ON 10 December 1999, at their Helsinki summit meeting, the leaders of the European Union decided to officially grant Turkey the status of candidate for membership. Agreement was reached after Greece had dropped its last reservations and final discussions on the formulation for presenting this application. "The reaction (in Ankara) is not very positive" the spokesperson for the Finnish presidency of the E.U. admitted, referring to the Turkey’s reservations after the Fifteen’s conditional decision to consider it as candidate. Javier Solana, senior representative of the E.U. of Foreign Policy and Security (PESC) immediately flew to Turkey, accompanied by Günter Verheugen, the European Commissioner responsible for broadening the Union, to smooth our the latest differences regarding the proposals make by the Fifteen.
As precondition to membership, the Fifteen wished to see a settlement of the Cyprus question and better observance of Human Rights by Turkey, and an arbitration by the International Court of Justice at the Hague regarding sovereignty of the Ægean islands. However, Turkey has hitherto considered that its application should be considered in strict accordance with the criteria laid down at the Copenhagen summit, which are supposed to apply to all candidate countries without distinction. It has always rejected the idea that the Union could impose special conditions on it, and in particular concessions on the Cyprus and Ægean island affairs. The Fifteen, moreover, state that the territorial disputes which recur regularly between Greece and Turkey, should be settled in accordance with the United Nations Charter, and thus by bilateral negotiations. Otherwise the case must be brought before the International Court of Justice at the Hague "within a reasonable time". The European Union contented itself by saying that it would reexamine the situation at the end of 2004.
Moreover, the Fifteen insist of "full respect" of the politico-economic criteria decided at Copenhagen, in particular the question of human rights, though the Europeans avoided stressing this point. In the course of a Press Conference, Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit stated on 11 December, "I am well aware that be have still a lot of ground to make up", citing Human Rights and the state of the Turkish economy, which he laid down to "terrorism". Mr. Ecevit declared he was ready to continue the "reforms under way", stating he had decided to abolish the death sentence "as soon as possible".
Turkey generally crowed victory after its acceptance as candidate after 36 years waiting. "At last we are Europeans!" exclaimed the front page of the daily Sabah, "The first Moslem candidate" headlined Hurriyet. However, there were many that pointed out that, to continue its European path, Ankara will have to establish a state of Rights on a stable and permanent basis, involving, in particular, the alteration of the role of the Armed Forces in political life. Turkey is, today, the only candidate country in which the Chief of Staff is senior to the Minister of Defence, even on the level of protocol. It is also the only candidate member that maintains military occupation of another candidate country, namely Cyprus. Moreover, the issues of torture and of Human Rights in Turkey remain flagrant.
On the occasion of a visit to Turkey, the Green member of the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, stressed that Turkey will have to "reform its constitution in depth" and modify its "idea of the State" to join the E.U. Mr. Jack Lang, President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the French National Assembly (parliament) expressed his failure to understand the decision of the Fifteen, seeing that Turkey "does not observe all the rules of democracy nor the cultural rights of the Kurdish people". Francis Wurtz, French Member of the European Parliament and chairman of one of the political groups, considered, for his part, that "Europe has, in fact, given a singular political endorsement to the representatives of a notoriously antidemocratic country".
Many Right wing public figures, such as former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Alain Lamassour also criticised the Helsinki decision on the grounds that only a minute portion of Turkey is geographically in Europe, and that one should not make the concept of Europe so woolly and its contours so doubtful. Else, they said, why not accept a Eurasiatic country like Russia? While the French Minister for European affairs was retorting that the Union should not remain a "Christian club" the Turkish Prime Minister was inviting the Union to widen its borders still further to include the Caucasus and the "turkic speaking" countries of Central Asia…
Though hovering in the background, the Kurdish question was not mentioned at Helsinki. However, a number of Europeans, Kurds and Turks hope that Turkey’s inclusion on the list of officially recognised candidates for membership of the European Union would open a process of democratisation of Turkish institutions and a serious taking into account of Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights.
Le Canard enchainé, 15 December 1999
Democracy: Turkey is going to make an effort…
US President Bill Clinton argued in Ankara for Turkey’s entry into the European Union while reprimanding its human rights record. The leader from the White House had a meeting on the same day with Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit and with his Turkish opposite number President Demirel, who admitted that torture existed in Turkey but "was not State policy". He affirmed that he supported Turkey’s membership of the European Union and invited the Fifteen to "concentrate on this subject in a suitable perspective". President Clinton then addressed the Turkish Parliament stressing the issue of Human Rights and the right to be different and cited "the fundamental rights of Kurdish citizens". "Could you imagine the President of the United States coming and pronouncing the word ‘Kurdish’, speaking about democracy and human rights within the walls of the Turkish Parliament and being applauded! A short while ago one wouldn’t even have dreamed it" wrote Hasan Cemal in his editorial of 17 November 1999 in the Turkish daily Milliyet. According to other editorial writers, the fate of the Kurds in Turkey had also been raised during President Clinton;s meeting with the Turkish Premier and President. Here are some extensive passages from Clinton’s televised speech before the Turkish Parliament:
" The future we want to build together begins with Turkish progress in deepening democracy at home. Nobody wants this more than the people of Turkey. You have created momentum and edicts against torture in a new law that protects the rights of political parties (…). Avenues are opening for Kurdish citizens of Turkey to reclaim that most basic of birth rights – a normal life (…)
We agree with something that was never said more clearly than by the founder of the Turkish Republic – sovereignty should not be built on fear. Neither America nor Europe nor anyone else has the right to shape your destiny for you. Only you have that right; that, after all, is what democracy is all about. We raise these issues because for all the reasons I have mentioned. We have a profound interest in your success and we consider ourselves your friends.
Keep in mind, I come from a nation that was founded on the creed that all are created equal; and, yet, when we were founded, we had slavery, women could not vote, even men could not vote unless they owned property. I know something about the imperfect realization of a country's ideas. We have had a long journey in America, from our founding to where we are (…)
(…) We have clearly learned that when writers and journalists freely express themselves, they exercise not only a fundamental right, but fuel the exchange of ideals essential to prosperity and growth. When peaceful outlets exist to express normal human differences, the peace is preserved, not shattered. When people can celebrate their culture and faith in ways that do not infringe upon the rights of others, moderates do not become extremists, and extremists do not become misguided heroes.
