PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN, Statement 27 March 2012

The pro-Kurdish daily newspaper, Ozgur Gundem, has been banned from publishing for one month by Turkish courts for spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’. Peace in Kurdistan views this action by the Turkish courts as an aggressive move conceived only facilitate the government’s own campaign of misinformation regarding the Kurdish question, and we call for the immediate lifting of the ban.

The court action comes immediately in the wake of a Saturday raid on the daily’s premises, with documents and copies of the next edition of the paper confiscated by police. Once again, Turkey’s highly controversial Anti-Terror Law (TMY) is being employed on an ever-widening scale to justify the ongoing crackdown on the free  expression by the Kurdish people. It follows just days after the violent suppression of Newroz festivities and the ensuing criminalisation of Kurdish cultural expression which has seen at least 500 people arrested. Tragically one member of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Haci Zengin, was killed after a gas bomb was thrown at his head by riot police.

Under such intense political and social pressure, newspapers such as Ozgur Gundem act as an important platform for the expression of an alternative voice regarding the conflict against Kurds in Turkey. In the absence of a critical media, the Turkish government remains unaccountable to public opinion and can continue arresting Kurdish people in their hundreds without challenge. We can here note that eleven Ozgur Gundem journalists are presently behind bars for alleged links to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), and in total, 109 publishers and journalists from Dicle News Agency, Firat News Agency, Azadiya Welat and Ozgur Gundem are currently detained; around half of those are yet to be formally indicted or have their first hearing in court. Ozgur Gundem itself only began publishing again last April following a 17-year ban.

The Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Eren Keskin, has been quoted in Hurriyet as saying the ban was part of the government’s ‘new strategy’ and ‘proves there is an intention to cut off communication among Kurds.’ Peace in Kurdistan endorses her observation. Indeed, the indictment and eventual suspension of Kurdish language broadcaster Roj TV by the Danish High Court and satellite provider Eutelsat respectively, came as a direct result of pressure from the highest echelons of the Turkish state. This action once again demonstrates Turkey’s ruthlessness in its attempts to suppress Kurdish political opinion and seriously calls into question the state’s democratic credibility. By such measures, it appears little has changed in Turkey from the Kurdish perspective.


Peace in Kurdistan  
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question


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