B u l l e t i n

c o m p l e t

Bulletin N° 372 | March 2016



Newroz is the Kurdish New Year. It is an ancient pre-Islamic Spring Festival, celebrated on March 21st by several Iranian peoples in the Middle East ad also by Turkic peoples of Central Asia. The traditional reason given for its origin is highly political: the overthrow of the bloody Shah Zohak by a popular revolt led by Kawa the Blacksmith (in Kurdish Kawa Asinger) who then lit a bonfire to summon the people to celebrate his victory. Thus, for the Kurds, this festival celebrated by bonfires, singing and dancing is a political assertion of their existence and their struggle. This year, with the Kurds facing repression in Turkey and their front line role in the struggle against the so-called “Islamic State” or ISIS, the political meaning of Newroz has a particularly strong significance.

In many towns in Turkish Kurdistan as well as in the Turkish metropolitan centres of the West of the country, these celebrations have been banned for “security reasons”. In Diyarbakir, where every year nearly a million Kurds take part in this festival, only a hundred thousand took part this year because of the curfew in force and the tight police and Army control of the city.

In Paris, the Kurdish New Year has been celebrated every year at the town Hall of its 10th District, considered the “Kurdish quarter”, but this year Mrs Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, took the initiative of inviting the Kurds and their friends to celebrate in the magnificent salons of the City Hall, which was lit up with the Kurdish colours.

The evening began at 7 p.m. with a meeting to support the Kurdish Institute. Before an audience of public figures, Mrs Hidalgo, along wither assistants Patrick Klugman and Alexandre Cordoba as well as the Mayor of the 10th District, Rémi Féraud, made a speech recalling the City Council’s support of the Kurdish Institute over the years. She pointed out that she had personally approached the State’s higher authorities to press for France to finance on a long-term basis this Institution’s existence. She asked sponsors to take part in this collective effort — all the more necessary since the Kurds were fighting in the field for our liberties. She recalled with feeling her journey to Iraqi Kurdistan in October 2015 and the warm welcome she had received from the Kurdish authorities and people. She concluded by saying “You can count on me and consider me an advocate of the Kurdish cause”.

Speaking next, Kendal Nezan, thanked Mrs Hidalgo and her team for their support and hospitality. Responding to the appeal of public figures, the media and of citizens, the Government has committed itself to partly restoring the grants made to the Institute so as to ward off the danger of its closing. He concluded by saying “We are relying on the City Hall to complement this financing to provide the Institute with premises suited to its mission”.

Then ambassador Saywan Barzani, representing Kurdistan’s Prime Minister, recalled the highlights of the solidarity shown by French public figures and people to the Kurdish people since the 80s and welcomed the recent strengthening of Franco-Kurdish relations.

This part of the evening ended with Mrs Hidalgo being given a medal of honour by a Peshmerga General in Kurdish traditional costume for her contribution to the defence of the Kurdish people.

The second part of the evening was festive and musical. After speeches of welcome by Patrick Klugman and Kendal Nezan, the musical groups led by Şivan Perwer, Issa and Miço Kendes sang to an audience of about 1500 guests, both Kurds and their friends. The Kurdish poetess, Nezand Begikhani, then recited some of her poems. Then a philosopher, Bernard Henry-Lévy, who has made several trips to Kurdistan and had just met François Hollande accompanied by the Kurdish General Sirwan Barzani, passed on a message of good wishes for the Kurdish New Year from the President of the Republic before calling on France and the other countries of the international coalition to provide more help to the courageous Kurdish fighters who were struggling against ISIS for their land, and freedom — but also for our liberties.

Finally General Barzani addressed the participants in Kurdish to wish them a good year and ask them to remain mobilised and united in this historic period facing the Kurdish people. The festival continued till 11.30 with traditional Kurdish dances.

This was the second time that Newroz was celebrated at the City Hall since 2004, when the City of Paris paid tribute to its Kurdish fellow citizens by t celebrating it there at the invitation of Bertrand Delanoë in partnership with the Kurdish Institute


On the 14th of this month the US House of Representatives unanimously announced its recognition that the massacre of Yezidis by ISIS was an act of genocide by a vote of 383. This massacre occurred when ISIS’s over-ran Sinjar (Shengal in Kurdish) in August 2014.

