Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kurdish & Leyla Zana

Saturday, 08 August 2009, 11:20 EDT

Turkey seeks end to Kurdish conflict
The Kurdish Globe

Turkish PM met with DTP Party leader, hopes to end Kurdish conflict
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey met the leader of the country's main Kurdish party Wednesday, signaling a new drive to end a 25-year conflict that has hobbled Turkey's status as a rising regional power and slowed its efforts to join the European Union.

"Our people want unity... and an end to blood and killing," said Mr. Erdogan, describing the hourlong meeting with Democratic Society Party head Ahmet Turk as "very, very important."

More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died since the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. The war has cost the country an estimated $300 billion and fueled opponents within the EU to Turkey's membership bid.

Mr. Erdogan repeatedly turned down earlier requests for a meeting with Mr. Turk, because the Kurdish politician wouldn't declare the PKK a terrorist organization. Mr. Turk's party has 21 deputies in Turkey's parliament and controls most municipalities in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

The prime minister's reconciliation effort is the latest in his government's policy of trying to neutralize disputes around its borders. Those attempts have had mixed success.

In April, the government looked close to securing a deal with Armenia to reopen their common border, which Turkey closed in 1993 to protest Armenia's war with Turkish ally Azerbaijan. Although it was strongly backed by the U.S. -- President Barack Obama praised the effort when he visited Turkey in April -- those efforts collapsed when Mr. Erdogan backed away from the deal under pressure from Azerbaijan.

Turkish efforts to resolve the dispute over divided Cyprus in 2004, 30 years after Turkey invaded the island, also ran aground, due to Greek Cypriot opposition. That failure has left in place a larger hurdle to Turkey's bid for membership in the EU.

Mr. Erdogan in 2005 broke with Turkey's traditional policy of seeing the Kurdish issue as a simple matter of fighting terrorism when he promised "more democracy" for Turkey's Kurds. Like Turkish leaders before him, however, he didn't follow up words with policies.

Mr. Erdogan's Kurdish initiative faces opposition and long odds. The leader of a Turkish nationalist party, Turkey's third largest, accused the government Saturday of "surrendering to terrorists" bent on dividing the country.

Yet many analysts say the new Kurdish opening is qualitatively different from anything that came before.

"For the first time ever, Turkish state institutions are working in synch to solve the problem," said Henri Barkey, a Turkish expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

The main catalyst for Turkey's new sense of urgency is Washington's announcement that it plans to pull its soldiers out of Iraq, Turkey's southern neighbor, by 2011.

The planned withdrawal has speeded up a rapprochement between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds, whose relations have been blighted for years by the PKK's use of Iraqi Kurdish mountains for its military bases.

In 2007, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, turned down Turkish demands for cooperation over the PKK, saying that he would not expel "even a Kurdish cat." Today, Iraqi Kurds increasingly see Ankara as an alternative to Washington in its struggle to maintain autonomy from an increasingly powerful Baghdad. Both sides agree the PKK's presence in Iraq is an obstacle to closer relations.

There is an economic side to the rapprochement. "Turkey wants to use northern Iraqi gas for Nabucco," says Bayram Bozyel, a Turkish Kurdish politician, referring to a pipeline project that the U.S. and EU hope will help break a Russian stranglehold on European natural-gas supplies. "And the [Iraqi] Kurds want to pump gas north." That would be risky in the midst of a guerrilla war. The PKK claimed responsibility last year for a bomb attack on a major oil pipeline that passes through the same region.

Details of the government's Kurdish initiative remain sparse. In mid-July, Mr. Erdogan's chief political adviser proposed opening Kurdish language departments in universities, giving Kurdish names back to villages, and setting up a parliamentary commission to investigate the unsolved murders of Kurdish civilians at the height of the PKK war.

Turkey continues to rule out the possibility of a general amnesty for the estimated 4,000 PKK members holed up in Iraq and southeastern Turkey. But many analysts believe a preliminary package could be designed to enable the PKK to put down arms without losing face.

Said Mr. Bozyel, the Kurdish politician, said: "There are huge hopes this time. If they are disappointed, God only knows what could happen


ANKARA, Turkey -- A court in Diyarbakir on Tuesday (July 28th) sentenced prominent Kurdish activist Leyla Zana to 15 months in prison for propaganda in favour of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). She missed the sentencing because she was in England for a speech, which the court also deemed as PKK propaganda. At the University of London, she told an audience "what is the heart and the brain for a person, this is what the PKK and [imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah] Ocalan are for the Kurdish people." Zana has already served a ten-year prison sentence, handed down in December 1994, for supporting the PKK. (Hurriyet - 29/07/09; MIA - 28/07/09)

Leyla Zana (born May 3, 1961), is a Kurdish female politician from Eastern Turkey, who was imprisoned for speaking her native language of Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament after taking her parliamentary oath and for her political actions which were claimed to be against the unity of Turkey.

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 and in 1998 and was awarded the 1995 Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament, but was unable to collect it until her release in 2004.

(surce: wikipedia)

Related article:

1. Human rights of Kurdish people in Turkey, by
3. Kurdish Human Rights Project(KHRP) official website:
4. My posting on 23-7-2009, Kurdish People
5. Leyla Zana, by

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