On the invitation of U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) both sent high level delegations to Washington, led by Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Irbil regional government (KDP), and Jalal Talabani, General Secretary of the PUK.
On 26 June the U.S. Vice-President held a long meeting with the two Kurdish leaders as well as some leading figures of the Iraqi National Congress. On this occasion he reiterated the U.S. commitment to grant many forms of aid to the Iraqi opposition to help fall of Saddam Hussein and to defend "the protection zone for the Iraqi Kurds" against any possible attacks by the Iraqi Army.
Officially this zone does not include the Kurdish territories South of the 36th Parallel, nor the province of Suleimaniah, administered by the PUK. Reporting the statements of a senior Iraqi officer who had recently defected, Jallal Talabani warned his American audience and the media of the danger of an "imminent" invasion of that province by Baghdad’s troops. According to him, three divisions of the Iraqi Army were massing on the Suleimaniah Province borders. Saddam Hussein, accusing the PUK of having provided facilities for the recent series of bomb attacks in Baghdad attributed to the Iranian secret services, was allegedly seeking to "punish" J. Talabani.
The U.S. administration stated that it took these threats seriously and that it would prevent Iraqi troops from any acts of aggression against any part of the territory under Kurdish control, including the province of Suleimaniah.
Taking advantage of the presence of the two Kurdish delegations, the American administration worked at organising a fresh round of inter-Kurdish discussions to advance the applications of the "Washington Agreements" signed in September 1998. Officials of the State Department Thomas Pickering, Acting Secretary of State in the absence abroad of Mrs. Albright, and Mrs. Elisabeth Jones, deputy director for the Middle East, met the two delegations separately. Subsequently the two delegations met for talks under U.S. chairmanship. Following "long and difficult" discussions some "substantial progress" is said to have been made. There is again talk of "the next meeting" of Parliament in plenary session at Irbil to arrange details of General Elections. However, no firm time table has been set, and the dispute over the sharing of Customs Revenues has not been completely settled though the gap between the two parties’ views has been reduced.
Meanwhile Washington preaches calm and the continuation of dialogue. The ending of the fratricidal fighting since November 1997 has allowed a fairly impressive economic and cultural development of Iraqi Kurdistan. In principle there is less danger of a renewal of hostilities between the KDP and the PUK. However one cannot neglect the danger of interference by the neighbouring states (Iran, Iraq Turkey) who can, either directly (bomb attacks carried out by their secret services) or indirectly, via certain islamists, Turcomen or dissident Kurds, maintain a climate of instability so as to torpedo the experiment in self government of the Iraqi Kurds which – despite the setbacks of the black period of May 1994 - October 1997 – has now lasted 9 years. A record in 20th Century Kurdish history.
Syrian President Hafez el Assad died in Damascus on 10th June, after an absolute reign of 30 years. His funeral took place on 13 June, attended by many Arab heads of State, the French and Iranian Presidents, as well as the Iraqi Kurdish leaders M. Barzani and J. Talabani. The majority of Western countries were represented by their Foreign Ministers to avoid showing to much respect for the late Syrian dictator. Nicknamed "the Arab Bismarck" by some and "the Machiaveli of the near East" by others, General Assad had played a decisive role in the coup d’état of 1966 that enabled the Baath Party to win power. After serving the Baathist regime as Minister of the Defence during the Six Day War (June 1967) in which Israel inflicted a crushing defeat on the Arab Armies and in which Syria lost the Golan Heights, Assad carried out a second coup d’état in 1970 to eliminate "the left wing" of the Baath Party and assume unchallenged personal power. Having become the absolute overlord of Syria, he distributed the main control points (the Army, the Party, the Intelligence Services) to members of his very minor sect, the Alawites.
Some pro-Soviet communists, Druzes and Kurds were, at lower levels, associated with this narrow based and dictatorial regime to give it the appearance of a popular base and legitimacy. The rhetoric of "the Arab revolution", of "liberation of Palestine and the Golan from Zionist occupation", lavishly used by the official media served as an ideological justification for a police ridden regime maintained in power by the ubiquitous presence of various intelligence services (Army and Baath party). Opponents, like the islamists and dissidents of the official Communist Party, were repressed with the greatest brutality – several thousands of deaths in 1982 when heavy artillery was used to repress islamist riots in Homs and Hama.
Though claiming to be "the champion of the Arab cause", the man whose flatterers called "the Lion of Damascus", during his 30 years reign failed to liberate a single inch of occupied Syrian territory. On the other hand he greatly contributed to the ruination of the Lebanon by playing off the various Lebanese factions against one another with diabolical skill – to the great misfortune of the Land of the Cedar. Those, like the Druze leader of Kurdish descent Kamal Jumblat, whose influence spread far beyond the confines of the Near East and who refused to become docile tools in the hands of the Damascus Machiaveli, were assassinated without any scruples. General Assad also fueled the bloody internal differences within the Palestinian movement so as to eliminate Yasser Arafat. With small regard for the means used, he allowed Lebanon, under occupation by his troops, become the crossroads of all sorts of trafficking, in particular of drugs, to the greater profit of his family and sect and this tentacular Intelligence Services.
His skills also had disastrous effects on the Kurds. While denying the slightest cultural or linguistic rights to his 1.5 million Kurdish citizens and refusing to restore citizenship to the 150,000 Kurds who had been stripped of their nationality, he offered an asylum to the PKK with the aim of using it as a tool in his policy against Turkey. Wishing to kill two birds with one stone, he encouraged young Syrian Kurds to enroll in the PKK guerrillas, ostensibly "to liberate Turkish Kurdistan" but, in fact, to rid himself of a militant and nationalist part of the Syrian Kurdish youth. After securing a first agreement with Ankara on sharing of the Euphrates waters, Assad, who had hoped to secure even greater advantages from his use of the PKK, was finally obliged, in October 1998, to abandon this game in the face of a threat of war with Turkey, with unimaginable consequences for Syria.
