A few weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and even as his supporters continue to carry out sporadic actions against American outposts, the reconstruction process is gradually beginning. In the two major cities of Mossul and Kirkuk, basic services like water and electricity have rapidly been re-established, while schools, universities and hospitals re-opened as from the beginning of May. Petrol supplies, which raised serious problems because of the sabotage of certain oil producing installations by Baathist militia, have gradually improved thanks, in particular, to imports from Turkey.
Most of the towns of the Shiite South have also been able to restore, at least partially, they basic services. On the other hand, in Baghdad and Basra, where the destruction, looting and sabotage have been most intense, things age advancing more slowly, and this slowness angers part of the population. This discontent is amplified by the draconian “deBaathification” measures taken by the new American civil administrator, former ambassador Paul Bremer. This man, after publishing a decree banning the Baath Party and excluding some 20 to 30 thousand of its active members from any kind of public employment, went on to dissolve the Iraqi Army. All militias are henceforth banned and all Iraqis are called upon to hand any weapons they possess over to the authorities.
While many Iraqis approved of the banning of the dictatorial Baath Party they were worried at the loss of earning of the hundreds of thousands of officers and men of the now dissolved regular army. In a country where 60% of the population is now dependent on charity for survival, the wages (miserable as they were) of all these men helped their families to live. Indeed, under pressure of public opinion, the provisional American administration decided to continue paying the wages of the officers and making a once for all grant to the demobilised soldiers. As for the police, 85% of them have been recruited after intensive courses that include observing democratic procedures and human rights. They have been given the task of maintaining public order. … In education, the purges were limited to senior officials and Baath party political commissioners. The other teachers have had their employment contracts renewed, with an increase in salary from 6 or 7 dollars a month to $60. This raising of the status of teachers has encouraged many retired teachers as well as some members of the liberal professions, to apply for jobs in the national education service. The renewal of classes enabled the end of year exams to take place normally. A variety of educational commissions are working over time to prepare new textbooks, without the hitherto obligatory pictures and praises of the fallen dictator, to be ready for the new school year in September.
In the area of the budding of democratic freedoms, the advances are more rapid and spectacular. Parties hitherto banned are now free to resume their activities, on condition that they do not advocate violence. About a hundred daily papers, representing a variety of political trends, are appearing. Parabolic antennae, forbidden under the dictatorship, are selling like hot cakes, to a public hungry for news. Demonstrations, repressed under the former regime, now take place daily in one locality or another, for the most varied reasons — including against the Anglo-American occupation.
The political reconstruction is beginning with the setting up of local councils. Le latter, pending their election by universal suffrage, are trying to make themselves as representative as possible. Elections, indeed, will take quite a long time to prepare since there will first have to be a reliable census of the population, draw up electoral registers, and pass laws regulating the conduct of elections — all this a country that (with the notable exception of Kurdistan) has not had any real elections since 1958.
Indeed, it is in Kurdistan that the first consensual local councils have been formed. In Mossul, a city whose population is, in majority, Arab, a retired general, whose family had been persecuted by the old regime, was elected Governor, with a Kurd as his Deputy. In Kirkuk, an assembly of 300 delegates elected a council of 30 members, which in turn elected a non-party Kurdish lawyer, Abdel Rahman Mustafa, as Governor of the city. An Arab, Ismael el Hadidi was elected first Deputy Governor, and an Assyro-Chaldean as second Deputy. A Turco-Persian was appointed as the governor’s chief of staff.
These examples are being used as models for the Shiite towns of the South, but the process is proving difficult to set up in the Sunni triangle that includes the towns of Samara, Ramadi and Tikrit — bastions of support for the overthrown Baathist regime.
On 16 April, Had asked the United Nations to lift economic sanctions on Iraq. Resolution 1472, drawn up by the United States to replace Resolution 986 was intended to finance the reconstruction of the country and replace the “oil for food” programme. This new Resolution 1472 would manage Iraq's oil revenues in a new Iraqi development Fund (IDF). The Kurdish leaders welcomed this new resolution that would ensure transparency of the expenditure of the oil revenues for the reconstruction of the country.
However, some areas of obscurity persist. The American proposals do not say what will become of the $2.5 billion already allocated to the Kurdish provinces under the old programme but not yet spent because of the outbreak of the war in March 2003. If the economico-bureaucratic staus quo persists, this amount could soon be doubled. Moreover, resolution 986 reserved 13% of the oil revenues for the three Northern Kurdish provinces. But the new resolution patched up by the Americans gives no indication whether the IDF will work on the same basis as the previous one, with a distinct fund for the Kurdish provinces. It was thanks to this differentiation in the programme that the Kurdish authorities had succeeded so well in managing their side of the “Food for Oil” programme — despite all the difficulties due to the incompetence or bureaucratic clumsiness of the UN Agencies and the attempt of sabotage by the Baghdad authorities. Whereas, on the Iraqi side, the failures of the “Food for Oil” programme were essentially due to the embezzlement of UN funds by Saddam Hussein and his clique.
A letter, co-signed by the KDP and PUK leaders, Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, and sent to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan last spring, asked for a discussion on the UN projects, and in particular asking for authorisation to spend the $2.5 billion frozen since the coalition attack last spring. Unfortunately, the United Nations has not yet answered the Kurdish request, and they fear least the credits earmarked for the reconstruction of their country be diverted from their purposes.
Finally, Resolution 1483, adopted by the Security Council on 22 May 2003, has endorsed the Americano-British military victory in Iraq that, in consequence is not placed under UN trusteeship. Then United States and Great Britain have succeeded in getting the Security Council to confide them with the reconstruction of Iraq, the ewxploitation of its natural resources in oil and the organisation, in collaboration with UNO of a political process aimed at leading to elections and the formation of a government in Baghdad.
Resolution 1483 announces the ending of the “Oil for Food” programme in six months time, the re-examination of the duration of the resolution’s enforcement after 12 months, the appointment of an independent UN representative in Iraq to co-ordinate the humanitarian aid for the country’s reconstruction. This latter is to report back to UNDO. As for the oil resources, the existing blocked fund is to be replaced by an “Iraqi Development Fund” held in the Iraqi Central Bank. Authorisation of expenditure of these resources will be by the Americano-British administration, after consultation with the interim Iraqi administration.
During the third hearing of the retrial of the former members of Parliament of the Party for Democracy (DEP) on 23 May, the Court persisted in continuing to hear the prosecution witnesses while rejecting the requests for release on bail of the prisoners as well as all requests to hear witnesses for the defence. As in the previous hearings, the retrial took place under heavy police control and was attended by many lawyers, Human Rights defenders, diplomats, journalists and Members of the European Parliament.
Luigi Vinci, an Italian Member of Parliament who came as an observer, condemned the Turkish authorities’ refusal of bail, declaring “This trial is politically highly symbolic. It would be a serious mistake [for Ankara] to under-rate its importance”. In his view, the State Security Court (DGM) that is trying the ex-M.P.s aught to have released them on bail. “The fact of refusing to release them so far is now having repercussions on Turco-European relations” he considered. He stressed that the European Human Rights Court, which had judged he first trial inequitable, had, thereby, called on Turkey, a candidate for membership of the European Union, to free the Kurdish ex-M.P.s.
The hearing was adjourned till 20 June. During this fourth hearing, the defence lawyers denounced the bias shown by State Security Court’s as well as its violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights covering the principle the impartiality of trials.
