Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It would be funny if it wasn't so true

From the Alliance for Kurdish Rights:

Turkey Bribes American Academia

The following is from: ENTOTIAN REVOLUTION:


which features an article about the massive funds the Turkish government spends to manipulate the American as well as public opinion.

NEW YORK—The Washington Post reported in its Saturday edition on the ongoing
corruption and manipulation of American scholarship by the Turkish government,
Susan Kinzie’s article “Board Members Resign to Protest Chair’s Ousting Leader
in Georgetown-Based Agency Encouraged Scholars to Research Mass Killing of
Armenians” details the most recent scandal surrounding the ITS (Institute of
Turkish Studies) founded with a $3 million dollar grant paid directly by the
Turkish government.

Beginning in the 1980s, in response to the Congressional arms embargo of the
1970s following Turkey’s criminal military invasion of Cyprus, the Turkish
Embassy in Washington DC, under the leadership of then Turkish Ambassador Sukru
Elekdag, initiated a far flung campaign in America to whitewash Turkish criminal
history. The practically non-existent ,apathetic community of Turks in America,
was reorganized with the help of millions of dollars of funding-- buying high
priced advisors to set up such Cyprus Invasion denying entities as the
Washington DC-Based “American Friends of Turkey” the ATC (American Turkish
Council) recently reorganized under the new name “Turkish Coalition of America”
,the ATAA (Assembly of Turkish American Associations) and the New York-New
Jersey-Based FTAA (Federation of Turkish American Associations) whose job was to
organize a “Turkish-American” parade to counter the decades long parade by
Greek-Americans on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Susan Kinzie's Washington Post article goes on to describe the blatant buying of "scholarship" by the Turkish Government:

The Turkish studies institute, founded in 1983, is independent from Georgetown University, but Executive Director David Cuthell teaches a course there in exchange for space on campus.

Julie Green Bataille, a university spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail, "we will review this matter consistent with the importance of academic freedom and the fact that the institute is independently funded and governed."

The institute's funding, a $3 million grant, is entirely from Turkey.

Quataert, a professor of history, said the institute has funded good scholarship without political influence. The selection of which studies to support is done by a committee of academics on the associate board, he said, and approved by the board, which includes business and political leaders. Never once, he said, did he think a grant application was judged on anything other than its academic merits.

He also noted that during his time there, no one applied for grants that would have been controversial in Turkey. Asked if any of the research characterized the events as genocide, Cuthell said, "My gut is no. It's that third rail."

Roger Smith, professor emeritus of government at the College of William and Mary, questioned whether the nonprofit institute deserves its tax-exempt status if there is political influence -- and whether it is an undeclared lobbying arm for the Turkish government.

A few years ago, Quataert said, members of the board checked on what they thought was an irrevocable blind trust "and to our surprise it turned out to be a gift that could be revoked by the Turkish government."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Metin Kahraman with Aynur: Seneler

Hozat'ın önünde vurdular beni.
Ölmeden mezara koydular beni.

Bir sandığım vardı,sırmadan telden.
Bir çift yavrum vardı,tomurcuk gülden.
Nasıl ayrılayım gül yüzlü yarden.
Seneler seneler kötü seneler.
Gide de gelmeye illi bu sene.

Bir yanım Erzincan vermem Dersimi.
Yıkılsın zalimin tahtıyla yurdu.
Sağolası anam beni doğurdu.
Seneler seneler kötü seneler.
Gide de gelmeye ile bu sene.

Nesini söyleyim canım efendim.
Gayri düzen tutmaz tellimiz bizim.
Arzuhal eylesem deftere sığmaz.
Omuzdan kesilmiş kolumuz bizim.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mehmet Uzun: The Slap & the Lie

A friend once told me he'd gone to a protest in Turkey and the as the crowd of about a hundred people chanted "Human Rights Now!" the police who numbered about two thousand shouted "Down with Human Rights." This was back in the 90's, but these days not much has changed. It was pretty common knowledge that the words "Human Rights" were often interpreted by Turkish authorities as a sign of "supporting terrorism", and there are many semi comical accounts of foreign journalists running into trouble because some official discovered the incriminating phrase "human rights" in a reporters notebook; leading to detainment and quick deportation. This is how language a has been turned inside out and upside down and made into what the great Kurdish novelist Mehmet Uzun called "The Lie"

For reasons that have nothing to do with my own will I came into the world as a Kurd, and since then my life has been marked by two things: suffering and the lie.

He goes onto describe the lesson of "the slap":

The first lesson goes back to 1960, the year I was seven. On a hot, clear day at the end of summer, the very day on which, dressed in new clothes from head to foot, I was beginning grammar school, I received a violent slap in the face in the guise of a lesson on the importance of language and words. I had been born and raised in the shelter of a Kurdish tribe. My family possessed no books except for the Koran, which hung on the wall, and had neither a radio nor a television set. In this enormous house, its garden planted with some pomegranate trees and an equal number of peach trees, the garden where roses bloomed, there was nothing besides my father's bilur (shepherd's pipe), the stories and legends told by my grandfather, and the beautiful strans (traditional songs) that my grandmother sang in the Zaza dialect of Kurdish. It was a universe forged in the feelings, ideas, norms, and values of the Kurdish language.

I was seven years old and loved this universe that I was part of. But from the first hour of the first day that I set foot in school I was instructed by a slap in the face, ineradicably engraved in my memory, that my universe was meaningless, useless, primitive, and taboo, and that I had to leave it. While I was joining the ranks of my classmates in the yard of the grammar school, which was named after the poet Ibrahim Rafet, the teacher, who came from central Anatolia and was fulfilling his civil service, called me to order by a violent slap because I was speaking with a classmate in my maternal tongue. "It is forbidden to speak Kurdish!" The real meaning of this injunction, pronounced in Turkish, only came to me years later.

The lesson I drew from this slap is that language and the word are of great importance.

I hope you will read the entire essay at the link above. he was such a great writer.

Today there's an article in Zaman that illustrates the continuation of "THE LIE" how little has changed since "The Slap" was written.

Prosecutor focuses on religious exploitation in Nevruz protest indictment
The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has completed its indictment of 14 people arrested on charges of inciting hatred among the public during Nevruz incidents that erupted in March.

The indictment focuses on the exploitation of religion by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), accused of spreading propaganda and inciting hatred among the public.
Fourteen alleged PKK supporters were arrested in southeastern Diyarbakır province last month over incidents that erupted during Nevruz celebrations in March. In the indictment the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses these 14 individuals of using religion as a means to influence people, raising tension in society and spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

One has to ask- seriously, what does this mean? Some people were talking about religion and the PKK. Now they'll go to jail. By being a "supporter" one just has to feel sympathy, not to give arms, raise money or go to the mountains. One just has to say the wrong words the wrong person.

And here's the "Human Rights" angle that makes the whole issue much more "serious"

The indictment also mentioned a meeting between Barbara Anne Lakeberg, the alleged founder of a human rights organization in northern Iraq, and H.B. and A.T., two suspected PKK supporters who were arrested during Nevruz protests in Diyarbakır in March.

“The outlawed PKK tries to regain popularity among people in the region by exploiting people’s religious beliefs. TV stations, Web sites and newspapers belonging to the group serve this purpose. The group is in close cooperation with such organizations as the Kurdistan Islamic Party, the Imams’ Association of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Imams’ Association of Kurdistan to appeal to Kurdish citizens’ religious sensitivities,” reads the indictment.

The prosecutor’s office also stresses in the indictment that the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, made a call to the organization to prepare the groundwork for the establishment of a faculty of theology in southeastern Şanlıurfa province.

“Öcalan once called on the PKK to focus on Şanlıurfa denizens’ sensitivity toward Islam. He told the group to dwell on Şanlıurfa being a city of prophets in its propaganda,” said the indictment.

“Lakeberg, an American citizen who can speak Kurdish, got in contact with H.B. and A.T. and told them she is the founder of a human rights organization in northern Iraq and that she wants to establish a similar organization in Diyarbakır as well. She also told the two men that she has close contacts with Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] officers. The three exchanged views on religion, religious sects and the PKK’s propaganda on religion during their meeting,” the indictment said.

It's "incidents" like this that make Turkey seem like such a spiteful petty little joke state, and if it weren't for the ruin that comes to so many people's lives, I'd laugh.

Mehmet Uzun goes on to describe his second "lesson":

The second lesson came during the course of the summer of 1976. Arrested on March 21 of that year for my responsibilities as managing editor of a Kurdish-Turkish magazine, I was accused of "separatism" and incarcerated in Ankara's central prison. Some time afterward I became aware of the nature of the indictment against me, and presented myself for the first hearing of what was called a Court for State Security, similar to the tribunal that is currently banning my books. I no longer remember the month or the day, except that it was a dog day in the summer of 1976. The atmosphere in the concrete chamber, windowless on all four sides, was horribly suffocating. We were all sweating heavily: myself, "the accused" Mehmed Uzun, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and linen pants; the tribunal made up of five people, two soldiers and three civilians all obliged to wear their official dress; the prosecutor, who I later found out was a Kurd from Agri (1); my counsel; my relatives who had come to be present at the trial; all of us were drenched in sweat. In answer to the prosecutor's brief, which was no longer than two pages, I had prepared a response of seventy-six pages attempting to prove in a pretty awkward and puerile manner the existence of the Kurds and the Kurdish language. The prosecutor's argument was that the Kurds and their language had no form of existence. Whoever claimed the contrary was considered a separatist and deserved to be punished.

The prosecutor hammered home his arguments while looking me straight in the eye. As for me, I pronounced some phrases in the Kurdish language one after the other and then said to him: "That's the language whose existence you deny. It also happens to be my maternal tongue. Did you understand any of it?" The prosecutor, naturally, refused to answer and repeated his arguments. The trial was adjourned. It was only in the sealed army van that was taking me to prison that my eyes stopped watering. Not so much because of the overpowering heat but because of my impotence, my inability to establish a dialog with the prosecutor and the tribunal: because I had been incapable of unmasking a horrible lie that was misrepresented as truth by power, violence, the law, and official values. The lesson I drew from that inane day was that the word must preserve its dignity, its respectability.

Because the Kurds, like the other ancestral communities of Mesopotamia, such as the Assyrians, Syrians, Armenians, Jews, Chaldeans, Nestorians, Yezidis, or Alawites, who find themselves in a situation far more difficult than that of the Kurds, are confined in an irrevocable mode of life. These communities, which have received from history a slap in the face like the one I received at the age of seven, have been condemned to disappear. Completely deprived of their legitimate democratic role, human rights, the right of equality, and freedom of conscience, delivered over to ignorant and wilful military dictators who could not care less about law and justice, to shameless religious leaders who push religious conservatism to an extreme, in a region governed by arrogant politicians who only pay lip service to the words civilization, happy future, and justice, but who are in reality totally insensitive to the real needs of their fellow citizens and completely befuddled by the technical and economic progress to which they reduce all reality, these populations always hear the same message repeated: "Accept your fate. Your forehead is marked with the stamp of death. Do not struggle in vain, history's slap is mortal. Do not expect any help from outside, because you are alone, no one will hear your long cry. Do not hope to open yourself to the world, still less to rejoin it. You have no other choice but to sting those around you like a scorpion--before stinging yourself and disappearing. Everything that belongs to you--including your linguistic and cultural heritage--will be nothing but dead knowledge. You can speak your language in your family if you wish, and even create a literature of the oppressed, capable of awakening in others a feeling of pity. Within your confined universe you can cry out, howl, quarrel with your neighbors. But do not try to open yourselves to the world or to offer it anything at all. Your only chance for survival is to forget everything, to abandon everything that belongs to you and conform to the official vision that defines you. Be ashamed of your own language, your identity, your cultural heritage, and admit that they are primitive and from now on useless. Turn to money, celebrity, pleasure, comfort, kill what you carry in your soul, your brain, your heart. Come, join us ..."

That is what has been repeated for two centuries to the custodians of the oldest cultural heritage of humanity. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the stories of the Bible, the parables of the prophets, the paradise gardens of the Euphrates and the Tigris, the ghats of Zoroaster, Babylon, Nineveh, Ur, Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and an innumerable number of other human treasures belong to them. Still, it is deemed necessary that all this be retained as an ornament evoking the past, but a past not in any way enriched by evoking new voices, new breath.

To paraphrase Ovid, what would happen if, incurring guilt for having seen certain things, you would understand that the reality to which you are required to adhere is a tissue of lies, and you were to insist on giving to this cultural heritage, to those of its languages still capable of being revived, a new voice, a new breath consistent with their spirit? The answer is to be found in Tristia by this same Ovid: The gods never pardon those who--even unknowingly--rise up against them. And so it is with a goal of blocking you that whole armies are set in motion, police, laws, information services, squadrons of death, universities, newspapers, television and radio networks, censorship bureaus, walls raised in heads and minds, tribunals, prosecutors, judges, prisons, torture centers, all in league to impose the lie as the sole reality and determined to make this lie triumph.

This excerpts from this essay were taken from Uzun's article in The International Journal of Kurdish Studies.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kurds are still being FINED for speaking Kurdish.

"How can language be an enemy?" Someone once said to me. "I remember I was sent away to boarding school in Turkey, and I went to call my mother on a payphone in the school. I was speaking to her in Kurdish, she didn't speak Turkish... suddenly the principal was walking by, and when he heard me speaking Kurdish, he just took the phone and hung it up. 'You cannot speak that language in this school.' he told me. Then he walked away. And I was standing there, tears just went down my face, because there was no way I could talk to my mother. But at that moment for the first time I understood that I was Kurdish. Looking back, I thank that man because he taught me WHO I AM, and that I am NOT A TURK."

So many Turks have told me the Kurdish language is not illegal in Turkey. So many Americans can't even imagine what it would be like to live in a country where your own language is against the law. Even today people are attacked in various ways for speaking their language. The following letter was written by head of the Human Rights Association in Turkey. I discovered it at KURDISH ASPECT:

We are waiting for the answer to the question: Isn’t Kurdish free in this country?

Human Rights Association

Although Anatolia is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious community, practices in Turkey reject multi-culturalism and multi-linguist and every passing day, bans are given legitimacy. Despite the fact that law no 2932 banning Kurdish language was abolished in 1991, practices that are against the law and the legislation are still continuing.

On May 23, each of the two Kurdish citizens in a leisure park in Konya were imposed a fine of 62 YTL on the allegation that they were “making noise” speaking in Kurdish on the mobile phone with their families.

A university student in Erzurum was detained because he was reading the daily paper “Azadiya Welat”, and [therefore] he was dismissed de-facto from school. The school and dormitory administrations accompanied him when he was being discharged –in the format of lynching- from the dormitory; and he was told that he could no longer accommodate himself in the town, so he should leave immediately.

In many prisons in Diyarbakır and the region, delivery of the Kurdish paper “Azadiya Welat” by the prison administration too many inmates is on arbitrary basis. The right of these citizens for information has been confiscated and also, “Freedom of Press” enshrined in article 3 of Press Law no 5187 published in the Official Gazette of 24 June 2004, has been clearly violated.

Article 3 of the Press Law says “The Press is free. This freedom encompasses right to have access to, disseminate, criticize, interpret information and create works.” which clearly indicates that distribution of the paper can not be prevented.

Along with the EU process, political representatives in our country continuously have been saying that many legislative amendments have taken place; however, in the recent years, almost everyday, rights have been stepped on. Speaking Kurdish language, reading a Kurdish paper, publishing a Kurdish paper, news in Kurdish are practices that are continuously curbed.

Article 22 of the Press law entitled, “Prevention, Destruction and Distortion of Printed works” says “…will be given imprisonment penalty up to one year and imposed heavy fine from one to five billion Liras.”

However, for so long now, access to Kurdish daily paper “Azadiya Welat” from within many prisons in Turkey is being prevented; and no investigations have been launched against those who perpetrate these arbitrary practices, and people are being deprived from having access to information and news in their mother tongues.

In such a case, the grievance is both for the reader and the paper; and the legitimate rights of (both real and legal) persons are being violated.

Article 28 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey regulates Freedom of Press. It says,– “The press is free, and shall not be censored. The establishment of a printing house shall not be subject to prior permission and to the deposit of a financial guarantee. The State shall take the necessary measures to ensure the freedom of the press and freedom of information.”

Again it is the same article, laying down the conditions applicable to prohibition. In fact, it is incomprehensible that prevention is made without the decision of a judge.

Article 29 of the Constitution says that the publication of periodicals or non-periodicals shall not be subject to prior authorization but only to notification.
The editor and honorary owner of Azadiya Welat -Vedat Kurşun- has been kept under arrest for quite a long time due to the news he prepared. At the end of the trial, he was imprisoned for a term of 3 years 11 months for making the propaganda of the organization via the news he prepared.

We know it very well that the penalty imposed on Kurşun, editor and honorary owner of Azadiya Welat, being the only daily printed in Kurdish language in Turkey, has actually been imposed on the Kurdish language. We also know it very well that dismissal of students from universities, their dormitories as well as the prevention of Kurdish papers into prisons, are again stemming from the Kurdish language.

We consider it a severe human right violation that access to information is curbed and demand that the restrictions on the Kurdish language be immediately eliminated; thereby, requirements stemming from being a democratic country be fulfilled.

Head of Branch
Muharrem ERBEY, Attorney at Law

Ali Emiri 1.Sok. Yılmaz 2004 Apt. No: 1/3 Yenişehir/ DİYARBAKIR Tel : 0.412. 223 30 33- 229 58 66
Faks: 0.412. 223 57 37 E-mail: diyarbakir@ihd.org.tr

The Voice of Eyşe Şan

This video has Eyse San's voice and a few brief video images of her juxtaposed with the landscape of Diyarbekir where she was born.

She died in Izmir, mostly alone and forgotton, but she lived a brave life, never giving up doing what she thought was right or what she believed in no matter how much it cost her.

There's a beautiful blog called Kurdistan's Women and the following entry is taken completely from their site. I hope they'll forgive me for blatantly copying, the information is just too rich... but I also hope people will visit this site.

“Wexta li ezmanên huneri mêze diki tu dibini sterkên hunera kurdi, xwesiktrin u rindirin hestêrkin li ezman, Yek ji wan hestêran tim u tim dibiriqi, ew hestêreka ron u ges hunermenda hêja u nemir Eyse Sane...”

Considered as one of the most legendary female singers in the history of Kurdish music, Eyse San (english spelling: Aysha Shan) was born in 1938 to a large and well-known family from the great city of Amed (Diyarbakir) in Northern Kurdistan. Eyse San was the daughter of Heciya Xanim and Osman from the large tribe of Cibriyan. Eyse San’s father, Osman, was a very popular traditional singer and her love for singing was mostly influenced by him as well as many other traditional Kurdish singers from all corners of Kurdistan. Heciya Xanim, Eyse San’s mother, often sang lullabies to her beloved daughter and stirred up all the passion and devotion that Eyse San had developed for singing. While growing up, Eyse San often found herself along with her sisters behind the doors and walls of the gathering room listening to her father and his fellow friends singing the night away. She paid great attention to their songs, and as their voices would echo through the walls, Eyse San would enter a world of fantasy over and over again. Her father, as well as many other traditional Kurdish singers, were a school of knowledge and inspiration for Eyse San. Regarding these memories, Eyse said:“ I wish the doors and walls of my father’s house could speak so they could tell you about all those days and nights, I always say with grief I wish my fathers walls could speak and recite the stories of those nights my father and the rest his friends spend at our house. I would listen to them from the corners of the walls. I listened so carefully that if someone were to call me, I would be startled. My dad’s delicate and sorrowful voice had a huge impact on me. Years past but his voice never left me.”Early Years in 1958, the young Eyse San, began singing at many gatherings. Eyse San, with her beautiful Kurdish clothes and her most delightful voice, started entering people’s hearts and many grew fond of her pure and beautiful voice.In the beginning, Eyse San’s father and brothers were not too happy about her singing in public. They tried to pull her away from the music world that she so passionately wanted to become a part of. She used all her power to follow her passionate dream and was determined to sing no matter what the cause. At the age of 20, with the will of her father, Eyse San married a young Kurd named Sewket Turan, and they soon had a baby girl together. However, her marriage with Sewket Turan did not work out and she later moved to a city, known as Entabe, leaving her three-month-old baby girl and all of her closest family and friends. In Entabe she tried to maintain a living on her own by sewing clothes. Meanwhile, with the help of a man named Nail Baysu, she sang in Turkish for the Entabe radio for two years, she was still unahppy since her true passion was for Kurdish music. Soon after Eyse San moved to Istanbul, and for the first, she recorded music in Kurdish. Unfortunately, the record label she was signed to took all the rights to her work away from her and sold her music with no benefits and proceeds for Eyse. Nonetheless, she did not give up her love for Kurdish music and she continued to express her sorrow and troubled life through her music and with the help of classical songs that she learned from her father. Eyse San also started to create her own songs, among those were Derdê Hewiyê (The pain of a co-wife) or Qederê Yar (The fate of a lover), all of which were about her rights as a woman, as well as many other Kurdish women in similar situations. Another very well known song by Eyse San that has touched the lives of many is Xerîbim Daye (I am alone Mother). which she sang as a dedication to her mother, whom before her death had requested from her sons to see her beloved Eyse San. Unfortunately, they never allowed Eyse San to return back home and their mothers wish was never granted. Eyse San paid great tribute to her much-loved Kurdistan by singing about the political situations of the Kurds. At times of oppression she sang proudly about her country and her people with no fear. In 1972, Eyse San moved to Munsen, Germany. In Germany, her precious daughter Shahnaz whom Eyse San loved more than anyone in the world passed away. The death of Shahnaz put a pause on Eyse's singing career because her mind was occupied by the grief and sorrow that she felt for losing her daughter. Soon after Shahnaz passed away Eyse returened to Kurdistan and in 1979, the Eyse San who always dreamed of such a day was greeted with warm welcomes from Kurds who lived in Southern Kurdistan. She had managed to meet with the legendary Kurdish singers, Mihemed Arif Cizîrî, Îsa Berwarî, Gulbihar, Tehsîn Teha, Nesrîn Serwan and many more. Together, they performed at many concerts and parties. As she returned to Turkey Eyse San was threatened by the governement. Eyse said, “ When I returned to Turkey, they captured me and expressed their hatred. I said I wish I hadn’t visited Kurdistan and I became regretful, they told me you are fighting for the Kurdish cause…” However, for the first time, she truly felt that all of the suffering that she went through was worthwhile. Eyse San had a great connection with Kurds all over Kurdistan. In 1979 and years to follow, Eyse San was not as active in her singing career as she had been before. In order to maintain a living, she worked in a local post office in the city of Izmîre. Following the year, 1991, many Kurds of Southern Kurdistan left their towns and villages and moved to the cities of Northern Kurdistan. Around this time, Eyse San dedicated a cassette to those who liked her music. With her words and voice, she awakened the Kurds of Northern Kurdistan to help those who had recently relocated to cities nearby. Eyse San was a true Kurdish spirit who went through every difficult circumstance one can imagine, but she was determined and passionate about her singing. And by listening to her music and her delicate voice, it is how her spirit will remain in our hearts and minds forever and always. Eyse San's role as a Kurdish Women in her lifetime is unforgettable, which makes her an inspiration for many to continue the fight for freedom and Kurds.
Posted by Rêjîyan Akrayi at 6:52 PM

