On 3 November, the US Congress, which has a Republican majority, voted a budgetary extension of $87.5 billion, essentially intended for Iraq, for which the White House had mobilised all its energies. After over ten hours of discussion, the Senate, as expected, voted for this package for 2004 by a show of hands. In this it was following the lead of the House of Representatives, which had ratified this measure by 298 votes to 121. The adoption of this Bill, which co-ordinates measures previously passed by the House and the Senate, is a victory for George W. Bush, who must now sign it.
While the $64.7 billion for military expenses were not particularly contested, the $20.3 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq were the subject of fierce differences in the Senate. Eight Republican Senators joined the Democrats in supporting and amendment, which was dropped from the final Bill, proposing that half of the Iraqi aid be in the form of loans. The White House emphasised that a loan would discourage other countries from aiding Baghdad and would strengthen the arguments of Washington’s detractors who were stating that the military intervention was intended to secure control of the Iraqi oil reserves, the second largest in the world.
The package provided for $18.6 billion for Iraqi reconstruction, $1.7 billion less than the amount Bush had asked for. Congress also rejected some expenses considered unjustified, such as the building of a prison costing $50,000 per bed. The aid for Iraq covers the rehabilitation of the electric distribution network ($5.56 billion), the water supply ($4.3 billion) security ($3.2 billion) and the oil production infrastructures ($1.9 billion). Congress also granted $1.2 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan ($400 million more than called for by Mr. Bush.
For the month of November, the Interim government Council was presided by Jalal Talabani, General Secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). This is the first time in Iraq’s history that a Kurdish public figure has presided over the country, even on an interim basis. The leader of the 14 July Revolution of 1958 that overthrew the pro-British Hashemite monarchy, General Abdelkarim Kassem, despite his immense popularity, was satisfied himself with the position of Prime Minister. With a Shiite Kurdish mother and a Sunni Arab father, he considered himself, and was considered, half Kurdish. This time, however, it is one of the historic leaders of the Kurdish resistance to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship who accedes to the position of interim President.
This event, so highly charged with symbolic overtones, was celebrated with popular demonstrations all over Kurdistan, including Kirkuk. To mark the event Massud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the other main historic leader of the Kurdish resistance, came specially to Baghdad to take part in the meetings of the Interim Government Council, to testify to Kurdish unity. Mr. Barzani, who is, himself, due to take over the rotating presidency in the spring, normally resides in his Kurdistan base and is represented on the IGC by a representative.
Taking over the Presidency at a time marked by many bloody bomb attacks, Mr. Talibani has put all his energy into improving relations with Iraq’s neighbours to ease tensions and secure, if not their cooperation, at least their neutrality in the task of stabilising and rebuilding Iraq.
It was in this context that the Kurdish leader arrived in Ankara on 19 November, accompanied by a 45-member delegation including a dozen members of the Government council and six Ministers, including the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. He was greeted at Ankara’s Esenboga airport by as a Head of State by the Foreign Ministry’s co-ordinator for Iraqi Affairs, Osman Koruturk and the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, Osman Paksut. Former Party for Democracy (DEP) Members of Parliament, Sirri Sakik and Ahmet Turk, as well as former Mayor of Urfa, Feridun Yazar, and leaders of pro-Kurdish parties were also at the airport to welcome him.
Jalal Talabani then met with the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for a one and a quarter hour long discussion on the questions of security, of the PKK camps in Iraq and on the nature of the future Iraqi state and the Iraqi public contracts that the Turks want to enjoy in the context of the reconstruction. “Over 150 parties have been created in Iraq and we will not allow any of them to behave like enemies of Turkey … It is up to the Americans to answer to the question of the PKK camps in Iraq and the Maxmur refugee camp … We do not have any power over these questions. The Americans want to make them lay down their arms, but at the end of 2004 there will be elections in Iraq and the American troops will be completely withdrawn in 2005. If they do not settle this problem by then, we will do so after the elections and the PKK question will be settled” declared Jalal Talabani. He also stressed the fact that the Iraqi Kurds were part of the central government at the moment and declared himself in favour of a federal Iraqi State, which would be confirmed by the Iraqi Constitution to be adopted in 2005.
Furthermore, Jalal Talabani also accepted the principle of a second crossing post on their border with Turkey, declaring, “We had been against this before since it amounted to stifling the Kurds”.
Jalal Talabani also met with Deniz Baykal, leader of the principal opposition party in the Turkish Parliament, the People’s Republican Party (CHP — kemalist).
The Turkish press extensively commented on Jalal Talabani’s visit. “Talabani is like an Iraqi Prime Minister” headlined the Turkish daily Milliyet on 20 November and Hurriyet, while stressing R.T. Erdogan’s insistence on the PKK pointed out, with their photos as proof, that the former DEP Members of Parliament were present to greet J. Talabani.
Prior to visiting Turkey the delegation led by J. Talabani had made very publicised visit to Teheran. It had been welcomed by President Khatami and the country’s top brass. Iran had declared itself in favour of a transfer of power to the Iraqis “as rapidly as possible” and said it was prepared to contribute to stabilising the country. More fundamental questions (the conclusion of a peace treaty and war reparations for the old Iran-Iraq war) would be dealt with later with a sovereign Iraqi government.
On 24 November the Interim Government Council called on the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution covering a timetable for the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty by June 2004. This request, contained in a letter dated 23 November and signed by Jalal Talabani as President as the Interim Government Council, was handed to the Security Council Chairman, Angola’s Gasper Martins, the next day.
Security Council Resolution 1511, passed on 16 October last, had called on the IGC to provide it with a timetable by 15 December for a programme of drawing up a new Constitution and holding elections. In this letter, Mr. Talabani recalls that “a Transitional National Assembly” will be formed before the end of May 2004 and that it would appoint a provisional government which would ensure sovereign powers by 20 June 2004 when the Coalition’s Provisional Author (which at the moment ensures the supervision of power) is due to be disbanded.
Mr. Talabani also indicated that a Constitutional Assembly would be election by universal suffrage by 15 March 2005. This assembly shall draw up a proposed Constitution that would be submitted to a popular referendum and the election of a new government before the end of 2005. The ICG President also pointed out that, before the end of February 2004, a fundamental law establishing the observance of Human Rights and the principle of civilian control of the Armed forces would be passed. This law would also establish a “multilateral, democratic federal system that would respect the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people while ensuring the rights of other religions and sects”. It was now an opportune moment for the United Nations Security Council to adopt a fresh resolution that would take into account the new circumstances.
The political timetable, like the principles of this fundamental law, had been defined by the IGC and the US civil administrator Paul Bremer on 15 November in Baghdad and immediately made public. On 24 November, in reply to another letter from Mr. Talabani, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, had, for his part, reaffirmed his intention of appointing a special representative for Iraq — the highest ranking UN official in the country — “in a not too distant future”. Jalal Talabani, in a letter to Mr. Annan dated 10 November, had written “the time has come to appoint a special representative”. “It would not be necessary, at first, for this representative to reside in Iraq, but he could come periodically for consultation whenever this is necessary” he had added.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, Mr. Annan’s special representative in Iraq, was killed in the first car bomb attack on the UN Headquarters, on 19 August last. All the expatriate staff was evacuated from the Iraqi capital at the end of October. Finally, on 24 November, the UN Security Council had voted to create a new commission responsible for supervising the freezing of the assets of Iraqi ex-President Saddam Hussein, his supporters and of companies controlled by the old Iraqi regime. At Russia’s request, this commission could possibly extend its scope to supervising the embargo on arms on arms for Iraq, which is still in force. The Sanctions Commission had been wound up last week, with the end of the UNO Food for Oil programme. Other tasks of the Commission had been transferred to the US-led coalition in Iraq. The Sanctions Commission has a list of at least 55 Iraqis and five organisations whose assets have been frozen and transferred to the Iraqi Development Fund. The new Commission could control the way this process was s carried out and add other names to this list.
Furthermore, on 20 November, the US civil administrator, Paul Bremer, visited Irbil, the administrative capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where he met Massud Barzani, a member of the Interim Government Council. At the end of their meeting Mr. Barzani, who is also head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) welcomed the agreement on the accelerated transfer of power to the Iraqis. “This agreement marks an important stage” declared the KDP President, adding “We are ready to cooperate with the coalition and with all the Iraqi forces to ensure the success of this project (the transfer of power) and we are certain it will be successful”.
The Turkish government has finally abandoned its plan to deploy troops in Iraq to back up the coalition forces after being confronted with the lively opposition of the Iraqis and the hesitations of the Americans. The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Husseyin Dirioz declared, on 7 November that the Turkish government had decided not to make use of the authorisation, voted by the Turkish Parliament on 7 October, to send troops to the neighbouring country. According to Mr. Dirioz, the American minister for foreign affairs, Secretary of State Colin Powell, had called his Turkish opposite number, Mr. Gul the day before to discuss Iraq. “Mr. Powell thanked the Turkish government and people for their solidarity and friendship, which were appreciated by the American people and its government” he explained. Already, on 4 November, the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Osman Faruk Logolu had declared that Turkey would not sent troops into Iraq unless a significant change took place. “We will not insist on going into Iraq unless a clear initiative were to come from the Iraqi people” declared the Turkish Ambassador. But, when questioned by members of Parliament in a debate on the budget on 4 November, the Turkish Minister of Defence, Vecdi Gonul, declared that Turkey reserved the right to send reinforcements to its troops already deployed in Iraqi Kurdistan to fight the Kurdish fighters from Turkey.
Questioned by journalists, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recalled his statement of the previous month that “parliament’s authorisation does not necessarily mean that we will sent troops” to Iraq. The plan to send a dozen troops to Iraq had been kept in suspense because of the opposition of the Iraqi Interim Government, especially its Kurdish members. Mr. Gul had recently evoked the “clumsiness” and “hesitations” of the United States which, he said, were incapable of convincing their Iraqi allies, especially the Kurds. Mr. Gul, furthermore, asked the United States not to show favouritism to the Iraqi Kurds lest they endanger the ethnic balance of Iraq. In an interview on the NTV channel on 8 November, Mr. Gul affirmed that the change of plan had nothing to do with opposition by the Kurds, while recognising that Ankara had “the clear impression” that the Americans, in general, sided with the Kurds. “We hope that this will not lead to future dangers in Iraq” declared Mr. Gul.
This month’s Chairman of the Iraqi Government Council, the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, confirmed that “the question of sending Turkish troops is closed, as the Turkish President has said”.
On 2 November, the Foreign Ministers of Iraq’s neighbouring countries (Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan), meeting in Damascus condemned the terrorist bomb attacks in Iraq and called on the Americans to restore security there as well as on the Iraqis to cooperate in controlling their borders. The meeting was boycotted by the Iraqi Interim Government Council (IGC) which let it be known that it would not accept any decisions taken there. The invitation to attend this meeting had been sent to them the day before which indicated, at the least, an offensive lack of consideration, declared Mr. Zebari.
