"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."
~ Paulo Freire.
~ Paulo Freire.
I have received a press statement from a comrade in the Diyarbakır Branch of the Human Righs Association (IHD). This statement is dated 9 July 2009, however I think it's appropriate to post it now, since Interior Minister Beşir Atalay has proclaimed that the Ankara regime's Kurdish "initiative" or democratic "intitiative", or whatever the hell he's calling it these days, has been an overwhelming success.
The irony is that since the actual and overwhelming success of the DTP during the 29 March elections, repression has been on the increase, at least in the Kurdish Region of Turkey. IHD has the cases, with evidence, to support its claims:
(The Kurdish question will only be solved with the prevention of human rights abuses)
09 July 2009
Esteemed members of the press,
Although we were pleased to see an even partial decrease in human rights abuses in the first three months of 2009 after leaving behind a year of debating people’s most basic human rights, our concerns were increased by a sudden explosion of abuses following the local elections on March 29th. Fourteen days after the elections, the operation launched against the Democratic Society Party (DTP – Demokratik Toplum Partisi), detetions and arrests, the cancellation of green cards (cards from a social program designed to help disadvantaged people access health services) belonging especially to DTP voters in the provinces, the detention and arrest of members of the Public Workers’ Trade Unions Confederation (KESK - Kamu Emekçileri Sendikaları Konfederasyonu), the arrest of human rights and peace activists, and the initiation of a witch hunt, so to speak, people from all sectors were gathered together. In the operation against the DTP, 945 people were detained and 414 were arrested. In a manner illegal and contrary to human rights law, after their telephone conversations were listened to, many people were arrested on the basis of very ordinary conversations, suspects and lawyers weren’t allowed to see the files concerning their cases due to a secret decision, information concerning legal cases was given to the press surreptitiously and in violation of the law, the list of offenses detained people were charged with were also handed to the press, and detained people were declared guilty before the public without even knowing what crimes they were being charged with.
Although all sectors entered a period of expectation regarding a solution to the Kurdish issue following the 29 March local elections, the spike in arrests and detentions and the increase in operations on both sides of the border served to increase our concerns. The intensification and escalation of violations after distinguished President Abdullah Gül said ‘good things will happen’ regarding the Kurdish issue prompted a debate on how ‘good things’ are perceived.
In the first six months of 2009, the question of clearing mines along the borders and inside Turkey became a current topic; however, mines continue to claim lives as the question of who will clear them becomes more contested and the road to a solution is debated. Whoever plants them and for whatever goal, mines are a crime against humanity and mined fields must be located and their perimeters marked immediately. Later, these fields must be cleared and opened for agriculture.
With the understanding that the state must act as a welfare state, the state’s use of green cards as a political tool especially during elections is a very important indicator of the state’s character. It’s known that a large majority of people don’t have social security. It’s possible that following the elections, the security forces gave the district governorships reports concerning the electorate’s political preferences and that previously-issued green cards were cancelled according to this information. The implementation of green card cancellations increased especially extremely following the March 29 local elections. Following the elections, in our districts the green cards of 122,018 people were cancelled.
In our region, applications were received from five people asserting that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their beliefs. Our organization considers freedom of belief important and it’s one of the rights that we defend.
In our region, the topic that comes to our attention the most is violations in prisons and detention centers. In Batman prison, due to a disciplinary punishment an inmate by the name of Resul Çelik wasn’t allowed to meet with his family for three months, and for 40 days his request to be transfered to another prison wasn’t being accepted. He couldn’t escape the depression he fell into and hanged himself. This incident was a death under detention. In the prisons in the regions, treatment isn’t given to seriously ill patients, they aren’t committed to infirmatories, and requests to be transferred to hospitals aren’t accepted. No one should be surprised if there’s an explosion in the near future as a result of the conditions and repression in the prisons.
Violations in prisons have continued to increase and become more severe. From the prisons, 33 people applied to us concerning violations of their right to health, 253 people applied concerning the obstruction of their right of communication, and 193 arrestees and inmates applied complaining of having received gratuitous and unjustified punishments, and all of these assertions were proven. 73 families applied to us because their meetings with imprisoned relatives had been obstructed due to disciplinary actions. 44 arrestees and inmates applied to our branch asserting that they had been tortured.
Regarding the heavy intervention by security forces into activities in our region such as Newroz over the last six months, camera images showing the butt of a police officer’s gun hitting the head of a small child show the degree of disproportionality prevailing at this stage. In 47 rallies and public meetings interfered in by the security forces, 501 people were detained.
