Iraq’s greatly feared dictatorial regime collapsed during the night of 8 to 9 April. Continuing their advance Northward, the American troops entered Baghdad where, apart from some relatively minor clashes, there was no real fighting. Contrary to the Iraqi dictator’s rhetoric the Iraqi capital did not become a Saddamgrad, his reference to the famous resistance of Stalingrad. The Special Republican Guard units and the Saddam Feddayin Commandos, who had been parading so martially through the streets of Baghdad and across the nation’s TV screens for weeks past, faded away into thin air, without fighting — following the example of the regime’s top brass that had daily boasted that they would fight “to the last drop of their blood”.
On 9 April, the Baghdad population, finally freed from the tyranny’s terror gave free rein to their joy by unbolting the statues of the fallen dictator, by destroying the symbols and places of then regime’s power and welcoming the Americans as liberators. In the immense popular effervescence and celebrations of victory, there were many excesses, in particular massive pillaging. It would appear that the most serious were imputable to the regime’s Baathist network which, before going underground, took care to destroy the archives of the most sensitive Ministries and public bodies, to confiscate, to their own advantage, the foreign exchange reserves of the Central and other Banks and to sabotage a large number of technical and economic installations.
The fall of Baghdad accelerated the collapse of the Iraqi forces in the rest of the country, especially in the North. On 10 April, the Kurdish special forces liberated the city of Kirkuk, the country’s oil producing capital — till then under Iraqi administration and victim of a policy of massive Arabisation. It was an elite unit of Kurdish young women fighters that was the first to enter Kirkuk, where they were welcomed by a rejoicing crowd. Soon after police forces sent by the Kurdistan government arrived to ensure security. In less than two days they were able to master the situation, re-establish order and basic services and prevent inter-communal settling of old scores.
A few hours after Kirkuk fell into the hands of the Kurdish peshmergas, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, announced that Ankara had sent observers to the city. The Turkish Foreign Minister declared having received guarantees from his American opposite number, Colin Powell, that the American soldiers would not allow the Iraqi Kurdish fighters to remain in this important oil centre on a lasting basis. “Powell has given his word that additional American soldiers would be sent to Kirkuk in the coming hours to force the peshmergas to leave as soon as they arrived” affirmed A. Gul at the end of his telephone conversation with the American Secretary of Stare. The United States “will not accept a de fact o situation, or a fait accompli” Mr. Gul assured his hearers.
“Turkish Armed Forces observers will also enter” he added. But in view of the guarantees provided by the United States, he made the pointed out in the course of an interview on the national NTV channel “there was no reason to fear any tension”. The Turkish authorities let it be known that they had deployed tens of thousands of troops near the borders with Iraqi Kurdistan which they could cross if Ankara considered that Turkish interests were threatened.
The American soldiers began to arrive on 12 April to take charge of establishing order in Kirkuk. The Kurdish fighters (peshmergas) partly withdrew. Before the Governor’s shattered palace men of the US 173rd Airborne division took position symbolically.
To administer the oil capital, a provisional civilian committee representing the principal communities has, moreover, been set up, indicated leaders of the PUK. It includes Kurds, who make up the majority of the population, Arabs, Turkmen, a Turkic speaking group, and Assyrians, the local Christian community. Despite the great disproportion in numbers between the different groups, each of the communities was represented by 6 members on the provisional Municipal Council.
On 11 April , the day after the liberation of Kirkuk, the KDP peshmergas, accompanied by elements of the US 101st Airborne Division entered Mossul, practically without firing a shot. The Kurdish leaders, who had been in discreet contact with the Iraqi military command for a long time, secured the surrender of the 40,000 strong Iraqi troops.
An agreement to capitulate with any fighting was reached on 11 April between the commanders of the Iraqi regular Army in Mossul and the United States, indicated Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) spokesman, Hoshyar Zebari. “There was an agreement between the United States and the Iraqi commanders” on surrendering without any fighting, indicated Mr. Zebari in Irbil.
The formal cease fire was signed by the Commander of the Iraqi 5th Army Corps, near Mossul (Northern Iraq) announced. For his part, General Vincent Brooks, spokesman of the Qatar-based American Central Command (Cencom). “A Major of the coalition special operations forces accepted the cease fire signed by the commander of the 5th Corps of the Iraqi Regular Army near Mossul” declared General Brooks.
