Posts Tagged ‘Kurdish cause’

Eren Keskin, human rights defender from Turkey. receives 2018 Anna Lindh Prize

May 26, 2018

Eren Keskin

The Swedish-based Anna Lindh Memorial Fund has named pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer from Turkey Eren Keskin as the recipient of the 2018 Anna Lindh Prize. “She has worked tirelessly to help … girls and women as well as LGTBQ people and [displaced] Syrians in Turkey,” said Lena Hjelm-Wallén, chairman of the memorial fund’s board. “Even when her work led to imprisonment, she still stood up for human rights without regard to political or religious background. Keskin’s brave voice is needed today more than ever and is a work entirely in Anna Lindh’s spirit.

The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 19.

The prize is awarded in memory of slain Swedish politician Anna Lindh since 2004 and aims “to encourage primarily women and youth who, in Anna Lindh’s spirit, show the courage to work against indifference, prejudice, oppression and injustice in order to stimulate a society where human rights are respected.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/10/27/the-anna-lindh-lecture-2014-focused-on-human-rights-defenders/

Human Rights defender Fakhteh Zamani comments on Iranian developments

January 3, 2018

For the past ten years, Fakhteh Zamani has resided in Norway, given that her return to Iran at the moment is fraught with risks. Zamani is in daily touch with her friends living in Iran’s Kurdish provinces and human rights defenders in the Mashhad. Hetq interviewed Zamani via the internet and published the following on 3 January 2018 (under the title : Iranian Human Rights Activist – People in Iran Want Change, not Reforms):

It’s difficult to receive credible information regarding events now taking place in Iran. .. How do you receive information from Iran? ..

Yes, social networks are being filtered. My human rights defender acquaintances in Mashhad and elsewhere are able to break through the barriers and get information out. The Iranian government has tried to monitor the populace for the past forty years. The populace has long since found ways to transfer information. This is how we get our information, by using our contacts on the ground.

While the international media is reporting that the poor socio-economic situation and inflation have fueled the protests, President Hassan Rouhani has accused Saudi Arabia of inciting the situation….

You know that all dictators are accustomed to blaming outside governments for their failures. While it’s true that Iran and Saudi Arabia have always had tense relations, those who are protesting are demanding their fundamental rights. …There is no justification for blaming outside governments. People are hungry. Many go without being paid for weeks and months. Food prices are increasing, and wages are decreasing. People are disgruntled. Yesterday, I was talking to a wealthy businessman in Iran. He said that even though he makes money, he still can’t afford certain things. So, just imagine the plight of those working for others.

Given the sporadic information reaching the outside, is it correct to assume that the protests lack leadership? ….

Yes, there are no leaders. People are organizing themselves. Organizing demonstrations in Iran isn’t easy. The government spends millions to form groups designed to crush any opposition. Those taking to the streets, in revolt, have violated the law and face serious retribution. The protesters have spontaneously taken to the streets.

What are your predictions on the protests? What will follow?

Honestly, I can’t make specific predictions as to what will come next. But I already see the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the government has introduced some reforms in the past twenty years, people have realized that these reforms haven’t benefitted them. In contrast to the 2009 protests, the current protesters are demanding that the regime steps down, to be replaced by democratic rule. People are also tired that their taxes are being spent on proxy wars in the Middle East. People in Iran want real change, not reforms. This is evident from the slogans they use.

You have left Iran due to your political views and activities. Would you return is serious changes take place?

I would return to expand my actions in the name of democracy and a better life. Furthermore, I would have to be certain that the rights of national minorities are placed on the back burner.

Two of three Turkish human rights defenders released awaiting trial

July 3, 2016

A Turkish court on Thursday 30 June 2016 released a prominent press freedom advocate and leading human rights defender, two of three activists put under pre-trial arrest on June 20 for participating in a solidarity campaign with a pro-Kurdish daily newspaper. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/turkey-outcry-over-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-is-even-russia-too-much/]

Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Erol Onderoglu, Turkey’s representative to Reporters Without Borders, are to remain free pending trial on charges of “propaganda for terror organization PKK,” or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The first hearing is scheduled for November 8. A different court is handling the case against writer and journalist Ahmet Nesin and there has been no decision yet on the possibility of his release pending trial, according to Anadolu.

The three had participated in a solidarity campaign taking turns as co-editors in support of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish publication subject to multiple investigations and lawsuits.

Source: Human rights and media activist released in Turkey – Watertown Public Opinion: Europe

Turkish human rights defender Ragip Zarakolu receives PL Foundation Peace Prize

December 17, 2015

 On December 10 Turkish publisher, human rights defender Ragip Zarakolu was awarded PL (Paul Lauritzen) Foundation Peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts in the areas of freedom of thought and expression. Zarakolu is an author of a number of works on Armenian Genocide. The prize amounting to 100.000 Danish krone is awarded to organizations and people who struggle for democracy without resorting to violence within the scope of United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. [Ragıp Zarakolu was born in 1948 on Heybeliada, in İstanbul. He started publishing with his wife, Ayşe Nur Zarakolu in 1977. He never abandoned his struggle for “popularizing respect for different ideas and cultures in Turkey” despite pressures, his books being seized or destroyed, heavy fines and being sent to prison. Zarakolu serving as the President of Publishers’ Union of Turkey Committee of Free Publishing has worked on Kurdish question and condition of minorities in Turkey. Zarakolu lastly was arrested together with his son Deniz Zarakolu within the scope of Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) case in 2011. He remained in prison until April 2012. (EA/TK)]

President of the PL Foundation Paul Sogaard noted in his opening remarks that Ragip Zarakolu was chosen as a recipient of the prize for his long struggle for the freedom of thought and human rights, as well as for his efforts targeted at raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide committed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago. Zarakolu said, in turn, he dedicates the award to the memory of Hrant Dink, the slain editor-in-chief of the Turkish Armenian Agos weekly, and Armenian linguist and architect Sevan Nisanyan, who’s currently serving a term in Turkey. He urged to do the utmost to speak out against and condemn the radical intolerance in Turkey and contribute to the release of detained intellectuals.

 

Sources:

http://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/169901-ragip-zarakolu-receives-pl-foundation-peace-prize

Ragip Zarakolu receives PL Foundation Peace Prize, criticizes radical intolerance in Turkey | Public Radio of Armenia

Evîn Bagdu, international human rights expert, discusses Kurdish genocide claims

May 13, 2015

Rudaw is a Kurdish media network funded and supported by Rudaw Company. The network aims to impart news and information about Kurdistan and the Middle East in a professional manner.  Evîn Bagdu is  being interviewed about the issue of genocide and how the Kurdish case fits into this. A long but interesting read:

Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights  law expert.
Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights law expert.

“Rudaw: Why did the Halabja and Garmiyan mass murders not get the attention from the international community as much as the recently discovered Yezidi mass graves did?

Bagdu: In the history of the human rights movement, the issue of not getting enough attention for the suffering of victims of gross violations has always been a challenge, regardless of the character of the groups or scale of the suffering.  For instance, in Sierra Leone, the news items on the widely practiced mutilation of limbs by the child soldiers couldn’t make it to the big news agencies as it “was too difficult to watch.”

On the other hand, in many cases—historically speaking—while these gross violations and atrocities took place, the victims sometimes have been isolated from the rest of the world as the matter was considered an “internal issue.” So, the doctrine of state sovereignty is frequently used as a shield in such cases.  Examples include the Armenian case in 1915, Jewish case in 1940s, Kurdish case in the Saddam Era—all have this factor in common.

This was the case when the world was unaware of what was happening in these cases. Once a case does become known, the next challenge is how to get a reaction to stop the atrocities.  And, this is the part that is immensely frustrating not only to the human rights defenders alone, but to every human being with a clear conscience. The arguments often put forward are typically:

-The reaction would aggravate the situation and cause more severe suffering for the victims;

-It would be futile;

-It is not the right time for a reaction to the event in question;

-It is not in the national interest of state actors, or against the security of their people.

In fact, prior to the Nuremberg Trials, such systematic and purposeful killings did not even have the name “genocide,” let alone codification of it, as an international crime.

At this point, I believe it is necessary to see the difference between a couple concepts which are important to consider when discussing widespread human rights abuses.  Do the issues pose a moral, political or legal challenge?  As the nature of the issue is gravely inhumane, the first instinct is to approach the issue from the moral stand point.  This usually leads to a disappointment mentioned earlier.

In comparison of the Anfal campaign of 1986-89 to the recent atrocities of 2015 against the Yezidi population, we may also consider the political dimension.  There are undeniable political aspects at stake. But, when we think of other similar incidents of such massacres, the political environment surrounding the situations always differs.

In the Saddam era, there was an Iran/Iraq War, Saddam was a head of state enjoying certain immunities, and holding immense power to control any communication with the outside world.  Today, however, Iraq has a lot more international presence in the country, and media coverage is much more widespread. Therefore, flow of information regarding the facts of the case is easier.

