As the European Union was due to express itself on the opportuneness of setting a date for opening negotiations on the possibility of Turkey’s membership, the Paris Kurdish Institute organised an international conference on the “Stakes at issue in Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union”, which took place at the Victor Hugo Hall of the National Assembly on 1st October.
The conference aimed at summing up the various questions by giving the floor to European public figures and experts of differing points of view and coming from different backgrounds, so as to contribute to informing public opinion.
After an outlined presentation of the conference, a first round table began on the theme of “democracy and human rights”, presided by Mr. Patrick Baudoin, Honorary President of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). The speakers welcomed the reforms undertaken by Turkey on the way towards democratisation, while that failure to apply them in the field and the limitations of these legislative reforms. Thus Salih Akin, a lecturer at Rouen University, highlighted the shortcomings regarding the teaching and usage of the Kurdish language, to which Mrs. Ruken Keskin, an Istanbul publisher, added by speaking about the problems of publications and book publishing in Kurdish. Messrs. Hasip Kaplan, an Istanbul lawyer, and Seagin Tamrikulu, president of the Diyarbekir Bar Association, gave information about the legal problems encountered and about human rights violations in the field. Ahmet Insel, Professor at Galatasaray University and Paris Sorbonne, and Umit Firat, an Istanbul publisher, drew an overall picture of the Turkish political system, stressing the fact that the Turkish government was an offshoot of the Islamist movement and of the ubiquitous presence of the Army in Turkish political life.
The second round table dealt with a problem mentioned in the different European Union reports on Turkey, “the fate of the displaced Kurdish populations and exiles”. Presided by the well-known journalist Jonathan Randal. This round table recalled the basic facts of the forced displacements of Kurdish populations, the present day conditions under which they survive, the perspectives, thanks to the contributions by Joost Jongerden, research worker at Amsterdam University, and then Nazan Ustundag, Lecturer at Bagaziçi who presented a detailed analysis of the psychological and identity problems of these displaced populations.
In the afternoon, the first round table was presided by Marc Semo, a journalist on the daily paper Libération, a specialist on the Turkish question, which tackled the situation of “Secularism and Freedom” in Turkey. Olivier Abel, Professor of Ethical Philosophy at the Protestant University, argued for Turkey’s joining the European Union, and Hamit Bozarslan, lecturer at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales (EHESS — School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences), analysed the particularities of Turkish secularism, essentially under State control, which, contrary to received thinking is not neutral — not only as between different religions but also clearly favouring Moslems following the Sunni rites, who make up the majority of the population, as against other faiths like the Alevis, who make up a quarter of the population. Faced with the different problems described in the various round tables, the second to last round table aimed at answering the question “What solution to the Kurdish Question?” This subject was first of all outlined by Abbas Vali, Professor of political science at Swansea University, recently returned from several months in Turkey, where he had been lecturing at Bogaziçi University. In order to propose solutions already existing in Europe, the round table included Aureli Argemi, President of the International Centre for Ethnic Minorities (CIEMENS) whose offices are in Barcelona. The latter thus described the status of Catalans in Spain and recalled the historic evolution, which enabled the establishment of this status. The Serefettin Elçi, former Minister of Public Works in Turkey, advanced the idea of a federal system in Turkey to settle the Kurdish question, an idea that was also taken up by Feridun Yazar, former President of the pro-Kurdish HEP party and former Mayor of Urfa (Edessa). As against this, for Hasan Cemal, a Turkish journalist and essayist, the solution lay rather in the satisfaction of cultural rights and the strengthening of democracy in Turkey. To conclude, the final round table regarding the “Geopolitical stakes at issue in Turkey’s membership” included several Members of the European Parliament. This round table, Presided by Dominique Moïsi, Special Advisor to the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), gave rise to some very divergent exchanges of opinions between the speakers. Thus, Emma Bonino, former member of the European Commission and an Italian MEP, argued for Turkey’s membership of the European Union by welcoming the reforms carried out and basing herself on promises that had been made to Ankara. This idea was firmly opposed by Ignasi Guardans, a Catalan MEP, who stressed the fragility of Turkish democracy, which was said liable to collapse in the event of a refusal by Europe. He also rejected the idea of being bound by promises made twelve years earlier by the EEC and ended by advising the Kurds not to seek their salvation in the European Union, which —in his opinion — was soft-pedalling on minority rights. For Harlem Desire, a French MEP and Vice-President of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Europe must set a date for beginning negotiations with Turkey, but must establish a rigorous “Road Map” for the observance of human and minority rights and for recognition of the Armenian genocide. Hélène Flautre, President of the Human Rights sub-Commission of the European Parliament, criticised arguments based on religion for rejecting Turkey’s application and, while welcoming the reforms carried out, stressed the necessity for improving human rights in that country. The Turkish journalist and essayist, Cengiz Çandar, for a long time advisor to the Turkish President Turgut Ozal, who had begun a dialogue with the Kurds, also spoke to support Turkey’s membership. The conference was wound up by the President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, Kendal Nezan, who asked the Europeans not to neglect the Kurdish question in the negotiations with Turkey. He expressed his astonishment that the Turkish authorities should refuse their rights to the 15 to 20 million Kurds in Turkey, while considering the federal system inadequate for the 150,000 Turks of North Cyprus.
Kendal Nezan thanked the speakers at the conference, but also the 400-odd participants, who had been able to question the speakers after each round table. As the report of the European Commission was expected on 6 October, journalist of the Turkish and French press showed a special interest in this conference, which was simultaneously translated into English, French, Kurdish and Turkish. The principal contributions can be consulted on the Kurdish Institute’s web site: www.institutkurde.org
On 6 October, the European Commission recommended the opening of discussions for Ankara’s membership of the European Union, laying down conditions to avoid Turkey’s doing an about turn on questions of democratisation and human rights. If the recommendations of the European executive are approved by the 25 at their summit meeting on 17 December, negotiations could begin in 2005.
The Turkish leaders welcomed the European Commission’s positive verdict, preferring to play down the very strict conditions attached to the conduct of these discussions. “What we were expecting has emerged” in the Brussels report, considered Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visibly relaxed. In an interview given to the TV news channel CNN-Turk he welcomed the “very favourable developments” for his country. While describing the new and firm conditions imposed by the community executive as “discriminatory” with regard to his country, Mr. Erdogan, on his return from Strasbourg express his confidence. “If we have confidence in ourselves, we need have no fears” he said. The head of the Foreign Ministry, Abdullah Gul, made similar remarks on 6 October, but criticised the fact that the report puts forward, on “technical” questions regarding the conduct of the negotiations, conditions that are different from those used for other candidates. “We can’t consider this a constructive attitude” he declared, quoting, as an example, a measure recommending the examination of Turkish legislation after the opening of negotiations, whereas Turkey has already had to submit to such a procedure. Brussels welcomed Ankara’s “substantial efforts” regarding reforms, but stressed that their “application (…) needs to be consolidated and widened”, hence the unprecedented safety nets in its recommendations. The most symbolic of these would be the possibility for the E.U. to “suspend negotiations” in the event of “serious and permanent breaches" by Turkey of European democratic standards. In the view of the Turkish leaders, this clause would only be applicable in the event of a military coup d’état. (After its opening up to political pluralism in the 50s, Turkey experienced three putsches — in 1960, 1971 and 1980.) According to Year Yakis, former Foreign Minister and Member of Parliament for the party in office, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), it would have been better if this clause (which also applies to Croatia) were not in the document, as it is in the “nature” of negotiations. “If there were any problem during the negotiations, these could, naturally, be interrupted to give time for them to be settled” he indicated. In Mr. Edrogan’s view, a final decision in favour of Ankara at the European summit on 17 December is no longer in doubt, despite the reserves of public opinion in several countries of the Union. He reminded the Europeans of their commitment to opening discussions as soon as possible, preferably in the first half of 2005. The Commission left the responsibility of setting a date for opening of negotiations to the heads of State and Governments, thus leaving the door open for a late start, at the end of 2005 or, even, early in 2006. This displeases the Turks, even though they admit that Turkish integration would not take place overnight.
Displaying the E.U. and Turkish flags, the Turkish press rejoiced the day after this recommendation, for which Turkey has waited for several decades. Indeed, its commitment to European membership goes back to 1963 and the signing of association agreement with the EEC. Anxious to present things in their best light, most of the dailies stressed, on their front pages, the “historic” character of the report, generally relegating Brussels’ conditions to the inside pages.
For her first journey abroad since her release from prison, ten years after having been honoured by the European Parliament’s award of the Sakharov Human Rights Prize, the former Kurdish Member of Parliament, Leyla Zana, visited Brussels. Released from prison by the Ankara authorities on 14 August, the former M.P. was at last able to receive, in person, her award, an annual Prize created by the European Parliament in 1988 in honour of the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Invited by the European Parliament, Leyla Zana arrived in Brussels on 11 October, accompanied by her three Kurdish colleagues, who had been incarcerated with her, Orhan Dogan, Selim Sadak, and Hatip Dicle and their lawyers.
Received with honours usually reserved for heads of State, Leyla Zana also found her own family again — her husband Mehdi Zana and her son Ronay, both refugees in Europe who she had not been able to see for over ten years. The Green Group in Parliament had organised an evening reception in the European Parliament in her honour on the 12th October, allowing emotional meetings with her long-standing friends and defenders such as Claudia Roth and Daniel Cohn-Bendit but also with Members of the European Parliament like Joost Langendijk, President of the E.U.-Turkish Mixed Parliamentary Commission, Angela Beer, Helène Flautre, President of the Human Rights sub-Commission, Cem Ozdemir, Baroness Nicholson, Luisa Morgantini and Feleknas Uca.
In the course of her official visit, Leyla Zana was auditioned on 13 October during a meeting jointly organised by the E.U. Parliaments Foreign Affairs Commission, its Human Rights sub-Commission and the Joint E.U.-Turkey Mixed Parliamentary Commission. During this hearing the Kurdish former M.P. called on the Turkish Government to be “much more resolute” in its reforms and expressed the hope for a new Constitution in Turkey while welcoming the “distance covered” in the country over the last few years. The Turkish government “must be much more resolute. It has yet to give proof of a strong political will, which is what this government is lacking for the moment” Mrs. Zana considered. “The present government has made some alterations, which do not go far enough. It is important that a new, modern, Constitution see the light of day” the former M.P. continued. In her view Turkey is “a candidate for change”. The former M.P. considered that a new Turkish Constitution was “indispensable” if the Kurds, but also the non-Moslem communities in Turkey, “were to be able to express themselves freely”. Leyla Zana, nevertheless, recognised the extent of the reforms undertaken recently in Turkey. “I cannot fail to observe the considerable distance covered” she declared. “It is evident that the process undertaken with the E.U. (…) has contributed to changes” she added. “There may, here and there, still be acts of torture carried out, but we can no longer talk of systematic use of torture. This gives me some hopes for the future” Mrs. Zana concluded.
Leyla Zana also met the Presidents of all the European Parliament’s political Groups as well as the head of European Foreign Affairs, Javier Solana. The latter assured her that the European Union “would continue to defend the democratic values and principles on which the building of Europe was based”. On 14 October, in the course of a plenary session of the European Parliament, Leyla Zana delivered a message of peace in Turkish then in Kurdish, which was simultaneously translated into the twenty official languages of the European Union. Dressed in black, thin, determined and smiling, Leyla Zana spoke before the European Parliament after having been greeted by Mr. Joseph Borrel Fontelles, Speaker of the Parliament, who welcomed Mrs. Zana arrival, declaring in Kurdish “Hatina we ji parlementoye bome serbilindi ye” (Editors Note: “Our Parliament is honoured to welcome you”). Mrs. Zana did not fail to thank him in Spanish and Catalan. In a 30-minute speech, punctuated with applause, Leyla Zana stressed that the measures in favour of democracy adopted in Turkey “still seem cosmetic ones”. “The Copenhagen criteria must be applied in essence and not just in words” added Leyla Zana to applause. She stretched out her hand to “the fraternal Turkish people” brought to Brussels her support for Ankara’s application for membership while calling on the country to redouble its efforts to ensure democracy. “You have not awarded this Prize to me alone. You have awarded it to the Kurdish people, you have awarded it to the fraternal Turkish people. You have awarded it to Turkey” Mrs. Zana declared to the M.E.P.s. “We have no time for violence (…) The Kurds want a peaceful solution within the territorial integrity of Turkey (…) No one should doubt, in any way whatsoever, the Kurds’ support for measures in favour of democratisation” she added. Leyla Zana also insisted on the fact that the Turkish government. If it wanted to solve the Kurdish problem, must first of all call it by its name. According to her, there is no reason to be afraid of dialogue and peace. The Kurds are one of the components of Turkey. Although some important measures have been taken, the bases of the conflict must be eliminated, the political prisoners and intellectuals in exile must be associated with public life, the economic disparities must be eliminated, the Kurds must be recognised and their rights guaranteed by a new Constitution.
“I call on the whole world for this. Civil peace in Turkey goes hand in hand with peace in the Middle East, but also peace in Europe and thus in the world. This peace is now in our hands. It is in your hands. It is in the unity of our hands. The first thing is, above all, to know the truth (…) The truth is that, first of all, the problem must be named, it must be recognised and defined. Anything that has no name and no definition has no identity and so is considered not to exist. It is time for the world to recognise the democratic political, social and cultural rights of the Kurds, and their 40 million souls. The Kurds have shown their determination to integrate into the modern world by undertaking their own renaissance. We expect the world to respect that determination and not bargain it away in the context of its international relations. So long as this problem is not tackled with humanity and conscience, it will continue to be a potential danger to regional and world peace. The States have isolated themselves because they built walls instead of bridges. Europe has long suffered from these ills, then humanity has, one by one, cast down these walls. Europe and the world, by casting down the invisible walls together with the Kurds can become bridges towards the solution to the problem. Let us not forget that a Turkey that has solved the Kurdish problem and become a member of the European Union would further the encounter between Western civilisation and the rich cultural heritage of Mesopotamia.” After this appeal to the European to throw all their weight into enabling the Kurds to live in dignity with full recognition of its rights, Leyla Zana addressed the Kurds: “My last message is addressed to the Kurds. Fighting for democracy in all the geographic regions that they inhabit, the Kurds must, above all, live amongst themselves in peace, in democracy, freedom and unity. Without mutual observance of these values, there can be no solidarity, without solidarity there can be no unity, and without unity there cannot be strength enough to ensure peace. It must be understood that everyone wants to have their own Kurd sitting with them at the wolves’ table. To prevent this, there is only one solution — internal peace and unity, mutual solidarity and a sane and healthy policy.” In finishing her speech, Leyla Zana stressed the fact that she dedicated it to the happiness of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. The Speaker of the European Parliament thanked her in Turkish and Leyla Zana received a standing ovation from the assembled M.E.P.s.
The Heads of States and governments are due, on 17 December, to decide whether or not to open negotiations with Turkey for its membership. The European Commission, on 6 October, had recommended the opening of negotiations, but in the context of many conditions.
Leyla Zana did not directly express her views either in the Assembly hall or before the journalists who afterwards bombarded her with questions.
The Turkish media published the main extracts of her speech and the whole speech was broadcast live by a Kurdish satellite television network. The European media, such as Euronews, France 3, and the International Herald Tribune also gave considerable space to this event. The day after this ceremony, Leyla Zana took the plane accompanied by her three colleagues and her husband, Mehdi Zana, former Mayor of Diyarbekir who, after spending 14 years in Turkish prisons for his peaceful defence of the Kurdish cause, has been living in exile in Sweden since 1995. After a night in detention, where he had been placed by the police, Mehdi Zana was released by the Turkish authorities. The Turkish judge considered that the charges filed against him in the past had ceased to be legal offences following the democratic reforms passed by the Turkish Parliament in the last few years, to favour its application for membership of the European Union. On returning to Turkey, Leyla Zana announced, on 22 October, the creation of a new pro-Kurdish political movement, shortly before the opening in Ankara of the third trial against her and her three colleagues for “supporting Kurdish rebels”. “We, former Members of Parliament (…) want to serve democracy and peace. For this reason, we are launching this movement for popular democracy” she declared at a Press conference, talking of a “party”. The fundamental principles of this movement, whose name has not yet been decided, will be to “support the European process in Turkey” and to “aim at achieving a peaceful and democratic solution” to the Kurdish question in a Turkey that aspires to integration with the European Union, stressed Mrs. Zana. She indicated that neither she nor her other ex-M.P. colleagues would seek to be president of this new movement, which would also work for a constitutional amendment that would take into account the “ethnic and cultural diversities” in Turkey, particularly of the Kurds. “No other (Turkish) party has known how to answer to the demands for social change” stated the winner of the European Parliament’s 1995 Sakharov Prize. Mrs. Zana called on the Turkish and Kurdish peoples to rally massively to this new movement. “The world has changed and Turkey can not stand aside from this change” she added. Mrs. Zana was accompanied by Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan and Selim Sadak, like her former Members of Parliament for the pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP — banned in 1994) who had spent the last ten years behind bars after being sentenced to 15 years for “supporting Kurdish rebels”. These four ex-M.P.s are due to appear before the capital’s Assize Court, which will try them for the third time, since the Turkish Parliament has now abolished the State Security Courts (DGM), in the context of the reforms undertaken to bring the country closer to European standards. They were released by an Appeal Court in June pending a proper revision of their last trial.
On 15 October, Massud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party began a 3-day visit to Syria. He had earlier visited Turkey and Jordan. According to him, his regional tour, centred on “Iraqi problems and the situation in Kurdistan” had achieved its objectives. The Syrian President, Bachar al-Assad, and the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two main Iraqi Kurdish movements, stressed, during their discussion on 18 October, the necessity of preserving Iraq’s “national unity”, according to the Syrian news agency Sana. Messrs. al-Assad and Barzani discussed “the situation in the Iraqi theatre”. They stressed that “national unity is necessary to ensure stability in Iraq and to put an end to the occupation” of that country, always according to the official news agency, Sana. During the discussion, Mr. al-Assad declared that “Syria was on the side of the Iraqi people and that it wanted to use all the means available to help end its sufferings”. On 17 October, Mr. Barzani had asked Iraq’s neighbouring countries “not to interfere” in the Kirkuk question, the subject of discussions between the Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman communities, while reaffirming the Kurdish character of that city. “Kirkuk is an Iraqi Kurdish city. The problem of this city is an internal Iraqi affair, the neighbouring countries have no business interfering ” in this matter, reiterated Mr. Barzani to the press after his discussion with Syrian Vice-President Abdel Halim Khaddam. Massud Barzani declared, furthermore, that he was “sure” that Kirkuk would be administratively attached to Iraqi Kurdistan after a referendum. “We are sure that, after the normalisation of the situation in Kurkuk, the organisation of a referendum (will show) that the immense majority of the inhabitants (of this city) are Kurds. Consequently, we are sure that Kirkuk will return to (Iraqi) Kurdistan” declared Mr. Barzani during a press conference at the end of his three day visit to Damascus.
