Tuesday, July 21, 2009

thank you for your hospital: a note from Turkey

I've been here about 6 weeks, in the beginning I was in Istanbul and my impression was one of hope, that things actually are getting better. Then I came to Diyarbakir. Every night there are fighter jets taking off. I ask why? Where are they going? People say, "There's an operation going on".

I was here three weeks ago and when I left, from the window of the plane I could see 7 fighter jets lining up on the runway to take off. And when I returned... again, the night sky is full of these machines roaring over the city towards Hakkari or Kandil.... So an "operation" which suggests that there is an event with a begining, middle and end, are endless here. The sound of these jets is really damaging psychologically, especially for anyone who knows what its like to be bombed. You hear these jets screaming and obliterating all conversation and thought, and you think of death. I talked to someone, a man who's father had been killed by the deep state. He'd been living in Switzerland for 25 years but has returned to care for his father's grave. He said "When I go to the west, and people say "The Kurds are free, they have no problems" I have to tell them, we are going to sleep with jets and waking with the helicopters. Have you ever seen a tank? We are living with Jets, helicopters and bombs, thats our life.

Meanwhile, in the municipalities, there were "operations" to seize city workers. One woman described how police came to her door at 4 am, burst in, put a gun to her head, tore her house to pieces, terrorized her elderly parents, and then took her into custody to be interrogated. And what were the questions? "Why are you working so hard? Why do you work 12 hours a day? Why are you so successful at your job? Why do you care so much about the work you are doing? Do you have an ideological sympathy with the PKK?" When I asked this woman why she was held, why the municipalities were targets of "operations" by the governement she said, "It is the Gulen people. They want to stop all our work in the municipality."

This woman was held for 5 days an nights, kept in isolation in a tiny cell, not allowed to speak to anyone except her interrogators. There is no case against her, but her future is uncertain. She has done nothing more than write grants for social programs.

What does this mean actually?

After the elections, AKP lost badly and DTP became very strong in the municipalities. It was then that the "Operations" began and many DTP people were taken into custody. Its nothing new, the government from Ankara has historically tried to destroy the local governments where Kurdish people govern themselves. But to understand the absurdity of the situation you would have to imagine that say-- Obama tapped all the phones and read the email of Bloomberg... that members the New York City council who talk to their constituents in Spanish or Chinese could be arrested for speaking in "unknown languages".

There are so many volatile developments here now that's its difficult to sort out the course things will take: AKP is really sticking it to the military for instance. They have just pushed through a new law that the military can be tried in civilian courts. This is a good thing of course. But sometimes I feel like I'm watching a battle between a tarantula and scorpion.

One funny thing that happened to me which illustrates the mentality of the "occupiers" (ie. the police and military here). I was driving back from Mardin and I was stopped by the police. After being stopped, I explained to the policeman that I spoke just a little Turkish. He asked me to wait and he sent another policeman to talk to me. Someone who supposedly spoke English.
But his English was not good, "Since you are a foreigner, we want to show you our hospital" he said. "What?" I said. "We want to show you our hospital, so we will not give you a traffic fine." "Thank you, I'm very grateful you won't give me a traffic fine, but... I'm sorry, I don't understand. I don't need to go the the hospital."
Then I realized he was trying to say "We want to show you our hospitality." And I became afraid he wouldn't understand anything I was saying, so I began to thank him in Turkish and when he spoke english I stuck to Turkish. He kept saying "You can speak English" (You can't I thought) and I said, "But I want to practice my Turkish." "WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEARN TURKISH" he said suddenly. I was speechless for a minute. I mean, aren't we in Turkey? Then he looked at me and said "Are you OKAY? Do you need HELP?" No I said. But thank you for your hospital. And he let me go.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama Got Played

More on "Whats in a word":

There's a post at Jim Meyers Borderlands about why Obama's speech on April 24 upset the Turkish Government so much, even though Obama didn't use the word "Genocide".

According to Hürriyet, during Barack Obama's visit to Turkey in early April of this year, Obama threatened to make good on his campaign pledge to recognize as a 'genocide' the events of 1915, in which at least several hundred thousand (and possibly more than one million) Ottoman Armenians perished. Every year, the president of the United States makes an address on April 24, the day in which these events are commemorated, and every year there is speculation over whether or not the word 'genocide' will be used in the address. In not using the word 'genocide' in his address, Obama was sharply criticized by Armenian groups and others for having 'turned his back' on the pledge. As a quid pro quo for Obama's using the term, apparently, the Turkish government had agreed to speed up the pace of talks with Armenia—with Turkey offering the initial concession of agreeing (it seemed) to soon open the border with Armenia. As I discussed in an earlier post on this site, Turkey's apparent willingness to open the border with Turkey without first realizing progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan infuriated both government and opposition figures in Baku. Following Baku's protests over the perceived direction of the Turkish-Armenian talks, the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border has been delayed.

The prospect of an American role in the talks and a possible agreement between Obama and the Turkish government of the sort described by Hürriyet would also explain the Turkish government's anger over Obama's use of the term "Meds Yeghern" in his April 24 speech, which Ankara described as "unacceptable." "Meds Yeghern" is the term which Armenians themselves use to describe the events of 1915, and at least some voices in Turkey have suggested that this term could perhaps become an acceptable compromise term in place of 'genocide.' Nevertheless, Ankara's strong reaction to Obama's use of this term, which included the Foreign Ministry's demand to see US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey for consulation, perhaps makes a little more sense if seen in the context of a deal in which Ankara thought Obama had agreed to avoid using terminology that would upset the Turkish government.