“This second trial is being conducted like a continuation of the first, in complete violation of the reforms made to the Constitution and the rulings of the European Human Rights Court” declared Mr. Sezgin Tanrikulu, for the defence. “The Court always accepts the demands of the prosecution and rejects all the requests formulated by the defence. The basic principle should have imposed equal treatment of defence and prosecution lawyers and an ending of all the violations observed to date. But, from the start we have been taking part in a phoney and superficial trial … The President of the Court has not shown an evenhanded treatment of the defence and the prosecution. He has based all his decisions solely the Public Prosecutor's allegations … Every time that witnesses were heard, the prosecution has done all it could to curtail the evidence, and demanded that questions be put to them collectively. In the end we were unable to cross examine witnesses for the prosecution” stressed Mr. Tanrikulu.
At the request of defence lawyer Mr. Yusuf Alatas, the Court decided by a majority, and despite the objections of the prosecution, to hear four witnesses. “The Court hears witnesses on events that took place 10 years ago but, when it comes to defence witnesses, it refuses to do so claiming that they cannot be reliable because of the lapse of time since the events” added Mr. Alatas.
“I am a member of the Dorken tribe, which refused to serve as village protectors. The son of chief of the village protectors, Abdullah Dursun, decided to join the maquis (guerrillas). He was the only one who had continued his education. The Dursun tribe put the responsibility for this on my tribe. As I was the only one with any education, I was kidnapped and kept in confinement. Leyla Zana came to act as mediator and find a solution” declared one of the witnesses, adding “according to our traditions, when a woman acts as mediator, one is bound to accept her solution … But these events were in no way political acts”.
Former M.P. Hatip Dicle, stressed that it was with the encouragement of the President of the time, Turgut Ozal, that they took the initiative of acting as mediators, to end the sufferings, tears and bloodshed. Selim Sadak added, for his part, “Turgut Ozal should be counted among the martyrs for democracy. He wanted to find a solution to the Kurdish question. And his heart did not stop beating of its own accord, but was stopped”
Orhan Dogan remarked that “Don’t forget the Rosenbergs … It is 53 later that the witness in the Rosenberg case has come clean … We came out openly and bravely with an alternative to bad policies. They offered us Ministries, then positions of Presidents of Commissions and even public business contracts, but we refused”.
Lack of time prevented Leyla Zana from being called to speak. The Court once again refused to release them on bail and adjourned the next hearing to 18 July, when four more witnesses will be heard.
At about the same time, the former Truth Path Party (DYP) member of Parliament and chief of the Bucak tribe, Sedat Bucak, appeared for the first time before the Istanbul N° 2 Assize Court for his part in the Susurluk scandal. (Editors Note: This was a car accident in the town of Susurluk, on 3 November 1996, that brought to light the collusion between the State, the Mafia and the police in Turkey). Charged with “concealing information regarding Abdullah Çatli, for whom an arrest warrant had been issued”, “forming a criminal gang” and “possessing weapons of a serious and heavy category” which could carry sentences of 11 to 20 years imprisonment, Sedat Bucak (who no longer enjoys parliamentary immunity, since his party failed to pass the threshold of 10% of the national vote needed to secure any seats in parliament) attended Court as a free man, surrounded by a horde of bodyguards, all members of his tribe.
“The events began in 1991, with my involvement in politics. At that time I met Leyla Zana and Sedat Yurttas, both elected on the DEP list. They constantly asked to meet me and suggested I should not take a stand on the side of the State. I immediately informed the General Secretary of the National Security Council (MGK) and started to act in accordance with the MGK’s directives. I also informed the Prime Minister at the time, Suleyman Demirep that Abdullah Ocalan wanted to meet me. S. Demirel asked me to go immediately to the Ankara Police Directorate. I went there, moreover, in Demirel’s official car. Mehmet Cansever, head of the Ankara Police Directorate, saw me in his office, together with many people from different intelligence organisations, and even from MIT (Editors Note: the Turkish Secret Service). It was they who decided my activities,” declared S. Bucak.
The former M.P. also stressed the fact that he had been approached by many public figures, from the Prime Minister to junior ministers, not to mention the Army, to urge him to collaborate with the State. “When Demirel asked for my help, I replied that the Bucak tribe had always collaborated with the State, but that my uncle had been tried for this collaboration under the military coup regime, which was why I feared that the same might happen to me one day. At this, Demirel got annoyed and retorted “Listen to me, I am Prime Minister. As from now, I am your father as well as your uncle. Nothing will happen to you. Help them”.”
Questioned about his collaboration during the period of the Anti-Terrorist Laws, he declared that his role consisted of “bringing my people over to the side of the State to set up village guard units. Village guard members can be found in every family of my tribe, and all my struggle consisted of this”.
Questioned about his meeting the protagonists of the Susurluk affair, he declared “I had come to know Huseyin Kocadag before the 1980 coup, when he was police chief in Urfa. As for Abdullah Çatli, (Editors Note: a mafia gangster, also an Army hit man, who was killed in the accident) who I knew by the name of Mehmet Ozbay, I met him in Istanbul in 1994 at a dinner to which a number of senior State, Army, Intelligence Service and Police officials had been invited.” Confirming the many visits of A Çatli to his home in Siverek, Bucak added, “A. Çatli was always surrounded by senior State and Army officials. At that time, although a wanted man, A. Çatli never seemed to be worried by the State hunting for him and always carried guns in his bag”.
“I met Çatli again in Istanbul after a ’phone call when I returned from Siverek. Then we were joined by Huseyin Kocadag and left for Yalova, then Izmir. We had that accident on our way back to Istanbul. I do not remember what happened after the accident and I know nothing about the weapons” Sedat Bucak continued, although the boot of the car in which the accident occurred was full of arms.
Questioned about photos taken at Siverek with A. Çatli and many other senor State officials, he confirmed the existence of these photos but “for my own security and for the security of the State, I do not want to produce those photos” he retorted.
The Court adjourned the trial, ruling that Bucak was not required to be present at the following hearings.
On 26 June, at the second hearing of his case, the Istanbul Criminal Court acquitted Sedat Bucak.
The Prosecutor, Orhan Erbey, not only called for the acquittal of Sedat Bucak but, in addition, did not fail to praise this tribal chief’s collaboration with the State, particularly praising his role as key witness in the first trial of the DEP Members of Parliament who, unlike him, were sentenced to 15 years jail without ever being allowed to cross examine S. Bucak.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Femmes Solidaires (Women’s Solidarity), the Fondation France-Libertés, the International Committee for the Liberation of the Imprisoned Kurdish Members of Parliament (CILDEKT) and the Paris Kurdish Institute, are concerned at the way the retrial of Leyla Zana and her colleagues is taking place in Ankara. This retrial, whose 4th hearing is due on 20 June, totally ignores the conclusions of the European Human Rights Court. Here is the text of a joint statement co-signed by the five organisations:
“In 1991, backed by the support of her people, Leyla Zana became the first Kurdish woman to be elected to the Turkish Parliament. During the swearing in ceremony, she pronounced several words in Kurdish, creating a scandal.Ê In December 1994, Leyla Zana along with three other deputies from the Democratic Party (DEP), Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "expressing offensive opinions and alleged support for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”
Born in 1961 in a small village in the province of Diyarbakir in Turkey and married at the age of 15, Leyla Zana certainly never had any intentions of becoming an icon for the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.Ê Raised in a traditional Kurdish family, where girls are not sent to school (she only attended for a year and a half), it was only through the years of repression that she developed her sense of political awareness.
