According to a KDP spokesman, Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) held a "constructive " meeting at Salahaddin, Mr. Barzani’s headquarters. The leaders of the two Kurdish parties that control Iraqi Kurdistan met, for the first time in three years, on 8 Jan- uary to discuss the "peace process" between the two groups.
This meeting took place before Mr. Talabani’s meeting, on the following day, with Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit and Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Faruk Logoglu, at a time when the PUK is carrying out joint operations with the Turkish Army against the PKK.
"We want to strengthen our cooperation with Turkey. We and Ankara want stability in Northern Iraq " declared Mr. Talabani at the Airport. He hinted that he would ask for the support of the Turkish authorities to relaunch the "Ankara process ", sponsored by the United States; Great Britain and Turkey. This process has been stalled since September 1998, when Messrs.
Barzani and Talabani signed a peace agreement in Washington to settle their differences. Ankara stormed against this agreement on the grounds that it had been concluded without its participation.
Operation white power, undertaken against corruption in the power supply market by the Turkish gendarmerie, has turned into a heated political controversy since a "senior officer" of the Turkish Army stated to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, on 8 January, that the Minister of Power, Cumhur Ersummer, had been completely pushed aside by the Army in the context of this operation and the Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit, contered by maintaining that these allegations were "unfounded and spiteful ".
The article, published on the front page of Hurriyet maintained that "an important General" discredited statements made by the Minister of Power, Mr. Ersumer, who declares that he had ordered "operation white power", a clean hands operation in the Turkish public power supply market. The General, who remained ananymous, stated the following to the daily: "It was not Ersummer who pushed the button. The Minister first heard of the operation at the last minute. Please say that very clearly. We are determined, today, to confront anyone implicated in unsavoury affairs, in corruption, regardless of whom they may be. It is a sorry state when bureaucrats are implicated in all these dirty deals. But, for the first time, an operation has been conducted against the bureaucrats. This should serve as an example. This phenomenon is as important as the struggle against the PKK. We are in the process of exposing the extent of corruption. The most vital strategic interests of the State are being sold. The future of the nation’s children are for sale. We cannot remain indifferent. All those who love this country must oppose that state of affairs ".
Reacting to the article, Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit declared that the statements were unfounded, and at the same time incompatible with the standards of a State of democratic law. He added that he had contacted the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, who has launched an investigation to identify "the important General ". Deputy Premier Mesut Yilmaz, for his part, stressed that "this is the biggest problem we have to solve as a State … from time to time certain circles in authority are preparede to endanger everything to seize power ". He also declared that he wondered whether there were not still, in Turkey, "admirers of coups d’état ".
Mr. Yilmaz renewed his criticisms of the Army in the course of a meeting of his Parliamentary group, declaring that the most serious cases of corruption had taken place during military regimes. "Do you believe that , with the installation of a military regime there would be no more corruption? On the contrary, there would a lot more because it would be more hidden. Corruption increases in the dark. The best possible way to fight corruption is transparency " he declared.
In the context of "operation white power ", a former Minister, an assistant Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Power, the General Manager and Assistant General Manager of TEAS, the national Electricity Board, and other high ranking bureaucrats have been taken into detention. The procedural regulations covering civil servants stipulates that, before any appearence before the court, the agreement of the Minister responsible for their Department is required. Some voices are heard saying that, from fear of being called into question themselves, some Ministers are jibbing at giving their agreement.
Under examination in connection with this affair, Huseyin Arabul, nicknamed "super entrepreneur " by the Turkish press, is suspected of having given Members of Parliament of all partiessome 790 villas of about 4,000 ft2 each after expropriation of the villagers by the Mayor of Ankara. Amongst the lucky owners are close associates of former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel such as Cavit Çaglar (fled abroad), his brother-in-law Ali Sener, but also political leaders like Mesut Yilmaz, Yildirim Akbulut, Deniz Baykal, Tansu Çiller, Husammettin Cindoruk, Cunhur Ersumer, Hikmet Çetin
The infuriated General Staff replied, on 11 January, with a communiqué expressing its "great unease ". In the last few days number of liberal editorial writers have taken advantage of the situation to point out, in unisson, that the Army’s influence in political life was incompatible with the proper working of a democracy.
