LOS ANGELES–On Saturday December 19, Kurds, Armenians, and all defenders of human rights will come together to protest the assassination of Tahir Elçi, and support the struggle for self-determination and peace that he represented.
The protest, organized by the Rojava Solidarity Committee of Los Angeles and the Armenian Youth Federation, will also demand justice for assassinations on Armenian community members such as Hrant Dink and Sevag Balikci, as well as other victims of Turkish State violence on minorities who struggle for freedom.
Elçi was the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and one of the most prominent Kurdish lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey. He was shot dead with a single bullet to the back of his head on November 28th, 2015. Tahir Elçi died as he finished delivering a speech calling for an end to the ongoing state violence against the Kurdish towns. The bullet that killed him came from the direction of Turkish police who had started a gun battle with unknown men.
Elçi was under threat from the AKP’s government (the AKP is the ruling party in Turkey) because on October 14th he went on television and declared that “the PKK is not a terrorist organization.” For this he was arrested and charged with spreading ‘terrorist’ propaganda, a crime that is punishable with a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence. Tahir Elçi was released pending his trial but was placed under judicial supervision. During this time he was subject to many death threats for his statement.
Elçi is not alone in his fate – every day now Kurds are being murdered by the AKP across the country’s southeast. Cities are being placed under siege by the military, power and electricity cut off, snipers shooting randomly from minarets, helicopters dropping bombs on houses, tanks blockading all the roads – a situation of total war against the Kurdish people. These assaults come from the same ideology and state structure that years ago on the same land carried out the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides, and from the same guns that more recently murdered the Armenian journalist and human rights defender Hrant Dink.
Elçi was part of a strong movement to end that murderous racist and nationalist state ideology, and to silence those guns. He relentlessly represented victims and their families against the Turkish state in cases of political murders, extrajudicial killings, and burning down of villages. On December 28, 2011, Turkish warplanes bombed and killed 34 Kurds in Roboski, of whom 17 were children. Elçi was one of the lawyers representing the Roboski victims’ families. Most recently, after years of fighting, he won the case of the 38 people who were massacred in Şırnak in 1994. Thanks to him, many cases of forced disappearances, bombings, and torture that had been delayed or ended with impunity were reopened. Elçi did not just work for the rights of Kurdish people – he fought for the freedom of all oppressed peoples, recently working for justice with the family of Sevag Balıkçı, an Armenian soldier in Turkey’s military who was murdered in a hate crime on April 24, 2011, the day Armenians demand justice for the Armenian Genocide.
We are coming together to honor his memory and to support the movement that carries on his work, struggling for freedom for all ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and religions in Turkey and the Middle East.
Below are a list of demands:
“We demand a fair and independent investigation of the death of Tahir Elçi.
We demand a fair and independent investigation of the death of Hrant Dink, Sevag Balikci, and all other minority hate crimes in Turkey.
We call on the Turkish government to stop carrying out these massacres of minorities – lift the sieges on Kurdish cities, stop the bombing of guerilla camps, and stop supporting terror groups in Syria.
We call on the US government to stop its support of the Turkish government – ban all arms sales to the AKP government, lift the ban on the PKK, and suspend Turkey from NATO.”