Monday, April 14, 2008

Press Release from Women in black for Freedome of Leyla Zana


More prison time is on the horizon for Leyla Zana, who was sentenced
to 2 years imprisonment for having spoken publicly of the leader of
the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. The sentence,
which was handed down April 10, 2008 by the court in the city of
convicted Zana of making "propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization."

This was Turkeys response to the recent decision by the European
Unions second highest court, the Court of First Instance of
Luxemburg, to remove the PKK from the list of terrorist organizations.

And yet another attempt to silence the voice of Leyla Zana, one of the
most prominent individuals working for peace between the Kurdish and
Turkish peoples, who has already served 10 years in Turkish prisons,
from 1994 to 2004.

Leyla Zana has demonstrated to the world to be a woman of
extraordinary courage who has always been firmly convinced of the need
for dialog.

We will continue to support Leyla Zana, "peace prisoner," and her
right to freedom and we call upon the European Parliament, who awarded
Zana the Sakharov Prize for human rights in 1995, to stop the brutal
escalation by the more reactionary political forces in Turkey,
responsible for violence and repressive acts during the recent Newroz
celebrations as well as numerous legal proceedings against Kurdish
mayors and political exponents.

We call on Europe to use the negotiations with Ankara for entry into
the European Union as an opportunity to express strong condemnation
for an unjust sentence against Leyla Zana.

We call on Italy to give full priority to the respect of human rights
over interests of the market by supporting the request for a
moratorium on the sale of Italian weapons to Turkey.

Donne In Nero (Women in Black)

Italy, 12 aprile 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Layla Zana

Layla Zana

1995 Sakharov Freedom Award Acceptance Speech by Leyla Zana
Leyla Zana

From Ankara Prison, January 17, 1996

My Dear Parliamentarian Colleagues,

Before all else, I would like to say it is an honor and a pleasure for me to have been found worthy of the Sakharov Freedom Award by the European Parliament. I am grateful and thankful for the close attention and friendship you have bestowed upon me and my friends throughout the sentencing procedures, which lasted two years.
I would have liked to be with you to share my feelings from this pulpit. However, even if I am unable to be with you in person, I am among you with my mind and with my heart, which together have withstood their ground unyielding. I am with you. I salute you with my love, respect, and friendship.
The late Andrei Sakharov, after whom this award was named, has an unforgettable and meaningful place within the tragic lives of the Kurds, and is still remembered with love and fondness. As you may remember, the "voice of the Kurds" was heard for the first time in 1975 through the oppression and massacres of the Iraqi Kurds at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Even in those times, Mr. Sakharov stretched his hand of friendship to the Kurds by demanding an arms embargo on Iraq and by striving to draw the attention and the interest of international institutions and organizations to the Kurdish issue.
Due to his illness, Mr. Sakharov did not participate in the International Kurdish Conference in Paris. Instead, he sent his wife Elena Bonner. In his prepared message, he demonstrated his friendship to the Kurds once again. Taking the meaning and significance of this day into consideration, with your permission, I would like to quote a portion of his message which still stays with me:
...The tragic struggle of the Kurdish people, which has persisted for a long time, is due to the lack of the right of people for self-determination and, therefore, is a just struggle. We invite every government and international institution that has relations with countries where the Kurds live to pay attention to the policies that the administrators of the overlord countries pursue against the Kurdish people...

