On 15 August, over forty Kurdish civilians were killed and about fifty wounded in an air raid by the Turkish Air Force on Iraqi Kurdistan. "A summer pasture camp sheltering herdsmen and their families in Iraqi Kurdistan was targeted for a Turkish Air Force raid attacking PKK targets in the triangle between Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi borders " stated the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which partly controls the region. The KDP continued by declaring "We denounce this action which has led to the loss of so many innocent lives and demand that an enquiry be held on this incident so that the victims be compensated ".
The Turkish Foreign Minister admitted, on 18 August, that Ankara had "conducted an operations " against Kurdish activists based on Iraqi Kurdistan on 15 August and that it "was studying the allegations " of the Kurdish organisations.
For its part, Iraq stated, on 21 August, that it was determined to "riposte" to the Turkish air raid: "Iraq reserves the right to riposte to this aggression at the opportune time and place … We vigorously condemn this crime committed by Turkish troops against Iraqi civilians (…) which is just one more link in the chain of aggressions by Ankara against Iraq since 1991 " declared the Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The Irbil region is part of the air exclusion zone imposed on Iraqi air forces by the allies to protect the Kurdish population north of the 36th Parallel, after the Gulf War. The Turkish Army frequently launches operations there against the PKK, in violation of all international conventions.
The Turkish press, as well as that of the West, has kept virtually silent about this event. As for the Western or Arab leaders, they state that they have not enough information on the subject. In the middle of the August holiday period and, no doubt, in the absence of televised pictures, the massacre of 40 Kurdish civilians by the Turkish Air Force is thus not worth bringing to the attention of public opinion.
Relations between the Turkish government and President Ahmet Nejddet Sezer seem very tense since the Turkish President vetoed a government decree. The crisis broke out when the Turkish President rejected a government decree to fire civil servants suspected of pro-Islamic or pro-Kurdish sympathies. "The series of measures to fight anti-secular movements " had been adopted in the course of the historic National Security Council meeting of 28 February 1997 which led to the overthrow of Necmettin Erbakan’s islamist government, but had never been placed before Parliament because of the instability of the government. Finally, having obtained from Parliament the power, for a period of six months, to issue decrees having full power of law, the present government drew up this decree and presented it for presidential approval.
Since the opposition parties and Trade Unions had sharply criticised the measure. the Turkish President decided to postpone any decision for 17 days. Despite Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit’s insistence, Mr. Sezer sent the decree back to the Prime Minister on 8 August stressing that he was not opposed to the decree’s content, but that such a measure could only be made legal by a law duly passed by Parliament. The following day, the coalition government decided to sent the same text back to the President and, on 10 August, Bülent Ecevit, in the course of a Press Conference, stressed that, under the Constitution, the President had no right to reject the decree, insisting that he was obliged to sign it. Questioned about the possibility of a second refusal, the Turkish Prime Minister declared "I do not want to envisage such an eventuality " and retorted that "if he does not sign it, there will be a State crisis ". For his part, the Turkish President canceled all his weekly meetings with Mr. Ecevit without any explanation and flew to Istanbul. Till then supported by public opinion and the bulk of the media, the Turkish president, who is a former President of the Constitutional Court, then became the subject of sharp criticism. Finally a meeting between the two protagonists took place on 16 August at the request of the Turkish President, but the Prime Minister stated that the former had not had time to study all the documents placed before him.
On August 21, the Turkish President, for the second time, placed his veto on a government decree aiming at purging the administration of thousands of civil servants suspected of sympathy with Islamic groups or with the Kurdish cause. The terms of the decree allow any civil servant suspected of pro-Kurdish or Islamic sympathies to be fired for life, on the basis of a report by two inspectors. A new crisis has broken out with the Prime Minister who accuses the Turkish President of hindering the work of the secular state: ‘The aim of the decree was to prevent the infiltration of separatist terrorists and anti-secular activities into the state apparatus. The Presidents attitude could make it hard for the State to fulfill its duty and protect the Constitutional regime ". Mr. Ecevit and his coalition even accused him of having "even unintentionally, encouraged the enemies of the regime ". Mr. Sezer is refusing, in the name of respect for the law, to sign a decree inspired by the powerful Turkish Army that considers religious extremism as the principal danger to the secular state of which it considers itself the guardian. The Head of State, former President of the Constitutional Court and the first jurist to be elected Head of State, insists that such disciplinary measures must be the subject of a law duly passed by Parliament. "The Presidency is not an office for rubber stamping decrees " he stressed dryly in a note explaining his refusal: "The President is not obliged to sign decrees that are clearly in contradiction with the Constitution. In fact, it is his duty not to sign them ".
For his part, Mr. Ecevit replied "The refusal of the President to approve the government’s decree shows that there is a clear divergence in their idea of their respective duties and of the Constitution. There can be no harmony between the Government and the President so long as these differences are unresolved. We are faced with a serious problem ".
The National Security Council (MGK), which is essentially composed of the main leaders of the armed forces and whose proposals are carried out to the letter by the governments in office, let it be known that its members had unanimously agreed on the elimination of State employees linked to separatist or Islamist activities, or Kurds. "The MGK is unanimous on the need urgently to adopt, measures to eliminate rapidly civil servants implicated in islamist and separatist activities aiming at destroying the democratic and secular regime " stressed the communiqué published at the end of the monthly meeting of the MGK.