Actually the most telling sentence in the above post is : Following Baku's protests over the perceived direction of the Turkish-Armenian talks, the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border has been delayed.

Because this is how Turkey treats human rights, language recognition, the "question" (Kurdish, Armenian) issues:

Progress on any issue is promised and then ripped away at the last moment. Just like what Lucy did with that football. If Obama thought something was going to change, if he thought that engaging in absurd linguistic contortions to make Erdogan, Gul, and all the Pasha's happy was going to result in something REAL, like the opening of the border between Turkey and Armenian... he got played.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Writers and Journalists jailed and Tortured: the list goes on

Some Items I've simply copied from INFO-TURK about writers and journalists recently jailed for their work. A couple were in French and I've roughly translated them. THIS IS JUST FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL.

Lawyer of imprisoned reporter Abdurrahman Gök to file complaint for torture and maltreatment

Servet Özen, the lawyer for Dicle News Agency (DIHA) reporter Abdurrahman Gök, says that an objection to his arrest has been rejected. He says that he will file a complaint for torture and maltreatment of his client after seeing the medical file.

Gök was taken into custody while covering the Newroz celebrations in Siirt, southeastern Turkey. On 25 March 2009, he was taken to the Siirt Criminal Court, which ordered his arrest for spreading PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) propaganda. He was later taken to a Siirt prison.

Another reporter from DIHA, Celal Kalpak, who was at the Newroz celebrations in Siirt, told BIANET what he witnessed: "When Gök was taken into custody, we were at the exit of the celebration area. The police harassed him and then took him into custody. When I objected, a police chief said, 'Your friend has thrown stones at the police.' I told him that that was not credible, that Gök was just covering the event as a reporter, and that the detention was arbitrary."

Kalpak said that there were different accusations leveled at Gök all the time. "First they said that he had thrown stones at the police. When that was not credible, they said that he had manipulated the crowd; finally, they said that he was taken into custody for terrorist propaganda because he had copied down the slogans shouted and written on placards and because he had been linked to Roj TV."

Özen has argued that Gök suffered torture and mistreatment when he was taken into custody. His medical report from the Siirt State Hospital is currently with the prosecution. His lawyer has announced that as soon as he is able to examine them, he will file a criminal complaint against those responsible.

DIHA has also called for the release of its reporters Ali Bulus, Mehmet Karaaslan, Faysal Tunç and Behdin Tunç, who are all in prison for alleged connections to the PKK. It is not yet clear whether the arrests were related to their journalistic activities. (BIANET/IFEX, April 14, 2009)


İrfan Karaca the author of the book “Ape Musa’s Little Generals” where he tells the story of children who distribute “Özgür Gündem” newspaper, has been given 1 year and 3 months prison sentence for “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.

The book was published by Berçem Publishing House in March last year. Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 condemned Karaca. İrfan Karaca said they would appeal against it and added “It is completely unjust. The book tells the stories of children who sell Özgür Gündem newspaper in Diyarbakır in 1990s. How could it be propaganda for a terrorist organisation? This judgement proved that freedom of expression is still under threat in Turkey.” (antenna-tr.org, April 27, 2009)


Gaziantep Public Prosecution Office wrote an indictment against Yasin Yetişgen the responsible editor of local “Çoban Ateşi” newspaper over an article “Mum don’t send me to army” written by Berkant Coşkun and published on 8 November 2007. Yetişgen is charged with “alienating the people from military service and insulting the memory of Ataturk”.

Yetişgen is charged over the parts of the article which reads:”If today’s Kurdish movement is called a terrorist movement then Mustafa Kemal’s movement would not be immune from the same definition. The only difference is that Mustafa Kemal was not arrested.”

The court issued on 15 April an arrest order for Yetisgen since he did not turn up for the previous hearings.

The next hearing is on 16 July 2009 at 09:00.
(antenna-tr.org, April 27, 2009)


The Turkish writer Nedim Gürsel will be held on 5 May before an Istanbul court for "denegrating the religious values of the people" in his novel "Daughters of Allah," the author said in an interview Saturday with the AFP.

"You reproach me for having denigrated the religious values of the population, under Article 216 of Turkish Penal Code, this charge is punishable by six months to one year in prison," said Gürsel, present this week - author of "Close Encounters of the book and wine" of Balma, a suburb of Toulouse.

"This is a novel, people tend to forget," said Gürsel, "and what is negative about the prophet is expressed by its enemies."

For the novelist, director of research at CNRS on Turkish literature, "we must have the freedom to take a critical look at religion, and my position is clear: I respect the faith and believers."

"More worrying" according to him, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, an administrative agency under the authority of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "has resulted in a report while the court did not ask" .

"The management of religious affairs should not decide on a work of art, is not within its competence," said Mr. Gürsel who divides his time between France and Turkey.

According to the author of "Daughters of Allah", published in March 2008 in Turkey and a French translation released in October at Threshold, "Mr. Erdogan said recently at the delivery of a literary prize that Turkey 's is a country that saw its writers, or the trial removes any credibility to his speech. "

Mr. Gürsel considers that "this case falls very badly because everyone thought that Turkey had made progress on freedom of expression", has also added the author of "Turkey is a new idea in Europe" published this week in France by Editions Empreinte time.

