Turkey: No country for Kurdish newspapers

The newspaper formerly known as Welat may hold a record for the number of names under which it has published. Welat, Hawar, Welatê Me, Dengê, and Azadiya Welat are just a few of the titles the paper has held since its founding more than 25 years ago.

As the only nationally distributed newspaper in Turkey to be printed in the Kurdish language, the paper was subject to many bans, but its staff always found a way to evade the censors and refound the paper under a new name. Until now.


August 23

‘Lessons in Democracy’

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s re-election as President of Turkey on June 24 came as no surprise. Erdoğan has now ruled Turkey as either president or prime minister for more than fifteen years and had called snap presidential and parliamentary elections because he believed the opposition was in a disoriented state. The only innovation was that the presidential poll was held with one of the main candidates, Selahattin Demirtaş, who came third, confined in a high-security prison.


July 6

Prisoners of a vision

ON JANUARY 31, 2017, four lawyers arrived at the steps of Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court on the west bank of the Nile in central Cairo. Led by Negad El Borei, one of the best-known lawyers in the country, they entered the court to file the forms needed to open a case against the Egyptian government. The petition they carried contained a remarkable finding: one of the main laws the Egyptian military government has used to imprison thousands of political opponents — most of whom are still in jail — does not exist.


June 27

Egypt’s sham election

Egypt’s President – once General, now Field Marshal, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – has earned another title: Mr 97 per cent. In an election held at the end of March, Sisi retained Egypt’s presidency with 97 per cent of the valid votes – the same percentage he won in 2014, when he first took the office. The Egyptian election authority claimed that 41 per cent of the electorate turned out, a figure that seems highly unlikely, at least if the countless photographs of deserted polling stations are anything to go by.

The kind of crude rural vote-buying that is de rigueur in most poor countries certainly went on. The regime bought large numbers of votes in the countryside, often for sugar. In an effort to pump the turnout numbers, the election authority threatened to fine non-voters, another well-worn trick. There were also some innovations: on the first day of the election the governor of Beheira province pledged that the villages with the highest turnout would be rewarded by having their water and drainage fixed…


April 19

Letter from Cairo

Die Gamaat-ad-Daula-al-Arabija-Straße ist die Hauptachse des Mohandessin-Viertels im Westen Kairos. Der langgezogene Boulevard ist von teuren Geschäften und Cafés gesäumt, die vor allem reiche Ägypter und Touristen aus der Golfregion anziehen…

(This article was published with Le Monde Diplomatique in German, Spanish, and Persian)


November 9

In Hewler

Almost everyone who lives in the city known to the rest of the world as Erbil calls it by its Kurdish name: Hewlêr. The Kurds in what is now Iraq – like the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran – have for decades been administered by a state that few of them think of as their own. The independence referendum held last month in Iraqi Kurdistan delivered the result everyone expected: 92.7 per cent of the population answered ‘yes’ to the question (posed in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen and Assyrian) ‘Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Region to become an independent state?’ Their hope is that we will all start using Hewlêr instead of Erbil before long.


October 6

The man on the island

For eighteen years Abdullah Öcalan has been imprisoned on an island in the middle of the Sea of Marmara. Once an Ottoman naval base used against the Byzantines, the island of İmralı is now a modern Château d’If, designed to hold the man successive Turkish governments have regarded as the greatest threat to “the indivisible unity of the Sublime Turkish State”. Öcalan commanded the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during the height of its war, in the 1980s and 90s, to establish an independent Kurdistan in south-eastern Turkey. His capture in 1999 was met in western Turkey with fevered triumphalism, but Öcalan’s incarceration has done little to dampen Kurdish ambitions for political autonomy. The PKK remains in the mountains on Turkey’s periphery, attacking Turkish army outposts and harried by Turkish F-16s; over the past two years the war has reignited at a level not seen for decades, with entire…


May 3, 2017