The MGK’s decision exerts a pressure on Parliament, which must now examine a Bill on this question as soon as it reassembles in October. The passing of such a Bill by Parliament makes the process more difficult in so far as Parliament is dominated by conservative and Islamist M.P.s. Even if Mr. Ecevit enjoys has an absolute majority in Parliament, he has no guarantee that his Bill will be adopted since many of the coalition M.P.s are opposed to it because of their electorate’s sensitivity to the issues.
Ilnur Çevik, editorial writer for the English language paper Turkish Daily News, queried, on 16 August the Government’s impatience:
Is the State under an immediate threat? According to the government, such a pressing threat exists and has to be dealt with immediately through a decree. The government feels there is an urgency and that it cannot even wait for Parliament to resume in October to legislate a law on civil servants, instead of ruling through a decree?
The government believes it can defy democratic norms and values for the sake of defending the state. "Defending the State" against all kinds of aggression has been the motto in Turkey for the past few decades. If you want to violate democratic rules, you simply say the State is under threat and you get away with kinds of undemocratic actions. In the past we were fed the yarn that Turkey was under the threat of communism. Once the communist threat was over, the authorities used the threat of separatism to repress democratic actions. Later they added Islam to their justification for continuing their system of curbing freedoms and liberties. What the government and some people who are behind this plot against the civil servants do not understand is that the superior interest of the State is to serve its people and make them happy instead of labelling them as enemies!
The Iranian President, between 10 and 12 July, made a State visit to Berlin where he was received with full military honours by his German opposite number, Johannes Rau and by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Following his visits to Italy and France, Mr. Khatami wanted, by this visit to a country where the Islamic Republic is still, by and large, perceived as a theocratic and terrorist state, to start a fresh page in Germano-Iranian relations and to pursue the process of normalising Iran’s relations with the Western countries.
Germany is Iran’s first industrial partner. It maintained a very fruitful trade with Tehran all through the Iraqi-Iranian war, and preaches a "critical dialogue" with the Islamic regime. This unabashed and fruitful cooperation did not prevent the Iranian regime from pursuing, on German soil, its murderous crusade against its opponents. Thus, in September 1992, the General Secretary of the Iranian KDP, Dr. Saleh Sherafkendi and three of his assistants were assassinated in a Berlin restaurant, while they were attending a Socialist International Congress. The German courts clearly established that the quadruple murder had been organised "by the highest level of the Iranian State ". Thus judicial verdict provoked a diplomatic crisis between Berlin and Tehran. The latter had riposted by arresting and sentencing to death a German businessman, Helmut Hofer, for "having sexual relations with a Moslem woman ". Last April two journalists and an Iranian interpreter were imprisoned on their return from a symposium organised by the Heinrich-Boell Foundation, close to the Greens in Berlin.
Pointing out that, to date, the Iranian regime had not made any apologies for the terrorist actions carried out on German soil, 175 Members of Parliament signed a petition against the Iranian President’s visit. Several thousands of Iranian opponents (7,000 according to the police, 20,000 according to the organisers) demonstrated against this visit by the head of a "terrorist State ". They carried banners with slogans like "Trade with the mullahs shows disdain for Human Rights ", which President Khatami, who had formerly been Imam of the Hamburg mosque, was prevented from seeing because, to spare him such unpleasantness, his hosts had arranged that all his movements be made by helicopter.
In reply to the protesters, the German Chancellor declared that the time had come to turn over a new leaf, to give "a fresh start" to Germano-Iranian relations and to support the Iranian reform camp.
President Khatami has about 80% of the population behind him, according to the results of the recent free elections. These young people have hopes of reform declared, for his part Joschka Fischer the German Foreign Minister, who recently visited Tehran to prepare the President’s visit. "Not to support the reformers around Khatami, or even to isolate them would, in practice be playing the game of the radicals ".
In a Press Conference after his first meeting with the German Chancellor, the Iranian President, although expressing his commitment to freedom of speech and democratic rights, stated that Germany was right to treat the Iranian opposition Mujahidin Khalq as a dangerous terrorist threat, because this group had carried out a series of bomb attacks in Iran and was now striving to overthrow his regime from abroad. "The opposition has the right to express its opinions, and I would not protest if someone had a different opinion to mine and expressed it peacefully. But you cannot try to seize power by terror inside the country and pretend, abroad, that you are democrats ".
What Khatami did not say was that, leaving aside the secular opposition like the Iranian KDPI, still banned in Iran, many of his own declared supporters, Iranian intellectuals and journalists, are thrown into jail after the most summary trials, for having peacefully expressed their opinions, without the President having the power to oppose this.
At the end of this visit – the first by an Iranian Head of State to Germany since 1967 – Chancellor Schröder said he was very satisfied about the perspectives for future liberal economic relations. The public export guarantees will thus be increased from 100 million euros to nearly 500 million, "major projects" will be undertaken with a bilateral economic commission which has not met since 1991.
There remain the "differences of opinion regarding human rights " which one must try to reduce by dialogue, concluded the joint communiqué.
On 5 July, the Court of Appeals confirmed a sentence of one years imprisonment on the islamist former Turkish Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan for "incitement to race or religious hatred " – a sentence which automatically bans him from politics for life.