Taha Akyol, columnist on the liberal daily Milliyet, stressed, on 12 January, that "the boundaries between the soldiers and their role in politics are ambiguous ". The Army‘s interventionin 1998, which had forced the Islamic Prime Minister of the time, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign "has blurred this boundary still further and increased the military party inside the State " he added.
"In a democracy, the soldiers do not act like a party, like a ‘State within the State’ " recalled another editorialist, Hasan Cemal, in the same issue of Milliyet. "In democratic regimes, the soldier does his duty, is subject to the elected civilian authority, he expresses his opinions in ad hoc platforms, not directly in the face of public opinion ".
The same paper, carried the following headline on the front page its 17 January issue: "He is alone in Ankara: Yilmaz was the first politician to call for some control over military expenditure". "There must be enquiry into all forms of corruption without looking to see if it is blue, green or violet (Editors Note: Reference to the colour of the uniforms of different Armed Forces) … Send all information that you have to the responsible authorities …"
For Huseyin Bagci, Professor of International Relations, "it is a fact that the Army, since the Gulf War (in 1991) have progressively increased their role in questions of foreign affairs ". In domestic matters "the army was the spearhead of the struggle against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and the radical Islamic groups, and it will continue to be so in the future, which means that it will keep its influence and its status " he predicted in the English language daily Turkish Daily News .
The debate comes just before the publication, expected later this month, of the "National Programme " in which Turkey is to define the measures it intends taking to join the E.U. The elimination of the MGK is certainly not on the agenda. But, according to the journalist Mehmet Birend. the programme is to declare the MGK to be a "consultative body " and forbid the photographing of its meeting to make the political presence of the Army less obvious. "Can one phrase and the banning of photos really reduce the weight of the Army in a democracy? The one ones we are foolong is ourselves " he exclaimed in the columns of Turkish Daily News on 12 January.
Some retired Turkish Generals have been boasting in the media about their energetic action of 28 February 1998 which led to the resignation of N. Erbakan’s government. According to the former General Secretary of the all-powerful General Staff, General Ozkasnak, it amounted to a "post-modern coup d’état ", since it was impossible to carry out "a classical coup d’état " (see Milliyet 16/1/2001). He added "The 28 February was carried out with due consideration of the period. At the time, in view of the national and world situation, a classical type of action (like those of 12 March 1970 and 12 September 1980) could not be undertaken. The threat to the Republic was eliminated by acting upon democratic mechanisms, without firing a shot. It is for this reason and for this objective that we use the idea of unarmed forces".
General Ozkasnak continued: "In the context of the time, we came to this conclusion: as with the reality of 31 March, (Editors Note: The date of a religious riot against Atatürk’s regime) the the country was facing a planed reactionary attempt, without precedent since the foundadtion of the Republic 75 years earlier. On the basis of this conclusion, it was decided to eliminate this threat by acting upon democratic mechanisms. It was decided to organise a series of briefing with that in view ".
He also added "The begining of the 28 February process was 11 January 1997. On that day the President in office, Suleyman Demirel, was summoned to the General Staff and information relative to 28 February was presented to him in a briefing. After the President, the information was repeated to enlighten public opinion, the press, the judiciary and the universities ". He did not fail to add that "those who are undertaking to denigrate 28 February today should know that if this process had not been crowned with success, the results of the 18 April 1999 elections would not have been the same ".
The press was again accused when the General declared that certain journalists had come, of their own accord, to denounce their colleagues. The islamist M.P., Nazli Ilicak, had, a few weeks earlier, denounced the plot spun by Çevik Bir, at the time N° 2 man at the General Staff, against those journalists who had not toed the official line.
