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Report: ‘On the way to school’ – Festival Anatolië

Not everything can be said solely through verbal communication. This lesson has been learnt by the children starring the documentary ´On the way to school´. Özgür Dogan and Orhan Eskiköy captured the complexity of cultural identity in Turkey, where Kurds compose between 15-20% of the population. Entry-level Turkish teachers needing to gain experience are sent to regions (often remote) with a larger proportion of Kurdish population. Their mission is to ensure children are able to communicate in Turkish and memorize the national student oath praising the benefits of being part of the Turkish community.

In the small rural school located in the region of Anatolia portrayed in the movie, the young professor struggles to ensure kids do not communicate in Kurdish as it is the only language they are able to speak while it is completely unknown for him. School attendance is always at stake in this rural area as kids have a wider range of responsibilities that go beyond solely learning at school. All age ranges were represented in this single-classroom school, yet reading and writing were still major obstacles for the vast majority of kids.

With a permanent feeling of being out of place and lonely in this remote rural area, the energetic teacher managed to connect with the students despite not being able to properly communicate verbally. Little by little the children started to understand Turkish and were able to give simple answers to the desperate professor. However, when they spoke or wrote Kurdish, they were punished and had to stand on one leg in front of the classroom.

His presence also had an influence at the community level, as he had regular contact with the parents and tried to raise awareness about the importance of education for any child, regardless of his age or gender. After the academic year was over, all kids got their final grades and a personal assessment regarding their development. Minutes after saying goodbye to the professor at the school gate and wishing him a safe journey back to the big city, children ran to the nearest puddle and swam naked while laughing out of joy. A nice metaphor explaining that they were finally able to communicate and play again in Kurdish, getting rid of the imposed language and culture they learned from this unusual professor that came from a far land named Turkey.

After the movie was screened a passionate Q&A session was moderated by Tayfun Balcik and Bedel Baayrak (The Hague Peace Projects). The audience was extremely engaged in the discussion, expressing their points of view and challenging each other. Overall there was a consensus regarding the unacceptable situation of the Kurdish culture, which has been systematically jeopardized and downgraded by the Turkish political system. A more inclusive regional economic development and educational system should be a priority in Erdogan’s agenda, yet this might be unlikely to become effective. Kurdish identity could be reaffirmed if the population go through a self-determination process. Many challenges arise in terms of enabling Kurdish population residing in Turkey to have a say at a national level, yet international awareness regarding their culture and identity is picking up due to the recent independence referendum held by the Kurds residing in Iraq. A window of opportunity might open for the Kurds living in Turkey, which could steer the national political agenda in their own benefit.

Interested in our next event? Join our dialogue event In gesprek met “de vijand” op 24 november in Rotterdam.

Report: Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue part 2/3 ‘the confrontation’

This is the second part of the report from the peace conference in Caux. Read here the first part.

1. Introductory speeches and meet-up with participants from Lebanon, Turkey and Armenia (4-7-2017)

INTRODUCTION
We arrived around 16.00 o’clock at Caux. The introduction was already underway. The organization requested to take our seat in the main hall without checking-in. Shontaye Abegaz, the Forum Coordinator, was talking about the ‘Six Pillars of Human Security’: good governance, food security, sustainable living, care for refugees, inclusive economics and healing memory.

From the brochure: ‘This forum brings together people working to advance just governance and human security in their situations. Every participant brings valuable knowledge and insights to the table. Through a combination of interactive sessions – plenaries, participatory workshops, training and space to reflect – we seek to co-create approaches which can help address personal, national and international challenges.’

Abegaz: ‘Our goal is create a world free from fear and hope that you can find in Caux someone you don’t know and with whom you can really connect.’

COMMUNITIES
Then, Ashley Muller stepped in, the communications coordinator, and explained about the ‘community-system’ of Caux. Every participant is registered into one of the seven community groups. In these groups people can reflect and discuss further on what has been discussed in the plenary sessions or elaborate on their own personal struggles in their home country. The community-groups are also used to divide tasks with regards to corvée duty in the kitchen, one of the most interesting community-building activities at Caux

HISTORY, CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES AND THE ROLE OF YOUNGSTERS
The Forum Director, Nick Foster, emphasized the special history of the Caux palace after World War II. It was used as a place where warring sides (Germans and French) came together to rebuild Europe. Also Jewish refugees who escaped death camps were hosted here to recover. ‘Burning international questions were discussed back then, and hopefully we can find inspiration here for what troubles us globally nowadays. We are faced with never-ending wars in the post 9/11 era, we have identity divisions in our home countries, terrorist attacks that instill fear and hatred against Muslims.’ Foster also mentioned economic divisions: ‘the eight richest man have as much as wealth as 3,5 billion people’. A disastrous disbalance, and endangering the social cohesion in the world. Another point he made: the role of young people. ‘It is time to integrate the new generation into the decision-making process. Without their creativity, without openness, it’s not going to happen.’

