Humanitarian Law Project
Humanitarian Law Project/ International Educational Development
Urges Nobel Committee to Award 98 Peace Prize to Leyla Zana
8124 West Third Street, Suite 105
Los Angeles, CA 90048
May 28, 1998
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee
Nobelinstituttet Drammensvein 19 N-0255
Dear Committee Members:
The Humanitarian Law Project urges the Committee to issue its Nobel Peace
Prize to Leyla Zana of Turkey.
Ms. Zana personifies the finest qualities of a people struggling to sustain their
cultural birthrights through peaceful means against armed, aggressive and
oppressive government forces. The Kurds form the world¹s largest cultural
group without a homeland, since the soil they have occupied for millennia was
divided among states created in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the
Treaty of Serves, which promised them a plebiscite to determine their own
destiny was abrogated by the 1923 treaty of Lausanne. Some twenty million
Kurds live in what is now Turkey, where special armed forces deny them
liberties proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Leyla Zana has crusaded for equal rights and against the destruction of
Kurdish villages, dislocation of millions of her fellow Kurds, and the arbitrary
arrests, torture, degrading treatment, detention, summary executions, and
denial of their rights to express themselves in their own language and customs
by the Turkish government.
In October, 1991, Leyla Zana was elected to the Turkish parliament from the
Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP). In the following year, she joined other
Kurdish deputies, including Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan --
these three are now imprisoned with her -- and formed People¹s Labor Party,
(HEP). In 1993, HEP was closed down, forcing Leyla and her deputy friend to
form another party, Democracy Party, DEP.
On March 2, 1994, Leyla Zana was imprisoned together with a five other
Kurdish deputies and held in communicado detention for 12 to 14 days before
being committed to prison.
Detention unsupervised by a Judge constitutes a breach of Article 5 of the
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms (On November 26, 1997 the European Court of Human Rights ruled
that their incommunicado detention was unlawful and breached Turkey¹s
commitments under the Convention). The five deputies were brought to trial
at Ankara State Security Court on August 3, 1994. They were charged with
aiding the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The testimony connecting to the PKK was found by Amnesty International to
be ³highly suspect ... obtained from people who themselves faced persecution,
but who had turned state¹s evidence in return for a lighter punishment, or from
people who later retracted their statements claiming that these had been
extracted under torture.² (In Turkey, the colors of their clothes: parliamentary
deputies serve 15 years imprisonment for expressions of Kurdish political
identity, Amnesty International, December, 1997). Amnesty International
named all four deputies ²Prisoners of Conscience.² id.
On December 8. 1994, Ms. Zana and the three other deputies were convinced
by the Turkish courts of membership in the PKK, and sentenced to 15 years
prison. Although, in the last few weeks, the Prime Minister of Turkey offered to
pardon Ms. Zana, she refused to accept being singled out for special favors, and
would not leave prison unless the pardon was extended to her co-
parliamentarians, Mr. Dicle, Mr. Sadak and Mr. Dogan.
From her prison cell, Leyla Zana has become the pre-eminent spokesperson for
indigenous people who are oppressed in their homelands, calling out for a
peaceful resolution of conflict that has consumed Turkey since 1923.
The Humanitarian Law Project (³HLP²) is a non profit organization formed
initially as a component of the Archbishop Oscar Romero Relief Fund, and then
merged into the International Educational Development, Inc. (IED) a group
created in the 1950¹s by a group of Jesuit Fathers for charitable and
educational purposed, to serve as the secular arm of their overseas projects.
The IED was chartered as a Non-Governmental Organization (³NGO²) of the
United Nations by Dag Hammarsjold with consultative status to the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights, a role HLP sustains in regular
participation in Geneva, advocating peaceful resolution and armed conflict
situations and universal adherence to humanitarian law.
Ralph D. Fertig