There are still those who see Europe in narrower terms. Their Europe might stop at this mountain range or that body of (…) But there is a growing and encouraging consensus that knows Europe is an idea as much as a place – the idea that people can find strength in diversity of opinions, cultures and faiths, as long as they are commonly committed to democracy and human rights; the idea that people can be united without being uniform, and that if the community we loosely refer to as the West is an idea, it has no fixed frontiers. It stretches as far as the frontiers of freedom can go".
The Turkish media highlighted those parts of this speech that praised Turkey’s and Attaturk’s merits under the heading "he spoke like a Turk" while skipping those regarding the Kurds or human rights.
The fact that he received for a working breakfast the leaders of the principal organisations of civil society while carefully avoiding having any contact with the country’s powerful military chiefs was also passed over in silence by the Turkish media
Arriving in a Turkey during a period of mourning, consequent on the earthquake in the Duzce region on 12 November 1999, which caused at least 452 deaths and nearly 2,400 injured, Bill Clinton made a point of visiting a refugee camp, on which occasion he recalled that, after the first earthquake in August, Washington had guaranteed credits for over 1 billion dollars to a dozen Turkish banks to cover reconstruction projects.
A few days before this visit, 23 members of the US Congress had sent a letter dated 10 November 1999 to President Bill Clinton calling on him to intervene in favour of a solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey :
?" In Turkey, the Kurdish people continue to suffer atrocities at the hands of Turkish troops. Their land has become the setting for war, despite the repeated cease-fires and calls for negotiations by the Kurdish rebels. The Kurdish language is illegal in the country and Kurdish dissent is not tolerated by the authorities. Turkish Kurdistan, once home to 18 million livestock, can now only feed 4 million. In Kurdish lands, over 3, 000 villages have been destroyed; more than 3 million Kurds have become refugees. 37,000 people have died.
?The case of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, holds a mirror to the Kurdish predicament and with some foresight offers the best hope for the resolution of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. In Turkish custody since February 15, 1999, Mr. Ocalan has been the sole inmate of Imrali island prison. Charged with treason, he was given the death sentence on June 29, 1999. As these lines were written, an appeal is in process. Denied due process, the Amnesty International has called for a new trial. Human Rights Watch has noted that there were "grave shortcomings" in the Turkish court.
?This mockery of the rule of law and such abuse of the rights of the Kurds and the imminent execution of Mr. Ocalan are ingredients of a major conflict with serious implications for Turkish and regional stability.
?Mr. President, in 1962, the United States government, in a case similar to Mr. Ocalan's, helped the Apartheid system in South Africa to apprehend Nelson Mandela. Years later, the Apartheid leaders negotiated with him to heal the bleeding wound that had become their country. With some guidance from us, Turkey and its leaders can take a similar road to talk with Mr. Ocalan and take the road to the dawn of peace for the peoples that make up Turkey (…)
?The United States has been a beacon of hope to the Kurds of Iraq. We believe the Kurds of Turkey also have the right to live free of persecution, and that America can play a leading role in helping to resolve this tragic conflict "
The letter was signed by Bob Filner, John Edward Porter, Maurice D. Hinchey, Sharrod Brown, Carolyn B. Maloney, Cynthia A. McKinney, Jim Maloney, Patrick J. Kennedy, Rush Holt, George E. Brown Jr, Lynn C. Woolsey, David E. Bonior, Franck Pallone Jr, Neil Abercrombie, Wayne T. Gilchrest, Jesse Jackson Jr., Henry Waxman, Darlene Hooley, Michael R. McNulty, Robert A. Underwood, Mary Bono, John Lewis, John F. Tierney.
ON 17 December 1999, the UN Security Council decided to set up a new Iraqi arms inspection system. The Anglo-Dutch resolution was adopted by 11 votes out of 15; 4 states (China, France, Malaysia and Russia) having abstained.
Thus of the five permanent members of the Council, only two (Great Britain and the USA) voted in favour of the resolution, which encouraged Iraq to reject it out of hand.
Under this Resolution 1284, Iraq could export as much oil as it wished or could. However, the income from these sales would still go into accounts controlled by the United Nations and spent, in accordance with Resolution 986 ("oil for food"). Part would be made over to Kuwait as war reparations and 13% to the three Kurdistan provinces under Kurdish administration.
If the Iraqi regime were fully to cooperate with the new inspection system, the resolution envisaged that the international embargo on Iraq would be suspended after a year, then, after an unspecified time, completely lifted. The suspension would be for periods of 120 days, renewable by the Security Council if it observed that Baghdad "was fully cooperating" with the UN disarmament inspectors.
In the view of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Security Council chairman for the month of December and one of the Resolution’s co-sponsors, its adoption would be "an exceptional success" because it allied the population’s humanitarian needs with the imperatives of Iraqi arms control. "We regret that, on this issue, some were more inclined to listen to the Iraqi leadership than the needs of the Iraqi people" he said, clearly alluding to the abstainers. American diplomats, moreover, made efforts to minimise the import of the abstentions by stating that the important issue was that no nation had voted against. In the opinion of Peter Burleigh, Assistant US representative on the Council, who has been working on this resolution for the last year, the vote on it was "a profoundly important moment for the Security Council". "This vote was not unanimous, but no member can pretend that Iraq has disarmed as required" he stated before the Security Council.
Iraq’s UN representative, Saeed Hassan, immediately declared that his government rejected the new inspection system because it was not accompanied by a lifting of the embargo. For their part, the Iraqi Kurdish leaders were satisfied by the resolution, which maintained the 13% quota of the oil revenues for the Kurdish regions they administer – a quota that, for a while, had seemed endangered.
According to the Herald Tribune of 18 December, a number of experts on Iraqi arms considered that whether or not the Iraqi regime accept the new inspection system, allowing for on the spot inspectors and control installations, the damage has already been done. Moreover, the resolution, by appreciably increasing Iraqi oil exports would provide Saddam Hussein’s associates and their clientele to have greater resources at their disposal to consolidate their control over the country and buy whatever they wanted except arms.