In the Yezidi case, there is an international conflict carried out by a non-state actor against more than one state and the citizens thereof.  It is a conflict that many of the nations of the world see as a global threat to their common peace and security. So, the attention of the international community is more intense in the Yezidi case.  But this was the case in Srebrenica as well.

This brings us to the last concept; the legality.  There is a historic lesson for the Kurds too that needs to be taken from each one of the past gross human rights violations against civilian populations. Other nations have used international legal mechanisms to address the harm done in the past.  It of course is important to get political recognition by states, and in the Anfal case Iraq itself recognized the case as genocide.

But genocide is a crime under international law and such recognition must come from the international courts.  It needs to be investigated, evidence that could clearly substantiate the facts needs to be obtained and then utilized by the court.   But if not proven through the standard, fair, legal processes, by impartial courts, all these events will continue to be referred to as alleged “atrocities,” “campaigns,” and “gross human rights and humanitarian law violations.”  If not thoroughly dealt with, the perpetrators will go free and there will always be a lesson for them that they could get away with it.  The phrase “never again” will turn into “always possible.” This is important, because it relates to the rule of law commitments, it sheds unbiased light on history and more importantly it brings justice therefore some closure to the survivors of such horrible events.
   
Rudaw: Could these mass graves serve as something Kurds could use to get attention to their identity and issues revolving around recognition of their identity?

Bagdu: I will hold my criticism of the usage of terms such as “mass graves” or “martyrs” to refer to certain topics in Iraq for another time (I am saying in Iraq because such usage is not specific to the Kurds only).  What you are asking me is I believe, if Kurds could change the game in their favor by bringing these issues to international attention.  My answer is, absolutely yes! 

The reason there is such an emphasis on proving the genocide is that it is an internationally recognized form of a crime that could only be committed against a group because of the group’s identity.  It does provide a picture to the background of these identity issues, for example: 
 
-how difficult it is to have such identity under regimes which violate their citizens’ human rights (and especially minorities’ rights);

-how to properly observe rights based on group identity;

-to what degree safeguards are provided and needed for the protection and continuity of these identities, and so on and so forth.
 
The current conflict itself is telling so much about this.  While the whole world “absolutely again” is watching or passing resolutions, or in better cases “providing support” while this armed group was making advances into what is called “Iraqi cities,” in the north, it was the Peshmerga and the Kurdish fighters that were defending the civilians and the land. Other armed forces in Iraq simply fled, leaving even their arms behind.

When studying the subject of “indigenous populations’ rights,” the idea of attachment to the land was one element that captured my attention that differed from the ties citizens of modern states hold to the land they live on. To me, these things we have seen in the most recent conflict have demonstrated this phenomenon very well.

Rudaw: Jewish people were also the victims of the genocide by the Nazis and this helped them to get support from the world to help realize their cause.  Why couldn’t the Kurds turn these mass murders into an element to help their suffering get recognition?

Bagdu: To be fair to the Kurds, once there was an opportunity to act, they have done almost everything in their capacity to address their issues.  For instance, regarding Anfal and Halabja after the fall of Saddam, and the emergence of post-Saddam Iraq, Kurds have invested in every aspect of addressing the mass killings and the missing person issue throughout Iraq as a whole. At the time of the Coalition Provisional Authority, they assisted with reconnaissance and exhumation of mass graves and the identification of remains. 

There was a law necessary to address the issue, and they drafted a simpler version of the missing persons law (The Law on Protection of Mass Graves).  A ministry needed to serve as a leading institution, and they held two important ministry seats (namely, the human rights ministry and the foreign ministry) in the national parliament.  They worked with the leading international organization on missing persons issues to duplicate successful practices around the world, (a work still in progress as we speak).

But since you are making a comparison between the Kurdish efforts and the Jewish efforts in addressing the mass murders against their populations, allow me to highlight a couple differences. 

The Jewish Diaspora consisted of very well educated, very committed individuals who did everything in their personal capacity to inform the world of what happened to their people.  In fact, it was because of work done by a Jewish lawyer that genocide took a codified form in statutes.  Even the word genocide was pioneered by Raphael Lemkin. Also, after the atrocities ceased, many of the survivors personally got involved in the hunt for concentration camp guards, military commanders and decision makers in the Nazi army in order for them to be tried before national and international tribunals.

Kurds also have a diaspora scattered around the world.  So, in this sense I believe while the Kurds on the ground are fighting to stop the atrocities, the Kurdish diaspora must assume responsibility to inform the world of the wrong done to their people, as well as documenting and investigating the cases as much as possible.  In the Kurdish case it is worth noting that such efforts have been undermined in the past by states that oppressed their Kurdish populations, and neighboring countries where Kurds live in large numbers. This might remain the case for future attempts as well.”

