PROFILE IN KURDISH COURAGE

Eren Keskin, courageous Kurd.
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; to hell with sugar and spice.”
~ Anonymous.

In keeping with what appears to be a theme recently on Rastî, more news reports have come out in connection with IHD and Eren Keskin. Earlier in the week, I pointed out an incident in which a letter was sent to the Istanbul office of the IHD, which contained a suspicious brown powder. The letter was signed by TIT, a known Gray Wolf organization that has been involved with assassinations and has links to the Turkish military.

It appears that the former chief of the Istanbul IHD, Eren Keskin, has become the target of women Gray Wolf organizations, as reported by Bianet in two articles. The first is titled, “Rights Activists Rise to Defend Keskin” and “Keskin: ‘The Campaign Is Manipulated'”.

According to Bianet, the day the TIT letter arrived at the Istanbul IHD was the same day the advertisements against Keskin came out in the Hurriyet and Cumhuriyet papers, which means that this campaign of threat and intimidation is most likely planned and derive from the same source–the Turkish military establishment, otherwise known as the Deep State.

In late March, Keskin was convicted of “insulting” the TSK, under Article 301 of the new and improved TCK, which resulted in a sentence of ten months’ imprisonment. All of this was for a speech she gave in Koln, Germany, in 2002, titled “Sexual Violence Perpetrated by the State”, about the systematic use of torture against women detainees by Turkish security forces. As a lawyer and human rights defender, this subject has been Keskin’s forte in recent years, as she is the founder of her own project to help women who fall victim to these kinds of state-sponsored predations.

One of those who filed a complaint against Keskin for her speech in Germany was none other than Gray Wolf professor Necla Arat, founder of the Women’s Studies Center of Istanbul University and a former president of the Istanbul Women Associations Union. Arat was a supporter of Afghan women’s rights at a human rights conference in Marmara back in December, 2001. I would be curious to know how well Arat supported the human rights of her Afghan “sisters” after RAWA came out five months later with concerns over Turkish troop deployment in Afghanistan, concerns specifically expressed as a result of the horrendous human rights abuses Turkish security forces have inflicted on Kurdish women. I wonder if Gray Wolf Doctor Professor Arat will be filing any charges against RAWA?

In this latest campaign against her, Keskin is accused, by advertisement, of having “spread PKK propaganda” while serving as IHD-Istanbul chief. From the first Bianet article:

The advertisements, which appeared in the mass circulation Turkish daily Hurriyet and the Cumhuriyet newspapers, claimed that while Keskin was head of the IHD Istanbul branch, she used every meeting she attended “to voice the factitious slander of the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party] PKK”. The advert also claimed she was involved in activities “to spoil the atmosphere of peace”.

[ . . . ]

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Agenda Association (IHDG) issued a statement in protest of the women organisation’s advert saying that an attempt was being made to display Keskin as if she was a terrorist in the public eye and noting that the “slander against her” had come after the case on insulting the army.

[ . . . ]

The campaign to support Keskin has been branded “a campaign to support the PKK” while communiqués have been issued online declaring the human rights activist as a “persona non grata”.

Very interesting. A number of years after having served as one of Abdullah Ocalan’s lawyers, and having acted as a defense attorney in numerous PKK cases, the Gray Wolves are now bringing up the issue as if Eren Keskin were a member of PKK herself. This kind of accusation is more indicative of the state of legal affairs in Turkey, a state of affairs which focuses everything on the protection of the state and not on the people, and the disdain for which the state holds the principle of the presumption of innocence. But the accusation is a threat as well, from the second Bianet article, in Keskin’s own words:

“. . . They have declared me a persona non grata, they are condemning me ‘violently’. As it is, declaring someone as persona non grata means getting rid of them. Because, in the year 98, such articles, advertisements came out against Akin Birdal and a short while later Akin Birdal was shot. Because of this I invite them to rethink this. Will they be able to get out from under such a responsibility? There are people in this society who could read this advertisement and act in rage.”

Indeed, Keskin makes a valid point. In April, 1998, Hurriyet and Sabah published the “confessions” of PKK traitor Şemdin Sakik, who had been handed over to the TSK by the KDP in March of the same year. No doubt the “confessions” were an attempt on the part of Sakik to avoid a death penalty conviction, something which didn’t quite work out as planned. Since then, Turkey has had to abolish the death penalty as part of the Copenhagen Criteria, so Sakik now spends his time writing books for the TSK (through OYAK-owned publishers), as part of a larger state-sponsored propaganda campaign to deny the existence of Kurds.

This was the plan back in 1998, as well, and the Sakik “confessions” were used in an attempt to rid the TC of the troublesome presence of another Kurd, and legendary human rights campaigner, Akin Birdal, largely by attempting to falsely associate Birdal with the PKK, from a report made to the UN Commission on Human Rights:

Various articles were written with the aim of blackening the reputation of a tireless defender of human rights. One such, quoted below, appeared in Hürriyet – one of the largest-circulation daily newspapers in Turkey – trying to prove that disappearances do not take place in Turkey. Comically, this assertion is based on a book published by the police authorities and portrays the Association as “playing into the hands of the terrorists“.

