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Lost in Cyberspace
Kurds Online
© 1999 by H.B. Koplowitz

I finally figure out where Kosovo is and now the Kurds go meshuga. But who can blame them? Turkey nabbing Kurdish guerilla leader Abdullah Ocalan is like the Israelis arresting Yasser Arafat. Sometimes history reads like an endless game of musical chairs in which those who don't get a seat use terrorism to unseat those who do, and those with the chairs threaten to exterminate those without unless they give up their culture, language and/or religion. So in the name of bygone clans and sacred clumps of dirt, the Kurds, as others, have created governments in exile, terrorist cells, martyrs, victims and, of course, websites.

It's been a bad month for the most radical and violent of the Kurdish resistance groups, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), headed by Ocalan.  Not only has its leader been caught, but its website <> has been down as well. You wouldn't know it from the nightly news, but over the past 14 years a brutal civil war has been waged between the PKK, which the US considers a terrorist organization, and Turkish troops, who have destroyed about 3,000 Kurdish villages.  Some 30,000 people have died in the fighting and another 2 million have become refugees.

Although the PKK's website was down, the pronouncements of a related group, the Brussels-based Kurdish Parliament in Exile, can be found at "Ariga" <>, a website operated by Israeli journalist Robert Rosenberg. "Greetings and salutations to all residents and travellers in the Cyberspace," the KPE pronouncement begins. It expresses support for the PKK and states its aim is peace and democracy.

If Americans know anything about the Kurds, it is that some live in northern Iraq, where the US enforces a "no-fly" zone to protect them from Saddam Hussein, who likes to gas them. But 30 million more live on a high plateau that straddles Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey, where it is illegal to speak Kurdish on TV, in schools or at political rallies. Taken together, the Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic group in the Mideast without a homeland.

Following Turkey's capture of Ocalan, outraged Kurds managed to break into the headlines when they took over some embassies in Europe. Several Kurds reportedly immolated themselves, and three were shot to death when they tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Berlin. What has gotten less coverage is that after catching Ocalan, Turkish forces pressed their advantage with a major attack on Kurdish guerrilla bases in northern Iraq, and arrested more than 350 members of the biggest legal Kurdish party in Turkey, the People's Democracy Party.

But when the Turks, Syrians, Iranians and Iraqis aren't trying to wipe out the Kurds, the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi Kurds are trying to wipe out each other. Thus two Iraqi Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have a competing parliament, the Kurdistan National Assembly. The London-based KDP website <> has information on the party and a memorial to prominent Kurdish national leader, Mustafa Barzani, who died in 1979. Following Ocalan's arrest, the KDP Politburo issued a press release expressing "great concern," and "hope for a fare and just trial," i.e., they didn't demand his release. At a London-based PUK website <>, PUK leader Jalal Talabani also called on Turkey to give Ocalan a fair trial, i.e., he didn't demand his release either.

Other Kurdish websites include the "Kurdish Information Network " <>, with Kurdish history, music, culture and language lessons; "Kurdish Worldwide Resources" <>, which has extensive links; and "MED-TV" <>, the website for a Kurdish satellite TV channel. soc.culture.kurdish is one of several Usenet newsgroups with lively and sometimes informative exchanges on Kurdish events.

The "American Kurdish Information Network" <> is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization fostering "Kurdish-American understanding and friendship." The site focuses on oppression against the Kurds, and has links to some truly startling pictures, including victims of an Iraqi gas attack, an Iranian firing squad, and Turkish soldiers posing with decapitated heads of their victims.

Using more of a soft-sell approach to influence American opinion is the "Washington Kurdish Institute" <>. In addition to Kurdish news summaries and language classes, the site has a collection of pictures drawn by displaced children from Iraqi Kurdistan -- "a gallery of hope, despair, life and death." In a Feb. 16 press release, the organization calls for international monitors to ensure a fair trial, then adds:  "Mr. Ocalan's arrest shares headlines with US efforts to force Serbia to grant autonomy to Albanians living in Kosovo. Any moral authority behind US policy in the Balkans withers in the face of US unwillingness to challenge Turkey's policies of ethnic cleansing. The double standards evident in juxtaposition of these two situations are hard to ignore."

copyright 1999 by H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.

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