Kurds are dying for their existence in Turkey: Hunger strike weapon of last resort

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 11/11/2012 00:00:00

I am not arguing or asking Turkey to give the Kurds rights, but I am asking who gave Turkey or Islamists the right to deny Kurdish basic rights, such as birth rights to a right to life, a right to speak, a right to worship, and a right to a fair trial before a judge? If God has created the human race, skin color, languages, as well as tribes, and rights are natural, inalienable, God-given, and self evident, then why do Turkey and most Islamist countries deny the Kurds those rights? Today more than 40 million Kurds are denied basic rights not by Christians or Jews but by Muslim countries; yet, most Muslim countries consider Islam to be the only religion that administers true justice, tolerance, and peace on earth, and consider Christians, Jews, and devotees of other religions as unjust, intolerant, and cruel. But what about the more than 40 million Kurds who live in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria being denied their basic rights? Why are more than 683 Kurdish people participating in a hunger strike in Turkey and agreeing to die? They have been in a hunger strike for more than 53 days, and the days move them closer to death. Because they are like any other human being, demanding to live in dignity and because death for them is the last resort to voice their plight even though they cherish human life and liberty, but will the world listen as the Kurds show solidarity in their suffering? Will those who learn of their hunger strike pressure Turkey not to play the hypocrite when it comes to the Kurdish issue but to value human beings? Will they pressure Turkey to let the Kurds decide how to live and who to worship, and let the Kurds, not Turks, Arabs, or Persians, decide their destiny?

If a Turkish child in Turkey has the right to read his children’s books in his mother tongue, when that infant issued his first whisper in his native language, why can Kurdish children not have the same rights? What kind of God is it who has denied the rights of Kurdish people exclusively? Is it because God is the God of Turks only, and Turks are the favored child? How can Turkey be a leader in the world if it lacks a sense of justice? Where in the world is it a crime to read and write in a mother tongue and a phenomenon that divides a country? If the Kurds listed political demands that were something like being independent from Turkey or were impossible to accept, then there would nothing they could do about them, and they should accept their fate, but the Kurds demand nothing but full basic rights and treatment as equals like everybody without any of the current limitations. If the law is the supreme law of the land, then the Kurds want to have the law recognize all the rights of the Kurds.

The world should realize that the Islamists in Turkey who reached power did not prove to be democratic as they claimed they would while in their struggle as the opposition. Prime Minister Erdogan once said, “Democracy is like a train we get on; when we get to our destination, we will get off. “ Also, the Prime Minister said, “There is limited democracy.” The question is why is the world silent about the hypocrisy of Erdogan, and why does it still see Turkey as a viable model for the rest of the Middle East?

Furthermore, President Obama has made the gravest foreign policy mistake by abandoning the Kurds, the only friend of the USA in the region besides Israel. Why has he ignored Turkey’s treatment of Kurds in its continuing to suppress the twenty million Kurds and jail democratically elected Kurdish politicians and leaders? This is a painful period for the Kurdish struggle, but if Kurds insist on their rights and continue to be united, not giving in to the oppressors, at the end the Kurds will be the winner of this Middle East change. Turkey is always distorting the truth and reiterating it is not waging war against the Kurdish people but only against the PKK.

Well, as it seems, an individual does not have a problem living in Turkey unless he says, ”I am a Kurd and want my child to be educated in Kurdish, learning his own language.” Then you have a distinct problem. Turkey, knows that without the Kurds it cannot be a major player in the region. The Kurds need Turkey, and Turkey needs the Kurds; it is in the best interest of Turkey to give some kind of semi-autonomous region, so that Kurds could run their affairs and at the same time be part of Turkey.

Turkey claims that it is the champion of peace, tolerance, and justice, especially when it comes to suppressed people such as the Palestinians. The Prime Minister once quoted Hebrew telling the Israeli government not to kill the Palestinians because the Jewish book, the Torah, rejects killing and values human life. I am also quoting the Muslims’ book, the Quran, which it is purported that Erdogan believes himself: “If anyone slews a person, it would be as if he slew the whole humanity; and if anyone saves a person, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. “ Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gülen, if you save more than 650 Kurds who are facing death by starvation for rejecting oppression and just asking for their basic rights, is that worth the whole humanity? Mr. Gülen, when the Turkish secular government denied you your basic right to worship, you escaped to America to worship in the land of free. How is Turkey the champion of justice?

Some of the Turkish media, commentators, and political leaders ask why Abdullah Ocalan himself is not joining hunger strike. I am asking why most of Turkish politicians, or their sons, are picking up arms to engage in clashes with all the Kurdish guerrillas. However, I think, Oçalan also should join his people to participate in the hunger strike. The Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) long struggle to prevent Britain’s role in Irish’s politics and to get worldwide attention on the war in Ireland led to the hunger strike of 1981, one of the epic battle of wills between the Irish Republican prisoners and the Britain government. Ten Irish republican volunteers paid the sacrifice during the hunger strike, and their names are written on the hearts and minds of every republican in Ireland. No part of human life is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something, as the Irish republican hunger strike demonstrated. Humanity should not let Erdogan continue to oppress the Kurds whose deaths will, like the IRA dead, be immortalized.

People go on a hunger strike as a way of obtaining social or economic justice, or as a method of political confrontation. In 1923, more than 8000 political prisoners opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and demonstrated their protest with the largest hunger strike in the twentieth century with two people actually dying. As in that case, hunger strikes have been used to change governments’ wrong policy and social or economic justice for centuries. Hunger strikes have called attention to many important issues, such as freedom to worship, freedom to participate in politics, and freedom to live with one’s own identity. They put to shame those who practice wrong social policies and inspire others who value human lives and dignity to take the same action. For the Kurdish prisoners, they are fasting to have acceptable minority rights and better conditions for the prisoners. The prisoners are consuming sugar, salt, and water that would prolong their lives. From a humanitarian standpoint, this slow death is not acceptable, and these hunger strikes are developing in a way that the Prime Minister cannot hide them nor lie about them by saying that there is no hunger strike in Turkey, when these people die, Turkey will suffer as a society like they did earlier when they denied that Kurds were Kurds, calling them instead Mountain Turks. I know that the Prime Minister does not value a Kurdish life, but so many around the globe do value all human life. Turkey should remember that Kurds paid the price with their lives and will not give up their rights; the more the Kurds pay the ultimate sacrifice, the more valuable and the more complicated the cause becomes; the more new clashes, the more suicide bombers, and the more lives lost on both sides, the greater the imperative that Turkish society stand up and recognize the seriousness of the issue and its impact on society as a whole.

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to KurdishMedia.com. You may email the author at:aland_mizell2@hotmail.com

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 11/11/2012 00:00:00