Save the Date / Media Advisory

SOLIDARITY VIGIL / PROTEST
for Imprisoned Kurdish Political Prisoners of Conscience

Contact: Kani Xulam
202.483.6444

Washington, DC (March 25, 2011) Right now, at this moment, a long-repressed people in a distant corner of the Middle East is standing up after years of unbearable suffering. This is a people whose language has been outlawed, subjected to all manners of cultural depredation and assimilation, attacked by chemical weapons, and violently displaced in the millions. This people’s demands for freedom and democracy have been met with torture, mass imprisonment, enforced disappearances, assassination, and every other conceivable human rights abuse.

We’re not talking about the popular revolts in the Middle East and North Africa — we’re talking about the Kurds, whose suffering under repressive regimes in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq continues largely without notice even as the international press focuses on the uprisings in the Arab world.

We’re holding a vigil/protest in front of the Turkish Embassy on April 19 in order to denounce ongoing crimes against the Kurds everywhere and to focus attention on one particular human rights crisis: Turkey’s mass prosecution of 152 leading Kurdish politicians for ‘terrorism’ offenses. When the trial resumes in Diyarbakır on the same day, it will have been more than two years since Turkey began a wave of repression against members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP). According to Human Rights Watch, roughly 1,000 BDP members remain in pre-trial detention.

At the heart of the Turkish prosecution of the Kurds lies the desire of the Turkish government to deny the Kurdish population of Turkey the rights enshrined in Article 15, section 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” The Kurdish defendants are in jail for wanting to remain Kurds. They have asked the Turkish Courts to allow them to defend themselves in Kurdish. The Turkish authorities have refused to honor their requests and continue to hold them in prison in spite of Ankara’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the vigil/protest, our lead banner will read, “Welcome to Kurdish Liberation Square! Turkey: Free Kurdish Politicians Now!” Our signs will say, “Let me say Freedom/Azadi in Kurdish! Let me say Innocent/Besuc in Kurdish! Kurds say Negotiations, Turkey says Prosecutions! Kurds say Equality, Turkey says Domination!” Participants are welcome and encouraged to bring their own signs so long as they are not demeaning and do not condone violence.

“We are very heartened with the rumblings of freedom that are putting an end to the rule of families owning countries in the Middle East. As the United States and its allies help the Libyans to free themselves from tyranny of Qaddafi, we urge the same forces to heed the domination of one race, the Turks, over the other, the Kurds, in Turkey. As Kurdish-Americans, we ask that the Obama administration appoint a special envoy to meet with the duly elected Kurdish representatives in Turkish Kurdistan. It will cost less than the operation over the skies of North Africa,” said Kani Xulam, the director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN).

What: A Vigil/Protest for Imprisoned Kurdish Political Prisoners of Conscience

When: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 – 11:30 AM / 1:30 PM

Where: Turkish Embassy, 2525 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W Washington, D.C. 20008

Who: Kurds and their American Friends

Why: To shed light on the plight of imprisoned Kurdish Prisoners of Conscience

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