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News > World

Kurdish Activists Protest European Silence on Turkish Massacres

  • Hundreds of Kurdish women are leading a five-day march and sit-in at European institutions in Strasbourg.

    Hundreds of Kurdish women are leading a five-day march and sit-in at European institutions in Strasbourg. | Photo: Twitter / @jinhaberajans

Published 25 February 2016

The five-day sit-in led by women drew attention to the silence of European courts in the ongoing massacre of Kurds in Turkey's southeast.

A coalition of pro-Kurdish European groups held a sit-in in front of European institutions in Strasbourg to protest their silence on the Cizre massacre and complicity in the Turkish government's “genocide” against the Kurdish people.

Thursday marked the third day of the five-day action targeting the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Activists believe the court should be doing more to hold the Turkish government for killing an estimated 155 civilians earlier this month in the Kurdish town of Cizre. Turkey is a member of the European Council and is seeking to join the European Union, which ostensibly requires members to uphold human rights.

“Everyone of us has a part in the massacre,” said Faysal Sarıyıldız, a Turkish politician with the pro-Kurdish HDP party. “European states are also responsible for this massacre because they remained silent on it."

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Activists from France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany gathered in Strasbourg in front of the Council of Europe, European Court for Human Rights and the European Commission for the Prevention of Torture. A delegation is expected to meet with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Right; activists are calling for the council to drop Turkey's membership in light of its human rights abuses against the Kurds.

Lawyers from the Diyarbakır Bar Association filed applications with the European Court for Human Rights demanding the lifting of a curfew in Cizre, a Kurdish-majority city in Turkey’s southeast. They also asked the court to support the opening of a human corridor to evacuate activists trapped in a basement in Cizre and provide medical attention to the wounded.

The court refused to consider the application until all legal avenues were exhausted in Turkey itself. Once Turkey’s highest court rejected a request for medical treatment, however, the court still refused to consider the application.

The main organizers of the sit-in, the European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress and the European Kurdish Women's Movement, have previously organized large-scale protests — mostly led by women and youth — in Strasbourg. Multiple actions last year drew attention to the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been in Turkish custody since 1999.

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Lawyers launched an international campaign Wednesday addressed to the European Commission for the Prevention of Torture to condemn Turkey for its isolation of Ocalan, which they consider a form of torture and a threat to peace.

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Europe has seen a large Kurdish diaspora form since the conflict between Turkey and the PKK, a Kurdish guerilla group. Kurdish organizations based in Europe have supported the PKK from abroad, while European governments have worked with Turkey to crack down on the group, which the EU considers a terrorist organization. In 2013, three women leaders of the PKK were assassinated in Paris.

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