"Turkey's democracy is an important example for the people in the broader Middle East, and I want to thank you for your leadership."
~ George W. Bush to R. Tayyip Erdogan, June, 2005.
~ George W. Bush to R. Tayyip Erdogan, June, 2005.
Mayors from Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast region walk towards the courthouse to attend their trial in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir September 26, 2006. REUTERS.
56 Kurdish mayors of the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (DTP) went on trial today in Amed, Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, for writing a letter to Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in order to urge Denmark's continued support for the right of free expression and for the continued broadcasting of Roj TV from Denmark.
Let's review. Here's the letter and the names of all the mayors who signed it:
His Excellency Anders Fogh Rasmussen
DiyarbakIr, December 27, 2005
Dear Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen:
This letter is to express our concerns about the ongoing debates and developments around the situation of ROJ TV. As the members of Democratic Society Party (DTP) who are mayors of 56 municipalities located predominantly in the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey, we are worried about the anti-democratic approaches through which the case of ROJ TV is being handled by Turkish government in the international arena. Unfortunately, we observe that there still exists a fundamental difference between Turkey and the European civilization in matters of freedom of press and expression.
That the ROJ TV broadcasts are aired from Europe is a disturbing fact for us, too. This has been a direct consequence of the constitutional and legal regulations that do not allow for free Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey. It was only thanks to the pressures in the process of Turkey's integration with the EU that Turkey has granted limited rights for Kurdish language broadcasts, with state television airing 45-minute programmes on a weekly basis. Privately-owned local television stations wanting to broadcast in Kurdish, on the other hand, are still faced with legal and often arbitrary administrative obstacles. As it also well-known by the international community, restrictions on freedom of expression are situated at the heart of the authoritarian political tradition that has repressed any kind of difference in terms of culture, language and identity in Turkey.
We expect the Turkish government to abide by and fulfill the political criteria stated in the Copenhagen Document. So, rather than banning the ROJ TV, we hope that Turkey will eventually legalize, embrace and become a constituent of the voice of ROJ TV. We wish that one day ROJ TV will be able to broadcast from nowhere else but from Istanbul, Ankara or Diyarbakir, and will be only one among many other Kurdish TV stations that will be launched also with the support of Turkish government.
It is a well-known fact that ROJ TV has millions of audiences within and outside Turkey. Whether one agrees or not with the broadcasting policy of the TV station, the content and arguments of its programs, is something to be discussed, and should always be discussed given the fact that free flow of information and ideas is the lifeblood of political debates. But the banning of ROJ TV would not contribute to our efforts to create a truly pluralistic and democratic life in Turkey. We believe that, within the current state of politics, voice of ROJ TV represents a constructive and positive contribution towards the progress of freedom of _expression, that is, one of the essential foundations of European democratic civilization that cannot yet be fully guaranteed within Turkey.
For a truly democratic life to flourish in Turkey, ROJ TV should not be silenced. This is the sincere and common demand of the people we represent at the level of local governments. The elimination of the voice of ROJ TV would mean the loss of an important vehicle in the struggle for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms of democratic civilization.
1- Osman BAYDEMIR Mayor, Diyarbakir Metropolitan President, Union of South-Eastern Anatolia Region Municipalities
2- Husseyin KALKAN Mayor , Batman
3- Ahmet ERTAK Mayor, Sirnak
4- Metin TEKKE Mayor, Hakkari
5- Songol Erol ABDIL Mayor, Tunceli
6- Firat ANLI Mayor, Yenisehir
7-Yurdusev OZSOKMENLER Mayor, Baglar
8-Kutbettin TASKIRAN Mayor, Silvan Bayrambasi
9-Zulfikar KARATEKIN Mayor, KayapInar
10- Nadir BINGOL Mayor, Ergani
11-Abdullah DEMIRBAS Mayor, Surici
12- Sukran AYDIN Mayor, Bismil
13-Fikret KAYA Mayor, Silvan
14-Seyhmus BAYHAN Mayor, Lice
15-Abdullah AKENGIN Mayor, Dicle
16-Mehmet KAYA Mayor, Kocakaya
17-Esat ONER Mayor, Batman Gercus
18-Murat CEYLAN Mayor, Siirt Kurtalan
19-Seyfettin AYDIN Mayor, Siirt Gokbasi
20-Ethem SAHIN Mayor, Urfa Suruc
21-Emrullah CIN Mayor, Viransehir
22-Ismail ARSLAN Mayor, CeylanpInar
23-Huseyin OGRETMEN Mayor, Halfeti
24-Aydin BUDAK Mayor, Cizre
25-Resul SADAK Mayor, Idil
26-Muhsin KONUR Mayor, Silopi
27-Gulcihan SIMSEK Mayor, Van Bostanici
28-Hursit TEKIN Mayor, Semdinli
29-Faik DURSUN Mayor, Beytussebap
30-M.Salih YILDIZ Mayor, Yuksekova
31-Hursit ALTEKIN Mayor, Hakkari Esendere
32-Ayhan ERKMEN Mayor, Mardin Dargecit
33-Cihan SINCAR Mayor, Kiziltepe
34-Molla SIMSEK Mayor, Konya Cihanbeyli Gulyazi
35-Ramazan KAPAN Mayor, Mardin Derik
36- Nuran ATLI Mayor, Mazidagi
37-Mehmet TANHAN Mayor, Nusaybin
38-Ayhan ERKMEN Mayor, Kars Digor Dagpinar
39-M.Selim DEMIR Mayor, Batman Bekirhan
40-A. Kadir AZAOGLU Mayor, Kiziltepe Senyurt
41-A.Kerim ADAN Mayor, Mardin YalImlI
42-Zeyniye ONER Mayor, Savur
43-Demir CELIK Mayor, Mus Varto
44-Tahir KAHRAMANER Mayor, Malazgirt
45-Ali YILDIZ Mayor, Malazgirt
46-Orhan OZER Mayor, BulanIk Gedik
47-Mukaddes KUBILAY Mayor, Dogubeyazit
48- M.Nezir ARAS Mayor, BulanIk
49-Nusret ARAS Mayor, Igdir HoShaber
50- Leyla GUVEN Mayor, Adana Seyhan Kayadikili
51-Muzaffer YONDEMLI Mayor, AydIn Ovaeymir
52-Osman KESER Mayor, Adana YakapInar
53-Hasan KARAKAYA Mayor, Yaylakonak
54-Seyfettin ALKAN Mayor, Batman BalpInar
55- Burhan KORHAN Mayor, Batman Besiri
56- Fahrettin ASLAN Mayor, Besiri
The Turkish state is against everything the mayors said in that letter. Let's not forget, either, that the mayors are representing their people, so this letter is a representation of the will of the Kurdish people.