It is because of this reason that the great defender of human rights and peace, the true friend of the Kurdish people, the great scientist and being, Mr. Sakharov, has a special place in the heart of the Kurds together with the former President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, who reiterated even in the 1920's that "the Kurds must be free," the Swedish President Mr. Olof Palme, and the late President of France, Mr. Francois Mitterand. We have never forgotten them and we will not forget them.
I would like to point out that, for me, to be honored with an award previously deemed worthy of Mr. Nelson Mandela, Alexander Dubcek, Mrs. Teslime Nesrin, and Aung San Suu Kyi has a special meaning. Along the same lines, with your permission, I would like to extend my greetings and feelings of friendship to Sergei Kovalyev, who was also nominated for this year's award and who was indisputably as qualified as I.
I perceive this award deemed worthy to me in person as a political message confirming the rightfulness of the democratic demands and desires of the Kurdish people and consider it as a gain of their struggle for freedom.
This award not only has garnered the love and sympathy of the Kurdish people but also has bestowed courage to those who defend human rights and democracy, to artists, journalists, intellectuals, scientists, researchers, politicians, and to civilian non-governmental organizations, to pro-peace businessmen, to Kurdish friends, to the long-suffering and oppressed Kurdish women. It has condemned, in the international arena, those who have "condemned" us to prison.
Above all else, I am a mother. And I consider every youth, irrespective of being a Turk or a Kurd, who has lost his/her life during this dirty war that has been waged for the last ten years in my country, as part of my flesh. I hope and wish this award gives courage also to Turkish mothers to bear the loss of their children in this war.
Unfortunately, Turkey, which has been accepted into the Customs Union with Europe, has failed to establish a democratic opening. Instead of undertaking radical, constitutional reforms, it has confined itself to window dressing. But -- I am afraid -- it has failed even in this. Just yesterday, 39 people were put on trial by the State Security Court of Istanbul for violating the infamous article number 8 of the Anti-terror Law, which authorities claimed to have changed (in accordance with the requirements of the Customs Union). However, today, the same court preceded with the trial of the 40 people, business as usual.
The balance of the ten-year war in Turkey is devastating: 30,000 people have lost their lives, more than 3,000 Kurdish villages have been burned, destroyed and wiped off the map. Three million inhabitants of these villages are forced to migrate elsewhere. Tens of journalists, 105 members of the HEP and DEP, including a parliamentarian, and three thousand others have been assassinated by "unknown" assailants. Thousands of hectares of forests have been burned and hundreds of Turkish and Kurdish youths have been maimed. Thousands of children are orphaned and the same amount of women have been widowed.
During 1995 alone, six thousand people were put on trial for committing crimes of thought and expression. One hundred people were assassinated by "unknown" assailants and 200 people were tortured by security forces. Journalists, writers and publishers were punished with a total of 178 years of imprisonment. 1,500 people were prosecuted with the demand of a death sentence. 184 people disappeared while under custody. Very recently, Metin Goktepe, a journalist from the Turkish daily Evrensel, who was apprehended by the police, was tortured to death.
Honorable Colleagues,
From historical records we know that whenever Kurds talk about democratic rights and demands, they are silenced forcefully and violently. At no time have democratic channels been opened for them and every humane and natural demand of the Kurds has been branded as an "uprising" and slated to be squashed. A few years ago, President Suleyman Demirel revealed in one of his speeches the official state policy and the viewpoint of the administrators when he stated, "In recent history, the Kurds have revolted (against the Turkish state) 28 times and all of them were suppressed. This one is the 29th. And we will suppress it too..."
Although, Kurdish people stood behind their Turkish brethren against every threat in each period of history and suffered equal hardships, at no time have they been accorded equal rights and status with the Turkish people. Herein lies the root of the problem. The official ideology of the state denies the (cultural and linguistic) differences and strives to "Turkify" everyone by force. Naturally, those Kurds who have accepted the fact of assimilation will not have a demand for Kurdish identity. Personally, I believe it is necessary and natural that we respect the choice of those who no longer consider themselves Kurds. However, the great majority of Kurds, who, according to official statistics, number between 15 and 20 million, do have a demand for Kurdish identity. As human beings, naturally, Kurds also demand to be trained and educated in their mother tongues. They want to publish and distribute their own newspapers, journals, and books. They want to use their language in radio and television broadcasting. They want to research their culture and history. And, they want to participate in the administrative and political life as Kurds. Taking into consideration the process whereby Europe is reinforcing its union via a single identity, a single passport, a single Parliament, and a single monetary system, and considering the globalization process whereby national borders are eroding, it is obvious that the Kurds cannot and shall not follow policies that would isolate them from the world. Even though Turkey has insisted on solving the Kurdish problem via non-peaceful methods for decades, and has neither taken a single ameliorative step nor given a hope to do so, it has received acceptance from the European Parliament.
When the European Parliament "OK'd" Turkey's entry [into the European Customs Union], it was influenced by the one-way Turkish propaganda and, also, it hoped its acceptance would play a catalytic role in speeding up the process of democratization in Turkey. Even though we share the same hope and ideas, I must emphasize the fact that I am anxious because certain circles [in Turkey], who expect to reap the fruits of acceptance into the Union, will be emboldened to hamper the process of democratization, and will even increase the dosage of violence and tension.
I would like to hope, during this fragile and critical transition period, the European Parliament does not consider only Turkey's geographic and strategic importance and its size as a potential market of 65 million people.
I believe your Honorable Parliament and our friends [in the West] will not sacrifice democracy and human rights for economic interests. And, in the same vein, it will neither be a partner in the anti-democratic practices of Turkey, the new member of its Customs Union, nor will it legitimize them.
Today, a historic opportunity has emerged for peace. A "Unilateral, Unlimited and Unconditional Cease-fire" has been in operation [by the PKK] since December 15, 1995. But, unfortunately, it has not been reciprocated and, as a result, tens of young men have lost their lives in ongoing operations. I say this ceasefire should be taken seriously. The ground for transition from war to reconciliation should be paved and conditions that suit this process should be created. Great duties await our European friends, in this respect, and I hope they will not shun them.
Countries with similar problems (like that of the Kurds) solved them by opening up democratic channels. I believe it is not too late for Turkey also to solve their problem without any border changes and I hope that the problem is solved by peaceful means. Before all else, to make the cease-fire process permanent,
-- "Political freedom," which includes the freedom to organize, should be recognized,
-- The creation of an environment that nurtures the solution of the problem through dialogue and allows the utilization of democratic and political channels must occur,
-- Domestic operations (against the Kurdish guerrillas) should be stopped immediately; cross border raids should not take place,
-- Radical reforms and changes should be undertaken to provide Kurdish identity with constitutional and legal protection.
Honorable Colleagues,
Please do not think I have drawn a pessimistic picture or I have exaggerated what we have lived through or I have reflected events in a distorted form. I have tried to be as objective as possible. Naturally, another task that awaits you, my Parliamentarian colleagues, is not to limit yourselves solely to what the troubled partners tell you, but to come here, to the region, and conduct your own investigations and evaluations.
I must reiterate that this award has a priceless moral value for me and I would be honored to carry out the responsibility it puts on my shoulders in the field of peace, democracy, human rights, and freedom of thought and expression.
The most significant common denominator we share with you is our belief in democracy, human rights, and the idea of establishing a modern, democratic Turkey in its real sense. We need to save the portion of my country that has been turned into a lake of blood and an engulfing fire. We all have to do our share. Both the Kurdish people and the Turkish people have paid a high price and they are still paying it. I count March 2, 1994 and the period following it as the price we paid for democracy and freedom. The toils we went through have been an honor.
In the spirit of friendship and solidarity, I greet all members of the European Parliament with my love and respect.

