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.

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