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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Briefing Papers and Speeches
Briefing Papers and Speeches

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This Briefing Paper sets out the key areas that Turkey must address if it is to meet the political limb of the Copenhagen Criteria.  It serves as an update to the June 2006 KHRP briefing paper entitled ‘Implementation Gaps in Turkey’s Domestic Law’.


The use of mother-tongue languages is a crucial means for minority groups to express their cultural identity. The use of mother-tongue languages in education, both as the language of instruction and as an academic discipline, is a basic right which serves to protect and promote this aim. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey  are obliged under international human rights law and standards to guarantee this right.However, to varying degrees, these States are failing to fulfil their international legal obligations in this regard, resulting in many individuals from minority groups being denied the enjoyment of this and various other fundamental rights.

This Briefing Paper provides an overview of the use of mother-tongue education in the States mentioned above and provides some key recommendations on how to tackle language right issues which hinder conflict resolution in that region.

This briefing paper presents the keys issues relating to the right to freedom of expression and the media in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia and Kurdistan, Iraq, as well as cross-regionally. It provides examples of violations of this right indicative of widespread practice and illustrates how violations of media freedom impact disproportionately on members of the Kurdish communities. Finally, it offers a number of key recommendations for how state authorities, civil society and the international community can address the problems relating to media freedom in the Kurdish regions.


Internal Displacement in Turkey Internal Displacement in TurkeyTooltip 06/23/2011 Hits: 23577

Turkey has a large population of internally displaced people, stemming largely from the conflict in the 1980s and 1990s between the Government and the PKK.Continued insecurity in the predominantly Kurdish region of the south east, combined with development projects such as the Ilısu Dam, mean that this figure is set to increase over the next few years.This paper presents the key issues facing IDP’s in Turkey, what provision is being made for their compensation and return or resettlement, and the responsibility of the EU and international community in addressing the situation which is of critical importance.

The Turkish village guard system, which was resurrected in its current form in 1985, has been responsible for numerous human rights violations and other crimes. Currently the village guard system represents a major obstacle to the return of Kurds who were displaced from their villages during the 1990s but also the larger development of a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey.

The village guards continue to violate the rights of returnees and each other, largely with impunity. Often those who have been displaced and wish to return find that they face forcible recruitment into the village guard system or that the guards have illegally occupied their homes. This briefing paper explains the background and impact of the village guard system, and makes the case for its abolishment.

The Diyarbakir Trial of 151 The Diyarbakir Trial of 151Tooltip 03/01/2011 Hits: 21354

Briefing paper regarding the the KCK (Koma Civaken Kurdistan) trial in which 151 Kurds are being charged with being members of an illegal organization.

During fact-finding mission’s in both May and July of 2010, KHRP investigated the effects of continued cross border military activities by the Iranian and Turkish states, monitoring the human and environmental damage that has resulted.

From 16 to 18 June 2010, the Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP), in conjunction with the Norwegian Bar Association (NBA), dispatched a trial observation mission to Istanbul.
Mission members Prof. Matthew Happold (University of Luxembourg) and Advocate Erik Osvek (Pro Legal Law Office) were charged with observing part of the trial proceedings
against human rights defender, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the chairwoman of
(TİHV, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey) and the journalist Barış Yarkadaş.

Presentation made on 15 September 2010 by KHRP Managing Director, Rachel Bernu, at the European Parliament.

Presentation originally made on 27/04/10 by KHRP Legal Director, Catriona Vine, at York University's Centre for Applied Human Rights.

Response of the Kurdish Human Rights Project to the United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office Annual Report on Human Rights 2009, Released on 18 March 2010.

