The General and Municipal elections of 18 April were characterised by a strong advance of the Turkish ultra nationalist parties of the "left" (Bulent Ecevit’s "Democratic Left Party", DSP, with 22.6% of the votes) and the extreme right (Devlet Bahçeli’s National Action Party, MHP, with 18.6% of the votes. The two organisations of the traditional nationalist right, Mr Mesut Yilmaz’s Motherland Party, ANAP, and the Right Path Party, DYP, both collapsed while the Republican People’s Party, created by Ataturk in 1923 and which now claims to be social-democratic, failed to cross the fateful 10% national threshold and so will no be represented in Parliament, for the first time in its history. The Islamists of the Virtue Party, legal successor to the banned Refah Party and badly hit by the recent legal banning of their charismatic leaders, Mr Erbakan and the ex-Mayor of Istanbul, T. Erdogan, with a score of 15.1% dropped 6% compared with its score in the General Elections of 1995, though it succeeded in saving the most important part of its local influence, winning the local councils of major cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Kayseri, etc.…
In Kurdistan, despite the massive electoral fraud that took place in the rural areas and in a number of districts of the Provinces of Sirnak, Mardin, Urfu, Mus and Batman, despite also the incarceration it its main leaders and police harassment and the pressure exerted by a hostile media, the pro-Kurdish HADEP had a good score, winning an average of 30% of the vote in the region and about forty municipalities including those of Diyarbekir, Batman, Bingol, Hakkari, Siirt, Agri, and Van. It officially failed to win the towns of Dersim (Tunceli) and Mardin by a few dozen votes, thanks to the stuffing of the ballot boxes during the counting procedure that took place in the police stations. In some towns, such as Sirnak, Siverek and Hilvan, the local councils were administratively attributed to the parties coming second, because HADEP, which came first in votes had been forced, by threats that any councilors elected would be murdered, to give up the idea of presenting lists of candidates or even of holding any meetings. In Sirnak, the Army would not even allow the independent candidate, the lawyer Hasip Kaplan, supported by HADEP to set foot in the constituency to file his candidature, but was obliged to effect the formalities by fax.
Since its principal national and regional leaders were in jail, some already for over two years, HADEP (which is in any case threatened with a banning order by the Constitutional Court) was obliged to present as candidates whoever might be available (most of whom were not well known to the public) so as to give the electors of Kurdistan an alternative to the Turkish Nationalist parties. This policy received wide approval from the electors of Kurdistan while the substantial Kurdish vote in the West, aware of the impossibility of electing a HADEP mayor or Member of Parliament in cities like Istanbul or Izmir, preferred the "useful vote" tactic by voting for the Virtue Party lists. It should be noted, however, that in some Kurdish populated districts of Izmir, Asarlik, and of Adana Kuçukdili, did in fact elect HADEP mayors.
In Mersin, an important city and port on the Mediterranean coast, whose population has grown explosively over the last few years. Following the influx of Kurds, constrained into an enforced exodus as a result of the war in Kurdistan, Mersin (Içel) has gradually become a city with a large, probably majority, Kurdish population amongst whom the demands expressed by HADEP found a favourable echo. To such an extent that, in the elections on 18 April, HADEP had every chance of winning the Town Hall. The election count, in fact, gave HADEP a clear lead. On the night of the 19/20 April, at around 3.00 am, HADEP, with 41,000 votes was leading Mr Ecevit’s DSP, which had 38,000. On the orders of the Turkish Minister of Culture, Istemihan Talay, of the DSP, who was present in Mersin, the count was suspended for about seven hours. The next day the rest of the count gave the lead to the DSP and relegated HADEP to fourth place! HADEP has no doubt that, during the seven hour suspension, the Turkish authorities replaced the ballot boxes remaining to be counted by others stuffed with DSP votes. The party’s officials declare that there was fraud, and even blatant fraud in these results, and have appealed for annulment of the election before the Election Higher Council. Without any illusions, however, as it is hard to imagine that the Turkish State would let the Town Hall of this important city and strategic port fall into the hands of a Kurdish administrative team.
Electoral fraud, common enough in the West, was systematic in Kurdistan, particularly in the rural areas. "If you vote HADEP your village will be destroyed". This threat was heard by many inhabitants of Kurdish villages not yet wiped of the map, coming from officers of the Turkish Special Forces who came to warn them, before the elections. And, knowing that Turkish officers were not in the habit of joking, to ensure the survival of their village and their own lives some voted for the candidates supported by the Army (ANAP, MHP or DYP) while the bolder ones either put a blank paper in the ballot box or boycotted the election.
One example, amongst so many regarding these peculiar elections: the village of Sincik, in Ergani district of Diyarbekir province, has about 400 registered electors. Two ballot boxes were set up, under close Army supervision. The inhabitants line up to vote, but the sergeant-major warned them in advance outright: everyone must vote publicly and show the ballot paper that they put in the box. "I don’t want any votes for those HADEP traitors, else your village will be destroyed" he thundered. Faced with this threat, the peasants refused to vote. The count recorded 4 votes in all — those of the officers in charge of the polling station.