At the end of his term of office, President Clinton, through this resolution suspending the embargo in a years time if Baghdad cooperated with the new inspection system, seems to have wished to avoid the Iraqi question being raised and "polluting" the Presidential election in this year 2000. An unrealistic calculation, since Saddam Hussein has always known how to get into the limelight whatever the attempts to upstage him.
It must be said that he still has considerable means of exerting pressure – especially on his creditors. Thus in the weeks preceding Resolution 1284, the Iraqi media launched a violent campaign against France, accusing it of duplicity and threatening to break off all the juicy contracts already signed with French companies if it followed "Baghdad’s enemy powers" – namely Great Britain and the United States.
President Chirac, indeed, did try to persuade his British and American opposite numbers to adopt a resolution more likely to win the votes of all the Permanent Members of the Security Council so as to enable it to carry more weight. However, London and Washington described this proposal as a delaying tactic aimed at emptying it of any substance. Their views prevailed, and France found itself in the unenviable position of keeping company with Russia and China, friends and clients of the Iraqi regime (see our Press Review).
THE Socialist Interna-tional, meeting in Paris from 8 to 10 November 1999 for its 21st Congress re-affirmed "its conviction that no real and lasting peace can be established in the region if the Kurdish problem is not settled. The international community must, therefore, put pressure on the governments concerned to start fundamental democratic reforms and to help political, negotiated and peaceful solutions that guarantee the legitimate rights of the Kurds within the borders of the countries concerned".
In the course of the 20th Congress, the Socialist International had adopted a resolution calling for fundamental rights for the Kurds and the freeing of the Kurdish Members of Parliament imprisoned in Turkey. Three Kurdish parties took part in the International’s Congress: the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, which is a full member, the Iraqi KDP and PUK which have observer status. Each Kurdish delegation was able to speak and address the delegates, representing over 170 parties from all over the world.
ON 25 November 1999, the Turkish Court of Appeals confirmed the death sentence for treason and separatism passed on Abdullah Öcalan. The Court, consisting of five judges presided by Judge Demirel Tavil, unanimously decided that the sentence was "in conformity with the law and procedure". The decision was greeted by an outburst of joy amongst the hundreds of demonstrators, mostly relatives of soldiers killed during the fighting, who organised a mock execution of A. Öcalan by hanging an effigy of him in the shape of a bloody vampire. The PKK leaders lawyers’, who had argued for the sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment, also announced that they would make the last appeal possible by filing a request for "rectification of the sentence" with Vural Savas, the Court of Appeals Public Prosecutor. However, as he had himself recommended that the Court confirm the sentence, such an appeal has little chance of being accepted.
On the same day, the European Court for Human Rights declared that next week it would examine a request aimed at obtaining postponement of the carrying out of the death sentence. The Court can also ask the Turkish authorities to make this decision as a "temporary measure" pending the decision of the judges on the essential Human Rights aspects of the case. The examination to determine whether the request is admissible will take place in one to four months, at which point it will decide whether a hearing will take place on the subject and to request and to examine the principles underlying the request. All this could take from 7 to 12 months. However, Turkey is not obliged to wait for the Strasbourg Court’s verdict. It could, for its own reasons of internal or foreign policy, have Parliament ratify and execute the death sentence on Ocalan. It can equally delay or block such a ratification. The President and Prime Minister, for diplomatic reasons, would like to play for time and await the European Court’s verdict. However, many voices are being raised inside the government coalition demanding a speedy execution of the PKK chief, declaring that Öcalan’s execution would have only limited consequences: some diplomatic disturbance with Europe for a few weeks and a purely formal condemnation by the European Court, possibly accompanied by a fine of a few thousand Euros.
The final decision will lie with the Turkish Army high command which, no doubt will wait till the European summit at Helsinki, which will take place on 11/12 December, which will decide whether or not Turkey will be officially recognised as a candidate for membership of the European Union.
ON 21 December 1999, the Kurdish parliament in Irbil endorsed an new government led by Nechirvan Barzani. The coalition cabinet consists of 23 members representing, in addition to the KDP, five smaller parties allied to it, including the Islamic party and organisations representing the Assyro-Chaldean and Yezidi minorities as well as independent public figures.
The President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Massoud Barzani, speaking to the Parliament, called for each and all of them to observe the Law. "Now that we Kurds have the chance to make our laws ourselves, we must all observe them, whatever our rank in society. we must ensure that the law be the supreme power on our territory, that it be equal for everyone and that no one consider themselves above the law" he added.
In his opening speech, the new Prime Minister, N. Barzani, indicated that his government was setting itself, as a priority task, the struggle against unemployment and a major effort to develop and rebuild the region in the context of a market economy. He added that he would shortly be announcing a series of concrete projects to this effect.
The Irbil government administers more than half of the Kurdish protected zone of Iraq, with a surface area of 36,296 Km2 ( the total area of Iraqi Kurdistan is about 74,000 Km2. The Iraqi regime still controls "the useful part" of this territory, namely the oil fields of Kirkuk and Khanaqin as well as the Sinjar region.) According to a UN census of May 1998, the region has a population of 3.3 million (out of a total Kurdish population estimated at 5.5 million). Of these, 1,868,391 people lived in the Irbil administered zone and 1,442,797 in the Southern region administered by the Suleimaniah government led by Mr. Kosrat Rassul, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
Following changes that took place at the KDP 12th Congress last October, the Irbil government Prime Minister, Dr. Roj Shaweish, had presented the resignation of his cabinet to Parliament. Nechirvan Barzani was then charged with the formation of a new cabinet. After 2 months negotiations and the election of Dr. Roj Shaweish to the position of Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Barzani was thus able to present his new Cabinet, composed as follows:
Deputy Prime Minister: Sami Abdulrahman (KDP); Minister of the Interior: Fadhil Mirani (KDP); Minister of Defence: Omar Osman (KDP); Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs: Dr. Shafiq Qazaz (Ind.); Minister for Education: Abdelaziz Tayeb (KDP); Minister of Justice: Hadi Abdulkarim (Islamist); Minister for the Economy and Finance: Sarkiz Agacan (Assyrian); Minister for Public Works and Housing: Mrs. Nazanin Mohamed Wasu (Ind.); Minister of Reconstruction and Development: Mrs. Nesrin Berwari (KDP); Minister of Culture: Falakadin Kakanji (KDP); Minister for Local Government and Tourism: Mamun Brifkani (KDP); Minister of Agriculture: Saad Osman (KDP); Minister for Religious Affairs: Sjeikh Adnan Naqshabandi (KDP); Minister of Transport and Trade: Dr. Hamid Aqrawi (KDP); Minister of Health and Social Affairs: Dr. Jamal Abdulhamid (KDP); Ministers without portfolio: Yusif Hena Yusif (Assyrian), Jewdet Najar (Turcoman), Mahmoud Hafid (Ind.), Namir Kochar Hesam (Yezidi), Abdiljalil Faili (KDP).
Former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, who is a coalition partner in the present Turkish Govern-ment, stated, in the course of a trip to Diyarbekir on 15 December 1999, that Turkey can only join the European Union after having settled the Kurdish conflict. "Call either the Kurdish conflict or the South-Eastern Anatolian problem, Turkey cannot become a great State in the 21st Century and join the European Union without having settled this problem (…) The present situation is very propitious for such a settlement" he stated. The head of the Motherland Party (ANAP) who has been calling for "more democracy and freedom" recently, stressed that "the road to the European Union passes through Diyarbekir". He also called for the lifting of the State of Emergency (OHAL), which has been in force in the region for the last 20 years and suggested the need to amend the infamous Article 8 of the Anti-Terrorist Act, so widely used for restricting freedom of opinion. Mesut Yilmaz also specified that the return of villagers displaced by force should be carried out with safety.
Mr. Yilmaz’s speech provoked sharp reactions from his coalition partners of the National Action Party (MHP – neo-fascist) but the majority of the papers welcomed the former Prime Minister’s proposals, not without stressing the fact that no such proposals had ever been made while he was Prime Minister. Thus a cartoon in the 21 December issue of the Turkish daily Sabah, titled "One morning Mesut wakes up…" shows him waking up mumbling "Democracy, Human Rights, the Kurdish question" and a disembodied voice simply answering him "Good morning!"
Ismail Cem, Turkish Foreign Minister, stated, on 13 December 1999, on the Turkish CNN Television network, that Turkey would not be opposed to the demands of the Kurdish population for Kurdish language television broadcasts. "Every Turkish citizen must be able to speak his own language on television. We believe this and the European Union attaches great importance to this (…) If our people want to broadcast programmes in their own language, we will not prevent them, especially as we want to start negotiations (i.e. with the European Union) (…) We have restricted individual freedoms in certain cases and we must now lift these restrictions". The Turkish minister observed that some associations were already making broadcasts in languages other than Kurdish, without official authorisation.
For his part, President Demirel had, on 11 December 1999, rejected, this on the same television network, the idea of granting cultural autonomy to the Kurds, seeing a danger to the country in such a move. On 1 November 1999, in the Turkish daily Hurriyet, he had again declared his opposition to the authorisation of Kurdish language radio or television broadcasts. "Turkish is the national vehicle of communication (…). We will continue to accept Turkish as the only language and education will continue to be given in Turkish (…) The important thing is to be a citizen of the Turkish Republic and a member of the Turkish nation. But paths leading to a separate state are closed" he declared. Mr Demirel maintains that to grant the right to use their own language could provoke similar demands from other ethnic groups in Turkey which is why he claims, with his usual unfailing insincerity that "there are eight languages considered to be Kurdish" and that "the majority of Kurds cannot understand one anothers’ language".
On the same day as Mr. Cem’s broadcast statement, a young Kurdish singer, aged 24, Askeri Tan, was placed in detention for having sung in Kurdish during a circumcision celebration, jointly organised by the Baglar local council and the Diyarbekir Provincial Public Health Directorate, for 73 disadvantaged young boys. While Askeri Tan, accused of "separatism" was sent to prison in Diyarbekir, five other musicians, who had taken part in the celebrations, were released after being questioned by the Public Prosecutor. The latter have, however, filed complaints of having been subjected to torture by the police while in detention.
Following an enquiry carried out at the end of 1998 in Turkish Kurdistan by the American US Committee for Refugees, a report entitled "The Wall of denial" was made public in November 1999 on the displacement of the Kurdish population in Turkey. In its introductory presentation, the Committee stressed that "Turkey has the second largest population of internally displaced displaced persons in the world, yet, the international humanitarian community has done virtually nothing on their behalf. Neither the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with an explicit mandate for displaced persons, nor the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has extended its "good offices" on behalf of the displaced in many other places, has undertaken any activities on behalf of displaced persons in Turkey, a population virtually unknown and untouched by other intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) traditionnaly working on behalf of displaced populations in similar situations. This international failure to respond is not a result of the Turkish government’s taking responsability for the care and protection of its own displaced citizens. To the contrary, Turkey continues to deny the problem exists and to ignore the needs of the uprooted.
"Today, about half of Turkey’s Kurds live outside the southeast (…) It is often observed that the largest Kurdish cities in Turkey are Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara (…) Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan, grew from 30,000 in the 1930s to 65,000 by 1956, to 140,000 by 1970, to 400,000 by 1990, and swelled to about 1,5 million by 1997 (…) While some of the displacement has been spontaneous, the Turkish military systematically expelled Kurdish villagers in the country’s southeast between 1993 and 1995 (…) The most recent figure (…) comes from the report of the Parliamentary Migration Commission, released in June 1998. All of the statistics used in the report originate with the State of Emergency Region (OHAL) governor’s office, so these should be regarded as the official governement count. [Editor’s note: The figures given in the report are 401,328 persons forcibly displaces, 3,428 localities, i.e. 905 villages and 2,523 hamlets forcibly evacuated. These figures have been sharply criticised, including by Members of Parliament, who considered they greatly underestimated the real situation] (…) The previous census in 1990 had listed the population of Tunceli Province at 133,000; in 1997, it had dropped to 85,047, and about 20,000 of that number were Turkish army troops" (about 10,000 troops were there in 1990)
The report specifies, moreover, that the region is restricted for foreigners and that "the Turkish Army has also blocked its own highest civilian officials from visiting areas to assess the causes and conditions of forced diplacement. [Editor’s Note: Tansu Çiller, in 1993 was forbidden access to Lice as was Murat Karayalçin in 1994, though he was Deputy Minister at the time, etc] (…) When official government sources do acknowledge any forced displacement, they place the blame squarely on the PKK (…) The government goes to great lengths to deny these allegations, including fabricating evidence holding the PKK responsible for abuses committed by military and police forces (…) The most extreme form of controlling displaced persons is the murder or disdappearance of those who speak out about their plight (…) Generally, the government has failed to compensate people forcibly displaced by the conflict in the southeast, including persons displaced directly as a result of the actions of Turkish military and security forces."
