IRAQ: Kurdish peacemakers cross Iraq/Turkey border



3 November 2009
IRAQ: Kurdish peacemakers cross Iraq/Turkey border



On 19 October 2009, twenty-six Turkish Kurds, political refugees in Iraq, plus eight PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) members from Qandil mountain region crossed the border into Turkey calling for a democratic, negotiated end to the conflict between the Turkish government and the PKK, which would include a respect for their Kurdish identity in Turkey.  Two of the marching refugees are acquaintances of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Iraq.  They are members of the "Mothers for Peace" from the refugee camp in Makmur, south of Erbil.

Turkey has outlawed the PKK and many of its members have fled to Iraq-some have joined the armed resistance movement in the border mountain region.  Turkey and her ally, the United States, have called them "terrorists" and Turkish planes regularly bomb the mountain villages in Iraq, causing extensive displacement of the civilian population.  CPT documents the ongoing plight of these internally displaced persons who have lost access to their homes and livelihoods.

Supporters held rallies in Istanbul and Kurdish cities in Turkey and thousands of them met the marchers on the Turkish side of the border.  Turkish authorities took the marchers in for questioning immediately.

Ten years ago, the Turkish government responded to a similar peace march with arrests and jail sentences of seven to fifteen years for sixteen participants.  One has since died in jail of a heart attack.  This time, the marchers were released after a few hours of investigation, pending possible future prosecution.  They hope that the political climate is changing and that the Turkish government will relent under internal and international pressure, especially from the European Union, and agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.

The participants in the action are asking for recognition in the Turkish Constitution that Kurdish, along with Turkish, is a native language of Turkey, as well as an end to ethnic discrimination against and full political freedom for Turkish Kurds.