On 3 September, the members of the first post-Saddam Hussein government took their oath of office, even as the United States announced that it was submitting a fresh resolution to the Security Council that would widen the UN mandate in Iraq. The Ministers took their oath of office during a ceremony at the headquarters of the US-led coalition in Baghdad. It took place in the presence of the American civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. Twenty-two Ministers, including one woman, Mrs. Nesrine Mustapha al-Barwari, responsible for Public Works, swore on the Qoran, repeating the same sentence “In the name of God the merciful, I swear by God the all-powerful to do everything possible to serve and protect Iraq, its people, its territory and its sovereignty and may God be my witness”. The one Christian minister, Bahnam Waya Boulos, responsible for Transport, swore his oath on the Bible. The Ministers of Oil, Ibrahim Mohammad Bahr al-Ulum and of Trade, Ali Allawi, were not present at the ceremony
The Transitional Government Council, appointed in July by the United States, appointed on 1st September a Cabinet responsible for running the country until elections in 2004. The Cabinet, that does not have a Prime Minister, consists of 13 Shiite Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, five Kurds, one Christian and a Turcoman — that is exactly the same ethnic and religious composition as the council. The Council, of which Shiite Ahmad Shalabi has taken the rotating Presidency for this month, remains the highest Iraqi authority, to which the Ministers have to render account for their actions. Foreign Affairs have been entrusted to a Kurd, Hoshyar Zebari, till now spokesman for the Transitional Council and a senior officer of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Massud Barzani’s KDP); Finance to the Sunni Arab Kamal al-Gailani; Oil to the Shiite Ibrahim Mohammad Bahr al-Ulum; the Interior to the Shiite Nuri Badrane. A Christian, Bahnam Zaya Boulos has ben nominated Minister of Transport and a Turcoman, Bayan Baqer Sulagh is in charge of Reconstruction and Housing.
Here are no longer any Ministries for Religious Affairs, Defence or Military Industry, considered by the United States as main contractors of the presumed programme for Weapons of Mass Destruction of the old regime, nor any Ministry of Information. A council of Information last should eventually, replace this.
The government includes several Ministries that did not exist under the previous regime: Human Rights, entrusted to Abdel Bassai Turki; Environment entrusted to Abderrahman Sadik Karim; emigration held by Mohammad Jassem Khodayyir; Technology, confided to Rachad Mandan Omar as well as Public Works and Youth and Sports entrusted to Ali Fa’ik al Ghabban. Previously the last Ministry was part of the Olympic Committee directed by Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Wadai. Furthermore electricity and Planning become full Ministries, confided respectively to Ayham as-Samarrai and Mahdi al-Hafez.
They will have to answer to the Government Council and will be assisted by advisers chosen by the American-led military coalition. This has raised doubts as to the leeway they will have even though Paul Bremer, who retains overall control of Iraq, has declared that the Americans will gradually hand authority over to them.
In a spirit of compromise, the Kurds have satisfied themselves with five Ministerial portfolios, although they represent over 25% of the population. They have six posts. In addition to Hoshyar Zebari, they are Mrs. Nesrin Mustapha al-Barwari, public works; Abderrahman Sadik Karim, environment; Mohammed Tawfik Raheem, Industry and Mineral resources; Abdul-Latif Rasheed, water resources.
Turkish civilian and military leaders met on 19 September to discuss the possible sending of a “peace-keeping” force to Iraq — an idea being insistently peddled by the government, but which is far from being unanimously accepted. According to the government, the meeting was just to hear the views of the Armed Forces members of the National Security Council (MGK) prior to a cabinet meeting on the subject.
The Turkish government, while not linking its decision to UN approval, hopes that the Americans will convince the UN Security Council to support the idea of an international peace-keeping force in Iraq, which would strengthen the legitimacy of any Turkish deployment, especially in the eyes of the members of Parliament who, in the last resort, have to approve such an operation. The government, that is anxious to revive cooperation with the United States after the cold spell provoked by the refusal by parliament to support the American war effort, is having great difficulty in convincing the country of the validity of such an operation. The opposition M.P.s are against, those of the majority are not at all convinced and 6 Turks out of 10 are opposed, according to a recent opinion poll. Officially, the MGK is due to study the reports of the fact finding missions recently sent to Iraq to evaluate the situation and hear the views of the local population.
The majority of the Iraqi respondents — starting with all the members of the transition government — have publicly expressed their opposition to any deployment of Turkish troops. Fearing to revive the appetites of this former imperial power that occupied the region for so many centuries. The Iraqi Kurds are particularly hostile. The Turkish TV News channel, CNN-Turk, reported on 26 September that Turkey had asked the Americans for control, within the Iraqi stabilisation force, of a section of Iraqi territory covering 30,000 square Kilometres between Mossul, Suleimaniah and Baghdad. This zone would begin at the junction of the Tigris and Great Zab rivers, South of Mossul, and go up to the Altun Kopri junction, on the Little Zab, between Irbil and Kirkuk, skirt the South of the latter city to continue almost to Suleimaniah before going South again towards the capital, Baghdad.
