The war against Iraq began shortly before dawn on 20 March with a series of American air raids on Baghdad and adjoining areas, soon after the expiry of US President George W. Bush’s ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The air raids were especially aimed at places where high ranking Iraqi leaders were likely to be sheltering.
“The devil will be beaten” “We will resist the invaders” declared Saddam Hussein in a speech broadcast over television to the Youth, describing the U.S. as “the tyrant of the century” and calling on the Iraqi and Arabs to resist by promising them victory. The broadcasting of this speech took place a little more than an hour after the ending of the first American air raid on Baghdad. A few hours later six Scud-type missiles were fired at Kuweitian territory of which two were intercepted by American Patriot anti-missile missiles, according to the Kuweiti Defence Ministry.
Solemnly addressing the French a few hours after the first American strikes against Baghdad, Mr. Chirac stressed that France had struggled “to the very end” to prevent the war, but recognised that “these efforts were unsuccessful”. “Military operations have just started in Iraq. France regrets this action, undertaken without UN approval” declared the French President, who hoped that “these operations be as rapid and as little murderous as possible and that they do not lead to a humanitarian catastrophe”.
In the evening of 20 March, the European summit in Brussels passed a common statement that reaffirms the fundamental role of the United Nations in international relations, promises humanitarian aid from the EU and calls for respect for the “integrity” of Iraqi territory. The adoption of this resolution was effected more rapidly than expected, whereas the Fifteen remain deeply divided on this issue. As had already been done during the extraordinary summit on the Iraqi crisis on the previous 17 February, the Fifteen considered, in their common statement, that “the United Nations must continue to play an essential role during and after the present crisis”. They pleaded for “a firm mandate” from UNO in the perspective of post-war period without any explicit mention of the reconstruction of Iraq. The resolution also stresses the EU’s commitment to “the territorial integrity, the sovereignty, the political stability and the total disarmament of Iraq over the whole of its territory as well as respect for the rights of the Iraqi people”, in particular “its minorities”. “We invite all the countries of the region to abstain from any action which might lead to an increase in (regional) instability” declared Mr. Smitis before the press in an allusion to Turkey and Israel.
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, also asked for a rapid end to the war in Iraq, affirming that it was in no case justified and that it was “a great political mistake”. “Russia calls for an end to military action as soon as possible” declared the Russian President at the start of a meeting with top leaders of his country.
The Turkish President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer described the American air strikes as a “unilateral action” just a few hours before the vote by the Turkish Parliament opening the country’s air space to American planes. In exchange for this, Turkey will receive one billion dollars of financial help. The American 4th Armoured Division, which should have transited through Turkey to open a Northern second front finally received the order to do an about turn and join the Americano-British armada in Kuwait.
The land offensive of American-British forces took off from this country after the air raids.
On 5 March, the Turkish Army finally came out firmly in support of the deployment of American forces in the country and severely warned the Iraqi Kurdish parties against any opposition to its possible intervention “The Army’s views are the same as the Government’s” declared the Chief of Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, in a rare speech to journalists, in which he read a prepared written declaration.
“We thought that if the front was opened in the North (Iraqi Kurdistan) the war would be shortened and unforeseen incidents would not take place” pointed out the Turkish General. “Unfortunately our choice is not between good and evil but between the bad and worse” he stressed, adding that “If we do not take part in a war (…) it would be impossible for us to have any say after the war”. Pointing out that his country had neither the capacity nor the means of preventing a war on its own, General Ozkok indicated “Turkey will suffer the same damage, whether it takes part in the war or no”.
The day after the Turkish Army’s declaration, some 200 Turkish Army trucks were sent to the Iraqi Kurdish border, while American trucks, loaded onto trailers, left the port of Iskenderun. Several hundreds of American military vehicles, principally trucks and jeeps, had been unloaded 15 days earlier at Iskenderun. According to the NTV television channel, nine bases are being set up in Turkish Kurdistan to receive the American soldiers and their logistic support. Many rumours talk of the crossing over into Iraqi Kurdistan not only of Turkish but also American soldiers, dressed as civilians, riding Turkish registered four wheels drive vehicles.
Yet the Speaker of Parliament, Bülent Arinc, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in office, had also expressed his irritation on 9 March, by what he called the “de facto” deployment.
The American military preparations are also provoking tensions in the country. On 12 March the Turkish Military Police fired in the air, in Turkish Kurdistan, to disperse demonstrators gathering in front of Iskanderun port, which is being used to transport American military equipment, although the United States have accepted to send two batteries of Patriot anti-missile missiles to Turkey, thus bringing the number of such batteries deployed in Turkey up to five.
Turkey claims to fear that the two Kurdish Parties that control Iraqi Kurdistan might take advantage of an American military intervention to declare their independence. It has warned that, should this occur, it would intervene militarily in this region, where it has already stationed several hundreds of soldiers. In his speech on 5 March, the Chief of the General Staff warned the Iraqi Kurdish parties that they would have to take the consequences of any eventual confrontation with the Turkish Army, in the event of its intervening in Iraqi Kurdistan. “I remind them of our legitimate right to defend our national interests and hope that they will be prudent and cooperative” he announced. “Those who want to replace peace by confrontation will have to assume responsibility for it and face the full consequences” declared General Ozkok. Similarly, on 4 March, Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the Iraqi Kurds against any hostile acts against his country and Baghdad against any attempt to profit from the situation. “There are worrying and regrettable events taking place in Northern Iraq” he stated before the Parliamentary group of his party (AKP).
For his part, Massud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, had stated at the end of the conference of the Iraqi opposition on 1 March, that the Kurdish people will “arise” if ever a Turkish Army were to invade Iraqi Kurdistan in the context of an American led attack to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. “Even if the Turkish troops were under American command, we would find it unacceptable. … The Americans are perfectly aware of our position (…) and the Kurdish people will arise to face up to any plot” he added.
To defuse these tensions, the Americans, the Americans organised a series of meetings over 18 and 19 March between the Kurdish political leaders as well as representatives of the Iraqi opposition.
The first meeting, on 18 March, brought together the two principle Iraqi Kurdish parties and Turkish diplomats and the US President’s representative with to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad. Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Nechirvan Barzani Prime Minister of the Kurdistan regional government at Irbil, took part in these discussions, widened, on the 19th to other representatives of the Iraqi opposition.
At the end of this meeting with Kurdish and Turkish representatives, Zalmay Khalilzad, announced that the Kurdish forces had agreed to put their forces under the U.S. command in the event of action against Iraq. “The Iraqi parties accepted fully to cooperate with the coalition forces if they entered Iraq and to place whatever forces they had under the command and control of the coalition command” Mr. Kalilzad declared.
Regarding the Turkish request to sent troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, officially for humanitarian missions, Mr. Khalilzad stressed that this “would be neither the first nor the best means of treating” these problems. “But the different parties will keep in touch. We are thinking about mechanisms whereby the Iraqis, Americans and Turks can keep in touch for dealing with the problems as and when they appear” added Mr. Khalilzad.
For the United States, as for the Iraqi Kurds, the issue is one of containing Turkish plans to send several tens of thousands of troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, with the danger of provoking a “war within the war” with the Kurdish party.
The representatives of the Iraqi opposition committed themselves to working to set up a democratic government and to defend the territorial integrity of Iraq. Those taking part agreed to “allow the Iraqi people to build a fully representative and democratic government, in accordance with international standards”, according to a communiqué published at the end of the meeting. The opposition declared it was ready to “preserve Iraq’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity”. The participants also agreed to “protect civilians and property”, “discourage uncontrolled movements of refugees and displaced persons” and to “discourage the Iraqis from taking the law into their own hands or inciting civil disorder”.
A commission will be set up to examine, in particular, the restitution of their houses to those Iraqis, including many Kurds, driven from their homes by the Baghdad regime. The participants stressed, moreover, that Iraq’s natural resources should be “used as national property and for the Iraqi people as a whole”.
The 19 March meeting was attended by Jalal Talabani and Nechirvan Barzani as well as by Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress and Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, representing the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (ASRII). Some Turkomen representatives (who the Turks hope to see taking part in the future Iraqi administration) and the Constitutional Monarchist Movement (CMM) were also present at the meeting.
Finally, after intense pressure from the European Union and Washington to avoid Turkey’s unilaterally sending of troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, the Turkish military and political authorities finally adopted a more reassuring position. At a press conference at Diyarbekir on 26 March the Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff give assurances that his army would work in coordination with the United States before sending any soldiers into Iraqi Kurdistan, saying that they would only be deployed in the event of a humanitarian crisis or of a threat to Turkey’s security. “Because our strategic ally, the United States, is still at war in this region, we will coordinate our action with it” declared General Hilmi Ozok. He stressed that the Army would only send reinforcements to Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of attacks on Turkish soldiers already there, of an offensive “by one of the regional forces against the other or against civilians” or of “a massive influx of refugees”. While promising coordinated action, the Turkish General also expressed some resentment against Washington “I find it hard to understand why those who are on the other side of the oceans and say that they are threatened do not believe Turkey when it says that it is facing the same danger, just on the other side of its borders”.
For his part, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gül, announced on 25 March that Ankara envisaged sending Turkish troops only 20 Kilometres into Iraqi Kurdistan to prevent an influx of refugees, but only in the event of a crisis. The American Under-Secretary of State, Paul Wolfowitz, had, on 27 March criticised the Turkish government, declaring that it “didn’t really know what it was doing” and was not capable of securing the authorisation of its Parliament for the deployment of American troops for opening a second front in Iraq. In his view, Ankara had thus committed “a big, big mistake” even if he recognised that Washington had asked a great deal of Turkey and that that country had, nevertheless, accepted to open its air space to the American Air Force. Mr. Wolfowitz was appearing before a House of Representatives Finance sub-Commission to defend President Bush’s demand of a billion dollars of aid for Turkey in the context of the budgetary extension of $74.7 billion for the war in Iraq.
On 1 March, the Turkish members of Parliament turned, down by three votes, a government motion authorising the stationing of 62,000 American soldiers in the event of war. The motion had received 264 votes, whereas the majority needed was 267. The Turkish Army had then refused to take sides, preferring to let the Islamist party, now in power, to get bogged down in its own contradiction and be solely responsible for the decision authorising the stationing of the American Army on Turkish soil — an eventuality rejected by 80% of the Turkish population. The Justice and Development Party had, thus, most unwillingly submitted the motion. The US Ambassador to Turkey declared the next day that the financial aid offered by Washington to Ankara, which was likely to amount to 30 billion dollars, would be seriously at risk if no agreement was reached.
Some reforms to the electoral laws passed by Parliament, in which the Justice and Development Party (AKP - Islamist) has an overwhelming majority, enabled Recep Tayyip Erdogan to win a bye-election in Siirt, the last formality needed to impel him into the position of Prime Minister. His nomination by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on 12 March thus enabled him openly to take over the running of a Government from which he had been excluded for four months because of a legal ruling that he was ineligible to stand at the General Elections. He has, nevertheless, indirectly been running the country side by side with his right hand man, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, who resigned on 11 March to enable him to take his place.
On 14 March, R.T. Erdogan announced the formation of his government, which includes 22 Ministers, including the outgoing Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, appointed Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier. Mr. Erdogan dropped three of the outgoing cabinet: Ertugrul Yalcinbayir, ex-Deputy Premier, Yasar Yakis, ex-Foreign Minister and Imdat Sutluoglu, ex-Minister for the Environment. All the other Ministers were members of the outgoing cabinet.
The American military preparations also provoked tensions in the country. On 12 March the Turkish Military Police fired in the air, in Turkish Kurdistan, to disperse demonstrators gathering in front of Iskanderun port, although the United States had accepted to send two batteries of Patriot anti-missile missiles to Turkey, thus bringing the number of such batteries deployed in Turkey up to five.
The retrial of the former Kurdish Members of Parliament opened on the morning of 28 March at the Ankara State Security Court, before an audience of many lawyers, Human Rights defenders, diplomats and journalists as well two Members of the European Parliament present as observers. Over 200 police, including riot squad units had been mobilised for the occasion.
Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, former M.P.s for the pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP), who have already served nine years imprisonment in Turkey, had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 1994 , on charges of “separatism”. They owe their retrial to a ruling of the European Human Rights Court that found their first trial “inequitable” and also to a decision of the Turkish Parliament authorising a retrial to people whose sentences had been condemned by the European Human Rights Court. On 28 February an Ankara State Security Court decided to accede to the petition for a retrial put forward by their lawyers while rejecting their request to be released on bail. This is the first trial of this kind since the adoption of these measures by Parliament in January 2003.
On the first day of the trial, the former M.P.s called for a speeding up of the democratisation process in the country, “Some important progress has been achieved over the last few years in respect of democratisation” said Mrs. Zana, who considered that Turkey must still do much more in the area of Human Rights. Moreover Mrs. Zana, winner of the European Parliament’s 1995 Zakharov Prize, whose trial is being followed with special attention by the European Commission, called on the European Union to encourage the reforms by immediately opening negotiations on Turkey’s membership. “This would accelerate Turkey’s democratisation process” she considered. Mrs. Zana denied having incited the Kurds to “rebellion”. “We have never proposed violence, but we have been the targets of violence” she declared. “We had only one objective in Parliament and that was to stop the fratricidal shedding of blood” she added.
Leyla Zana continued by stating : “On the occasion of this retrial, in the tenth year of our imprisonment, I would like to stress that, primarily we — and you, our judges, but also the journalists and observers — are sitting an examination in democracy. Consequently, even if the impression is given that this period of legal procedures is about our individual liberties, in fact it is about our common future. If our problem had been solely one of individual liberty, we would not have waited all this time in Turkey — we would have exercised our right to voluntary exile”.
For his part, Orhan Dogan stated “Some years ago, we went into politics to work for peace, democracy and brotherhood, taking into account the sacrifices involved. A solution of the Kurdish problem based on tolerance and mutual understanding could only strengthen Turkey’s unity and geographic borders. That is the reason why hope that the reforms of August 2002 will be rapidly put into practice and confidence established. It is also important for Turkey to be linked in friendship with neighbouring populations. Instead of considering our friends of neighbouring countries as enemies, fraternal respect can only act in favour of Turkey and our neighbouring brothers”.
“We were tried for our political opinions” stated Mr. Dicle for his part.
The State Security Court refused to release them pending their retrial, as the defence lawyers had requested. At the end of the hearing, the judge set 25 April as the date for the continuation of the trial. “This is disappointing — Turkey has lost an opportunity for giving some proof of a democratic and pragmatic attitude” commented Luigi Vinci, and Italian Member of the European Parliament who was attending the trial. ”If the four M.P.s are not released at the next hearing it will be a scandal” he stated. “We want to see an equitable trial because the proceeding in 1994 were not equitable and the rights of the defence, at that time were violated” the European M.P. stressed.
On 12 March, Francis Wurtz, President of the European United Left Group, had called for the sending of a delegation from the European Parliament to attend the retrial. “This is an event of major political importance in Turkey and allows some hope for the freeing of Leyla Zana as well as other political prisoners” explained Mr. Wurtz as he demanded, in the name of his Group, that the European Parliament be represented at the trial “as an institution” by a delegation “representing all the trends in the European Parliament”.
The European Commission has just proposed a “road map” to Turkey which, if followed, would allow it to join the European Union. “The requirements we are setting before Turkey are high, but the challenge can be taken up” declared the European Commissioner for enlargement, Günter Verheugen. In December 2002, the Fifteen had assured Turkey that negotiations for membership would begin at the end of 2004 if decisive progress had been achieved towards the criteria set by the European Union. Brussels will play a crucial role in drafting a report for the Head of State and Government of the Union determining the extent of Ankara’s respect of the criteria.
Concretely, the Commission proposes to grant a financial aid of 1.05 billion euros over the period 2004 - 2006, which is about double the present level.
However, in exchange, Turkey must show the greatest restraint regarding Iraqi Kurdistan, whereas Ankara would like to send in thousands of men, under the cover of humanitarian aid for Iraqi Kurdistan. “It is clear that any Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq would be undesirable and misplaced” he declared. “It would be difficult to commit a bigger blunder in the middle of the crisis” he added. “If there were to be an incursion it would have serious consequences for the future of any relations between the European Union and Turkey”. Brussels also hopes that the Turkish authorities put pressure on the Turkish Cypriot community leaders to ensure that a peace agreement be concluded allowing a united island to join the European Union. The National Security Council (MGK) must also be reformed to loosen the Army’s control over the civilian authorities. The European Commissioner considered that the Turkish Government and Parliament must control the Army “and not the reverse”. The Turkish authorities must also ratify the International Convention on political and civil rights and put into practice measure to fight against the use of torture and guarantee “in practice” prisoners’ defence rights. Finally freedom of expression and association must be real and the rights of minorities, particularly the Kurds, be guaranteed by access to television broadcasting and education.
Furthermore, on 12 March, the European Parliament made public a draft report, drawn up by Mr. Arie M. Ooslander, on “ Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union”. Here are extensive extracts from this report which pin-point “Kemalism”:
“Whereas on 3 November 2002 the AKP won the parliamentary elections, which had been brought forward, by an overwhelming majority; whereas the people have shown their dissatisfaction with the existing establishment, thus implying a new direction for government policy; whereas the AKP is now faced with the difficult task of implementing legal reforms and carrying out further reforms in order to bring about a properly functioning democratic state based on the rule of law
Whereas the 10% electoral threshold, while it prevented a fragmented parliament, sacrificed to that end the representative nature of the parliament, which now represents only 55% of voters
Whereas the Constitution adopted in 1982 under a military regime does not form an appropriate legal basis to guarantee the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, and whereas Turkey can express its choice of a democratic constitutional model by establishing a new Constitution based on European values; whereas the deepest structures of the State and style of government are at issue here
Whereas the underlying philosophy of the Turkish state, 'Kemalism', implies an exaggerated fear of the undermining of the integrity of the Turkish state and an emphasis on the homogeneity of Turkish culture (nationalism), together with statism, an important role for the army, and a very rigid attitude to religion, which means that this underlying philosophy is itself a barrier to EU membership
Whereas the changes requested must imply more than cosmetic adjustments; having regard in this connection to the signature of conventions which have not been subsequently ratified, and to legal amendments which have not been, or only inadequately, implemented
Notes that over the last 15 years the army has occupied an increasingly central position in the Turkish state and society, and that Turkish citizens credit it with greater importance even than other state institutions including the parliament; notes that the Army's role slows down Turkey's development towards a democratic and pluralist system, and therefore calls for the political decision-making power to be allocated entirely to the civilian authorities, based on the confidence of citizens and democratically elected, so that the traditional power of the bureaucracy and the Army (the 'deep State') can resume the forms which are normal in the Member States
Considers that, in the context of state reform, it will be necessary in the long term to abolish the National Security Council in its current form and position; realises that the desired structural change will be very hard to swallow
Proposes, inter alia, that the military representatives should withdraw from civilian bodies such as the high councils on education and the audiovisual media, in order to ensure that these institutions are fully independent; encourages the Turkish authorities to establish full Parliamentary control over the military budget as a part of the national budget
Stresses that the changes demanded are so fundamental that they require the establishment of a new constitution, explicitly based not on Kemalist but on European democratic foundations, with the rights of the individual and of minorities balanced against collective rights in accordance with the customary European standards, as set out for example in the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Recalls the commitment by the Turkish government to finally eradicate torture (zero tolerance); notes with concern that torture practices still continue and that torturers often go unpunished; calls for the most energetic and consistent measures to be taken to heal this open sore on the Turkish body politic, and for the Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of torture victims in Diyarbakir, supported by the Commission, to be able to continue its work unhindered
Notes the very limited amendments to laws of 3 August 2002 recognising the right of Kurds to education and the right to broadcast in Kurdish; calls on Turkey, however, to act fully in the spirit of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Urges that an amnesty be granted to those imprisoned for their opinions who are serving their sentences in Turkish prisons for expressing non-violent sentiments
Welcomes the ending of the state of emergency on 30 November 2002 in the last two provinces of Diyarbakir and Sirnak, but calls on Turkey to contribute to the elimination of tensions with the Kurdish people and to give support to the reconstruction of the South-East region, to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons and returning refugees from the EU, and to lift the de facto occupation of Kurdish and Syrian Orthodox villages by armed “village guards”.”
On 12 March, the European Human Rights Court gave a partially favourable ruling to Abdullah Ocalan’s petition by finding Turkey guilty of an inequitable trial. The European Court considered, by six votes to one (the Turkish judge) that Abdullah Ocalan’s trial before the State Security Court “had not been equitable” because of the presence of an Army judge on the bench (he was replaced by a civilian on the last days of the trial). On the other hand, the judges concluded unanimously that the trial was also inequitable because of the restrictions placed on the rights of the defence, the accused being prevented form freely meeting with his lawyers throughout the greater part of the trial.
Furthermore, while the European Court rejected the complaint of breach of his right to life, since the death sentence is not longer applicable, it did consider that Abdullah Ocalan was the victim of “inhuman or degrading treatment” in so far as he had lived three years under threat of this sentence “passed as a result of an inequitable trial”. A. Ocalan had been condemned to death for “treason” on 29 June 1999 by the Ankara State Security Court. The death sentence, however, was commuted to life imprisonment in October 2002, after the abolition of capital punishment in Turkey.
Recognising that, in 1999, Turkey had not ratified the clause forbidding capital punishment in the European Convention on Human Rights, the judges considered that it was, nevertheless, “forbidden arbitrarily to inflict death on the grounds of a death sentence”. The Court also considered Turkey had breached the Convention, in so far as Abdullah Ocalan had had to wait for seven days after his arrest before being brought before a judge.
On the other hand it considered that the conditions of his arrest had been conformity with the rule of law. Abdullah Ocalan had been kidnapped by a Turkish commando on 15 February 1999, in Nairobi, Kenya, where he had sought asylum, and taken to Turkey. “It has not been established beyond all reasonable doubt, that the operation, conducted partly by Turkish and partly by Kenyan agents, had constituted an infringement of Kenyan sovereignty by Turkey and, consequently, of international law” the judged considered. The Court considered that there was no “proof“ that his arrest and the conditions of his transfer “had any ill effects beyond the usual element of humiliation inherent in every arrest and detention”. It ruled that the “general conditions” of his detention “did not reach the minimum level of gravity needed to constitute inhuman or degrading treatment”.
Similarly, it ruled the conditions of Abdullah Ocalan’s detention, as the sole detainee on the Island prison of Imrali, in the Sea of Marmara, in conformity with Human Rights. The Court “recognises outright that the detention of the petitioner raises extraordinary difficulties for the Turkish authorities” both because of his dangerous character and of the threats against his life.
The Court considered that its ruling was, in itself, an “equitable satisfaction” for the petitioner, to whom it granted 100,000 euros for costs and expenses.
Since Turkey was found guilty of an inequitable trial, the Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe, responsible for overseeing the carrying out of the Court’s rulings, should now press Ankara to give Abdullah Ocalan an fresh trial. The ruling on Abdullah Ocalan, which was handed down by a bench of seven Judges, is, nevertheless liable to appeal before the higher bench of 17 Judges, thus postponing, for at least a year, the issue of a final ruling. Turkey has, already, indicated that it will appeal against this decision.
The collective leadership of the Iraqi opposition, which likes to consider that it prefigures a future government, met on 25 March in Suleimaniah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, “to study the development of the situation in Iraq after the beginning of the attack by the United States and Great Britain” stated Mohsen Hakim, son and representative of Abdelaziz Hakim, N°2 man of ASRII and a member of the collective leadership.
The collective leadership of the Iraqi opposition, designated in February 2003 in Kurdistan, is supposed to form the kernel of a future Iraqi government. This leadership had six members when created, but recently two others have been co-opted.
Abdelaziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Assembly of the Iraqi Islamic Revolution (ASRII) and Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), who had been in Teheran to take part in a meeting on 6 March, of Iraqi Shiite leaders, had already visited Kurdistan for the meeting on 6 March for the meeting of the collective opposition leadership. In the course of the previous meeting, they had nominated members and officers of 14 committees, created at the end of February 2003 during the meeting of the follow up committee of the Iraqi opposition at Salaheddin, and defined their exact tasks. These 14 committees of the opposition are intended to be transformed into ministries to manage the Iraqi administration after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. This leadership must also prepare the setting up of State organs power structures for the transition period.
Furthermore, during the meeting of Shiite leaders in Teheran on 6 March, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim, chief of ASRII, had called for the opposition groups to “rapidly set up” power structures and appoint leaders for the country so as to prepare the post-Saddam situation so as to prevent “the American military command from seizing power” in Baghdad during the transition period, as the U.S. had announced.
The collective leadership, set up following the Salaheddin meeting, consisted of Massud Barzani, head of the KDP, Jalal Talabani, head of the PUK, Ahmed Chalabi, head of the INC, Adnan Pashashi, Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, representing ASRII and Iyad Al-Alawi of the Iraqi National Entente.
• THE NATIONAL POLICY DOCUMENT ON IRAQ, DRAWN UP BY THE PREVIOUS TURKISH GOVERNMENT, STILL CONSIDERS THAT ANY KURDISH INDEPENDENCE WOULD JUSTIFY TURKISH MILITARY INTERVENTION. The Turkish Foreign Ministry still considers the creation of a Kurdish State in Iraq to be a causus belli, according to the 4 March issue of the Turkish daily Hurriyet. Decided and signed by Bülent Ecevit, the previous Turkish Prime Minister, the “national policy document on Iraq” is thus still current policy, despite the change of government. A meeting on 6 October, bringing together the Foreign Ministry, the Armed Forces General Staff and the Intelligence Services (MIT) had determined Turkish political objectives in both short, medium and long term. Thus the first Article of the document lays down that “efforts must be continued to safeguard the unity of Iraq in the course of the construction of the country’s future, while bearing in mind that it is not possible to return to the pre-1992 situation as far as Northern Iraq is concerned. The scenario that cannot be accepted would be an independent Kurdish State in Northern Iraq. Such a declaration should be considered as a cause for intervention.”
The paper specifies that the agreement between Washington and Turkey stipulates that the Turkish Army will only enter Iraq with humanitarian aims and will not fire a single bullet.
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF VIOLATING THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF YASAR KEMAL. On 4 March the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of violating the freedom of expression of Yasar Kemal. This Turkish writer, of Kurdish origin and with an international reputation had been sentenced for an article he wrote criticising the Turkish authorities’ policy towards the Kurds.
Yasar Kemal was sentenced to one year and eight months imprisonment by the Ankara State Security in 1996 for an article entitled “Turkey’s Black Cloud” published in 1995 in the book “Freedom of expression and Turkey”. The State Security Court had, indeed, considered this article aimed at “inflaming hatred and hostility between citizens of Turkish origin and those of Kurdish origin”. The book “Freedom of expression and Turkey” published by the CSY Society, which has also petitioned the Court, was seized and banned.
The European Court stressed, in particular, that certain “particularly bitter” passages of the article were marked by “agressivity and virulence” and gave the text a “hostile connotation” nevertheless considered that this article “could not be considered an incitement to the use of violence, to armed resistance or to an uprising”. The Court thus considered that the criminal sentence on the author and the seizure of the book were not “necessary in a democratic society” and sentenced Turkey for violation of Yasar Kemal’s freedom of expression (Article 10) and that of the CSY Society.
• THE LEGAL OFFENSIVE AGAINST THE PRO-KURDISH PARTIES: HADEP BANNED BY THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT, DEHAP IN THE HOT SEAT. The Turkish authorities have taken measures to ban the country’s two principle pro-Kurdish parties. On 13 March, the Turkish Constitutional Court banned the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP — pro-Kurdish). The Court also banned 46 leading officers of HADEP from holding carrying out any political activity whatsoever for five years. The President of the Constitutional Court, Mustafa Bumin, declared that the Court had found HADEP guilty of having “helped and encouraged a terrorist organisation” whereas HADEP had long rejected the links which the authorities accused it of maintaining with the PKK.
Furthermore, on the same day the Public Prosecutor attached to the Constitutional Court, Sabih Kanadoglu, requested the Court, to ban the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), another pro-Kurdish party. HADEP had not taken part in the General Election of November 2002 for fear of a ban, but the DEHAP party, which had fused with HADEP before the elections, took over, though without winning a single seat because of the threshold of 10% of the total national vote.
The HADEP party, that argues in favour of a peaceful solution to the problems of the Kurdish population, is the latest descendent of a line of pro-Kurdish organisations that have all been successively banned in Turkey since 1963. Proceedings against HADEP were started in 1999 by the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals of the time, Vural Savas.
Other pro-Kurdish parties (in particular the People’s Labour Party, and the Freedom and Democracy Party) have been equally banned for “separatism”. In February 1999, a moderately pro-Kurdish party, the Masses’ Democratic Party (DKP), led by former Minister Serafettin Elci, was banned for having “damaged Turkey’s unity” and having “praised regional and ethnic differences in its programme”.
The Constitutional Court has also banned left wing parties on the grounds of communist activities and several pro-Islamist parties for anti-secular activity. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) at present in office in Ankara is also an offshoot of a banned party, the Virtue Party (Fazilet), panned in 2001.
Greece, that held the presidency of the European Union, considered that this decision by the Turkish Court would harm its application for membership of the E.U. This decision “will be examined by the E.U.’s official organs, but it is certain that it will have a negative influence on Turkey’s progress towards membership” stated Panos Beglitis, spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry. “It is a particularly negative development for the normalisation of political life and the consolidation of democratic institutions” he added. He recalled that, as “a for membership of the E.U., Turkey was under an obligation to guarantee the normal and unimpeded functioning of political parties”.
• THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION WARNS TURKEY: THE SET-BACK TO THE CYPRUS NEGOTIATIONS WILL BLOCK TURKEY’S ADMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN UNION. The negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus prior to its admission to the E.U. in May 2004 ended in a failure on 11 March, when UNO declared that it was ending its efforts at mediation. The negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, organised at the Hague under UNO auspices, were intended to prepare for a future reunification of the divided island.
The European Commission immediately warned Turkey that its application for membership could suffer from the failure of these negotiations. The Commission’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Filori, declared on 11 March that the European Union intended to sign the treaty of membership with Cyprus on 16 April, as planned, even if, at that date, the latter is still divided and represented solely by the Greek Cypriot government. Moreover, if no agreement on reunification is concluded when the Commission makes its report on the opening of negotiations on Turkey’s membership, in December 2004, it would be very difficult to recommend the starting of that process.
As Mr. Folori said, accepting the opening of negotiations for membership with Ankara, in those circumstances, would amount to putting oneself in “a situation where a candidate country was knocking at the door without recognising one of our members”.
• IRAN: TWO KURDISH ACTIVISTS OF THE KOMALEH PARTY EXECUTED. Two activists of the Komaleh Party (pro-Kurdish, Communist) were recently executed in Iranian Kurdistan, local legal sources indicated. Mohammad Gholabi was executed on 2 March at Saghez, and Sassan Alekanan at Sanandaj on 22 February. “The two activists were members of Komalah, had taken part in terrorist operations to intimidate the population and were in possession of fire arms and grenades” stated the official. According to him “they were tried and sentenced to death after having admitted their participation in terrorist operations … After the political opening that followed the election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, this group wanted to create disorder by carrying out terrorist actions, which are still continuing today” he added.
The Komalah (created in 1969) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) are the two principle Kurdish movements banned by the Islamic authorities in 1979. Hunted by the Iranian Armed Forces, the Komalah activists were obliged to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. An agreement between the Iranian authorities and the two parties that control Iraqi Kurdistan (the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) provided that the Komaleh and KDPI refugees should not approach the international Iraqi-Iranian border.
• A JOINT POLITICAL AND MILITARY COMMAND DECIDED BY THE KURDISH PARTIES IN IRAQ. On 4 March, the two principle Kurdish parties that control Iraqi Kurdistan announced the creation of a joint political and military command because of “critical circumstances” in the region. In a communiqué co-signed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Massud Barzani’s KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Jalal Talabani’s PUK) the two organisations announced that “the critical circumstances in the region require greater unity in our ranks and the conjugation of energies”. According to the communiqué, “the high command” is responsible for coordination between the two organisations, particularly in “the political, military and administrative areas”. The high command is co-Presided by Messrs. Barzani and Talabani. It assembles members of both organisations.
A KDP official considered, in a statement, that the setting up of this united command was “an indication of the end to divergencies between the two parties and of their efforts aimed at unifying the political discourse of the Kurds in anticipation of the next stage”.