This peculiar context no doubt explains the enormous difference between the urban and rural vote in Kurdistan. Thus the HADEP list won 64% of the votes in the city of Diyarbekir, but only 39.9% in the province as a whole, where there was strong Army pressure in favour of the Turkish parties, who, furthermore, were allocated all the seats. Another peculiar scene — in the town of Lice, 70 Kms North-East of Diyarbekir, which had to a large extent been destroyed by the Turkish Army in 1993, and which has become "a town forbidden to non-residents", the HADEP mayoral candidate, Zeynel Bagir, was triumphally elected even though, throughout the election campaign he had not been allowed to set foot in the town, which is his birthplace. Lice is also the birthplace of Mr Hikmet Çetin, outgoing Speaker of the Turkish National Assembly, who, though of Kurdish origin, has never been elected to Parliament for any Kurdish constituency since, in the main, the Kurds consider him to be a "token Kurd", a Kurdish fig-leaf for the Turkish establishment.
Amongst the newly elected HADEP mayors are four women: Miss Ferrah Diba ERGUN, 31 years of age, elected mayor of Diyadin, in Agri province, at the foot of Mount Ararat, and, in the same province some Kms from the borders of the Iranian Islamic Republic, Mrs Mukkades KUBILAY, 44 years of age, elected mayor of Dugubeyazit, Mrs Cihan SINCAR, widow of the Member of Parliament Mehmet Sincar, assassinated in 1993, was elected mayor of Koziltepe in Mardin province and Mrs Ayse KARADAG, 46 years of age, elected mayor of Derik, in the same province. Furthermore, in defiance of the authorities, the town of Agri elected as mayor a public figure, Hiseyin Yilmaz, detained without trial for the last 7 months of a "crime" of opinion. His predecessor, Zeki Basaran, had been stripped of office by the Minister of the Interior, for an "insult to Ataturk".
HADEP, with a national score of 4.4% of the votes for the whole of Turkey, will thus have no members in the Turkish Parliament, although a system of proportional representation would have given it over thirty seats.
1999 GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS IN TURKEY
The electoral influence of other political parties in Kurdistan is summarised in the following table.
While Kurdistan gave preference to HADEP, Central Anatolia and the Black Sea Coast voted massively in favour of the MHP while the more developed regions voted for the DSP.
The rise in support for Mr Ecevit’s DSP was foreseeable, since for months the country’s major media had been carrying out an incessant sales campaign in his favour, stressing his "probity", his "patriotism" and the respect and support he has enjoyed with the Army since his invasion of Cyprus in 1974. By serving up Abdullah Ocalan’s head on a silver platter to him, the Americans have, perhaps unwittingly, greatly contributed to the popularity of this Turkish politician, mainly noted, until recently, for his anti-Americanism and his sympathies for Saddam Hussein. Part of the electorate of the CHP and of Mrs Çiller’s DYP seems to have, in this atmosphere of white-hot jingoism opted but "Ocalan’s conqueror". The suspension, by the British authorities, of MED-TV, the only Kurdish language television network, in the middle of the election campaign, prevented any attempt to balance, however feebly, the nationalist steam-roller effect of the Turkish media.
The Ocalan case, and all the strongly mediatised nationalist hysteria that has surrounded it since September 1998 played an even more decisive role in the strong advance of the National Action Party (MHP). This extreme right party, created by Colonel Turkes and preaching a "unification of Turkish peoples from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China", fundamentally anti-Kurdish and anti-Greek, waged its campaign around the theme of "the martyrs (Editor’s note: Turkish soldiers killed in the war in Kurdistan) will never die, the country will never be divided". It supplies the bulk of recruits for the Special Units (Ozel Tim and of the Turkish police serving in Kurdistan, and are strongly represented in the legal and teaching professions, and in the prefectorial administration (i.e. Provincial Governors’ staff). Very ideological shock troops of the Turkish Security and Civil Services, these Grey Wolves have, throughout the campaign, stressed their "patriotic " services and attacked "Europe, enemy of the Turks and supporter of the terrorists", insulting the leaders of the more traditional right-wing parties "incapable of eradicating the PKK terrorism".
In this atmosphere of nationalist overbidding, many Turkish electors who, previously had voted for Mr. Yilmaz’s ANAP or Mrs Çiller’s ("champion" of Turkish nationalism) DYP seemed to prefer voting for the MHP. In fact, a detailed analysis of the MHP electorate, made by T. Erdem in Hurriyet of 21 April, shows that about 1,100,000 voters who, in 1995, had voted ANAP and DYP this time voted MHP, which also attracted 700,000 votes away from the Islamic Fazilet Party as well as about half (about 1,300,000) of the 3 million first-time voters (mainly unemployed youth).
Despite variations of shading, there are, in fact, no real ideological boundaries between DYP, ANAP and the MHP. Many leading activists of this neo-fascist party have, moreover, served as Ministers in Yilmaz and Çiller cabinets. Fazilet, equally, also includes a trend that is more Turkist than Islamist, embodied by the Mayor of Ankara, Gokçek. The electoral ebb and flow between these political organisations, in accordance with fluctuations in the ideological and media climate of the moment and the charisma of their leaders, is not, therefore very surprising.
A charismatic and unifying leader like Turgut Ozal, had been able to federate these diverse Islamic, national-conservative and economically liberal components into the ANAP. In 1991, ANAP had won 36% of the votes. Under the leadership of his drab successor, Mr Yilmaz, this party now only scores 13.2%. For her part, Mrs Çiller, who had inherited a DYP that, under Demirel’s leadership had won a respectable 27% of the votes, now finds herself with only 12.2%, leading some commentators to predict the end of the centre in Turkish politics.
