"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down."
~ Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, 1860.
~ Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, 1860.
On Monday, Hurriyet carried a short item announcing Tuesday's book launch of Abdullah Ocalan's Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization in the UK. Aside from getting the information about the publishing house completely wrong--a quick check of Amazon correctly lists the publisher as Pluto Press--there is one piece of information of note:
Ankara has reportedly made diplomatic efforts to relay its discomfort over the book to the British government.
And the British government did act to assuage Turkey's "discomfort" by banning the venue of the book launch, which was originally scheduled to take place in the House of Commons. The best that can be said of this banning is that it shows consistency on the part of the British government. After all, it was the same government that silenced Kurdish Med-TV in 1999, shortly after Ocalan's capture.
Why would the Ankara regime suffer a case of "discomfort" over a discussion of Ocalan's writings? The Prison Writings made up a portion of Ocalan's appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and are therefore official submissions to the court. Why would the British government "acquiesce" to Turkish "discomfort" by banning a portion of a submission to the ECHR?
It's very simple: The Ankara regime fears any discussion that may arise from Prison Writings because that discussion would eventually turn to the wider picture--the brutal repression of the Kurdish people by the Ankara regime. Such a discussion would include official regime policies dating back to the foundation of the Turkish state and the end of the Ottoman Empire, revealing those policies to be genocidal in nature. There was no vacuum separating the end of the Ottoman Empire from the beginning of the Turkish state. There are never such vacuums in history. Instead, there is a transition period, and in the case of Turkey, the transition period was stained by Armenian blood.
Kurds also had a hand in staining this transition, but that is something that has been admitted by Ocalan, the PKK, and the Kurdish Parliament in Exile. For Kurds, the Armenian Genocide is not a subject that has been removed from the table or become an object of denial.
After the Armenians had been ethnically cleansed by the Ottomans, the Kemalists turned their sights to the Kurds and began a bloody repression and campaign of cultural genocide that exists to this day. The Jewish Holocaust of Europe is unique by the manner in which that genocide was commited, with so much efficiency in so short a period of time, but it was an extension of the wholesale slaughter the Ottomans carried out against the Armenians. Today's legal definition of genocide was crafted by a Jew, Raphael Lemkin, whose family fell victim to the Holocaust. Through his contribution to international law, we recognize that the actions of the Ankara regime against the Kurdish people is also genocide.
This is the fact which causes "discomfort" to the Turkish state over any discussion arising from Ocalan's Prison Writings.
Furthermore, according to the legal definition of genocide, it is also a crime to aid and abet genocide: "Criminal acts include conspiracy, direct and public incitement, attempts to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide." The US stood by and did nothing while the Ottomans slaughtered the Armenians--in spite of the all the efforts of its own ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, to warn of the genocide and seek a way of ending it. The US stood by and did nothing while Europe, and Germany in particular, fed its Jewish population and others, to gas chambers and ovens. But with the case of the genocide of Kurds, the US did not simply stand by; it sold, subsidized, and gave to the Ankara regime the very weapons the regime used, and continues to use, against the Kurdish people.
Now, of course, an excuse for the continuation of the Kurdish genocide is concocted in Washington. This excuse is called War on Terror. It also manages to keep profits rolling in for the big war contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, and that is why a member of the board of directors of Lockheed Martin was appointed to "coordinate the PKK" for Turkey. This "coordination" includes rejection of the fifth unilateral ceasefire offered by PKK, as well as rejection of any political solution to the Kurdish situation, a situation which is the direct result of state policies of NATO member Turkey.
The UK is not acting alone when it bans a discussion of Kurdish repression by Turkey from its Parliament. We know this because we have the words of the US State Department's own Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Daniel Fried:
But it is true that the United States and Turkey have been working with our West European friends about the problem of the PKK. And it is true that West European governments understand the nature of the problem, and these arrests have been made. This is good news. These aren't the first arrests; I doubt they will be the last arrests.
The UK has been cooperating with the US and Turkey by threatening to apply the "glorification of terror" clause of the new British anti-terror law in regards to the discussion of Prison Writings. In case you suspect me of making up something as ridiculous as the "glorification of terror" law, peruse the BBC, Article19, and BlairWatch. It should be noted that any similarity between Bush's anti-terror laws (PATRIOT Act, Military Commissions Act) and Blair's anti-terror laws can be attributed to a severe case of Monkey-See-Monkey-Do.
