by Gordon Taylor | 3/28/2008 11:05:00 AM
This post won't be a lot of fun. I apologize for that, and I apologize for the photograph which is visible when you click through to the rest of the story. There's no blood; rest assured that I haven't splashed gore across the pages of PH. However, it is disturbing. It's what we can call "a day at the office" for the hard-working men of MIT (pron. Meat), or Milli Istihbarat Teskilati: the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey. To see the video from which the overleaf pictures were taken, go to:
For the ultimate heartbreak, to see the face of the boy himself, go to Mizgin's blog.


OK, here we are. I got this on the front page of Yeni Ozgur Politika, a left-wing Turkish- and Kurdish-language paper that is based in Europe. The headline says, "Adini Siz Koyun!" which means, by my translation, "You name him!" In other words, they want to know the name of this policeman, and his companions. On the actual front page of the paper, larger images of the three policemen's faces were posted.

These frames are from video taken on the streets of Hakkari, capital of the province of the same name, in southeast Turkey, during the recent Newroz (New Year) demonstrations. Obviously they turned ugly. If you look in the background, especially of picture #4, you can see in the distance the rocky, snowclad slopes of Sumbul (Hyacinth) Mountain, whose 12,000-foot summit towers over the town. But of course, you're not looking at the mountain, you're looking at a plainclothesman from the Turkish secret police giving us a demonstration of how to break a 15-year-old boy's arm. Let's not dwell on it. Every once in a while historians must confront everyday reality, and this is it. I am not one to use red-flag words idly; in fact, I despise the debasement of language that results when pejorative labels are endlessly purveyed in contexts that do not warrant them. This, however, is a case where the "F" word is fully justified. This is fascist thuggery, pure and simple.

For a more complete rundown on recent events, see the following article from the Eurasia Daily Monitor, a feature of the Jamestown Foundation's website:


By Gareth Jenkins

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Over a period of four days from March 21-24, two people were killed and several hundred injured in clashes with Turkish security forces, as hundreds of thousands of Kurds took the streets to celebrate the Kurdish New Year of Newroz. No reliable figures are available for the number of demonstrators detained by the security forces, although Turkish media reports suggest that several hundred were taken into custody (Hurriyet, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Milliyet, Yeni Safak, NTV, CNNTurk, March 22-24).

Newroz is not an exclusively Kurdish holiday. It is celebrated on March 21 each year from the Balkans through the Caucasus and Iran and across Asia into northern China. However, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Newroz celebrations were banned in Turkey on the grounds that they encouraged Kurdish separatism. Attempts to mark the holiday were broken up, usually violently, by the security forces. In 1992 over 60 people were believed to have died in clashes with the Turkish security forces during Newroz celebrations.

The situation changed in 1995 when the Turkish authorities decided to rediscover Newroz as “Nevruz,” an authentically Turkish spring holiday with its origins in Central Asia. Although Kurds continued to be prosecuted if they referred to it as Newroz rather than by its Turkish name, the authorities not only began to allow celebrations, but state officials joined in the traditional Newroz ritual of jumping over a fire to symbolize rebirth and renewal.

Initially, the strategy of appropriating Newroz appeared to have worked. During the late 1990s, most of the celebrations passed peacefully, and killings and arrests became relatively rare. However, the newly rediscovered festival of Nevruz failed to capture the imagination of most ethnic Turks, who still regarded it as essentially a Kurdish celebration. In recent years, violence at Newroz celebrations has begun to rise again. The main reason is that participants have increasingly begun to use the festival not just as a public demonstration of their Kurdishness but of their support for the PKK. There is also little doubt that the opportunity has been deliberately exploited by the PKK itself, for whom newspaper photographs and television footage of defenseless demonstrators being beaten and sometimes killed by the Turkish security forces are a propaganda gift.

Significantly, the worst of the recent clashes – and both of the deaths – occurred in southeast Turkey in cities such as Van, Yuksekova, and Hakkari, which have long been hotbeds of PKK support and where the authorities banned any Newroz celebrations this year for fear that they would be hijacked by the organization. But demonstrators gathered anyway, chanting pro-PKK slogans, waving PKK flags and holding posters of the organization’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan. The result was several days of rioting. In Hakkari, life virtually ground to a halt. Stores remained closed and shuttered for three days as the streets became a battleground between stone-throwing youths and members of the security forces (Radikal, Hurriyet, Milliyet, Zaman, March 22-24).

But there were also clashes at Newroz celebrations between PKK supporters and the security forces in the cities of western Turkey, which all now have their own substantial Kurdish populations as the result of migration from southeast Turkey. In Istanbul, which in terms of sheer numbers is now the largest Kurdish city in the world with perhaps up to 4 million ethnic Kurds among its total population of 14 million, more than 100,000 Kurds gathered in the Kazlicesme neighborhood, some of them chanting pro-PKK slogans and carrying banners with portraits of Ocalan (Milliyet, Hurriyet, Radikal, NTV, Dogan Haber Ajansi, March 24).

The Turkish authorities took the opportunity of the Newroz demonstrations to flex their ideological as well as their military muscle. Both in the southeast and in Istanbul, where 10,000 police were assigned to the Kazlicesme demonstration alone, members of the Turkish security forces marched through the streets chanting slogans such as: “Everything for the motherland”; “How happy is the one who says I am a Turk”; “Every Turk is born a soldier”; and, in a reference to Kurdish demands for education in their native language, “One state, one language.”

It is currently unclear whether such attempts at intimidation will do anything either to reduce support for the PKK or to defuse Kurdish demands for greater political and cultural rights. But Turkish television footage of young, male demonstrators clashing with the security forces at Newroz coincided with the publication of a study by the state-owned Turkish Statistical Institute (Turkstat) on the median age of the Turkish population by geographical region. The results suggested that the median age of the Turkish population rises steeply as one moves from the east to the west of the country. Turkstat reported that, in the predominantly Kurdish provinces of southeastern Turkey, the median age was in the range 17.4 to 21 years, rising to 31.8-35.4 years along the Turkish Aegean coast. The median age in Istanbul was in the range 28.3-31.8 (Radikal, March 23).

The southeast of Turkey has also long been the most underdeveloped region of the country. In some provinces, per capita income is less than 20% of the national average. In many of the cities of southeast Turkey the unemployment rate among young people often reaches 50-60% (see EDM, March 18). As has been once again demonstrated by the clashes during Newroz, the combination of ethnic unrest, poverty, a young population, and a high rate of unemployment is rarely a recipe for social stability.
Amen to that. I would only add: more employment won't really matter. You aren't going to quash this kind of violence with more jobs, more cars, and more cell phones. And you certainly aren't going to do it by breaking the arms of teenagers. I'll let these ladies have the final say:


The message is simple. They're saying, "It is enough."

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Blogger Mizgîn on 3/28/2008 12:28 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 3/28/2008 12:51 PM:

Mizgin, I'm sorry to have to do this, but I've deleted your above comment. I want to make clear that I've done this not because of your views on the PKK, which I strongly agree with, but because I'm walking a very fine line here. Please understand that I have to be careful: I'm an American citizen, this site is hosted on an American server, and the U.S. government has declared the PKK to be a terrorist group. I strongly disagree with their assessment, and I'm willing and happy to provide my site as a platform for challenging that decision, but I have to draw the line at actually advocating PKK-sponsored violence against specific groups of people.

Again, I'm spelling all this out because I'm hoping you'll read between the lines of the paragraph I just wrote and understand where I'm coming from. Please feel free to keep commenting here; just understand that I may occasionally have to delete something to cover my tracks legally.


Blogger Hevallo on 3/29/2008 7:51 AM:

Dear Jeremy,

I'm not sure what Mizgin wrote but considering the barbaric nature of the repression meted out towards innocent Kurdish civilians and the 'psychological warfare' that Turkey employs to 'justify' this repression I sometimes feel that, we, have a responsibility to challenge these totally unjust laws. I am hoping that one day my blog will be 'taken to court' so I can build a case and use it to challenge the aquiescence of the Western powers in the 'Genocide' of the Kurds.

I understand your not perhaps as, personnaly involved, but there is a principle.

How do you think Mizgin feels when almost every word she speaks can land her in court.

How do think that the Kurds in Turkey feel trying to work politically with the hands tied behind their backs with 'the law'.

I'm not having a go at you, personally, just expressing my own rage at the injustice of the situation we all find ourselves in.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 3/29/2008 12:21 PM:

Hevallo, I'm in complete agreement with your sentiments. I simply don't see how our getting arrested for "promoting terrorism" is going to help the people of Kurdistan. Perhaps it is because I'm not personally involved in the conflict, but I don't think it helps the PKK if one of these blogs gets shut down.

As you say, it's a terribly unjust thing that the government prevents us even from speaking out forcefully against this injustice. But it's a fact, and I for one don't want F.B.I. agents knocking at my door.


Anonymous Anonymous on 3/29/2008 3:23 PM:

A question for Jeremy Young. Exactly what laws are you referring to? I ask because I want to make the point that, please correct me if I am wrong, there is no explicit U.S. federal or state law against verbally "advocating PKK-sponsored violence against specific groups of people". I say this because I checked on the state department's webpage for the list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" and did not find the PKK listed there. The list I am referring to is here
In which case, it is no more illegal to say, for example, "the X army should kill all the members of the Y army", than to say, "the Y army should kill all members of the X army".
On the other hand, if the PKK is listed somewhere else by the U.S. gov. as a terrorist organization, then the laws you speak of are nevertheless implicit laws barring useful freedoms in speaking and communicating. For example, can a U.S. citizen write a comment on a blog suggesting that some terrorist groups actions are just, hence they shouldn't be considered a terrorist group? I wouldn't be the first to comment that these implicit laws against freedom of speech, e.g. the U.S. "laws" you speak of, are in practice(as we encountered right here in this blog) far more restrictive than explicit laws, e.g. Turkey's article 301. I would be grateful for any comments, corrections, or for more information on U.S. laws in regards to dialogue about terrorist groups.


Anonymous Anonymous on 3/29/2008 3:30 PM:

A mistake in my last post, the state department doc I refered to lists the PKK under the heading Kongra-Gel (KCK). Regardless, the question still stands, explicitly what laws apply regarding what someone can say or not say about a specific group that is classified as a terrorist org. by the U.S. state department?


Blogger Jeremy Young on 3/29/2008 3:42 PM:

Anonymous, I don't know, nor do I have time to find out. I'm making judgments here based on what I think is necessary to protect myself.


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 3/29/2008 7:46 PM:

To Kurds and pro-PKK readers:

I fully support Jeremy. He's the editor, and he sets the limits on what is posted. Mizgin is a big girl and a great blogger, and she can say what she wants on her own site. If I didn't like what Jeremy was doing, I could establish my own blog. The fact is, these pictures from Hakkari speak for themselves. Mizgin is right when she says:

Now, if that kid were a Palestinian Arab or a Tibetan instead of a Kurd in Turkey, or if those security forces were Israelis or Chinese instead of Turks, I can guarantee you that these photos and videos would be all over the international media, including the bullshit American media.

But because there's absolutely nothing here to excite the antisemite or the Hollywood Buddhist, and because these atrocities are taking place inside America's Model of Democracy for the Middle East, you haven't seen a damned thing of any of this anywhere on CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, or in America's newspaper of record (the NYTimes), on Democracy Now!--so misnamed--or NPR.

That's what's important here, not some alleged "censorship."