Fourth international conference on EU, Turkey and the Kurds
European Parliament, Brussels
3-4 December 2007

Layla Zana's and Ahmet Türk's speech at EP (original text)

3 December 2007

Esteemed Friends, dear participants,

ABHaber 03.12.2007 Brussels

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone in the organising bodies for their contributions to this conference. As it is known, internal peace in Turkey is the greatest guarantee for peace in Europe, the Middle East and the world. I would like to reiterate that I find such events, where the Kurdish issue is analysed extensively, and in which all parties’ different components can participate with original views and proposals, valuable.

My last visit to the European Parliament was on the occasion of the Sakharov Prize award ceremony. On that day, I had started my speech in the brother language Turkish and had continued in Kurdish where I wanted to once again underscore the brotherhood of peoples, languages and cultures. Today I want to speak to you in Kurdish only. This time, it is not because I do not want to emphasise brotherhood among peoples, but because I want to draw your attention once more to efforts of resurrecting the fear of mother tongue. In fact, I find it a matter of embarrassment for Turkey that people are still being tried in courts for speaking in their mother tongue. I believe that this emphasis I am making on the Kurdish language at a time when a democratic and civil constitution is under debate will be evaluated by you not as an important detail but as a primary request.

During the intervening time period many conferences were held both within the European Parliament and also in Turkey on the issues of EU, Turkey and the Kurds. As these meetings on the themes of peace and solutions were held, various and original initiatives by the intellectuals were undertaken, signature campaigns were launched and press declarations were made, all these turned into a common agenda of all those whose hearts were beating for an honourable, just and lasting peace with the aim of putting an end to deaths. However, sufficient honesty and sincerity could not be demonstrated for ending deaths.

The lock is there, the key is known but the door just won’t open. It is high time the door is opened. The important thing is to place the key in the lock properly. Everything hinges on an issue which I reminded you of just recently with insistence and emphasis but something that I have frankly got tired of reminding everyone...The key issue has to do with how the issue is defined, the approach and outlook to the issue. The issue does not stem from any problem of public order, security, hunger or socio-economic backwardness. Everything you try to strip of its identity is doomed to become more painful and complex as examples demonstrate in other countries. Unless we are able to debate the very name of the issue correctly, the multifaceted crisis of identity and social crisis will drown us all in an ocean of stalemates. If the Kurdish issue were solely an issue of poverty and security, wouldn’t the methods that have been tried for over half a century been not only decisive but would also have lead to results? Haven’t all methods including beatings, detentions, torture, executions, forced migrations, sending to forced exile, extra judicial killings, village evacuations, village guards, release based on confessions, pardon based on apology been tried? These are indeed only those methods that are known and explained in a loud and clear manner by the highest authorities. What about methods that not known or disclosed? I believe my memory which is writhing and reeling in pain will not allow me to remember and recount all of the ones that have been tried.

Despite all these denials, this treatment with contempt, debasement and even being expelled from their land, Kurds did not get cross. They were heartbroken but believed it was a virtue not to complain about it. They were beaten but instead of taking revenge by beating back they insisted on a country where all existing differences would survive. They did not hold one blood more supreme than the other, one language superior to the other, one colour better than the other. They were not on the side of those who thrived on conflict and bloodshed between peoples. On the contrary, when the ringleaders were yelling and shouting to arouse, they maintained their modesty by remaining silent. They yearned and are still yearning for a policy of sensitivity and stability where common values are symbolised in an honourable, just and lasting solution. Destruction, denial must not be the only way.

