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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 171 Contents

Socialist Review, January 1994

Mark Campbell

Notes of the Month

Eyewitness in Kurdistan

From Socialist Review, No. 171, January 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

We felt the atmosphere of intense oppression from the first day in Kurdistan. The police followed us all the time and many people were terrified to talk to us. When we did speak to people they told us of assassinations and the systematic destruction of villages carried out by the Turkish state.

Two villagers begged us to visit their village, Birik, to witness ourselves what the Turkish forces had done to it. They said that at 6 p.m. on Tuesday 23 November eight lorryloads of soldiers arrived in the village of about 250 people. At 6.30 the two, returning home from a nearby village, saw rockets being fired and heard heavy arms firing for more than half an hour. Above the firing they could hear the screams of women and children. Villagers later told how the army dragged them from their houses and beat them brutally. Three villagers were placed against a wall and executed in cold blood, then the whole village was burnt to the ground.

The villagers were forced at gunpoint to huddle together in the rain all night and 14 people were taken into custody.

The next day 12 of the 14 were released, but two had disappeared. The Turkish press reported them killed in clashes with Kurdish ‘terrorists’.

We decided to go and see what had happened for ourselves with two journalists from the Kurdish newspaper Ózgýr Gundem.

As we arrived in Birik an old woman came up to us screaming, ‘Run for your lives before they shoot you.’ Suddenly three soldiers appeared with guns. They rounded us up and took us to the top of a hill. The village had been completely destroyed. Fires were still burning and women and children were picking through the ruins.

We were taken to a contra-guerrilla headquarters at Bismil and held for 12 hours. The two Gundem reporters were paraded in front of us and subjected to humiliating and degrading abuse.

We were moved to the headquarters for the state of emergency area and released after questioning. We later interviewed the two journalists, who told us they had been left in the minibus for a further five hours and were then blindfolded and thrown into a lorry with other prisoners thrown on top of them. They were taken to another camp and interrogated, were both subject to psychological torture and told to sign confessions to being PKK terrorists. This they refused to do and one was beaten. After many hours of this torture, they were driven to a dark country road, placed in the middle of the road and told if they looked back they would be shot.

All this is not unique. It is part of a systematic destruction of Kurdish villages. Hundreds of villages have been destroyed, unknown numbers of innocent Kurdish people slaughtered. There is no freedom of expression, no human rights. The Turkish state is waging war on the Kurdish people. The weapons used against the Kurds are supplied by Britain, France and Germany.

The resistance of the people we met was breathtaking and is the strongest memory I have. A memory burnt into my mind is one of a group of schoolchildren in Lice, a large town systematically burnt and many of its people butchered. The children made victory signs, avoiding the state teachers trying to stop them ignoring the soldiers looking on.

We have since learnt that the Turkish security forces raided the offices of the newspaper Ózgýr Gundem detaining journalists and workers. The reason for this was that on international Human Rights Day Ózgýr Gundem ran a front page printing the International Human Rights Convention, with a band running across saying, ‘They have violated all these’.

At the same time, reports came through from a large Kurdish town, Cizre, that the state forces were carrying out more atrocities. While Turkey is intensifying the slaughter the West is funding this killing machine.

Mark Campbell was part of a trade union delegation to Kurdistan last month

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