Appeal to the President of the United States of America

  • Society for Threatened Peoples
  • 03/04/2009 00:00:00

Göttingen, 31st March 2009

Dear Mr. President,

When you go to Turkey on 5th April 2009 we beg of you earnestly not to leave urgent human rights problems by the wayside. Solving these would, on the one hand, strengthen internationally the position and reputation of Turkey and be, on the other, of benefit to the European Union and the United States.

We would like very briefly to mention these human rights problems.

The Kurdish question For three decades the Turkish army has been engaged in military conflict with the militia of the Kurdish Workers' Party, PKK. These conflicts often involve Turkey's neighbours, Iran and Iraq. Since the intervention in Iraq and the forming of the peaceful and democratic Iraqi federal state Kurdistan in the north of the country this state is constantly being drawn into the conflict by the Turkish army and the PKK militia. Turkish military aircraft have carried out several attacks on Kurdish and Christian Assyrian villages in this autonomous federal state.

Western politicians and experts are not always aware of the fact that at least 20% of the Turkish population are Kurds, whose language and culture have been systematically and constantly suppressed since the end of the First World War. Kurdish efforts to achieve equality of opportunity with the Turkish majority have constantly been suppressed in a bloody manner. In recent months more and more corpses have been exhumed of civilians who were murdered by Turkish security forces. Among them were intellectuals, regional leaders and Kurdish men and women whose names are unknown.

We beg you earnestly, Mr. President, to speak out for the release of the 3,835 Turkish Kurds, many of whom have been in custody for two decades. About half of them have not yet been brought to court.

It is just as important to us that you speak up for the equality of the Kurdish language and culture. Turkey will find no peace until Kurdish identity is recognized. While the four million Kurds in north Iraq now have at least 5,303 Kurdish schools, there is to date not a single such educational establishment for the 15 - 20 million Kurds of Turkey.

Iraqi Kurdistan can be proud of an exemplary policy concerning its minorities and nationalities. For the small minority of the Assyrian Aramaic Chaldeans there are 58 schools with their own language as the language of instruction and in the case of the Turkman minority there are16.

We would also like to ask you to do what you can to make sure that the Turkish government at long last begins peace talks with the political representatives of the Kurds in the Turkish Parliament, the Party for the Democratic Society, DTP. The local elections of 29th March have once more confirmed that it represents the Kurds.

Freedom of religion for Alevites, Yezidi, Aramaic-speaking Syrian Orthodox Christian and other religious communities Dear Mr. President, human rights activists in many countries of the world are constantly concerned about the freedom of religion in Turkey. We beg of you earnestly to speak out clearly on this matter. The Turkish constitution does provide a strict division of state and religion. In practice however the religion of the majority, Sunni Islam, fulfils the function of a state religion. The Committee for Religious Affairs in Ankara (Diyanet ??leri Ba?kanl???) uses this "state Islam" to discriminate against all other religious communities, among them the Alevites (about 20 million), the Yezidi (now only a few thousand), the Syrian Orthodox (about 13,000) or the Armenian Christians (about 55,000). The Yezidi like the Syrian Orthodox were driven out in the 70s and 80s, and most of them had to leave the country in haste.

The second largest religious community in Turkey, the Alevites, has been refused equality up to the present day. Compulsory instruction in Sunni teachings in the teaching establishments discriminates against the Alevite faith. With the goal of uniting the country both in ethnic and religious respects the Turkish state is conducting a "Sunni-ising" of the Alevites with the formula "We are all Moslems - Hepimiz müsülman?z". The few hundred Yezidi still left in the country, who have no book religion, are subject to constant discrimination and persecution.

The Cyprus question Dear Mr. President, we would like to remind you that the dangerous smouldering conflict of Turkey with the Republic of Cyprus as a member of the European Union must be solved urgently. When the Turkish army attacked Cyprus in 1974 and occupied 36% of the island the British protecting power failed and just looked on while 80% of the population of the northern half of Cyprus was driven out. Since then some 40,000 Turkish soldiers have been stationed there.

About 200,000 Greek, Armenian, Latin and Maronite Cypriots were driven out. Following the illegal settlement of nearly 100,000 mainland Turks from Anatolia and the emigration of tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots, Turkish citizens make up today 60% of the population of the northern part of the island. Before the Turkish occupation of Cyprus the population of the island was composed of 79% Greeks, 18% Turks and 3% Maronites and other minorities.

We beg you, Mr. President, to step in for a speedy solution of the Cyprus question for the sake of human rights and the rights of Cypriots of all ethnic groups who were expelled or forcibly resettled, so that reunification can be achieved. This would remove a dangerous trouble spot in the eastern Mediterranean.

Recognition of the genocide against the Armenians Not only in the United States, but also in many European countries, the memory is held alive of the genocide against 1.5 million Armenians and the expulsion of the survivors from Turkey. Only a small minority was allowed to remain in the country. Our human rights organisation stands up for their cultural and religious rights also. We would be grateful if you would bring you influence to bear to move the Turkish government to recognize this genocide and grant the Armenian minority all religious and ethnic rights.

Yours Truly,

Tilman Zülch

President of the Society for Threatened Peoples International

Für Menschenrechte. Weltweit

Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker / Society for Threatened Peoples

P.O. Box 20 24 - D-37010 Göttingen/Germany

Nahostreferat/ Middle East Desk

Dr. Kamal Sido - Tel: +49 (0) 551 49906-18 - Fax: +49 (0) 551 58028

E-Mail: nahost@gfbv.de - www.gfbv.de

  • Society for Threatened Peoples
  • 03/04/2009 00:00:00