An ardent defender of the entry of Turkey into the European Union, Mr. Gürsel has not said he was "worried" about the outcome of this trial because he has "confidence in the justice of (his) country that is Independent


Prosecution to Gün TV

Ahmet Birsin the general coordinator of a local TV station in Diyarbakır region has been arrested and kept in custody in Diyarbakır Anti-Terror Branch on suspicion of "PKK membership".

It has been reported that Diyarbakır Public Prosecution service has been secretly working to uncover "PKK’s Turkey Coordination team made up of 8 members" for over a year. Prosecution office has been following the bank transactions and communications of the suspects.

51 people brought to Diyarbakır

Police raided and searched Gün TV offices in the early morning hours of 14 April 2009.

Simultaneous operations have been run in Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Ankara, Batman, Mardin, Aydın, Adana, Elazığ, Gaziantep, Şırnak and Şanlıurfa. Diyarbakır Governor said that 51 people had been arrested and brought to Diyarbakır.

Bilen: we cannot report any news

TV channel’s news editor Adnan Bilen said that because of the confiscated material they cannot broadcast news. Bilen said that the prosecutor told their lawyer who wanted the material back "So what? You do not broadcast one day ".

Employee arrested in

Günlük newspaper reported that Hüseyin Diken, Democratic Society Party’s Bursa chairman was released but an employee of “Özgür Halk” periodical, Erhan Bayrak was put on remand on the charge of “propaganda for an illegal organisation". (antenna-tr.org, April 15, 2009)


Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat has been shut down for a month.
Altilim Newspaper shut down for one month.


Democratic Society Party’s Van city chairman Abdurrahman Doğar who was arrested following Newruz celebrations on 22 March 2008 during which two people were killed. Van Public Prosecutor Selçuk Kocaman asked the court to condemn Doğar for “membership PKK/KONGRA-GEL terrorist organisation, inciting crime as part of the activities of a terrorist organisation, resisting public official, damaging property, inciting to injuring people”. Doğar has been asked to be imprisoned for 200 years. The next hearing will be on 22 May 2009 at 09:45 am. The prosecution will present its case.

o Vatan reporter Kemal Göktaş and Milliyet reporter Gükçer Tahincioğlu are charged with “publishing classified information and exposing the judge on duty to terrorist organisations as a target” over publishing a court ruling by Ankara High Criminal Court Num.11 allowing police and intelligence agency MIT to listen and read all phone, Internet and fax communications in Turkey. The two journalists are asked to be imprisoned for between 2 and 6 years. The journalists were acquitted on 31 March 2009.

o Ahmet Karayay made a press statement in Ankara’s Kızılay Street declaring conscientious objection and said '...There is no need for military institutions on earth since there has been no threats from other planets. Therefore what are the soldiers protecting us from...? Turkish Armed Forces has been making use of human resource of Turkish nation since it was established although the country has not been involved in any wars for a long time. .. As long as there are people who want to do military service it should not be imposed on people like me who do not want to do military service...” Karayay was charged with “alienating the people from military service”. Karayay was acquitted on 1 April 2009. (http://www.antenna-tr.org/dunya/first_page_en.asp)

What's in a word?

Human rights lawyer Eren Keskin was aquitted yesterday of "inciting the public to hatred and animosity." when she used the word "Kurdistan" during a panel discussion in 2007. Two years ago, a court in Viranşehir sentenced her to 10 months in prison and a 3,300 Turkish Lira cash fine, but the case is under appeal.

How strong is a country that would send someone to prison for the use of one word? A few days ago, it was Osman Baydemir, being convicted for saying "guerilla" instead of terrorist. The use and control of language is one of the best tools of a totalitarian state because control of language becomes control of thought. This is not a democracy.

Here's a link to the story in Hurriyet:

and here's a link to a documentary about Eren Keskin:

Another news item that is not a surprise is headlined: Thousands of People Wiretapped in the Last Three Years

Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin has stated that in the last three years the phone conversation records of nearly 13,000 people have been disposed of as their content does not constitute a crime, once again placing wiretapping debates in Turkey under the spotlight.

“As far as I know, the number of individuals whose phone conversations are wiretapped is around 70,000. Some are claiming that 70 million Turkish citizens are being wiretapped. Such allegations have nothing to do with reality,” Şahin remarked.

According to the data as to the individuals whose phone conversation records were disposed of in the past three years, İstanbul residents were subjected to wiretaps the most. The phone conversations of 494 people in İstanbul were disposed of in 2006, while this figure climbed to 736 in 2007 and fell to 684 in 2008.

Phone conversations in the southern and southeastern regions are also closely wiretapped, according to the same data. The conversations of 395 people were disposed of in 2008 in Adana, while this figure was 864 in Diyarbakır, 411 in Mersin and 618 in Van.

Control of lanugage, control of thought, ... it makes me laugh to read that these conversations were disposed of because their content did not constitute a crime. So there are criminal letters, there are criminal words, there are criminal conversations that a state must defend itself from. Sometimes it just seems so laughable.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


On April 23rd, Seyfi Turan a 14 year old Kurdish boy was severely beaten by Turkish police in Hakkari on International Children's Day. Seyfi came from a Kurdish family forced by the military to leave their village in 1994. The family received no assistance from the state, and Seyfi's father has been unemployed since.

Here's the story from Hurriyet:

Child beating caught on tape

ANKARA - The Hakkari Governor’s Office and Police Department have launched inquiries into the conduct of a police officer caught on video hitting a 14-year-old boy with the butt of his rifle during a demonstration in the southeastern province Thursday.

The incident involving the minor sparked outrage around the country.