At daggers drawn with the rival Baath faction in power in Baghdad, the Syrian regime also maintained up and down relations with the Iraqi Kurds, without ever giving them any substantial help. After the Gulf war and the creation of the protected zone for the Iraqi Kurds Damascus used every means in its power, often in concert with Teheran, to prevent Iraqi Kurdistan from becoming "a second Israel" – i.e. that it become a stable state entity.
With foresight, General Assad had meticulously prepared his dynastic succession. In particular he had decapitated the powerful Intelligence services by arbitrarily retiring Hikmat hhehabi, Ali Duba, Mohammed Nassif etc. and replacing them with young men of the same generation as his son, Bachar. The latter, inducted into the Army, enjoyed a meteoric ascent before being promoted, on his father’s death, "General" and "Armed forces Commander in Chief" by the puppet Vice-President, Abdel Halim Khaddam and receiving the homage of the Minister of Defence Mustafa Tlas. The Syrian parliament thereupon amended the constitution by reducing the minimum age of eligibility to the Presidency from 40 to 34 years of age (Bachar’s age, of course). The 9th Congress of the Baath Party, summoned to meet from 17 to 20 June, unanimously elected him General Secretary of the party. And, while they were about it, Parliament nominated him sole candidate to the Presidency of the Republic. A plebiscite, organised in July is planner to confirm (unanimously, of course!) this choice and thus wind up the red tape needed to ensure dynastic succession in "the Arab and Socialist Republic".
The future seems blocked for a long time ahead in this country which. however, only a few decades ago, had experienced a genuine parliamentary democracy and which now, after nearly forty years of dictatorship, remains one of the most backward countries of the Near East.
It is now six months that Turkey has been an official candidate for membership of the European Union and the institutions of the country’s establishment are in open confrontation over the democratic criteria to be adopted. On the basis of an opinion regarding a report prepared by the Prime Minister’s High Secretariat of Co-ordination for Human Rights, the National Security Council (MGK), the Armed Forces General Staff and the Foreign Ministry are openly in opposition to one another. In cooperation with several Ministries, the High Secretariat had brought to light the need to undertake changes in law to conform with the Copenhagen criteria. The first version of the document, prepared by Gürsel Demirok, called for the removal of obstacles to freedom of expression, the authorisation of Kurdish language broadcasts, the teaching of the Kurdish language, an increase in the number of civilians on the National Security Council (MGK) and the nomination of a civilian to the post of General Secretary of the MGK. In the face of criticisms, G. Demirok was obliged to resign and a watered down report, cooked up by the junior Minister Rüstü Kazim Yücelen was prepared. The final document made no mention of the composition of the MGK.
The Turkish daily Radikal, in its editorial of 14 June 2000 revealed the report of the MGK regarding the Copenhagen criteria. This five page document from the MGK General Secretary, dated 11 March, states, in conclusion that "in view of Turkish realities, the excessive demands and conditions on the European Union cannot be carried out ". This pre-eminently executive organ, mainly made up of Armed Forces Chiefs, plays a preponderant role in the country’s political life. "We know that the European Union reports that raise shortcomings in Turkey regarding democracy, the supremacy of the Law, of Human Rights, are, in the main produced by partial organisations which are prejudiced about our country and express subjective views. That is why it has been judged that we should not to conform to excessive and unjust requirements of the European Union which attack the national integrity of Turkey, its form of unitary State and its specific realities. It is preferable to work so that inconvenient demands are no longer mentioned in the EU’s reports ". The report also announces that "the question of minority rights in Turkey was settled by the Treaty of Lausanne (in 1923). Thus, in Turkey there are only Rûms (Greeks in Turkey), Jews Armenians and a Bulgarian minority. In other words, it was decided by that Lausanne international peace treaty that our citizens of Kurdish origin did not constitute a minority (…) Recommendations leading to separatism and attacking our territorial integrity, such as the recognition of Kurdish identity or the authorisation of Kurdish language broadcasts are considered impertinent. The best thing to do is to insist on ‘Atatürk’s nationalism’ established in our Constitution (Editor’s Note: which fiercely denies the very existence of Kurds)".
Moreover, the National Security Council (MGK) suggests that "Article 143 of the Constitution regarding State Security Courts (DGM) be revised and that these courts be replaced by special tribunals competent to deal with attacks on the security of the State ". The MGK considers that is acceptable that "apart from periods of martial law or civil war, civilians should not be tried by military tribunals " and declares itself in favour of the abolition of the death sentence, suggesting that Protocol N°6 of the United Nations be signed.
The report also pinpoints its opposition to any possibility of "appeal against decisions of the High Military Council ", which decides the career development of senior officers and which periodically expels from the Armed Forces officers considered "suspect" of lacking in Atatürk’s nationalist ideology. The MGK, while expressing itself favourable to an increase in the number of civilians in its ranks, declares that "there is no violation of Human Rights nor of democratic principles in the fact that the General Secretary, responsible for the institution responsible for national security, be an Army officer ".
At the same time as this report, the Foreign Ministry turned in a report on the same question but described as "courageous" by the daily paper Radikal on 19 June 2000. The Ministry declares itself in favour, on the model of France, of integrating the "principle of inclusive constitutional citizenship ". It also declared that it was in favour of teaching children in their mother tongues as well as the right to publish in any language desired and the ending of all obstacles to freedom of opinion. The report ends by concluding that what must be considered is not "the homogeneity of individuals making up the nation state but their differences " and thus to put the emphasis on "the right to be different". "Individuals who enjoy the right to be different are naturally entitled to freedom to promote and protect their ethnic, linguistic, religious or cultural differences within the society in which they live". Contrary to the MGK, the Foreign Ministry takes into consideration Article 39, Clause 4 of the Lausanne Treaty (Editor’s Note: no restriction should be placed on Turkish nationals on their freedom to use any language in the context of private schooling, trade, religion, the press or in public meetings and publications).
The Turkish press has widely reported the differences between the institutions. Sami Kohen (Milliyet, 20 June 2000) quoting the remarks of a diplomat stated: "the Copenhagen criteria are not items on a ‘menu’ from which one can pick and chose". Radikal, once again, headlined its 20 June issue "The Army is divided on the question of the European Union" and adds "the General Staff adopted a moderate line. Contrary to that of the National Security Council (MGK), the Foreign Ministry and the High Secretariat of Co-ordination for Human Rights are marked by a liberal attitude ".
For his part, in the course of a Conference organised by Parliament called "Constitutional Reforms in Turkey – Principles and Results ", President Ahmet Nejdet Sezer stated, on 29 June, that for Turkey to be a democratic, secular and social State of Laws that observes Human Rights, it must develop and protect Human Rights and freedom and raise them to universal levels. "In order to do this, the universal standards laid down in International declarations must be incorporated into our laws after our Constitution has been re-evaluated in the light of these universal declarations " Mr. Sezer stated.
Stressing that the principle of a State of Laws is the determining factor in present day democracies. A.N. Sezer declared : "the most important principle of freedom oriented democracies is based on the fact that the State exists for the people and not the people for the State ". The Turkish President, who was President of the Turkish Constitutional Court before his election, stated that human rights had become a "condition that can not be ignored " in the world today, and encouraged Constitutional Reforms in Turkey.
On 8 June the United Nations Security Council extended, for a further six months, the "oil for food" programme, which authorises the export of Iraqi oil, henceforth without limitations, while controlling the use of the income from these sales.
According to U.N. statistics, the total volume of these sales since 1996 has been $ 23.3 billion, of which $ 8.4 billion just over the last six months. Of these sums, 13% are allocated to the provinces under autonomous Kurdish administration, where they are spent by UN agencies for the population’s benefit. All in all, the Kurdish regions should have benefited, in those four years, from an injection of $ 3.26 billion in the form of a distribution of food, medical supplies, and the financing of educational, health and infrastructure projects. This contribution, despite the usual wastage du to UN bureaucracy and its extreme slowness, has allowed the devastated economy of Kurdistan to gradually be reconstituted and has greatly contributed to the return of peace and hope in the region. The Kurdish leaders, while criticising the cumbersome administrative procedures of the UN Sanctions Committee have unceasingly reminded their people of the vital role that this allocation of 13% of oil revenues to the Kurdish controlled provinces.
At present, any project put up by the Kurdish administration or an NGO to a local UN agency is first sent to the UN office in Baghdad which, if it accepts it submits it to the Iraqi authorities. If the latter agree, it then makes the round of a series of regional offices (Cairo, Nairobi, Geneva) and, after they have expressed their views, to the Sanctions Committee in New York. If this last approves, the decision takes the same tortuous route back down the line. The result is that any decision, for even an urgent or priority project, can take over a year! Without forgetting the opportunity the Iraqi regime has of torpedoing it, watering it down or for example, substituting, in place of a list of medicines needed in Kurdistan, another list that does not correspond to the Kurdish populations needs.
The Kurdish leaders are thus asking for a simplification of decision making procedures and more cooperation with the Kurdish administration.
For its part, Baghdad, that only partly controls the oil revenues (30% go to paying war reparation and UNO expenses) is calling for an end to the sanctions that it describes as "political genocide". Other countries are also calling for the lifting of sanctions, without taking into account the fate of the Kurds, who would thus be deprived of their 13%, nor considering how the international community could prevent Saddam Hussein from using the greater part of these resources to rearm and consolidate the dictatorships repressive apparatus.
All the more so as Baghdad has been able to evade any arms inspection since December 1998 and that the new UN inspection Commission, chaired by former Swedish Foreign Minister Hans Blix has still be unable to set up offices in Baghdad to begin work.
Now that there is no limit on the amount of oil Iraq can export, and that, in consequence greatly increased revenues are available to it, the Iraqi government now has the means to reduce the level of malnutrition and improve the public health conditions for the Iraqi people, as the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anann, has stated, appealing to the Iraqi Government to "increase the sums allocated to health and nutrition in place its orders for supply for efficiently and distribute the goods more diligently ".
In effect, Baghdad can no longer play the game of blackmail pleading famine and shortage of medicine. It has, henceforth, the financial means to, and must, put an end to this deliberate neglect, in which hundreds of tons of medicines, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, are allowed to rot in warehouses while the media make propaganda over the children dying from lack of medical treatment.
The debate next December on the sanctions against Iraq are likely to be all the more heated as America will have, in the interval, elected a new President, and that the Kurds, the Arabs and the Europeans are still uncertain what will be the Iraqi policy of the new tenant of the White House.
The Council of Heads of State and Governments of the European Union, meeting at Santa Maria De Feira, in Portugal on 21 June, decided to exclude Turkey from the decision making machinery of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI), the organ which will be responsible for managing future crises in Europe. Ankara reacted sharply to the outcome of this summit. Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit declared that the European decision would be a fresh source of tension between the European Union and Turkey, adding that it was not rational. Mr. Ecevit threatened to use his veto inside NATO (Editor’s Note: in the course of NATO’s Washington summit last year, members agreed that decisions should be taken unanimously whenever any organisation requested its help).
