Farzad Kamangar, a 35-year-old Kurdish teacher accused of membership of a Kurdish armed movement, the PJAK was executed on the 9th of this month. He had been condemned to death following a second trial, on the 25th of December by N° 130 Branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Court, charged with endangering National Security. The accused always pleaded “not guilty”. His lawyer had stressed the irregularity of the trial, which was not public and without any jury.
Farzad Kamangar who has been kept waiting for execution for two yours in death row, after managing several times to escape from immediate execution, was finally hanged on 9 May in the morning at Evin prison, together with four other political prisoners, without their families, or even their lawyers, being informed.
Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alambuli, Ali Heydarian and Farhad Vakili were accused of membership of PJAK (a branch an Iranian branch of the PKK). Mehdi Eslamian was at accused of membership of Tonder, a monarchist movement.
Farzad Kamangar had been a teacher at Kamaran for 12 years, in Iranian Kurdistan. He was married and father of a family. He was a member of the teachers union and of several social associations. He used to write for the review Royan of the Mamiriyaran Education association and for local Human Rights associations.
He was originally arrested on 19 August 2006 at Sanandj by secret service agents. For the 4 months following his arrest his family received no news about him and the authorities denied any involvement in his disappearance.
In fact, Farzad Kamangar had been transferred to Teheran’s N°9 Evin prison. A secret and unofficial detention centre run by VEVAK, the Iranian secret service body that has replaced the Shah’s notorious SAVAK. Some Human Rights activists report that a letter the teacher had managed to smuggle out of his cell told that he had been held isolated in solitary while he was being seriously tortured. He reported he was beaten with a garden hose during his interrogation, solely because he was a Kurd. He was also left for 24 hours tied to a chair, in an extremely restricted space, completely unable to move, without any food or being able to relieve himself. He was then locked into a minute and airless cell, without seeing any lawyer of any contact with his family. He was also subjected to psychological torture, particularly by threats of reprisals against members of his family and by the arrest of a young woman with whom he was linked. He then tried to commit suicide by throwing himself down a very high staircase, but failed to kill himself. He was in so bad a state that he had to receive treatment in the prison hospital. His lawyer confirms these statements by describing the physical state of his client at the time of their first meeting. In addition to badly scalded hands caused by boiling water, he was suffering from kidney infection and blood in his urine.
Between 2006 and 2007 he was several times moved either to Kermanshah of to Sanandaj to be tortured and interrogated. Thus he mentions that the cell in Kermanshah where he was confined in February and March 2007 measured 1m x 1m x 0.6m. He was also tortured and beaten as well as subjected to sexual violence (a speciality of Evin prison, which aims at psychologically breaking detainees).
It was only seven months later that his mother and brother were authorised to see him for a very short time in the presence of intelligence agents, who forbade speaking in Kurdish during this meeting. Farzad Kamangar had not yet been informed of the charges being made against him or been able to see his lawyer, who had been given no information about his case. He was later charged with “undermining state security”.
Farzad went on hunger strike several times, with the other detainees, in protest against the conditions of their detention. In January 2008 he was in Gohardash prison, which was shaken by revolt of the prisoners and, after violent action by the prison services he and Farhad Vakili and Ali Heydarian were taken away and separated from the others.
In the week following his execution, along with four others (one of whom was a woman), a general strike took place in several Kurdish towns in Iran in protest, particularly at Sanandaj, Meriwam and Mehabad.
Farzad Kamangar, whose writings had been published on a blog, wrote last April, while in death row, a letter to other jailed teachers. This letter, the last he wrote, was published by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) and headed “Stand Firm, Comrades”.
Farzad Kamangar himself explained this title by recounting the following story: “About eight years ago, the grandmother of one of my pupils, Yassin, was listening to an audio cassette by professor Mamoosta Ghootabkhanch. She then said: “I know that your fate, like that of the professor who recorded this poem, is to be executed, but stand firm, comrade”. The granny said this while drawing on her cigarette and gazing at the mountains”.
