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November 19, 2012

Turkish denial policy: Kurdish prisoners and people call for freedom 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Shakhawan Shorsh

Many Kurdish human right activists, journalists, freedom lovers, and politicians, including members of parliament, are currently in jail because they have expressed support for, or took part in activities working towards, more freedom for the oppressed Kurdish people in Turkey. Most of them are accused of having a connection with the Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK), and consequently supporting terrorism. 

As a reaction to Turkish oppression and the denial of Kurdish rights, many Kurdish prisoners (around 750 prisoners) have been on a hunger strike since 18 September, with one having already died. They are demanding the end of Kurdish oppression, dialog and negotiation on Kurdish rights, and freedom for the jailed Kurdish leader Abdulla Ocalan. Kurdish people inside and outside of Kurdistan are supporting the prisoners and their demands, and thus they have started comprehensive demonstrations and mass protests against Turkish authority. Kurdish anger is increasing, and the protest waves are spreading. 

No matter what Turkey and the USA say about the PKK, the Kurdish people support, or have great sympathy for, the organization that has led a struggle for Kurdish freedom since 1984. Kurds in Northern Kurdistan (Southeast Turkey) agree that the Kurdish civil activists, recognized Kurdish political parties, and the PKK fighters are fighting for the common aim of Kurdish freedom, but by different means. Indeed, the entire Kurdish nation is somehow involved in the struggle for freedom. We are talking about an oppressed nation that is fighting for its freedom, a nation that Kemal Ataturk and the Treaty of Lausanne betrayed in 1923. 

Turkey claims to support democracy and respect human rights. It supports freedom and independence for Palestine, and sends ships of aid to Gaza to help the Palestinians there. Turkey is also supporting the Arab fight against the Asad regime in Syria, and demanding democracy and a respect for human rights there. Furthermore, Turkey has also before supported freedom fighters in Kosovo and elsewhere. However, Turkey denies a minimum degree of freedom for the 15 to 20 million Kurds in its own backyard, refuses Kurdish politicians’ demands for a reliable solution, and will not enter into negotiations with the PKK despite many offers and the one-sided ceasefire declared by the PKK in the past. On the contrary, Turkey still favors the military solution and attacks Kurdish territory from time to time, killing civilians inside and outside its borders. Despite offering assistance to other nations, Turkey does not provide its Kurdish people with the right to freedom or determination of their own political destiny. Besides the double standards of Turkey, the policy of denial has brought destruction and disaster for Kurds and Turks in Turkey. The policy of denial and military action can never bring peace and stability to Turkey, and the widespread demonstrations in Kurdish cities and the increasing anger among Kurds should be taken very seriously. 

Powerful Western countries are also guilty with regards the political situation in Turkey, as they ignore Kurdish oppression, Kurdish questions, and support Turkey in its war against Kurdish partisans in the name of fighting terrorism. Thus, they are one way or another supporting the Turkish denial policy and the continuing oppression of the Kurds by never pressing Turkey seriously for a reliable solution to the Kurdish question. They close their eyes to Turkish violence and oppression of the Kurds, but when Turkey requires assistance to repel the PKK they are always ready to help. 

Stamping out a political organization that struggles for national freedom, without taking any serious steps to solve the political issue, is a very dangerous game, as it serves to strengthen the state’s position against the oppressed and gives the go ahead for further killings and destruction. This one-sided support can have serious consequences for the oppressed nation. For instance, look at the Tamil people of Sri Lanka and the massacre of them in 2009 in full view of Western countries. This action labeled the Tamil fighters (The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) as terrorists, and therefore closed the eyes of the world to the mass killings and ethnic cleansing policy of the Sri Lankan government. The destruction of minorities that fight for self-determination is never a solution in line with the principles of democracy and human rights that the Western powers claim to believe in. There are certainly differences between the two cases, but there exists a general Western selectivity based on the national interests of the more powerful countries. There are also big differences between the PKK and the fundamentalist Islamist groups such as Hezbollah or Hamas that do not differentiate between military and civilian targets or hesitate to kill civilians. The PKK attacks Turkish military targets, with few reported civilian casualties in the last 10 to 15 years. 

Thus, by labeling the PKK as a terrorist organization, the USA, the European Union, and NATO are helping Turkey in its denial policy and pushing for further oppression and destruction of the Kurdish people and territory. Turkey kills civilian Kurds regularly, and what is the reaction of the USA? Unconditional support for the killings under the name of the war against terrorism. This stance was evident after the killing of 36 boys and young Kurdish villagers by Turkish air forces last year. The terrorist stamp made it easier for Turkey to run away from any political solution and distort the real picture of Kurdish suffering and their struggle for freedom. Furthermore, when jailing anyone who expresses support for Kurdish rights, Turkey describes them as supporters of terrorism. 

It is unfathomable that Western politicians, especially the Americans, would compare the PKK with Islamic fundamentalists, and consider killing the leader of the PKK as they did Osama bin Laden (as the US ambassador in Turkey stated recently). These organizations, their aims, and supporters are incomparable. Killing the PKK leader would not change anything, as long as Kurdish oppression continues to exist. The entire Kurdish nation dreams of freedom, meaning the Western countries cannot continue to ignore the demands for Kurdish freedom. The USA and Turkey can only neutralize the PKK through recognizing Kurdish freedom. 

War means destruction, and one-sided support does not stop this destruction but leads to further damage. The PKK only bear arms because the dialog and negotiation options are closed. The Turkish denial policy towards Kurdish rights has resulted in more suppression and the rise of the Kurdish armed struggle, and Western support for Turkey has worsened the political situation and caused more oppression and destruction. 

The powerful Western countries involved in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict support Turkey by providing logistic and military supplies and weapons, and thus have a responsibility within the conflict. They must consider the Kurds as an oppressed nation, in the same way as they consider the Palestinians and Kosovans. They have to push Turkey to find a political solution while under international observation. This political effort can begin in different ways, and the political solution must involve representatives of the Kurds and aim to neutralize the negative factors that led to the conflict. The outcome must be recognition of Kurdish political rights and self-determination, as Kurds have the same right to freedom as any other nation. 

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