By Kani Xulam

March 5, 2001

[This notice is from the wall of “Cell of Atonement” at Sheridan Circle across from the Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin’s residence in Washington, DC]

The highlighted names that you see on this wall are of Kurds and Turks who have met violent ends — many were tortured to death — while in the custody of the Turkish military officials after their coup d’etat in Ankara, Turkey, on September 12, 1980. The Kurds were murdered because they had asked for a free future for their kind; the Turks had asked for a better one for their country.

Each day, since this Vigil began on March 5, 2001, we dedicate a day to the life of a Kurd or a Turk by lighting a candle to their memory with the hopes that — although we know that their ends came in excruciating pain — their souls will find some peace and solace in this silent gesture of ours.

We also realize that some of these Kurdish and Turkish political prisoners would not have qualified for the Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience (POC) status. A few were committed to the overthrow of the government by violent means — here it may be appropriate to quote President Kennedy who noted with his usual eloquence that, “Those who make non-violent revolution impossible make the violent one inevitable.” So, without giving premium to the use of violence, we still feel our honoring of all political prisoners is apt for it is incumbent on the governments to reclaim their “errant” citizens not by murder, but other means that should not include the use violence.

Throughout this vigil, each of us — Kurds and non-Kurds alike — in our own ways, are forgoing our comforts to affirm our faith in non-violence. If our efforts contribute to the recognition of the Kurdish people’s will and the release of their representatives, we would be the happiest. As we all know, that happy moment can only come if more people adopt this issue here in America and elsewhere in the world.

Please help us to volunteer for the Vigil hours as well as spread the word around to sway an indifferent world to stand up for Kurdish rights.

The names are from the booklet, File of Torture, a Human Rights Foundation of Turkey publication that saw the light of day only for a few days in 1994. The Turkish authorities on charges of “belittling the state” banned it.