Monday, February 26, 2007


"The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people."
~ Louis Brandeis, US Supreme Court Justice.

The official determination in the retrial application of Ocalan can be found at the Committee of Ministers site, and the examination of the case has been closed.

Basically what this means is that if a country initially violates the rights of a defendant from the moment of remand custody until the completion of trial, then later pays some fines and makes cosmetic changes to its domestic criminal law, that country is free to continue to violate rights.

The system is not working. Or, we might say that the people are not working the system.

However, it also means that we must continue to press the Kurdish cause in as many venues as possible and we must continue to look for new venues through which to do this. Throughout the Diaspora, alliances must be built with other groups who have similar concerns, such as those over freedom of expression rights, minority rights, or opposition to arms sales. These subjects were among those discussed in the UK last week as regards Ocalan's Prison Writings; already a wider discussion is growing on this subject. There is some feedback on the Ocalan book launch from a non-Kurdish academic and community activist. It is published here with permission:

I for one find the Ocalan case fsacinating and thanks for the wealth of info you posted. It raises a host of disturbing questions and one doesn't know where to begin.

You rightly ask: "There needs to be a wide protest over this...many crucially important meetings are likely to be 'cancelled' on 'terrorism' related grounds in the future... Should we allow ourselves to be intimidated when trying to discuss issues academically and on public interest grounds?"

The answers all hinge on the nature of the western state today - serving not the people but big business, which in turn obliges with political funding. The people are allowed to vote once in 4 or 5 years. Thereafter they have no control on politicians or policies. That is called democracy. Parliament is largely a toothless institution. The real decisions are made elsewhere. The few freedoms that remain are gradually being whittled away by the War-on-Terror legislations. Where is the accountability?

Is it any wonder that the state cares little about public protest and the 'public interest' today? Remember that 1.5 million who marched through London against the looming Iraq war? They were ignored both by the state and the media which work hand in hand. It's the 'national interest' that counts - that is, the interests of the rich and powerful. The people may rail against transport plans or upgrading the nuclear deterrent in their millions. Their arguments are ignored.

I think we need to debate propositions like:

- the degradation of the western state and democracy today;

- the double standards used to deal with official friends and enemies (including minorities);

- the selective interpretation of the grand concept of freedom of expression;

- the ineffectiveness of public protest;

- the general decline of a moral culture and of Christianity generally.

You said that "Our best hope for overcoming 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..." But where is the media space to question unfair policies? The media are locked in with the state and your views are rarely published. Your article rightly said that dissent and alternative scenarios are unacceptable: "the alleged 'glorification of terrorism' is to stymie creative thinking about alternatives. "

Let me conclude with a view by Anglican activist Kenneth Leech: "Today we live in a society in which the powers that be are beyond rational and moral criticism, beyond shame..." ['Struggle in Babylon, Sheldon Press 1988, p149]

Nevertheless, we must persevere.


So here is a non-Kurd who finds the Ocalan case, and by extension the situation of Kurds under Turkish-occupation, as relevant to wider issues that are crucial to fundamental questions of democracy, human rights, the real state of the media, freedom of expression, political activism, and accountability. Especially concerning the media, Eddie has further noted that it serves the powerful; in fact, it is the stage of the powerful elites, through which their worldview is inculcated in the citizenry. The lack of "media space" for dissenting views is highly indicative of the fact that the major media serve the powerful.

Noam Chomsky has asserted, correctly I believe, that political activism and dissent in the US in the 1960s was very effective, and that it was this activism that forced the US to go "underground" in order to further the interests of its elites. This is why the Kennedy administration was able to send the US military openly into Vietnam in the early 1960s, while the Reagan administration had to engage in covert actions in Central America in the 1980s. It is also the reason why the current Bush administration had to engage in a propaganda campaign to go into Iraq. Extending Chomsky's analysis, I think that is also why excuses for the Iraq invasion were manufactured and why they are now being extremely opaque with regard to Iran. In addition, we have the corporate world, specifically the war industry, as part of the foreign policy process if not acting as the actual impetus behind current events. Corporate/governmental control of a compliant media insures that the media serves as advertising in support of these policies.

Basically, it is propaganda.

Eddie seems to agree:

Yet the major (business-serving) media keeps backing state policies and propaganda in Britain, no matter how repressive. They will not challenge controversial pronouncements by politicians and are happy to impose a blackout on news from war-torn Iraq so as not to embarrass the state. Civilians, on the other hand, have to put up with free speech (spin) from the state but are denied this freedom by the same state through a culture of fear imposed through surveillance measures and increased police powers.

Having looked, on occasion, through other language news media--from France, Germany, Spain, for example--the pattern generally seems to be consistent.