On 5 September, the new Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari — who is Kurdish — considered that any deployment of troops from Turkey or other neighbouring countries would only add to the security problems in his country and hoped rather for French, Russian and German troops. “We do not want any involvement of any of Iraq’s neighbours in peacekeeping operations as each one of them has its own political objectives” the Minister declared.
Moreover, Mr. Zebari called on the three countries that had opposed America’s war on Iraq to send troops to help stabilise his country. “I think that we need the participation of European countries that are in favour of a stable Middle East in the internationalisation of the forces” of the Americano-British coalition in Iraq, he added, stressing that if would be a good thing “if the French, Russians and Germans, for example, took part”.
Mr. Zebari, a member of the cabinet formed with Washington’s blessings, stated that his government was opposed to a Turkish military presence. “By deploying (troops) the Turks would have the means of pursuing their own political objectives, which could lead to the destabilisation of Iraq” he stated. “The objective of the process of internationalisation is to stabilise the situation on the spot, but if it leads to destabilisation this creates a problem,” added the Iraqi leader. According to him, “The corridor is a problem” referring to the fact that the Turkish troops would have to cross the Kurdish zone.
“The idea of sending Turkish soldiers to Iraq enjoys no support from any Iraqi group” stressed the President of the Turkish Employers’ Federation (TUSAID), Tuncay Ozilhan on 19 September. “It therefore seems hardly reasonable to imagine that the presence of Turkish troops would contribute to stability in that country” he added.
The Turkish government is considering the deployment of 10,000 troops, making it the third largest foreign force, after that of the Americans and the British. “Of course no one like to see foreign troops in their country (…) but, if foreign troops should be deployed, the Iraqi people would prefer that they be Turkish soldiers rather than British, Russian, American or Polish” asserted Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who considers that the population would rather welcome Moslem troops.
Questioned on the issue, Colin Powell, head of the U.S. Foreign service, for his part, recognised that “the question of sending Turkish troops (to Iraq) is a very sensitive issue”.
The United States, who are shortly to release the first instalment of an $8.5 billion loan to Turkey, have also been asked by Ankara to take action against the PKK fighters, who have sought refuge on the Iraqi-Iranian border. Washington has promised its support, but may well refuse any military action before February — the date at which Ankara’s amnesty offer to PKK members expires. On 25 September, the Turkish Minister of Justice, Cemil Çiçek, let it be understood that this would be its price for taking part in the international peace-keeping force in Iraq: “We want to go (to Iraq) because of our own interests but, in exchange, it is clear that we have special expectations from the people with whom we will be cooperating” stated the Minister, who is also the government spokesman, on the Turkish national channel NTV.
Mr. Çiçek stated that the fight against the PKK was a priority for his government and that discussions had taken place with the Americans on this subject in the context of negotiations on Turkish participation in the Iraqi peacekeeping force. However, “in my opinion, some of these questions have not yet been satisfactorily settled” he added. “We have difficulty in explaining (to Turkish public opinion) that they have not even handed us over two or three individuals from this region” Mr. Çiçek stressed.
Turkish and American leaders are due to meet on 1 and 2 October to discuss what measures to take. The American delegation to these talks, to be held in the Turkish capital, will be led by Joseph Cofer Black, counter-terrorism co-ordinator for the State Department.
The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, visited Halabja on 15 September to pay homage to the inhabitants of that locality in Kurdistan who were gassed by Saddam Hussein. After stopping off at the oil production city of Kirkuk (about 250 Km North of Baghdad) Mr. Powell flew by helicopter to Halabja, about 130 Km further West, near the Iranian border. About 5,000 people were killed here in 1988 in the course of an air raid with chemical weapons perpetrated by the Iraqi Army during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988.
Mr. Powell was welcomed as a hero by the population, which crowded into the streets waving messages of support for the Americans. Then, in a reverential atmosphere he took part, alongside the two Kurdish leaders Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, in a ceremony in memory of the 1988 massacre. “I am not going to tell you that the world should have acted earlier — you already know that”, “what happened at Halabja must never happen again” said Mr. Powell before several hundreds of representatives of the families of the victims. “This town has entered history for all time (…) I will always remember Halabja” concluded the American Secretary of State, who is the first Western leader to visit the site of the Kurdish martyred city.
On 15 September, the former M.P.s of the Party for Democracy (DEP), Leyla Zana, Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle and Selim Sedak, jailed in Turkey for the last 9 years, came before the Ankara State Security Court (DGM) for the seventh hearing in their retrial. This has been dragging on since 28 March 2003, after several unanimous condemnations of Turkey by the European Court for Human Rights. At the end of this hearing, presided by Mrs Süreyya Gönül, the court adjourned the trial till 17 October — still persisting in its refusal to release the 1995 Sakharov Prize winner, Leyla Zana, and her colleagues on bail.