While the police appointed two senior inspectors to the case, the Governor’s Office announced Friday that the police officer was suspended pending an administrative inquiry, reported Anatolia news agency.

The Governor’s Office released a statement that said: "The police intervened in some of the illegal demonstrations and rock throwing in several neighborhoods of Hakkari. During the intervention, the wounding of a citizen as a result of one security official’s impulsive actions was received with distress. The officer in question has been suspended and an inquiry has been launched against those responsible."

Hakkari Governor Muammer Türker told the Anatolia news agency that he was following the medical condition of the boy and those responsible would face administrative and disciplinary measures.

Hit repeatedly
The boy, 14-year-old Seyfi Turan, was seen in the video being repeatedly hit by a police officer with the butt of his rifle. The boy sustained serious injuries and was fist taken to a local hospital and then sent to the Van Yüzüncü Yol University Hospital in the province of Van.

The father of the boy, Mehmet Turan, told the Doğan news agency about his son’s injuries. Speaking in Kurdish because he did not know Turkish, the father said: "They told me the police beat my son. They cracked his head. He was sent to Van from Hakkari. He is fine now but he was beaten badly." Doctors at the hospital said the boy was doing OK but would have to spend another 10 days at hospital. Meanwhile, Van Gendarmerie Commander Lt. Gen. Yurdaer Olcan visited the boy Friday.

There is more commentary by Azadixwaz

BELOW is an excerpt from an article in Zaman about the prosecution of Kurdish children:

Instead of juvenile courts, they are being tried in special authority high penal courts set up after the State Security Courts (DGM) were dissolved and changes in the Law on Terrorism in 2006 made it possible to try minors aged 15-18 in these courts. Recently, two minors were sentenced to 21 years imprisonment in Adana after taking part in pro-Kurdish Nevruz events in Gaziantep on March 21. And on April 22, the Diyarbakır 6th High Penal Court handed down prison terms to six minors, with sentences ranging from six to 11 years.

“I can’t sleep tonight because the court will make a decision on my 15-year-old son. He wanted to be a lawyer, but he won’t be able to. He won’t be able to realize his dreams. He will be a criminal from now on and he will question the punishment given to him as a result of throwing a stone. How is the night going to turn into morning and how is the judge going to decide? Nobody knows the answer except the 6th High Penal Court judge and prosecutor,” said Arif Akkaya, father of H. Akkaya, who is being tried at the Diyarbakır court on charges of terrorism.

The court was supposed to make judgments on six juveniles on April 23, but since this day is a national holiday, the verdict came a day earlier and the minors were given prison sentences of six to 11 years.

There are many juveniles in a similar position in Turkey. According to figures released by Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin, 2,469 cases were opened in 2006-07 in relation to terrorism crimes and 835 minors are being prosecuted.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Neither soldiers nor guerillas should die"

Osman Baydemir, the current mayor of Diyarbakir, has been sentenced to ten months in prison. The charge is that he was "expressing support and praise for terrorists".

What he said, was simply "Neither soldiers nor guerrillas should die".

The use of the word "guerrillas" instead of "terrorists" is against the law in Turkey.

"Neither soldiers nor guerrillas should die"

In what kind of country does the above sentence qualify a man for ten months in jail? Um, W.T.F.

The control of language, not just down to the word, but down to the letter is one of the main tools used by the Turkish State to maintain its denial of reality.

A quote from the Hurriyet story:

The court ruled that Osman Baydemir, mayor of Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeastern region, and Nejdet Atalay, mayor of nearby Batman, had praised terrorist PKK members by referring to them as "guerrillas."

The defendants made the remarks at a rally in Diyarbakir in February 2008, as Turkish security forces were carrying out cross-border operation into neighboring northern Iraq targeting hideouts of the PKK.

Lawyers for the defendants said they would appeal the sentences.

Baydemir had condemned the operation and called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, saying that "neither soldiers nor guerrillas should die."

In the same week: (Excerpt from Zaman)

a public prosecutor in Diyarbakir filed a case on Friday claiming that former Diyarbakir Bar Association Chairman Sezgin Tanrikulu had engaged in “discrimination” by publishing a bilingual agenda for members of the bar association. The prosecutor’s office also suggested that Tanrikulu misused his position as chairman of the bar association and “abused the linguistic feelings of the public,” calling for a three-year prison term as punishment. The deputy chairman of the bar association at the time, Nesip Yildirim, the other suspect in the case, did not participate in the crime, but openly supported it by collecting signatures for a petition titled “I am taking responsibility for my agenda and my bar association,” according to the prosecutor.
In 2007, when Tanrikulu was head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, he ordered the publication of an agenda for the members of the association. The agenda featured dates in both Turkish and “a language that is used by a segment of the public,” meaning Kurdish in the words of the prosecutor’s report.

This means that publishing an agenda in a language that is used by a segment of the public amounts to discrimination.

“The publication of an agenda in an alphabet other than Turkish means discrimination in public services,” the prosecutor’s report claimed.

The public prosecutor also suggested that because the agenda was associated with the bar association, citizens whose “mother tongues are different” may hesitate to join the association or to ask for legal assistance. But the prosecutor’s report does not say openly what it means by citizens whose mother tongues are different.

The prosecutor argued that publishing an agenda in a language other than Turkish is an abuse of the “the linguistic feelings of the people” and that this was the basis of the case. Because bar associations are considered organizations that provide public services, the prosecutor had to get permission from the Ministry of Justice to proceed with the investigation and, according to the prosecutor’s report, the ministry gave its approval.

