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Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Mar 11, 2007

The struggle for Kurdish rights.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a nation state of their own and the history and rights of the Kurdish people are intricately bound up with the most troubled (and troublesome) states in the Middle East.
The history of the Kurds is a history of a people who have, by accident of geography and the rise and fall of empires, found themselves living in areas which straddle a number of modern nation states. It is the geographical range of the Kurdish people which has to some extent allowed them to be suppressed and victimised within the states where they live.

The Kurdish people live principally in the South eastern areas of Turkey (around 15 million people or an estimated 20% of the Turkish population), with sizeable numbers also living in the border areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran. In all these states there is a history of suppression of Kurdish peoples.

In Iraq, while there has been much debate about the justification and rightness of the US invasion, the outcome has allowed the Kurds in that country to build on the democratic institutions that they were already developing in the areas that they controlled even under Sadaam. In fact the Kurds played their part in the overthrow of the Baathist regime and have now secured a degree of internal autonomy within the overall Iraqi state.

Nevertheless fear of Kurdish political demands remains ingrained within the states of the region. Each state, Turkey,Iran, Syria and Iraq appears fearful that allowing Kurdish political and cultural development will result in seccession and the creation of a Kurdish state.

But are these fears justified? And even if they were would that justify the brutal supression of the Kurdish people and their political aspirations?

It is worth looking at some of the pronouncements of the most prominant Kurdish parties and politicians to see what their aspirations truly are.

Abdullah Ocalan is the best known representative of the struggle for Kurdish freedoms. Currently languishing in a Turkish jail, he is the voice of the oppressed Kurds. The movement that he represents has various strands, and the PKK, the best known of these, has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the US.

The PKK may indeed have committed terrorist actions on occassions but the Kurds have also been subject to massive oppression for example in Turkey.(Ref 1) It is important however to distinguish between organisations which are by their nature wedded to terrorist methods and those for whom terrorist action is a short-term expedient on the path towards political resolution. If we fail to make such a distinction we are likely to miss significant chances for conflict resolution and constructive solutions to international and ethnic political problems.

Contrast Al qaeda for example with the Kurdish actions. There is no doubt that Al Qaeda is an organisation which is, in its very soul, wedded to terrorism and terrorist methods. It is "millenarian" in the sense that it seeks to bring about the complete destruction of existing political structures by the creation of tension and conflict triggered by terrorism.

The Kurdish groups under the umbrella of the KKK present a very different picture as can be seen from their ceasefire statement of August 2006 (Ref 2) and from the writing of Abdullah Ocalan.(Ref 4). The ceasefire statement for example argues that ;

"The only correct position to adopt in the region is the one that follows the principles of dialogue and democracy with respect for all the religious and national differences that form a part of the modern democracy. "

How different this is from normal "terrorist" rhetoric.

Ocalan and many in the Kurdish movement do not appear to be arguing for the creation of a Kurdish "nation state". Their argument is for "democratic confederalism". (Ref 4) In the form that Ocalan states this he describes nation states as "not working" and his statement could be read as unrealistically arguing for the disbandment of nation states and their replacement with "democratic confederalism". Such a major overhaul of political systems seems unrealistic in the extreme. However on another level the statement contains the germs of a solution. If the reality of existing nation states is recognised then within these states the Kurds should be allowed to develop their own political and cultural identity and they should be able to develop links across the national state borders in the form of a higher ( and perhaps looser) "democratic confederation".

If their aim is indeed for such an arrangement then the existing states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria should welcome such proposals as a potential constructive solution to their "kurdish problem". It is a solution that allows the Kurds to fulfill their historical right to enjoy political and cultural association as a people but without the need to re-draw nation state borders (and thereby avoiding the instability and violence flowing from that).

It should be acknowledged though that there are differences of opinion within the Kurds and that for example in the Iraq/Iranian areas Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talebani’s PUK, are rivals for influence in Kurdish affairs.

If Ocalan's position and the position espoused by the KKK can accomodate the existing nations states then a solution is achievable. Sadly however, the Turkish state, wedded as it still is to narrow notions of nationalism and control over constitutional debate, has been unable to repond positively to the Ocalan/KKK position. In fact, on the contrary, Turkish repression of Kurdish political debate is a fascistic as ever. This is unlikely to change until Turkey ( and the Turkish people) shows itself able to confront its own historical demons ( eg armenian massacres) and develops into a more politically and culturally pluralistic and tolerant society.

