Tag Archives: American Kurdish Information Network

Kurdish Emissaries to share details on ISIS outside both National Conventions

Written by Carol Benedict.

Kurds & Americans fighting together together in Rojava, Syria. Image via Reece Harding News Agency screen shot.

Kurds & Americans fighting together in Rojava, Syria. Image via Reece Harding News Agency screen shot.

 

 

The war against ISIS in the Middle East rages on with no end date set. The majority of the fighting on the ground that is winning back territory and pushing ISIS back is being done by Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Following the Dallas shootings and the murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Minneapolis, the Kurdish women fighters made a public statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“To our black sisters and brothers! The people of Kurdistan stand with you! Here are the women who fight ISIS in Rojava (northern Syria) – saluting your honorable struggle for freedom, dignity, and resistance!”

This follows a recent action in Washington DC, staged across the street from the Turkish Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. Named “A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan,” the organizers drew the comparisons between the history of the black people in America and that of the Kurds within the borders of Turkey. In the words of the event organizer. Kani Xulam of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN). The Vigil enraged the Turkish Embassy for 92 days before the group left the site.

Now, a trip to both National Conventions has been organized by the AKIN to provide information to Americans on the war against ISIS and how the American-Kurdish alliance strengthens both America and the stateless nation of Kurdistan. The media advisory issued by the group includes the following:

Information on how Kurds can help America win the war against ISIS will be available for the press at both:
–The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, beginning Saturday, July 16, 2016.
–The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning the following Saturday, July 23, 2016.
Kurdish Americans and their friends will be on hand to provide details on how Kurdish freedom fighters can beat ISIS overseas—before it can bring large scale attacks to America.
“Kurds are fighting ISIS tooth and nail and we want Americans to help us prevail,” said Kani Xulam, the director of American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), an organizer of the trip.

Banner to look for at both National Conventions to offer solidarity with Kurdish Americans. Image via Facebook.

Banner to look for at both National Conventions to offer solidarity with Kurdish Americans. Image via Facebook.

 

Xulam continues, “It may be viewed as a Cassandra like observation, but Kurds hold the key to the peace of American cities like Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Helping Kurds is an investment in peace in America.”

We challenge you to find these people at the National Convention of your choice. Their message of Peace is nonpartisan and welcoming.

Sometimes you have to take the extra effort to understand how peace can be attained. The choice is yours, the message is truth.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an indépendant researcher and human rights activist who has been studying Kurdish history, culture and politics for over three years. She currently writes for Occupy World Writes exclusively.

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Kurds, Too, Have A Dream

Under the totalitarian rule of President Recep Teyyip Erdogan of Turkey, the article you are about to read would be considered “terrorist propaganda” and warrants would be issued for its author and associates. To voice disagreement with the government, to ask for peace or even to report as journalists about those that do is identified as a separatist and thus terrorist activity. To be a Kurd has even far worse consequences.

Written by Carol Benedict.

From a 1979 rally in Washington, this photo captures the spirit of peaceful resistance that reflects the Kurds' desire for peace and freedom. Photogragh from "Voices of Peaceful Resistance" exhibit, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; Image by John Benedict.

From a 1979 rally in Washington DC, this photo captures the spirit of peaceful resistance that reflects the Kurds’ desire for peace and freedom. Photogragh from “Voices of Peaceful Resistance” exhibit, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; Image by John Benedict.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group on the planet with no country or land to call their own. Currently estimated at approximately 40 million strong, the Kurds live primarily in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia within a region known to them for millennia as Kurdistan, with millions in diaspora throughout the entire world including the United States.

Since January 15, 2016, a “Vigil For King’s Dream in Kurdistan” in Washington, DC has taken a presence across Massachusetts Avenue from the Turkish Embassy. Organized by Kani Xulam, founder and director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), the group is attempting to bring attention to the atrocities taking place in SE Turkey as that country descends into conditions of civil war.

Turkish diplomats have been the victims of up to 27 attacks worldwide by Armenian terrorists. Five of those have been in the U.S., three in California alone — one in 1973, and two in 1982. Despite the fact that none took place in Washington, to this day the Turkish ambassador’s residence off of Sheridan Circle, as well as the Turkish Embassy, enjoys round-the-clock protection from the Secret Service.