The Islamist Party, through its President Recai Kutan, declared that "this is a confession" of an attempt to destablise the legitimate governement while others had maintained that "it wasn’t a coup but just pressure ". As for the Army, some would like to silence the whole affair while others confirm the former General’s version while expressing some semantic disagreements
In 18 January the National Assembly finally passed the Bill officially recognising the 1915 Armenian genocide, despite threats by the Turks and the government’s reservations.
This Bill, that has only one clause "France publicly recognises the Armenian genocide of 1915" was passed unanimously by the M.P.s present. The same Bill had already been passed by the Senate in the night of the 7 to 8 November. The text will be officially published by the government in the next few days. The M.P.s, who had already recognised the Armenian genocide on 29 May 1998, did not follow the advice of the government, represented in the House by the Minister for Relations with Parliament, Jean-Jack Queyramme. Without denying the reality of the "tragedy that had fallen upon the Armenians at the begining of the century " Mr. Queyranne, who only fleetingly used the word genocide, insisted on the "requirements" of French foreign policy at a time when Turkey is a candidate for membership of the European Union. "France is a friend of Armenia (…) It is also a friend of modern Turkey, which cannot be held responsible for deeds that took place on the death throes of the Ottoman Empire " warned the Minister for Parliamentary Relations.
These convoluted remarks failed to convince the M.P.s. "You are bound by the Quay d’Orsay’s (French Foreign Office) needs. We have all understood that here " retorted Patrick Devedjian (RPR) to Mr. Queyranne. "wounded " by the Minister’s speach, the RPR spokesman (himself of Armenian origin) rejected completely the government’s arguments. "Those who want to introduce Turkey into the European Union should at least have the decency to ask it to make itself presentable " he declared.
The reporter of the Foreign Affairs Commission, François Rochebloine (UDF) considered, for his part, that the recognition of the Armenian genocide, far from "condemning " Turkey, "opens the way to the respect for Human Rights and to establishing relations of confidence with its neighbours ". As for the threats of economic sanctions by Turkey, "Better to lose one or even several contracts that to lose ones soul " the reporter cried.
The Bill passed by Parliament satisfies the demands of French M.P.s of Armenian origin who have been campaigning for recognition of the first genocide of the 20th Century. Of the 1.8 million Armenians who used to live in the Ottoman Empire before the First World War, 1,2 million were massacred on the orders of the Turkish government. The massive, planned and targetted characted of these massacres prefigured the Shoah.
Before France, Belgium, Argentine, Italy and the European Parliament had already recognised the Armenian genocide. In November 2000 a draft resolution was put before the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress, before being withdrawn at the last moment following pressure by the Turkish government.
The adoption of this Bill had needed three years of parliamentary debate. The process was blocked for two years by the refusal of the Senate standing orders committee to place the proposal on the Upper House’s agenda.
Demonstrations of Hostility and a multitude of appeals for economic and cultural boycott occured in Turkey. The Turkish President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer called on his French opposite number, Jacques Chirac, and his government to "act" to make this Bill "ineffective" by appealing to the Constitutional Council, the sole remaining possibility. But the Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, recognised, on the CNN Turk television network, that he "didn’t have much hope ".
On 18 January, the Turkish Government’s spokesman announced, without giving any more details, a series of retaliatory measures against France, declaring that relations between the two countries would be "deeply and lastingly affected ". As soon as the Bill, which provoked anger in Turkey, was passed the Foreign Minister, Ismail Cem, let it be understood that French companies could be excluded from public Invitations to Tender amounting to several billions of dollars. "In general, such measures could be taken for State Invitiations to Tender and Armed Forces contracts " he stressed. "Everything could be affected " Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit overbid, adding that the government would prepare sanctions against Paris that would not harm Turkey’s economy. "We are preparing a plan that would, naturally, cause us little pain " the Prime Minister said in reply to questions from some journalists. "This means that in a few days we will anounce the result of our work to define sanctions against France will not harm Turkey’s economy " Mr. Ecevit explained.
