Reflection: Time to Talk, Kurds and Turks in Dialogue

On 25 June 2016, the Hague Peace Projects organised in the Humanity House their first public dialogue between Kurds and Turks. The initiative stems from the working group on the Kurdish Turkish diaspora within the Hague Peace Projects, which aims for peaceful solutions to the Kurdish and Turkish tensions in the Netherlands. Recent events of the attacks on Kurds and Turks in Dordrecht show that violence is not an answer to tension, and that a peaceful relationship is necessary where people can freely talk and listen to each other.

DSC_0056‘Time to Talk, Kurds and Turks in Dialogue’ invited Professor Martin van Bruinessen to shed light on a few of the fundamental issues between the Kurds and Turks. He acknowledged that the Kurds and Turks in a way are unequal, since the Kurds have been repressed for many decades, in contrast to the Turks. He choose his words carefully and spoke about a Kurdish conflict in Turkey. Nevertheless, Professor Bruinessen also recognised similarities between the two, now that both groups are obsessed with enemies; both believe that everyone hates them; both don’t trust each other nor themselves and both have played a role in the killings of Armenians. In addition, Professor Bruinessen touched upon some of the historical facts and developments in the Turkish state over the past decades. Although being a Kurd or Turk these days is for many an important identity marker, Professor Bruinessen emphasised that their identity is much more fluid then people might think. He gave examples of people who find out that their grandmothers were Armenian. Check also this inspiring video clip.

DSC_0041After this insightful lecture, four representatives of the Kurdish and Turkish working group approached the tension between Kurds and Turks from their professional field and own experience. According to Suna Floret, Bedel Bayrak, Mirko Jouamer and Tayfun Balcik, older generations influence the youth of today, which makes the conflict continue. Nonetheless, whilst it is true that more traditional parents influence their children by choosing media and expressing their opinions, the same youth appears to be more flexible today. With this positive note, we invited the audience to gather in different groups where both Kurds and Turks are present.

DSC_0047In several groups of approximate six people, questions were raised such as: What does it mean for you to be a Kurd or Turk? How do you look at Kurdish and Turkish people? The objective in this stage is to get to know other participants and understand their relation towards the Kurdish and Turkish tensions. The groups nicely showed a mix of Kurds, Turks, younger people, older people, woman and man. And more important, while there were different opinions, there was mutual respect for each other, which strengthens the diaspora dialogue.

After the small-scale dialogue sessions, a plenary debate took place where the audience had a chance for reflection on the previous dialogue sessions, and at the same time could pose questions to the Kurdish and Turkish representatives and to Professor Bruinessen. Critical opinions were expressed by the participants, whether dialogue is useful if strong opinions are not involved. Mirko Jouamer and Tayfun Balcik explained that peaceful dialogues will mostly affect people with a moderate opinion at this point, but nevertheless have reasonable chance to influence the atmosphere between other Kurds and Turks on the long term. Some people in the audience complemented on this by saying that they might not have ‘moderate ideas’ but are always willing to talk an listen to each other.

With a common goal, and successful first session behind, the Kurdish Turkish diaspora working group of the Hague Peace Projects is motivated to continue its work and welcomes everybody to participate in future peaceful dialogue sessions.

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29-06: Guilty until proven innocent? Rwandans in The Netherlands accused of genocide

Around 30 Rwandans living In The Netherlands are accused of participating in the genocide of 1994. There seems to be very little substance to the accusations: it is unclear on what kind of information they are based and how it has been obtained.Flyer_Rwanda Meeting-01

Other countries in Europe have previously refused to send Rwandans back to their country. But even though the consequences might be disastrous for the ones accused and their families, The Netherlands appears to be eager to cooperate with Rwanda by pushing towards extradition or eviction. It is high time to discuss in a public setting what could be behind this seemingly odd cooperation between The Netherlands and Rwanda.

Speakers:
With a.o. Joris van Wijk (associate professor criminology, Vrije Universiteit, genocide-law specialist, Marieke van Eik (Prakken d’Oliveira, lawyer, migration specialist) and Victor Kwihangana (son of one of the accused Rwandans).

Join us on Wednesday 29 June at 19:30 in Humanity House, prinsegracht 8, The Hague.
Entrance is free, but registration required!

Dialogue as an answer to violence between Turks and Kurds

The past few days there have been a number of violent incidents between Turkish and Kurdish people living in the Netherlands.

First, the writer Celal Altuntas has received death threats, because he had commented on the then possible elimination of Turkey in the European Soccer Championship. In addition, a Kurdish family in in the city of Dordrecht has been attacked in their her own house, because they had portrayed a flag on their window when their daughter passed her exams. As a reaction to this, a Turkish mosque has been attacked in Dordrecht, where visitors to the mosque have been assaulted with a steel pipe and all sorts of property in the building has been smashed to pieces.

The Hague Peace Projects condemns all these forms of violence.

Given the violent incidents of the past few days, we want to make clear to all those interested in our event saturday 25th of june, that we put safety first. That’s why we hired private security personnel and we have informed the local police. The police department of the city of The Hague will be present at Humanity House Saturday afternoon with several of their officers.

Unfortunately, the extremely regrettable incidents show us that dialogue is more than ever necessary for the Kurdish and the Turkish community in the Netherlands. Violence should never be an answer to tensions that live amongst both communities.

We started this movement because we realize that there is only one peaceful path that can get us out of this vicious cycle of polarization and violence. The first step on this path is to talk about our fears and frustations on this sensitive matter, and to listen to one another.

 

HPP hands over petition to Bangladeshi Ambassador

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On Friday 10 June, the Hague Peace Projects, in collaboration with Free Press Unlimited and Humanistisch Verbond, handed over the petition to the Bangladeshi Ambassador in the Netherlands. The petition calls upon the Bangladeshi Government to take action with regard to violence against bloggers, freethinkers and other minorities in Bangladesh.

Read here our (Dutch) press release for full summary: Press Release Bangladeshi Petition

Photo’s: Eric Kampherbeek

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