Members of the 5th Army Corps in and around Mossul had surrendered, pointed out Major Rumi Nielson-Green, American army spokesman, who considered that these soldiers “had made the very wise decision to live for a free Iraq rather than to die for Saddam Hussein’s regime”.
Meanwhile the Kurdish forces had liberated all the Kurdish towns and localities in the provinces of Mossul, Kirkuk and Diyala, hitherto controlled by the Iraqi regime, including Khanaqin, another Kurdish oil-rich city. Administrative, technical and security personnel were sent by the Kurdish regional government to administer and rehabilitate the liberated territories. The Kurdistan autonomous region thus increases from 42,000 to 75,000 Km2.
On 14 April, an American Armoured column entered Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace and the last bastion of his supporters. Other Sunni Arab towns like Samara and Ramadi surrendered without fighting, after agreements reached between tribal chiefs and American leaders. The two Republican Guard divisions charged with the defence of these Sunni bastions dissolved themselves — probably by hiding their weaponry for use in future actions against the Americans.
After the fall of Tikrit, the Iraqi war was, for all intents and purposes, over. There now begins the difficult period of pacification and the political and material reconstruction of the country.
A provisional casualty assessment was made public on 15 April established losses since the start of the was as follows:
- 121 American soldiers killed, and four declared missing. Thirty one British soldiers were also killed.
- as far as the Americano-British coalition is concerned, slightly more than 300,000 men are at present deployed in the region, of whom about 255,000 are American, 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian, 400 Czech and Slovak and 200 Polish. Some 100,000 more American soldiers are expected as reinforcements.
- Iraqi losses: no official estimates, neither from the Iraqi or from the coalition. However, some American officials have stated that over 4,000 Iraqi soldiers have been killed. for its part, Baghdad has reported nearly 600 civilians killed and over 4,000 injured. A few days earlier the Pentagon had declared that the American forces held 6,500 prisoners in all. A P.O.W. detention centre is being built in the Southern town of Oum Qasr and will have room for 24,000 prisoners.
-since the beginning of the fighting, the coalition forces have fired over 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraq. According to Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, less than ten “failed to reach their target”. Furthermore, the airport carrier based planes reduced their missions to 800 sorties per day , only dropping less than 200 bombs and missiles.
Over 43 million leaflets were dropped by the Coalition forces
Aid: the governments of the Arab Emirates and the Red Crescent co-ordinated delivery of 772 tonnes of food, water and medical equipment to the port of a Oum Qasr. Two British ships, the Sir Galahad and the Sir Persival, delivered over 1,000 tons of food, medicine and water to Oum Qasr. The United States sent two ships with over 50,000 tons of surplus wheat while Australian sent 100,000 tons of wheat.
On 23 April, the second day of his stay in Iraqi Kurdistan, the provisional civil administrator of Iraq, Jay Garner, raised the American view of democracy. “Our mission here is to create an environment (…) where we can have s democratic process and where the Iraqis can choose their own leaders (…) a government that represents the free and elected will of Iraq”, said the American General to some Kurdish leaders in Irbil. “Thanks to your energy, your intelligence and your democratic process, you have done more, in the last ten years than you ad done in the previous 20” added the 65 year old retired General. “You can be a model for you brothers and sisters to the South (…) you must work with them to create a great democratic Iraq” he continued.
Jay Garner arrived in Irbil in an American Army helicopter, guarded by special forces troops armed with sub-machineguns. He inspected a school where many people were waving Kurdish, American and British flags and strewing flowers in his path.
The day before, in a small town of Dokan near Suleimaniah, the retired General had, met the Jalal Talabani (PUK) and Massud Barzani (KDP), the Kurdish leaders of the two movements that have controlled Iraqi Kurdistan since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.
Jay Garner added, during his meeting with the Kurdish officials in Irbil, that he intended, in the coming weeks, to concentrate on process of building Ministries and rehabilitating services in Iraq. The American general, who had also visited the Kurdish Parliament in Irbil, affirmed that the majority of Iraqis appreciated the American presence, despite a series of anti-American demonstrations. “I believe that what you are seeing are organised demonstrations, but apart from that the majority of the population is glad that we are here” he affirmed before going on to the city of Mossul.
For his part, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, announced on 23 April, after meeting jay Garner, that a committee would be set up, under US supervision, to ensure the return of tens of thousands of Kurds who had been displaced under Saddam Hussein’s regime. “A Committee representing all the parties will be formed, under US guidance, to organise the return of people to their homes in an organised manner and not in chaos” added Mr. Talabani. “We have given undertakings that we repeated yesterday” he continued.
An American official who accompanied General Garner during his visit to Kurdistan indicated that some 200,000 Kurds had been displaced from Kirkuk under the fallen regime, which had engaged in a policy of Arabising Kurdish areas.
Furthermore, the Kurdish leaders, Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, took part in a meeting on 30 April of the former opposition to Saddam Hussein. This important meeting brought together about 300 Kurdish and Arab public figures.
On 21 April, the KDP and the PUK had called on the principle parties of the Iraqi opposition to take part in this meeting. This aimed at preparing a broader conference of the Iraqi opposition to examine the formation of an Iraqi transition government, representative of all the components of the opposition. during its meeting in Salaheddin, the opposition had set up a collegial steering committee of sic members which considered itself the kernel of a post-Saddam government.
The members of this committee, apart from Messrs. Barzani and Talabani were Ahmed Shalabi. head of the Iraqi National Congress, Adnan Pashashi, former Iraqi Foreign Minister in the 60s, (independent), Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, representing the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI — the principal Shiite opposition movement) and Iyad Al-Alawi, of the Iraqi National Entente.
An earlier meeting of this kind, held in the town of Nassiriyah in 15 April (Southern Iraq) in the presence of American officials, had resulted in the adoption of a thirteen point declaration in favour of an evolution towards democracy and a State of Laws. About sixty Iraqis, representing Sunni and Shiite movements, radical and moderate, Kurds and monarchists, had taken part in the Nassiriyah meeting.
On 20 April the Kurdish Regional Parliament declared the end of the State of Emergency that has been in force in the region since 19 March.
The Kurdish Members of Parliament, meeting in Irbil for the first time since the outbreak of war, also heard the American retired general Bruce Moore, appointed to manage, temporarily, Iraqi Kurdistan. General Moore reassured them that his team was going to concentrate on humanitarian problems and not act as a real civil or military government. He also indicated that his team was intended to become an advisory body for the new interim Iraqi administration when it had been formed.
General Moore also indicated to journalists, after the meeting, that some 50,000 American soldiers would be deployed in the major cities of the region, Kirkuk and Mossul, to watch over security.
The Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Roj Nuri Shawesh, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), declared during the meeting that the United States rather than the United Nations, should supervise the reconstruction of Iraq during the transition phase, to avoid too much bureaucracy.
Furthermore, the Kurdistan Democratic Party indicated, on 19 April, that it had started to release the Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered or had been taken prisoner during the fighting in Iraqi Kurdistan. The 750 prisoners, detained in a camp at Achkawtan, about 100 Km North of Irbil, were divided into three groups according to their homes, indicated Akram Sufi, a KDP official who was supervising the camp. The prisoners who came from the region of Mossul, and those from Kirkuk, were taken back home by coaches provided by a Swedish NGO. Those who were from Baghdad or the South would all be transported to the capital, whence they would have to go home by their own means.
In the course of the second hearing on 25 April, the Ankara State Security Court again refused to release on bail the Kurdish ex-M.P.s of the Party for democracy (DEP). The hearing, presided by Mrs. Sureyya Gonul in the absence for medical reasons of the Court Chairman, Mehmet Orhan Karadeniz, continued with hearing evidence from the “civil service witnesses” who had testified against them in the original trial in 1994. Mr. Yusuf Alatas, for the defence, recalled the fact that, ten years before, these same witnesses had merely made statements to the Public Prosecutor, without being questioned or subjected to any cross examination, and expressed the hope that this procedure would not be repeated, asking that their evidence be recorded, in video and sound, and requesting the right to cross examination and presenting witnesses himself. However, the Court opposed this request and the proceeded to a pure and simple auditioning of the witnesses.
These were 19 government officials, 8 of whom were policemen. Mustafa Yazgan, Suleyman Altun, Ramazan Arslan, Mehmet Taner, Mustafa Gulyuz, Yahya Gocer, Erdogan Mus and Ziya Ergun mainly limited themselves to repeating their previous statements. Another witness, Eyup Karaleçi, a farmer from Urfa and member of the DEP party, for his part stated: “the Director of the Urfa anti-terrorist branch at the time, Mustafa Tekin, asked me to put an end to my political activity and leave Urfa within the week. Since I refused to give way, the police searched my home and detained me in Ankara, where I was tortured, in 1994. They then proposed to drop all proceedings against me in exchange of my testifying against L. Zana and H. Dicle. But I refused”. Another witness, Kerem Ok, a bread and sesame street seller, in reply to the question “In your statement to the police you declared that the money went to the PKK” replied “I never made such a statement” declaring that he had simply signed a document already prepared by the police.