I agree with Eddie that we must persevere; we have no other option. How to do that? By networking and joining with others who have similar concerns, and this is a practical way to go, especially in Diaspora, because other like-minded individuals and groups will boost Kurdish activist numbers. Let's face it, Kurdish Diaspora is small to begin with and, then for various reasons, there's a dearth of Kurdish activists; thus it makes sense to join with others to work toward a common goal and to educate others about the reality that Kurds have faced under occupation, and continue to face. This has been a pet idea of mine for some time and over the weekend, I found validation in an interview with Noam Chomsky, from UC Berkeley:

Go back to '62, there was no feminist movement, there was a very limited human rights movement, extremely limited. There was no environmental movement, meaning rights of our grandchildren. There were no Third World solidarity movements. There was no anti-apartheid movement. There was no anti-sweat shop movement. I mean, all of the things that we take for granted just weren't there. How did they get there? Was it a gift from an angel? No, they got there by struggle, common struggle by people who dedicated themselves with others, because you can't do it alone, and made it a much more civilized country. It was a long way to go, and that's not the first time it happened. And it will continue.

[ . . . ]

Take, say, the Civil Rights movement. When you think of the Civil Rights movement, the first thing you think of is Martin Luther King. King was an important figure. But he would have been the first to tell you, I'm sure, that he was riding the wave of activism, that people who were doing the work, who were in the lead in the Civil Rights movement, were young SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] workers, freedom riders, people out there in the streets every day getting beaten and sometimes killed, working constantly. They created the circumstances in which a Martin Luther King could come in and be a leader. His role was extremely important, I'm not denigrating it, it was very important to have done that. But the people who were really important are the ones whose names are forgotten. And that's true of every movement that ever existed.

The entire transcript of the interview, and links to video, can be found here. A Google Video of the interview can be seen here, and it's definitely worth a watch. As one would expect from one of the world's few activists who remembers Kurds under Turkish occupation, he talks about that, too.

By the way, there's an excellent post on the Ocalan book launch scandal at Lenin's Tomb. Bijî Lenin!

In other news, there's more information on HRK's downing of a pasdaran helicopter over the weekend, with one interesting read from ISN. From that article, note the following:

1. Visitors to Qendîl report seeing only some 1,000 gerîlas in the area. PJAK is larger than it's military wing, HRK, because it is primarily engaged in political work. Same as PKK. Also, it's very bad planning to keep all troops in one area. It also means that HRK and HPG are not located primarily in "Northern Iraq."

2. Iran does not permit the free use of Kurdish language. Go to school and find out for yourself. On second thought, maybe we should scratch that idea about going to school; Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan is reporting that the mullah regime has layed off massive numbers of teachers in Iranian-occupied Kurdistan.

3. Turkey's "limited civil reforms" for Turkish-occupied Kurdistan are so limited they are non-existent. References to Kurdish-language radio and TV broadcasts fail to mention that they must be pre-recorded or otherwise "approved" by RTUK. Meaning: All such broadcasts are heavily censored. This is not acceptable. There's also a huge failure to mention the fact that the Turkish government continues with its absurd campaign against RojTV.

4. Any Turkish invasion of South Kurdistan would effectively screw the "surge" in Baghdad, as Kurdish forces would abandon US interests to protect Kurdistan.

5. Credit is due for an acknowledgement of PKK's attempts at creating a peaceful political solution and dialog over the Kurdish situation in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, but a smack across the head is due for calling the 5-year ceasefire the "second unilateral ceasefire." It was the fourth unilateral ceasefire and it did not end last June, but in 2004.

So much for "experts."

The Times of India is reporting that 13, possibly 14, pasdarans were blown out of the sky by HRK.

Don't forget to take a look at an interesting op-ed on the Kerkuk referendum at Op-Ed News. A teaser:

The prospect for the independence of Kurdistan remains the only bright spot in the future of South West Asia. The fall of Saddam has opened a window of opportunity for the Kurdish people to establish their own state that is secular and democratic. Against them lies the theocratic interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the military dominated Turkey and the Baathist regime of Syria.

[ . . . ]

At the present time there is a coalescing of Kurdish forces as has not been seen before in recent history. The PUK, KDP, PJAK, and Kongra-GEL are working together as never before. The issue of Kirkuk has arisen because of the displacement of Kurds by Saddam and the resettlement by Arabs from other parts of the region. The referendum is significant and worthy of support by the US government.

[ . . . ]

There are many who will oppose it, but they are not voices that deserve any right to have a decisive voice in the matter of the Kurdish right of self-determination. Even Turkmen in Kirkuk recognize the obnoxious role of Turkey in this debate regarding the right of return for Kurds to Kirkuk.

One last item of note: NewrozTV has already begun test broadcasting. For more info, see RojhelatInfo for more. According to Hurriyet, regular broadcasting will begin on Newroz.

Any bets on how long it will take Gul to begin a campaign to shut down NewrozTV? Or will he leave it for Mottaki?

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