Serhado & Books as Bombs

I love this video. This is exactly how life is in Diyarbekir. For people who don't know, the guys in the white car are "civil" police, which doesn't mean they are civil, just that they are ubiquitious in their nasty pursuit of civilians: they follow, photograph, eavesdrop, "investigate" the most ordinary interactions. One time I was with a friend in Diyarbekir and she started to take photos of man sharpening knives in front of a Kebab shop. It was such a funny innocent scene. Suddenly we were surrounded by 15 FIFTEEN civil police demanding our ID and barking questions at us. We-- two middle aged American women were baffled... what had we done to provoke such an outpouring of the Turkish Emergency Defense Forces? Then one of them asked why we were taking picutres of a police station. We turned and yes, behind us half a block away, there was an ugly nondescript building covered with barbed wire. Only after my friend showed picture after picture on her digital camera, of her family, her dog and a few shots of the Kebab seller did they relent and release us but only after running our ID and questioning us for a half hour in the street. I remember one of these goons seeing a book sticking slightly out of my bag.

"What book is that?!"

He barked as if he'd found the crucial evidence of an imminent attack against the state. I pulled the book out of my bag. It was "Turkish Grammar".

"Why are you studying Turkish?"

"Uh, because I am traveling in Turkey. Merhaba."

Books are treated like bombs by the police. Here's another item from Info-Turk:

Gift Book Became a source of trouble for Beşikçi

Sociologist İsmail Beşikçi spent months to receive a box full of books sent from Sweden. Books were first sent to the Security Centre, some books were confiscated. Beşikçi wanted to take the rest then the post office asked to produce a receipt. Books were a present to him so he did not have a receipt. Beşikçi convinced that he would not able to get the books wanted to send them back to Sweden yet he was told that the two books were missing so the post office could not send them back.

Beşikçi’s two readers from Sweden sent sociologist İsmail Beşikçi around 80 books. Beşikçi received a note from the post office on 19 February. Beşikçi went to the Post office to collect the box but the workers opened the box in front of him and seeing that there were books in it decided to send the books to police to see if they were banned. Two weeks later he was called from the PO and was asked to collect his books.

Beşikçi was told that two books were confiscated but he could take the rest but was asked to produce a receipt for them. As he did not have a receipt he could not get the books and he was told that he could not send them back since two of them were missing. It took Beşikçi two months to get the books sent back to Sweden. (antenna-tr.org, June 10, 2008)

To read some of Beşikçi's brilliant writing check out Hevallo's blog.

The first time I ever went to Turkey, in 2004, things seemed so hopeful for the Kurdish situation. In that time, people wanted to believe that things were getting better. I met a Kurdish carpet dealer in Istanbul who was earnestly telling me how much things had improved. His example was this: The photographer Susan Meiselas had sent this man her book "Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History" as a gift. The man never got his book though, instead, the police came to his door in the middle of the night and took him to the police station. They interrogated him, why did he have this book sent to him? He had to prove to them that he did not ORDER the book, but it was sent without his knowledge. He told me he had to call Susan Mieselas on the phone and have her tell the police she had sent the book as a gift, he hadn't known she would send them, hadn't requested a book with the word "KURDISTAN" in the title. After the police heard her say this, they let him go home. "You see, they did not beat me, they did not keep me in jail. Things are better. But today I wish I had that book!"

I have heard endless stories of villagers who were used to burying their books and cassettes on a regular basis to hide them from the Jandarma. Word would come that the jandarma was approaching the village, and the scramble would be on to bury any item that could cause a problem. Books, Kurdish music cassettes... these things had to be buried. The army would come into the houses and "make terror", going through everything. Even an extra bag of flour, or extra tennis shoes were suspect.

When I look at this Serhado video, it is so true, the people in it are not "actors" although enlisted to act. The Kurdish mother looking out the window, wondering if her son will come back-- the smallest expression of life, of identity, provokes an overwhelming reaction of violence from the authorities. When I hear people talking about Turkey as the "model Muslim democracy" I know they haven't got a clue about reality. No "democracy" fears books, punishes people for their thoughts, punishes people for their language.

Its been claimed that Turkey will allow 24 hour broadcasts in Kurdish as an effort to appease the EU. I'll believe it when I see it. This is a state that has never stopped lying for 80 plus years. But of course, I want to have hope.

Kurds welcome Kurdish broadcast bill
Sezgin Tanrıkulu - Nebahat Akkoç
The adoption of a bill that allows full-time state broadcasts in Kurdish has been mostly welcomed by Kurdish activists and intellectuals, but they say it is hardly enough on its own.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Turkey: Where singing is a crime.

This trial was scheduled to happen today.

Three members of children's choir to be tried for singing in Kurdish

Three children, members of the Diyarbakir Yenisehir Council Children's Choir, will stand trial for singing a march in Kurdish while performing in the U.S. The indictment, dated 3 April 2008, seeks the imprisonment of three children under the age of 18 for up to five years each.

The choir attended the World Music Festival in San Francisco between 3 and 7 October 2007, and there sang a march in Kurdish: "Ey Raqip".

The Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor's office opened a case against three members of the choir: Servan Yilmaz, aged 16; Gökhan Ok, aged 17; and Veysel Mamuk, aged 16. The indictment argues that the children sang with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) flags in the background, and that the song they sang has been adopted as an official march by the PKK. The indictment quoted the defence statements of the children, and said that the children took to the stage in San Fransisco and sang "Ey Raqip" after their teacher, Duygu Özge Bayar, taught them the song in one day because the audience requested it.

The children's lawyer, Baran Pamuk, noted that the song was written by the Iranian-Kurdish poet, Dildar, 68 years ago. Pamuk says: "That song was accepted as the national anthem of the Mahabad Kurdish Republic, which was proclaimed in 1946 and lasted for one year, and it is now used as an official anthem by the Northern Iraq Kurdish Federal Government. However, it is not possible to accept that a poem written 68 years ago is the propaganda tool of an organisation. The founders of the organisation in question were not even born yet at the time the poem was written. There is no mention of that organisation in the song."

The teacher of the choir, Duygu Bayar, stated: "We shared our culture there, at the festival. We sang various songs showing the styles of Diyarbakir. Churches and the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association contributed to our repertory of songs. If performing these songs is separatism, then we are guilty of promoting separatism."

The children are charged with "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and will appear in court on 9 June 2008.

For further information: antenna@superonline.com, sanar@antenna-tr.org, Internet: http://www.antenna-tr.org

Another item from Info-Turk: This is one of the many freedom of expression cases from Turkey just this week.

Diyarbakır mayor Baydemir, Diyarbakır Council’s head of Administration of Accountancy Department Zülfi Atlı, Head of Culture and Tourism Department Mehmet Denli and former mayor of Sur, Abdullah Demirbaş were charged with “violating the law on the introduction and the use of Turkish Letters” and “misconduct in office” over a story book in Turkish and Kurdish. Diyarbakır Criminal Court of First Instance N°.15 set the next trial date as 16 July 2008, at 10:00. (antenna-tr.org, May 16, 2008)

I have to ask, what kind of absurdity is this? Why should anyone be forced to go to court over publishing "a story book". I have a copy of this book myself. It was published to encourage literacy. The stories are for children, in Turkish and Kurdish. In a city where 72 percent of the population speaks Kurdish, its common sense to publish a book in a language the children actually speak, as well as Turkish, the "official language".