The Turkish Foreign Minister rapidly published a statement to say that Ankara was not satisfied at the Feira conclusions regarding ESDI and that Turkey would call on the European Union to review its decision at the next summit meeting, planned for December, at Nice. The Turkish authorities had initially stated that they would not accept a less favourable position than that which they enjoyed in the Western European Union (WEU). The fact remains that Turkey is the only NATO member that is not a member of the European Union to have expressed dissatisfaction. Its senior ally, the United States is supporting a more active involvement of Europe in matters of European Security. "Will this not make Turkey’s position more difficult? Isn’t Turkey isolating itself in NATO? " asked Ferai Tinc, editorial writer of the English language Turkish daily Turkish Daily News, on 22 June.
On 13 June the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of "inhuman and degrading treatment " under Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention. Suspected of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdulvahap Timurtasm a young Kurd born in 1962, disappeared on 14 August 1993 near Yeniköy (Sirnak province) after being placed in detention. The European Court was petitioned by the victim’s father, who accused the authorities of being responsible for his son’s death. The Turkish government, that denied all responsibility, simply maintains that Mr. Timurtas had not been detained. The Turkish authorities denied, in particular, a photocopy of the security forces report of the latter’s arrest, which the father had presented as evidence. The Sirnak Public Prosecutor had filed away the case without taking any action on it, and Turkey subsequently refused to supply the Strasbourg Court with the document on which it based its denial of the authenticity of the photocopy of the report.
In view of this unjustified refusal and of "a whole series of factors in arguing favour of the disputed document’s authenticity " the European Court recognised the arrest and detention of the petitioner’s son. By concluding that a violation of Article 2 of the European Convention, the Court ruled that "the Turkish Government, not having furnished any explanation as to what had happened to the plaintiff’s son during his detention, must be judged responsible for his death ".
The Court stigmatised Turkey for "the absence of any prompt and effective enquiry" and for "the absence of any exact and reliable records " of those detained. According to the ruling, "some members of the security forces showed a total lack of sensitivity towards the petitioner’s concerns, by denying, in defiance of the truth, that his son had been taken into detention (…) Moreover, the anguish experienced by the petitioner regarding his son is still very evident today ". Turkey was condemned to pay £ 30,000 to the family of the young Kurd who had disappeared.
On 15 June, Turkey was found guilty of violation of the freedom of expression of a young journalist by the European Human Rights Court. The journalist, Umit Erdogan. was taken to court for having published a reader’s point of view on the Kurdish question. Editor in chief of the twice monthly "Iscilerin Sesi" (The Workers’ Voice) he had allowed to appear, on 2 October 1992, an article by a reader entitled "The Kurdish problem is a Turkish problem". A year later, Mr. Erdogan was sentenced for spreading "propaganda against the territorial integrity of the State and the indivisible unity of the Turkish nation" to 6 months jail and a fine which he began paying in 1994" The case was retried following the alteration of certain clauses of the Anti-Terrorist Act in 1995 and the sentence reduced to just a fine, without imprisonment. A fresh change in the law led the State Security Court to grant the journalist a reprieve, in December 1997, on condition that he commit no further offence for three years.
In its ruling, the European Court, petitioned in 1994, recognised that the article in question expressed "a certain political virulence " and that it was "clear that the author intended, if only indirectly, to stigmatize both the State’s dominant political ideology and the conduct of the Turkish authorities regarding the Kurdish problem". But it found nothing in it that might incite the readers to resort to violence against the Turkish State, as claimed by the Turkish authorities, nor to join the PKK camps. By incriminating the journalist the Turkish authorities "insufficiently took into account the freedom of the press, nor the right of the public to be informed of another way of looking at the Kurdish problem, however that might be disagreeable to the them " the European Court considered. As for the reprieve granted to the petitioner in 1997, the judges considered that it was equivalent to a "ban that had the effect of censoring the petitioner’s very profession".
The Court granted the petitioner damages of FF 26,000 and FF 20,000 expenses.
Over 45,000 Kurdish families have asked the Migrants’ Cultural and Social Aid Association (GOÇ-DER) for help in returning to their villages where a relative calm has returned. Nearly one year after the announcement of the end of the PKK’s armed struggle. The return of the Kurdish population to their villages, despite an increasingly strong demand, remains sporadic and in danger of remaining conditional. The administration that governs the 10 provinces, still under or only just emerging from 13 years under a State of Emergency, has yet to give the green light, and the 378,355 "forced migrants" recorded in 1997 by a Parliamentary report do not expect any miracles (Editor’s Note: The total number of displaced persons in the Kurdish region is estimated by different Human Rights defence organisations at over 3 million).
The Association, like the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP), that collect the families’ requests do not enjoy a favourable image in the eyes of the Turkish authorities who charge them with separatism. Questioned on this matter, Gökhan Aydiner, the governor responsible for the 10 provinces in question, stated that he is certain that "the villages and hamlets will not all be opened" and that the most isolated will not enjoy State aid: "only applications filed individually with the local authorities will be examined individually on their merits". Mr. Aydiner freely admits the disinclination of the Turkish authorities regarding the project of return by declaring that sending everyone back to the mountains would be "to return to square one " that is, to unleash another armed struggle. He says he has granted 64,000 authorisation to return of the 131,000 cases and recorded 26,000 returns over the last eight years.