One of main losers of the 18 April Turkish General Elections, the President of ANAP. in an interview to the Turkish daily Milliyet on 28 April, imputed his defeat to the defection of his party’s conservative electorate. "We are paying the price of decisions dictated in February by the National Security Council" he added. (Editor Note: This Council, dominated by the Armed Forces, had stigmatised the Islamic threat, demanded the closing of religious schools and set up a strategy which resulted in the forced resignation of the Islamic Prime Minister, N. Erbakan, his replacement by Mesut Yilmaz and the banning of the Refah Party). "The 28 February, provoked the polarisation of political parties into two camps. On the one hand the DSP-ANAP-CHP camp, and on the other the Fazilet-DYP-MHP camp. Within each camp, some votes migrated from some parties to others. Ours, for situational and image reasons, went towards Mr Ecevit’s DSP" stated Mr Yilmaz. Pushed into office by the will of the Army, he had to put into execution the main anti-Islamic measures dictated by the Army. "Consequently we were seen by our conservative electors as the party of the State, the Army’s party, and we were rejected" explained the former Turkish Prime Minister, who also recognised that his "arrangement" (with Tansu Çiller’s party) to avoid either of them appearing before the High Court of Justice, on charges of corruption and Mafia links also alienated part of public opinion.
Finally Mr Yilmaz expressed himself in favour of a coalition between Mr Ecevit’s DSP and the National Action Party (MHP) while saying he was "conscious" of the danger of seeing this extreme Right party the infiltrating the State. Unlike Deniz Baykal who, following his party’s defeat (CHP) resigned as president, Mr Yilmaz does not envisage leaving the position of president of ANAP, like Mrs Çiller, who is also clinging to her position, and considers his party’s defeat as just a temporary incident.
The success of the National Action Party at the General elections has enabled many people accused of murder, drug trafficking and political or common law crimes to become M.P.s and thus enjoy Parliamentary immunity.
Amongst the M.P.s accused of murders are Mehmet Gül and Ahmet Çakar, elected MHP members of Parliament for the 3rd and 1st Istanbul districts respectively, both of them charged with the murder of 7 Left-wing students at Beyazit on 16 March 1978. Elected for the 1st Istanbul district, Mustafa Verkaya, also of the MHP, was charge with arms trafficking. Also Cilal Gris, elected, in his case on the DYP list and member of the Istanbul section of the Grey Wolves, is implicated in a political assassination committed on 16 March 1978; he admitted having given the address of Kemal Turkler, President of the DISK Trade Union, to Unal Osmanagoglu, one of the presumed assassins of the T.U. leader. The case has now lapsed through prescription.
Moreover, the re-election of the former Police chief Mehmet Agar, elected at Elazig, has enabled his to enjoy a further period of Parliamentary immunity, this giving him complete immunity for the many crimes attributed to him: providing arms licenses and false identity papers and diplomatic passports to the drug trafficker Yasar Oz and the Mafia chief Abdullah Çatli, one of the protagonists of the Susurluk scandal, releasing police officers implicated in the murder of the "Casino King", Omer Lutfu Topal and, above all, the organisation of hundreds of "mysterious " murders of Kurdish opponents, real or supposed.
The other newly elected M.P.s implicated in criminal affairs are Aragan Yilmaz, MHP Member for Usak, implicated in the series of outrages fomented by the Grey Wolves before the 1980 coup d’état; Ahmet Kenan Tanrikulu, MHP Member for Izmir, who escaped from Bostadel prison in Switzerland in 1990 with Abdullah Çatli; Ismail Hakki Cerrahoglu, MHP Member for Zongildak, implicated in the murder of a journalist of the daily Demokrat, who had fled abroad at the time; Ali Uzunirmak, MHP Member for Aydin, detained for questioning regarding the murder of the Trade Unionist Kemal Turkler, was found guilty in Germany for drug trafficking; Mehmet Kundakçi, MHP Member for Osmaniye, implicated in the Bahçelievler massacre; Ali Gungor, MHP Member for Içel, had assassinated Dr. Necdet Giçlu, a Left sympathiser, on 13 April 1970; Fahri Yuksel, MHP Member for Malatya, implicated in the murder of the school-teacher Nevzat Yildirim on 7 June 1978; Yusuf Kirkpinar, MHP Member for Izmir, found guilty in the MHP case following the coup d’état of September 1980; Raccai Yildirim, MHP Member for Adana, implicated in the murder of a number of Left-wingers but acquitted because the case was prescribed; Mehmet Sandir, MHP local councilor for Hatay, implicated in the attempt on the Pope’s life; Sefkat Çetin, MHP local councilor for Ankara, suspected of having organised a number of murders committed by MHP activists; Ali Alaman, MHP local councilor for Adana, implicated in arms trafficking; Muzaffer Çakmakli, MHP local councilor for Urfa, accused of drug trafficking; Ahmet Uças, MHP local councilor for Gumushane, at present being sued for embezzlement; I. Yasar Dedelek, ANAP local councilor for Eskisehir, accused of having organised the attack on the Istanbul College of Arts on 27 December 1976; Meral Aksener, DYP local councilor for Kocaeli, former Minister of the Interior in Mrs Çiller’s government, closely linked with the Mafia chief Abdullah Çatli, who was a business partner of her brother Nihat Guner. She is also suspected of having warned the Mafia chief Alaatin Çakici, of the operation to arrest him in the United States.
The list is far from exhaustive.
For the moment, the Turkish ultra-nationalists are arousing great concern in Kurdistan, in Greece, in Iraq, in Russia, and in the Caucasus, while Europe, inclined to "business as usual" in not reacting to the danger to peace of an extremist and heavily overarmed Turkey and some, in the United States, are beginning to weigh up their chance of using the Pan-Turkish ideology of the Turkish ultra-nationalists in their strategy of detaching the Caucasus and Central Asia from the zone of Russian influence.
On the initiative of the Green Group a meeting on the theme "The Kurdish Question in Turkey, what political solution?" took place on 10 March from 18,00 to 20,00 hours at the European Parliament. In addition to the Greens, the Socialist Euro-M.P.s, the Communists and the Liberals also took part ant this meeting-debate. From the Kurdish side the participants were Kendal Nezan, President of the Kurdish Institute, Kemal Burkay, President of the Socialist Party of Kurdistan, and –for the first time – a representative from the PKK, Abdurrahman Çakici.
The Euro-M.P.s,, including Mrs. Magda Aelvoet, Bendit and Peter Pilz, stressed the need to put an end to the violence of Kurdish groups in Europe and to start a process of peaceful dialogue. The Kurdish speakers mainly stressed the extent of the Kurdish tragedy in Turkey and the urgency of political solution.
K. Nezan called on the European parliaments to move forward from passing ineffective resolutions, expressing their opinions, to concrete governmental acts to secure recognition for the fifteen million Kurds of Turkey the same rights are they were negotiating for the one point eight million inhabitants of Kosovo. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, John Hume, recalled that rights were for people not for territories and supported the idea of concerted action by the European governments for an initiative in favour of the Kurdish people by initially nominating a mediator. Mr. Burkay remarked that seven Kurdish parties in Turkey, including the PKK, had signed a convention calling for a political solution within the framework of Turkey’s borders but that the latter rejected any dialogue and even that a Kurdish problem existed.
For his part, the PKK representative expressed the bitterness of his movement at seeing that in all Europe not even a prison could be fount to shelter Ocalan, and that the Europeans had sent him to his executioners. He called on the Western countries to intervene to ensure save the life of the PKK’s leader, since "he remains the essential spokes person for peace". The Euro-M.P.s promised to follow up and go deeper into the dialogue process with their governments so as to advance the idea of a European initiative in favour of the Kurds.
characterised by "relatively frequent violations of human rights and the regular appearance of "civil" wars and (political) repression of minorities" and it also recalled "Turkish incursions into the area".
On March 23 1999, passed a resolution on the influx of migrants from Iraq and the countries of that region. Amongst the causes of the flow of migrants, it considered that the region was characterised by "relatively frequent violations of human rights and the regular appearance of "civil" wars and (political) repression of minorities" and it also recalled "Turkish incursions into the area".
Moreover, Parliament recalled its earlier resolutions on Turkey and stressed that a solution should be found for the human rights violations and lack of respect for the rights of minorities in Turkey before envisaging giving it any mandate or even advisory role. The European assembly invited the Turkish authorities "to take advantage of the present situation to seek a political solution to the Kurdish problem".
Moreover, a Socialist International working party on the Kurdish question met on 5 March in Paris, chaired by Mr. Care Lidböm, a former Minister in Olof Palme’s government. In a press release, the Socialist International called for a political solution to the Kurdish question and demanded a fair trial for Ocalan.
These stands by European political forces do not seem to have had any effect on the Turkish leaders. The Turkish Armed Forces General Staff, in a document entitled "Latest situation of the struggle against terrorism", made public on 11 March 1999 (cf. Hurriyet of 12 March 1999) declared that "the Turkish Republic will also smash the external circles supporting the terror and will totally annihilate the PKK terrorist organisation". The General Staff continues to deny the existence of the Kurdish people in Turkey, though it is 15 to 18 million strong, by maintaining that "except for minorities recognised by international agreements, none of our compatriots constitute a minority". Moreover, it adds that "the Turkish Republic is a unitary state. An indivisible grouping, nationally and state-wise The official language of the State, its flag its symbols and its borders are not subject to discussion". The Turkish Army concludes by saying "the nature of our Unitary State is a single nation, a single country, a single State, a single language and a single flag".
That millions of citizens do not share this opinion and demand recognition of the Kurdish language and culture, that there have been so many deaths, so much destruction to make this demand heard is of no importance to the Turkish Generals, determined to defend, at whatever cost, the official ultra-nationalist ideology of the Turkish State, inherited from Ataturk.
After reducing the Kurds in Turkey to silence, the Turkish authorities are now trying to gag the Kurdish diaspora in Europe. Under pressure from the Turkish Government, the Spanish government announced, on 19 March 1999, that it would be appealing to the Constitutional Court to prevent the "Kurdish Parliament in Exile" from sitting in its Basque Province in July. The sessions of this "parliament" always arouse lively protests and threats of trading reprisals from Turkey.
Moreover, Germany and Britain have also attract the Ankara’s ire. On 17 March 1999, the Ambassadors of both these countries were summoned to hear a demand, to the first, that it cease tolerating the existence, on its territory of the DEM News Agency and the (pro-Kurdish) paper Ozgur Politika, and to the second that it put an end to broadcasts of the Kurdish language satellite television programme Med-TV. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, had announced, on 16 March, that Med -TV might cease broadcasting in May, following Turkish pressure, It seems that the British authorities have fallen into line, since, on 22 March, the Independent Television Commission, the British regulating body, suspended Med-TV’s broadcasting license for three weeks.
This suspension coincided with the start of the General elections and the start of Ocalan’s trial. Thus the Turks and Kurds were to have no alternative to the brain-washing propaganda barrage of the Turkish media. Turkish actions in European capitals to silence Kurdish expression have intensified since Ocalan’s arrest. However, the transnational campaigns of disinformation in the Turkish press have not lost ground. Thus the Belgian evening paper, "Ce Soir" discovered that its issue of 15 March 1999 had been distorted in the Turkish daily Hurriyet under the headline "The European Press is waking up at last". Ce Soir deplored the journalistic practices of this Turkish daily that quoted their article in a "distorted and frankly lying manner". "Whereas our article dealt with the wave of bomb attacks at the moment taking place in Turkey, placing them in their context — the arrest of the PKK leader and the appeals to react "by any methods" launched on Med-TV by some leaders of the Kurdish movement — Hurriyet allowed itself to say "The mass circulation Belgian paper "Ce Soir" declared : "The call for terrorism is made by Med-TV which is the mouthpiece of the PKK" The Belgian daily was also disagreeably surprised to note that this bit of disinformation was put out by Oktay Eksi, "who is not some occasional contributor but the paper’s leading editorial writer and, moreover, President of the Turkish Press Council, which is supposed to be the watchdog of press ethical standards!". Ce Soir pauses to ask itself "when the daily papers and TV stations working for Turkish State terrorism continue, in all freedom, to poison the Turkish immigrant community with such poisonous disinformation, would it be right and equitable to ban Med-TV because of the Ankara regime’s blackmail ?"
The Kurdish community in France, backed by CILDEKT (International Committee for the Liberation of the Kurdish M.P.s Imprisoned in Turkey) and the Fondation France-Libertés, sent an open letter to the First Secretary of the Socialist Party, François Holland, to express their disturbance at the pending signature of a contract between the Franco-German group Eurocopter and Turkey for the sale of 8 Cougar helicopters for the sum of 600 million francs. Below is the text of the letter:
Mister First Secretary, Following a tradition started by Mr. Lionel Jospin, you were good enough to send the Kurdish community a good will message on the occasion of the traditional Kurdish New Year.
We are, of course, very moved by you "your warmest good wishes" and thank you for them. But, on the very day of your message, by an unhappy co-incidence of dates, the daily paper Le Monde of 20 March published the attached article, which informed its readers that France was on the point of selling the Turkish Police 8 Cougar helicopters and that it was negotiating for the sale of 145 more helicopters to the Turkish Army for a total of 4 billion dollars.
It is politically notorious that helicopters are used in the repression of civilian populations and in the forced evacuation and destruction of Kurdish villages. This is, moreover, the reason why the US Congress has, several times, opposed their sale and why the German government recently refused to allow a demonstration of Franco-German Tiger helicopters for Turkish clients.
The international Presshas reported that the Turkish Army had forcibly evacuated 4,000 villages and displaced 3 million Kurdish civilians. In case these facts have escaped you attention, we enclose herewith a list, by no means exhaustive, or Kurdish villages wiped off the map. You must know, sir, that behind each tiny village’s name there are hundreds of broken lives, a historic heritage annihilated, an Oradour commited in camera. [Translator’s note: Oradour was a French village wiped out by an SS company on its way to the front in 1944.]
In this context, we have real difficulty in understanding your wish "that there is finally being sketched out a just and peaceful solution to the painful Kurdish question, in the various countries in which Kurds live, particularly Turkey".
You are the First Secretary of a party that heads the French government, and that government is giving Turkey the military means of still further martyrising our people.
Is arming the executioner and feeding his war machine really the way to advance towards " a just and peaceful solution"? Do these practices seem to you compatible with the Human Rights values that France claims and with socialist ideals?
And how can one explain to the Kurds and to public opinion that the French government is engaging in a war to impose the autonomy of 1,800,000 Kosovars on Serbia while the same government, in the name of a logic that is beyond our comprehension, arms Turkey that is massacring, deporting and martyrising the 15 million Kurds who also demand their autonomy?
In the hope that you would be good enough to answer these questions that torment us and that we will not fail toraise, and have raised during the European election debate, please accept, Mr First Secretary, our sincerest greeting.
On the course of a ceremony, on 26 March 1999, commemorating the creation of the Turkish Constitutional Court 37 years ago, Ahmet Necdet Sezar, the president in office of this Court, openly criticised the Turkish Constitution for the restrictions it imposes on basic freedoms. "Where there is no freedom, there can be no democracy Freedom of opinion is the most obvious measure for judging the quality of democracy in a country" declared Mr. Sezer. Insisting on the need to conform to the universal standards of Human Rights, he projected a revision of the clauses of the Constitution that restrict freedom of opinion. Mr Sezer also pinpointed the "limitations of language" (Editors Note: legalistic euphemism for the banning of the Kurdish language) in Turkey, maintaining that they seriously compromise the expression of freedom of thought. In fact, Article 26, clause 3 of the Turkish Constitution lays down that "No prohibited language can be used to express or propagate ideas". In fact, this clause in no way conforms to the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory. Mr Sezer’s criticisms are not only directed at the Constitution but also to the innumerable laws limiting basic freedoms in Turkey, such as the laws on associations and Trade Unions, the law on higher Education, the law on political Parties, the laws on collective bargaining and agreements, strikes and lockouts, the law regarding the State Security Courts, the laws on demonstrations, the press, the Anti-Terrorist Act and many others.
Observers note that, a few days before the first session of the newly elected Turkish Parliament, whose markedly nationalist character had surprised many, Mr Sezer simply wanted to suggest some essential orientations to the newly elected M.P.s. The very publicised speech by the President of the Constitutional Court was welcomed by all the political parties. The only dissenting note to the chorus of agreement that Turkish politicos are in the habit of verbally expressing whenever the subject is raised of supporting reforms in favour of basic rights came from the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Vural Savas, who felt that these remarks were aimed at him personally, and from the military judges of the State Security Courts.
Mr Sezer’s speech raises many questions. Why has this judge, nominated by the authors of the 1980 coup d’état and who has hitherto adapted himself very well to the Turkish Constitution imposed by the Army in 1982, chosen this moment to speak about the need for reform? Is he speaking in his personal capacity, or as spokesman for certain sections of the Army? Is it a kite flying exercise or an attempt to persuade the West that the Turkish regime could democratise itself without external interference? In any case, this sally, widely taken up by the official media, took place just after the NATO summit which affirmed the priority that would, henceforth, be given to Human Rights in the Euro-Atlantic region.
While these speculations were in full spate, the Vice-President of the same Court, Güven Dinçer, tartly criticised Mr. Sezer in a written statement on 29 April 1999. "I dislike the criticisms of the Constitution made by the Constitutional Court’s President. Such a task should be left to intellectuals, not to responsible politicians and magistrates. Because the prime defender of the Constitution is the Constitutional Court. This sort of statement calls into question the role of the Court as impartial arbitrator and positions it as a party. Such events and subjects should not be considered as simple legislative matters". In Mr. Dinçer’s view, the remarks by the Court’s President are just his personal opinions and do not commit the Court as a whole. Moreover, in stating that the Constitutional arrangements about language, namely Article 26 clause 3, should not be called into question, the Vice-President refuses any discussion about Kurdish, the mother tongue of a quarter of the country’s population. Finally the he hammered home the point that the protection of the State was one and the same as the unity of the nation and the country.
The 6th Congress of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) met in the Mount Qandil region, at the Iraqi-Iranian borders, and finished its work at the beginning of March. The Congress is said to have assembled "over 300 delegates" and to have lasted several weeks. The daily paper Ozgur Politika, published in Turkish in Germany and close to the PKK, published the resolutions of this "victory Congress" in its issue of 5 March. The delegates unanimously re-elected Abdullah Ocalan as the Party’s President General and launched an solemn appeal to the Turkish authorities to regard his as a negotiator for peace and not to make an attempt on his life. "Either we will be able to cohabit equally in this world or else we will not leave alive those who refuse our right to life" warned the Congress, putting forward a theme widely developed by media close to the PKK: "The world has become Hell for the Kurds, lets make it Hell for the Turks and their allies". The Congress, moreover, decided to form a People’s Army for the Liberation of Anatolia, to extend the war to the whole of Turkey, in particular to the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions. All military and economic targets, including tourist ones, are considered legitimate. The PKK calls on its activists to become "feddayeen inspired by the spirit of Apo (Ocalan) and ready to sacrifice themselves". It stresses that it will consider null and void any statements attributed to Ocalan or made by him in captivity.
Finally, the 6th Congress decided to pursue the guerrilla in raqi Kurdistan although the two Iraqi Kurdish parties had agreed, in a convention signed in Washington in 1998, to ban any PKK military presence in the region they jointly control.To co-ordinate its activities in Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK created a new organisation, PKK-South, and reiterated its determination to maintain a permanent in this region.
This military presence is used to justify the recurrent, not to say routine, intrusion of the Turkish Army into Iraqi Kurdistan and hinders the attempts to stabilise and rebuild this region, devastated by 30 years of war and dictatorship. It also appreciably reduces the credibility of the PKK’s discourse on its search for a political solution within Turkey’s borders. "To defend such a solution implies that the PKK accepts to be just a party for the Kurds of Turkey in which case why does it interfere in the affairs of Iraqi Kurds? Why doesn’t it leave them in peace?" the Austrian M.P. Peter Pilz asked during the debate on the Kurdish question in Turkey held in the European Parliament on 10 March (see above). Mr Pilz had earlier undertake a mission to mediate between Massoud Barzani and A. Ocalan to end the bloody conflict between their respective supporters. On Thursday 11 March, a PKK feddayi, loaded with bombs blew himself up in the Iraqi Kurdish village of Dohuk in front of the Turcomenian Party offices, killing 4 people and wounding several others. the PKK media hailed this as a "heroic action".
But it is above all Turkey that is experiencing a wave of bomb attacks since Öcalan’s arrest. On March 27, a woman had injured 11 people, right in the centre of Istanbul, in a suicide bomb attack. On Saturday 10 April, a man was killed in the Tunceli region, by the premature explosion of the explosives he was carrying. On Monday 12 April, the Governor of Bingol Province escaped uninjured from a suicide bomb attack, which killed two and injured two other people. On 5 March, a bomb attack against the Governor of Cankiri, claimed by the " Worker and Peasants of Turkey Liberation Army " (TIKKO) caused 3 deaths and 10 injured, including the Governor. On Thursday 8 April, two people were killed and nine others injured in a suicide attack aimed at the Governor of Hakkari Province (in Kurdistan). This was the third attack aimed at a Governor since the beginning of March. Finally, on Sunday 11 April, the explosion of a remote controlled bomb killed 3 soldiers and 1 civilian in Adana. Including the 13 victims of the bomb explosion of 13 March in an Istanbul shopping centre, over 24 people have died from these attacks since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) declared the whole of Turkey to be a "war zone".
