LOS ANGELES—Dozens of local activists and community members gathered at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles on Saturday December 19th to protest the assassination of human rights activist and lawyer Tahir Elçi. 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. Elçi died as he finished delivering a speech calling for an end to the ongoing military sieges of Kurdish cities in southeastern Turkey.
Protesters demanded accountability from the Turkish government, namely the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party, lead by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Members of various communities affected by the Turkish government and the regime’s atmosphere of racism, intimidation, and fear came together in solidarity to honor Elci and other victims of Turkish suppression. Kurdish, Armenian, and other Southwest Asian and Northern African community members were in attendance, along with various human rights organizations and community coalitions.
The protest, organized by the Rojava Solidarity Committee of Los Angeles and the Armenian Youth Federation, called for: a fair and independent investigation of the death of Tahir Elçi, a fair and independent investigation of the death of Hrant Dink, Sevag Balikci, and all other minority hate crimes in Turkey, stopping government sanctioned massacres of minorities including lifting the sieges on Kurdish cities, stopping the bombing of guerilla camps, and stopping support of terror groups in Syria. They also demanded that the United States government stop its support of the Turkish government – banning all arms sales to the AKP government, lifting the ban on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and suspending Turkey from the North American Trade Organization (NATO).
Chalk-outlines of Tahir Elçi and Hrant Dink’s bodies outside the Turkish Consulate’s front steps symbolizing the transformation of the protest into a crime scene. On top of Dink’s chalk outline, a newspaper was placed, since his body was left in a similar fashion after being assassinated by a Turkish ultranationalist in 2007. Organizers engaged in other forms of street theater, including covering their mouths with duct tape to symbolize the silencing effect violence has on communities, and created a memorial by posting pictures of victims on the Turkish Consulate.
The Rojava Solidarity Committee of Los Angeles released a statement following the protest, reading: “The tragic murders of Tahir Elci and Hrant Dink have brought the Armenian and Kurdish communities together in LA, along with other progressive defenders of human rights. This unity is exactly what we need for for winning our fight – both the fight for the freedom of oppressed peoples facing violence from the Turkish state, and against the US government that has been militarily and diplomatically supporting the Turkish state”.
The Armenian Youth Federation also released a statement, stating that “the assassinations of Tahir Elci, Hrant Dink largely represent what is happening to Kurds, Armenians and other communities in Turkey right now” They are a direct extension of the genocidal policies against Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Assyrians and others that gave birth to the Republic of Turkey. We know that our demands for justice are stronger when we come together in common cause. This is only the beginning of our important work in fighting together for the betterment of our communities in Turkey and our occupied homelands.”