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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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Gruber Prize


Gruber Justice Prize

2011 News
KHRP greatly concerned at the arrest of Ragip Zarakolu

KHRP is greatly concerned about the arrest of Ragip Zarakolu, a tireless defender of minority rights and freedom of expression in Turkey.

Mr. Zarakolu, highly acclaimed writer, publisher and chief editor of Belge Publishing House, was arrested in Istanbul on 28 October 2011 and stands accused of being a member of the KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan) party, an illegal organization under the Turkish anti-terror legislation. Mr. Zarakolu was transferred to the Metris high-security prison following a decision on the 14th High Criminal Court in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, on 1 November 2011.
The arrest of Ragip Zarakolu, alongside several other intellectuals including Professor Büşra Ersanlı and his son Deniz Zarakolu (earlier in October), is the latest example of a larger crackdown on people engaged in civic activism, including trade union and human rights activists, mayors and local politicians. The crackdown is part of a broader operation aimed at stifling the voices of those seeking greater rights and recognition for the Kurds in Turkey. KHRP has previously raised concerns about a number of areas of the operation including lengthy pre-trial detention without bail (some, including Muharrem Erbey, a prominent human rights defender and Vice President of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, have been held pending trial since the start of the operation in April 2009), politically motivated charges, and failure to adhere to international fair trial standards.

These latest arrests potentially violate numerous principles of international human rights law including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. They also demonstrate the validity of the concerns recently raised by the European Commission in the latest EU Progress report on Turkey regarding the number of court cases against writers and journalists, and the restrictions on access to the Internet. Accordingly, KHRP calls on the Turkish authorities to investigate and monitor the prosecution of Mr. Zarakolou and all others arrested in this operation  and calls for their cases to be dealt with expeditiously.

KHRP publishes the manual ‘Taking Cases to the European Court of Human Rights’

KHRP is pleased to announce the publication of the second edition of the manual ‘Taking Cases to the European Court of Human Rights’.

The manual provides a comprehensive and practical guide to litigation in Strasbourg, setting out the development of the Court since its inception and the changes that have been made in order to enhance the Court’s efficiency. In this regard, it covers the introduction of pilot-judgment procedures and the new admissibility criteria, as well as explaining further potential changes initiated by the Interlaken Conference in February 2010. The manual also includes commentaries on the practice and procedure of the Court, key texts such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court’s application form and a table of legal aid rates.

‘Taking Cases to the European Court of Human Rights’ is one of a series of three manuals published by KHRP providing practical guidance on using international human rights mechanisms.
KHRP will also shortly publish an updated edition of the manual ‘Taking Human Rights Complaints to UN Mechanisms’ which includes guidelines for submitting a report to a convention-based committee, how to use the individual complaint procedure and how to submit a petition to initiate investigation in response to allegations of human rights violations.  The third manual in the series ‘Taking Human Rights Complaints to the OSCE, European Parliament and Council of Europe’ was published in January 2010.

The manual can be freely downloaded from KHRP website.

KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu said “By sharing knowledge about the UN mechanisms and European Court of Human Rights law, practice and procedure, KHRP manuals assists human rights defenders to adopt effective approaches in addressing specific violations of human rights and widespread patterns of abuse caused by systemic issues.

Syria Comes Up Short - Again – At The UPR
Today the Human Rights Council of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded the 12th session of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR Working Group on Syria – one of the countries reviewed during the 12th Session – recognised a number of positive achievements in its draft report, including Syria’s much lauded decision to reinstate citizenship rights to the many of its citizens of Kurdish origin.  However, the Working Group also reinforced the serious human rights concerns, highlighted by the KHRP which can now too often be seen and heard of in the reports coming out of Syria. These include extra-judicial killing; the use of torture and ill-treatment by State agents; gender violence, such as honour killings; and the widespread practice of arbitrary and incommunicado detention and death in custody.   Whilst such practices happen across Syria, the number and level of such abuses has always been higher in the Kurdish region of the country, as part of the state’s policy and practice to suppress its Kurdish population.
KHRP is pleased that many of the recommendations made by the Working Group were reflected in the concerns KHRP submitted to the UPR, including conclusions and recommendations to immediately release all those arbitrary arrested and to make incommunicado detention illegal, as well as to ensure that all detainees are afforded all fundamental safeguards from the outset of their detention, such as the right to have prompt access to a lawyer and to notify a relative.  The Working Group also recognized that current legislative mechanisms continue to facilitate and entrench abuse and cultural repression against women, as it recommended that Syria adopt and enforce laws against domestic violence and remove mitigating factors from the punishment of honour crimes against women. Additional recommendations include the adoption of measures to end all direct and indirect restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as to cease human rights violations against civilians in relation to their peaceful exercise of freedom and assembly.
Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, Syria took the position that many of these recommendations have already been implemented. Syria also refused to support a number of recommendations, including the recommendation that it guarantee the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of persons belonging to its Kurdish minority or the rights of women. The government continues to deny its discrimination against these groups. KHRP hopes that Syria will recognize the reality of continuing discrimination against its Kurdish population and implement the necessary measures to curb such discrimination.
‘KHRP strongly urges all concerned actors to encourage the Syrian administration to accept the UPR’s recommendations. This necessitates that the Syrian government recognize the existence and breadth of gross continuing human rights violations, undertake thorough and expedient investigations into allegations of such violations, and take steps towards ameliorating and eliminating those violations found, including the violations inflicted on women and ethnic minorities, said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘Moreover, a far greater effort is needed on behalf of the Syrian authorities, as well as the international community, to develop a coordinated strategy to educate citizens and officials alike of their respective rights and obligations, as well as clearly define and support the mechanisms required for the prevention and redress of systemic violations.’
KHRP Guest Speaker at European Parliament


KHRP is delivering a seminar today at the European Parliament in Brussels, regarding human rights and mother-tongue education in the Kurdish regions. The seminar is part of a series chaired by Jean Lambert MEP, Vice-President of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group of MEPs and KHRP’s Advisor on Environmental Rights.