If the current tentative stirrings of co-operation over Iraq result in the improvement of political dialogue in the Middle East then it is vital that all parties with an interest in the resolution of the "kurdish problem" come together and explore how Kurdish aspirations for democratic confederalism can be achieved without threatening the integrity of existing states.

In the meantime we in the West must continue to demand that states like Turkey, which aspire to be seen as modern and democratic and to join forward thinking institutions like the EU, must demonstrate their credentials by engaging internally in constructive dialogue with Kurdish representatives (Ref 3). Turkey must stop the irrational excesses of its justice system in clamping down on any expressions of Kurdish aspirations. This blog posted previously for example on the case of a man who was jailed for referring to Abullah Ocalan as "Mr"!

The Middle East has been through some of its most traumatic experiences ever in recent years. But in this period of violence and tension also lie the dormant seeds of long term resolution. Do the political leaders of the region and the significant players in the West have the courage and foresight to nuture these seeds to growth? Will they continue to be narrow and blind in their thinking and leave only deserts of destruction and wasted opportunity in their wake? History will judge them.

More info on Kurdish Human rights - Kurdish Human Rights Project
To comment on this post see end of refs section below.

Source Wikepedia
Between 1984 and 1999, the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as
Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state's military operations.[50] Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly evacuated villages, destroying houses and equipment to prevent the return of the inhabitants. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped from the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people.[51][52][53][54]

2. Koma Komalen Kurdistan Ceasefire Statement ( Source http://rastibini.blogspot.com )
To the press and the public opinion
Our region, the Middle East, is going through an important change. Day after day the events unfolding show us that nationalism and anti-democratic positions are the main actors behind the confrontations, leaving us in an impasse without any hope for a solution to the problem.

The only correct position to adopt in the region is the one that follows the principles of dialogue and democracy with respect for all the religious and national differences that form a part of the modern democracy.

We know that the main problem, that has a major effect on all the other problems in the region, is the Kurdish one. In the countries where the Kurdish problem exists, the politics of oppression of the Kurdish population significantly reinforces the anti-democratic forces of the region. Otherwise, the solution of the Kurdish problem can function as a catalyst for the further democratisation of the region.

As a movement we have demonstrated many important efforts and achieved much in the search for a democratic solution of the Kurdish problem. To obtain this objective, our Leader issued proposals and appeals on several occasions. Despite the fact that our efforts have never received an adequate response, they didnt fall without result. On the contrary, our efforts created important developments in the understanding of the Kurdish problem and its importance within the regional situation.

Since the resistance of the Kurdish population against the attacks of the Turkish government in 2003 in particular, our Movement for Freedom made important progress in relation to maturing of democratic outlook within the organizations and in the position of the guerrilla forces. The movement has reached the point where we are able to resist strongly the politics of denial and oppression of Turkey. In addition, the struggles for freedom against the regimes of Iran and Syria have grown stronger. This development in the four parts of Kurdistan enables the Kurds to be in a strong position to have an important influence on regional stability and international politics.

Within this framework the relation between the Kurds and the Turks became a major issue in the region. As a result of this evolution, the solution of the Kurdish problem will have its impact on the international situation. It is within this context that different forces made declarations and appeals on several occasions for a ceasefire. Among these are the recent written declaration of the US on 15th August, the Federal Republic of Iraq and the Regional Government of South Kurdistan. In Turkey several appeals have been made by different organizations, first of all by the DPT, also by intellectuals, writers, Mothers for Peace, religious leaders of Kurdistan and musicians. Some of these appeals have been made through the press, others by different diplomatic means.

In contribution to these moves, our Leader made a new declaration concerning the political progress and our movement issued on 23rd August a declaration to announce the beginning of a process for a democratic solution. Following these declarations, several meetings have taken place and appeals were made with the same aim; they accelerated the possibility of entering a new successful period of peace. In order to support this development, our Leader made an appeal for a ceasefire on behalf of our movement. It was not made public until the 7th September 2006.

After the suspension of the military actions carried out by the HPG (Movement for the Defence of the People) 15 September 2006 and in line with the demand of the Executive Presidential Board of Koma Komalen Kurdistan (Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan), the first meeting of the 2nd assembly took place between the 24-25th of September. At this were gathered the President of Kongra Gel, the permanent commissions, the Executive Board of Koma Komalen Kurdistan, the committee of the Movement for the Defence of the People and the board of command of the HPG. During this meeting the appeal of Leader Abdullah Ocalan has been discussed after which we arrived at the following decisions:

1.The declaration of the ceasefire has been decided to start on 1st of October 2006. According the steps that will be taken and how events will develop, the period of the ceasefire will continue.

