Friday, April 11, 2008

Zana Convicted Under Anti-Terror Law

PHOTO BY Burhan Özbilici/Associated Press
Zana stands outside an Ankara courtroom after her retrial in 2003. Zana's prison sentence long-attracted the attention of the EU up until her release in 2004 upon a decision by the ECHR.

Kurdish politician Leyla Zana was convicted yesterday for comments she made at Diyarbakır's 2007 Newroz festivities. At the festivities, Zana claimed that Kurds had three leaders to which they owed gratitude: Abdullah Öcalan, Massoud Barzani, and Jalal Talabani. Zana was convicted under the Anti-Terror Law for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” A symbol of Kurdish political resistance, in terms of support among Kurds determined to win cultural rights from the Turkish state, Zana is perhaps second only to Öcalan. Although her rhetoric can sometimes be interpreted as quite separatist and her demand that the Turkish state negotiate with the PKK—regardless of its terrorist tactics—abrasive to many Kurds, and downright despicable to most Turks, Zana has repeatedly said that she remains committed to a solution that can bring both Kurds and Turks together. Further, her proposed confederal solution grades sharply on the nerves of Ankara politicians. Zana's conviction will further polarize politicized Kurds and embolden support for the PKK.

Zana's symbolic stature is shaped by the ten years she spent in prison following her conviction in 1994. For an account of Zana's political life, see a profile Amnesty International Magazine ran in 2003. The profile also gives you an idea as to the degree of European support for Zana.

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