DEMOCRATIC VOICES SILENCED IN TURKEY

Yesterday, the authorities in Turkey detained Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ from the Kurdish opposition (People’s Democracy Party, HDP) along with at least nine other elected MP’s from the HDP.

Turkey accuses the Kurdish representatives of being an outlet for ‘terroristic propaganda’ from the PKK. The HDP denies the accusations.

What happened yesterday is a huge escalation of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict that leads to the rise of tensions between Turks and Kurds all over the world.

As a peace organization and a platform for diversity The Hague Peace Projects strongly condemns the arrest of political representatives for which more than 6 million people voted last year. Nothing good can come out of silencing voices of people you dont agree with.

Our initiative of individual Turks, Kurds and Armenians wants a cessation to all hostilities between Turks and Kurds and that the warring sides return to the negotiation table for a political solution. This conflict has lasted too long.

HPP on air: Turks and Kurds in the Netherlands

Our colleagues and program coordinators, Mirko and Tayfun were on the radio last week, not once but twice. In the first session they talked about the interaction and relation between Kurds and Turks in The Netherlands; what is the current situation, what do they have accomplished last year and what are their plans for the future. The item was well chosen called: the way to reconciliation.

Here’s a link to the radio broadcasting

The second interview was with Tayfun and Entrepreneur Cemil Yilmaz about the tensions among Dutch Turks after the coup in Turkey in July.  Yilmaz noticed that the tention is also between Turks and Dutch society, because very quickly people and media are portraying people as ‘Erdogan-hugger’, traitor or as poorly integrated. Tayfun concluded with stating that “it is time to work on Dutch citizenship. It’s time to invest in people.”

Listen here to the show

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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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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.

 

25-06: Time to talk, Kurds and Turks in Dialogue

Since the war between the Turkish state and the Kurdish PKK broke out again in the summer of 2015, tensions erupted also in The Netherlands. The Hague Peace Projects hosted several group talks between Turks and Kurds in the Netherlands to make in order to promote dialogue among them. On the 25 of June we have our first public dialogue to share our stories and to discuss with the audience what is needed for a peaceful relationship.

According to a Dutch MEP, the Turks, “a remarkable talent for making enemies”. Not everyone agrees with this statement. On this day we explore the possibilities of another skill of Turks and Kurds: making peace with one another.

We start the program by discussing the conflict between Kurds and Turkey in a historical perspective. After this, various representatives of both groups share their story and vision. Thereafter the public continue talks in small groups. These groups are led by representatives of the Turkish-Kurdish peace initiative.

Speakers:
Suna Floret, Ozan Turkdogan, Esra Dede , Tayfun Balcik, Mirko Jouamer, Bedel Bayrak Draft program:

–          Opening 14:00-14:05
–          Short lecture The Turkish Kurdish conflict in historical perspective 14:05-14:20
–         Short speeches and interviews with Turkish and Kurdish representatives (probably Ozan Turkdogan, Bedel Bayrak and Mirko Jouamer) 14.20 -15.00
–          15.00 – 15.45 dialogue in small groups, headed by representatives of the Turkish-Kurdish peace initiative
–          15:45-16:00 break
–          16.00 – 16.45 plenary dialogue
–          16.45 – 17.00 story by Esra Dede
–          17.00 conclusion

Languages: Dutch

Entrance is free, but registration required, reserve your seat here!

16 December: Turkish – Kurdish Dialogue

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The Kurdish Human Rights lawyer Tahir Elçi in Diyarbakir, minutes before he was killed in a firefight between the police and armed gunmen.

On the 16th of December, The Hague Peace Projects facilitated a meeting with Turkish and Kurdish citizens of The Netherlands. This was the second meeting where we talked about the current escalation of the conflict between the Turkish State and the Kurdish PKK and where we tried to contribute to a better understanding between Turkish and Kurdish citizens in the Netherlands.

Since the elections of June this year, many Kurdish and Turkish people have been killed as a result of the violence between the two sides. A bombing of a peace demonstration in Ankara on October 10 killed at least 106 people. The current situation of violence has led also to tensions among the Turkish/Kurdish diaspora living in Europe. In an attempt to de-escalate these tensions, a group of engaged people started a dialogue to bring moderate Kurdish and Turkish people in the Netherlands together. Six of them have started a working group together. By writing for blogs and newspapers, organizing meetings and engaging politicians they generate an open dialogue and mobilize the larger Turkish/Kurdish diaspora to support peaceful solutions.

On the 16th of December at 19:00h a second meeting of this kind took place at Stichting Argan in Amsterdam. The working group presented a concept vision-document on which they have been working during the past weeks, describing their analysis of the conflict and offering certain solutions. The document was intended as a discussion piece. During the meeting this document was shared and everyone was invited to give input in order to really make this a representative statement of everyone who wants peace between Turks and Kurds.

 

Turkish Kurdish dialogue

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On Friday 23 October 2015, a group of twenty people gathered in The Hague to discuss ways to bring across a message of peace towards the Turkish and Kurdish communities living in The Netherlands. People from very diverse backgrounds met and shared their experiences and vision on how to move forward, away from the current segregation.

The current escalation of the conflict between the Turkish State and the Kurdish PKK has strong repercussions on the Turkish and Kurdish minorities who live in Europe and elsewhere. Tensions between the two groups become more and more visible, also in The Netherlands. To counter these developments, a citizens initiative was recently started to bring moderate people form diverse ethnic and political backgrounds together in order to start a dialogue.

On Friday, several personal stories were shared. A teacher told how she was shocked to hear her pupils talk with approval about the Ankara bombing when more than one hundred people died during a peace demonstration. Someone else told how she cannot be in one room with her family when they talk about the elections because they refuse to accept that she has a more moderate opinion towards people whom they generally regard as ‘terrorists’. But also positive stories were told: someone explained how he used to hate Turkish people because the army had destroyed their home town, but he had changed his opinion because he understood that he should judge people as individuals, not as representatives of a group. Now some of his best friends are Turkish. Another person explained that she used to hate Kurds for being so violent, but since both of her daughters married Kurdish husbands she also had to change her mind. All of her grandchildren are now part of both histories: Turkish and Kurdish.

The participants decided that coming together to openly discuss each other’s points of view is very useful. It serves as a way of building trust between communities in conflict. This mutual trust is essential to eventually push for positive change. Together the participants decided that first a common vision should be developed to give this initiative a strong and independent foundation. The next step will be to organize activities to promote a real dialogue. Some suggestions were: organizing discussions at schools and in neighbourhoods, making informative video’s, organizing soccer matches, sharing information via facebook and collecting personal stories of Turkish and Kurdish people who desire peace. These people could serve as a role model and their stories can show a larger public that it is not necessary to support an extremist position, but it is possible to choose for peace instead.