On 23 January, Turkey announced the cancellation of a contract for $ 259 million with Arcatel and the possible exclusion of GIAT from an Invitation to Tender worth about $7.1 billion overall. GIAT, that builts the Leclerc tank, is in competition with companies in Germany, Italy, the United States and the Ukraine for the supply of 250 heavy tanks to Turkey, which hoped to acquire a thousand such armoured vehicles over the next ten to fifteen years – it is over this time span that the contract is estimated at $ 7.1 billion. "We are envisaging excluding the Leclerc (tank) from the evaluation " declared the Minister of Defence, Mr. Cakmakoglu, adding that a meeting of senior French and Turkish officers, planned for the following week to discuss cooperation, had been cancelled.
Moreover Turkey may exclude other firms, with which contracts have already been signed, some analysts consider. Aerospatiale signed a contract for $600 million for the joint production of the Eryx armour piercing missile. The project has not yet started and may never see the light of day. Ankara and Paris had, in addition, reached an agreement in principle, last year, for the sale of six French naval patrol vessels of the Aviso type, for a total of $ 500 million. The fate of this agreement is, today, uncertain. According to the large cirulation daily Huriyet of 19 January, some French companies are also in the running for joint production with the Turkish state company Aselan, of military navigation systems for the F-16 fighters, built near Ankara by the Turkish aircraft construction company Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The Turkish Minister of Health, Osman Durmus, a member of the National Action Party (MHP – neo-fascist) even announced on 24 January: "We may prevent the importation of French medicines and vacines to Turkey ".
In addition, leaders of several Unions, in particular Resul Akay, who runs the civil servants union, have called on the government to close down all French installations in Turkey and launched a campaign calling on Turks living in France to withdraw their money from French banks. "French products must be boycotted " :r. Aksay declared. The president of the Konya Chamber of Commerce said the same thing on 20 January: "Our 25,000 members are called on to follow this movement " he said. The President of the Turkish Chambers and Unions of Commerce (TORR), Fuat Miras, indicated that he envisaged launching an appeal to his members to review their trade connections with their French partners and stop importing French products. France is one of Turkey’s principle trade partners, with a volume of trade that, in 1999 was worth $ 4 billion.
The University of Istanbul announced the ending of its scientific relations with French partners as from 20 January. Its Rector, Kemal Alemdaroglu, declared that "all scientific contact" with the Universities of Descartes (Paris), of Toulouse and Strasbourg had been broken off and that he had cancelled the planned visit to the University of Paris South, in the context of an exchange programme.
Officially, sanctions against France are to be decided after the return of the Turkish Ambassador to Paris, who has been recalled for consultations.
Several hostile demonstrationstook place in front of the french Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate in Istanbul. The Ulkucu ultra-nationalist action groups, closely linked to the National Action Party (MHP – neo-fascist, in the government) were parlicularly virulent: "France make no mistake, do not try our patience " or "The French bastards cannot make us yield " they shouted. Some 200 ultra-nationalists threw eggs at the windows of the French Consulate in Istanbul. A scuffle with the police passed off without any serious incidents.
The press expressed its bitterness: "Good-bye France " was the headline of the daily Hurriyet on 19 January. Faced once again with the accusation, by a foreign parliament, of the genocide of the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, Turkey is asking itself how best to get across its point of view and prevent this from snowballing. The Turks fear that the recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide by the French National Assembly may have the effect of leading other Parliaments in Europe to follow suit, but also in the U.S. where President Clinton only succeeded, at the last minute, in preventing such a resolution from being presented to Congress last October. The Turkish goverment and diplomatic service are regularly torn to pieces, and this time again over the French vote, for their inactivity and ineffectiveness in the discussions over this issue.
Several editorial writers, on 19 January, stressed the need to have some strategy: "Turkey should act to create a new approach to the Armenian question " remarked Sami Kohen in the daily Milliyet.
Two approaches emerge from the proposals for a self-defence strategy: establishing closer links with Armenia and an open debate between historians. For Taner Akcam, a Turkish sociologist and historian at Hamburg University, "If Turkey were to seek a solution to this problem directly with the Armenian State, there would no longer bee any need for foreign Parliaments to put this issue on their agenda ". "The only way for Turkey to take over this issue is to banalise it, to make debate possible. It must also make the necessary gestures for putting an end to the pain of the Armenian people " he said.
Ilter Turkmen. a former Ambassador, considered that it was "easy, after the event, to criticise this person or another for what was not done. But there is probably no way to put a final end to this debate because there is no really objective history " he stated to AFP (French Press Agency). "I think that a sort of ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ bringing together NGOs, historians from both sides, representatives of minorities from Turkey and the diaspora and intellectuals could be created. Not with the idea of giving an definitive answer but to set up a platform where each could expose his point of view ".
"What must be done is for us to wake up and engage in an academic debate to prove that we are right " remarked the journalist Mehmet Ali Birand in the English language Turkish Daily News on 19 January. "Let us really and honestly open our (Ottoman) archives. Let us show that we have no reason to be afraid. Let us bring together research workers and create a commission, inviting the supporters of Armenian claims to join it " he called.
The Bill recognising the 1915 Armenian genocide, passed on 18 January by the French Parliament, was signed by President Jacques Chirac and published in the Journal Officiel of the 30th. Publication in the J.O. is the last stage of the twoand a half year long Parliamentary process for the official recognition by France of the Armenian genocide.
Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit immediately announced that his country was refising its economic and trading relations with France. "This is a great disappointment for the Turkish people in our relations with France " he added. The Turkish President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer condemned the promulgation of the law as "unacceptable " and considered that it would "inevitably " dammage bilateral relations.
Turkey cancelled an Invitation to Tender worth about $ 1.44 billion for building a motorway crossing the bay of Izmit, which affected two Franco-Turkish consortia, one of which contained the Bouygues and the Turkish company Vinsan. The other included Campenon Bernard and Transroute International in association with the Turkish companies Dogus and Tekfen, the Italian Impregilo, the German Bilfinger und Berger and the Spanish Dragados. "We have decided to cancel the Invitation to tender since the foreign partners of the Turkish companies are French " specified the Turkish Minister Koray Aydin.
Ankara also cancelled a contract with the defence electronic group Thales (ex-Thomson CSF) for $ 200 million for modernising the navigation systems of 80 F-16 fighters, according to the private Turkish TV network NTV on 30 January. There has been no official announcement confirming this decision. "We are doing what is needed. We are revising our economic and political relations with France " declared Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. His Defence Minister, Sabahattin Cak;akoglu added that France "won’t get away with this ". "The law on the alleged genocide will be a determining factor in Turkey’s choices " regarding arms projects involving French companies he declared.
The Turkish press also announced the exclusion of two furtheer French companies from Invitations to Tender for military hardware. The Army intends to cancel an order for six Aviso submarines, a contract worth $ 500 million and to abandon a project worth $ 600 million for joint production of the Eryx anti-tank missile, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet of 31 January. The Turkish Army has not confirmed this news, but the Turkish Defence Minister has already clearly said that French firms would be excluded from military Invitations to Tender.
Another boycotting measure: on 30 January, the Turkish State Directorate for Cereals (TMO) excluded two French firms from an Invitation to Tender for the exporting of 315,000 tonnes of wheat worth about $ 40 million, on the decision of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Turkish anger has been revived by the decision of the City of Paris to erect a monument in memory of the 1915 Armenian genocide, described, on 30 January, by the Turkish Foreign Ministry as a "fresh blow at Franco-Turkish relations ". The Ministry is preparing a whole list of sanctions against France, which, it seems will be revealed bit, and not necessarily through official declarations, aimed essentially at major public contracts, particularly in the armament industries.
Several Trade Unions and NGOs closely associated with the State establishment have, since the French M.P.s vote, called for a boycot of French products. Huge ten metre high posters proclaiming "Dear inhabitants, let us boycott French products " were displayed on the entry to the town of Arhavi (extreme North-East) near the Georgian border.
The Turkish journalist Ilker Sarier, in an article published by the daily paper Sabah of 2 January under the heading "Our beloved mafia", denounces the growing importance of the Turkish mafia gangs, who bring in $ 45 billion per year.
"In its last report, the Americal National Research Council cover Turkey with praise … We are thus in position number three.
You may ask me "But my dear friend, tell us in what field we have come third?
Is it in the area of decocracy, of Human Rights, or economic development or scientific research? Oh, well it is something very different from all that:
?Amongst the most powerful mafias of the world, the Turkish mafia comes third with a turnover of $45 billion a year.…
In my opinion this information is of a nature to fill all Turks with pride. We may not be able to win a Nobel Prize, but no one can teach us anything in the field of mafia activity.
The overall champion in this field is the Russian mafia with a turnover of $200 billion, followed by the Italian mafia with $50 billion… The Turkish mafia is a close behind with $45 billion and thus comes third…
The Turkish mafia’s closest partner is the flourishing Albanian mafia and its business interests cover drug trafficking, trafficking in human flesh and arms and even fashionable headwear – in fact anything it can find to transport to Europe…
While we others stubbornly continue to loudly demand democracy, the rule of law, human rights our brave and dearly beloved mafia is proving its extraordinary performance by coming third in the world…
This is indeed a success.
Let me wholeheartedly congratulate our beloved mafia.
In at least one field it allows us to show our strength to the whole world.
I mean to say that, given that the areas of science, democracy, human rights or law are in complete ruin, we can proudly console ourselves in our mafia… "
ANGELIKA BEER ATTACKED BY THE TURKISH MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR HAVING WORN KURDISH NATIONAL COLOURS. A meeting between Turkish M.P.s and a German Parliamentary delegation visiting Ankara of 30 January, was cut short because a German M.P. refused to remove a turban she was wearing that were in Kurdish national colours.
The President of the Defence Commission of the Turkish Parliament, Hasan Gulay, a member of the National Action Party (MHP – neo-fascist, in the government coalition) demanded that the German Green M.P., a member of the Defence Commission of the Bundestag ( the lower House of the German Parliament) remove the red, yellow and green turban she was wearing when she arrived for a meeting between the M.P.s of the two countries.
Faced with her refusal, Mr. Gulay ended the meeting. He claimed that these traditional Kurdish colours were those of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Mrs. Beer retirted that she was not a sympathiser of the PKK and that the turban was a present from a friend who had been killed in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The German delegation was on a two day visit to Turkey for, amongst other matters, discussions on a contract for the production of 1,000 tanks for the Turkish Army. The German M.P.s were, in particular, to have met the Minister of Defence, Sabahattin Cakmakiglu.
29 CHILDREN ARRESTED BY THE POLICE IN KURDISTAN. The Turkish police arrested 29 children, aged between 9 and 16 years of age, in the Kurdish province of Urfa, for having "demonstrated their support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) " announced the Association for the Defence of Human Rights (IHD). The children were taken in for questioning on 9 January at Viransehir, after having shouted slogans favourable to the PKK, and formally charged on 11 January according to a communiqué from the Association in Diyarbekir. Several of their families denounced the ill-treatment suffered by their children at the hands of the police.
"The fact that the children were taken away for questioning by the police, handcuffed and in the middle of the night is, in itself, inhuman treatment " declared the IHD. "We call on the authorities to enquire into the accusations of torture and immediately free the children " it added. On 16 January, only 14 of these children, locked up in Urfa prison, were released.
On 22 January, the Diyarbekir State Security Court (DGM) charged 13 adolescents, aged between 10 and 16 years, with "supporting an illegal organisation " and demanded sentences of between 3 and 5 years jail each.
THE TURKISH STATE COUNCIL BANS STREET AND VILLAGE NAMES FOR "THE OFFENCE OF KURDISHNESS ". On 22 January, the Turkish State Council, to whom the Batman Prefecture and the Ministry of the Interior had appealed, banned some street names of the Kurdish town of Batman on the grounds of "separatism " and the offence of "Kurdishness ". Amongst the incriminated names are those of Ghandi, Yilmaz Güney (the Kurdish film directorm winner of a Cannes Festival Prize who died in exile in France), and Kurdish names such as Zilan, Zozan, Lales and Halabja.
The State Council’s ruling lays down that "There may not be any place names in Kurdish and it is not allowed to keep alive non-Turkish names. For foreign names, the authorisation of the Foreign Ministry is required. In addition, it is forbidden to name streets after people who call for agitation against the State, against its hegemony or for the glorification of war ".
THE LEADERS OF HADEP WILL, AFTER ALL, BENEFIT FROM THE AMNESTY LAW. The Turkish Court of Appeals decided, on 31 January, that the leaders of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HADEP), sentenced to heavy prison sentenced for "supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) " will enjoy the benefit of the Amnesty Law. By decision of the Court, Murat Bozlak the Party’s President, and his predecessor Ahmet Turan Demir, each sentenced to 3 years and nine months imprisonment, will not return to jail.
Sixteen other members of HADEP, sentenced to similar terms of imprisonment, will also benefit from the amnesty law, that came into force in December last.
The leaders and members of HADEP had been sentenced in February 2000 for their imvolvedment in hunger strikes and demonstrations on support of the PKK chief, Abdullah Ocalan, while he was in Italy between November 1998 and January 1999.
On the other hand, the Turkish Chief of the General Staff, Huseyin Kivrikoglu, recently declared that 1,660 PKK members had benefitted from this law. Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit contested this figures, declaring that "they were not all members of the PKK".
ESBER YAGMURDERELI RELEASED UNDER THE AMNESTY LAW. The Turkish lawyer and writer Esber Yagmurdereli, imprisoned for ‘separatist propaganda ’ for putting forward the idea of a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem, was released on 18 January, under the amnesty law. Mr. Yagmurdereli, who is blind and 55 years of age, has spent 16 years in various Turkish kails.
He left Cankiri Prison, about 100 km North East of Ankara, after a Court had responded favourably to a petition by his lawyer, asking that he benefit from the Amnesty Act that came into effect last month.
Esber Yagmurdereli, who is a member of the Pen Club International and winner of the International Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize of the Bordeaux Bar Association and the Union of European Lawyers, has been serving a fresh 17 year jail sentence since 1997. He had already spent thirteen years in prison, from 1978 to 1991, for "armed subversive activity ".
"I am glad to find myself free again. These last three years in prison have been very hard " he told the press in front on the Prison. The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, who is also a praywright and had spent several years in prison under the communist regime, had asked the Turkish leaders for his release during his October visit to Turkey.
THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF "INHUMAN TREATMENT". On 30 January, Turkey was found guilty of "inhuman treatment " by the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg by the destruction of the home and goods of a Kurdish woman villager.
Mrs. Zubeyde Dulas, 70 years of age, lost everything she had when, on 8 November 1993, the Hazro gendarmerie searched the village of Citilibahce and set fire to all the houses, forcing the inhabitants to leave. Mrs. dulas home, her furniture, food supply, the stored wheat harvest were completely destroyed and she was never compensated for these damages.