The tale of the little black fish mentioned was written in 1967 by the dissident teacher Samad Behrangi. The book was banned by the Shah’s regime. It recounts the adventures of a little fish that defies its community’s rules by undertaking a journey to find the sea. On the way it bravely faces its enemies. The tale is considered a classic of the Iranian resistance. Its author, Samad was drowned in the summer of 1968. Some people believe that his death was suspicious and accuse the Shah’s agents of having assassinated him.
There was once a mother fish who laid 10,000 eggs. Only one little black fish survived. It lived in a brook with its mother. One day it told its mother “I want to leave this place”. Its mum asked: “To go where?”. The little fish replied: “I want to see where this stream ends up”.
Greeting to you companions of prison! Greetings to you companions of suffering!
I know you well. You are teachers, the voices of the stars of Khavaran (a cemetery to the east of Teheran where many political dissidents were executed in the 80s and buried in mass graves) the fellow disciples by the dozen of those whose essays were included in their charge sheets, the teachers of students whose only crime was human thought. I know you well — you are the colleagues of Samad and of Ali Khan. You also remember me, don’t you?
I am the one chained up in Evin prison.
I am the pupil sitting quietly behind broken school desks in a far off valley of Kurdistan. Like you I recited Samad’s stories to his pupils, but in the heart of the Shahu mountains.
It is I who likes to play the part of the little black fish.
I am your comrade in death row.
Now the valleys and the mountains were way behind and the river was running through a field in the plains. To the right and the left, other rivulets came to join the river and this river was carrying even more water along. The little black fish was rejoicing at this abundance … it wanted to reach the end of the river. I could swim as much as it wanted without banging against anything.
Suddenly it saw a big shoal of fish. They were 10,000 strong. One of them saw the little black fish. “Welcome to the sea, comrade!”
My imprisoned comrades! Is it possible to sit behind the desk like Samad and look this country’s children in the eye and remain silent?
Is it possible not to take the road to the sea like the little fishes of this country? What does it made whether they come from the Aras, Karoon, Sirvan or Sarbaz river? What difference does it make when the sea is our common destiny — that of being united as one? The sun is our guide. It is a very good thing that prison should be our reward.
(Translators Note: each of these rivers runs through an ethnically different region of Iran: Azerbaijan, Khuzistan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan)
Is it possible to bear the heavy burden of being a schoolteacher, whose duty is to sow the seeds of consciousness, and remain silent? Is it possible to see the pupils’ throats tight with emotion, their thin and hungry faces and stay silent?
Is it possible to go through a year of injustice and iniquity and fail to teach the H of hope and the E of Equality, even if such teaching brings you to Evin prison and death?
I cannot imagine being a teacher in Samad’s country, the land of Khan Ali and Ezzati, without joining the eternity of Aras! I cannot imagine witnessing the sufferings and poverty of this country’s people and failing to give one’s heart to the river and the sea, to the roaring waves and the flooding main!
(Translators note: Aras is the river in which Samad was found drowned — or was assassinated)
I know that one day this hard and rough road will be paved for the schoolteachers and that the sufferings that you all endure will be a badge of honour, so that the world can see that a teacher is a teacher, even if his way is barred by the process of selection, of prison, of execution. It is being a little black fish, not a heron, that honours a teacher.
The little fish swam peacefully in the sea and thought: “it is not hard for me to face death nor do I regret it”.
Suddenly the heron pounced on him and swallowed the little fish.
The grandmother fish finished telling the story and told her 12,000 children and grandchildren that it was time for bed. The Grandmother also went to sleep. Only one little goldfish was unable to sleep. This fish thought deeply.