Armed conflict and the ‘hope’ of diplomacy
Keynote-speaker of the opening day was Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner-General for the UNRWA. He made a case for peaceful solutions in armed conflicts and drew on his experiences with the Palestinians. ‘I oppose and reject the idea of the inevitability of war. I find it impossible to reconcile with the careless idea that “wars exists”. The five challenges we face about war:

  • Most conflicts now are intrastate conflicts
  • The long duration of armed conflicts
  • Fragmentation of conflicts in thousands of armed groups
  • Radicalized non-state actors feed on general injustice and impunity
  • Focus of western powers on military intervention while there is no evidence that it did any good to resolve conflicts

All by all, the focus is too much on conflict management. Instead, we should re-legitimize conflict-resolution. Krahenbuhl: ‘A couple of weeks of ago we had the 50th anniversary of the Six-day war of 1967. I was born in 1966, meaning that if I was born in Palestine I would have lived all my life under occupation. The whole problematizing feature is that people were told: “if you believe in diplomacy, a solution will be found”. We failed to deliver on that promise. Without recognizing the pain of the other, there can be no healing,. On the other hand it is important to see people not solely as victims. They are also actors in their own lives. Dialogue is a process in which we should continuously strife to discover the humanity of the other. No security is sustainable if it comes at the expense of the insecurity of others.’

ARMENIAN-KURDISH-TURKISH DIALOGUE (DAY 1)
After dinner the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish delegations of several countries got in touch which each other to plan the three day dialogue program ahead of us.

  • First day: two presentations about the Armenian genocide, one from Nora Kalandjian , Christine Andekian and Vardouhi Balyan, and one from Tayfun Balcik.
  • Second day: presentations from participants of Turkey (Ghamzine Hasan Kaboglu, Begum Özcan) about the shrinking political space for free media and opposition politics in Turkey and the Laz-minority.
  • Third day: presentation by Füsun Erdogan about her experiences as a journalist and her time in prison in Turkey.

PHOTO 2: Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish participants plan the three day program.

  1. ‘THE CONFRONTATION’

Presentations
The first day of the Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish dialogue at Caux began with the presentation of Vardouhi Balyan, Nora Kalandjian and Christine Andekian about the Armenian genocide and the Armenian communities in Armenia and the diaspora. In relation to Turkey and Turks, they identified the denial of the Armenian genocide as the main obstacle for reconciliation. Balyan: ‘As a matter of fact a cultural genocide is still continuing in Turkey, because, for example, Armenian schools are not funded by the Turkish state. Armenian culture in Turkey only survives through the effort of Armenians who set up their own private schools. Tayfun Balçik discussed the memoires of the pan-Turkist Sevket Sureyya Aydemir. In his presentation he focused on (1) Turkish-Islamic suffering, (2) Turkish-Islamic supremacy and (3) revenge-feelings after losing wars to Christian minorities in the Balkan (1912-1913). According to him, this historical context is essential to understand and explain (but not excuse) what happened to the Armenians and other minorities during the Ottoman and republican era.

Discussion
Vardouhi mentioned the emotions that rose up when she first came to Caux in 2015. ‘Why are you going there?’, people in her environment asked here. ‘You don’t talk with Turks’ was the status-quo. After a question about ‘what after Caux’, Bedel Bayrak explained about the follow-up activities The Hague Peace Projects was involved in last year: ‘One of the many activities we realized was The Hague Freedom Book Fair in February 2017. We invited speakers from Turkey, also people we met in Caux. The dialogue continued in different contexts and we broaden the discussion to different fields as well.’