Mehmet Tahir Babat, chief of the Babat tribe, reaffirmed his statement stressing that he had witnessed a speech being made “in Kurdish, but I don’t remember anything else”. Five witnesses from the same tribe simply stated that “this was all too long ago” and they didn’t remember anything.
Selim Sadek, who was sentenced on the basis of just this evidence retorted “the Babat Tribe slandered us. This tribe is implicated in murders, drug trafficking and smuggling”.
Mehmet Sevki Temel, father of three children, two of whom were “village protectors” and the third a policeman, said that as one of his sons had been kidnapped, he kidnapped someone himself and that as a result he was visited by L. Zana and so he wanted to file a complaint against L. Zana and H. Dicle. Another witness, Abdullah Dursun, repeated his earlier statement, declaring that Leyla Zana and H. Dicle had harmed the Kurdish people.
All the Court did was to issue subpoenas to the absent witnesses for the next hearing, to rule against releasing the former M.P.s on bail and set the date for the next hearing at 23 May.
This hearing was watched by a delegation of five Members of the European Parliament, chaired by Joost Lagendijk and also by Mrs. Claudia Roth, from the German Green Party, by Murat Bozlak, former President of the HADEP party (pro-Kurdish, banned in 2003) and a number of observers from Human Rights defence organisations. Mr. Lagendijk, who is also Chairman of the E.U.-Turkish joint parliamentary commission, stated to the press that they were closely watching the reforms being undertaken by Turkey “but from what I can see, this retrial is just a carbon copy of the 1994 trial. I hope that the retrial will take place in a fairer manner and that we will be able to see the really effective carrying out of the reforms adopted on paper”. The Court, moreover, refused to allow into the courtroom the roses that Mrs. Roth had brought. She herself said “This trial is most important for Human Rights and for the democratisation of Turkey. I think that Turkey will take a step forward with this trial”.
Furthermore, a Press Conference took place on 23 April, attended by Mrs. Danielle Mitterrend, President of France-Libertés and of CILDEKT, by Mrs. Segolène Royal, Member of Parliament of Deux-Sèvres and Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, and the Centre d’accueil de la Press Etrangère (Foreign Press Reception Centre) to bring the public up to date on the situation of the imprisoned ex-Members of Parliament and to remind it of the fate of prisoners jailed solely for their opinions in Turkey. The Press Conference was followed by a showing of the film by Kudret Gunes, devoted to Leyla Zana, “Leyla Zana, the cry of a gagged voice”.
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.
• COLIN POWELL’S VISIT TO TURKEY TO SMOOTH OVER DIFFERENCES. On 2 April, Colin Powell, US Secretary of State secured logistic help from Turkey for supplying the American forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, while reaffirming his country's opposition to the any Turkish intervention in this region. The logistic support, according to Mr. Powell, mainly covered “fuel, food and other types of supplies” will give a boost to the American Airborne forces in Iraqi Kurdistan at a time when the war is intensifying.
Giving his views at a Press Conference with Abdullah Gul, Mr. Powell welcomed Turkey’s support “an important member of the coalition” against Iraq and which will have “an important role to play in the effort of reconstruction” of that country after the war.
Mr. Powell, who arrived in 1 April, had discussions successively with Mr. Gul, with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to try and smooth over the differences that have arisen between the two countries over Iraq. He also was due to meet the Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok.
“Americano-Turkish relations are strong and have lasted for 50 years” stated Mr. Powell, who recognised that his country had been disappointed by the Turkish Parliament’s rejection, on 1 March, of an American request for authorisation to deploy 62,000 soldiers in the country so as to open a Northern front against Iraq. This refusal had upset the plan of campaign of the United States in Iraq and Mr. Powell recognised that “the campaign is going differently to that which we had envisaged”. Turkish cooperation, at the moment was limited to opening the country’s air space to the coalition’s planes and missiles.
He furthermore considered that the Turkish forces had no reason , at that time, to go into Iraqi Kurdistan since the situation was “under control” because of the presence of American forces. “The Turkish forces have no need to cross the border” he declared.
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.
• DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN ON AN OFFICIAL VISIT TO TURKEY. Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, on an official visit to Ankara, was received by his Turkish opposite number, Abdullah Gul. “France has very much appreciated the restraint and maturity which Turkey has shown” during the Americano-British offensive in Iraq, declared Dominique de Villepin, who expressed France’s support for Turkey’s membership of the European Union. “There are many arguments un favour of such membership, be they strategic, economic or linked to security and cultural diversity” noted the head of the French Foreign Office. “We see Turkey’s deep desire to join the Union and France expects to remain at your sides along this road, which is the road of democracy, of economic development and of social cohesion” he declared. The E.U. us due to announce whether the situation is ripe for opening negotiations with Ankara at the end of 2004.
For its part, Ankara strongly protested against the decision by the Paris Council, on 24 April 2003, to erect a statue of the Armenian musician Komitas in a Paris square, in commemoration of the Armenian genocide. “This is not friendship” headlined Hurriyet on 22 April to greet Mr. Villepin’s visit.
• A “FRIENDLY FIRE” MISTAKE COST THE LIVES OF 17 PESHMERGAS WITH 45 OTHERS WOUNDED, INCLUDING WAJIH BARZANI, HEAD OF THE KDP SPECIAL FORCES. Eighteen Kurds — 17 fighters and a BBC interpreter — died and 45 others were wounded when two American planes made a “friendly fire mistake” on 6 April, according to KDP spokesman Hoshyar Zebari.
The American pilot is said to have confused the positions of the Kurdo-American forces, who had just captured some Iraqi tanks, with those of Saddam Hussein’s troops, that had just withdraw almost without fighting but were attempting a belated counter attack.
At 12.30 (8.30 GMT) the eleven vehicles, American or Kurdish jeeps that ended up burnt out, were stationary on top of a hill at Dibagah. The Kurdish fighters were sitting in their cars or standout outside, talking. They were waiting for the air support that the team of four or five members of the special forces had called for to bomb the Iraqi forces. At 12.32 there remained only a scene of devastation.
Several senior KDP military leaders were present for this Kurdo-American operation. Major Kawrini and General Mustafa Kakamin, Commander in Chief of the Irbil region were unharmed, but not Wajih Barzani, younger brother of KDP leader Massud Barzani. Seriously injured, the young man, who was head of the KDP Special Forces, was evacuated to Germany by the Americans.
“The pilot was misled, those who were guiding him were mistaken, It is not the fault of the United States, but an officer who gave incorrect information” considered General Kakemono. The American Special Forces work on the ground alongside the peshmergas and assure the radio guidance that enable the pilots to find their targets — generally fairly accurately. “This is not the first time this has happened. There were similar mistakes in Afghanistan and in Southern Iraq — that’s war for you” added the general with feeling.
Mr. Zebari, for his part, insisted that this “unfortunate error” “will not undermine” the resolution of the Kurds to work with the Americans to “liberate” Iraq.
• THE AMERICAN FORCES IN KIRKUK ARREST 23 MEMBERS OF THE TURKISH SPECIAL FORCES SUSPECTED OF ACTS OF PROVOCATION. According to the US weekly Time, the American forces in Kirkuk have arrested 23 members of the Turkish special forces (TIM) suspected of provocations and manoeuvres to destabilise the region. Arrested in plain clothes during a routine check, they were heavily armed, with many Kalashnikovs, M4s, grenades and even anti-personnel mines.
Bill Mayville, the US Air Force Commander declared that they had received information that the Turkish Special Forces were expected. “Their aim was to create a situation that would require the sending of Turkish troops to Kirkuk” he said, adding that the “Turks at first did humanitarian work but then engaged in other actions”. He also added that the organisations acting under the umbrella of the Iraqi Turkoman Front (ITC) obeyed Turkish orders and requests and that they planned, with the help of the Turkish Special Forces to provoke Turkish intervention.
The members of the TIM were handed over to Turkey that, at first, expressed astonishment that its American ally reveal this information and later satisfied itself by denying the facts, invoking humanitarian reasons for the presence of these heavily armed shock troops.
