[lg policy] Kurdish in Turkey

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jun 30 10:21:02 EDT 2017

Kurdish Repression in Turkey
Publication Date
June 1982

The Kurds, a group of approximately 18 million people, are the fourth
largest ethnic group in the Middle East. Occupying a region of 500,000
square miles in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the USSR, the Kurds are one
of the most persecuted minorities of our time. Nowhere is their future more
threatened than in Turkey where Kurds are one quarter of the population.
Since World War I, Kurds in Turkey have been the victims of persistent
assaults on their ethnic, cultural, religious identity and economic and
political status by successive Turkish governments.

With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the allies created
the modern Middle-East. And while the Treaty of Sevres provided for an
independent Kurdistan, it was never ratified. In 1923 the treaty of
Lausanne created the modern states of Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, but
Kurdistan was ignored. During Turkey's war for independence, Turkish
leaders, promised Kurds a Turkish-Kurdish federated state in return for
their assistance in the war. After independence was achieved, however, they
ignored the bargain they had made.

Months after the declaration of a Turkish republic, Ankara, under the
pretext of creating an "indivisible nation," adopted an ideology aimed at
eliminating, both physically and culturally, non-Turkish elements within
the Republic. These "elements" were primarily Kurdish and Armenian.

A 1924 mandate forbade Kurdish schools, organizations and publications.
Even the words "Kurd" and "Kurdistan" were outlawed, making any written or
spoken acknowledgement of their existence illegal.

According to Association France-Kurdistan, between 1925 and 1939, 1.5
million Kurds, a third of the population, were deported and massacred.

In 1930 the Turkish Minister of Justice declared, I won't hide my feelings.
The Turk is the only lord, the only master of this country. Those who are
not of pure Turkish origin will have only one right in Turkey: the right to
be servants and slaves.

While Kurdish persecution became more selective during World War II,
largely restricted to Kurdish intellectuals, the overall policy in Turkey
has remained consistent. This stranglehold is reflected in Kurdish
literature. In this century only about a dozen works have been produced in
Kurdish. The authors have usually received prison sentences.

Evidence indicates that Kurdish provinces in Turkey are deliberately and
consistently underdeveloped. From 1968 to 1975, 10.7 billion lira were
invested in East Anatolia and the Southeast, areas densely populated by
Kurds. This represents 2.4 percent of national investment compared to 31.1
percent in Marmara, 20.8 percent in the Agean region and 16.4 percent in
the Mediterranean area. National per capita investment was 266 lira in
1970, but only 148 provinces.

Under Turkey's present military regime, Kurds are hard hit by the policies
of a junta fearful of political opposition. Since 1980 the Eastern and
Southeastern provinces have reportedly been subjected to at least five
military maneuvers aimed at terrorizing Kurds. The New York Times has
reported that in the nine months that followed the military takeover
122,609 people were allegedly taken into custody. Of 40,386 formally
charged, the death penalty was sought for 900. Of 70,000 current political
detainees, more than 20,000 are reportedly Kurdish, and 90 percent of these
are reputed to have been peaceful protestors for Kurdish cultural rights.
To date, arrests in Kurdish provinces have totalled 81,634. Of these, 378
have allegedly been tortured to death, and 374 have been killed in
night-time attacks.

The most frequent legal justification for these arrests are Articles 141
and 142 of the Turkish penal code that "protect the economic institutions
and social foundations of the nation" and prescribe 5-15 years imprisonment
for those "seeking to destroy the political and legal order of the state."

Among the non-Kurds arrested is Ismail Beshikchi, an author and sociologist
who has been repeatedly imprisoned for his criticism of official policy.
Previously arrested for refuting the official claim that Turks had spawned
all the world's great civilizations, Beshikchi is currently in jail for
attacking Turkish "Kemalism," an ideology he described as racist and
colonialist, one intended to subsume autonomous institutions - the media,
syndicates, universities and schools - under its rubric.

Kurdish insignia are outlawed. In Diyarbakir 12 persons were arrested for
selling Kurdish music cassettes. The owners of shops with Kurdish names -
HEVAL (comrade) or WELAT (homeland) - were threatened and ordered to change
the signs within the hour. One tailor who refused to comply was thrown into
prison for two days and his sign was altered.

It is illegal for parents to give children Kurdish names; they must select
Turkish names or face punishment.

In a raid on the village of Doganbey, the gendarmerie, whose garrison
commander was quoted as saying, "We shall exterminate all Kurds," tortured
the imam (holy man) of the village for several hours. The inhabitants were
then forced to speak Turkish. The women, who did not speak Turkish,
however, could not understand the commands. When the village guard
translated them into Kurdish he was beaten. When he tried to explain that
he had to translate because the women spoke no Turkish, the commander
ordered the villagers tortured because they did not speak Turkish.

Such tactics have not been restricted to interaction between Kurds and
Turks. Two members of a French, human rights organization (Medecins Sans
FrontiƩres), Luc Devineau and Marie-Annick Lanternier, were travelling
through Turkey to Iran when they were arrested for possessing a cassette of
Kurdish music. They were also carrying a brochure in French about Kurds.
They were sentenced by military tribunal to 51/2 months in prison. German
tourists have also been arrested for "making Kurdish propaganda." One
tourist was recently tortured and expelled after being held for 10 days
without being able to contact his embassy.

Turkey is not content to persecute Kurds within its borders. In 1980 the
Turkish Embassy in Denmark ordered the Union of Workers from Turkey to
discontinue a Kurdish language course organized by the Copenhagen Evening
School. The course was aimed at incorporating Kurdish in the home language
teaching program in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and West-German schools. The
Embassy Councillor asked, "Are you not Turkish citizens? You must not teach
Kurdish to Kurdish children."

Turkey is in clear violation of the UN declaration of human rights and the
European convention of Human rights. As both a member of the UN and the
Council of Europe, Turkey is supposed to respect the fundamental human
rights of its minorities.

The Council of Europe has condemned Turkey for its "suppression of
political parties and organizations, imprisonment and torture of political
dissidents" and its judiciary processes that "guarantee no protection for
the accused." The Council has demanded that Turkey reinstate democratic
institutions, including the right to free speech and safeguards for
religious minorities and that it release political prisoners and permit a
Red Cross examination of prison conditions.

Turkey's junta justifies its policies as being essential for the
restoration of democracy. The International Commission of Jurists responds,
"It is difficult to understand why in a country where terrorists have
always been a minority compared with the great mass of population...all
public freedoms should have been restricted...the fact that this action has
been taken by an authority that wishes to save democracy constitutes a
contradiction in the official attitude."

Moreover, the constitutional and statutory provisions reportedly being
considered by the national security council do not leave much hope for the
eventuality of a restored democracy. Revisions now being proposed would
increase Executive power in the government, and diminish the independence
of the judiciary. A new "State Security Court," answerable only to the
Executive, would have virtually unchecked power over political cases, would
ban political activities of labor unions and professional associations and
eliminate all political organizations except the two major centrist parties.

Given present attitudes towards political opposition within Turkey,
international opinion may be the only effective lever against the
incorporation of such measures in the new constitution - measures that not
only annihilate opposition but also render the ethnocide of Kurds in Turkey
ever more efficient.

The persecution of Kurds is without contemporary equivalent in Europe, yet
is condoned by the silence of Western powers who continue to furnish Turkey
with military and economic aid. The West may well fulfill the role
hypothetically cast for it by Turan Gunes, former Minister of Foreign
Affairs, at a recent session of the Council of Europe, as he responded to
the issue of Kurdish independence:

Let me tell you, with the tolerance of just a few countries like West
Germany, France and England, we will have no problem liquidating millions
of Kurds.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.


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