Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Kurdistan National Congress protests, Cyprus

Kurdistan National Congress protests, Cyprus

As I noted on accessible art, I've just seen this procession - a demonstration by the Kurdistan National Congress - passing through the streets of southern Nicosia in southern Cyprus, which includes:
  • a car with a portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK)), and I think the flags of Kurdistan and the PKK, on its bonnet; and
  • a crowd of people, nearly all of them wearing notices that, "we are ready to die for Ocalan" and bearing various flags.
According to the Kurdistan National Congress pamphlets:
Abdullah Ocalan's life is under threat

The Turkish state is daily applying new humiliating penalties on Abdullah OCALAN [leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PPK))]. We have learnt that before the 20-day cell punishment, which amounts to isolation within isolation, Ocalan earlier suffered the same punishment but for one week.

Ocalan, after only being able to meet with his lawyers for the first time in months, expressed concern that his life was in danger, as he was being threatened and had received death threat letters.

The Kurdish people view Ocalan as their champion of peace and freedom, but such actions and threats are being perpetrated before the eyes of the world.
Approaching this problem, we must keep in mind that, according to Human Rights Watch,
Kurds are not targeted by the security forces because of their ethnicity per se. Many Kurds who align themselves closely with the Turkish state have been elected to parliament or hold high political office.
So, there are Kurds who disagree with Abdullah Ocalan's and the PKK's very aims, let alone their frequently abhorrent methods.
However, any attempt to assert political or cultural rights based on Kurdish identity is looked upon as treason and as a threat to the very foundations of the Turkish state--and punished accordingly....

The People's Labor Party (HEP) and its successor parties [DEP and HADEP] have been subjected to relentless persecution by the state and its security forces for over a decade....

In spite of its often-repeated calls for peace and its public rejection of political violence, HADEP is widely perceived to be sympathetic to the PKK, an organization heartily detested by much of the Turkish public....

The Democratic Mass Party (DKP) -- which places a peaceful and democratic solution of the Kurdish question at the center of its program -- not only rejected political violence, but also strongly and publicly criticized the PKK for its methods.

Nevertheless, the DKP was closed down by the Constitutional Court for "separatism" in 1998.
So, there are many Kurds who do not perceive Abdullah Ocalan as a "champion of peace and freedom", because of his and the PKK's violent methods.

Moreover, as Human Rights Watch has stated, human rights violations have been committed, not only by Turkey's security forces and voluntary and co-opted paramilitaries, but also by Ocalan's PKK paramilitaries, the majority of whose victims have been Kurds, the very people the PKK were supposed to be protecting.

So, in terms of their fulfilment of their human rights, many Kurds must find it impossible to recognise Abdullah Ocalan as a champion of peace and freedom.

The Kurdistan National Congress pamphlet continues:
These measures against Ocalan are quite contrary to all international law and agreements, but the EU [European Union] and other Western states remain silent and make no response, so we are prompted to ask if they are complicit in these practices?
Indeed, in the trial in 1999 [not "a separate trial back in 1999", as I said initially], the same concerns were raised, where, Jonathan Sugden, a researcher for Human Rights Watch felt it necessary to contradict "observers from the Council of Europe, who said on June 21 that 'the trial... has been correct and in accordance with the applicable Turkish law'."

If the EU - particularly through its human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe - and Western powers [not "again" but] continue to turn a blind eye to what may most generously be termed, "irregularities", it will have negative consequences for Abdullah Ocalan and for others subjected to Turkish state injustices (as it demonstrates and reinforces the impunity of those who would commit injustices).

Furthermore, it will have negative consequences for the resolution of the Kurdish Question (as it polarises communities, making reconciliation, peace and settlement even more difficult) and for the civilian Kurdish communities, who have been, are and will continue to be everybody's victims.

The Kurdistan National Congress pamphlet goes on:
With each passing day, the Kurdish people believe this [Western complicity in the Turkish state's human rights abuses] to be the case. The Turkish state launched an intensified attack on the Kurdish people immediately after it was given a date for the start of accession negotiations with the EU.

Not content with releasing the culprits of the 9 November Semdinli (Kurdish province in Turkey) incidents, although they were caught red handed, and they were military officers, it has started violent military campaigns throughout Kurdistan.

Following a short period on from the visits to Turkey of US and EU officials, during press conferences and in the meetings of the State Security Council there was talk of all-out struggle.

Immediately the offensive was stepped up. During 1990s after having gained the support of the Western powers, the Turkish state ratcheted up the war [a]gainst the Kurdish people.

As a result more than three million Kurds were forcibly displaced, four thousand villages were razed to the ground, thousands were tortured, thousands more were arrested and tens of thousands killed.
Again, it's worth remembering that the tens of thousands killed were killed by both Turkish state and Kurdish separatist militants; Kurdish and Turkish civilians are suffering at the hands of Turkish and Kurdish militants.
So we ask this question, if a similar decision is once again adopted, is a repetition of this period not likely? At least all the evidence indicates that Mr. Ocalan's life is in real danger given the harsh measures imposed on him.
Tragically, human rights fulfilment in Turkey, as everywhere, is a process and will not be achieved automatically; still, a careful, demanding EU accession is a means of maintaining and quickening that process and ought to be supported.

Reassuringly, the Kurdistan National Congress pamphlet concludes:
We call on all sides to act responsibly; we call on Turkey to end the recklessly dangerous policies that it is adopting and we call for a political solution to the Kurdish question.

An immediate answer must be given to these calls of the Kurdish people for democracy, peace and a political solution.

The Kurdish people see an attack on their leader Mr. Ocalan as an attack on themselves.


Kurdistan National Congress

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