The European has sharply reacted to the stand taken up by the Turkish court. Jooste Lagendijk, co-Chairman of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey mixed Parliamentary Commission, declared that the question of the Kurdish ex-M.P.s has become a running sore in relations between the European Union and Ankara, that a number of laws passed in Turkey remained only on paper and that this trial openly exposed this state of affairs. “Unfortunately, with this trial, Turkey is only providing arguments for the many Europeans who are prejudiced against Turkey and destroying the arguments of Turkey’s defenders” added Mr. Lagendijk. Another Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Richard Balfe, showed up, as far as he was concerned, not the emptiness of the reforms, but a legal vacuum in Turkey, and that not one legal principle in force in Turkey had been applied in this case.
The Turkish press also reports that the Speaker of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, had called the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, a few days before the hearing to point out that “the way this retrial develops will affect the view taken by the European Parliament of the reforms undertaken in Turkey”. The Turkish daily Milliyet, on 16 September, Headlined “We would prefer that the Kurdish ex-M.P.s were released” quoting remarks made by A. Gul, while adding that one had to respect the decisions and independence of the courts …
Leyla Zana, for her part, stated that the reforms of harmonisation with the EU were not being applied in practice and that “only a few things had been changed, even on paper”. She also pointed out that, throughout their retrial, they had only expressed messages of peace, of brotherhood and friendship and that this had not been taken into consideration by the court — but that they had “been acquitted in the heart of society”. Leyla Zana also accused the State Security Court of representing the status quo without taking into account the changes taking place. “We cannot be decorative plants, window dressing or carbon copies of the past in relations between the European Union and Turkey” stated Leyla Zana, describing the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) as “phoneys, living on unearned privileges”. She sharply criticised the Turkish Prime Minister who had recently declared “if you don’t think about it, there is no Kurdish question”.
In his speech, Orhan Dogan declared to the Court that they had been “victims of violations of Human Rights” on the very day of the hearing, attacking the ill treatment to which they had been subjected while being transported to the courtroom. Indeed, members of the special forces and the gendarmerie (JITEM) had pushed them around, harassed them, stripped and searched Dogan and his colleagues in a humiliating manner during their transit.
Apart from hearing the M.P.s, the Court heard three witnesses at the request of the defence lawyer, Mr. Yusuf Alatas. These witnesses refuted the allegations of the prosecution, declaring that the M.P.s had worked in the region to calm people’s spirits and re-unite tribal enemies.
On 23 September, invited by the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Commissions of the European Parliament, Mr. Alatas considered that the former M.P.s’ new trial, begun in March 2003, was not an equitable one. “We had a real hope, at first, that this trial would be equitable. But, at the end of eight hearings, none of our expectations have been realised,” declared Mr. Yusuf Alatas. “We are not at all optimistic. We are faced with a purely formal retrial — Turkey is just going through the motions of applying the decisions of the European Court for Human Rights” continued the lawyer, who was also heard by a delegation of the mixed EU-Turkey Parliamentary Commission. Mr. Alatas particularly criticised the difficulties placed before the hearing of witnesses for the defence and the fact of refusing to release the former M.P.s on bail after 9 years of imprisonment, which had not even been justified.
The European Union is due to decide, at the end of 2004, whether or not to open negotiations with Ankara on membership of the European Union.
On 24 September, Ankara ordered Turkish local authorities to allow Kurdish families to give Kurdish names to their children, a further formal step by the Ankara authorities to improve their chances of joining the European Union. The latter require that Turkey grant wider cultural rights to its substantial Kurdish minority.
However, the Turkish Ministry of the Interior specifies, in its circular, that names containing letters that are not used in the Turkish alphabet, like “x, w and q” which are widely used in Kurdish, cannot be chosen. “First names given by our citizens, in accordance with their traditions, shall be formed on the basis of the Turkish alphabet and be in line with moral values (…) and not be offensive nor violate the law of civil registration” the circular goes on to specify. It was sent by the Ministry of the Interior to local authorities throughout the country.
Last year, in response to European Union requirements, the Turkish Parliament passed a series of laws allowing children to be given Kurdish names, and authorising the Kurdish language to be taught. But they had not been put into effect at grass roots level. Kurdish families complained that certain local authorities had refused to register Kurdish first names, and had brought the matter before the European Human Rights Court.
On 29 September, the Court of Appeals confirmed the sentence on the ex-President of the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP) Mehmet Abbasoglu, and four other former leaders to 23 months jail for “falsified documents”. Concretely, the Turkish courts are accusing DEHAP of either not having tenancy leases for the party’s offices or, in some cases, of “the absence” of certificates of no previous conviction for “at least seven people” required for the recognition “the party’s establishment” or then again “absence of identity cards”. The Court of Appeals, which usually takes between six and 12 months for enquire into cases before it “with arrests” and up to 2 years in cases “without arrests” has surprised everyone at the speed with which it has placed this case on its agenda — only 4 months after the appeal.
DEHAP has long been a standing target of the Turkish courts, who have been trying to ban it for “presumed links with the Kurdish rebels”. DEHAP, having its roots essentially in the Kurdish provinces, was founded in 1997 by former supporters of the pro-Kurdish HADEP party, which at the time feared that it would, in its turn, be banned by the Constitutional Court for “organic links” with the PKK. HADEP, which did not take part in the elections for fear of being banned in the middle of the election campaign, (but which called on all its supporters to vote for DEHAP) was, indeed, banned in March 2003. DEHAP, for its part, won nearly two million votes, or 6.2% — less than the 10% required by law to have any seats in Parliament. Since then, pressures on DEHAP have been increasing.
To parry the eventuality of their party being banned, many DEHAP supporters have just formed yet another new party, the Free Society Party (Ozgur Toplum).
The European Commission has expressed concern at the consequences of the Turkish Court of Appeals’ verdict. In a Press statement on 29 September Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for European Commissioner for enlargement of the EU, Guenther Verheugen, declared: “We shall analyse this ruling very closely, because it could have not inconsiderable consequences on the political system in Turkey, which go far beyond the case in question”. “The Commission very much hopes that this ruling will not compromise the reforms begun in Turkey, and vigorously pursued by the present government” added Mr. Filori. “The Commission recalls that everything must be done to ensure that the reforms are carried into effect by deeds” he also added.
The Turkish Court of Appeals’ ruling, moreover, risks provoking an open political crisis in Turkey and even fresh General Elections, according to some observers. The Court’s ruling could ricochet, bringing about fresh General Elections by altering the distribution of seats in Parliament, at the expense of the AKP, that swept into office in November 2002 after an overwhelming election victory. It has, at present, 367 out of 550 seats.
The True Path Party (DYP) has seized on this ruling to apply to the High Election Council (YSK) asking for a revision in the seat distribution at the National Assembly. The DYP had won 9.5% of the votes, just a shade under the 10% needed to win seats in Parliament. It is asking for the invalidation of the nearly two million votes won by DEHAP and a new calculation based on effective votes cast, which would then enable it, according to some specialists, to claim 66 seats in Parliament.
Tarham Erden, a political analyst, together with many journalists states that “the shadow of fraud is now looming over Parliament” and calls on the M.P.s to call fresh elections. Bulent Arinc, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in office, for his part excludes any calling into question of the results of then elections, considering that it would be impossible to redistribute the seats.
In the YSK, a commission of seven judges could either invalidate the elections, or only invalidate the two million votes won by DEHAP, or yet again ask Parliament to decide, according to many experts. According to one former Vice-President of YSK, Sabri Coskun, the Turkish Courts cannot over-rule the results of elections, since the verdict against the former lead of DEHAP, not against DEHAP itself.
In the event of a redistribution of seats, AKP, which at present has 367 seats, would lose 44 and the principal opposition party, the People’s Republican Party (at present 175 seats) would lose 22 — in both cases to DYP. But AKP has let it be known that it would call general elections in the event of redistribution in favour of the True Path Party.
Furthermore the Constitutional Court is due to rule on the case of the pro-Kurdish HADEP party, banned under Article 8/1 of the Anti-Terrorist Act, since abrogated in the context of the efforts to harmonise Turkey’s legislation to secure entry to the EU. Since seven of its leaders have been sentenced under this article, the party was, in consequence banned and 46 members stripped of all civic and political rights. The latter have, consequently appealed to the Constitutional Court, on the grounds of the abrogation of Article 8/1.
Tears and cries of vengeance were mingles at Najaf on 2 September, where over 100,000 people attended the funerals of the Shiite religious leader Mohamed Bakr al-Hakim, victim of a car-bomb attack at the gates of the Holy city’s mosque. The deeply upset crowd beat their breasts in sign of mourning as they followed Hakim’s coffin, under a burning sun, to the tomb of the Imam Ali. It was here that the bomb attack, just after the Friday prayer, had killed the Ayatollah and at least 82 people.
This attack, on 20 August, profoundly shocked the Shiite community, which represents about 60% of the Iraqi population and was persecuted by the Baas Party under the reign of Saddam Hussein, driven from power earlier in the year. This is the second bomb attack in a week against a representative of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a body supported by the Iranian Shiites and which has chosen to cooperate with the American forces in Iraq.
The SCIRI has elected the movement’s N°2, Abdel Aziz Hakim to succeed his brother, the Ayatollah Mohamed Bakr Hakim, as head of the organisation, it indicated on 3 September. Abdel Aziz Hakim represents the SCIRI on the Iraqi transitional Government Council.
Some weeks later, on 25 September, another top ranking Shiite public figure, Mrs. Akila al-Hashemi, one of the three women sitting on the transitional Government Council died after being severely wounded by an unknown gunman near her home in Baghdad. A hundred of the faithful gathered on 26 September for a religious ceremony at the Council’s offices, then weeping accompanied the coffin, draped with an Iraqi flag, to the grave where prayers were recited. Security measures were reinforced round the Council offices and American, British, Australian and Gurka soldiers were on guard all round.
On 26 September, the council paid a last homage to Akila al-Hashemi, hailing her as “a martyr on the road to freedom and democracy”. “We reaffirm our commitment to continue along the same road and we will advance with determination and work to fulfil the objectives of our nation” declared the Council in a communiqué.
Furthermore, 0n 23 September the transitional Government Council announced “severe dissuasive measures” against the Arab satellite TV stations of Al-Jazira and Al-Arabiya. The head of the security commission, Iyad Allawi had accused these stations of inciting the liquidation of members of the Council, in a communiqué published just after the attack on Mrs. Akila Al-Hashemi. “The Arab satellite stations, particularly Al-Jezira and Al-Arabiya, broadcast pictures of hooded criminals who incite the liquidation of members of the Council, which constitutes an encouragement of terrorist actions, the latest of which (…) was against Mrs. Akila al-Hashemi” he had stated. American officials have also been very critical of these Arab satellite stations that give considerable space to the anti-American attacks, serve as a platform for former Iraqi leaders and broadcast recordings allegedly by Saddam Hussein,
There have even been attempts to extend this wave of bomb attacks, attributed to Baathist and Islamist networks, to Kurdistan, where, however, the police are known for its efficiency and vigilance. Thus at Irbil, on 10 September, a four-year old child was killed and about fifty people injured, including ten Americans, in a suicide car-bomb attack. According to a security officer, the explosion took place in front of a group of houses rented by the Americans for their staff. Those wounded are largely women and children, about a dozen seriously so, according to the hospital.
A Week earlier, on 3 September, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) forces arrested three suspected islamists in the Kurdish oil city of Kirkuk, (250 Km North of Baghdad). They were in possession of explosives, admitted that they were preparing bomb attacks and revealed a cache of 1,200 Kg of explosives in garbage cans according to an officer responsible for the enquiry. One of these cans had already been placed under a bridge in Kirkuk and the two others were still on board the garbage truck ready to be left in busy streets in Kirkuk. They were also planning to assassinate Jalal Talabani, head of the PUK in Suleimaniah. These detainees are suspected of being part of “a vast terrorist network” which is said to be implicated in the bomb attacks against the UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August and in Najaf on 29 August. One of the suspects admitted being a member of the radical islamist Ansar al-Islam group, according to members of the investigating team.
Meanwhile the setting up of Iraqi security forces is progressing. On 4 September, a fresh contingent of 250 Iraqi police completed an accelerated training course. The Americano-British coalition wants to increase the police force to 65,000 or 70,000 as against its present strength of 40,000.
• THE “SWISS DINAR” CURRENT IN KURDISTAN, WILL REPLACE THE DINAR WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN’S PICTURE. On 12 September Mahdi al-Hafez, Minister of Planning announced that the “Swiss dinar”, that circulates in Iraqi Kurdistan, would become legal tender throughout Iraq by mid-October, replacing that bearing Saddam Hussein’s picture. “As from 15 October the “Swiss dinar” will replace that bearing Saddam Hussein’s picture” declared the Minister, though without specifying the rate of exchange.
Despite its name and the widespread belief of many Iraqis, the “Swiss dinar” is not printed in Switzerland but in Great Britain and in Russia. It went into circulation in 1991 and its various notes have pictures of historic monuments and geographic sites.
The Saddam Hussein regime had started to print, and even photocopy, dinar notes locally because of the international sanctions imposed on the country after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. At the moment these dinars exchange at 1,500 for one dollar.
• THE TURKISH PRIME MINISTER’S VISIT TO GERMANY. On 2 September, at the end of Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s first visit to Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder firmly supported Turkey’s controversial application for membership of the European Union, congratulating Ankara for the “progress” of its reforms. Your name “is associated with progress for which I express my greatest respect” said the Chancellor at the end of his first meeting in Berlin with Mr. Erdogan since he became Prime Minister. “I am convinced that the process begun will greatly help Turkey to achieve its hope, namely to become, one day, a full member of the European Union” Mr. Schroeder added. “Their (the Turks’) expectations cannot and must not be disappointed” Mr. Schroeder assured his guest.
“The European Union is not a cultural, religious or geographic community” said, for his part, the Turkish Prime Minister. “It is a community of values” he argued, advancing “the many and important reforms” adopted by Ankara.
The Fifteen, very divided on Turkey’s membership of the EU, had announced at their Copenhagen summit in December 2002, that they would decide at the end of 2004 whether it was opportune to start negotiations with Ankara on the basis of the democratic advance in that country. Turkey’s integration into Europe, nevertheless divides the EU, in particular because of the Human Rights situation in that country, which are regularly the subject of many criticisms. A sign of this distrust — the refusal of the German Courts to expel the Turk Metin Kaplan, leader of an Islamist organisation banned in Germany, Hilafet Devletti, for fear that the legal proceedings in Turkey would not be conform to those of a State of Law. The two men, moreover, were sharply criticised by Bavarian German Conservative Party, the CSU, that wants to campaign against Turkey’s joining the EU during the 2004 European Election. “That ’s a gutter campaign” considered the Chancellor. But the Turkish Prime Minister himself sparked off the polemic by affirming, in reply to a question put by the German Ambassador to Ankara, that a man had the right to have up to four wives if they were ill or handicapped.
On bi-lateral issues, the Turkish Prime Minister re-iterated his interest in buying German Leopard-2 tanks. Berlin had adopted arms regulations that required of countries acquiring weapons that they respect the criteria of human rights. “We cannot accept that a country that is going to become a member of the EU and is preparing to negotiate for this should have such restrictions imposed on its arms imports” declared Mr. Erdogan to the German economic paper Handelsbatt.
• “THE FAILURE” OF TURKEY’S PARTIAL AMNESTY AND THE END OF THE PKK’S UNILATERAL CEASE FIRE. On 4 September, Osman Ocalan, member of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s Command Council, renamed the Congress for Democracy and Freedom for Kurdistan (KADEK) threatened to recommence guerrilla operations after a truce of over 4 years, if Turkey did not adopt a “Road Map” for resolving the Kurdish problem. “This time the war will not be traditional and it is Turkey that will have to assume responsibility for the eventual civilian casualties” Osman Ocalan stated to the Arabic language daily Al Hayat. “Our party is fully prepared to carry out major attacks in different towns and governorates, and will not be satisfied with fighting in the mountains and villages as it did in the early 1990s” he added, the day after announcing the end of the unilateral cease fire decided by the PKK in 1999.
Mr. Ocalan who was interviewed in his stronghold in the Qandîl Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, on the Iraqi/Iranian borders, considered that Turkey’s only choice for avoiding war was to draw up a “Road Map” for peacefully resolving the Kurdish problem. This peace plan would stipulate a bi-lateral cease fire, the transfer of his brother, Abdallah Ocalan (serving a life sentence and jailed on Imrali island “where the damp is harming his health”, the dissolution of the “village protection forces” set up by the Turkish government. Mr. Ocalan moreover admitted that he had twice had unofficial contacts with American leaders who he did not identify, with the aim of “getting to know them”.
He stated that the Americans had not demanded that his party give up their weapons. “The Americans authorise everyone to work (i.e. politically) in Iraq so long as they keep away from violence”.
While announcing the end of this unilateral cease fire on 1 September, the PKK has not, for all that, called on its members to resume guerrilla operations, which had caused over 36, 000 deaths since 1984.
Furthermore, since 29 June, and the coming into application of the new partial amnesty law (the eighth of its kind since the conflict began in 1984) aimed at repent ants from clandestine armed organisations, (including those of the PKK) only eight Kurdish activists have come from Iraq to the Turkish border posts — a clear indication of the failure of this operation.
Three “rehabilitation centres” set up last August remain desolately empty. The amnesty law, called the “law of repentance” proposes, in the best of cases, a pardon but more often a simple reduction in their sentences — and then only if the furnish the authorities with information on their activities. According to the latest official figures, a total of 2,138 people — principally members of the PKK, but also of other leftist armed groups — have asked to benefit from the amnesty law. But 1,927 of these were already in jail, and merely hoped to get a reduction in their sentences. According to the authorities, a total of 211 PKK activists have surrendered — eight from the Iraqi guerrillas who surrendered at the border posts.
Leader of the organisation are excluded from the amnesty, and the rank and file “repentants” risk being considered “collaborators” since they have to give information to the authorities. In the view of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP), the principal pro-Kurdish organisation in the country, the law is a “total fiasco”. “Instead of proclaiming laws reducing sentences, the State should rather work on a general amnesty covering all the PKK members” including Abdallah Ocalan who has been serving a life sentence since 1999, in the opinion of Tuncer Bakirhan, DEHAP’s President. In the view of this leader of the party, threatened with a banning order by the Turkish Courts on the grounds of presumed links with the PKK “Not a single rebel has come down from the mountains so far”.
In the opinion of the Husnu Ondul, President of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD), only an amnesty that covers the PKK cadres is likely to end armed struggle.
• ASSESSMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN AUGUST: THE SINGLE MONTH OF AUGUST HAD BEEN MORE MURDEROUS THAN THE WHOLE OF THE YEAR 2002. The Diyarbekir branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) made public on 11 September, its assessment of Human Rights violations in Diyarbekir Province for the month of August. The association affirmed that the violations recorded for the single month of August had been greater than for the whole of the year 2002. In all 2002 they had recorded 14 deaths, whereas they had 17 deaths in August 2003 alone. Their assessment was as follows:
• THE FORMER IRAQI MINISTER OF DEFENCE HAS SURRENDERED TO THE AMERICANS AFTER NEGOTIATIONS. Sultan Hashim Ahmed, the former Iraqi Defence Minister and N° 27 on the American “most wanted” list of 55 Iraqis surrendered on 19 September in the city of Mossul, after several weeks of negotiations with Kurdish officials, who have handed him over to the Americans, guaranteeing him his life.
The United States have great hopes that Sultan Hashim Ahmed will be able to supply them with important information on the arms programmes of the overthrown Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.
• PRO-KURDISH POLITICAL LEADERS AND MUSICIANS ARE TAKEN INTO DETENTION FOR HAVING TAKEN PART IN A KURDISH FESTIVAL IN GERMANY. The Presidents of two pro-Kurdish parties, hauled before the Ankara State Security Court on 23 September, will be tried with three musicians for “helping an illegal armed organisation” because they took part in a Kurdish festival in Germany. The President of the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), Tuncer Bakirhan, and of Ozgur Toplum (Free Society Party) Ahmet Turan Demir, were heard by the court for six hours, after having already spent 36 hours in detention. The Public Prosecutor had demanded that they be incarcerated till their trial, but the court decided to release them in the course of the afternoon. “This is a most unhappy event” declared Mr. Demir, who denounced “a country where, on the one hand they pass laws of harmonisation (with European democratic criteria) and on the other this sort on incident persists”.
They are accused of having helped Kurdish fighters in Turkey by participating in a concert, given in Germany 10 days earlier by a Kurdish cultural association suspected of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (renamed KADEK).
A famous Turkish rock singer, Haluk Levant, and his two musicians will also be tried for having performed at this event at which some of the spectators had brandished placards supporting the PKK and its chief, Abdullah Ocalan. The singer, Haluk Levant, deplored the fact that “in this country the police come to fetch people from their homes to give evidence before the courts” adding that he had had “no separatist ulterior motives” in taking part in this concert.
Furthermore, in the course of the same morning, fifteen members of the pro-Kurdish DEHAP party, amongst who was the president of the regional branch, were hauled in for questioning at Urfa. Members of the Democratic People’s Party were holding a press conference in front of the Party premises in the town centre, with some 150 people present, but the police considered this gathering was in contravention of the regulation on demonstrations.
• THREE PKK FIGHTERS KILLED IN THE COURSE OF AN OPERATION AT TOKAT. On 23 September, the Turkish Army announced that three fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK, renamed KADEK) had been killed in the course of an operation by the Turkish Army in the Tokat region, in the centre of the country, where such operations are unusual. According to the officials, the three men did not obey an order by the gendarmerie to surrender and were shot down. No details were given as to the date of this operation.
Leaders of the PKK had announced in September that they intended ending their four-year unilateral cease-fire because of Ankara's refusal of any political dialogue with them.
• ABDULLAH OCALAN PROTESTS AGAINST THE CONDITIONS OF HIS DETENTION BY REFUSING HIS DAILY WALKS. Abdullah Ocalan has decided to refuse his daily exercise walks as a protest against his detention conditions and to demand more regular contact with his lawyers, his defenders reported on 30 September. He will refuse his daily walk (in a walled enclosure, four square metres in area and with a metal grid ceiling) and his lawyers will not try to visit to the island prison of Imrali (to the South of Istanbul), they declared at a Press conference. Messrs Hatice Korkut and Behiç Asçi recalled that the total isolation of the chief of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party — renamed KADEK) had lasted “nearly five years and was harming his health”.
According to them, the authorisation to meet once a week has, in practice, been reduced to once a month because of excuses “that are hard to believe”, such as bad weather or break-downs on the boat. They also denounced the fact that the Ministry of Justice was refusing to show them the medical report made after the visit of six specialists or say whether any medical treatment had been recommended.
However, the defence lawyers’ request that the detainee be moved to a high security prison at the capital has been favourable received by the Human Rights Commission of the Turkish Parliament according to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet (Republic) of 13 September.
“Our commission has recently examined the Sincan prison (on the outskirts of Ankara) and has found it suitable, otherwise he could be transferred to another establishment” explained the Vice-President of this Commission, Cavit Torun, to the paper. “It is a matter of finding some other solution than the isolation (of Abdullah Ocalan)” Mr. Torun pointed out “because a prolongation of the condition of isolation could prove to be counter-productive”.
According to his lawyers, the leader of the PKK (re-named KADEK) is suffering from respiratory problems and sinusitis and from heart and kidney complaints, and they call for “independent” medical examination.
Furthermore, six members of the members of the pro-Kurdish party DEHAP, including the regional leader of the party, were arrested at Gaziantep on 19 September, for having protested about the conditions of Abdullah Ocalan’s detention. Those arrested are accused of “giving assistance to an illegal organisation”. Four other people were pulled in on the same day in Tunceli for having organised a hunger strike in the party’s premises as a protest against Ocalan’s conditions of detention.