A schoolteacher in death row at Evin
Iraqi Kurdistan was shaken by the kidnapping and murder of a student, Serdest Osman, who was in his last year of a degree in English at Salahaddin University, in Irbil. He used to work as translator or columnist for several independent newspapers and reviews. The critical and contentious tone of his writings, as well as the press’s general dissatisfaction with the authorities and the political establishment immediately transformed this murky affair into suspicion of a settling of scores between the powers that be and the press and student circles.
On 4 May, Serdest Osman was dropped off by his brother at the entrance to the Salahaddin University Arts College, in Irbil, in the very heart of the Kurdistan Region. According to witnesses, he was then kidnapped by a group of armed men driving a white minibus. His brother, Sardar, did not see the kidnapping because of the crowds of people masking the scene. He only recalls having seen a dozen soldiers of the Zerevan unit guarding the institute’s entrance as usual.
On 6 May, his family learned that his body had been found in Mosul, thus completely outside the Region. According to the Patriotic Union o Kurdistan based there, the Mosul police had notified them that they had found the body bound hand and feet and bearing signs of torture and killed by a shot in the mouth.
Although one of the victim’s bothers, Zerdest Osman, stated that he did not know why he had been murdered and that he did not suspect anyone, the opposition press immediately suspected the Kurdish government itself: partly because of the place where the kidnapping had taken place (Irbil is completely controlled by the Kurdish Security forces) but mainly because of the young man’s journalistic activity. Indeed, in addition to his work as translator, he wrote for the magazine Astiname (Peace News Letter) under the pen name of Desti Oman and cooperated with several press online sites: sbeiy.com, Hawlati.info, Awene.com, rudaw.net and Ivinpress.com — all very critical of the government.
Thus, Sbeiy.com did not hesitate, directly and with bold headlines, to accuse the Kurdish government, giving as reason an article that Serdest Osman had written implicating a senior official of the KRG, Kosrat Rasul, a PUK veteran, claiming this information came from “a close friend of the victim”.
Similarly, another of Serdest’s brothers, Basdar Osman, stated to the Committee to protect Journalists as well as to Hawlati that he was convinced that Serdest was killed because of this article, written in Astiname last April. “Over the last few months my brother has received threats by telephone demanding that he cease meddling with government business”.
This kidnapping and murder, the first directed against a journalist in the Kurdistan Region (not the second as reported by Reporters sans Frontières that doesn’t seem aware that Kirkuk has not been integrated into federal Kurdistan) has caused a shock wave throughout the student movement and the Kurdistan press. The University’s English Department has had to cancel several exams because of the high feelings amongst the students.
Over 60 Kurdish writers and journalists condemned this murder and directly questioned the government and security forces about it.
“Kidnapping a journalist in the regional capital, taking him outside the Kurdistan Region and finally killing him raises serious questions. Such an act cannot have been committed by a single person or a little group. This is why the Kurdish Regional Government and Security forces must, first of all, face up to their responsibilities. We must do the utmost to find those responsible”.
The signatories of this petition to the Regional Government point out in a communiqué that such a kidnapping could net be the work of a single person or a small group, which immediately eliminates any question of personal revenge.
Moreover, the point out the fact that, in the event of a mafia or terrorist operation, it is hardly likely that such a group coming from Mosul could have entered Irbil, kidnapped a student under the very nose of the Peshmergas on the threshold of a busy University, left the Region and returned to Mosul without being bothered by the various Peshmerga checkpoints that control all traffic between Irbil and Mosul, bearing in mind the dangerous the border with Nineveh Province is.
This is just the point on which journalists and friends of the victim are making in accusing the security forces of both parties of being directly involved I the crime. Yet more affirmative, Reporters sans Frontières directly accuses the KDP secret services, though without any real facts to back them up, apart from the fact that they are led by Masur Barzani, President Barzani’s son and that Irbil is controlled by them and not by the PUK.
Opinions vary about the motive. Serdest Osman having written many articles attacking various officials of both parties. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists at first mentioned the article in the daily paper Astiname, criticising a senior PUK official, Kosrat Rasul. According to Besdar Osman, the January threats had been followed by other telephoned warnings, telling him to stop “meddling with government affairs”.
