Czech President Vaclav Havel’s official visit from 10 to 12 October attracted a great deal of attention. In the course of this first visit of a Czech Head of State to the Turkish Republic, Mr. Havel met, in Ankara, the principal Turkish leaders, including President Sezer, and signed three trade and cooperation agreements before going on to Izmir and Istanbul. It was in the latter city, which remains the cultural and industrial capital of the country, that the Czech President was due to meet Turkish businessmen to encourage them to take a greater interest on the Czech Republic.
However, he decided to invite for lunch at his Istanbul residence, the Çiragan Palace, a dozen Human Rights defenders, including Akin Birdal, and several Kurdish public figures. According to the account given by the Czech News Agency CTK, President Havel, after questioning his guests on the situation of the Kurds in Turkey, expressed his support for the respect and recognition of their rights, as a distinct people, including their right to use their own language in all aspects of life.
During his meetings with the Turkish Prime Minister and President, the Czech President had also argued in favour of "the rights of the Kurdish minority" and the freeing of prisoners of opinion, including the lawyer-writer Esber Yagmurdereli.
Questioned by the press (including the daily Milliyet ) on his use of the term "Kurdish minority ", the Czech President declared: "In a general manner, I am in favour of the granting of certain rights to minorities. I did not want Czechs and Slovaks to be forbidden to use their own language in the Czechoslovak Federation. I do not think that the language difference between the two sectors of Cyprus is a problem. Which is why I ask for the Kurds to be authorised to use their language throughout Turkey ".
Vaclav Havel has been well know for his interest in the Kurdish people since the time of Charter 77. On coming to power as a result of the "velvet revolution", unlike many politicians he has not forgotten his principles "so as to avoid offending the sensitivities " of this or that State or compromise commercial interests. On several occasions he has defended the right of the Kurdish people to survive, to preserve its identity and master its own destiny. In this he was in the tradition of Nelson Mandela, who refused the "Atatürk Human Rights Prize " that the government wanted to award him and had asked Ankara to stop persecuting the Kurdish people before talking about Human Rights.
The Czech President’s stand, as might have been expected, unleashed a well orchestrated campaign of hostility in the Turkish media, which, earlier had poured the most odious and racist abuse on Mandela ("Dirty nigger ", "Ungrateful nigger " etc.). President Havel finally got off with a severe reprimand from the President of the Turkish Journalists Union, Oktay Eksi, in a front page editorial in the daily Hurriyet headlined "Havel has spoilt it all ". There follows a long diatribe on the theme of the ignorance of Turkish history, the Lausanne Treaty that only recognised the non-Moslem population as minorities, etc. etc. to conclude "Whereas, with his young and pretty wife, the Czech President, with the prestige of his past as a (anti-communist) resistant and his image as a man of culture " had all the qualities to please the Turkish public "he has spoilt it all by tackling, with a battle-axe the Turkey’s most sensitive subject ".
Following the visit by Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) arrived in Turkey on 3 October for discussions with the Turkish Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit on the latest developments in his region. He also met with the Head of the Turkish Secret Service (MIT), Senkal Atasagun and with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Faruk Logoglu.
Mr. Barzani indicated that Turkey had paid compensation to the Iraqi Kurdish families that has fallen victim to an air raid on the region by the Turkish Air Force in August. Turkey recognised, on 18 August, that it had carried out operations there three days earlier, adding that it was studying the allegations that the raid had killed over forty civilians.
The Iraqi Kurdish leader, after a few days in Vienna, then visited London on the invitqtion of Peter Hain, the British Foreign Secretary. The latter had also invited Jalal Talabani in the hope of organising an Iraqi Kurdish Summit so as to push forward the application of the inter-Kurdish Washington agreement of 17 September 1988. However, Mr. Talabani did not appear.
