Sunday, November 30, 2014

Turkey and the Kurds - Uzay Bulut

by Uzay Bulut

For decades Turkey's official policy was: There are no Kurds -- so there is no problem.
"They wanted to send us a message through a beheading, a throat-cutting. This was an organized attack against our party. The [Turkish] state wanted to behead our party administrator in our party building. Behind this attack was the state itself." — Selahattin Demirtas, co-Chairman of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).

Turkey: A Laboratory of Various Methods of Oppressing the Kurds

In Turkey, the approximately 20 million Kurds do not have any national rights, autonomy, or even primary schools where they can be educated in the Kurdish language.

The real population of Kurds in Turkey is not known; the Turkish state has not carried out a census of Kurds.

That policy may be deliberate: the Turkish regime seems to prefer to deny everything that is related to Kurdish existence. Turkey's state authorities, before the AKP came to power in 2002, said that when the Turkish republic was established, there were no Kurds – just "mountain Turks," and that Kurdish is not a "real" language. Since then, however, thanks to pro-Kurdish parties, the Turkish government can no longer refer to them that way. The problem remains, however, that the government still does not officially recognize the Kurds and still keeps denying them the autonomy they feel is their right.

For decades, that was Turkey's official policy: There are no Kurds – so there is no problem.

Denial was accompanied by state terrorism, carried out in massacres, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unlawful arrests and, of course, torture.

In the 1990s, for instance, scores of Kurdish villages were razed and residents forcibly evacuated.

At least three million Kurds were displaced and left homeless, with 3,438 Kurdish villages destroyed and burned down by Turkish soldiers. [1]

Even a Turkish parliamentary commission concluded that in the 1990s, more than 3,000 villages and farm settlements were burned, razed and emptied of their inhabitants, and some 378,000 people displaced.

Velat Demir, the president of the Association of Solidarity and Assistance for the Families of Missing Persons, and one of the victims, says that due to the Turkish state violence he lost four members of his family.

Demir explained that estimates of the number of disappeared, between 1990 and 1994, range between 850 and 1.300. "Different figures are given because in Turkey there has not yet been a joint effort among civil society organizations to develop a database. Some say 500, some say 5.000 people. We think this is a big shortcoming."

As the Turkish pressure on Kurds has been huge and its methods of subjugation have been varied, many have become assimilated. But a great many have resisted assimilation, and demand that their rights for autonomy be recognized.

Turkey still does not recognize the Kurds, but in the 2000s, had somewhat to change its ways – albeit insidiously. In some of his public speeches now, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan refers to Kurds as "his Kurdish brothers," but still denies their rights just as former Turkish leaders did. In Turkey's constitution, for instance, Kurds are not recognized as a distinct ethnic community.

On September 15 of this year, when Kurds tried to open three primary schools in the Kurdish provinces of Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari finally to get some education in their native language, the schools were forcibly closed down and sealed by the Turkish Ministry of Interior and Turkish police the following day.

The Turkish state, which has not built a school for Kurds, has, however, built hundreds of jails in which to incarcerate them when they demand national or human rights.

Between 2009 and 2012 alone, hundreds of Kurdish activists, politicians, academics and journalists were arrested and imprisoned, and Turkish jails are still filled with Kurdish political prisoners.

Turkey's killing of Kurds also still continues. The Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) reported that since 1988, at least 580 Kurdish children have been killed by the Turkish state. Of these, 197 children have been killed during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002.

The policy of the Turkish state toward the Kurds, ever since Turkey was established more than 90 years ago, in 1923, has been as follows:

Deny the Kurdish identity. Assimilate the Kurds into the Turkish culture. If they refuse, humiliate them until they get sick and tired of being Kurdish. If they do not get sick and tired, terrorize them into silence. If they refuse to be silent, just kill them off: You will either be a Turk, or I'll destroy you.

Attacks against Kurds by Turkish nationalists, police or troops all across Turkey have been on the rise in recent weeks and seem to result from of this mindset.

The Death of Kader Ortakaya

Kader Ortakaya, 28-year-old Kurdish sociologist and human rights activist, was shot dead on the Urfa-Kobani border on November 6, after the Turkish army reportedly attacked both sides of the border with gas bombs and bullets.

Ortakaya was an M.A. student in Istanbul's Marmara University, and also a member of the Social Freedom Platform and Free Art Initiative.

Members of the Free Art Initiative had been in the Kurdish town of Suruc for 25 days, and sleeping in tents in the border villages as a "peace guard." They reportedly wanted to form a human chain between Suruc and Kobani (in Syria) to show solidarity with the people of Kobani and to attract the world's attention to the dangers of the Islamic State (IS).

During a gathering, Ferhat Tunc, a well-known Kurdish singer, who had been forbidden to make a statement, was making one anyway. Turkish troops attacked the protesters with gas bombs and bullets, and opened fire on the people in Kobani on the other side of the border, as well.

Turkish troops shot Kader Ortakaya just after she had crossed the border from Turkey into Syria..

She was declared dead at the Kobani hospital; it is not known if she died in the hospital, or was dead upon arrival.

Several other artists and activists, including Ali Baran, Adil Aslan, Naif Aslan and Mustafa Kilic, age 75, were wounded and hospitalized.

Video Footage of Turkish Troops Meeting with ISIS

This video footage (here and here) of Turkish troops meeting with ISIS members was released on October 27. The footage shows the soldiers and ISIS members chatting and saluting each other on October 22.

The Turkish army issued a statement saying that the soldiers were "merely warning two persons that the area was a minefield."

Turkish soldiers chat with ISIS members on the Syrian border, October 22, 2014.
Kurdish protestor shot and lynched in Izmir as police stand idly by

JINHA, a Kurdish news agency based in Diyarbakir, broadcast a video about Ekrem Kacaroglu, a father of three, shot in the head in the province of Izmir on October 7 while protesting ISIS attacks against Kobani.

The video shows Turkish nationalist mobs lynching the 38-year-old Kurd after he was shot. Wounded, he fell to the ground. While he was lying wounded on the ground, a mob of Turkish nationalists lynched him. The police just stood by as the aggressors kicked him while shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is Greater!"]

Kurdish Footballer Deniz Naki flees Turkey for Germany after attack

Deniz Naki, a Kurdish footballer born in the Kurdish province of Dersim in Turkey, was attacked in Ankara for posting anti-ISIS statements on social media and expressing his support for the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syrian Kurdistan.

After the attack, Naki cancelled his contract with Genclerbirligi, an Ankara team for which he had been playing for a year, and fled to Germany, where his family resides.

Naki has a tattoo of Dersim (the Kurdish name of the province where Kurdish people were massacred in 1937-38) and Azadi (a Kurdish word for "Freedom") on his arm, which caused him to receive threats.

For about six months, Naki had been exposed to threats and insults for his postings about his Kurdish and Alevi identity on Facebook, and said he thought he was being followed.

Last week, he was physically attacked as he left the facilities of his football team:
"As I just left the facilities, three people shouted at me: 'Are you the Kurdish, Alevi Naki?' They surrounded me, constantly swearing at me about my being Kurdish and Alevi. They shouted at me about Kobani and asked why I wrote 'Dersim' but not 'Tunceli' [the Turkish word for the same province] on my arm. As I tried to calm them down, the man on my left suddenly punched me in the face. I was shocked. I punched him back and ran away," he told Turkey's daily Birgun.
"There were three people and I was afraid that they might have guns or knives. They continued swearing at me as I ran. They said 'ISIS will f…k you.' And they said that this was just a warning".
Shortly after, Naki boarded a flight to Germany, and said that the attack would not cause him to give up his values, but that he would continue his career there out of concern for his safety.

An ISIS-Style Attack against a Kurdish politician in Ankara

On November 3, a Turkish nationalist stabbed Ahmet Karatas, a member of the Party Assembly of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), in his throat. Seriously wounded, Karatas was taken to the hospital.

The attack came after President Erdogan, on November 2, warned the HDP that, "Our patience has limits. If that limit is crossed, I do not even want to think about what might happen." Earlier, the HDP had asked its supporters to take to the streets on November 1 to protest ISIS attacks on Kobani and the government's reported support of ISIS. [2]

After the attack, Yalcin Akdogan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, stated that the attack on Karatas was a "provocation" -- supposedly by people who want to start armed conflicts between the PKK and the Turkish army again, and to end the "resolution process" to resolve the Kurdish wish for autonomy through negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK.

The "resolution process" is the name of proceedings that reportedly got started in 2012. The government claims that it has been negotiating with Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, to end armed conflicts between the PKK and the Turkish army.

But no concrete steps for constitutional and legal reform towards the recognition of the Kurds' right to self-rule have been taken ever since.

So Akdogan was implying that Karatas was attacked because "some people" – whether Turks or even Kurdish nationalists -- wanted to end the negotiation process with Abdullah Ocalan and restart violence and armed conflict.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the HDP, replied in a press conference on November 5:
"This was not a provocation. It was an organized attack against our party. The [Turkish] state wanted to behead our party administrator in our party building. Behind this act is the state itself.
The prime minister said that he was calling on everyone to react to the HDP. He launched a lynching campaign against us. But apparently, this was not enough, so they wanted to send us a message through a beheading, a throat cutting
The aggressor did everything to behead Karatas. He attempted to murder him in a calm manner. He did not even feel the need to hide his identity. He left his phone there. This is the message they are sending to us: They tell us that 'we will cut off your heads.' And this is our reply to them: Even though you cut off our heads, our bodies will not surrender to you.
Moustafa Mohamad, a Syrian Kurd, on a hunger strike for Kobani in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile in Washington D.C., as Kurds in Turkey and Syrian Kurdistan are exposed to attacks by ISIS and Turkish nationalists, Moustafa Mohamad, a Kurdish activist from Syrian Kurdistan, has been on a hunger strike for Kobani since October 21.

"I am on a hunger strike to take part in the pain and suffering of my people," Mohamad said. "To honor its resistance, to share its agony, to show its daily grunt and deprivations, I decided to go on a hunger strike to tell Washingtonians, who visit a popular site called Dupont Circle, that Kobani is fighting and they should support it."

"I want Kobani to prevail in the way [West] Berlin did during the Cold War. I also want the Islamic State out of Kurdish lands in Rojava as well as southern Kurdistan," said Kani Xulam, the spokesperson of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), who is helping Moustafa Mohamad during his hunger strike.

"I think the international community is realizing that the Turkish ruling circles are not bothered or threatened by the extremism of Islamic State. What billions of dollars could not have accomplished for the Kurds and Kurdistan has been delivered to us: healthy and honest political recognition, on a silver platter.

I curse the Islamic State today and want them to be destroyed. Tomorrow, I will thank it and the Turkish ruling circles for the services rendered."[3]
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish non-Kurdish journalist based in Ankara.

[1] According to the Migrants' Association for Social Cooperation and Culture.
[2] These were Erdogan's exact words:
"It has been five years since we started this process. First, we called it the 'opening process,' then the 'national unity and brotherhood process,' and now we call it the 'resolution process.' The HDP calls on people to take it to the streets. It says 'this is not for violence.' Then why are you calling on people to pour into the streets? [Instead, you can] hold a demonstration. When you say "take to the streets,' it means 'wear a mask, take your stick, take your molotov cocktail, and burn down certain shops.' The security forces and citizens are worried. That is why; I say the patience has its limits. If that limit is crossed, I do not even want to think about what might happen."
[3] From an interview with both men by the author.

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish non-Kurdish journalist based in Ankara.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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