• 16 IRANIAN KURDISH OPPONENTS, UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE HIGH COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES, WERE HANDED OVER TO TEHERAN BY THE TURKISH AUTHORITIES. On 8 September an Iranian opposition party accused Turkey of handing 16 Iranian Kurdish opposition activists over to the Teheran authorities, thus putting their lives at risk. “The Turks handed over to the Iranian (government) 16 Iranians who had been active in the past in the Iranian Revolutionary Union of Kurdistan (URK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDPI) and were living in Van, on the basis of an agreement between the secret services of both countries” declared, at Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, o the URK spokesman Hussein Yazdanpana. “This puts their lives in danger” he declared, stating that the two dissidents, handed over by Turkey to the Iranian Islamic Republic had been executed in January and November 2002.
Mr. Yazdanpana made his statement the day after the publication, in the Kurdish city of Irbil, of a communiqué by his organisation accusing the Turkish authorities of having transferred a number of Iranian Kurds from a refugee camp at Van towards the frontier in preparation for their expulsion to the Islamic Republic. According to the communiqué, these Kurds were registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) and were living in Van, which they were planning to leave for a third country. Mr. Yazdanpana accused the HCR of not having prevented this expulsion and urged Human Rights Defence organisations to intervene to protect the 1,500 Iranian Kurds still in the camp.
“LET’S BIND THE COUNCIL FOR HIGHER EDUCATION (YOK) TO THE ARMY”. To celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the coup d’état of 12 September 1980, Mehmet Altan, an academic and journalist on the daily paper Sabah, recalled the balance sheet of this military intervention, whose consequence still remain in Turkey, with the 1982 Constitution, which was the offspring of the coup and remains the principle obstacle to basic freedoms. In his article of 13 September, the journalist attacks the Army’s interference in academic life under the headline “Let’s bind the Council of Higher Education (YOK) to the Army”. Here are extensive extracts from his article.
“Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of the 12 September Army coup d’état. I remembered the balance sheet of that coup d’état: 650,000 people were placed in detention and tortured; 2,000,000 people were put on police files and tortured; 230,000 others were tried by state of siege emergency courts; 98,000 were hunted down for membership of some organisation and the death sentence was demanded for 7,000 people. Journalists were sentenced to a total of 3,315 years imprisonment. 14 people died as a result of the hunger strike and 171 others as a result of torture to which they had been subjected. Another 144 died in suspicious circumstances, 50 were sentenced to hanging and executed. Amongst the last was Erdal Eren, aged only 17, whose age was deliberately increased. To justify this problematic decision, Kenan Evren had declared “Do you want to hang them or feed them?”…
The coup d’état restored the prestige of the one party state in Turkey … it straight-jacketed pluralism, democracy and individual rights. Thanks to the European Union, we see, today the extent of this straightjacket.
The Secretariat of the National Security Council (MGK) recommended that the State conduct a psychological operation against its own people … And this circular has remained in force for 20 years … despite the many governments that have followed one another and all our society…
During his speech for the Law Courts new term, the President of the Court of Appeals, Eraslan Ozkaya, made this observation regarding the 1982 Constitution, the product of that coup d’état “The 1982 Constitution has been the object of a number of positive alterations, to date over 30 articles of its Preamble have been revised. However, these changes remain not only insufficient but have also raised incompatibilities with the remaining Articles. It is for this reason that Turkey’s constitutional problems remain. Conceived by an authoritarian conception of the State, this Constitution can only be amended to a limited extent. That is why this 1982 Constitution, which is the source of so many problems, should be completely revised”.
One of the Institutions of this 1982 Constitution, “conceived by an authoritarian conception of the State” to quote President of the Court of Appeals, Ozkaya, is the controversial Council of Higher Education (YOK).
A few days before the 20th anniversary of the 12 September coup d’état, we were informed that the Army Commander in Chief, Aytaç Yalman, had invited the President of YOK and some other rectors to discuss the outlines of a projected Bill regarding the YOK. The Army Commander in Chief, after having made the point that he was going to bring the matter before the National Security Council (MGK) suggested that the rectors “give importance at the opening ceremonies” and “send out messages”.
In yesterdays papers there were thus details of this meeting … and they wrote how much the parties concerned had been in agreement…
In 2003, only the YOK finds nothing strange about the fact that the Army Commander in Chief should intervenes in discussions on the new organisation of the Higher Educational Council.
In the countries that are members of the European Union, could one imagine the interference of the Army Commander in Chief in academic discussions between the government and the Universities? Is this in accordance with universals laws, with freedom of thought or of academic freedom?
When the question is raised, the Universities keep silent
If we are going to remain in such a situation, I suggest we simply bind the YOK to the Army. At least then things would be clearer…