One of several e-mails from Kani Xulam, organizer and head of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN)

We attempted to bring about the "Leyla Zana Night" referenced in this e-mail, but unfortunately this did not occur.


Dear Well Wishers of Leyla Zana,

If my memory serves me right, one of my favorite Washington columnists, Mary McGrory, went to Boston Latin School. So, you guys were in my good graces before even telling that you were interested in highlighting Leyla Zana’s story. I said to myself, I better help them, for, who knows, perhaps one day they too will be columnists for the Post. When that day comes, please do not neglect the KURDS and KURDISTAN!

I am glad to read that you think Leyla Zana is innocent and wrongly imprisoned. Those who hold the contrary view are disciples of intolerance and ignorance. Those of us who believe in tolerance and knowledge and fairness have to do our best to get her out of her jail. That is why your efforts are so laudable and commendable.

As to your letter, I think it should be translated to Turkish. I don’t know anything about the Turkish students on your campus, but most, unfortunately, are clueless about the Kurds and Kurdistan and some are outright hostile. My preference would be that you contact the person in the cc box, to see if he could help you with the task. He is a very good friend, and I am going to put in a good word for you as well.
If you are interested in interviewing me, I would be happy to help you. If you ever come Washington, I would be delighted to meet with you.

But I have another idea as well. Why don’t you shoot for a Leyla Zana night at your own school? If you think you could afford a small honorarium for me, I would be happy to fly up there and give you a sense of my friendship with Zana as well as share with you what it means to be a Kurd in these times.
Thank you so much for working on the story of Leyla Zana.

The American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN)
2722 Connecticut Avenue NW # 42
Washington, DC 20008-5316 / USA
Tel: 202.483.6444 / Fax: Please call first.
Web-site: / E-mail:


A letter sent to Representative James P. McGovern


District Address
Rep. James P. McGovern
34 Mechanic Street
Worcester, MA 1608
Phone: (508) 831-7356
Fax: (508) 754-0982

Dear Representative James P. McGovern,

We are three freshmen students of Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts. We are writing this letter on account of Leyla Zana, a Kurdish activist whose actions and cause we greatly admire and whom you support. In the course of the next few months, we shall be doing a website in her honor; it will be mainly on her life, who she is, what she has done, and what impact she has made. Our main goal is to project to the world a woman who is sacrificing her life for a cause she so strongly believes in that she is willing to spend what may have been the best times of her life in prison. Leyla Zana is a great woman, a marvel of the 21st century, and we would like to help her and thousands of other Kurdish people in Turkey.

We would really appreciate it if you could provide us with information of any kind about Leyla Zana. Also, please let us know if you would be interested in an interview about her through phone or email. Thank you very much for reading this letter, and we wait in eagerness for your reply.

Sincerely Yours,
Julia Arnous
Jane Newbold
Jieyu Jiang

A letter sent to Leyla Zana, and the Turkish translation, which was kindly provided by Mr. Huseyin Aktas of Harvard


Dear Honorable Leyla Zana,

We are three high school students of Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. We are participating in the Seevak competition at our school, the goal of which is to create a website honoring the achievements of a human rights activist. As the presence of this letter implies, we have chosen to focus on you and your achievements, as well as the struggle of the Kurds.

We do realize that you continue to be a very busy individual even in prison, and that you are devoted to your studies and the promotion of the Kurdish cause through correspondence with international government officials. However, we believe that if we are successful in our endeavor, our website could bring about increased awareness regarding the present situation of the Kurds in Turkey. In our research for this project, we have contacted Mr. Kani Xulam, founder and director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), as well as Amnesty International, and Mr. Huseyin Atkas, who has kindly volunteered his service for the translation of our letters. We also heard the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speak at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, to get some background information and to interview others who went to hear him speak.

If possible, we would really appreciate answers to any of the following questions. However, we fully understand that you may not be able to send or even receive mail at this time. But if you do reply, we ask for your permission to use all of what you write back as part of our website. We sincerely hope you can write back to us, as any information you provide would be invaluable to our pursuit of peaceful coexistence between the Turkish and Kurdish people.

Sincerely Yours,

Julia Arnous - team member
Jane Newbold - team member
Jieyu Jiang - team member
Mr. Jesse Southwick - group advisor

1. What do you consider to be your most important accomplishment? What would you like to be remembered for?
2. What events in Kurdish history do you think had the most impact on the Kurds' present situation?
3. What do you think would be the best future course for the Kurds in Turkey or the Kurdish people in general, to pursue?
4. What do you think of the growing movement of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East? One of the people we interviewed suggested that it is at the root of how harshly the Turkish have reacted to any whisper of Kurdish activism, fearing that if that leads to Kurdish separation then Islamic fundamentalists will take advantage and sweep through the country. What do you think of this fear? Is it personal?
5. When we listened to the Prime Minister Erdogan talk, he gave us a very strong impression that the past is past, and what is important is the future of Turkey. Would you agree with this opinion, or do you think the government should at least acknowledge any past mistakes and human rights violations? What would be best for Turkey? For the Kurds?
6. Do you think Turkey should be allowed to join European Union, why? Do you think that Turkey lifted some restrictions on fundamental human rights and established new governmental human rights bodies just to satisfy the international standards? Are you satisfied?
7. During your inauguration ceremony, you wore a headband of Kurdish colors and swore in Kurdish. What prompted you to do that? Did you know that you might be put in prison? How did you feel when accusations of treason and separatism flew out?