2.There will be no use of arms as long as our forces are not attacked, but in case of an attack in order to annihilate our forces, they will defend themselves by all means.

3.During the whole period, there will be no military activity with the exception of the activities that fulfil our logistical needs and to safeguard our natural security.

4.According this decision, the board of command of the HPG, the position of our forces, their movement and their programme will be reorganised in relation to the reality of ceasefire.

5.All the officials, organizations and institutions within the movement for Democracy and Freedom in Kurdistan will at every level (ideological, political, practical) contribute to the success of this ceasefire. In addition, all the tasks and programmes will be re-arranged in accordance with the decision of this declaration.

6.This decision concerns all the forces of the Koma Komalen Kurdistan. Nobody will take an opposite position; everyone will strive with utmost efforts to contribute to the success of this period.

On the 28th September 2006, following the decisions of the assembly, the Leader of Koma Komalen Kurdistan, Apo (Abdullah Öcalan), declared once again to the public and the movement the decision of a ceasefire. I am prepared to do all that is necessary and call on the HPG to announce a ceasefire. This period of ceasefire is hugely important. In reality, once this step is taken we have a lot to do.

As clarified and supported by all our national organizations, the decision can now take official effect.

The decision of our Leader Abdullah Ocalan and our movement is a decision of all our national democratic organizations. The decision concerns them all. This means that those who are not within our movement but claim to act in the name of the Kurdish people and especially those who claim to be affiliated with Abdullah Ocalan should act accordingly and demonstrate an attitude according to the appeal of our Leader. The same applies to the armed forces not active within our system.

They, who do not respond to our appeal and cause damage to the cause of freedom of our people, must know that our movement will take a position on a national level.

Our people, having assessed our struggle for freedom successfully, paid many efforts and achieved much, has act in a decisive way for the ceasefire.

They have to do what has to be done to obtain a democratic solution and a free union. The work for a democratic solution has to be pursued in the strongest terms; our people have to show their clear determination for peace.

We will carry out our work for this aim of a positive outcome in order to create the conditions for a life within a democratic and free union and to solve the problem within the borders of Turkey. Our people will more than ever in their history refuse to bow to the politics of denial and violence; if necessary they will defend themselves. The step towards a ceasefire that we have made is of historical importance for the union and its continuation between two nations. Now that we have a chance for peace, we will make use of it fully. By contrast they who want to provoke feelings of hostility between the nations, who are at the side of war, that is the nationalists and chauvinists, can be the cause of dangerous relations. Thats why all the democratic organizations, the press, the intellectuals, artists, in fact all who desire peace, should take the path that we have chosen. Nobody should remain on the sidelines; everybody has his task to perform.

It is obvious that the Turkish Government and its army cannot solve the problem by the violence as it already tried this so many times. Politics of "surrender or destroy" have inflicted only harm to our people and caused the destabilization of our region. A democratic solution by means of dialogue will in contrast clear the way for a democratic development that can only be positive for Turkey, if only Turkey responds positively towards the ceasefire.

The success of the ceasefire that we have developed will benefit our people living in the four parts of Kurdistan. It should be obvious that as long the Kurdish problem in Turkey is not resolved, it will not be resolved in the other parts either and the gains already obtained will not last. For this reason the PUK and the PDK, indeed all the Kurdish forces, should contribute to this period and make the necessary efforts to enable it to succeed. The governments of the region, such as Iran and Syria, have to abandon their current position and should realize that a democratic solution is not possible as long as there is no peace with the Kurds. As it should become clear that the process of a ceasefire will benefit these countries as well, it will have a positive influence on the whole region.

It should be recognised that achieving peace and stability in the Middle East is the biggest guarantee for peace and stability in the whole world. Neither the US, nor the other international forces, should adopt the methods of violence to resolve the Kurdish problem. They have to approach the problem within the framework of a democratic solution. This will create a peaceful result in the region and the world. The positive indications that we received and the process of ceasefire that we started will develop a democratic process and stability in the region.

Despite the adoption of democratic means and dialogue to achieve a solution, it is simply unjust that the Turkish Government considers our movement to be terrorist and insists on means of violence. This political decision for violence adopted by successive Turkish Governments resulted over the decades in many massacres and a massive exodus of our people. This violence never obtained any result, but simply left the region in a state of conflict.

