During his state visit in Turkey today, President Christian Wulff should demand tangible progress in achieving equal rights for Kurds, to revive fading hopes of a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. That was the appeal made by Tilman Zülch, President of the Society for Threatened Peoples International (STP), in a letter to the President of Germany.
"On the very day you arrive in Turkey, 151 of the more than 1600 Kurdish politicians and civil rights activists arrested since the local elections in the spring of 2009 will be put on trial. They have been accused of expressing support for the outlawed PKK party in statements, interviews and through other activities," the letter states. "In actual fact, however, the accused were for the most part merely supporting Kurdish parties, and are generally committed to the rule of law and equal rights for the country’s 15 million Kurds. Please assure this oppressed minority that Germany will stand up for their rights, and let them know that not only Islam, but also some 800,000 people of Kurdish descent belong to Germany."
The recent concessions made by the Turkish government toward the Kurdish population, permitting Kurdish-language television and radio broadcasts, are only the very first step toward assuring the rights of the minority.
It is insupportable, the letter continues, that the more than 4,000 villages destroyed during the Turkish-Kurdish war have not been rebuilt to this day, leaving Kurdish refugees with no possibility of returning home.
Zülch reminded the German president of the stir created by Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a visit to Cologne in February 2008, when he called out to Turkish-Germans: "Assimilation is a crime against humanity." Erdogan also demanded that the Federal Republic of Germany establish Turkish schools for the Turkish minorities who have been living here for just 40 years. The Kurds in Turkey meanwhile have been in Southeastern Anatolia for two thousand years and still do not have a single Kurdish school. When an Islamic country and NATO ally, with close ties to Germany, can get away with holding 6500 political prisoners of the Kurdish minority, including 1200 youths – most of them imprisoned for more than 20 years now – then it is time for the German head of state to speak out, Zülch’s letter insists. Furthermore, Turkish officials must finally shed light on the fates of 17,000 civilians, including authors, journalists, attorneys, teenaged distributors of flyers or donors to the PKK, who disappeared between 1984 and 2000. This number does not include the estimated 42,000 victims of war and armed conflicts.