Regarding the statement in the European Union’s latest progress report on Turkish accession that there is no freedom of thought in our country, how can we express that there are not positive developments in this area. It’s necessary to understand that our country can’t move forward with a democratization characterized by very timid and heavy steps and that in this sense Turkey won’t be able to join the European Union for a long time. In six months in our region 546 new lawsuits were opened against people because of ideas they expressed. 324 people received various punishments due to ideas expressed before the first six months of 2009.
In the first six months of the year, a total of 73 homes were raided. It was claimed in received applications that those in the raided houses had been subjected to indecent and severe interference. Finally, everyone was shocked by an application we received in which it was claimed that when security forces entered a house in the Ofis district of Diyarbakır on the account of a resident’s political activities, a woman was subjected to sexual violence and harassment. The chief public prosecutor’s office has opened a legal investigation and the Diyarbakır regional governorship an administrative one about this event.
In the first six months, 21 people were proven to or applied to our branch claiming to have been exposed to torture and maltreatment in detention units in our region. Compared to the past, torture and maltreatment in detention centers has decreased but the practice has been carried to the street. Now, in front of cameras, mobile squads and other security forces have been using disproportionate force against social activities in a way that has been resulting in heavy injuries. In six months 109 people applied to our branch claiming to have been exposed to torture and maltreatment outside of formal detention centers.
With the goal of abolishing the village guard system, for ten years the Human Rights Association has prepared statements and reports concerning very serious violations perpetrated by village guards. Most recently, the massacre in Bilge village in Mardin province shows once again just how correct our discourse is. The result of the state’s security perspective approach to the Kurdish problem is always death and tears. In the first six months of 2009, 49 people were killed 8 were injured as a result of violations of the right to life carried out by village guards. It was established that village guards were involved in 33 incidents of torture and maltreatment.
Finally, the number of occurences involving people being kidnapped and suggested to become spies has experienced an increase. In the first six months, 7 people applied to our branch asserting that they had been kidnapped and threatened into becoming a spy.
In our region, intervention is often brought upon demonstrations organized by civil society organizations and political parties; upon one person’s slogan or throwing of a stone, gas and teargas are used against all particpants. Heavy interference is personally confirmed by leaders from our branch who act as observers in the activities they participate in. In the first six months of 2009, 215 people were beaten and injured as a result of police intervention into public demonstrations.
Esteemed members of the press,
We can say that almost all of the violations in our region that come to our attention are directly related to the Kurdish problem. The lack of a solution to the Kurdish question is the reason for our country’s inability to democratize or join the European Union as well as the reason our economy is so sunken. A big part of the problem would be overcome with the acceptance of the Kurds’ existence, language and culture and the construction of a new civil and democratic constitution. The sit-down protests we initiated with the goal of putting the fate of disappeared people on the public agenda and trying the perpetrators has entered its 23rd week. The disappeared people that our branch has tried to locate with our own resources exposes the fact that the mistakes the state made in the past were not insignificant. We think that all the graves of the disappeared will be revealed only with the existence of a strong political will. We request that the state come face to face with the past, apologize to the loved ones of the disappeared, apprehend the perpetrators, that the political killings of Kurds be included in the Ergenekon investigation, and that the trial take place on the northern side of the Euphrates river. A truth commission including intellectuals, legal experts, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, judges and prosecutors needs to be established and its work begun immediately.
With the goal of ending the ending the disproportionate violence applied to actions and activities, we’re prepared to deliver human rights education through our branches found in 16 provinces to the security forces that serve in our region. We also recommend that the the security forces be given education in anger management.
Everyone has a role to play in resolving the Kurdish issue, guns must continue to be silent, and we want to keep the doors to dialogue open until the end. We hope that the PKK’s ceasefire will be extended beyond July 15th, and we hope the state also puts an end to operations and behaves with common sense by taking urgent steps with the goal of stopping the flow of blood. We don’t want to see deaths or severe violations any longer. We’re hoping to present a violation-free balance table in the first six months of next year.
With our respect,
Muharrem ERBEY, Attorney at Law
Vice President of the Human Rights Association, President of the Diyarbakır branch
When will we hear Sayın Atalay address these charges? Inquiring minds want to know.
Many thanks to the comrade who sent the information. And let me add that those who have worked in the IHD have been true heroes of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as much so as have our guerrillas. Among the many who have served the Kurdish people in this way, we can include Osman Baydemir, Akın Birdal, and Eren Keskin. There is a short history of the IHD at IHD's website, which includes a list of IHD leaders and members who were murdered because of their work.