German Journalist Recalls Reporting Turkey’s Anti-Kurdish Atrocities

BERLIN, Germany – 29.4.2013 – RUDAW – German journalist Hans Peter Weimar, who visited Turkey’s Kurdish regions in the early 1990s, saw firsthand some of the Turkish government and military’s brutality against the country’s large minority Kurds.

When Weimar, a correspondent for a public German television, interviewed Layla Zana, Orhan Dogan, Ahmed Turk and several other Kurds during his first visit in 1990, most spoke about the right of Kurds to enjoy greater cultural, political, and economic rights.  They did nothing more than voice what was in the heart of every Kurd in Turkey. But the interviews were used against them, and some of them were jailed. In 1992, Weimer became witness to Turkey’s military atrocity against the Kurds, when he and a group of other journalists visited the city of Diyarbakir to cover celebrations for the Kurdish New Year, Newroz. “While we were busy with the coverage of Newroz celebrations, Turkish armed forces fired at us and Izzat Kazar, who used to work for the Turkish Sabah newspaper, was shot; he died in my arms,” Weimar recalls.

“The Turkish media blamed his death on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). We saw how he was killed, but we could not do anything because the military was way more powerful than the government at that time,” Weimer says.

When Weimar visited the Cizre area, Turkish forces arrested his translator.  He managed to have him released after contacting the German Consulate in Turkey, but by that time the translator had been brutally tortured in detention.

Weimar was able to report in 1992 from Turkey itself about how the military prevented Turks from celebrating Newroz, and how so many died at the hands of soldiers, as they broke the rules by insisting on celebrating.  But he did this through a lucky strike: The German television, ARD, had arranged for Weimer to use the studio’s of Turkey’s TRT television for a live program about developments at the time. “TRT employees could not speak German, which gave me the chance to speak of the brutal treatment of the Turkish military against Kurds, and that was how I informed the German public about those events,” Weimer remembers.

In 1990, he leaked the news of military cooperation between the former East Germany and Turkey. According to evidence collected by him, the East German government provided Turkey with tanks and other military hardware, which were used against Kurdish civilians.

First, the Germans denied such deals, but Weimer had gathered enough evidence to prove his claim. Later, in 1992, a German news channel revealed the scandal and as a result the German Federal Minister at that time, Gerhard Stoltenberg, resigned from his post. “The news that I leaked about providing military equipment to Turkey led to the resignation of Mr. Stoltenberg,” Weimer says. Twenty years after those events, Weimer still follows the situation of Turkey’s Kurds, hoping that one day the Kurds of Turkey will have their freedom.