A delegation of European lawyers will visit Diyarbakir from 21st to 24th January 2016. The 13 participants come from Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Austria. Two European lawyers’ organisations are supporting this initiative, the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) and the European Democratic Lawyers (EDL) and also the “Unione delle Camere Penali Italiane”
Melanie Gingell, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, has written the latest in a series of damning reports about the recent snap election in Turkey, which took place amidst a backdrop of serious violence. Here, she details how voter intimidation became a feature of polling day on 1st November:
The re-run election of 1st November was carried out against a backdrop of extreme state violence particularly in the South East of the country. Thousands of HDP and civil society activists had been arrested and hundreds of HDP offices had been attacked in separate incidents across the country. The mood was extremely sombre and there was little evidence of campaigning by any of the political parties. The two suicide bomb attacks in Suruc and Ankara had inflicted a terrible price on HDP supporters and progressive groups. HDP officials in Diyarbakir said that they had been busy organising funerals in the run up to the election, not campaigning.
Member of the House of Lords, Lord Hylton, took part in an election observation delegation to Turkey’s southeast to witness the November snap general elections. His report recounts the brutal force used by the Turkish state against Kurdish civilians over the course of the summer:
In September and October 2015 the Government of Turkey, headed by President Erdogan, launched attacks against their presumed enemies and opponents. These took place in the run-up to the general election of 1st November. The PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, has been involved in political and armed struggles against the state. Many ceasefires have been offered, especially since 1999, the date of the capture and imprisonment of the party leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK, with the constitutional pro-Kurdish party, the HDP (Peoples Democratic Party), and other cooperating groups including trade unions, different ethnic and religious communities, human rights and women’s organizations, and opposition parties etc, had long since declared in speeches and in writing that they did not seek to become independent or to separate from Turkey. They only wanted cultural and social autonomy within Turkey. The PKK made a unilateral ceasefire declaration on 10th October to avoid prejudice to the elections.
Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan, led by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign’s trade union liaison officer Stephen Smellie and student activists Roza Salih organised a fact-finding delegation to north Kurdistan in September to speak with representatives of the HDP, IHD, KESK and DISK trade unions among others. Here are their findings and recommendations.
Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan
Delegation visit to Diyarbakir, North Kurdistan/South East Turkey September 2015.
The delegation consisted of Sarah Collins, Viv Thompson and Stephen Smellie of UNISON and Roza Salih and Paul Toner of Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan. We were in Diyarbakir from 21 to 25 September and met with a number of organisations and individuals. These included the Human Rights Association, Free Women’s Assembly, Rojava Association, KESK (public sector trade unions), DISK (private sector trade unions), Democratic Society Congress, HDP MPs, Ezidi refugees from Shengal and the refugee camp organisers. We spoke to people who had been at the HDP rally in Diyarbakir in June which had been bombed, including one woman who had lost both legs in the bomb blast. We also spoke to trade unionists who were organising and attending the ‘Labour, Peace and Democracy’ demonstration in Ankara on 10 June which was targeted by 2 suicide bombers and where over 100 people were killed. Continue reading “Scottish delegation to Kurdistan calls for peace process to be renewed”→
A third report has been written by UK election observers who witnessed election day in several villages across Turkey’s Kurdish regions. They conclude that there was a ‘clear attempt’ by the Turkish government to discourage people from voting, as well as implicit threats – and explicit use – of violence. You can read more about all the observation work undertaken by independent volunteers from the UK here.
Written by Prof. David Graeber, Cllr Aysegul Erdogan, Elif Sarican & Rebecca Coles
Margaret Owen, who took part in a delegation to southeast Turkey to monitor the recent snap elections, has produced this report based on her observations. Alongside Margaret were several others, including barrister Melanie Gingell, John Hunt, journalist; and Kawa Besarani, human rights advocate and political analyst; and academic David Graeber, among others.
The results, that came in on Sunday night took many of us, the international observers of the election,by surprise. Last night we wept, as the first fireworks, music and song,of what everyone thought would introduce a night of celebration,turned into dark hours of grief and anger, which ended when the armed police arrived with their tear gas and water cannon, stone throwing from the youth, arrests and more violence.
How will the peace process with the Kurds be resurrected after this result? When Erdogan himself has stated that it is in tatters.But perhaps all is not lost for ever. The AKP got a majority but not a “super” majority in numbers. He will still need support from the other parties to rewrite the Constitution in the way he wants, that is, to give himself a life presidency and in reality,a dictatorship, far removed from Ataturk’s creation of a secular republic. At least the HDP kept its 10% threshold. Although they lost many votes they still have representation in parliament. It could have been worse.
Activists and academics from the UK will travel to Turkey today to observe the coming elections, set to take place this Sunday following months of shocking state violence across the mainly Kurdish southeast and political intimidation and harassment across the country.
PRESS RELEASE BY THE UNISON SCOTLAND DELEGATION WHO VISITED THE KURDISH REGION IN TURKEY
29 September 2015
A delegation of four trade unionists from Scotland: Stephen Smellie, deputy convenor of Unison Scotland; Viv Thomson, Chaiperson of UNISON’s national women’s commitee; Sarah Collins, UNISON East Ayrshire branch; and Paul Smellie, young member of Unite the Union, along with”Glasgow girl” Roza Salih*)visited Diyarbakir in southern Turkey last week following news reports of military curfews in the predominantly Kurdish region.Continue reading “UNISON delegation visits Diyarbakir amidst ongoing violence and intimidation”→
A UK delegation of international observers will travel to Turkey today to visit Cizre, the majority-Kurdish town that has been under siege by Turkish security forces since 4 September.
The delegation includes human rights barristers Margaret Owen and Melanie Gingell, and Dr. Shatha Besarani, women’s rights activist for the Iraqi Women’s League. It follows a call from the Kurdish Women’s Council (KJB) for international observers in an effort to bring the crisis in Cizre and across Turkey’s southeast to international attention. Continue reading “UK observers to travel to Cizre, Turkey, to report on blockade”→
Please contact the organiser if you want to take part!
+++ Mesopotamian Ecology Movement +++
*10.000 hectares burnt down in Kurdistan by the Turkish Army – International Delegation needed more than ever!*
We want to renew our call to form an international delegation to investigate the forest fires in North-Kurdistan caused by the Turkish Army. It is more and more urgent to raise international public as in the last one week the number of forest fires and burnt forests increase daily.
Around ten days ago activists of our movement did a first investigation together with a group of Turkish ecological activists in different parts of Kurdistan (the report will be published in the next days). According to this and further gathered information from local people the number of forest fires has exceeded the number of 50 in at least eight provinces: Dersim (Tunceli), Çewlik (Bingöl), Amed (Diyarbakır), Mardin, Siirt, Şirnex (Şırnak), Çolemerg (Hakkari) and Bitlis. The total number of forest areas burnt down in the last one month has reached 10.000 hectares land! We are concerned that this will be intensified in the next weeks as long as the military operations of the Turkish Army continue. Continue reading “Mesopotamian Ecology Movement call to action against forest fires and ecological warfare”→