Sayin Leyla Zana,

Biz ABD'nin Massachusetts eyaletinde Boston Latin Lisesinden uc ogrenciyiz. Biz okulumuzda amaci insan haklari savunucularinin mucadelelerini internet web sayfasi yaratarak dile getirmek olan bir yarismaya (adi Seevak yarismasi) katiliyoruz. Bu mektuptan tahmin edeceginiz gibi biz konu olarak sizi, insan haklari icin verdiginiz mucadeleyi ve Kurtlerin mucadelesini sectik.

Biz sizin hapishanede bile son derece mesgul bir insan oldugunuzun, zamaninizin buyuk cogunlugunu Kurtlerin haklarini savunmak ve gelistirmek icin dunyanin onde gelen sahsiyetleri ile yazismakla gecirdiginizin farkindayiz. Bununla beraber, eger bu cabamizda basarili olursak, yaratacagimiz internet sayfasinin Turkiyede ki Kurtlerin durmunun dunya kamuoyunca anlasimlasina katkida bulunacagimiza inaniyoruz. Bu calismamiz icin Amerikan Kurt Enformasyon Agi directoru sayin Kani Xulam ve Uluslararasi Af Orgutu ile iliskiye gectik. Biz ayrica konu ile ilgili genel bilgiler edinmek icinTurk Basbakaninin Harvard Universitesinde yaptigi kanusmaya gittik ve orda onu dinlemeye gelenler ile konustuk.

Eger mumkunse asagidaki sorularimizdan uygun gorduklerinize (mumkunse hepsine) cevap vermenizi arzu ediyoruz. Bu mesajimizin zamaninda elinize gecemiyebileceginin farkindayiz. Fakat eger mesajimizi alirsaniz cevaplarinizi internet sayfasinda kullanmamiza izin vereceginizi umuyoruz. Sorularimiza cevap vermenizi candan arzu ediyoruz. Bize verdiginiz cevaplar Turklerin ve Kurtlerin baris icinde birarada yasamasina katkida bulunmaya yonelik cabamiza guc verecektir.


Julia Arnous - gurup uyesi
Jane Newbold - gurup uyesi
Jieyu Jiang - gurup uyesir
Mr. Jesse Southwick - danisman ogretmen

1.) Sizce en buyuk basariniz ne?, Nasilhatirlanmak istersiniz?
2.) Sizce Kurt tarihinde hangi olay Kurtlerin bugunku durumundan en cok sorumlu?
3.) Sizce Turkiyedeki Kurtler ve Dunya Kurtlugu icin in iyi gelecek nedir?
4.) Artan ununuz hakkinda ne dusunuyorsunuz? Bilinmiyen bir kisi olmayi mi tercih edersiniz yoksa bu sekilde (bilinen bir insan olarak) daha mi yararli oldugunuzu dusunuyorsunuz?
5.) Ortadoguda buyuyen asiri dincilik hakkinda ne dusunuyorsunuz? Bazilari devletin Kurtlere yonelik asiri tepkisinin temelinde asiri dinciligin yattigini, eger Kurtler ayrilirsa dincilrein Turkiyeye hakim olacagi korkusunun deletin kutlerin en makul taleplerine bile sert tepkide bulunmasina yol actigini soyluyorlar. Bu konuda sizin dusunceniz ne?
6.) Babbakan Erdogan gecmisin gecmis, bugunun bugun oldugunu onemli olanin gelecek oldugunu soyledi. Sizce bu dogrumu yoksa Turkiye isledigi insan haklari ihlallerini ve insanliga karsi isledigi suclari kabul etmeli mi? Sizce Turkiye ve Kurtler icin hangisi daha hayirli?
7.) Sizce Turkiye Avrupa Birligine alinmalimi? sebebini anlatirmisiniz. Turkiyenin yaptigi reformlari yeterli buluyormusunuz yoksa bunlar goz boyamaca mi?
8.) Yemin toreni sirasinda kurt renklerini temsil eden sac bagi taktiniz ve Kurtce yemin ettini? Bunun sebebini aciklarmisiniz? O zaman hapse girebileceginizi dusundunuz mu? Ayrilikcilikla ve ihanetle suclanmaniza tepkiniz ne?


Vital Sources of Information

-Writings from Prison, by Leyla Zana, published by Blue Crane Books

-Attatürk's Children, by Jonathan Rugman

-AKIN's website, at

-an interview with Leyla Zana by The Middle East magazine at: