BDP Washington office expresses concern over Newroz celebrations in Turkey

By Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Representation in the USA:

Newroz 2012, Istanbul

Newroz 2012, Istanbul

To the US Public and Press:

Newroz, the Kurdish New Year as well as a common tradition of peoples going across countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, coincides with the spring equinox of March 21. It is normally celebrated during the 3rd week of March. For Kurds, Newroz is known through its mythological background narrative of the salvation of the Kurdish people by the legendary hero Kawa from the evil reign of King Dehaq in 612 BC. For centuries, Kurds have welcomed Newroz as the beginning of Spring with the connotation of freedom as societal and political terms. Kurdish people have for decades been celebrating their festival, Newroz, attributing liberty and freedom and carrying out demonstrations and rallies voicing demands for political and cultural recognition of their existence in Turkey.

Millions of Kurdish citizens of Turkey impatiently anticipated this year’s Newroz with a great degree of determination for salvation from a harsh winter and cruelty of the Turkish State: The number of arbitrary detentions of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) politicians parliamentarians, elected mayors, lawyers, journalists, academicians and human rights activists has reached over 5,000 within only a six-month period since September 2011; thousands of inhabitants were left alone with their own destiny after a devastating earthquake ruined the second-largest Kurdish city of Wan claiming hundreds of deaths in November 2011; 34 Kurdish villagers were massacred in the Turkish aerial bombardment in Roboski village (Qileban town in Sirnex province) in December 2011; and finally Kurdish children who were detained in Pozanti Prison in Adana for throwing stones at police were raped and tortured by adult detainees, soldiers, and the guards. Based on these oppressive societal facts, the Kurds are determined to celebrate Newroz with the highest degree of enthusiasm to show their invincible will for freedom to the Turkish state governed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

After weeks of preparation, BDP Headquarters and provincial branches announced to public and government institutions in both the Kurdish region and Turkey’s western cities that 2012 Newroz celebrations would be held between March 18 and the 25 each day in different provinces. Although Kurds in Turkey have been celebrating Newroz during the third week of March for years, the Interior Minister decided at the last minute to ban Newroz celebrations and declared all public gatherings illegal except for March 21, 2012.

Turkish riot police confront protestors

Turkish riot police confront protestors

The aim of this anti-democratic and illegitimate decision of the government was to continue oppressing Kurdish political movement, demanding its basic political and cultural rights. BDP’s co-president Mr. Selahattin Demirta! issued a press release stating that: “We will not be intimidated by these illegitimate decisions but show our will for freedom and democratic rights with civil disobedience demonstrations during Newroz celebrations. We are going to celebrate Newroz all over the Kurdish region and Turkish metropolitan cities despite the AKP government’s oppressive policies.”

While several millions of Kurds living in !stanbul and Amed (in Turkish named Diyarbakir) gathered together in squares to celebrate Newroz on Sunday March 18th, police forces attacked people marching with BDP Member of Parliaments (MPs) and politicians. Attacks were carried out in extremely violent ways: people were bombarded with tear-gas bombs and highly-pressurized water. Hundreds of people were wounded and hospitalized. BDP Arnavutköy District chair of Istanbul, Mr. Hacı Zengin, 57, was killed after being beaten and hit by a tear gas canister thrown by police. In addition, BDP MPs, such as Mr. Ozdal Ucer (MP-Wan), Ms. Mulkiye Birtane (MP-Kars), as well as Mr. Ertugrul Kurkcu (MP-Mersin) all incurred severe injuries by police.

Furthermore, Mr. Ahmet Turk, 69, a prominent Kurdish MP and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an umbrella organization of Kurdish NGOs and political parties, was beaten by police and hospitalized during the Newroz celebrations in Batman on March 20th. Mr Turk was co-chair of the banned Democratic Society Party and met USA President Mr. Obama during his visit to Turkey in 2009.

We would like to draw to the attention of press agencies, lawmakers, scholars, and civil society organizations in the USA that

tear gas attack

Tear gas attack

Turkey is engaging in internment camps of Kurdish politicians, political repression and military destruction, aiming at stifling the capacity of the Kurdish political movement to express their political goals and concerns. While the Turkish government presents itself as a ‘successful democracy’ and has been at the forefront of efforts to curb the on-going repression in the Middle East, its own repressive record against Kurdish people shows that Turkey is becoming an illiberal and authoritarian country.

We, the BDP representation in the USA, condemn the Turkish government’s systematic violation of basic human rights and its use of disproportional force against Kurdish people. As the third largest political party in Turkey, the BDP’s main mission is to solve Kurdish conflict by democratic and peaceful ways. The Kurdish conflict is essentially a result of denial and assimilation policies of the Turkish State since its foundation in 1923. We would like to underline that Kurdish people represented by the BDP have long demanded their political and cultural recognition as a people with the right to enjoy all its natural rights, including mother tongue education, self-government, and equal and inclusive citizenship in a new constitution. BDP’s participation is crucial to transform Turkey into a democratic and pluralist Turkish Republic. As the BDP has long proposed, it is the reality that there is no solution to the three-decade-long Kurdish conflict unless the Turkish government re-starts the process of dialogue and negotiation.

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