The following letter was penned by Faysal Sarıyıldız, a member of Turkey’s Parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and addressed to the members of parliaments of the European Union (EU) member states, as well as other parliamentarians in various governments. On Dec. 26. Sarıyıldız, who represents Şırnak province, appealed to “colleagues” around the world to note the plight of the Kurdish people facing violence at the hands of the Turkish state. Sarıyıldız stressed: “We have serious concerns that if the escalation of violence continues at this scale, the situation might eventually devolve into a civil war, and the 21st century will be marked by the genocide of the Kurdish people. Thus, with a strong belief and trust that the EU and the international community will not turn a blind eye to the developments in the region, I ask for your hand and support in solidarity with the Kurdish people.”
Below is the letter in its entirety.
I am writing to you from a region where artillery shells fired from tanks fall next to us, where the cruelty of war and violence and all forms of brutality have become a daily routine for a long time, and where weapons and death have consumed the relevance of all words. For days and months now, there is a de facto martial law in place, and fundamental human rights and freedoms are suspended. People are literally imprisoned in their basements—their houses torn down under artillery fire; people are showered with bullets, and they are shot and killed by snipers in the middle of the streets. Their bodies are left on the streets and cannot be picked up for days, neither by medical workers nor their families. The name of this region is Kurdistan.
The democratic resolution and peace negotiation process that began between the state and the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] in the year 2013 was completely suspended by the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in April 2015. Mr. Erdogan not only suspended the peace and resolution process, but also dictated his decision upon the AKP government and launched a new brutal and bloody process. The demand of Kurdish people to live within the existing borders of the Republic of Turkey along with other peoples by a regime of self-governance—based on peace, equality, democracy, and freedom—is brutally and cruelly crushed by the state. The Kurdish people openly revealed their demand for a status secured within the framework of a newly written constitution based on freedom and democracy via their declarations of self-governance. In return, the state has responded to this demand of the Kurdish people with artillery shells, tanks, and an all-out war. Certainly, civilians are paying the heaviest price in the face of these brutal attacks of the Turkish state.
The state, upon the declarations of self-governance in the Kurdish provinces by the Kurdish people, announced curfews 54 times in total, in dozens of neighborhoods, 18 districts, and 7 provinces. The total number of days the curfews had been in place already reached 231. One-hundred-and-twenty-four people were killed by the state security forces during these curfews. With these curfews, our identity and honor in the Kurdish region are trampled upon and we are asked to kneel before this murderous regime. Our lives, our history, our future, our labor and bread are being brutally destroyed.
“They say there is a curfew. So, we stay at home and get killed by artillery fires. When we go out on the street, the snipers kill us. They kill us no matter what we do. Yet, aren’t the streets for children?” cries a child from Cizre, clearly demonstrating the isolation of life in the streets of the Kurdish region, which is today in the hands of the state.
I am an elected member of parliament from the province of Şırnak, in which the districts of Cizre and Silopi are two of the places seriously affected by the curfew and the state’s attacks. Please allow me to briefly summarize to you the overall picture in these two districts: The curfew has been announced five times in Cizre. The total number of days the state-imposed curfew has been in place adds up to 26. The most recent curfew was announced on Dec. 14, and it still continues as I write this letter to you. Nineteen civilians, including a child and a 3-month-old baby, have been killed just in the most recent and continuing curfew. The number of civilians killed by state security forces has reached 51 people in total since July.
In Silopi, the other district in Şırnak, the curfew was announced 3 times, and the number of days that it has been in place reached more than 15. The most recent curfew was announced on Dec. 14. Twenty-six people were killed during the most recent and ongoing curfew.
Due to the extent of the censorship imposed by the AKP government, the mainstream Turkish media either remains completely silent, or services this destruction in the towns and districts where the curfew is imposed by distorting and manipulating the facts. Hundreds of grave human rights violations are taking place that fall within the scope of war crimes in the context of international law. I would like to share with you only a few of these violations, [which have been] hidden from both the Turkish society and the international community.
Taybet İnan, a 55-year-old woman and mother of 11 children, was killed by the police in the middle of the street in Silopi. Her body remained right in the middle of the street for days, before it could be taken to the hospital morgue on the seventh day. Her family and medical workers were fired at by the police as they attempted to pick up her body. There are six bodies in different neighborhoods of Silopi waiting to be picked up and buried for [the past] seven days due to the imposed curfew and the attacks by the Turkish state security forces. Güler Yanalak was eight months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach in Cizre. She was injured heavily and lost her baby.
As I was writing this letter to you, an artillery shell hit a house nearby, causing the death of a four-month-old baby. The grandparents and the ambulance were fired at by the state security forces as they were trying to carry the baby to the ambulance. The grandfather also died in the hospital. There is neither electricity nor drinking water for days now in the neighborhoods where thousands of people live. At times, more than 100 people are forced to take shelter in a basement of a single house to seek refuge from the ongoing artillery shelling and tanks.
The Kurdish people carrying out an all-out struggle against the fascist ISIS forces are now also facing a major massacre by the Turkish state. The Kurdish people want to live in peace where their demands for the right to [their] mother-tongue and self-governance are secured by the constitution. Unfortunately, the AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to this demand with large-scale massacre and extensive brutality.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), of which I am also an elected member, continues to believe and insist that the resolution of the Kurdish Question is still possible on the basis of democratic politics and negotiations, securing the right to self-governance and the right to education in [one’s] mother tongue, which will bring lasting peace, justice, and equality. The continuation of denial and assimilation, and the violent policies of the AKP government increase the social costs of the Kurdish Question and gradually destroy the aspirations of peace for the Kurdish people.
With the restart of the process of Turkey’s accession to the European Union, the AKP government conceals the war policies imposed on the Kurdish region under the guise of reform policies implemented within the framework of the EU. Yet, there is no implementation of democratic reforms, nor does the state act in accordance with basic EU norms and standards. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that while Turkey’s EU membership is being negotiated, the right to life, the right to education in [one’s] mother tongue, the right to self-governance, and a long list of universal rights and freedoms of the Kurdish people are being brutally violated and ruthlessly suppressed. We have serious concerns that if the escalation of violence continues at this scale, the situation might eventually devolve into a civil war, and the 21st century will be marked by the genocide of the Kurdish people. Thus, with a strong belief and trust that the EU and the international community will not turn a blind eye to the developments in the region, I ask for your hand and support in solidarity with the Kurdish people.
Member of Parliament, Şırnak
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)