• THE HEAD OF THE IRANIAN FOREIGN OFFICE ON A VISIT TO ANKARA: THE KURDISH QUESTION “A SUBJECT OF COMMON CONCERN TO IRAN, TURKEY AS WELL AS SYRIA”. On 6 April in the course of a visit to Ankara of the head of the Iranian diplomatic service, Kamal Kharazi, Turkey and Iraq expressed their determination to engage in a dialogue with Syria on Iraq, and especially on the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Restarting the mechanism of consultation between Turkey, Iran and Syria is a necessity. We are in favour of tripartite meetings in this sense” said Mr. Characid during a joint press conference with his Turkish opposite number Abdullah Gul. The latter, for his part, indicated that he would be going to Damascus on 13 April at the invitation of the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faruk al-Shareh, to raise the Iraqi question. “There is nothing more natural than that countries of the region discuss” the war in Iraq, he declared, indicating that his country and Iran “share the same concerns”, particularly regarding Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mr. Kharazi had already presented the Kurdish question as “a subject of anxiety common to Turkey and Iran, as well as to Syria”, countries inhabited by Kurds. Mr. Kharazi stated, in this context, that Iran and Turkey had “interests in common” regarding the future of Iraq and that “without the support of neighbouring countries it is not possible to ensure stability in Iraq”.
The two ministers, moreover, declared themselves firmly in favour of safeguarding the territorial integrity of Iraq.
Mr. Kharazi also added “The fact that we oppose the war (against Iraq) does not mean that we support the Saddam Hussein regime”. The Iranian leaders, whose country is also, like Iraq, part of the “axis or evil” denounced by President Bush, is worried to see the American net tightening round them. The Iranian Minister accused Washington of waging a “war contrary to international law” in Iraq and called on the United Nations to “intervene” to put an end to the Americano-British operation.
Mr. Kharazi also had discussions with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before leaving Ankara.
• TURKEY IS SPENDING 1.2 BILLION DOLLARS TO BUY AWACS. Despite the recession hitting Turkey, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed the decision to buy four AWACS type air surveillance aeroplanes from Boeing for a sum of $1.2 billion. The negotiations had began in 2001 and, according tom the Turkish press, delivery should be in four years time.
• THE IMF RELEASES $701 MILLION TO TURKEY. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on 18 April that it was opening a credit of $701 million in Turkey’s favour. This instalment is made in the context of a stand-bye agreement approved by the IMF in February 2002 which planned the granting of a line of credit of $18 billion to help Turkey face a serious recession following two consecutive financial crises. Turkey has so far drawn about $14 billion of this $18 billion line of credit.
Turkey is expecting the IMF and the World Bank to release credits totalling $5.2 billion between now and the end of 2004, the Turkish Minister for the Economy, Ali Babacan, indicated on 6 April, announcing the signature of a letter of intent to the IMF, describing the economic policy that Ankara has committed itself to carrying out. Following the present instalment of $701 million, seven others of $500 million each will be released by the IMF until December 2004, according to Mr. Babacan.
• THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (MGK) IS WAGING A CAMPAIGN IN EUROPE AGAINST THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE ISLAMISTS. During a tour of Europe by the General Secretary of the all-powerful National Security Council. General Tuncer Kilinç, has been shown to be an openly and officially anti-European campaign and, as such, denounced by the Turkish press. Thus some dailies have particularly highlighted a meeting on 15 April at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, bringing together a number of Turkish organisations. According to Fikrat Bila, a journalist on the daily Milliyet (22/4/2003) General Kilinç, who, for the last two years, has been organising such encounters to rally people and organisations loyal to the Turkish Army’s particular conception of secularism and the unity of the State, publicly insulted representative of Milli Görüs (Editor’s Note: “National Vision”, a Turkish fundamentalist organisation) violently shouting, at this meeting “Shut up! you sectarians, you imprudent fanatics”. Hurriyet, in its 24 April issue reported the event under the headline “Altercation over sectarianism at the Embassy”. According to the paper, General Kilinç launching into a sermon, declared “There is no clergy in Islam. We do not need Mullah or Sheikhs. Adapt yourselves to your host country, learn the language”. To which a group in the hall retorted “You are asking us to forget our language and our religion. You are against religion. We refuse to recognise you”. “You are fanatics! I thought there were clear-sighted people in Europe!” the General vehemently retorted.
