The rumours and leaked information circulating about the next country to be hit by the United States in their anti-terrorist campaign, following their defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, has revived, in Turkey, an old nightmare: the creation, on its Southern borders, of a Kurdish State. The spectre of a breaking up of Iraq, following an armed confrontation with the United States, has returned to the forefront, and Turkish military and civilian leaders have being hastening, over the last few days, to express their opposition to such an eventuality.
Thus, on 26 December 2001, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed forces, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, considered that an extension of the US anti-terrorist campaign to Iraq could provoke the creation of an independent Kurdish State on the territory of that country - an event which Turkey categorically opposes. "Such an eventuality could provoke the creation of an independent Kurdish State" he declared to the journalists.
He specified that “not only are all the Arab countries but also Russia are against dividing Iraq and the creation of a country on an ethnic basis”.
The Turkish general, moreover, considered that American military intervention in Iraq would have even more serious repercussions for Turkey than at the time of the Gulf War in 1991. “There would be more problems for Turkey — and they are not limited to trade and the oil pipeline” between Iraq and Turkey, he added.
Moreover, during a Press Conference on 26 December, with the Emir of Qatar, Hamad ben Khalifa al-Thani, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer declared that “Turkey attaches great importance to the territorial integrity of Iraq and to the protection of its national unity”. However, Mr. Sezer called on Baghdad to co-operate with UNO and the international community so at to put an end to his people's "sufferings".
Turkey considers that its economy has lost over $ 35 billion since the beginning of the embargo on Iraq. An oil pipeline links Iraq's Kirkuk oil fields to the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan, on the Mediterranean. The pipeline, closed y decision of the Security Council following Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, was reopened in 1996, in the context of the "Oil for Food" programme. Thus, the chief of the Turkish Employers Association, TUSAID, Tuncay Ozilhan, declared his op position to any air strikes which might damage Turkish economy. “A military operation would put Turkey in a difficult position” he stressed.
Since the 11 September terrorist attacks, Ankara has repeatedly expressed to the United States its opposition to strikes against Iraq. But the Minister of Defence, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, has recently stated that "new conditions" could lead to "new evaluations".
The Turkish authorities fear any destabilisation of Iraq which could result is the creation of a Kurdish State in Northern Iraq, which has been controlled, since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, by two Kurdish parties. Such a state, according to Ankara, would stimulate the separatist aims of Kurds in Turkey, whereas Ankara is ferociously opposed to any mention of Kurdistan or even of the Kurds themselves. This Turkish fear goes back to an attempt in this direction, sponsored by the West at the beginning of the 20th Century, and described in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres between the victorious Allies and the Ottoman Empire. This Treaty formalised the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire and the creating of an independent "Kurdistan" in accordance with US President Woodrow Wilson's principle of the self-determination of nations.
A declaration dated January 16, 2002, addressing various European institutions, parliaments, and the United Nations, is denouncing the media-driven Turkish political campaign which is spreading fears for their future and their holdings, which “includes allegations against the independent Kurdish state within Iraq, menacing the lives, property, and liberty of Turkish citizens..”
“We are compelled to scrutinise with suspicion the reasons and motives behind this lying and unjust campaign … (which serves as a pretext for) intervening in the Iraqi people’s private affairs, specifically targeting the people of Kurdistan, disparaging their democracatic experiment and denying the impartiality of national rights” states the open letter. “On October 22 1992, the National Assembly of Kurdistan of Iraq unanimously adopted a decision to establish federally based relations with the central (Iraqi) government, within a democratic republic of Iraq, within which the Iraqi, of which Iraqi Kurdistan would comprise one of the regions” the Kurd Assembly states.
“Secondly, there are, along with the Kurds, other national minorities such as the Turkomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Arabs in Kurdistan, (…) The regional government respects this reality and protects their rights. These groups have their own political parties, their own cultural and social institutions. They study in their own language, publish their own newspapers and magazines, and play their own radio and TV stations. They are involved in local administration and other institutions of the region, to a degree never before achieved since the founding of the Iraqi state” the declaration reveals.