However, the political insignificance of Serdest Osman, who was not the only one to criticise the government and parties in power in the press, or to receive threats or be intimidated, raises doubts about the motive of such an extreme revenge by so senior an official. There is a striking disproportion between the victim’s lack of importance and the implications of such a State crime.
The Irbil Chief of police, Abdul Khalid Ta’lat stated on 4 May to the paper Rudaw that he had not been informed earlier about the threats made to the victim. However, in an earlier article, dated 21 January of this year Serdeat Osman had described his attempts to file an official complaint to this particular police officer — which Abdul Khalid Ta’lat continues to deny.
The signatories of the petition are concerned by another point: the prolonged silence of the government media or the party organs on this case until the protests and accusations had so increased that it was impossible to ignore them. On 7 May, the KDP paper Xebat briefly mentioned that the body of a student, Serdest Osman, had been found in Mosul, after having been kidnapped from Salahaddin University, and that the Region’s police were opening an investigation. Serdest’s “journalistic activities were not mentioned nor was the fact that the kidnapping took place in broad daylight by a group of armed men.
Reporters sans Frontières does not hesitate to connect this with the assassination of another journalist, Soran Mam Hama, killed in Kirkuk in July 2008 — but this too is unconvincing. While the two victims had in common the fact of being Kurds and Moslems (thus, of not having been killed for religious reasons by islamists), of having written articles targeting officers of the Kurdish government and of having received threats before being assassinated, all other circumstances are different. Soran Mam Hama was killed in Kirkuk, a town officially controlled by the Iraqi Central Government, not the KRG. Moreover the 2-year gap between the murders is not compatible with a campaign of extra-judicial executions like those carried out by the JITEM in Turkish Kurdistan.
The shock caused by this murder comes from the fact that it calls into question the effectiveness of the Kurdistan’s internal security and that the KRG cannot get out of its responsibility, whatever may be the truth that emerges: guilty is directly involved, not guilty but still responsible, if its is a case of negligence.
Moreover, this murder crystallises all the discontent and frustration of the student youth that feels it is excluded from the general economic boom that Kurdistan is enjoying and accuses the authorities of concentrating political power in the hands of a caste of veterans and their families, coming from the main parties. Some more or less spontaneous demonstrations took place (it cannot be excluded that they were “encouraged” or relayed by opposition parties even though they could not have been solely responsible for instigating them) in both Irbil and Suleimaniyah as soon as the murder was announced. Thus, on 10 May a march, some hundreds strong, went from the Language Department of Irbil’s Salaheddin University through the capitals main streets to gather in front of the Parliament. Dressed in black, and carrying a coffin of the same colour bearing the slogan “Azadi ” (Freedom) and pictures of Serdest Osman, the student defied the truncheons of riot police deployed round the building to prevent them from entering and retaliated by throwing shoes, bottles of water and pieces of glass.
In the end, the Speaker of the House, Kemal Kirkuki, came out to talk to the students and promised to insist that the government conduct a thorough investigation into this murder. He added that the President of the Kurdish Region, Masud Barzani, had already ordered that those guilty be found and punished. The Speaker of Parliament also called for penalties against those whose “negligence” had enabled the crime to be committed: “Those who want to punish you for what you write are those who cannot face the words of truth”.
The Kurdistan Human rights Committee, for its part, demanded direct explanations from the Minister of the Interior, since it is the Security services that are most strongly suspected by public opinion: of neglect at best — of complicity or of actually committing the murder at worst.
On the same day, 10 Mau, the directorate of the Irbil Security Services described the murder, in a communiqué, as a “terrorist” act and asked the public not to jump too quickly to “hasty conclusions” but to await the results of the enquiry, without listening to unfortunate “rumours” going around.
