Thursday, May 11, 2006


In contrast to yesterday's criticism from the cocktail crowd, I'd like to point your attention to a critical article that has, in my opinion, legitimacy. You will find it on KurdistanObserver, brought to you by The Boston Globe.

The article gives the reader a fairly accurate historical background to the Kurdish situation in South Kurdistan, an accurate rendition of what younger Kurds think, and finishes with the accurate assessment that it is not too late for democratic means to be able to correct the problems of the South.

As an example, let's take the recent case of Kemal Seid Qadir. It is my opinion that Kak Masud would have come off as a huge hero if he had pardoned the guy right off the bat, because Qadir wrote some things that were not too appropriate. Kak Masud could have used that, could have allowed a public discussion about what is appropriate criticism of the parties and their various personalities and what is not. Given the general conservatism of Kurdish culture, most Kurds would not have approved of the way in which Qadir worded his criticisms anyway. Then Kak Masud could have let the guy off the hook, looking like the nobody that he was before the whole brouhaha got out of control. Or, if Kak Masud had pardoned at the first inquiry of international human rights organizations, he would have earned a lot of brownie points from them, too.

Masud Barzanî did the right thing in the end, but with a little political sophistication, he would have scored.

A bigger problem may be the PUK, especially with its repressive measures against demonstrations recently, something that comes across as a bit shocking given all of PUK's advertizing that bills it as more "progressive" than the conservative KDP. On the other hand, acts of PUK repression could be inspired by the rumors of a three-way power struggle within the organization. From that perspective, one could argue that the PUK views acts of legitimate demonstration as threats because of its own internal weakness. In my mind this neither justifies nor excuses the violence against demonstrators and journalists that the PUK has resorted to, but it may help to explain what is going on, and this is in addition to whatever power struggles it still feels it has with the KDP.

Criticism is a necessary part of the democratic process but Kurds cannot allow others to use criticism to divide them, especially when the outside criticism is nothing more than obvious, ham-handed propaganda designed to further some outside political interest. The result of this has always been the spilling of more Kurdish blood and I would hope that Kurdish nationalism, or patriotism, if you prefer, would have arrived at the point of recognizing this fact and would be able to denounce it vehemently for what it is. The people who write such screed do not deserve to be handled with kid gloves, either.

On another subject, I'd like to point out the article on the continued detention of two DIHA journalists, Evrim Dengiz and Nesrin Yazar. I first noticed the story on KurdishInfo in mid-February, and they carried a follow-up a few days later.

(By the way, Eren Keskin is mentioned in that follow-up at KurdishInfo, and DozaMe recently posted some info on her.)

Bianet caught up with the story a few weeks later, when a judge made a "confidentiality decision" on their files. What this means is that their lawyers cannot see any of the police reports or other documents that the state claims as evidence against them. How, then, are the lawyers expected to defend their clients? I realize that's probably a stupid question, given that Turkey is a fascist state and not a democracy as everyone claims. Unfortunately, Evrim Dengiz and Nesrin Yazar will not get the same fawning attention of Western intellectuals like Orhan Pamuk did, because they are not rich Turks from Istanbul; they are only reporters for the pro-Kurdish news agency DIHA.

It's interesting that these women were framed weeks before the serhildan, but already we can see that the new anti-terror law is being applied to them, at least in spirit at this moment. A couple of weeks ago the Izmir Bar Association protested the new anti-terror law because the proposed law "Allows the lawyer to be banned from examining the contents of the file against the defendant or taking copies of documents," among other things, and that is exactly what has happened to Dengiz and Yazar. Of course, this is already standard practice within the Turkish legal system, as the Izmir Bar Association spokeswoman noted:

Erkem did add that at current and despite the law, they were not able to get file or document photocopies in cases related to suspects held at the Counter-Terrorism branch offices of the police. She said the police tell lawyers to ask for copies from the prosecutor's office while many lawyers did not do this to prevent unwarranted tension in the case. "Now with the law they are trying to legalize this conduct," she said.

What exactly is the purpose of this practice, or any other practices of the Turkish legal system for that matter? It serves to protect the state from the citizens, and this idea of protecting the state comes directly from the Turkish constitution, a document which was written by pashas, and which permits individual freedoms to be revoked by administrative acts of the state. It should be no surprise, then, that the Turkish Penal Code and any anti-terror laws have been created in order to safeguard the state over individuals or groups of individuals within the state. For more on the problems inherent in the Turkish constitution, check out the Cannibal Democracies article which was first published in the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law.

One last item. . . I came across the account of a couple of travelers through North Kurdistan and I felt that the article was a pretty good one for Westerners who are just bicycling around the Middle East. You can find the article, "Shepherds and Soldiers," here. They even managed to stumble across some Village Guards (the author calls them "soldiers") and had tea with them in one of their little stone guardhouses--a place where I would not be caught dead.

There are lots of pictures there, too. I really liked the photo of the big rain clouds on the road between Riha and Amed because it's such a typical springtime scene. There is one of the walls of Amed, which are as magnificent as ever, plus a couple of the Dicle, on the road to Hasankeyf and at the town itself. Hasankeyf has got to be one of my favorite places. The pair of travelers went all the way to Wan, and they have provided photos from there too.

Ax, Kurdistan, evîna min!


philip said...

:Unfortunately, Evrim Dengiz and Nesrin Yazar will not get the same fawning attention of Western intellectuals like Orhan Pamuk did, because they are not rich Turks from Istanbul; they are only reporters for the pro-Kurdish news agency DIHA.:

Mizgin, this struck me as a rather unfair and unfortunate reference to Mr Pamuk. He has courageously gone out on a limb to defend "other" peoples, shoved it in the pasha's face--he cd like so many Turkish intellectuals just gone along quietly and enjoyed his fame, but he followed his conscience--I say that merits great respect and admiration, not a flippant put-down.

In the old USSR, it was logical (not to say easy) for the Jews and other disfavored minorities to stand up against the totlitarian state, since they had so little to lose. The State expected this of them, and therefore was not really bothered by it. But when honored Russians like Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn (and later, Yeltsin) stood up to condemn the system, it was a MAJOR crack in the monolith.

It is so w/Pamuk, and people like him shd be encouraged and honored, so as to encourage more members of the "Turk ruling class" to abandon their hegemony in favor of genuine co-existence.

Mizgîn said...

Philip, I don't feel that my comment was unfair or unfortunate because my target was not Orhan Pamuk, but the Western literati who protested what happened to him, not because they are concerned with free expression rights (or lack thereof) in Turkey, but because they are only concerned with someone they consider to be one of their own.

Did you hear them get excited over Hrant Dink? Have you heard anything from them lately on continuing abuses of free expression in Turkey? No. Absolutely not.

I mean, shit! These vermin haven't said anything about Kurdish children murdered by TSK, nor of Kurdish children in Amed prison right now.

If you go to Bianet's homepage, you will see all kinds of names that you never heard of before, names of people who are undergoing similar, if not worse, situations than Orhan Pamuk did. The reason their names are unfamiliar is because Western literati do not give a fat rat's ass about them.

As for Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, they didn't simply spill a few beans in one interview. They spoke out many times, over many years. They are more similar to Ismail Besikci than to Orhan Pamuk.

philip said...

I don't see how it strengthens the position, morale or boldness of POTENTIAL Turkish dissidents to characterize Mr. Pamuk as "a rich Turk from Istanbul."

I know the comment was directed at the journalists, but surely Mr Pamuk's notoriety/influence derived from his prominence as an author, COMBINED with the "man-bites-dog" angle of a Turk defending Armenians and Kurds. Not from his wealth nor place-of-residence.

None of this is to imply that I disagree w/your point that the "free" press is shamefully obtuse as to the grievances of Bakuri Kurds, with the honorable exception (of which I am aware) of Christopher Hitchens.