Mr. Barzani also indicated that the conflict in Kirkuk between the different ethnic groups (Kurdish, Arab and Turcoman) “is in no way motivated by oil, which belongs to all Iraqis”. The Kurdish claims, he stressed, aimed at “cancelling the marks of the (forced) Arabisation carried out by the fallen (Saddam Hussein) regime and the injustices that struck both Kurds and Turkomen in this city” Mr. Barzani further stressed. “I have secured the total support of President al-Assad” he affirmed. “A positive role by Syria will help the Iraqis to overcome many obstacles in the run up to the elections”, planned for January in Iraq, he added. Before going to Syria, Massud Barzani had held talks in Turkey on 11 October, on the situation in Iraq and on the future of Kirkuk. He had been received by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. “I still think that Kirkuk is the heart of Kurdistan, but I am open to dialogue here” Mr. Barzani had said on arriving in Turkey. Ankara fears Kurdish control of this city and considers that control of its oil resources would strengthen the Iraqi Kurds. Turkey suspects them of wanting to separate from the rest of Iraq. Massud Barzani did not fail to remind Ankara, on 12 October, that Kirkuk has a “Kurdish identity”, stating that the Iraqi Kurds were ready to wage war on any force that oppressed its people. “If anyone, a regime or a system, wishes to continue the Arabisation (of Kirkuk) or to oppress the Kurdish people (…) we will defend their rights and are ready to fight for them” he had declared, before leaving Turkey at the end of his talks with the Turkish leaders in Ankara. M. Barzani explained that the Iraqi Kurds were not only defending the Kurdish population of Kirkuk, but “all the other minorities” of the city. “Our position is that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan”.
A report from the Prime Minister’s Consultative Committee on Human Rights, made public by the daily paper Radikal on 17 October has highlighted the duplicity of the Turkish authorities who, on the one hand display, abroad, a determination to negotiate with the European Union the improvement of rights and freedoms in Turkey, yet, on the other, will accept no criticism, even from an official organ, inside Turkey. The report, which had called for full observance of the Treaty of Lausanne and thus of the rights of minorities in Turkey, raised criticisms in conservative circles who did not hesitate, over the last few weeks, openly to issue threats in public meetings. During a press conference called by the current President of the Consultative Committee, Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu, the General Secretary of a civil service union and a member of the Committee, tore up the report in front of many journalists and the TV cameras, refusing to accept recommendations that had been promised to the European Union.
Here are major extracts from the report, unanimously adopted by the Human Rights Sub-Committee and drawn up by Baskin Oran, Professor of Political Science at Ankara University and a renown Turkish intellectual, followed by an interview he gave to the daily Radikal.
“Turkey upholds a narrower interpretation of the international conventions that it signs with different reservations that it puts forward (abstention, reserve clauses). In accordance with the “interpretation decree”, Turkey invokes the limitations of the Lausanne Treaty and/or the 1982 Constitution in international contexts and announces, during international conventions the non-application of rights forbidden by the 1982 Constitution or sets aside those recognised by the Lausanne Treaty. We can sum up in two points Turkey’s concerns about this question:
Turkey’s limitative attitude is more and more running counter to world orientations. After the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee, during the 1990s human rights decade, the trend is no longer to ask countries whether or not they have any minorities in their ranks, but to recognise them from the moment they have groups “displaying ethnic, linguistic, religious differences, considering these differences as an element consubstantial with their identity”. However, it is up to the different nation states whether or not to give of minority status. Let us point out straight away that the European Union has no means for soliciting minority rights and status for different cultural groups in Turkey. It nevertheless demands that equal treatment for all the citizens of different cultures. This point must be understood.
Nor does Turkey strictly observe the Lausanne Treaty and even violates certain clauses of this treaty, is the foundation of Turkey. Firstly, the recognised rights of non-Moslems are not fully observed. These rights are only recognised for the three largest such minorities (Armenians, Greeks and Jews), except for certain other non-Moslem groups (for example Article 40 regarding the educational rights of Syriacs) but the rights of other groups not defined by Part III of the Lausanne Treaty are totally ignored by the State. As an example of the first situation we can cite the measures described by the press as “the 1936 declaration” and, for the second, Article 39/4 of the Lausanne Treaty. This Article grants “ free use to all Turkish citizens of any language whatsoever, either in their private relations or in religious matters, the press, publications or in public meetings”. In other words, the only exception to this use was in the context of public services. However, no one could engage in radio or televised broadcasts in the language of their choice, which is why the harmonisation package dated 3 August 2002 was voted, but is still not applied in practice, and a seventh package dated 30 July 2003 was, in turn, adopted. At the end of 2003, the Turkish High Supervisory Committee of Radio and Television (RTUK) drew up regulations on the question, adding to them certain restrictions regarding duration and place. If Article 39/4 of the Treaty of Lausanne had been applied, the embarrassing discussions that wasted so much time in Turkey regarding, for example, the (televised) broadcasting in Kurdish, need never have occurred. Such a situation will have a healthy impact on Turkey in four respects:
It is evident that, in the short term, Turkey will be obliged to abandon “the decree of application” which, in any case, was of absolutely no use to it. It is very important, for the concept of national sovereignty, to achieve this by our own will, and not because of pressure from the European Union by simply applying the measures of its own founding Act, namely the Treaty of Lausanne.
Undoubtedly, one day, everyone will be able to broadcast in the language of their choice. During the transition period, instead of drawing up new controversial laws, it would be better for the State to uphold the necessity of applying the measures of the Lausanne Treaty, whose value is at least equal to the Constitution.
It is necessary to grant broader liberties to all the citizens to avoid having minorities under international protection inside Turkey, and the Article in question is directed at “all citizens of the Republic of Turkey”.
No doubt, a more human behaviour of the State towards its own people will be very beneficial in the country, especially with regards to “unity and union”, because a country made up of “forced citizens” is a fragile country. The State will be strengthened while satisfied and happy individuals will become “voluntary citizens”. The citizen from whom the State has least to fear is the citizen who enjoys all his rights (…)
e). Turkey sees this question of minorities in a narrow and erroneous manner. We can summarise the basic principles of this point:
Instead of taking into consideration the development of the notion of minority rights in the world, a Turkey remains hung up on the year 1923, but in addition interprets the 1923 Lausanne Treaty badly and in an incomplete manner.
The recognition of a different identity and the granting of minority status/rights are considered as being one and the same. Yet the first is an objective attitude and the second remains in the State’s area of competence (…)
5) We can observe than when people speak of “Turks” as a nation, the term “Turk” covers an ethnic (or even religious) group as well. This situation is the result of two sources, one structural and the other historico-political. Structural, because of the relation between a sub-identity and a higher identity in the Turkish Republic, whose sub-identities (various ethnic, religious etc. groups) already existing in the Ottoman Empire, were inherited by Turkey when the Ottoman Empire collapsed. However, the higher identity in the Empire (the identity granted by the State to its citizens) was defined by the term Ottoman, whereas in the Republic it is the term “Turkish” that was adopted. This higher identity tends to define the citizen through a race or a religion. For example, the expression “our congeners abroad” covers people whose origins are racially and ethnically Turkish. On the other hand by calling our non-Moslem fellow countrymen “citizens” instead of “Turks” we show that, to be “Turkish” one must also be Moslem. In Turkey, no one uses the term “Turk” when talking of a Greek or Jewish citizen because that means a Moslem citizen (…). This situation has made foreigners of various sub-identities that do not identify themselves as Turks and has created problems (…)
The most inoffensive claims to identity in Turkey are considered as a determination to divide Turkey and are immediately repressed. This situation invites both the intervention of the major Western powers, because this constitutes an attack on democracy even though Turkey has voluntarily expressed the desire to join the European Union. It is a disservice to Turkey to delay democracy in its own country with such paranoia. The risk of the division of Turkey and of incitement to terrorism is immediately raised as soon as when the reforms have to be undertaken for the use of the Kurdish language; a determination to obstruct all reforms is thus displayed in such a climate of paranoia. Yet, however, those who provoke this can see that certain circles would be forced to reconsider terrorism as the only alternative is the reforms are prevented. This perspective of joining the European Union has created a period very favourable to minority rights in Turkey. This period forms a veritable continuity with the legal reforms undertaken by Kemalism to modernise the country between 1920 and 1930, called “the revolution from above”. (…)
The Constitution of the Turkish Republic and other organic laws must be redrawn on a democratic basis of freedom and pluralism with the participation of organised groups of society.
On the basis of equality of citizenship rights, the rights to protection and development (such as publication, expression, teaching) of individuals originating from different identities and cultures must be guaranteed.
The central and local administrations must put transparency to work and democratise themselves by adopting the principle of participation of and control by the citizens.
The international conventions and fundamental documents regarding universal standards, including human rights and freedoms, and especially the convention framework of the Council of Europe, must be signed and ratified and applied in practice. Reservations or interpretative declarations that tend to deny the existence of sub-identities in Turkey must no longer be made to international conventions.”
In an interview published by the daily paper Radikal on 25 October, Professor Baskin Oran made his position more explicit by going back to the broad outlines of this report. Here are broad extracts from this interview: “I am one of the 78 members of the committee (the Prime Minister’s Consultative Committee on Human Rights) Presided by Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu, consisting of 13 working party. I presided the working party on minority and cultural rights (…) The Committee is linked to the Ministry responsible for human rights, and thus to Abdullah Gül (…) Since he was also responsible for Foreign Affairs, he simply inaugurated the meeting and then left. We could understand this, but we could not understand why he refused for six months to set an appointment for us to see him. In reality, the AKP party (Justice and Development Party) is not in conflict with us but they just want this committee to be a showcase and not to embarrass the government (…) They can do what they like, this report is an official State report since we are an official organisation legally set up a regulated. In any case, that is the reason why this report has caused such a stir — I have personally written much stronger things several times, in both articles and in books. I have used the terms “higher and lower identities” in lectures that I have given at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but as it is the first time that an official report contains such terms, some people have suddenly started to attack (…) It is a consultative report. It is up to the government whether it applies it or not, but what it raises is what the government has to undertake to secure membership of the European Union (…)
Legally, what are the minorities in Turkey?
All non-Moslem citizens in Turkey. But it is wrong to identify them as Jews, Greeks or Armenians, since Article 143 of the Treaty of Lausanne in no way enumerates them. The Treaty of Lausanne merely speaks of “non-Moslems”. The Syriacs, Assyrians and Chaldeans are also covered by this definition, yet we do not recognise their rights as defined in the Treaty of Lausanne. (…) Moreover, the notion of minority does not cover the same things in Turkey and the European Union (…) When the E.U. talks about minorities it asks that those who are not in a majority and sovereign in a country be treated in the same way as the sovereign majority. For example, there is a Sunni majority amongst the Moslems in Turkey, who have free use of electricity in their mosques, whereas the Alevi Moslems must pay to enjoy electricity in their cemevi (places of prayer). The European Union rejects such a conception. Another example: the Turkish majority receives schooling, publishes and distributes its publications in Turkish, but the Kurds cannot learn their own language at school — even the few private language courses that exist have taken two years to secure authorisation. (…) When the European Union talks of minority rights, it is talking about equality of rights. It is not a matter of imposing citizenship on our people but of moving on to a freely accepted citizenship and of abolishing the laws that forbid individuals their own culture. The associations that are more statist than the State claim that abolishing these laws would divide the State. But a State based on imposed citizenship is sitting on dynamite and is not solid. A State based on voluntary citizenship is a strong State— that is democracy in a unitary State (…)
We do not need to legislate — on the contrary, it is a matter of ensuring equality for all, that no one suffer discrimination, all restrictions must be abolished. Turkey needs this, and must not be afraid of it. If you abolish the interdiction it is forbidden to teach any other language but Turkish” any person can teach any language they like. You will then notice that in a short time these languages will be optional in the schools. In reality, the ban on use that weighs on Kurdish, Laz and Circassian are in violation of the Treaty of Lausanne, which is supra-Constitutional or of a value equivalent to our Constitution. (…) The Treaty clearly states that citizens can speak any language they please anywhere they please except in government offices (…) Moreover, the European Union, by recommending that we recognise the rights of minorities does not ask us to grant any minority status (…)
What are the minorities from a sociological point of view?
(…) A minority must be quantitatively weak, must not be politically dominant and should feel different and be conscious of this difference. For example, the homosexuals are also a minority (…)
There are also the Alevis, whose religious practices suffer from pressures. Only a short while ago they were not able to celebrate their holy month and even today their Cemevi are not considered religious buildings but “houses of culture” (…)
Our report shows for the first time that Turkey is going in the right direction. We have proposed, in this report, to break with the paranoia of the Sevres Treaty (Editors Note: A Treaty signed in 1920, as an appendix to the Versailles Treaty, that envisaged the creation of an independent Armenia and Kurdistan) and to draw up a new Constitution based on freedom and pluralism, guaranteeing cultural rights and adopting a conventional framework for minorities. But two things have been criticised in this report. The first is the notion of “citizen or Turkey” and the second is the proposal to amend Article 3 of the Constitution ruling that “the Turkish State with its country and nation is one, and its language is Turkish”. This article should be amended to read “the Turkish State is unitary and its territory is indivisible. Its official language is Turkish”. Because to speak of unity with an indivisible nation is to negate all lower identities and the majority culture. In any case, the nation is not an indivisible entity. It is the State that is indivisible — it is its territory that could be partitioned. In addition, to say that its language is Turkish implies that it is not possible to speak any other language than Turkish.
There is also the notion of “citizen of Turkey” which is disputed. The Prime Minister himself often uses this notion. Can this suffice to resolve the minority problem?
Yes, because in saying “citizen of Turkey” no one is the founding constituent. Taking the concept of “citizen of Turkey” as the higher identity, there is no longer any minority. No one can look down on any others and the Kurds will be appeased and broadly linked to the State. The existing higher identity of “Turkish” divides Turkey, because a Kurd does not say he is a Turk but a Kurd of Turkey. It's the same in Cyprus, where you have the concept of Turk of Cyprus and Turk of Turkey. But some people do not understand that the only notion that can embrace the Armenia, the Greek, the Circassian, the Kurd, the Laz, the Albanian, the Syriac the Chaldean, the Assyrian and the Gipsy is the notion of citizen of Turkey”. This will not trouble the Turks because they are, in any case, a strong entity and the official language is Turkish, the name of the country is Turkey and the flag is the one devised by the Kemalists.
Have we come to discuss minorities because of the European Union or is the evolution of Turkey pushing it openly to discuss its problems?
The European Union has accelerated the work. If it had not been for Mustafa Kemal and his “revolution from above” Turkey would have reached its present position, but in 150 years, but Mustafa Kemal changed Turkey in 10 years. Today, with the packages for harmonisation with the European Union, we are going through a second phase of Mustafa Kemal’s revolution from above. The revolution from above provokes reactions at the base. In the 20s, there were reactionaries — today we have to face the paranoia of the Sevres Treaty. The reactionary trend of today is the Sevres Treaty paranoia. The paranoiacs are unceasingly afraid of a partition. They are Kemalists who have remained glued in the 20s and, unfortunately, through fear, the real Kemalist do not dare raise their voices against them.”
On 22 October, the Iraqi government deplored the fact that UNO was not sufficiently involved in the electoral process. “It is to be regretted that the participation of the United Nations (in the preparation) of the elections is not at the required level" declared the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari. “The number of UNO experts sent to Iraq is not more than 30, whereas they had been 300 for East Timor” he pointed out, while reaffirming his government’s determination to organise the poll at the planned date, January 2005.
The UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, for his part declared that the elections were still possible, despite the limited UN presence on the spot due to anxieties about the safety of its staff, while the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell indicated that the Coalition forces would ensure their protection if the United Nations could not find enough fresh troops to do so. Apart from Fiji, there is, for the moment, no rush of volunteers to join the force called for by UNO to increase its presence in Iraq.
Failing a stronger UN presence, the Iraqi government may possibly count on the movement of radical Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr coming over to them. In the Baghdad poor quarter of Sadr City, this militia had massively handed in its weapons. Colonel Zayer, a member of the arms reception committee, has described the operation, planned to be completed on 21 October, as “very successful” as it had “enabled (the quarter) to be pacified and prepared for the elections”. He explained that “over three million dollars” had been distributed amongst the Iraqis who had accepted to hand in their arms. Under an agreement between the Iraqi government, the US Army and Sadr’s movement, the Shiite fighters were to hand in their weapons in exchange for money and the release of detained militiamen.
The Kurdish and Shiite leaders are actively preparing for the January 2005 elections, while the Sunni Arabs are letting doubts hang over their participation by trying to raise the bidding less than three months before the poll. According to Washington, an opinion poll carried out in Iraq by the International Republican Institute (IRI) over 85% of the Iraqis intent to vote in the elections.
Early in November, the registration of voters and candidates will begin in some 600 polling stations, in an atmosphere of doubts as to UNO’s capacity to supervise the process.
The Sunni Arabs, feeling that they have been marginalised after having been so long favoured by the Saddam Hussein regime (itself largely made up of Sunni Arabs) have opted for confrontation to stress their weight in the new set up. Their principal religious organisation, the Committee of Ulemas, has threatened to boycott the elections in the event of an offensive against the rebel bastion of Falluja or of the continuation the almost daily American air raids. The Iraqi government and the US troops, pressed for time, have launched operations aimed at reducing the activists in the rebel Sunni towns to the North and West of Baghdad. Tall Afar, Samara, Yussufiyah.
The Shiites, in power for the first time in Iraq, for their part have everything to gain by the election. Their leaders were not mistaken in calling for mass participation in this poll. The senior Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani, the most highly regarded of their religious leaders, has issued a fatwa (religious ruling) calling for the strong participation. One of his representatives in Kerbala, Sayyed Ahmad al-Safi, stated, on 22 October, that voting “is a duty imposed by the sharia”.
