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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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2011 News
KHRP Highlights The Ongoing Unrest in Syria

KHRP is alarmed by the Syrian regime’s violent response to its citizens for expressing their dissatisfaction with their government. The repression and threats are unlikely to bring any stability and are more likely to further escalate the situation.  In the Kurdish region, expression of identity as well as any dissent has long been suppressed with violence by the state. Indeed, the KHRP has met with various European governments’ immigration agencies that have been flooded with asylum applications in recent years because of the brutal repression Kurds face by the Syrian state to discuss the grounds for such applications. KHRP hears of stories on a weekly basis of varying human rights violations including: arbitrary arrest and detention; torture whilst in detention; the inability to contact family or loved ones; deaths in custody and unlawful killings at demonstrations. 

KHRP believes the Syrian government is missing an opportunity to allow its people to have a voice in their governance.  Instead of blaming outsiders or making threats against protesters, the government should be looking to lift the state of emergency law that has been in place since the Baathist have been in power and allow for free expression and political dissent.

In response to the situation, KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz stated today ‘Syria could use this rare moment in history to make right some of its past wrongs by re-instating citizenship rights to the approximately 300,000 Kurds who were stripped of their citizenship rights by a decree in the 1960s.  The Syrian government, like all governments, has a responsibility to its people that includes respecting their fundamental human rights.  It extremely unfortunate that it continues to choose a path that can only lead to further unlawful violence and rights violations. KHRP calls on the international community to use its good offices with governments and businesses who have a channel of communication with this regime to state in no uncertain terms that respect for human rights is fundamental and integral to all dealings with the outside world.’


Kerim Yildiz / Rachel Bernu
Kurdish Human Rights Project
11 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DH
Tel: 020 7405 3835
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The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) is a UK registered charity committed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons living within the Kurdish regions.  Its innovative and strategic approach to international human rights practice, combined with a long-term and consistent presence in the region, enables it to secure redress for survivors of human rights violations and prevent abuse in the future.

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Turkey’s Village Guard System – Still in Place, Still an Obstacle

Kurdish Human Rights Project released a briefing paper today on Turkey’s long running, problematic village guard system. This system, which was established in its current form in 1985, has been responsible for numerous human rights violations and other crimes.

Currently the village guard system represents a major obstacle to the return of Kurds who were displaced from their villages during the 1990s but also the larger development of a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey.

Although on the payroll of the Turkish state ostensibly to help ensure security, the guards are more often associated with rampant rights violations of civilians and each other.  Reports of criminal acts and rights violations carried out by the village guards in Turkey have led international human rights groups, the EU and bodies within the Turkish government to call for the abolition of the system.

Although the Turkish government has repeatedly stated its intention to disband the system, to date they continue recruitment for it. In this, the village guards continue to violate the rights of returnees and each other, largely with impunity.

‘It is shockingly contradictory that the same Turkish government continues to use this system, which it has itself recognized is inherently and irreparably flawed, is the government that has made so many legislative changes to help better protect human rights in Turkey. By continuing this failed system, the government does itself  and its people a disservice and undermines human rights advancements in other areas.  Is Turkey committed to human rights for all of its citizens or not?' KHRP Managing Director, Rachel Bernu asked.

A copy of KHRP’s briefing paper can be found here here


Anna Irvin / Rachel Bernu
Kurdish Human Rights Project
11 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DH
Tel: 020 7405 3835
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The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) is a UK registered charity committed to the promotion and protection of the human rights of all persons living within the Kurdish regions.  Its innovative and strategic approach to international human rights practice, combined with a long-term and consistent presence in the region, enables it to secure redress for survivors of human rights violations and prevent abuse in the future.

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KHRP speaks to MEPs at the European Parliament on Freedom of the Media in the Kurdish Regions, Wednesday 23 March 2011

KHRP is delivering a lunchtime seminar today at the European Parliament in Brussels, regarding Freedom of Expression and the Media in the Kurdish regions. The seminar is part of a series chaired by Jean Lambert MEP, Vice-President of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group of MEPs and KHRP’s Advisor on Environmental Rights.

The series seeks to promote awareness and discussion of human rights issues in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. KHRP aims to bring key members of the European Parliament together to discuss areas of concern such as human rights, the environment, and regional security in the Kurdish Regions as well as their implications for the EU.

There are continuing and severe violations of the right to freedom of expression across the Kurdish regions, and the media is particularly affected by strict and repressive laws that serve to prevent criticism of the state and encourage journalists and writers to practice self-censorship. This seminar seeks to highlight some of the key issues facing those working across different media in the Kurdish regions and investigate the laws and policies of the respective nations with regard to freedom of expression and media freedom.

