By Alison Buckley and Hamma Mirwaisi
Kurdish mayor Ayshey Gokkan from Turkey are on hunger strike
(image by Hamma Mirwaisi)
Why has AyÅe GÃ¶kkan, mayor of the border city of Nusaybin between Turkey and Syria, been on a hunger strike for nearly a week? Pictured sitting alone on a plastic mat amidst the dust and trash accumulated under the razor wire fence in Turkish occupied Kurdistan, she is calling on the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan and his government to "tear down this wall' between the Kurdish people living in the two countries. Her demand is similar to President Ronald Reagan's historic call to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall.
The removal of the barriers between a homogenous people was the president's quest in a speech commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. Reagan challenged Gorbachev, who was then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear it down as an emblem of the Gorbachev's desire to increase freedom in the Eastern Bloc through glasnost (transparency) and perestroika (restructuring).
Today the honorable Ms GÃ¶kkan is disputing the authority of the ostensibly democratic Turkish Prime Minister to separate Kurdish families on ethnic, religious, national or political grounds. Her campaign reflects the challenges issued by the Kurdish people to the Islamist leaders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria to destroy the walls keeping the Kurdish people physically divided, but which are now ideologically uniting them.
While Kurdish northern Syria is now a free entity under the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Turks still controlling the Kurdish sector of Turkey have built fences along the Turkish Syrian border to divide the Kurdish people's land according to the post World War I imperialist Sykes--Picot Agreement between the UK and France.
Officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, with the assent of Russia the treaty defined their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East, providing the Triple Entente succeeded in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916 and was concluded on 16 May, 1916. Imposed by distant foreign powers for their strategic advantage, it was a mistake which the Kurdish people have never accepted and never will.
Cruelly and brutally dividing the proud, resilient German people, the Berlin Wall lasted approximately thirty years before its political and economic failure, and the subversive and overt efforts of western powers contributed to its demise. Observers must now ask why the Sykes-Picot Agreement, every bit as disastrous and inhumane, still functions nearly one hundred years later; why it has not been declared a human rights violation and why the European Union allows Turkey as a member to build a fence maintaining its callous and disastrous provisions. Not any less entitled to humane treatment than the Germans or any other peoples, the Kurdish people's statelessness enforced by the agreement's pitiless political exploitation has left them perpetually vulnerable to the atrocities that Ms Gokkan is now bringing to the world's attention.
Instead of listening to her pleas, the Turkish Government instructed its forces put green fabric on the Nusaybin side of the wall to hide Ms Gokkan from the people of Qamishli on the Syrian side, reinforcing its tyrannical treatment of Kurds on both sides of the border. In response, Nusaybin shopkeepers and others closed their doors and joined Ms Gokkan on the gate, but many were attacked, beaten and injured by Turkish forces trying to disperse them.
Many more people from other parts of Turkey, including the influential Kurdish center of Diyarbakir have joined her now. Inspired by the victories of their countrymen and women against extremists in Syria, the Kurds will no longer tolerate the harsh domination of powers denying their inalienable rights. Ms Gokkan's action and any similar protests deserve the support of those who already enjoy such rights, in the hope that the Kurds will pave the way for other peoples who are still so deprived. Nothing less than conciliatory transparency and genuine restructuring of the Turkish Government's policies towards Kurds living within its boundaries are required to affect Ms Gokkan's strike on account of her people's plight.
It is time for Kurdish people to join her on the gate.
Tear down this wall!