Through its president, Dr. Roj N. Shaways, the Representative Assembly invites qualified representatives “to visit Kurdistan to observe the situation” for themselves “by meeting representatives of political parties and, in particular, the Turkmen parties”.
“In the name of the National Assembly of Kurdistan of Iraq, we entreat you to help our people learn the facts and to help them attain their legitimate democratic rights” concludes the declaration.
Also on 16 January, the heads of the representative offices in Ankara of the KDP and the PUK published a joint statement, reprinted in the Kurdish daily Brayetî (Fraternity or Brotherhood) on the 17th in which can be read : “Over the last few weeks the Turkish media have extensively raised the fear that, in the event of an American attack on Iraq, an independent Kurdish State be set up in Northern Iraq. Meanwhile they accuse the Kurdistan political parties of working towards this end. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan firmly condemn these unfounded accusations. We insist on stressing that both parties are engaged in the defence of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of a federal and democratic Iraq in which a permanent solution to the Kurdish problem may be found”.
The Turkish press took hardly any notice of this statement, which contradicts the press campaign orchestrated by the Army hierachy to impress the Americans and raise the stakes so as to be in a better position to bargain over its inevitable support for any eventual intervention by Washington.
On 1 January, at a New Year Press Conference, the KDP President, Massoud Barzani, had also clearly expressed himself on this subject in the following terms : “Like every people, every nation, the Kurds must enjoy their rights. At the same time, we must be realistic, we must know our limitations. We understand full well the regional and international situation. We kurds, have not asked for a Kurdish State. That does not mean we don’t have the right to one, but we know that our situation is not suited for embarking on such claims. Our demand is the settlement of the Kurdish question on the basis of federalism, that is what the elected Parliament of Kurdistan demanded in 1992. We are talking here of an Iraqi Kurdistan withi9n a democratic Iraq. The Kurdistan Parliamentembodied the popular will. There is no doubt that if security and stability prevails in the Kurdish region, they will have an impact on the surrounding regions as well. The more the rights of the Kurds are respected, the better will the security of the surrounding countries be assured”.
For his part, Jelal Talabani, the PUK leader, speaking at a meeting on 17 January with the fourteen local Kurdish parties stated “the fears the the Kurds are today playing a controversial role have no reason to exist”.
On 23 January 2002, in the course of a briefing during the sittings on the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Walter Schwimmer, the Council of Europe's General Secretary, called on Turkey to carry out and apply the rulings of the Strasbourg European Human Rights Court. “The Human Rights Court has handed down a ruling regarding the lack of justice and the partiality of the trial of the Kurdish Members of Parliament of the Party for Democracy (DEP) and, consequently called for their retrial … We expect Turkey to conform to the rulings of the European Court” declared Mr. Schwimmer. To date Turkey has satisfied itself, in this case, by paying a symbolic fine without tackling the question of the arbitrary detention of Leyla Zana and her colleagues which has lasted, so far, for 8 years. All this, despite the fact that successive Prime Ministers, from Tansu Ciller to Mesut Yilmaz have committed themselves to observing the rulings and verdicts of the European Human Rights Court.
On 16 January in a meeting of the ANAP parliamentary group the deputy from Diyarbekir, Sebgetullah Seydaoglu, declared that the time had come for the Kurdish deputies imprisoned in Turkey for eight years to be freed.
Questioned by the press the next day, he said that the former deputies' medical conditions justified their being granted amnesty, adding that this time Leyla Zana would accept such a decision if her colleagues also benefited from it. "I have spoken with them, and Leyla Zana wants to be granted amnesty, along with the other Kurdish deputies. If President Sezer decides to grant amnesty, Leyla Zana will accept it", he declared.
Amnesty for Leyla Zana, who suffers from osteoporosis and circulatory problems, was on the agenda in 1998, but Ms. Zana refused special treatment in relation to her colleagues, rejecting the Turkish President's offer even before the procedure had been completed.
While complaining of the tragic consequences for the civilian population of the sanctions regime, Baghdad continues and intensifies its policy of forces Arabisation of the Kurdish territories that remain under its control and which represents about 40% of the area of Iraqi Kurdistan.
This policy shows itself with particular virulence in the oil rich city of Kirkuk, where the Iraqi government has just launched aproject of building 2,200 new housing units for Arabs. The Ministry of the Interior has given the city’s Governor orders to prepare 1,500 more building plots for his staff in the Yak Azar and al-Sina wards. Along side of this, 575 Kurdish families are to be expelled.
According to PUK sources, the Iraqi regime recently built 24 hamlets in the Kurdish district of Daquq in which 1,317 Arab families were settled ; ten other hamlets have been built at Touz Khurmatou, near Kirkuk, to house another 323 Arab families. The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture and irrigation is distributing Kurdish farm land to Arab families and granting them credits for buying machinery.
Since the general census of the population five years ago, the Iraqi authorities have been distributing “forms for rectification of nationality” (sic) to non-Arab inhabitants — Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrio-Chaldean. Those who refuse to fill them and call themselves Arabs are considered suspect, banned from any public employment and then expelled to the Kurdish administered zones. They are not allowed to sell their property to non-Arabs before their expulsion. In the majority of cases their property is purely and simply confiscated.
Those expelled are settled by the Kurdish authoritiesin camps where they live in precarious material conditions since these internally displaced people do not come under any classification covered by UNO’s aid programme under the “Oil for Food” Resolution 986.
On 29 December, several thousands of these people displaced from Kirkuk demonstrated in front of the UN offices in Suleimaniah to de4nounce this bureaucratic aberration and demand that UNO act urgenty to supply them with the help and services needed for their survival. They also called on the General Secretary of UNO to take measures to make Iraq to put an end to “its campaign of ethnic cleansing in the regions of Kurdistan still under its control”.
On 23 January, a High Committee to fight the Arabisation of Kurdistan was set up in Irbil. According to its President, Arif Tayfur, this committee, which insists on its non-partisan character, will work with any organisations and individuals wishing to fight against the planned policy of the Iraqi Government to forcibly change the ethnic compositionof Kurdistan. A colloquium to study the issues was held at the Irbil University Faculty of Education on 29 January.
According to the Kurdish daily Brayetî of 29 January, which quotes official statistics, to date 22,955 families, i.e. over 120,000 Kurds, expelled from Iraqi-controlled Kirkuk province have been settled in the Kurdish-administered Irbil Governorate. The number of expulled people received by the Suleimaniah Governorate is even greater.
The Iraqi regime, for all that it is exhaused and beseiged, has thus succeeded in driving out of the zones it controls over 250,000 Kurds. (For further information on this subject, see the Iraqi Kurdistan Despatch site www.ikurd.info).
On 17 January, the Turkish Public Prosecutor, Sabih Kanadoglu, called on the Constitutional Court to ban the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy party (HADEP) for “links with the armed Kurdish rebellion”.
After his hour-long indictment of the party, Mr. Kanadoglu told the press that he had shown the Court how HADEP had become a center of activity aimed at undermining the Constitutional principle of the indivisible unity of Turkey. “We have examined the evidence in the case and I have asked the court to ban the party in view of the gravity, extent and nature of its activities”, he added.
On 2 January, Sabih Kanadoglu had asked to the Constitutional Court to deal with the procedures for banning Party (HADEP) as a matter of urgency.
In this case, which began in January 1999, HADEP is accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The formal charges state that HADEP acted according to the PKK's directions and served to disseminate propaganda for it, and that its offices had become “recruitment centers” for recruiting activists to the PKK's cause.
HADEP, which has no seats in Parliament because it failed to obtain the necessary 10% of the overall national vote, has been running fifteen municipalities in Kurdistan since the 1999 Local Council elections. It states that it stands for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question and rejects all accusations of links with the PKK. Hasim Kiliç, Vice-President of the Court stated, on 22 January, that the Court had decided to give HADEP a further month to prepare its defence, thus responding favourably to an application in this sense filed by the party’s President Murat Bozlak. The Court had originally be due to hear HADEP’s defence on January 30.
Furthermore, in Adana on 15 January, three members of a local section of HADEP were arrested for "aiding a separatist organisation". The three men, previously questioned by the anti-terrorist police, were sent to the State Security Court which imprisoned them after charging them with "aid to a separatist organisation", a formula which refers to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A few days before, about 15 members of HADEP had been taken into custody in the same city of Adana.
Moreover the Constitutional Court is also due to examine, in the middle of January, the proceedings started against the former Mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the opposition Islamic Party for Justice and Development (AK), who had already served four months of a jail sentence for "calling for sedition ". Public Prosecutor Kanadoglu had also petitioned the Court in his case, asking it to strip Mr. Erdogan of his office as President of the Justice and Development Party and banning him from all political activity.
On 21 January the Istanbul State Security Court banned the Turkish version of Jonathan Randal's book “After Such Knowledge What Forgiveness? My Encounters with Kurdistan”. (Mr. Randal was a leading journalist on the Washington Post for close on 30 years.) On the basis of Articles 86 and 5680 of the Turkish Penal Code, the Court also ordered that all copies of this book, published by Avesta Editions, be seized. “By mentioning the existence of a Kurdish nation in the heart of the territorial unity of the Turkish Republic and of a Kurdistan as a distinct state entity, the book openly spreads propaganda against the indivisibility of the State and Nation” specifies the indictment which charges that this constitutes an attack on Articel 28 of the Constitution. The publishers, for their part, express astonishment that a book, that has already been published in English, Kurdish, Persian and Arabic should be banned in Turkish — and in a country that is a candidate for membership of the European Union and likes to present itself as “democracy's shop window in the Moslem world”. Even though the author, in the preface, had written “of all the territories where the Kurds live, it is Turkey that offers the best hope for the future”. Meanwhile, while waiting for this promising future, the present time consists of all kinds of bans and humiliations.
Furthermore, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet of 25 January, which quotes the British daily The Independent, Noam Chomsky, world famous philosopher and linguist and Preofessor at the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) is preparing to go to Turkey to take part in the trial of his book “American Interventionism”, published by Aram Editions and which is accused of “separatist propaganda”. “I would like to test the degree of freedom in Turkey by going to Diyarbekir” Mr. Chomsky stated, adding that putting a book on trial was “the most serious attack against fundamental rights”.
The book has aroused the Turkish authorities fury by criticising Turkey's Kurdish policy. “The Kurds have been severely oppressed throughout the history of modern Turkey… In 1984 the Turkish government launched a vast struggle against the Kurdish population of the South-East. The result was striking: tens of thousands of people killed, two to three millions exiled, a massive ethnic cleansing with some 3,500 villages destroyed” wrote Chomsky. Fatih Tas, the book's publisher, who must appear before the Istanbul State Security Court on 13 February, faces a year's jail and Noam Chomsky states he has already written to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations to denounce these Turkish laws.
“As if things weren't bad enough already, we have jumped straight into the shit of our own accord” headlined Hurriyet on its front page, continuing on the inside pages “We have shamed ourselves before the whole world”.
The penal reform, officially called a "mini-democratisation," undertaken by the Turkish government in the hope of achieving harmony with Copenhagen criteria, vital to acceptance into the European Union, has instead caused disillusionment in Europe and embarrassed the coalition government partners. The project of revising articles 312 and 159 of the Turkish penal code, criticised for already being repressive, is seen as becoming more so when compared with its original context.
The proposed dr4aft of Article 159 sentences one to three years in prison (the present law allows up to six years) for any person defaming the “Turkish identity, the Republic, the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, the Turkish National Grand Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the ministers, the justice system, the military, the police and any other security forces of the state”. With the approved reform of January 24 by the Parliamentary Commission of Justice, the term “Republic” was inserted in the text, while the term “democracy” had been favored in the earlier debates. Moreover, the proposed law designates one to six months imprisonment for those “publicly insulting” the laws of the republic and the decisions of the Turkish Parliament, stressing that the sentence will be less by a third if the crime is committed abroad by a Turkish national.
On the other hand the Turkish government has not arrived at a consensus regarding the highly controversial article 312 of the penal code which condemns the “provocation of hatred”.
The Turkish press and the intelligentsia, prime targets for these articles have loudly criticized the reform project. “The concept of mini-democratisation gives free rein to subjective interpretations of judges to act at their own discretion, simplifying their decisions prorata in conjunction with the political system” wrote Taha Akyol on January 31 in the daily paper Milliyet. “Serious criticism of the state will take a lot more courage now! the same for the National Security Council!” he continued.
The daily Radikal, in a kind of Honor Roll, inventoried its journalists potentially persecuted by these two articles. “Ismet Berkan, charged by the Correctional Tribunal for voicing suspicions concerning the arrest of the official killers of Ugur Mumcu, in an article published June 9, 2000. I. Berkan may serve six years in prison for “offenses to state security forces.”” Nese Duzel, charged by the state security court of Istanbul for press coverage entitled “The young Alevis are driven to terror”. N. Duzel also may risk six years in prison for an interview of Dr. Dogu Ergil entitled “the state of emergency has brought back drugs”. Mine Kirikkanat, charged among other things with “comptempt for the moral fiber of the government”, based on article 159 in the penal code, for an article written April 6 2000, entitled “Would you please get out”… Perihan Magden, for an article appearing May 12 2001, entitled “Why doesn't it end” and a second article called “Another death, another news story” concerning hunger strikes and conditions of Turkish prisons. She is charged with “insulting the Minister of Justice”. Celal Baslangic may face six years of prison for her book “Shelter from Fear”, relating human rights violations in Tunceli, Silopi, Cizre and Lice. Likewise for Yildirim Turker, who wrote a piece dated August 13 2000, criticizing the prison politics of the state with its Type-F prisons, entitled “The darkest corners of Justice” risks six years in prison for "contempt for the Republic."
• TURKISH PRESS: NEW ORGANISATION TO FACILITATE MORE SUBTLE INTERVENTION OF ARMY IN POLITICAL LIFE. Beaker Coskun, a journalist on the Turkish daily Hurriyet, turns, in his column of 10 January 2002, his caustic pen on the subject of the creation of the Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (SAREM). Here are extensive extracts from his article.
"(...) A few days ago, the SAREM started work after its inauguration by the Turkish General Staff. What is the SAREM?
It is the Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, under the control of the General Staff and consisting of a handful of officers and many civilians. A club for reflection where 57 academics and military specialists will permanently sit to elaborate the strategy-thought which will be put before the civilian authority (...)
Turkish Chief of Staff, General Kivrikoglu, stated during the inaugural ceremony, that the advice put forward by SAREM was consultative, that it was just a sort of club for alternative reflection and information, such as is called in the West A THINK TANK.
The TANK part we have already experienced. It has now been refined with some THINK.
Let us suppose: a strategy-thoughts, drawn up under the control of the General Staff and presented to our civilians could it fail to "think" in their heads?
Of course it could...
Here are some strategy-thoughts expressed by General Kivrikoglu, Chief of Staff since the inauguration:
"Corruption absolutely must be uprooted. (...) In Argentina, the political leaders, accused of the economic depression, are tried and sentenced, here we let them be tried by elections. Which is the better solution? (...)
In my opinion the SAREM is an important development.
It is a blow against the 28 February coup.
Putting a "THINK" in front of the customary TANK is nothing else but a concealed intervention against those who, by innumerable blunders, have led the country into this crisis (...)"
• ANKARA ADMITS AT EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT TO ILL-TREATMENT DURING DETENTION. On 18 December 2001, the Turkish Government chose to compensate, in an out of court settlement, two people suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who had suffered from ill-treatment during detention. In a statement, Ankara said it "regrets the occurrence, as in this case, of individual cases of ill-treatment, inflicted by the authorities upon persons in detention", despite "existing Turkish legislation and the determination of the Government to prevent such incidents". Furthermore, it commits itself "to publishing appropriate instructions and to adopting all necessary measures for guaranteeing that the interdiction of ill-treatment - which implies the obligation of conducting really effective enquiries - be observed in the future".
One of the victims, Nimet Acar, will receive a total compensation package of 28,660 euros and the other, Kemal Gundu, 29,117 euros.
The two men had been arrested in February 1994, along with about forty other suspects. They stated they had confessed under torture to links with the Kurdish PKK organisation. The two petitioners had complained, in particular of "blows, hanging, electrocution, beatings on the soles of their feet and cigarettes being stubbed out on their bodies" - which were broadly confirmed by medical certificates. The policemen involved have been declared “not guilty”.
• THE FIRST RESULTS OF THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ILLITERACY IN IRBIL. In the context of the campaign against illiteracy, launched by the Ministry of Education of the Irbil based regional government two years ago, 10,000 of the 13,000 who took part in classes provided by the Centres for Struggle Against Illiteracy last year have won their graduation diplomas according to the daily paper Khabat of 25 January.
Over the last two years, over 43,000 people, both men and women aged 15 or over, have been enrolled in these centres. The percentage illiteracy is estimated at 30% in the Irbil and Duhok provinces, controlled by the Irbil Kurdish regional government.
At a reception for representatives of the year’s graduates by the Minister of Education, the Prime Minister of the Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, declared that the high rate of illiteracy in the region “is due to the unique political situation from which Iraqi Kurdistan has suffered in the past, which has prevented education to develop” adding that fighting illiteracy “will ease the process of reconstruction and development towards an advanced civil society”.
Nechirvan Barzani hailed the role of the teachers who have taken part in the campaign and re-iterated “the total support (of his government) for the Ministry of Education in its campaign to fight illiteracy andf to raise the level of educaqtion in Iraqi Kurdistan”.
• “SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS, BUT STILL A LONG WAY TO GO”, SAYS SULEIMANIYA-BASED MINISTER OF EDUCATION. The educational system has been witnessing a significant progress in Iraqi Kurdistan in the past ten years, as compared to the period when the Kurdistan region was under Iraqi control, said the Suleimaniya-based Kurdistan regional government Minister of Education, Narmeen Usman.
In an interview with KurdishMedia.com on 13 January, the minister said that “from 1921 to 1991, 524 schools were built in Koya [Koy Sinjaq] and the [PUK-controlled areas of the governorate of] Kirkuk and Sulemani, but now our Ministry of Education, in coordination with the relevant UN agencies, has built 1,153 schools between the years 1991-2000”.
The minister stressed that “the schools are now better equipped … We are also cooperating with UNESCO in the coordination of some training courses to increase local capacity in modernizing teaching techniques”.
However, she pointed to some important measures still to be taken in educational field, particularly regarding children’s education and illiteracy in the rural areas. She stated: “According to our survey, 57,227 children are not attending school. These children need specialised schools to facilitate their education, for they have been disfranchised from mainstream schools for a while and it will be hard to reintegrate them”.
She also said: “We have 224,609 citizens between the ages of 16-45 who have never attended school, and they need special literacy programs”.
