The Iraqi opposition met, in London, from 14 to 17 December on the theme “For the liberation of Iraq and the setting up of democracy”. Some 350 public figures, representing Kurds, Arabs, Shiites, Assyro-Chaldeans and Turkomen took part in this rally. Amongst them: M. Barzani, J. Talabani, A. Chalabi, M. Al Roubaei, K. Makia, A. Al Hakim etc. The conference reaffirmed the fundamental principles established at previous conferences and meetings of the Iraqi opposition, especially those of the Salahaddin Conference of 1992 in Kurdistan and the common political declaration of the opposition delegation to Washington in August 2002. At the end of its four days work, the conference produced a political declaration which preceded a series of recommendations and resolutions of which the principal points are given below:
“Today, once again, there is a chance for our people and we can take advantage of the international situation to depose the fascist regime and initiate positive developments in Iraq … We must encourage the process of change in Iraq for the benefit of our people, taking into consideration the interests if neighbouring countries and the international community…
This conference considers the role of the opposition to be a vital and crucial element in all phases of an expected change, with its possibilities and practical conditions…
Iraq will be a democratic, parliamentary, pluralist federal State (for all Iraqis) and will, in consequence, draw up a human and civilised concept of citizenship based on equality and the elimination of discrimination against peoples, religions, races or sects. The Conference affirms that a permanent Constitution that refers to the national composition of Iraq and the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers should be drawn up. It will also have to stress the pre-eminence of the over-riding power of the law, the protection of Human Rights, public and private liberties and respect for the institutions of civil society.”
The conference declared itself in favour of a State of Law, declaring that it “declares unanimously that any blind revenge, chaos or other form of violation of the law liable to prevail in the future environment of Iraq, under whatsoever pretext, should not be authorised. Any dispute should be brought before the legal authorities and the internal and international courts, with due regard for the law and justice …”
As regards the power of political decision, the conference stressed that “all the constituent elements of the Iraqi people: Arabs, Kurds, Turcomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans and others, and similarly the Moslems, Shiite and Sunni, or the Christians and yezidis and other believers in celestial religions, should participate in the power of decision”.
“The conference calls on the international community to support the Iraqi peoples that they may be free of the dictatorial regime. At the same time the conference rejects any form of occupation, internal or external military authority, any external mandate and regional interference and stresses the necessity to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, the independence of neighbouring countries and non-interference in the affairs of other countries…”
The conference condemns the policies of aggression against the Shiites … and (declares) that the new Constitution of Iraq should guarantee that these violations should not be repeated and that all the constituent elements of the Iraqi people should be protected against any discrimination”
Concerning the genocidal attacks on Halabja and the Anfal operation, “the conference condemns all injustice based on race, all ethnic oppression and cleansing such as the Iraqi regime has perpetrated with premeditation on the people of Iraqi Kurdistan, particularly the genocidal and Anfal operations which caused the disappearance of 180,000 people, 8,000 members of the Barzani family, 5,000 Faylis and 5,000 inhabitants of the town of Halabja as well as the destruction of thousands of towns and villages… ”
“The conference, at the same time as it demands the end to this policy of hatred, stresses the need to find a solution to the fate of the victims, to honour them, compensate the families, rebuild the destroyed towns and villages and bring those who committed these crimes before international courts.”
“The conference condemns all forms of deportation, the policy of ethnic cleansing, the use of chemical weapons and all constraints relative to changing national identity, particularly the changing of the national character of the regions of Kirkuk, Makhmur, Khanaqin, Sinjar, Shekhan, Zimar, Mandali, etc.”
Under the heading of “federalism and the resolution of the Kurdish question”, the conference stressed “its respect for the Kurdish people and the free will of the people of Kurdistan to chose suitable and appropriate methods in their partnership with the people of a country. The conference has discussed experiences of federal systems and concluded that it is an appropriate system of government for Iraq, which must be taken into account as the basis of a resolution of the Kurdish problem in the framework of Iraqi constitutional institutions after the end of Saddam’s dictatorial regime and the expected changes in Iraq”.