In his defense, Tanrikulu claimed that Kurdish is the mother tongue of Turkey’s Kurdish citizens and to use it is a legitimate right. Mentioning Tanrikulu’s defense, the prosecutor’s report responded: “The suspects in their defense suggested that the signs that are not in Turkish on the agenda under investigation belong to their mother tongue. However, Article 3 of the Turkish Constitution indicates that the language of the Turkish Republic is Turkish; Article 10 indicates that ‘all individuals are equal without any discrimination before the law and no privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class’; and Article 11 states, ‘The provisions of the constitution are fundamental legal rules binding upon legislative, executive and judicial organs, and administrative authorities and other institutions and individuals’; and there are no international or national regulations for giving public services in mother tongues.”

At the court hearing on Friday, the present chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, Mehmet Emin Aktar, presented incriminating information about himself and more than 100 lawyers who are members of the bar to the court and said, “If this is a crime, we committed the same crime.” Aktar also asked for time to prepare a defense. The next hearing in the case will be held on May 15.

The phrase that makes me laugh is "the publication of an alphabet other than Turkish"

No one ever has a cow if someone publishes something in French German, Spanish English, but if it's Kurdish it suddenly becomes this strange nameless "ALPHABET OTHER THAN TURKISH".

As if a language were a kind of kryptonite, so deadly, destructive, radio active, a kind of anti matter, so terrible it cannot even be named.

Imagine, someone can be sentenced to THREE YEARS IN JAIL for publishing A BILINGUAL AGENDA OF A MEETING.

That's our great Nato Ally.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Punishment for Success DTP leaders arrested/ Mehdi Zana

Above: Selma Irmak and Kameran Yuksek: Among the over 50 DTP members arrested by the Turkish State in revenge for the DTP's success in recent elections.

On April 14 the Turkish Government arrested over 50 people with associations to the DTP, as well as employees of the privately run Kurdish TV station GUN TV in Diyarbekir:

Quoting an article from Hurriyet:

DTP deputy chairs, Kamuran Yuksek and Bayram Altun, were taken in for questioning in Diyarbakir, where police also detained the chief editor of private television channel Gun TV, the agency said. The party's deputy chairwoman, Selma Irmak, was detained in the southeastern province of Mardin, it added.

Seracettin Irmak, a lawyer for jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, and Alican Unlu, the deputy mayor of the eastern province of Tunceli, were also among those detained on Tuesday.

Again, as an American it is not easy to understand the logic of what has happened, but you have to imagine that the Mayor of Los Angeles has his offices spied on, his phones tapped, and that the government is constantly trying to charge him for offenses against the state. Imagine a city council followed, harassed threatened, email hacked, phones tapped. Imagine a national government thwarting a local government when it tries to supply municipal services for people: healthcare, job training for women, or god forbid, garbage collection. And imagine that when a corrupt governing party loses big time, in spite of its attempts at bribery (giving away free appliances) its party members are trounced in elections, and after its losses it repsonds by having its rival party members and leaders arrested and charged with terrorism. What has just happened in Turkey is not a new thing, but the continuation of a long policy of criminalizing Kurdish leaders who try to serve their people through civil means.

I'm going to post a long quote from "Prison No. 5" by Mehdi Zana, former Mayor of Diyarbekir:

"In 1977 elections took place at the city hall in Diyarbakir. At the time, Diyarbakir was the ninth largest city in Turkey, with approximately 225,000 inhabitants: today it has more than 1.5 million. I was elected from fourteen candidates, with about 54 percent of the vote- two times more than the candidate from the incumbent party of Bulent Ecevit. The Turkish authorities, the prefect, and the military commander were appalled by my election, but I was elected democratically.

During the three years that I headed the municipality, I did my best to ameliorate the situation of the population. I did so despite the hostility of the local and national Turkish authorities who subjected the city to a genuine economic blockade: There were no funds, no subsidies generally agreed on by the public authorities for equipment and urban development. This would not do! I ended the blockade by speaking to the National Federation of Elected Republicans and Socialists in France. Its president, the late Hubert Dubedout, mayor of Grenoble, in France, and its secretary general, Antoine Blanca, who later became the adjunct secretary general of the United Nations, welcomed me with open arms. "

Zana goes onto describe how the Mayors from several cities in France worked together to donate thirty buses and trucks for the city of Diyarbakir:

"In a few weeks in an extraordinary convoy of thirty buses and trucks left France and crossed Europe to come to the aid of Diyarbakir."... "The Turkish prime minister at the time, Bulent Ecevit, called it treason and ranted and raved that "Western imperialism is trying to divide our country."

Zana goes onto describe the aftermath of the coup of 1980 and his arrest:

"Through a plan established long before, the army and police started arresting, according to a system of concentric circles, members of parliament, ministers, heads of political parties, unions, municipal governments, academics, legal or illegal militant organizations, and journalists-- in brief, all elements that seemed undesirable and harmful to the ideal Kemalist Republic. All of these militant turks dreamed of the "golden age" of the 1920's and 1930's when, under the "enlightened government of Ataturk," the country government by a single party with an eternal single head, a single official ideology,when everyone appeared obedient, patriotic, and necessarily Turkish. All those who, like the Kurds, leftists, or Muslim partisians, did not fit into the mold suffered the punishment they deserved: prison, massacre, and deportation. Once again the generals had returned in aneffort to restore that golden age. Misfortune befell the rest ofus poor thinking infidels, castoffs of the official religion. On September 24th 1980, twelve days after the coup, I was arrested along with other Kurdish friends."

