A conference organised in the Swedish parliament on Tuesday brought together Kurdish politicians, NGO representatives and Swedish deputies to discuss the current state of the Kurdish issue and democracy in Turkey in light of the military attack that Ankara launched on Iraqi Kurdistan last week.
Swedish liberal MP Frederic Malm condemned Turkey’s “genocide attempt” in his opening speech.
Turkey maintains its military operation is focused on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the region, while local reports by NGOs such as the Community Peacemaker Teams, working in the region report that civilian populations have been not only been also affected but purposefully targeted. There are also reports of Turkish forces using chemical weapons against the guerrilla fighters of the PKK.
Peoples’ Democratic Party is key
There are no such concepts as human rights or justice left in Turkey, said Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Vice Co-chair Hişyar Özsoy in his speech.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his partners have imposed a new “Islamist and pan-Turkist ideology” on Turkey, imposing great pressure and hate on the population, Özsoy said. “Especially in Kurdistan, there is a great effort to destroy the political will and identity.”
The HDP, the second-largest opposition bloc in Turkey, will play a key role in the upcoming 2023 elections, Özsoy said.
“As we all know, the key party to stop the totalitarian dictatorship of the Erdoğan regime is the HDP,” the vice co-chair continued. “At the same time, the party that could rebuild the system that the Erdogan regime destroyed, in a way that prioritises human rights and provides Kurds with security of their rights and justice, is none other than also the HDP.”
Jan Fermon: Europe’s description of terrorism must change
Belgian lawyer Jan Fermon called for a change in Europe’s definition of terrorism.
“As long as the description of terrorism in Europe remains the same, efforts to expose the Turkish state’s crimes and put pressure on Turkey will remain inconclusive,” Fermon said.
The Kurds have been increasingly criminalised in Europe after 2000, the lawyer said as he argued against the inclusion of the PKK in Europe’s list of foreign terrorist organisations.
“The PKK did not use any violence in Europe back then, and they do not do so now. The PKK never posed any threat to European states or institutions,” said Fermon, who has been part of the efforts for the delisting of the PKK since 2006 and was the lead lawyer in the now famous ‘Brussels case’ where the PKK was ruled not to be a terrorist organisation but a party to an armed conflict.
What is happening between Turkey and the PKK is “not an issue of terrorism but rather a civil war”, said Fermon. “In order to end this war that has spread across Turkey and Kurdistan in a peaceful way, this approach must be abandoned.”
Zübeyir Aydar, a former lawmaker in the Turkish parliament now in exile and a current executive of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), said Turkey had “denied the existence of Kurds since it was founded.”
“The Republic of Turkey, with the use of force and violence, banned everything about Kurds, and even banned speaking Kurdish,” Aydar said.
The PKK constitutes the 29th Kurdish insurgency, according to reports prepared by Turkey, the former lawmaker said. “Kurds had no choice but to rebel, when everything was banned and they were left with no way to express themselves.”
The PKK, founded 49 years ago by a small group of students, picked up arms only after it faced criminalisation, according to Aydar. The group was immediately banned, as others were before them, he added. “That’s why PKK was forced to pick up arms, in order to express their demands. This struggle still continues,” he said.
“The Kurdistan Freedom Movement wants a peaceful solution via dialogue, while the Turkish government insists on war,” Aydar continued. “I want to be clear here, if the Swedish Government wants to play a role in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, we would only be grateful and comply.”
Aydar called on the Swedish government to support delisting efforts.
“This list does nothing but strengthen Erdoğan’s hand as he wages war and causes great suffering to our people,” he said.