To avoid being caught divided and confused by a war liable to define the political future of Iraq for several decades to come, the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties have, over the last few months, intensified discussions to eliminate the last obstacles to their cooperation.
On 8 September, a summit meeting at Shaqlawa brought together Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani, General Secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who agreed on the broad lines of their future cooperation. Four joint technical committees were set up to discuss the means and the timetable of this cooperation in political, military, economic and foreign relations matters.
On 26 September, the joint political Committee meeting at Salahaddin, at the offices of the KDP Political Committee, reached a braod agreement on long pending questions.
In a statement to the PUK KurdSat TV channel, the head of KDP delegation in the joint political committee, Hoshyar Zebari, said the committee works for “unifying our [KDP and PUK’s] positions on forthcoming developments in the situation of Iraq, relations with neighbouring countries, and also the political position on Iraq and its future as well as the way to deal with the Iraqi opposition and the international community. The meeting was conducted in a positive way. There was good understanding on all issues from both sides”.
For his part, the head of PUK delegation in the joint political committee, Adnan Mufti, told KurdSat, “our views were similar to a great extent. We unified our positions and we have a single stance on the various possibilities and potential developments. We should unify our stands at internal, regional and international levels in a way that serves the interests of our people and also the interests of our neighbours. It should also be in accordance with our people's aspiration that the [Iraqi] Kurds should have a common stance on all possible developments”
In accordance with the decisions taken by the leaders of the two parties at the 8 September meeting, the Kurdistan Parliament is to meet in plenary session on 4 October, with all the PUK members attending. This is a major step forward in carrying out the agreements reached in September 1998 between the two Kurdish organisations in Washington under the ægis of the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Madelein albright.
This Parliament, elected in 1992 by more than 1,000,000 electors was obliged to suspend its work during the period of fighting between PUK and KDP forces between 1994 and 1996. The KDP re-established the Parliament after it re-captured Irbil in 1996, with 67 of its 105 members. The majority of PUK members, however, refused to take their seats.
The 4 October Parliamentary session will thus enable all the M.Ps to attend. On its agenda : preparations for a new electoral law and for holding elections in six to nine months time, adoption of a Kurdish proposal for a federal constitution for Iraq and adoption of a constitution for Kurdistan.
The setting up of a reunited Regional Government is likely to take a little longer. In principle this should take place following the next General Elections.
After a relative summer holiday truce devoted to internal debates, the US Administration relaunched its diplomatic and military pressure on the Iraqi regime in September.
On 7 September President Bush had a long meeting with his most faithful ally, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at his Camp David holday residence to refine his plans for in the event of military action in Iraq. At the end of their meeting, the two men repeated in chorus that “inaction was not an envisagible option” and that the resolution of the Iraqi problem was “a duty to future generations”. The particularly stressed the nuclear danger. George W. Bush recalled that when Iraq had decided to refuse access to the UN inspectors in 1998, “a report of the International Atomic Energy Agency had established that the Iraqis were within six months of developping a nuclear weapon. I do not see what additional proof is needed”.
Some days later, on 12 September, on the United Nations’ podium, the US President devoted the main part of his speech to the Iraqi question and exhorted the international community to “choose between a world of fear and a world of progress”. On this occasion, he issued a veritable ultimatum to Iraq : “If the Iraqi regime wants peace it will reveal and immediately and unconditionally destroy all its weapons of mass destruction, all its long range missiles and all their associated equipment. If the Iraqi regime wants peace it will immediately put an end to all support of terrorism and act to suppress it as all countries are bound to do in conformity with the UN Security Council resolutions”. Recalling that, in 1991, Iraq had already promised the UN inspectors “immediate and unlimited access” and that it had “broken its promises, spending over seven years at deceiving, evading and harrassing the UN inspectors before ending all cooperation”, G.W. Bush added “The Saddam Hussein regime represents a serious danger — to suggest anything else amounts to denying the evidence. To believe in this regime’s good faith amounts to making a mad gamble with the lives of millions of human beings and with world peace. And it is a risk we must not take (…) We must defend our security as well as the unalienable rights and hopes of humanity. By tradition as by choice, the United States will do this. Ladies and gentlemen, you also have the power to do it”.