Despite the absence of the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, his opposite numbers declared their support for the efforts made by the IGC to “fulfil its responsibilities until the formation of an elected government that could be fully representative of and respond to the aspirations and interests of the Iraqi people and could ensure the equality of all the citizens of a united Iraq”. The ministers also condemned terrorist actions aimed at civilians, religious institutions and diplomatic missions. While insisting on the necessity of preserving Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, they insisted on a strengthening of the role of the United Nations, in particular in the drawing up of a new Constitution and a timetable for ending the occupation as well as the preparation of elections.
The final communiqué did not raise the question of any military participation of Iraq’s neighbours in any stabilisation force but re-affirmed “their commitment to respecting the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs” of Iraq.
On 21 November, the Ankara State Security Court held its ninth hearing of the retrial of the Kurdish former DEP Members of Parliament and promptly adjourned the next hearing to 16 January 2004. Tired of the Turkish retrial procedures that are just a repetition of the first trial that has already been condemned by the European Human Rights Court, Leyla Zana and her three imprisoned colleagues have filed a complaint before the Strasbourg Court about their being kept in detention during this fresh trial.
Thus the Turkish judge, for the 9th time, rejected the petition for the release on bail of Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, who have been in prison since 1994. In their petition to the Human Rights Court, dated 20 November, the former M.P.s complain that is clearly showing favour to the prosecution and ignoring evidence in their favour. “We have ended up believing that the Court will do nothing to ensure an equitable trial” deplored Mr. Yusuf Alatas, the leading advocate for the defence.
In 2001, the European Human Rights Court had ruled that their original trial had been conducted in an inequitable fashion, and the four ex-M.P.s had seen their application for a retrial accepted, as part of the “democratisation” process set up by Turkey to secure admission to the European Union.
The four ex-M.P.s are, at any rate, due for release from prison in June 2005, under normal provisions for reduction of sentences under Turkish law.
Furthermore, on 25 November, the Paris Council unanimously voted for a request, presented by Mrs. Khadidja Boucart, Deputy Mayor of Paris responsible for Integration and non-E.U. foreign residents, regarding Leyla Zana. Mrs. Boucart and the Green Group in the Paris Council, “very worried over the fate of Leyla Zana” expressed their “support (…) for the imprisoned Kurdish M.P.s in their struggle for democracy, freedom and brotherhood” and recalled “the highly political dimension of this trial”. Mrs. Boucart asked the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, to “intervene with the Turkish authorities” and asked him to grant her “honorary citizenship” of the City.
According to the Turkish media, the European Parliament is preparing to bring a large delegation to the tenth hearing of the trial of Leyla Zana and her colleagues of the Party for Democracy (DEP), scheduled for 16 January. The Turkish daily Milliyet of 15 December reveals that this delegation will, on this occasion, issue an invitation to Leyla Zana, winner of the 1995 Sakharov Prize. According to this paper, which repeated news broadcast on the Turkish news channel CNN-turk, the delegation will invite Leyla Zana to Strasbourg for the end of the month of January, so as to give her the Prize. The President of the Commission of the European Union, Romano Prodi, will also, by a coincidence of timetabling, be in Ankara at the same time. The paper points out that he will almost certainly raise the question of the Kurdish members of Parliament, imprisoned since 1994, for crimes of opinion. It will be difficult for the government to raise the excuse of the independence of the Turkish judiciary at this time, when members of its own party have been pointing the finger at the partiality of this judiciary during the debates on the reform of the rules of parliamentary immunity — one of the reforms promised by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he was candidate at the recent elections but today compromised by the lack of confidence in the judiciary, accused of partiality by the Turkish Prime Minister’s own party.
Moreover, on 10 November, Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan, Selim Sadak, the Former DEP Members of Parliament made public a press communiqué sent to a number of International leaders such as Silvio Berlusconi, the present President of the European Union, Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, the Commissioner for the enlargement of the E.U. Gunther Verheugen, the High E.U. representative for PESC, Javier Solana and a number of other international organisations to take stock of the situation regarding national and regional political developments and to call for a political solution to the Kurdish question. Here are extensive extracts from this communiqué:
“It is now about ten years that we have been imprisoned. And the world, like Turkey, is no longer the same as when we left it. Along side developments that arouse hope there are other developments that we mistrust. No doubt we are unable to influence world and national orientations and developments. However, we cannot, in all conscience, resign ourselves to remaining simple spectators. It is for this reason, and because of the responsibilities that history has imposed on us, that we think that it is our duty to let our opinions be known about developments in our country.
The winds of change are shaking the whole world, and this period, in which the world in general and the Middle East in particular are being redrawn, is naturally influencing Turkey profoundly (…)
Turkey finds itself confronted with its own transformation, but the task of guiding these changes in the Middle East falls on it as well. The fact remains that, to accomplish this historic mission of instigator and to set up, in the Islamic world, a modern, democratic and secular State, Turkey must settle its own internal problems (…)
It is for these reasons, and because of the geographical area in which we live, that we have, for many years, been waging a struggle for democracy and peace, and in this critical process in which the democratic solution of the Kurdish question finds itself the vital priority for our country, that we call for just more receptivity.
To tell the truth, the Kurdish question is a simple one for us. The origins of its complexity have many reasons, but the first of them is the fact that the Kurds principally live, in considerable numbers, in Turkey, in Iraq, in Iran and in Syria (…). These States, which do not all have the same attitude on all matters, nevertheless use the same model, in their deadlocks as in their successes.
