UN support Turkish plan for northern Syria as 300,000 Kurds forced out
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appeared to back a Turkish plan to settle millions of mostly Arab refugees from other parts of Syria in an area where more than 180,000 Kurds had been forced to flee in recent weeks. The UN leader thanked Turkey for its strong cooperation and support and agreed to form a team to study Turkey’s proposal and engage with Turkey. The UN’s news service put out a statement amenable to Turkey’s plan and seeking to study it.
In the discussions the UN chief did not critique Turkey’s October military offensive which has led to human rights violations, including extrajudicial assassinations and videos of executions of prisoners by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups. The UN also did not say the 180,000 civilians, which its own experts have recorded fleeing, have a right to return to their homes in northern Syria. Instead, the UN now is studying how to implement a Turkish occupation of northern Syria and how to work with Ankara on a “safe zone.” The UNHCR, which is supposed to ensure the right of the 180,000 people forced to flee by Turkey’s offensive, will now be asked to study the proposal to replace them with 3.6 million other Syrian refugees who live in Turkey.
It now appears that NATO, the UN, Russia and other world powers will work to prevent the return of people who fled Turkey’s offensive and to settle others in their place, with the imprimatur of UN approval. NATO has supported Turkey’s offensive, claiming security concerns make it acceptable, asking only for restraint from Ankara. So far restraint has meant hundreds of thousands of people have become homeless in three weeks.
Turkey and its proxies now occupy a swath of northern Syria including Afrin where 160,000 Kurds were expelled in 2018, and Idlib where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was living, and Jarabulus. Turkey doesn’t week to settle Syrian refugees in those areas, it only wants to send refugees from other parts of Syria to areas where Kurds live, using Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups to cleanse the land first before resettlement occurs. Ankara calls this a “safe zone,” but for the 300,000 people who have fled the fighting, it has not been safe. Reports in media describe executions and attacks on civilians. The US has helped Turkey achieve its goal by opening the airspace to a Turkish offensive and working to exclude Kurds from the UN-backed Geneva process for Syria’s constitution. The US excluded its own Syrian Democratic Forces, a group the US helped create in 2015, from Geneva and has excluded other Kurdish groups in eastern Syria from participating. The UN, Turkey, Russia and others have also made sure to exclude representatives of the Kurdish minority in eastern Syria from participating. Russia embarked on joint patrols in eastern Syria with Turkey over the last days. Kurdish youth threw stones at the Turkish military vehicles, protesting the military occupation.
The UN study of Ankara’s plan to settle eastern Syria may be the first time that the UN has actively worked to resettle people from a country in an area they are not from while ensuring that people who fled have no ability to return to their homes. Kurds and their supporters have said this amounts to ethnic-cleansing. If that is the case the UN may be aiding in ethnic cleansing, a major departure from the usual UN mandate. In other instances the UN has generally opposed war and invasions as a way to solve issues, and has supported refugees and their rights to return. However, Turkey’s invasion of norther Syria, which was proposed at the UN General Assembly in September, has received support now from the UN Secretary General. The Syrian government, authorities in eastern Syria, and local people expelled from their homes have no say in the UN’s decision to study Turkey’s proposal and the UN Secretary General has never met with people from eastern Syria who lost their homes in the recent invasion.
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Red Cross Week Report (9 – 13 Oct)
Please find the pdf document as full report of Red Cross
Turkish and Islamic groups military invasion in Northeast Syria,
We Will Choose Our People
The world first heard of us, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), amid the chaos of our country’s civil war. I serve as our commander in chief. The SDF has 70,000 soldiers who have fought against jihadi extremism, ethnic hatred, and the oppression of women since 2015. They have become a very disciplined, professional fighting force. They never fired a single bullet toward Turkey. U.S. soldiers and officers now know us well and always praise our effectiveness and skill.
I have always told our forces, this war is ours! The jihadi terrorists of the Islamic State came to Syria from all over the world. We are the ones who should fight them, because they have occupied our lands, looted our villages, killed our children, and enslaved our women.
We lost 11,000 soldiers, some of our best fighters and commanders, to rescue our people from this grave danger. I have also always instructed our forces that the Americans and other allied forces are our partners, and so we should always make sure that they are not harmed.