ABDULLAH ÖCALAN CALLS ON ALL HIS ACTIVISTS TO RETURN TO TURKEY. On 5 November, Abdullah Öcalan called on all members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) to return to their "place of birth" there to pursue their "democratic and political struggle". In a communiqué distributed by his lawyers, he declared "everyone must return to their birthplace (…) The place for settling thse conflicts is on these lands (…) I appeal for the continuation of the democratic and political struggle on our native lands (…) whatever may be the consequences: death or incarceration".
Up to now Öcalan has called for "symbolic groups" of PKK activists to surrender as evidence of their party’s will for peace. He is now extending his call to all the PKK members and this is giving rise to lively protests within this organisation.
Elsewhere the Public Prosecutor of the Istanbul State Security Court, on 9 November, charged 5 PKK members who had surrendered to Turkey on 29 October 1999 to "demonstrate their party’s will for peace". Haydar Ergül, leader of the group, and two other members are charged with being senor officials of the PKK which incurs at least 22.5 years imprisonment. Two other members of the group are charged with "membership of a terrorist organisation" and risk 15 to 22.5 years jail. The Istanbul court, however, declared it was not competent to deal with three other members of the group, against whom there are procedings under way in Ankara for "membership of the Kurdish Parliament in exile".
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE EVE OF THE YEAR 2000. The report of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD), giving an assessment of Human Rights violations for the first nine months of 1999 shows that Turkey will enter the year 2000 with a deplorable record. The report was made public on the occasion of the 51st Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which occurred at the same time as the Helsinki summit:
|Number of "unsolved" murders||177|
|Number of "extra-judicial executions or death resulting from torture while in detention||174|
|Number of people tortured in detention||472|
|Number of people "disappeared"||21|
|Number of people filled in combat||786|
|Number of villages and hamlets forcibly evacuated or burned||27|
|Number of associations, political parties and pressorgans banned||127|
|Number of prisoners of opinion||120|
THE EUROPEAN COURT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CONDEMNS TURKEY FOR THE THIRD TIME FOR HAVING BANNED A PRO-KURDISH POLITICAL PARTY. On 8 December 1999, the European Court for Human Rights condemned Turkey for having banned the Party for Freedom and Democracy (Özdep - pro-Kurdish) in July 1993. The Court considered that Ankara had violated the right to freedom of association a covered by Article 11 of the European Convention for Human Rights. Mevlüt Ilik, the founder-president of ÖZDEP, which had dissolved itself a few months before the Turkish Court’s decision, was awarded $5,000 damages and $7,000 casts.
The European Court, in its verdict, states that "it saw nothing in ÖZDEP’s programme which could be seen as a call for violence or for an uprising" which might have justified such a decision to dissolve it. But the Turkish Constitutional Court has decreed the dissolution of this party which proposed "self-determination of the Kurdish people" by maintaining that its constitution was contrary to the Turkish Constitution and that ÖZDEP was attacking "the indivisibility of the nation" and that it demanded "discrimination on an ethnic basis". The European Court for Human Rights specified that ÖZDEP’s programme was "considered incompatible with the present principles and structures of the Turkish State did not make it contrary to democratic rules".
This is the third time that the European Court has condemned Ankara for banning a political party: on 30 January 1998 for banning the Unified Communist Party of Turkey, and on 25 May 1998 for banning the Socialist Party. The two banned parties had declared themselves in favour of the right to self-determination for the Kurdish people. Other cases, concerning political parties, are still pending before the Court.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE TURKISH ASSOCIATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS BEATEN UP BY EXTREME RIGHT ACTIVISTS. On 25 November 1999, a group of extreme right activists broke into the Ankara premises of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD) and beat up its President, Hüsnü Öndül and also injured Avni Kalkan, IHD Assistant General Secretary. Mr. Öndül stated that the activists, one of whom was a woman, were "brought" to IHD "in four police vans" who didn’t "do anything to prevent the attack". He added that the assailants wrecked the offices before leaving the premises, and that the police were waiting for them at the buildings entrance.
Akin Birdal, the previous President of IHD, was seriously injured in May 1998 in an attack at the Ankara IHD premises. His aggressors were also extreme Right activists.
TWO TEEN-AGED KURDISH GIRLS OF 16 AND 19 ACCUSE THE TURKISH POLICE OF TORTURE AND RAPE. Aged respectively 16 and 19 years, the one at high school the other at University, the two girls had been placed in detention on 6 March 1999 at the Iskanderun Police stationaccused of "separatism". The case was made public when the father of one of them visited his daughter, at present incarcerated at the Kürkçüler Prison in Adana. Accused of having "taken part in an attack with an incendiary bomb to demonstrate their support for A. Öcalan", the two teenagers were sentenced by the Adana State Security Court: the elder to 12 years and six months imprisonment for "membership of an illegal organisation" and a further 5 years 6 months and 20 days for "having thrown a molotov cocktail"; the Court decided to treat the younger "leniently" and only sentence her to 8 years and 4 months on the first charge and 8 months and 13 days on the second… The Adana Medical Union made a damning report after examining the two girls: sexual molestation, rape (anally with a truncheon), kept in icy cold cells without food or water for two days, forced to drink water containing spittle, prevented from going to the toilet, from sitting down or washing, threats … Their ordeal lasted for seven days, during which their families were not allowed any contact with them. An earlier medical report made by several doctors had maintained that there had been no ill-treatment. The Turkish Doctor’s Union and the victims families have stated that they intend to file complaints against five doctors and the Turkish Doctor’s Union (which is independent) is calling for a a complete medical re-assessment, considering that the examination ordered by the court was "incomplete and incorrect".