If you published the same stories in Turkish and English, there would be no prosecution, even though the use of English violates all the same laws as the use of Kurdish. The law bans the use of letters that don't exist in the Turkish alphabet. W for instance. A highly suspect and divisive letter. Use it and go to jail. Or at least pay a huge fine and/or spend half your life defending yourself in court. Funny thing though, is that even the Turkish embassy uses the letter w : http://www.turkishembassy.org for instance. Why aren't they being forced into court for "violating the law on the introduction of and the use of Turkish letters"?

All the municipal offices in the Kurdish areas of Turkey are harrassed routinely by the "State" government in an attempt to render them non functional.

Mayors are frequently targeted for prosecution for things that would be considered the usual obligations of a Mayor, that is, serving the community he or she was elected too. In Izmir for example (and although this is not a "Kurdish area" it has a very high population of Kurds, a Mayor has been charged with misconduct for providing free water and other resources to his constituents. This is also from Info-Turk:

Dikili Mayor Is On Trial For Providing Free Water

Dikili mayor Osman Özgüven and 14 other members of the municipal council were at the 1st Court of First Instance of Dikili yesterday (June 3), facing the charges of “misconduct in office” or “abuse of power.”

The reason behind the accusations Osman Özgüven, the mayor of a small town in İzmir province in western Turkey, is facing are the services he provides for his town, foremost among them is the free water.

During his tenure Dikili Mayor Osman Özgüven from the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) made public buses free, obliged bus drivers to drop students off at their homes, provided affordable health services at a municipal clinic, sold bread in municipal bakeries at low prices and did not charge households that use less than 10 tons of water a month.

In addition to the people of Dikili, representatives from many political parties and institutions were there to support the mayor.

Defending his position at the court, the mayor said that as one of the measures in helping prevent global warming, they did not charge people any water fee up to 10 tons and they charged the whole amount above this limit.

To encourage people, said Mayor Özgüven, they granted pardon for the interest payments of the water fees remained from the past administration. About municipality workers’ 50% water fee discount, he said “We wanted those people who are responsible for bringing water to the town to get their creation at lower prices. We did not violate the principle of equality.”

He also added that the municipalities were elected bodies and determination of the rates for their services was their job and that they simply exercised their right.

His lawyer Arif Ali Cangı said in his client’s defense that municipalities are not businesses.

“Municipality work is a public service. This case is trying the concept of public service.”

After Cangı the other members of the municipal council spoke. The defense lawyers demanded an investigation to determine whether or not the services rendered by Dikili Municipality were municipality services. The court is adjourned for the testimonies of the other members of the municipal court and the completion of the missing parts.

Outside the courthouse, Dikili mayor Osman Özgüven said that their services were going to continue, indicating that municipalities were not businesses, they have been serving the people of Dikili and will continue serving. (BIA, June 5, 2008)

Even more absurd is that the State government spies on its local government officials. Phones are taped, email correspondence and mail is intercepted. Local government officials are the no the only targets though. Again, from Info-turk:
I am being listened, you are being listened, he is listening…

It has been revealed that the Security General Directory has been following all phone, sms, e-mail and Internet communications of 70 million people through a decision of Ankara High Criminal Court Num. 11 which they renewed every three months. Security General Directory stated that they did not “listen” but “watched” by a three month court decision. Under the order of Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 Security Intelligence Department receives all records of all phone and Internet correspondence in Turkey.

Special court decision needed for "Listening" but mass permission is enough for "watching."

As Vatan newspaper reported that police follows all phone conversations, sms, e-mails and fax messages; Security General Directory made the following statement:

"Just as what happens in all democratic countries, Turkish Police Force too naturally engages in all legal activities to prevent crime in the frame of its powers given by the laws and the Constitution. The referred court decision does not include listening. As known, individual court decisions are needed for each listening. Hence it can not be possible for us to listen the whole population in Turkey. Authorised units apply to courts in order to prevent terrorism and organised crime; if the courts grant permission than court decision is sent to Telecommunications Headquarters (TH). As reported in the newspaper the court granted the permission for the referred application. The court decision was sent to the TH and it was proceeded. Statue 5397 grants such power to related authorities in the fight against illegal organisations in order to prevent crime. We would like to inform the public that the referred court decision does not include “listening” and we believe that such reports distorting legal decisions in a way to misinform citizens should be corrected."

Under the order of Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 Security Intelligence Department receives all detailed records of all phone and Internet correspondence in Turkey.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Jiyar Gol- Filmmaker/ Halabja

This documentary on Halbja is being featured on youtube, in two parts. It records the West's complicity and continuing neglect. This is a very well made film, shocking even for me. There is not a single NGO in Halabja, no investment from outside except in the military and "security". Poisoned water, broken bodies. This is an important filmmaker (he also made the doc. on Leyla Zana) working out of Canada. One of the saddest things in this documentary is a shot where some children in Halabja say to the camera "Nothing will change. Why are you going to show this in Canada? We have been filmed hundreds of times. Nothing will change here."

"Denial is like being killed again."

This is a picture taken in Kurdistan, inside the borders of Turkey. All over the mountains in the Eastern parts of Turkey, land is stripped of it's vegetation and these huge signs are carved into the mountains with sayings like "We are ready and we are not afraid. Jandarma Kommando", or "One Country, Jandarma Kommando" etc. Around Dersim I remember thinking, that if they were really "not afraid" why do they have a tank on every hillside? I never saw these signs in the west but in all the Kurdish areas the military had to carve these messages into the mountains to reassure themselves that they are really still in Turkey. Huge sums of money go into this self reassurance and image control, and a lot of this money is spent in the US.

There's a very good article from the Southern Poverty Law Center's website about the Turkish government's INDUSTRY of denial about the Armenian genocide. The same tactics are used to deny the ongoing genocide of the Kurds as well. The Kurdish issue is sometimes referred to in the Turkish press as "The Kurdish Question" or the "Kurdish Problem". It's my experience that whenever you see an ethnic or minority group with the word "Question" or "Problem" after the the name of the group, the real "question/problem" at hand is "how do we get rid of these people." It's worth noting that the mission of The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project is: dedicated to monitoring hate groups and extremist activity in the U.S.

The article goes on to document the millions of dollars the Turkish government spends on it's propaganda and genocide denial machine, including paying off congressmen and US scholars.

Early this year, the Toronto District School Board voted to require all public high school students in Canada's largest city to complete a new course titled "Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications." It includes a unit on the Armenian genocide, in which more than a million Armenians perished in a methodical and premeditated scheme of annihilation orchestrated by
Turkish president Abdullah Gul warns of severe repercussions to the relations between the United States and Turkey if the "Armenian allegations are accepted."
the rulers of Turkey during and just after World War I.

The school board members each soon received a letter from Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, rebuking them for classifying the Armenian genocide in the same category as the Holocaust. "The tragic fate of the Armenian community during World War I," Lewy wrote, is best understood as "a badly mismanaged war-time security measure," rather than a carefully plotted genocide.

Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide — a network so influential that it was able last fall to defy both historical truth and enormous political pressure to convince America's lawmakers and even its president to reverse long-held policy positions.

The article goes on to describe the funding of the "Institute for Turkish Studies" in the US by the Turkish government.