In addition to pumping up the volume on war industry stock values, the War on Terror, Inc. is also a convenient way to hide past and on-going war crimes and acts of genocide by cracking down on those who would speak the truth and dissent from the status quo. Hence the recent wave of arrests of Kurds in Europe, the destruction of a Kurdish cultural center in Paris, the banning of a discussion of the Kurdish situation in Turkey in the House of Commons, and threats against Ocalan's retrial request (Note: There has been no official statement from the Council of Ministers rejecting the retrial request. Turkish media's claims to the contrary may be the result of some very good hash in their nargîles).
The State Department's Fried mentioned the following at the 8 February press conference:
But you are also correct when you suggest that the problem of the PKK is obviously not confined to Western Europe. It's also a problem in Northern Iraq. We are cooperating with Turkey to deal with that problem.
Solving it will require cooperation between Turkey and Iraq, both the Iraqi central government and the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government and I think this cooperation is moving forward.
With that in mind, check a short item from Awene.com, carried on KurdishAspect:
U.S gives a green light to Turkey to attack PKK in Southern Kurdistan
According to Awene, in the meeting held on January 29th with Masud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and his vice president Kosrat Rasul, were told by Joseph Ralston the United States' special envoy on countering the PKK that Turkey has been given a green light from the U.S to attack PKK positions on the Qandil Mountains. The source told Awene that the military invasion will start in the beginning of April 2007.
On February 13, Jangawar, a member of the PKK leadership, told Awene that the U.S and Turkish representatives have drawn up a plan against southern Kurdistan. He said “this plan starts with attacking PKK positions on the Qandil Mountains but their goals are to destroy Kirkuk’s referendum and other Kurdish advancements in southern Kurdistan”.
By giving a green light to Turkey to invade the Kurdistan Region the U.S is hoping to deter Turkey from getting closer to Iran.
Try to bear that point about Iran in mind as another aircraft carrier group arrives in the Persian Gulf.
In light of the banning of Ocalan's Prison Writings, which form the basis of his appeal in the ECHR and are, therefore, official documents of the ECHR, what can we say about "free expression" or "free association" or any of those other wonderful fantasies of democracy that we are told are the foundations of "civilized" societies? The meaning that those terms used to have is no longer existent, because the meaning has been destroyed by so-called anti-terror laws which have been put in place by the real terrorists.
I am reminded of a talk Noam Chomsky held at MIT in October 2001 on the New War on Terror. He mentioned Turkey's gratitude to the US:
And Turkey is very grateful. Just a few days ago, Prime Minister Ecevit announced that Turkey would join the coalition against terror, very enthusiastically, even more so than others. In fact, he said they would contribute troops which others have not willing to do. And he explained why. He said, We owe a debt of gratitude to the United States because the United States was the only country that was willing to contribute so massively to our own, in his words “counter-terrorist” war, that is to our own massive ethnic cleansing and atrocities and terror. Other countries helped a little, but they stayed back. The United States, on the other hand, contributed enthusiastically and decisively and was able to do so because of the silence, servility might be the right word, of the educated classes who could easily find out about it. It’s a free country after all. You can read human rights reports. You can read all sorts of stuff. But we chose to contribute to the atrocities and Turkey is very happy, they owe us a debt of gratitude for that and therefore will contribute troops just as during the war in Serbia. Turkey was very much praised for using its F-16’s which we supplied it to bomb Serbia exactly as it had been doing with the same planes against its own population up until the time when it finally succeeded in crushing internal terror as they called it. And as usual, as always, resistance does include terror. Its true of the American Revolution. That’s true of every case I know. Just as its true that those who have a monopoly of violence talk about themselves as carrying out counter terror.
Turkey can now extend its gratitude to the UK as well.
What follows are an official press release and statement by the Peace In Kurdistan Campaign, and an excerpt from a speech given at the Prison Writings event by Desmond Fernandes:
Book Launch Goes Ahead
An important new book by Abdullah Ocalan was officially launched at the London headquarters of the National Union of Journalists on 20th February. The event was originally to be held in a House of Commons committee room but organizer Peace in Kurdistan campaign was compelled at the last minute to change of venue as a result of pressure apparently exerted by the Foreign Office. A report had also appeared in a Turkish newspaper that Ankara was seeking to get the book suppressed.
The book, Prison Writings; The Roots of Civilisation, is the first and long awaited English translation of a book produced by the Kurdish leader while held in Imrali Island. It is based on researches undertaken by Ocalan in preparation for his European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) appeal statement.
