The Paris Kurdish, in partnership with Kurdish Women’s Action against Crimes of Honour and the International Network of Kurdish Women’s Studies, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Employment nad Solidarity and the Fondation Frances-Libertés, brought together, on 22 February at the Palais de Luxembourg (the Chambers of the French Senate) about twenty experts and representatives of Associations from Kurdistan and the Western countries to start thinking about the present day condition of women in Kurdistan, assess the situation and explore new peraspectives.
The conference, introduced by Mrs. Danielle Mitterrand, President of the Fondation France-Libertés, began with an “description of the dynamics of violence: a theoretical analysis of the idea and practice of violence against women”, followed by a second round table of representatives of leading members of associations for the defence of womens rights from Diyarbekir and Istanbul, who described the fate of “women in situations of armed conflict : Violence against women and the feminist challenges”. Mrs. Shirin Amedi, President of the Kurdistan Union of Women, from Irbil, and Mrs. Kafia Suleiman, General Secretary of the Zhinan Union of Kurdistan Women, from Suleimaniah, Guests of Honour of the Conference also expressed their support for this event as well as Leyla Zana, first Kurdish women Member of the Turkish Parliament. As you all know, she was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 1984 for a “crime of opinion” and won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize and so had to express her support by a message sent from her prison in Ankara.
The afternoon was devoted to round tables on “the Policy of Extermination: the Anfal Campaigns in Iraqi Kurdistan” followed by “Domestic Violence: the practice of violence upon women’s bodies and strategies of resistence”. Speakers from Iraqi Kurdistan and several European countries bore witness to the situation of women during the so-called Anfal campaign of extermination by Saddam Hussein’s troops, and the after-effects of this campaign on the survivers. The conference also allowed considerable room for spontaneous reactions and questions from the body of the hall. It ended with a round table on “Kurdish Women in the Diaspora: the dialectic of violence and resistence”.
About 300 people took part in this day-long debate. Many others were unable to attent owing to the lack of seating. The transactions of the Symposium will be published later in several languages. (See, in appendix, the conference timetable).
According to the Turkish daily Milliyet of 6 March, the State Department’s annual report on Human Rights is, this year, stressing the use of torture in Turkey. “The security forces have, on the whole , continued to practice torture, beating up, and to breach other rights…” stresses the report. “According to Human Rights observers and medical specialists, the Turkish security forces, instead of beating detainees with truncheons or their fists, beat them with heavy sacks, or inastead of applying electric shocks directly to parts of the body, use metallic chairs to deliver the electric shocks — briefly they opt for methods of torture that leave the least traces in the body” indicates the report. It also stresses the fact that the police and armed forces implicated in cases of torture are rarely found guilty or else receive to such light sentences as to aggravate the situation. The US State Department reveals the fact that violations of Human Rights are more intense in Kurdish regions, stressing that violations of freedom of expression and association are particularly intense in these regions. “The Turkish Constitution does not recognise the Kurds as a national minority, ethnic or racial minority though, in fact, the Kurds constitute the largest ethnic and linguistic minority in the country. In the civil service and in politics. those who wish to identify temselves as Kurds and who support the public use of the Kurdish language are threatened by censorship, pressure ofm all kinds, harassment and legal proceedings” concludes this report, which is submitted to the American Congress to clarify its foreign policy choices.
For a long time militarily and strategically allied to Washington, Turkey knows from experience that these criticisms on the human rights situation, expressed regularly for over ten years, have hitherto had no effect on Turco-American relations.
A network of human rights associations, including CILDEKT and France Libertés have just launched an appeal for the liberation of the four Kurdish former M.P.s who have been imprisonned in Turkey for the last 8 years. Their only fault is a fierce determination to make known the rights of the Kurdish people. Below is an appeal to be sent, firstly, to the French Prime Minister, then to Members of Parliament so as to arouse their awareness and make the French political powers act on the fate of the ese Kurdish MPs jailed in contempt of the most elementary Human Rights.
Mr. Prime Minister / Member of Parliament,
In November 2000 a campaign was launched "Your Human Rights, if you Please!". Several tens of thousands of citizens took part in this public opinion campaign , conducted in partnership with Agir pour un Monde Solidaire, ACAT, Amnesty International, la CIMADE, CRADHOM, France Libertés, and Le Mouvement de la Paix.
However, since then, the Human Rights situation in Turkey have barely changed, and France has taken no steps to contribute to any improvement. This situation is particularly hard for the Members of Parliament who are still imprisonned to date. This is why we are launching an "Appeal for the liberation of four former Kurdish M.P.s imprisonned in Turkey: Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sakak and Orhan Dogan".
Tried by the Ankara State Security Court on 8 December 1994, they were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. The European Human Rights Court, to which the case was presented at the request of the former M.P.s handed down its verdict on 17 July 2001. The Court unanimously found Turkey guilty of violation of Article 17 on the European Human Rights Convention because of the lack of imdependence and impartiality of the Ankara State Security Court, since the petitioners had not been informed in time of the alteration in the charges against them and had been given the possibility of cross examining the prosecution witnesses.
The two recent reports on Turkey presented to the European Commission on 25 October and 13 November 2001, referring to the 17 July 2001 decision, ask that Turkish legislation embody measures for taking into account condemnations by the European Human Rights Court, and particularly a guarantee of the restoration of civic and political rights in cases where they had been restricted following sentence, the re-opening of the trial procedings and the question of dammages in cases where the trial were found inequitable.
We, French citizens, call on the French Government to take whatever initiatives may be needed at the Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe for it to oversee the execution of the 17 July 2001 verdict of the European Human Rights Court and that it demand that Turkey:
- take the necessary legislative measures to free the four imprisoned MPs — Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sakak and Orhan Dogan,
- grant the right to a retrail before an independent and impartial Court, in accordance with the principles of the European Human Rights Convention.
- ask the French Members of Parliament to create a Parliamentary study group on the Kurdish question and to set up a mechanism for checking the observence of Human Rights in Turkey and the context of the European Union/Turkey Association Agreement.
Even while Turkey aims at joining the European Union, freedom of expression continues to be flouted by the Turkish authorities and merely to mention the Kurds or Kurdistan constitutes a crime in Turkey, under Article 7 of the Anti-Terrorist Act that represses "terrorist propaganda ".
Thus, on 13 February, the Turkish publisher of the American intellectual and linguist Noam Chomsky, was acquitted by the Istanbul State Security Court that had charged him with “separatist propaganda” on the grounds of Chomsky's book on “American interventionism”, which mentions the Kurdish problem.
Mr. Chomsky was not, himself, charged in this case, but insisted on being present at the trial because of his “moral responsibility as a human being” for the situation in Turkey. “I am responsible for crimes committed in Turkey. As the United States is supplying 80% of Turkey's weaponry with the precise aim of perpetrating a violent and brutal repression (of the Kurds) it is my responsibility and I want to go to the place where this is happening” explained Mr. Chomsky.
The owner of Aram Publications, Fatih Tas, who is still being charged because of several other books dealing with the Kurdish problem thanked the American author for his presence which “has helped in securing this decision to acquit” as he said at the end of the hearing. “We did not expect this verdict” said Mr. Tas who had pleaded "Not Guilty" to the accusations of separatist propaganda, “and we think that Turkish law must learn to respect those it is trying”. Mr. Chomsky, for his part, hoped that Mr. Tas' acquittal would be “a step towards the establishment of freedom of expression in Turkey”. He insisted on the “very difficult situation” of Turkish intellectuals, considering that their struggle for freedom of expression was "was an example for the whole world".
In his book, quoting extracts from his Harvard University lectures, denounces the sale of arms to Turkey, which, as he recalls, uses them for the “repression of the Kurds”. “Countries like the USSR, China or the Latin American dictatorships ban, or have banned, my books — but this is the first time that someone is sued for publishing my lectures. This is so extreme that I wanted to be here to support him” said Mr. Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky then visited Diyarbekir, because that town “is the centre of repressive activity” he considered. In the course of a symposium organised by local government organisations, Mr. Chomsky expressed the hope for the creation “one day” of an “autonomous Kurdistan” in the Near East that would bring together millions of Kurds scattered throughout the region. “I hope that, one day, there will be an autonomous Kurdistan and that tens of thousands of Kurds, will live on its soil” he said at Diyarbekir. “The inhabitants of this Kurdistan will be politically autonomous and culturally independent” he continued.
Furthermore, the American author supported the demand for the teaching of Kurdish in schools. “I respect Kurdish and I also respect those who courageously work to demand to learn their mother tongue in the schools” he said in particular. Teaching in any other language but Turkish is forbidden by the Constitution. The country's leaders are opposed to it although it is one of the cultural rights that the European Union, which Turkey wants to join, is asking it to grant to the Kurdish population.
Regarding his country's objectives in Iraq, threatened with the possible extension of the American anti-terrorist campaign, Mr. Chomsky considered that the United States would use Turkey as a “mercenary” against that country by promising it, in return, the Kurdish oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul. “Such an (military) eventuality would provoke an explosion in the Middle East and a revolution in Saudi Arabia” he considered.
In Diyarbekir, Mr. Chomsky met members of the People's Democratic Party (HADEP) which is struggling for the recognition of Kurdish cultural rights and is the subject of legal proceedings aiming at the banning it on the grounds of links with Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
Moreover, the Turkish language edition of the book by Jonathan Randal, former Washington Post correspondent and author of “After Such Knowkedge, What Forgiveness?” found itself in the dock and its publisher risks imprisonment for this book, that has already been published in Kurdish, Persian Arabic and English.
“Curiously, the preface to my book, that I wrote specially for the Turkish translation, was excluded from the charges against the book, although I particularly welcomed in it the recent democratic reforms in Turkey and indicated that Turkey was the country where the Kurds might have the best chance of seeing their ambition of being treated like first class citizens realised” indicated J. Randal.
The Istanbul State Security Court accuses the book's publisher of the following incriminating passages:
Page 23: I was woken up, in a cheap hotel in Turkish Kurdistan, by uninterrupted volleys of gunfire only a few hundred yards from there
Page 25: In recent times the Kurds of Iran, Iraq and Turkey have all been engaged in simultaneous but uncoordinated revolts In 1991, the first Kurds in seven decades were elected to Parliament in Turkey as representatives of Kurdish interests. Insurprisingly they lacked political qualities to avoid isolation, arrest and imprisonment - means used by the government dominated by the Turkish Armed Forces.
Page 27: Modern Turkey has been pursuing, for the last 70 years, a policy whose aim is to wipe out the Kurds' cultural as well as political identity. In March 1924, less than a year afteer the foundation of Mustafa Kemal's Turkish Republic, the Kurdish culture, language and even place names were banned. For decades, Turkey has insisted on the 'fact' that the Kurds were "mountain Turks " who lived in the "East and South-East" and not in any "Kurdistan ".
Page 49: In the last days before the Kuweit war in 1991, for example, hundreds of thousands of Kurds of Turkey fled their himes in the South-East of Turkey. Late in the night, at the bus stop, I observed desperate men sending their wives and children as far as possible from the Kurdish regions considered to be most dangerous.
Page 309: All these hopes evaporated when successive governments failed, after 1984, with the ever more ruinous civil war that began in Turkish Kurdistan
The trial of this book for “separatist propaganda” will take place in early April.
On 13 February, the European Commissioner for Enlarging Membership. Guenter Verheugen, urged Turkey to accelerate democratic reforms, high lighting “some problems” over the death sentence and Kurdish education. “Turkey has made some in 2001 (…) the reforms undertaken are certainly an important advance but, from the European Union's point of view there are still problems and tackling them is equally important, not to say crucial” he said at a Press Conference with the Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.
He was referring to the reforms adopted by the Turkish Parliament aiming at widening freedom of thought and of expression in Turkey to bring it closer to the European Union's standards, reforms that even in Turkey are perceived as inadequate. “The year 2002 will be an important, if not crucial, year for E.U.-Turkish relations”, Mr.Verheugen stressed, urging the Government to tackle the questions of abolishing the death sentence and of education in Kurdish. Turkey has abolished the death sentence — save in wartime and for terrorist crimes. It leaders are categorically opposed to any education in the Kurdish language, at required by the European Union.
Regarding the speed of reforms, Mr. Verheugen stressed that a “country is certainly not a racing car, but it can still accelerate from 0 to 100 Km/hour in some seconds”.
Mr. Cem stressed that, despite certain “problems” and some “ups and downs” EU-Turkish relations were on the right road. He indicated that Turkey's objective was to ask, during the Danish Presidency (from June to December 2002), for the establishing of a timetable for opening negotiations for membership in 2003. “It is a matter of objectives within our reach” he said. Mr. Verheugen pointed out that Turkey must, imperatively, observe the Copenhagen political criteria on Human Rights and democracy before opening negotiations. “The process and the timetable depend on Turkey's progress” he said. Mr. Verheugen is also due to meet the Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and the Deputy Prime Ministers Mesut Yilmaz and Devlet Bahceli.
On 5 February, the International Monetary Fund declared that Turkey had met the conditions required of a fresh agreement for a $ 16.3 loans over three years. The tug of war between the Turkish President, Ahmet Nejdet Sezer, who have several times vetoed the bank reform that Parliament and the three party government had voted had delayed, for a while, the reforms demanded by the IMF. However, observers note that this IMF aid is not unconnected with Turkey's opposition to Iraq. To date, Turkey is the principle
On 4 February, British and American planes patrolling the Iraqi Kurdistan air exclusion zone bombed Iraqi anti-aircraft defence systems as a reprisal for shots fired at their planes, according to an American official. The official Iraqi news agency stated that four people had been killed by the air raid at Mossul.
This is the first time that Anglo-American air Forces have bombed the region since the 11 September bomb attacks, insisted Captain Brian Cullin, spokesman for the Euro-American Command in Stuttgart, Germany. The bombs were released after a routine-air-patrol was targeted by Iraqi North East of Mossul, the Command specified in a written communiqué.
British and American planes, based on south-eastern Turkey, have been patrolling Iraqi air space since 1991. France, which took part in this mission initially, withdrew in 1996. Washington and London state that this surveillance aims at protecting the Kurdish population living in the area from Saddam Hussein.
This attack comes at a time when a debate is raging on the possibility of extending the American “anti-terrorist war” to Iraq. American officials have clearly given their allies to understand that they were prepared to go it alone. According to them, Iraq, pin-pointed along with North Korea a constituting what the US President described as the “axis of evil” is so dangerous that preventive action may be necessary. “If the world, or someone, fails to show what a danger they represent to their own people and for their neighbours, we will act freely” declared the US Defence Minister in an interview on 3 February on the PBS Television network. “They could invade Kuwait again, that's certain. They could even invade Saudi Arabia”. Furthermore, Paul Wolfowitz, under-secretary for Defence has stated “What the President has done is to identify the problem . We are far from having taken any decisions on what we must do”.
The Turkish Prime Minister, Bülent Ecevit, a faithful friend of Saddam Hussein, has, for his part, sent a letter to the boss of Baghdad, extensively reproduced by the Turkish press on 2 February. The Turkish Prime Minister calls on Saddam Hussein to be more cooperative with the United Nations and to authorise the arms inspectors to return to Iraqi soil and to stop developing weapons of mass destruction. B. Ecevit asks the Iraqi leader “not to miss the opportunity of protecting the regions stability and not to subject the region to gun fire”. “This is an important message. I hope Saddam Hussein will take it seriously. It is no longer necessary to continue a solitary and senseless resistance against the rest of the world” Bulent Ecevit continued, speaking at a meeting of his party's Parliamentary group.
For his part, the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has announced that he will be making an official visit to the Middle East next March.
In a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, twenty nine Iraqi Kurdish local organisations invited the UN official to visit Kurdistan to observe the Iraqi human rights violations in the region, said Al-Mu’atamar newspaper on 16 February.
The letter was sent on the occasion of the visit on 11 February by Andreas Mavrommatis to Iraq, the first by the UN human rights’ special rapporteur since 1992.
This “exploratory official visit” to Iraq did not include the Iraqi Kurdish-held region. In their letter to the UN official, the Kurdish organisations invited the UN official to investigate the Iraqi policy of displacement of Kurds and non-Arab minorities in the Kurdish regions which are under Iraqi control.
The Iraqi authorities have, in the past years, intensified the policy of displacement of Kurds and other non-Arab minorities with the view of Arabising the Kurdish regions they control, particularly the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk. Arab families from the South and centre of Iraq are settled in the region in the place of the Kurds who are expelled to the Kurdish-held areas or to Southern Iraq.
The Kurdish organisations deemed it “extremely necessary to examine the humanitarian situation in the region and investigate the [Iraqi government’s] campaign of forcible displacement of thousands of Iraqi families, Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians who live in the [Kurdish] regions which are under the control of the central power”. They added that “approximately 170,000 people have been displaced from their homes after having confiscated their official documents and properties; an act which is in breach of UN Resolutions 688 and 986 and of all the UN Resolutions regarding racism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
The organizations have also called upon the UN official to investigate the fate of the Kurdish civilians, who ”disappeared” in late 1980s, during the Iraqi Anfal campaign of Kurdish extermination, during the period February to September 1988, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
This campaign caused the death of thousands of civilians, men, women and children, killed by chemical and conventional weapons, the destruction of more of than 4000 villages and townships, the internment of more than 300,000 civilians in camps, put under the control of the Iraqi security services and the "disappearance" of hundrds of civilians: men, women and children, whose fate the Iraqi authorities refuse to reveal. Kurdish sources estimate the number of “disappeared” Kurdish civilians during Anfal campaign at over 180,000.
The Kurdish newspapers questioned why the UN official neglected the Kurdish region, where human rights violations have been widely committed by the Iraqi government, and is persuing a campaign of Arabisation of Kurdish territories.
On 28 January, Ayse Nur Zarakoglu, a Turkish intellectual committed to the defence of Human Rights, died of cancer at the Capa Hospital of the Instanbul University Medical Faculty, at the age of 56 years.
A stubborn woman, Ayse Nur founded the Belgé Publishing House with her husband Ragip, and, braving their bans and taboos, had published many forbidden works irritating to the sensitivities of the Kemalist regime. Amongst them were the books of the Kurdish sociologist, Ismail Besikçi, and the first book on the Armenian genocide. This tenacity earned her several jail sentences, but the couple’s obstinacy finally apid off since the book “Genocide” by the Amer5ican academic Vahak Dadrian and the translation of Franz Werfel’s “Musa Dagh” on the Armenian resistence were finally tolerated by the Turkish authorities.
In 1998, Ayse Nur received the International Association of Publisher’s Freedom Prize, in recognition of her courageous work as a publisher. Her death leave a great void in the little world of Turkish intellectuals who make the defence of minority rights their daily struggle.
Harmattan publishing has just brought out the third issue of the bi-annual research review “Études Kurdes”.
This issue contains :
Le debat sur l’identité ethnique des Alevis kurdes (Discussion on the ethnic identity of the Kurdish Alevis) by Martin Van Bruissen
Les Alevis et le courant protestant (XIXème – début Xxème) (The Alevis and the protestant trend (19th - early 20th Century)) by Hans-Lucas Kieser
A propos de la solidarity des intellectuels arabes (About the swolidarity of Arab intellectuals) by Riad Fahmi
Correspondence des frères Bedir-Khan et Pierre Rondot (Correspondence between the Bedir-Khan brothers and Pierre Rondot) by Hamit Bozarslan
Comptes rendus : Land and der Greenze et les massacres de Diyarbekir (Accounts : Land and der Greenze and the Diyarbekir massacres) by Hamit Bozarslan
All the issues of Études Kurdes are avilable on sale at the Kurdish Institute as well as at the Éditions Harmattan.
• THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS A RESOLUTION CALLING FOR THE ENDING OF PROCEEDINGS AGAINST HADEP. On 28 February, on the initiative of the GUE/NGL (United European Left/Northern Green Left) Group passed a resolution “on democratic rights in Turkey and, in particular, the situation of HADEP” calling for an end to the proceedings against the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP) “considering that it is acting in favour of the granting of civic rights to those of Kurdish origin in Turkey … (and that it) denies any organic links with the PKK or any other terrorist organisation”. The European Parliament “calls on the Turkish government to respect and protect all parties that use democratic means, respectful of the rule of law, to promote their political objectives, whatever their attitude to government policy”. The resolution “(also) expresses its concern at the increasing frequency of the banning of activities and political parties in Turkey ”.
On 1 March, the President of HADEP, Murat Bozlak, defended his party, threatened with banning, before the Turkish Constitutional Court. Arriving with six of his assistants, he himself defended his party before the Court, meeting in closed session, for over an hour. “The proceeding against us had been started in an atmosphere of conflict three years ago, and they lack any legal basis” he considered speaking to the Press at the end of the heqaring. He said he was “convinced” that they would be rejected by the Court.
The European Parliament, moreover, stressed that “the status being of a country applying for membership gives Turkey increased responsibilities and commitments regarding the European Union”. It “welcomes the ammendments to the Constitution which should lead to a partial lifting of restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language”, “insistantly calls for this action be proptly followed by other measures leading to a broad acceptance of the cultural aspirations of the Kurdish people and to the solution to the social, economic and political problems in South-Eastern Turkey, hopes tha the Turkish State will shortly guarantee the legitimate rights of all the minorities in Turkey”. Furthermore, this resolution “pressingly calls on the Turkish authorities to cease all other actions against the students who have asked that the Kurdish language be amongst the subject taught and release those who have been arrested”.
• THREE NEW BISHOPS APPOINTED IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. In the presence of the personal envoy of World Chaldeans Church to Iraqi Kurdistan, Archbishop Shlimon Wurduni, three new bishops were appointed last week in Iraqi Kurdistan, said Khabat newspaper on 8 February.
A grand ceremony was held on 6 February for the occasion at Mar Ethalaha Church in Duhok, and in the presence of religious communities’ representatives, political parties, regional government officials and local figures, said the newspaper.In a speech he made during the ceremony, Fadhil Mirani, representative of the leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party, Massoud Barzani, praised “the coexistence and cooperation between the different religious communities who live in Kurdistan region” and stressed that “the intellectual and religious diversity which exist on Iraqi Kurdistan region’s territory would be further developed”.
On the same day, the participants at the ceremony headed to Zakho where, bishop Poutros Haryouli, appointed as Duhok and Zakho bishop, in a special ritual ceremony held at Mar Gorgis church in Zakho.
On the following day, in similar ceremony, bishop Rabban Al-Qas, appointed as head of Amadiya Bishopric and another one, that the newspaper did not mention the name, was appointed in Al-Qosh.
The Christian community constitutes the second largest minority group in Iraqi Kurdistan, after the Turkomans. They have their own political parties, newspapers and are represented at the Kurdistan regional parliament with five seats and have officials, at the level of minister, in the Kurdish regional administration.
• WOMEN OCCUPY IMPORTANT POSITIONS, SAYS THE FIRST WOMAN JUDGE APPOINTED IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. Women have been able to occupy important administrative positions in the past years in Iraqi Kurdistan, said Kamila Ali Salim, the first woman judge in Iraqi Kurdistan, appointed in May 1997, at Duhok civil court.
In an interview with the daily Brayati newspaper on 19 February, Judge Kamila Ali Salim said Iraqi Kurdish women’s “role is noticeable as university professor, researcher, journalist, head of administration, and minister at the regional government, practising their job along with men”.
In an earlier interview with Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch, Ms Nasreen Sideek, Minister of Reconstruction and Development in the Arbil-based Kurdistan regional government said, “More than 40% of my work force is women including engineers, computer operators, technician and administration staff.”
Early this year, the Suleimaniya-based regional government appointed the second woman judge, and was the first political authority in the Middle East to abolish the law on “honour crimes”, to consider it as any other crime punishable by law, following pressures from local women organizations.
“Honour crime” is committed by male members of the family against females of the same family, for adultery or for having relation before marriage.
“Honour” crimes are committed mainly among the rural population and towns people of rural origin. The dramatic deterioration in the social and economic situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, after the 1991 uprising, is believed to have largely contributed to its increase.
“In addition to other social issues, like condition of children, youth, emigration and displaced people, the Kurdish political authorities, alarmed by the deterioration of women conditions, took measures at legal and social levels” said Ms Narmeen Qaradaghi, lawyer at Arbil Court.
In a statement to our web site, Narmeen Qaradaghi said “several old Iraqi laws on women status have been amended in favour of women by the Kurdish judicial authorities, and other new laws are under discussion to be passed for vote in the [Iraqi] Kurdistan [regional] parliament”.
Following talks for several days between Kurdish regional parliament representatives and local women organizations, the parliamentary committee of protection of women’s rights was set early last year.
“There are numerous social and women organizations working mainly on the awareness of women on their social and legal situation. It is a good start, but still long way to go”, said Narmeen Qaradaghi.
• AT THE DEMAND OF THE POLICE, THE TURKISH MINISTRY OF CULTURE BANS THE FILM THAT HAD RECEIVED THE MOST AWARDS IN TURKEY. The Turkish High Control Committee of Films, Video and Music decided, on 28 February, to ban the film that had been most highly praised and received the most awards of the year — on the demand of the Police Directorate. The grounds are “attacks on the territorial and national integrity of the country”. “Büyük adam, küçük ask”(Great man, little live” has been showing for over five months and had won awards in five classes, including that of Best Film, at the Golden Orange Festival, (the Turkish equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival). The film had also won a grant from the Turkish Ministry of Culture of 20,700€ and a credit of 16,600€ from the same Ministry. it is also amongst the favourites as Turkey’s entry for the Oscar.
The report of the Police Directorate, dated 26 December 2001, notes that “the film shows extrajudicial executions by the police, displays a chauvinist attitude to the Kurdish identity and language, undermines the feeling of confidence in the security bodies and shows parallels with separatist propaganda”.
Questioned by the press, Istemihan Talay, Minister of Culture, declined all responsibility for it, stressing that it was due to the High Committee,composed of seven members, including a member of the General Secretariat of the National Security Council (MGK), a representative of the Ministries of the Interior, National Education and Culture, while recognising that the representative of his own Ministry had voted for banning the film. The President of the Authors’ Copyright Bureau, Güney Görmez, on the other hand, recognised that the fact that the film, in its foreign export version is called “Hejar“, the Kurdish first name of the film’s main character, was one of the reasons for the Ministry’s irritation.
“Hejar” (Poor) is the story of a little girl who only speaks Kurdish, and who is looked after by a family in a big city after the execution of her parents by the Turkish police. The film tells the story of the sympathy and tenderness of a retired Turkish public prosecutor and Hejar.
• EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF TORTURE DEATH OF YOUNG KURD. On 14 February, the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of the death of a young Kurd, who died in 1993 after having been tortured by the Security Forces. Abdulselam Orak died in 25 June 1993 at the age of 25, two weeks after his arrest by the Turkish Security Forces who suspected him of being involved in activity with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The Turkish government explained that the young man, who died from head injuries, had tried to escape and was wounded in the struggle that followed.
"The government provides no plausible explanation for the areas of bruising that appear on, amongst others, the arms, thighs, the soles of his feet and his shoulders, nor for the scratches on his genitals or the causes of the cerebral haemorrhage that apparently caused his death " noted the Court in giving its verdict. The Court stresses that Abdulselam was in good health before his arrest and that he was only transferred to the hospital, in a coma, "six days after the alleged attempt to escape ".
Turkey was found guilty of violation of Art. 2 (Right to life), of Art. 3 (forbidding any torture) and Art. 13 (Right to effective legal recourse) of the European Human Rights Convention.
The government will also have to pay 68,500 Euros to the victim's heirs and 4,000 Euros to his father, the plaintiff, for moral and material damages.
• CHILDREN INTERROGATED FOR PARTICIPATION IN RIGHTS COMPETITION. On 18 February, the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) stated that children of between 7 and 14 had been interrogated by inspectors of the Ministry of Education for having participated in a competition run by the IHD in Diyarbekir. "The enquiry was opened at the begining of February and is continuing " specified Muharrem Erbay, of the IHD office in Diyarbekir, who revealed that "the children's phychology has been serious affected. The have been interrogated as if they had committed a crime by making innicent drawings and essays ".
Some 300 children had taken part, in December 2001, in a competition of drawings and essays to mark Human Rights Week. Twemty children and about forty teachers have been interrogated by inspectors on their reasons for taking part in IHD's competition instead of the one organised by the governor. The local authorities refused to make the slightest comment.
However, IHD had received the local Council's permission to organise this competition and to publicise it through posters.
• 59 HADEP MEMBERS ARRESTED IN A MONTH. On 11 February, the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HADEP) announced that fifty-nine of its members had been arrested in several Turkish towns in the course of a month for having supported a wide campaign in support of the teaching of Kurdish in schools and Universities. This campaign began in November and thousands of students have been pulled in for questioning in Turkey for having signed petitions to this end. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit categorically opposed any teaching in Kurdish in Turkey. "It's impossible " he said, particularly denouncing "the manoeuvres of certain European countries aiming at dividing Turkey "
The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, demands of it more cultural rights for its Kurdish population, particularly in the areas of Television and education in Kurdish.
• LOCAL TELEVISION NETWORK BANNED FOR 365 DAYS FOR HAVING BROADCAST LOVE SONG BY KURDISH MUSICIAN SIVAN PERWER. On 11 February, the Turkish High Audiovisual Council (RTUK) announced its decision to ban a Diyarbekir TV network for a year for "broadcasts of a nature to support the PKK ". According to the network's officials, the RTUK took this decision because GUN TV had broadcast a song by the Kurdish musician Sivan Perwer, which, however, only spoke of love. The RTUK will later announce the dates on which its decision will take effect.
Since its creation in 1994, the RTUK has, according to official's figures, already suspended, for varying periods, over 500 radio and TV networks.
• PKK ANNOUNCES "TRANSFORMATION", INCLUDING HALT TO ALL ACTIVITIES UNDER ITS PRESENT NAME. According to the 9 February issue of the pro-Kurdish paper, Ozgur Politika, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has decided to stop all its activities under its present name, in Turkey and Europe, to advance towards a legal platform. "Our Party's assembly considers it necessary to stop all political, organisational and practical activity under the PKK label in the territory of the Turkish Republic and the countries of the European Union" stresses a communiqué published at the end of a PKK meeting held at the end of January (probably on the Iraqi-Iranian borders) Ozgur Politika indicated. This decision is part of the strategy of "restructuring and transforming" the PKK into a legal political organisation, the communiqué said.
According to this statement, the PKK calls on its members in Europe to continue to work with groups affiliated to the PKK and urges its members in Turkey to organise themselves "in conformity with the decisions of the leadership" of the party. The document stresses that the efforts of "transformation", including the abandoning of the name “PKK” will be "finalised" at the PKK's 8th Congress, whose date has not been specified, but which should take place in the course of the year.
Furthermore, the PKK accuses Turkey of wanting to oppose all changes in the world and turning a deaf ear to Kurdish claims. "The present structure of Turkey is contrary to the realities of the 21st Century and to democratic civilisation", according to the communiqué. It states that the Kurdish people's "patience" for a settlement of the Kurdish conflict has "limits", warning the Turkish authorities who have rejected the previous PKK calls for peace.
The PKK, moreover, supports the demonstrations organised in Turkey calling for Kurdish language teaching which the Turkish leaders categorically oppose. "We will never abandon our humanitarian demands" the document adds. The campaign to demand teaching in Kurdish began in November in Istanbul University where hundreds of Kurdish students have signed petitions to this effect, and the movement has spreads to other establishments. The Turkish authorities consider the movement as part of the PKK's determination to politicise itself.
Some people do not hesitate to consider that this decision presages the approaching dissolution of the PKK, which has waged a 15-year guerrilla struggle against the Turkish State for the creation of an independent Kurdish State in Kurdistan.
• TURKISH POLITICIANS DEBATE "POLITICISATION OF PKK", WHILE KURDISH M.P.S REMAIN JAILED FOR “THOUGHT CRIMES”. On 25 Fenruary, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Omer Izgi, categorically opposed a "politicisation" of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) indicating that there was no place in the Turkish political horizon for a "terrorist organisation ". "The PKK is a terrorist organisation that has asserted itself by actions aimed at dividing the country " he said in reply to another Minister last week. "It is impossible for an organisation like the PKK, that reflects its will to act in terrorist actions, could have any place in Turkish political life ", Mr. Izgi declared.
The Minister of State for Customs, Mehmet Kececiler, member of the influential Motherland Party (ANAP) which is part of the three-party coalition government, had indicated, in statements that appeared on 21 February in the Turkish press, that his party "would beat " the PKK in the Kurdish provinces in the event of its presenting candidates at the next General Election. This debate is taking place at a time when Leyla Zana and her three fellow MPs of the pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP) are still in Ankara prison after eight years for crimes of opinion, and when the Turkish authorities refuse to discuss the release of these elected representatives.
The ANAP, whose chief, Mesut Yilmaz is Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European affairs, camapaigns for Turkey to rapidly join the European Union and so adopts a more moderate approach to the granting of cultural rights to the Kurds — to the great anger on the National Action Party (neo-fascist), also a coalition party, of which Mr. Izgi is a member.
However, observers do not seem to be fooled by his declarations, especially as the opinion polls give less than 10% of voting intentions to ANAP and is seeking to attract the Kurds. In any case Mehmet Keçeciler, who represents the Islamist-conservative wing of his party, backed off his statements the very next day, insisting that he had been "misunderstood", and that, in anycase, he had only expressed a personal opinion that in no way committed the party. "If you question the coalition government partners they will tell you that the next elections will be in April 2004 but the present political manoeuvres of the members of the coalition suggest that the elections will be sooner than we think " wrote Ilnur Çevik, editorial writer of the English language Turkish Daily News on 27 February.
• ITALIAN AUTHORITIES ACCUSE TURKEY OF TURNING A BLIND EYE TO ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING IN PEOPLE. Eighty-four Iraqi Kurds were found in a refrigerated lorry on a ferry arriving from Patrai (Greece) and going to Ancona (Central Italy) according to the local daily Corriere Adriatico of 18 February. The illegal immigrants were discovered the day before, during the sea crossing by the crew of the ferry, the Superfast II, who warned the carrabiniere (national armed police). These Kurds had been obliged to pay the smugglers over 1000 euros per head, according to the local paper, which stressed that it was one of the largest attempts to land immigrants anyone remembered in Ancona, apart from a boat load of Albanians in 1990.
Over 20,000 illegal immigrants landed in Italy last year and repartiation procedures undertaken of people without papers concerned over 75,000, according to figgures provided by a Ministry of the Interior official, Alfredo Mantovano, who accused Turkey. "The real problem is to avoid that derelict boats be filled in the Turkish ports of Istanbul and Smyrna, under the eyes of the a police force that knows how to be very efficient when its wants to be. Theyn then set sail for Europe, and especially for Italy, passing through Greek territorial waters without much difficulty " he stated.
Furthermore, a Greek fishing boat carrying 131 illegal immigrants, mostly Kurds, ran aground at Karystos. In their first statements, the immigrants indicated that the smugglers had picked them up on the Turkish coast, According to the coastguards, they included 8 women and 12 children.
• DIPLOMATIC TENSION BETWEEN TURKEY AND THE EUROPEAN UNION. The Turkish Workers' Party (IP - "Left" ultra nationalist), through its President Dogu Perinçek, has made public the contents of some e-mail correspondence by Karen Fogg, European Union representative in Turkey. Stating that he possessed 300 e-mail messages from Mrs Fogg, D. Perinçek accused the E.U. representative of "espionage " and demanded that she be declared persona non grata in Turkey. For her part, Karen Fogg has tabled a complaint on this matter to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which seems highly embarrassed at giving an explanation.
• THE KURDISH INSTITUTE OF ISTAMBUL CLOSED BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR. The Kurdish Institute of Istanbul, a private foundation publishing Kurdish magazines and teaching the Kurdish language, was closed down by a police operation on February 28. Its director, Hasan Kaya, explained that, although charges against him concerning private instruction had been dismissed, his establishment was summarily closed solely on the order of the governor of Istanbul with no official notification.
HADEP (People's Democracy Party, — pro-Kurdish) is demanding that this “anti-democratic” decision be immediately reversed.
• TURKISH ARMY ANNOUNCES MINE CLEARING OF SYRIAN BORDER. On 25 February, the Turkish Army General Staff announced that a mine-clearance programme on the Turco-Syrian border would be launched at a cost of $35 million over a five year period. The border, which is 877 Km long, includes the Kurdish towns of Mardin, Urfa, Antp, Kilis, and Hatay will thus be cleared of mines, according to the Turkish Army, which has already received a budget of 15 trillion Turkish lire (12 million euros) to this end. “With the mine clearence, an area of 350,000 ares will be available for irrigation. The cotton fields which will replace the minefields should produce 160,000 tonnes of crops, that is 64, trillion Turkish lire (52.5 million euros) in annual revenue” declared the Member of Parliament for Urfa, Nehmet Yalçinkaya when the project was announced.
• TURKISH HUMOUR ? : FIRST ICO-EU FORUM ON CULTURAL DIVERSITY HELD IN ISTANBUL. European diplomats are not lacking in a sense of humour — nor hypocrisy Although the first Ministerial level Forum between the Islamic Conference Organisation (ICO) and the European Union (EU), held in Istanbul from 12 to 13 February, reached a superficial consensus regarding the importance of “tolerance” and of “mutual understanding between cultures” and insisted that “the resurgence of deep-rooted prejudices” should be avoided — yet Ankara still rejects any dialogue with the culture and civilisation of its 15 million Kurdish citizens going even so far as to ban private lessons in Kurdish or the broadcasting of songs.
The Forum “restates its firm conviction that cultures, in their diversity, are complementary and strengthen one another”. Ismail Cem, Turkish Foreign Minister also declared, in closing the forum, that “this meeting constitutes a message of hope” and that it had “achieved its objective of bringing the two organisations together, which constitutes an encouragement of peace and stability”. Meanwhile, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (THIV), in its report on Human Rights in Turkey for the year 2001, revealed that “pressures have intensified in 2001”. Yavuz Onen, THIV President, stated “a change of philosophy is needed. The existing project is to create a society with no differences. The system requires only one religion, one language, and one national identity. It cannot tolerate cultural variety. People of different origins should be able to live in a democratic environment”. Let us hope that the “spirit of Istanbul” will inspire Ankara Not one European Minister thought it appropriate to reveal the grotesque nature of the situation and invite the host government to respect, on its own soil, this diversity of cultures.
• MORE THAN A TON OF MORPHINE, BOUND FOR EUROPE VIA TURKEY, SEIZED. On 7 February, the Iranian police seized 1.2 tonnes of morphine which was been transported to Europe via Turkey. “The morphine, seized a week ago on two lorries in Teheran, came from the Southern part on the province of Khorassan and was intended to go to Europe via Turkey” the Assistant Chief of the Teheran Police, Ghader Karimi, indicated. According to Mr. Karimi, this quantity of morphine has a sale value of “$ 8.75 million abroad”.
Iranian territory is a major route for the transit of drugs, which enter Iraq for local consumption but are also destined to Europe, Central Asia and, increasingly, to the countries of the Persian Gulf. The Islamic Republic of Iran represents 80% of the total quantity of opium and 90% of the morphine seized in the world. According to year 2000 report of the International Drug Control Organisation. Iran imposes the death sentence for any person found in possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or more than 5 Kg of opium.
• REPORTS ON CONTACTS BETWEEN JUND AL-ISLAM AND IRAQI AUTHORITIES. The Kurdish Islamic armed group, Jund al-Islam has been operating in concert with Iraqi intelligence services, said the Kurdish newspaper Tima on 19 February.
“There is an established history of cooperation and coordination between the two. Arab recruits to Jund Al Islam came from Baghdad and Mosul with the knowledge of the Iraqi authorities” said the newspaper.
Jund al-Islam, or Solders of Islam, was established on 1 September of this year, controlled two Iraqi Kurdish townships on the Iranian border and declared war on Iraqi Kurdish secular ruling parties. On 23 September, they attacked and slaughtered more than 40 fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, which led to a wide range armed confrontation between both sides.
Jund al-Islam was reported, by PUK officials and London-based Arabic newspapers, to have Afghan Arabs in their ranks, as well as Kurds who served in Afghanistan and Chachnya. It was also reported that the group was financed by Al-Qa’ida organization and its members were trained in Afghanistan.
Earlier, in November last year, a Kurdish official told “Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch” that Iraqi Kurds received information on contacts between Jund al-Islam and Iraqi authorities. See our news bulletin dated 18 November 2001 and our editorial dated 2 October 2001.
Recently the group changed its name into Ansar al-Islam, or Supporter of Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan, after a merger with Mala Krekar Islamic military group. Ansar al-Islam held talks with the PUK leadership in order to settle their differences. The PUK deemed it necessary that the Arab nationals leave Kurdistan, and that the group stops to be a radical and military organization and should abide by the regional government’s laws.
In another development, the body of Abu Abdul-Raham, a founding member of Jund al-Islam in Kurdistan and, reportedly, the personal envoy of Usama bin Laden was handed over to his relatives in Biara township in Iraqi Kurdistan, a few miles from the Iranian borders, said Tima newspaper.
It said that Abu Abdul-Rahman was killed in November last year when the Suleimaniya-based regional government’s forces launched a campaign to dislodge Jund Al Islam group.
“Abu Abdul-Rahman was a graduate of Al Qa’ida training camp in Kandahar, in Afghanistan and was considered as an expert in explosives. Usama bin Laden had dispatched him specifically to Kurdistan in order to supervise the formation and organization of the Al Qaeda affiliate Jund Al Islam” said the PUK Kurdistan.
THE CONFESSIONS OF A “GOOD COP”: GLAD “TO HAVE KILLED MANY KURDS ”. On 10 February the Turkish daily Hurriyet published an interview with the Ayhan Çarkin, a member of the Turkish Special Forces (TIM), one of the rare persons to be sentenced in connection with the Susurluk scandal. “Ayhan Çarkin, member of the Turkish Special Forces, sentenced for Susurluk, reveals the biggest mistake: the State should never have brought us down from the mountains” headlined Hurriyet unflinchingly. Indeed, the editorial by its Editor in Chief, Ertugrul Ozkok, on the next day was an all out plea in favour of A. Carkin. “All countries have recourse to legitimate people like this ... A country enjoying an unfortunate geography will need such men again in the future” writes E. Ozkok. Here are extensive extracts from the interview with Ayhan Çarkin.
“I am not a mercenary, I am a State official ... In the East, in the south-east, I was in the fights and the operations ... in all these we opened fire. That was my mission ... It is this country that brought me up. I am a product of this State ... The things we did in the South-East were not murders. The conditions were balanced. In front of us were people who were betraying the country ... Of course, we also formed our own defence mechanisms. The Turkish Republic gave us the authority to do this. But we have not succeeded in explaining this ... There may be gangs inside the State but I don't believe it. The real criminal gangs are those who wrote this in their report ... the politicians ... Thanks to this report, all the terrorist organisations will be able to ask for political asylum in European countries...
In the name of an honest society, there are some people who want to cover us with mud. I am proud of all the services I have performed ... First and foremost, Mehmet Eymur (Editor's Note: former senior officer of the political police) should also have been amongst those accused. He said that he knew Abdullah Çatli, that he knew that he was guilty and when he was asked whether he knew that it was an offence to give official missions to criminals he retorted that that was a State secret and that he couldn't answer ... We are policemen of the Turkish Republic, policemen of the State ... There is only one State — there are many governments ... Let history be our judge.
I have never refused any mission. The idea never crossed my mind ... I have often asked myself questions ... Yes, I have killed many people. I was my mission, my job. I did not hesitate one second ... If I had died, what would have happened? Would I have been hailed as a hero, instead of found guilty as I am today? There were days when I couldn't stand any more. I felt as if I was dead ... The operations were so hard. We didn't come down from the mountains for months on end ... I was not a good husband or a good father ... But I was a good policeman! The State awarded me between 300 and 350 distinctions. Even when I was at the gates of the prison I was awarded a prize ... What we went through went beyond anything you could imagine in films...
It was during operations that I felt at my best. Even today, I would like to return to the mountains. I was one of the ten people most involved in all the operations in that region ... Expect any pity from me? There is nothing that could make me happier than to kill them over there. I would kill them without turning a hair ... Call me a Rambo but never a mercenary ... In the south-east I kept my eyes open and found myself in fights. In Istanbul it was still the same: I took part in 50 clashes. I was trained for that. The work I know best are the operations ... But one cannot do anything without orders from above. In the last resort, even as member of the special forces, you are only just State official N° 657. My director in Diyarbekir was Huseyin Kocadag ... Ibrahim Sahin was the office manager, I received my orders from him ... We were the last links in the chain. What upsets me most is that I was sentenced by a State Security Court”. (Editor's Note: The new reform of the Turkish penal code takes responsibility for banditry away from the State Security Courts and passes it to the ordinary criminal courts. However this clause was vetoed by the President at the first reading).