A non-party commission has been set up to organise the registration of Shiites on the electoral rolls. Negotiations have been going on for weeks between the senior religious authorities and the political parties over the lists of candidates.
In this contradictory scene, the Kurds, who have already successfully gone through the experience of parliamentary and municipal elections, feel well prepared for this process. But the problem of Kirkuk, which the Kurdish leaders want to include in their province, risks generating tensions with the other local communities.
On 26 October, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, foe the first time criticised the Multinational Force for not being able to prevent the massacre of 49 recruits at a time when the state of security in the country, a bare three months from the election, is becoming increasingly worrying. The Iraqi soldiers, unarmed and in civvies, were killed on 23 October in an unprecedented ambush in the East of the country. This strengthens suspicions of the infiltration of the Iraqi forces by the insurrection. The soldiers’ bodies were found lined up along the side of an isolated road near the Iranian border. These soldiers had just completed their training in a Kirkuk army camp, and were going home in three minibuses when they were attacked by the insurgents. Their massacre was claimed by the Jordanian Islamist network led by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.
Elsewhere, the disappearance, in Iraq, of 400 tonnes of high explosives that were supposedly being guarded by the US Army continues to arouse controversy and was strongly condemned by the Democratic candidate to the White House, John Kerry, eight days before polling date there.
The Iraqi Primer Minister, Iyad Allawi, also deplored the inadequacy of security forces to ensure security during the planned January elections and stated that he had asked for help from UNO. After the massacre of the 49 recruits and the three minibus drivers of the new Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Prime Minister blamed the “negligence” of the US-led Multinational Force. “An odious crime was committed costing the lives of an important number of recruits to our Army and we think that there was considerable negligence by certain elements of the Multinational Force” declared Iyad Allawi. He did not specify the nature of the neglect, nor did he identify the “elements” the considered were to blame.
Moreover, if we believe a report by US Public Health experts published on 28 October, about 100,000 Iraqi civilians are considered to have died in the course of the violence since the US-led coalition’s intervention in March 2003. In an analysis published by the British Medical review The Lancet, Dr. Les Roberts, of the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, explains that he had compared the death rate in the 14.6 months prior to the beginning of hostilities with the 17,8 months following it.
From such a comparison, he draws “cautious” projections that showed that the “over-kill” was about 100,000 “or more”. Other estimates of Iraqi losses report a maximum of 16,053 civilians killed and 6,370 troops.
According the US Defence Department, at least 1,117 US soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war in Iraq, in March 2003. Amongst them at least 858 soldiers were killed in action, or as a result of hostile action. The British Army, for its part, records 79 deaths, Italy 19, Poland 13, Spain 11, Ukraine 9, Bulgaria 7, Slovakia 3, Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands 2 each and Denmark, San Salvador, Hungary and Latvia one each.
Furthermore, on 16 October, the Baghdad churches were the targets of a series of simultaneous bomb attacks, in which there were no casualties but that shocked the Christian community. Home made bombs exploded near five churches in the Iraqi capital, causing considerable damage to the buildings, one of which was completely gutted by fire, even though there were no casualties. These attacks, which coincided with the beginning of the month-long Moslem fast of Ramadan, revived the anxieties of the little Christian minority — 700,000 souls, or about 3% of the 24 million Iraqis — who had already been targeted on the 1st of August. At that time, six bomb attacks against six Christian places of worship had resulted in 10 deaths and 50 injured in Mossul and Baghdad.
On the economic level, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated, in a report published on 18 October, that the persistent insecurity and absence of any solution to the debt problem, constituted major obstacles to the financing of the country’s reconstruction, even though estimating a 52% rate of growth for 2004. “The future financing of Iraq, in present circumstances, are subjected to a considerable degree of risk. The situation of the security level is still not under control and Iraq has an unsustainable level of debt ” states the IMF. Iraqi creditors are still having difficulty in agreeing on a lightening of Iraq’s debt of nearly $125 billion, of which $42 billion are to creditor countries who are members of the Paris Club. The macro-economic situation has been stabilised, over all, the experts noted, with relatively low inflationary pressures and unchanged exchange rates” and currency reserves of nearly $4.4 billion as at the mid-August.
According to their forecasts, the Iraqi GNP should increase by 52% in 2004, by 17% in 2005 and an average of 9% a year between 2006 and 2009, after a drop of 35% in 2003 due to the war. Moreover, the future of the oil sector seems promising, according to IMF’s experts, who stress the reserves of between 100 and 130 billion barrels of good quality crude (11% of world reserves) whose production costs are not too high.
On 13 October, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister asked the International lenders, meeting in Tokyo, to keep their promises of aid to finance Iraq’s reconstruction and reproached their lack of support for the United Nations.
Barham Saleh and four other members of the interim government argued Iraq’s case at the opening of the conference, which brought together 57 donor countries for two days. They assured their listeners that many Iraqi regions were secure enough for reconstruction projects to be carried out. “Iraq’s development and stability cannot be managed at gun point ” Mr. Saleh stressed in a moving speech. “Short term help and assistance are the key to destroying the causes of terrorism. They are also the only way to build a viable long term future for our people”. “Please, do not delay — now is the moment to commit yourselves firmly. Honour your promises now!”, he continued before the representatives meeting in closed session.
Mr. Saleh noted that this was the first conference of donor countries since the Americans had transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis at the end of June. He stressed, moreover, that the elections in Iraq were still planned for January, despite continuing violence.
He acknowledged that security and corruption remained problems and called on the international organisations, particularly UNO, to get more involved. “I ask the United Nations where is that essential support for the political process that they are mandated to provide?” he said. “We need UNO’s support and we need it now”.
The UNO representative replied that sending more of the organisation’s staff to Iraq today would only provide the Iraqi guerrilla with fresh “targets”. UNO’s activity “is insufficient, and we know it” stressed Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) “but we must remain cautious”.
The Tokyo conference took place a year after that in Madrid, at which 37 countries and financial institutions had promised to contribute $13.6 billion (11 billion euros) in the form of donations and of loans. However, of this total, only one billion dollars (805 million euros) have been collected to date, while the continuation of violence in Iraq has paralysed reconstruction efforts and led to a reorientation of funds towards security.
The head of the US delegation, the Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Armstrong, recognised that Washington had, initially, been too slow in sending US funds to Iraq, but promised to “accelerate the rhythm”. The United States was Iraq’s largest donor country, with a promise of aid of $18.4 billion ($14.8 billion euros). Mr. Armitage also admitted that the recent re-orientation of American funds to financing security measures had created a “vacuum”, particularly in the areas of water and electricity. He also called on the international community to lighten Baghdad’s enormous debt, estimated at 125 billion dollars (102 billion euros). He pointed out that Washington had secured assurances that at least half of the slate would be wiped clean.
The United States had, so far, paid over about $3 billion ($2.4 billion euros) for the reconstruction of Iraq and the US representative promised that Washington would soon devote $400 million a month to this. Few fresh promises of aid are expected from Tokyo, but Iran has, nevertheless committed itself to ten million dollars (8.1 million euros).
Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder on either side of the Prime Minister of a Turkey applying for membership of the E.U. is the symbolic image that will be remembered of the fourth Franco-German ministerial council that took on 26 October. In the course of this meeting, both Paris and Berlin, (no without some ulterior motives on either side) displayed their support for Ankara’s application. Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged from this, visibly satisfied by his one hour meeting with the French President and the German Chancellor.
Coming to take part in the signing of the order for 36 Airbuses by Turkish Airlines, Mr. Erdogan declared that “Turkey’s membership of the European Union has ceased to be an ambiguous process for the E.U. and has taken an irreversible direction”.
During a press conference at the close of the Franco-German summit, the German Chancellor stressed “We are in complete agreement with the President (Chirac) on this point”. “My dearest wish is that we should arrive, the end of this process, which will last ten or fifteen years, at a possibility for membership. This is in the interest of European” confirmed Jacques Chirac. “We are committing ourselves to this process in the hope and determination that it should end the way we hope”.
While the decision to open negotiations with Ankara — “in or around 2005” — will, according to Jacques Chirac “probably” be taken by the 25 during the Brussels summit on 17 December. He said he was personally “in favour of the Commissions conclusions” which were for the opening of discussions. Jacques Chirac recalled that the French would be consulted by referendum, but that, in ten or fifteen years time, the problem “will give rise to less violent feelings”. “The problem must be understood in eventually”, but Turkey’s membership “is in the interest of Europe, in the interest of Turkey and in the interest of peace and democracy in the region and the world”.
There remains the symbol of France and Germany side by side to support Germany, on the eve of the decisive European summit in Brussels. François Bayrou, President of the UDF (a rival Right-wing French party) and a fervent opponent of Turkey’s membership, immediately accused Jacques Chirac of “steamrollering all discussion and imposing a solution that in no way corresponds with the wishes of the majority of French people and the idea they have of Europe”.
Faced with the sharp reactions provoked by his ostensible support got Turkey’s application to join, the Head of State recalled, as soon as he returned to Pars the next day, that the outcome of the negotiations with Turkey “cannot be taken for granted in advance”. François Hollande accused the Heads of State of “double talk” and demanded “clarification”. “This double talk, double discourse, is a phoney skill” deplored the first Secretary of the Socialist Party “at some time or other the truth must be told”.