Amid the lawlessness of war, we always stuck with our ethics and discipline, unlike many other nonstate actors. We defeated al Qaeda, we eradicated the Islamic State, and, at the same time, we built a system of good governance based on small government, pluralism, and diversity. We provided services through local governing authorities for Arabs, Kurds, and Syriac Christians. We called on a pluralistic Syrian national identity that is inclusive for all. This is our vision for Syria’s political future: decentralized federalism, with religious freedom and respect for mutual differences.
The forces that I command are now dedicated to protecting one-third of Syria against an invasion by Turkey and its jihadi mercenaries. The area of Syria we defend has been a safe refuge for people who survived genocides and ethnic cleansings committed by Turkey against the Kurds, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Armenians during the last two centuries.
We guard more than 12,000 Islamic State terrorist prisoners and bear the burden of their radicalized wives and children. We also protect this part of Syria from Iranian militias.
When the whole world failed to support us, the United States extended its hands. We shook hands and appreciated its generous support. At Washington’s request, we agreed to withdraw our heavy weapons from the border area with Turkey, destroy our defensive fortifications, and pull back our most seasoned fighters. Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us.
We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives.
President Donald Trump has been promising for a long time to withdraw U.S. troops. We understand and sympathize. Fathers want to see their children laughing on their laps, lovers want to hear the voices of their partners whispering to them, everyone wants to go back to their homes.
We, however, are not asking for American soldiers to be in combat. We know that the United States is not the world police. But we do want the United States to acknowledge its important role in achieving a political solution for Syria. We are sure that Washington has sufficient leverage to mediate a sustainable peace between us and Turkey.
We believe in democracy as a core concept, but in light of the invasion by Turkey and the existential threat its attack poses for our people, we may have to reconsider our alliances. The Russians and the Syrian regime have made proposals that could save the lives of millions of people who live under our protection. We do not trust their promises. To be honest, it is hard to know whom to trust.
13 Oct – Rojava Red Cross Report
- In the early morning, the Turkish air forces were flying very carefully over Ein Issa camp which leads to fear between all the IDPs and Refugees inside of it. After that, around 10 am some families left, including ISIS families from the annex section. As the fight was coming so close, the security team of the camp and the self-administration announced that they were not able anymore to control it.
Kurdish Red Crescent, which is the main health responder in the camp, had to leave as well due to security issues, and other actors left. There was a burn of tents in the annex section, and ISIS supporters were carrying weapons with them (seems they had it before). After few hours the Asaysh was able to go back to Einissa checkpoint while the IDPs went to Tilelsemin village, south of Einissa.
IDPs and refugees leaving the camp of Einissa, including ISIS families.
- Two ambulances of the health Department were kidnapped on the road to Tell Abiad, and no other information about them reached us so far.
- Turkish backed forces took control of Mabruka Camp during the afternoon. Reportedly, there were about 15 IDP families still in the camp at the time.
- Around 4 pm, a Turkish airstrike impacted the center of Sere Kaniye- Ras Al Ain town, which was at the time densely populated. The attack caused 11 deaths and 74 injuries at least, among them civilians, and reportedly several international journalists, but we think the number of the victims will increase because there were a lot of several injuries. Those people were from all NES area community, heading to the city to show solidarity with SDF. All were referred to Tel Tamir (S. Legerin Hospital), which was already full, so our team had to refer them to Hasake national hospital and Qamishlo hospital.
Legerin Hospital in Tiltemir was full of the patient as there were a considerable number of casualties at the same time
- At the late-night between 11-12 pm, there was bombing on a TSB managed by the health department of NES in Asadiya village 15 km south Ras Al Ain, as a result the two paramedics were heavily injured with one ambulance driver, they were referred to Tiltemir hospital then To Hasake.
12 Oct – Rojava Red Cross Report
- Kobane was strongly targeted since the night. The main hospital was out of the service for three hours because of close bombing that caused damage. Massive displacement was recorded.
- An explosion occurred in front of Al-Hasakeh Central Prison, No casualties or escapes were recorded.
- Around 7- 7:15 am, the Trauma Stabilization Point (TSP) set up by KRC in Salihiye village, south of Ras Al Ain, has been hit by what we believe was an airstrike. The TSP was temporarily placed there to support injured persons, 15 minutes away from the front line of RAA. Two KRC staff were injured. Four patients where inside of the TSP but they were not further injured and the staff referred them to Tel Tamer hospital. Two ambulances have been damaged. Both them and staff were clearly displaying KRC logo. KRC staff on the ground report that the airstrike was not nearby but believed they were directly targeted. As a result, the two ambulances were out of the services and the driver and the paramedic were injured.