The families, living unemployed the outskirts of major Turkish conurbations often find themselves in an intolerable state of destitution. [Editor’s Note: According to a study by the Beyoglu Centre for Youth and Children, which carried out an investigation in 23 districts of Istanbul between 8 May and 8 June covering 905 children (Milliyet 2 July 2000), 99% of the children selling handkerchiefs, chewing gum or polishing shoes in the streets are from these displaced families (…) In Istanbul, 38% of these children originate from the East, 31% from the South-East, 18% from the Turkish region of Marmara, 5% from the Black Sea, 4% from the Centre and 4% from the Mediterranean. Moreover 35% of the children state they exercise another profession.] The exiled families, generally forcibly, freely admit that they do not have sufficient means to return home and demand financial compensation for this. Mahmut Ozgür, President of GOÇ-DER, stated to the Turkish daily Milliyet on 5 July that "to return one family, the lorry alone would cost 400 or 500 million Turkish Lire " (£500 or $900 – against an income of about £90 per month) and that most of the families would be living under canvas on their return. Saadettin Tantan, Minister of the Interior, proudly declared, on 27 June, that the National Security Council (MGK) had decided, to devote 2.8 trillion TL (£3 million or $5 million) to its "plan of action for East and South-East Anatolia",
Moreover, villages repopulated from scratch seem impossible to find whereas three townships (Çatak-Konalga and Dikbiyik near Van and Kaymakamçesme in Sirnak) reserved for clans of "village protectors", the pro-government militia, will be inaugurated in July by Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. The isolated villages that these "protectors" occupy remain inaccessible without special authorisation despite the lifting of legal restrictions in several provinces. Yet the Chief of Staff, Hüseyin Kivrikoglu, has been declaring since September 1999 that clashes are "at a near zero level ". Nearly 65,000 of these militia, three quarters of them paid by the Turkish authorities, are officially on duty "maintaining security ". The issue of their demobilisation is regularly raised, with the gradual disappearance of insecurity and a law voted by Parliament on 30 June 2000 considerably restricts the conditions for membership of these militia (necessity of being able to read and write) and sets limits on their freedom of action – which hitherto has been total.
In his column in the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Oral Çalislar, a staff journalist denounced, on the basis of evidence from a secret service gunman, the crimes committed in Kurdistan under the pretext of the struggle against the PKK. Here is the full text of the article:
The confessions of the JITEM gunman (Editor’s Note: the JITEM is the Gendarmerie’s intelligence service, responsible for counter-insurgency in Kurdistan) were revealed by Mutlu Sereli’s article in Cumhuriyet (Editor’s Note: the Turkish equivalent to France’s Le Monde and the pre-Murdoch Times). Ibrahim Babat, the gunman in question, tells everything he did, but also what he was ordered to do, with a precision and detail that put his story above suspicion. Read Ibrahim Babat’s deposition. Read and learn how he was transformed into Ibrahim Babat by the JITEM, complete with false identity papers.
Of Syrian origin, born in 1965m according to his statements, Ibrahim Babat, code name Mete, declared before the State Security Court and the Prime Minister’s Directorate of Inspection "the JITEM gave all those who collaborated with it the power to execute any person having contacts with the PKK. I was also given instructions to this effect".
Infuriated by Babat’s declarations, officials have threatened him so as to silence him. The Bureau Chief of the Kirklareli Police Directorate of Intelligence and the Commander of the Gendarmerie visited him and threatened saying "Be careful, don’t harm the State – your case is up for Appeal".
Babat describes his relations with the JITEM in these terms: "They had to declare me killed in the course of a clash and then announce my death. I therefore accepted to help them and work in cooperation with the Army, They then prepared false identity papers for me".
"Under cover of the struggle against the PKK I took part in many operations that might be disconcerting for the State, which is why I feel obliged to explain them… The commanders responsible for public security knew full well my situation. I was paid TL 500,000 per month which were, moreover, paid after I had signed a receipt".
Then, Babat describes, giving names and places, the assassinations ordered by State officials – that is officers of JITEM.
Today, in view of these facts, can the public authorities responsible for the police continue to maintain that the JITEM does not exist? Teoman Koman, Gendarmerie Commander at the time, since become Cavit Çaglar’s strong arm man, declared :There is no JITEM" and refused to give evidence before the Turkish Parliament’s Commission of enquiry. At the time he was a Major, today he is not in uniform – it would be well to collect his views on the question.
Teoman Koman was one of the key persons at the time. Before becoming Gendarmerie Commander he was General Secretary of the National Security Council (MGK) and even earlier advisor to the Intelligence Service (MIT). As such he should know all about these matters, the arrangements leading to these events and the policy hidden behind them. is it possible to carry out these types of operations with informing the Gendarmerie Commander?
In the framework of a democratically run country, considered as a State of Laws, there are dreadful truths to conclude from Babat’s story. Is it possible in a State of Laws for any State organisation to arrange to execute people? Can it kidnap individuals and furnish them with false identity papers? Can the State eliminate its own citizens by placing itself above the law?
While knowing that the answer to these questions is NO, we have to resign ourselves to accepting as fact that these events occurred. In the heart of the State, through the actions of State officials, illegal operations took place, no one is unaware of this, yet everyone behaves as if all this is perfectly normal.
Ibrahim Babat’s statement is horrible. Can citizens of a State accept as normal that the State could assassinate them? Despite the revelation of these cases, can they continue to say that they can do nothing? Regrettably, the answer seems to be YES.
The Syrian’s declarations, under his false name of Ibrahim Babat, brings to the cold light of day the obsession with security that governs this country and the planning to achieve security by assassination and intimidation. Ibrahim Babat’s statements , published in Cumhuriyet prove the deep roots of the concepts that govern the State, in lawlessness and illegality. Were the Director of the Intelligence Services and the Gendarmerie Commander who threatened him in Kirklareli Prison acting solely on their own initiative? Can one really believe that?