Tourism, one of the key sectors of the Turkish economy, has fallen off since Abdullah Ocalan’s arrest, and threats of violence that resulted. Last year, the tourist trade had earned over $ 7 billion, but according to the Turkish Tourist Agents Association over 200,000 Europeans have already canceled their reservations for holidays in Turkey. To attract tourists, Turkey has lowered the price of fuel for charter flights and airport taxes.
The PKK Presidential Council set up by the 6th Congress invited the party’s supporters abroad to "avoid any violent actions in Europe and to continue their demonstrations and protests in accordance with the laws of their host country".
2400 PEOPLE DETATINED ON NEWROZ HOLIDAY IN TURKEY. Nearly 2,400 people were arrested by the Turkish police on 21 March 1999, on the occasion of the Newroz holiday in Turkey. Although the Turkish State has annexed Newroz since 1995, pretending that it is a traditional New Year for many peoples of the region, including the Turks, celebration s were banned in Kurdistan, and the police indulged itself, arresting about 500 people in Diyarbekir. In Istanbul, where about 3 million Kurds now live, the police took about 100 people into preventive detention on 20 March, in anticipation of Newroz. There were also incidents in the working class districts of Gazi, Yenibosna, Bagcilar, Umraniye, Pendik and Merdivenkoy. Refusing to disperse, several dozens demonstrators attacked the security forces with stone-throwing and sticks. In all, 1,695 people were placed in detention in Istanbul. In Adana, where almost a million Kurds are settled, seven police were wounded in clashes with demonstrators. The police used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse a crowd of about a hundred people. In Konya, about fifty people, including some women, were "taken in for questioning" by the police. Over a hundred detentions took place in Ankara and in Gaziantepe. In Mardin Province, the police expelled a correspondent of Reuters news agency and three other Turkish journalists. The police showed them a directive issued by the provincial Governor which stipulates that "members of the national and foreign press are liable to be unable to work in the region unless authorised by Directorate of the Press and Information". The Mardin Province press service had earlier told Reuters that journalists would be welcome for the Newroz celebrations and no change had been announced. Otherwise, two suicide bomb attacks occurred, one near the Iraqi border, the other in the Silopi area, near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. In 1992, the day had been marked by particularly bloody clashes resulting in at least 50 deaths.
• FOR FIFTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR, TURKEY DESIGNATED TOP COUNTRY FOR JAILING JOURNALISTS. According to a report published on Thursday 25 March by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), a U.S.-based association for the defence of the press, at least 118 journalists were incarcerated in 25 different countries, and another 24 were killed while practicing their profession in the course of 1998.
For the fifth consecutive year, Turkey was at the top of the list of countries that imprisoned journalists. 27 of them were behind bars in 1998, most of them for having written about the Kurdish conflict. Thus a Turkish Appeal Court confirmed, on 23 March 1999, the sentence of 13 months jail passed on the journalist Haluk Gerger, under the Anti-Terrorist Act. He had initially been sentenced by the State Security Court for an article he had written for the pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Gurdem, which has since been banned.
Oreover, the organisation Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), in a communiqué made public on 2 April 1999, denounced the death of Cetin Gunes, 28 years old, an editorial writer for the Left-wing periodical Hedef. The journalist had been placed in detention on 5 July 1998 and sentenced, the same year, to one year and four months jail for " separatist propaganda " following an article he had written in September 1994 for th monthly l’Alternative Socialiste. Sentenced once before, he had gone on hunger strike in 1996 and had since suffered from heart trouble. He died in Ankara Prison after a fresh hunger strike.
For its part, Amnesty International denounced the threats made to the journalist Bayram Namaz (of Dayanisima), harassed by the police since 9 March 1999 following a Press Conference in the course of which he had denounced the death of his cell mate Suleyman Yeter, who died as a result of torture suffered during his detention from 5th to 8th March.
Furthermore, a Turkish Court, on Friday 9 March, sentenced, for " separatist propaganda ", 114 intellectuals and Human Rights defenders to one year’s jail for having signed a declaration calling for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. Amongst the intellectuals involved is the Turkish sociologist Ismail Besikçi, already sentenced to a total of over 200 years imprisonment for his writings on the Kurds.
•$100 MILLION CONTRACT FOR EUROCOPTER: TURKEY BUYS 8 COUGARS. The Franco-German Eurocopter Company is on the point of signing a contract with Turkey for the sale of 8 Cougar AS-532 helicopters for the police force for a sum of $ 100 million. Ankara had already signed in a contract for $430 million February 1997, covering the joint production in Turkey of 30 medium sized logistic and first aid Cougars. Eurocopter is also one of a number of companies competing for the supply of 120 helicopter to the Turkish Army for a total of $2.7 billion, – namely the American, Boeing and Bell, the Italian Agusta and the Russo-Israeli Komov companies. The United States are Turkey’s principal suppliers of armaments, well ahead of France that only came onto the market in 1990. Turkey has also recently signed a contract worth $ 560 million for the purchase of 50 Black Hawk helicopters with the American Sikorsky company.