He had been sentenced in March by the Diyarbekir State Security Court for remarks regarding religion and the Kurds made during his 1994 General Election Campaign for his party (the Prosperity Party or Refah), which was dissolved in January 1998 for "anti-secular activities". The 74 year old politician still has a last recourse against the Court of Appeals’ decision by asking it to review his sentence, but this recourse has little chance of succeeding. His lawyer, Mr. Yasar Gurkan, announced on the NTV television channel that if this failed, he would appeal to the European Human Rights Court.
Necmetin Erbakan, historic leader of the moderate islamist opposition, will, through the play of suspended sentences, have to serve about five months in a still undetermined penitentiary. Turkey’s first Islamist Prime Minister, he was forced to resign in June 1997 under very strong pressure from the Generals on the National Security Council.
He had governed the country for one year in a coalition with Mrs. Tansu Çiller’s True Path Party (DYP). With the banning of the Refah party, Mr. Erbakan and several of his closest assistants were stripped of office as Members of Parliament and banned from political life for five years. They were then subjected to legal proceedings accused of corruption.
The Fazilet Party, which succeeded Refah, became the third largest party following the April 1999 General Election. It is now itself threatened with being closed down by the courts. A banning procedure was set in motion in May 1999 by the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Vural Savas, who accuses Fazilet of having "acted in violation of the law on political parties " which forbids an organisation from being the continuation of a dissolved party.
Mr. Savas also accuses it of exploiting the people’s religious feelings and has described Fazilet as a "vampire". He has, at the same time, called for all the Fazilet officers to be banned from political life for five years, including its President, Recai Kutan, and for all its hundred and three members of Parliament to be stripped of office. The Turkish Parliament has a total of 550 seats.
The Turkish Prime Minister, BÜlent Ecevit expressed concern at the sentencing of Necmetin stating : "We evidently fully respect the decisions of the Court. We are, indeed obliged to. However, I would like to stress that I would not feel at ease at seeing Mr. Necmetin jailed for a speech made six years ago. Especially as the party that he presided at the time of the incriminated speech has long been dissolved ". However, Mr. Ecevit attacked and condemned the People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP) on the sole evidence of information provided by the Secret Services (MIT). Embarassed by a dialogue started between the CHP and HADEP, both excluded from Parliament by the high national threshold of 10%, Bülent Ecevit declared on 5 July 2000: "I have sent my old and respected friend Altan Oymen some information from the secret service on this subject, hoping he would be careful. However, the latest statements by Mr. Oymen and his friends have clearly shown that recently the CHP and HADEP have established a serious relationship and collaboration – or at least a dialogue. Moreover, I find that, for a party that calls itself CHP, such a relationship is saddening and harmful to the regime in Turkey. (…)". Recalling the precedent of events following the collaboration between the SODEP and the HEP which had led to the election of about twenty Kurdish M.P.s, Mr. Ecevit hinted: "Serious problems were raised as a result of that. I hope that this experience will be remembered ".
Altan Oymen, for his part, declared that Bülent Ecevit’s comments were not part of a Prime Minister’s role, not compatible with democracy. Cengiz Çandar, editorialist on the Turkish daily Sabah, wrote on 8 July: "What sort of Prime Minister is this who criticises the People’s Republican Party (CHP) for its links with the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP). Is HADEP an illegal party? Can a Prime Minister so crudely violate the law? And by what right? ".
The sentencing of former Prime Minister Necmetin Erbakan on the basis of Article 312 has aroused many contradictory reactions in the Turkish politico-media caste and there are many who are now calling for the abrogation of this law. Melih Asik, a journalist on the Turkish daily Milliyet, who, in turn, denounced the State Security Court’s verdict on 7 July 2000, did not omit to also denounce some of the reactions this event. Many outstanding political and intellectual personalities had also been sentenced on the basis of this article: Yasar Kemal, Esber Yagmurdereli and Akin Birdal.
"We find that the sentence on Necmetin Erbakan is a heavy one. We agree with the statement by members of the Virtue Party (Fazilet – islamist) that "There is no connection between this verdict and democracy, the Law, freedom, Human Rights nor the European standards which they are trying to reach" Having said this, democracy is not just an idea which is remembered when one is in difficulties. Let’s look at the whole picture.
In the course of the first six months of the Prosperity Party (RP) government in 1997, 617 people were tried and 550 found guilty on the basis of this Article 312, which today Erbakan denounces. There was no reaction by Refah at that time.
The Fazilet members, today announce that they will appeal to the European Court for Human Rights when all internal means of appeal have been exhausted. Will someone reply to them, when that happens:
- that during the coalition government between the Prosperity Party (RP) and the True Part Party (DYP) your friend the Minister of Justice Sevket Kazan had declared in Strasbourg ‘I have no confidence in this Court because it does not give legal but political judgments’ .
Why this sudden change in opinion?
And what will they reply?
They had stayed dumb when the Party for Democracy (DEP) was dissolved. The, when the Prosperity Party was banned in its turn, they accused the Members of the European Parliament of staying dumb and operating double standards. At that time a Belgian M.E.P laughed in your faces and said "When we criticised the dissolution of the DEP you retorted: ‘Justice is independent of politics in Turkey – don’t interfere in our internal affairs’. So, in keeping with your advice, today we remain are silent".
And you were obliged to stay mum…
Just a word that should never be forgotten in politics: ‘Democracy and the Law could, one day, be useful to you too…’ "
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 and 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. The Turkish daily Hurriyet of 2 July headlined the news in these terms "The regulation of the protectors has arrived: beat but don’t kill ". The new law also instructs the deputy governors to disarm and suspend them in the event of abuses. "There is no question of getting rid of them " declared, however, Gökan Aydiner.