Rape is everyday practice in Turkish police stations. Invited to a seminar in Germany, Ms. Eren Keskin, an official of the Istanbul branch of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD), stated that in two and a half years 106 women who had been raped during detention had asked for help from the IHD, Ms Keskin stated that few women dare speak out about rape and that she had only realised the extent of the phenomenon when she found herself imprisoned.
SIX CHILDREN AGED 11 TO 14 IN PRISON FOR HAVING CARRIED BANNERS CALLING FOR MORE TEACHERS FOR THEIR SCHOOL. Six children, aged 11 to 14, are in danger of being sentenced to 3 years jail for having held banners saying "We want teachers". Terrified, the children were brought to court on 16 December 1999 to answer charges of "illegal demonstration". They simply answered frankly that they had never imagined that this would be considered a crime. The Turkish Public Prosecutors Office considers that these children, pupils at the Ataturk Çiftligi Primary School, in the Gazi quarter of Istanbul, were "disruptive elements".
THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF THE SPOKESMAN OF THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO THE SUSURLUK SCANDAL. A motor car accident has once again perturbed the Turkish politico-legal scene. Mehmet Bedri Incetahtaci, Virtue Party (Fazilet) Member of Parliament for Gaziantepe, spokesman for the Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry into the Susurluk scandal, has just died as a result of a car accident on 21 November 1999. Know for his more or less ideas of reform, this 39 year old M.P. was on his way to Cologne to take part in a conference on the Susurluk affair with Mehmet Elkatmis, Chairman of that Parliamentary Commission. This commission had tried to clarify the links between the mafia gangs and certain Turkish State organs – links that came to light as a result of a car accident on 3 November 1996 near the locality of Susurluk, an accident in which a high ranking police chief and extreme Right mafia chief were killed and their companion, a Member of Parliament, injured. Mr. Incetajtaci was one of the most active members of the Commission, and was planning a book on the subject, according to those close to him. The police hastily concluded it was an accident, specifying that it was 100% his fault, and the car was rapidly removed from the scene.
However, no one seems to believe the thesis of an accident. The daily Milliyet headlined it on 22 November 1999 "The 3rd Susurluk accident: first the Mercedes, then the reporter, and then the Commission’s spokesman". A shady car accident had already, on 29 August 1997 cast the life of Ertugrul Berkman, a retired member of the Turkish intelligence services (MIT), who had carried out investigations into the Susurluk mafia gang. Then, in December 1998m another accident had caused the death of Akman Akyürek, the Commission’s reporter who, after resigning from the Commission, had prepared an alternative report.
Fikri Saglar, former M.P. and Minister of culture, also expressed serious doubts about the accident and stated that, a fortnight earlier, he had himself been hemmed in by a lorry on the highway and, earlier, had suddenly lost his tyres, both times on his way to the airport. He accused the police directorate of negligence and secretiveness "It is not normal to keep having "these accidents". In any case Susurluk is just a string of are accidents. I am not sure whether the purpose of eliminating us is due to the fact that we know some things or the fact that we do not want to say all we know. In any case, there are many things we know but that we cannot prove".
Everyone seems agreed, if the Susurluk scandal had not remained totally unpunished, it would not still be raising so many questions.
AHMET KAYA’S TRIAL POSTPONED TILL 29 DECEMBER. On 17 November the Istanbul State Security Court again heard the case against the Kurdish singer, Ahmet Kaya, accused of separatism and liable to 10.5 years imprisonment for having stated he wanted to compose a song in Kurdish. In the absence of the singer, at present in Europe, the Public Prosecutor asked the judges to order that he be arrested and that an international warrant be issued for his arrest. In the middle of the period of the OSCE meeting in Istanbul, the judges chose a ‘wait and see’ solution and postponed the case till 29 December 1999.
A PKK COMMANDER APPLIES FOR ASYLUM IN HOLLAND. Murat Karayilan, one of the principal military chiefs of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), together with Cemil Bayik and Osman Öcalan, applied for political asylum in Holland on 20 November 1999. Charlotte Menten, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice in the Hague, confirmed this information on 24 November. The Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice is said to be checking, at the moment, whether Mr. Karayilan had committed any crimes or acts of violence.
Murat Karayilan was commander of the Botan region, covering the provinces of Siirt and Sirnak. He is also one of the accused in a trial of about a hundred PKK members, including Abdullah Öcalan, which is to begin on 15 December 1999 in Ankara, charged with treason, murder, illegally bearing arms and membership of an armed group.
ALTHOUGH ACCUSED OF MURDER, MR. DURMUS IS TODAY MINISTER OF HEALTH! The Turkish daily, Hurriyet, in its 23 November issue, stated that the Turkish Minister of Health, Osman Durmus, member of the National Action Party (MHP – neo-fascist) is one of those accused, but never punished, of the assassination of Dr. Necdet Güçlü on 13 April 1970. Wanted for murder, kidnapping and illegally bearing arms, Mr. Durmus was declared to be untraceable at the time of his trial, though today it is clear that he was working hard at the Faculty of Medicine… He benefited from an amnesty in 1974, decreed by the Prime Minister of the time, Mr. Bülent Ecevit – and today has become the same Mr. Ecevit’s Minister of Health.
ELEVEN MEMBERS OF HADEP ARRESTED IN URFA. Eleven members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HADEP), including four local leaders, were taken in for questioning following a police raid on the Provincial offices of the party in Sanliurfa on 15 December. The police maintained that the detentions followed the discovery, in the party’s offices, of several "banned" documents which are "of a nature to praise the PKK", to aim at "the territorial integrity of the State" and, moreover, "insult" the security forces.