Zana continues, describing torture that goes on for days:

"First the Falaka, an old torture that has proved itself. They administer it with a stick or a bat on the soles of the feat. Eery time I fainted, they splashed water on me and resumed the torture. After beating me hard on the soles of my feet they threw me on the ground and stomped on my back one by one, there were a good forty of them. Then came the insults: "You fag, I'll shit on your face..." Finally they took me to another room where they hung me up by my arms, nude, and attached electric wires to my genitals and anus. Whenthey turned on the current my whole body would tremble; they call this "doing the plane." WhenI fainted, they would wake me up by kicking me with their boots. Their questions: names, information about my organization, my contacts. "If you want, we will leave you alone; you only have to sign this paper!"
This treatment lasted fifteen days. Every night at around one o 'clock in the morning, a Kurdish guard came to take off the blindfold that I wore continuously and to give me something to drink. His presence was good for me. Then it started again, especially the electrical torture. one day I heard the words "Mehdi Zana, what is this ignominy? Do you see what state you are in?" I recognizedthe voice of the general who commanded Diyarbakir. I did not respond. He started again: Do you see hwat you had done to yourself?"... I responded "Sometimes you are at the bottom, sometime you are on top."

Zana goes on for many paragraphs describing torture, confinement to coffin like cells, hearing the sounds of women being tortured, sleep deprivation and endless physical humiliation. Finally:

"They interrogated me about my trip to Europe in 1979 in order to obtain aid for my city. They wanted to know whom I had met and what I had done. When I was the mayor, the city of Diyarbakir had recieved the buses from France as a gift. Whatwere the interests of the Europeans? Why were they interested in the Kurds? They returned to these questions endlessly: Why had we recieved this aid? With what goal? What was our relationship with France?"

I am afraid for the people who have been arrested on the 14th. There is little information about them.

Below I am reprinting Bawer Cekir's entire article from Bianet:

Operation Targeting the DTP: 40 People Detained
Simultaneous operations in 13 provinces have led to the detention of 40 people, among them leading members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party. The searches continue.
BİA News Center - Diyarbakır

Following the decision of the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office, police operations were carried out in 13 provinces this morning (14 April).

27 places were raided by the police, including the homes of leading members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the private Kurdish Gün TV channel in Diyarbakır.

Forty people have been taken into custody after operations in the provinces of Diyarbakır, Van, Tunceli, Antalya, Adana, Mardin, Gaziantep, Elazığ, Bitlis, Aydın, Ankara, Batman and Şırnak.

One of them is Selma Irmak, former vice chair of the DTP.

According to information that bianet received from Gün TV, a search warrant related to channel director Ahmet Birsin led to materials being confiscated.

The teams started their operations at 4 am. Apart from DTP homes and Gün TV, the guest houses of Greater Diyarbakır’s Municipality and Batman Municipality were also searched, as well as the Southeast Anatolia Project Union building in the Yenişehir district of Diyarbakır.

Among those taken into custody are:

DTP vice chair Kamuran Yüksek, DTP vice chair Bayram Altun, DTP vice chair Selma Irmak, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyers Seracettin Irmak, Ebru Günay and Şinasi Tur, and Batman municipality building director Heval Erdemli.

"Worrying and disappointing"
Speaking to CNN Türk, Diyarbakır Bar Association President Mehmet Emin Aktar said, “Such an operation is worrying. We do not know what evidence was used. I see this as a negative development. Of course, after the DTP won a serious victory in the local elections in the area, and as the party has been considered the legal representation of Kurds in the process for a solution to the Kurdish question, this has destroyed hopes for a peaceful solution.”

According to the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Zübeyde Çoğaç, municipal councillor in the Yüksekova district of Hakkari was taken into custody after a police raid on her house. She is said to have been taken to the district gendarmerie command.

The agency has further reported that 16 people have been taken into cusotyd in Mardin following raids on homes. These people, who are expected to be taken to Diyarbakır, are: Rıdvan Bakay, Mehmet Arı, İlhami Ceylan, Cuneyt Sinci, Mehmet Özgün, Remzi Usanmaz, Mesut Haskul, Vahap Ete, Mehmet Erde, Nezir Bingöl, Abdullah Çelik, Metin Kaymaz, Seyfettin Ay, Mehmet Halepoğlu, Günay Bayraktar and Abdullah Karakuş (BÇ/AG)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Malan Barkir

Malan barkir lê lê

Houses loaded

çûne waran lê

gone to the summer place

Dînê lê dînê lê Dînara min

Crazy crazy, my madness

Goştê me xwar lê lê

Our body was eaten by

mişk û maran lê

moles and snakes

Keçê lê rindê lê bermaliya min

Hey girl, hey beautiful, rock of my house

Ez sewî me lo lo

I’m an orphan

ber desta me lo

I’m under the hand of strangers

Delalo delalo delalê min

Beautiful, beautiful, my beautiful one

Brîndar im lo lo

I’m wounded

bê xwedî me lo

without god

Hevalo hevalo hevalê min

Friend, friend, my friend

Malan bar kir lê lê

Houses loaded

koç bi rê ket lê

the people are taking the road

Dînê lê dînê lê Dînara min

Crazy crazy my madness

Dilêm eşiya lê lê

My heart had pain

agir pê ket lê

It caught fire

Keçê lê rindê lê bermaliya min

My girl, my beautiful, the rock of my house

Jana te ya dil jana min e lo

The pain of your heart is my pain

Delalo delalo delalê min

Beautiful, beautiful, my beautiful one

Ger min nedin ne

If I didn’t see my journey

gunehê min e lo

It’s my sin

Hevalo hevalo hevalê min

Friend, friend, my friend…

Obama's Speech in Turkey: Kutsal Saçmalık (holy shit)

I expected that Obama was going to do some kind of linguistic hootchie kootchie about the role of Turkey in history and the state of its human rights situation today, but I wasn't prepared for him to bend over and bare his ass to Turkish Nationalism. Or for the utter wimp out on the G word.

