Numbering some 35 million, the Kurds are the world’s largest stateless people. Inhabitants of the region of Mesopotamia in the Middle East, the very birthplace of civilization itself, the Kurds are a distinct people with a history, culture, and language all of their own.
Trapped within the borders of repressive and murderous Middle Eastern states, such as Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, the Kurdish cries for self-determination have gone largely ignored by the outside world. When Saddam Hussein murdered thousands of Iraqi Kurds with poison gas in Halabja in 1988 and butchered tens of thousands more in the aftermath of the Gulf War, the world paid brief attention to their plight. But for the Kurds of Turkey, no one seems to shed a tear.
Support Peace In Kurdistan!
Since 1984, a brutal war has been raging in southeastern Turkey, in an area which makes up a large part of Kurdistan, the traditional home of the Kurdish people. Since 1987, the entire region has been under martial law. The government of Turkey, with one of NATO’s largest armies and Europe’s worst human rights records, has carried out a scorch-earth campaign which has devastated the region. More than 35,000 people have been killed, more than 3,000 Kurdish villages destroyed by Turkish troops, and some 3 million Kurdish civilians forced to flee their homes. Death squads have taken the lives of hundreds of journalists, Kurdish politicians, human rights activists, and leading intellectuals. Nearly 500 people have died of torture in Turkish jails. Dozens more are still missing. The mothers of these disappeared persons gather in silence every Saturday morning in Istanbul to pray for their lost sons and daughters.
The Kurdish people, who are struggling to win basic rights and freedoms which we Americans take largely for granted, want to live in peace. And yet the warlords in Ankara seem only to speak the language of war. Despite repeated calls for a political solution to the problem, as well as unilateral cease-fires by the Kurdish fighters in 1993 and 1995 which were never answered by the Turkish forces, the death and destruction continues. We should do our best to aid efforts such as these Kurdish cease-fires, which are aimed at initiating a political dialogue. We must support the peace in Kurdistan!
Oppose Arms Sales To Turkey!
Despite a weak economy and rampant inflation, the Turkish government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to wage war on the Kurds. Such financial expenditures are only possible thanks to generous loans and donations given to Turkey by the U.S. government. At least 85% of the arms used by the Turkish military in Kurdistan are made in the USA. The 3,000 Kurdish villages which have been wiped off the map during the last few years alone were almost all razed by American-made tanks, bombed by American-made jets, and shot at with American-made guns.
On average, nearly 20 people die each day in the war in Kurdistan. This war would not be possible without assistance from the United States. It seems unconscionable that while American forces are “protecting” Kurds in northern Iraq, American weapons are murdering them just over the border in Turkey. In order to help bring peace to Kurdistan, we must oppose all arms sales and shipments to Turkey!
Stop The Deportation Of Kani Xulam!
In 1993, Kani Xulam, a Turkish Kurd from Diyarbakir, established the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) in Washington, DC. AKIN is a non-profit human rights organization which aims to inform America’s public and policy makers about the situation in Kurdistan, with the ultimate goal of bringing peace to the region. Because Kani’s consciousness-raising efforts were so successful, and whose effects were felt even within the walls of Congress, Turkish government officials (and their cohorts in Washington) tried to shut AKIN down and remove Kani Xulam from the scene.
In April 1996, federal agents raided AKIN’s offices, seizing documents, computers, cash donations, and arresting Mr. Kani Xulam. Because Kani is not yet a citizen of the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is seeking to deport him back to Turkey. And the Turkish government would love to get their hands on Mr. Kani Xulam.
If Kani Xulam were deported to Turkey, his fate would be certain: before being sentenced to as much as life in prison, he would be subjected to horrible forms of torture and persecution. International human rights organizations have published numerous reports which clearly document well-defined patterns of torture and abuse in Turkish prisons. And those people arrested because of their work on behalf of the Kurds often must pay the ultimate price: death through torture.
The Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Nuzhet Kandemir, has repeatedly branded AKIN as a front for the rebel movement PKK, adding that “[Turkey] has been very unhappy with a lot of the activities of AKIN on a daily basis which were very harmful for Turkish interests.” What activities were these? Providing testimony to the Helsinki Commission about the human rights situation in southeastern Turkey, publishing reports about the political situation in Kurdistan, meetings with Members of Congress to help stem the flow of U.S. arms to the Turkish military, letter campaigns to President Clinton urging an end to the war. It seems that for the Turkish Embassy here in Washington, the truth hurts and therefore must be silenced.
Kani Xulam has filed an application for political asylum in the United States, and yet the INS still wishes to expel him. But Kani has been so outspoken and so effective in his lobbying efforts on behalf of the Kurdish people that his deportation back to Turkey would certainly amount to a death sentence. As people committed to the cause of peace and human rights, we must do all we can to stop the deportation of Kani Xulam to Turkey!
“In Turkey, there is no freedom of speech protecting people who address the Kurdish issues Kani Xulam has spoken out about in this country. Hundreds of Turkish intellectuals have been brutally imprisoned and oppressed for criticizing the Turkish government, or simply for daring to speak the Kurdish language. I have no doubt that Kani’s highly effective lobbying work in Washington, DC would make him an obvious target of the Turkish authorities if he were forced to return.”
– Jennifer Washburn, Research Associate at the World Policy Institute, New York City
“In the last six years that I have worked for Amnesty International, a significant portion of my time has been focused on raising concerns about human rights violations in Turkey. I met Kani Xulam, Director of the American Kurdish Information Network, several years ago and have become aware of his work vis-a-vis Congressional offices. Given the dire human rights situation in Turkey and Mr. Xulam’s highly visible opposition to it, there is no doubt in my mind that Kani Xulam would face persecution were he to return to Turkey.”
– Maryam Elahi, Amnesty International, Washington, DC
“Over the past three years, we have had many occasions to benefit from the highly professional work of Mr. Kani Xulam. As Director of the American Kurdish Information Network, he has provided our offices with credible documentation of human rights conditions affecting the Kurdish populations throughout the areas of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. We are aware that the treatment of the Kurds in Turkey has been characterized by serious human rights abuses. We, therefore, wish to express our support for Mr. Kani Xulam’s request for political asylum. It is our educated opinion that should Mr. Xulam be returned to Turkey he would be placed in serious danger.”
– letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) signed by 20 Members of the U.S. Congress
Kani’s legal battles are being waged by Mr. Peter Schey, Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles. Mr. Schey is determined to do his utmost to expose the collusion between the INS, the U.S. State Department and Turkey’s intelligence agency, whose secret efforts are threatening the life of a devoted human rights activist. In order to raise funds for this legal process, we are organizing a series of receptions in cities across the country. Your support would be greatly appreciated.
For more information, please contact our office at (202) 483-6444.