According to a British spokesman, the Barzani-Hain meeting of 24 October was mainly concerned with ways of strengthening condifence. London, on this occasion, reiterated its committment to defending Kurdishde facto autonomy and in ensuring that the Kurdish region receives the 13% of the revenues produced by the UN "Oil for Food" resolution. Mr. Hain also welcomed the fact that, thanks to better management and these oil revenues, the Kurdish region had been able to bind up its wounds and secure a certain degree of prosperity in a democratic climate. There is an example for the whole of Iraq’ he stated. The British Foreign Minister will be host to Mr. Talabani at a later date in the context of his efforts at reconciliation and for peace between the two principle Iraqi Kurdish factions.
Mr. Barzani was also received at the British Department of International Development, where the Under-Secretary of State, George Foulken, assured him that "the British Government will continue its humanitarian and development projects in the region of Kurdistan ". He called for the drawing up of agricultural projects and draught prevention projects (see our Press Review further on).
In addition, the PUK, long accused by Ankara of supporting the PKK has recently reported violent clashes between its peshmergas and PKK guerrillas – about twenty peshmergas are said to have been killed in two weeks of fighting. The number of PKK losses is said to be 13. The PKK announces that it had declared a cease fire several days ago and the PUK denies any offensive against the PKK in the region. The PKK accuses its former ally of collaborating with Ankara and considers the fact that fighting began following Jalal Talabani’s visit to Turkey last July is suspicious. The TV Channel Medya TV, close to the PKK, showed a large lorry, involved in a road accident, carrying Turkish munitions to Iraqi Kurdistan. The PUK, for its part, is gambling its very existence, since it accuses the PKK, hitherto tolerated in its region, of wanting to seize villages for its own cause.
A delegation of "Kurdish mothers for peace", all mothers of PKK fighters who have been killed in action, went on a visit to both sides to persuade them to stop "the fratricidal fighting ".
On 1st October, Ahmet Necdet Sezer called for legislative reforms in the course of the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session. The top brass of the Turkish Army, including Hüseyin Kivrikoglu, Chief of Staff, were all present and correct at for the ceremony. The Turkish daily, Sabah, headlined its 2 October issue "A cold shower for the government ", emphasising that the President had given the government some lessons in Law. Observers could not fail to observe the tension between the government and the Head of State – none of the members of the government applauded the Head of State’s entrance, nor any part of his speech:
"The concept of a State of Laws is a determining characteristic of present day democracy. Democracy and a State of Laws are basic ideas which cannot be conceived except together. (…) The fact of thinking that rules are laid down for the governed, while those who do the governing enjoy the freedom to either submit to them or not is the source of many problems. All told, democratic life becomes a sort of competition in which the prize is freedom from having to obey the rules. That is why it is important that the leadership. in the first place observe them, but also oversees the way they are applied. The State of Laws, or even a State bound by Laws, presupposes that those who govern, as well as those who are governed, be value the law. The first of all conditions to ensure that the high State authorities submit to the law is that all organs of the State be subject to judicial control".
On the matter of the "decree-laws", which have been the subjects of serious tension between the government and the President recently, Mr. Sezer stated that: "Legislative powers are the prerogative of Parliament. The right to draw up "decree-laws" ceded to the Council of Ministers is a specific right, limited in its aim and object (…) There would be an unbalance between the legislative and executive powers, with the executive organs putting themselves above the legislative, if decree-laws, if decree-laws, which should be the exception were to become basic powers ".
Regarding the death sentence: "This subject requires an revision of the Constitution. Certain crimes, punishable by death in the Turkish Penal Code, could be made punishable by life imprisonment (…)".
"It is time to undertake improvements to our Constitution that answer to the Turkish nation’s needs and to embody universal standards into our system of Law (…) These changes must be made, not to satisfy the European Union but, indeed, because our people deserve them (…) Certain problems of our state of law that are obstacles to the supremacy of Law and relative to constitutional control have, to date, not been overcome. Provisional Article 15 of the Constitution and its last clause are the principal point of these problems. The laws and regulations drawn up between 12 September 1980 (Editor’s Note: the date of the Army coup d’état) and 7 December 1983 are still not subject to constitutional control. To catch up with contemporary, democratic nations the Constitution must be revised and a new, liberal, pluralist, participative and confident Constitution drawn up that would guarantee an equitable balance between the tasks and functions of the different State organs and not leave an empty area lacking in legal principle ".
"International relations and cooperation do not mean the end of independence or the abandoning of national sovereignty. The essential point of independence and national sovereignty is the maintenance of balance, when foreign affairs are being treated, to safeguard the State’s power of decision ".
In the course of its 18 October session, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), the unicameral Turkish Parliament, elected the Extreme Right Member of Parliament Omer Izgi of the National Action Party (MHP) as its President. Of the 550 members, 533 took part in the vote, O. Izgi won 264 votes against his opponent Basesgioglu of Mr. Yilmaz’s Motherland Party (ANAP).
The members of the Prime Minister’s "Democratic Left" party and of Mrs. Çiller’s True Path party (DYP) followed their leaders’ instructions and voted for this extreme right candidate.
Omer Izgi thus becomes the second highest person of the Turkish State, after the President of the Republic. From the moment of his election he thus assumed office as interim President during President Sezer’s journey abroad.
The MHP is a neo-fascist party, founded by Colonel Türkes, sentenced for his pro-Nazi sympathies before becoming one of the authors of the bloody 1960 Army coup d’état. Advocate of a new Turkish Empire from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China, militating in favour of an ethnic purification of Turkey from its non-Turkish populations (Kurds, Laz, Greeks and Armenians), his party is known for its virulent and murderous activity against the Kurds and Left wing movements. Its armed militia, the "Grey Wolves" have been implicated in the assassination of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish democrats in Turkey (and even abroad), in the conflicts on the Caucasus, in the attempted assassination of the Pope and in a range of Mafia-type activities. During Mrs. Çiller’s Premiership, a large part of this militia was enrolled into the sinister "special units" given the task of "Kurd hunting" and all the dirty work of the Turkish police in Kurdistan.
Entering the government under the protective wing of the "Left" nationalist Bülent Ecevit, this party, which any democracy worthy of the name would have banned because of its criminal activities, and its open apologia of racism and violence, is thus progressively taking over the key points of the Turkish State machine by a strategy the its President, D. Bahçeli himself describes as that of the iron hand in a velvet glove.
How much longer will the European Union and its Parliament remain silent about this intolerable situation in country that is a candidate for membership.
On 10 October, the European Court for Human Rights again found Turkey guilty of "violating the right to life" of a Kurdish school teacher, Zubeyir Akkoç, killed in 1993 and of "torture" of his wife, Nabahat, who had dared to bring the case before the Strasbourg court.
A member of the Teachers Union, Zubeyir Akkoç was gunned down in January 1993 by a death squad of the Turkish Special Forces which, from 1993 to 1999 thus murdered with impunity over four thousand Kurdish intellectuals who were not involved in violent activity with the aim of decapitating and terrorising the Kurdish population. Since this was a policy decided at the highest levels of the Turkish State the Public prosecutors refused to allow any judicial enquiries that might implicate "the forces of order". Faced with this refusal, Mrs. Akkoç had filed a complaint to the European Court on 1 November 1993. Furious, the Turkish police arrested her in February 1994 and kept her in detention for ten days, during which time Mrs. Akkoç was savagely tortured. Stripped naked, beaten up, subjected to electric shocks, plunged into icy cold water the into boiling water. She was also exposed to blinding lights and deafening "music". Her torturers demanded that she withdraw her complaint against the Turkish government.
A woman of courage and conviction, she repeated the offence by filing a fresh complaint against Turkey for "torture by members of the state forces ".
In its verdict, coming seven years after the events, the European Court recognised the reality of the torture and considered that the Turkish authorities had not carried out effective enquiries into the circumstances of Mr. Akkoç’s murder. Without being able to establish formal proof that agents of the State had been implicated in this murder, the Court noted "the tendency of the Turkish authorities to impute the responsibility for political violence to the PKK ". It also noted that in similar cases that occurred at the same period in this Kurdish region, the Turkish Public Prosecutor omitted "to enquire into complaints by people who affirmed the implication of police or security forces in illegal acts and had attributed responsibility for incidents on the PKK in the bases of the flimsiest of evidence ".
The European Court awarded the plaintiff the sum of £35,000 (59,049 euros) material damages, £40,000 moral damages and £13,648.80 costs.
On the same day, in a second case, Ankara was also found guilty of torture.
Following enquiries carried out in the Kurdish city of Badman and neighbouring towns between 1998 and 2000, the Human Rights Commission of the Turkish Parliament has just made public a report packed with unbearable testimonies by victims of torture. According to this report. people placed in detention were subjected, as a mater of routine, to the same tortures. The routine consisted of "making them visit historic and tourist sites of the country" with the type of music and torture adapted to each stage of this peculiar form of tourism. The torturers seemed to have a particular predilection for a march of Ottoman Janissaries about to leave to fight the European infidels. Mehter Marsi! since all the Kurdish victims stated to the Commission that they had have been to the Commission that their tortures had taken place accompanied by this tune played full blast, their torturers renewing their efforts with renewed vigour at each recurrence of the well known chorus "March on – the Turkish soldier never retreats ".
Presided by Mrs. Pikinsut, an M.P. for Mr. Ecevit’s DSP party, which can hardly be suspected of pro-Kurdish sympathies, the Commission has recorded a body of evidence that shows that the police are assured of immunity, that the courts, fully aware of the torture has nevertheless sentenced the accused on the sole basis of depositions extracted under torture.
Referring to this report in its 14 October issue, the daily Milliyet quotes the testemony of one of the victims appearing before the Court in Badman. When he rejected all the charges brought against him, the judge told him: "but you have in fact admitted then in your deposition to the police", "I was forced to sign the statement under torture " the accused said. And the judge reproached him: "couldn’t you stand a couple more days torture? "
Other torture victims speak about torture methods nlck-named "a voyage in space, the valley of death " etc. That a few of the thousands of victims of torture apply to the European Court for Human Rights and secure a symbolic verdict against Turkey after 7 or 8 years of procedures obviously doesn’t worry in the least police in their daily practice of torturing Kurds.
Mrs. Sema Piskinsüt’s stand has displeased the authorities so much that she has been stripped of office. She will be replaced by an extreme right-wing (neo-fascist) member of Parliament.
Here are the reactions of Fatih Altayli in his editorial of 26 October in the daily paper Hürriyet:
"They have found another President for the Commission by publishing an advertisement in the press. The qualifications required are the following: He must be deaf, so as to be unable to hear the cries of the victims of torture; he must have enough savoir-faire to warn police stations that are to be visited in advance. He must be stupid enough to believe that if, despite the warning of his visit, a policeman is found using the falaka he is merely carding cotton. He must be immune to electric shocks so as not to be electrocuted when shaking hands with victims. He must himself be a retired policeman so as to first submit his reports not to Parliament or the press but to his "boss" Tantan " (Editor’s Note: Minister of the Interior). In this way Turkey will be freed from the shame of torture. We will thus have taken a further step towards conforming to the E,U, Sema (Mrs. Piskinsüt) will go away and accusations of torture will cease. As for those incidents provoked by the evil eye after interrogations or being held in detention, a fresh Parliamentary Commission for protection against the evil eye will be formed. They will probably put a Fazilet (Islamic) member of Parliament at its head".
THREE KURDISH VILLAGERS KILLED BY TURKISH SOLDIERS IN HAKKARI: THEIR BODIES HAVE DISAPPEARED AND THE SOLE SURVIVOR HAS BEEN ARRESTED. Three Kurdish villagers, permitted by the Hakkari gendarmerie to go back to their village, forcibly evacuated some years ago, in order to harvest nuts, were killed on 22 October by Turkish soldiers from the neighbouring province of Sirnak. (Editor’s Note: According to official statistics, over 3,400 Kurdish villages have been forcibly evacuated by the Turkish Army). A fourth, wounded, victim, the sole survivor of the operation, was arrested and the bodies of the three killed have not been returned to their families. Macit Pirusbeyoglu, Motherland Party Member of Parliament for Hakkari, has consequently approached the Minister of the Interior to ask that the victims at least be given a decent burial – but the bodies have disappeared and their families accuse the soldiers of hiding them deliberately.
Mehmet Kurt, Cevher Orhan, Salih Orhan and Kemal Tekin, formerly living in the village of Marunis (Yoncali in Turkish) in Hakkari Province, had been ‘displaced’ in 1993 to Xacort, in Van Province by the Turkish Army. Having secured authorisation from the Central Gendarmerie of Hakkari, the four villagers had arrived at their native village on 19 October to harvest nuts from their orchards. Some soldiers, stationed in the region, then opened fire, in broad daylight, and killed three of the villagers on the spot – M. Kurt, C. Orhan and S. Orhan. K. Tekin, wounded, sought refuge with some "village protectors" of the Beytushebat Pirusi tribe who handed him over to the Sirnak squads. Their M.P., Mr. Pituzbeuoglu, denounced the fact that Kemal Tekin, was forced by the Sirnak soldiery to state that the massacre had been perpetrated by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
The Human Rights defence organisations sharply criticised this massacre and Sabahattin Savagci, People’s Democratic Party (HADEP) official in Hakkari stated : "We think that initiatives like the Istanbul-Hakkari artistic bridge (Editor’s Note: this was a cultural initiative take by Kurdish artists, originally from Hakkari, with the additional aim of making the region better known and so more dynamic and peaceful) contribute to achieving democracy and peace. But just after this initiative, that spoke out for peace, such a massacre shows us that there are still powerful forces in Turkey working against peace. This kind of provocative action will not succeed in shaking our faith in peace. Moreover, we have no news about the victim who escaped wounded from this operation. Why is he being kept so long in detention when the legal maximum period is long past? I don’t think that he can emerge easy from there – nor quite unscathed ".
101 MEMBERS OF THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CALL FOR THE RELEASE OF THE KURDISH M.P.s AND THE LIFTING OF INTERDICTS ON THE KURDISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURE. On 20 October, 101 US Congressmen supported Resolution 461 of the House of Representatives, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Leyla Zana, Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak, four imprisoned Kurdish Members of Parliament and also demanded the lifting of all interdictions on the Kurdish language and culture.
In 1999, 153 US Congressmen had signed a letter to President Clinton asking him to work for the release of the Kurdish Representatives. The Turkish authorities had not given way to the request but had offered Leyla Zana the possibility of being released if she applied on medical grounds. Leyla Zana refused to be used for in this manipulative way and had preferred to share the fate of her colleagues. The four M.P.s are thus still in Ankara’s Ulucanlar Prison.
345 IRAQI KURDS SEEK REFUGE IN ITALY, 6 OTHERS FOUND DEAD BY THE ROADSIDE. On 11 October, 462 illegal immigrants, including 345 Iraqi Kurds, abandoned in the middle of the sea by a Turkish cargo boat, were able to land in the Italian port of Otranto. The crew of this old Turkish cargo boat, the Diler, had abandoned its passengers to their fate some 20 miles of the Italian coast. Spotted by the Italian coast guards, the boat was steered to Otranto by an Italian crew. Its exhausted passengers were led to a reception centre to be identified and treated.
The Italian Minister of the Interior, Enzo Bianco, stated that the unfortunate passengers, nearly half of whom were women and children "were doomed to a certain death ". According to him, the smugglers belonged to "one of the most dangerous criminal organisations and are unbelievably violent ".
They had been embarked at Izmir, in Turkey, and had paid $2,500 per adult and half that per child, for the journey. The embarkation at Izmir took place in the full sight and knowledge of the Turkish Police and Port Authorities and, doubtless, with their complicity. One of the strongest aims of Turkish policy in the region is to have as few Kurds there as possible. Moreover, this large scale racket brings in a great deal on money to the various Turkish official bodies. Hence the wish formulated by Mr. Bianco, for "better cooperation with the Turkish police " to dam this flood of refugees is likely to remain a pious wish, on a par with the lack of haste shown by the Turkish authorities for police cooperation against the drug trade which, in good years or bad, earns the Turkish "grey" economy between $ 35 and 40 billion.
Elsewhere, the Italian police found, beside a road near the Albanian border, the bodies of 6 asphyxiated Iraqi Kurds who, most probably had arrived from Greece in a heavy goods vehicle. After crossing the border, the driver had just thrown the corpses of his illegal passengers onto the roadside.
THE DIYARBEKIR STATE SECURITY COURT IS ACCUSING A HADEP MAYOR OF HAVING PRONOUNCED THE WORD "KURDISTAN" IN AN INTERVIEW. The trial of Cihan Sincar, HADEP mayor of the town of Kiziltepe, accused of endangering the territorial integrity of Turkey, under Article 8 of the Turkish Anti-Terrorist Act, began on 24 October before the Diyarbekir State Security Court (DGM). She is accused of having pronounced the word "Kurdistan" in the course of an interview given on 12 April to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, but also of having stated that villagers had fled after Turkish troops had devastated their villages.
The interest of the trial was two fold since not only is it another case of a woman, directly elected by the people, being accused for spoken remarks, but also by the fact that the Swedish journalist of the paper involved, Per Jonsson, was cited as a defence witness. When questioned, he stated that he could not really recall whether Mrs. Sincar had actually used the word "Kurdistan" in the course of a two and a half hour interview which took place through an interpreter, but that, for him, it was as natural to call that region of Turkey "Kurdistan" as it was to call the North of Sweden "Lapland" and the west of Turkey "Thrace". The President of the Court then asked him "Did Cihan Sincar state that the State had destroyed 3,000 Kurdish villages? " Whereupon the journalist retorted that he was alone responsible for that piece of information and that only those remarks in quotation marks were attributable to Mrs. Sincar. The verdict will be announced on 21 November.
AKIN BIRDAL IS AGAIN ACCUSED OF A "CRIME OF OPINION". On 23 October, the Istanbul State Security Court initiated proceedings against Akin Birdal, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and former President of the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD) for "incitement to hatred" under Article 112 of the Turkish Penal Code. The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s office accuses Mr. Birdal because of remarks he made in the course of a discussion panel in Bremerhaven (Germany) on the subject : "Human Rights in Europe – is Turkey the E.U.’s new partner?"
The ‘damning’ remarks were the following: "Sezer did not want to open a debate on the Armenian question by declaring the one must leave it to "historians and to history". No one is unaware of what was done to the Armenians. Turkey should appologise for the Armenian genocide and harm done to other minorities in the course of Turkish history. Ismail Cem (Editor’s Note: Turkish Foreign Minister) is Jewish – he should (be able to) say so". Akin Birdal risks another three years in prison…"
DISSATISFIED, THE TURKISH ARMED FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF POSTPONES HIS VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES. On 4 October, Turkish anger and frustration increased its pressure on the United States, its closest ally, after a Congress Commission had adopted a Bill recognising the Armenian genocide.
The Chief of Staff of the all-powerful Turkish Army, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, canceled a bilateral visit, planned for mid-October, following the adoption of this Bill which describes as genocide the massacres of Armenians perpetrated Under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923m indicated the General Staff’s spokesman.
