Jan Qamishloki, Kurdish activist:
»Most demonstrators do not pray«
KURDWATCH, June 29, 2011—In an interview with KURDWATCH, the 32-year-old Kurdish activist Jan Qmishloki* explains how the dissident demonstrations in the Kurdish regions are organized.
KURDWATCH: Who organizes the dissident protests in the Kurdish regions?
Jan Qamishloki: There are several Kurdish groups that organize the demonstrations together. Their members are between 20 and 40 years old. The groups are in constant contact with one another. We operate as secretly as possible. For this reason, the members of the groups do not all know each other. We primarily communicate online. Those who know each other also meet regularly. Our task is to organize the demonstrations in the Kurdish regions.
KURDWATCH: The Friday demonstrations have a different slogan each time. Who decides on the slogan?
Jan Qamishloki: The general representative of the Kurdish groups is in constant contact with the representatives of other Syrian groups. Suggestions for the slogan for the Friday demonstrations are made online and then the representatives of the various groups agree on a slogan. A few weeks ago we decided that the Friday demonstrations will take place under the name »Azadî« (Freedom). By doing this we wanted to show that the Kurds and the Kurdish language are a part of Syria.
KURDWATCH: How is a demonstration organized?
Jan Qamishloki: In the middle of the week we agree on the slogans for the demonstrations in the Kurdish cities. Banners are distributed in each city. In al-Qamishli we gather at the Qasimo Mosque every Friday and wait until people are finished with the Friday prayer and join us. The activists come from various directions so that, should it come to that, everyone isn't arrested at once and not all banners are confiscated. Most demonstrators do not pray and come to the mosque just to take part in the demonstration. In the days before the demonstration, we alert the population to the protests, both through flyers and also through word of mouth and on Facebook. The demonstration lasts half an hour. It usually ends with various speeches by parties and other organizations. The banners are immediately destroyed.
KURDWATCH: Who takes part in the demonstrations?
Jan Qamishloki: It's mostly young people, but children, women, girls, old men also take part in the demonstrations. In short, you will find people from all social groups. There are also people there who are unhappy with their own personal situation and are hoping for improvement. All of them take part in the demonstration, even though they know that they could be arrested.
KURDWATCH: How do the bystanders react?
Jan Qamishloki: Most of the time there are more bystanders than demonstrators. Many are sympathetic to our demonstrations, but don’t take part. They are still undecided as far as participating in dissident demonstrations. One reason for their reluctance is the absence of Arabs and Christians at the demonstrations in al-Qamishli. A few individuals take part, but not in the numbers we had hoped.
KURDWATCH: And how do the police and the intelligence services react?
Jan Qamishloki: They observe the demonstrations and film them. Actually, they have orders not to attack the demonstrators. After the demonstrations, some activists are consistently arrested and later released from custody. They are then charged for participating in an unauthorized demonstration.
KURDWATCH: How do the Kurdish parties behave?
Jan Qamishloki: We are in regular contact with the Kurdish parties. The Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî), The Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria (Azadî) and the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria in particular support our demonstrations and take part in them. Many active participants in our groups have a partisan political background.
KURDWATCH: How do images of the demonstrations reach the media?
Jan Qamishloki: Each of us has a task. There are activists whose task is to record videos and take pictures with their cell phones. During the demonstration they take the material to a secret place, and from there they send the films and pictures to the media and publish them online. Some of us have Turkish internet connections so that we can send the material more easily and quickly.
* The name has been changed by the editors.
June 29, 2011