One of the topics raised together with the recent demonstrations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in Japan was a fairly recent example of alleged police brutality, when video of a Kurdish man being forcibly pulled from his car was posted online last month.
As was reported in several major daily newspapers, on the afternoon of May 22, while driving a car the Kurdish man had been stopped by a patrol car.
Some Japanese were upset enough over the issue to organize demonstrations. But as J-Cast News (June 15) reports, a Kurdish human rights organization based in Saitama Prefecture did not welcome their intervention.
On its Japanese-language Facebook page, the Japan Kurdish Cultural Association issued a complaint regarding a 33-year-old Kurdish man who claimed to have been subjected to "intimidating" questioning at the hands of police.
Here is how the association's post began:
To: The Government of Japan, National Diet, National Police Agency and the people of Japan
From: The Japan Kurdish Cultural Association
Date: June 13, 2020
Re: The demonstration that took place on May 30 in front of the Shibuya Police Station,
The Kurdish people in Japan abide strictly by the laws and customs of Japan. This association will continue in the future to instruct its members to refrain from causing friction in Japanese society. Following the recent incident some people have been spreading incorrect information about Kurdish people. It is requested that you disregard this.
According to one version of the incident, the police indicated they wanted to inspect the interior of the car, but the man refused, saying he was rushing to go to the dentist. The two policemen began shouting and physically held down the man by his neck, causing injuries. A friend riding in the man's car recorded a video with his smart phone and later posted it on Twitter in protest.
Subsequent to this, on May 27, a criminal complaint was submitted to the Tokyo Prosecutor's Office. According to news reports, the police allege that after the driver had passed their patrol car he changed lanes without signaling. He also refused to show his driver's license. To prevent him from driving away, the police, concerned over the heavy volume of traffic moving along the road, physically forced the man to sit down. Questioning him, they claimed, was appropriate in such a case.
On May 30, some 200 people who had viewed the video staged a protest demonstration in front of the Metropolitan Police Department in Chiyoda Ward, shouting out slogans against discrimination against foreigners there, and afterwards in front of the Shibuya Police Station. Some of the participants were opposition party Diet members. Some of the demonstrators were arrested.
Then on Saturday, June 6, yet another protest demonstration involving some 500 people was organized. It happened concurrently with another rally protesting the slaying of a black man by police in the United States.
On June 10, threatening emails, claiming to be from ANTIFA, threatened that on June 12, hand grenades would explode at the Shibuya Police Station and Tokyo Immigration Office. The latter, as a precaution, suspended its services for the entire day.
The next day, the Kurdish Association posted its views concerning the May 30 demonstrations in Shibuya on its Facebook page. The association clarified that it "Was neither supporting the demonstrations and had no involvement in it whatsoever." Regarding the Kurdish man whose alleged mistreatment spurred the demonstrations, it stated, "There is no excuse for violating Japan's laws and customs. The point has been raised that if he had abided by traffic regulations and complied with the policemen's request, the police would not have responded the way they did."
The Facebook post also noted that while many Japanese people turned out for the demonstration, "none of them have any previous involvement in activities supporting Kurdish people."
"It is difficult to say the demonstrations this time were warranted... [and] it can be supposed that they may have exacerbated biases towards Kurdish people in Japan," the statement said, going on to complain that, "Regrettably, none of the media, academic organizations or other groups had approached the Kurdish community to ask their opinions."
In response to a query from J-Cast's reporter Hiroyuki Noguchi, Vakkas Colak, secretary of the association, issued a statement on June 15 that read:
With regard to the bomb threat against the Immigration office that was broadcast on TV news, the names of some Kurdish people were raised several times, so I thought I would have to issue a message. That's because if I don't, it will reflect poorly on the image of the Kurdish people and their community. The demonstrations on this occasion were conducted without any consultation with our association, and are an annoyance to the sincere and hardworking majority of Kurdish people. They will, I believe, bring about no benefit or advantage for us.© Japan Today