The Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) and other union, women’s and ecological organisations have criticised UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and said it has lost its credibility regarding the protection of cultural and natural assets in Turkey and Kurdistan, and decided to hold a counter forum ahead of UNESCO’s upcoming meeting in Istanbul.
The organisations holding a counter forum issued a written statement and said, “the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which claims that everything on its World Heritage List is the shared heritage of humanity, will hold its 40th meeting in Istanbul on July 10-20, 2016. The international meeting is scheduled to start with the 2015 report of the World Heritage Committee, and participants will discuss whether assets on the World Heritage List are being protected or not, and determine strategies for the protection of those that are under risk. Temporary lists will be prepared or the assets that are proposed additions to the list, and the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List will be updated. The Turkish government, which has contributed to the destruction of natural and cultural assets – registered in the heritage list or not – will be hosting the 40th meeting of UNESCO.”
The organisers of the counter forum stated that, “despite the fact that the meeting will be held in Istanbul, the destruction of the historical fabric of this city – which has been on the heritage list since 1985 – due to the capital groups’ pressure of construction and tourism will not be discussed. The destruction of historical neighborhoods in Süleymaniye for urban transformation projects, the surrender of old neighborhoods such as Ayvansaray and Sulukule to construction firms, and the destruction of forests and wetlands for the sake of ‘crazy – mega’ projects will not be addressed during the meeting.”
‘UNESCO silent during war and destruction’
The organisers of the ‘What is UNESCO protecting?’ forum emphasised UNESCO’s silence during the destruction of natural and cultural assets on its list, and said that those that damage the assets cannot protect them. The organisers stated that the destruction of the Kurşunlu Mosque, Four-legged Minaret, churches and centuries old living spaces inside the Diyarbakır (Amed) Walls and Hevsel Gardens which are on the World Heritage List will be ignored during the UNESCO meeting, just like the flooding and destruction of the ancient archaeological site Hasankeyf in Kurdish city Batman.
The HDK and other organisations also criticised UNESCO’s decision to honour the mayor of Istanbul with a medal for his personal contribution to the protection of cultural heritage, and recalled the mayor’s role in the land filling of 1 million square meters of sea in Istanbul, which has a history of 8500 years as well as the destruction of other historical sites. The organisers of the counter forum expressed their lack of trust in UNESCO’s claim to independently protect the cultural and natural heritage of the world.
UNESCO was criticised by Kurdish organisations for its silence during the siege and military lockdown in Diyarbakır’s historic Sur neigbourhood, which was destroyed by security forces between 2015 and 2016.
Kurds in Europe Must Tell World About War in Kurdistan: HDP Deputy Birlik
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Şırnak deputy Leyla Birlik has spoken of the importance of the Kurdish struggle in Europe and said Kurds must tell the world about “the incredible war in Kurdistan.” Attending the 13th Zilan Kurdish Women’s in London, Birlik spoke to journalist Erem Kansoy and stated that Kurds were being subjected to genocide and Kurds and those in solidarity should not forget this for a second.
Unite and make your voices be heard
Stating that only a spirit of unity and solidarity could defeat the attacks on Kurds, Birlik said: “What is happening in Kurdistan now is not a street or city battle. They (Turkish state forces) are trying to genocide the people of Kurdistan and are plundering it from top to bottom. They are displacing people and forcing them to migrate. They are trying to uproot people from their culture, land and life. For this reason the Kurds in Europe primarily and all other groups have to be vigilant. They have to unite and make their voices heard.”
The world has to be told
“The Kurdish people in Europe have to increase their protests, demonstrations and actions. They need to tell the world what is happening. The first outlet for telling the people about the war in Kurdistan is the Kurds in Europe. We must all tell the world about Turkey’s inhumane actions. For this we need to lobby, protest and organise events.”
Admission of defeat
Birlik also assessed Turkey President Erdoğan’s comment, “If we are not as honourable and proud as terrorists, there will be a great split in this country,” and said it was an admission that the state had lost the war. “This is why they escalated the violence. They are labeling everyone who doesn’t think like them terrorists. The people are resisting. He called the people ‘terrorists’ too. But he saw the heroism of the people. They (the government/state) don’t have this heroism. This is why Erdoğan is saying this. It is an admission of defeat,” Birlik said.
The HDP MP also said the state was killing civilians, burning down forests and destroying evidence of war crimes in Cizre and Nusaybin.