In 1995, the European Parliament awarded Leyla Zana the "Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought" and in 2001, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey for violating the right to a fair trial.Ê Yet, despite all that, Leyla Zana and her close associates were unable to make their rights respected Nevertheless, pursuant to the new legislative reforms adopted by the Turkish Parliament, they are, today, being retried, after nine years of imprisonment in the Central Prison of Ulucanlar-Ankara — by the same court that should have just accepted the decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
While the European Court condemned the preponderant role played by the prosecutor at the expense of the defence during the first trial, we are worried — from our observations — that the same State Security Court will persist and come up with the same decision after another unfair procedure.
On Friday, 20 June 2003, the former deputies will, thus, be appearing for the fourth time this year before the State Security Court.Ê Already, during the first hearings of this "new trial", numerous irregularities have been observed by the FIDH as well as other national and international NGOs.Ê In fact, although subject to the rulings set forth by the Strasbourg Court, the prosecutor for the State Security Court in Ankara has been constantly interfering with the Judge’s duties by systematically refusing the defence the right to question witnesses for the prosecution, who are all village guards and members of the police force.Ê Indeed, the defence, led by Yusuf Alatas from the Bar in Ankara, has been unable to question prosecution witnesses or have witnesses for the defence heard.Ê Indeed, during the last hearing, held on 23 May, the Court denied, for no valid reason whatsoever, all requests made by the defence regarding not only the release of the defendants on bail, but also hearings for defence witnesses, a flagrant violation of the terms of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
This political trial is representative of the challenges that the Turkish authorities are facing on the road to accession to the European Union. While the AKP government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is demonstrating a strong political will for reform, visible through the adoption of a harmonization packet aimed at meeting the Copenhagen criteria (the sixth packet is currently being debated in the Turkish Parliament), the Turkish judicial system (on the orders of the National Security Council (MGK)) is wrongly acting against the very principles laid down by the Council of Europe by scandalously ignoring the decision made by the Strasbourg Court.
The arsenal of restrictive and security-obsessed laws, based on the authoritarian Constitution born of the 12 September 1980 coup d’état, puts a strain on any real will for reform.Ê On 21 May, Eraslan Ozkaya, the President of the Turkish Court of Appeals, recognized that “it is impossible to speak of impartial and independent trials in Turkey as long as articles 140, 144 and 159 of the Constitution remain in existence …" Last 6 June, the European Parliament asked the Turkish government to present, as quickly as possible, both a road map and a clear time table for implementing the Copenhagen criteria … On the eve of Leyla Zana and her friends’ trial and at the hour of the European Council in Thessolonika (19 and 20 June), the Ankara State Security Court must take this new opportunity to act on behalf of the voice of democratisation and State law by immediately granting the release on bail of the former Kurdish deputies and ensuring them a fair, impartial and public trial”.
There is an arm-wrestling match going on between a section of the reformers who, round President Khatami, are numerous in Parliament and advocate normalisation of relations with the rest of the international community to avoid the country suffering the same fate as Iraq, and the conservatives who sit in the Council of Guardians of the Constitution, led by the Supreme Guide of the Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This is leading to a deadlock which is in danger to leading either to a mass resignation of Khatami’s supporters or a popular referendum. Two Bills challenging the hold of the conservatives over all powers, passed by Parliament on 2 and 9 April respectively, have been rejected by the Council of Guardians of the Constitution, who keep a rigorous and sphinx-like watch at the doors of the temple of the Islamic Revolution. Since the first triumphal victory of reforming President Khatami in 1997, the reformers have seen a whole series of their reform projects blocked by the conservative controlled constitutional organs.
On 21 May last, 116 members of Parliament, religious reformers and student leaders, in an open letter published in the press, expressed their rejection of the “dictatorship of the clergy” — an action that would have been unthinkable a few year ago.
Quite apart from pressure from the USA, that has placed the country on its list of “rogue states” and demanded the disbanding of the Lebanese Hisbollah (armed and financed by Iran) Teheran is seeing with alarm the growing pro-Americanism of the population. Indeed, last April the vox populi didn’t even hesitate at calling for a change of regime with the help of American marines. A number of Iranian intellectuals consider that the best defence against the Americans would be to democratise the country and so deprive them or these last arguments for attacking. The conservatives, for their part are afraid of a domino effect, that the slightest democratic opening would unleash a dynamic ending in the collapse of their power. Wide sections of the population are losing all hope in the capacity of Khatami and the “reformers” to reform an Islamic Republic that is proving irreformable. In this context, the Iranian crisis is bound to intensify over the next few months. To save its hide, the regime is trying, by provocations in the area of nuclear arms and missiles, to play on nationalist feeling to mobilise Iranians against the hegemonistic aims of American imperialism.
On 16 June the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, hinted that the Turkish government was considering doing a U-turn on the issue of Kurdish language broadcasts on the State Radio-Television (TRT) wave bands. “There could be serious problems for Kurdish language broadcasts by TRT” he confided in an interview published by the Turkish daily Vatan, referring to the many objections to this reform from Army circles, which has always been particularly reserved about any cultural concessions. Broadcasting in Kurdish could encourage demands by other minorities for broadcasting in their own languages, explained Mr. Gul who considered that Kurdish broadcasts also carried “the danger that this language might be considered a second official language”. “We consider that it is more suitable that private stations should do this (broadcast in Kurdish)”, he stated. “If we set up certain rules and keep an eye on these broadcasts, there will be no problem” he added.
In August 2002 Parliament had authorised such broadcasts as well as private education “in languages other than Turkish” in the context of reforms aimed at facilitating the country’s admission to the European Union, but so far these reforms have gone unheeded. Some private schools have complained of bureaucratic difficulties over securing authorisation to teach, the TRT has refused any Kurdish language broadcasts. According to the 16 June issue of the Turkish daily Radikal the TRT even appealed to the State Council, on 17 February 2003, against the decision obliging it to broadcast in Kurdish for a few hours a week, on the grounds that this was contrary to its constitution. The paper added that the State Council has not yet given its ruling on this question. The referral to the State Council even astonished the President of the RTUK (the watch-dog committee that oversees all audio-visual media), Fatih Karaca, who criticised the former President of the TRT, Yucel Yener, declaring: “He took part in all the meetings with the RTUK prior to the rules being drawn up, and now we hear that he has referred them to the State Council — I cannot reconcile this attitude with that of a responsible State official”
Faced with this situation, the Government has just placed before Parliament some new reform bills, in particular authorising private radio and television networks to broadcast in Kurdish. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which is viewed with some suspicion by the Army because of its Islamic origins, has already taken note of the Army’s objections by abandoning a Bill to authorise the setting up prayer meeting halls in blocks of flats. Cemil Cicek, Turkish Minister of Justice and government spokesman stated on television on 11 June that this Bill aimed at easing the religious activities of non-Moslem religious groups, but had had to be abandoned because of “prejudices” against his party. The measures had been debated for over six hours on 10 June in the Ministerial Council.
Questioned on the role of the Army in drawing up these reforms, Mr. Cicek considered that the Army “is the only non-governmental institution in Turkey that takes the time to analyse these questions in detail and to express an opinion”.Ê The Army, while officially in favour of membership of the European Union, has recently let it be known, through a carefully orchestrated series of “leaks” to the press, its anxiety over the proposed reforms.
The European Union has made the recognition of cultural rights for the Kurdish and other minorities one of the criteria for the liberalisation of the country — a necessary precondition for the opening of negotiations with Turkey for membership in 2005.