Earlier, on Saturday 8 May, the president of the Kurdistan Region, Masud Barzani, had declared he was “saddened” by Serdest Osman’s death, which he described as an “odious crime that aimed at undermining the Region’s security”. He also insisted that the enquiry was under way and that the Departments concerned were doing everything possible to bring every thing to light.
The President of Iraq, who is also head of the PUK, also deplored the crime and sent his condolences to the family.
In its latest report on Turkey, Amnesty International’s assessment is rather pessimistic, as it considers that the country has made little progress regarding Human Rights. Cases of torture and ill treatment in detention continue, as well as judicial procedures aimed at limiting freedom of expression. The organisation also pinpoints judicial and administrative harassment that hinder Human Rights Defence organisations in Turkey.
Human Rights defenders are sued for having done their work in a legal manner by reporting breaches of human rights. Some prominent public figures are regularly subjected to criminal investigations. They are also subjected to excessive administrative checks and, in some case, of judicial proceedings have been started to close down some organisations.
Thus, Ethem Açikhan, who runs the Adana branch of the Association for human Rights (IHD), was the target of a number of charges arising from his activity in defending Human Rights. Last October, he was found guilty of “inciting hostility or hatred” in the population and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for having criticised, in 2008, the detention of children involved in street demonstrations as well as the suppression of State social assistance to their families He has appealed.
In December 2009, Muharrem Erbey, Vice-President of IHD and Director of its Diyarbekir branch, was arrested on the grounds that he was officially suspected of membership of the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK) considered by the authorities as a branch of the PKK. In fact, the police interrogated him about his work in the IHD and seized IHD documents regarding breaches of Human Rights in Diyarbekir. He is still in preventive detention.
In many cases, complaint of human rights breaches by the authorities are not followed up by any enquiry and the possibility of seeing any official charges for such abuses are very slight. Nevertheless irregular trials still regularly take place, particularly in the context of the “anti-terrorist” legislation that allows minors to be imprisoned and punished as severely as adults. Children are sometimes detained with adults but in any case Amnesty observes that children’s prisons are no different from other places of detention. In particular, there are no arrangements for children to continue their schooling during their sentence. These minors have been tried by the same proceedings as are used for adults, on the basis of suspect allegations, without any tangible evident, merely for having taken part in demonstrations that ended in violence.
In general, the treatment of detainees in prison has not improved and access to medical treatment is systematically refused.
There are other lapses in human rights: the status of conscientious objector continues to be rejected as grounds for refusing military service, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers continue to be violated. Homosexuals and transsexuals still continue to suffer considerable discrimination in their daily lives. Five transsexuals have been murdered and only one of these murders resulted in a condemnation. Women are still subjected to personal and family violence, without any adequate state protection because to the grossly insufficient number of hostels or shelters, despite the fact that the law provides for one hostel place per 50,000 people. In September 2009, had nevertheless signed a protocol to facilitate the cooperation of State institutions in the fight against domestic violence.
The attacks on freedom of expression and opinion through penal proceedings and sentences, often very heavy, have not, in fact stopped and affect all backgrounds. Thus the Kurdish Alevi singer, Ferhat Tunç, is facing 15 years jail for “propaganda in favour of the PKK” and “acts in the name of an illegal organisation” because of a speech he made at a festival on 15 August last, in the town of Eruh (Siirt Province). The 15th August 1984 is the date of the beginning of the PKK’s armed struggle and the charge sheet alleges that the festival was organised to celebrate this by the PKK.
Ferhat Tunç is charges under Article 7/2 of the Ant-Terrorist law of propaganda for an illegal organisation, as well as being accused of “crime on behalf of an organisation without be a member” of the Turkish Penal Code. He is due to be tried by the Diyarbekir Upper Criminal Court — a court notorious for its severity and its sentences, often disproportionate to the facts charged.