Speaking at the seminar today, Şanar Yurdatapan, Director of the Association for Freedom of Expression in Turkey stated that ‘Turkey has a long way to go’ in terms of media freedom.

Managing Director Rachel Bernu noted, ‘Freedom of Expression is a problem throughout the Kurdish regions and one that particularly effects the media, even to the point where journalist’s and publisher’s lives are at risk. Laws are often vaguely worded, ambiguous, and far too rarely implemented in accordance with the principles of free expression. The EU and other international institutions must ensure that governments in these regions to support this fundamental right, which impacts on so many other inalienable rights, such as the right to freedom of thought and opinion.’

KHRP will be releasing a briefing paper on this topic later this week, which can be found here on Friday, 25 March.

BP violating human rights rules, says UK government

A BP-led consortium is breaking international rules governing the human rights responsibilities of multinational companies in its operations on the controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the UK Government ruled today.[1]

Environment and human rights groups, which had filed an official complaint against BP eight years ago, say the ruling puts the oil multinational in breach of its loan agreements – including a multi-million pound loan backed by UK taxpayers.

Villagers living along BP’s flagship oil pipeline have struggled to hold the companies accountable for alleged human rights abuses associated with its development. The pipeline brings up to one million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian Sea, across Azerbaijan and Georgia, to Turkey from where supertankers ship it to Europe.[2]

The ruling follows the Complaint[3] lodged under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises[4] by six groups[5] in April 2003. The UK Government backed the pipeline in 2004 through its Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD).[6]

The ruling states that BP failed to investigate and respond to complaints from local people of intimidation by state security forces in Turkey guarding the pipeline. Local human rights defender Ferhat Kaya, for instance, has reported that he was detained and tortured by the paramilitary police for insisting on fair compensation.[7] Villagers allege that they are routinely interrogated when they raise concerns over the pipeline.

The pipeline passes through an area of north-east Turkey with a substantial Kurdish minority who have been subject to state repression for decades. Since the pipeline’s inception over a decade ago, human rights campaigners in Turkey and the UK have highlighted the risk of local people, particularly Kurdish minorities, being intimidated by state security forces. Today’s ruling has found that, despite widespread awareness of this “heightened risk intimidation”, BP failed adequately to respond to or investigate allegations of abuse that were brought to its attention.

The Complaint argued that such intimidation deterred local people from participating in BP’s consultations about the pipeline’s route and compensation negotiations for loss of land and livelihoods.

BP has consistently promoted the BTC pipeline as “world class” in its approach to human rights. According to its legally-binding commitment to comply with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (an international code of conduct for multinationals operating in the energy sector),[8] BP is obliged to “consult regularly” with local communities about the impacts of pipeline security arrangements and should record and report credible allegations of abuse by security forces to the authorities.

The UK Government has now found that BP breached its undertaking and failed to adhere to the Voluntary Principles in the north-east region of Turkey by not responding adequately to allegations of intimidation and not investigating them.

The ruling sets a major precedent. In future, to comply with these corporate social responsibility guidelines, multinationals will have to take into account the human rights context in which they operate, including the risk of intimidation, when designing and implementing corporate grievance mechanisms. Such mechanisms need to be robust enough that people can report intimidation without fearing further reprisals.

Given BP’s legally-binding commitment to ensure that the BTC project complies with the OECD Guidelines,[9] today’s ruling from the UK government potentially places the company in breach of its contracts with the major international financial institutions (IFIs) that backed the project with taxpayers’ money in 2004. In addition to the UK’s export credit agency, these include the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and other European and US export credit agencies.[10]

The failure of BP to adhere to the OECD Guidelines and the Voluntary Principles, as required under the BTC project agreements, also raises major concerns over the due diligence undertaken by the IFIs before supporting the pipeline.

Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House says:

“Public funders knew about the intimidation, but failed to check whether BP had adequate procedures in place to address and remedy it. They ploughed ahead with the project anyway for political reasons. Western governments appear to have been willing to sacrifice the human rights of those living along its route in order to grab the Caspian’s oil for the West.”

Rachel Bernu of Kurdish Human Rights Project says:

“It has taken eight years for the claims of villagers facing repression in this isolated area of Turkey to be recognised. We hope this ruling marks a turning point for the governments and companies involved so that villagers receive just compensation and human rights are not only respected but also promoted through investment in future.”

James Marriott of Platform says:

“This ruling shows that BP’s pipeline allowed and enabled repression of local communities. Yet EU governments and companies continue to push for new pipelines to suck oil and gas westwards from distant places of extraction. BTC stands as a warning that these planned 'energy corridors' risk becoming 'corridors of militarisation and human rights abuse'.”

Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth says:

"Using taxpayers' money to support this pipeline at the expense of people's human rights and the planet is a stain on the UK’s reputation. The pipeline would not have been built without public funding. Government ministers must now come clean about what action they will take against BP for breaching its loan agreement. The only way to stop this cycle of exploitation is to wean us all off our fossil fuel dependency by investing in the safe, clean and ethical technologies of the future."

Commenting on the ruling, Nick Dearden of Jubilee Debt Campaign says:

“This long-awaited ruling underlines the need for urgent changes in the UK’s export credits system. Empowering British companies to violate the national laws of other countries goes against the most basic form of social and environmental responsibility. Without effective safeguards, projects like BP’s one are bound to happen again.”

Peter Frankental of Amnesty International UK adds:

“The UK government’s condemnation of BP for breaching internationally recognised human rights standards on the BTC pipeline begs the question of why taxpayers’ money, in the form of export credit guarantees, was used to fund such a project in the first place. If such support had been withheld until BP had addressed the human rights context of their pipeline project, then these violations might never have occurred. It is time the UK’s Export Credits Guarantee Department was reformed to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The ruling gives BP three months to review and report on what it can do to strengthen its procedures to address these failings.


For more information and press enquiries, please contact:

Rachel Bernu, Kurdish Human Rights Project

Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 3835

Mob: +44 07513988491

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Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House:

Tel: +44 (0)1258 473 795

Mobile: +44 (0)777 375 0534

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James Marriott or Mika Minio-Paluello, Platform

Tel: +44 (0)1634 713 050

+44 (0)20 7403 3738

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Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth

Tel: +44 (0)20 7566 1649

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Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign

Mobile: +44 (0)7932 335 464

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Paul Eagle, Amnesty International UK

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7033 1578

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[1] March 2011: UK NCP Final Statement – Complaint against BP

[2] The 1,760 kilometre-long Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline runs from the offshore oil fields near Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. A consortium of oil companies, led by British oil multinational BP, built the pipeline from May 2003 onwards, completing it in 2006, although negotiations and preparations had started back in the late 1990s.


Its construction and financing provoked major concerns regarding its social, environmental, development and human rights impacts.

Local people who protested were allegedly threatened by consortium and national government officials.

Before and during construction, the pipeline violated more than 170 World Bank and European safeguards.

Poverty alleviation benefits are questionable and the potential for exacerbating social divides high.

The Host Government Agreements between the consortium and the countries supercede all national laws (except the national constitution) and effectively exempt the pipeline from any improvements in environmental and human rights legislation.

For more information, see:

Baku Ceyhan Campaign:


The Corner House:

Some Common Concerns:




For other documents and a timeline of the 8-year process, see:

[4] OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises provide recommendations for "good corporate behaviour" in the areas of employment and industrial relations; environment; combating bribery; consumer interests; competition; and taxation. Multinational enterprises operating in or from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states are expected to adhere to them.,3355,en_2649_34889_1_1_1_1_1,00.html

[5] Friends of the Earth (England and Wales)

Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands)

The Corner House

Baku Ceyhan Campaign


Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP)

The OECD Guidelines were revised in 2000, giving NGOs the right to submit complaints against OECD-based companies. Complaints are submitted to the relevant country’s National Contact Point (NCP) – a government office established to promote adherence to the Guidelines.

In the UK, the NCP is a civil servant based within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (formerly the Department for Trade and Industry).

From 2007 onwards, the groups were represented by solicitors Leigh Day & Co.

[6] The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) uses taxpayers money to help UK exporters, primarily large corporations, involved in ‘high risk’ projects or areas of the world by providing insurance, loans, guarantees and credits. The majority of its support in recent years has gone to companies working in the arms, aerospace and fossil fuel-related industries.

In February 2004, ECGD issued £81,703,893 ($106 million) in guarantees to the BTC project, the largest guarantee issued in the 2003-04 financial year, even though public interest groups had provided the Department with detailed evidence documenting the project’s failure to date to comply with the ECGD’s stated policies on environment, development and human rights.

[7] Trial Observation Report of Ferhat Kaya, September 2004

Ferhat Kaya has lodged a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights to hold Turkey to account for its treatment of him so as to prevent future abuses.