Rudaw interview with Evîn Bagdu, an international human rights.

Turkey: after 16 years finally Justice for human rights defender Pınar Selek

December 20, 2014

Yesterday, 19 December 2014, the Istanbul High Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Pınar Selek, an academic known for her commitment towards the rights of the most vulnerable communities in Turkey. She was prosecuted for allegedly causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9, 1998, and for membership in a terrorist organisation.

Previously, the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 12 had acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court quashed the first two acquittal decisions and requested the lower court to convict her. In, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 deferred to the Supreme Court’s request and sentenced Ms. Pınar Selek to life imprisonment, while the case was still pending before the Supreme Court. On June 11, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court decided to overturn the conviction on procedural grounds[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/pinar-selek-case-in-turkey-the-supreme-court-overturns-life-sentence-against-pinar-selek/]

Countless procedural irregularities have been observed during the trial. She should have never been prosecuted in the first place. This decision should now become final, recalled Martin Pradel, Lawyer at the Paris Bar, who has been observing the legal process for the Observatory since 2011.

The Observatory (a coöperation between FIDH and OMCT) has been particularly mobilised on this case, through the publication of nine urgent alerts, six trial observations and demarches towards the Turkish authorities and the international community at the highest level. For more information see Observatory mission report published in April 2014, available in English on the following web links: http://www.omct.org/files/2014/04/22642/turkey_mission_report_pinar_selek_2014.pdf

Turkey: Justice at last! Pınar Selek acquitted after 16 years of judicial harassment / December 19, 2014 / Statements / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins Anna Politkovskaya Award

October 11, 2014

More on awards: The winner of the 2014 Raw in War Anna Politkovskaya award is Kurdish Yazidi member of Iraq parliament Vian Dakhil .On Monday 6 October, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) selected Vian Dakhil who has courageously spoken out and campaigned to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State. She is the only ethnic Yazidi in the Iraqi Parliament and, despite being injured in a helicopter crash while delivering aid to survivors on Mt Sinjar, she continues to advocate and to mobilize support for her people, for the refugees and for those trapped in towns and villages under the regime of Islamic State. “I make no secret of the fact that I’m proud to be honored with your esteemed award, but the real way to honor someone is by protecting their freedom and rights. It is by bringing our prisoners back,’ said Dakhil in her speech while receiving the award.

Previous women human rights defenders who received this award: Malala Yousafzai 2013, Marie Colvin 2012, Razan Zaitouneh 2011, Dr. Halima Bashir 2010, Leila Alikarami on behalf of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality in Iran 2009, Malalai Joya 2008 and Natalia Estemirova 2007. See also: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards

via Kurdish Yazidi Woman Wins International Award | BAS NEWS.

Pinar Selek case in Turkey: the Supreme Court overturns life sentence against Pınar Selek

July 9, 2014

With a bit of delay, here is the good news that the Turkish Supreme Court – on 11 June – overturned the life sentence issued which was issued against sociologist Pınar Selek on January 24, 2014. The case will have to be re-tried before a lower court for the fifth time. On June 11, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court decided to overturn the decision of a lower court to sentence to life imprisonment Ms. Pınar Selek, an academic known for her commitment towards the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey. The court argued that Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 had violated procedural rules, by revoking its own decision of acquittal while the case had already been transferred for review to a higher court.  Read the rest of this entry »

Like a Greek Tragedy: the story of the World’s Oldest Refugee – from Syria

February 14, 2014

This post is not about human rights defenders and not really about the treatment of refugees in Greece. It is simply such a story – published by Behzad Yaghmaian in the Globalist of 11 February 2014 –  that I could not resist sharing it. The original title is: “Syria’s Civil War and the World’s Oldest Refugee; A reflection on our collective failures as human societies“. Once you have read this, you will agree that Greece, Germany and the UNHCR should quickly find a solution on humanitarian grounds:


(Sabria Khalaf, 107-year old refugee of the Syrian civil war (c) Behzad Yaghmaian)

In her own words with English subtitles:

Read the rest of this entry »

UN Working Group concludes that detention of human rights defenders in Iran is arbitrary

February 6, 2014

In an opinion adopted on 20 November 2013, the United Nations UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [WGAD] requested the release of Iranian human rights defenders Khosro Kordpour and Massoud Kordpour from arbitrary detention. The WGAD carried out its investigation pursuant to an appeal by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and informed the Observatory (an FIDH-OMCT joint program me) of its decision on 4 February, 2014.logo FIDH_seulOMCT-LOGO Read the rest of this entry »