On 5 June, The European Parliament passed a resolution regarding Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union, drawn up by Mr. Arie Ooslander (EPP-DE), with 216 votes for, 75 against and 38 abstentions. The resolution stresses “the necessity for a complete reform of the State” and calls upon “the Turkish government to set up a new political and constitutional system that would guarantee the principles of a secular regime and the control of military by civilian power”. We give below extensive extracts from this resolution.
“Notes that the army maintains a central position in the Turkish state and society; notes with regret that the army's excessively important role slows down Turkey's development towards a democratic and pluralist system, and advocates that Turkey must take advantage of its present government, with its strong parliamentary support, to elaborate a new political and constitutional system, which guarantees the principles of a secular system without military supremacy above civil institutions, so that the traditional power of the bureaucracy and the army (the 'deep State') can resume the forms which are customary 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 in order to align civilian control of the military with the common practice in EU Member States; realises that the desired structural change will be very hard to accept
Proposes 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; urges 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 on 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 and the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (…)
Considers that also the Turkish concept of the nation and secular state has to be based on tolerance and non-discrimination of religious communities and minority groups; considers that the drafting of a new Constitution must facilitate the implementation of these principles (…)
Encourages the Turkish authorities to strengthen the principle of the primacy of international law over national law in the case of substantial differences relating to respect for human rights and the rule of law (…)
Calls upon Turkey to commit itself without delay to a process of accession to the statutes of the International Criminal Court; believes that this is a fundamental element in the relations between Turkey and the EU; points out that Turkey is the only member of the Council of Europe who has not yet signed this statute
Regrets that Turkey has delayed so long with implementing the decisions of the European Court of human rights (ECHR) as it was urged to do by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in a resolution of 23 September 2002 (…)
Urges that an amnesty be granted to those imprisoned for their opinions who are serving sentences in Turkish prisons for the non-violent expression of their opinions; welcomes the reforms that permit the reopening of trials that violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; welcomes in this context the reopening of the trial against European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner Leyla Zana and three other MPs of the former Democracy Party (DEP), imprisoned since more than 9 years; calls for a fair retrial and their immediate provisional release
Calls on the Turkish authorities to adopt active and consistent measures to improve the quality of the court system and the qualities of judges, who have a great responsibility for creating a new legal culture at the service of the citizen (…)
Calls for the electoral system to ensure that the composition of the parliament fully reflects the principle of representative democracy, especially with regard to the representation of Kurdish population and other minorities
Strongly welcomes the Turkish parliament's vote on 2 August 2002 in favour of abolishing the death penalty in peacetime and the subsequent signing of Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights on 15 January 2003; welcomes these important steps forward but also calls for the ban to be extended to crimes committed in times of war
Condemns the decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court to ban HADEP, and recommends the reconsideration of that decision; believes that this ban conflicts with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, and violates the elementary right to freedom of opinion and assembly; considers that the persecution of political parties such as HADEP and DEHAP, which is also the subject of proceedings seeking to ban it, conflicts with the principles of democracy.
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 active and consistent measures to be taken to combat this barbaric practice, 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.
Calls on Turkey to implement the international standards for prisons and to abstain from reverting to the practice of isolating prisoners (…) Expresses its concern at the continued hunger strike in Turkish prisons and supports efforts to negotiate a solution to this matter in a way which avoids further deaths
Calls on the Turkish authorities to permit all prisoners, including those arrested under the jurisdiction of the State Security Courts, to be given genuine access to legal aid; calls on the Turkish government promptly to pass legislation to abolish Article 31(1) of the Law Amending Some Articles of the Criminal Procedure Code (1992, No 3842), which denies detainees held for offences under the jurisdiction of State Security Courts the right to legal counsel for the first forty-eight hours
Is deeply concerned about reports of women in detention being subjected to frequent sexual violence and rape committed by state security agents; notes that women of Kurdish origin and women holding political beliefs which are unacceptable to the authorities or the military are particularly at risk of such violence; calls for an assurance that intimate searches of female prisoners will only be carried out by female staff and that assaults will be punished
Notes that the fact that people of Kurdish origin live in various countries including Turkey must not prevent Turkey from establishing a more relaxed and constructive relationship with its own citizens of Kurdish origin, as with other ethnic and religious minorities (…)
Calls on Turkey to ensure cultural diversity and guarantee cultural rights for all citizens, irrespective of their origin, to ensure effective access to Radio/TV broadcasting, including private media, and education in Kurdish and other non-Turkish languages through the implementation of existing measures and the removal of remaining restrictions that impede this access.
Calls on Turkey to take further steps— within the context of the country's territorial integrity — to comply with the legitimate interests of the Kurdish population and members of other minorities in Turkey and to ensure their participation in political life.
Respects the position of the Turkish language as the first national language, but underlines that this should not be to the detriment of other indigenous languages (such as Kurdish and Armenian) and liturgical languages (such as Aramaic/Syriac), the use of which constitutes a democratic right of citizens … Urges Turkey to respect and to emphasize the Armenian and Syriac cultural heritages, components of Turkey’s national identity.
Is concerned by the recent directives of the Turkish Ministry of Education demanding that primary and secondary schools in the country take part in a denial campaign concerning the oppression of minorities during Turkish history, in particular in relation to the Armenian community.
Calls on the Turkish authorities at all levels (national, regional, local) to call for an immediate halt to any discriminatory activities which cause difficulties for the lives of religious minorities in Turkey, including in the field of ownership of property, donations, building and maintenance of churches and freedom of action for school boards.
Welcomes the ending of the state of emergency on 30 November 2002 in the last remaining two provinces of Diyarbakir and Sirnak, but calls on Turkey to contribute to the elimination of tensions with the Kurdish people and to make efforts to overcome the economic and social under-development of the regions in which these people live, to facilitate the return of former inhabitants to 'emptied villages' and returning refugees from abroad, and to bring about the removal of armed village guards in Kurdish and Syrian Orthodox villages.
Calls on the Turkish authorities to place any military activity in these regions under civilian control and to demand that the security forces (police and army) be answerable for their actions under all circumstances.
Demands that Turkey cooperate with its neighbours Iran, Syria and Iraq in order to respect and safeguard the borders while enabling their respective citizens of Kurdish origin to develop their human, cultural and economic relations; urges the Turkish Government to continue to respect the territorial integrity of Iraq and the competence of Iraq in rearranging its own administrative organisations”.
• PAUL WOLFOWITZ SAYS HE IS DISAPPOINTED BY TURKEY’S ATTITUDE DURING THE WAR IN IRAQ AND DEMAND ITS FULL CO-OPERATION. On 6 May, the Assistant Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfwitz, severely criticised Turkey’s refusal to support US military intervention and demanded that Ankara henceforth conform to the line laid down by Washington regarding Syria and Iran. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, retorted before some journalists “Turkey from the very stat made no mistakes and took all the measures necessary, in all sincerity”.
In an interview on the private TV channel CNN-Turk, Mr. Wolfowitz said he was very disappointed by the Attitude of the Turkish Army. “I think that, for some reason or another, they did not play the key role not behaved in the way we expected of them” he declared. Mr. Wolfowitz warned that it was henceforth up to Turkey to make amends by its attitude on Iraq as well as with respect to Syria and Iran. “If we want to turn over a new leaf, this would depend on Turkey’s co-operation. Instead of saying “We are not concerned by America’s problems in Iran and Syria — they are our neighbours” it should come forward and say “We have made a mistake, we should have realised how bad things were in Iraq but now we know. Let us see what we can do to help the Americans” ”.