This firm speech, allied to the acceleration of military preparations did not fail to make the Iraqi regime give way. After having, through Tarik Aziz, rejected any possibility of the return of the inspectors, Baghdad finally decided to change its stand. In the night of 16 to 17 September, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, informed UNO that the disarmament inspectors could return unconditionally.
Thsi “tactical desture” designed to gain time and devide the Security Council was immediately considered by Washington as “a dilatory manœuvre doomed to failure” while in the views of the French Foreign Minister “we must take Saddam Hussein at his word”.
The haggling over the drafting of a fresh resolution defining more clearly the mission of the inspection teamand the consequences of any failure by Iraq to keep its promise to cooperate were renewed at the New York offices of UNO. The United States, who said they were ready to go it alone if UNO decided to do nothing, like the League of Nations in the face of the Hilter threat in the 30s, prepared a firm draft in which any breach by Iraq would automatically involve the use of force. France,abcked by Russia and China was against any automatic response to the use of force and argued in favour of a prcess in two stages, first a resolution on the return of the inspectors with a precise timetable. If they were prevented by the Iraqis from fully and freely carrying our their mission the Security Council would have to meet to examine the situation and, eventually pass a fresh resolution authorising the recourse to war.
The majority of the Arab countries support the French approach while the European Union remains divided on this issue. Spain, Italy, Great Britain denmark and the Netherlands support Washington while Germany, where the anrti-war electorate is very strong states its opposition to a war against Iraq in either case.
At the NATO summit that met on 24 September in Warsaw, the United States and Grteat Britain had increased their pressure on their European Allies to join their action against Iraq. The General Secretary of NATO, George Robertson, had invited the members of NATO to thing about developing a “preventive strategy” against “criminal terrorist and criminal states”.
Finally the US President submitted, to Congress, a proposed resolution thatm if accepted, would authorise the recourse to war against the Iraqi regime. This draft, extracts of which were published in the Herald Tribune of 20 September, states, in particular, that “Iraq persists in violating UN Security Council resolutions and continues in engaging in the brutal repression of its civil population, including the Kurdish people, thus threatening international peace and security in the region”, that “Iraq remains in substantial and unacceptable violation of its international obligations, amongst others by continuing to possess and develop a significant capacity of chemical and bateriological weapons, by actively seeking a capacity for nuclear weapons and by supporting and harbouring terrorist organisations, thus continuing to threaten the United States’ national security interests and international peace and security (…)” and authorises the President to “utilise all means he considers appropriate, including the use of force, to apply the resolutions of the Security Council (…) and the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq and to restore international peace and security in the region”.
Turkey is preparing for the General Elections due on 3 November by a series of trials aimed at excluding candidates that the politico-judicial establishment considers undesireable from the race.
Thus, on 16 September, the 8th Chamber of the Turkish Court of Appeals confirmed the ruling of the Diyarbekir N°3 State Security Court forbidding Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP — moderate islamic) which is leading the polls with a predicted 20% of voting intentions. R.T. Erdogan, former Mayor of Istanbul, sentenced on the basis of Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code that ostensibly punishes “incitement to hate”, had nevertheless served his sentence, and the very controversial article in question has since been amended by the Turkish Parliament. However, the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, who is close to the top military hierarchy, had appealed against the ruling of another State Security Court (Diyarbekir N°4) which had ruled in Mr. Erdogan’s favour — he was thus able, thanks to a judicial system under orders from above, to legally put an end to the AKP leader’s ambitions.