It is evident that there are accomplices in high places who want to silence Ibrahim Babat. I think: what if Teoman Koraman were questioned again and a commission of enquiry reviewed the three critical periods he was in office…
For Turkey to be a democratic State of Law, Ibrahim Babat should be questioned and taken seriously. It is time that this horrible plotting of murders ceased. For this the protagonists must give an account of themselves. Having explained the situation I ask the leaders of this State: Do you still claim that the JITEM does not exist? Do you support the concealing of these murders committed in this context? How long do you think you can last?
A EUROPEAN DELEGATION VISITS KURDISTAN TO ASSESS VILLAGE DESTRUCTION. A delegation from the European Parliament composed of a PDS Member of Kurdish origin, Feleknas Uca, an English Green MEP, Jean Lambert, and an English Liberal MEP, Sarah Lutford, went on a visit to the Kurdish provinces on 29 May to enquire into the forcibly evacuated and burned villages in the region. On returning to Brussels on 2 June, MEP F. Uca held a Press Conference in the course of which she stated "The State provides no financial support for the municipalities. For example, the State promised 700 million Turkish lire (about £ 780 or $1100) to Batman municipality to enable families in the region to return home, but so far has only disbursed 1% of the sum. Despite their will to return, the inhabitants cannot return to their villages because, instead of rebuilding the houses destroyed, the State (…) projects to amalgamate several villages and form ‘centres’ (…) The State will only accept the return of villagers on one condition – if they sign a document declaring that "the village was destroyed by the PKK and not by the State " they can be authorised to return. Miss Uca also stressed the omnipresence of Turkish troops and the interdiction of taking pictures of the region.
THE DAILY PAPER "OZGUR BAKIS" CLOSED DOWN; ITS SUCCESSOR "2000’DE YENI GÜNDEM" BANNED IN THE KURDISH REGION. On 5 June 2000, the Turkish authorities decided to ban the pro-Kurdish daily "2000’de Yeni Gündem " in the five largest Kurdish provinces: Van, Diyarbekir, Siirt, Sirnak and Hakkari. The paper has been appearing for barely a week, after its predecessor had simply been banned throughout the country, and states it has received no proper explanation of this decision. Ragip Zarakoglu, the publication’s General Manager, declared: "written notification of this decision reached our Diyarbekir office without a word of explanation (…) This sort of decision cannot be challenged in the courts (…) The only way to escape this is for the State of Emergency to be lifted. That is why we have asked the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister to act ".
2000’de Yeni Gündem began to come out on 27 May, replacing Ozgür Bakis and a whole line of earlier pro-Kurdish papers that had been successively closed by the authorities. Mr. Zarakoglu also denounced the fact that, banning his paper in those five provinces made its distribution impossible in the neighbouring ones as well. The Turkish authorities, who so often enumerate the number of Kurdish and pro-Kurdish publications that appear in Turkey, forget to explain that they have to face a double censorship, one national, the other regional. In only the last few months the regional prefect has banned several pro-Kurdish or Kurdish language publications, including Pinê, a humorous review, and Ozgür Kadinin Sesi, a women’s magazine.
A SUBSTANTIAL DROP IN THE NUMBER OF CLASHES AND VIOLENT INCIDENTS IN KURDISTAN. In the course of a Press Conference on 1 June 2000, the Armed Forces General Staff indicated that "incidents due to terrorism " had very substantially diminished compared with the same period last year. Colonel Fahir Altan, head of the Public Relations office declared: "in 1994 the number of terrorist incidents reached 3,300, in the two following years this dropped to 1,500, then in 1997 to 73% and again to 86% in 1998 for a total of 488 incidents recorded this year ".
OPERATION ‘ANTI-HADEP’. The Istanbul police carried out a series of searches and summonses at a number of buildings serving as premises of the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP). The police also confiscated "a large number of documents" found in different HADEP offices "for investigation". Kemal Pekoz. President of the Provincial leadership of the party, and Mahmut Can, his assistant, were amongst the thirty odd people detained. Observers note that these arrests are taking place, paradoxically enough, at a time where there is talk of the way things have calmed down in the Kurdish region since the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) called for a cease fire and a withdrawal of its troops from the region but also one week after Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit’s statement attacking the political path chosen by HADEP.
On 29 June, several demonstrations took place in Turkey to mark the anniversary of the death sentence passed on Abdullah Ocalan, Chief of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for treason and separatism by a State Security Court.
Nedim Bicer, an officer of the Bismil local branch of HADEP and five other sympathisers of that party, were arrested on 30 June following the demonstrations.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION HAS RECORDED 5,000 CASES OF TORTURE IN 10 YEARS. The Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), through its President Yavuz Onen, stated on 26 June, that a million people had been subjected to torture in the last 10 years. Y. Onen denounced the fact that the reports of the Parliamentary Commission did not take into account the political dimension of the use of torture, declaring: "they want people to think that torture is only practiced in local police stations. Torture is also practiced at police Headquarters and in Gendarmerie stations ".
Furthermore, Prof. Veli Lok, President of the Izmir branch of the Foundation, declared that there had been no improvement in the matter: "in a number of cases we have noted that all forms of torture were still in current use while people were in detention ". According to Prof. Lok, over 1,354 cases of torture, including 44 children and 369 women were recorded by the Branch since its creation nine years ago. For its part, the Foundation had received 4,696 complaints of torture since 1991. The Foundation officers also stressed that "despite proofs provided, all the torturers have been acquitted by the Turkish courts ".
A TURKISH-KURDISH DICTIONARY BANNED FROM DISTRIBUTION. A Turkish-Kurdish dictionary, edited a by the Istanbul Kurdish Institute and published six days earlier, was seized on 19 June in the city of Batman, shortly after appearing on the bookstalls. "About a hundred copies were confiscated a week ago from the distributing company, on the orders of the Batman Police Directorate, and sent to the Diyarbekir State Security Court to check the contents of our dictionary " stated the Institute’s Director, Hasan Kaya.