“I would like to see a different attitude from that which I have noticed” he continued, adding “perhaps it is already here, I haven’t been to Turkey for some time”. The refusal of the Turkish Parliament to allow American troops to land on Turkish soil had forced the Bush Administration to change its war plans and cancel 6 billion dollars of aid for Ankara. “It is true that we did not have the complete support we expected, but I think that, all in all, Turkey paid a heavier price than we did” commented Mr. Wolfowitz. Last week the United States closed their principal military mission in Turkey, as part of a global restructuring of their Near Eastern military arrangements.
However, on 24 June, Abdullah Gul, Turkish Foreign Minister, announced that Turkey would open its military bases, its ports and airports to the coalition forces in Iraq and allow the transit of humanitarian aid through the country. He did not specify the date when this decision would come into force, nor which military bases were affected. Abdullah Gul announced that the peacekeeping forces could also use these bases for a year. He explained that the presence of these troops on Turkish soil did not depend on Parliamentary approval, unlike the use of the bases for military operations. Authorising the use of installations for humanitarian purposes did not require parliamentary approval, according to some experts.
This announcement seems to be part of an effort to warm up relations between Ankara and Washington following on the Turkish Parliament’s decision, in March 2003, not to authorise the US forces to use these bases for military operations in Iraq.
Turkey already allows the coalition forces to transport humanitarian aid to Iraqi Kurdistan through its Southern ports and across the borders between the two countries. According to some diplomats, Ankara would maintain the condition that no soldier or weapons enter Iraq through its territory. Officials say that the United States has not yet replied to the Turkish proposal.
Turkey had closed its border crossing at Habur on 18 June for a day after the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had prevented, the day before, a group of 40 Iraqis, claiming to be businessmen from the city of Kirkuk, from going to Turkey without any travel documents.
Furthermore, on 19 June, the UNO special envoy to Iraq, Sergio Viera de Mello, visited Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, for discussions with leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). During his brief visit, Mr. Viera de Mello also inspected several projects being run by UN agencies and met relatives of Iraqis who had disappeared under the Saddam Hussein regime.
• THE PRESIDENT OF THE TURKISH COURT OF APPEALS DECLARES THAT THE TURKISH CONSTITUTION PREVENTS IMPARTIAL JUDGEMENTS. In the course of a symposium organised in Ankara on 21 May by the Law Faculty on the subject of “the right to impartial trials”, the President of the Turkish Court of Appeals, Eraslan Ozkaya, stated, in his opening address, that it was impossible to talk of impartial judgements in Turkey so long as Articles 140, 144 and 159 of the Turkish Constitution remained in force as well as the Code of the High Council of Magistrates, in particular certain clauses of the latter Code. He stressed that the principle of impartiality is governed by the 1982 Constitution and certain legal provisions, but that the 1982 Constitution was much more coercive in matters of individual freedom and the right to impartial trial than the 1961 Constitution. According to Mr. Ozkaya, the 1982 Constitution, drawn up in accordance with philosophical principles limiting individual rights and freedoms, consequently is damaging to impartiality of judgement. “So long as these provisions have not been abrogated, Turkish justice will continue to lose credibility” he declared.
The symposium took place in the presence of the Turkish Minister of Justice, Cemil Çeçek, of the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Nuri Ok and of his predecessor Sahib Kanadoglu, and of judges of the Turkish Court of Appeals.
• THE ANTI-TORTURE COMMITTEE OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE DENOUNCES THE PERSISTENCE OF TORTURE IN TURKISH POLICE STATIONS. In a report published on 25 June, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the Council of Europe denounces the persistence of torture in Turkish police stations, especially in the Kurdish provinces. The CPT’s experts indicate that cases of electric shock treatment, beating up and sleep deprivation against prisoners in preliminary detention have been reported.
In the course of two visits to Turkey, in March and then in September 2002, the CPT experts questioned a large number of people who had been placed in detention in the Kurdish province of Diyarbekir, which was under a State of Emergency until November 2002. “About half of the people questioned stated that they had suffered ill-treatment during their detention in police or gendarmerie premises” the CPT affirms in this report, published with the agreement of the Ankara authorities.
The experts of this European organisation noted in particular “blows, the compression of testicles, spraying with jets of icy water naked prisoners who were then kept in the cold, sleep deprivation, being kept standing for prolonged periods (…) electric shocks applied to the toes, the genitals and/or the ears”. In view of this body of information, the CPT demands that an enquiry be organised, by an independent judicial organisation, on the methods used by the anti-terrorist departments of the Diyarbekir police to question prisoners being detained.
The committee denounces, moreover, the non-confidentiality of the medical examinations undergone by the prisoners. Thus “people who have suffered ill-treatment can easily be dissuaded from informing the doctor, and the doctor can easily be dissuaded from raising the matter with the detainee. In addition (…) certain doctors who have insisted on reporting injuries observed have been subjected to threats and/or been transferred to other posts” the experts point out.
• THE TRIAL OF A HISTORICAL WORK WRITTEN BY MASSUD BARZANI. The trial, on the grounds of “separatist propaganda”, of two publishers and a Turkish translator of a book on the history of the Kurds, written by the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, began before the Istanbul State Security Court. The Prosecutor, demanded up to seven years imprisonment for Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu and Bedir Vatansever, respectively publisher and printer of this book, that come out in January 2003, and for Vahdettin Ince, who translated the work from Arabic.
The crime the book (entitled “The Kurdish National Liberation Movement”) is alleged to have committed is that of using the term “Turkish Kurdistan” “to describe South-Eastern Turkey”. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also considers that the book, by the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), criticises the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The book contains a letter from the Indian leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who later became Prime Minister of India. The incriminating passage in this letter says: “Kemal Pasha brutally massacred the Kurds after the 1925 uprising. He set up special Independence Courts to try thousands of Kurds and sent the Kurdish leader and others to the gallows. Even as they breathed their last, their hope for an independent Kurdistan was unshaken. The Turks, who had fought for their freedom, are today, through an irony of history, eliminating the Kurds who are, in turn, demanding their own freedom. It is so surprising to see how suddenly nationalism stops being a reflex of defence of one’s country to be transformed into an aggression against the rights of others”.
None of the accused was present at the hearing, and the Court subpoenaed Mr. Okcuoglu to give evidence. The Court was adjourned to a later date.
• THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT GRANTS DEHAP 45 DAYS TO PREPARE ITS DEFENCE. The Constitutional Court granted the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP) a further 45 days to prepare its defence in two cases started by the Court’s Public Prosecutor, Sabih Kanadoglu in April 2003, announced the Court’s Vice-President, Hasim Kilic.
Mr. Kilic indicated that DEHAP’s President, Mehmet Abbasoglu, had asked for three months in which to prepare his organisation’s defence, but the Court had decided on 45 days. Of the two charges, one accuses it of having falsified the documents filed to enable it to open offices in the country and present candidates at the General Elections in November 2002. The second concerns charges of “collusion with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (PKK, renamed KADEK). DEHAP, which denies any relations with the PKK, was unable to win any seats in Parliament not having reached the threshold of 10% of the vote at national level. The party was founded in 2002 by sympathisers of the Democratic Party of the People (HADEP), which was banned on 13 March by the Constitutional court for “association with rebel Kurdish secessionists”.