- The entirety of the M4 between Ein Issa and Tell Tamer remainds under SDF control. However, turkish baked groups have reportedly made territorial advances between Tell Abiad and Ras Al Ain during the night – around Rajim Aanwa area and possibly further south. And after that they stopped the vehicles on the road and killed some of them (could be only the kurds). The head of one party in NES (Hevrin Khelelf) was one of the casiualties and was captured with the driver. As Kurdish Red Crescent with our humantarian partners we get a lot of support from Hevrin as she was into the humantarian work deeply. One of her speaches- “The war in Syria has destroyed the places of childhood of millions of Syrians. In
Ain Issa camp for displaced Syrians, we suggested that we give the displaced people every tent, a small tree, they plant in front of their tent. Take care of it. To be remembrance of them, after they left the camp towards their cities and homes. It will be a beautiful green memory, in a land that has grieved them and made them homeless. ”
- Tell Abiad was heavily bombed all the day and medical teams are still working inside of it trying to help the injures although there was a lot of randomly targeting everywhere, which still limit the movement and the work in trauma stabilization points and stop the hospital. KRC team there were trying to rise a flag showing that they are humanitarian organization but this didn’t work as they targeted the TSP in Ras Al Ain.
- KRC teams are not able to reach Ras Al Ain anymore, but we are still trying to find a way. There is targeting on our ambulances as we try to go closer. After the TSP was targeted the situation get worse.
11 Oct – Rojava Kurdistan Red Cross
• Clashes continued overnight in the western and eastern outskirts of Ras Al Ain Town, with OAG advances recorded in the industrial area of the town. Conflict activity decreased after 1100hrs today Tell Abiad Sub-District, during the night SDF regained control over Tel Fender and Yasbseh villages, and OAGs regained control of Yasbseh in the morning. This morning, indirect fire attacks continued south of Tell Abiad town, mainly in and around Badi and Ein Al-Arus (south west) and Breighi (south east).
- Additionally, last night, cross border indirect fire and cross border clashes were recorded across Quamishlo and Al-Malikeyyeh Districts. Following the cross-border exchanged in Al-Malikeyyeh Sub-District, TAF artillery reinforcement were sent across the border from Hiyaka
- In Quamishlo city, indirect fire was observed on 4 occasion between onto Qanat Al-Sweis and western neighborhoods of the city as well as onto the Asayish training center of Himo
- Elsewhere, one artillery strike was recorded onto Samasakh/ Bostan and Zheiriyeh in Malikeyyeh Sub-District, one onto Tal Khatun in Qahtaniya Sub-District and one indirect fire occurred north of Mabruka town
- A car bomb exploded today in Qamishlo in Monir Habib street (one main road of Qamishlo) and as a result one civilian was killed and 5 were injured in front of one popular restaurant (Omari)
- Since the last night all Eindiwar town was evacuated afterward the civilian houses were burned by Turkish army/FSA.
- Mabruka camp (Ras al Ain district) had to evacuate all the IDPs to other camps due to the threating and targeting from the Turkish army and the rebels (FSA).
- In the late evening conflicts in Al Hol camp, in the annex section which contains ISIS families, where reported by KRC team. The camp security responded. In the time of writing the tensions are still ongoing. No casualties reported yet.
- 5 ISIS fighters could escape from the main prison in Qamishlo, after targeting by Turkish forces. Reported by Asayish (Kurdish police)
- There is a lack of water in whole area of Hasakeh, due to the targeting the main water station in Alok, which covers more than 500.000 people. This is also affecting all hospitals in this region.
- Electricity and phone networks are decreasing in general in all the areas, especially in the border strip.
The total number of the IDPs from the border strip to the southern areas since the beginning of the attack:
10 Oct – Rojava Red Cross
Since this morning, TAF has removed parts of the border wall near Tal Halaf, Tal Arqam and Aziziyeh villages (All Ras Al Ain, Sere Kaniye) and TAF (Turkish Armed Forces) and OAGs have engaged in clashes with SDF during attempts to advances further inside NES.
Clashes were reported in the three locations mentioned above as well as in Ras Al Ain Town, Western Alok, near Jan Tamer (Yezidian village) and Bir Asheq village (also all in Ras Al Ain sub-district). There have been no territorial changes at the time of writing.
