JalalTalabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two principle parties of Iraqi Kurdistan, during his visit to Ankara, expressed, on 5 March, his support for a democratic change of the Iraqi regime. stating he was “concerned” for the unity of that country in the event of an extension of the American anti-terrorist struggle. “We are in favour of a united, democratic and independent Iraq. We support strengthening the unity of Iraq and are opposed to its division” he declared. Mr. Talabani indicated t6hat his party would welcome foreign support for a “fundamental democratic change” of the Iraqi regime through the countries progressive forces but would oppose “conspiratorial plots”. “If you want to replace one dictator by another, we are againt it” he said, stressing that “We are firstly Iraqis, and then Iraqi Kurds”.
This visit to Turkey having given rise to polemics in the Turkish press and gave rise to criticisms in certain Arab countries, including Syria. To attempt to dissipate them, the Kurdish leader visited Damascus. Thus, on 14 March, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, raised the question of American threats against Iraq with Jalal Talabani. “Messrs. Assad and Talabani examined matters regarding Iraq and particularly American threats against Baghdad” specified the SANA Press Agency. Mr. Talabani also met the Syrian Vice-President, Abdel Halim Khaddam and the Assistant General Secretary of the country’s ruling Baas Party, Abdallah al-Ahmar, according to those close to him.
On 12 March, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also denied news items appearing in the Arab Press regarding a reconnaisance mission recently carried out by the American Army in Northern Iraq. Quoting Iraqi opposition sources, the London-based Arabic language daily Al-Hayat had reported that more than 40 American officers and experts had stayed about ten days in Iraqi Kurdistan, inspecting military installations and positions there, including two airfields, in the context of “preparations for military operations in Iraq”.
Since the investiture of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria has opted for a normalisation of its relations with Baghdad aqnd the news of fresh American intervention in Iraq worries Damascus. The opposition Iraqi parties no longer favoured in Syria.
The previous month the US President, G.W. Bush, had identified Iraq as one of the three components of an “axis of evil” (along with Iran and North Korea) that continued to threaten world peace. Turkey, the only Moslem country that is a member of Nato and a US ally, fears that an attack against its Southern ally would aggravate its crisis ridden economy and the destabilisation of Iraq would allow the creation of an indepentent Kurdish State in the North of the country.
On 19 March, Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, arrived from Damascus for a second visit in less than two weeks, to raise with the Turkish authorities a change in the Iraqi regime. In Ankara, Mr. Talabani met the Turkish Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ugur Ziyal. His visit also co-incided with that of US Vice-President Dick Cheney.
In an interview published on 17 March by the London-based Arab language daily Al Hayat, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) did not exclude a change of regime in Iraq before 11 September next. “The US Administration is determined to change the regime in Iraq, we were told by senior officials we met in Washington. I think that a change will take place before the first aniversary of the tragic event” stated Mr. Talabani, referring to the 11 September terroist attacks in the United States. “I also think that the conflict between Washington and Baghdad is deeper than just the return of the (diarmament) inspectors to Iraq” stated Mr. Talabani.
THE demonstrations to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, degenerated into a riot in Mersin, a Turkish city with a very strong Kurdish community, causing two deaths and 61 injured. One demonstrator was crushed against a wall by a police armoured car in the course of violent clashes which resulted in 61 people being injured — 41 police and 20 demonstrators — and 81 being taken in for questioning. The man killed was 34 years of age and, according to the Turkish authorities, in the middle of a crowd shouting slogans in support of the Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to the Antalya Press Agency, another man, 39 years of age, was also crushed to death at Mersin — though without giving any details…
The demonstrators refused to disperse and the police, after firing in the air, went into action with water canons and tear gas bombs.
However, Newroz demonstrations were authorised for third year running in the Kurdish provinces, except for Bitlis, but banned in Istanbul and Mersin. No deaths had occurred in these last years. In Istanbul, 354 people were taken in for questioning by the police, mostly during a demonstration in the Topkapi quarter, the European part of the city, organised by the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP).
In Diyarbekir, some 5,000 police were mobilised for this celebration, authorised from 10.00 am to 15.00 (3.00 pm) in the local fairground about a dozen miles ouitside the city. Several hundreds of thousands (a million according to the organisers) faced the rain, the police road blocks and the warnings of the police top brass, firmly to celebrate, with plenty of music and peaceful speeches, this festival that has become the symbol of Kurdish nationalism. The forbidden Kurdish colours of red, yellow and green were everywhere to be seen in the crowd. “Be certain that our demands will be achieved in days to come” declared the Mayor of Diyarbekir. After having lit the symbolic Newroz bonfire, the HADEP President, Murat Bozlak, for his part, expressed the hope of living “in brotherhood” with the rest of the Turkish population. He called on the authorities to include the PKK activists in an amnesty to put an end to any vague tendencies to seccessionism. “There are still young men under arms in the mountains, act so that they may lay them down permanently” he declared.
The famous Turkish singer, Sezen Aksu ended the celebrations with a series of Kurdish songs before the crowd dispersed.
ON 19 March Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, arrived in Turkey at the end of his tour of 11 Near Eastern countries to sound the US’s regional allies on the subject of Iraq. On 12 March, Baghdad had launched a bitter attack on him, describing him as a “crimi-nal” and calling on the Arab countries to prevent this attack on Iraq.
The American Vice met the Turkish Premier, Bulent Ecevit, the President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu. Although a close ally within NATO, Turkey expressed its opposition to any US attack on Iraq, essentially for fear of the conflict spreading over the Northern borders, which straddle the “Kurdish countriside”.
The US Armed Forces already uses a Turkish base for its air surveillance of Iraqi Kurdistan. But it would need Ankara’s agreement to launch attacks against that country from Turkish territory, strategically placed for such operations.
The Kurdish region, drain and exhausted, implored the American Vice-President, Dick Cheney, to take into account their serious economic problems, due to repeated regional crises. “This uncertainty over an intervention in Iraq is, in itself, very damaging for us” explained the President of the Diyarbekir Chamber of Trade and Industry, Kudbettin Arzu. “We do not want an attack on Iraq, but it is being said that war would be no worse than the danger of war — the investors avoid us, unemployment is increasing, our industrial equipment is only working at 40% of its capacity, the region is on its knees” Mr. Arzu observed. After reflection, those involved in the region’s economic life finish by agreeing that their problems come from the Saddam Hussein’s misdeeds and that his replacement could do less harm than his maintenance in power. “Of course we do not want instability of our neighbours, but it would be better if certain dictatorial and totalitarian regimes disappeared” admitted Kudbettin Arzu. Bedrettin Karaboga, whose firm is on the edge of bankruptcy, was even more direct when he adressed the American leader : “If you’re going to strike, then strike. Otherwise let us trade in peace. This situation must come to an end”.
Mr. Cheney said that he had had “frank discussion” about Iraq but that “the United States would not forecast its decisions on the matter”. Al-Iraq considered that the co-incidence between his visit and that of the US mediator in the Near East, Anthony Zinni, was “a new manœuvre” by Washington designed to “calm the situation in Pal estine” and concert “its agressive project” against Iraq.
ON 18th March, the Monica, an old tramp cargo boat carrying over a thousand Kurdish passengers arrived at Catania (Sicily), unleaching a controversy over the effectiveness of the new Italian legislation against illegal immigration. The boat, flying the San Tomé flag, is said to have left Lebanon about a week earlier and been intercepted during the night following a tip off from the French Navy. On board were about 500 men, 300 women and 200 children. The passengers claim to be Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, according to information from the Italian authorities.
When it was boarded by the Italian Navy during the night, some passengers and members of the Monica’s crew threatened to “throw children into the sea” out of fear of being sent back. After being assured that they were in Italian territorial waters, the illegal immigrants let the Customs Officers climb aboard. But the crew, who had wrecked the engines, tried to hide amongst the passengers, forcing the Italian authorities to tow it in. Five people, one of whom was a woman, suspected of being part of the crew, were arrested on arrival in port at Catania, and the boat was confiscated by the Italiam courts.
One woman passenger went into labour during the night, helped by a naval doctor and shortly after was transported by helicopter to Catania hospital with her baby. Two other pregnant women were also taken to hospital. The other Monica passengers were temporarily housed in a the town’s sports gymnasiumm thendirected to reception centres on the mainland.
According to their evidence, they had paid between $ 2,000 and 4,000 per head for the journey. This fresh landing of illegal immigrants has pushed the government to consider decreeing a State of Emergency on the island so as better to tackle this phenomenon. Last week experienced a tragic case of illegal immigration when some fifty people died in a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa.
Lebanon appears to be one of the main take-off points for “boat people” aiming at going to Germany. The Monica is the second boat in a bit more than a year to carry hundrds of Syrian Kurds who had boarded in the Lebanon to be seized off the coast of a country of the European Union. On 17 Febnruary 2001, the East Sea, a tramp cargo boat flying a Cambodian flag ran aground with some 900 illegal immigrants aboard, off the French Côte d’Azur coast, on Boulouris Beach, St. Raphael (Var) had also come from the Lebanon, probably from a point close to the Syrian-Lebanese border. According to the French investigators, the East Sea passengers, in a pitiful state of health, had been grouped together in the Lebanon. In both cases, hundreds of children had been taken aboard. This makes Lebanon a major route for the traffic of Kurdish “boat people”, including whole families. But it is not the only one. Turkey and Syria are equally implicated. “Even when they don’t originate from Syria itself, Kurds coming from Turkey and Iraq have to cross Syrian territory” observe3d a European diplomatic source.
The reinforcing of Italian legislation in the direction of greater repressiveness, does not seem to have dissuaded the still more numerous candidates from braving extreme conditions, often at the risk of their lives. The Italian authorities have secured a meeting of the Interior Ministries of the European Union in Rome for 30 May, specially devoted to this problem, in the course of which the creation of a European border force will be discussed.
“The journeys of illegal immigrants to Italy are organised by Turkish and Albanian criminal organisations” the Italian Intelligence services accuse in their latest six-monthly report, made public last week. Their rings take charge of the candidates who have come from Asia and the Near East, but also from Alabia and other Balkan countries, stresses the report.
Over 20,000 illegal immigrants landed in Italy last year, according to figures provided by one of the Under-Secretaries of the Interior, Alfredo Mantovano. Between September and October 2001, four boats with between 250 and 400 Kurds on board, arrived in the Southern part of the peninsula. In April of that year, another boat with 600 passengers from Turkey docked in the port of Gallipoli, in Apulia.
Polarisation between Euro-sceptics and pro-Europeans is in full swing following a statement by the all-powerful General Secreary of the National Security Council (MGK) General Tuncer Kilinç. On 7 March the general declared that “Turkey seens no support from the European Union on questions of national interest. Russia is also rather isolated. I think that, without neglecting the United States, and with our eyes wide open, we owe it to ourselves to start a new search, including Iran”. Speaking in a symposium organised by the War Academy Command, General Kilinç indicated that he was only expressing his “personal opinion”. But observers note that his remarks will be taken as indicative of a certain school of thought within the Army, bringing to light the anxieties of its conservative wing that thinks that the reforms of harmonisation undertaken in order to join the European Union could endanger Turkey’s territorial unity and integrity — or, more prosaically, reduce the military hierarchy’s domination over the countries political life.
The general’s remarks appeared as a direct reply to Mesut Yilmaz, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for European affairs in the coalitioon government, who had, in an interview given to the magazine Tempo of 6 March, called for a referendum to decide whether or not Turkey should join the European Union, in the hope that massive YES vote would put pressure on the conservative Eurosceptics. Mesut Yilmaz had also accused his coalition partner, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the National Action Party (MHP — neo-fascist) of “hiding behind the Army” in his opposition to the reforms needed for EU membership. Devlet Bahçeli had then retorted that Mesut Yilmaz was playing “a dangerous game”.The Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Huseyin Kivrikoglu, for his part, declared, in an interview given to the Defence and Aviation Revue that “the European Union is a geopolitican obligation” at the same time accusing the European counties of supporting “terrorist actions against Turkey”.
The debate is getting increasingly acrimonious as the Turkey’s mid-March deadline for short term compliance with E.U. requirements approaches.
“ There are thus three possibilities. Either there has been a change in the Army’s feelings and they now oppose the EU ; or they have always been against it because it conflicts with their influence over the country — General Kilinç expresses this openly. The third possibility is that there is a split in the Army between the Eurosceptics and the pro-Europeans… ” wrote Ilnur Çevik, Director of the English languiage daily Turkish Daily News.
Cuneyt Ulsever simply wrote in his column of 12 March, in the same paper, that “thanks to General Kilinç, the anti-E.U. lobby os now much clearer!” and adds “I am very glad that the General has clarified one question. We all feel that there are anti-E.U. elements in the government, the Army and the Civil Service, but hitherto they had been ashamed to express their “anti opinions”… In fact, the Army and the bureaucrats would lose their privilaged position in the country if Turkey completely conformed to the Copenhagen criteria. In a country where at least 60% of the economy is controlled by the State apparatus, the Civil Service and the Army enjoy considerable privilages… The army enjoys another privilage that could be described as “supervision of political affairs”.”
“It’s a farce… I have just one question to ask our Ataturkists who, finding the conditions too onerous, are opposing EU membership : Do you think that Iran would accept us ?… Iran would never want you unless you adopted the Sharia laws on punioshment, business, inheritance and property. In brief, even the Iranian mullahs have their conditions… Why don’t you have the courage to say that you don’t want to join the EU? ” commented Bekir Coskun in the daily Hurriet of 12 March.
The same paper, Hurriyet, drew up, on 11 March, a strange balance sheet : “the proposal of Russia and Iran against the EU made by MGK General Secretary, General Yuncer Kilinç was the subject of 91 editorials in the press — in 46 he was criticised and in 26 he was supported”.
After the pacification of Kurdistan, the Turkish autho-rities are now engaging in the purification and the “Turki-sation” of the registry office records. Kurdish first names might endanger the fragile “Turkish national unity” !
According to the daily Ozgur Politika of 3 March, on the basis of a complaint dated 21 December 2001 by the Gendarmes of Dicle, attached to the Diyarbekir High Court, seven Kurdish families have been ordered to “Turkify” the Kurdish first names, considered to be “inappropriate”, of their 23 children, aged between one and 15 years of age. Thus, on the basis of a circular from the Turkish Ministry of the Interior, the commander of the Dicle gendarmerie screened all the Registry Office records from 1985 to 2001, to weed out all the incriminating first names : Berivan ( milkmaid), Zilan (valley), Rojda (luminous), Baver (confident), Welat (country), Serhat (border), Kendal (hill), Zinar (rock), Hebun (to exist), Baran (rain), Rojhat (dawn), Agit (brave), Zelal (clear), Zozan (mountain meadow).
The Dicle Public Prosecutor, Alpaslan Karabay, accepting the gendarmerie’s argument that these first names were being used as code names by PKK fighters, and based himself on Article 1587 clause 16 of the Civil Register Code that lays down that “the child’s first name is given by the parents. But names that endanger our national culture, morals, or customs or offend public opinion cannot be given”.
“People called Deniz (Editors Note : reference to a leader of an extreme Left organisation, hanged in 1972) and Alpaslan (Editors Note : reference to Alpaslan Turkes, founder of the extreme Right, neo-fascist party, and also, incidentally that of the Public Prosecutor in question) have managed to live together peacefully. Lets hope that Turkish law frees itself of this shameful paranoia about names …” wrote Enis Berberoglu in the Turkish daily Radikal of 4 March.“The Court of Appeals, in two different rulings dated 1989 and 1992 respectively, had invalidated decisions to cancel the first names of Berfin, in one case, and Rojda in the other” recalls for his part Turgit Tarhanli in the 5 March issue of the same paper.
Furthermore, the Diyarbekir gendarmerie command, on 11 March, applied to the Public Prosecutor to ban 600 Kurdish names. “As a State we opposed such a proceedings 15 years ago. At the time of Todor Jivkov, Turks living in Bulgaria were obliged to “Bulgarise” their names. We then conducted a great Human Rights campaign. Aziz Nesin had also taken part in this campaign with a book entitled “The Turks of Bulgaria, the Kurds of Turkey”. The author was tried by the State Security Court but acquited. 15 years have passed — today the Turks of Bulgaria are represented in Parliament whereas we continue to mark time” wrote Melih Asik in the daily paper Milliyet on 12 March.
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.
• ASSESSMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY. On 11 March, the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) made public in Diyarbekir, its assessment of Human Rights violations for the month of February 2002. “Interdictions that have not been applied in practice have been put back on the agenda by secret circulars. There has been a 15 year regression, particularly in language expression” declared Osman Baydemir, a lawyer in charge of the Diyarbekir branch. Here is an extract of the published assessment :
|Number of people taken into detention||111|
|Number of people subjected to torture, ill treatment and threats||12|
|Number of “disappearences”..||1|
|Number of arrests||23|
|Number of TV and radios banned||2|
|Number of publications banned in the State of Emergency region (OHAL)||29|
|Number of victims of land mines Killed||3|
• 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”.
• THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT RENEWS THE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN FOUR KURDISH PROVINCES. On 13 March, the Turkish Parliament renewed the State of Emergency, that has been in force for 15 years, in four Kurdish provinces. The provinces concerned are Tunceli, Diyarbekir, Hakkari and Sirnak. Parliament has to decide or not the renewal of the State of Emergency every four months.
The lifting of this emergency decree is one of the “medium term” measures required of Turkey by the European Union prior to opening negotiations for membership. The Turkish government has committed itself to lifting them — but without giving any date — in its “national programme”, adopted last year. This is a vast catalogue of measures that should bring Turkey into conformity with European political and economic standards.
During the discussion in the Assembly, the Minister of the Interior, Rustu Kazim Yucelen, indicated that the PKK “threat” remained in the region. “The organisation has some 500 armed terrorists on Turkish territory” he said in particular. In September 1999, the PKK put an official end to the armed rebellion which it had started in 1984. Since then, fighting in the area has virtually ceased. But the Turkish Army has declared that it was determined to hunt the rebels down to the last man, unless they surrended completely, and is continuing operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, under Kurdish administration, to which the bulk of the PKK fighters have retreated.
• FOUR TURKISH GENERALS LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF ONE THEIR COLLEAGUES SENTENCED IN THE SUSURLUK CASE. The politico-media scene has been shaken by the joint statement of support by four retired generals for Korkut Eken, Lieutenant–Colonel of the Turkish Army, serving in the Turkish Internal Intelligent Department (MIT), and sentenced to six years imprisonment for his involvement in the Susurluk affair. Dogan Gures, former Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff, Necati Ozgen and Hasan Kundakçi, former Generals commanding the gendarmerie in the Kurdish regions and Cumhur Evcil, a retired general, all declared that Korkut Eken, who was incarcerated on 1 March, “was a military leader, worthy of all kinds of praise (…). He is a hero” and that “his activities between 1993 and 1996 were carried out under (our) our strict control”.
Korkut Eken, who is described as “disciplined”, “sacrificing his life for his country”, “a military hero” by these generals, was nevertheless sentenced for “organising an armed gang for committing crimes” by the State Security Court that ruled that “a gang exists and must not remain unpunished”. The Turkish Court of Appeals, in upholding the verdict, denounced, in its conmsiderations, “the relations with the deep State” and the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals declared, in his closing speach “it is difficult to find the relations hidden behind the gang and this is important as it includes various and sensitive officials and authorities”.
“I ask the retired generals : Did the relations (of K. EKEN) with Tarik Umit, a drug trafficker and MIT spy take place under your control ?… Why did you feel the need for such a relationship ? Are you also responsible for Korkut Eken’s relations with drug traffickers, casino barons, the protectors and dirty money launderers of the latter ? Why this need ?… How much did you pay for the weapons they posessed ? Where are these weapons today ? Is it possible to hide weapons from the State ? Where are the weapons that were confided to Korkut Eken ?… What kind of heroism do you see in the escape from police detention of Haluk Kirci, responsible for the death of seven young people ?… Did he meet the gang of Abdullah Çatli (mafia leader, member of the Turkish Grey Wolves, killed in the Susurluk accident in 1996) on your instructions ?… Do you know know any other authority than that of the law to make you wait till now to show yourselves, instead of at his trial ?” wrote Tuncay Ozkan in the daily Milliyet on 14 March.
Bekir Gündogan, Member of Parliament for Tunceli, declared in reaction to the generals’ plea “If he (Eken) always remained under their control this means that they were equally aware of the responsibility for numerous murders, filed as “unsolved”. They (the generals) and Tansu Çiller should also be tried”. The President of the Izmir bar, Noyan Ozkan, has filed an indictment against the generals on the basis of Article 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code against “praising any activity considered a breach of the law”.
Thus, knowing that any Presidential pardon is virtually unobtainable today, the generals are trying to arouse the sympathy of the Turkish Parliament, much more inclined to place a motion to free Korkut Eken on the agenda. Korkut Eken’s first visitor at Ulucanlar Prison was Orhan Biçakcioglu, MHP member of Parliament for Trebizon, who declared on 10 March “Ulucanlar Prison is in such a run down state that even the Ministry of Agricultures stables are better equipped. But his is well, he is in the section reserved for government officials”. Members of the Turkish Parliament never visit their former colleagues Leyla Zana and her colleagues who have been incarcerated in extremely harsh conditions in the same prison for the last eight years…
A 49TH VICTIM OF THE HUNGER STRIKE IN THE TURKISH PRISONS. The hunger strike in the Turkish prisons continues to claim victims without moving the Turkish Ministry of Justice in the slightest. 49 people, prisoners and members of their families, have died to date in this protest agains the type-F prisons. After Yusuf Kutlu on 9 March and Yeter Guzel on 10 March, Yewter Guzel is the latest victim of this hunger strike, launched over a year ago in Turkey. According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, 86 prisoners are continuing their hunger strike in 13 different prisons while 235 others have been released to receive appropriate medical treatment.
• FREEDOM OF THE PRESS STIFFLED IN THE KURDISH PROVINCES. Only a last minute respite saved the GUN-TV chain, sentenced to a year’s blank screens for having broadcast two Kurdish language love songs, from being closed down by the police as from 22 March — a proof of the stifling of the media in the Kurdish regions. The penalty striking GUN-TV, subject to confirmation on appeal within a fortnight, is the heaviest ever yet decreed by the High Council for Radio and Television (RTUK).
Preparing his daily press revue, the owner, Nevzat Bingol, discovered that his little local channel was subjected to a month’s suspension in addition to the one year penalty.At least a dozen radio and TV stations in the region suffer the same penalty. “After closing down my radio because, they alleged, it “jammed the police talkie-walkies” I was not surprised at this Nth sentence as there are already 17 writs out against me” smiled Mr. Bingol, whose previous network, Metro, had suffered the same fate. “The excuse is pathetic” he explained : “I am being accused of mentioning the fact that some Kurds inhabit this region, as if it was a lie” he exclaimed angrily.
“Even under the Ottoman administration, there were never Kurdish language papers here — and I fear that there won’t be any in the near future” acknowledged Naci Sapan, President of the Association of Journalists of the South-East.
Thus 29 dailies, weeklies and monthlies in Kurdish or too favourable to the Kurdish cause are purely and simply banned from the circulation in the State of Emergency region, even though they sell freely in the rest of Turkey notes the Human Rights Association (IHD). There are two independent papers in Diyarbekir province, who, to survive, take care not to cross the red line and two other local TV channels — also extra careful. Since a veritable censorship has already banned over 400 cassettes, these networks don’t have much room for freedom and show essentially cultural programmes without the right to speak in Kurdish. “We are living behind a real Iron Curtain where psychological torture is a daily experience” said Mr. Bingol bitterly.
The government is nevertheless at the moment studying the possibility of letting the national channel, TRT, broadcast, for between 20 minutes and one hour, the news in Kurdish, to conform with the recommendations of the European Union, which Turkey wants to join.
However, the pressure on journalists, Turkish and foreign, who must provide themselves with a special press card for this region, is being reduced — in parallel with the fact the armed clashes have virtually disappeared since the withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey in September 1990.
THE TURKISH GENERAL STAFF IS SAID TO OPT FOR 20 MINUTES OF KURDISH ON A LOCAL STATION AND A “SOLDIER TV” CHANEL FOR THE TURKISH ARMY. According to the Turkish press, the members of the National Security Council (MGK) agreed, in the course of their meeting on 28 February, on measures for Kurdish broadcasts on the publc TV network (TRT). The Turkish General Staff, in fact, asked that the President of the TRT network be present at the next meeting of the Council, due on 29 March. The Turkish government decided that, following the example of France with the Corsican language, the Turkish authorities would be ready to broadcast between 20 minutes and one hour in Kurdish on the local public chanel GAP-TV, belonging to TRT. The General Staff, at the same time demanded a chanel for itself, entitled “Asker TV” (Soldier TV). Some people wonder at the reason for the latter since even the written press is obliged by law to publish all Army statements…
TURKEY : “COUNTRY OF DRUG TRANSPORTATION”, “CENTRE FOR MONEY LAUNDERING”. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet, of 3 March, the 2001 report of on International Strategy for Narcotics Control of the American State Secretariat describes Turkey as the country through which the drug traffic from South-West Asia to Europe transits, with about six tons moving through per month. The report, which also designates Turkey as the centre for laundering dirty money, stresses that 5.1 tonnes of heroin, 10 tonnes of cannabis, 1.7 tonnes of synthetic drugs were seized by the Turkish police in 2001.
SEVERAL BOMB ATTACKS IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. According to the Kurdish daily Regay Kurdistan of 18 March, an explosive device exploded at Shera Suwar on 14 March, the very popular summer resort North of Irbil, causing one death, a school teacher Chinar Jamil, and one wounded both ona holiday trip organised for teachers.
for its part, the Kurdish daily Hawlati, reported on 4 March that two other explosions at the headquarters of the KDP Political Committee’s Guard batallion had caused 15 deaths amongst the soldiers and caused considerable material dammage.
THE EXECUTION OF ANY OPPOSITION BY BAGHDAD. The Human Rights Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party declared on 16 March that six Iraqi officers from the City of Mossul had been executed for having criticised Saddam Hussein. The Committee published the names of the executed officers : Muhammad Abdallah Shahin, Muhammad Najib and Muwaffaq. The other three were members of the Republican Guard.
Furthermore, the Iraqi Communist Party declared that the Iraqi authorities had returned to their families the bodies of 20 civilians, mostly aged between 25 and 30, from the town of Al-Nasiriya, executed in the Abu-Ghreb Prison because they were “suspected of having links with opposition groups”.