Massachusetts Avenue, also called “Embassy Row” because it is the location of the majority of international embassies, was closed today. This is the first time in all the years Kani has been in Washington that he has seen this happen.

On Thursday, March 31 2016, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Washington DC, he was also scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institute. He was greeted by protestors that offered him booing and rejection. Holding banners that read “End Turkish Denial,” “Erdogan: War Criminal on the Loose” and “Stop Turkey’s War on Kurds!” they shouted at the entourage. “Baby Killer Erdogan!” “We charge you with genocide!” “Long Live Kurdistan!” filled the air.

The group was several organizations who shared the same disdain for the Turkish President. They included those involved in “A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan,” Amnesty International and others. Reporters and supporters alike were subjected to attacks from plain clothes Turkish security.

The protest today exploded into chaos. One FB post read:

 Local Washington D.C. police officers were forced time and again to get between Erdogan’s security forces and journalists and protesters. At one point, an officer placed himself between one of Erdogan’s security guards and a cameraman he was moving to confront, while another angrily confronted several Turkish security guards in the middle of the street, telling them, “you’re part of the problem, you guys need to control yourselves and let these people protest.” Another Turkish security official pulled his colleague away after he began arguing with the officer. Other members of Ergodan’s team stood in front of the Brookings building, motioning for the protesters to come closer, and making obscene gestures.

“Today’s confrontation in Washington vividly illustrates how little Turkey’s government values human rights such as freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Those who were present at today’s protest saw firsthand the consequences of governments that violate human rights,” said T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for Europe, in a press release.

Our nation’s capitol is no stranger to peace vigils, demonstrations and protests. In January of this year, a woman died who had maintained a 32 year 24-hour vigil in Lafayette Square.

Concepcion “Picciotto, also called Connie or Conchita, manned a 24-hour vigil against nuclear proliferation from a makeshift camp next to the White House. The vigil site needed to be continuously attended by someone in order to remain in place… She had been a fixture at the encampment site in Lafayette Square since 1981, frequently speaking to tourists about nukes.”

Kani, as a resident for the last 23 years, knows this city quite well. Not only an impromptu “tour guide” during our visit that skirted congestion and tangled streets of hills, buildings and pedestrians safely, he has learned the history that made Washington DC the historical and tourist magnet that it is, drawing on average 67,000 visitors per day.

Seeing the White House from all directions, the Naval Observatory (Washington DC residence of Vice-President Joe Biden), all the buildings representing the functionality of the American government, seeing Obama’s Marine 1 helicopter depart, becoming entangled with traffic because of a demonstration in support of Palestinians: all this in one afternoon gave us reference for how hectic this city is around the clock.

All of this backdrop of the nation’s capital does not distract Kani from his work. It is a relatively never-ending pursuit of searching for news reports as well as responding to inquiries from those wanting information. AKIN lives up to its name on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

 

Azad Kobani and Carol Benedict wave pennant flags for the YPG/YPJ fighting forces in Rojava. Photo by John Benedict.

Azad Kobani and Carol Benedict wave pennant flags for the YPG (Men’s Units) and YPJ (Women’s Units) fighting forces in Rojava. Photo by John Benedict.

Kani’s decision to organize the “Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan” stems from two major directions: the support of like-minded individuals and recognition of the similarities between the Civil Rights Movement in America and the Kurdish struggle.

An astute scholar of history, Kani aligns the words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech with the voices of the Kurds across the world. He, like so many of us, believes in peaceful resistance as a means toward change. His past public actions have included rallys and hunger strikes to draw attention to the voices of over 40 million people begging for freedom.

He is not alone. Manning the street every day the Vigil site is able to be open is a native of Kobane, Syria and former parliamentarian of the Syrian government, Azad Kobani. He, too, has made this struggle for peace his life work.

Azad Kobani takes warmth from the fire as he reflects on the Kurdish struggle. (Image via FB.)

Azad Kobani takes warmth from the fire as he reflects on the Kurdish struggle. (Image: FB)

Standing the Vigil Site with Azad was a lesson in determination. Faced with a language barrier, we were unable to converse fluently. But Azad is a master at communicating regardless. He quietly took the yellow YPG pennant flag representing the men’s forces that are fighting ISIS in a region referred to as Rojava by the Kurds. In silence, he waved at every car, holding the flag. Realizing this is something he has done every day possible since January 15, I pulled the green YPJ flag representing the women’s fighting forces from the barricade fence and walked to the other end of the Vigil Site.

We got honks and waves back as people slowed down to read our signs and take our pictures. Many were tourists, that will undoubtedly show the photos to their friends and say, “Look! We were in Washington DC and there was this protest we drove by…” and the Vigil message spreads.

These are the seeds from which awareness and change can grow. Since all major media outlets refuse to cover this issue for the shockingly horrifying human tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes, this has become the only hope that many have for the dreams of living their life with the same self-determination and freedom as the rest of humanity is afforded.

Kani’s words will never leave my thoughts:

“Americans complain too much. They should spend a week living as a Kurd in Turkey, then see how their perspective would change.”

About the Author: 
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher studying Kurdish history, culture and politics for 3 years. She is also a human rights activist.

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The Lure of a Laptop vs. Kalashnikov

Editorial Note: Kani Xulam is organizer of “A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan,” a peace vigil taking place in Washington, DC, across the street from the Turkish Embassy. Occupy World Writes is sending two members to spend some time on the front lines of this event and bring you exclusive interviews, photos and information. Their trip begins today.

Written by Kani Xulam. Published 3-15-16 in Rudaw. Republished here with Author’s permission.

Tuğba Hezer serves as MP in the Turkish parliament. Image via Twitter.

Tuğba Hezer serves as MP in the Turkish parliament. Image via Twitter.

Some Kurds think the successes of Turkish leaders are gains for Kurdish masses.

Not me!

Greater Turkish successes delay freedom for the Kurds and stall liberation of Kurdistan in the greater Middle East.

When Turkish leaders blundered with their bizarre claim that Muslims first discovered the Americas and built mosques before churches arose there, I laughed at their absurdity—and felt that I might live to see the dawn of Kurdish freedom!

But last month was no laughing matter when Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, rained fire and brimstone on Tugba Hezer, a Kurdish member of the Turkish parliament, and threatened to throw her out of parliament.

What was Ms. Hezer’s horrible crime?

She apparently attended a wake to offer her condolences to the family of Abdulbaki Somer, a Kurdish militant who detonated his explosive-laden car beside a bus carrying Turkish officers in Ankara, killing himself and 29 Turks.

For a sitting member of the Turkish parliament to attend the wake of a “murderer” is “treasonous” and aids and abets “terrorism” against Turkey, thundered Mr. Davutoglu!

Rhetoric aside, he has a point.

Why did Ms. Hezer go to the wake of Abdulbaki Somer?

After examining her background, it seems she has a point too.

Tugba Hezer is young and impetuous.

Confrontation is as natural to her as swimming is for a duck.

But Kurds can’t afford to always be confrontational.

It is not the unbending oak tree that survives gale-force winds, but the flexible eucalyptus.

Winning with wisdom should be our ultimate goal—not the temptation for instant gratification.

Tugba Hezer, who is still a member of the Turkish parliament, can defuse the controversy with an apology to Parliament

She hasn’t asked for my help, but here it is anyway:

Mr. Speaker, and my fellow parliamentarians:

I come before you to apologize for my rash judgment to visit the wake of a Kurdish militant who sought solutions in senseless death.

I am deeply sorry for compounding your pain and suffering.

It was our duty to nudge him towards a culture of life.

We failed.

We paid a heavy price.

There is an alternative.

A treasured Turkish expression notes, “The moment you stop your losses, you are making profit.”

How do we profit from our goal of happiness in this land of primarily Turks and Kurds?

Let’s start with my case.

I am an accident of history, but the Kurds are a fact of Turkey as well as the greater Middle East.

In 1930, my ancestral village of Sor, part of the verdant Zilan Valley in Turkish Kurdistan, was marked for extinction.

The village had not committed a crime, but a few of its sons had apparently given aid and comfort to some fighters of the Agri rebellion against Turkey.

The Turkish government thought eradicating the inhabitants of Zilan Valley would teach the Kurds a lesson in subservience.

Impartial historians say 15,000 Kurds were cruelly executed by Salih Omurtak, the Turkish military commander.

My Great-grandfather Yunus miraculously survived the bloody massacre and nurtured a family that includes me.

I grew up with tales of brutality that have devastated my psyche.