Then, it is not possible to change the issue by taking its causes and effects separately and independently from each other. Instead of dividing, pulling into pieces or scattering it, we should set off primarily by defining it correctly. We should reach an agreement that we cannot solve the problem through clichés, a policy of condemnation and damnation, by closing political parties, by increasing the number of investigations and arrests, by preventing civil politics, by raising the bar even higher on bans and prohibitions and more importantly, by regarding deaths of people as mere statistical data. Otherwise our losses will not decrease but will unfortunately increase. In fact, even the developments experienced in the specific context of Kurds in Turkey and legal politics are enough to demonstrate this.

Along this direction, the number of our duties and responsibilities are on the increase. In addition to Kurds, the responsibility of the European Union and the Turkish Government cannot be underestimated. But the unison of discourse between the EU and the Turkish government spokespersons aggravate the issue rather than alleviating it. On the contrary, what is expected is to remind Turkey of its responsibilities concerning the Kurdish issue and ensuring that this should not remain at the level of a reminder alone. Undoubtedly, the solution to the Kurdish issue should be specific to Turkey. But during the process of finding a solution not everything should be expected of Turkey and the existing inner dynamics in Turkey. The aim should not be putting pressure but creating synergies by offering a contribution. Contribution to Turkey could not be through the unison created in discourse. It should be known that an “EU Member Turkey”, which will have solved the Kurdish issue in a manner that is in congruence with contemporary civilisations and the new world order will not only remain as a rising star but it will also be transformed into a facilitating force in the realisation of world peace.

What are these responsibilities then? Despite all these adverse developments, I believe the historic opportunity that was seized in 1999 for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue is still there. The world should stop avoiding the recognition of political, social and cultural democratic rights of Kurds whose population is over 40 million. Instead of a definition of citizenship which defines everyone as Turkish, the existing phobia against placing under legal protection all natural rights emanating from peoples’ original characteristics. Instead of focusing on denigrating concepts such as “pardon based on apology”, amnesty, pardon or the like, we should be speaking about quality and comprehensive projects with content. Enabling political detainees, intellectuals, writers and politicians who have been relegated to forced or voluntary exile to participate in the political life should be regarded as a step to facilitate a solution. Radical reforms in Turkey’s political and administrative structure will accelerate and strengthen the process of democratisation. For ways to be developed in finding solutions to problems, enhancement of local administrations will ease the process.

Values that Kurds as a people do not hesitate to emphasise out loud or even regard as untouchable even if the price they have to pay is heavy should never be ignored. This is because the primary duty of politicians and those who give direction to politics is not merely to listen to the values and requests of the people. Being able to be the tongue and voice of the people requires that the untouchable values of the people are expressed clearly and honestly. In this process which is evolving towards a solution, the Kurdish people find the role of Mr Öcalan extremely important and effective within the framework of social peace and the togetherness of peoples. In fact, this is not expressed by Kurds alone. Prominent writers in Turkey draw attention to the fact that “the first radical step in seeking a solution would be a comprehensive agreement with Öcalan”.

It is time we started talking about our problems by doing away with our taboos. Regarding that the sensitivities of people are noteworthy makes a lasting peace possible. What is expected of the world is to respect this will and exclude it from bargaining issues in international relationships. Unless the issue is approached from a human perspective and from a perspective of conscience, it will continue to be a potential risk threatening regional and world peace. It is for this reason that the policy of “good Kurds-bad Kurds” that has been tried for some time has gone bankrupt. What befits a modern country is to hand over a tradition of tolerance that will strengthen diplomatic, cultural, economic and social relations to the future rather than escalating tensions across borders and countries.

Dear friends,

The ties of citizenship are not only established through laws. Those who are considered as ‘so called’ citizens, but who are in fact real citizens in essence, despite the fact that they are tied to their through their hearts, may really become ‘so called’ citizens tomorrow. In a world where borders have lost their meaning, real division and separation is that which happens in the hearts and minds. Bringing the heart and mind together necessitates patience, fortitude, stamina, experience and maturity. I believe we have gone over the threshold of endurance. Just as we cannot build tomorrow by nurturing the pains of yesterday, it is not possible to find a solution by multiplying the pains of today either.

Just as Emin Maalouf has said, “My identity is what makes me unique and unlike any other. Killing a person’s identity is a murder that is graver than killing him.” Every identity that is killed is in fact a loss for humanity. We should therefore capture the pluralism that will nurture those differences. It should be known that every identity that is murdered is our own murder regardless of what our language, religion or identity might be.

Believing that you will approach the problem with sensitivity I extend my love to you...

Leyla Zana