In a communiqué, the Turkish Foreign Ministry regretted that the "messages" sent out by Turkey, after the adoption of the proposal in sub-commission, had "not been sufficiently understood". Ankara warned that the passing of the Bill by the House of Representatives would have the most serious repercussions on their relations, would aggravate tension in the Caucasus as well as between Ankara and Erevan, that have no diplomatic relations.
The Turkish press was icy: "Our worst fear has been confirmed " headlined the popular daily Sabah. "The expected scandal had broken out " stressed Milliyet, while Yenibinyil headlined "The Armenian trap ".
The big circulation daily Hurriyet highlighted the "common sense" of the French Senate, which, on the same day, rejected the placing of a similar Bill on its agenda: "Electoral calculations in the United States, common sense in France ".
The Armenians affirm that a million and a half Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1917 in a genocide under the Young Turk regime. Turkey talks of 300 to 500 thousands of deaths during the massacres and deportations but refutes the thesis of genocide. It claims that Turks also fell victim to Armenians, some of whom collaborated with the Russian enemy. The Armenian question is a taboo subject that cannot be discussed in Turkey, where any attempt in France or the United States to recognise a genocide is blamed on Erevan.
Thus the Director of the Research Centre on Turco-Armenian relations and genocide, which has just come into existence at Erzurum (just on 4 October) has indicated that he was going to work "on the genocide that the Armenians tried to perpetrate against the Turks ".
The US State Department, for its part, is doing all it can to stop the resolution going before Congress, stressing the geostrategic importance of Turkey, faithful ally of NATO in a troubled region, neighboring the Caucasus, Iraq and Iran. Whatever might be the tensions between the two countries, it must not put at risk their strategic partnership: the Turkish Foreign Ministry has warned that any riposte to the adoption of the genocide Bill by the House must "not endanger Turkish national interests, nor play the game of Armenia and Armenian circles but must take into account the special relations between Ankara and Washington ".
TANSU ÇILLER CALLS FOR THE EXPULSION OF ALL ARMENIANS FROM TURKEY. The Turkish political establishment and media continue their crusade against the proposed resolution on the Armenian genocide before the US House of Representatives.
The Turkish government has let it be understood that, in the event of this resolution being passed there would be retaliatory measures, such as repudiating fuel and power contracts signed with American companies, amounting to $11 billion, forbidding the use of the Incerlik air base by US and British Air Forces for their operations over Iraqi territory, the normalising their relations with Saddam Hussein and the excluding American firms from bidding for helicopter gunships. Washington must be trembling in its shoes!…
The opposition leader. Mrs. Çiller, has gone even further. She is demanding that, in the event of the resolution being passed, Turkey expel all its Armenian citizens to Armenia and that it make the latter country pay dearly by more effective economic measures – and, no doubt, military ones as well,
The 30,000 Armenian survivors of the genocide whose presence is still tolerated in Istanbul are particularly exposed to being used as hostages. Out of sheer magnanimity, Mrs. Çiller is prepared to give them an opportunity of proving their loyalty to Turkey by each personally signing a letter to the US Congress which denounces the intrigues of anti-Turkish circles which, as the instigation of Armenia, "want to destroy the climate of peace, stability and fraternity that reigns in our country ".
This letter was published in extenso in the 18 October issue of the daily paper Hurriyet.
This racist and war mongering stand by Mrs. Çiller has, of course, led to no legal proceedings in the country that, nevertheless, sentenced former Prime Minister N. Erbakan to a years jail for "incitement to race hatred " for a simple sentence in a speech: "If the official ideology affirms ‘Happy is he who can say he is a Turk’, how can we prevent our Kurdish brothers saying that they are proud to be Kurds? "
Similarly, the daily calls by newspapers, politicians, "mothers of martyrs" calling on those Kurds who refuse to be assimilated, "who do not adore Atatürk, who do not love our flag, to go away, to leave the country, including the South East (i.e. Kurdistan) which we Turks have conquered by force of arms " which are broadcast by state and privately owned TV stations are not considered to be "incitements to race hatred" and so give rise to no prosecutions.