The series seeks to promote awareness and discussion of human rights issues in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. KHRP aims to bring key members of the European Parliament together to discuss areas of concern such as human rights, the environment, and regional security in the Kurdish Regions as well as their implications for the EU.


Linguistic rights in education imply both the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction and the inclusion of mother tongue learning in school curricula. There are severe violations of such rights, particularly in Turkey, Syria and Iran where the States fail to recognise and protect minority groups and instead consider the use of native languages and dialects a threat to the State’s unity and indivisibility.  This speech is intended to stress the importance of linguistic rights in education in the Kurdish regions and give an account of the limitations and restrictions imposed by national Governments, which affect the conditions of children and hamper the work of teachers and all the people committed to education, and impact upon the enjoyment of other human rights.


Speaking at the seminar today is Rajesh Raj of the KHRP Board of Directors and Legal Team.


KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu said “Linguistic rights in education are not even considered in the Kurdish regions, depriving children of an essential medium of communication, cultural identity and means of participation in community life. States prohibiting mother tongue education often resort to arguments based on vague and ambiguous legal provisions, prioritising the preservation of the State’s unity above respect for minority rights.”


In July 2011, KHRP published a Briefing Paper on Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions, which is available here:



Rachel Bernu / Susie Talbot

Kurdish Human Rights Project

11 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DH

Tel: 020 7405 3835

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The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) is a UK registered charity committed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons living within the Kurdish regions.  Its innovative and strategic approach to international human rights practice, combined with a long-term and consistent presence in the region, enables it to secure redress for survivors of human rights violations and prevent abuse in the future.


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KHRP Collects Prestigious Gruber Prize for Justice.

The U.S.-based Gruber Foundation's International Justice Prize was awarded to the Kurdish Human Rights Project on Thursday, 6th October 2011. Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz and Managing Director Rachel Bernu attended the award ceremony of the eleventh and final Gruber Justice Prize, which took place in Philadelphia’s National Constitutional Centre. KHRP was among five laureates this year who share a $500,000 award, in recognition of their work in advancing the cause of justice delivered through the legal system.

In particular, KHRP was recognised for its use of a variety legal instruments in protecting human rights and seeking redress for violations, including bringing cases on behalf of hundreds of applicants at the European Court of Human Rights and its on the ground field missions. The prize award notes the importance of KHRP’s consistent presence over the last 19 years as well as the notable reforms and successes on a wide range of issues, from preventing conflict over water in Turkey, Iraq and Syria to receiving a landmark judgment in the European Court toward the abolition of capital punishment.

During his acceptance speech, Kerim Yildiz, KHRP’s Chief Executive described the background to the organization: ‘We established an NGO named the Kurdish Human Rights Project in England with British lawyers and other human rights advocates in partnership with regionally based non-profit organisations and bar associations to give international recognition to not only the Kurds but also to shine a spotlight on the region in order to develop a more nuanced understanding of the injustice that anyone who lived in those regions faced.  In short, by addressing the so-called Kurdish problem head-on, justice would be far more achievable for all who lived in those regions… KHRP has grown from an idea based on the basic principle that everyone deserves justice’.

He acknowledged that ‘the recognition from Gruber for our body of work is an important driving force that will help to ensure that as we consider these questions, we do so with great care and with awareness that pushes us to continue to be at the forefront of respect for human rights regionally and internationally’.


The website of the Gruber Foundation’s International Justice Prize can be found here.


KHRP condemns Turkish bombardment of Northern Iraq


KHRP is concerned by the continuing aerial bombardment of the Khandil and Zap regions of Northern Iraq by the Turkish military that began last week for the first time in over a year. Coupled with mortar fire from Iran, these actions have reportedly resulted in the loss of civilian life.

Whilst this violation of Iraqi sovereignty, and the death and destruction which accompanies it, is to be condemned in its own right, these actions also exacerbate already difficult humanitarian and human rights challenges in the region including displacement and environmental degradation. KHRP is currently representing over 80 villagers from Northern Iraq as a result of Turkish bombardments.  It has previously reported on the creation of thousands of displaced persons within Northern Iraq as a direct result of the bombardments.

KHRP’s Managing Director Rachel Bernu stated today, ‘The escalation in armed activity in the Kurdish regions of Turkey and Iraq is of serious concern and should end immediately in order to protect civilians who have lived with and through far too many armed battles, resulting in losses of life and livelihoods.  The government of Turkey has stated that it is well aware that the solution to the conflict is not going to be found through heightened militarisation, so it is hard to understand the purpose of these actions, except through the lens of internal politicking’.


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