Jacques Chirac thus needed to clarify his position during the Ministerial Council on 27 October. If the European Council decides, on 17 December, to open negotiations, Jacques Chirac evoked “three hypotheses”: either Turkey joins at the end of the process, or “the negotiations fail and the process is broken off”. In the third “hypothesis”, “the negotiations progress but come up against essential and fundamental problems”. In this case, it would be necessary, “by joint agreement”, to find “a solution that would allow the creation, with Turkey, of a strong bond that would not be full membership”. In other words, a privileged partnership with the European Union.
On 31 October, the trial of fifteen Kurds, arrested during the bloody clashes in Northern Syria last March, continued before the State Security Court, indicated Mr. Anouar Bounni.
The Kurds, whose trial began last August, are accused of “acts of sabotage” and of “incitement to sedition, to religious dissentions and civil war”. Their next hearing was set for 28 November, according to Mr. Bounni.
They were arrested during the clashes, in the northern regions of Syria, between Kurds, police and Arab tribes last March. Clashes that resulted in 40 deaths, according to Kurdish sources — or 25 according to official Syrian figures.
Furthermore, the trial of two Syrian students, Mohammad Bachir Arab and Mouhannad Debes, studying medicine and civil engineering respectively, are accused of having “published false information with the aim of undermining public order” is taking place on the same day and before the same Emergency Regime court, against whose verdicts there is no appeal.
The two students, who are also accused of being “hostile to the aims of the revolution”, face life imprisonment, indicated Mr. Bounni, who said that their next hearing would be on 21 November.
The two young men were arrested in a cafe near the Damascus University student hostel on 24 April, together with nine of their comrades. Their friends were released on 5 May. These arrests followed a sit in At Aleppo (North Syria) in protest at an official decree. This decree put an end to the automatic right to civil service jobs for civil engineering graduates, who had previously been sure of being immediately employed in the public sector.
Outside the courthouse, several hundreds of people, surrounded by police, had assembled in solidarity with the Kurds and the two students. The crowd, composed of members of the detainees families, of members of Kurdish parties and of human rights activists, applauded the detainees as they appeared. Several diplomats, stationed in Damascus, were in the crowd, particularly European, American and Canadian.
In a statement to AFP, Mr. Bounni called for “the abrogation of the emergency legislation in Syria and the release of all political prisoners”. Moreover, on 10 October, a Kurdish student, Massud Hamed, was sentenced to three-year jail for having published photos of a demonstration in Damascus over the Internet, stated Mr. Bounni. Massud Hamed was charged by the State Security Court of “belonging to a secret organisation” and of having “tried to bring a part of Syrian territory under the jurisdiction of another country” — a charge “systematically” levelled at Kurds, stressed Mr. Bounni.
Hamed, a second year student in the Faculty of Journalism, was arrested in July 2003 after having published, on internet, photos of a sit in organised in June 2003 by some Kurdish parties, according to the lawyer.
“This verdict shows that the Syrian authorities are pursuing their policy of repression and of forbidding free exchange of information, which constitutes a violation of the most elementary human rights” according to Mr. Bounni. Last June and July, four Internet users were sentenced to imprisonment by the same Court for “publishing lying information" over Internet.
On 5 October, hundreds of Kurds rallied near the Council of Ministers in Damascus to demand that the government restore them their Syrian nationality, which has been withdrawn from them for over four decades. The demonstration took place to mark the 42nd anniversary of census carried our in 1962 at Hassake (North-East Syria) following which Syrian nationality was withdrawn from about 200,000 Kurds living in this Syrian province, indicated a communiqué signed by the General Secretary of the Progressive Democratic Kurdish Party, Aziz Dawud.
The Kurdish population of Syria is about 1.5 million, or about 9% of the country’s population. They are essentially settled in the North, along the Turkish and Iraqi borders.
On 26 October, Prince Charles, the heir of the British crown, while on a three-day visit to Turkey, wound up his journey by visiting the historic and religious sites of the ancient city of Mardin, in Turkish Kurdistan. The Prince of Wales’ visit to Turkey was part of a nine-day tour that had already taken him to Italy and Jordan.
Surrounded by a substantial security cordon, the Prince of Wales first visited the Kasimiye Madrassa, a centre of religious teaching founded in the 15th Century, before visiting the Syriac Orthodox Kirklar Church (5th Century) and the Latifiye Mosque (14th Century). Prince Charles also visited the Deyrulzafaran Monastery, build in the 5th Century, which for several centuries housed the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate, one of the oldest Churches in the world.
The multi-ethnic city of Mardin, build about 7,000 years ago on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Mesopotamian plain, has not succeeded, despite its efforts, at being included on UNESCO’s world heritage list.
On 25 October, hundreds of Kurds demonstrated in the oil producing city of Kirkuk to demand its inclusion in Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to boycott the January elections of they could not recover their properties, confiscated by the Arabs. “This demonstration is a message addressed to those who are seeking to marginalise the Kurds and refuse them their rights” declared, in the course of the demonstration, a member of the Political Committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is one of the two main Iraqi Kurdish organisations and is led by Massud Barzani.
On 2 October, some Kurds had demonstrated in Kirkuk, which was largely Arabised by the fallen Saddam Hussein regime, to demand a referendum on the future of Kurdistan and the placing of Kirkuk under its jurisdiction.
The Kurds evoke the Arabisation policy conducted by the Saddam Hussein regime in Kirkuk, which culminated in the so-called Anafal operation, which included displacing the inhabitants of a thousand Kurdish villages in the region to South Iraq. For the Turkomen and Arabs, the issue is appear different and representatives of both communities are worried at the way many Kurds are settling in the city and the surrounding province of Taamim, which are not included in the Kurdish autonomous region. The ethnic tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen began to sharpen with the approach of the January elections. The three communities in the city took advantage of a recent encounter with Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary, who briefly visited the city, to each argue its case. “Kirkuk is Kurdish and we cannot go back on this” stressed Kemal Kirkuki, the local KDP leader. “Our people cannot accept the alteration of this historical fact as Saddam Hussein tried to do by emptying Kirkuk of its Kurdish population and replacing them by Arabs” he stated.
“The city is undergoing a systematic Kurdisation campaign waged by the Kurdish parties” declared indignantly Faruk Abdallah Abdelrahman, the President of the Turcoman Front, a Party backed and financed by Turkey. “Our position is that Kirkuk must be the town of all the ethnic groups and all the religions, even if its Turcoman character is shown by the citadel, its old barracks and its architecture” he stated. The Turcomen, in fact, make up about 18% of the population.
The Sunni Arab tribal chief, Hassan Mizher al-Assi, for his part accuses “the Kurdish parties of having pushed 100,000 members of that community to settling in the province, with American connivance, on the pretext that they had been driven away from their lands by the old regime”.
The leader of those displaced from the province, Hassib Rojbeyani, insists on the right of the Kurds to return to their region of origin and the fact that 16,000 families have returned, which he claims is barely a third of those driven out by the old regime.
Mr. Straw, who arrived in Ankara on 6 October from Iraqi Kurdistan, where he had also had discussions with the principal Kurdish leaders, admitted that the situation was complex while inviting the protagonists to resolve their differences by negotiation. “We understand that the problem over Kirkuk is very difficult, but it must be settled by negotiations” he declared.
On 5 October, Iran swept aside the anxieties aroused by its nuclear and ballistic activity by taking the first step towards recommencing the enrichment of uranium and, on the same day, announcing that its ballistic missiles now had a range of 2000 Km. Former Iranian President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who remains a central figure in the Iranian regime, revealed for the first time that Iran had increased the range of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 Km. providing a further worry for the international community and Israel.
“We have, today, the power to launch our missiles up to 2,000 Km distant and experts know that once a country has reached this stage, all the rest are accessible” declared the former president as quoted by the official news agency Irna.
On 11 August Iran tested an optimised version of its conventional Shahab -3 missile. Its range till then had been figured at between 1,300 and 1,700 Km according to Iranian sources. However, after 11 August, Israeli sources considered that it could now reach up to 2,000 Km.
Soon after, the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission adopted a proposal for a Bill to force the government to resume uranium enrichment, in defiance of requests by the international community.
“The government is obliged, basing itself on the scientists, research workers and the country’s means, and with due regard to the commitments assumed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the countries that possess this technology, to act so that the country may master civilian nuclear technology” that is uranium enrichment, states the resolution, according to Kazem Jalali, spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Commission.
Should such a Bill be adopted by Parliament and then applied, it would inevitably result in the Iranian case being placed before the UN Security Council. However, no date has yet been set for placing this Bull before Parliament. According to some analysts, Teheran wants, in this way, to stress its determination not to give way before international pressure and to raise the stakes in the nuclear issue.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ghola-Ali Hadad-Adel and his two Deputies, Mohammad Reza Bahonnar and Mohammad Hossein Abutorabi, and all the other big names of the conservative majority are amongst the 235 Members of parliament (out of a total of 290) who have signed the proposal.
Nevertheless, the final adoption of such a Law is subject to many constraints, strategic and legislative. It must be put to the vote at a plenary session of the conservative dominated parliament. It must then pass through the screening procedure of the control institutions. And decisions on such crucial questions as nuclear policy are taken at the highest levels of authority, in a very restricted circle.