Text of Obama's speech to Turkish parliament
By The Associated Press

A few excerpts with translation into "reality speak":

This morning I had the great privilege of visiting the tomb of your extraordinary founder of your republic. And I was deeply impressed by this beautiful memorial to a man who did so much to shape the course of history. But it is also clear that the greatest monument to Ataturk's life is not something that can be cast in stone and marble. His greatest legacy is Turkey's strong, vibrant, secular democracy, and that is the work that this assembly carries on today.
This future was not easily assured, it was not guaranteed. At the end of World War I, Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers that were trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore an ancient empire. But Turkey chose a different future.

(Um, yes, it chose to massacre and exile its "minority" populations and force everyone else to pretend to be Turkish).

You freed yourself from foreign control, and you founded a republic that commands the respect of the United States and the wider world.

Translation: you became the fourth largest arms customer of the United States and we are happy to profit from sales of helicopters and jets which enable you to destroy the villages of your Kurdish citizens. We are willing to say anything to keep the cash flowing. Sometimes when I read the words of an American President,and this one is no different, I am not sure what world I'm living in:

"Now, of course, Turkey has its own responsibilities. And you've made important progress towards membership. But I also know that Turkey has pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it's good for EU membership, but because it's right for Turkey.
In the last several years, you've abolished state security courts, you've expanded the right to counsel. You've reformed the penal code and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of the press and assembly. You've lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through a new state Kurdish television station."

Wouldn't it be nice if all that were true? Wouldn't it be nice if article 301 was abolished. If Kurdish was actually legal:

for instance, this from Info-Turk

154 Inmates on Hunger Strike in Erzurum

Rights activists called on the Ministry of Justice to act, stating that the health of four inmates in Erzurum prison, who are on hunger strike since 23 February, is deteriorating. Cihan Alkan, Bozo Açlan, Aydın Atalay and Abdulvahap Karatay are among the 154 inmates who went on hunger strike in turns, to protest right violations in the prison.

Allegedly, books and publications in Kurdish aren't allowed, the inmates' right to exit to courtyard together is obscured, they aren't allowed to talk to their families in Kurdish on the phone and arbitrary disciplinary punishments are given.

In a joint statement, rights defenders Esra Çiftçi, Yüksel Mutlu, Murat Çelikkan, Yusuf Alataş, Ataol Behramoğlu, Adil Okay, Ahmet Telli, Baskın Oran, Ercan Kanar, Gün Zileli, Hicri İzgören, Metin Bakkalcı, Nihat Behram, Oral Çalışlar, Şanar Yurdatapan, Şükrü Erbaş and Temel Demirer requested an immediate end to such practices.

And perhaps Obama would like to send a card to some of these journalists who are currently in prison... this is also from Info-Turk:

18 Journalists and Columnists Meet Year 2009 in Turkish Prisons

Let’s Send to Imprisoned Journalist A Card For New Year

Many journalists and columnists meet year 2009 in prisons in Turkey and all over the world.

We, as Solidarity Platform With Imprisoned Journalists, celebrate new year of all journalists and columnists who are imprisoned in our country and in the world, and wish they would be free as soon as possible.

Imprisoned journalists and columnists were arrested because of the fact that they defended freedom of thought and expression, freedom of press and information right of people.

We can act with solidarity by sending new year card to 18 imprisoned journalists and columnists.

Cancel Law No. 301 and Anti-Terror Law Which Block Freedom of Thought and Expression!

Freedom for Imprisoned Journalists!

We present names and prisons in which they are imprisoned of 18 journalists and columnists imprisoned since 29 December 2008 to the information of press, public, sensitive people and institutions…

Ali Buluş, Karaman-Ermenek M Tipi Cezaevi
Barış Açıkel, Kandıra 1 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi, KOCAELİ
Bayram Namaz, Edirne 1 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi
Behdin Tunç, Diyarbakır D Tipi Cezaevi
Erdal Güler, Amasya E Tipi Cezaevi, İstanbul
Erol Zavar, Sincan F Tipi Cezaevi, ANKARA
Faysal Tunç, Diyarbakır D Tipi Cezaevi
Füsun Erdoğan, Gebze Özel Tip Cezaevi, Gebze/KOCAELİ
Hatice Duman, Gebze Özel Tip Cezaevi, Gebze/KOCAELİ
İbrahim Çiçek, Tekirdağ 2 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi
Mahmut Tutal, Urfa E Tipi Cezaevi
Mehmet Ali Varış, Metris Cezaevi
Mehmet Bakır, Bolu F Tipi Cezaevi
Mehmet Karaaslan, Karaman-Ermenek M Tipi Cezaevi
Murat Coşkun, Adana Kürkçüler F Tipi Cezaevi
Mustafa Gök, Sincan F Tipi Cezaevi, ANKARA
Sedat Şenoğlu, Edirne 1 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi
Ziya Ulusoy, Tekirdağ 1 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi

Solidarity Platform With Imprisoned Journalists (TGDP)
29 December 2008

CONTACT: Necati ABAY-TGDP Spokesperson, GSM: 0535 929 75 86, Fax: (0212) 514 68 77
e-mail: tutuklugazeteciler@mynet.com

Speaking during a press statement, Democratic Society Party (DTP) MP Hasip Kaplan criticized the conditions in prisons as "worse than the 1980 coup period."