The second reason is due to the geography of Kurdistan as a whole, and thus of the riches of its soil and subsoil, to its strategic situation as its geographic particularity that make favour external interventions and to the fact that it is the centre of interests that attract external dynamic forces. In other terms, the solution cannot only come from internal dynamics. A peaceful solution to the question, is accessible because the Kurds, at no time ion their history, have deliberately chosen violence. The obstacles to democratic paths, the impossibility of expression in the judicial and legal areas, the prohibitive, oppressive, negationist and destructive attitude of States that forbid them fundamental rights and freedoms as a whole have had the consequence that on the basis of a legitimate self-defence violence may have been chosen in the absence of any other recourse.
The third reason is that the Kurds have never fought the peoples with whom they cohabited in all fraternity, and have not fuelled intercommunal conflicts that generate bitterness, hatred and indignation. These points favour the search for a peaceful solution to the question (…)
In these critical circumstances, our greatest expectation from the organisations of the international community is to see them support and strengthen the dynamic in favour of peace and evolution in Turkey (…)”
The violence of the attacks on the occupation forces in Iraq reached an unequalled level in November. All the components of the allied Coalition suffered losses.
The most severely affected were the American forces, two of whose helicopters were shot down in two places within the Sunni Triangle — Falluja and Tikrit. These two operations killed 22 soldiers and wounded 26 others. On 15 November 17 American soldiers were killed when two helicopter gunships in Northern Iraq crashed, bringing the number of American helicopters shot down or crashed during military operations in Iraq to at least four in under two weeks. Since the official announcement of the end of major operations in Iraq last May, 109 American soldiers have thus been killed in operations there. Over the same period 183 other American soldiers lost their lives while fighting, according to an assessment dated 24 November.
The attacks also affected the lesser allies, generally stationed in areas reputed to be calmer. Spain, which had already lost three soldiers and its military attaché was again subjected to attacks: on 29 November, seven of its intelligence agents, including the Spanish head of secret operations in Iraq were killed by groups armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles who had set an ambush for their two vehicles South of Baghdad. A Polish major was also killed about forty kilometres North of the Shiite holy city of Kerbala. On 12 November, a booby-trapped truck killed 18 Italians and nine Iraqis at Nassiriyah, a relatively peaceful Shiite town. This is the heaviest loss suffered by the Italian Army since the end of the Second World War.
In Northern Iraq, oil production infrastructures were also targets of sabotage. The Northern Oil Company (NOC) indicated on 23 November that an important pipeline had been damaged by an explosion of criminal origin, which had caused an enormous fire near Kirkuk.
Furthermore, the coalition announced, on 23 November, that it had decided to suspend all civilian flights from Baghdad airport after a missile hit an Airbus cargo transporter, owned by the German DHL company, the day before.
Whether these incidents are the work or Saddam Hussein supporters or of foreign fighters linked to al-Qaida, the strategy today is the same — to isolate the Americans. The bomb attacks have already dissuaded UNO and the International Committee of the Red Cross from remaining in Iraq. They are also aimed against all Iraqis who “collaborate” with the American forces as policemen, interpreters or translators.
On 16 November, the US Army launched operation “Land Cyclone 2”, a “demonstration of strength” aimed at impressing the inhabitants of the Tikrit region, and on the 18th the US Air Force bombed targets in the centre of Baghdad for the first time the end of the war and the fall of Saddam Hussein. The US forces bombed and shelled targets they suspected of being refuges, arms caches or places being used for making bombs. These raids were carried out in the context of “Operation Iron Hammer”, a massive military offensive launched in and around Baghdad as from 12 November.
According to observers, this increase in violence is due both to a slackening of security measures by the coalition because of the month of Ramadan and the religious fervour that this period arouses amongst Moslems. According to some Sunni preachers, many of whom were appointed by the overthrown regime and remain close to Baathist networks, dying as martyrs in a jihad against infidels during this month greatly increases the chances of admission to paradise. They are now carrying out commando operations well outside the “Sunni Triangle” in an attempt to destabilise the Shiite South. However, the Shiite and Kurdish populations are massively mobilising to express their rejection of terrorism, to demand the arrest of the authors of these acts and to support the democratisation of Iraq. They are also demanding that militias and Iraqi volunteers be more widely used to overcome “the terrorist actions of the remains of Saddam Hussein’s Gestapo”. They also point the finger at “jihadists without frontiers” linked to al-Qaida or acting for their own ends with the complicity of certain neighbouring states …
In the course of this black month, blind violence has also struck in Turkey. On 15 and 20 November, Istanbul was hit by a series of bomb attacks against two synagogues, the British Consulate-General and the British HSBC Bank, causing 62 deaths (including four of the suicide bombers). Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he was ashamed for Turkey that its own citizens should have been the authors of these events. He also recognised that the bomb attacks could have been helped by “deficiencies” in the work of the intelligence services. “The security forces are evaluating all the date on this question (…) Undoubtedly there may have been deficiencies” Mr. Erdogan declared. Islamist organisations have been widely used as the Turkish secret services as armed auxiliaries for eliminating Kurdish opponents and political dissidents.
In a “strategic document” devoted to three countries applying for membership of the European Union, the European Commission points out that, though Turkey has adopted important reforms recently, there remains, however, “much to do in a number of areas”.
“The absence of any settlement (Cyprus) could become a serious obstacle to Turkey’s aspirations” to joining the Union id the deadlock has persisted at the time when the ten countries join the Union. On 1 May 2004, warned the “strategic document” devoted to three countries applying for membership. The document particularly cites “the strengthening of the independence of the legal system and the improvement of its operation” as well as respect for fundamental freedoms (freedom of association, expression and religion). But the Commission also demands “that relations between civilian and military authorities be aligned on European practices”.
“Turkey should pay attention to the setting up of complete and effective reforms guaranteeing the observance of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms for its citizens, in accordance with European standards” the Commission continues. “It will take time for the spirit of reform to be fully reflected in the attitudes of the executive and judicial bodies, at all levels and throughout the country, thus proving that they have been effectively put to work” according to this “strategic document”.
In the report more specifically devoted to Turkey, the Commission listed the different areas where reforms adopted by the authorities are still being ignored in the field and their application being often deliberately obstructed. Thus the report reveals that cases of torture and ill-treatment are still being reported in the country, even if the occurrences are reduced. The report also quoted the use of “disproportionate force” to deal with demonstrations and meeting
The European Commission will, at the end of 2004, make proposals to the member countries of the European Union on whether or not to open negotiations with Turkey for its membership.
The European Commission’s report on Turkey is “objective” affirmed the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on the day it appeared while at the same time rejecting any connection between his country’s application for membership of the European Union and any settlement in Cyprus. “We are conscious of the fact that certain problems remain and of the delay in the application of the reforms” the Minister admitted while, nevertheless, stressing that these problems would be settled “in the next few months”. Mr. Gul indicated that the Cyprus question was not one of the Copenhagen criteria on democracy and human rights that a candidate country was obliged to respect tom begin to open negotiations for membership of the Union. “We will deploy great efforts to find a solution to Cyprus between now and 2004” he insisted. If Ankara refuses to link membership of the E.U. with the Cyprus case, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul himself recognised that “solving this problem could, indeed, create a positive atmosphere”.
The European executive will publish a report on the Turkish situation and “will formulate a recommendation between now and the end of October 2004, defining how far Turkey meets the political aspects of the Copenhagen criteria so as to allow the European Council to take a decision in December 2004 regarding the possibility of opening negotiations with Turkey on its membership”.
Furthermore, the Peoples Democratic Party (DEHAP — pro-Kurdish) in a communiqué published on 7 November, stated that “the Cyprus question is stressed in the Commission’s report, but the most important questions that could hinder the process of Turkey’s integration into the E.U. are the Kurdish question and that of democratisation”.
The Congress for Democracy and Freedom of Kurdistan (KADEK), which announced its dissolution on 11 November, declared on 15 November that it had abandoned the aims of separatism and on called the Turkish authorities to dialogue with it.
KADEK, formerly the PKK, stated in a communiqué that it would henceforth call itself the Kurdistan People’s Congress (KONGRA-EL). “The Kurdistan People’s Congress does not set out any separation or division as its goal. On the contrary, its aim is a modern and democratic union that respects the unity of the State” said a communiqué of the new organisation. “It believes that this approach answers to the vital needs of the Kurds and of the neighbouring countries” added the document, distributed to the press in a training camp located in the mountainous area on the Irano-Iraqi border. “We will keep our arms so long as there is no political solution to the Kurdish question (…) with the aim of self-defence” declared the leader of this new organisation, Zubeyir Aybar, 42 years of age and former member of the Ankara parliament. He expressed the hope that the United States would act as mediators for opening negotiations between his organisation and Ankara. “We are not in a state of war with Turkey, but a state of self-defence. The end of the war must be declared by both parties” he added.
“KONGRA-EL seeks to prevent the reciprocal use of violence provoked by nationalist feelings and to offer a non-violent solution that would allow the transformation of the existence of Kurds in the Middle East from a source of crisis to a source of energy” the communiqué insists. “The Kurdish and Turkish people have always favoured democracy. KONGRA-EL respects this desire and invites the government of Turkey to show the same respect” said the document distributed on this occasion. “The development of the region and (Turkey’s) desire to join the European Union will facilitate such a solution. For this reason, we call upon the Turkish authorities to abandon their policy which has failed and to start a dialogue with KONGRA-EL” the text concluded.
This new organisation is the direct successor of KADEK, itself the heir of PKK, which waged war on Ankara until 1999. The decision to change its name and strategy was taken during an congress that brought together 360 delegates and is said to have taken place from 27 October to 6 November in the Qandil district of Iraqi Kurdistan. Unsurprisingly, this meeting of cadres of the ex-PKK described Ocalan as “leader of the Kurdish people” thus from the start clearly showing the colours of this “new” organisation. The United States declared on 14 November that any organisation that originated from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party would be considered to be terrorist. The State department thus let it be known that it would now change its line towards this organisation, despite the dissolution of KADEK.
On 20 November, a Syrian Kurdish party called for the torture of seven Kurds, detained in Syrian jails, to be stopped and demanded that they be rapidly brought to trial. “Massud Hamed, a student arrested on 24 July, and seven others (Mohammad Ahmad, Mohammad Farmane, Khaled Ali, Amer Mrad, Hussein Ramadan, Hozan Ibrahim and Salar Saleh) arrested on 25 June, are being subjected to physical torture” declared the Yekiti (Unity) Party in a communiqué signed by the Secretary of its Central Committee, Abdel Baki al-Youssef.
