Thursday, March 23, 2006


"De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace." ~ Georges Jacques Danton.

In the news today, it looks like Roj Beer is going to go on sale in Turkey. There had been joint cooperation between Başurî and Bakurî Kurds to establish a brewery in South Kurdistan in order to ship and sell the product in Turkey, but the Turkish state refused to issue an import license for the South Kurdistan venture.

Now it looks like an Istanbul-based company will be importing Roj Beer into Turkey from Vienna, thanks to the EU/Turkey customs union. From TDN:

After months of discussion and seeing that the Turkish state would never let them sell their beer in Turkey, the owners of Roj Beer established a company in Vienna under the name Roj Com. Croup Getrankehandel GmbH and tried to sidestep the import ban by utilizing Turkey's customs union with the European Union.

Still, Ankara resisted the pressure and refused to issue an import license for the Kurdish beer even after it acquired a European customs union shield by setting up its headquarters in Vienna.

Now, Istanbul-based Pilot İç ve Dış Ticaret Ltd. Şirketi -- which is registered at the Bakırköy Tax Office -- has become the agent for the Kurdish beer in Turkey and has finally received an import license from Agriculture and Forestry Ministry Istanbul Provincial Director Ahmet Kaygusuz. The company reportedly is now trying to obtain authorization from the Tobacco and Alcohol Board in preparation for the entry of its Roj lager beer into the Turkish market.

It also appears that the attempt to keep Roj Beer out of Turkey had less to do with import laws than with the company's name and logo:

On the surface it might appear that Agriculture Ministry regulations on the importation of foodstuffs and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages do not allow for the sale of the northern Iraqi beer in Turkey. However, it also appears that the brand name of the beer, Roj (meaning "sun" in Kurdish), played a more important role than the regulations in denying an import license for the Kurdish beer. One might ask what's in a name? Particularly in view of the fact that the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) television station operating from Denmark bears the same name and the yellow Roj is a symbol used by the terrorist gang on its flag, it becomes clear how irritated the conservative establishment in Turkey might have been when they found before them a petition from Roj Beer requesting an import license.

A roj symbol is found on a lot of Kurdish stuff, including a lot of Kurdish flags. I wonder if by the phrase, "the yellow Roj is a symbol used by the terrorist gang on its flag," the author is referring to the flag the KDP flies throughout Dohuk and Hewlêr governorates? Since I have heard Turks refer to all Kurds as "terrorists," and have had these remarks directed to me personally, I wonder if this reference is to the Kurdistan flag? Someone needs to inform TDN and "the conservative establishment in Turkey" that MIT has been down to visit "terrorist" Serok Barzanî and "terrorist" Mam Celal. Both of these "terrorist" leaders have been to Turkey often.

Of course, these are the same people who welcome HAMAS in Ankara. Consistency is not their strong point. These are also the same people who generously allow 45 minutes of Kurdish-language TV broadcasting per day.

And the last time I checked, the big, bad PKK had a large star superimposed over the roj.

I wonder if there is some kind of lack of self-confidence at work here. After all, the sun gives off much more light and warmth than the crescent moon.

I do like the idea of the Roj Beer label sporting a picture of the magnificent walls of Amed.

In other commentary, Mehmet Ali Birand seems to be in amazement that Newroz festivities went off without the usual TSK-inflicted bloodshed. There are problems with some of Mehmet's thinking, though. Kurds in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan have been politicized for some time and it has not been PKK that has been provocative in past Newroz celebrations, unless one considers that all Kurds are PKK. . . ah, yes, there goes that well-worn "terrorist" label again.

Mehmet puts his finger on something significant, which is one of the reasons why I am always interested in reading what he has to say:

I believe the PKK and DTP leaders that pilot the Kurdish problem have shown their intention of using civil disobedience rather than terrorism in their future actions.

Oh, wrap your brain around that one! What did civil disobedience do for the civil rights movement in the US? This is the heart of the brazeness, the audacity, of this year's Newroz celebrations. This is, in fact, a coup.

Why? Check out what Mehmet says next:

If the PKK chooses to use civil disobedience rather than terrorist actions, what will the Turkish state do? How will it respond? Will it be able to change its attitude?

