22 March 2007 Edition

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Kurdish protest at Leinster House

A 200-strong gathering of the Kurdish-Irish community protested outside Leinster House on Tuesday, 6 March in support of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. The protest followed laboratory reports issued by Ocalan’s legal team which confirmed elevated levels of carcinogenic metals in his system. The demonstrators allege that Turkey is slowly executing the death penalty originally handed down to Ocalan who has been held in solitary confinement for eight years since his illegal rendition to Turkey in a joint operation between US, Greek and Israeli security services. This sentence was commuted to life in prison when Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002.
Ocalan’s PKK party seek Kurdish autonomy within the borders of Turkey, and democratic confederalism in the region guaranteeing them parity of esteem with citizens of the other states that occupy their homeland – Syria and Iran.
Kurdish men, women and students, many of them political exiles who saw their livelihoods devastated by the Turkish government’s scorched-earth policy which destroyed over 3,000 Kurdish villages, called on Irish politicians to hold their Turkish counterparts to account for their treatment of the Kurdish population.
Kurds have maintained that the isolation of Ocalan represents the political isolation of their nation. The protestors maintained that Kurds need a voice in international affairs and that Europe must recognise that the Kurdish question is a political not a security issue.
Azad, a 21-year-old politics student said: “Our voice is not heard at any level in Europe. The doors of diplomacy are always closed to us. We have no choice but to demonstrate in foreign streets while our leader is being executed as we speak”. Another protestor, Shoresh, a father of three who saw his farmlands and livestock  burned by the Turkish army because his brother went to the mountains to fight with PKK added: “We all support PKK. Turkey is the terrorist, not us. We want peace and democracy. This is all.”
Some protestors called for a boycott of Turkey as a holiday spot, saying there is a very serious security risk involved with going to Turkey which Irish people are not warned about.  
A number of Irish TDs voiced solidarity with the Kurdish cause. Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh signed a petition calling for an impartial international medical team to verify last week’s sinister laboratory results and publicise their findings.

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