“Farhat Ali, the party’s representative in the Lebanon, who was arrested on 28 December by the Lebanese intelligence services at the request of the Syrian Army and handed over to it is also being tortured” added the appeal. The party urges “the democratic forces and supporters of Human Rights, in Syria and throughout the world to put an end to these arbitrary practices” and to “demand the liberation of political detainees and their rapid appearance before the courts and fair trial”. The party further stresses that “despite many appeals by Human Rights defence organisations, but local and international, the situation in prisons and of detainees has deteriorated over the last three years compared with that of the 1990s”.
Syrian has a population of about one and a half million Kurds, mainly in the North, along the Turkish and Iraqi borders. More than 150,000 of them were refused registration during the 1962 census, which has deprived them and their descendents of their Syrian citizenship. There are thus, today, over 300,000 such people without official papers, living as foreigners in their own country.
Moreover, on 22 February next the State Security Court is due to pronounce its verdict on the trial of two Kurdish leaders charged with “attempting to join part of the national territory to another State” we learn from one of their lawyers, Mr. Anouar Bounni. The defence lawyers have pleaded the “anti-constitutional” character of the court that was trying the two Yekiti Party leaders, Marouane Osmane and Hassan Saleh, according to Mr. Bounni.
Messrs Osmane and Saleh were arrested a few days after a demonstration before the Syrian Parliament of 150 Kurds, on 10 December 2002. This demonstration called on the authorities to “review their discriminatory policy” against the Kurdish population of Syria. Five parties, forming the Kurdish Democratic Alliance of Syria (ADKS) are demanding that the authorities restore their identity cards to the over 300,000 Kurds from whom they had been arbitrarily withdrawn in 1962 as part of the forced Arabisation policy conducted by the Baath Party.
The 2003 Noureddine Zaza Prize — the 12th since 1989 — was awarded to Marie Jego, a journalist on the French daily Le Monde. The award ceremony took place at the Kurdish Institute’s premises on Saturday 22 November at 17.00 hours (5 p.m.), with the participation of Mrs. Danielle Mitterrand and Mrs. Gilberte Favre-Zaza.
Created in 1989, jointly by Noureddine Zaza’s family and the Paris Kurdish Institute, “in order to encourage journalists not to overlook this people ignored by history” the Prize is awarded every year to a journalist of the French language Press who, by their talent and perseverance, will have made public opinion more aware of the Kurdish cause.
It also has the aim of perpetuating the memory of Noureddine Zaza, writer, political thinker and co-founder of the Paris Kurdish Institute, who has retraced the story of his struggles in Ma vie de Kurde (My Life as a Kurd — published by Labor et Fidès). After, Antoine Bossard of Le journal de Genève, Bernard Langlois of Politis, Marc Kravetz of Libération, Jean Gueyras of Le Monde, Jean-Claude Bührer of Coopération, Chris Kutschera, a free-lance journalist and author of several books about the Kurds, Alain Campiotti of l’Hebdo, Philippe Dumartheray of 24 Heures, Michel Verrier of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ragip Duran, Turkish correspondent of Libération and François-Xavier Lovat, a free-lance journalist and specialist on the Kurdish question, the 2003 Prize was awarded to Marie Jego, a journalist on Le Monde.
A specialist on the Caucasus and the Russian-speaking world, Marie Jego also works with several periodicals. She has been interested in the Kurds for several years. Her travels in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have enabled her to acquire close-up knowledge of the social and political life of the Kurds and to devote several articles to these subjects, which have been published in Le Monde. Her writings, impregnated with a great sensitivity and breadth of vision, have contributed to a better understanding of the Kurdish people in France and in French-speaking countries. The jury wanted to highlight this contribution and express the gratitude of the Kurds and their friends by this award.
• KURDISH POLITICAL PARTIES FIRE SOME OF THEIR CADRES FOR COLLABORATION WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN’S REGIME. The examination of the Saddam Hussein regime’s archives, seized by the Kurdish resistance, has revealed that some of the regime’s collaborators had succeeded in infiltrating into certain Kurdish and opposition parties. Thus “the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) has fired one of its senior cadres after he had been found guilty of collaboration” with the former regime, according to informed Kurdish sources.
Similarly, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has fired Saadi Pire, a former minister, who has become head of the Party organisation in the city of Mossul (North) and Mustafa Shawresh, who had been Minister of Agriculture in the Kurdish regional government, as well as other less known cadres.
Other parties, such as Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are examining the records of several of their members to check whether they had collaborated with the Baathist intelligence services. Bearing in mind the possibility of falsification in these archives, and to avoid any settling of personal scores, the Kurdish authorities have, initially removed from office those implicated, to allow the courts to conduct enquiries and, eventually, fair trials.
However, the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan Bar Association, Shirouane Nasseh, has stated that “those who are found guilty of having seriously harmed the population could be liable to the death sentence” — a statement that expresses the indignation of public opinion against the collaborators.
• SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (AKP) DESCRIBE TURKISH COURTS AS BIASED AND PARTISAN. Just after Parliament decided to sue before the High Court of Justice the former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and five other former ministers — Husamettin Ozkan, Cumhur Ersumer, Zeki Cakan, Recep Onal and Gunes Taner — accused of “corruption, favouritism nepotism and irregularities” the President of the Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry on the issue of immunity, Husrev Kutlu, simply declared, on 11 December, that “since the Judiciary was not independent, they had decided not to alter the legislation on immunity”. Commenting on these remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, a member of the same Justice and Development Party (AKP), added that “the members of parliament doubt the independence of the Courts” giving the example of the former Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Vural Savas, who in a recent book “recognised that he has expended considerable energy to bar the road to office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”. Immediately the President of the Court of Appeals, Eraslan Ozkaya and his opposite number on the State Council, Nuri Alan, reacted sharply. Mr Ozkaya declared that “those who are no longer in power, the simple citizen and the bureaucrat are brought before the courts … We cannot import courts from elsewhere or replace them by some other body … No one can have the luxury of saying they will not go to such courts … justice is not perfect but you are doing nothing to improve it and allow yourselves to criticise it”. The Vice-President of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) — the sole opposition party in the Turkish Parliament — Kemal Anadol reacted by stating: “thus there are only two things to do: either we send all the courts in the country on leave or else all the 70 millions of our citizens must benefit from immunity by becoming members of parliament. In other words, it means that our citizens are in danger faced with these courts”.
• THE 2003 ASSESSMENT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN TURKEY. On 2 December, the Turkish Human Rights Association published a recent evaluation of the Human Rights situation in Turkey in the context of the 6th and 7th harmonisation package passed by Ankara with a view to joining the European Union. Here are some extracts of this assessment that covers the January to September periods of the last five years.
Number of people having been tortured or been victims of inhuman and degrading treatment:
Attacks on freedom of expression — number of people sued:
Furthermore, the Association shows that the number of political organisations, publishing houses and cultural centres raided and searched were 250 in 1999, and 48 in 2003. The number of publications confiscated or banned were 242 in 1999 and 102 in 2003.
• THREE TURKS, SUSPECTED OF BEING INVOLVED IN THE SUICIDE BOMB ATTACK THAT CAUSED FIVE DEATHS IN KIRKUK, ARRESTED BY THE PESHMERGAS. On 23 November, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced the arrest of three Turks, suspected of being involved in the suicide bomb attacks perpetrated on 20 November against the headquarters of Kurdish parties in Kirkuk “Our peshmergas, in cooperation with the Iraqi Bureau of Investigation, have arrested three Turks suspected of being involved in the attack” declared Ramdan Rashid Mohieddin, the PUK’s second in command in Kirkuk, adding that the suspects were caught on the very day of the attacks, near the offices targeted. “The Turks had Turkish passports and satellite telephones when arrested”, he specified.
Five Iraqis, including three children, were killed and over thirty injured by the explosion of a car bomb that crashed through a barricade near the offices of the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Since the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, members of the Turkish Special Forces suspected of preparing such attacks so as to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan have been arrested on three occasions. The arrest, last June, of 13 of them by the Americans had provoked an open crisis in Ankara’s relations with Washington.
• THE AMERICANS AND UNO ARE DISCUSSING WITH THE TURKS THE “VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION” OF KURDISH REFUGEES FROM TURKEY WHO HAVE BEEN IN IRAQ FOR OVER TEN YEARS. Discussions have been taking place in Ankara between officials of Turkey, America and the UN High Commission for Refugees regarding the gradual return to Turkey of thousands of Kurdish refugees in Iraq. A mission from the HCR had meetings on 12 November with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials to raise the question of the “voluntary repatriation” of these Kurds, who have been refugees in Iraq since the early 90s to escape the violence in Turkey, stressed Metin Corabatir, the HCR spokesman in Turkey.
Kurds from Turkey are the third largest community of refugees in American administered Iraq. They number 12,700 persons, coming just behind the Iranians (18,700) and the Palestinians (80,000) according to Mr. Corabatir. The sensitive subject of the refugee camp at Makhmur, South of Mossul, controlled by the HCR was also on the agenda, it was pointed out. Since 1997, this camp has sheltered over 9,000 Kurds from Turkey. Ankara has called for it to be dismantled, declaring that PKK activists are “holding hostage” Kurdish families that wish to return to their villages in Turkey. During the height of the fighting between the PKK and the Turkish Army (1984 - 1999), the Turkish Army forcibly evacuated whole villages to isolate the fighters. Subsequently other families took the road to Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides the camp at Makhmur, there are other ones at Dohuk and Irbil, sheltering 3,700 Kurds from Turkey. Thanks to the help of the HCR, over 2,200 refugees have been repatriated since 1997.
• THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSION FOR REFUGEES IS CONCERNED OVER THE CONDITIONS OF EXPULSION OF SOME KURDS FROM TURKEY WHO HAD COME TO SEEK ASYLUM IN AUSTRALIA. On 6 November, the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (HCR) expressed its concern over the fate of 14 Turkish refugees of Kurdish origin who arrived on an island of Northern Australia and were expelled to Indonesia. Australia had not observed its international obligations, the UN High Commission considered on 11 November.
The 14 Kurds from Turkey, and the Indonesian crew of four had landed on the island of Melville on 4 November, near Darwin, in the Northern Territories. After discussions with Jakarta, the Australian authorities sent them back to Indonesia, from which they had embarked. They had, apparently, hastily excluded 4,000 islands from their zones of permitted immigration to prevent any request for asylum. The decision was also criticised by the refugee defence groups and by the Labour opposition to the Australian conservative government.
Australia signed the UN Convention on refugees in 1951. As a signatory, it is under the obligation to receive requests for asylum and must not send such petitioners back to countries where they would be in danger. However, as Indonesia has refused to accept them, the 14 Kurds risk being sent back to Turkey, explained the HCR. Indonesia has not signed the 1951 Convention.
