13th International conference at the EP: “Turkey, The Kurds and the war in the Middle East”

Kariane WESTRHEIM, Chair of the EUTCC, University of Bergen, (Norway), Josef WEIDENHOLZER, MEP, Vice-President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, (Austria) and Gabi ZIMMER, MEP, Chairwoman of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left Group (GUE/NGL) in the EP, (Germany) lauched the 13th annual conference of the EUTCC yesterday at the EP.image-1_002_900_350_70_c1_c_t_0_-50

The opening speech was given by Mr. Ebrahim EBRAHIM, Former Deputy Minister for International Relations and Co-operation, Member of the African National Congress National Executive Committee (South Africa), foolowed with the messages from Prison of HDP’s co-president Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, Co-Presidents of HDP.

The EP Kurdish Conference continued today with the session titled

“Lines in the Sand: The Historical Development of the Kurdish Issue and the Sykes-Picot”.

Kurds’ century-long issues were presented in the session and it was underlined that the solution was through democratization and Kurds’ right to self determination.

Professor of History and Sociology Hamit Bozarslan took the first word and spoke on the century old Sykes-Picot treaty. Bozarslan stated that it wasn’t a treaty but a set of principles, saying the effects of the World War I were still visible in the region today. He stated that the West struggled to read the Kurdish strategy between World War I and World War II and that a “inter-state status quo” was implemented following the Treaty of Lausanne.

Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights Program on Peace-Building and Rights Director David Phillips stated that the Erdoğan administration should be put on trial for crimes against humanity, saying these criminal gangs should be given a red card. Stating that an inquiry could be launched in the name of UN human rights institutions and an appeal could be made to the International Criminal Court and added:

“An international institution should investigate the crimes in Turkey. This could be the Council of Europe.”

Phillips assessed the process that emerged previously in Turkey called the peace process and said:

“I said this before, there is neither peace nor a peace process. There was a play.”

Phillips expressed that PKK should be removed from the “terror list” and a peace deal that the international community can monitor should be made and stated the only solution under current conditions as:

“The only solution now is the Kurds exercising their right to self determination. There is a criminal administration in Turkey. They are committing war crimes and they should answer for that.”

Professor of International Relations from University of Sussex, UK Kamran Matin assessed the Geneva talks on the Syrian crisis. Matin emphasized that the only obstacle in the way of Kurds attending these talks is Turkey and said no controversy can be resolved with the exclusion of an important actor in the controversy. Matin stated that the Geneva talks can only achieve success with the Kurds’ attendance.

Turkish journalist Fehim Taştekin pointed out that the people’s rightful demands evolved into a bloody process and said:

“This bloody process produced two models. One is the bloody model of ISIS, and the other is the Rojava model. Turkey stood with ISIS. Turkey fought against both Kurds and the Syrian regime. Turkey’s ISIS policies were exposed in 4 categories. First, they fought against the regime. It was seen as a revolutionary organization by Turkey. Second, it fought against Rojava and was used by Turkey. ISIS used Turkish borders, militants were dispatched. And these were overlooked, or supported. When Turkey started to be known for supporting ISIS, Ankara joined the international coalition very unwillingly.”

Taştekin also assessed Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” operation and said the following on the matter:

“This initiative is to break down the image of supporting ISIS, preventing the Efrîn and Kobanê corridor, opening a breathing space for groups in Aleppo and creating space for Islamist groups in the region. Turkey is angry at Rojava because it exposes all the problems Turkey can’t get out of. For Turkey, unable to tolerate diversity, finds Rojava provocative. The whole issue is Kurds not putting the status they de facto achieved into law. If Erdoğan hadn’t kicked down the solution table, it would have been different. Unfortunately, Turkey didn’t prefer this role. As a result, Turkey, on the path to taking democracy to the Middle East, lost its path and lost democracy.”

PYD Co-chair Salih Muslim mentioned the struggle of the Kurds in the Middle East and continued his speech:

“The Kurdish people are fighting today for all the peoples of the region. These are humanitarian values. Today these values are under a great attack. Kurds are trying to protect these values, and for that they display great heroism. Our people were divided by the Sykes-Picot treaty a century ago, but today they have voided this treaty.”

Muslim underlined that they see the system they are trying to establish in Rojava as a model for the whole region and said:

“The nation-state mentality needs to change. We need a revolution against the sexist mentality. This is what want to do in the region today.”

Salih Muslim also mentioned the Turkish army’s attacks on Rojava and Syria and said:

“The ideology we are facing attacks all the gains of the Kurds. They think ‘the best Kurd is the dead Kurd’. ISIS and the jihadist groups didn’t just fall from the sky. Turkey and similar countries unleashed them upon the region. The relationship between Turkey and ISIS continues still. If they can, they will destroy all the gains in Rojava. They will even attack the gains in Southern Kurdistan.”

PYD Co-chair also mentioned their relationship with the US and said:

“The US tried to use the Kurds. But what happened was, they discovered them when the Kurds stopped ISIS. They understood the system the Kurds implemented. Now the whole world knows us. But there is this question: How will the US accept the Kurds that they didn’t accept before? We want to develop our relationship further. Before they refused us, but now they meet with us directly. It’s not like before when they asked of us to the Turks and the Saudi Arabs. Of course there are still those who don’t meet with us because they refrain from Turkey”.

Muslim criticized the UN meetings and emphasized that they need to be invited. About their alleged relationship with the Assad regime, Muslim said:

“We only defended ourselves, and built our own path. We ensured the safety of our people and we acted together with the international coalition against ISIS.”

On the Raqqa operation:

“Everybody thinks we launched the Raqqa operation on the US’ demand. That is wrong. Raqqa is at a strategic location. It is very close to Kobanê. So we launched this operation for the security of Rojava. We can’t let ISIS use Raqqa. Raqqa needs to be cleared of ISIS.”

He finished his intervention underlying that they are trying to establish the social and the economic system despite the ongoing embargo in Rojava.