Big Lottery Fund Presentation Big Lottery Fund PresentationTooltip 02/15/2010 Hits: 20778
Presentation delivered to the Big Lottery Fund on 29 January 2009, reviewing KHRP's work from 2006-2009.
Speech Delivered by KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yıldız at the Sixth International Conference on the EU, Turkey and the Kurds, European Parliament, Brussels, 3 February 2010
Speech Delivered by Mark Muller QC, Chairman of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales; EUTCC Board Member; & KHRP Honorary Secretary General, at the Sixth International Conference on the EU, Turkey and the Kurds, European Parliament, Brussels, 3 February 2010

Few infrastructure development projects have caused as much international controversy in recent years as the proposed Ilısu hydroelectric dam project in the Kurdish region of south-east Turkey.  If it were built, the dam would displace between 50,000-78,000 people, mainly Kurds; flood the ancient town of Hasankeyf and hundreds of other unexplored archaeological sites; severely impact the environment upstream and downstream of the dam; and significantly reduce the flow of water to the downstream states of Iraq and Syria, with the potential for exacerbating conflict in the region.   

Although funding was suspended in December 2008, after Turkey failed to implement the agreed conditions, Turkey remains adamant that it will complete the project. As this briefing paper highlights, construction work on the dam has continued intermittently and villagers in the immediate area of the dam site have had their land expropriated.  Turkey has also announced that it is approaching China’s export credit agency, Sinosur, for funding, although as at the beginning of December 2009, the Chinese Embassy in Ankara denied any Chinese company is involved in the project.

Compiling Trial Observation Reports – Based on ‘Advocacy and the Rule of Law in Turkey’

Lecture delivered by KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu to York University, 9 November 2009

Human Rights and the Kurds in Iran Human Rights and the Kurds in IranTooltip 08/26/2009 Hits: 21964
While human rights violations are a part of everyday life for Iranians from all backgrounds, Kurds and other minorities are particularly vulnerable. With the Iranian authorities inclined to treat much minority activism – whether social, cultural or political – as linked to a separatist threat, individuals from these communities are frequently arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado, often accused of vaguely-worded crimes relating to national security. This briefing paper gives an overview of the modern history of the Kurds in Iran, and the international and domestic legal framework in relation to the human rights situation that they and other Iranians face today. It goes on to explore patterns of human rights violations according to four key themes: discrimination on grounds of gender and ethnicity; arbitrary detention; torture and ill-treatment; and corporal and capital punishment. In the wake of the brutal crackdown that followed the disputed presidential elections in Iran in June this year, the evidence presented here underscores the need for the international community to ensure that human rights concerns are kept squarely at the forefront of diplomatic engagement with Tehran.

Speech delivered by KHRP at the  Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS on 29 April 2009.

Speech delivered by KHRP at a seminar entitled 'The Kurdish Human Rights Situation, a Lasting Peace and a Democratic Development' at the European Parliament, Brussels on 29 April 2009.
Speech delivered by the Kurdish Human Rights Project at the Alternative Water Forum, İstanbul, 21 March 2009
Protecting Politicians or Protecting Democracy? Parliamentary Immunity and Party Closure in the Run-Up to Local Elections in Turkey explores the ways in which the mechanisms available in Turkey for lifting the immunity of MPs and shutting down political parties facilitate the targeting of democratically elected politicians by unelected officials whose conception of what is best for the country is grounded in a narrow, secular and ethnically-exclusive form of nationalism.

This briefing paper is an updated version of a paper originally published by KHRP in July 2008, just prior to the final decision of the Constitutional Court on moves to shut down the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP). It features a detailed exploration of that case and ongoing parallel proceedings against the pro-Kurdish Demokratik Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party, DTP). It also includes analysis of the concept of parliamentary immunity and its application in different parts of the world, the historical context of the cases against the DTP and AKP, and the implications of these cases for democracy and human rights in Turkey.

The updated version of the paper covers moves against MPs and political parties that were ongoing in the months leading up to the March 2009 elections.