It is for this reason that the governments that engaged themselves in the alliance of three in coordination against the PKK should not consider our movement as a terrorist one and should abandon all plans for liquidation. It is obvious that the problem cannot be resolved by means of violence, as events in the past have already repeatedly shown on many occasions. The leading powers have to reconsider their approach to the problem by considering our project for a democratic solution; this is the best way forward. The US and especially the Iraqi Government, that knows as no other the Kurdish problem, should play a constructive role in the process of a ceasefire that we have launched.

From our side, we have done and will do all that is necessary to make this ceasefire work. As the party that stands for the development of a democratic period and for stability, we appeal to all the concerned governments to take responsibility in the interests of all the people, including the Kurdish population, within the framework of this democratic project.

Koma Komalen Kurdistan (Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan)
Presidential Board

3 http://www.hpg-online.net/eng/news/news_20.html
The following points are crucial:
The framework for the steps that need to be developed mutually in the second phase for a permanent solution:

1- The acknowledgement of the Kurdish identity and the constitutional guarantee of all identities under the identity of a Citizen of Turkey as the main identity,

2- The lifting of obstacles on the development of the Kurdish language and culture, the acknowledgement of education in the mother tongue and Kurdish acknowledged as the official second language alongside Turkish in the Kurdistan region, and with this to show respect to other minority cultures,

3- The acknowledgement, on the basis of freely practicing politics and organizing, of the right to thought, belief and freedom of expression, the lifting of all social inequalities in the constitution and laws, firstly being those of gender discrimination,

4- A social reconciliation project with the aim of mutual forgiveness of both people's for the development of a peace and freedom union, on this basis the release of political prisoners including the PKK Leadership, and no obstacles to them participating in politics and social life,

5- The removal of forces in Kurdistan there for the purposes of special war, the abolition of the village guard system and the necessary social and political projects to be developed for the return of displaced villagers,

6- In parallel to the realization of the above articles, the initiation, with a timetable determined by both parties, of the gradual disarmament and legal participation into the democratic social life.

4The declaration of Democratic Confederalism
Saturday, April 02, 2005
KurdishMedia.com - By Abdullah Ocalan

We are in an historical era which is affording mankind both immense opportunities for development and great dangers. The Middle East is going through a period of conflicts and chaos in what has been deemed the Third World War and at the centre of these conflicts and contradictions is Kurdistan. Despite attempts to maintain the former political status quo and the endeavours of the forces of global capital to find solutions in line with their own interests, the peoples seek the development of their own democratic systems based on freedom and to overcome the current situation of chaos and conflict. Here is a rough summary of the main points:

1. The basis for all development of humanity in the 19th century was the agricultural revolution which originated in the ecological system of the Zagros mountains. The 19th century ushered in the second big revolution, the industrial revolution. This second revolution played an important role in the development of “nation states”. The system of nation states, however, has become a serious barrier to the development of society and democracy and freedom since the end of the 20th century.

2. The right of self-determination of nations was interpreted as the right to establish a nation state.

The model of the United Nations based on nation states is not working. The nation state is an obstacle to its development. The Gulf war and the current situation in Iraq stand as proof of this.

3. The only way out of this situation is to establish a democratic confederal system that will derive its strength directly from the people, and not from globalisation based on nation states. Neither nation states nor globalisation which supersedes them are sustainable. Imperialism fails to develop a serious alternative model. Consequently the crisis of the system is deepening.

4. For this reason, the only alternative is democratic confederalism, which is a pyramid-like model of organisation. Here it is the communities who talk, debate and make decisions. From the base to the top the elected delegates would form a kind of loose co-ordinating body. They will be the elected representatives of the people for one year.

5. A system of democratic confederalism would be the model for the resolution of the problems of the Middle East. Neither the capitalist system nor the pressure of imperialist forces will lead to democracy; except to serve their own interests. The task is to assist in developing a grass-roots based democracy. Democratic confederalism is a system which takes into consideration the religious, ethnic and class differences in society.

6. For Kurdistan, however, democratic confederalism is a movement which does not interpret the right to self determination to establish a nation state, but develops its own democracy in spite of political boundaries. A Kurdish structure will develop through the creation of a federation of Kurds in Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. And by uniting on a higher level they will form a confederal system.

7. Within Kurdistan democratic confederalism will establish village, towns and city assemblies and their delegates will be entrusted with the real decision-making, which in effect means that the people and the community will decide.