The minister expressed her hope of seeing “more rural schools built, and better equipped urban schools with computers and laboratories”. In order to combat illiteracy, she said “I would like to see a more diverse sort of compulsory education, and by that I mean a mandatory age of attendance must be set up. For example it could be made mandatory for a child to attend school until the age of 16 years”.
• 10,608 TURKISH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS DEMAND KURDISH LANGUAGE COURSE OPTION. According to the Turkish daily Radikal of 18 January, 10,608 students have already applied to the authorities of their colleges and to University Deans concerned to ask for the possibility having the Kurdish language available as an optional subject. Of these applicants, 6,425 have received flat rejections while 4,233 have had their requests officially recorded by the universities concerned.
Thus amongst the flat rejections, 1,560 are from Dicle University, 900 from Harran University, 257 from Inonu University, 2,050 from Yil University, 138 from Kocaeli University, 450 from Orta dogu Technical University, 260 from Ankara University, 140 from Istanbul Technical University, 160 from Yildiz University, 100 from Mimar Sinan University, 450 from Bogazici
University, 550 from Istanbul University and 140 from Uludag University.
Thus officially recorded were: 140 at Firat University, 1030 at Cukurova University, 300 at the Anatolian Eskisehir University, 450 at Dokuz Eylul University, 450 at Ege University, 400 at Hacettepe University, 450 at Marmara University, 500 at Istanbul University, 60 at Afyon-Kocatepe University, 120 at Sakarya University, 138 at Canakkale University and 325 at the Hatay Mustafa Kemal University. An internet site has been set up to this end by the students applying for Kurdish language teaching: www.anadil.8m.com
On 14 January hundreds of students were prosecuted for having asked the appropriate Turkish authorities for the teaching of Kurdish. Seventeen of the 270 students of the University of Van, who made this request t5o the Education Office, are still in detention, while others have been freed pending trial after appearing before the State Security Court (DGM).
Many other students from various Kurdish and Turkish provinces presented the same request to the Education Offices, which are threatening to expel the students. On 17 January, the Istanbul Police Directorate decided to charge 22 parents whose children, still in primary school, had requested the teaching of Kurdish. The Turkish authorities claim that 60 other people are still being questioned in Istanbul.
• PRIME MINISTER CRITICISES EUROPEAN UNION FOR FAILING TO INCLUDE PKK AND DHKP-C ON LIST OF TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS. On 29 December 2001, the Turkish Prime Minister violently attacked the European Union for failing to include, on its list of organisations considered to be terrorist, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and an illegal extreme Left group the People's Revolutionary Liberation Front-Party (DHKP-C), describing this omission as “unpardonable”. “It is inconceivable. No one doubts the fact that the PKK and the DHKP-C are terrorist organisations” he declared.
Bulent Ecevit stated that he could not “understand” how these organisations were absent from the list published by the E.U. on 28 December, which also includes named individuals, as part of its decisions aiming at strengthening the activity of the European Union against terrorism following the 11 September attacks in the United States. “We are told that the PKK and DHKP-C are included in a second list. But the fact that they are not mentioned in the first list in unpardonable” added Mr. Ecevit.
This list, published by the Official Journal of the European Community contains about thirty names of individuals, including about twenty "ETA activists " and thirteen European and Near Eastern ""Groups and bodies ".
• 45TH VICTIM OF HUNGER STRIKE IN TURKISH PRISONS. Zeynel Karatas, aged 25 years, detained in the new high security prison of Tekirdag for “links with several banned leftist movements” died on 6 January as a consequence of the hunger strike launched in the Turkish prisons at the end of the year 2000 against the government's reform of the prison system. His death brings the number of detainees who have died since the beginning of the campaign.
The hunger strike movement is intended to denounce a prison "reform" mainly aimed at replacing the big dormitories by small cells holding only one to three prisoners. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has criticised the government's management of this crisis by the Turkish government and judges the number of victims intolerable. The Turkish authorities retort that the new prisons conform to European standards and refuse to negotiate with the protesters, that it describes as "terrorists".
• ANKARA, WHILE FLOODING OF HISTORIC KURDISH SITES, CRIES BARBARISM AT SAUDI DESTRUCTION OF OTTOMAN FORTRESS. A dispute is raging between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which tore down an Ottoman era fortress near the holy sites of Mecca. Turkey reacted with anger to the destruction which took place a few weeks ago, accusing the Wahhabite kingdom of “cultural genocide”, while Turkish nationalist extremists burned pictures of the Saudi king. Turkey, heir of the Ottoman Empire, compared this destruction to the Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, and promised to lodge a complaint with UNESCO.
On Monday, 14 January, the Saudi ambassador to Turkey, Mohammad Al Bassam, explaining that the fortress had been torn down to accommodate Moslem pilgrims, promised that the Chateau of Ajyad would be reassembled further away. That 18th century fortress was torn down to make room for a commercial and residential center among many mega-projects under way to modernise the holy city of Mecca, a project costing $533 million, entrusted to a consortium of three companies, Mecca Construction, Bin Laden Group, and Saudi Oger. “All decisions of the Saudi Arabian government are taken for the good of the pilgrimage and the security and comfort of the pilgrims”, declared the ambassador, recalling nonetheless that the chateau is Saudi property. The ambassador further put his Turkish counterparts on the spot by saying that “the fortress of Ajyad, built of mud & stones, is only 200 years old. The sites of Zeugma were much more ancient, but the Turkish government, in considering only the interests of its people, still went on with its project of building the dams. Remind me — what about the fortress of Sinopi?”
Turkey strongly condemned the demolition of the fortress, announcing that, as a sign of protest, it planned a partial boycott of the pilgrimage to Mecca, where some two million faithful arrive from the four corners of the world every year.
• AGREEMENT ON MILITARY COOPERATION BETWEEN TURKEY AND RUSSIA. On 14 January, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement of military cooperation aiming to strengthen bilateral relations, often strained by reciprocal accusations of support for each other's guerrilla groups, Kurdish and Chechen. “This agreement, a sign of the friendship and cooperation between Russia and Turkey, will serve as a good example for other countries in the region”, declared the Chief of Staff of the Turkish army, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, before signing it with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Kvachnin.
The agreement creates a legal basis for cooperation between the Russian and Turkish armies and is to be followed by other agreements and protocols, declared General Kivrikoglu. General Kvachnin noted that the agreement would contribute to strengthening technical cooperation and cooperation in training military personnel. “All this will benefit our states and people”, he said.
Turkey, a NATO member, and Russia developed close commercial relations after the fall of the USSR, but their relations remain marked by frequent accusations of support for the separatist movements considered "terrorist" in each country, the Kurds in Turkey and the Chechens in Russia.
Turkey has long accused Russia of tolerating the presence of the PKK on its territory and Moscow reproaches Ankara with sheltering Chechen rebels, who in the last few years have carried out several hijackings of boats and planes from Turkey. In November 2001, the two countries signed a plan of action to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including in the war on terrorism.
• FOREIGN MINISTRY: DETENTION IN STATE OF EMERGENCY PROVINCES REDUCED FROM FIFTEEN TO FOUR DAYS. On January 30, Turkey announced that rights conforming to European norms would be respected from now on regarding detainees in the Kurdish provinces, where human rights have been severely restricted and flouted. The Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed, in a communiqué, to have rescinded the point of view of a statement addressed in 1990 to the European Council, which announced the suspension of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights — concerning the conditions of detention — in politically turbulent provinces.
In October Turkey began a revision of its constitution focused on aligning itself more closely with European norms, notably in the reduction of police custody from fifteen days to four. Four provinces are still in a state of emergency: Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Sirnak and Hakkari.