Peace in Kurdistan: US memorandum gives Turkey legal rights over Kurdish heritage

Peace in Kurdistan said that the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Trump in his final week as US president is "a licence to plunder and destroy".

Peace in Kurdistan issued a statement to remind that in its final weeks, the Trump administration made a flurry of moves intended to bind the incoming Biden-led administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist organisation and announced that al-Qaeda had set up a ‘new home base’ in Iran. Trump also fired off a salvo of measures against China.

Less noticed, but equally insidious, said Peace in Kurdistan, was “a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Turkey, signed on 19 January 2021, the day before Trump left Washington. The agreement apparently calls for the protection of cultural property in Turkey on the grounds of preventing the trafficking of objects of cultural heritage.”

Back in 2019, when the Turkish government began asking for such a Memorandum to be signed, academics, museums and diverse cultural organisations around the world sounded the alarm. “The Armenian National Committee of America, - said Peace in Kurdistan - argued that granting the Turkish state ‘legal rights over the vast religious-cultural heritage of the region’s indigenous peoples and other minority populations is a licence to expropriate and destroy'.”

The UK campaign group added: “The land that is now Turkey contains traces of civilisations dating back 12,000 years to the Neolithic period. It has been occupied by some of the most notable empires in history, from the Assyrian, Persian and Greek to the Roman and Byzantium. Turkey is home to diverse peoples of different ethnicities and faiths. However, under its current leadership of President Erdogan, the Justice and Development Party and the National Movement Party, the Turkish state tramples on diversity, persecutes minorities and promotes the superiority of a brand of neo-Ottoman Islamism.”

When archaeologists and people the world over protested to protect the Hasankeyf settlement, they were ignored, brushed aside, and the site and 12,000 years of history was submerged under water last year, reminded Peace in Kurdistan, adding: “Hagia Sophia was completed by the Roman in 537AD. It was the largest Christian church of the eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church until Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, when it was converted into a mosque. It closed in 1931 and reopened as a museum in 1935. Despite the pleas of UNESCO, the World Council of Churches, the International Association of Byzantine Studies and an expression of ‘pain’ by Pope Francis, Erdogan’s government issued a decree in 2020 and reverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque. This symbolises Erdogan and the Turkish government’s attitude towards religious and cultural sensitivities – chauvinists and philistines.”         

Peace in Kurdistan also reminded how “in Northern Cyprus, which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974, the Hellenic culture of that part of the island has been looted and destroyed. Ancient Kurdish towns and villages have been raised to the ground by Turkish troops, Kurdish graveyards have been desecrated. Representatives of the Armenian, Greek, Cypriot, Syriac, Kurdish and other communities who have recently suffered persecution by the Turkish state, collectively demand that US President Biden rescind this indefensible Memorandum of Understanding.”