While the NUJ was thanked for stepping into the breach to offer their venue, speakers at the meeting voiced their concern at the cancellation of the meeting in Westminster. Apparently it was inferred that debating the book amounted to "glorification of terrorism", a stupendously ignorant charge given that the basic arguments of the book are against violence and the stereotyped thinking that leads to conflict. The book has already appeared in print in several languages and received praise from scholars worldwide for its challenging arguments and grasp of the historical dynamics. It is a serious contribution to understanding social change and cultural development over a long expanse of time from the ancient era to the present day with specific reference to both state and society of the Middle East. Several speakers pointed out that his ideas are particularly pertinent to the debates on the peaceful and democratic resolution of the Kurdish question in Turkey and the crisis in the Middle East.
Peace in Kurdistan issued a statement of protest at the decision to cancel the parliamentary meeting, which it called "an affront to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of association." The full statement appears below.
The meeting at the NUJ was chaired by Elfyn Llwyd Plaid Cymru MP, who had to leave early because of the change of venue and was replaced by Pluto commissioning editor and chair Roger van Zwanenberg. Speakers also included Ibrahim Bilmez, a lawyer who is part of Ocalan’s defence team in Turkey; Reimar Heider, of the International Initiative - Freedom for Ocalan – Peace in Kurdistan in Germany; Alex Fitch, from Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, and Desmond Fernandes from CAMPACC. Apologies were received from Lord Rea, who was unable to attend due to the changed venue.
STATEMENT CONCERNING THE CANCELLATION OF A MEETING IN THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT ISSUED BY PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN
A planned meeting in a committee room of the House of Commons that was to have debated issues arising from the book Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilisation by imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has been cancelled on spurious grounds. Reasons include the following: Abdullah Ocalan is the member of a 'proscribed' organisation (the PKK - the Kurdistan Workers’ Party). which constitutes by implication a "glorification of terrorism".
We protest this decision which is an affront to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of association. The material presented in Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilisation formed part of Abdullah Ocalan's very submission to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). It is a landmark study that has been praised by leading academics in the field who clearly do not view it as "glorifying terrorism". Indeed, leading academics have sought to publicly recommend it on the following grounds: "This is the first truly postcolonial history of Mesopotamia" - Randal McGuire, Professor of Anthropology, Binghamton University. "It's a tour-de-force" - Ghada Talhami, D.K. Pearsons Professor of Politics, Lake Forest College, Illinois.
The book is likely to be placed on a number of university course lists, and is set to be widely cited and read in postcolonial, area studies and social science related circles. Yet, due to pressure from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we are now informed that the relevant House of Commons officials are seeking to imply that the aforementioned publication - and public debate and meeting about what was Ocalan's ECHR submission - represents "glorification of terrorism" by a representative of a 'proscribed' organisation that, therefore, cannot be allowed in the House. This surely represents a grave breach of freedom of expression and association which members of the public, academics, academic unions, student unions, journalists, public interest, human rights and civil liberties organisations need to protest about. If this book and a public debate and proposed meeting that surrounds it is said to 'glorify terrorism', we need to ask ourselves: What book, and which meeting, will next be subject to a similar ban?
The German translation of this book - and as published and distributed throughout Germany - has not been subjected to any such bans or restrictions. Through this psychological warfare 'action', it is evident that members of the public, journalists, academics, Lords and MP's interested in the issues have effectively been banned - under threat of the "glorification of terrorism" clause – from debating and even hearing the substance of what was an ECHR submission in the Houses of Parliament.
This is a particularly serious given the fact that the book is published by the reputable Pluto Press (London and Ann Arbor) and the author’s arguments have met with praise by a number of academics. That the book has been hailed as a path-breaking contribution to a deeper historical understanding of the roots of human civilization and a work of high academic achievement no doubt irks some quarters who wish to project their view of Ocalan to the public - namely, that of an 'irrational, unintelligent' leader who has absolutely nothing to positively contribute to society at large. This book, and the proposed meeting surrounding it, seems to represent a 'threat' to 'deep political' US-UK-NATO-Turkish circles and arms lobbying firms who would prefer only to discuss Ocalan, Turkey and Kurds within the parameters of 'Kurdish terrorism' and carefully controlled debates.
The contemporary relevance of Ocalan’s new book for the future of the Kurdish people and for resolving the problems that bedevil the Middle East needs to reflected upon and publicly debated. We need not agree with all his views and perspectives in the book – That is how it should be in a democratic society. We may, we may not. The point is: it should hardly be out of place to discuss and reflect upon such ideas in the mother of Parliaments, the supposed champion of free speech and the people’s cherished liberties that are enshrined by tradition in the our "unwritten constitution".