•NEW TURKISH ARMY INCURSION INTO IRAQI KURDISTAN. Some 20,000 Turkish soldiers, and 2,000 "village guards" (government hired militia) carried out a fresh military incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan on 6 April 1999. This is the second Turkish offensive into the area since the capture of the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, on 15 February last. According to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet (7 April 1999), the incursion was preceded by an air raid by the Turkish Air Force, backed by helicopter gunships, on PKK positions in the Iraqi Kurdish regions of Pirbela and Sinath. An Army communiqué on 10 April 1999 stated that 44 Kurdish fighters and 10 Turkish soldiers had been killed in this operation.
The Turkish Army frequently launches similar operations, in flagrant violation of international law, although Iraqi Kurdistan is covered by the exclusion zone set up by the Allies following the Gulf War to protect the Kurdish and Shiite minorities.
•AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HONOURS AKIN BIRDAL. On 8 April 1999, the German section of Amnesty International honoured Akin Birdal, President of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD), for his contribution to the quest"ion of Human Rights". In addition to representatives of Amnesty from France, Finland and Holland, all the Ambassadors to Turkey of the member countries of the European Union, but also of Canada and Palestine were present at the Ceremony in Ankara.
The officers of IHD declared that they were glad to see that they were not alone in their struggle for Human Rights. The German section had planned to award this prize in a ceremony in Frankfort in December 1998, but the Turkish authorities had suspended Akin Birdal’s passport to prevent him traveling abroad.
•SEEN IN THE TURKISH PRESS. The 1999 General Election Campaign took place under the most deplorable conditions for the pro-Kurdish HADEP party. Fatih Altayali, in his editorial of 15 April 1999 in Hurriyet and Melih Asik, in Milliyet of 16 April describe one of the last days of HADEP’s campaign in Diyarbekir.
15 April 1999 in Hurriyet, Fatih Altayali: "Did you see the pictures of HADEP’s meeting in Diyarbekir broadcast on the screens? Please God that you didn’t! Because if you had seen them, you would have been sad to be living in such a country. And that, whatever your political inclinations.
Hadep had the authorisation to hold an election meeting which was, however, canceled on the last day. What does it matter. What happens if it takes place without authorisation? On the pretext of dispersing the meeting, people were shamelessly beaten up. Citizens collapse under blows from wooden or steel clubs. Blood flows in torrents. A lynching scene that reflects the Middle Ages. It surpasses understanding and reaches the heights of the unbearable. The sight of those pictures makes one ashamed to be a man. Consequently I hope that you did not see them. But, if it please God, may those who declare that they will embrace with love all the citizens of this country have seen them. Because, if this is the way that one embraces with love the citizens of this country, then woe on this country".
Milliyet , 16 April 1999, Melih Asik:
"You must certainly have seen the pictures of the beating up of the HADEP sympathisers, gathered together in Diyarbekir for a meeting. Truncheons, kicks, punches etc., wooden clubs rising and falling on people’s heads… What has the State been saying for years: "terror is not a solution, the solution is in democracy…" But the State does not respect the rules it laid down itself. Democratic rules don’t apply to a party that is authorised to take part in the elections. And what is the message that this conveys? "You have no right to life in a democracy, you’d better take to the mountains…" Is that what we want?"
For his part, Hasip Kaplan, one of Layla Zana’s lawyers and candidate for the town of Sirnak (his birth place) describes, in an interview published in Cumhuriyet on 22 March 1999, the obstacles placed in his path and the aberrant character of this Turkish style campaign Her are some extracts from this interview:
"24 February was the last day for registering as a candidate. To register at Sirnak, I left Idil on 22 February. From that moment on the proceedings began. An armoured car and police vehicles parked before the three corners of my house. On the morning of 23 February I wanted to go ( ) to Sirnak to file my candidature before the Judge in person. But I was stopped and searched 9 times between Idil and Sirnak, which are only 70 Km apart. The car seats were removed, the boot emptied, everything passed through a fine toothed comb ( ) we had to wait an hour at each stop.
In addition, during the search at Kasrick, some plain-clothes police slipped an envelope under the mat by one seat, containing some drugs, fake dollar notes and identity papers and a PKK bill. Our drivers noticed this and cleaned out the car ( ) 10 Km before Sirnak, our identity papers were confiscated. When I asked why they were keeping them they replied that "the information computers weren’t working, the answers weren’t being returned". I advised the Istanbul bar and the Ministry of Justice, but was unable to reach Sirnak and had to return to Idil. The next day was the last day for registering. On that day, as soon as I came out of my house I was surrounded by seven police vehicles and told that I couldn’t go to Sirnak, and that they had received special orders to that effect. I then went to Diyarbekir, to the office of the High Election Council (YSK). They explained to me that I could register my candidature through a notary public. I did what was required and deposited my candidature at the post office for the YSK ( ) I was told that the obstacles were due to a circular from the Prime Minister The Police Directorate is angry with me ever since the Yesilyurt affair in Cizre, but also another case regarding Sirnak before the European Court and four more regarding Idil. "[Editor’s Note: The European Court for Human Rights sentenced Turkey in this case where Turkish security forces forced Yesilyurt villagers to eat excrement. Mr. Kaplan represented the villagers.]
|The Main Parties||% 1999||Number of seats 1999||% 1995|
|Democratic Left Party (DSP)||22,6||127?||14,64|
|National Action Party (MHP)||18,6||126||8,18|
|Virtue Party (Fazilet)||15,1||105||21,38|
|Motherland Party (ANAP)||13,6||80||19,65|
|True Path Party (DYP)?||12,9?||85||19,18|
|Republican People’s Party (CHP)???||8,7||0||10,71|
|Democratic People’s Party (HADEP)||4,7??||0||4,17|