A packed meeting took place on the evening of 20th June at SOAS University to mark the UK launch of an important new report by Adem Uzun titled, Living Freedom: The Evolution of the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey and the Efforts to Resolve it.
The report published by Berlin based non-governmental organisation specialising in conflict resolution methods, the Berghof Foundation provides a succinct account of the history of the Kurdish struggle, transformations in the Kurdish movement, their current demands and the prospects for peace.
Adem Uzun was unable to be present in person at the meeting but recorded a video message in order to offer his contribution to the meeting.
The meeting was organised by Peace in Kurdistan in collaboration with CAMPACC and hosted by the SOAS Kurdish Society.
The discussion was chaired by Dilar Dirik, a PhD student from Cambridge, who began by situating the current Kurdish conflict within its wider international dynamics and the larger global issues.
Luxshi Vimalarajah, Programme Director of Dialogue, Mediation and Peace Support Structures at the Berghof Foundation, briefly introduced the work of the NGO and stressed some common features between negotiating processes to end protracted conflict situations.
A key speaker was Selma Benkhelifa, from the Progress Lawyers Network in Belgium, who had acted as Adem’s lawyer during the time when he was detained in France and held on erroneous charges as a terrorist suspect.
She delivered a powerful and genuinely illuminating summary of the elaborate entrapment of Adem which saw security agencies employing shadowy agents to incriminate him just at the point when he was involved in ‘’shuttle diplomacy’’ between Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK and Turkish state officials.
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“Living Freedom” Public Meeting, speech by Selma Benkhelifa from Saman Gareeb on Vimeo.
His arrest coincided with an abrupt unilateral termination of the talks by the Turkish side which came when the media exposed what was and made ‘’taking to the PKK’’ a matter of political controversy inside Turkey.
Adem was accused of seeking to buy arms and promptly arrested at a meeting which was clearly a carefully organised set up, Ms Benkhelifa explained.
Not a shred of evidence could ever be found to substantiate the accusations levelled against her client, she emphasised.
Recently re-elected Green Party MEP Jean Lambert addressed what the European Parliament could do to help the peace process move forward and reflected on the possibilities of progress on Turkey’s accession to the EU.
She insisted that Turkey did still want to join the EU despite contradictory statements coming from Ankara.
Ms Lambert highlighted the issue of the anti-terrorism legislation to obstruct talks with the PKK despite its adoption of unilateral ceasefires and its clear transformation.
The very existence of such legislation enabled a state to avoid entering into meaningful talks and thus delayed a settlement.
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“Living Freedom” Public Meeting, speech by Jean Lambert from Saman Gareeb on Vimeo.
She strongly criticised how the EU had ignored the Kurds in Rojava who were trying to maintain an area of stability in Syria against difficult odds but despite their potentially positive role the EU was not even willing to talk to them.
Desmond Fernandes, a former lecturer speaking on behalf of both PIK and CAMPACC, looked at the wider security issues involved in Adem’s case and the criminalisation of the Kurds.
He stated that Adem was clearly criminalised in order to stop an important conflict resolution process from succeeding.
Mr Fernandes argued for the need to end the proscription of the PKK and remove it from the terrorism list. He questioned why Adem’s diplomatic efforts as a senior member of the KNK should ever have been seen as a threat. Read Mr Fernandes’ presentation in full.
The contributions stimulated an impassioned discussion from the appreciative audience.
At the end of the meeting, representatives of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign called for action by inviting the audience to sign their name to an ongoing appeal to lift the ban on the PKK. They also called on the public to get behind a new initiative, to send postcards to the Home Office in an effort to persuade the Home Secretary to review the government’s policy on the listing of the PKK.
Find out more about how you can get involved in both these actions.