The July visit of Gunther Verheugen, European Commissioner responsible for broadening the Union’s membership, had, at first, rejoiced Ankara. Mr. Verheugen promised Turkey 180 million euros for the current year to help prepare for its accession to E. U. membership. He also committed himself to working to release the 450 euros promised at the time of the Customs Union agreement.
However, the storm very soon broke out in media and political circles as soon as the European Commissioner raised political questions. The Turkish press announced that Mr. Verheugen had submitted a document for partnership with the Union containing the preconditions – such as rights to education and media (including Kurdish language television) and greater freedom of expression, as well as the reform of the National Security Council (MGK), which is still Army dominated.
At the end of his meeting with Gunther Verheugen, the Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, asserted that Turkey would fulfill the conditions of membership "earlier than expected ". But he also indicated that the European Union had accepted Turkey as a candidate fully knowing how sensitive it was about certain issues: "They approved Turkish candidature will full knowledge of our sensitivity ". The E.U. reacted through Jean Christofe Filori, Mr. Verheugen’s spokesman, by stating that "Because we are aware of Turkey’s sensitivity to issues like allowing the Kurds the freedom to enjoy the right to television broadcasts and education in their own language we never used that word (…( In the course of his meetings, Mr. Verheugen did not dwell on the matter of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin… When we speak of rights, we do not necessarily have an ethnic basis in mind – our approach is to take all Turkish citizens into account". Mr. Filori stated that there were a certain number of restrictions on non-Turkish languages, and that they were against all these restrictions.
The debate seems pretty stormy inside the tripartite government coalition. First of all Mesut Yilmaz, leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP), who has just been white-washed by Parliament of accusations of corruption and abuse of power, has just joined the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, with the portfolio of European Affairs. Tension is greatest with his government partners of the neo-fascist National Action Party (MHP), which had not hesitated about voting with the majority to arraign Mr. Yilmaz before the High Court of Justice. The Turkish daily Hurriyet, in its 19 July 2000 issue, headlined Mr. Yilmaz’s statement "It is time to take some steps forward ". The ANAP leader stressed that "In the past we were unable to take certain steps because of terrorism. Today there is a zero level of terrorism. The time has come for us to take steps that we had planned and targeted". Mr. Yilmaz continued by stating that "the coalition protocol contains clear and plain provisions regarding the steps to take for reforms needed to join the European Union… In fact, we should find solutions even without needing E.U. intervention. In the past , we waged a long struggle against terrorism. Nothing was possible at that time. But today there is a zero level of terrorism…" Devlet Bahçeli, boss of the MHP, immediately criticised Mr. Yilmaz’s remarks and opposed the idea of Kurdish language education and television, stressing that they "were discussing things that will not happen ".
The Turkish daily, Sabah, in its 19 July 2000 issue, under the headline of "52 Promises to Europe", reveals a democratisation timetable handed to Gunther Verheugen, E.U. Commissioner responsible for broadening the Union’s membership, during his visit to Turkey. "Here is the road map towards Europe".
Before the end of 2001: By amendments to the Penal Code, both the code governing Turkish criminal procedures, but also the Anti-terrorist laws, reforms will be carried out in different areas highlighted by the European Union: freedom of thought, freedom of the press, (reforms to the framework of press offences and lowering the level of penalties), new rules covering the death sentence (a Bill to modernise arrangements regarding executions, to make them more comprehensive and applicable), a Bill to oblige Public Prosecutors to observe the rulings of the European Court for Human Rights, the signing and ratifying of the UNO’s Civil and Political Pact and its Pact of Economic Social and Cultural Right, signature of the additional Protocol N° 6 regarding abolition of the Death Penalty.
Before the end of 2002: Reforms will be under way in the following areas: The Right to Life (alterations to the law regarding the administrative authority of the Police), freedom of broadcasting (reforming of Law 3984 covering creation and broadcasting of television and radio programmes), a general amnesty of journalists and writers, Trade Union freedom, freedom of association, meeting and demonstration in view of bringing them in harmony with those of democratic societies, creation of a Human Rights Presidency attached to the Prime Minister’s office and of a Consultative Committee on Human Rights, an official status for the High Committee for the coordination of Human Rights, reform of the legislation regarding the Special Powers region (OHAL), a Bill ending the trial of civilians by military courts, modification of the composition of the National Security Council (MGK) to bring in more civilians (by including the Deputy Prime Ministers and the Finance and Justice Ministers), the payment of compensation in the event of torture (a Bill to comform to the various international conventions signed by Turkey).
On 25 July, on his return from Washington, the Iraqi Kurdish leader J. Talabani, made a very noticeable visit to Ankara where he was received, in particular, by the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Turkish military leaders.
According to Turkish sources, J. Talabani informed the Turkish authorities about PKK activity in Iraqi Kurdistan. Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) states it has created buffer zones round PKK bases on Mount Qabdil "since last April" to prevent PKK attacks on Turkey. Mr. Talabani also indicated to the Turkish Prime Minister that PKK guerrillas were ready to lay down their arms if Ankara ………… B. Ecevit merely listened to his Kurdish guest. Very allergic to the very words ‘Kurdish’ or ‘Kurdistan’, at the end of their meeting he thanked "Mr. Talabani and his organisation (without naming it, since it contains the tabooed word ‘Kurdistan’) for their efforts at expelling the PKK terrorist organisation out of Iraq ".
Officially Ankara said it was "satisfied " at the PUK’s "new anti-PKK policy " while remaining reserved because of "previous unobserved commitments ". For his part, J. Talabani, for whom this was the first visit to Turkey in 18 months, was fulsome in his praise of "the cooperation with our Turkish brother " and indicated that he had asked for "help" without specifying its nature. He added that the American Vice-President, Al Gore, had advised him to "remain aligned with Turkish policy ".
Mr. Talabani’s visit comes at a time when relations between Ankara and the KDP are going through a chilly period. The Turkish authorities do not appreciate the fact that the Kurdish administration in Irbil is behaving like a virtual State, with titles like Prime Minister, Ministers, President and Parliament and symbols like the ever increasing use of the Kurdish flag, which particularly displeases Ankara.
Moreover, a Iraqi Turkoman party, linked to Ankara, which wanted to form an armed militia was recently sharply called to order by the Irbil Kurdish police. The Kurdish Foreign Minister summoned the KDP’s Ankara representative to ask for ‘explanations" and the Turkish government, speaking through its Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, has promised to "protect our Turkoman brothers".
Talabani’s Ankara visit created acute tension in the heart of the PKK. The Turkish media announced that Talabani had committed himself to "cleaning his region of the PKK". The latter, that maintains several armed bases in Iraqi Kurdistan and refuses to evacuate them, talks, in its own media, about a "declaration of war" and of "an international conspiracy against the PKK, planned by Washington ". Armed clashes, which had been greatly reduced, have renewed in the region. PKK commandos, coming from a base near Mossul, which is under Iraqi control, launched surprise attacks on KDP positions, killing about fifteen Peshmergas. Attacks on civilians, attributed to the PKK, have also begun again. The KDP see there "the hand of Iraqi intelligence that is supporting the PKK and using it to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan ". The danger of a major armed confrontation between the PUK and the PKK in growing. Will Iran, traditionally allied to both the PKK and the PUK, intervene to avoid a bloody conflict between its protégés ? Or will it egg the PKK on into attacking the PUK, to punish it for flirting with Washington and Ankara?
Several dozens of PKK cadres, including former commanders of certain military regions, are opposing their party’s "new strategy" and have recently defected. Some may have found asylum with the PUK. Others, estimated at between 30 and 50, have been arrested and threatened with death by the PKK. Described as "traitors" by Ocalan himself, who, in a statement published by the PKK’s paper Serxwabûn (Independence), calls for them to be punished with full war-time rigour, these dissidents have appealed to some international NGOs for protection. Several Kurdish parties of Turkey, grouped around the Platform of Northern Kurdistan, are waging a campaign for the release of these dissidents. Several German M.P.s, including our Vice-President Claudia Roth, President of the German Parliament’s Human Rights Commission are calling on the PKK to free these dissidents and respect freedom of opinion in its own ranks. "At a time when, in the name of democracy, we are demanding that Ocalan’s life to be saved, how can he and his colleagues threaten their own dissident members, or activists of other Kurdish movements with death? " ask these Western defenders of Human Rights.
Again, what can be the credibility of the PKK’s "new strategy of peace and democracy" if, after "permanently abandoning armed struggle " in Turkey it maintains armed forces and military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan and continues to carry our military operations against the legitimate authorities of this region, already sorely tried and devastated by decades of war, and under UNO protection. This question, more and more insistently raised by Western friends of the Kurds, continues to bother the PKK leaders who are finding it more and more difficult to explain everything by "the international conspiracy against the PKK " and are realising the difficulty of maintaining a completely different discourse depending on whether they are addressing Europeans, Turks, Kurds or their own activists…
TURKEY SIGNS TWO UNITED NATIONS CONVENTIONS: WITH PROBABLE RESERVATIONS EXPECTED. On 16 August 2000, the Turkish Foreign Minister announced that Turkey had signed two United Nations Conventions on Human Rights. Ankara stressed that it would study any eventual reservations to be expressed regarding these documents with a view to placing them before Parliament.
According to a communiqué published by the Ministry "Turkey signed the Pact on civil and political rights and the Pact on economic, social and cultural rights in New York on Tuesday ". The two Conventions promote freedom of thought , of conscience and religion, condemn torture and guarantee freedom of cultural and linguistic expression to minorities. The communiqué states that Ankara’s refusal to sign these documents had led to "disapproval by the international community " and "the failure to adopt these pacts was considered a fault by the country, which is a candidate to membership of the European Union ".
The communiqué, however, specifies that these conventions will be placed before Parliament for ratification after a deep study of the two texts with a view to the eventual formulation of reservations to certain articles. The Turkish government has always refused to grant the Kurds specific cultural rights, such as teaching or television in their own language. Parliament does not seem very favourable to reforms in this direction, especially as it has a majority of nationalists (DSP) and ultra-nationalist neo-fascists (MHP).
Moreover, it is well known that Turkey is co-signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the European Council’s Convention against Torture – which signatures have never, hitherto, prevented the Turkish regime from recurrent and massive violations of the Human Rights guaranteed and protected by these Conventions, save for, from time to time, paying symbolic "damages " to some of its victims who have had the courage, the perseverance and the means to apply to the European Court for Human Rights…
THE EUROPEAN COURT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AGAIN FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF "TORTURE". On 11 July 2000 the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty of acts of "torture" upon a detainee suspected of being a member of an extreme left organisation. Suspected for having committed acts of violence on behalf of an extreme Left organisation, Devrimci-Sol ( Revolutionary Left) he had been arrested on 10 February 1992 and interrogated for 16 days by the anti-terrorist section of the Istanbul Police before being brought before a judge. A doctor attached to the prison to which he was transferred had recorded about twenty remaining signs of cuts, scratches and abrasions on his limbs. According to the European Human Rights Court, the acts of violence committed on the detainee "took on a particularly serious and cruel form " and "deserved to be described as torture ". The petitioner had been beaten, immersed in icy water, hung by the arms, received electric shocks and a mock execution had been enacted in a forest.
In a unanimous verdict the Court ruled that the Ankara authorities had, in the same case, violated Article 5 par. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees any person arrested the right to be immediately brought before a court. Turkey will have to pay the petitioner, Metin Dikme, FF 200,000 (£20,000 or $30,000) damages and FF 10,000 costs. The petitioner is still in jail.
The charges against Metin Dikme are, in fact, still pending since his sentence, in 1998, was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The charges he himself had filed against the police responsible for his detention was dismissed in 1993.
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.
TURKEY HAS THE SIXTH LARGEST ARMY IN THE WORLD. An annual report of the U.S. State Department (Turkish Daily News of 23/08/2000) put Turkey in sixth place in the world it its list of countries with the largest defence forces. The report take into account the number of army personnel in making its classification. China, with 2.6 million soldiers, followed by the United States, Russia and North Korea, head the list. Turkey is placed in sixth place with 820,000 soldiers. By way of comparison, Greece comes in 27th place and Turkey far outstrips countries like France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Iran.
The report also reveals that Turkey also comes sixth on the list of countries importing arms for the years 1995 to 1997. Head of the list was Saudi Arabia, with $31.3 billion for the same period, followed by Taiwan, Japan, Egypt and Kuwait.
200 CIVILIAN ORGANISATIONS CALL FOR A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR TURKEY. 200 Turkish non-governmental organisations covering a wide spectrum of views and interests signed a declaration calling for a revision of the Turkish Constitution (Turkish Daily News 11/7/2000):
"We do not feel completely secure about our future and are not hopeful, even as we enter the 21st century. Turkey's political, administrative and legal structure has been corrupted; it has become outmoded and this has blocked the country's progress and modernization. Turkey's path may be cleared, but this depends on a number of factors. The first point is that democracy should put into practice with all its attendant rules and institutions. Second, there should be a system based on human rights and the principle of a State of Law. It is widely accepted, at all levels of the society that the main obstacle to democratization is the 1982 Constitution. Therefore we need a new Constitution".
The following is is a list of selected organizations: Emergency Democracy Round Table, Anatolian Lions Businessmens' Association, Young Businessmen's Association, Volunteers for the Environment , Ari Group, One Minute of Darkness for Light Initiative, Cekul Foundation, Democratic Republic Program, Democratic Transformation Association, Democratic Principles Association, DEMOS, State Theaters Opera and Ballet Employees' Solidarity Foundation, DISK, Eastern Mediterranean Environmental Associations, Friends' Solidarity Association, Industry Professionals' Institute, Haci Bektas Veli Culture and Solidarity Foundation, Mapping and Cadastral Survey Architects' Chamber, Helsinki Citizens' Association, Human Rights Association, Human Settlements Association, Istanbul University State Conservatory Association, Istanbul Pharmaceutical Employees' Association, Istanbul Kurdish Institute, Istanbul Political Science Graduates Foundation, Istanbul Tourist Guides Chamber, Istanbul Veterinarians' Chamber Presidency, Istanbul Advanced Commercial Studies and Marmara University Graduates, Association KADER, Foundation for Respecting Womens' Labor, Women for Womens' Human Rights, Black Sea Platform, Cyprus Greenpeace Movement, Booksellers' Association, Liberal Movement, Mechanical Engineers' Istanbul Chamber, Mesopotomia Culture Center, METU Graduates Association Istanbul Branch, Autonomous Art Council Initiative , Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association, S.O.S. Volunteers for the Environment Platform , Civil Society Organizations Union, Street Children Volunteers Association, SODEV, TESEV, Theater Critics' Union, TOMEB, TMMOB Geological Engineers' Chamber, Social Legal Research Foundation, Social Transparency Movement Association, TUREB, REVAK, TUGIAD, Turkish Dentists' Union, Turkish Librarians' Association, Turkish Installation Engineers' Association, Turkish Informatics Foundation, Turkey Freedom for Children Foundation, Turkey Human Rights Foundation, Turkey Economic and Financial Research Foundation, TURMOB, TUSES, TUSIBAK, University Faculty Association
RENEWAL OF REPRESSION IN KURDISTAN: 15 FRESH ARRESTS OF HADEP MEMBERS. In the course of the last few weeks, the Turkish authorities have intensified their efforts to dismantle the organisations of Kurdish civil society. After closing down the Diyarbekir and Van Branches of the Human Rights Association and the Students Unions of these two Kurdish University cities, the Diyarbekir Women’s Dicle Cultural Centre, and the Meteris Cultural Centre specialising in theatrical and musical activity were closed by the region’s Super Prefect. Finally, one of the rare independent foundations based on Diyarbekir, the Foundation for Humanitarian aid and Development, which has specialised in training and helping displaced persons, was banned by the Turkish Courts on the grounds that "it does not have enough resources to carry out all the objectives listed in its Articles of Association ". To its thunderstruck board the judges said that "there was nothing to be done as the order can from very high up – the Armed Forces General Staff did not want organisations that acted as intermediaries with Western visitors ".