In Ein Issa Sub-district, two airstrikes were recorded against a bridge 3km south of Ein Issa town.
Cross border fire and clashes taking place in and around Tell Abiad town have stopped at around 0300hrs with no territorial changes.
- Sere Kaniye Ras Al Ain (x7)
- Tell Abiad (x3)
- Ein Issa sub(x2)
- Al-Malekkiyeh Derik sub-district (x1) Indirect Fire Impacts:
- Tell Abiad sub-district (x9)
- Ras Al Ain sub-district (x6)
- Al-Malekkiyeh sub-district (x4)
- Quamishli city (x4)
- Jawadiyah sub-district (x3)
- Amuda sub-district (x2)
- Ain Al Arab/Kobane (x2)
Heavy clashes were ongoing in Tilebeyd and in the morning while there was a delegation from the tripes going to support SDF from Ein issa to Tilebyed, their convoy was targeted and casualties were reported.
The Kurdish red crescent and MSF working in the hospital had then limited access to the area of Tilebeyed, while KRC teams are depending on Trauma stabilization points and ambulances (at least 15 ambulances are involved in the response so far) while the main hospital to be referred to is still KRC hospital (Shehid Legerin) in Tel Tamr, private Hasake Hospitals supported by WHO and private Qamishli Hospitals.
|Any further event/incidents will be shared in the next update.|
Casualties and damages so far:
Current information suggests the following civilian casualties recorded by KRC team until 9pm 10.10.2019
09.10. – From the whole region NES (North-East Syria): 20 injuries – between the ages 10-50 (male and female), 3 dead cases – ages unknown at time of writing (male and female). 11 of them just in Qamishlo.
10.10. – From the whole region NES: 16 injuries – between the ages 8-60 (male and female), 8 dead cases (male and female) – between the ages 11-73 (male and female) 6 from Serekaniye and 2 from Qamishlo. Most injured persons where today in Qamishlo.
The 8 years old girl lost her leg, her brother 11 died.
between last night and this morning, the following developments took place:
In Ras Al Ain Sub-District, clashes continued overnight around the Alok Water Station, but SDF managed to repel OAGs attempted advances.
9 Oct – Rojava Red Cross Report
In 9th of October:
- Sere Kaniye (Ras Al Ain) x7
- Ein Issa x2
- Tell Abiad x1
- 1635hrs: indirect fire against Tell Salloush(west Al Munbateh) – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
- 1640hrs: airstrike onto previous CF border post in Tell Fender – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
- 1650hrs: indirect fire onto Bir Asheq checkpoint – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
- 1650hrs: two airstrikes against Abu Serra and Hoshan villages (approx. 15km northwest of Ein Issa Town) – Ein Issa Sub-District. Six SDF members were reportedly killed.
- 1700hrs: indirect fire on a military position of the Tell Abiad Military Council (evacuated a week ago) and onto the school in Yabseh village – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
- 1730hrs: Indirect fire towards Qanat Swiys Neighbourhood of Quamishli City –Quamishli Sub-District.
- 1730hrs: Mortar rounds and artillery fire onto the outskirts of Mansura village – Al-Malekkiyeh Sub-district.
- 1740hrs: Indirect Fire onto the outskirts ofEsmailiyeh village – Al-Malekkiyeh Sub-district.
- 1820hrs: Indirect Fire against Tal Elhasanat and Kherbet Balak villages – Jawadiyah Sub-district.
- 1830hrs: TAF removed parts from the wall north of Quamishli City.
- At night a lot of clashes were happening in Tal Abyed and casualties from both sided were recorded.
The Kurdish red crescent has already declered on 9th :
This targeting is affecting the situation in NES for Local and IDPs in the 7 main camps in NES, we have already declared in KRC that:
|Due to the clashes on the border with Turkey and injuries and casualties, we have been required to||15|
|reposition our medical and ambulance teams from several camps such as Al Hol, Areesha, Ein Issa, Roj|
|and other camps. Unfortunately, this situation may cause a decline in the quality of work in these|
|camps, which contain tens of thousands of refugees and displaced people, but the priorities of the|
Most of our partners from humanitarian organizations and other INGOs in the region, for security reasons, have limited access to the camps, which threatens to decrease the service and increase the burden on the camp administrations and security forces guarding certain sectors within these camps such as Al Hol. We will work in the Kurdish Red Crescent in our best efforts to arrange our teams to respond to the emergency situation on the border with Turkey and to continue working with the same quality in the camps.