Without sharing the views (which, in fact are, in fact, moderate) of the coutry’s largest political party, many comentators, quoting Voltaire on the principle of freedom of expression, including for ones opponents, have expressed indignation at this verdict. Even part of the official politico-media caste, such as Hikmet Sami Turk, former Turkish Minister of Justice, has openly criticised the Court of Appeals ruling and observers do not hesitate to attack the Turkish legal code, in particular Article 76 of the Constitution that bans anyone from being a candidate if sentenced on the basis of “inciting the people to commit offenses or crime” — even if amnestied.
“The worst thing, in a country, is to submit the courts to political orders. And the greatest thing for a country is to make politics subject to the law” wrote Cüneyt Ulusever in the daily paper Hurriyet on 18 September. Oktay Eksi, chief editorial writer of the same paper stressed “Do you know how many people sitting in Parliament have, in the past, committed crimes that ban them from sitting there, including murder, and who have, on coming out of prison, asked for and secured frrom the courts the right to enjoy the right which is forbidden to them? From those of whom we know, at least twenty …”
For its part, on 20 mSeptember the Turkish High Electoral Council forbade the former mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP — moderately Islamic), the former Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, Murat Bozlak, head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HADEP — pro Kurdish) as well as the most influential Turkish Human Rights activist, Akin Birdal from standing as candidates in the coming general election.
In a communiqué to the press, the High Electoral Council, whose decisions are not subject to appeal, announced that it had “decided by a majority of votes to reject the candidature of Mr. Erdogan for the elections” and “unanimously” rejected the candidatures of Messrs. Bozlak and Birdal. Moreover, in respect of the list presented by the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP — pro-Kurdish) the Council had invalidated over fifteen of the candidates.
“The minarettes are our bayonets, the domes are our helmets and the mosques are our barracks” are the verses quoted from the author of the Turkish National Anthem by Mr. Erdogan at a political meeting which were used used as the basis of his exclusion. In this, the Council followed the ruling of several courts that had judged that Mr. Erdogan, 48 years of age, and sentenced in 1998 for “incitement to religious hatred” and actually jailed for four months, could not avail himself of the recent amnesty to stand as candidate. Mr. Erdogan had defended the legitimacy of his candidature by the recent changes in the Penal Code. His organisationhas appealed to the European Human Rights Court to demand the suspension application of this ruling, but the Court has already declared this appeal inadmissible.
According to the latest opinion polls, the AKP could win 25% of the votes in the coming General Elections while several of the parties at present holding office risk losing all their seats in Parliament through failing to reach the threshold of 10% of the national vote needed to win representation in the Assembly. A victory of the AKP in the elections could have important repercussions in this country where the Army claims the right to act as indomitable guardian of Atatürk’s secular principles and never hesitates in interfering in its political life.
DEHAP, the only Kurdish party standing at the November general elections, welcomes the new reforms adopted by Ankara — namely the right to teach and broadcast in Kurdish — but want, above all to see them actually carried out. The leaders of the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) welcome the reforms adopted in August aimed at aligning Turkey with European standards, but note that “these laws without a change in mentality do not have much meaning”. “These laws are a revolution” considered Osman Baydemir, a DEHAP candidate for the November General Elections. But he also notes that, for example, he is still forbidden to register Kurdish names for his children. “The carrying out of these laws is as important as their adoption” adds Ali Urkut, Diyarbekir Provincial President of DEHAP, who is also a candidate.
DEHAP is the only Kurdish party to put up candidates following the decision of the People’s Democratic Party to withdraw in its favour. HADEP — accused of “organic links” with the Kurdish rebels — feared that it would be banned by the Turkish courts just before polling day. Apart from HADEP, two other small Left6 wing parties present candidates on a joint list with DEHAP, which was created in 1997, just before the legal proceedings were started against HADEP (a common practice in Turkey, where the State is suspicious of the rise in influence of pro-Kurdish or Islamic parties. “No one must fear us, we will enter Parliament to really ensure brotherhood between the (Kurdish and Turkish) peoples” Mr. Baydemir insisted.
HADEP had not won any seats in the last elections in 1999, because it had not crossed the threshold of 10% of the national vote. It had, however, won the greatest number of votes in most Kurdish towns — in particular 46% in Diyarbekir, with its population of 1.3 million. “This time we have no doubt — we will cross the 10% threshold” on a national scale explained Mr. Baydemir who runs the Turkish Human Rights Association in this region and he assures everyone that once elected the Kurdish M.P.s will abstain from provoking “tension” at the Assembly and will work to “unite” Parliament and the Kurdish people. “The region has changed for the better since the last elections but there is still a great deal to do” remarksm for his part Mr. Urkut. He, nevertheless fearsa deterioration of the atmosphere as the electiosn draw closer, especially in the rural areas where “the Army threatens the peasants that they will burn down their houses if they vote for the (pro-Kurdish) party ”. However “if irregularities do not sully the poll, we will cross the 10% threshold” assured a confident Mr. Urkut.
Moreover, some well known Kurdish public figures are standing as independents in these elections, such as the former M.P. Abdul Melik Firat ; Mehmet Ali Aslan, former President of the Workers’ Party of Turkey and Feridun Yazar, former mayor of Urfa.
The parties forming the present coalition government (ANAP, DSP and MHP) fear that they will be heavily penalised for the severe economic economic and social crisis that, over the last couple of years has plunged a large part of the population below the poverty line. According to the opinion polls, none of them will cross the 10% threshold. The People’s Republican Party (CHP) that had no seats in the outgoing parliament may well benefit from the popular discontent and serve as a rallying point for the centre left.
A report drawn up by Erik Jurgens, member of the Legal and Human Rights Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe congratulates the “recent modifications recently made by Turkey to its Constitution and legislation” but “regrets, however, that a number of important problems have still not been resolved, in particular the dammages ordered by the Court, the retrial or restoration of their civic and political rights to appellants sentenced after unfair trials, freedom of expression and measures to be taken to avoid fresh violations by the security forces — in particular with respect to those articles of the Convention on the right to life and the interdiction of torture”.
The Commission also notes, with considerable anxiety, Turkey’s persistant refusal to abserve the Court’s rulings in the Loizidou case, that is to say to compensate a Cypriot national for property in the North part of the island to which he is denied access. It considers that this refusal bears witness to “Turkey’s manifest contempt for its international obligations”. The Ministerial Committee is asked to envisage, amongst other measures, to distrain upon Turkey’s contributions to the Council of Europe for these sums.
Moreover, following a report entitled “Turkey’s application of the decisions of the European Human Rights Court” a resolution was passed by the Assembly [see Debates of the Assembly of 23 September 2002 (25th Session), (Doc. 9537, report of the Legal and Human Rights Commission, reporter Mr. Jurgens). Motion adopted by the Assembly 23 September 2002 (25th Session)]. The following are extensive extracts of the text, which may be found in full on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Web Site : www.assembly.coe.int/Mainf.asp
“However, despite the progress recently achieved, the Assembly cannot but regret that a number of important problems remain outstanding. The Assembly therefore reiterates its calls upon the Turkish authorities to ensure rapidly that:
The Assembly deeply ”regrets that the new legislation on reopening of proceedings adopted by Turkey in August 2002 expressly excludes any possibility to comply with the Court's judgment in Sadak, Zana, Dicle and Dogan case so that the four applicants will continue to serve their 15 year prison sentences imposed following an unfair trial. It strongly supports the Committee's demand urgently to remedy the applicants' situation either by making this new legislation immediately applicable to all pending cases or by adopting ad hoc measures in the applicants' favour. In case the applicants' situation is not rectified, the Assembly will consider the consequences of such a refusal at its session in January 2003”.
• THE REPORT OF THE TURKISH ASSOCIATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ON THEIR VIOLATION IN KURDISTAN DURING THE FIRST SEVEN MONTHS OF THE YEAR 2002. On 17 September, the Turkish Association for Human Rights (IHD) published its report on Human Rights violations in the Kurdish Provinces during the first seven months of 2002. The Association questions the very high rates of suicide in the region and exposes the increasingly frequent land mine explosions resulting from the return of people to villages from which the mines have not been cleared. Here are the principle points of the report :
|- Number of people placed in detention||2,412|
|- Number of people torttured, or victims of ill-treatment while in detention||149|
|- Number of victims of land mines||14 killed, 38 wounded|
|- Number of Civil Servants exiled for “threatening the interests of the State in the State of Emergency region (OHAL)”||22|
|- Number of suicides||88|
• A BIG EXPLOSION ROCKS BAGHDAD. A big explosion occurred in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on 13 September in the evening at a military arms depot, said the independent Kurdish weekly newspaper, Hawlati, published in the Iraqi Kurdish-governed region, on 23 September.
The blast occurred in Al-Tarimiyah District, at Tubuk arm depot, where heavy weaponry is stocked, said the newspaper, which specified that “The explosion shook the whole district and people thought it was a strike by US planes. Immediately after the explosion, the [Iraqi] regime’s warplanes and helicopters arrived in the area and launched flare bombs. According to preliminary estimates, four people were killed: First Lieutenant Isam Ali Shahir, Warrant Officer Jasim Khalaf, Master Sergeant Kadim Ali Jawad and Private Farhud Nadim Abd. A number of others were injured”, said Hawlati, quoting special sources.
The newspaper said the blast caused the explosion of 250 boxes of Doshka ammunition, 1500 tank shells, 3500 hand grenades and 750 boxes of RPG rockets, as well as other explosives.
It is so far not known if the explosion occurred accidentally or it was the result of a planed operation. Hawlati said, “after the explosion, which lasted about one hour, the regime's military and special security officers arrived in the area. They arrested 11 servicemen, including Captain Hasan Talal Mahdi and officer Jum’a Mahmud Hasan. They were taken immediately to an unknown place.”
• TWO MEMBERS OF HADEP SENTENCED TO 45 MONTHS JAIL. On 4 September, a State Security Court sentenced two members of the People’s Democratic Party (pro-Kurdish) to 45 months imprisonment for helping Abdullah Ocalan. Those sentenced are two senior officers of the Istanbul HADEP branch — the party itself being threatened with banning for “supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”.
Necla Yilderim andf Abdelvahap Onedr were charged last autumn when the police surrounded the HADEP premises in the Küçükçekmece quarter (a suburb on the European shore of Istanbul) and allegedly found pictures of Ocalan on the walls and banned publications. The judge considered that the suspects were spreading propaganda in support of the PKK and sentencved them for “helping a terrorist organisation”.
HADEP is threatened with banning for “organic links” with the PKK. It has, nevertheless been admittedas one of the organisations allowed to present candidates at the early General Election on 3 November coming. HADEP is regularly harrassed by the authorites who jail or pull in for questioning its members under charges of “separatism”. Last May, a European Union delegation to Turkey had warned that “if HADEP were banned, it would cause a serious set-back to relations between the European Union and Turkey” at a time when Turkey is a candidate for membership of the Union. This delegation had considered that the Turkish authorities had not provided “concrete proof” of any link between this party and the PKK.
• THE 57TH VICTIM OF THE HUNGER STRIKE. On 10 September an extreme Left detainee died from the consequences of her hunger strike, bringing the number of deaths in this protest movement against detention in high security sections to 57, announced the Indepentent Association for the Defence of Human Rights.
Hamide Ozturk, 32, died in hospitalin Istanbul. She was serving a 12 year prison sentence for her membership of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front-Party (DHKP-C), a banned marxist movement, but had recently been transferred to hospital after the deterioration of her state of health.
The extreme left prisoners and their families launched their hunger strike movement in October 2000 to protest against their transfer to isolation cells where they feared to be at the motoriously tender mercies of their warders. The prison authorities consider that detention in large dormitories in which prisoners live together are uncontrolable and act, in fact, as ideological training camps.
• THE BANNING OF A PRO-KURDISH PAPER IN THE PROVINCES OF DIYARBEKIR AND SIRNAK. On 11 September, the pro-Kurdish daily paper Yeniden Ozgur Gundem announced that the Turkish authorities had banned its distribution is two Kurdish provinces. The paper, launched last week, has been banned since 10 September in Diyarbekir and Sirnak by the Super-Prefect of the State of Emergency Region — a state of Emergency that has been in force since the end of the 80s in these provinces. These authorities can, under the special regime, seize or ban the distribution in their region of any papers to “establish public order and security”.
A member of the paper’s management, Delal Eren, indicated that the decision had been taken after the publication of articles written by Abdullah Ocalan, sentenced to death in 1999. The paper’s communiqué regretted the decision “at a time when Turkey is waiting for the European Union to set a date for the begining of negotiations for its membership”.
B. Yahnici, the number two of the ultra-nationalist National Action Party (MHP — neo-fascist), a coalition partner in the present Turkish government and rigidly opposed to any cultural rights for the Kurdsm had called on the judicial authorities to take measures against Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit over the privileges the A. Ocalan enjoys. The party claims that A. Ocalan is able to send orders and instructions to his sympathisers and to give interviews to the foreign press from the island prison of Imrali (North-West Turkey) where he is the sole detainee. Ecevit is thus accused of being “an objective accomplice” of Ocalan and, on these grounds to deserve a prison sentence for “supporting a terrorist organisation”.
• TURKEY SIGNS A CONTRACT FOR $400 MILLION FOR ITS MARINE PATROLS. On 12 September, the French company, Thales, announced the signing of the Meltem contract with the Turkish Government. This involves the supply of marine surveillance and patrol systems to the Turkish Navy and Coast Guards. The overall value of the contract is of the order of $400 million. Thales was chosen as preferred supplier in 2001 and the final contract was signed on 6 September in Ankara by Messrs. Ali Dursun Ercan, Under-Secretary of State for Defence Industries (SSM) and José Massol, Assistant Managing Director.
TheMeltem contract covers the supply of nine systems which will be built into the existing CN 235 aeroplanes, after their modification, and ten other systems to be built into other platforms. Thales has undertaken to involve the participation of Turkish industry in the execution of this contract, especially in the hi-tech areas. This participation will strengthen the alreaqdy existing partnership between Thales and the Turkish Defence industry.
Thales Systèmes Aeroportés is the principal European supplier of airborne systems, of airborne radar, of electronics and missiles and naval, land and air military electronic systems.
• EVEN WHILE ERADICATING KURDISH CULTURE, TURKEY HOSTS 110 COUNTRIES FOR A UNESCO SYMPOSIUM ON THE SUBJECT OF “NON-MATERIAL CULTURAL HERITAGE, A MIRROR OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY”. On 16 –17 September, Turkey, that continues to ban Kurdish first names, that is dragging its feet in applying reforms even when adopted, and which persists in its policy of forced assimilation of the Kurds, hosted representatives of 110 countries in Istanbul, including 72 Ministers of Culture for a Symposium on the subject of the “Immaterial Cultural Heritage, Mirror of Cultural Diversity”.
At the end of the Round Table, Ministers of Culture and representatives of 110 countries decided, on 18 September “to develop policies aiming at the identification, safeguarding, promotion and transmission of the immaterial cutural heritage, in particular through activities of information and education”. They committed themselves to “take care that the expressions of this heritage enjoy recognition within the States in so far as they respect universally recognised human rights”.
The Director General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, the Ministers and participants adopted, the Istanbul Declaration in which they commit themselves to “actively promoting the principles laid out in UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on cultural diversity” adopted in Paris in 2001.
In this Istanbul Declaration, UNESCO is called upon to “examine the possibility of setting up a special fund” to defend the immaterial heritage, consisting of languages, social and religious rituals, songs, dances, forms of theatrical representation and handicraft techniques that are unique in their kind, which are the means by which cultures may be distinguished from one another. “The multiple expressions of immaterial cultural heritage are among the number of fundamentals of cultural identity of peoples and communities, at the same time as they constitute a natural environment, embodied, amongst other things, in a great variety of languages which are so many different views of the world, they are an essential factor for the maintenance of cultural diversity, in accordance with the 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on cultural diversity” added the declaration.
The Istanbul Declaration adds: “a suitable international convention (…) could mark a positive stage” in the pursuit of this objective. An intergovernmental meeting of experts is planned to undertake the drawing up an advance project of such a convention.
For the full text of this Declaration see http://portal.unesco.org/culture.roundtable.
• THE LAUNCHING OF THE BUILDING OF THE BAKU-TBILISSI-CEYHAN OIL PIPELINE. On 18 September, the first shovel-fulls in the building of the Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan oil pipeline were dug near Baku. This pipeline will carry Azerbaijani oil from the Caspian Sea to a Turkish terminal on the Mediterranean. The three Presidents, Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan, Edward Chevardnadze of Georgia and Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey took part in the laying of the first steel pipe in a trench near the oil terminal of Sangachal, the starting point of the pipeline, which is due to be completed in 2005. “As from this moment, the Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan pipeline is taking shape” declared President Aliev.
Once completed, the pipeline will carry a million barrels of crude per day. It will stretch over 1,750 Km from the Azerbaijan coast on the Caspian to the new Turkish terminal of Ceyhan via Georgia. When finished, the new pipeline, which avoids Russia and is strongly backed by the United States, will have cost $2.95 billion , financed by an international consortium.The American Secretary for Fuel and Power, Spencer Abraham, took part in the ceremony, reaffirming the American President, George W. Bush’s support for this undertaking. “Without this pipeline, the resources of the Caspian would not be developped nor reach world markets” he stated. “The BTC pipeline is the central component of an East-West fuel and power corridor which will bring important long-term benefits to the countries of the region and to the rest of the world” added Mr. Abraham.
The Caspian Sea, surrounded by five riparian states, is said to contain a third of the worlds oil and gas reserves, but the transport of these riches has, so far, been essentiall controlled by Russia, the two existing pipelines passing through its territory. The construction of this new pipeline is a major technical challenge, as it passes over no less than 1,500 rivers and rises, in places, to an altitude of 2,700 metres (9,000 ft). To this must be added the insecurity reigning in Georgia, where Western businessmen are sometimes kidnapped by bandits and held to ransom.
THREE KURDISH VILLAGERS KILLED BY STATE MILITIA. According to the Turkish authorities, three Kurdish villagers were killed on 26 September in an armed clash with pro-government militia who wanted to prevent them from returning to their homes in Turkish Kurdistan. The three victims were members of a family of about fifteen who wanted ot return to their village of Ugrak, about 25 Kilometres from Bismil, which was abandonned and guarded by “village guards”.
These “village guards”, who have been paid by the state for over a decade to prevent the infiltration by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) opened fire with AK47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifles, killing a child of 7, a youth of 16 and a woman of 45, added the same official sources. Six other people were wounded and the village guards have deserted the area, according information given by the regional security forces.
Several thousands of Kurdish villages had been forcibly evacuated in the first half of the 90s, either to punish villagers who cooperated, willingly or against their will, with the guerrillas or just to prevent the latter getting food. After the ending of the armed struggle in 1999, the Turkish State announced, in 2000, an ambitious project of “return to the villages”, to ease the overcrowding in the cities to which the villagers had been forced to emigrate, and plans, which have never been followed up, to repopulate the devastated rural areas.
• AMSTERDAM : A KURDISH ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST CHIEF IS ARRESTED. The head of a substantial and particularly dangerous Kurdish Islamic fundamentalist armed group, that has been operating for several years in the Iraqi-Iranian border area, wqas arrested by the Dutchpolice on 12 September.
Mala Krekar, 47, whose real name is Najumuddin Faraj Ahmad, was arrested on Thursday, 12 September, at Amsterdam's Schiphol international airport while on a stopover during a journey from Teheran, to the Norwegian capital, Oslo. According to media reports, Mala Krekar was detained and expelled by Iranian authorities.
Mala Krekar was granted refugee status in Norway in 1991, but this has recently been revoked by Norwegian authorities. His family still lives in Norway. According to Reuters, quoting a Dutch Ministry of Justice source, Jordan is said to have requested his extradition. Last year, the Saudi newspaper, Al-Watan reported in its issue of 23 November 2001, that four Arab afghans of Jordanian origin had been killed in late September 2001 in Iraqi Kurdistan. They were members of the Jund al-Islam group, or Soldiers of Islam, which became Ansar al-Islam later in December of the same year.
Jund al-Islam, was established on 1 September 2001, controlled a strip on the Iranian border, comprising several villages and two townships, Biyara and Tawela. The group immediately declared “holy war” on Iraqi Kurdish secular ruling parties. On 23 September 2001, they attacked and slaughtered more than 40 fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, which led to a wide range armed confrontation between the two 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 Chechnya. It was also reported that the group was financed by Al-Qaeda organization and its members were trained in Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, Kurdish media sources reported that Iraqi intelligence services are involved in guiding Jund al-Islam, through its agents, who operate secretly in the region.
An Iraqi intelligence officer, who was arrested by PUK forces, and interviewed last June in a PUK prison in Suleimaniya, told “Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch” that a leading figure of Jund al-Islam was actually a senior Iraqi intelligent officer.
He said, “following the fighting between the PUK and Jund al-Islam, the Mukhabarat [Iraqi intelligent Service] instructed me to search for someone. I don’t know his full name, but they said that he is called Abu Wa’il, an Iraqi national, and that he is a high-ranking officer, who belongs to our service; and that in addition to your usual mission, we want you to let us know what has happened to him, has he been able to escape, has he been killed, or has he been captured [by the Kurds] and handed over to the Americans? … Through my network I could discover that he escaped. I passed the information to the Mukhabarat. It seemed that the liaison network between Abu Wa’il and Baghdad was cut. Abu Wa’il’s case was dealt with by Mukhabarat at the highest level [in Baghdad]. His case was not like an ordinary agent getting missed … The general director of Mukhabarat was personally following the issue”.
Another prisoner, a Kurdish member of Ansar al-Islam, arrested by PUK last spring, also signalled the presence of Abu Wa’il among the group. He told “Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch” that Abu Wa’il, “was a leading figure of Jund al-Islam, and was, among other missions, in charge of organizing the Afghan Arabs of the group who came from Afghanistan. As far as I know, Abu Wa’il, along with Abdullah al-Shaf’i [leader of Jund al-Islam before the merger with Mala Krekar’s group] travelled at least twice to Afghanistan”.
Ansar al-Islam is also believed to be behind the recent series of bomb attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan. The two major political parties, which rule over the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq, the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, have recently established a joint anti-terror operation command centre to combat terrorist attempts in Kurdistan region.
“Whoever is behind this group, it is widely believed here in Iraqi Kurdistan that the sudden emergence of this radical faction is meant to destabilize the Iraqi Kurdish experience of self-rule”, a Kurdish source told Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch, of the record.
“It is more than four years now that the [Iraqi Kurdish-administered] region has seen stability and a significant degree of economic development. So, one should look at the sides which have interest in destabilizing this situation. I don’t see why Al-Qaeda wants to undermine our region if it is not with the support of the enemies of Iraqi Kurds”, said the source, according to Iraqi Kurdistan Dispatch.