(from left to right: Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak)

WHEN:    MARCH 5, 2001  –  OCTOBER 11, 2001



(23rd St. NW & Massachusetts Ave. NW, across the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence)

October 11, 2001

Dear Friends,

On March 5, 1994, a terrible wrong was done to Leyla Zana and her Kurdish parliamentarian colleagues at the door of the Turkish Parliament building in Ankara, Turkey.  She and her friends were arrested on the flimsiest of charges: accused, among other things, of speaking Kurdish, their mother tongues, in and outside of the parliament building.  In a subsequent kangaroo trial, four of the Kurdish parliamentarians were sentenced to 15 years, each, behind bars.

Seven years and, as of this writing  —  October 11, 2001  —  221 days have gone by.

In the past 221 days, a group of Kurds and their American friends have undertaken a vigil  — 24 hours a day seven days a week  — at Sheridan Circle across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC.  They have built a replica of a Turkish prison cell  —  calling it ‘The Cell of Atonement for Turkey’s Political Crimes Against the Kurds’  —   and take turns staying in it to atone for the wrongs inflicted by the Turkish government on the Kurdish representatives. By forgoing their own comforts, they are trying to highlight and effect the freedom of Kurdish parliamentarians.

The French philosopher Voltaire has said, “The worst kind of hanging is to be obscurely hanged.”  The Kurdish Question can compete for the top position of what Voltaire thought of issues that are seldom visited, be they the ill fate of individuals or the misfortune of nations.  Apart from the occasional flickering news flashes in the mainstream media, the average American is oblivious to the immense sufferings of the Kurds.  For a people chanced with the opportunity to speak for the world, this is, indeed, unfortunate.

There are things you could do to help alleviate the sufferings of the Kurds.  Please consider visiting the site of the vigil to express your solidarity with the Kurdish parliamentarians or do something even better by volunteering a few hours of your time in the cell.  You could also take action from the comfort of your home or office by contacting your representative in the House of Representatives to co-sponsor House Resolution 133 which calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Kurdish representatives.  If you do these things and would like to do still more, please consider contacting your local media outlets to interest them in a story on the Kurds.

If you are curious about the site of the vigil or would like to have a sense of what the cell looks like, click on the following link for photos as well as commentaries:

You could also contact us via telephone at 202.483.6444