The ideas in Ocalan's book should be studied and debated since they potentially represent a crucial contribution to resolving the conflicts that plague Turkey and the Middle East in a peaceful manner. The publisher Pluto Press should be applauded for bringing out this volume, which allows us to read, critically reflect upon and debate Ocalan's analyses and theses which originally formed part of his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The decision to request the cancellation of the meeting discussing Ocalan's prison writings in the House of Commons came during the time in which the lobby group 'Labour Friends of Turkey' was officially launched, and US and Turkish governments orchestrated terrorist operations against the Kurds living in Europe, resulting in the detentions and arrests of Kurdish political leaders, 'immigrants' and intellectuals, and the disruption and 'plunder' of the Ahmet Kaya Kurdish Cultural Center in Paris. That these operations were coordinated by the US and Turkish governments, with the cooperation of European 'friends', is a fact admitted by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried during a press conference in Washington on Thursday, February 8, 2007.
These coordinated 'operations' coincide with the reapplication of Ocalan's case to the European Court of Human Rights which, in 2005, ruled that Ocalan had not received a fair trial from the Turkish government. 'Suppression and silence' have been the consistent approaches of both the US and Turkey as regards the situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey, in order to prevent a wider public discussion in the international community and to preserve a military conflict which has served solely to benefit the elites in control of the worldwide war industry.
Pressure has clearly been exerted upon the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Houses of Parliament officials. This 'operation' - aimed at halting a meeting in the House of Commons that was to be chaired by an MP and hosted by Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination, in cooperation with the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and the Kurdish Federation in the UK - is an 'expression' of that 'pressure'. We oppose this type of 'action' that resulted in the cancellation of the meeting in the House of Commons. It threatens the very foundation of democracy - the right of free expression and association.
20 February 2007
020 7586 5892 Fax 020 7483 2531
Excerpt from the speech given at the London headquarters of the National Union of Journalists for the book launch of Ocalan's Prison Writings, 20 February 2007, by Desmond Fernandes:
This book, and the proposed meeting surrounding it, seems to represent a 'threat' to 'deep political' US-UK-NATO-Turkish circles and arms lobbying firms who would prefer only to discuss Ocalan, Turkey and Kurds within the parameters of 'Kurdish terrorism' and carefully controlled debates.
By arguing from emotive and superficial "terrorism" linked 'analytical' frameworks, an attempt has been made by these circles to 'colonise the mind' and control, restrict and steer the public, concerned MP's, academics, students, lawyers and human rights activists away from alternative frameworks of reference, of which this book is one. Nancy Snow's (2003: 82, 137) comments on the wider situation need to be reflected upon: "The nation's advantage in declaring a perpetual war on terrorism" - and, one might add, a war against alleged 'glorification of terrorism' - "is to stymie creative thinking about alternatives. The purpose of such propaganda phrases as 'war on terrorism' and attacking 'those who hate freedom' is to paralyse individual thought as well as to condition people to act as one mass. The modern war president" - and his willing ally Blair - "removes the individual nature of those who live in it by forcing us into a uniform state where the complexities of those we fight are erased. The enemy - terrorism, Bin Laden" - Abdullah Ocalan it seems - "Hussein - becomes one threatening category, something to be defeated and destroyed, so that the public response will be one of reaction to fear and threat rather than creatively and independently thinking for oneself. Our best hope for overcoming perpetual thinking" of this kind "about war and perpetual fear about both real and imagined threats is to question our leaders and their use of empty slogans that offer little rationale, explanation or historical context ... 'Where do we draw the line? ... If Bin Laden's words'" - and now, it seems, Ocalan's words and critical debate about them - "'are suppressed, should we then censor the words of anyone who might oppose the Administration or disagrees with a United States policy?' (Besler Heaphy)".
Should we unquestioningly follow the 'guidance' of those who seek to intentionally halt any critical public debate in the House of Commons concerning Ocalan's book and the substance of his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights? ...
Pressure has clearly been exerted upon the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Houses of Parliament administration. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in turn, has exerted its own pressure on others. This 'operation' - aimed at halting a meeting in the House of Commons that was to be chaired by an MP and hosted by Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination, in cooperation with the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, and the Kurdish Federation in the UK - is an 'expression' of that 'pressure' ... Such an action has the effect of threatening the very foundation of democracy - the right of free expression and association.