For its part, HADEP condemned the action as a "provocation" aiming at sabotaging the "atmosphere of peace and brotherhood" that its seeks to establish in the region. It is threatened with banning by the Turkish authorities, although (or because!) it had won 38 local councils, including Diyarbekir, in the April 1999 elections.
THE TURKISH BARRISTERS UNION CALL FOR THE RIGHT TO TEACH IN KURDISH. On December 11, the administrative council of the Union of Turkish Barristers, (TBB) made public its "report on the South-East" in Urfa. Eralp, Özgen, Union President, denounced the legal double standards in the country resulting from the state of emergency operating in the region. "The State regards the citizens living in the regions as all potentially guilty. In the event incidents, it accuses many people, whether guilty or no …" he declared.
The report demands that "all ethnic citizens should have full freedom of expression for their culture, their language and their identity" but also "the recognition of private schooling and the right to education in their own language". He openly criticised the attitude of the regions civil servants who consider the region’s citizens to be enemies of the State and stresses that 3,428 villages and hamlets had been forcibly evacuated according to the official figures for 1997. The report also criticises the system of "village protectors" who often act outside the law. Over 39,000 school-children and students cannot go to school, there is a shortage of 20,000 classes and 10,000 teachers in the State of Emergency Region (OHAL) according to the report.
THE TURKISH COURTS RULE AGAINST THE ISLAMIC HEADSCARF IN UNIVERSITY. The Turkish Appeal Court ruled, on 29 December 1999, that a University had the right to ban women students from wearing the Islamic headscarf in class. The Court thus overturned the decision of the Turkish Court at Samsun, which had awarded $200 damages to a petitioner, describing the right to wear the headscarf as a "democratic right". The Ankara Court of Appeal which had to confirm the decision, overturned the verdict by stressing that it violated the secular Turkish Constitution.
MEHMET AGAR WILL BE TRIED OVER THE SUSURLUK SCANDAL. On 8 December 1999 the Plenary Assembly of the Turkish State Council’s administrative chambers ruled that Mehmet Agar, independent Member of Parliament for Elazig, former Director of the National Police. and former Minister of the Interior in the Çiller government, should be tried before the National Police Court (DGM) in Istanbul, in connection with the Susurluk scandal. (Editor’s Note: The case that brought to light the links between the mafia and the Turkish State and involving the death of Abdullah Çatli, a gang leader linked to the Turkish extreme Right). Mehmet Agar had been able to avoid trial by courts that, in any case were not very inclined to call him to account, although his parliamentary immunity was lifted on 11 December 1997. The Plenary Assembly had to rule on the former Minister’s plea against the lifting of his parliamentary immunity. The Turkish State Council considered that, in fact, Mr. Agar should be tried for having "supported Abdullah Çatli’s securing the card of officer of the Special Security Police" and of having "helped A. Çatli to hide" as well as "criminal associations". The decision was the sent to the Prime Minister’s office, specifying the need to try jointly and in the same case, five Police Directors.
The Prime Minister should again call for the lifting of Mehmet Agar’s parliamentary immunity. He had just been re-elected in the April 1999 General Elections. A real legal tangle that had allowed the former minister to escape justice up to now.
INCIDENTS IN THE TURKISH PRISONS. Fresh incidents broke out in Istanbul’s Bayrampasa Prison on 13 December 1999, in protest at delays in transporting sick detainees to hospital. According to ,information provided by the prison authorities, tensions dropped when a prisoner was sent for treatment. Over the last few months, a number of revolts have broken out in Turkish prisons, including two only last week in Ankara and Istanbul. According to political circles, the delay in putting into effect the amnesty law is the reason for this tension.
Furthermore, in a Press Conference on 13 December 1999, in front of the Ulucanlar Prison in Ankara, (a prison in which a number of political prisoners are incarcerated, including the Kurdish M.P.s) the Ankara branch of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD) drew attention to the violations of Human Rights in Turkish Prisons. The Association denounced the fact that many political leaders admit that, today, they have lost all control over the prisons. The Association also accused the government of being responsible for the massacre of 10 detainees in the Diyarbekir Prison in 1996 and the murder, after torture, of 10 other prisonners in the Ulucanlar Prison on 26 September 1999.
ALAATIN ÇAKICI EXTRADITED BY FRANCE TO TURKEY. Alaatin Çakici, one of the most important leaders of the Turkish Mafia, who is serving a 6 months prison sentence in France, was repatriated to Turkey on 13 December 1999, accompanied by four Interpol officers, under strict surveillance. A special arranged private double cell was already reserved for him in the Kartal Prison. A. Çakici himself had advised the French authorities of his wish to return "to his country". Last week, the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, signed the extradition order after receiving a guarantee from Ankara, where the death sentence has not been abolished, that he would not be executed.
Çakici has eight cases pending against him in Istanbul and another in Bursa, including that of murdering his own wife. If found guilty in the nine cases, he could receive nine death sentences. France, in its agreement to extradite him, only took two of the cases in account – one of criminal associations and the charge of having shot the journalist Hincal Uluç in the legs – the others not being considered by the French authorities so as to simplify extradition procedures. As a result, A. Çakici only risks a sentence of 13.5 years imprisonment.
However, on 6 December 1999, the Istanbul Criminal Court decided that one of these was invalidated by prescription. Consequently A. Çakici was only being charged with having hired men to open fire of Hincal Uluç, a journalist on the Turkish daily Sabah. On 4 March 1994, the latter had been attacked by Çakici’s men at a petrol station and received several bullets in his legs. The mafia chieftain had not appreciated an article Uluç had written accusing Alaatin Çakici of murdering his own wife. The case had begun on 25 March 1994, and Articles 102, 103 and 104 of the Turkish Penal Code sets prescription at 5 years. Questioned on this matter, the Turkish Minister of Justice, Hikmet Sami Türk, retorted that the previous Public Prosecutor in charge of the case had set prescription at 7.5 years while the present one claimed it was only 5 years. At this rate, A. Çakici will merely be charged with "criminal associations", which carried a penalty of only 3 years. He will thus only have to serve 21 months, under present regulations – without counting the possibility of his benefiting from the pending amnesty law. The Turkish press accuses the Minister of Justice of incompetence and of having obstructed the work of the Minister of the Interior who had commissioned a team of the National Police to question A. Çakici on his arrival.
THE PHONE TAPPING TRIAL RESULTED IN A $5 FINE IN TURKEY. One of the police officers accused of having carried out phone tapping was sentenced to a $5 fine by a Turkish court on 6 December 1999. Zafer Aktas, Assistant Chief of the Police Intelligence services was found guilty of having ordered the destruction of telephone recordings and sentenced to 6 months jail, subsequently commuted to a fine of 2.7 million Turkish lire, or about $5. Policemen are accused of having tapped the telephones of political parties and army officers, but also of Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit’s home. Crimes and offenses committed by police officers still, it seems, remain unpunished by the Turkish Courts.
THE RUSSIANS WANT TO BARTER ARMS IN REPAYMENT OF THEIR DEBT TO TURKEY. In its 3 November 1999 issue, Milliyet announces that Russia will be proposing a barter deal to clear its debt to Turkey against arms. According to this Turkish daily, the Russian authorities will, during Prime Minister Büllent Ecevit’s offical visit to Russia on 4 November, be offering to clear its debt of $ 700 million by delivery of Russian arms. Indebted to the Turkish Eximbank since the period of the USSR, Russia has been unable to clear its debts and their interests. The ‘Paris club’ had decided to freeze the repayment of the old USSR debts till 2011 but had arranged that the interests should be paid. Turkey is said to have proposed payment in the form of Russian natural gas but Moscow is said to prefer arms.
NORWAY DECIDES TO EXPORT PENGUIN ANTI-NAVAL MISSILES TO TURKEY. GERMANY IS COMPETING FOR THE SALE OF TANKS. On 20 December 1999, Norway decided to authorise the sale to Turkey of anti-ship missiles, thus ending a four year ban on arms sales to Ankara, principally on Human Rights grounds. The Norwegian Foreign Minister stated that the Kongsberg Gruppen company had obtained a permit to sell 16 Penguin anti-ship missiles to the Turkish Army for a sum of $37.49 million. The Norwegian Minister stated that "every request for the export of defence equipment to Turkey will be treated on its individual merits" and that the present authorisation had been decided by taking into account the fact that the present situation in Kurdistan was not comparable with the civil war conditions of five years ago, and that Turkey had ceased its military operations in Northern Iraq. (Editor’s Note: Some 5,000 Turkish troops, backed by helicopter gunships had launched an armed incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan on 27 September 1999. See our bulletin Nº 144).
Furthermore, Rudolph Scharping, German Minister of Defence, during an official visit to Turkey on 21st and 22nd December 1999, announced his governments desire to bid in Turkey’s public invitation to tender for 1,000 tanks for a total sum of DM 14 billion. Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, had, himself, argued some time ago that this contract would guarantee 6,000 jobs in Germany. The delivery of a German Leopard tank to Turkey for testing purposes had earlier provoked a crisis in the SPD-Green coalition government. Rudolph Scharping declared, in the course of his visit "I think that the Kurds have the right to speak their own language, be educated in their own language and express their culture in their own language. This is a matter of Human Rights, of not of State autonomy".
THE MISFORTUNES OF THE SINGER KIRMIZIGÜL
THE Turkish journalist and musician, Zülfü Livaneli, in his editorial of 5 November in the daily Sabah, describes the witch hunt against Kurds being conducted in Turkey and deplores the reigning climate of insecurity.
"On Wednesday evening, Mohsun Kirmizigül succeeded, through television, in escaping a great calamity and thus foiling an attempt to extort a ransom of $300,000. You know the story: in 1992, Mohsun Kirmizigül tookpart in a concert in Hamburg organised by immigrants from Bingöl (Editor’s Note: a Kurdish province).
The fact that he sang in Kurdish, that he kissed a scarf in the Kurdish colours given to him by the audiance, that, carried away by the enthusiam of the audience, he gave them a V sign gave the owners of a video cassette of the event the idea of blackmailing him. There lies all the horror of our times. What could be more natural for a man than to sing in laguage of his father or grand-father? How could this give rise to attempts at blackmail? Or that, as a gesture of thanks he kissed a scarf in the local colours given him by his audience. Where’s the crime in that? As for the V sign, as Mohsun himself explained, it is a sign that millions of people give in Turkey. Can one reasonably bring charges against someone for making this sign, symbolic of the first letter of the word "victory" in English, and attibuted originally to Churchill? But Turkey is being dragged to an area where some people can think of making of such innocent signs grounds for blackmail.
If such a broadcast had been set up by a dishonnest journalist he could have finished Mohsun off in a single night. And, as he said, if pictures of certain flags and posters had been edited in what would have happened then? Things are happening as if we were living through a Salem witch hunt – or the McCarthyite period. In what other country could you see a musician, to whom millions of people enjoy listening, accused of such things and who, to clear himself is obliged to swear at the top of his voice before the TV cameras, his devotion to the (Turkish) flag, nation and country?
The mentality of these criminals reveals an even more horrible reality: we are becoming, bit by bit, a reactionary society. The results of the 1998 elections were the fruit of these reactions. The people did not vote for the social or economic policies of the parties but for the one that displayed the most radical reactions against their enemies. If Öcalan had not been captured during the period of Ecevit’s Premiership, the DSP (Ecevit’s "Democratic Left" Party) would not have won so amny votes. If the lamentations during the funerals of the martyrs had not touched the people’s hearts so deeply, the MHP (National Action Party – neo-fascist) would not have been able to score 18% of the vote. This party owes its score (which surprised even it) to the reaction against the PKK. The plot agianst Mohsun Kirmizigül should open everyone’s eyes. At the present time the most popular singers in Turkey are of Kurdish origin and their mother tongue is Kurdish. The people knows full well their origins, their language, the culinary specialities of the region they come from. And still they have, for years, preferred singers of Kurdish origin – and loved them.
A lesson must be learnt from this business. At a time when the government is welcomed in Diyarbekir with white flags and fraternat slogans, let no one come to dynamit the peace".