See also reports of the Fact-Finding Missions conducted by the groups annually from 2002-2005 to areas in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey along the route of the BTC pipeline, particularly that to Turkey in 2005:

[8] Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

In response to this Complaint, in May 2003, the BTC Consortium and the governments of the three countries through whose territory the pipeline passes (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey) issued a legally-binding undertaking to ensure that the project complied with the OECD Guidelines and the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

See “Joint Statement on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Project”, 16 May 2003,

[9] In a statement to the UK Parliament on 12 January 2005, Lord Sainsbury, then Under Secretary for Trade and industry, stated: “BTC Co is contractually committed to complying with the guidelines”.


[10] Some 70 per cent of the estimated US$4 billion costs of developing the BTC pipeline was financed and subsidised by public money or public institutions. The bulk of the public money was in the form of loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) of $250 million and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) of $250 million.

Export credit agency (ECA) guarantees for the pipeline included:

Japan’s JBIC $580 million

USA’s Ex-Im $160million

Japan’s NEXI $120 million

UK ECGD $106 million

France’s COFACE $100 million

Germany’s Hermes $ 85 million

Italy’s SACE $ 50 million

The US Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC) provided an additional $142 million in political risk insurance.

KHRP calls for an end to injustice for women in the Kurdish Regions

In bringing attention to the plight of women in the Kurdish regions, KHRP Celebrates International Women’s Day.  


In 2011, KHRP continues to raise awareness around the difficulties women have in accessing justice in the Kurdish regions. Whether they are in Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Syria, women face an uphill battle in their respective legal systems.  Laws, court’s interpretations of laws as well as administrative and social practices all contribute to women not being able to realise their basic human rights.


KHRP has closely followed the case in Turkey of a man who ran over his 17 year old pregnant wife and killed her because she had been raped by his brother.  KHRP was the only international observer at case which began in August 2009 and continues today. The findings of KHRP’s delegation reflect a failure on the part of the state to uphold commitment to human rights law concerned with gender based violence and discrimination. KHRP was disturbed to learn from its partner organisation the Van Women’s Association that at the most recent hearing on the 21 February 2011, a fight broke out between Pesen’s family and the accused, and the security in the courtroom battered the victims family. This horrific killing of Eylem Pesen again highlights the fact that much more needs to be done to improve the situation on women’s rights in the region and to insure the authorities upholds their stated aims of protection of women from violent abuse.


In addition, just over a week ago, a 13 year old girl’s abusers in Mardin were given reduced sentences for her rape because she was deemed willing.  The Court gave no consideration of her age and the fact that she deserved special protection as a child.  In the trial and it was reported that she was made to re-enact sexual positions in one of the hearings where she gave testimony.


The Heartland Alliance in Iraq with whom the KHRP has been allied over the years has recently released an eye-opening report entitled ‘Institutionalized Violence Against Women and Girls in Iraq’. While noting some advancements in the legal infrastructure and resources in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, it notes that women are still far too often blamed for the violence perpetrated against them. Read the full report here.


In both Iran and Syria, the situation for women is dire. Iranian women suffer from systematic persecution and discrimination rooted in constitution and laws that refuse to recognise their equality with men. Women face challenges both in discriminatory laws and through patriarchal attitudes in society. The implementation of Shari’a law seriously impacts on Iranian women’s lives and the Iranian penal Code has a particularly discriminatory legal framework when it comes to ‘Honour crimes’ which means that many more women than men are convicted and executed for these sort of crimes.


Syria’s denial of citizenship of up to 300 000 Kurds particularly affects women. These Kurdish women are expected to take care of the children without access to healthcare, they have limited assess to work and they are denied basic rights such as having their marriage legally recognised or have their own property. In addition they cannot leave the country due to no identity documents or passports. Furthermore, organisations working for women’s rights are banned in Syria.


‘Women across the Kurdish regions deserve much more from their governments and those charged with implementing the law.  KHRP calls on governments in the region to ensure that women’s rights are considered integral to the advancement of human rights as a whole.  Equally, the international community has an obligation to support the networks of men and women working support these rights.’ KHRP Chief Executive said today.  

Institutionalized Violence Against Women and Girls: Laws & Practices in Iraq

Heartland Alliance has released a report entitled, "Institutionalized Violence Against Women and Girls: Laws & Practices in Iraq."  The report highlights legal, procedural and practical challenges facing victims of gender-based violence in the criminal justice system, as well as those seeking legal rights through the Personal Status Courts.

The information and recommendations included in the report are based on real cases handled by Heartland working with their local NGO partners in the KRG, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basra.  Since 2008, they have handled close to 900 cases for individuals seeking legal rights in Personal Status Courts – and nearly 500 cases on behalf of women and girls who were detained and charged with crimes.  

Following the release of the report Heartland Alliance facilitated a panel discussion, which can be viewed (in Kurdish) at the following link:

The report itself can be found here

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