This dictionary of 1280 pages and over 40,000 entries is, to date, the most important work for studying the Kurdish language. Edited by Zana Farqini, a member of the Istanbul Kurdish Institute, this dictionary is a proof that "the Kurdish language exists, that it must be protected and that it is not as poor as some say it is " explained Mr. Kaya.
The work is on sale at Istanbul’s Mesopotamian Cultural Centre, but remains unobtainable in many major Book shops, where older dictionaries are still on the shelves.
THE UNDP REPORT FOR 1999: TURKEY RANKS 85th REGARDING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT. According to the annual report on "human development" drawn up by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Turkey is in 85th place out of 174 countries studied with regards to human development. The report comes from an assessment of the statistics from different countries regarding life expectation, literacy, and per capita income. The report reveals that the average life expectancy in Turkey is 69.3 years, the literacy rate is 84% and the percentage of people recorded in receiving primary, secondary and higher education is 61%. The national per capita income is $ 6,422. In the same report, Iran holds 95th place and Syria 111st.
FLAGRANT EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITIES BETWEEN THE KURDISH PROVINCES AND THE REST OF TURKEY. A 76 page report by Hüseyin Çelik, True Path Party (DYP) Member of Parliament for Van, entitled "The situation in South Eastern Anatolia according to socio-economic indicators" which takes into account the areas of education, health agriculture, industry, tourism, cross border trade, migration and attempts to return to the villages was published by Turkish Daily News of 26 June 2000.
According to the report, in Diyarbekir, the principle Kurdish city, 61.4% of young girls between the ages of 7 and 13 have received no schooling. Erzurum comes second with 59,4% followed by Urfa with 46,3% of young girls who received no schooling. The report, drawn up from data of the State Statistical Institute (DIE), the State Planning Organisation (DPT), the World Bank and UNICEF shows that "in the area of education and culture, as well as other areas, South Eastern Anatolia is the region that has least benefited from the reforms launched since the foundation of the Turkish Republic ".
The document shows that the proportion of those going to primary school is 68,9% in the East (Kurdish) and 70.94% in the South East (Kurdish) against 89.03% for Turkey as a whole. As for secondary Schools, the rate drops to 28.27% in the South-East and 33% in the East against 54.14% for Turkey as a whole. As far as High Schools (Sixth Form colleges) is concerned the situation is no better for the Kurdish regions, since the Turkish national average of 38.72% drops to 25,84% in the East and 18,7% in the South-East. For more advanced studies, the rate is 3.88% for the South East, 10.95 for the East against a national average of 22.87% for Turkey as a whole.
In terms of the number of children enrolled, the Kurdish provinces also come last. The report shows that Antalya (a Turkish town on the Mediterranean coast) comes first whereas Diyarbekir comes last. Diyarbekir is also characterised buy its very low rate of feminine education, with 42% of women who have never even had any primary schooling, followed by Erzurum with 41.5% – in Izmir the rate is only 8,1%.
DECISION TO LIFT THE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN THE PROVINCE OF VAN. On 26 June, the National Security decided to propose to the Government the lifting of the State of Emergency (OHAL) in the province of Van, as from 30 July, but to prolong it for another four months in four other Kurdish provinces: Diyarbekir, Hakkari, Sirnak and Tunceli.
The special regime had first been decreed for Van on 19 July 1987, for a period of four months which has been automatically renewed ever since.
Ilnur Çevik, in an editorial on 27 June, in the English language Turkish paper Turkish Daily News, commented on this decision at a time when "the Americans are discussing the human genome, we discussing the state of emergency in Van" and concluded: "Atatürk asked us to commit Turkey to joining the modern world. And yet we observe that conservative circles in Turkey, who claim to be the guardians of Atatürkist ideals, are doing all in their power to block Turkey from a real Westernisation and from creating a modern society. All we can do is listen to the innovation in the West with envy ".
A PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY SENDS MESUT YILMAZ TO THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE. The Turkish Government seems to be limping badly since a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry, on 4 June 2000, decided to send Mesut Yilmaz, leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP), a partner in the three party coalition government, to appear before the Turkish High Court of Justice for "corruption and irregularities" in a scandal in which his name has been implicated. A hard blow for Mr. Yilmaz, who had refused to enter the government in person until his name had been cleared. Recently, and especially since the election of the new President, the Prime Minister and the ANAP party had expressed the wish to see Mr. Yilmaz enter the Cabinet. Very quickly, the different Parliamentary Commissions had begun to reexamine the cases in which he was said to be implicated. Of the Parliament’s 15 ad hoc Commissions, 8 involved former Prime Minister Yilmaz (who had been stripped of office by a motion of censure following a scandal involving corruption and links with the mafia). While the sky seemed to be clearing, with six of the Commissions having already voted a cease fire, the seventh decided to send him to the High Court of Justice – by the votes of the National Action Party (MHP), also a coalition partner… Mesut Yilmaz and the former Industry Minister, Yalim Erez, are accused of irregularities and corruption by granting a parcel of public land to the car manufacturer Ford. There are many who question the relevance of this decision, especially as it is the "least serious" affair while the one that had caused his fall from office had not been carried so far. Moreover, the Commission’s decision has first to be approved by Parliament itself. The Parliamentary timetable will certainly not allow this to be debated before the summer recess. According to information gathered amongst M.P.s of the "Democratic Left" Party (DSP), it is the possibility of early elections that has played a major part in the MHP’s change of attitude. If the Constitutional Court decides to dissolve the islamist Virtue Party (FP) there would probably be a General Election in Turkey in the autumn. According to this scenario, the FP would be declared a successor to the Prosperity party (RP) and 70 of the 103 Virtue Party M.P.s would resign. Under the Constitution, if 5% of the seats in Parliament are empty, a General Election must be held within three months. However, more than half of those 70 seats are in the South-East, which leads one to suppose that, in the event of a General Election, the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP – pro-Kurdish) would secure a high vote without, however, being able to break the 10% threshold at national level. The MHP strategy is, according to certain observers, to prevent ANAP from collection the conservative vote by sending its leader before the High Court.