Speech Delivered by KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yıldız at the Fifth International Conference on the EU, Turkey and the Kurds, European Parliament, Brussels, 28-29 January 2009

Presentation used in the course of a training session on ‘Human Rights and Investment’, delivered to civil servants in Kurdistan, Iraq, on 16 December 2008.
Presentation used in the course of a training session on ‘Human Rights and Investment’, delivered to civil society representatives in Kurdistan, Iraq, on 17 December 2008.
Speech delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at the OSCE Civil Society Forum, 2-3 December 2008, Helsinki.
Response of the Kurdish Human Rights Project to the 2008 Turkey Progress Report, Published by the European Commission on 5 November 2008.
This briefing paper assesses the extent to which the situation of trade unions in Turkey has changed in recent years, in the context of the country’s bid to accede to the European Union. The evidence suggests that the Turkish state is yet to recognise the valuable role that trade unions have to play as necessary social partners within the democratic system. Several pieces of Turkish legislation remain at odds with its commitments to respect trade union rights under various international agreements. In practice, too, the Turkish authorities continue to violate the rights of employees – particularly those working in the public sector – to associate freely, to bargain collectively and to go on strike. The situation is particularly bad in the Kurdish regions of south-east Turkey, where violations of trade union rights are exacerbated by a de facto state of emergency, restrictions on expressions of Kurdish culture, and factors such as poverty, discrimination and displacement.
Speech Delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at an Event at the Houses of Parliament on 21 October 2008 entitled ‘Human Rights and the Kurds in Syria: Discrimination and Repression’

This briefing paper explores Turkish anti-terror legislation in the wake of amendments in 2006 that brought into effect a series of draconian provisions which fail to meet the country’s human rights obligations under international law and which have in practice been used to violate the human rights of it citizens. In particular, the new law fails to respect international human rights obligations by containing a definition of terrorism which is too wide and vague, by increasing the range of crimes that can count as terrorist offences, and by posing a serious threat to the freedoms of expression and association, the right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture. Such legislation only serves to further the deterioration seen in the human rights situation in Turkey since 2005 and should therefore be amended.

Speech delivered by Anna Irvin, Development and Outreach Officer, Kurdish Human Rights Project, at El Faro civil society pavilion at the “Water and Sustainability”-themed Zaragoza Expo, 3 July 2008, and at the Foro Mundial de las Luchas del Agua side event, 4 July 2008
The formation of a Democratic Society Party (DTP) group in parliament following the July 2007 general elections in Turkey gave a pro-Kurdish party representation in the country’s parliament for the first time in 14 years. Since then, prosecutors have filed a number of requests to have the parliamentary immunity of DTP MPs lifted in order to pave the way for legal proceedings against them, and have instigated proceedings to have the party shut down. In March this year, a closure case was also opened against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). KHRP’s latest briefing paper explores the mechanisms available in Turkey for the lifting of parliamentary immunity and the shutting down of political parties, and the ways in which these mechanisms have been employed in the relentless pursuit of parties and politicians by unelected agents.
Speech delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at a seminar entitled 'the role of Kurdish women in dialogue, conflict resolution and reconstruction' at Garden Court Chambers, 24/05/2008 

Since late October 2007, Turkey has been carrying out cross-border military operations, bombardments and air-raids in Kurdistan, Iraq. Turkey has attempted to justify these operations under the pretext of its ongoing fight against the PKK.

This latest KHRP Briefing Paper discusses these developments, demonstrating how the attacks should be understood in the broader context of Turkey’s long-standing strategic goals in countering regional Kurdish autonomy, goals it shares with Iran and Syria. The paper refers to recent KHRP research in the region showing that Turkey’s operations have been in gross violation of the Geneva conventions, causing extensive harm to civilian life and property in parts of northern Iraq with little actual impact on the capabilities of the PKK. The paper also discusses the international reaction to the attacks, and calls upon the US, EU and all other parties with an interest in maintaining stability in the region to condemn the attacks and urge Turkey to pursue constructive and non-military measures to secure peace in the region.