Moreover, on 26 June, the ex-President of the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP — pro-Kurdish), Mahmut Abassoglu, and three former leaders of the party were each sentenced to nearly three years imprisonment for “falsifying official documents”. The four were accused of falsifying documents dealing with the setting up of local branches of their party in order to be able to stand candidates for the November 2002 General Elections.
Twenty-two other former party officials have been acquitted in this case. Mr. Abbasoglu did not stand as candidate for a second term as president at his party’ congress on 8 June. Tuncer Bakirhan replaced him. DEHAP, which denies any links with the PKK, is being threatened with a banning order (like all previous pro-Kurdish parties) by the Turkish Courts on the grounds of “presumed links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (i.e. the PKK now renamed KADEK).
The party had been founded in 1999 by sympathisers of the Party of People’s Democracy (HADEP) that was banned by the Constitutional Court for “association with Kurdish secessionist rebels”.
• THE HEAD OFFICES OF THE TURKISH HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION SEARCHED AND ARCHIVES AND EQUIPMENT SEIZED. The Secretary General of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), Sedat Aslantas, in an open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sharply criticised the searches carried out by the police on 6 May at the offices of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD). “In the course of these searches, which lasted two hours, the police seized many archives, but also computers and disquettes at the IHD offices, then proceeded to carry out the same searches at the Ankara branch of the Association”.
The documents seized cover the 17 years of the Human Rights Association’s history, and contain their assessments of Human Rights Violations, the testimonies and correspondence with Human Rights Defence organisations and officials. Sedat Aslantas, while denouncing the fact that these searches were a breach of several International Conventions, pointed out that they took place at the same time as the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gül, was making the opening speech at a meeting of the consultative meeting organised by the General Secretariat of the E.U. with the participation of IHD.
• THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL (MGK) DECIDES TO OPEN THREE TURKISH CONSULATES IN IRAQI KURDISTAN. According to the 1st May issue of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, the National Security Council, at its monthly meeting on 30 April, decided to open three Turkish consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the cities of Mossul, Kirkuk and Suleymaniah. “A warm dialogue will be opened with the Kurds, to avoid conflicts between Kurds and Arabs” pointed out the MGK, which also decided to send a special emissary to Massud Barzani
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF NOT HAVING CONDUCTED AN “INADEQUATE INVESTIGATION” INTO THE DEATH OF A KURDISH JOURNALIST. On 9 May, the European Human Rights Court sentenced Turkey to compensate the father of a journalist who was killed, considering that Ankara had not carried out an “inadequate investigation” into his death.
On the other hand the Court rejected the plea of violation of the right to life put forward by the father, who accused members of the State Secret Services of having kidnapped , tortured and killed his son, Ferhat Tepe, a reporter on the pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Gundem working in Biltis, or of having procured these actions. “The circumstances of Ferhat Tepe’s death, and the fact that he worked for a pro-Kurdish paper argue in favour of his father’s allegations” the court considered, in its ruling. However, the Court could not “conclude beyond reasonable doubt” that he had been the victim of an agent of the State, or of someone acting in its name.
The government maintained that Ferhat Tepe had been assassinated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). To try and elucidate the controversial circumstances of the journalist’s death, three representatives of the Court heard 24 witnesses in Ankara in October 2000. The court stressed that the enquiry had not been able to go any deeper, and that the police had not taken any measures to identify possible witnesses. It concluded that there had been violation of the European Convention on Human Rights “insofar as the national authorities had failed to conduct an adequate and effective investigation into the circumstances of the death of the petitioner’s son”. It granted the petitioner 14,500¤ damages and 14,500¤ in costs.
• FORMER TURKISH PRIME MINISTER NECMETTIN ERBAKAN, BACK ON THE POLITICAL SCENE AFTER HAVING BEEN BANNED FOR FIVE YEARS. On 11 May, former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was elected to the leadership of his pro-islamic party after having been banned from any elected office for five years. He was unanimously elected head of the new Islamic party, the Happiness Party (Saadet Partisi) meeting in a special congress. His return, however, should not basically change the Turkish political situation.
In 1988, a court decision had excluded him from national political life after ordering the dissolution of his party, the Prosperity (Refah) party, then Turkey’s only Islamic party, which he had presided for the previous 30 years. Necmettin Erbakan had been elected Primer Minister of the Turkish government in 1996, only for it to collapse a year later before the threats of the all-powerful Turkish Army. The Happiness Party did not win enough votes to win any seats in the November 2002 General Elections, which were carried with an overwhelming majority by another Islamic party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), created by a majority of the members of parliament who had previously supported Mr. Erbakan.
Mr. Erbakan, 76 years of age, represents the old guard, as against the younger and more charismatic present Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was a dissident from the Happiness Party.
• MASSUD BARZANI RECEIVES A TURKISH DELEGATION FROM THE FOREIGN MINISTRY. On 24 May, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Massud Barzani, welcomed a delegation from the Turkish Foreign Ministry in his stronghold of Salaheddin. Consisting of Ambassadors Ecvet Tezcan and Selim Karaosmanoglu, as well as the Director of the Iraqi Desk of the Foreign Ministry, Kerim Uras, the delegation received a warm welcome from Mr. Barzani who declared that “a new page is opening with Turkey”. E. Tezcan, for his part, declared that “democracy and freedom really exist” [in Kurdistan”].
“It is time to improve our cooperation. (…) We have plans to open consulates in Suleymaniah and Irbil. The invitation came from Northern Iraq” the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul had declared on 18 May.
• CLASHES AT GIRESUN AND IN THE KURDISH PROVINCE OF DERSIM BETWEEN TURKISH SOLDIERS AND MEMBERS OF TIKKO AND OF PKK. Three members of an underground Maoist organisation were killed in clashes with Turkish forces at Giresun (on the Black Sea coast, near the Georgian border) while one soldier was killed in the course of a clash with Kurdish fighters in Dersim, according to the Turkish authorities on 21 May.
The incident at Giresun took place at a place called Alucra, when activists of the extremist TIKKO (Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army of Turkey — illegal) opened fire in answer to a call for their surrender, according to the authorities. In Dersim a clash took place near the village of Ataclar between troops on a search and destroy mission and a group of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
• GERMANY HAS 600,000 INHABITANTS OF TURKISH ORIGIN. According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet of 22 May, Germany has 600,000 inhabitants of Turkish origin. The Turkish Embassy in Berlin announced that over 100,000 of them obtained naturalisation after the reform in year 2000, and that this makes for an electorate of 470,000 people.
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF “INHUMAN AND DEGRADING TREATMENT”. On 19 June, the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of ill-treating, during detention before trial, a Kurd later sentenced for “separatism”, in a trial which the court also ruled had been inequitable. The Court considered that Hulki Gunes, a 40 year old Kurd, arrested in 1992 near Diyarbekir and suspected of having taken part in a shoot out in which a soldier had been killed, had suffered “inhuman and degrading treatment” during his detention. Mr. Gunes had, in particuler, complained of having been submitted to electric shock treatment and blows to different parts of his body.
The Court, moreover, considered that the petitioner’s trial, in which he had been sentenced to life imprisonment in March 1994 for “separatism and attacks on the State’s security” had been inequitable because the State Security Court that sentenced him contained an Army judge. The European Court finally found Ankara guilty of not having allowed the petitioner to cross examine the gendarmes who accused him, and whose testimony was the only evidence against him. “The Court is not unaware of the undeniable difficulties of the struggle against terrorism (…), but it considers that these factors cannot lead to limiting to such an extent the defence rights of an accused person, whoever he may be” the judges ruled.