The Turkish government had tried to reject Mrs. Dulas accusations in Strasbourg by pleading lack of proof. This operation had tqaken place in the context of an enquiry concerning the kidnapping and assassination of an imam and some school teachers by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), it explained.
The European Court judged that the destruction of Mrs. Dulas’ home and all her posessions was inhuman treatment and contrary to Article 3 of the European Human Rights Convention. The Court ruled that : "Even in the most difficult circumstances, such as the struggle against terrorism and organised crime, the Convention forbids any treatment that is contrary to this Article ". Ankara will have to pay a total of £st. 47,500 (75,558 euros) to the petitioner in material and moral dammages and legal costs.
VIOLENT DEATH OF A MEMBER OF THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT. The death of Fevzi Sihanlioglu, Member for the True Path Party (DYP) on 30 January, in the middle of a debate in the Turkish Parliament after he had been attacked by several M.P.s of the extreme right National Action Party (MHP) has raised a number of questions in Turkey. "Is the wave of violence is society being reflected in Parliament or is society being inspired by the example in Parliament? " asked Güngör Mengi, in an editorial in the daily Sabah on 1 February. The question is a matter of great importance since, today, the majority of Members of Parliament carry arms.
At the same time, the Turkish media have again openly shown the dependence and self-censorship to which they are subjected. The Parliaments own TV Station, Meclis TV turned its cameras towards the press benches without broadcasting pictures of the agressive attack that was taking place under its lenses.
Moreover, the principle M.P.s imvolved in the agression, Cahit Tekelioglu, Mehmet Kundakçi, both members of the MHP, had already been involved in cases of murder. Kundakçi was involved in the Bahçelievler case (Ed. Note: the assassination of seven students in the Bahçelievler quarter of Ankara in 1978 by members of the MHP) and Mr. Tekelioglu recently declared: "As I was doing my military service as an officer during the 12 September coup d’état, I was not in the limelight during the trials against the MHP. It was a stroke of luck, otherwise I’d also have been compromised ". Both M.P.s are being sought for questioning. If they do not give themselves up in the next three days their Parliamentary immunity should be lifted for them to be interrogated.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENCE ORGANISATIONS ACCUSE TURKEY OF TORTURE IN PRISONS. On 6 January, the London based Amnesty International as well as a New York based Human Rights Commission called on the Turkish authorities as well as the Council of Europe to open an enquiry into the practice of torure in certain of the new Turkish penal establishments.
"They should be a detailed, independent and impartial enquiry into the alleged practice of torture and ill treatment " was the wish expressed in a communiqué by Heidi Wedel, member of Amnesty International, who also called on the Council of Europe – of which Turkey is a member – to conduct an enquiry. Jonathan Sugden, of the Human Rights Commission and Heidi Wedel, had meeting with lawyers and doctors and relatives of prisoners as well as with three detainees, recently released from Turkish prisons. "Our sources agree that prisoners are beaten and sometimes even tortured, before and after their transfer to prison " they Jonathan Sugden and Heidi Wedel indicated in their communiqué.
"We believe that the prisoners received whippings and were raped with truncheons as soon as they arrived at Kandira Prison, near Izmir, but complaints cannot be proved since the requests for forensic medical examination, made by thier lawyers, were never answered " the communiqué states. This report follows the transfer of nearly 1,000 detainees to the new penal establishments – to which the organisations state they have been denied access – carried out last month after four days of mutiny, in the course of which 32 people met their deaths. Some 5,000 Turkish soldiers had then carried by assault twenty prisons across the country to put an end to the two month old hunger strike by several dozen detainees. This had been followed by mutinies in the prisons and their siege by the Army. These two Human Rights organisations also maintain that the prisoners have been place in total isolation and call on the Turkish authorities to authorise the prisoners to leave their cells during the day to meet one another.
On the same day, the Turkish Minister of Justice denied accusations of torture and ill treatment, adding that three inspectors had been ordered to make an enquiry.