In fact the Turkish regime, which considers it has beaten the PKK guerrillas militarily, is now seeking by every means to avoid the politicisation of the Kurdish problem, and is crushing all those who might serve as peaceful and legitimate spokespeople for the Kurdish population and for its cultural demands.
The repression against HADEP is part of this overall strategy of stifling and crushing. Since April 2000, over w,000 members and officials of this party have been arrested under a variety of excuses. Some were released after having been threatened and warned, others, like the Van and Agri provincial leaders of this party are still behind bars.
On 11 July, 15 fresh arrests took place in Diyarbekir for "organising an illegal demonstration". Over a thousand people had met in Diyarbekir on 10 July to commemorate the death of Vedat Aydin, local leader of the People’s Party (HEP), kidnapped and executed by a Turkish police death squad nine years ago.
242 CASSETTES OF SONGS BANNED "THE OFFENCE OF BEING KURDISH". According to the Turkish daily Milliyet of 21 August, the Super-Governor of the State of Emergency Region (OHAL) has banned 242 audio cassettes, mainly sung in Kurdish or by Kurds. The Turkish authorities justified their decision by the fact that the General Directorate of Copyright of the Ministry of Culture had canceled "the Certificate of management of the works".
According to the paper "the greatest number of cassettes banned in Turkey are by Sivan Pewer, who today lives in Europe and mainly sings songs about the beauties of nature and love ". Ahmed Kaya, a Kurdish musician who sings in Turkish, has also seen his recordings banned. The most surprising is that musicians like Emin Arbani, who since pop music in Kurdish are also banned.
THE OFFICES OF THE DIYABEKIR BRANCH OF THE TURKISH HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION ONLY ALLOWED TO OPEN FOR HALF AN HOUR. The Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) is protesting against the closing down of its Diyarbekir offices. Nazmi Gür, IHD General Secretary, declared that the Association’s offices were shut down on 12 August for a fresh period of three months, on the grounds of a "danger to public security … The closure took place half an hour after the IHD representatives had resumed their activities following the expiration of the preceding three months banning order on the same grounds ".
The decisions, taken by the State of Emergency Authority, that controls the greater part of the Kurdish region, are absolute and beyond any right of appeal in court of law. "We call on the government to lift this ban, which runs counter to the recent process of democratisation and respect for Human Rights intended to enable us to join the European Union " stresses Mr. Gür.
The IHD had opened an office in Diyarbekir in 1987, three years after the beginning of the PKK’s armed struggle. Despite a very precarious existence, its officers announce that over 10,000 citizens, who had been victimised by the repression, had applied for help to this office. Turkey declared a State of Emergency covering the bulk of the Kurdish provinces in 1987 and passed a special law granting the widest powers to the authorities set up to apply this state of emergency, including the right to close down associations.
1999 ASSESSMENT OF THE RECORD OF THE STATE SECURITY COURTS: 64% OF "UNSOLVED" CASES. According to the Turkish Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate for criminal records and statistics, 63.4% of the cases falling under the jurisdiction of the 8 State Security Courts, and 27% of the cases under the jurisdiction of the District and Provincial Public Prosecutors remain "unsolved" for the year 1999. According to this data, the cases are distributed as follows: Adana State Security Court (DGM) 27.3%; Ankara DGM 41.4%; Diyarbekir DGM (Kurdistan) 82.3%; Erzurum DGM (Kurdistan) 71.3%; Istanbul DGM 0.8%; Izmir DGM 11.8%; Malatya DGM (Kurdistan) 65.4%; Van DGM (Kurdistan) 77.1%.
In 1992 5,040 unsolved cases had been recorded for the State Security Courts, in 1993 there were 8,230 cases, 11,593 in 1994; 13,665 in 1995; 15,321 in 1996; 19,962 in 1997; 18,390 in 1998; and 18,639 in 1999. As for the others prosecution districts, 722,390 cases remained "unsolved" in 1999. With 11,348 cases, it is the Diyarbekir State Security Court that collected the record number of "unsolved cases", followed by Van with 3,327 cases and Erzurum with 1,605.
ONE DOCTOR PER 7,602 INHABITANTS IN TURKISH KURDISTAN. A report headed "The situation in South-East Anatolia seen through socio-economic indicators " (cf. Bulletin 172) drawn up by the M.P. for Van, Hüseyin Çelik and published in the 4 July issue of Turkish Daily News, reveals that the public health system in the Kurdish region is lagging far behind that of the rest of the country.
According to this report, the Kurdish South-East has only 1 doctor for every 7,602 inhabitants, and the East 1 for 5,309. The national average is one doctor per 2,141, that is nearly 3 and 4 times as many as for the Kurdish regions. The report, based on official data from the State Statistical and Planning Institute (DPT), the World Bank and UNICEF, shows an even greater gap when it comes to dentists: in the South-East there is only one dentist for 21,504 inhabitants and in the East one for every 17,448 – whereas the national average is 1 for 5,453.
