"This is more than a Harbert story. This is a national story. We are a nation of immigrants."
U.S. Representative Fred Upton (Michigan's 6th Congressional District - 8/30/2009)

 

 Give him Liberty or set him Free!

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Meet Ibrahim Parlak

"I decided as a Kurdish person and as a Kurdish writer to challenge the undemocratic and inhumane policy of the Turkish state and publish this book. I wrote and published it in 1968 in Istanbul. With the help of my friends I distributed it throughout Kurdistan, Istanbul, and Ankara. It was banned immediately.

When I went to Diyarbakir, they arrested me.

They took me to trial, and the court asked me, 'Why did you write this?' I said, 'This language is a live language and people are speaking this language, and as a person in this area, I wanted to help people learn to read and write.' But he sent me to prison, and on the paper he signed, he wrote that my crime was to try to divide Turkey through this book, which is only sixty-four pages. I was in prison for four months. Then they released me, but Alfabe was still banned. The trial continued for six years, until 1974.

This book continues to be banned in Turkey. It was the first Kurdish alphabet book in Latin letters in northern Kurdistan, and it is the only alphabet book in the world that is banned."

Interview with Mehmed Emin Bozarslan, living in Sweden, October 1993

Ibrahim Parlak was born in 1962 to a farmer's family in southeastern Turkey, in the village of Sakarat. He attended elementary school in Sakarat and high school in the city of Gaziantep. On the farm the family tended cows and sheep, and grew cotton, wheat and melons. As one of ten children, Ibrahim helped with the farm when he was not in school. At home, the family spoke mostly Kurdish, though the language was banned by the Turkish government. Village teachers hired by the Turkish government were instructed to listen at the windows to hear if a family was speaking in Kurdish. If so, they could be jailed for separatism.

In 1971 after a military coup, Turkish soldiers came through the houses of his village, burning books. His parents, who could not read, had taught their children reading was important. In their house they had books about politics, philosophy and history. When Ibrahim saw his parents burning their own books because they were afraid, he grew very upset. He gathered all the books he could hold and carried them out to a field, where the soldiers could not find them.

Ibrahim spent time in his high school years learning more about Kurdish culture, and what it meant to be a Kurd. One day he found himself teaching Kurdish children to read and write in Kurdish, then being chased by Turkish police and soldiers with guns. Each day, one could read news of children (punished) for selling Kurdish newspapers, Kurdish teachers found dead, villages bombed during the New Year's celebration, and Kurds persecuted for speaking their native language.

After high school Ibrahim went to Europe, hoping to find a place where he would be free to express his identity and beliefs. He spent time teaching the Kurdish people in Europe about their culture, and organizing cultural events that were prohibited in Turkey. He learned more about Kurdish culture and history, and wished to share this knowledge with the Kurds in Turkey; he felt that Kurdish culture was in danger of disappearing. He also wished to encourage the Kurds to stand up for their rights to be treated humanely and with dignity.

Ibrahim returned to Turkey in 1988. Because the government had denied him travel documents, he could not enter the country openly. After a few months of living in hiding he was discovered, tortured, and sentenced to 16 months in prison for the crime of separatism.

The full details of these events are cited in Key Facts, as well as Legal documents provided on this website.

 

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
Abraham Lincoln