike by refusing food in solidarity, including MPs belonging to the pro-Kurdish BDP (peace and democracy) party. Continue reading

Trials and Tribulations in Turkey

by David Morgan, Peace in Kurdistan

Turkey’s lamentable human rights record and, in particular its attempts to intimidate independent Kurdish organisations through mass show trials, was the theme of an important seminar held by Peace in Kurdistan on 18 September in Garden Court Chambers.

The briefing brought together leading legal experts, media professionals and human rights activists who had all been taking a close interest in the trials of fellow lawyers, journalists, academics and trade unionists taking place in Turkey over recent months.

The trials, which have involved the arrest of thousands of progressive and mainly Kurdish activists, and seen hundreds sent to trial, have collectively become known as the KCK trials after the Kurdistan Communities Union, an umbrella civil society association, which the Turkish state deems to be a front for terrorism.

The trials in fact amount to Turkey’s attempts to criminalise and eliminate all aspects of Kurdish legal political activity and are the state’s response to recent electoral advances made by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, BDP, which has been gaining strength in the largely Kurdish southeast. Continue reading

Appeal to delegates at the TUC Congress 2012

 

Support Kurdish and Turkish Trade Unionists

Resisting Repression in Turkey

The political situation inside Turkey is rapidly deteriorating with an alarming increase in repression of opposition activists, including trade unionists, and the increasing militarisation of the State’s conflict with the Kurds. Turkish leaders feel that they have the green light from their NATO allies to use increasingly savage repression against their own people who are fighting for basic civil and political rights.

While the bloody conflict in raging across the border in Syria, where Turkey is playing an overt role in training and providing logistical support for Syrian rebels, the violence and repression within Turkey itself is completely ignored. Continue reading

Lawyers on trial: Report on the KCK hearings

On 16 – 19 July 2012, thirty-six Kurdish lawyers, representatives of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, were tried at Istanbul High Criminal Court. They were arrested in November 2011 and charged under the Anti-Terror Act of ‘being a member of an illegal organisation’ and ‘passing orders of Abdullah Ocalan’.  Margaret Owen OBE, barrister, human rights lawyer and patron of Peace in Kurdistan campaign travelled to Istanbul with other international colleagues to observe the mass trial. She has written a report on her observations, which you will find below. The report is also available for you download (Word doc).

MASS TRIAL OF 36 KURDISH LAWYERS

Report on trial of the 36 lawyers at the Istanbul High Criminal Court, 16 – 19 July 2012

by Margaret Owen OBE, Barrister

Introduction

In June, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) appealed for international delegates to monitor the trial of 36 Kurdish lawyers, all members of the BDP, who were arrested in November 2011 in ongoing police operations against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). Ali Has, a Kurdish lawyer from the UK, and I joined other international delegates from across Europe in response to the appeal. We spent three days observing the mass trial in the Special Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey. [1] Continue reading

“We force them into line”: Press control in place of press freedom in Turkey

by Mako Qocgiri

Originally published on ISKU – Informationsstelle Kurdistan. A PiK translation.

What could be more beautiful for a government than to see the media in its country only writing positive things about it? Certainly this would influence public opinion to the benefit of the government, which would in turn ease the path to re-election. Unfortunately it is not always so easy for some governments. Because, where there is democracy, the media ought to critically examine the policies of the government. Therefore the government must make more effort not to have any stumbles in their policies because the media representatives are on their tail. So goes the theory…. Continue reading

Coalition of lawyers write to the UN regarding judicial harassment in Turkey

Under the heading of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint letter has been written by a coalition of lawyers associations to Gabriela Carina Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva and Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteurs on the independence of judges and on the situation of human rights defenders respectively, at the United Nations.

The letter urges them both to take action against the ongoing judicial harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey, which has culminated in the trial of 36 lawyers representing Abdullah Ocalan in an ongoing KCK trial in Istanbul. Peace in Kurdistan has arranged for two delegates to join several others invited by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to observe the trial, and we shall bring you news of their reports and reflections on their return to the UK.

Below you can read the joint press release published also on the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) website, and we have also made the letter itself available to download (pdf). Continue reading

First impressions from women delegates to North Kurdistan

“More and more women are becoming politically active and so the number of women in prison is rising too.”

First impressions and meetings of the delegation

Since 6th July 2012 a women delegation, with 12 participants from England and Germany in total, has been in North Kurdistan. Amongst the participants are representatives of different women’s rights and human rights organisations, as well as the well-known trade unionist and member of the women’s committee of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Professor Mary Davis.

The delegation was initiated by the Kurdish Women’s Office for Peace (Ceni) and supported by the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign in London, in order to give the work of the women’s academies a wider publicity; to strengthen the exchanges between women’s projects, women’s rights and human rights initiatives in Kurdistan and Europe, and to learn from each other; as well as to show practical international solidarity in the face of the increased repression by the Turkish state against the women’s movement and trade union movement.
Continue reading