The speech that the Turkish legal system is incriminating is as follows:
“For 25 years I have been witness, as an artist, of what you have lived through in this region. I have been an eyewitness of those uniformed murderers, who have been tried for their links with the Ergenekon organisation, who have killed people and were the authors of the “unsolved murders” in this region. I witnessed the way these uniformed murderers turned this heavenly geography is a hellish one. Yes, I am not only an artist but also a witness.
After 25 years, you are opening, at Eruh, a new window towards peace and brotherhood. I am as enthusiastic as you at taking this round that you have initiated by giving your blood and your lives for peace (…). We yearn for a Turkey in which people would be able to live in accordance with their beliefs, their languages and their cultures as equals. I say and hope that our calls for peace and brotherhood at Eruh, where the first shot was fired, will be heard throughout Turkey. I hope I hope that our cry for peace will be heard by Turks, by Arabs, by Armenians and other peoples of this region, Because is no other way towards peace and brotherhood, and it is with these feeling that I express my friendship to you”.
Another socio-profession group that is paying a heavy price in the form of judicial harassment in Turkey is that of writers, journalists and publishers. This month, Reporters sans Frontières condemned the surrealist sentence of 166 years and six months passed on Vedat Kursun, former chief editor of the Kurdish daily Azadiye Welat.
Vedat Kursun was found guilty under Articles 314-3 and 220-6 of the Penal Code and of Article 7-2 of the Anti-Terrorist Act for “membership of the PKK” and propaganda in favour of this organisation — a sentence that Reporters sans Frontières describes as “absurd”.
Arrested at Istanbul airport on 30 January last, Vedat Kursun was faced with 103 indictments by the Turkish legal system, all regarding the paper Azadiye Welat, accused of “conducting propaganda for the PKK”. Although the Public Prosecutor had demanded a 500-year sentence verdict was a relatively lenient 166 years confinement.
His successor at the head of Azadiye Welat Ozan Kilinç, found guilty of the same charges in 2009, was sentenced to 21 years and 3 months prison last February.
Another editor has been detained for the last 4 months — the owner of Aram publishing, Bedri Adam, 38 of whose works have been confiscated. As owner of the Kurdish newspaper Hawar, he is being sued because of 4 articles. The Public Prosecutor of the Diyarbekir Upper Criminal Court, Adem Ozcan has demanded 50 years imprisonment for “membership of the PKK” and “propaganda for an illegal organisation” for having published a collection of statements sent by Abdullah Ocalan, the movement’s head, to the European Court for Human Rights as part of his defence. The book has been banned by the Minister of Culture
On Friday 14 May an International Conference, organised by the Paris Kurdish Institute, took place at the Palais de Luxembourg, France’s Senate House. It brought together, for the first time in Paris, the President and members of the Iraqi High Committee for applying Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, the Governor of Kirkuk, several Kurdish and Iraqi public figures as well as experts on geopolitics.
The first Round table, chaired by Jonathan RANDAL, former Washington Post correspondent, brought together Dr. Khaled Salih, special advisor to the Kurdistan Oil Minister, who dealt with the economic aspects, particularly regarding oil, Gerard Chaliand, geostrategist, and Dr. Nuri Talabani, Professor of law and former member of the Kurdistan Parliament, who described in detail the roots of the “Kirkuk question”, its population and political history.
In his view, the changes that occurred on the spot were the result of the former Iraqi regime’s policies, which were contrary to international law and responsible for the situation in which the Kirkuk citizens find themselves. “The reason we concentrate on Kirkuk, using it as a model for comparing the past with the present is because this town was the centre of the former Iraqi regime’s policy”.
After outlining the history of the different communities in Kirkuk and their peaceful cohabitation, Nuri Talabani showed that the situation changed after 1963, when the Baath took power.
