Kurdish-American Ibrahim Parlak Accused of PKK-affiliation Faces Deportation to Turkey


Screenshot From Democracy Now

Mr. Ibrahim Parlak, a 52-year-old Kurdish restaurant owner from Michigan, USA, faces possible deportation to Turkey where he was imprisoned and tortured before fleeing to the United States in the early 1990s.

Mr. Parlak was active in the Kurdish rights movement during his time in Turkey and participated in the organization of a movement against the Turkish occupation of Kurdistan and the mistreatment and oppression of Kurds. Like so many Kurds before and after him, Mr. Parlak was accused of being a threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey by the Turkish state and he was formally charged with being a leader of a separatist movement. During his detainment, Mr. Parlak was tortured.

Mr. Parlak arrived in the US in 1991 where he was granted political asylum. His case has been ongoing since 1999 when he applied for citizenship. In 1997, the Kurdish armed resistance movement, the PKK, was added to the US terror list and when the FBI began to review old asylum cases subsequent to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, it proved harmful to Mr. Parlak’s case.

We reached Mr. Parlak via mail and asked him why he was now facing deportation to Turkey.

So in 2004, he told us, the official deportation procedures started. Not long after he was arrested and jailed for 10 months.

“Since then, I have been fighting the deportation order. In the beginning, since Turkey had rescinded my citizenship and Turkey was not willing to issue any travel documents, I was stateless. Also, since 2005, Senator Carl Levin and Rep. Fred Upton were introducing private bills at the beginning of each new congress, which gave me protection from deportation. Further, the Secretary of Homeland Security had been issuing deferrals, which put my deportation on hold.”

“Now, those three things have changed. The deferral ended on December 24th. Senator Levin retired, and a current senator has not introduced a bill in the Senate, Rep. Upton did introduce a private bill, but in the House it isn’t effective until it passes a committee – which has not happened yet. Most disturbing, Turkey has issued travel documents.”

To your knowledge, has Turkey requested this deportation?
“At this point, we don’t have clear knowledge of this. All we know is that there have been some back channel deals and Turkey, who was always denying issuing travel documents, all of a sudden gave our government travel documents. What kind of deal this is or who was involved, we don’t know – it’s a mystery to all of us.”

What do you fear will happen if you are deported to Turkey?
“First of all, I have built a new life here in the US after years of hard work. I am connected to some back home, but the majority of my family, my friends, my business – everything I have is here. Just thinking of being uprooted from what I have been a part of for 25 years is unacceptable. As for what might happen there, I was there before and experienced the worst of it, and after all of that I survived to make it all the way to the US.”

“Considering what Turkey is doing to the Kurds and other minority groups, liberals and democrats, it’s a clear indication that I will not be welcomed. Especially after all these years of denying the travel documents, this sudden change doesn’t indicate anything good. I am certain I would be jailed, tortured and who knows if I can make it through that alive. Not just me – I am concerned for other people there – that my presence could endanger their lives.”

What can be done to prevent you from being deported to Turkey?
“At this point, at the legal level, the lawyers are doing what is necessary to stop the deportation. We can put more pressure on politicians, and bring as much public awareness to this situation, especially what kind of secret deal the US has made with Turkey, so that we can prevent something sudden and unjust from happening.”

“The short story is, as a normal human being, I am trying to stand for human rights and raise my voice for awareness as much as I can, and I will continue doing that. There is no crime to that. That’s just one basic human thing – I knows there is lots of suffering, unfairness and injustice in many parts of the world – especially in today’s Kurdistan – but in a place like America, for no good reason – or to just make a dictator like Erdogan happy – it isn’t right that my life and my family and friends’ lives should be disrupted like this.”

The date for Mr. Parlak’s deportation has been extended until March 21.

“After this date, he might actually be forced from his home and family, to face possible renewed persecution or death in Turkey or an unknown country. I am in shock,” Nicholas Gazzolo, the brother-in-law of Mr. Parlak, writes on the petition site that is collecting signatures to protest the deportation of Mr. Parlak.

Currently at 30,526 signatures, we encourage our readers to sign and share the petition in order to raise awareness of Mr. Ibrahim Parlak’s case and prevent his deportation to Turkey who is grossly violating human rights and currently killing civilians in Kurdish regions laid under siege by Turkish armed forces, causing the displacement of 200,000 people.

You can sign the petition here.

Mr. Parlak, his daughter and Mr. Parlak’s lawyer were recently featured on Democracy Now! and you can see the interview below from minutes 46:09.