by Gordon Taylor | 4/02/2008 12:56:00 AM
We humans have to ignore all but a whiff of the suffering around us. If we did not, we would go mad. And so when some morsel from life's deadly smorgasbord draws our attention, it is as much a matter of chance as anything else. So it is with the video and still photos of Cuneyt Ertus (joo-nate air-toosh) posted at various Kurdish websites over the past week. Consider yourselves privileged, ye few who read this. You're special. You know more than Congress, more than the Western media, more than--you name it. It's a minor story that we have all to ourselves. And guess what? There's news.

Yesterday the Emniyet of Hakkari province posted a press release on their website. [The Emniyet is the "Public Safety" or, rather, "State Security" office of the Turkish government. They're the police, in other words. Turkey is a rigidly centralized state; thus the Emniyet is everywhere. If you know the novels of Eric Ambler ("A Coffin for Dimitrios", "Journey into Fear", or "The Light of Day", from which the movie "Topkapi" was drawn), then you should know the word Emniyet.] Yesterday's press release dealt with Cuneyt, who was identified only by his initials, C.E.

The heading reads, "Release concerning the person whose arm was allegedly broken." This is in Turkish, of course, and I am very loosely translating. "Having been taken twice to the doctor," it says, "C.E. has no serious damage to his arm, according to their reports." C.E.'s arm, the report continues, has been X-rayed at the Hakkari State Hospital, and these have found no breaks. He remains in custody, etc., and the claims which have been made about his condition are untrue.

When I read this, I thought: maybe it's true, maybe it's a lie. But then it struck me: My God, they put out a press release about a 15-year-old Kurdish kid. This is Eric Ambler's Emniyet, after all: they don't do this sort of thing. And another thought: in past years, because of Hakkari's remoteness, they wouldn't have to. Readers have to realize just how far out this town is. Hakkari has no airport. It's perched on the side of a mountain, and because of the terrain helicopters are the only aircraft that can get in and out. To get there from the nearest sizable city, Van, which is on the railway to Iran, you first have to drive south, toward the Iran/Iraq borders, and over an 8,000 ft pass. From that pass the road plunges into the broad valley of the Great Zab River, one of the major tributaries of the Tigris. After splitting off from the road to Iran, the road winds south by southwest along the banks of the Zab. Before long the track enters a great gorge, with cataracts spouting from the rocks and eventually, rearing above, the bulk of Sumbul Mountain, Chiyaye Simbi to the Kurds, over 12,000 feet high. The last few miles are the hardest, as from the riverbank vehicles have to climb several thousand feet of switchbacks just to get up to the actual town of Hakkari. Once a visitor is there, he's really there, with no easy way to get out and a 12000-ft mountain hanging over his head the whole time.

Here's why I've rambled on about this. Hakkari, the remotest of Turkey's provincial capitals, is now, incredibly, a part of the global village. When I was there in 1977, I was astounded to find oranges from the Mediterranean coast on sale in the market. From the miracle of oranges, we now have digital video of a Hakkari kid's arm being broken, video that's flashed to Denmark, beamed up to a satellite, and then beamed back to the TV sets of the boy's relatives, who in the past would have known nothing about it. Thus a press release about a 15-year-old boy from police-state apparatchiks who formerly would never have bothered.

There is, moreover, new information. This morning I heard from a contact in Germany. He had just talked to Cuneyt's father. Cuneyt is still in jail, but lawyers from the Hakkari Bar Association have been allowed to visit him. The lawyers confirmed that Cuneyt's arm had indeed been broken. It is in a sling, swathed in bandages. In other words, the Emniyet's press release was a lie. My point is this: At least they were forced to say something. Once again, the digital revolution has made history.




Blogger Hevallo on 4/02/2008 3:57 AM:

Gordon, its amazing. And shows just how much the Turkish regime are sensitive to protest and how highlighting certain individuals can make a difference, however small that may be.

Something that brought that into focus for me yesterday, was a cruel and insensitive, April fools 'joke' from by brother in law in Turkey.

He text'd my wife to tell her that their father, who is a DTP official, had been detained and was now in prison facing serious 'terrorist' charges.

When my wife phoned me I was thrown into a state of worry, shock and panic. He had only just recovered from a serious operation to remove some cancer cells and was very fragile. He is also elderly and a 'hoca'(retired teacher), respected by all who meet him and a very dignified elderly man.

I straight away grabbed the telephone and contacted Amnesty International and began to construct a 'campaign' in my own head. I wanted to get his solicitors details, which prison he was in, when he was arrested and the circumstances of his detention. I phoned Turkey to get the ball rolling.......

It also forcibly reminded me, like nothing else could, of all of the innocent Kurds, rounded up during Newroz and facing serious charges, not to mention torture, languishing in Turkish prisons, snatched from their loved ones and facing a horrible future.

For what? Because they are Kurdish!

Nothing more, nothing less, many of the Kurdish people detained during Newroz will of set out on the day they ended up being detained, in their best clothes, hair made up, looking forward to a day of celebration, hoping to see some of the friends and listen to some nice music. A special day out.

But now, having been attacked by police and find themselves locked in a cell, labelled as terrorists and facing a long prison sentence.

I was very angry with my brother in law and the upset that he had caused us but it has focused my mind on those innocent Kurdish people in Turkish prisons, snatched on the streets, beaten, tortured and imprisoned just like Cuneyt.

Unheard, unseen and labelled.

Prisoners of Turkish state racism and injustice.

Thank you again, so much, for your writings on The Kurdish Question.

I would strongly suggest that you begin your own website on this issue as you have the, writing skills, depth of knowledge and sympathy to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the Kurdish situation just at a time when it is crucially needed.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/03/2008 1:20 AM:

This was wonderful, and a rare beam of light into an otherwise dark and neglected corner, at least to western eyes. Thank you for keeping us informed, and for your singular perspective and richly informed comments on life in Kurdistan. Lastly, a quote that I was reminded of because of your efforts to help this boy: "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." Albert Einstein
Thank you for making the world a less dangerous place :)


Blogger Gordon Taylor on 4/03/2008 2:03 AM:

Thanks to both of you. Hevallo, I'm not an expert on Turkey and the Kurds, even though I pretend to be one on the Internet. I simply try to learn more about the few things that I've experienced. When I know as much as Martin van Bruinessen, the famous Dutch Kurdologist, then I'll reassess my position. But before that happens, I'll be dead.

Stay well. "C.E." is not out of the woods yet.


Blogger Hevallo on 4/03/2008 3:53 AM:

No, Gordon, Van Brun is an academic and I have no idea where his sympathies lie.

Your writings on the Kurds, on the other hand are warm and humanise the issue.

I would much rather have Gordon Taylors writings on the Kurds than Van Brun. (Of course there is a need for both but I think you know what I mean)

The main political problem for the Kurdish Freedom Movement at the moment is one of legitimacy. Still labelled as 'terrorists' we struggle to be able to put our case to a wider audience.

Your writings to be honest, are the best I've seen that non Kurds can access and for that reason are incredibly important and I wish that you could reach a wider audience.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/03/2008 7:05 AM:

"Your writings on the Kurds, on the other hand are warm and humanise the issue."
//"Your writings to be honest, are the best I've seen that non Kurds can access and for that reason are incredibly important and I wish that you could reach a wider audience."

These are golden remarks Hevallo and I would be a nutcase not to agree. And just to say the least, WOW! I'm very impressed by your writing skills Gordon Taylor, never give it up! They breath a fresh air of truth and honesty - and carry the rare signs of freedom.