KHRP Makes Presentation to European Parliament on its recent report on Suicide amongst Kurdish Women

KHRP Addresses Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Regional Training at Lusaka, Zambia on 27 July. Access Deputy Director’s speech Compiling Trial Observation Reports

Briefing Paper on the Upcoming Elections in Turkey
Swiss Bank Backs out of Ilisu Dam Project: KHRP Public Statement
Preliminary Draft of KHRP Briefing Paper on Nationalism and Secularism in Turkey
The Ilisu Dam Project: A Flawed Plan is Revived Unchanged. KHRP Briefing Paper, May 2007

KHRP and Corner House release Fact-Finding Mission on the Downstream Impact of the Ilisu Dam on Iraq (pdf): The Ilisu Dam: Downstream Water Impacts and Iraq

Briefing Paper: Torture in Turkey Briefing Paper: Torture in TurkeyTooltip 07/12/2006 Hits: 20028
Turkey’s efforts to align its legislation and policy with EU standards have been positive, yet implementation on the ground has been uneven. An area of particular concern is the continuing practice of torture or ill-treatment. Perpetrators are usually law enforcement officials, gendarmerie and security forces and in recent years there has been a marked increase in more sophisticated torture methods that do not leave visible marks and ill-treatment outside of places of detention.

This report addresses the issue of torture and ill-treatment of individuals in detention and police custody in Turkey, and the most effective means of prevention.

Available for free by contacting or by downloading below
Entry to the European Union is predicated on the state achieving the political elements of the Copenhagen Criteria. Turkey 's domestic law, in its pre-accession state, fell short of these requirements and of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to meet the criteria, the Turkish Government began in 2001, a program of legislative reforms designed to harmonize its domestic legislation with the Copenhagen Criteria and set out her progress to Accession.

At the heart of these reforms was a major overhaul of the Turkish Constitution, accompanied by seven packages of legislative reforms amending a number of pieces of legislation including major redrafts of the Turkish Civil and Penal code. These amendments were intended to liberalise the Turkish legal system, advance fundamental rights and freedoms and end years of states restrictions in a number of key areas such as torture and the freedom of expression; to address the security situation in the Southeast of Turkey and to promote the ideals of democracy and the rule of law.

KHRP believes that Turkey 's membership of the EU offers the only real and stable viable option for resolution of the Kurdish question. However, it is essential to closely monitor Turkey 's progress on both legislative reform and its practical implementation.

Since the opening of official EU Accession negotiations in October 2005, KHRP is concerned that a sense of complacency has pervaded the Turkish government's attitude towards full implementation of the reforms. This concern seems to be echoed at the European level. The European Parliament's draft report on Turkey 's progress towards accession released in June 2006 has criticised the pace of change in Turkey , deploring the limited progress on fundamental rights and freedoms, and has stated that there is an urgent need to implement the legislation already in force.

This briefing paper lays out a number of key areas that Turkey must still address if it is to meet with its international human rights obligations. Without pressure from the international community on Turkey to keep the promises it has made, the harmonization packages could become nothing more than Turkey paying ‘lip service to EU bureaucrats', and the human rights situation in the country will remain fundamentally unchanged.

The Kurdish community in the United Kingdom provides a rich fabric of cultural expression and talent from which the rest of society can benefit. A number of significant Kurdish cultural projects have been located in the UK, and Kurds have received a degree of acceptance in mainstream culture. This briefing paper highlights measures that could support such intergration, including the need for accurate ethnic monitoring, the encourage of Kurdish language education by education institutions and by parents, by according political rights to refugees, and by developing relationships between the Kurdish community and bodies such as the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights. The paper was presented at a Council of Europe Hearing on Kurdish Culture in January 2006.

This briefing paper presents the keys issues relating to the right to freedom of expression and the media in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia and Kurdistan, Iraq, as well as cross-regionally. It provides examples of violations of this right indicative of widespread practice and illustrates how violations of media freedom impact disproportionately on members of the Kurdish communities. Finally, it offers a number of key recommendations for how state authorities, civil society and the international community can address the problems relating to media freedom in the Kurdish regions.