Human Rights Association (İHD) chair Öztürk Türkdoğan said that they have repeatedly warned and informed the authorities about the severity of the situation and they failed to act.

Turkey's Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) chair Metin Bakkalcı noted that currently there're 108 thousand people in prisons across the country. "If the situation isn't improved, hunger strikes will result in deaths." (BIA, April 2, 2009)


Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.
Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic, but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a better future. I know there's strong views in this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. And while there's been a good deal of commentary about my views, it's really about how the Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past in a way that is honest, open and constructive

Mr. President, excuse me? The TERRIBLE EVENTS? I thought a terrible event was when your appointments haven't paid their taxes, or you get snippy in a press conference. But obviously Obama just had a major wimp out moment. Everybody thought Obama was going to be the Santa Claus of human rights... not me. Business will go on as usual.

The Errorist

This made me laugh so hard, but at the core its very serious:
Click on the link and it will take you to a website where you can upload a picture of yourself sticking out your tongue. I think its one of the most appropriate responses to the absurd treatment of language I've ever come across.

QWX - Show your lingua


Our medium is our message!
errorist wanted

„With a single glance at the underside of my tongue the teacher would control if I had spoken the forbidden language at home. When I was a child I still spoke my native tongue“ H.K., Diyarbakir

To stick out your tongue is more than a universal sign of disobedience.
The Errorist project is centred on the search for failures. Its art project „qwx - show ur lingua“ aims to counter the politics which homogenise the subjectivity of people living within the boundaries of Turkey, people who have a variety of ethnic and cultural identities. By prompting people to upload images of their tongues sticking out „qwx - show ur lingua“ aims to create a space of resistance.

Within Turkish society subjects who resist and who live in opposition to the politics of homogenisation are regarded as traitors and are demonised by the Turkish state and by society at large. This demonization is not only a recourse to a mythical being to shape the political and historical perception of the other but also a symbol embedded into everyday language that invokes the unknown, the threatening, and the unintelligible.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Oh, this will solve everything:


Turkey to issue Kurdish version of Quran

ANKARA, Turkey: An official says Turkey's government will issue an official version of the Quran in the once-banned Kurdish-language.

Speaking and publishing in the language became legal in 1991 when Kurdish versions of the Quran appeared in bookstores.

Mehmet Gormez, the deputy head of Turkey's state-run religious affairs directorate, says the official version would be an improved interpretation of several existing Kurdish translations.

Today, the language is still barred in schools, parliament and other official settings on the grounds that it would divide the country along ethnic lines. Kurds make up about a fifth of Turkey's more than 70 million people.

When Turkish people proclaim that the Kurdish language is legal in Turkey, they forget that its ilegal in school, in any official setting, in any broadcast done by actual Kurdish people (as opposed to the AKP channel TRT6), that there are no translators for non Turkish speakers (for instance, many Kurdish women, forced from their villages by the Turkish government, their husbands either dead or in exile, do not speak Turkish and they encounter great difficulties in hospitals, police stations or any other government office which does not allow the use of their language. The letters QWX are still ilegal, and that people are still being prosecuted for speaking their own language. Below is an excerpt from the Eurasia Daily Monitor:

In January 2009 the state-owned TV channel TRT 6 launched 24-hour broadcasting in the Kurdish language. Erdogan spoke Kurdish in his welcoming message to TRT 6. Even Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentarians appeared in various programs of Kurdish TRT, speaking in Kurdish and singing Kurdish songs. On February 21 Erdogan went to Diyarbakir and revealed his plan to open Turkey's doors to the famous exiled Kurdish singer Sivan Perwer (Aksam, Radikal, Taraf, February 22).

Perwer's story is another example of irony in Turkey's long-lasting Kurdish debate. Perwer was forced to flee from Turkey in 1976 just for singing a Kurdish song. Since 1976 he has lived in Germany. The name of the song that that led to his exile from Turkey was "Mihemedo." A TV producer was sentenced to five years in prison in 1999 just for playing "Mihemedo" on his local TV station (Yuksekova Haber, December 30, 2008). Ironically, "Mihemedo" is a folk song telling the story of a soldier from the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, who joined the Ottoman Army in World Ward I and lost his life for his country. The same song that caused Perwer to flee the country was the opening song of TRT 6.

TRT 6's 24-hour Kurdish broadcasts and Erdogan's few sentences in Kurdish asking Kurdish singers to return to their country received applause from various segments of society. On February 24 Ahmet Turk, the Chairman of the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Society Party (DTP) stated that "The prime minister is speaking Kurdish. In fact, all people should speak freely in their native language. There should be no problem speaking Kurdish under the roof of parliament. Thus, today I will speak Kurdish in our party session in parliament" (Zaman, February 25). When he began speaking Kurdish, the state-owned TRT 3 TV channel, which televises parliamentary sessions live, stopped broadcasting and issued a statement saying, "The Turkish Constitution and the Law on Political Parties only allow speaking Turkish. In the politic
al party meetings, speaking any other language is not permitted. Therefore, we have to stop broadcasting" (TRT, February 24).