I am not much different than 40 million Kurds who live in the Middle East.

History has taught us one constant, unwavering truth about persecution:

There is no pulpit like the martyrs’ graves!

Our Great Saladin said the same thing with different words: “Spilt blood never sleeps.”

Killing Kurds in Amed, in Zilan Valley, in Dersim, in Mahabad, in Halabja, and in Kobani did not extinguish the spark of freedom.

It only added fuel to the fire!

That fire of freedom translated itself into six million votes for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the June election of last year that catapulted me into the position of becoming a spokesperson for Kurds.

Turks and Kurds don’t have to fight—they need to talk, to turn this country into an amazing place for all and a place of refuge for the unfortunates of Syria and Iraq as well.

Perhaps some of you have had a chance to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent interview with President Obama who confides to the reporter his least favorite place in the world: the Middle East.

What does President Obama see in the Middle East that escapes our eyes?

He sees that we have imprisoned ourselves in lies and refuse to look at the world rationally.

Our newspapers, instead of nudging us towards a semblance of truth, turn us into blinds with seeing eyes such as when Hurriyet boasts, “Turkey belongs to the Turks!”

He sees young Kurds and Turks posing for cameras not with their laptops, but with Kalashnikov rifles!

The computers, we don’t need him to tell us, can launch our youth toward the unlimited expanse of outer space; the Kalashnikovs will only hurl them into a cold, limited hole six feet under!

“Only when all contribute their firewood,” says an old Chinese proverb, “can they build up a strong fire.”

Let us all lay our peaceful firewood upon the hallowed altar of justice, and set ablaze a bonfire of freedom that will gloriously elevate Turkey upon a majestic pedestal of liberty that will amaze the world.

Kani Xulam during a protest in Washington, DC. Image via kurdistan.org

About the Author:
Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington D.C. He is the founder of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) 

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Noam Chomsky supports A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan

Written by Carol Benedict

Noam Chomsky. Photo via AKIN.

Noam Chomsky. Photo via AKIN.

As A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan presents a daily display across from the Turkish embassy in Washington DC, support continues to grow for the dedicated individuals staffing the Vigil. With an expected storm bringing blizzard-like conditions to the DC area this weekend, the group is warmed by the knowledge that others are with them in spirit.

One such supporter is world-renowned US academic Noam Chomsky.

Professor Chomsky was recently singled out by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for having signed the same statement as 1,128 academia inside Turkey, calling for an end to the war against the Kurdish population of Turkey.

Under direction from Erdogan, arrests have begun of the signatories, with many others having their offices raided and the universities and colleges dismissing them from their positions.

Chomsky was accused by Erdogan of “ignorance and sympathising with terrorists.

Kani Xulam, organizer of the Vigil, communicated the following message to his supporters.

“We contacted Professor Chomsky and told him of our Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan and asked him for a message of solidarity for our participants and supporters. He wrote us back and expressed his support for our undertaking and wished us success in making the US policy harmless toward the Kurds.”

The following is Professor Chomsky’s reply to the group:

Very pleased to learn about what you are doing. The intensifying repression in Turkey is deplorable, and should be a matter of deep concern, particularly for those familiar with the grim history. I hope you will have success in arousing understanding, awakening concern, and bringing about the changes you call for in US government policy.
Noam Chomsky

A Vigil for King’s Dream in Kurdistan will remain until the indiscriminate war against the Kurdish population in Turkey ends. Many visitors to the Turkish Embassy are not cordial toward the Vigil’s participants. We believe that if the embassy would like the Vigil to end, they should ask their government to stop killing innocent Kurdish people within Turkey.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher studying Kurdish history, culture and politics. She is also a human rights activist and advocate.

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Fighting Both Sides of the Same War: Is Turkey Using Attacks On ISIL As Cover for Assault on Kurds?

Originally published July 29, 2015 by Democracy Now!

Republished under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Occupy World Writes Editorial Comment: 
Since our inception, we have stood firmly in support of the Kurds and the struggle they face throughout the region. We continue our plea to the United States government to remove the PKK from their list of recognized terrorist groups. When one considers all the facts of the matter – to support Turkey’s actions against the Kurds while recognizing the Kurds as the only force capable and willing to repel ISIL – only contributes to instability and strengthens ISIL’s resolve. To continue this indecisive policy will result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

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