WHILE ON A VISIT TO DIYARBEKIR, ECEVIT ATTACKED HADEP. The Turkish Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit, leader of the "Democratic Left" Party (DSP), in the course of the second Regional Convention of his party held in Diyarbekir on 11 June, declared that "terrorist separatism was practically eradicated in the course of the 57th Government’s term of office. The separatists have understood that Turkey cannot be divided. Mow they are trying to break it up politically. But those who failed to divide the country by means of armed attacks can not succeed in dividing it politically." The Prime Minister’s remarks are directly aimed at the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP) – the only pro-Kurdish party still legal but in danger of being dissolved – provoked sharp reactions from HADEP’s leaders.
The Prime Minister also declared that "it would be a good thing if the death sentence were abolished ". "I have always been against the death sentence " Mr. Ecevit also said, recalling the principled position which enabled him, last January, to force the hand of his ultra-nationalist coalition partner Devlet Bahçeli, and suspend the procedure that would have led to the execution of the PKK leader until the European Human Rights Court could rule on the appeal filed by the defence. "If we succeed in ridding ourselves of the death penalty" added Mr. Ecevit "we could secure the extradition of suspects abroad, and one of the difficulties in the way of our membership of the European Union would disappear ". Hikmet Sami Türk, Minister of Justice, on 10 June mentioned the date of mid-2001 for the abolition of the death penalty, in the context of a general reform of the Turkish penal code.
Moreover he raised the problem of the "village protectors" (of 60,000) armed by the authorities in the region to fight the PKK. "We are determined to find a permanent and satisfactory solution to the question " He declared.
The Turkish Prime Minister continues to only taker into account the economic aspect of the Kurdish problem, denying any cultural, linguistic or ethnic problem. Certainly statistics show that the minimum annual revenue in the region is $1,633, against an overall average for Turkey of $3,176. In terms of public investment also, the region seems particularly disadvantaged with only $ 500 million allocated – 8.6% of the public investments budgeted for this year.
A SENIOR OFFICIAL OF THE MHP ACCUSES THE MIT AND THE POLICE OF PROVIDING ESCORTS FOR THE DRUG TRAFFICKERS. In an interview given on 12 June 2000 to the Turkish daily Radikal, Sevket Yahnici, National Action Party (MHP) Member of Parliament and Deputy President of the party, which is one of the government coalition partners, stated that the police and the Turkish intelligence service (MIT) authorised the drug in Turkey. "The MIT is divided in two. Many other organs are also divided in the same way. I formally state that on the route Yüksekova/Marseilles, over $100 million, resulting from the drug traffic, are shared our. The police open the way, the International Transport lorries follow it, others escort them (…). Illegal substances have been transported in this way for about 25 to 30 years " declared Mr. Yahnici to the paper.
Mr. Yahnici’s declaration is in line with the determination of the party to acquire the image of a "clean party" compared with its main rival, the Motherland Party (ANAP), which is deeply implicated in corruption scandals, and whose leader, Mesut Yilmaz, faces the danger of being brought before the High Court of Justice. The M.P. also raised the Susurluk scandal (Editor’s Note: the road accident in November 1996 that brought to light the extent of the links between the mafia, the State and the political caste) "What has happened about Susurluk? What difference would it make if you started to shout about it? It is evident that nothing will change by doing this. Susurluk was a scandal, but it only brought a fifth of the iceberg to the surface ".
Various European reports regularly attack Turkey’s role in this traffic. Over 75% of the drugs consumed in Europe pass through Turkey. In a recent report, the International Observatory on Drugs describes Turkey as a narco-state and accuses the Western countries of hypocrisy and leniency for their Turkish ally.
MEHMET ALI AGCA PARDONED AND EXTRADITED TO TURKEY. Pardoned then extradited by the Italian authorities on 14 June, Mehmet Ali Agca, author of the assassination attempt against the Pope in 1981, arrived in Turkey where he is due to serve another sentence for the murder of a journalist. M. A. Agca, member of the fascist Grey Wolves, had escaped while on trial in 1979 for the murder, earlier that year, of a journalist Abdi Ipekçi, Editor in Chief of the Turkish daily Milliyet. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1980, but this was commuted to ten years imprisonment under the 1991 general amnesty. However he has so far only served 158 days of this sentence. He was pardoned by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the request of the Pope after 19 years behind the bars. Incarcerated in the Kartal-Maltepe (Istanbul) high security Prison, he is in the same jail as Abdullah Çakici, extreme Right mafia Chief, also implicated in several murders, who was extradited to Turkey by France a few months ago.
The Turkish media seem to regard Agca’s return very unfavourably. Some fear that he will soon be declared a "national hero", like Abdullah Çatli (Editor’s Note: also member of the Grey Wolves, killed in the Susurluk road accident, implicated in many drug dealing and murder cases carried out with the support of State organisations), others denounce this "poisonous present" and fear revelations that would once more discredit the State. The fact remains that much has changed since Ali Agca’s escape, since his old Grey Wolf friends are now in the coalition government.…