Posted by: hevallo | December 4, 2007

Leyla Zana’s inspiring speech to the EU Kurdish Conference 3rd Dec 2007.

“Esteemed Friends, dear participants, firstly, I would like to thank everyone in the organising bodies for their contributions to this conference. As it is known, internal peace in Turkey is the greatest guarantee for peace in Europe, the Middle East and the world. I would like to reiterate that I find such events, where the Kurdish issue is analysed extensively, and in which all parties’ different components can participate with original views and proposals, valuable. My last visit to the European Parliament was on the occasion of the Sakharov Prize award ceremony. On that day, I had started my speech in the brother language Turkish and had continued in Kurdish where I wanted to once again underscore the brotherhood of peoples, languages and cultures.

Today I want to speak to you in Kurdish only. This time, it is not because I do not want to emphasise brotherhood among peoples, but because I want to draw your attention once more to efforts of resurrecting the fear of mother tongue. In fact, I find it a matter of embarrassment for Turkey that people are still being tried in courts for speaking in their mother tongue. I believe that this emphasis I am making on the Kurdish language at a time when a democratic and civil constitution is under debate will be evaluated by you not as an important detail but as a primary request.

During the intervening time period many conferences were held both within the European Parliament and also in Turkey on the issues of EU, Turkey and the Kurds. As these meetings on the themes of peace and solutions were held, various and original initiatives by the intellectuals were undertaken, signature campaigns were launched and press declarations were made, all these turned into a common agenda of all those whose hearts were beating for an honourable, just and lasting peace with the aim of putting an end to deaths. However, sufficient honesty and sincerity could not be demonstrated for ending deaths.

The lock is there, the key is known but the door just won’t open. It is high time the door is opened. The important thing is to place the key in the lock properly. Everything hinges on an issue which I reminded you of just recently with insistence and emphasis but something that I have frankly got tired of reminding everyone…

The key issue has to do with how the issue is defined, the approach and outlook to the issue. The issue does not stem from any problem of public order, security, hunger or socio-economic backwardness. Everything you try to strip of its identity is doomed to become more painful and complex as examples demonstrate in other countries.

Unless we are able to debate the very name of the issue correctly, the multifaceted crisis of identity and social crisis will drown us all in an ocean of stalemates. If the Kurdish issue were solely an issue of poverty and security, wouldn’t the methods that have been tried for over half a century been not only decisive but would also have lead to results?

Haven’t all methods including beatings, detentions, torture, executions, forced migrations, sending to forced exile, extra judicial killings, village evacuations, village guards, release based on confessions, pardon based on apology been tried? These are indeed only those methods that are known and explained in a loud and clear manner by the highest authorities. What about methods that not known or disclosed?

I believe my memory which is writhing and reeling in pain will not allow me to remember and recount all of the ones that have been tried.Despite all these denials, this treatment with contempt, debasement and even being expelled from their land, Kurds did not get cross. They were heartbroken but believed it was a virtue not to complain about it. They were beaten but instead of taking revenge by beating back they insisted on a country where all existing differences would survive.

They did not hold one blood more supreme than the other, one language superior to the other, one colour better than the other. They were not on the side of those who thrived on conflict and bloodshed between peoples. On the contrary, when the ringleaders were yelling and shouting to arouse, they maintained their modesty by remaining silent. They yearned and are still yearning for a policy of sensitivity and stability where common values are symbolised in an honourable, just and lasting solution.

Destruction, denial must not be the only way.Then, it is not possible to change the issue by taking its causes and effects separately and independently from each other. Instead of dividing, pulling into pieces or scattering it, we should set off primarily by defining it correctly. We should reach an agreement that we cannot solve the problem through clichés, a policy of condemnation and damnation, by closing political parties, by increasing the number of investigations and arrests, by preventing civil politics, by raising the bar even higher on bans and prohibitions and more importantly, by regarding deaths of people as mere statistical data. Otherwise our losses will not decrease but will unfortunately increase.

