Turkey bans nine books on Kurds, ranging from genocide, Barzani, and Mahabad to Ezidi faith

Publishing house Avesta's Abdullah Keskin said his books were to be seized under an anti-terror law article.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities recently banned nine translated books of various scholarly subjects about the Kurds, the owner of an Istanbul-based publishing house that released them told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.

A local Turkish court in the Idil district of the Kurdish province of Sirnak deemed the books’ content in contravention of the anti-terror and press laws, citing articles that deal with “terrorist propaganda.”

Editor and founder of the publisher Avesta, Abdullah Keskin, said over the phone that a ruling by the court dated back to September last year. However, he was notified of it on Friday.

“To be seized, collected, and be banned from printing, distribution, and sale,” read a copy of the ruling Kurdistan 24 received.

The decision was taken in relation to the trial of two detainees whose houses were raided for allegedly working with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Police presented the books they seized from the detainees’ houses as evidence of a crime.

Among the books was one on the faith and prayers of the Ezidis, an ethnoreligious Kurdish group that faced genocide and whose thousands of women and children were sexually enslaved by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

A Turkish-language translation of Dutch Professor Philip Kreyenbroek’s “God and Sheikh Adi Are Perfect: Sacred Poems and Religious Narratives from the Yezidi Tradition” has been in circulation since 2011.

“How sacred texts of Ezidis have anything to do with terror, I do not understand,” a perplexed Keskin said, also questioning why it was allowed for all those years but faced a ban now.

Another book was “Genocide in Iraq, the Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds,” a compilation of reports by the Human Rights Watch documenting the Ba’ath Party’s policy of extermination of the Kurdish people in the 1980s that resulted in the killing of 180,000 people.

Keskin said the government’s current crackdown on any publication about the Kurds exceeded practices enforced during past administrations, including those of the 1990s and early 2000s, at the height of the Turkey-PKK conflict.

“I do not understand. There is nothing to be understood. This is political but also beyond politics. They do not want any talk on the Kurds by Kurds themselves,” he said when asked what he thought about the ban.

“We were already receiving word from bookstores in Ankara or Van, for example, that police had come to tell them not to sell those books,” Keskin added.

Two books were related to legendary Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani’s decades-long fight against Iraq to create an independent Kurdistan; the 1964 travel memoir “Journey Among Brave Men” by the American journalist Dana Adams Schmidt, and “Under the flag of Kurdistan” by authors Khoshewi Babekr and Pauel Shehtman.

American journalist Dana Adams Schmidt with the late Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in the mountains of Kurdistan, the 1960s. (Photo: Archive)
American journalist Dana Adams Schmidt with the late Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in the mountains of Kurdistan, the 1960s. (Photo: Archive)

“Contesting Kurdish Identities in Sweden, Quest for Belonging among Middle Eastern Youth,” a 2013 Ph.D. thesis by the Swedish-Kurdish academic Barzoo Eliassi, “From Victim Diaspora to Transborder Citizenship?” by sociologist Khalid Khayati were other victims of the ban.

“Ottomans, Safavids and the Kurds in Battle of Chaldiran,” a study of the 16th-century regional war by Kurdish author Murad Ciwan, and Borhaneddin Yassin’s “Vision or Reality: The Kurds in the Policy of the Great Powers, 1941-1947,” on the short-lived Republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad, were also considered terrorist propaganda.

Only one of the books banned was about the Kurds in Turkey: “Blood, Beliefs, and Ballots: The Management of Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey, 2007-2009” by the American researcher Robert Olson.

Avesta’s lawyers said they would object the ban, according to Keskin.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany