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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Justice & Peace chair says media ignoring persecution of Kurds

The Chair of the Justice & Peace Commission of Westminster diocese has criticised the press, and particularly the BBC, for their lack of coverage concerning the ongoing plight of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

Fr Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, made his comments during a rally organised by the Kurdish Community in London at Trafalgar Square last Sunday.

The Kurdish Community began at the BBC headquarters and marched to Trafalgar Square, with the aim of highlighting the plight of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

“While the eyes of the world are on the question of migrants, there is also at present the slaughter of Kurdish people, men, women and children,” Fr Ryan told The Universe.

“Curfews are set up which means that people are left dying in the streets while families are unable to help.”

During the demonstration, Fr Ryan spoke of his privilege, as a Catholic priest and Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace, to be able to add his voice to those who are concerned with the inhumane treatment of Kurdish people by the Turkish Government.

“In Turkey today, sadly, the coverage of these atrocities is confined to the back pages or not even mentioned in our press,” he said. “On the national television channels of the BBC, no reports are made of the plight of the Kurdish population.
“This is a disgraceful situation; this is abhorrent.”

Fr Ryan pointed out that although people are made to believe the BBC stands for an honest independent news media service, it does not. “It is biased; the coverage of news is screened in a very, very selected way. A blind eye and ear are turned to the plight of the Kurdish people. This is not right; this should not be the case.”

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press have become severely clamped down in the country, with journalists being jailed. The Daily newspaper, which has been critical of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was taken over by a Government-backed operation last week. “No expression of opposition is allowed – gagging of the media is the order of the day. Democracy is denied in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech,” explained Fr Ryan. “What a tragedy – and only silence from other nations.”

Fr Ryan recently joined an International Delegation of 12 people, led by Judge Essa Moosa of South Africa, who as a young lawyer, was involved in the release of Nelson Mandela. “We were in Istanbul, Turkey to seek a meeting with the Minister of Justice to discuss a way forward to get the peace movement back on track and continue negotiations for peace between the Turkish Nation and the Kurdish

The delegation travelled to Istanbul to visit political activist Abdullah Ocalan in his prison on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara. “We were denied any access to him – just as his lawyers have not been allowed to visit him in the last five years – and as his family have been denied any visits for the past 14 months,” revealed Fr Ryan.

Fr Ryan was one of the four signatories in Brussels to launch the Freedom of Abdullah Ocalan Campaign, calling for the release of Ocalan, who has been in prison for 17 years in solitary confinement. “His treatment is a denial of all human rights and every human convention from Geneva to every civilised nation on our planet: this is not right,” explained the priest.

Abdullah Ocalan has written and given a PEACE plan from his prison cell and is a key player in the peace process – not just in Turkey – but wherever Kurdish people live – in the UK, Syria, Iran, Iraq and beyond.

“I was present in Strasbourg when we presented 10.3 million signatures to the Council of Europe to demand the immediate release of Abdullah Ocalan.
“We still wait – we still struggle; we will not give up the demand,” he said.
He added: “I am glad to be in solidarity with your Kurdish dreams – dreams of freedom and human rights for all.”