Ali Has, a Kurdish solicitor and expert on terrorism and the Criminal Justice System has written this open letter to the Prime Minister over her use of the phrase "Kurdish terrorism" during her joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Please read and share.
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Use of “Kurdish terrorism” as a term of reference
I am writing to you as a London based Solicitor-Advocate to express my concerns over a term of reference you used whilst hosting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reportedly create and explore new financial and economic trade deals with Turkey, which is clearly vital for the UK’s own economic stability and development.
I would therefore use this opportunity to draw your attention to the joint press conference with President Erdogan, in which you commented; “…it is also important that in the defence of democracy – which has been facing extraordinary pressures from the failed coup, instability across the border from Syria and from Kurdish terrorism — Turkey does not lose sight of the values it is seeking to defend”.
Whilst what you say is imperative, in that Turkey must be true to the values it seeks to defend, it is equally offensive, misleading and in my opinion an extension of the criminalisation policy and rhetoric adopted by Turkey to delegitimise the Kurds as a people.
For a start, ‘terrorism’ both in law and factually is not an ethnically specific term and therefore cannot and should not be used with reference to a specific ethic group; the consequences of which creates division, criminalises an entire community and can ultimately be deemed racist. Indeed, neither the Terrorism Act 2000 nor any other relevant international instrument makes reference to an ethnic specific definition of ‘terrorism’.
In my mind, coining this term archives two main ends; firstly, it appeases Turkey in the face of its economic benefits to the UK. Secondly, it sadly advances Turkey’s blanket criminalisation policy of the Kurds as a people, which it does to be able to seem legitimate in its ruthless clamping down on any form of Kurdish opposition and to disguise the brutal treatment of Kurds within Turkey.
Indeed, the current and continued criminalisation of Kurdish people in Turkey is catastrophic. It is well documented that there are currently over 10,000 grassroots Kurdish political activists imprisoned in Turkey. Amongst these are 100’s of academics, human rights activists, lawyers and deputies. There are over 70,000 Kurdish students imprisoned i.e. the ‘crème de la crème’ of the Kurdish intellectual future. 13 Members of Parliament of the pro-Kurdish HDP (Peoples Democratic Party) including the parties former co-chair Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş and whom is the party’s officially elected presidential candidate for the upcoming elections on 24th June 2018. There are thousands more indicted on trumped up charges awaiting trial on bail. Hundreds of NGOs and civil society movements have been closed down, their offices raided, and archives seized. There are over one hundred journalists imprisoned and more awaiting trial on bail. All forms of pro-Kurdish media outlets are targeted daily and shutdown. There is not a day that goes by that we do not hear about more arrests and imprisonment of activists.
The three common characterises these people share are; firstly, that they are of Kurdish ethnicity; secondly, none of them have engaged in any violent activity or used the threat of violence and thirdly, they have all voiced their concerns over the mistreatment of Kurds and general human rights violations. To think that all of these people are in the wrong is simply an insult of our intelligence as fellow citizens of the UK.
It is therefore an unquestionable fact that Turkey’s so-called fight against “terrorism”, is actually a fight against a ‘people’ and any legitimate segment of that people that raises a voice in opposition is targeted and arrested under the guise of “terrorist” activity. Your appeasement initiative by referring to the legitimate and overdue demands of the Kurdish people as “Kurdish terrorism” is not only legally, factually and academically wrong, but also only serves to advance Turkey’s criminalisation of the Kurds in the manor I have described and makes the UK government complicit in the treatment Kurds are subjected on the ground.
With reference to your logic it is important that in the process and pursuit of economic and financial partnerships with Turkey the UK does not lose sight of its own core values, freedoms and intolerance to human rights violations.
I am among thousands of people that have been deeply offended with this term of reference and labelling of the Kurdish community’s basic demands as “terrorism”. I therefore request that an official apology is made to the Kurdish people and an explanation is given as to what is meant by “Kurdish terrorism”.
I look forward to hearing from you.