A report on the opening of the trial can be read at the International Herald Tribune. The mayors are standing behind their letter and, if convicted, each one will receive up to 15 years' imprisonment for aiding a "terrorist" organization. It looks like it's a good thing there are Danish observers at the trial, because Denmark is the country which has yet to receive any proof from the Ankara regime to prove that Roj TV has any so-called terrorist links--after more than a year of trying.
Part of Turkey's argument for alleged PKK ties to Roj TV is based on the fact that Roj TV regularly airs interviews with PKK leadership and reports on clashes in the region, but if that meant that Roj TV had ties to PKK, then we could say the same about American TV for all the videos it airs from Osama bin Laden. I won't go into the fact that the Ankara regime hosts HAMAS delegations in Ankara, even though it's widely known that HAMAS is on The List®. The US also recently hossted the terrorist leader of the terrorist Iranina state within its borders, as well as the former president of that same terrorist state, Mohammed Khatami.
But what's a little terrorism among friends, eh?
Further along in the IHT article, we see who's really in charge of Turkey:
The country's powerful military is highly suspicious of the Kurdish mayors' affiliation and is critical of their performance.
Since when is military control of civilian government a democratic mechanism? In democracies, politicians only have to worry if their constituents are critical of their performance or their "affiliations," but in Bush's model of democracy, Turkey, politicians have to worry if the Pashas are critical of their performance. Yet, remember, this is America's model of democracy for the Middle East. Someone should tell them that most Middle Eastern countries are already emulating this model.
Let's put it this way: For America, talk of democracy is the opiate of the people.
Under our shining Turkish democracy, many of these mayors are also facing charges for other "crimes," like "violating the right to assembly":
Baydemir faces other charges, along with DTP leader Ahmet Turk and some 32 civil group heads, for violating the right to assembly.
Diyarbakir police late Sunday filed a complaint against the mayor and those who attended a demonstration to protest the recent bomb attack in Diyarbakir that killed 10 people, including seven children.
The problem here is that there is no right to free assembly in Turkey, which is another reason why I cannot understand people who speak of "democracy," and "Turkey" in the same breath while maintaining a straight face. The only right to assemble applies to government-sponsored assemblies, which usually deteriorate into lynching parties, while the police stand by and enjoy the show.
Yenisehir mayor, Firat Anli, spoke for his comrades before entering the court, from the AP, carried on the Houston Chronicle:
Appearing before the court in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, the mayors pleaded innocent to the charges and defended their letter as "free speech."
"We are standing behind each of the 405 words in our famous letter," Yenisehir Mayor Firat Anli told the court, reading from the five-page statement. "If examined, our letter points to the need for maturity to tolerate opposition to freedom of speech and the establishment of a democratic living system."
Who is it, then, who really wants to see democracy in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan? The US? The Ankara regime? The EU? Or these Kurdish mayors?
And what of the EU? They say the situation of human rights in Turkey is regressing:
Turkey can expect to get bad marks for human rights in an upcoming report to be released by the European Parliament, four members of the body's subcommittee on human rights said yesterday at the conclusion of a fact-finding mission.
[ . . . ]
The impression is that the situation is going backwards, said Italian lawmaker Vittorio Agnoletto, who said he was particularly disturbed by an overwhelming military presence in southeastern Anatolian provinces like Hakkari.
When I was in Hakkari, I felt like I was in a prison, Agnoletto said. It is not possible to consider all the population of a region as terrorists.
So what is the EU doing about it? Nothing, other than the usual hand-wringing and whimpering. And what of the European literati? Who can tell me where all of them are? They always get themselves worked up into a lather over the prosecutions of famous novelists, but where are they now? Where is that same fanatic devotion to the right of freedom of expression for all of these Kurdish mayors, or for the Kurdish people? What about the question of democracy for Western Turkey?
Was that a pin that just dropped?