Ertugrul Ozkök, Chief Editor of the paper, revealed in his column on the same day a sentence from the official report from the Turkish Embassy in Brussels to Ankara: “General Kilinç expressed views hostile to the European Union to officers of Turkish organisations met here”. Ozkök continued “We know General Kilinç’s views of the European Union. In the course of an earlier meeting at the Military Academy, he had declared that Turkey should abandon the idea of joining the European Union and seek a completely different union with Russia and Iran! Are the Pasha’s remarks a message to Turkish representatives calling on them to work to prevent Turkey from joining? In that case, while the Turkish Parliament is engaging in reforms to align itself with the E.U. the General Secretary of the body that discusses the Security of the State campaigns against the E.U! ”
Moreover, once the major dailies had opened up the subject, the daily Zaman, on 25 April, added that its correspondent was in the hall where the Brussels meeting took place and reported other remarks by the General, who is used to codifying everything, even styles of dress: “I have nowhere in the world seen what I saw in the Schaerbeek quarter. This is the only place in the world where you see women wearing trousers under their skirts. This way if dressing is not even to be found in Anatolia”. The journalist reports that someone in the audience replied: “Sir do you think you are in an army barracks and that you can treat us like your soldiers? ”
As the atmosphere became very tense, General Kilinç decided to walk out of the hall but was dissuaded at the last minute and returned to finish his sermon: “I am in favour of joining the E.U., but have not hopes on the question. Since we conquered Istanbul, Europe as always considered us to be enemies! They will never accept amongst them the Turks, heirs of a nation that reached the very gates of Vienna. The E.U. has never been close to Turkey, whether for cultural or religious reasons. Europe has put the Armenian question on its agenda since 1850. By making us enemies of the Armenians after the First World War, they build the reasons for unleashing dozens of events. The PKK organisation is a creation of the European Union. It is the E.U. that is responsible for the deaths of 35,000 of our inhabitants. The E.U., openly or in a more obscure manner, has supported the terrorist organisations in Turkey. The E.U. is frightened at the idea that Turkey strengthen itself as in the time of the Ottomans!”
“The Moslem religion is very suited to secularism. There can be no democracy without secularism. The State exists for the individual! Recently the issue of the Islamic veil, used as a political symbol has become a problem! Those women who so wish can cover themselves when out of doors, as in Anatolia, but never in public buildings! The prime Minister declares that his daughters study in the United States because there is no democracy in Turkey. I retorted to him “If you chain your feet, you won’t be able to run. If you veil your daughter you can’t make her study” declared General Kilinç.
“THE STATUES”. Ahmet Altan, a writer and journalist well known in Turkey, has, following the fall of Saddam Hussein, analysed the personality cult imposed on certain societies, drawing a parallel with that of Ataturk, officially described “Father of the Turks”. Here is the whole of the article, published on 14 April on the Internet site of an electronic periodical, Gazetemnet:
“Whenever I see films and documentaries describing sufferings, massacres, wars and, again today, the realities of war, I always think of Phineas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s “80 days around the world”. In a hurry to reach London in time, Fogg buys an old boat and, running our of coal near the end of his journey, he breaks up the boat to use its wood as fuel. Thus the boat sails in while burning itself up.
Humanity is probably reached the point of advancing while burning itself up, like Fogg’s boat, burning up human lives in its path. I think that we should at least draw some lessons from this strange journey and from the sufferings of being consumed like fuel, draw some lesson to make this “journey” safer and less painful. This latest Americano-Iraqi war has probably been an opportunity for both sides to reach certain conclusions and for enriching their experience with new data. Amongst other things, speaking for myself and from my own experience, I found this an opportunity to forge myself a general theory about the relationship between statues and societies. I think that if statues of a single man are set up in a country, they are doomed, in the end, to being toppled. Moreover, counties that build statues to a single man always lose wars. In my travels I have not come across, at every street corner, statues of Napoleon in France, of Washington in New York, of Cromwell in London, of Garibaldi in Rome nor of Bismarck in Berlin. Were these men of so little importance to their respective countries? No, far from it, but every plot of land available was not filled with their statues. And those that I did see were either of great artistic and sculptural value or were the work of outstanding artists. Why don’t we find masses of statues to a single person in developed countries while certain other countries are only supplied with statues of a single person?
