The chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtas criticised the international community for its refusal to condemn Turkey following the recent air attack on Kurdish civilians which killed 35 people, mostly youths, on 28 December. His comments came as part of an address in a public meeting in Parliament last Tuesday, which was hosted by Hywel Williams MP, and included contributions from Lord Rea, human rights lawyer Margaret Owen and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
Mr Demirtas and his colleague Nazmi Gur, BDP MP and chair of the party’s Foreign Affairs Commission, both spoke at the meeting, which was overflowing with people eager to hear from Turkey’s most senior Kurdish political representatives.
The international community, including Britain, has played a direct and an indirect role in the massacre, firstly, by supplying the intelligence to the Turkish military, and secondly, by remaining silent in the aftermath of the massacre, Demirtas said. The 35 victims of the bombing, all aged between 13 and 28, were travelling near the Iraqi-Turkish border and were identified by unmanned drones before F-16 fighter jets were sent to bomb the convoy of young men. The exact circumstances remain unclear and an independent investigation has so far been blocked. The BDP is now taking the case to the International Criminal Court in order to obtain a full investigation and justice for the victims.
The BDP chair asked, ‘In how many countries can such violence occur and such silence prevail?’ Indeed, at the same time that Mr Demirtas and Mr Gur were speaking in London, the UN Security Council in New York was wrangling over the terms of a resolution to force the leader of Turkey’s neighbour, Syria, to step down, ostensibly for also killing civilians.
Hywel Williams MP informed the group that there is currently an Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled in Parliament which condemns the bombings in December as ‘reckless and merciless’. The EDM is sponsored by seven members of the British parliament, and Mr Williams encouraged members of the Kurdish community to urge their MP’s to sign the motion.
The December massacre clearly exposes the utter ferocity with which the Turkish government is prepared to suppress the Kurdish movement. The bombings, which led to the largest single day death toll of civilians in the history of the conflict, were only the most tragic end to a year in which Kurdish political assembly, free expression in the media, and legal protection have all been systematically attacked by repeated waves of arrests. According to the latest figures, over 6,200 members of the BDP are imprisoned, including six elected officials, 30 leaders of local councils and councillors, 94 Kurdish journalists, 34 lawyers representing imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, and thousands of activists, including students and human rights workers.
Mr Demirtas was clear, however, both on the historical context of the Kurdish question and what needs to be done to secure a peaceful future in which the rights of Kurdish people are fully guaranteed. The right to free expression of the Kurdish identity, including the right to freely speak the mother tongue and education of the Kurdish language, the right to self-determination through a democratic confederalist system, and the right to political assembly have long been demands of the Kurdish people. These are fundamental freedoms that have long been guaranteed in Europe, exercised within the nation state but fought for by the people. ‘Our faith lies’, Mr Demirtas continued, ‘not in European states but in the European people who stand in solidarity with us’.
The chair of the BDP Foreign Affairs Commission, Nazmi Gur, also spoke at the meeting and warned the crowd about a deliberate campaign of misinformation by the ruling Justice and Development Part (AKP), that has successfully manipulated Western governments and surely contributed to the silence which met the news of the bombings. Despite the party’s attempts to represent itself as moderate and reformist, in reality the few changes that have been made do little to obscure Turkey’s authoritarian approach to the Kurdish question and repeated human rights violations.
Human rights lawyer Margaret Owen, who has participated in several delegations to Turkey to observe trials of individuals charged under Turkey’s draconian anti-terror laws, expressed her disappointment and anger over the rapid escalation of repressive measures against Kurdish resistance, particularly after the last elections in June 2011, in which 36 Kurdish MP’s were elected to the National Assembly. Jeremy Corbyn MP, who has also observed hearings of the so-called KCK trials, in which 151 Kurds are accused being members of a terrorist organisation and are being tried on mass, recalled his disbelief at the stark similarities between this trial and those that took place in the 1980’s. He also called on Turkey to look carefully at its own actions before attempting to assert its influence on the human rights agenda in the region.
A message of support for the meeting and the Kurdish movement was sent by the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group, in which the chairpersons ‘unequivocally condemn[ed] the spiral of repression that has been meted out to the Kurdish people since the national elections in June last year’. The message repeated an offer made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Elders to mediate between the parties to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict, saying ‘Let the parties take up the offer and let all of us including the international community and the governments persuade the parties to do so.’
Further coverage of this important meeting can be found at: Press Release 6 February 2012
http://vimeo.com/36032225 – Video: Selahattin Demirtas, Public Meeting in London with English translation, by Saman Gareeb
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: [email protected]
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 4131
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas