On 28 February, the Ankara State Security Court decided that Leyla Zana, winner of the European Parliament’s 1995 Sakharov Prize, and her three colleagues Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sedak, all former Kurdish members of the Turkish Parliament and imprisoned for the last 9 years in Ankara, will be retried. The judges decided to act upon the petition presented by the former M.P.s’ lawyers at the beginning of the months while rejection another petition for their immediate release.
The European Human Rights Court had ruled that their trial was inequitable and the Council of Europe had demanded, in January 2003, that Ankara should review their trial. The Turkish Parliament, in the context of measures aimed at favouring the country’s rapprochement with the European Union, recently passed a law authorising a new trial for prisoners whose trial had been condemned by the European Human Rights Court.
The Turkish Army is sending troops to its borders with Iraqi Kurdistan while declaring that these are just “precautionary measures” the should not be perceived as a threat to Iraq. Turkey plans to sent tens of thousands of troops into Iraqi Kurdistan in the pretext of wishing to ensure humanitarian measures, in particular to keep on Iraqi territory a flood of refugees going towards its borders.
Ankara made a big show of its alignment with Washington on 6 February, when the Turkish Parliament authorised American engineers and technicians to work on Turkish airports to bring them up to standard for possible use by US troops. Turkey intends to allow 300 American planes to use its bases in the event of military action against Iraq, and is itself preparing to send some 80,000 soldiers into Iraqi Kurdistan, wrote the Turkish daily Milliyet : “If we stay out of the equation at the start of operations, we will no longer be able to control developments at the end” explained Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). “The Turkish Armed Forces will not go to fight in Iraq” but their presence could be necessary “to prevent massacres, waves of refugees and the setting up of an independent (Kurdish) State” affirmed, for his part, the Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul.
However, the Turkish press has been reporting for several days that the United States are hostile to the idea that the Turkish troops be commanded by a Turk. At the end of his “post-Saddam” discussions with Turkish leaders and several representatives of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), including Jalal Talabani, leader of the PUK and Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Irbil Kurdish regional government, Zalamy Khalilzad, the American President’s representative to the Iraqi opposition, warned Turkey, on 7 February against any unilateral military intervention, stating that “any action and conflict in Iraq must be carried out in the context of a coalition command”. On 10 February, Mr. Erdogan replied that Turkey would consider an “insult” any American proposal to command Turkish troops in Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of an military invasion of Iraq. “Such a thing would be an insult to the (Turkish) people. We would consider any proposal in that sense as an insult” he commented. Mr. Erdogan stressed that the Turkish Army had acquired the experience and the forces necessary for carrying out missions in this region and stressed Turkish military presence in Iraqi Kurdistan over several years.
Moreover, Turkey could decide to postpone the vote authorising tens of thousands of American soldiers to base themselves in Turkey. The Turkish Parliament is due to meet on 18 February to vote this authorisation, but the Turkish Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, stated, on 16 February that it would be “very difficult” to keep to this timetable. “There are difficulties about the agenda … We have explained that we could not be able to bring this matter before Parliament at such short notice” declared Mr. Yakis at a Press Conference with the Economic Affairs Minister, Ali Babacan. Mr. Yakis was speaking on his return from Washington where he had met various leading officials. Turkey and the United States had failed to reach agreement on the extent of economic aid that the United States could provide to cushion the impact of the Iraqi conflict on Turkey, Mr. Babacan explained for his part.
Estimates of the number of American soldiers vary from day to day, but the Turkish press gives the impression between 10,000 and 20,000 would be authorised to enter Iraq from Turkey, whereas the bulk of the American forces would reach Baghdad from the Gulf. According to the Turkish press, Ankara hopes that the number of Turkish troops in Iraqi Kurdistan be greater than the Americans and that on no account would the British — accused by Ankara of being pro-Kurdish — be allowed to be deployed in this area.
For Turkey, the Iraqi Kurds (who enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy since they have taken control of the area) must, above all else, be prevented from declaring their independence or any sort of autonomy. If Turkey had occupied Iraqi Kurdistan during the Gulf War “we would not have lost so many human lives and the terrorist organisation (the PKK) would not have been able to take root and develop” stated Mr. Gul. To reassure their neighbours the leaders of the two Kurdish parties that govern the country have proclaimed loud and clear their commitment to a united Iraqi State. Jalal Talabani, reaffirmed this week in Ankara that when “the American Army liberates us from the Iraqi dictatorship there will be no question of (our) secession”.
The Kurds are vehemently opposed to the idea of the Turkish Army crossing the border alongside the American forces and gaining a lasting foothold in this sensitive region on the pretext of a war against Saddam Hussein. “There is no reason for a Turkish Army, or that of any other country of the region, coming here — no good would come of it to us and we will not accept it” warned Sami Abdoul Rahman, Deputy Prime Minister of the Irbil Kurdish regional government at a Press Conference on 12 February. “The Turks have no intention of fighting the Iraqis, they simply want to enter (Iraqi Kurdistan) by the back door” considered Mr. Abdoul Rahman, who rejected the humanitarian argument : “If they want to help refugees, they only have to send NGOs or the International Red Cross, but not soldiers”. Mr. Abdoul Rahman further added “The Americans have promised that they won’t let us down again this time”.
Two leaders of the Kurdish Yekiti (Unity) Party who had been jailed in December after a sit-in organised in Damascus, will be brought before an emergency tribunal, the State Security Court. “Messrs Marouane Osman and Hassan Saleh are to be brought before the State Security Court for the offence of having aroused religious dissension” explained Mr. Anouar Bounni in a communiqué dated 9 February. “This is a step backwards and an attempt to reactivate the emergency laws” established nearly forty years ago, said Mr. Bounni.
On 10 December last, nearly 150m Kurds had demonstrated in front of the Syrian Parliament to ask the authorities to “review their discriminatory policies” against the Kurdish population of Syria. Messrs Osman and Saleh were arrested five days later when they visited the Ministry of the Interior to meet the Minister, Ali Hammoud, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Syria (CDDS) stated in a communiqué. “Their lawyers have requested that Messrs Osman and Saleh be brought before ordinary courts. They stressed, moreover, that the accused are members of the Political Committee of the Yekiti Party, which works quite openly, in the absence of any law regarding political parties” Mr. Bounni continued.
In October 2002, in an open letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, five Kurdish parties, making up the Kurdish Democratic Alliance of Syria (KDAS) had demanded that the authorities return to almost 200,000 Kurds their national identity cards that had been withdrawn from them in 1962.
The latest report from Dr. Blix and Mohammed elBaradei was presented to the UN Security Council on 14 February before an audience liberally sprinkled with foreign Ministers and journalists from the international media. The heads of the disarmament inspection teams state that they had found no weapons of mass destruction. But some grey areas still exist. “The many banned weapons and chemical products not been found. That does not mean that they do not exist. However, this possibility must not be excluded” explained Hans Blix.
The chief inspectors also wanted to make the point that “so far, no chemical weapon has been found” and “that no hasty conclusions should be drawn”. Certain points must however, be cleared up, in particular the absence of any proof that certain proscribed substances have really been eliminated. Hans Blix, thus, invited “the Iraqi Government to provide the names of the experts who had dealt with the prohibited substances”.
Regarding the private interviews, some people who had originally refused these interviews had, at the last moment, accepted them. There still remain, however, some who are opposed to these interviews. Mr. Blix “hopes that this may change”.
Hans Blix also wishes that the Western Intelligence Agencies would cooperate more closely with the inspectors so that they could have any new information. In fact, some years ago some places had been visited on the recommendations of foreign governments. This had allowed arms to be found in certain places — others had enabled proof to be found of the absence of any weapons.
The task of disarmament must be completed, but there had not been full cooperation. In fact, the immediate and unconditional cooperation of Iraq would enable the inspections to be rapidly ended.
According to Hans Blix, only a small number of empty warheads “which should have been declared and destroyed” were found by the inspectors. However, the inspectors had not been able lay their hands on “numerous banned weapons and substances”. If these substances existed, Hans Blix recalled, they should be handed in to the inspectors to be destroyed, with particular reference to stocks of anthrax, VX gas, and long range missiles. Iraq has not furnished proof of their destruction.
Regarding nuclear weapons, the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed ElBaradei, declared that the inspectors had “not discovered” any nuclear activity in Iraq. But here too grey areas remained. “A certain number of problems are still being investigated”. Mr. ElBaradei stated that Iraq had unconditionally opened all the sites asked for. Installations were set up on the sites inspected to enable the continuous monitoring of these places. Moreover, he wanted to point out that the aluminium tubes had been used to manufacture ordinary weapons and not centrifuges. “No proof was found that these tubes had been used for centrifuges”.
Furthermore, certain fears had been shown to be unjustified. Indeed, the inspections and analyses by experts had not provided any proof that certain fibres had been used in a weapon making context. The personnel working on this will be increased, both as regards experts and interpreters.
The control procedures will this become more effective. Mr. ElBaradei also asked for more cooperation from States outside Iraq, including the United States, in identifying localities where weapons might be found.
Mr. Blix stated that “access to Iraqi sites had taken place, so far, without any problems". But the inspectors expected more action from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Recalling that resolution 1441 meant “much more than opening the doors”, Hans Blix also stressed that Baghdad had accepted the South African offer of providing it with experts in disarmament.
As a pre=amble to his report, Hans Blix indicated that the inspectors had visited 400 sites without any advance notice in 11 weeks of inspections. In the opinion of the Chief Inspector, there were no reasons to believe that the Iraqis had known of these visits.
Iraq had informed UNO of the presence of mustard gas and these stocks were being destroyed — it should be mentioned that Iraq had kept this gas securely sealed. Some weapons had, however, been found “on the basis of information supplied by Iraq”: two variations of the Al-Samoud 2 missile are capable of exceeding the 150 Km range — a type of missile forbidden by resolutions 687 and 715.
Moreover, a week later, after Colin Powell’s speech to the Security Council, Hans Blix returned to the “proofs” presented the week before by the US Secretary of State. In the opinion of the UN Chief Inspector, the arguments put forward by Colin Powell were not irrefutable, nor were the satellite pictures supposed to back up Washington’s accusations.
The French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was applauded at the end of a long plea aimed at “giving peace a chance”. “The use of force is not justified today” against Iraq he stressed, before calling for a new Security Council meeting on 14 March. “There is an alternative to war: disarming Iraq through the inspections” declared Mr. Villepin, stressing that “a premature recourse to the military option would be so pregnant with consequences for humanity, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisaged as a last resort”. “What we have just heard through the reports by Messrs. Blix and elBaradei is that the inspections are producing results” added the French Foreign Minister. Then he recalled the links between the USA and France “Mine is an old country, France, as is my continent , Europe (…) which has known wars, occupation, barbarism. An old country that has not forgotten and knows all it owes to the fighters for freedom who came from America and elsewhere”.
For his part, Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, affirmed that the Security Council should be ready to envisage “in a very near future” some “very serious consequences” for Iraq for its refusal to conform to UN decisions. The head of the US Foreign Service also refuted the arguments of many countries that were members of the Council, including France, Russia and China, to extend and strengthen the inspections. “What we need is not more inspections. What we need is to have a more immediate access to the suspect sites and total and unconditional cooperation from Iraq ” he thundered.
After a week of unprecedented crisis between the allies, NATO reached and agreement on 16 February authorising the planning of measures to protect Turkey in the event of war in Iraq. “The solidarity of the Alliance has won” said the General Secretary of the Alliance, George Robertson, after this agreement extracted after intense negotiations within NATO’s Defence Planning Committee, of which France is no longer member since it left the Alliance in 1966.
In a last defiant gesture, France, Belgium and Germany, that had previously vetoed NATO aid to Turkey stated, in a joint declaration, that this agreement “did not prejudice efforts under way” for a peaceful settlement of the Iraqi crisis. In this declaration, the three countries “particularly stress that the use of force could only be a last resort and that all possibilities of Resolution 1441 have not yet been exploited”.
The measures to aid Turkey concerned principally the preventive deployment of batteries of Patriot anti-missile missiles, provided by member States, and AWAC anti-plane radar in the hands of the Alliance. Lord Robertson, nevertheless assured that these measures were “purely defensive”. “NATO’s inability to adopt a common stand on the Turkish question has not consequences on Turkish security” considered the Turkish Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, on 14 February, adding that his country would obtain whatever it needed to protect itself by bi-lateral agreements. “The Turkish Army is, in any case, very strong. We have no need of them. Our forces are amongst the strongest of the world” boasted the Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in the daily paper Hurriyet on 12 February.
Furthermore, on 16 February Turkey welcomed the Iraqi deputy Premier Tarek Aziz, on his return from Rome. He had unplanned discussions of one hour at Istanbul airport with his Turkish opposite number, Mehmet Ali Sahin, and with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Turkish press.
The Iraqi question was the subject of tough discussion at the European Union summit summoned by the Greek presidency on 17 February in Brussels, to try and reach some common position. Kofi Annan, UNO General Secretary was also present.
French President Jacques Chirac and the Bristish Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly aired their differences. Mr. Chirac, on arriving at the summit, declared that Paris “has no choice but to oppose another resolution” proposed by Great Britain. The disarmament of Iraq must be carried out “by force” if it could not be done peacefully, retorted the British Prime Minister Tony Blair on his arrival. “I think that the most important thing at the moment is to sent a signal of determination, not one of weakness. That is the language that Saddam Hussein understands and it is also our best chance of avoiding a conflict” insisted Mr. Blair.
To the Press, Mr. Chirac declared “There is no need, today, for a second resolution which France could only oppose”. Agreeing with him, the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer pointed out that it was up to the UN Security Council, and not the European Union, to decide if an extension of time was necessary for the UN inspection mission. In the end, the European Union announced that “war was not inevitable” and that “force should only be used as a last resort” while pointing out that “the inspections cannot go on indefinitely in the absence of complete Iraqi cooperation”, without specifying who should decide on ending the inspections nor when they should end.
At a time when the Iraqi issue dominates international news, the Karthala publishing house has just published, with the support of the Paris Kurdish Institute, a French translation of an outstanding document prepared by the Middle East Human Rights Watch entitled “Genocide in Iraq — the Anfal Campaign against the Kurds”.
Using Iraqi documents seized by the Kurdish resistance, the document establishes the fact that Halabja was just part of a wider genocidal campaign to eradicate the Kurdish population of Kurdistan. The book also spotlights the Anfal campaign which, according to its principal architect, Ali Hassan Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein and “Viceroy of Kurdistan”, caused 100,000 deaths just in the course of the two years 1987-1988, in the course of which chemical weapons were used against the Kurds about forty times.
“This is a history book based on irrefutable sources” that enables us to discover “the story of what happened in Kurdistan from March to September 1988: spraying towns and villages with poison gas, massacres of men, women and children, setting up of concentration camps …” writes Pierre Vidal-Naquet in the preface to the book. The sources are the archives of the Iraqi secret services seized by the Kurds during their uprising in March 1991 and subsequently stored in the United States.
• THE TURKISH PRIME MINISTER OFFERS ASYLUM TO SADDAM HUSSEIN. According to the Turkish press, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul offered guarantees for the survival of Saddam Hussein to Taha Yasin Ramazan, Iraqi Deputy Premier, during a lightning secret visit to Ankara on 10 February.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet, in its 12 February issue related that Mr. Gul assured Saddam Hussein every guarantee of his survival in the event of exile in Turkey or any other country “We offer you every guarantee you may require” the Prime Minister is said to have declared to his Iraqi opposite number. Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, his entourage confirm the news saying “It would be undiplomatic of the Prime Minister publicly to confirm such a thing”.
• THE POPE SENDS AN EMISSARY TO SADDAM HUSSEIN AND SPEAKS IN FAVOUR OF THE STATUS QUO. On 11 February, the French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Pope John Paul II’s emissary, arrived in Baghdad bearing a “personal message” from the Pape calling on Saddam Hussein to cooperate more closely with the UN disarmament inspectors. On his arrival at Saddam Hussein International Airport, Baghdad, Mgr. Etchegaray made the point that he also had a message for all the world’s political leaders, namely that war “would be the worst of all solutions”. “I have arrived in Baghdad as a messenger from Pope Jean Paul II and bearer of a personal message to Raïs Saddam Hussein” he explained. “I also come to encourage political leaders of all countries and all opinions to pursue unceasingly their efforts for peace”.
The Basque prelate, used to the Vatican’s diplomatic missions, was welcomed at the airport by the Iraqi Minister of Justice, Munthir al-Shawi. The 80 year old French cardinal, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, also stressed that the Pope had decided to explore “the last limits of hope”. The Vatican has several times shown its opposition to a war in Iraq, many dignitaries of the Holy See considering that a conflict undertaken on preventative grounds would have no legal or moral justification. Pope John-Paul himself has declared that such a war would constitute a “defeat for humanity”.
On 7 February Pope John Paul II met the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tarik Aziz, on the day that the principal UN disarmament inspector presented his latest report to the Security Council. A meeting has also been arranged between the Pontiff and the United Nations’ General Secretary, Koki Anna.
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS THE DISMISSAL OF FORMER TURKISH PRIME MINISTER, NECMETTIN ERBAKAN, AND THE DISSOLUTION OF THE ISLAMIST PARTY REFAH TO BE JUSTIFIED. On 13 February, the European Human Rights Court rejected the petition of the Prosperity Party (Refah — Islamist), dissolved by a decree of the Turkish Constitutional Court of 16 January 1998, on the grounds that it had become “a centre of activity against the principle of secularism”. The European Court ruled that “there are convincing and imperative reasons that could justify the dissolution of Refah and the temporary stripping of political rights of other petitioners”. As a consequence, the dissolution of Refah can be considered “necessary in a democratic society”.
The Court considered that interference in the freedom of association of the petitioners, recognised by Article 11 of the Convention, was provided for by law and could not be considered disproportionate to the objectives aimed at. The Court stressed that a “political party can promote a change in legislation or in the legal or constitutional structures of the State on two conditions: firstly that the means used for this be legal and democratic and secondly that the changes themselves be compatible with fundamental democratic principles. It, therefore, necessarily follows that a political party whose leaders incite the recourse to violence and propose a political project that aims at the destruction of these principles, as well as ignoring the rights and liberties that they embody, cannot claim the protection of the Convention against sanctions inflicted for these reasons.
The Court further considers that the constitution and programme of a political party cannot be taken into account as the sole criteria to determine its objectives and intentions. For this reason the Court recalls that it cannot be excluded that the political programme hides objectives other than those publicly declared”
• IRAQ TRIES TO GAIN TIME BY AUTHORISING, FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE INTERROGATION OF ONE OF ITS SCIENTISTS BY THE UN INSPECTORS. On 6 February, Iraq made a gesture towards the United Nations by authorising the interrogation of one of its scientists by the UN inspectors. Saddam Hussein’s scientific adviser, General Amer Al-Saadi, created a surprise that evening by announcing to journalists that a Iraqi biological scientist had been interrogated by the disarmament without Iraqi officials being present, as UNO has long demanded.
Baghdad thus conformed to the requests made by the UN inspectors who, ever since their return on 25 November have asked for about fifteen private interviews with Iraqi research workers, but they have each time then presence of Iraqi officials have been required.
• THE PKK CALLS FOR “ARMED RESISTANCE”. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) warned that it would take up arms against the Turkish Army and the Iraqi Kurds if there was any attempt to expel them from Iraqi Kurdistan, where they have sought asylum, according to a report in the daily Ozgur Politika. According to the paper, the PKK commander Osman Ocalan stated that if Turkish troops entered the region, the PKK fighters would re-enter Turkey. “If Turkey … launches a war of extermination (…) our armed resistance will be waged over the widest area possible” he declared. The PKK set a 15 February deadline to an ultimatum demanding that the Turkish authorities authorise Abdullah Ocalan’s lawyers to visit him (they have been prevented from doing so for the last 11 weeks). Several dozen people were taken into detention following demonstrations in Batman and Mardin.