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Kurdistance: The State of Kurdish Activism

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Digital Activism, Ethnicity & Race, Freedom of Speech, Technology

Some may be surprised to hear that coverage of the Kurdish blogosphere has been appearing on Global Voices for longer than coverage of the Turkish blogospheres. Whereas the Turkish blogosphere has been expanding, the Kurdish blogosphere (at least the English language end) is slowly disappearing. Today's article will focus on the current state of Kurdish activism (as blogging can be considered as a primary element of that) and a new initiative that is designed to help extend the Kurdish voice.

The decline in Kurdish voices is difficult to explain, but a large part of the lessening of blogging could be attributed to Kurdish websites being under attack from various hackers. IraqiKurdistan [1] has been hacked by a character who names himself the “dangerous ghost ne mutlu turkum diyene”. And while I have not been able to confirm this, I suspect that From Holland to Kurdistan [2] has switched their blog to invited readers only because of a similar reason, as their site (and their Dutch language news-site) has had problems from hackers in the past. Not only are hackers a danger to Kurdish blogging but also the governments that their writers are operating out of. A new website The Arab Network for Kurdish Rights [3] is a new organization that seeks to preserve the Kurdish voice online. They are in the process of setting up a petition, which should be ready by the end of the month. Until that time, here is a bit from their opening post [4]:

Kurdish Rights is a project by independent students who wish to fight for the rights of Kurds within the Middle East. In this website, we aim to empower Kurdish bloggers and administrators to keep writing despite the fact that an alarming number of Kurdish blogs and sites get blocked by many Middle Eastern countries, from Iran to Turkey to Bahrain to Syria to God knows where else. Traditionally, Kurds were never allowed a voice in mainstream media outlets within our region. Now we as students and youth activists are standing up to say “enough!”

New technology is making it increasingly easier for us to hear the voices of those who weren’t given a voice throughout our history; and we will NOT allow this powerful tool to be taken away from fellow Kurdish bloggers and authors online.

The mission statement of the site Hevallo [5] addresses the lack of Kurdish voices on the web:

It is shocking at a time when the psychological warfare and criminalisation of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey is at its highest, that there are not a lot of sites/blogs in English, that give uptodate information from a Kurdish perspective and challenge the label of ‘terrorist’ and ‘terror’ that is so readily accepted by the Western governments. Hevallo tries to do that.

And of course, mentioned in this column several times is the site SaveRojTV [6] that actively works for the preservation of its Kurdish broadcasting rights.

On the issue of Kurdish activism, a death of a well-known Kurdish activist Orhan Dogan [7]has sent the Kurds in Turkish Kurdistan into a state of deep grief. Both Rasti [8] and Hevallo [9] have announcements of the untimely death and information from the funeral [10].

I would like to close today with a small excerpt for a wonderful write-up that Zaneti [11] did on another Kurdish activist and associate of Orhan Dogan, Leyla Zana:

In all corners of the world, there are people of courage who live their lives determined to do the right thing for themselves and for those around them. These are people who are admired for their actions. They are never accredited timely but the righteous hope that they will be eventually recognized for their good will. In the predominantly Kurdish region of Turkey (see Northern Kurdistan), Leyla Zana has been living a life of constant struggle, determined to attain the rights of her people and in search of democracy in a place where such an idea seems unreachable. One may find it ironic that she has been accused of separatism and hate when she only speaks of peace and democracy. However, it is not irony but the lack of democracy where she lives that effectuates hate in circumstances where individuals like her are forced to strive for peace and are punished for it.

In Turkey, Kurds are subjected to terror and barbaric torture and a policy of forceful assimilation. Everything from social and political inequalities exists for the Kurds and the region in which they live is economically undeveloped. Although much of the world has claimed that the country represents a democracy in the Middle East, one can easily argue that this is far from the truth. Kurds who have spoken up about the injustices have been punished, labeled as threatening the Turkish state, and imprisoned. Leyla Zana’s story is symbolic to all those who have tried to take the peaceful road and have been penalized for doing so.