16 October 2004
Ex-deputy Zana receives European Parliament's Sakharov price at a ceremony in Brussels
Former deputy Leyla Zana addressed European lawmakers in Brussels yesterday and called for dialogue between cultures and urged Turkish authorities to remove all restrictions on the Kurdish language.
Zana, former deputy of the now-defunct Democracy Party (DEP), received the European Union's top human rights prize, the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament yesterday in Brussels.
"Violence has outlived its time," Zana told the EU assembly. "The language and method of solution of our age is dialogue, compromise and peace. It is not 'die and kill,' but 'live and let live'."
The former lawmaker of Turkish Parliament was unable to receive the prize that was awarded to her in 1995 due to her imprisonment for a decade until June. Zana was ordered to serve a 15-year jail sentence by the then State Security Court together with three other DEP deputies -- Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak -- on charges of separatism and alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Zana who was originally arrested in Turkish Parliament after delivering a speech in Kurdish and Turkish, addressed the assembly in Brussels in Kurdish ten years after her arrest.
Zana said that her aim was to underline the brotherhood of people's languages and cultures. "The Kurds are determined for a peaceful solution within the territorial integrity of Turkey," she added.
"Everything that is not given a name and not defined is without identity," Zana said. "Every living thing on earth has a name. It is only the Kurds who do not have a name," she told the 732-member assembly that gave her a standing ovation after her 30-minute speech.
European Parliament President Josep Borrell said the assembly has repeatedly called for Zana's release over the last decade.
"Your personal struggle has played an important role in the changes we have seen in Turkey since you were elected an MP," Borrell told Zana.
Zana, speaking at a news conference after receiving her prize, said Turkey had indeed made progress with reform, although slowly, and said she believed Turkey's recent ban on systematic torture has been effective.
"When I look at the past, I see great progress," she said. "This progress should continue."
The former parliamentarians were released from prison following an EU inspired reform by the government who lifted the state security courts in the harmonization process. Zana, Dogan, Dicle and Sadak will be retried by a Criminal Court in Ankara and the first session is to be on Thursday.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was created in 1988 in honor of the late-Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and given to prominent names like South African President Nelson Mandela; Alexander Dubcek, father of the Praha Spring; and Burmese Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The last year's prize was given to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on behalf of all United Nations staff.
Earlier, she met with members of parliament and the EU's foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, who assured her that the EU "will continue to defend the democratic values and principles underpinning European construction."
The EU Commission recommended last week that Ankara had met all EU requirements to start membership negotiations. EU leaders will make the final decision at their Dec. 17 summit.
"The universal values of the EU can help to bring about true reconciliation in Turkey," she told reporters after meeting with European Parliament President Josep Borrell. "The population in Turkey will contribute much to Europe."