In 1982, the government of Turkey donated $3 million to create the Institute for Turkish Studies, a nonprofit organization housed at Georgetown University that pushes a pro-Turkey agenda, including denial of the Armenian genocide. Three years later, in 1985, Turkey bought full-page advertisements in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Washington Times to publish a letter questioning the Armenian genocide that was signed by 69 American scholars. All 69 had received funding that year from the Institute for Turkish Studies or another of Turkey's surrogates like the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, a quasi-governmental agency in Turkey's capital city.

The Institute for Turkish Studies has since received sizable donations from American defense contractors that sell arms to Turkey, including General Dynamics and Westinghouse. Turkey continues to provide an annual subsidy to support the institute. In 2006, the most recent year for which tax records are available, the institute awarded $85,000 in grants to scholars. Its chairman is the current Turkish ambassador to the U.S., Nabi Sensoy.

The most important and moving point in this article lies in this statement:

"Denial is the final stage of genocide," says Gregory Stanton, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. "It is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives. That is what the Turkish government today is doing to Armenians around the world."

Last year, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity issued a letter condemning Armenian genocide denial that was signed by 53 Nobel laureates including Wiesel, the famous Holocaust survivor and political activist. Wiesel has repeatedly called Turkey's 90-year-old campaign to cover up the Armenian genocide a double killing, since it strives to kill the memory of the original atrocities.

He was hardly the first. As long ago as 1943, law professor Raphael Lemkin, who would later serve as an advisor to Nuremburg chief counsel Robert Jackson, coined the term "genocide" with the Armenians in mind.

The denial of memory, the erasing of narrative-- this is what my first "Turkish Teacher" meant when he talked about "cleaning". This article is worth reading in detail, as well as a separate section detailing all the "denial" web pages which often include the names, photos and home addresses of American scholars who speak openly about the Armenian genocide.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Taner Akcam, Robert Fisk, - Armenian Genocide

Taner Akcam at Columbia University on his book "A SHAMEFUL ACT"

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

part 5

part 6

part 7

part 8

part 9

part 10

part 11

part 12

I was told by the person who shot this video that during this talk there were people from the Turkish Embassy, photographing people as they went into the talk, and if you listen to the question and answer section you can hear the staged "provocative" questions, which reveal and absurd lack of logic and wind up being simply an embarrasment: for instance one young woman asked "If the Turks committed genocide, why are there still Armenians living in Istanbul, and they are living there happily!" The Turkish government aggressively monitors all intellecutal and academic talks, they send representatives to photograph participants, write down the remarks of people, try and find out their names, harrass and intimidate them. At a preious talk at a New York University, Taner Akcam was actually roughed up as assailants rushed the stage. The aggressiveness on behalf of the Turkish government shows a kind of desperation to control the terms of the historical narrative.

Below is a video of Robert Fisk speaking about his book THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION which inclueds a chapter about the Armenian genocide. In his account he discovers a mass grave of Armenians in Syria, where they'd been driven by the Turks. He discovers it after interviewing and old Armenian woman who remembers seeing her mother and sister being dragged away to be killed.

Delia juxtaposed with Turkish Fascism

So many people have died in this war to claim their Kurdish identity, mostly young people. I've heard it said that when youth leave the village to join the PKK their parents mourn them as if dead on the day they go to the mountains, not later. In Diyarbekir I became wary of asking people if they had children because too many times I was silently given a photo (taken out of a wallet, saved on a cellphone) of a young man or woman who was killed as a guerilla.) A friend once told me that everyone who sat around him in school had later gone to the guerillas. None of them have survived. Sometimes he comes across their pictures on the HPG website which catalogs the lives sacrificed. "This was one of my friends" he will say.

Before I ever went to Turkey I studied Turkish with a young Turkish college student. He was very kind, very polite and helpful. One day he asked me where I would go in Turkey and I told him Diyarbakir. He was utterly baffeled by this. Why would I ever want to go there? I asked him if he'd ever been there and he said no, he'd traveled all over Europe but he saw no reason to go to one of the most "backwards" places in Turkey. I told him I was planning to write something about the Kurdish issue so I needed to go where there were a lot of Kurds. I didn't say the word that can be like a nuclear bomb for a Turk - KURDISTAN, but suddenly it was as if his eyes rolled back in in their sockets and his head spun around three times. A kind of Linda Blair moment. He became a different person completely, full of rage and possesed by a fury he was trying to contain: "Let me draw you a map." he said-- and he began to draw with violent strokes, a map of Turkey. Then he shaded in the eastern area of the map (ie, Kurdistan) and when he spoke, his voice had a tone of bottled hysteria. "There are people living here, poor people in their villages, who are ignorant and backwards. They are easily brainwashed. The PKK have come to these people and brainwashed them. It's like they're infected. There is nothing that can be done for them except cleaning. They need to be cleaned. All these villages need to be cleaned." I didn't argue, I didn't say anything. Really there was nothing to say. It was my first encounter with Turkish fascism. After that day, I got some tapes and continued studying Turkish by myself.

The real brainwashing of course, has happened to the Turkish people who have their own victimhood drummed into them from the day they are born. Everyone wants to tear Turkey apart. Ataturk saved us. The Turks never killed the Armenians, actually it was the Armenians who killed us Turks. On and on. There is no rational argument that is not countered with "we are the greater victims." This is the mentality that has led to incidents like the "Blood Flag"

A group of students in the province of Kırşehir, 150 kilometers east of Ankara, painted a Turkish flag with their blood and sent it to the Chief of General Staff in remembrance of the 13 soldiers who were killed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists on Nov. 21 last year.

Reports said 21 students, 10 of whom were girls, met on Nov. 18, cut their fingers and painted the flag in protest against terrorism. They then framed it before sending it to Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt.

The students also sent a letter to the Office of the Chief of Staff, noting their commitment to the country and their willingness to serve in the military.

Büyükanıt, speaking at a television rally organized to support those who fought against terrorism, mentioned the flag sent by the students and showed it to the audience. �This flag was done by a group of students with their own blood. We are a great nation,� he said.

I first read about this in Gordon Taylor's blog on Progressive Historians This blood flag incident requires no commnet. Yes, I agree, the Turkish people are victims too, because they become alienated from the the truth of their own country, from their own history. And they too are forced to sacrifice their young in a war to deny the culture and identity that should be embraced as a treasure of the country, not as a threat. I can't think of anything more "backwards" than the destruction of a place like Hasankeyf. So few Turkish people have ever been to this amazing place, or any of the other amazing cultural and archeological sites in Turkey so they aren't invested in these places as part of their own history and identity.

I am constantly being asked by Turks "What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Have you ever been to Turkey? Have you ever been to the East? Why can't you be objective? Why are you taking the side of the Kurds or the Armenians? Why don't you worry about the crimes of your own country. And I always say that one of the crimes of my own country is the support it gives Turkey, in weapons, in so called "intelligence", and in its enabling Turkey to maintain its nationalist illusions. Because of my own country's actions I have a responsibility to communicate what I've seen in Turkey. There is no taking a side. One just has to juxtapose these voices and these actions. On one hand you have a general, happy that children have made a flag out of their own blood, on the other you have a man who creates a dictionary in his own language and is then sent to prison.