In my view, these statues, in developing countries, are key items in a system of decoration that serves, essentially, to hide realities. Behind these statues, representing canonised people who may not be subjected to any criticism, hide frightening realities that must not be discussed. Behind statues of Lenin in the ex-Soviet countries, of Ceausescu in Rumania and Saddam in Iraq are sheltered enormous swindles. We are also amongst the countries furnished with statues of just one man. You can’t walk a step without seeing statues of Ataturk. Mustafa Kemal is one of the great figures of our history, but he is not the only one — in the six centuries since the creation of the Ottoman Empire other men have made their mark in this country. Moreover Washington, Napoleon, Garibaldi, Bismarck and Cromwell are all major historical figures in the history of their respective countries. So why do we only set up statues of Ataturk? What are the realities we are hiding behind these statues? Are we ennobling Ataturk by setting up statues of him, or are we setting him up as an indisputable sanctified subject, so as to hide, behind these statues, some known anomalies about him?
In my view, these statues are used to conceal the anomalies and swindles current in Turkey. A series of legal and economic anomalies, beginning with the Army’s interference in political life, which are associated with Ataturk and Ataturkism, hide behind these statues and behind this canonisation that these statues are intended to create. Being unable to discuss the role of the Army in political life, you are prevented from mentioning the weight of the defence budget on the Turkish economy and on Turkey, nor the reason for maintaining such a huge Army in the world today, nor the responsibility for the Cyprus problem which has led to a breach between Turkey and Europe. And why can we not put forward the idea of any discussion on the Kurdish problem? Nor why we consider ourselves close to the Turkomen in Iraq and consider the Kurds as our enemies? Nor can you discuss the fact that, by making a distinction between the Turkmen, who are ethnically close to some of our citizens, and the Kurds, who are ethnically close to other citizens of our country, we are falling into the position of a racist State — nor the fact that we declare the American attack on Iraq is illegal and at the same time envisage attacking Mossul and Kirkuk without the slighted legal justification …
These statues are thus hiding all these bizarre quirks and tabooed subjects of discussion. They are poisoning our life and are pushing us every day into a poverty of incomprehensible and chaotic ideas. If Turkey cannot talk about “its taboos” it will be unable to save its future and its fate will be determined by others. Without denying the importance of Ataturk in our history, I think that we must take from him his role of “sanctified shield” of all these anomalies.
Life will, and must, ensure that these statues become less and less numerous, even if this does not happen in as violent a manner as in other countries. There is no pleasure in drawing parallels between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and ourselves. In societies where sanctified persons are to be found, there are always anomalies. Development arrives and gets rid of these sanctifications. It is time to save not only Turkey but also Ataturk. Being a country supplied with statues of only one person augurs no good. Freeing Turkey from this ill omen and ensuring that Ataturk ceases to be used as a screen to hide bad news would be to act against whom? Why not set up other statues? Beautiful statues. Statues worthy of a developed country, where the reality of matters can be discussed. Perhaps then, the founding of a Republic and of its constructions would become a source of pride for us all.”
• “DO RETIRED GENERALS LOVE THE ARABS THAT MUCH?”. Ertugrul Ozkok, Editor in Chief of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, in his editorial of 22 April criticised the position of the Turkish Army on the post-war situation in Iraq. Here are extensive extracts from this article “Do retired generals love the Arabs that much?”.
“ I have long wanted to write an article on those retired Army commanders who have been appearing on television since the start of the war in Iraq.
But, to tell the truth, embarrassed at the idea of having to interrogate the Turkish Army, I thought I would only be able to write such and article by being exceedingly circumspect.
An interview conducted by Nese Duzel and published in the daily Radikal yesterday has enabled me to find an answer to my questions and has made it easier for me to write this article. Listening to the analyses of senior Army officers in Television, I always had this question at the back of my mind “Are our Generals expressing themselves this way because they want Saddam to win or do they really believe what they are saying?”
If they really do believe what they are saying, then there is a serious problem with Turkey’s defence policy.
Thus the interview with General Nejat Eslen, conducted by Nese Duzel for the daily Radikal, is important. The retired General clearly declared his disappointment that the Iraqi Army had laid down its arms so quickly. “I was very upset for the Iraqis. But, today I am sad at having been so saddened” he declared. The General wanted a Saddam victory so much that he expressed himself with anger and disillusion.
If the Iraqi Army had put up a greater resistance, if there had been more loss of life, the General would have rejoiced. Did this retired General express this wish “out of love for the Arabs”? No, since his opinion of the Arabs is not very sympathetic: “One never knows what an Arab may do. These people are the ones who stabbed us in the back during the First World War. There is probably some treacherous blood in the veins of these Arabs”. So now I ask the question: “Can watching the war with such feelings lead to objective military comment?”.
“The views expressed by our Army officers reflect neither their knowledge nor their theories, but just their personal feelings.