The report also shows that the Kurdish province of Erzurum has the highest infantile mortality rate, followed by Diyarbekir. The Turkish town of Bursa, with 59.3% of its children vaccinated has the highest score – Diyarbekir has only 23.5? and Erzurum 18.6%. Hüseyin Çelik stresses that the majority of medical centres in the Kurdish region are not properly run and that most of them do not have a doctor in attendance. As for Hakkari and Sirnak, two of the largest disadvantages towns, the public hospitals are only staffed with G.P.s (general practitioners). The situation is no better for the Social Security hospitals (SSK) – the Van SSK hospital has only 8 doctors where 40 are supposed to be in attendance.
VISIT TO TURKEY OF THE FRENCH ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF. The French Army Chief of Staff, Yves Crène, visited Turkey from 8 to 11 July, at a time when France, Germany, the United States and Ukraine are strongly competing for the supply of a thousand tanks to the Turkish Army for a sum of $ 7.1 billion. The German weekly, Der Spiegel, considers that France is favourite for carrying off this contract and that the decision should be announced at the end of the week.
Compared with its European partners, France has made great diplomatic efforts not to upset Ankara. Official criticisms of Human Rights violations in Turkey are rare. President Chirac has personally intervened to ensure that the French Senate avoid discussing a Bill recognising the Armenian genocide, which had been passed on its first reading by the national Assembly.
THE LAUSANNE TREATY PROVIDES FOR FREE EXPRESSION OF KURDISH IDENTITY. We give below extensive extracts of an article by Sükrü Elkdag, former Turkish Ambassador to Washington, that appeared on 31 July in the Turkish daily Milliyet, devoted to Turkish obligations under the Lausanne Treaty, signed in 1923, which is the basis of Turkey’s legitimacy in International law:
" I once wrote in one of my columns, under the headline "Let Us Break the Taboos (Milliyet, 10 September 1999, in the "Intellectual Look" section), that according to the Lausanne Treaty, any Turkish citizen is completely free to use any language he wishes, for instance Kurdish, in radio and television broadcasts or in written publications. This was the first time provision of the Lausanne Treaty had been brought to he public’s attention. Despite this, our media did not give it too much attention at that time. However, when EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunther Verheugen visited Ankara a year later, the issue of Kurdish publications and broadcasting was on the agenda and the situation suddenly changed. Many columnists defended the view that our Kurdish-speaking citizens could benefit from these rights and cited the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty.
Meanwhile, some of our academics friends warned us that our "interpretations" of Lausanne were in error. In addition, it was conveyed to us that this is also the official view. Therefore, we see the benefit of touching on this issue again.
Paragraphs 4 and 5 of Article 39 of the Lausanne Treaty state: "No restriction shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language he wishes in private intercourse, in commerce, religion, in the press, or in publications of any kind or at public meetings.
"Although the state has an official language, adequate facilities shall be provided to Turkish nationals who speak a language other than Turkish for the oral use of their own languages before the courts."
As can be seen, paragraph 4 is unequivocally clear, requiring no interpretation. True, there was no reference in the paragraph to audio or visual media, since in those days radio was limited ant television nonexistent. However, one must interpret the paragraph in accordance with the times. Thus, it means that any Turkish national is free to broadcast on radio or television in any language he wishes.
Let us now look at what our academic friends have to say and their justifications:
As known, Section III of the Treaty of Lausanne, under the heading "Protection of Minorities", grants minority status to non-Muslim citizens only. In other words, the "religion standard" (Muslim/non-Muslim) is taken as the basis of the concept of minority, not race or language.
Section III, Articles 38-44 contain the provisions pertaining to the "protection of minorities". And it is Article 39, Paragraph 4 that furnishes "all Turkish nationals" with certain rights, as quoted above.
Our academic friends focus on this point and maintain that putting this provision, aimed at guaranteeing certain rights to Turkish citizens, in this section of the treaty creates a conflict from the standpoint of the general mechanics of the Lausanne Treaty. They also stress that as the treaty only recognizes non-Muslims as minorities, one cannot reach the conclusion that certain rights (the freedom of broadcast and publication in the language they speak) are granted to some groups that do not have minority status.
We maintain that this view has no basis in fact in that the general rule of interpretation in the law of treaties is "the treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning of the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 31).
In light of this principle, when the terms in Article 39, paragraph 4 are given their ordinary meanings, the meaning of the provision is abundantly clear and, therefore, these terms do not require further interpretation. In fact, the Lausanne minutes corroborate this point.
The question of minorities was hotly debated during the Lausanne negotiations. Citing Article 5 of the Ankara National Pact, which promises that the rights accorded to minorities under European treaties will be given verbatim to minorities in Turkey, the allies tried hard to get the Turkish delegation to recognize minorities on the basis of race and language and got their way in the first phase.
In fact, it was decided at the First Commission that Ismet Inönü attended that minorities in Turkey would be given guarantees matching those in European treaties (First Commission, Minutes number 14 dated 31 December 1922).
This decision was overturned in the Minorities Subcommission, on which Dr. Riza Nur represented Turkey. Our representative refused right through to the end to accept the principle of protecting minorities based on race or language and was successful.
As will be seen, the Lausanne Treaty did not create a situation leading to separatism by not granting the Kurds minority status. On the contrary, it granted them the right, under one law and individual rights, to use their own language in printed publications and radio and television broadcasts, and, in this context, to adopt their own identity.
I am of the opinion that it would be enormously useful if both Mr. Mesut Yilmaz and Mr. Ismail Cem would explain the above to the Turkish people."