“In general, relations between the Turcomen, the Kurds and even the Arabs from Hawija, as well as other ethnic minority groups had been good until the Baath Party took power in 1963. The new regime used the Nationalist Guard militia” mainly composed of Baathist Arabs as well as Turcomen to attack the Kurds. They concentrated on the poor areas, where they destroyed all the houses. In 1963, the Baathist regime was responsible for destroying 13 villages near Kirkuk. The population of another 14 villages in the Dubz district, near Kirkuk, were forced to leave and Arabs from the centre and South of Iraq were brought in and settled in their place. Between 1963 and 1988 the regime destroyed a total of 779 Kurdish villages in the Kirkuk region, together with their cemeteries. There were 491 primary schools, 598 mosques and 40 little medical treatment centres. The clear aim of all this destruction was to wipe out all evidence of any previous population. In all, 37,726 Kurdish families were driven from their villages. During the war between Iraq and Iran, the Iraqi regime also destroyed a dozen Turcoman Shiite villages South of Kirkuk.
In the city of Kirkuk itself, the regime took a number of measures to force Kurds to leave. The staff of the oil company, the civil servants, as well as the teachers were transferred to the South and Centre of Iraq. The town’s streets and schools were re-named with Arabic names and the owners of little shows obliged to adopt Arabic names. The Kurds were not allowed to sell their property to anyone except Arabs or to buy any other property.
Thousands of flats were built for Arabs and the estates given Arabic names. The historic citadel, with its mosques and ancient churches was demolished. Tens of thousands of Arab families were brought to the town and given housing and jobs. These measures were intensified after the first Gulf War in 1991. The regime prevented the Kurds who had fled their homes following the repression of the 1991 uprising from returning. In 1996, in preparation for the 1997 census, it passed the so-called “identity law” under which the Kurds and other non-Arabs were obliged to be registered as Arabs. Any who refused were expelled either to the Kurdish governed part of Iraqi Kurdistan or to Southern Iraq.
In its 2002 report, Human Rights Watch estimated that between 120,000 and 200,000 non-Arab people had been forcibly expelled from the Kirkuk region.
This situation persisted until the collapse of the regime in 2003, when the city of Kirkuk was liberated”.
Dr. Talabani concluded: “One of the major problems that should be resolved by the new Iraqi government is that of Kirkuk. A national coalition government with Kurdish participation cannot be set up without giving guarantees regarding the carrying out of Article 140, with a very precise timetable for it. This commitment, which this time must be in writing and must lay down a strict date for being carried out, is very essential for the Kurds”.
The second Round table, particularly devoted to the carrying out of Article 140, was chaired by Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute. Those taking part were Dr. Raid Fahmi, Iraqi Minister of Science and Technology and President of the High Committee for Applying Article 140, Dr. Mohammed Ihsan, former Kurdish Minister responsible for territories outsider federal Kurdistan, Dr. Najmaldin O. Karim, Member of Parliament for Kirkuk, Mr. Tahsin Kehya, Turcoman member of the High Committee for Applying Article 140, and Mr. Abdulrahman Mustafa, Governor of Kirkuk.
The presence of Mohammed Ihsan, former Minister responsible for all Kurdish areas covered by Article 140, and not just Kirkuk, enabled the problem of these regions to be seen in a wider context — that of all the Kurdish regions broken up by Saddam Hussein in his general carving up of Iraq into 18 provinces, the purpose of which was to scatter the non-Arabs populations and divide them up between several administrative units so as to break their political unity and any possible idea of autonomy.
Dr. Karim, the Kurdish Alliance candidate in Kirkuk at the last elections, speaking about his election campaign, started by recognising the population’s fears about the mode of application of this law — for example the daily practical difficulties faced by displaced families is establishing their rights to property of which they had been despoiled or else the vagueness surrounding the compensation proposed in exchange for the settlers returning to their original regions. Despite these obstacles, the Kurdish M.P. for Kirkuk repeated he set great store to the full application of this Article, even though it would not be easy. One indispensible action towards the other communities was to reassure and convince them that becoming part of the Kurdistan region did not mean another phase of discrimination for the Turcomen or of an inferior status for the Arabs. A permanent dialogue must be maintained with all the people of Kirkuk, who have all suffered from Saddam and his Arabisation policy.
However, one of the biggest opportunities for getting inclusion in the Kurdistan Region accepted by its inhabitants was, according to Dr. Karim, the spectacular difference in economic development and security between the Kurdistan Region and the Province of Kirkuk, which has been completely abandoned by Baghdad.
The Kurdish film director from Turkey, Huseyin Karabey, was selected at Cannes by the Festival’s “Cinéfondation Atelier” (Film Foundation Workshop), which highlights new talents with their film projects. This makes him the only Kurdish filmmaker to be represented at Cannes this year — or, indeed, the only one of Turkish nationality.
His project, “Sesime Gel” (Come to my voice) will be a 90-minute film, shot at Diyarbekir in the autumn of 2010 in both Kurdish and Turkish. Like Gitmek (My Marlon and my Brando) it mingles fiction and documentary.
In a snowed in mountain village in Eastern Turkey, Berfê (an old woman) and Jiyan (her grand-daughter) find themselves alone, confronted by the absence of the household’s only man. In fact, Temo, at once father and son of the two women, in jail. The senior officer has been informed that some villagers are hiding arms. So he announces that all the village men will be kept in detention till their families surrender and hand over the weapons that they are supposed to be hiding. As far as they know, the two women have done no wrong — these just arms don’t exist. In despair, Berfê and Jiyan begin a journey to find some weapon that they can exchange for their Temo. Will their innocence and naivety enable them to face up to a system that, little by little throws them into a world soiled by an endless conflict?
Huseyin Karabey, who wrote the script jointly with Abdin Pirilti, recounts the plot as follows: “During a raid on the village, everyone is assembled in the village square. The soldiers then take one man from each family and tell the women “Bring out your arms and we will release them”. However, there are no arms in the village. This is where the heroines enter.
Berfê, 70 years of age, undertakes a journey with her 8-year-old granddaughter, Jiyan, to find a gun that they could change for her son Temo’s freedom. Despite all their efforts they cannot find a single one in their house and so go to the nearest town. The problem then is to bring the gun they have bought back to the village without being caught on the way. Which is why she chose to cross the mountains.
Talking about the behaviour of the Turkish soldiers, Huseyin Karabey also shows the doubts that the met felt. “For example, one soldier compares Berfê with his own beloved grandmother, of the same age, to whom he writes that he cannot understand what they are trying to do”. Huseyin Karabey adds that the traumas of crimes committed are still unhealed and that his aim is to relate a real event through the cinema. “In Turkey, for the last 20 years, we have been faced with a state of latent war. Through the story of Granma Berfê I hope to show to what extent this war could become absurd. My objective is not to make a political statement about this situation since we know that a rotten situation causes losses and suffering on both sides. That is why I prefer to use a device and story with the hope of arousing both tears and laughter, while also, let’s hope, giving the spectator something to think about after he’s left the cinema. I sincerely hope that, through these two women’s journey, we could also discover many things about ourselves and the world we live in”.
Regarding the use of the Kurdish language, which is becoming increasingly popular in the Turkish cinema now that the bans on its use are being gradually lifted, Huseyin Karabey hopes to make Westerners and Turks like the language enough to want to learn the language.
Regarding the recent “Kurdish initiative” launched by the AKP government last year, the filmmaker considers that “changes and the status quo, solutions and barriers are all mixed up together. Sometimes you can see things with some optimism and sometimes nothing that is happening makes any sense. In order to take part in this process I am trying to give an account of what the Kurdish people are going through: there are many stories that need to be told about its tragedies.
Regarding the overall state of the Turkish cinema, Huseyin Karabey considers it is passive and more inclined to entrench itself behind excuses of a bureaucratic character than want to change things: “The young generation is making an effort but, in general, the Turkish cinema is predominantly conservative”.