Turkish Genocide Against Kurds


Let us be clear. Under President Erdogan and his AKP (Justice and Development party), Turkey is committing crime after crime against its Kurdish citizens, and against the Kurds of Syria. But, to our shame, our (UK) government is silent.

Ever since his party failed to gain the super majority he needed, in the June election, (so he could rewrite the constitution and get himself appointed as life president), the violence against the Kurds of Turkey has escalated to such a degree that it echoes the worst years of the 1980s conflict. Maybe far worse, for now it is an urban war, no longer a rural one. It is the towns and cities that are targeted, and it is human rights lawyers, politicians, journalists, and trade unionists who are being arrested, tortured, and detained.

Erdogan is waging a genocide against the Kurdish people. His links with Daesh/ISIS/ISIL are well evidenced. He has used his NATO membership to get support to attack so-called ‘terrorists’, but for him the terrorists are the Kurds, and not the barbaric Daesh. Some commentators believe that, increasingly Islamic, authoritarian, anti-women, and conservative, Erdogan’s strategy is to get Daesh to do its own dirty work against the Kurds, and ultimately it is President Erdogan who aims to be the next Caliph.

The UK government refuses to condemn Turkey for its human rights violations against unarmed Kurdish civilians. It continues to describe Turkey as its friend, and makes no attempt to get the ‘terror tag’ lifted from the PKK which has, ever since 2013, been calling for cease-fires and the return to the peace process.

Nor will it recognise Rojava, where the Syrian Kurds, victims of both the Assad Regime and Daesh, have declared a selfadministration, embracing pluralism, freedom of belief, gender equality as the foundation blocks of a real democracy for all of Syria. Yet it is the Syrian Kurds, with the support of the PKK who defended Kobane from Daesh, and rescued the Yezidis from Mount Sinjar. Erdogan is determined to crush this unique liberation movement, yet both Syrian and Turkish Kurds have made clear they are not ‘separatist’. They have no wish to ‘change borders’. Their ideology is based on freedom and equality for all people irrespective of ethnicity, religion or gender. This is exactly what Erdogan fears.

In September, the AKP imposed a curfew on Cizire, home to 100,000 Kurds that lasted 12 days. Electricity, water, mobile phone communication were cut off, and 21 people were killed, including women and children. No doctors could enter the town that was surrounded by 5,000 police. In the heat bodies were decomposing, and some mothers kept the bodies of their murdered children in freezers, in an attempt to preserve them. Several women suffered miscarriages. The suffering was terrible, as police snipers shot at anyone who moved outside the front doors.

I was in Cizre and Sur shortly after the curfews were lifted and saw the appalling destruction: homes, shops, whole streets under rubble and spoke with the survivors of the massacres that had taken place. A few weeks later I was again in Diyarbakir as a member of the UK delegation to observe the snap election of November 2nd. This took place in such an atmosphere of fear and tension that it could hardly be called ‘fair and transparent’. There could be no pro Kurdish peace rallies, many Kurdish mayors were dismissed from their posts, huge numbers of Kurds were arrested, and pro Kurdish media outlets were raided and closed down. The AKP had the monopoly of the press, radio and TV. Besides, in the weeks following the atrocity perpetrated in Ankara, in which so many Kurdish peace activists lost their lives, the Kurds were mourning their dead and organising and attending funerals.

We met Muharrem Erbey, the lawyer and former head of the Human Rights Commission, who had only the year before been released, after nearly five years in prison, with all charges of supporting terrorism dropped. He told of us the arrest in October of Tahir Elci, Chair of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, charged under the Turkish Terror Act because he had said, in a TV interview, that the “PKK was not a terrorist organisation”. Horrifically, on Saturday November 28th, Tahir, a greatly respected human rights lawyer and peace promoter, was killed, shot in the head, as he was talking to a press conference in Sur, nearby the beautiful C16th Kursunlu mosque that was blitzed with sniper fire during the September curfew.

Erdogan has scrapped the peace process entirely and is driving to war. Since that AKP victory in November Kurdish towns and cities in the south east have again been put under curfew and military siege. Moreover, Turkish jets daily bomb Kurds in Iraq and its armies shell the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).

The 24th November shooting down of the Russian bomber was planned at the highest level of the Turkish State. Scores of Kurds have been arrested, imprisoned and killed across the country. Curfews continue to be imposed, even yesterday on December 11th.

Will Jeremy Corbyn*, such a great friend of the Kurds, whom I have been with on missions to Turkey in the past, speak up for them in parliament when it reassembles after the New Year?

*Margaret Owen is a barrister and human rights activist

*This article appears in the January/February 2016 edition of ‘CHARTIST’ magazine

*Leader of the UK Labour Party

29th December 2015
by Margaret Owen*, originally published at The Pasewan

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