40 Million People with No Country, Leyla Zana speaks for them

EUTCC Patron Leyla Zana sentenced to prison by a Turkish Court

  • 01/08/2009 00:00:00

Leyla Zana, an internationally renowned Kurdish politician and spokesperson was Tuesday 28 July sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.


By a Turkish Court in Diyarbakir, a city regarded as the capital of the Kurds. The court claimed that Zana, when speaking at a conference in London last year, stated that the PKK and its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan are “as important for the Kurdish people as the brain and the soul are for a human being.”


Leyla Zana was the first Kurdish woman to win a seat in the Turkish Parliament in 1991. Her decision to give the Parliamentary Oath in Kurdish led to immediate calls for her arrest. This was the first time Kurdish had been spoken in the Turkish Parliament. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in 2004 due to international pressure. While in jail, Zana published Writings from Prison detailing her cause and the hardship she faced fighting for the Kurdish people. Zana received the Rafto Prize in 1994 and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1995. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times. In May this year Leyla Zana was invited to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum together with other former prisoners of consciousness such as Elie Wiesel, Palden Gyatso, Elena Bonner, and Václav Havel. Zana ended her speech by saying:


“The explosion of social awareness despite bans and prohibitions gives an excitement that the demand of Kurdish people for freedom is transforming both the Turkish people and the people in Turkey as a whole, with a positive interaction. The same results, courage and organized thoughts are also forcing a change in the laws, because now in Turkey, both the people are forcing the laws and the laws are forcing the people. From this vicious circle, only the people can come out as winners, and they must.”


Despite Leyla Zana’s personal sufferings and losses during her 10 years of imprisonment, she remains a strong advocate for democracy and claims that it can only be secured by a non-violent political solution.


In order to become a member of the European Union Turkey has to take considerable and positive steps towards a political and durable peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. In that regard the decision of the Diyarbakir Court is as shocking and unacceptable as it is inequitable.


The EUTCC hereby calls on the European Union and the international community to take political action and strongly condemn Turkey for having sentenced Leyla Zana to 15 months of imprisonment.


Kariane Westrheim, Chair of EUTCC, Bergen – Norway


Hans Branscheidt – BOD EUTCC, Frankfurt – Germany


Professor Michel Gunter, BOD EUTCC, Tennessee – USA

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