Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An open letter to senator Barbara Boxer of California about the escalating violence in Kurdish cities and towns in Turkey

An open letter to senator Barbara Boxer of California about the escalating violence in Kurdish cities and towns in Turkey

Dear Senator Boxer:
We are writing to express our concerns and outrage at the reprehensible violence perpetrated against Kurdish people in Turkey. As you are well aware, the predominantly Kurdish areas of the country have been the scene of ceaseless and senseless violence since July and our government has done nothing to stop the escalating violence that has claimed many lives.
Ever since July when the Turkish government unilaterally ended a two year old cease fire, many Kurdish provinces and cities including Sur, SIlopi, Cizre, and Şırnak, Silvan, Nusaybin have been under curfew; some such as Hakkari and Şırnak, have officially been declared as “special security zones”. The latest report by Human Rights Watch provides a grim picture of civilian deaths, untreated injuries, indiscriminate shootings, ill treatment of detainees and the reign of terror in war torn areas. According to Women’s Initiative for Peace in Northern Kurdistan (a community organization of women activists in Southeast Turkey who advocate for human rights, peace and social justice), 140 civilians, 20 of whom were women and children, have been murdered and thousands have been forced to flee. The city of Sur, with a population of 24000 before the onset of the clashes is almost deserted now. The sieged residents denied of basic necessities such as food, water, electricity, phone service are imprisoned in the their homes and those who venture out on the streets are targeted by the Turkish security forces. According to first hand testimonies reported by HRW, the injured are denied medical help and detainees are “ ill-treated” in violation of European Conventions on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and detainees. Schools have been shut down and student dormitories turned into military headquarters. Even historical sites such as mosques and churches in the city of Sur, known as a “living” museum are not immune from the destruction and bombing of the security forces who are using heavy weaponry.

Any call for peace and freedom is silenced with inflammatory rhetoric, inciting violence, and even murder. The prominent president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, and defender of human rights, Tahir Elci was recently assassinated in broad daylight for speaking up against the belligerent discourse of the Turkish government and calling for peace. It is lamentable that our government has not raised its voice against such flagrant violations of human rights but has provided Turkey with lethal weapons despite its flagrant suppression of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Turkey despite its ostentatious claim to have joined the fight against the Islamic State has been crushing voices of dissent, political opposition, critical media, and the Kurdish struggle for human rights and peace. Furthermore our unconditional support for Turkey in turn has grave consequences for human rights and peace activists as such a policy undermines the global struggle against the Islamic State terrorism.

As a courageous and conscientious woman you have always championed full commitment to American values of freedom. You co-sponsored resolution 65, condemning the murder of Armenian journalist and human rights advocate Hrant Dink. You have indeed helped restore the American image in the world as an apogee of fundamental freedoms. The US support for Turkey with its disturbing record on human rights is damaging our values and credibility in the world. In the wake of alarming and intensifying acts of violence against civilians, we urge you to consider Women’s Initiative for Peace in Bakur (Northern Kurdistan) to press Turkey to immediately end the pervasive violence in the besieged cities. Our government has the responsibility and authority to pressure the Turkish government to resume the peace process before the escalating violence claims more lives from all sides.

Soraya Fallah