Than a question came from a Lebanese Armenian participant: ‘but what about the lands we lost in Cilicia (South-Turkey)’. That question led to a whole quarrel about whether lands could be given back? The participant received a lot of reaction: ‘giving land back isn’t possible, because other people live their now.’ And would it be a solution? The discussion harshened. Emotions took over. A participant from the Dutch delegation felt offended and said ‘how can I give land to you, I don’t live in Turkey’. Another participant from Lebanon: ‘I’m a fourth generation survivor. My roots are very important. We want access to our roots.”

Than the journalist Füsun Erdogan intervened and said: “Armenians and Turks are two traumatized people. The Armenians still feel the pain of the destruction of their people and the Turks are traumatized by the sins their forefathers committed. Both people have to carry that history. But what is the answer? The youth should come together. Progressives in Turkey always say: because we didn’t acknowledge what happened in 1915, the Dersim genocide against Kurds in 1937 happened. And Kurdistan is still burning.’

Now a participant form Turkey reacted: ‘The discussion as it goes now will bring nothing. I think we should first start with eating and drinking, and talk about other things. If you want to persuade Turks, this is not the way.’ Some disagreed vehemently with that proposition.

An outsider to the conflict, from Nepal, was amazed by the fact that all parties were in the same room. That led to some sort of reflection by all sides. But not for long. Even after the official closing of the dialogue, the discussion went on. More eruptions of emotions occurred. But at a certain moment, (dinner-time!), we called it a day and left the room knowing, this is not over yet.

Report: Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue part 1/3

INTRODUCTION
The Caux Forum of Initiatives of Change (IOC) is an international event in which peacemakers, human rights activists, civil servants, academics, journalists and students from all over the world gather to discuss about peaceful solutions for violent conflicts, economic inequality and human security.

Last year, in july 2016, The Hague Peace Projects (HPP) was represented by the project coordinators Bedel Bayrak, Tayfun Balcik and workgroup member Fatma Bulaz, they were involved in a lot of discussions that the forum provided for. This ranged from the relationship between white and black Americans in the United States, to Israeli-Arab dialogue, counter-terrorism and many other subjects that concern the global human security.

One of the pillars of the IOC Caux Forum is called ‘healing memory’. HPP has, with its own Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish workgroup, a special interest in the international dialogue taking place at Caux under this pillar. More specifically, the dialogue identifies the acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, the Kurdish question, the democratization of Turkey and struggles in home countries as key issues to discuss. These problems (from 12 until 17 July 2016) gained extra momentum last year as a result of the attempted coup in Turkey on the night of 15July. A lot of participants from all over the world came to us with the question: ‘what is going on in Turkey?’ As a group we were in constant touch with relatives and friends in Turkey and updated each other and other participants until 5’o clock in the morning. The remaining days in Caux were no different.

Back in The Netherlands our activities to reduce tensions between several groups intensified. But the negative effects of the attempted coup and the following purges in The Netherlands proliferated: from violent incidents inside the communities itself, to diplomatic crises, racism and discrimination against ‘normal’ Turks and Muslims by mainstream institutions and society.

With the municipality of Rotterdam (the city in The Netherlands which bore the brunt of all the ‘Turkish tensions’ last year) HPP agreed to cooperate. We organized in November 2016 a dialogue-afternoon: ‘Time to Talk: Kurds and Turks in dialogue’. With dr. Michiel Leezenberg as key-note speaker, we talked mainly about Kurdish and Turkish literature, but also the repression in Turkey and xenophobia in Europe. After his speech the teacher Suna Floret, journalist Iffet Subasi, student Burak Yildiz, anthropologist Bedel Bayrak and historian Tayfun Balcik shared personal stories about growing up as Turks, Kurds and Armenians in The Netherlands. The day came to a conclusion with dialogue-tables for interaction with the public.

In January 2017 the municipality received our plan to organize a trip to the Caux Forum 2017 with a diverse group of people from Rotterdam. This report is meant to give you an insight about our activities with the Rotterdam delegation before, during and after the program in Caux. 

 

  1. MEET-UP WITH THE ‘ROTTERDAM-GROUP’, 3-7-2017

On Monday, a day before we flew to Switzerland, the participants from Rotterdam came together for the first time as a group.

Attendees: Tato Martirossian, Helin Dogan, Burakhan Çevik, Fusun Erdogan, Fatma Bulaz Zeynep Kus, Bedel Bayrak, Tayfun Balçik

After we introduced ourselves, we had a short dialogue-session.