Too many Turkish people, unfortunately, have no understanding of the level of oppression in Kurdistan. I've heard Turks tell me that Kurds in Turkey are free to speak their language, in fact they have Kurdish radio, Kurdish tv "Many channels!" One man said, "Maybe Kurds, they have more rights than I do." This is all a big lie. Kurdish broadcasting is very limited to 15 minutes a day (at most 45) of only music and the most innane commentary. No childrens programs are allowed. No one is allowed to take even a private course in Kurdish unless they have graduated through the entire Turkish educational system. I've heard Turks say "If they want to better themselves, they learn Turkish." But why can't they learn to write in their own mother tongue? What is the harm in that? The Turkish state has made a language it's enemy. How can a language be an enemy? In the city of "Tunceli" (Actually the place is Dersim, but the Turks renamed it after they slaughtered 100 thousand Kurdish Alevi's there in 1937-38.) the civilian population is less than the population of military and police. There's a tank, armored transport or jandarma station on every hill and mountain. How does it feel to live with guns always pointed at your head, is this "more rights than I have?" This is the oppression that drives people to the mountains.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Musa Anter's Memoirs

I have been able to read very little of Musa Anter's writing because so little of it is translated into English, however there are three web pages with excerpts from his memoirs that reveal this gentle, intelligent man and his observations of both a lost world and the formation of a new brutal regime. This man had a remarkable life and tragic death. His mother, although iliterate, became the Mayor of their village near Mardin, and he became a witness to many pivotal events in the formation of the new Repbulic of Turkey. A "Republic" which based it's existence on the denial of history and the presence of many cultures that lived within it's boundries.

This is from excerpt 1. Link to the full excerpt is here.

He was shot dead in 1992. Musa Anter was killed by gunshots on 20 September 1992 in Diyarbakir, where he was attending a festival, organised by the local council, to which he had been invited. Orhan Miroglu, a friend who was accompanying him, was seriously wounded. The police found 13 cartridges at the scene of the shooting. An autopsy carried out on the day of death showed that Musa Anter had been hit by five bullets and had died as a result of his injuries.

He was shot dead in 1992. Musa Anter was killed by gunshots on 20 September 1992 in Diyarbakir, where he was attending a festival, organised by the local council, to which he had been invited. Orhan Miroglu, a friend who was accompanying him, was seriously wounded. The police found 13 cartridges at the scene of the shooting. An autopsy carried out on the day of death showed that Musa Anter had been hit by five bullets and had died as a result of his injuries.

The village I lived in was called Zivenge which in Kurdish means "winter place". This was no sports and leisure area the like of which people from rich nations frequent. The caves were where the flocks were kept in the winter. There are many places in my country named Zivenge, but each takes its tribe's name as well. So ours would be called Zivenge Tamika, while others were called Zivenge Habizbinya, Zivenge Bohtan etc. There have always been some people from the caves who were interested in education. The famous Kurd, Mele Ehmede Cizri's literature was translated from Kurdish into Arabic by Mele Ehmede Zivinge. He later became a religious leader for the Syrian town of Kamisli. For 7,000 years our caves were known as Zivinge but now without consulting the inhabitants the brutal government, just as if they were naming a cat or a dog, renamed our caves Eski-Magara (Old cave ). So after 65 years I suddenly became a resident of Old-caves. It is interesting to reflect that when Bulgaria allegedly started changing Turkish names to Bulgarian there was an uproar as being against human rights. I wonder if the Bulgarians learnt this trick from the Turks? It was not just the caves that changed names, but again without asking the Kurdish inhabitants, village were given Turkish names as were cities, so that, Diyaribakir became Diyarbakir, Elaziz- Elazig, Dersim-Tunceli and Samrah became Mazidagi etc. Some cities were allowed to keep their original names but Turkish names were added to these. I do not know why but they forgot to change the name of Mardin city, I suppose they could have called it Poor Mardin! The village of Old-cave is situated in the middle of the plain where the mountains of Tur Abdin meet the plain which stretches to Iraq and Syrian. It consisted of 20 houses and this area had been inhabited by humans through four geological ages..

Some parts of the caves are natural while others are man made. There is no drinking water but rain water which is collected in tanks for use. An attempt was made to pipe water from Stelile (new name Akarsu) but it was unsuccessful. Even as a child I can remember whenever the water ran out, people going to neighbouring villages to collect water at standpipes. The village's income comes somehow from an agriculture sans water. Lentils, wheat, chick peas and barley are grown. Some land grows hairy cucumber. melon. water melon, but one of the most important crops is Soya-bean (gene and oil from this plant is used for lighting as it has been for centuries. Our village has very big caves, making it suitable for cattle breeding. There are no strangers in the village. Our farm was the village. When the Ottomans first came our village was registered in my great grandfather's name Antere Mihoteze. Since then the family has grown and divided between our relatives. The village is 25 km north-west of the town of Nusaybin. There.are signs that this area once had vineyards but today you would not be able to find a single grapevine. There are still 8 barrels for squeezing grapes and the discovery of so much broken pottery around indicates that wine was made here even before Islam. After the arrival of Islam, people changed to making heavy syrup (grape juice boiled to a sugary solid grapemolasses) Other people living here who were not families were allowed any land that we had no use for. These people would work for us and take orders from us and would also give us one tenth of whatever they produced. It was all done in an agreeable and happy way. When the tractor arrived everything began to change, with people becoming more selfish and leaving the area. We called the people who worked for us neighbours. Our neighbours went to the towns and cities to work and found suffering there, but because they are still our friends whenever we meet we hug and talk about the good old days. My experiences with my family and our life together helped me be successful at school and that was perhaps the reason I wanted to become a writer; my family were small landowners. Traditionally a landowner's income is like a family charity and my father and mother, like their ancestors, carried on this tradition. We used to have an area with a room just like an hotel. Whoever came to visit the village stayed in this room free of charge. As well as visitors, troubadours or religious people would call regularly and were provided for. Some of these visitors played traditional Kurdish music on traditional instruments and also told stories, while the religious singers would have their own special instruments to accompany their singing. They would also sing the classical songs of Kurdish poets. I now know that these songs were taken from the poetry of Melaye Cizire and Feqiye Teyran. These songs told of the brutal treatment and the genocide that the Ottoman and later on the Republic (Turkey) inflicted on the Kurds. They told of the 1925 Sheikh Said uprising and of the women losing their husbands, children and possessions. People came from the towns of Lice, Kulp, Dicle and the city of Diyarbakir to take refuge in our caves. My mother and the other villagers fed them. Amongst the refugees was an old women called Xeco who had lost her husband, two sons and two son-in-laws in the Sheikh Said uprising. 65 years later I can still hear her tell her story with a voice full of bitterness and choking with tears. It left a lasting impression.

Excerpt 2 describes the effect of the ban on the Kurdish language on ordinary people around Mardin.

To help you understand the situation, I will give you another example of the difficulties arising from the prohibition of speaking Kurdish.

The villagers used to take wood to the city to sell. They transported it by donkey. They would sell the firewood for about 5060 kurus (pennies). If the donkey and the saddle was in good condition, they could sell it for 5-6 lira. To make the donkey go while riding it, a Kurd would say 'Co'. Villagers speaking nothing but Kurdish when they arrived at the city would say 'Co' and the soldiers would stop them and fine them on the spot for speaking Kurdish. Unable to speak Turkish, the Kurdish villager would attempt to explain to the soldiers in Kurdish and thus the fine built up and up.

A relative of my mothers was set up by the soldiers and in order to pay the fine he sold his firewood and donkey. He received five Turkish lira for them but his fine was 12 lira so he was beaten up and put in a cell for two days. Three and a half months later. when the tax collectors came to our village, they demanded the remaining seven lira outstanding on the fine. If he did not pay up, they would seize his house and belongings. My uncle managed to pay the fine by selling some of his sheep. Such incidents were part of our ordinary, normal daily life. If records of fines had been kept in Mardin city, it would be possible to find many such cases as this. I have many memories of those five years. But the one that really impressed me was this: In our school were the sons of Eliye Ehmed tribal leaders called Ehmed and Senanik. In 1932 in Omeriyan town, there had been an incident and a squad of soldiers arrived in the town from Diyarbakir city. They had been sent on a clean up operation against the Kurds. Most of the men of the village ran away to the mountains. Eli agha, his two brothers and 14 men were confronted by the soldiers in Tuxip mountain. The soldiers opened fire and at the end of the conflict had killed and wounded the Kurds. The soldiers then proceeded (regardless oi whether they were dead or alive) to chop off the Kurds' heads leaving the bodies.