The resolution was then passed up to the Senate where it was passed in identical terms. Thus US Congress officially recognises this as genocide. The European Parliament had already unanimously voted this on 5 February last, which makes it the first time in history that genocide has been officially recognised by such a body for a conflict still taking place. Washington’s Holocaust Museum had been one of the first organisations to describe ISIS’s massacres in these terms in November 2015, in a report published by its Simon-Skjodt Centre for preventing Genocide.

On the 17th the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, after analysis of the data available reached the tardy conclusion that ISIS had been guilty of genocide of the Yezidis, the Christians and the Shiites in the areas it controls in Syria and Iraq: “ISIS is genocidal by its own declarations, by ideology, by what it says and what it does” he added. Kerry’s statement is only the second time that any US Administration has described actions committed in the course of current conflicts as amounting to genocide.

It is difficult to put forward a precise figure for the number of Yezidis murdered by ISIS since any families have decided to remain in the refugee camps rather than return to the areas liberated from the jihadists. On the 10th of the month the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister of the Interior, Karim Sinjari, announced that 2,300 Yezidis had been saved from the hands of the jihadis since the capture of Sinjar by ISIS in August 2014. The KRG’s Office of Yezidi Affairs published date showing that nearly 2,500 Yezidis have been confirmed as dead. Most were victims of mass executions that rapidly were carried out after the capture of the Sinjar region by the jihadists in August 2014.

Other estimates give the number of men and boys killed immediately after the capture of Sinjar in the villages around the town as high as 5,000. The fate of 500 Yezidis posted as disappeared remains unknown. ISIS had captured 6255 Yezidis during its offensive and still held 3,900 women prisoners. Earlier this month the Mayor of Sinjar declared that dozens of Yezidi young girls kidnapped by the jihadists in August 2014 had been sold to other countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Chechenia.

At least 24 mass graves have been found around the town of Sinjar after it was taken back from ISIS — some contain the bodies of women, no doubt considered too old to be used as sex slaves. The KRG envisages allowing access to these graves to experts of the International Criminal Court, who have been asked to visit the region to decide on the description of ISIS’s crimes.


The Democratic Unity Party (PYD), the Kurdish Party that virtually that runs Syrian Kurdistan, was excluded during the month of March from the Geneva discussions on Syria’s future. This exclusion, largely due to the obsession anti-Kurdish political line of Turkey, the major support of the “official” Syrian opposition, is made all the more paradoxical in the military field, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (in which the PYD’s Kurdish fighters are the principal component) remain the preferred partners in the fight against ISIS of both the US and the Russians.

On 3 March, Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated that the peace talks were “incomplete without the Kurds”. On the 11th Sergueï Lavrov explicitly asked the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to include the Kurds inn the discussions that were due to be resumed. Arguing that “holding discussion on a new organisation of the country and preparing a constitutional reform and elections in the absence of the Kurds would be a serious violation of the rights of an large and significant group of people living in Syria”. Lavrov then criticised Turkey for having imposed the exclusion of the Kurds so far.

Staffan de Mistura is visibly forced into a awkward balancing act on the question of the Syrian Kurds. Questioned at a press conference about the possibility of broadening participation at the coming discussions he replied that the UN would not send our fresh invitations but stressed… the importance of including in the discussions “all the Syrians who can make a contribution to the country’s future”. So — are the Kurds Syrians or not?

Two days later he declared, in an interview to a Swiss newspaper Le Temps that ”The Syrian Kurds were “a major component of the country” and that “a formula must be found allowing them to express their opinion on the country’s constitution and governance”.

John Kirby, the US State Department spokesman adopted the same position on the same day. The problem, for these political officials, seems to be how to enable the Kurds to take part without the Turks realising it (?!) and upsetting the applecart wrecking the discussions. Everyone is aware that, without Kurdish participation the discussions have no chance of resulting in a feasible solution.

Already, on the 2nd Akram Hesso, Prime Minister of the Jezira Canton, had revealed in an interview with Al Monitor that discussions held at Kobane at the end of February between the authorities of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and an international delegation led by the representative of the US President, Brett McGurk, that included British and French Army officials had discussed not only the struggle against ISIS but the proposal for setting up a federal government in Syria.

On the 3rd, the Iraqi KRG expressed, through the office of Its President Masud Barzani, its support for a federal system in Syria, calling on all the Kurdish groups there to unite round this project. Its adoption of this stand is all the more significant since, while most of the Iraqi Kurdistan political parties recognise the autonomous administration of the Rojava cantons set up by the PYD, this is not the case with Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which tends to favour another Kurdish grouping in Syria, the Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is much less visible in the field and whose relations with the PYD are strained, to say the least. While the PYD accuses the KNC of relations with Turkey, the KNC accuses the PYD of relations with the Damascus regime. Unsurprisingly, the last is fiercely opposed to the idea of any “federalisation” of the country, seeing this as a prelude to neo-colonial partition. However, its Russian allay shows its difference on this point— the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergueï Riyabkov, stated on the 1st that he would support any arrangement that the Syrians might reach, including a federal solution.

While the “official” Syrian opposition, predominantly Islamist and supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, also consider federalism presents a danger of partitioning the country others, on the contrary, see it as the last chance for preserving Syrian Unity. In the Huffington Post issue of the 20th, David L. Phillips argued that the main cause of conflict in Syria had been the excessive concentration of power in the hands of a minority administration run by the Alawites, and that decentralisation could contribute to peace and a political transition. On the 11th, the PYD called for decentralisation, saying that it was not important whether it was called federalisation or anything else. On the 14th Sergueï Lavrov defended the idea that it was precisely to preserve the integrity of Syria that the Kurds should be invited to the negotiations: “If they are excluded from the negotiations on the future of Syria, how can we expect them to remain in the State?”.

Around the middle of the month the situation developed rapidly on both the political and military levels: on the 15th Vladimir Poutin caught most observers unawares by announcing the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria — a withdrawal that, indeed, did begin a few days later. On the17th, the Kurds and their Arab, Christian and Turkmenian allies announced the creation of a federal region in Northern Syria. A Congress, organised at Rumeilan by the Kurdish PYD announced that it was going to set up a “Federal Region” unifying the three cantons of the Rojava administration, the East and West of the Jezira, Kobane and Afrin. An elected assembly of 31 members was charged with laying the bases of the Federal Region by next September.

The Arab League rapidly attacked this initiative — at its session on 21 March, its Vice-General Secretary Ahmed ben Helli described it as “separatist” declaring that it would lead to the division of Syria. The Damascus Regime adopted a similar position, the Syrian Foreign Minister explaining that the present Syrian Constitution excluded federalism and that this new Region was “illegal”. Washington, for its part, stated that it would not recognise the new federal region as Syria’s future system of government should be discussed in the negotiations being organised by the United Nations — from which the PYD is still not invited. However the US also stated that it wanted to pursue its close cooperation with the Kurds in the struggle against ISIS.

Following some refusals, Rodi Osman, the head of the Rojava Representative Office in Moscow, agreed to explain the difference of the new federal region (which could serve as a model for the whole of Syria) from the autonomous Kurdish areas already working since December 2013. Thus he made the point that it was not a step towards partition and had not been created on an ethnic basis but a territorial one. “We are not trying to create a State of any particular ethnic group” he pointed out, adding that since it aimed, inter alias, to put an end to discrimination against all minorities, including the Christians, federalism allowed a better recognition of the country’s diverse population.

After the five years of civil war that the country has suffered, it seems impossible to return to the preceding system of centralised power exclusively help by the Baath.

Nevertheless military operations have not ceased — o the 26th the regime took the citadel of Palmyra back from ISIS and, two days later, on the 29th, the Jihadists were driven out of the rest of the city. On the 31stth, the Syrian Kurds announced they were preparing to wage an offensive on the town of Raqqa, ISIS’s “capital”.


On Saturday the 5th of March the daily Zaman, the country’s principal newspaper with a circulation of 650,000, was placed under the control of the authorities. Very critical of Mr. Erdoǧan’s government, Zaman was considered close to l’imam Fethullah Gülen, in exile in the United States and the Turkish President’s bête noire. After having just managed to produce a last “free” edition before its senior staff were fired, the paper displayed the next days issue (that the journalist said they had no hand in) with an editorial line that echoed that of the pro-government papers, with a photo of the President on its front page… To maintain control of the premises the police were obliged, on the day before, to disperse nearly 500 protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. This strong arm method of taking over aroused the protests of the European Union but had no other effect on the EU-Turkey meeting in Brussels on the 6th yo discuss the migrants’ issue.

The authorities continued their authoritarian line at Parliamentary level when (according to the Anatolia News Agency the Prime Minister’s Office placed a motion before Parliament to lift parliamentary immunity from the co-Presidents of the “pro-Kurdish” DHP, namely Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ as well as the M.P.s Selma Irmak, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Ertuǧrul Kürkçü.

This demand follows on an enquiry by the Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor into the speeches make by these five M.P.s in the course of a meeting last December of a group affiliated to the HDP, where Demirtaş had stated that the HDP would support the calls for the formation of “democratic autonomous regions” in Turkish Kurdistan. The Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, had justified the lifting of the immunity of the HDP members of parliament on the grounds of “this party’s support of terrorism”. This motion, supported by the AKP (in office) and the neo-fascist MHP was rejected by the CHP (Kemalists) has to secure a two-thirds majority to be put into effect — that is 276 votes.

On the 10th, Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya and Kivanc Ersoy, three academics who signed a petition calling for peace in the country’s Southeast, help a press conference to criticise the pressure and the dozens of dismissals to which the signatories suffered by the signatories and re-iterated their demands for an end to military operations in the Kurdish region. On the 13th, infuriated by this audacity, President Erdogan declared that the definition of terrorism should be widened to cover supporting it, like these M.P.s, the academics, the journalists and leaders of civil society. “The terrorists” de declared, “are not only those who (bear) arms but also (…) those with pens in their hands”. On the 16th, the three academics were charged with “terrorist propaganda”. The court considered that, though not mentioning the PKK in their statements, they were implicitly in agreement with its actions. A British leacher, who had come to attend the hearing and support those charged, was also arrested when the police saw in his pockets invitations to the HDP for the Kurdish Newroz festivities. Chris Stephenson was charged with “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and, after 25 years residence in the country was deported to England the next day without trial. Leaving behind him his Turkish wife and their13-year-old daughter.

On the26th, the trial began of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, Chief editor and journalist of the daily both accused of high treason and attempting a coup d’état for having published a report showing a convoy of arms being delivered to the Jihadist rebels in Syria by the Turkish secret services (MIT). Mr. Erdoǧan, infuriated by fact that a number of foreign diplomats had decided to attend demanded live on television “What are you doing there?”. Declaring that the role of consuls should be confined to the premises of their consulates…

In this increasingly authoritarian context, the AKP is continuing its projects of altering the Constitution to give even greater powers to the President. After the Parliamentary Commission charged with working on this issue had separated last month without reaching any conclusion since the CHP (the Kemalist opposition) had walked out, Mustafa Şen, the Prime Minister’s principal adviser declared that if this constitutional commission was unable to do its work, the AKP would begin to prepare this project by itself so that a decision could be secured by the summer.

Several other senior AKP officials stated that the party’s proposals, which would need the support of 14 members of the Parliamentary opposition, could be submitted to a national vote (or referendum) and were already being discussed. The plans could allow the president to dissolve Parliament, which would also end the President’s term of office and launch Parliamentary and Presidential elections. Two senior AKP leaders involved in these discussions have decided that the President could rule by decree without having to consult Parliament: “The President, in our proposals, would be more powerful than in the American system” stated one officials speaking off the record. The head of State would also appoint the cabinet as well as certain senor officials like ambassadors and some members of the magistracy.

These orientations flaunted by the AKP lead the opposition to fear the advent in Turkey of a regime even more authoritarian if this party succeeds in imposing them in the new Constitution. Since Mr. Erdoǧan became President, Reuters recalls, the courts have received more than 1800 complaints for insults to the Head of State aimed at students, an ex-Miss Turkey, journalists and academics…


On 8 March the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, had discussions at the European Council premises in Brussels with European leaders, particularly with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, whose country presiding currently presiding the European Council. The discussions caver the manners that Turkey could help dam the flood of refugees appearing at the gates of Europe. During a preparatory meeting on the evening of Sunday 6th, Turkey had demanded more than the 3 billion euros so far proposed by the European Union. One source even mentioned a demand by Ankara of 20 billion… About fifty Kurds gathered not far from the place where discussions are taking place to protest against this. They particularly declare that Europe should not finance Turkey since “the money will be used to oppress the Kurds”. Indeed, these discussions are taking place at the same time as a wave of repression against the press *contrary to European values) and violent military operations being conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces in the country’s Kurdish regions that have already cause the deaths of many civilians.

Two days later, on the 18th, a “deal” was announced between Europe and Turkey. This immediately became the subject of heated controversy since it sea should be sent back there provides, inter alia, that all illegal immigrants who had crossed Turkey to reach the Aegean Sea and the Greek island (some of which are only a few cable lengths from the Turkish coast) should be sent back to Turkey. In keeping with this new agreement, any refugees reaching the Greek Islands must be duly recorded and any requests for asylum treated individually by the Greek authorities (in accordance with the procedures for seeking asylum) in cooperation with the High Commission for Refugees. In return for Turkey’s cooperation, the European Union should also accelerate the payment of the 3 billion euros already promised to help manager the refugee’s already n Turkish soil and grant a further 3 billion in 20198. The EU would, furthermore, help Greece to set up a team of some 4,000 people (judges, interpreters and border guards) to make an individual decision for each refugee.

As from the 20th, thousands of Kurds peacefully demonstrated in Hanover (West Germany) to protest against this agreement while celebrating the Kurdish New Year, Newroz. Taking part in this demonstration was Dieter Dehm, Member of the European Parliament for Die Linke (the Left Party), who described “the Erdogan-Merkel agreement” as “shameful and mean”. “It is in contradiction with Human Rights and with Trade Union rights and is being made at the expense of the Turkish intellectuals being persecuted by Erdogan. Germany should turn its back on this denial of Human Rights and instead welcome with all its heart these courageous Kurds who are defending freedom against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS)”.

The members of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the European Parliament published a report on the 15th that was very critical of several points in the EU-Turkey agreement, taking up those in the report by the European Parliament’s Reporteur on Turkey, the Dutch MEP Kati Piri, following her visit to Turkey last February. The Commission’s Press communiqué states that EU-Turkey regarding migration should not be linked to the process of negotiation for membership of the EU. Kati Piri, moreover, criticised “the EU’s decision to delay the Commission’s report on progress after the elections”, thus giving the impression that it had chosen “to remain silent on the problems of fundamental rights in Turkey in return for Ankara’s cooperation regarding the refugees.

Although the report expresses pleasure that Turkey had accepter to shelter the biggest mass of refugees in the world, it repeats that Turkey is a strategic partner of the EU, the MEPs call for progress on the area of a State of Laws, in fundamental values as well as a more structured and frequent political dialogue on the principle themes. Mrs Piri stated, in particular: “Not only has the overall rhythm of reforms in Turkey slowed down, but in certain key areas like freedom of expression and the independence of the judicial system we notice a particularly worrying regression”.

The MEPs also express, in this report, their fears “faced with the escalation of violence in Southeast Turkey, a violence that led to the displacement of 400,000 in the country”.

Following the publication, on here Facebook page at the end of February, of her concern about the actions of the Turkish security forces at Diyarbakir, she attacked “very serious violations of Human Rights” and warned of the danger of a civil war in Turkey, the Raporteur Kati Piri had already been violently criticised by the Turkish authorities. The Turkish Minister for European Affairs, Volkan Bozkir, had accused her of having “lost all objectivity” and particularly criticised her for “not having described the PKK as a terrorist organisation”. Kati Piri also demanded in her report “the setting up of a process enabling the control of three billion euros granted to Turkey (in the context of the agreement) to ensure that they are used for the refugees”.

The negative reactions to this agreement have increased, The UN High Commission for Refugees expressed its doubts, stressing that the refugees needed to be protected, not rejected and raising questions, moreover, of the means needed for carrying it out in good conditions for those primarily concerned. Amnesty International attacked it as a serious blow at Human Rights, Accusing Ankara of illegally forcing a hundred Syrian refugees a day to return to their country. It pointed out the fear that some refugees returned from Greece might suffer the same fate. Médecins sans Frontières decided to put an end to its presence in several refugee camps in Greece, which this agreement, in their view, transforms into internment camps. The British NGO Oxfam, accused the European and Turkish leaders of having “haggled over human being in exchange for political concessions”, in allusion to the renewal of discussions on Turkey’s joining the European Union and the for free circulation of Turkish citizens in Europe. Finally France Terre d’Asile described as “shameful” this agreement that “authorises a form of collective expulsion that goes against international law

Other criticisms have covered the justification that its promoters advanced for this agreement — it would make the “business” of smuggling impossible. On this point the IRIN Press Agency (formerly the UN press agency) published a report on 10 March in which it noted that the basic problem was that there is really no legal way for Syrian civilians trapped by the fighting to leave their country. The report quotes Gerry Simpson, researcher at the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying “Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have hermetically sealed their borders with Syria, which leaves civilians who can pay no other choice but smugglers to escape (…)”. According to the same report, in which he quotes another analyst, the Turkish government had, in he course of March, authorised its border guards to open fire on any people trying to enter Turkey from Syria. Ege Seçkin, a risk analyst with IHS Global Insight, a London-based think tank, has stated: “The Turkish government’s reasoning is quite clear — they don’t want Kurdish militants going back and forth in the context of an insurrection inside Turkey”. The digging of trenches and erecting walls at certain parts of the Syrian border having made the work of smugglers much more dangerous they demand high payment. All in all the difficulties of illegal crossing are constantly increasing.

Saleh Moslem the co-President of the Syrian PYD Party, stressing that Turkey is acting against the interests of the Kurds declared that a better solution would have been that the European countries help Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) economically so that conditions for the residents and refugees could improve.


After breaking off negotiations with the PKK, the Turkish government chose an extremely tough line — the Army was deployed in most towns of Turkish Kurdistan to wage real warlike operations without the slightest consideration for the safety of their residents. After two years of peace, Turkish Kurdistan is thus sinking into an increasingly murderous violence, of which the civilians are the first victims. Military clashes similar to those of the 90s have returned but for the young Kurds who have grown up with memories of that period the level of violence is even higher since the fighting is taking place in a densely populated urban context — for which the battle of Kobane provides a terrible model, resulting in an uninhabitable field of ruins. The pursuit of such military operations and the government’s refusal of any negotiated solution create the danger of rapidly leading to tragic consequences.

Moreover, President Erdogan and his AKP government — that no longer does anything but obey its boss — have begun to criminalise any voices that call for silencing the arms or defend the possibility of peace.

The targets include academic who signed a critical petition, but also the “pro-Kurdish HDP party and yet others. Those holding this policy have thus gradually destroyed the credibility of any attempts to find an alternative to the spiral of violence and to wage a political rather than a military struggle. Thus the HDP is accused of not condemning the PKK while being placed in a position of being unable to protect the citizens from the “security” forces.

Is Mr. Erdoǧan aware that his civil war policy is strengthening the legitimacy of the guerrillas in the eyes of the Kurdish population of Turkey? Indeed, the message sent, especially to the country’s Kurdish youth, is that the process of legal political struggle for rights in Turkey is a dead end. They, consequently, are in danger of drawing the conclusion that the only possible response to such extreme violence is an even more radical violence…

In this respect, the suicide attack perpetrated in Ankara on the 13th in a very busy are, and which caused 37 deaths and 120 injured arouses greatest concern. It was claimed, three days later, by the “Hawks of Kurdistan’s Freedom” (TAK), a group that had already attacked Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport in December 2015, then some Army buses at Ankara on 19 February last (29deaths and 80 injured). This attack is at a hitherto unknown level of violence in the history of the struggles of Turks and Kurds for their rights — hitherto the Kurdish activists did not usually wage actions directly aimed at civilians and so liable to cause a considerable number of deaths amongst non-combatants.

Contrary to the PKK, which has published apologies (for example when its attacks on a barracks caused the death of a baby a few months ago) the TAK has claimed bombs and assassinations “without any regrets” and declared after the attack in February that it wanted to “punish” the security forces for the civilian deaths they had caused in Kurdistan. TAK says it separated itself from the PKK, which for its part affirms that it had no control over this dissident group. The Turkish Intelligence Services, for their part affirm that TAK is, in fact, a group carrying out actions for the PKK that the latter does not want to claim.

Whatever the truth may be, we must hope that this kind of action does not become common. Since if that were to be the case Turkey would be in serious danger of plunging into a spiral of revenge and counter-revenge that could lead to a real and large scale inter-community civil war. This is a situation that has never hitherto arisen, despite decades of conflict due to the failure to resolve the “Kurdish Question”. Thus the government would have initiated a real vicious circle…

Month of March is that of the Kurdish New Year, the traditional Kurdish Newroz festival, celebrated on the 21st. This year, however, the Turkish security forces have continued their war operations and particularly in the historic quarter of Sur, in Diyarbakir, the Kargest Kurdish city in Turkey, which has been under a curfew since 2nd December 2015. According to the HDP, 25 citizens have been killed since then and that many ancient historic and religious building have been destroyed. On the 2nd Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-President of HDP, called on a demonstration protesting against the unending curfew to march towards Sur. Fighting rapidly broke out with the police who used water cannons and tear gas to block access to the quarter. The Public Prosecutors then initiated preliminary investigations into Demirtaş for incitement to demonstrate. On the 3rd the curfew was eased, but only in one part of Sur, where the inhabitants were allowed to leave their homes in the morning at 8 a.m.. However, at the same time curfews were announced for the towns of Yuksekova and Nusaybin that same night. On the 15th a curfew was imposed on the Kaynartepe quarter of Diyarbekir’s Bağlar quarter at 3 o’clock in the morning after, according to the authorities, PKK activists had started erecting barricades and digging trenches and placing bombs there. Fighting very quickly broke out with rockets and automatic weapons.

At Cizre, the Provincial Governor covering this city, which had 100,000 inhabitants before the beginning of the fighting, announced on the 1st of the month, a lifting of the curfew from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The thousands of its inhabitants who had fled the fighting formed long queues at the checkpoints set up at the entrances to the town to return home. Manny were horrified to find that their houses had been totally destroyed and their belonging lost in the ruins. Some started to look for the bodies of friends and relations. In the first day alone five bodies were found — wine cellars and three in a garden.

On the 29th another suicide bomb attack took place in Istanbul, killing 4 people and injuring 36 others. The methods used was the same as that used on 12 January at Sultan Ahmed, The Minister of the Interior, Efkan Ala, attributed it to ISIS. It was condemned the next day by the PKK, who declared that aiming attacks at civilians was inadmissible and reiterated its commitment to observing the Geneva conventions in its struggles.

On the eve of Newroz the Minister of the Interior stated that 200,000 members of the security forces would keep order during the celebrations, adding that they had been banned in a considerable part of Turkey for fear of bomb attacks, particularly in Istanbul and other Turkish cities but authorised in 18 provinces — i.e. the provinces where the majority of the population was Kurdish. The HDP had, however, called for several processions, particularly in Istanbul, where they gave rise of clashes with the police, who prevented an HDP representative from making a public statement before using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the hundreds of Kurds assembled there. Several dozens of people were also arrested in the Bakirkoy quarter. At Diyarbakir, where the curfew had been lifted for this event in the Kaynartepe quarter, thousands of people assembled to take part. The police, however, had installed strict control of the city, searching cars and checking identity papers.

On the 27th, at Diyarbakir, an extraordinary Congress of the DTK (Congress for a Democratic Society) began, with a minute silence in tribute to those who had died in the struggle for freedom and democracy. Amongst those taking part were Hatip Dicle and Selma Irmak, co-President of the DTK, Selahattin Demirtaş, co-President of the HDP, Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, spokeswoman for the HDK (Democratic Peoples Congress) and HDP members of Parliament. Selma Irmak, in particular paid moving tribute to three women members of the DTK, killed at Silopi and to Mehmet Tunc, killed at Cizre, before affirming the Kurds would not give up their rights and that tanks and bombs provided no solution to the Kurdish question but would only cause more bloodshed.

The spokeswoman for the HDK then called for an alliance of all the Kurds, including Masud Barzani, who she also criticised for having described certain Kurdish groups as terrorists. She then expressed her agreement with the KCK by calling for the freeing of Abdullah Öcalan.