Saturday, May 1, 2010

Urgent Appeal for Kurdish Politician Leyla Zana


PEACE IN KURDISTAN is this week sending a letter to Gordon Brown, and to David Cameron and Nick Clegg asking them to request the Turkish Prime Minister and his Minister of Justice to revoke the unjust sentence of imprisonment – in violation of international laws and standards – passed on the Kurdish politician and human rights activist, Leyla Zana.

Leyla Zana, a winner of the Sakharov Peace Prize and several times nominated for the Nobel, has been convicted for the speeches she has made in the UK, in which she asks for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey, and for the Kurdish population of Turkey to be able to enjoy their basic human rights.

The situation now in Turkey is dire. Leyla’s own lawyer, the distinguished head of the IHD (Turkish Human Rights Council) was arrested and detained in prison on December 26th along with many other Kurdish politicians and human rights activists. And on Saturday, April 24th, Professor Kariane Westerheim, a Norwegian Professor who chairs the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) and a vigorous campaigner for Leyla Zana, was barred from entering Turkey to attend a Women’s Conference, on the grounds that she too was a supporter of terrorism because she espoused the cause of Kurdish human rights. “You will never, never enter Turkey again” she was told.

Signatories to the letter to Brown, Cameron and Clegg include peers, MPs, lawyers, and also women’s human rights activists.

Among them is the human rights lawyer Margaret Owen, Director of Widows for Peace through Democracy who has long supported the Kurdish cause and has sat on panels with Leyla Zana.

She says” Leyla Zana is one of the bravest women I have ever met. She has already suffered a decade of imprisonment for daring to speak the Kurdish language in the Turkish parliament. She now faces definite imprisonment of 3 years, and a possible further 13 years for daring to describe, both inside Turkey and abroad, the extreme human rights violations suffered by her fellow Kurds, and the need for dialogue, rather than military force to resolve the Kurdish question. In spite of ill-health – caused by her previous detention and hunger strike – Leyla Zana continues to inspire us all with her words of wisdom and her pleas for peace and justice. Our government leaders must now show that they too respect the right of all peoples to freedom of expression and their human rights by making it clear to the Turkish authorities that this abhorrent sentence of imprisonment must be revoked.”


Peace in Kurdistan: Campaign for a Political Solution of the Kurdish Question

Patrons: Lord Avebury, John Austin MP, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Julie Christie, Gareth Peirce, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas

Tel: 020 7586 5892 Fax: 020 7483 2531




Open Letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Urgent Appeal for Kurdish Politician Leyla Zana

Dear Gordon Brown

We write to draw your attention to the sentencing of Kurdish politician and human rights activist, Leyla Zana, to three years imprisonment by the Diyarbakir Criminal Court on Thursday, 8th April. We ask that you urgently protest in writing to the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Turkish Minister of Justice, and to the Turkish Ambassador to the UK against this sentence.

Leyla Zana was convicted under Turkey’s Prevention of Terrorism Act for making ‘propaganda for an illegal organization’, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Her conviction was on the grounds that in public speeches she had described Abdullah Ocalan as the ‘leader of the Kurdish people’, and that she had said that the Turkish Prime Minister should meet with Ocalan in order to open talks to resolve the long-standing conflict in the Kurdish region.

In these speeches addressing the Kurdish issue, Leyla Zana issued a plea for a peaceful solution to the 30-year long conflict through dialogue and diplomacy rather than through military means. By calling for government action to respect and protect the fundamental rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey, however, her freely expressed thoughts are construed as evidence that she supports ‘terrorism’.

Leyla Zana came to international attention when she won a seat in the Turkish Parliament in 1991, the first ever Kurdish woman to be elected. Her courageous decision upon taking her seat in Parliament to deliver her oath in Kurdish (a language banned by Turkey at the time) led to a 15-year prison sentence of which she served ten years. She was released in 2004 as a result of intense international pressure.

Leyla Zana received the Norwegian Rafto Prize for Human Rights in 1994, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1995 and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times. She continues to be a key figure in Turkish politics and an inspiration for Kurdish people.

Today, Leyla Zana faces a total of 13 years imprisonment for allegedly supporting ‘terrorism’ in her various public speeches. On 4 December 2008, she was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, on the basis of nine different speeches, including several made in London in 2008 (a lecture at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of London, and a talk at Garden Court Chambers).

Furthermore, on 24 December her principal lawyer, Muharrem Erbey, the General Vice-Chairperson of the IHD (Human Rights Association), was also arrested and is currently detained in a D-type prison in Diyabakar. In recent months, many other Kurdish politicians and lawyers have been arrested and imprisoned on spurious grounds.

Turkey is under a legal obligation to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights and to the Copenhagen Criteria in order to be eligible for accession to the European Union. This latest decision to convict Leyla Zana once again raises serious questions as to the Turkish government's integrity and its commitment to human rights standards.

Turkey’s continued repression against Kurdish voices for peace has served to undermine possibilities for dialogue between the parties. This must be of the highest concern for the United Kingdom’s efforts in facilitating a stable, democratic region. We ask you therefore to express your grave concern about this flagrant breach of international human rights norms.

Yours sincerely

Tony Benn, former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister

Lord Rea

Lord Hylton

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Hywel Williams MP

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

Jean Lambert MEP

Jill Evans MEP

Mark Thomas, journalist, writer, comedian

Margaret Owen, Director WPD, international human rights lawyer

Moris Farhi, MBE, writer

Jo Glanville, Editor Index on Censorship

Dr Victoria Sentas, School of Law, King's College London

Bruce Kent, Vice-President Pax Christi

Micheal Mansfield QC

Louise Christian, human rights lawyer

Prof Bill Bowring, Professor or Law Birkbeck College

Liz Davies, barrister, Chair of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Frances Webber, human rights lawyer

Dafydd Iwan, LL.D., President of Plaid Cymru, Party of Wales

Nick Hildyard, policy analyst

Annette Lawson, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)

Lesley Abdela, Senior Partner, Shevolution

Stan Newens, President “Liberation”

Jonathan Fryer, writer, lecturer and LiberalDemocrat politician

Richard McKane, poet and translator

Hugo Charlton, Barrister

Dr Felix Padel, writer and anthropologist

Lesley Abdela, Senior Partner, Shevolution

Cynthia Cockburn, Visiting Professor, Dept of Sociology, City University and active in “Women in Black against War”

Mary Davis, Professor of Labour History, London Metropolitan University

Janroj Keles, Research Fellow, London Metropolitan University

Khatchatur I. Pilikian, Prof of Music & Art

Jennifer Langer, Director of Exiled Writers Ink

David Morgan, journalist & Socialist History Society

Maggie Bowden, General Secretary “Liberation”

Sarah Sexton, editor

Stuart Kerr, barrister

Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)

Rachel Bird, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish question

Patrons: Lord Avebury, John Austin MP, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP Sinn Féin, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Julie Christie, Gareth Peirce, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas

44 Ainger Road, London NW3 3AT Tel 020 7586 5892 Fax 020 7483 2531 e-mail:

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