The petitioner, at the moment jailed in Diyarbekir, was granted 25,000 euros dammages and 15,000 euros costs.
• SIX PKK FIGHTERS KILLED IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS IN TURKISH KURDISTAN. Two Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK, renamed KADEK) were killed on 24 June during a clash with the Turkish Army near the village of Meselidere, in the Province of Siirt. Two other PKK fighters were killed on 19 June in another clash with the Turkish army in Bingol Province where, on 15 June two other PKK fighters had been killed.
For several weeks past, civil organisations in the region have been organising demostrations to demand a general amnesty for all Kurdish fighters so as to establish a lasting peace. The Minister of the Interior, Abdulkadir Aksu, proposed an amnesty for Kurdish fighters on 27 June. The Bill, unveiled at a televised Press Conference, proposes a simple pardon forsome and reductionin the sentences for others. “It is a new and important step forward by the government to re-establish peace” declared the Minister. The proposals in the Bill, which may be put before parliament next week, envisage pardon for those who surrender and who have never shed any blood and reductions in the sentences of others, on condition that they give information about their organisation. All leaders are excluded from any offer of amnesty. People already found guilty will be offered reductions in their sentences of between half and three quarters — on condition that they cooperate with the authorities. The government’s offer (the eighth of its kind) has been attacked by Tuncer Bakirhan, leader of the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP — pro-Kurdish) who demands a general amnesty.
• POLICE REPRESSION AGAINST DEMONSTRATORS DEMANDING A GENERAL AMNESTY AND CLASHES IN BINGOL LEADING TO 2 DEATHS IN THE RANKS OF THE PKK. On 16 June, the police pulled in for questioning 114 people in the Kurdish town of Bingol, while they were demonstrating to demand a general amnesty to enable Kurdish guerrilla fighters to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. Initially 61 people, including 60 members of the “Feminine Platform” were taken in for questioning by the security forces. Then another group of 53 people were also pulled in. Four lawyers, who were amongst them, have been released, according to the Turkish authorities.
On 14 June, 340 Non-governmental Organisations — Human Rights defence organisations, pro-Kurdish political parties, Trade Unions — had called on the Turkish government to declare a general amnesty for Kurdish activists so as to stabilise peace in the region. “An unconditional and unlimited amnesty is the only way of overcoming tensions” declared a statement signed by all these organisation. “To demand repentance does nothing to solve the problems but will create conditions for their proliferation” affirms the declaration, presented during a press conference in Diyarbekir.
The government is preparing, at the moment, an amnesty law limited just to the possible “repentants” but wider than previous legal measures for pro-Kurdish activists which required that they not only repent but give information about the PKK. These measures still exclude leaders of the movement. The Turkish Army leaders consider that some 5,000 PKK members sought asylum in Iraqi Kurdistan. After the recent war in Iraq, the Americans stated that they would not tolerate the presence of “these militia” on Iraqi soil and urged Ankara to decree an amnesty.
The government hopes to pass these new reforms on Kurdish rights before the European summit in Salonika (Greece) on 20 to 21 June.
Elsewhere, two fighters of the “Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (PKK) were killed in a clash with the Turkish Army in the course of a military operation on 15 June in the Kurdish province of Bingol. The governor of Bingol, Husseyin Avni Cos, declared that this operation had been launched following the assassination of a village mayor by PKK members the week before.
• THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE ACCUSES TURKEY OF “COLONISING”THE TURKISH-OCCUPIED PART OF CYPRUS. On 25 June Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC — unrecognised by anyone except Ankara) attacked a report, adopted the day before by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Counil of Europe (PACE), which accuses Turkey of “colonising” the Turkish part of the island. “It’s not true. These allegations are baseless” declared Abdullah Gul, head of the Turkish Foreign Office, to the Press.
The report accuses Turkey of carrying out a “disguised colonisation” of Northern Cyprus since the Turkish military intervention in 1974 which divided the island into Turkish and Greek sectors. Of some 200,000 inhabitants of the TRNC, 115,000 are settlers who, mainly, have come from Anatolia, according to the document. Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots have left their country for Great Britain and other Commonwealth countries. On 24 June, the PACE passed (by 68 For, 15 Against and 2 abstentions) a recommendation asking “Turkey, as well as its subordinate local Turkish Cypriot administration, to put an end to this process of colonisation by Turkish settlers”.
“Turkey is not an occupation force and never had any such intention” insisted Mr. Gul. “This report is inequitable and biased and does not reflect realities in Cyprus” declared, for his part, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Husseyin Dirioz. The President of the TRNC, Rauf Denktas described the report as counter-productive in the search for peaceon the island. “If this report aims at bringing peace and a consensus on the island it undoubtedly does not serve this aim” according to Mr. Denktas.
The report, which has no mandatory character recommends that the Ministerial Council of the Council of Europe to commission the European Committee on population to carry out a census of Cyprus and to promote “the idea or creating a fund to finance the eventual voluntary return of the Turkish settlers to Turkey”. Efforts are under way to relaunch a dialogue between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots leaders on the basis of a plan for the reunificationof the island put forward by the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, which broke down in March 2003. Some confidence-building measures have taken place since then, in particular the openingof the “green line” separating the two sectors by the Turkish Cypriot authorities. The Cyprus Republic signed, on 16 April, the treaty of membership of the European Union, leaving the TRNC, for the time being, ostracised by Europe.
• THE CONDEMNATION BY THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FOR VIOLATION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION DOES NOT PREVENT THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES FROM TAKING THE AUTHOR TO COURT FOR THE SAME BOOK. Sentenced to over a year’s imprisonment by the Istanbul N° 2 State Security Court for a book entitled “The failure of a Paradigm” (Paradigmanin iflasi), Fikret Baskayam a Turkish academic, was brought before the Ankara N° 1 State Security Court on 2 June charged with the publication of the 8th edition of the same book. Fikret Baskaya had served his prison sentence although the European Human Rights Court had condemned Turkey for violation of freedom of expression.
Thus Fikret Baskaya is in danger, on the basis of the infamous Article 8/1 of the anti-terrorist Act, of again serving a year and 4 months jail for a book covered by the European Human Rights Court’s condemnation of Turkey for its violation of the author’s freedom of expression. Thus the Court’s authority, which is supposed to be paramount, remains purely theoretical so long as its penalties are limited to fines.
• THE KURDS FROM TURKEY WHO SOUGHT REFUGE IN IRAQ ASK TO E ALLOWED TO RETURN HOME. According to the Turkish daily Milliyet of 15 June, the refugee sub-Commission of the Turkish Parliaments Human Rights Commission has decided to visit Iraqi Kurdistan to examine the situation of 12,000 Kurdish refugees from Turkey, forced into exile in 1990 by the oppressive measures of the Turkish authorities. “Having left 13 years ago with the message “Turkey has become unliveable for the Kurds” at a time when the fighting with the PKK was at its most intense, the 12,000 Kurds wishing to return after the ending of the terror are putting Turkey in an embarrassing position” writes the paper.
The Sub-Commission’s President, Justice and Development Party (AKP) Member of Parliament Faruk Unsal, stated that after discussion with a delegation of 140 refugees waiting in Sirnak, they had decided to visit Kurdistan to study the situation on the spot, in the refugee camps of Makhmur and Zeli, in Mossul province which, until the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, was under the control of the latter.