The conference re-iterates Iraqi territorial unity and co-existence amongst the peoples on the basis of voluntary union. The conference also re-affirms the just and legitimate demands of the people of Kurdistan for suppressing all forms of oppression and repression on the basis of international laws which allows them self-determination and affirms fraternity, unity and partnership in one country”.
The conference greatly appreciates the experiment, in Iraqi Kurdistan, of freedom, democracy and reconstruction in these regions. This proves, concretely, that the Iraqis can be creative and constructive when they are not under the yoke of a dictatorship. The conference thinks that it is possible to benefit from this experience as a step forward on the road to the expected democratic transformation in Iraq and for the resolution of differences through fraternal dialogue and the abandoning of all violence in political activity. Conference calls for the support and protection of this experiment and negotiation with its legally elected institutions until a new federal constitution has been drawn up for the country, including Iraqi Kurdistan, and the integration of the peshmerga forces in the Iraqi Army.
The conference reviewed different points such as the “rights of the Turcomen”, “the rights of the Assyrians”, “the ecological catastrophe in the marshlands”, “the iniquitous laws and decisions” “the experience of the region of Iraqi Kurdistan”, “the security apparatus”, “the armed forces”, “the food for oil programme”, “new nationality legislation”, “means for facilitating the return of migrant, deported and refugee Iraqis”, and finally “the role of people qualified in the scientific and academic fields”.
On 10 December 2002, the European Human Rights Court unanimously found Turkey guilty, in the case of Dicle (on behalf of the DEP) v. Turkey. The Court, by a majority vote, granted Hatip Dicle 200,000 euros damages which Mr. Dicle transferred to the members and leaders of DEP, as well as 10,0000 euros in costs.
Thus in the issue of whether the DEP was pursuing aims contrary to the principles of democracy, the Strasbourg Court noted that “the written statements as well as the speeches that led to the party being dissolved were in favour of recognition of Kurdish identity and criticised, in a vehement manner, the government’s policy towards its citizens of Kurdish origin.” For all that, the Court “does not consider them contrary to fundamental principles and recalls that the proper working of democracy requires that political organisations should be able to introduce propositions to public debate even if they conflicted with the main orientations of government policy and majority convictions of public opinion”.
Moreover, the Court “is not convinced that the Government’s thesis that the DEP’s formulation of demands for autonomy or separatism can be summarised as a form of support for terrorist actions … it is not validly shown in the decree dissolving the DEP that it envisaged compromising the democratic regime in Turkey through its political projects. Nor is it maintained that the DEP had any real chance of setting up a system of government that would not be approved by all the actors on the political scene”.
On the issue of whether the DEP conducted its political campaign by legal and democratic means or whether its leaders preached the resort to violence as a political means, the Court observed that, though the speech in Bonn and the written statement by the central committee contained severe criticisms of certain attitudes of the Government, “neither of these two declarations express any support for, or approval of, the recourse to violence for political ends”. According to the Court, “they constitute a vehement political criticism of the Turkish authorities which, by themselves, do not constitute any element of proof for identifying DEP with armed groups carrying out acts of violence. The Court is thus unconvinced that they pursued any other aim than that of fulfilling their duty of publicly raising the concerns of their electors. Consequently, it considers that the measure of dissolution of DEP because of these two statements does not correspond to an “imperious social need””.
As for the statement the former president of the DEP made in Iraq, the Court notes that it contained three messages: on the one hand his wish so see a separate, united Kurdish state, on the other hand the description of the PKK armed movement as a war of liberation of Northern Kurdistan with the aim of founding a Kurdish state and, finally, his stigmatising the opposite side, namely the Turkish Government. According to the Court, the second and third messages are analysed as an approval of the recourse to force as a political means and a call to do so, so that, in the context of the times, such remarks could arouse profound and irrational hatred towards those who were presented as enemies of the Kurdish people. In the Court’s view the measures taken in response to these remarks did respond to an “imperious social need”. It notes, furthermore, that criminal proceedings had been taken against the author of these remarks.
However, the Court noted that here is was just a single speech made by a former leader of the party, made abroad in a language other than Turkish and before a public that was not directly concerned by the situation in Turkey. Its potential impact on “national security”, “public order” or “territorial integrity” in Turkey was thus very limited. Thus the Court considered that this speech could not, by itself, justify such an overall sanction as the banning of a whole party, especially as its author was already facing criminal charges. Consequently the banning of the DEP because of this speech in Iraq could only be considered as disproportional to the objectives sought.
From this the Court concluded that the banning of DEP could not be considered as “necessary in a democratic society” and that there was there a violation of Article 11 of the European Human Rights Convention and found the Turkish State guilty of this violation.
Finally, if a reform Bill announced by Ankara is carried into effect, the Kurdish former members of parliament for the DEP party, who have been imprisoned in Turkey for the last eight years for “separatism” could soon be retried in the context of legal reforms put before parliament by the new Ankara government. The former members of parliament, including Leyla Zana, winner of the 1995 Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament for her work for Human Rights, had been sentenced in 1994. Their sentences have been condemned by the European Human Rights Court.
The legal reforms, placed before Parliament on 4 December by Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul’s government, could be passed very soon as Turkey is seeking to multiply its chances of having a date set for negotiations on its membership of the European Union at the Copenhagen summit. This fresh series of reforms “has the aim of widening the field of legal applications for cases in appeal, in line with the decisions of the European Human Rights Court” Mr. Gul states on 5 December in a communiqué. “The appeal procedure (…) has been simplified and also covers sentences that have already been executed” according to the Prime Minister.
On 3 December the government had laid before Parliament a first series of reforms aiming, in particular, at punishing more severely policemen accused of torture and lifting certain restrictions on press freedom. After the meeting of the National Security Council (MGK), the government to deal separately the reform covering the Kurdish members of Parliament and the amnesty of students who had signed petitions in support of Kurdish language teaching.
The N°2 man at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, called on Turkey not to intervene unilaterally to control the Iraqi Kurds in the event of a war, according to a report in the Turkish daily Hurriyet. The Turkish authorities, in the past, have threatened to counter, by armed force, any attempt by the Iraqi Kurds to declare their independence. “The best thing to do is to act by agreement with the United States and with the (Kurdish) inhabitants” stated Mr. Wolfowitz in an interview given to during his visit to Ankara. In the event of military action against Baghdad “We wish to see coordinated efforts against Iraq, and particularly in Northern Iraq” he stated. “I think that it would be much more useful for Turkey to act in the framework of a coalition rather than act unilaterally to protect its interests in Northern Iraq” he added.
Turkey, which has a 400 Km long border with Iraqi Kurdistan, fears that the disintegration of President Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq might encourage the Iraqi Kurd’s aspirations to independence and, in consequence, that of its own Kurdish population on their side of the border.
“Turkey has assured us that, if it should intervene, it would not be an invasion but just a temporary measure to protect its interests” stated Mr. Wolfowitz. Turkey has, for several years, maintained hundreds of soldiers in Iraqi Kurdistan, officially to fight the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas. The former government, led by Bülent Ecevit, had threatened the Iraqi Kurds with military intervention should they declare their independence or seize the Mossoul oilfields in the North of the country. The Turkish Army authorities also declared their intention of setting up a cordon sanitaire in Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of American military action, claiming that such a cordon was necessary to avoid a possible flood of refugees into Turkey.
Ankara, which is always ready to recall that half a million refugees had crossed its borders in 1991 following the Baghdad regime’s offensive against the Kurds, in no way wants to be confronted with such a problem again. Consequently the Turkish authorities have planned to set up several refugee camps on the Kurdish side of the border. They state that they will only admit refugees on their territory as a last resort. Mr. Wolfowitz, who had discussions with representatives of the newly elected Turkish government in Ankara on 3 and 4 December, stressed that the question of Iraqi oil was a matter that concerned everyone and reaffirmed the U.S. support for the territorial integrity of Iraq and their opposition to any attempt at secession by the Iraqi Kurds.
On 16 December, a senior Turkish Army officer declared that Turkey had deployed several thousands of men near its borders with Iraq to be hold in readiness for any eventual military action against Baghdad. He also confirmed persistent rumours about troops movements in the region bordering on Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the press, some Turkish Army units, stationed near the Iraqi Kurdistan borders, have been put on alert while reinforcements were being sent from Western Turkey to the East.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on 17 December that Turkey wished to deploy troops inside Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of American military action against Baghdad, so as to prevent any attempt by the Kurds to set up their own state. According to the paper, which headlined it “If you have 60,000 we will have more” Ankara even hopes that the number of Turkish troops deployed be superior to the number of American troops. According to the Turkish press, the Pentagon hopes to deploy 60,000 American soldiers in Iraqi Kurdistan and another 30,000 in rear bases on Turkish soil.
“There have been troop movements in the last few days. The reason for these deployments is to ensure that the Turkish army is ready in the event of an operation in Iraq” declared a senior officer serving in the Kurdish province of Sirnak. According to this Army leader, the recent deployments involve bridge-building units of the engineers, able to build bridges and guarantee the soldiers access to the Iraqi Kurdistan mountains in case of need. He gave no figures, but, according to local sources 10,000 to 15,000 men are involved. Turkey has an Army of 500,000 men, mostly conscripts.
Ankara says it is opposed to a conflict in Iraq for fear that it would revive Kurdish nationalist feelings at home, in the event of the Iraqi Kurds securing a more effective autonomy. But Turkey has declared that it will authorise the United States to use its military bases in case there is an attack on Iraq — on condition that it be approved by the United Nations. American forces are already based at Incirlik to maintain their patrols over the air exclusion zone imposed by Washington over Iraqi Kurdistan.
Turkey has let it be known that it envisages setting up a “buffer zone” inside Iraqi Kurdistan to avoid a massive influx of refugees on its own soil in the event of war. Iran and Syria are also strengthening their military dispositions along their borders with Iraq, according to the Turkish press.
Furthermore the daily Milliyet of 19 December relating backstage discussions with the United States, wrote that the Turkish Army might intervene by itself to protect its interests in the region. The paper stresses that they should rapidly take over the oil rich Kurdish regions of Mossoul and Kirkuk, to then profit from their military presence, and indicated that Ankara was calling on the United States to work in coordination with its forces.
For their part, the authorities and population of Iraqi Kurdistan are very hostile to any Turkish intervention. Washington was warned by the Kurds and by the Iraqi opposition that any such intervention would provoke a local and regional chain reaction.
On 13 December, Turkey reluctantly accepted the proposal by the Fifteen for an “date” on 4 December 2004 to evaluate its progress towards qualifying for membership of the European Union. To avoid offending Ankara, the Union members had, at the last minute, adopted a clause in the final communiqué of its Copenhagen summit, in which it committed itself to opening negotiations “without delay” after this date.
However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), had, on 9 December, launched his last diplomatic campaign by visiting 14 of the 15 member countries of the E.U. before visiting Washington on 10 December, and then returning to Copenhagen to take part in the summit alongside Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis. Despite American pressure, the Europeans wanted to project an image of firmness on the Turkish case. No date had been set for opening negotiations for membership. This apparent firmness at first infuriated the Turkish leaders who had come to the Danish capital to argue their case. “This means that our efforts are not being taken into account and that they are prejudiced against us” had declared the Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, at first. He further “deeply regretted” Jacques Chirac’s attitude, accusing him of having “negatively influenced" the decision taken the day before. According to the Turkish Prime Minister, the French President was said to have stated before his colleagues that Turkey “was blackmailing the Europeans”. The Elysee Palace denied that Chirac had made any such remarks.
The Fifteen considered that the date of 4 December 2004 left the new Turkish government time successfully to carry through its reforms and for the European Union to complete the first wave of its enlargement and the reform of its institutions. According to the Summit’s final communiqué, the E.U. would open negotiations with Turkey if the December 2004 meeting of the European Council decided “on the basis of a report and a recommendation of the Commission, that Turkey satisfied the Copenhagen political criteria”.
“We will have everything finished and will be ready in December 2004. The E.U. will not be able to make a single objection in its report on Turkey’s progress” stressed Mr. Gul as quoted in the Turkish daily Milliyet of 17 December, adding “Does not our people deserve freedom, democracy and law whether we join the E.U. or not ?”.
The compromise reached with Turkey had one immediate effect. On the evening of 13 December, Ankara accepted to stop blocking negotiations between the E.U. and NATO on the use of the military facilities of the latter for the former’s external military operations. An important step forward for European Defence.
• MASSUD BARZANI MEETS AYATOLLAH BAQIR AL-HAKIM AND AHMAD CHALABI IN TEHERAN. The Kurdistan Democratic Party leader, Mas’ud Barzani, held talks with Ayatollah Baqir Al-Hakim, head of the Teheran-based Iraqi Islamic Shi’a opposition group, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, in Teheran on 8 December. The two leaders discussed the convening of the forthcoming Iraqi opposition conference, which is due to be held in London between 13 and 15 December, said KDP newspaper, Brayati on 10 December.
On 9 December, Massud Barzani met Dr Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the London-based Iraqi National Congress (INC), who had met Ayatollah Baqir Al-Hakim the day before. “We should present a united opposition, discuss the future of Iraq and chose a follow-up committee so we can proceed with the business of removing Saddam” declared Mr. Chalabi.
• AN AMERICAN DELEGATION TO IRAQI KURDISTAN. A US Senate delegation, consisting of Senator Joseph Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel visited Iraqi Kurdistan between 6 and 7 December, “in order to closely examine the prevailing situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and demonstrate US support for the Kurdish people”, Kurdish satellite channel, KTV, reported on 7 December.
In the presence of the head of the Irbil Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani and of the Suleimaniyah Regional Government, Dr Barham Salih, the two senators addressed a session of the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly in the regional capital Irbil.
According to the * December issue of the Kurdish daily Brayati “The two senators stressed the necessity to maintain the protection of the Kurdistan people … and said that the democracy and reconstruction which have been developed in this region (Iraqi Kurdistan) should become a model for the rest of Iraq”.
They also “stressed the need to continue efforts to build a secure future for the Kurds within a united Iraq, which, according to him, would reassure the regional countries and ensure the emergence of a strong and united Iraq”. “We came here to tell you that the mountains are not your only friends”, concluded Senator Biden.
• THE STATE OF EMERGENCY OFFICIALLY LIFTED ON THE LAST TWO KURDISH PROVINCES OF DIYARBEKIR AND SIRNAK. On 30 November, the State of Emergency, imposed for the last fifteen years on Turkish Kurdistan as part of their repression by the Armed forces, was officially lifted on the last two Kurdish provinces of Diyarbekir and Sirnak, in accordance with the decision of parliament voted in June 2002 and welcomed at the time by the European Union. The European Union calls for deep-reaching political reforms and an improvement in the Human Rights situation in Turkey as preconditions for the opening of negotiations for the membership for which Ankara hopes. “A new, normal, period is beginning for the region” declared Minister of the Interior Abdulkadir Aksu in Diyarbekir, which is his native region.
The Human Rights defence organisations have long criticised this State of Emergency, which grants wide powers of arrest and detention to the security forces. It had been imposed in 1987, three years after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had launched its campaign of armed struggle which has led to 30,000 deaths — predominately Kurdish. The clashes have dropped substantially since the capture of the PKK chief, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999, and his orders to his followers to switch their struggle to the political and cultural fields.
The Kurdish inhabitants of Diyarbekir welcomed the lifting of this State of Emergency as a first step, hoping that it will enable the restoration of peace and improve the economic situation. According to a report of the Council of Europe dated July 2002, the Diyarbekir are even much more backward in matters of Human Rights than in the rest of the country. Detainees are often prevented from having access to lawyers and torture is prevalent.
The State of Emergency gave increased powers to the civil and military authorities, in particular allowing them to limit press freedom and civil liberties. Clashes in Kurdistan have given rise to many violations of Human Rights by the authorities. For business circles, the end of this “abnormal” situation should increase investment in the region — the most disadvantaged region of the country, especially compared with the industrialised West of Turkey.
However, the Kurdish press reports that some 400 villagers of the Andaç district of Sirnak Province left their village on 6 December for the Iraqi border, after being threatened and humiliated by the gendarmerie commander, who does not seem to be bothered by the return to a normal regime in the area. The villagers have threatened to ask for political asylum in Iraqi Kurdistan if the police brutalities did not stop.
• THE LAW ON KURDISH LANGUAGE TELEVISION BROADCASTING HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE. A law, passed in August, authorising Kurdish language radio and television broadcasts has only just been published in the Turkish Official Gazette — on 18 December — and, since such programmes are still not ready, many Kurds describe this reform as “a farce”.
The law on broadcasting, accompanied by another covering teaching (in private schools only) in Kurdish had, however, been the subject of a great media hype in a country anxious to convince the European Union of its adherence to a genuine democracy. But the number and nature of the programmes envisaged by the High Audiovisual Council (RTUK) fall far short of the hopes of the Kurds of Turkey who, according to various estimates, make up between a quarter and a third of the 70 million inhabitants of the country. The law provides for a maximum of 45 minutes a day of Kurdish language radio broadcasting — i.e. just over four hours a week. It also limits Kurdish television time to 30 minutes a day — three and a half hours a week.
On radio, the whole of the Kurdish language programme must be followed by its translation in Turkish, while television programmes must be sub-titled word for word, the law specifies. Only the State Radio-Television Company, TRT, may do any Kurdish language broadcasting — which excludes the very many private networks.
Only music and news programmes may be broadcast, and presenters must appear on screen wearing “modern dress” — which means that Kurdish traditional costumes are banned.
• A TURKISH CACOPHONY: THE TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER OPENS TURKISH AIR SPACE TO THE AMERICANS, THEN TRIES TO DENY IT. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Yassar Yakis, declared on 3 December that the US Air Force could operate from Turkey if UNO approved military action against Iraq, but a few hours later his Ministry that this was just a possibility, not a Turkish commitment.
At the end of discussions with US Assistant Secretary for Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, Mr. Yakis explained that Turkey was not in favour of a war against its Iraqi neighbour. “But if we reach that point, we will of course, cooperate with the United States because its is a major ally and we have excellent relations with it” the Minister had declared. This cooperation would take the form of “in the first place opening its air space and the use of installations in Turkey” he had added, stressing that all military action in Iraq should be with UN approval. But a few hours later, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a communiqué stating that Mr. Yakis’ remarks were not a commitment by Turkey to Washington. “The fact that he referred to these possibilities do not constitute a commitment by Turkey because these possibilities have not yet been the subject of discussions with any other country” specified the Foreign Ministry’s communiqué, adding “We are issuing this communiqué to clarify the news” which had been widely broadcast by the Turkish media.
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF BREACHING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. On 5 December, the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of a breach of the freedom of expression of the author of a book of interviews with Abdullah Ocalan. The Ankara government must pay Yalçin Küçük, 64 years of age, 4,000 euros damages as well as 1,500 euros legal costs for its violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr. Kuçuk had been found sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of 100 million TL for “separatist propaganda” after he had published a book entitled “In the Kurdish Garden” reproducing, in the form of questions and answers, an interview he had had with the chief of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The work was confiscated.
The European Court stressed that it was “conscious of the concerns of the authorities that feared that words or actions might aggravate the existing security situation in the South-East” of Turkey but it considered “in fact that the book as a whole does not incite anyone to violence, to armed resistance or to any uprising”. The Turkish courts had considered that Mr. Kuçuk’s book “divided the Republic of Turkey into two parts : Turkey and Kurdistan and that it was propaganda for the formation of a Kurdish State”. Certain passages of Mr. Kuçul’s book, published in April 1993, referred in particular to the “programme of cultural autonomy for the Kurds”.
• PRESIDENT SEZER VETOES THE AMENDMENT THAT WOULD ALLOW THE ELECTION OF RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN. On 19 December, the Turkish President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, vetoed a series of Constitutional amendments that would have allowed the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won the General Election the month before, to stand in a bye-election on 9 February, and so become Prime Minister. The Head of State, in vetoing these resolutions, argued that they had been designed to advantage Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He considered that the amendments had been drawn up “for an individual case” and recalled that laws were designed “for the public good” and so must be “objective”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most popular man in the country, had been prevented from standing at the General Election because of a sentenced passed “for inciting religious hatred”. His party, an offshoot of the Turkish Islamist movement, denies that it is islamist.
On 13 October, the old Turkish Parliament had passed a Constitutional amendment by 440 votes to 18, preventing people sentenced for “illegal anarchist and ideological activities” from standing for public office. Parliament can still override the President’s veto — if the Assembly again passes these Constitutional amendments, the Head of State will be obliged to either sign the law or call a referendum on the subject …
• TWO NEW VICTIMS OF THE HUNGER STRIKE IN THE TURKISH PRISONS. Two new detainees on hunger strike died on 30 November, bringing the number of prisoners who have died of starvation since the start of the hunger strike to at least 60. The strike is against a protest against the “reform” of penitentiary conditions. The reforms opponents consider that they expose detainees to police brutality. The government considers that the reforms conform to European standards and consider them necessary to break the hold of criminal gangs and movements of political activists in the large prison dormitories.
Whereas the bulk of the hunger strikers, who are all from Left-wing groups, have ended their hunger strike, there are still about twenty who are continuing to fast, according to estimates by the Human Rights defence movements. The keep alive for hundreds of days by drinking sugared or salty water and taking vitamins.
• THERE HAVE BEEN CLASHES BETWEEN KADEK AND TURKISH SOLDIERS IN IRAQI KURDISTAN, ACCORDING TO THE KURDISH PAPER JAMAWAR. Two Turks were killed and three others wounded in an ambush at the end of November in Iraqi Kurdistan by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK — renamed KADEK), according to a report of 2 December in the independent Kurdish paper Jamawar. According to the paper, published in Irbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) the five people were, at that moment of the attack, on a Turkish security forces vehicle near Sarsang, in the Kurdish province of Dohuk, near the Turkish border, where Turkish Army units are deployed. “Three occupants of the car were killed and two others seriously wounded in an ambush at the end of November near Sarsang” the paper indicated. The Sarsang region is 100 Km from the Turko-Iraqi border.
• UNHCR AND UNICEF ON A WAR FOOTING. The United Nations has confirmed that it is stockpiling relief supplies in the Middle East in case of a war in Iraq.
The UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, said that “donor countries have been asked for more than $37m in emergency funding to cover contingency plans for Iraq at a meeting in Geneva on 13 December”, BBC News Online reported on 24 December.
Citing the minutes of the Geneva meeting, Iraqi Kurdish daily newspaper, Brayati, reported on 22 December that UNICEF had already “began transporting aid for 500,000 Iraqi citizens in Iraq and in four of Iraq's neighbouring countries. It also intends to provide aid for 160,000 people in another place near Iraq.”
Still according to Brayati, the UNHCR “intends to have tents and other requirements ready for 100,000 people, so that a mass exodus, similar to that of spring 1991, would not be repeated during an attack” Brayati reported.
• ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE ARMED ISLAMIC GROUP KILLED IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. According to the Kurdish daily Hawlati, a leading figure of the Islamic radical group, Ansar al-Islam in Kurdistan, AIK, was killed during clashes at Girda Drozna and Tapa Kora in the Sharazur region on 4 December. “Abu-Abdallah Shafi'i was among the 11 AIK members who were killed in the fighting with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces. The source said that the emir was killed following shelling by Turkish artillery to help PUK forces” the paper reported.
Abu-Abdallah Shafi'i, whose real name is Wurya Hawleri, is a veteran of the Afghan war, is known to be a founding member of the Jund al-Islam radical group in Iraqi Kurdistan, in September 2001, which later became Ansar al-Islam in December of the same year, following a merger with another Islamic armed group, headed by Mala Krekar, who is now under investigation by Dutch judicial authorities in Netherlands.