These are hard questions that are dominating Ankara's mind.

Anti-terrorist actions, despite being dangerous and causing serious casualties, are actually easier to execute. The side with the greater firepower and manpower wins. Efforts made against an organization that commits terrorist acts are boosted by domestic and international support.

Countering civil disobedience is much harder. One cannot open fire on thousands of unarmed demonstrators; neither can they all be jailed.

When confronted with such action, what's needed is to produce long-term policies, break the taboos if necessary, seek accommodations and introduce measures based on a broad vision.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the Republic of Turkey.

You got that right, arkadaş.

Similarly, from a TDN article on the insufficiency of RTUK regulations for Kurdish-language broadcasting, we have these comments from the head of the Amed Bar Association and Amed's mayor:

The start of the limited broadcasts is seen as a first step to more comprehensive reforms on the Kurdish issue.

"If I were Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, I would allow free, unlimited broadcasting in Kurdish, except for politically sensitive material," said lawyer Sezgin Tanrıkulu, head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association.

But rising Turkish nationalism along with looming elections scheduled in 2007 makes it harder for Erdogan to act, he said.

Tanrıkulu said this situation only benefits the PKK, which exploits the people's sense of frustration.

Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir agrees. "Tensions are rising. The government does not have a sound, well-based plan for resolving the Kurdish problem," he told Reuters.

Baydemir's Democratic Society Party (DTP) wants a general amnesty for the PKK, more cultural rights and autonomy for the Kurds and a lowering of the 10 percent threshold required to win seats in the Turkish Parliament. This rule effectively bars the DTP, which has strong support in the Southeast but has yet to win more than 10 percent of the vote nationally.

"If we achieve these things, I do not think the Kurds will want independence from Turkey," Baydemir said.

He noted that Istanbul and Izmir in western Turkey were now the largest Kurdish cities in the country due to internal migration from the impoverished southeastern region.

"This is why Turks and Kurds have to learn to live together ... but our task is very difficult," he said.

Over at The New Anatolian, they're opining that Osman Baydemir is the rising star, or roj, or star superimposed on roj--whatever--in Kurdish politics. Osman, as some may remember, is also one of the incorrigible "bad boys" of Kurdish politics. He insists on speaking Kurdish, he sends Newroz invitations to Kurdish leaders outside of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, he shows up at the reopening of the Umut Bookstore in Şemdinli, he visits the US, he urges support for Roj TV, he faced down state-sponsored thugs as the Amed head of the IHD, and he's extremely popular with the people.

Yep, there's something to be said for bad boys.


philip said...


"Countering civil disobedience is much harder. One cannot open fire on thousands of unarmed demonstrators; neither can they all be jailed.

When confronted with such action, what's needed is to produce long-term policies, break the taboos if necessary, seek accommodations and introduce measures based on a broad vision.

Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the Republic of Turkey."

[let's all whisper it...they sense it, but they don't really understand it...they're going to keep lunging at shadows like Wile E. Coyote...OK, all together, whisper: SOLIDARNOSC. ;- ) ]

Mizgîn said...

Yes, Philip, it has been heading in that direction for a little while now. I hope that it keeps going, for the very reasons that Mehmet Ali Birand points out.

What was the effect of the civil rights movement on the American public, who watched the events unfold on the evening news?

philip said...

The great bulk of the American public was appalled by the snarling dogs, batons, firehoses, and other violent suppression of the peaceful protests. The political class quickly united against the repressors, whose Southern "Yellow-Dog Democrat" base was suddenly marginalized into oblivion.

Ultimately, it is very difficult, untenable, really, to defend even relatively restrained, non-deadly violence used against peaceful demonstrators and protestors. As you see, the Palestinians have never learned this lesson.

Vladimir said...

Pretty good news sources about Kurds are sometimes Turkish. I nowhere can find something about this Roj beer on Kurdish websites.

Mizgîn said...

Exactly what I meant about the reaction to the violence against civil disobedience. Exactly what Mehmet Ali Birand meant too. The problem will be getting journalists in and maintaining the flow of information to the outside.

Vladimir, I have not seen this news about the beer anywhere else.