For Immediate Release (# 58)
October 9, 2001
Contact: Kani Xulam, 202.483.6444 or Adam Eidinger, 202.744.2671
Thousands Show Solidarity With Kurds
7 Months and 11 Days Later Kurdish Vigil Ends
U.S. Told Turkish Government Vigil Was Free Speech
WASHINGTON, DC , The American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) will end it’s 221 day peaceful vigil across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle on Thursday, October 11, 2001 with a press conference and traditional ceremony at 6:00 PM. The vigil called, “The Cell of Atonement,” sought to focus international attention on the continued imprisonment of Kurdish parliamentarians and has been a lightning rod of Turkish indignation. Congressman Bob Filner will be the keynote speaker and will be joined by Kurds and their friends and supporters.
WHO: Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA)
Jeffrey Pilch, the Office of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
WHAT: Press Conference and Closing Ceremony of the “Cell of Atonement”
WHEN: Thursday, October 11, 2001 at 6:00 PM
WHERE: Sheridan Circle (Massachusetts Avenue and 23rd Street NW)
AKIN began the Kurdish Vigil on March 5, 2001, the seventh anniversary of Leyla Zana and her parliamentarian colleagues’ arrest and imprisonment by the Turkish authorities. The around the clock watch was conducted in a replica of a Turkish prison cell that the Kurdish activists built and placed across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence. On September 30, 2001 the vigil was visited over 3000 American supporters chanting, “Free the Kurds.” The message has been heard. Based on reports in the Turkish press, the continued presence and success of the vigil prompted the Turkish government — instead of addressing the ongoing imprisonment of Kurdish parliamentarians — to urge the American officials to end it and “return” Kani Xulam, the principal organizer of the event, to Turkey. The American authorities upholding the right of free speech in the U.S. protected the vigil and permitted it to continue.
“We started our vigil to physically take part in the plight of the Kurdish representatives. We have done that. We also wanted to raise awareness about the Kurds in this country. To a certain degree, we have done that as well. I want to thank the American government as well as its people for the opportunity to engage in every human being’ birthright, free speech, for the past 221 days, at one of their national parks. It was a privilege we cherished throughout the vigil and will honor it for as long as we live. In this critical hour in the life of America, we have decided to end our vigil; we don’t want our presence to create any problems or cause any distractions for Washington to take care of its own first,” said Kani Xulam.
As to the long-range plans of AKIN, “Nothing will stop us from our sacred fight to restore our people their inalienable right of free speech. We are simply taking a break to rest and regroup. We will be back soon to continue with AKIN’s mission to foster Kurdish-American understanding and friendship,” said Kani Xulam.