Tato: ‘It is important to see the humanity of the other. Only after acknowledging each other as human beings, dialogue can be fruitful. Talking from a position of superiority have brought us nothing so far. It was a whole process for me to come to this disposition. Until I was 10 years old, I hadn’t seen a Turk in my life. My image of Turks changed enormously since then.’

Burak: ‘I had that with Kurds. So this is very important for me. My family is very conservative.’

Fusun: ‘I’m a journalist and came here after I was released from prison in Turkey. About the Armenian genocide, I can say that my grandmother was Armenian. They called her ‘Mavis’. That is not a Turkish or Kurdish name. I also had an uncle. They called him “Ermeni Hasan/Armenian Hasan”. But he never talked about his roots. I think he was afraid to do that.’

Fatma: ‘My parents come from Igdir, in Eastern Turkey at the border of Armenia. There was an Armenian church there. It was destroyed in 1960. I have Azeri roots, probably tracing back to Yerevan in Armenia. Igdir is very diverse. Azeri’s, Kurds, islamized yazidi’s make up the city’s population. About Caux 2017, I’m really interested in the follow-up, what will come out of it? I hope we can set up big seminars in Europe and show the real and diverse history of this region to everybody who is interested.’

Tato: ‘I think that we as diaspora communities have the privilege to play a keyrole in promoting dialogue and peace, because we have more access to information from several sides.’

PHOTO 1: IOC, HPP and the Rotterdam delegation just before entering the plane at Schiphol Airpart to Swtizerland.

Muslims represent

Op 16 maart organiseren we ‘Muslims represent!’ in Utrecht. Tijdens dit evenement willen we graag in gesprek met verschillende Nederlandse moslims. Net zoals we met ‘the Hague Peace Projects’ een platform bieden voor het diverse geluid onder diaspora die de verbinding opzoeken, zo willen we ook een platform bieden aan de diverse moslimgemeenschap in Nederland. Entree is gratis maar vergeet je niet aan te melden.

Islamofobie is in de laatste jaren sterk toegenomen, zowel islamofobe incidenten als islamofobe berichtgeving. De grote diversiteit binnen de moslimgemeenschap in Nederland is niet terug te zien in de media en het publieke debat. De moslimstemmen die aan het woord worden gelaten zijn vaak beperkt tot de knuffelmoslim of de boze salafist. Door een podium te bieden aan de diversiteit van diverse moslimstemmen in Nederland hopen we bij te dragen aan een platform voor inclusieve, verbindende maar ook vooral kritische moslimdenkers.

Centraal staat (zelf)representatie van de moslim in het publieke debat en in de media. Het gebrek aan zelf-representatie is van invloed op de toenemende islamofobie en staat de emancipatie van de moslims in de weg. Tot slot willen we ook kijken of er mogelijkheden zijn voor een inclusieve en kritische platform van Nederlandse moslims.

Aanwezige sprekers zijn ondere andere:
– Abulkasim Al-Jaberi, Schrijver en activist met Roots uit Irak. In het verleden gewerkt als journalist in Egypte en momenteel actief in de anti-racisme beweging en de Palestina solidariteitsbeweging.
– Dino Suhonic van Stichting Maruf, een platform voor queer moslims in Nederland en daarbuiten.
– Dr. Margreet van Es, momenteel werkzaam als postdoctoraal onderzoeker bij Universiteit Utrecht. Onlangs is haar boek verschenen “Stereotypes and Self-Representations of Women with a Muslim Background: The Stigma of Being Oppressed”, naar de invloed van stereotype beeldvorming op de zelf-representatie van vrouwen met een islamitische achtergrond.
– Drs. Yusuf Celik, expert hermeneutiek, promovendus aan Edinburgh University.

Moderator
– Nawal Mustafa, werkzaam bij Amnesty International.

Verder is er live muziek met Emine Bostancı op de klassieke kemençe en Cengiz Arslanpay op de Ney.

Locatie: Theater Kikker, Ganzenmarkt 14, Utrecht
Datum: 16 maart ’17,
19:00 inloop
19:15 paneldiscussie
20:15 pauze
20:30 muziek
20:45 vervolg paneldiscussie
21:30 naborrelen
22:00 afloop
Entree is gratis maar vergeet je niet aan te melden.

 

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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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.