The story goes that when Ehmede Drei was arrested and then his head was chopped off, he managed to run a short distance without his head!

The soldiers put all seventeen heads into a bag and proceeded to display them to the people as if they were melons. The heads were finally taken to Stelile (Akarsu) where a priest (imam) washed all the heads and put the landowner with his two brothers into one bag and the rest of the 14 heads in another bag and buried them in the graveyard next to our garden.

The third installlment is here. This is a description of Musa Anter's murder taken from the web page of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights:

He was shot dead in 1992. Musa Anter was killed by gunshots on 20 September 1992 in Diyarbakir, where he was attending a festival, organised by the local council, to which he had been invited. Orhan Miroglu, a friend who was accompanying him, was seriously wounded. The police found 13 cartridges at the scene of the shooting. An autopsy carried out on the day of death showed that Musa Anter had been hit by five bullets and had died as a result of his injuries.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Musa Anter Peace Train

I came across this video on youtube but later discovered it's orginal source (link below). It was made ten years ago but it's still relevant today. It documents the journey of the Musa Anter Peace Train.

A quote from Joseph Cooper's web site :

In the summer of 1997 I went along to a planning meeting held by a group of activists and politicians planning to visit southeast Turkey. I was invited to document the journey. This video of the journey of a group of politicians and peace activists who gathered from around the world to meet in Brussels.

From Brussels the peace train delegates intended to travel to Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey to attend a cultural festival to celebrate International Anti-War day on September 1st 1997. An estimated crowd of 200,000 people were expected to greet the peace train delegates in Diyarbakir.

However, the “Peace Train” delegates encountered a series of obstructions and were finally stopped by a blockade of armoured cars 40 kilometres short of their destination.

Produced by Joseph Cooper and commissioned for broadcast by Med TV, a London based satellite TV Channel. 47

The Peace Train was named in memory of Musa Anter, the Kurdish author and journalist who was born in Mardin in 1918 and killed by the Turkish death squad in Diyarbekir in September of 1992. Musa Anter published a play in Kurdish in 1965-- it had been written while he was in jail. He also created a Kurdish- Turkish dictionary, as well as writing his memoirs he wrote for the Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, Yeni Ulke, and Welat.He was influential to many other Kurdish writers including Mehmet Uzun.

Here is also a personal account of the "Peace Train" journey by William Clark. I'll quote a couple of sections- the whole peice is really worth reading.

I think most people were sleeping when we came into Kurdistan. High Mountains were to the left and right of us with a low mist filling the desert ground of the valley. Higher and higher into the mountains and about eight in the morning we were stopped at a military check point at Gazi Antep2, near the Syrian border. Previously we had heard of deportations from Diyarbakir including Musa Anter's widow and daughter, several HADEP party members and our 'special guests'. They had also stopped us entering Ankara and driven away the people who had gathered to meet us, so there was no telling how things would go: from here on in we were in the Emergency Zone, under Martial Law. At the checkpoint, the soldiers start to take off one of the 'Musa Anter Peace Train' banners and set fire to it in front of all our cameras and all of us, obviously in an effort to get some kind of reaction thus 'justifying' some bloodshed. Eventually after they have had their fun they let us proceed.
As the people along the way, in greater and greater numbers, wave us on with peace signs; we could also on occasion see them being harassed by the police. At about ten thirty we are escorted into a large and notorious military compound at Urfa and more or less held under arrest. The organisers and MPs and so forth start to negotiate with the Army while the rest of us wander around the compound trying to find shade from the radioactive sun. It is beginning to look like a dead end, but I arrange a bet with Francis D' Souza of 1,000,000 Turkish Lira that we get to Diyarbakir, just for the sheer hell of it. A few moments previously Francis told Joe she was going to find out if we were free to go out of the compound by slowly walking out the main entrance and seeing what happened. He agreed to film her. No sooner had she set one foot in the open space when the click of machine guns signalled that this was a bad move and she quickly turned back. Inadvertently Paul and I began talking to one of the Turkish soldiers, a huge guy obviously in Special forces or something: he is armed with about ten fragmentation grenades, a powerful machine gun with a grenade launcher attached. I notice a little Turkish flag on the butt of his automatic hand gun--nice to see a bit of individualism flourishing, but it turns out to be quite common. He looks down at us and quietly asks us why we have come to Turkey: "Why not Bosnia or Palestine or..." "Ireland," I interject. "Yes Ireland" he murmurs, "why don't you go there?" "I've been" I reply. "All we want is peace" Paul tells him, and gradually the conversation tails off. It is a bit tricky talking to man who is equipped to annihilate all of us without breaking into a sweat.

By the end of his journey, after a brilliant description of the mayhem that ensued when the Turkish police attacked the group for having a press conference, violently beating and arresting many people, Clark writes:

As tears well up in your eyes there is a fleeting moment when, if you are as short sighted as I am, the tears make a lens and you can see with perfect clarity, but it is difficult to speak. Looking through tears and emotion--compassion--one sees clearly: but only perhaps if the eyes you meet can feel; feel what you feel and see. The Turkish authorities, the National Security Council, the small group of men who run the country have lost all humanity, and I mean all. With the Mothers of the Disappeared they profess willingness to look them in the eye and still brutalise them. The sacrifice the Mothers of the Disappeared make and will make this Saturday is for peace.
Is the struggle for peace in Kurdistan about land? The possession of land? The Kurds are not a possessive people. Astonishingly they bear no enmity towards their Brothers the Turks--this is not a sectarian struggle. They are not separatists either: how could they become separate from Turkey which has only existed in its present 'unchangable' form since the 1920s.
I have in my pocket some little stones, stolen from the road to Diyarbakir, which mean something to me, but I have given most of them away. Will the Turkish NSC prevail? As Ramos Horta5 said: "The Kurdistan region is one of the most important in the world with possibly the largest oil reserves in the world...but empires built on armies and oppression will not prevail."
One point on the Peace Train. The accusation was made in the Turkish press that the Peace Train was a front for the PKK, and a tactic to cause redeployment of large numbers of armed forces, while the PKK regrouped. This does not stand up to any analysis. If the NSC knew this, why did they then so enthusiastically and overwhelmingly fall for it. Am I smarter than the head of Turkish Intelligence? Seven buses of minor political activists, teachers, students, MPs and (it must be said) a few idiots somehow needed, what--20,000, 30,000 police, Jandarma, army, secret police, special forces, tank crews, riot police etc.--to follow, obstruct, intimidate, arrest, brutalise and attack them? And they do this to avoid bad publicity; they arrest MPs and Ambassadors of a European delegation as a sign of good faith towards their prospective joining of the European Union? This is one simple lunacy amongst many and one cannot help feeling that Turkey needs new leadership. The Kurds seem to me to be asking for little more than I brought back in my pocket--a handful of stony arid land, they probably don't even want the oil.
Peace in Kurdistan is far off. It may require a solution for the whole Middle-East. Ramos Horta described Kurdistan as "possibly the most strategic region in the world."

Ramos Horta, by the way, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, was a founder of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), served as the exiled spokesman for the East Timorese resistance during the years of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1975 to 1999). He is the second President of East Timor since independence from Indonesia, taking office on 20 May 2007. In February of this year he was was shot but survived the attempted assasination.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kerim Yildiz speaking at CUNY

Sebahat Tuncel Friday, February 29, 2008

Sebahat Tuncel at The City University of New York

“The Condition of Struggle for Democratic Rights and Liberties in Turkey”