Monday, 25 December 2006

Turkey: Koivunen ethnocide definition

In Kristiina Koivunen's (2002: 35) thesis on the invisible war in North Kurdistan, she recognised that, "[t]o define prevention of research as a form of ethnocide is problematic", but, I think she defended her definition convincingly when she argued that,
When books are burned or confiscated, the target is not the paper and ink but the ideas that they represent. If the destruction of a building that is part of a cultural heritage, for example a national library, is described as a form of ethnocide, then preventing the creation of a national library is also an ethnocidal policy.

.... The issue is very complicated, as it is mainly caused not by difficulties in renting a building for the library, but by the lack of literature and research about the ethnos.

When the Bosnian National Library was bombed, the books were destroyed but the ideas which they represented remain. But many minority groups lack even the idea of a national library and all it represents. This has been caused not by a single act but by repressive policies over a long period of time.
Koivunen (2002: 130) recalled that,
During the preparatory work for formulating the UN Convention Against Genocide UN in 1948, the draft committee discussed whether to include linguistic and cultural genocide, which was defined as

"destroying or preventing the use of libraries, museums, schools, historical monuments, places of worship, or other cultural institutions and objects of the group" (quoted from Capotorti 1991, 37).

Though this definition was not accepted as part of the final convention, it describes well the value of history and historical monuments for ethnic identity.
This recovers something lost (but since taken up in practice) from the original legal definition of genocide, gathers the various aspects of participation in cultural life targeted and ties them to the prevention of research into cultural life that is now a feature of the ethnocidal policies.

It is interesting to consider what this interpretation would bring to the understanding of the boycott of local, rescue archaeology in the Occupied Areas of Cyprus and the anecdotally-attested influence of nationalists upon what is and is not researched and presented in the so-called Free Areas.

On his blog, "from Holland to Kurdistan", Vladimir van Wilgenburg noted other cases of the prevention of research:
  • the detention and deportation of Human Rights Watch's Jonathan Sugden (reproduced at bianet), followed up by the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP);
  • the constructive dismissal of Diemut Majer;
  • the sacking of Gerhard Pils and his wife Inge;
  • the dismissal of Atilla Yayla; and
  • the prosecution of Erin Keskin, amongst others, for 'insulting Turkishness' (under Penal Code Article 301).
This prevention of research serves at least two primary purposes, including the Kurdish ethnocide, shown in Koivunen's work and the suppression of fundamental freedoms in Turkish society in general, shown in Koivunen's deportation.

On Rasti, Mizgin noted that, as well as detailing the health situation in Kurdistan, Koivunen described
the history of the Northern Kurds, the ethnocide (cultural genocide) of Kurds, the use of GAP to destroy Kurds, and the militarization of North Kurdistan.... From that you can get a pretty good idea of why someone like Kristiina Koivunen would be arrested by the Turkish state.
These acts are very concerning in themselves and as what may be "the beginning of another regional information blackout, a tactic that fascist states use in order to hide their crimes".

Presumably, archaeologists also face these pressures now and the prospect of worse in the future, especially given the role of cultural heritage and cultural heritage workers in the Ilisu Dam Campaign; one of Koivunen's "mistakes" was addressing the attack upon Kurdish community, history and identity.

This has not only a general professional and humanitarian relevance to me and my work: as the Occupying Power in northern Cyprus, Turkey's tactics are a specific subject; moreover, the anecdotal evidence of more subtle and informal, but nonetheless effective, use of similar tactics in southern Cyprus makes this an island-wide, cross-community concern.

Selflessly - and putting this as bluntly as my decision to study Turkish in Istanbul, rather than in Famagusta, to avoid potential blacklisting for alleged recognition of the occupation of northern Cyprus - what about me?

If nothing else, I need to study these cases to know how to conduct myself during my fieldwork; if anything more, I need to incorporate Koivunen's definition of ethnocide into my interpretations.

These are parts of the official and unofficial means of intimidation that I need to understand and address when judging archaeologists' responsibilities and practices in Cyprus, Turkey and beyond.

Capotorti, F. 1991: Study of the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Geneva: United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR).
Koivunen, K. 2002: The invisible war in North Kurdistan. Helsinki: University of Helsinki.

(The excerpts are copied from the originals; formats have been edited to make them easy to read in a blog.)

1 comment:


    The Foreign Ministry of Turkey told 22.12.2006 the Finnish Consulate in Ankara that I am not permitted to enter Turkey due to Turkey's Passport Law 5682 art 8 para 5.

    I haven't yet got any written document about my case.

    This law is following:

    People who are prohibited to enter Turkey:

    Article 8 - 1. Tramps and Beggars;

    2. Those who have mental or contagious diseases (those who would risk the general health and public order and visit with the purpose of treatment or change of climate for medical reasons either alone or with their legal guardians will be exceptional).

    3. Those who are convicted or found guilty for one of the crimes which are considered reason for extradition of criminals as per relevant agreement or agreements, of which Turkey is a party;

    4. Those who are deported from Turkey and are not allowed to return back;

    5. Those who are discerned to have entered the country with a purpose of violating security and public order of Turkish Republic or to contribute or help those who violate or willing to violate;

    6. Prostitutes and those perform business through urging women into prostitution, those who carry out white-slave trade and all types of smugglers;

    7. Those who do not have enough money to afford their stay in Turkey and to return back and who cannot provide evidence that there are persons to accommodate them in Turkey or that they can work in Turkey in one of jobs which are not legally prohobited for foreign citizens.