The Time For Reconciliation is NOW!
Stand Up for Peace and Democracy!
“Turkey… will not be able to stifle the claims to an identity and the democratic aspirations of its 15 million Kurds by war and massacre. By the same token, it is impossible for Kurds to win anything by violence and force of arms.”
–Leyla Zana, Prisoner of Conscience, 1995
For the people of Kurdistan, an indigenous Nation of about 40 million people spanning the present borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and the former USSR, the 20th century has been an especially cruel one. As the largest ethnic group in the world without a country to call its own, the Kurds have been subject to execution in Iran, genocide by poison in Iraq, and a 75-year campaign of cultural genocide in Turkey.
For the past 15 years, a “dirty war” has raged in Turkish Kurdistan between the Turkish military and the resistance fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The United States has sadly been an enthusiastic “ally” of a Turkish government employing death squads and other forms of state-sponsored terrorism. Military as well as economic aid has helped make possible this war costing the Turkish state $8 billion per year.
After the deaths of over 37,000 people (the great majority Kurds), the destruction of over 3,400 Kurdish villages by “security forces,” and the displacement of over 3 million Kurds from their rightful homes, both Kurds and Turks are demanding an end to this violence and the beginning of real democracy in military-dominated Turkey.
President Clinton Will Address the Turkish Parliament on November 15, 1999. Will He Say Anything About the Plight of the Kurds? Probably Not! But there is a window of opportunity for peace and reconciliation NOW.
In an act that brings to mind the Freedom Rides in this country, a group of 8 PKK fighters surrendered voluntarily to the Turkish authorities on October 1. A second group of 8 followed suit from Europe on October 29. Together with their imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, they are calling for peace with basic political rights for Kurds. Sadly, neither the Turkish rulers nor the shapers of U.S. foreign policy seem yet to have gotten the message.
For Leyla Zana, winner of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament, helping to pave this peaceful way has been worth five years in prison so far. For the Kurds who have surrendered to push for the dawn of peace, it is worth the risk of torture or assassination. Now is a precious opportunity for the rest of the world to support these Freedom Rides for Kurdistan and Turkey, exerting vital leverage for a safer and better world.
Your voice for peace and democracy can make a life-giving difference. Please join our campaign to free Leyla Zana; to commute Abdullah Ocalan’s death sentence; and to ensure prompt Kurdish-Turkish negotiations for a just peace. Call your representatives at U.S. Capitol switchboard, 202.224.3121, or the White House at 202.456.1111.
For more information, contact the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) at 202.483.6444 or www.kurdistan.org