The enriching of uranium is a major preoccupation of the international community, fearful lest the technology for producing fuel for future nuclear power stations be diverted into making atomic weapons.
Iran accepted, in October 2003, by agreement with three European powers (Germany, France and Great Britain) to suspend its enrichment activity as an act of good faith. But the International Atomic Energy Agency has been alarmed since then by what it considers doubts about the commitments undertaken by Teheran.
The IAEA has just urged Teheran to suspend “immediately" all its enrichment activities, including the preliminary stages such as building centrifuges and the production of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), of which Teheran has announced it has recommenced, arguing that they do not constitute enrichment.
On the initiative of the three European powers, the IAEA has given Iran till 25 November to clear all doubts about the nature of its activities. It is reserving its decisions for the next session in November. But it could inform the Security Council if it considers that Iran has not met its requirements.
On 28 October, the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty of conducting an ineffective enquiry into the murder of a man in 1998, during a clash between security forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The clash took place on 28 November at the entrance to the village of Narlica, in the Diyarbekir region, where the security forces had set up an ambush, the Court indicated in its ruling.
The man, mortally wounded by bullets, Izettin Zengin, had at first been described as a terrorist by the legal authorities even before the preliminary investigation had concluded that he had “probably” been killed by fire from the PKK “terrorists”.
The European Court, to which Izettin Zengin’s widow had appealed, found that, although a preliminary investigation had been opened, the Turkish legal authorities had not ordered any ballistic examination, nor any autopsy of the body, that they had not heard the petitioner or any members of her family or the villagers. “The Turkish State cannot be considered to have conducted an effective criminal investigation”, stressed the Court, concluding thereby a breach of Article 2 (Right to life) of the European Human Rights Convention “with regard to the character of the investigation conducted” and of Article 13 (Right to effective recourse).
It granted 12.000 euros damages to Mrs. Zengin, who also alleged that her husband had been killed by the security forces. The Court did not accept this allegation, considering that this “conclusion (…) was more a matter of hypothesis or speculation rather than based in any reliable clues”.
Furthermore, on 26 October, Turkey was found guilty by the European Human Rights Court of torture inflicted, in May 1998, on a man accused of being close to the former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (renamed Kongra-Gel). On 17 May, Abdurrahman Celik and Kasim Imret were arrested by the Turkish authorities who suspected them or being PKK messengers, a charge from which they were subsequently acquitted.
According to their statements, during their detention they were subjected to electric shocks to various parts of their bodies, and particularly to their sexual organs. They had also been beaten, deprived of food and water, placed in isolation, threatened with death and insulted.
The European Court considered “unconvincing” the Ankara’s version, namely that Mr. Celik had fallen, and considered that the injuries described by the petitioner (a 3 cm bruising under the eye, lesions at the groin) “resulted from treatment for which the Turkish government was responsible”. It thus fount Turkey guilty of violation of Article 3 (against torture or inhuman treatment) of the European Convention of Human Rights.
On the other hand, with regard to the second petitioner, the judges of the European Court, seeing that Mr. Imret had not provided any indications to confirm his allegations, granted Turkey the benefit of the doubt and considered that there was no breach of Article 3.
The Court, moreover, considered that the Turkish authorities had failed rapidly to undertake proceedings against the policemen implicated, found Turkey guilty of Article 13 (right to effective recourse) in the case of both men. Turkey must pay 10.000 euros to Mr. Celik and 5,000 to Mr. Imret in damages.
Furthermore, on 19 October, the Court found in favour of six Kurdish Trade Unionists, sentenced to prison with suspended sentences for having issued a press communiqué criticising Ankara’s policy in Kurdistan.
The European judges considered that the ten months’ suspended sentence of the petitioners, by the Diyarbekir State Security Court on 16 November 1995, was in contravention of their freedom of expression, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, the Court considered that the trial of the Trade Unionist had not been equitable in view of the presence of an Army judge on the Bench of the State Security Court.
The petitioners had been sentenced for having sharply criticised the Turkish government of the day, which it accused of not observing basic civic rights and of having “identified itself with a logic of extermination”. “If certain particularly biting passages of the press communiqué paint a most negative picture of the government’s policy regarding its fight against terrorism and thus give the account a hostile connotation, they do not, for all that, urge the use of violence, nor of armed resistance, nor of any uprising — it is thus not a discourse of hatred” the Court pointed out, sentencing Turkey to pay the petitioners 2,000 to 5,000 euros damages.
On 18 October, on the eve of a private visit to Paris of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) drew up an equivocal assessment of the state of press freedom in Turkey.
Despite the progress achieved at the legislative level over the last two years with the aim of preparing for membership of the European Union, any subjects regarding the Army and the Kurdish question remain subjected to strong pressures stressed this Paris-based organisation for the defence of press freedom.
The new press law adopted in June 2004 officially ended the most repressive penalties against the press, such as the suspension of incriminated media, pointed out RSF
However, according to RSF, the freedom of initiative left to the Turkish Audiovisual High Council (RTUK) regarding sanctions remains an obstacle to observance of the new legislation.
The new Penal Code, recently adopted, grants more press freedom, but it nevertheless provides prison sentences for “propaganda for an illegal organisation or its objectives”, the penalties being even greater if the offence is committed by means of the press.
The freedom of interpretation by judges in such cases can run counter to the freedom of expression regarding “sensitive” subjects, the organisation points out. It also stresses that several Turkish journalists have paid the price or are paying the price for laws that that still do not meet UE standards of press freedom.
While welcoming the authorisation to broadcast in the Kurdish language, RSF deplores the arbitrary practices of the RTUK and the detention of many journalists, not only pro-Kurdish but also islamist and, especially, far left.
Furthermore, on 5 October a Turkish journalist, on the daily paper Hurriyet, was arrested and taken for questioning to the Istanbul anti-terrorist police premises because of a recent interview on the PKK. Seabati Karakurt, a photographer on the staff of Hurriyet (whose offices are in Istanbul) was arrested for questioning in his home by a dozen policemen.
The journalist had had talks, published on 10 October, with Murat Karayilan, military chief of the ex-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (renamed Kongra-Gel) in the mountains of Northern Iraq. In his photographic report, which was spread over two pages, the journalist particularly raised “the transformation” within the organisation, described as “terrorist” by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Photos showed smiling women in uniform, with a relaxed air. One of them also had a guitar on her shoulder. The report stirred up considerable feeling in Turkish public opinion.
The Turkish Press Council sharply condemned the police intrusion into the journalists flat, saying it ran contrary to Turkey’s European aspirations.
“The stranger in the town” was the theme of the third Foreign Cultures Week, which took place in Paris from 27 September to 3 October 2004. For a whole week foreign people and their cultural institutions invited Parisians to come and meet them, to discover foreign cultures by visiting the 35 foreign cultural centres and institutes in Paris — including the Paris Kurdish Institute.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of the great Kurdish film director, Yilmaz Güney, the Kurdish Institute, of which he was one of the founders, paid him tribute by offering two celebratory events: an in memoriam Rally at his grave in the famous Père Lachaise cemetery on 9 September 2004 at 2.00 pm, then a retrospective of his films from 29 September to 12 October, at the Archipel Cinema in Paris. The retrospective covered the following films: Sayyit Han, Umut (Hope), Agit (Elegy), Arkadas (The Friend), Düsman (The Enemy), Sürü (The Herd), Yol, that won the Golden Palm at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, Endise (Anxiety), Aç Kurtlar (The ravenous wolves), Zavallilar (The Unfortunate).
In the context of this Foreign Cultures Week, an exhibition by Kurdish painters on the theme of “The stranger in the town” was also organised from 28 September to 9 October at the Paris Kurdish Institute’s premises. Throughout the two weeks of this exhibition, many visitors, regulars and newcomers, were received at the Institute. Kurds also visited many of the other Centres to take advantage of the very rich programme, which was extensively reported by the review Zurban, by the radio and the written press.
On 20 October, Egyptian and American leaders announced that the International Conference on Iraq would take place on the 22nd and 23rd of November next, at Sharm-esh-Sheikh, an Egyptian seaside resort on the Red Sea. The Assistant Secretary of State, William Burns, who was received by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, made the point that the central theme of this conference would be the stabilisation of the country. “This is an opportunity to help the Iraqis and the Iraqi government to organise and to guarantee a political process in Iraq” explained Mr. Burns, after his talks with the Egyptian Rais.
He added that this meeting would only be open to representatives of the interim Iraqi government and to the opponents of the present pro-American administration. “It is a matter of providing a message of support for the present inter-Iraqi political process but, in my view, this meeting primarily concerns the government’s representatives” the American diplomat said. In Baghdad, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari confirmed that the opposition movements “will not take part in this conference because the Iraqi government (…) is, at this time, the sovereign representative of Iraq”. The Baghdad government will ask the participating countries to help in improving security in the country and to prepare the elections which are due to take place by January, stated leading officials. “We will ask those taking part in the conference for their assistance and cooperation in helping us to build the Iraqi army as well as our potential in security matters” declared Mr. Zebari. “We will ask the participating countries to support the electoral process, to help the government and the Iraqi people guarantee a favourable and positive political climate and to encourage all Iraqi parties to take part in this electoral process” added Mr. Zebari, making the point that the government still hope the elections would be held throughout the country by the end of January 2005.
