The Defence of Human Rights

Tuesday, 20 December, 2016 , 17:41

Spreading information on human rights situation is a part of the objectives in the Institute's constitution. Often acting as a relay and interface for those people on the spot who are working to promote democracy, secularism, peace and human rights, on the one hand; and the Western NGOs, institutions, parliamentary bodies and media on the other, the Kurdish Institute has played an important role in developing the awareness of public opinion of the terrible tragedies, hidden by a wall of silence, that millions of Kurds lived through; the destruction of 4500 Kurdish villages and the massive deportation and gassing of the Iraqi Kurds; the prohibition of the Kurdish language and culture, the destruction of 3200 Kurdish villages and the forced population displacement of the Kurds in Turkey; the "holy war" waged by the Iranian Islamic regime against the Kurdish minority and the assassination of the main Iranian Kurdish leaders in Europe (Vienna, 1989; Berlin 1992).

Starting with rigorously checked information, the Kurdish Institute has, with the support of NGOs and leading Western public figures, including about twenty Nobel Peace Prize winners, waged campaigns to arouse awareness of the media and organised symposia, lectures, conferences and seminars  to coordinate efforts and to engage in collective thinking.

Some of these actions have enjoyed varied forms of support from the French government. (The Human Rights Fortnight in May 1985, the Paris International Conference in October 1989), of representative institutions like the U.S. Senate (Washington Conference in February 1991) or the European Parliament. Others were financed by contributions from NGOs, local councils, and private gifts. Sweden and Norway, both very attached to the defence of Human Rights, democratic freedoms, and the building of peace through dialogue, have regularly participated in the financing of the Institute's activities in these fields, a summary of which is given below:

The International Appeal for the Defence of Kurdish Culture in Turkey, signed by almost a thousand people from thirty different countries, including 24 Nobel Prize winners, which appeared as an advertisement insert in Le Monde of June 30th 1988, The International Herald Tribune of June 29th and The Guardian of July 12th 1988.

The cost of these advertisements was entirely taken care of by Iraqi Kurdish businessmen settled in London. Following the international impact of this appeal calling on the Turkish authorities to lift the bans on the use of Kurdish language in Turkey, a public debate took place in that country. Finally, in 1991, Turkish Government repealed a law that forbade even the spoken use of Kurdish.

The Human Rights Fortnight, 16 - 31 May 1985, organised as part of a series of actions to raise awareness on human rights problems in the world, launched in Paris by the PM Laurent Fabius and the Minister of Culture Jack Lang ; a photo exhibtion on the Armenian genocide at the Institute, lecture/debates on various genocides of the 20th Century (Armenians, Jews, Gypsies (Roma), Cambodians), encounters with Roma writers, photo exhibition and lecture/debate at the Rachi Centre on the fate of the Kurds. The high point of all these actions was a symposium that took place at the National Assembly on May 30-31, bringing 80 public figures together from 5 continents who are engaged in the struggle for the defence of human rights, including the President of the Kurdish Institute.


Kurdish translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, preceded by the 1789 "Declaration of the Rights of the Human and the Citizen". This first translation in Kurdish, conducted to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution, resulted in an edition in five languages (Kurdish, Arabic, English, French and Turkish) for its distribution to the Kurdish diaspora. In 1992, the Institute had it reprinted in 50,000 copies and sent the copies to Iraqi Kurdistan for its distribution to the people by the Kurdish Organisation for Human Rights which is created with the support of the Kurdish Institute.

Paris International Conference, 14-15th October 1989:  "The Kurds: Cultural Identity and Human Rights" was held at the International Conference Centre of the Foreign Ministry, jointly organised by the Fondation France-Libertés and the Kurdish Institute, with the financial and political support of the French Government. The participation included 240 public figures and 85 journalists from 32 different countries from Eastern and Western Europe, America, the Near East, North Africa, Asia and Australia, including a US delegation led by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; a Soviet delegation, members of the Turkish Parliament, Arab public figures. Messages of support were received from the Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, Soviet Academician Andrei Sakharov, U.S. Senator E. Kennedy. This Conference, which enjoyed a very wide media coverage, was a key moment for the public awareness of the tragedy of the Kurds in Iraq and for the internationalisation of the Kurdish question. Its success inspired similar actions in Lausanne (April 1990) and Stockholm (September 1990.

Starting October 30th, the Foundation for Human Rights of the US Congress held a hearing in Congress where Mrs. Mitterrand and Kendal Nezan were invited to present the results of the Paris conference. The acts of the Paris Conference were published in French, English, Arabic and Turkish and largely disseminated.

Moscow Conference, 25-26 July 1990, organised by the Marxism-Leninism Institute of the CPSU, and the Kurdish Institute of Paris. About 600 Kurdish delegates from nine Soviet republics and fifteen Kurdish personalities from outside debated about the plight of the Kurds in the USSR and the situation in Kurdistan, for the first time in Soviet history. Several advisers to President Gorbachov followed the debates. Wide press coverage including interviews of the President of the Kurdish Institute in major Soviet newspapers.

Marly-le-Roi Seminar, 14-15 February 1991, upon the initiative of the Kurdish Institute of Paris, about 90 personalities and representatives of major associations and organizations of the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, America and Australia met in Marly-le-Roi to brainstorm on the situation of the Kurdish people on the verge of the Gulf war.

International Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the Kurdish problem, 27 February 1991, was jointly organised, at the American Senate, by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Kurdish Institute of Paris, with the participation of experts and of European and American members of parliament. This conference, which held on the last day of the Gulf War, played an important role on informing the American representatives and making them more sensitive to the situation of the Kurds in Iraq. Lunch hosted by a half dozen influential senators including E. Kennedy, John Kerry, Paul Simon, Nancy Pelosi and C. Pell. Emergence of a pro-Kurdish trans-Atlantic network. The proceedings of this conference were published in English.

Call for a Peaceful Settlement of the Kurdish Problem in Turkey, 30 March 1994, signed by a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners. This call urging the Turkish authorities to recognise the Kurdish identity and proposing the mediation of a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question through dialogue and respecting existing borders was handed to Mr Boutros Ghali, General Secretary of the UN, by a delegation consisting of Mrs. Mitterrand, Mrs. Betty Williams and Mr. Kendal Nezan, President of the Kurdish Institute. Ankara rejected the General Secretary's offer of mediation and let it be known to an exploratory mission that it would refuse to see a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners. However, thanks to a wide press coverage of these initiatives, the idea of peace and of a peaceful settlement began to progress in the minds of both Turks and Kurds.

Seminar for studying a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, 22-25 September 1995, was organised by the Norwegian Institute for Peace and the Kurdish Institute of Paris, with the financial and political support of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and with the participation of Turkish and Kurdish public figures and representatives of Western NGOs and experts on conflict resolution.

International Conference for a Peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question, 8-9 May 1997, in Ankara, was organised by the Turkish Association for Human Rights, in co-operation with the Kurdish Institute of Paris, the Olof Palme Foundation, the Fondation France-Libertés, the CCFD (Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development) and with the support of about 50 Western NGOs and Turkish Trade Unions. The Swiss and Danish Foreign Ministers announced their participation in their capacities of past and present chairmen of the OSCE.
Eleven Turkish ministers in office and dozens of Turkish parliamentarians from all sides have expressed their desire to take part in this conference which was finally banned in extremis by the Governor of Ankara on the orders of the army.

The foreign delegates, nevertheless, went to Ankara to support the Turkish and Kurdish peace pacifists and discuss with them the future perspectives in the course of informal meetings and dinners. The US State Department and several European governments publicly condemned Ankara's decision to ban the conference.

Hearings in the parliaments of European countries. The urgency of the Kurdish tragedy led the parliamentarians from several European countries to the Kurdish Institute to seek it's expertise. In this context, the President of the Institute was interviewed numerous times by the French National Assembly and by the British, German, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish Parliaments. In particular, as from 1987, a regular dialogue developped with the European Parliament. In addition to frequent hearings, this dialogue has resulted in the adoption by the European Parliament almost unanimously a very important "Resolution on the Rights of the Kurdish People" on 1 June 1992, which remains a reference text. Moreover, it was at the Institute's suggestion  that Mrs. Leyla Zana, the Kurdish MP jailed in Turkey solely for her opinions, received the Sakharov Prize of Freedom of Spirit, awarded on January 17th 1996 in an official ceremony at the European Parliament.

Information Campaign on the Destruction of Kurdish Villages in Turkey. With its policy of a complete blackout on its Kurdish provinces, where it carries out a scorched earth policy, the Turkish Government has long sought to hide the reality behind the evacuation of Kurdish villages from public opinion. About fifteen local journalists as well as members of the Turkish Association for Human Rights, who tried to breach the official censorship on the situation in Kurdistan have been assassinated. An appeal, co-ordinated by the Kurdish Institute, signed and financed by about twenty European NGOs appeared in Le Monde on June 8th 1994 and in The International Herald Tribune on the 9th of June, with a list of the first 1000 destroyed villages. The signatories asked to be allowed to go on the spot accompanied by the international press, to check the truth of this information. The Turkish authorities finally admitted the destruction of these villages "for security reasons". In July 1997, the Migrations Committee of the Turkish Parliament published a report establishing the forced evacuation of 3428 Kurdish villages destroyed and 2 to 3 million Kurdish civilians displaced, according to official records dated November 30th 1997.

The Defence of Prisoners of opinion. From the start, the Kurdish Institute has contributed to making known the fate of prisoners of opinion such as the Turkish sociologist Ismail Besikçi and the ex-mayor of Diyarbekir, Mehdi Zana, condemned to long sentences of prison for their peaceful defence of their Kurdish identity. In March 1994, when the Kurdish Members of Parliament of the Party for Democracy (DEP) were arrested and imprisoned for having peacefully born witness to the fate of the Kurdish population, the Kurdish Institute took up their defence. This work was then taken up by a special Committee, CILDEKT (French initials for: International Committee for the Liberation of the Kurdish M.P.s Imprisoned in Turkey), presided over by Mrs. Mitterrand, and created with the support of the Institute, the Fondation France-Libertés, the CCFD, Médecins du Monde and the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights). This Committee, composed of eminent Western public figures, with a prestigious Sponsorship Committee, (François Mitterrand, the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Oscar Arias etc.) benefits from the documentation resources of the Institute but is totally independent. It plays an important part in the dissemination of information on the problems of Human Rights and the situation of prisoners of opinion in Turkey.

The work of the Institute in defence of Human Rights is very much appreciated, by the Kurds, evidently, but also by artistic and intellectual circles. This appreciation won the Institute the honour of being awarded the Prix de la Memoire in 1990 by a jury formed of well known personalities (Michel Piccoli, Costa Gavras, Carlos Fuentes, Jacques Séguela, the Dalai Lama, Adolfo Perès Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu etc.). The prize was handed over to the President of the Institute at a ceremony at the Palais Chaillot, attended in particular by Mrs. Mitterrand, President of Senegal Diouf, several French Ministers and almost two thousand guests.