Solidarity with the Victims of All Genocides
& The Forum for Stateless Nations
Genocide, war crimes and the role of the AKP Government in obstructing the peace process in Turkey
An Appeal to UK MP’s to sign EDM 2267
30 October 2011
Last week, our lobby of MP’s and protest outside the Turkish Embassy in London sought to bring attention to the recent wave of arrests of academics and politicians in Turkey. These arrests came as no surprise. Have successive UK governments not turned a blind eye to the fact that the modern Turkish State came about following the seal of approval by Britain and its allies (in the Treaty of Lausanne) of the successful and merciless Genocide of the Armenian, Assyrian-Syriac and Greek populations as well as ‘Others’ from 1915 onwards? (by the CUP and/or Kemalist led nationalists). Have we not turned a blind eye to continued persecution of its national ‘minorities’ by the state of Turkey since its inception? What will it take, I wonder, for a British Prime Minister to robustly call for the government of Turkey to respect its National Minorities, to bravely face its Genocidal past, and to confront the reality of its totalitarian present posing as a democracy?
Anyone associated with human, cultural, political and ‘minority’ rights protection work, alongside work exposing the anti-democratic policies and practices of the state as it applies to prisons and the targeting of political prisoners, mass graves and the neoliberal framework (even within the educational sphere) faces targeting under the anti-terror laws, in the name of catch-all “anti-KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union] operations”. The Platform for Solidarity with Arrested Journalists (TGDP) has just issued the following statement: “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” (BIA, 7 October 2011). According to BIA (3 October): “Members and executives of the Human Rights Association, the [teachers’] education union and the social service sector union were taken into custody in Urfa on 27 September. Private homes and the branch head offices were searched. 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 were raided simultaneously on Tuesday morning” (27 September). At the same time, the homes of executives of the association and the union offices were searched. A total of 23 people were taken into custody, among them İHD Branch President Cemal Babaoğlu … and Eğitim-Sen Branch President Halit Şahin”. Even Kemal Aydin, Executive of the Association for Solidarity and Support of Relatives of Disappeared People (YAKAY-DER), and Deniz Zarakolu, editor of Belge Publishing House (also a noted academic, political scientist and translator) were taken into custody after a raid on 4 October 2011.
On Friday 28 October, Info-Turk confirms that “a large-scale manhunt in Istanbul against Kurdish and human rights activists” took place in which Ragip Zarakolu (director of Belge Publishing House and Chair of the Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee of Turkey) and Professor Busra Ersanli (Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, Marmara University, a constitutional analyst and a member of the Peace and Democracy Party’s/BDP’s intra-party constitutional commission) were detained. 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 Press Freedom Prize (2007 – alongside the late Hrant Dink and Gulcin Cayligil), the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Prize (2008) and 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. Selahattin Demirtas, BDP co-chair, in response to the latest wave of detentions, clarified that democratic initiatives were being silenced by the state: “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” (Info-Turk, 30 October). The Ankara Initiative for Freedom of Thought <http://gercek-inatcidir.blogspot.com <http://gercek-inatcidir.blogspot.com/> > has launched the following signature campaign that we encourage you to sign, which protests at the above detentions: “That’s enough!” Click the signature form (Destek için imza formu) at the above web-address and submit it with the mention of name (adi soyadi), profession (meslegi) and city/country (sehir ve/veya ülke).
Coverage of popular demonstrations against repressive state policies and practices has also been criminalised in Turkey (something that has received scant coverage in the British mainstream press). Several Turkish journalist organisations have concluded that the repressive atmosphere has intensified since the Prime Minister’s meeting with national media owners and executives on 21 October, in which he “urged journalists to show restraint in their coverage of the conflict” (reported by Info-Turk, 30 October). Following state pressure, on 24 October, five leading Turkish state agencies issued a communique which, disturbingly for freedom of expression advocates, announced that: “Common principles have been adopted concerning the coverage of terrorist incidents”. These included sweeping agreements to engage in censorship of news and to “comply with the publication bans issued by the competent authorities” (reported by Info-Turk, 30 October). For Reporters Without Borders: “Minimising the scale of human losses or choosing not to report certain operations will just increase mistrust of the media. Complete and objective coverage of developments in eastern Turkey is an essential precondition for reaching a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue” (reported by Info-Turk, 30 October).
The Turkish government, moreover, continues to engage in Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac, Greek, Greek Cypriot, Kurdish and ‘Other’ genocide denialism even as ‘minorities’ continue to face discrimination and targeting of various kinds. Equally of concern are recent ‘security/migration co-operation’ undertakings between Turkey and France and Turkey and the UK, respectively. Reporters Without Borders has already cautioned that: “We hope that the French authorities”, which signed a security agreement on 7 October, “will be much more discriminating than their Turkish counterparts as regards combating terrorism … We urge them not to be sucked in by Ankara’s indiscriminate and repressive approach” – which, we have seen, has targeted academics, politicians, journalists, respected book publishers, human rights organisation and teaching union representatives, musicians and students under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’ [anti-PKK/KCK/DHKP-C] initiatives (see our previous Press Release, 19 October) – “which causes many collateral victims, including journalists” (reported by Info-Turk, 30 October). On 25 October, UK Home Secretary Theresa May “pledged stronger support for Turkey in efforts against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party-PKK, speaking after talks with [Turkish] Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin” (Hurriyet, 26 October) resulted in a joint declaration on migration co-operation. “‘We have imprisoned any PKK member found and a number of others supporting PKK have been arrested … We’ve strengthened and will continue to strengthen our work to counter terrorism’, she said” (Hurriyet, 26 October). She made no statement criticising Turkish state terrorism of the kind described in this release, merely underlined and emphasised the UK government’s intensified support for Turkey’s ‘anti-terrorism initiatives’. Perhaps not coincidentally, and seemingly to highlight the state’s commitment to ‘monitor’ Kurdish ‘activists’, soon after, it was reported by Sadie Robinson (27 October, Socialist Worker, Issue 2275) that British police with automatic weapons approached a Kurdish tent outside St. Paul’s cathedral, where, with others, Kurds were peacefully gathering to register their anti-capitalist/anti-bankers protest:
Police armed with machine-guns raided a Kurdish tent at the Occupy protest outside St. Paul’s Cathedral [in the evening]. Protesters quickly gathered around the tent to support those inside. Evahi Emanon … told Socialist Worker: ‘This is a peaceful protest – guns are a bit over the top. They’re trying to find an excuse to clear us out’. One officer said police were ‘responding to a call’ and that ‘threat warranted a police armed response’ … After more than half an hour of searching the tent, police left, [of course], having found nothing. Deniz Cetiner is a student and one of those in the Kurdish tent: ‘In Turkey, we live with this kind of operation every day … It’s not new to us. They [absurdly] said there could be a gun inside here – but they found nothing. We’re here because we are against the capitalists’”.
We ask MP’s and concerned members of the public to please take note of the findings of two recent reports – one by the noted academic Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (presented on 10 October 2011 at the Frankfurt Book Fair) and the other by a Human Rights Delegation from Hamburg and Stuttgart (based upon a 21-day Human Rights Delegation visit in September 2011). They add weight to the already substantial evidence pointing towards the repressive character of the Turkish government which is frustrating any moves towards a peaceful, non-military based resolution to the Kurdish conflict. Instead, genocidal policies and practices, as well as war crimes continue to be committed against the ‘Other’. Freedom of expression and association has been under immense attack as our previous Press Release noted (19 October). In light of all of these troubling developments, we ask MP’s to please consider signing Early Day Motion (EDM) 2267 and we also ask concerned members of the public to please alert their MP’s to this important EDM:
TURKISH – KURDISH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS: That this House is deeply concerned at the worsening of relations between Turkey and the Kurds since the election in June; warns against the consequences of the renewed wave of arrests of leading Kurdish politicians, civil society activists and professionals; calls on Turkey to halt immediately its cross-border military operations and bombing of Kurdish camps inside Iraq; believes that this policy of seeking a solution to the Kurdish question by military means and increased repression will prove futile and can only provoke future unrest and conflict; and urges the Government to exert its influence on Turkish leaders to change course and take steps towards a negotiated settlement with the legitimate representatives of the Kurdish people. Primary Sponsor: Hywel Williams MP.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Group Vice President 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” (ANF, 5 October 2011).
The report by the Human Rights Delegation from Hamburg and Stuttgart concludes 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”. The report, in full, attached with this release, clarifies that:
We know from an analysis of international conflict resolution processes that progress towards peace and democracy can only be achieved through open dialogue by all the parties concerned – for resolution of the Kurdish question this means the BDP Government, Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK – and through the proper acknowledgement and condemnation of war crimes. A precondition of this is that mass graves should be properly and expertly opened in accordance with the UN protocols on the prevention and investigation of extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Setting up a truth and justice commission in Turkey would be a further step in the right direction towards exposing genocide and femicide in Turkey and Kurdistan and paving the way towards a political solution of the Kurdish question …
We have seen and experienced the reality that those who criticise or expose injustices in Turkey are again increasingly likely to be arrested or even killed. We condemn in the strongest terms the repeated and targeted killing of civilians and BDP officials by Turkish security forces.