He insisted that the more the government was helped in setting up its own security forces, the sooner the forces of the international coalition would be able to leave the country.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister finally exhorted the United Nations to strengthen their presence in Iraq and commit themselves to a grater extent in helping organise the elections.
To make this meeting a success the French government had hoped for “as broad a representation of Iraqi forces as possible” and that “the circle of participants” be widened to the maximum “to include in it all those who reject violence”. The French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, raise, on 25 October, the idea of an “inter-Iraqi” meeting, including those Iraqi groups prepared to renounce violence, which could coincide or follow the International Conference on Iraq. Speaking after an informal meeting with his European and North African opposite numbers, in the context of the Mediterranean Forum, Michel Barnier considered that the Sharm esh-Sheikh conference was in danger of failing in its object, namely to help Iraq emerge from the "black hole” of violence.
The Sharm esh-Sheikh conference is due to bring together representatives of Iraq’s neighbouring countries, the G8, China, the United Nations, the Arab League, the Islamic Conference Organisation and the European Union.
On 20 October, a German Government spokesman indicated that the German government was going to check on some information from a former East German officer that German tanks had been deployed in the Kurdish region of Turkey, in violation of a 1994 Treaty.
The spokesman, however, added at a press conference, that they had, so far, “no knowledge” of any such use of German tanks by the Turkish gendarmerie, as had been reported on 19 October by the ZDF public TV network, quoting a military historian and former leader of a tank company of the GDR’s National People’s Army (NVA), Jeorg Siegert. According to the Frontal 21 broadcast, these former GDR tanks had been deployed in Sirnak province. Mr. Siegert stated having formally recognised these vehicles by their bodywork when he saw a film secretly taken in the last few days. ZDF points out that Kurds had once again been expelled from their villages in the Sirnak region.
For his part, the government spokesman, Bela Anda, recalled that “the terms of the treaty excluded” any such use, while stressing that “the German government has no information that such has been the case. It is clear that these criticisms are taken seriously and that we will check what was reported” during this televised broadcast, he added. The 1994 treaty authorised the delivery of these tanks, intended for national defence, on condition that they were not to be used in the Kurdish populated border regions.
Mr. Anda refused to speculate on any consequences that confirmation of such use of German tanks, in violation of agreements, might have. He recalled that “no request had been submitted” to Germany for delivery of Leopold II tanks, as had been reported in the German press.
Turkey has long expressed its interest in the delivery of several hundreds of Leopold II tanks, which form part of the present weaponry of the German Army.
On 3 October, the U.S.-led Multinational Force announced it had ceded control of civil and reconstruction matters in the Kurdish region of Irbil to the South Korean contingent. “As from 1 October, 2,500 soldiers of the Republic of Korea have been in charge (…) of operations of stabilising civil affairs in Irbil province” the Force’s communiqué indicated.
On 22 September, South Korea announced that it had increased its contingent in Iraq to 2,500 soldiers, to which a further 800 would be added in November, making it the third largest force after the Americans and British.
Seoul already had 600 men in Iraq, members of the engineering and medical corps. In total, the South Koreans troops will reach 3,600 in November, thus dethroning Italy from third place in the multinational force.
The South Korean contingent based in Irbil is due to begin its mission of rehabilitation and reconstruction, strictly limited to these areas by the South Korean Parliament.
On 23 October, the Irbil police announced the murder by shooting of the city’s Police Chief, Colonel Taha Ahmad Omar, as he came out of a mosque in the city after the dawn prayer. This is one of the rare events to take place in the Kurdish region, spared the violence shaking the rest of the country.
Jeish Ansar al-Sunna, a group liked to the Al-Qaida terrorist organisation, has claimed responsibility for the assassination in a communiqué published on its Internet site. This terrorist group, which claims to be an alliance of several tiny “jihadist” islamist groups, has several times displayed, on its Internet site, videos showing the execution of foreign hostages and of Iraqis “collaborating” with the American forces.
On 14 October, two journalists were killed as they left their homes, respectively in Baghdad and in Mossul, in Northern Iraq, announced Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) in a communiqué.
According to this Press freedom defence organisation, Dina Mohammed Hassan, a journalist on the Al-Hurriya (Freedom) Televison station was shot down as she left her house, in the Al-Adhamiya quarter of the capital, to go to her office. Al-Hurriya is an Arabic language TV network of Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
According to RSF, Karam Hussein, a photographer who has been working for the last three months for the EPA photographic press agency, was also shot down in from of his home in Mossul by four armed men, who then fled. He had previously worked for the American press agency Associated Press.
With this double assassination “at least 29 journalist and 15 media assistants have been killed since the outbreak of war in Iraq in March 2003” points out RSF.
On 13 October, the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, that UNO was going to use $30 million drawn from the revenues of the “Food for Oil” Programme to investigate into accusations of corruption inside the programme. In a letter to the Security Council, Kofi Annan explained that he had decided to use the money of an account set aside to cover the costs of the investigations to the end of 2005.
The 191 countries of the United Nations contribute, in varying degrees, to the UN annual budget, which amounts to about $1.4 billion. However, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, the budget, already overloaded, cannot absorb the cost of this investigation.
Kofi Annan has thus decided to draw on the “Food for Oil” programme, whose budget is at present $300 million to finance the investigation. He explained that he had warned the Iraqi government.
The “Food for Oil” programme enabled Iraq, from December 1996 to November 2003, to sell unrestricted quantities of oil on condition that the money served essentially to buy humanitarian supplies and pay reparations to the victims of the 1991 Gulf War.
In January, the Iraqi daily “Al-Mada¿ published a list of about 270 people — former government and UNO leaders, activists and journalists — who had profited from the Iraqi oil sales through this programme. Recently, a report by the US arms inspectors accused the Iraqi government f having manipulated the programme.
Clashes have multiplied since the PKK put an end to its unilateral cease-fire at the end of last June. This cease-fire had followed the capture of its chief, Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.
A member of the Turkish security forces was killed and three others wounded in the evening of 27 October, in the course of clashes with Kurdish fighters in Bingol province, according to local sources. According to the police, a PKK group attacked a police station in the rural region of Genc. The semi-official Anatolia Press agency states, for its part, that the PKK fighters attacked a Turkish security forces patrol with grenades and large bore weapons.
Elsewhere, two members of the Turkish security forces were killed during clashes with the PKK in the night of 23 October in Dersim province. According to information given to the Anatolia Press agency by the governor of Tunceli’s services, the two victims were killed during a rocket attack on an Army unit by PKK fighters. The agency pointed out that mopping up operations, with air support, were continuing to capture the “terrorists”. On 2 October, a Turkish soldier was killed and three others wounded in the course of a clash with the PKK in the same province. The clashes had broken out during a security operation with air support, near the rural Kutuderesi region.
The next day, two Turkish soldiers were killed and four others wounded by the explosion of a remote controlled mine as their vehicle passed, in Doyarbekir province, according to regional security sources. The soldiers were carrying out a routine patrol in a rural area near the town of Dicle, near the Iraqi border, when the mine exploded.
On the same day, in Batman province, Kurdish fighters sabotaged an oil pipeline. According to the Anatolia Press agency, the PKK fighters exploded a delayed action bomb, causing a fire that was brought under control. Some 6,000 barrels of oil were lost in the ground, according to the Turkish Oil Company (TPAO). Elsewhere, on 9 October, a Turkish non-commissioned officer was killed and three other soldiers wounded by the explosion of a mine, placed in the road. The vehicle that was blown up by the mine was transporting soldiers returning from a patrol mission, the local governor, Haluk Imfa, stated. The authorities attribute the mine to members of the PKK.
On 23 October, thirteen Kurdish asylum seekers were finally allowed to land in Sicily, after being tossed about between Italy and Malta, at the end of a fifteen-day odyssey across the Mediterranean hidden in a German cargo boat.
The spokesman in Italy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Laura Boldrini, declared, “They left on 3 October. They at first spent a week closed up in a steel container and the in a 7 square metre cabin without ventilation or water”.
The Italian police, who had found them hidden in a ship’s container on 9 October, in the course of an inspection at the Calabrian port of Goia Tauro, had refused them entry and obliged the ship on which they were to put out to sea again.
Driven away by Italy, the three illegal immigrants, eleven men and two adolescents of Turkish origin, were then refused entry by the Maltese authorities. It needed the High Commission for Refugees and the ships owner to issue an appeal before the situation, which had become “extremely tense”, one of the refugees having tried to kill himself, was resolved. “Our representative verbally put the case to the Italian authorities in Malta and Genoa” pointed our Mrs. Boldrini. “The German owner of the ship, Matthias Dabelstein for his part assumed the responsibility for not returning to Turkey and remaining in international waters” she added.
“The objective was achieved — to allow these people to ask for asylum. Italy has accepted its international obligations, which provide that once a ship enters the territorial waters, of a member State of the European Union, the latter accepts responsibility for its occupants” she continued.
Italy, faced with the arrival of many illegal immigrants by sea, has been tempted to use forcible means of dissuading certain immigrants from disembarking secretly. It has also proceeded, since early October, to a series of immediate expulsions by charted planes to Lydia. It was with very ill grace that they accepted to allow 37 African boat people to disembark in July, who had been rescued at sea by the German humanitarian association Cap Anamur and sent at first to Malta. These latter have nearly all be sent back by plane to Ghana or Nigeria.