• A RADIO STATION BANNED FOR A MONTH WITHOUT ANY WARNING FOR HAVING MADE A BROADCAST IN KURDISH. Even as the President of the Turkish Radio and Television Control Organisation (RTUK) publicly criticised the former President of the Turkish National Radio and TV network (TRT) for having secretly applied to the State Council to oppose Kurdish language broadcasting on the TRT network, he decided, at the same time, to ban the Dunya (World) radio for having broadcast in Kurdish while adhering to the strict letter of Turkish regulations. By a decision dated 12 June, Fatihn Karaca imposed a one month ban on Dunya, incriminated because of a programme entitled “Kurdish literature and language”. “The violation of the principle of the independence of the Turkish Republic and of the indivisible unity of its State and its people has been observed … In consequence … no warning is necessary” specified the decree signed by F. Karaca setting the date for ceasing to broadcast on 10 July.
The radio’s Editorial director, Sabri Oziç, expressed surprise at the decision, declaring “the RTUK does not, in its decision, the nature of the programme’s content. The sole problem is its use of the Kurdish language. The reforms to the Constitution made to prepare for membership of the European Union grant us this right. We took great care over this broadcast; we respected the time limits imposed by the regulations, and though we only broadcast for half an hour a week in Kurdish, we introduce a simultaneous translation in Turkish”. For the Turkish authorities, even half an hour of Kurdish music per week is considered to pose a serious threat to the existence of their republic — which, apparently, seems very fragile.
• “TOO MUCH RED, GREEN AND YELLOW”: THE STAGE DECOR FOR A PLAY IS SEIZED BY THE TURKISH POLICE. On 17 June On 17 June the Turkish police burst into a theatre in Hakkari Province to seize the stage decor which, apparently, contained too much red, green and yellow for their taste (these are, indeed, the colours of the Kurdish flag).
The irruption occurred after a school teacher, who had attended a rehearsal of the play, phoned the authorities to denounce a so-called plot, according to the Turkish daily Radikal. Display of these three colours often gives rise to accusations of propaganda or support for separatism. The actors, who were taken in for questioning by the Public Prosecutor, cancelled the show, according to the Turkish daily Milliyet. One of them, Mahir Gunsiray, denied that the play, called Gavara, had anything to do with the Kurdish problem and expressed his “surprise” at the seizing of the decorations. “This incident is a really serious blow at a time when Parliament is working to adopt reforms to enable our country to join the European Union” he declared.
• THE TURKISH MINISTER OF NATIONAL EDUCATION DEMANDS THAT SCHOOLS ORGANISE LECTURES AND COMPETITIONS OF COMPOSITION WRITING TO FIGHT AGAINST ANY ARGUMENT ABOUT THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE. According to the 12 May issue of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, a circular from the Turkish Ministry of National Education, dated 14 April 2003 and sent to all the schools in Turkey, including in Armenian schools, calls for the organisation “of lectures and competitions of composition writing” with the aim of “fighting against any arguments regarding the Armenian genocide”.
The circular specifies that reports on the organisation of lectures must be sent by the School directors to the Ministry of National Education before 30 May 2003 and cites the books of reference (according to the Turks) on this question such as “The massacres perpetrated by the Armenians at Adana and Franco-Armenian relations” by Yusuf Ziya Bildirici and also “The Armenian Church and terrorism” by Erdal Ilter.
The document also envisages the organisation of essay writing competitions on the theme “The revolt and activities of the Armenians during the First World War”. The results should be announced by 1st September and the winners published in the Review of Education and Scientific and Intelligent Enlightenment.
• THE FAILURE OF THE TURKISH BANKS COST TURKEY $40 BILLION, ACCORDING TO THE IMF. At a meeting organised by the Control Council of Turkish Banking (BDDK) in Istanbul, the principal Assistant of the IMF President, Mrs. Anne Krueger, stated that speculative management and poor control of the banking system had cost Turkey $40 billion. “If the necessary organisation and control had been set up first, we would not have been faced with such great losses” she declared.
• THE PKK THREATENS TO RESUME HOSTILITIES WHILE DEHAP PRESENTS A PETITION TO PARLIAMENT, WITH A MILLION SIGNATURES, CALLING FOR A GENERAL AMNESTY. Murat Karayilan, one of the leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK — renamed KADEK) threatened to resume hostilities in Turkey, rubbishing the extent of the amnesty measures proposed on 29 June by the government to the fighters, according to the German-published pro-Kurdish daily Ozgur Politika. “The (amnesty) Bill imposes repentance. It says : we will annihilate you if you don’t surrender, if you don’t inform on others” considered Murat Karayilan, top leader of the PKK, according to an article published in the daily on 30 June.
If the Turkish government “insists on annihilation and renunciation, we will have only one option. This is war for the our honour” added Murat Karayilan. “Any new war would not be like the old one. If war begins, all economic, political and social life will be paralysed” he warned.
On 3 July, another high ranking leader, Mustafa Karasu, declared in the same paper under the heading “Either a solution or war” that “Four years have gone by! What is on the agenda is either a solution or legitimate defence. Thus we are going towards a critical point”.
The Bill before Parliament, as announced by the Turkish Minister of the Interior, Abdelkadir Aksu, provides pardon for those who surrender and have not committed any blood crimes and some reduction in sentences for others — on condition that they inform on their organisation.
The government’s offer, the eighth of its kind, was again attacked by the principal pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP), which has called for a general amnesty in a petition with a million signatures it has presented to Parliament. “It is necessary to have a political amnesty to secure social peace” indicated Osman Ozcelik, DEHAP’s Vice-President. He stated that the government’s proposal was degrading, because it called on the fighters to repent and inform against their organisation to the authorities.
People already sentenced would be offered reductions of between half and three quarters of in their sentence, provided that they co-operate with the authorities.
• IN GREECE, THE CASE OF ABDULLAH OCALAN’S “CLANDESTINE” SOJOURN ENDS IN AN ACQUITTAL. Ten Greeks, including a retired Admiral, tried in the case of the clandestine stay in Greece of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were acquitted on 27 June by an Athens court. A. Ocalan, who is at present serving a life sentence in Turkey, as well as two other Kurds who accompanied him in 1999, was also acquitted.
The case had aroused an uproar in Greece and resulted in the sacking of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of Public Order and of the Interior, Theodoros Pangalos, Philippos Petsalnikos and Alecos Papadopoulos. All three gave evidence in Court as witnesses. The retired Admiral, Antonis Naxakis, well known for his ultra-nationalist views, was the principle Greek accused in the trial. He stated before the Court that he had been “used” by the socialist government of the time to deliver A. Ocalan over to the Turkish authorities. Mr. Pangalos, declared to the Court that Admiral Naxakis had been “misled” and thought “that is would be a simple matter to obtain political asylum” for Abdullah Ocalan — a measure for which 100 Greek members of Parliament had launched an appeal. Admiral Naxakis, had only played a “technical” role in this affair and “those who brought Ocalan into Greece were not in the dock” declared the former Foreign Minister.
On 2 July Turkey attacked the acquittal and said it was “surprised” at it. According to the Turkish Ministry’s communiqué, the verdict of the Athenian Court “does absolutely not answer to the expectations of the international community regarding the antiterrorist struggle and does not satisfy Turkish public opinion”. A. Ocalan had sojourned illegally in Athens on 28 and 29 January 1999. He had then been evacuated to the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, with the help of the Greek Intelligence Services.