By Kani Xulam
October 20, 1997

Dear Friends and fellow Kurds,

I want to thank you all for coming here.  It means a great deal to us.  We hope you will come back again.  We want your visits.  We want your solidarity and your prayers of peace.  We intend to be here for some time to come.

We are gathered here for peace and for the freedom of Leyla Zana.  One is related to the other and both are presently beyond our reach.  We seek peace for ourselves and for our loved ones.  We want liberty for Leyla and her imprisoned friends.  This is not just our longing but also of millions of Kurds and their friends, like you, around the world.

Our fast is part of a great dream of millions of Kurds who have been denied a peaceful life because, in the words of Great Turkish writer, Yasar Kemal, the greed and the racism of our neighbors, the twin cancers of humanity as he puts it, have denied us and our offspring, what many people all across the world take for granted  —  the freedom to speak one’s mother tongue, the freedom to express one’s most intimate thoughts in that language, and the freedom to preserve one’s identity.

Thus, this fast is a test, a protest if you will, of the way our neighbors in particular and the nations of the world in general are treating us in this world.  We want to serve them notice that they have utterly failed in their responsibilities as the custodians of our fate.  We seek to rekindle their humanity, cure them of their indifference and instill in them a sense of responsibility.  We need your help to free ourselves.  We, as a whole, as a human family, can never be free when millions are denied their right to self determination, and the freedom to peacefully live their lives.

Here, I would like to tell you of our neighbors, the people who have made their work to deny us our humanity.  They have introduced a culture of violence to our lives.  Just look at the pictures around yourselves.  Kurdish father and his child cut down by poison gas in Iraq.  Kurdish activists blind folded and machine gunned in Iran.  And Turkish soldiers posing triumphantly over their game, the Kurds, in Turkish Kurdistan.

But what have the nations of the world done to stop the madness that has become the rule rather than exception in Kurdistan.  They have supplied these misguided neighbors of ours who are ruled by some of the most unscrupulous brutes with weapons, state of the art helicopters, and planes.  Just to give you an example, In Iraqi Kurdistan, Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, has planted 3 million “Made in Italy” mines.

I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom on this day of  remembrance for the Kurds and hope for our fasters.  Let me at this time note that, as a Kurd, I was overjoyed that Jody Williams was recognized for her work by the Nobel Committee that awarded her the Peace prize.

If people like Saddam have become the noxious fumes of this world; people like Jody Williams are keeping a vigil on it challenging us to go beyond ourselves and stop supplying brutes like Saddams with mines.  Jody, wherever you may be, thank you for all that you do for trying to stop our march of folly on the mine fields.  Too many Kurds have taken that road.  And too many have been crippled for life.  It is a road better left untravelled.  Jody, this Kurd will remain grateful to you for as long as he lives.

Leyla Zana is another selfless and fearless individual, a giant of a woman, born among one of the weakest peoples of the world.  Her story is the stuff of legends, a chronicle of resistance.  Many Kurdish woman have suffered great injustices at the hands their oppressors.  Leyla Zana has had her share of these brutalities too.  Many have recoiled, but Leyla has fought back and prevailed.  Today, even in prison, she remains defiant and a source of inspiration to the Kurds and their friends all over the world.

This Kurdish woman was elected to the only parliament that was allowed to her on October 20, 1991, six years ago, today.  The day is a historic one, for on that day the Kurdish people, still the subjects of an oppressive government, were finally entrusted with the choice to elect their own representatives.

They chose Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan and fourteen other deputies as their representatives.  I was present when our people took that step into the realm called democracy.  For a change, we Kurds thought, the dawn of living with our civil liberties had arrived.  Some of us even dreamed that, free at last, we too could contribute our share to the march of humanity for the good.

That precarious dream lasted for only a brief moment.  Leyla basked in its glory, spoke Kurdish, our language that was banned for 70 years, freely.  She came here and testified in the United States Congress to have this country, the symbol of democracy to side with the Kurdish hopes for freedom.

Alas, her plea fell on deaf ears.  This country put its trust in the generals of the Turkish military than in the Kurdish representatives who longed for democratic ideals.  The ugly war that Leyla had seen unfold in the lands of the Kurds, intensified, has now began to consume both the oppressed and the oppressor along with turning the region into a environmental disaster zone.

This fast is an attempt to turn back the clock, to give a second chance to the democratic forces that never received any serious support from this country.  Leyla Zana and her 17 other Kurdish friends who were elected on that fall day represent the only hope for a lasting solution to the Kurdish question.  The Middle East will not have peace so long as the Kurds are denied their most basic human rights.  A region so vital to the national and spiritual interests of this country should not be left to the tender mercies of people like Saddam, Tehran and Ankara.

The Kurds here and at home long for peace and the freedom of Leyla Zana and the other duly elected Kurdish leaders of their choice.  If elections are good for you as Americans and you care very much that your will matters, the Kurds of the Middle East ask for the same thing and nothing more.

We seek to restore the Kurds their will and their will demands that Leyla Zana be free and serve as the representative of the Kurds.  Americans cherish their choice.  We wish to remind them that by remaining aloof to ours or worse by helping those who deny ours, to us, they risk being hypocrites.

This country is a great country and can do great things if it only remains true its ideals.  Those ideals demand that America side with us, the fasters, with Leyla Zana and with the Kurds.  We are here to see if America is true to its ideals.  We are here to test its commitment to democracy.  If we fail, history surely will vindicate us.  If we succeed, we will be advancing the cause of peace and democracy.  In the days ahead, as we get weaker and to lie down to continue our fast, we ask you to stand up for peace and the freedom of Leyla Zana now.  Thank you.

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