Monday, January 02, 2006


"You may think your actions are meaningless and that they won't help, but that is no excuse, you must still act." ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

It has been almost two months since Prime Minister Erdogan left a news conference in Denmark in a huff over the presence of a reporter from the independent Kurdish channel, Roj TV. There has been no final decision passed on the fate of Roj TV by the Danish government yet, although a number of Danish lawmakers have begun their own campaign in support of Roj TV. In the meantime, over 50 pro-Kurdish DTP mayors face investigation and possible criminal charges for a letter they sent to the Danish prime minister, Fogh Rasmussen, urging him to resist Turkish efforts to silence Roj.

It is not enough, however, for Kurds and friends of Kurdistan, to wait to see what will happen.

In the last two months many of you have not been waiting to see what will happen, but you have already taken action. I received an email from Index on Censorship's associate editor, in reply to my request that Index investigate the situation of Roj TV and take up a defense of Roj's right to free expression. I am happy to report that the associate editor stated that Index had received hundreds of requests urging support of Roj in the last two months, and that they will be featuring a piece on Roj TV in their upcoming print issue of Index Magazine. This is a direct result of your requests that Index investigate the circumstances surrounding Roj TV and the Turkish state's attempts to violate the right of free expression.

But, Index on Censorship is not the only organization to defend free expression and document violations of this right. Reporters sans Frontières (RSF--Reporters without Borders) and Article 19 are two other heavy weights that regularly document violations of the right of free expression worldwide, yet neither of these organizations has written one word about Roj TV. They have not replied to my requests, nor to the requests of others, to look into Turkey's threat against independent Kurdish broadcasting.

With that in mind, the question is, have RSF and Article 19 been inundated with email messages urging support of Roj TV? If they have received hundreds of emails in the last two months, like Index has, why the deafening silence?

RSF is no stranger to free expression violations in Turkey. They have plenty of documentation on the problem, so they should understand exactly what's going on with Roj TV and they should be publishing about it. On the other hand, Article 19 doesn't seem to have anything about Turkey on their website.

We can't leave it at this. It's time for you to do your thing again, people. Email RSF at and Article 19 at and ask them to investigate the situation with Roj TV and Turkey's attempt to violate the free expression rights of Kurds. If you think that none of this applies to you because you're not Kurdish, think again:

In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me -- and by that time there was nobody left to speak up. ~ Martin Niemoller.

Whoever wants to, can copy-and-paste the following letter, or feel free to change it around any way you want. Of course, the best would be something in your own words, but I know that sometimes people have limited time. Anyway, here it is:

Dear RSF (or Article 19),

Your organization is well known for its defense of the right of freedom of expression and free flow of information for all people worlwide.

As such, I am writing to you to ask your help for Roj TV, the Kurdish satellite channel which is now under threat of closure from the pressure of the Turkish government on Denmark. Freedom of expression has never been a right of Kurds living under Turkish rule. From the founding of the state until 1991 the Kurdish language itself was banned, Kurds were forbidden to give their children Kurdish names, certain letters found only in the Kurdish alphabet and not in the Turkish, continue to be banned, and, in spite of repeated promises from Ankara, Kurdish-language broadcasting is virtually nonexistent in Turkey.

Roj TV provides needed programming for the Kurdish population of Turkey, as well as to Kurds in 77 diaspora countries. It provides news, documentaries, films, cultural, and children's programming, primarily in Kurdish-language and from a Kurdish perspective. If not for the free expression rights enjoyed in Europe, this voice of Kurds would not exist.

As Turkey has proven itself to be a serious violator of the right of free expression within its own borders, it is also attempting to violate the free expression right of those Kurds outside its borders. Since the threat is directed through the Danish government, which has so far stood firm for the right of free expression, I believe that the Turkish government is also attempting to violate the free speech rights of all Europeans and all other peoples, because if Turkey is successful in its attempt to silence Roj TV, what is to stop it from attempting to silence all who speak the things that the Turkish government does not want to hear?

Please investigate this situation and lend your support to Roj TV and the Kurdish people, or the right of free expression will be the ultimate victim.


Sign your name

As Ghandi said, you may think your actions are meaningless and that they won't help. Or you may think you are too little or unimportant, and maybe it is true, each one of us, by ourselves, are too little and unimportant, but all together, we are one voice and we are one power. In that respect, we are important.

Now, get to work!

P.S. If you think Index on Censorship did the right thing in reporting on Roj TV, let them know it. Their contribution to our cause should be acknowledged. Contact Rohan at

No comments: