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.Koivunen (2002: 130) recalled that,
.... 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.
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 asThis 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.
"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.
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).
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.)