The report to the UNCHR makes reference to a book published by the anti-terror section of the Turkish Criminal Investigation Department, a book which was used to target IHD, and which propaganda Hurriyet was all too eager to spread:

“It [the book] is the product of honest and meticulous research carried out on the basis of allegations published in the monthly bulletins of the Human Rights Association [IHD] covering a period of three years. The findings were that most of the people mentioned are in prison for having given assistance and shelter to PKK militants or for having been active in the PKK campaign; some of the allegations made are groundless and others relate simply to people who have never existed. It is extremely harmful to the interests of the country in which they (those in charge of the Association) live to use the Association’s name to make false allegations, allowing suspicion to fall unjustly on the security forces and trying to turn public opinion against the police.” Hundreds of names are mentioned in this book. Either the Association’s allegations regarding disappearances turn out to be imaginary or the people concerned are in prison or else installed in PKK camps. It makes one wonder whose side the Association is on … . ” (Hürriyet, 15 April 1998, from an article by Emin Cölasan)

At the time, the accusations of the traitor Sakik knew no bounds, and in its thirst for sensationalist anti-PKK propaganda, the Turkish media tripped all over itself to publish and broadcast the most absurd claims, including such wild stories as a Turkish BBC journalist transmitting coded PKK messages through his reports, claims that international currency fluctuations were indicative of imminent PKK attacks, the accusation that PKK had murdered Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, or that journalists, such as Mehmet Ali Birand , were PKK supporters. The truly amazing thing is that there are still those who believe in the likes of Şemdin Sakik.

It was during this government-inspired media feeding frenzy that the attempted assassination of Akin Birdal took place.

Not so oddly enough, Eren Keskin was no stranger to these events either. As the vice president of IHD, Keskin began to receive death threats, along with Osman Baydemir, a trend which continued throughout 1999, from Bianet‘s second article:

“But in the year 1999, at the time [outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party leader] Abdullah Ocalan was brought [to Turkey], I was one of his lawyers. At that time Osman Baydemir and I were receiving a lot of threats. The state proposed to give us protection. At that time we rejected this. They have to protect us anyway. This is their duty. I did not see it necessary to constantly go around with policemen.”

Keskin began receiving threats again in 2001, beginning in February, when she traveled to Silopî as part of a delegation investigating the disappearance of Kurdish political activists. She identified the voice of the caller as one who had called Akin Birdal before the assassination attempt on his life. More recently, in April, 2005, Keskin began receiving death threats from TIT, the same group who claimed the assassination attempt on Akin Birdal.

Are similar voices on the telephone coincidental? Are similar tactics by the power of the state coincidental? Is it coincidental that Gray Wolf women’s groups begin a public propaganda campaign on the same day TIT’s threat arrives at the IHD-Istanbul office, in a climate of increased media frenzy that is set off by the Council of State attack, with all it’s Susurluk undertones, or when the state has made the positive decision to re-engage the dirty war against the Kurdish people?

A reminder from the statement to the UNCHR:

In spreading false or tendentious information, therefore, the Turkish authorities played a central role in the attack on Mr. Birdal; the accusations against him were communicated to the press with total disregard for the secrecy of the inquiry and, despite their lack of substance, they were presented as if they were established fact. Even before a proper inquiry had been launched, the Turkish authorities – and first and foremost the Prime Minister – quickly decided on a policy of releasing highly diversionary information that would create complete confusion. There can thus be no doubt that those truly responsible for the attack on Akin Birdal will remain unpunished and will never be brought to justice. The truth of this has already been demonstrated following the murders of numerous human rights defenders or Kurdish activists – Vedat Aydin, Musa Anter, Medet Serhat, Mehmet Sincar and others – whose deaths were not seriously investigated and for whom justice was never done.

Let’s recall, too, that the Law to Fight Terrorism (1991) prescribes punishment for those who publish any information that makes anyone a target, even if such persons are unnamed (Article 6.1), or discloses information about “informants” (Article 6.3), and it protects the identities of interrogators, investigators and “informants” even during trial (Articles 12 and 14), but the same concern for the innocent is nonexistent, as the case of Akin Birdal and Eren Keskin prove.

If anything negative happens to Eren Keskin, we will know where to lay the blame, and we will begin with the following Gray Wolf organizations:

İstanbul Kadın Kuruluşları Birliği
Kadın Araştırmaları Derneği
Çağdaş Eğitim Vakfı
Türk Kadınlar Birliği İstanbul, Kadıköy, Adalar şubeleri
Türk Üniversiteli Kadınlar Derneği
İstanbul Barosu Kadın Hakları Komisyonu
Cumhuriyet Kadınları Derneği
Boğaziçi Soroptimist Kulübü
Kadın Haklarını Koruma Derneği
Türk Kadınlar Konseyi Derneği
İstanbul Kız Lisesi Eğitim Vakfı (İKLEV)
Fatih Kız Liseliler Derneği
Notre Dame de Sion Mezunlar Derneği
Emekli Subay Eşleri Derneği
CHP İl Kadın Kolları
DYP İl Kadın Kolları
Ada Dostları Derneği
Türk Hukukçu Kadınlar Derneği
Türk Anneler Derneği

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