Voices of violence

The verdict is there: RojTV, the Kurdish TVchannel broadcasting from Belgium with a Danish license, will not be closed. Good news! A victory for the freedom of speech. Having said that, I deeply wish for RojTV to disappear naturally, or at least to radically change.

I have the same wish for many Turkish TVchannels. They all glorify violence.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched RojTV, but I have. I have friends in Diyarbakir and when I visit them, RojTV is the channel being watched. There are news broadcasts, nature and music programmes, the boring weather stuff, in short, just what you expect on a TV channel. All spiced up with some good old-fashioned PKK glorification. Groups of PKKfighters strolling through the mountains, images of guerillas who died in battle, historic footage of PKK leader Öcalan leading meetings, all accompanied by patriotic Kurdish music and flag waving.


I have to say I was kind of flabbergasted when I heard that a campaign on Twitter supporting RojTV has the slogan: ‘The voice of peace, RojTV’. They claim RojTV promotes peace, for example because it broadcasts in all languages spoken in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran: (several dialects of) Kurdish, Syriac, Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Armenian and English. That’s great, and I mean it, but does that make it a voice of peace? The armed struggle is glorified, and however you look at it, an armed struggle is not peaceful. Dot.

Then again, I’m also flabbergasted when I hear Turkish officials speak about why they find it so important to close down RojTV. It’s promoting terrorism, they say, spreading hatred, etc. I prefer not to use the label ‘terrorism’ because I believe it’s a political term, but yes, violence is being glorified. But if that is a problem, shall we then also close down a few Turkish channels? Look at any Turkish news channel when the army has wiped out some PKK camp, or when a soldier has died: the army’s violence is being glorified, the funerals of soldiers are over-dramatized and repeated again and again, accompanied by patriotic music and flag waving. Just like on RojTV, but with other music, and another flag.


Both RojTV and Turkish channels are voices of violence. Via satellite dishes, they reach millions of people in Turkey and its wider region and in Europe. They are a perfect reflection of what is going on in Turkey: a bitter, long-lasting conflict, causing loss of precious human lives on both sides. Both RojTV and Turkish channels are symptoms of these conflicts. If you criticize RojTV, you can’t refrain from criticizing Turkish media as well. If you forbid RojTV, than take Turkish channels off the air too.

But of course, closing TVstations down for what they broadcast is never a good idea. It violates the freedom of speech, one of the most basic human rights. The trick is to nullify the reason why they apparently feel the need to glorify violence. If the Kurdish question is solved through political means, I bet RojTV will change, and Turkish channels too. But the stations have a responsibility of their own too. They could actually contribute to peace. By reducing nationalism, but most of all by stopping the glorification of violence, the flag waving, the nationalism.

The licence of RojTv has not been withdrawn. I strongly agree with the judges’ decision. And I deeply hope RojTV has the courage to change.

14 replies
  1. Mattia Bordignon
    Mattia Bordignon says:

    this time i don’t agree completely… if there were a tv station that supports crimes like he assassination of theo van gog and the ideologies behind them, wouldn’t it be ok to have them closed by means of law?

    am i missing something?

  2. Hevallo Azad
    Hevallo Azad says:

    After the establishment of the modern Turkish state there was an official state plan to completely forcibly assimilate the Kurdish people in Turkey, that, had it not been for the resistance of the Kurds themselves would of worked and we would not be talking about Kurds in Turkey because they would of been totally absorbed into Turkish culture, life and language.

    The Turkish state brutally crushed any objection to this assimilation with the levels of violence that would keep the International War Crimes Court working for hundreds of years if there were any justice in this world!

    The word ‘genocide’ is often over used but the state did attempt to culturally and indeed at times in different places physically extinguish the Kurdish identity!

    Let’s get the word ‘violence’ into perspective shall we!

    The overwhelming and brutal violence of the Turkish state towards the Kurds over a period of approx 80 years and the armed resistance of a small brave band of young Kurdish volunteers is not the same and should not be presented as the same.

    The years of training in US and German psychological warfare training camps has fine tuned the Turkish psychological misinformation campaign that is central to Turkey’s battle against the demands for Kurdish rights and justice, has had it’s affect!

    The Kurdish side HAS reported and been on the side that have wanted to and tried to initiate a peaceful settlement with Turkey only to be ignored and attacked with ever increasing ferocity with state violence on a completely different scale.

    So Roj TV HAS been the voice of peace and is also is the eyes and ears of the Kurdish people in Turkey, reporting on Turkey’s continuing and increasing human rights abuses against the Kurds.

    It is clearly not a case of ‘two equal sides’ of violence as you portray but a very unequal conflict where one side is trying to defend itself!

    At a time when thousands of Kurdish activists including MP’s, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, children and legal pro Kurdish activists have been rounded up and thrown into prison this issue is going to raise its head again.

    Turkey bombed and killed 35 innocent young people at Uludere with fighter jets!

    Jailing and bombing innocent people does not give the impression of a state that wants peace but of a state that wants to totally and utterly dominate and annihilate the Kurdish movement!

    What are the Kurds supposed to do, lie down and die or when they again begin to resist will you condemn them for ‘using violence’!

  3. Shiler
    Shiler says:

    There are always two sides to each story and this one is no different, however the sides mentioned here are not the ones of most use for understanding the term “violence” in relation to the media.

    Turkey as a state apparatus has during decades tried and attempted every way possible to extinguish any sort of nationalistic flame within the Kurdish population. Massmurders, massacres, arrests, dissaperances, torture and political oppression are all, as you are aware of, methods of the Turkish state.

    The Kurdish people then decided to stand up agains this brutality, to fight back as any normal human being would do in the face of threats. The resistance took many shapes, a guerilla defence force was one of them and kurdish satellite media is another. For the sake of the discussion, I’ll leave the military side of the drama (although it is a very crucial part of this equation) and focus on the media aspect.

    When Turkish state TV cannot report the whole truth, ROJTV takes on the task of reporting on the rest AND THIS IS VITAL for Turkey to have any changes done to its undemocratic system.

    ROJ TV does not glorify violence, ROJTV glorifies the young men and women who won’t stand still and silent in the face of massmurders being committed by Turkey. ROJTV does also promote peace, by highlighting every effort from anyone in Turkey for a DEMEOCRATIC solution to the issue. They broadcast different views, from within Kurdistan and the interntional community, they broadcast programmes on women’s issues, youth issues, issues concerning Kurdish diasbled people etc… and this is more than Turkey has ever accomplished i.e. to be democratic.

    When comparing these two counterparts, I hope you understand how the system that set ROJTV into work functions and how nothing is promoted but an end to the violence in Turkey…

  4. Candide
    Candide says:

    There are kind of Nationalism. I agree with the fact that Turkish TV Channels are a bit on the nationalistic side but I watch Dutch channels here in the Netherlands and there is hidden nationalism where almost in each TV commercial “Nederlands” is mentioned. You can make a comparison with Turkish channels and count how nationalism is used in different context. Just try.
    Comparing RojTV to any Turkish TV channel is fundamentally wrong. It’s chicken egg problem at some point but in most basic sense Turkish TV channels are there for different purposes other than showing military stuff (which is a consequence of something you hardly address while try be too critical). Also it is several times proven that RojTV is supported (or cooperating with) by PKK. You may not call PKK as a terrorist organization (you are free to do so) but it is accepted as a terrorist organization here and there… Can you name any Turkish TV that supports a terrorist organization or so.

  5. Candide
    Candide says:

    @ Hevallo Azad & @ Shiler Jan
    My uncle is Kurd from Tunceli. He is retired from one of the municipalities in Turkey. He can talk Kurdish whenever he wants and as far I know he had problems once not because he is Kurdish but because he is/was a leftish guy (like rest of my family) in 80s so as a consequence he was designated for another position in his work.
    Of course this is just an example from my family but for me quite enough to break your claims/assertions.
    There are some other examples too… In Istanbul how many Kurds are living ? Ex Prime Minister of Turkey (Turgut Ozal) was a Kurdish descendant. List can go on. I’ve seen lots of Kurdish people speaking Kurdish on the streets and I never seen somebody intervened with that.
    So all in all I accept there are fundamental flaws in terms of rights and democracy in Turkey but it is not only targeted Kurdish people and I would say common problems for everybody.
    But if I were a foreigner reading your text I would say wow in Turkey they systemically torture and kill Kurdish people. I think you intentionally mislead people !
    Finally, @Hevallo Azad, a person with below average IQ can understand that you copied pasted some sentences 🙂

  6. Candide
    Candide says:

    @ Mattia Bordignon, the link you gave is a nice one because it is not only a perspective backed up with nonsense sentences (like we see above) but have a flow of fact/incident then conclusion/opinion.

  7. Hevallo
    Hevallo says:

    My wife’s aunt was traveling on a bus sitting next to a Turkish woman! They spoke about many subjects on their journey, the economy, weather, gossip etc and the Kurdish is came up! My wife’s aunt said, “oh, I am actually Kurdish” the woman recoiled and said “No, dear, don’t say that about yourself, you seem such a nice person!”

    To deny there is racism against Kurds in Turkey simply weakens your position and lacks credibility!

    Your relative, if involved in the movement that has defended and demanded Kurdish rights in Turkey would have a totally different experience!

    It is true to say that now there have been great strides and that the Kurdish issue is not the taboo it once was but this morning 22 or so elected councilors were taken into custody in Diyarbakir, joining tens of thousands scsof political hostages/prisoners in Turkish jails!

    To argue that there are Kurdish politicians is an argument of the nineties! Of course there are but those who demand rights for Kurds are

    I will take your accusation that I cut and paste as a compliment and insult in equal measure as I do write my own posts! ;o)

  8. Candide
    Candide says:

    Hi Hevallo,

    “Your relative, if involved in the movement that has defended and demanded Kurdish rights in Turkey would have a totally different experience!”

    Could you picture it ? So the difference on your mind could be more explicit to me.

    “To argue that there are Kurdish politicians is an argument of the nineties! Of course there are but those who demand rights for Kurds are ‘criminalized’!”

    So how criminalized Kurds can be in politics and can be in parlament. What kind of contradiction is that ?

    People don’t want to see that Turkey has some fundamental social and economical problems (such as inequal distribution of wealth and gaps between regions) and it is the case for everybody but people want to see it as Kurdish problem because it became more obvious with some historical and ethnical background there.

    If you would approach to problem from that perspective I would support you but what you are talking is just plain micro-nationalism. So you lack credits more than I do sorry…

    You don’t need to take my copy-paste comment as an insult or as a compliment. Your writing was sounding too mechanical and like a declaration. We are commenting here so I expect comments on the warm side like someone written it.

  9. JG
    JG says:

    My wife is Kurdish and we watch Roj TV of course, but she has no illusions about Roj TV being objective or non partisan. You don’t watch it for the absolute truth but because they’ll report on stories that the Turkish media won’t–or at least they won’t be state biased. For the KCK arrests we look to Roj–because despite all the hyperbole about genocides and fascists, it at least gives a glimpse beyond the silly state propaganda. But the hyperbole is still out there, and all the flag waving and what not is not really all that fundamentally different than what the Turks are doing. The Kurds are a lot smarter than that by now–but the anger and history of suffering and oppression is so large that the partisanship of Roj is understandable if counterproductive. A friend for the BBC–himself Kurdish–says that the Kurds must strive to be better than the people they are fighting against–criticize their own politics when its necessary, be open to change, admit to mistakes–its the only way to maintain one’s integrity in what is becoming a war of image.

  10. JG
    JG says:

    And as for Dutch news being nationalistic–there’s a big difference between a recignized bias and over 80% of the news being government controlled. Journalists all throughout Turkey are complaining that all genuine reporting is being strangled by government meddling.

  11. Candide
    Candide says:

    If you say things are not controlled by government you know nothing about Europe JG 🙂 It was well regulated and controlled ages before thus, now people even can not question it. So the perspective they receive is an ultimate one that they like to export to other countries. I don’t say Turkey is better here but in some basic sense there is no big difference actually. Can you imagine in any country (not in Europe only) a man (you can guess who is he) who is jailed for being the head of terrorist organization (we can discuss here if it is right or wrong forever and ever but just understand the point for a second) is giving public declarations once a week or so 🙂
    Just give me an example. If you ask me in Turkey it is just chaos. In Europe it is well regulated and not possible.
    Finally I don’t care if it is government controlled or just a bias of people. Government = People at some point…. You can not find a PVV-like party that gets %20 of votes in Turkey. MHP and BDP is most nationalist parties and still have much reasonable talk than PVV and if you add them together (which they are just the opposite poles) you hardly get %20. Be reasonable por favor 🙂

  12. Erdinc Tagac
    Erdinc Tagac says:

    I totally agree with your article, dear Frederike! Kurds thing that they fight for peace, Turks mean that they fight against terrorism! I will never understand how you kill a teacher, disarmed soldiers or fire people with molotof cocktail. Other side, how a state bombs their citizens and kill them, torture or make disappear them when they are arrested.


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