Demonstration in New York City in Support of Abdullah Ocalan and Kurdish Rights in Turkey

By Adas, Jane | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 3, 1999 | Go to article overview

Demonstration in New York City in Support of Abdullah Ocalan and Kurdish Rights in Turkey


Adas, Jane, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


DEMONSTRATION IN NEW YORK CITY IN SUPPORT OF ABDULLAH ÖCALAN AND KURDISH RIGHTS IN TURKEY

A broad coalition of groups supporting Kurdish rights demonstrated July 30 in New York City to call attention to Turkish oppression of Kurds and to protest the death sentence that the Turkish government had imposed one month earlier on Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Marchers carded a banner saying "The real crime is Turkey's war on the Kurds."

The protesters assembled at the Turkish Mission to the United Nations, marched past the U.S. and Israeli missions, and ended with a rally outside Grand Central Station. The U.S. and Israeli missions were included because of the widely held conviction that the CIA and Mossad helped the Turkish secret service abduct Öcalan in Kenya last Feb. 15. In addition, both countries have military ties with Turkey. Sixty percent of the world's 25 million Kurds live in Turkey, making up 25 percent of that country's population. The other 10 million Kurds are divided among Iran, Iraq, and Syria, with a small number living in the Caucasian republics of the former Soviet Union. As possibly the largest stateless ethnic group in the world, Kurds do not enjoy self-determination in any of these countries, but it is in Turkey that their situation is most difficult.

Since the creation of the Turkish republic in 1923 under World War I military hero Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, Kurdish language and culture has been suppressed. Even the word "Kurd" is outlawed. Abdulla, a 42-year-old Kurd who left Turkey as a young man and who did not want to give his full name because he still has family there, pointed out that the one million Turks living in Germany are permitted to operate their own Turkish- language schools, newspapers, and public television channel. why, he asks, do the 15 million Kurds living in Turkey not have the same privileges?

Abdulla has reason to fear for his family. He says that one of his brothers was tortured for 16 days by the Turkish military. Another brother, who had joined the PKK while a college student, disappeared for six months. His body was then returned without hands and with the internal organs removed.

In recent years, Turkey's repression of the Kurds reportedly has intensified greatly. …

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