The hospital in Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ain) is out of services, cases have been referred to Tel Tamr Hospital, Hasakeh Hospital, and Ein Issa Hospital.
The hospital of Tel Abiad (MSF) is out of the service so the cases were moved to other areas such as Ein Issa, and Tel Tamer.
The hospital of Hasake as all Hasake area have lack of water which creates problem to respond,
The largest Christian Neighborhood (Bisheriya) in NE Syria is being bombed and some civilian houses were burned, 2 of the dyed civilians were from there.
A Kurdish Girl’s Lonely Death
Text remarks delivered on February 18, 2016 at the Woman’s Club of Roland Park, Baltimore, Maryland.
We are all gathered here today, in safety and comfort.
That is good, and we owe the privilege to a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln once memorably put it.
But let me show you an alternative view.
Let me tell you about the lack of safety and security in my country.
Turkish tanks are violently rumbling through Kurdish cities.
They are heartlessly shelling Kurdish homes and businesses.
They are pitilessly burning trapped civilians in basements.
They are repeating the vile Islamic State barbarism: Roasting prisoners alive in cages.
You may say: “I haven’t heard about this.”
And you are right.
The American media, for some mysterious reason, is covering up the story.
It has yet to broadcast it as “BREAKING NEWS” on CNN, for example.
And yet, this horrifying war is so shocking that it may soon surpass the turbulent civil war in Syria, which you have heard about.
Future historians may look back for telltale signs of what sparked the war.
I can tell you two people who have done more to trigger this war than anyone.
One is Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, who originated the insane proposition that a living language, Kurdish, should die to make room for Turkish, his mother tongue.
The other is Recep Erdogan, current president of Turkey, who has brazenly boasted: If Kurds set up a Kurdistan in the wilds of Argentina, he would fight them even there!
But the Kurds don’t want to set up a Kurdistan in Argentina.
We want our Kurdistan to be where the Kurds are, where they have been for thousands of years, and that is the Middle East.
This desire to be free puts us at odds with the fanatical Turkish president, who equates Kurdish freedom with Turkish treason, and has vowed to fight us forever.
He will, unless super powers intervene, have his fight, Kurds have no intention of going down on their knees this time, but how this war is unfolding, and what you could do about it, is the topic of my address today.
Before I get any further, let me be a good guest and acknowledge my debt to Sally—your events coordinator for international affairs, for inviting me to be with you this afternoon.
Please join me in giving my kind hostess, your friend and colleague, a hearty round of applause!
“International Affairs” are hefty words, Sally, but I’ll try to make sense of them the way you do with how the inhabitants of Roland Park—home to some of you here—interact with one another.
When neighbors act with one another, they are often moral—seldom cruel—but the same can’t be said of larger populations’ interactions with one another, as Reinhold Niebuhr warned us in his book, Moral Man and Immoral Society.
Sometimes—instead of waging war on ignorance or finding cure for cancer or investing in the exploration of outer space—neighbors, led astray by psychopaths, marshal their strength to ban languages, prohibit singing, and cultivate hatred, to add misery to our tortured world.
I know—because I suffered in such a world brutally imposed upon Kurds by the Turkish state.
I am what you might call a rehabilitated child of their corrupt culture.
I am a product of Turkish Kurdistan.
When I left home in my late teens, I struggled long and hard to find my Kurdish voice, and when I finally found it, I vowed not to speak Turkish—the language of my tormentors—for as long as I live.
My war with the Turkish language lasted eight long years.
I then realized that I may be able to keep Turkish at bay, but 20 million Kurds inside Turkey were not as lucky, and if I wanted them to be as free as I am, I needed to use the Turkish language to free them from their captors.
Relations between Kurds and Turkish leaders are so badly damaged, unfortunately, that it’s hard to find a common thread to weave the fragile, sorely needed fabric of peace.
Speaking as only one Kurd, I could cite you countless tales of hateful assaults and hideous insults, but I fear some violent details would be too painful for some of the delicate souls in my audience.
The merciless brutality of the Turkish leaders, I can assure you, would fit perfectly in a Stephen King horror movie.
The Turkish ruling circles remain stubbornly wedded to the pig-headed prejudices of their fathers.
The fathers committed violent genocide against the Armenians.
The sons are waging a combination of cultural genocide with occasional mass killings to accomplish the same end with the Kurds.
The Turkish-Kurdish conflict is in dire need of peacemakers.
Perhaps there are some in this audience who feel the urgent need to do God’s work between two badly estranged peoples, fulfilling the Biblical beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: For they shall be called the children of God.”
Right now, there is nothing “blessed” about the many Middle Eastern countries.
And we certainly cannot applaud dictatorial countries such as Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran home to the world’s 40 million hapless Kurds.
They are violently stomping their despotic boot on the helpless necks of their downtrodden citizens, who ask only for freedom.
And they are doing it so brutally that I wish I had Patrick Henry’s great skills, to make you see how badly the Kurds need your help.
How can our Kurdish lands be restored to their rightful owners?
They were treated as spoils of war after World War I, and heartlessly partitioned by the British and the French, the way a cooked turkey is carved up at American thanksgiving?
The French were arbitrarily given what we Kurds fondly call Rojava, or Western Kurdistan, as a part of Syria.
When Paris ended its colonial rule, the Arab majority took over our lands, and, at one time, denied some of us, even basic citizenship rights.
The British were given what we Kurds fondly call Basur, Southern Kurdistan, as part of Arab Iraq.
And when London ended its colonial rule, the Arab majority in Iraq declared Kurdistan an inseparable part of Arab lands, and Saddam Hussein didn’t think twice to gas us.
The Russians were promised what we Kurds fondly call Bakur, Northern Kurdistan, but declined their gains because their October Revolution at home kept them busy.
That didn’t help the Kurds, though.
The Turks gladly gobbled up that land, and became our lord and master again—and with renewed vengeance.
The Persians were already in possession of what we Kurds fondly call Rojhelat, Eastern Kurdistan, and that continued through successive shahs as well as theocratic despots, such as Khomeini and Khamenei to this day.
Today, the arbitrary walls that Europeans and local despots built throughout our lands have been blown away, at least partially, and honesty compels me to give credit—
But let me be careful how I say it, lest I be misunderstood.
Strange as it may seem, in our world turned upside down, credit, for this bit of good news, for the Kurds, goes to the merciless Islamic State.
Please, don’t get me wrong, we have not sent out congratulatory messages to the Khalif of Raqqa, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
For he has also sliced our heads like watermelons, mixing our blood with yours as his bloodthirsty jihadists beheaded your beloved Americans: James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig while also enslaving thousands of our Yezidi women as concubines.
In Syria and Iraq, the Kurds and the Americans have drawn a little closer, and now fight the Islamic State together.
But, unfortunately, in Turkey, we are as far apart as the earth is from the moon.
Why is that?
The Kurds are fighting and dying for the same fond hope: simply a land where they can live freely.
You are Americans, and I am a Kurd. But when it comes to love of freedom, we should all be Americans and we should all be Kurds.
Sadly, that is not so.
It is also sad, and it pains me to say so—especially to a lovely American audience—but America has often shown the Kurds more of its Benedict Arnold side than its Thomas Jefferson side.
But I won’t dwell on that betrayal here.
Instead, let me tell you what it’s like to live as a Kurd.
I can best do that by telling you about a young Kurdish girl, who was doing nothing but what innocent young 16-year-old girls do.
Her name was Rozerin Cukur.
She was a gifted high school student and hoped to attend a university to become a psychologist.
On December 2, 2015, the Turkish authorities ordered a lockdown of several neighborhoods in Sur—home to some of her closest friends at school, with a population of 120,000 souls, mostly Kurds.
Basic services such as water, electricity and phone were cut off.
The Turkish order cited the presence of barricades in Sur and vowed to destroy them.
The communiqué failed to mention, of course, that the Kurds had tried to work with the government, and had elected 80 representatives to the Turkish parliament to be their spokespersons.
They had waited for an invitation to form a coalition government of Turks and Kurds, but were excluded from deliberations, viewed as suspects, and targeted by Islamic State militants with links to shadowy Turkish groups.
This prompted the Kurdish youth to issue a communiqué of their own: Unless they were respected and accepted as Kurds with the right of self-rule included, the armed presence of Turks would not be welcomed in their midst.
Eight days later, on December 10, the lockdown was lifted temporarily.
Thinking that it had ended permanently, Rozerin donned her school uniform—to make sure that police knew she was a student—and visited a close friend in Sur, the newly freed zone.
The next day, while Rozerin was still at her friend’s house, the lockdown began again at 4:00 pm.
The word, however, never reached Rozerin on time or perhaps she didn’t want to leave her friend in danger and alone.
A month of long and lonesome days… filled with indescribable and heart-wrenching misery… sadly passed before her family heard any news of their daughter.
The shocking revelation finally came on the evening news, of January 8, 2016:
“Rozerin Cukur was shot dead, today, with a single bullet to her head by a sniper.”
Just the cryptic: Your daughter is dead!
The family was devastated.
They went to the Turkish authorities to let them recover the body of their executed daughter, only to be told that she lay on the ground in a no-go zone, and if they entered it, they could also be shot on sight.
Not knowing what to do, Rozerin’s mom has begun a vigil, trying to end this farce—this gross and flagrant miscarriage of justice.
While the anguished mother waits, she fears that stray dogs and cats may be feasting on the carcass of her beloved daughter.
Yesterday marked the 40th day since Rozerin’s death.
There is still no closure for the Cukur family, or for that matter in the larger Kurdish society.
Without a body, there cannot even be a funeral service.
The best I can do, in my own limited way, is to try and conduct my own memorial service, here with you today.
Let me try:
We are gathered at this difficult time for the Cukur family, and all Kurds.
A young life was cut short 40 days ago yesterday, and she still remains unburied.
Perhaps it is a sign from God that so long as the Kurdish Question remains unaddressed, the Rozerins of Kurdistan will not even have a grave of their own!
Apparently we don’t have a right to a decent burial, just as we don’t have a right to a decent life on this earth!
What have we done to deserve this fate?
Are we evil for wanting to take in the fresh air of freedom?
Are we not the children of God?
Should a young Kurdish girl like Rozerin be heartlessly left unburied, to the delight of stray dogs and cats?
I realize that young Rozerin may seem cold and impersonal to you, but let me tell you a little bit about what she was like when her excited blood coursed vibrantly in her throbbing veins.
Rozerin begged to start school early, and did so a year ahead of her friends.
She excelled in her studies, winning several awards for her diligence: a wristwatch, a chess set, and a used camera, since a new one was too expensive.
She was a voracious reader, devouring a book a week and becoming a proud member of her local library.
She loved stray dogs and cats and bought them food or took them home for food.
Perhaps one or two of the stray dogs or cats that Rozerin befriended, now, sit in silent vigil beside her lonely body, mourning the loss of their gentle and affectionate friend.
If young Rozerin could speak to us, I think she might cry out to us her dreadful distress, as the Psalmist did in Psalms 25:16:
“Turn to me, and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
Perhaps we could turn for a moment, each in our own way, in our own hearts and minds, and reverently pause for a moment of silence—so that our prayers may lift the spirits of the lonely and afflicted family of young Rozerin.
Those words are so fitting: “Turn to me, and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
They are fitting because young Rozerin was truly lonely and afflicted in her death.
But let us turn back from Rozerin’s awful death to her lovely life.
In life, Rozerin loved many things.
She loved taking photos of others, of Sur—the old walled city of Amed, the place that had provided her eyes the first sights, her ears the first sounds and her heart the first and the last beat.
She had a special fascination with things Japanese, and loved their cartoons, especially the Sasuke and Sakura series.
She loved writing stories too.
In one story, the word that almost foretold her coming death was “Sakura,” a type of cherry tree that is revered in Japan.
Rozerin revered it as well.
Their flowers bloom brightly, mesmerize their fans, and drop very quickly—denoting life and death in its most magnificent and most tragic ways.
That, sad to say, sums up Rozerin’s heart-rending life.
It is a life we will not forget.
It is a death—whose ugly face, forced upon it by Turkish brutality, is one we must never forget.
We must never forget—because Rozerin’s life, heartlessly cut down in the flower of her promising youth, is the catastrophic face of far too many Kurdish people today.
It is the face of all people, all over the world, hungering to be free.
To live free—and to die free.
Not to be shot down like a mad dog, and left to rot in the streets!
Just as Americans struggled to gain their freedom from England, so do we Kurds desire our freedom from the Turks and others who hold us in bondage.
Our undying love of freedom is stronger than the merciless hatred of some Turks towards liberating our people and our country.
When that happy day of our freedom comes, we will bury Rozerin’s blessed bones under a Sakura tree in a free Kurdistan to rest in peace till the end of times.
God bless you, Rozerin.
God bless freedom—and may it grow until it covers the entire world.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.