• CHILDREN CONTINUE TO FALL VICTIM TO MINES IN KURDISTAN. Four children, three girls and a boy, ages between 7 and 10 years, were killed on 2 November and 7 others injured by the explosion of an undefined device that they had handled in the little village of Uludere, in Sirnak province. The device had been hidden near a primary school. Sirnak and the surrounding areas had been the scene of intense fighting between the PKK fighters and the Turkish Army between 1984 and 1999.
• TEACHING OF KURDISH IN PRIVATE SCHOOLS PREVENTED UNDER FALLACIOUS EXCUSES AND THE LETTERS “W, Q AND X” FOUND GUILTY FOR THE FIRST TIME BY A TURKISH JUDGE. The first Kurdish language private courses in Turkey have still not received any official authorisation, the authorities multiplying bureaucratic obstacles. The latest excuse was the absence of an emergency staircase in complying with safety regulations, stated Aydin Unesi, the owner of the school. The staircase does, in fact, exist, but was not mentioned in the file applying for approval, according to Mr. Unesi.
Earlier, the courses had been refused authorisation because the doors were five centimetres (2 inches) narrower than the current standards. “I am increasingly convinced that the courses are being deliberately blocked because the authorities are demanding little details” stressed Mr. Unesi, who says he is determined to continue his demands till the courses begin “because this in a right granted by law”.
Kurdish language radio broadcasts face similar difficulties. Although they have theoretically been legalised for several months past, they have not yet taken place.
Turkey, whose application for membership of the European Union depends principally on its progress in matters of individual freedoms, has, officially, passed a law allowing the Kurdish population to study its own language, but it has still not been applied in practice, provoking criticism from the E.U.
However, some Kurdish intellectuals were able, on 4 November, to organise a conference in their own language in Diyarbekir for the first time in decades. “We would not have even dreamed of organising such a thing in Diyarbekir ten years ago” declared the Kurdish Mayor of Diyarbekir, Feridun Celik, at the opening of the conference. Indeed, his speech was made in Kurdish, and in front of the Press. Kurdish intellectuals from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and European countries took part in this conference, held in the context of a five-day literary festival organised by the Town Council.
Elsewhere, on 21 November, a court in Hakkari rejected a request by officials of the provincial branch of DEHAP party for registering their first names in Kurdish on the grounds that the letters “w, q and x” are not part of the Turkish alphabet. The Hakkari Public prosecutor, moreover, had not opposed the application, indicating that he saw no legal grounds against this, but the judges ignored his advice.
Ferhat Yegin, Vice-President of the pro-Kurdish Free Society Party (Ozgun Toplum), also had his application rejected. He had applied to the Ankara courts for permission to assume the first name of Qualferat (Wise) but a court in the capital, sitting on 4 December, ruled against him on the grounds that the Constitution forbade the use of letters that did not exist in the Turkish alphabet. As he explained: “My application was rejected from the first hearing (…) and other similar ones have also be rejected”, he added. In October, a number of leaders and members of both the pro-Kurdish parties had simultaneously applied for permission to bear Kurdish names that included the letters X, W and Q.
The Turkish government has recently lifted the ban on names with an “ethnic” — i.e. Kurdish — sound, with the aim of harmonising its laws with those of the European Union, which Ankara hopes to join. But a Ministry of the Interior circular was issued forbidding the use of names containing letters that do not exist in the Turkish alphabet. The letters X, Z and Q exist in Kurdish but not in Turkish.
EVER SINCE 1950, THE TURKISH STATE HAS SHAMELESSLY SUPPORTED THE ISLAMISTS. After the bomb attacks against the British Consulate and the HSBC bank, causing at least 30 deaths (including the suicide bombers) and the two suicide attacks against the city’s two synagogues five days earlier — a total of 55 deaths and over 700 wounded — the Turkish government still refuses to talk about Islamist terrorists and prefers to look for guilty foreigners. It still refuses to examine its own internal policy regarding Islamist organisations that have long been pampered and encouraged by the Turkish authorities. Bekir Çoskun, a staff journalist on the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, denounced in his column of 21 November, the policy of political seduction, defence and support of radical Islamists by the Turkish authorities under the headline of “Our task is difficult”. Here are extensive extracts from his article:
“Even if comparison with the 11 September attacks in the United States would be excessive, our work is proving more difficult than that of the Americans regarding the attacks that have just been perpetrated.
Because our terrorists do not come from somewhere else. They are well and truly our own. To perpetrate these attacks, they do not need to go to another country, to learn another language, to change their identity or to disguise themselves under the appearance of another religion. They only need to leave their house in the morning, go to the nearest supplier of fertiliser, and carry out their bomb attack the same afternoon.
Moreover, those who have taught and trained them are our own countrymen.
With great skill, protecting them with great energy. Firstly, from birth, their fathers and mothers cut a sheep’s throat and dabbled the blood on their foreheads with their fingers. Instead of going to the Republic’s schools, their education begins in classes peculiar to their sects. They are taught that all those who differ from them are “impious unbelievers”.
Since 1950, they have been supported by different governments. The Presidents and the governments … by letting these establishments give these teachings … but also by financing them out of secret funds. Then in officially taking the defence of those who burnt alive these “impious unbelievers”, intellectuals, musicians, and writers (Editor’s Note: in 1993, the Islamists burnt down a hotel in Sivas where Alevi intellectuals, including the famous humorist Aziz Nesin, were holding a reception. The Turkish police prevented any rescue work. NB: The Alevis are a liberal Shiite sect.) Others, to save the religious terrorists decreed amnesty laws such as those of a few weeks ago… (…).
The Islamists may well seek guilty parties abroad, they are in fact here amongst us — they are our own”.