Current events throughout the world, including the Middle East, and the situation in Kurdistan have led to the conclusion that to develop and establish democratic confederalism is an unavoidable historical duty. To start to develop, promote and establish democratic confederalism on a new Newroz day is historically seen as a progressive, exciting and liberating step.

Democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a state system, but a democratic system of the people without a state. With the women and youth at the forefront, it is a system in which all sectors of society will develop their own democratic organisations. It is a politics exercised by free and equal confederal citizens by electing their own free regional representatives. It is based on the principle of its own strength and expertise. It derives its power from the people and in all areas including its economy it will seek self-sufficiency.

Kurdish democratic confederalism draws its strength from the historical roots of its people, and the deep-rooted, rich cultural identity of Mesopotamia. It is based on the democratic communal structure of natural society. Throughout their whole history Kurds have favoured Clan systems and tribal confederations and struggled to resist centralised governments. Democratic confederalism is based on the reality of the patriotic people, the free life and the vast experience of democratic organisation and structures which the PKK has fought for for over 30 years in all areas of the struggle, in particular in prisons and in the mountains with its thousands of martyrs.

Democratic confederalism aims and struggles to press for deep-rooted reforms in order to open the road to democracy; and to remove any barriers facing democratisation. From now on, three laws will be applied in Kurdistan: EU Law, the law of the national government and the democratic confederal law. So long as the national governments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria respect the democratic confederal laws the Kurdish people will observe their laws and thereby common ground will be sought.

Democratic confederalism is based on the principle of the recognition, and preservation of all cultural identities as well as the promotion of the right to freedom of expression. To this end, it seeks as its main task the resolution of the Kurdish question by democratic means, the recognition of the Kurdish identity on all levels and the development and furtherance of the Kurdish language and culture.

The principle of democratic confederalism promotes an ecological model of society. It is opposed to all forms of sexual oppression and aims to overcome it through the liberation struggle of the women. It seeks the establishment of democracy in all spheres of life of Kurdish society which is based on ecology and equality of the sexes and struggles against all forms of reaction and backwardness. It conjoins individual rights and freedoms with the development of democracy.

Democratic confederalism seeks the resolution of society’s problems without resorting to violence and thus it is based on a policy of peace. It will use the right to legitimate self-defence against any attacks on its country, its people, its freedoms and against any violation of its rights.

Democratic confederalism is the movement of the Kurdish people to establish their own democracy and system of society. It is the expression of a democratic society and transcends all national structures. It is based on the freedoms of political, social, economic, cultural, sexual and ethnic rights. It strives for the unity of the different ecological and communal organisations and at the same time represents the governing organisation as an expression of organised society. On this premise, I am calling upon all sectors of society, in particular all women and the youth, to set up their own democratic organisations and to govern themselves.

Democratic confederalism is the expression for the democratic unity of the Kurds who are spread in four countries and scattered throughout the world. It seeks the resolution of the internal problems of the Kurdish nation through democratic unity. It views the tendency to create a nation state based on nationalism as a continuation of an outdated understanding of the nation state. As these models will neither resolve the Kurdish question nor assist the Kurdish people in the development of Kurdish society I call on these forces to be open to democratisation and to join the confederation on the basis of democratic national unity.

Democratic confederalism is based on a deep-rooted democratic understanding and sense of freedom, it makes no difference between peoples and defends the equality and freedom of all peoples. It replaces the centralist nation state based on borders. It is the basis for the unity of the peoples and democratic forces of the Middle East. It establishes its relationships with neighbouring countries on the basis of equality and freedom of political, social and cultural rights. To that end, I call on all regional peoples to unite within the democratic confederation and I call on the neighbouring countries to adopt a democratic position.

Democratic confederalism is opposed to global imperialism and seeks the global democracy of peoples. It is a system in which all peoples and all humanity should be living in the 21st century. This will pave the way for global democratic confederalism and a new era. I call on humanity to create a new world under the umbrella of a global democratic confederalism.

I believe by announcing the formation of the KOMA KOMALEN KURDISTAN (KKK), as the expression of democratic confederalism and the unity of the Kurdish people, on this Newroz day 2005 we have established a new philosophy and way of life for our people. I call on all our people to establish their own democracy, to unite and to govern themselves under their own flag (on green background a yellow sun with a red star). I will carry this flag proudly and I will continue to carry out my duties as a leader. On this day of spring, a day closer to freedom than the days of springs in the past, I wish our people and the regional peoples a Happy Newroz. With kind regards.

20 March 2005
Translation from Turkish original, courtesy of KNK London.

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