In fact, even the developments experienced in the specific context of Kurds in Turkey and legal politics are enough to demonstrate this.Along this direction, the number of our duties and responsibilities are on the increase. In addition to Kurds, the responsibility of the European Union and the Turkish Government cannot be underestimated. But the unison of discourse between the EU and the Turkish government spokespersons aggravate the issue rather than alleviating it. On the contrary, what is expected is to remind Turkey of its responsibilities concerning the Kurdish issue and ensuring that this should not remain at the level of a reminder alone. Undoubtedly, the solution to the Kurdish issue should be specific to Turkey. But during the process of finding a solution not everything should be expected of Turkey and the existing inner dynamics in Turkey.

The aim should not be putting pressure but creating synergies by offering a contribution. Contribution to Turkey could not be through the unison created in discourse. It should be known that an “EU Member Turkey”, which will have solved the Kurdish issue in a manner that is in congruence with contemporary civilisations and the new world order will not only remain as a rising star but it will also be transformed into a facilitating force in the realisation of world peace.

What are these responsibilities then? Despite all these adverse developments, I believe the historic opportunity that was seized in 1999 for a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue is still there. The world should stop avoiding the recognition of political, social and cultural democratic rights of Kurds whose population is over 40 million.

Instead of a definition of citizenship which defines everyone as Turkish, the existing phobia against placing under legal protection all natural rights emanating from peoples’ original characteristics. Instead of focusing on denigrating concepts such as “pardon based on apology”, amnesty, pardon or the like, we should be speaking about quality and comprehensive projects with content.

Enabling political detainees, intellectuals, writers and politicians who have been relegated to forced or voluntary exile to participate in the political life should be regarded as a step to facilitate a solution. Radical reforms in Turkey’s political and administrative structure will accelerate and strengthen the process of democratisation. For ways to be developed in finding solutions to problems, enhancement of local administrations will ease the process.Values that Kurds as a people do not hesitate to emphasise out loud or even regard as untouchable even if the price they have to pay is heavy should never be ignored.

This is because the primary duty of politicians and those who give direction to politics is not merely to listen to the values and requests of the people. Being able to be the tongue and voice of the people requires that the untouchable values of the people are expressed clearly and honestly. In this process which is evolving towards a solution, the Kurdish people find the role of Mr Öcalan extremely important and effective within the framework of social peace and the togetherness of peoples.

In fact, this is not expressed by Kurds alone. Prominent writers in Turkey draw attention to the fact that “the first radical step in seeking a solution would be a comprehensive agreement with Öcalan”.It is time we started talking about our problems by doing away with our taboos. Regarding that the sensitivities of people are noteworthy makes a lasting peace possible. What is expected of the world is to respect this will and exclude it from bargaining issues in international relationships.

Unless the issue is approached from a human perspective and from a perspective of conscience, it will continue to be a potential risk threatening regional and world peace. It is for this reason that the policy of “good Kurds-bad Kurds” that has been tried for some time has gone bankrupt. What befits a modern country is to hand over a tradition of tolerance that will strengthen diplomatic, cultural, economic and social relations to the future rather than escalating tensions across borders and countries.

Dear friends,The ties of citizenship are not only established through laws. Those who are considered as ‘so called’ citizens, but who are in fact real citizens in essence, despite the fact that they are tied to their through their hearts, may really become ‘so called’ citizens tomorrow. In a world where borders have lost their meaning, real division and separation is that which happens in the hearts and minds.

Bringing the heart and mind together necessitates patience, fortitude, stamina, experience and maturity. I believe we have gone over the threshold of endurance. Just as we cannot build tomorrow by nurturing the pains of yesterday, it is not possible to find a solution by multiplying the pains of today either.Just as Emin Maalouf has said, “My identity is what makes me unique and unlike any other. Killing a person’s identity is a murder that is graver than killing him.” Every identity that is killed is in fact a loss for humanity.

We should therefore capture the pluralism that will nurture those differences. It should be known that every identity that is murdered is our own murder regardless of what our language, religion or identity might be.Believing that you will approach the problem with sensitivity I
extend my love to you… ” Leyla Zana


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