Since the parliamentary elections of June 2011, the Erdoğan Government has been seeking a “Tamil solution” to the Kurdish question, and is implementing a modified form of this. In this context, escalation of the military conflict with the PKK – in contravention of international law – and the massacres in conjunction with systematic attacks on the civilian population, are manifestly politically motivated. The free expression of opinions and constructive work on behalf of local communities is punished by imprisonment. For the last month or so, in dribs and drabs, action has been taken against about 50 people a day. A policy of this kind is not acceptable.
The fact that the Turkish Government describes peace endeavours by the Kurdish side and commitment to human rights as terror represents a barrier to any political solution … The detention of two delegation members clearly shows that the raising of human rights violations is not tolerated under the AKP Government … The AKP is evidently keen to do all it can to prevent this kind of publicity and anything that might foster the possibility of peace talks. Anything other than submission to the neo-Ottoman grand plan of the Erdoğan Government is to be interpreted as terror or propaganda for a terrorist organisation. The governments of Europe are standing by and doing nothing – or they are giving political and/or material support to Erdoğan’s policy … Against this background the practices of the dirty war are once again increasing, as they did in the 1990s. European leaders should be ashamed of their support for this policy. Despite the repression and increasing breaches of human rights and international law, going as far as the attempted annihilation of the Kurds as a people, the Kurds refuse to abandon their continuing fight against systematic injustice and tyranny.
The report also details the manner in which:
Following re-election of the AKP Government in June 2011, the mood in Turkey and the country’s Kurdish provinces has darkened. In Istanbul, people speak of a radical gentrification programme in the city areas around Taksim Square. For at least three years now the Kurdish population, along with Sinti and Roma, have been systematically driven out of these areas. Mafia-style methods are routinely used in this exercise … Since the election, moreover, the countless street cafés and music bars in Taksim and Beyoğlu are no longer allowed to put their tables and chairs outside on the street after ten o’clock in the evening. Police officers, either in civilian clothes and visibly armed or in uniform, roam the streets Wild-West-style keeping a close eye on what is going on. The free and relaxed nightlife of the area around Taksim Square, with its pronounced and emancipatory subculture of music, art and theatre, seems to be a thorn in the AKP’s side …
In addition, persons with a slightly darker complexion or who look Kurdish often have to endure racist abuse by the police during random identity checks. They are insulted by the “security forces” on account of their Kurdish or Armenian origin, and are told they should “Go home” … The reality now is [also] that it is not “just” thousands of activists – 4,400 Kurds were imprisoned in connection with the KCK trials – but the whole of the Kurdish population who are being oppressed [emphasis added].
Tove Skutnabb-Kangas’ presentation, ‘Kurdish as a mother tongue: No linguistic human rights, and linguistic genocide in education’, also concludes that “it is the econo-military systems of UK, USA, and Turkey that benefit when contributing to conditions which reproduce the continuation of the economic, educational and human rights underdevelopment in Kurdistan today”. These systems need to be challenged even as:
Kurdish is not allowed to be used as the medium of education (the language of teaching, Unterrichtssprache) in any [public] school in Turkey … Subtractive submersion education with Turkish as the teaching language for Kurds (and other minorities) is the main educational problem. It leads to “illiteracy” or low levels of literacy, lack of school achievement, identity deprivation, dispossession of children’s linguistic and cultural capital. It is organised against solid research evidence …
Education offered to Kurdish children in Turkey is [also] specifically guilty of genocide according to the following two definitions: Article II(e): ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’; and Article II(b): ‘causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’. Our conclusion is also that subtractive education [of this kind] fulfills legally the criteria for a crime against humanity. This should be tried in courts …
What the Kurds want in relation to language and culture is [also] just the same basic rights that any dominant groups have: cultural autonomy, including the right to learn their language(s), and use it/them freely in society, including schools. The right to mother-tongue based multilingual education cannot in any way be seen as a “special” right; it is a necessary linguistic and educational human right … Denial of linguistic human rights (LHRs) and the continued linguistic genocide (linguicide), also in education, creates and feeds conflict; granting LHRs is necessary for solving conflicts … Even if many legal changes have been accepted (at least on paper), Turkey is not even approaching the international human rights standards yet, neither in education nor in other aspects of linguistic rights. The situation has again become MUCH worse since late June 2011. If a state is systematically creating and perpetuating poverty, and cultural and political disempowerment along ethnic and linguistic lines (among other things through subtractive monolingual majority language medium education), THIS is what may lead to conflicts.
We ask concerned MP’s and members of the public to do everything they can to raise these concerns.
For further information, contact Eilian Williams: 07588256783 or [email protected]