Event Reports, Human Rights, Not One More Execution

Event Report: Washington DC Protest Action in Support of People in Iraqi Kurdistan, 3 September 2011

For the past several weeks, people in Iraqi Kurdistan have been the targets of military operations by both the Islamic Republic of Iran and by the Turkish military.

The Turkish government and the Islamic Republic claim that the reason they are launching air and ground assaults in this region is to defend against attacks by armed militants. But in fact, these governments are attacking villages, farms, livestock, and civilian vehicles. They are targeting the people in Iraqi Kurdistan, and using the armed militants as an excuse to justify their atrocities.

In defense of people in Iraqi Kurdistan and in protest against the atrocities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Turkish government, Mission Free Iran in Washington DC organized a day of protest actions at both the Embassy of Turkey and at the offices of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This day of defense of people in Iraqi Kurdistan was held in conjunction with a dozen other cities in Europe and North America.

First, we assembled at the Turkish embassy to protest against Turkey’s role in bombing people in Kurdistan Iraq. As we were setting up our signs and arranging our flyers for dissemination, we talked to US police who were already stationed inside the gated compound when we arrived. Another secret service police car was sitting outside of the gates.

The police inside the compound spoke to us through the iron fence and asked us the purpose of our protest against the Turkish government – they asked, “What has the government of Turkey done to elicit your protest?” We explained the situation and shared a flyer with them. They inquired further, asking about whose soil the attacks had been on, and whether the attacks were ongoing. The US police didn’t give us any trouble at all; they were friendly and supportive, as usual.

On the other hand, the staff from the Turkish Embassy were creepy. The last time we protested against Turkish Embassy, the Turkish staff were extremely aggressive towards us as demonstrators, and even made inappropriate requests of the US police (along the lines of “get rid of these people,” to which the police at the time said, “Whatever. They have a right to be here.”)

This time, however, the Turkish Embassy launched a charm offensive instead: they sent out a handsome, young, friendly guy to chat with us. He assured us that Turkey wasn’t doing anything wrong against people in Iraqi Kurdistan, and that the Turkish military takes every effort to avoid hitting civilians and only attack PKK positions in the mountains. He even tried to elicit sympathy, saying, “We really have taken all that we could… we just had no choice.” Yet anyone who has seen the Turkish air assaults and seen the unrecognizable bodies of a family of 7 whose civilian vehicle was destroyed by Turkish air assault knows better.

The young man at the Turkish Embassy tried very hard to deny the Turkish government’s responsibility for the deaths of the 7 whose car was bombed. He put a lot of energy into denying responsibility for the family of 7, in an effort to focus the discussion there, while diverting discussion of the overall Turkish military operations in the region.

The family pictured on this protest sign died a horrendous death when their vehicle was targeted by a Turkish airstrike.

We also asked him why the Turkish military was conducting joint operations with the Islamic Republic in the region. He said that they were not joint operations, just concurrent. We said, “We all watched Turkish tanks move in to support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s operations when they first crossed the border into Iraq. How do you explain that?” He said he wasnt aware of Turkish tanks supporting the Islamic Republic’s operations.

While their charm offense was engaging us, the usual rabid dogs of the Turkish Embassy were snarling in the background and clicking photographs of us with their telephoto lens.

We started our protest action by declaring to the community why we were there. Many people stopped to listen to what we had to say, and picked up flyers. After we presented our reasons for protest and demands that the Turkish government stop its aggression against people in Iraqi Kurdistan, we began our chants:

1-2-3-4 Turkish troops out the door!
5-6-7-8 stop the bombing, stop the hate!

Iran & Turkey stop the attacks! Get out of Iraq & don’t come back!

Hey hey! Ho-ho! Turkish tanks have to go!

Turkey & Iran! Stop bombing Kurdistan!

Stop the bombs! Stop the attacks! Stop killing in Iraq!

A lot of passing drivers supported our action by tapping their horns. Because the weather was beautiful, there were a number of double-decker tour buses carrying ppl touring the US Capitol and Embassy Row. People on the tour buses tend to enjoy seeing protest actions in Washington DC, so they always snap photos of our actions. This was also the case on Saturday. We appreciate this because when tourists take photos of our protests, the message of the action reaches far beyond what otherwise would be the case. Several tour buses passed us throughout the day, and on each one, numerous people on the top deck snapped photos of our protest signs.

After we finished our action at the Turkish embassy, some of us decided to walk to the offices of the Islamic Republic. It was a long walk, but because it was a nice day, it proved to be a great opportunity to get more exposure for our protest action. Many passers-by on foot and in cars and on tour buses showed their support.

We arrived at the offices of the Islamic Republic and picketed there for about half an hour, and again people showed a great deal of interest. When we finished our protest action there, we noticed that the flag of the Islamic Republic was displayed in the window of offices. We decided to obscure from view that disgusting flag, which represents nothing more than torture, execution & rape. We covered the hideous flag of the Islamic Republic of Stoning, Execution, Torture and Rape from view by taping our protest flyers over it, and we left. It was later reported to us that as soon as we left, regime staff came out and removed the flyers.

Mission Free Iran thanks everyone who attended and supported this protest action in defense of people in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Photos courtesy of PR for Personal Rights and Saeed Salehinia.

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