EVEN THE TURKISH POPULATION CENSUS FIGURES ARE FAKED. Fraud or swindling affect all areas of Turkish political and economic life. A few weeks ago a pillar of the establishment, Kamuran Inan, former Foreign Minister and at present President of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission denounced Turkish official statistics. And now fraud is seen to affect even an area as fundamental as the Turkish population census. Indeed, on 28 October, the Turkish daily Hürriyet denounced, on its front page, the fraudulent character of the 22 October census with the headline "A shock: the Turkish population is 71,9 million – 5 million extra people have been registered". The daily describes the census as a "historic swindle" and states that Tunca Toskay, Minister of State responsible for the case, has summoned the demographic experts and asked them to redo their homework.
Ertugrul Ozkök, Editor in Chief of the paper continued thus: "The population of Turkey was 56,473,000 in 1990, seven years later the figure was said to be 62,865,000. Which means that the Turkish population had increased by 6 million in seven years (…). Today, three years later is supposed to have increased by 9 million ± which is impossible! " The paper states bluntly that there has been organised fraud – state municipal subsidies are granted in proportion to the localities population, 35 million per head – and stresses that the final results will only be published after checking. Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit has been informed of the matter.
AN INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE FREEING OF ESBER YAGMURDERELI. The condition of the blind Turkish writer-lawyer, who has already spent 17 of his 55 years in Turkish dungeons for crimes of opinion is arousing increasing concern in international public opinion.
On 29 September, the Bordeaux Bar Association, in the course of a moving ceremony at the National School of Magistrates, in the presence of a number of public figures, awarded its prestigious Ludovic Tardieux Human Rights Prize to Mr. Yagmurdereli’s son.
On 13 October, 11 Western NGOs, including the International Federation of Journalists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, PEN International, the US and Canadian PENs sent a joint letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit, asking him "most forcibly to decree, on the occasion of the Turkish National Holiday of 29 October, a vast amnesty to show the Turkish Government’s determination to conform to international standards of Human Rights and to the principles of free expression and to immediately and unconditionally release Esber Yagmurdereli from prison ".
The signatories remind him that E. Yagmurdereli "blind since the age of ten, continued his campaign to make known the fate of the Kurds and other Human Rights violations in Turkey, all through his trial and imprisonment, despite the personal dangers to himself, and has won respect and admiration both in Turkey and abroad. So long as Yagmurdereli’s imprisonment continues, so long will the outrage grow in the world community of Human Rights and of artists ".Over 250 writers, from a dozen countries have signed an international appeal for the release of Mr. Yagmurdereli. Amongst the signatories of this appeal to the Turkish Prime Minister are strong contingents of American, British, Scandinavian and Czech writers.
During his official visit to Turkey, the Czech President made himself spokesman for this international mobilisation, by asking the Turkish President for the rapid release of the jailed writer-lawyer.
• A SPANISH DOCUMENTARY ON LEYLA ZANA BLASTED BY THE TURKISH PRESS. A documentary film entitled La Espalda del Mundo (The worlds back) made by a Peruvian film director living in Spain with the help of Spanish television company TVE and of a number of Human Rights NGOs including CILDEKT and the Kurdish Institute, has just won the Critics’ Prize at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
This documentary, which outlines the life of Leyla Zana, of her husband, Mehdi Zana, former mayor of Diyarbekir who, after spending 17 years in Turkish prisons, now lives in exile in Sweden, has attracted the wrath of the Turkish press. Sounding the alarm, the daily Hurriyet, in its 16 October issue, describes the documentary as "hostile to Turkey " and as "a second Midnight Express " (after the well known Hollywood film on life in Turkish prisons). Being unable to apply Turkish censorship so far into Western Europe, the Turkish press is playing the old tune of "the country is in danger ".to mobilise its readers to send letters of protest to the Spanish representatives.