On 17 February the Election Commission validated the results of the historic 30 January poll in Iraq, confirming the clear victory of the Shiite list, backed by the clergy of that majority community, and the second place of the Kurdistan Alliance list. On 13 February, the Iraqi interim government announced that, henceforth, January the 30th would be a public holiday to commemorate the first multi-party elections in the country for half a century. The Baghdad newspapers, appearing on 2 February for the first time since the elections, unanimously welcomed the smooth running of the elections and the massive turnout of the Iraqis, in the style of the daily Al-Sabah al-Jadid (The New Morning) which wrote “The world pays tribute to the Iraqis for their courage and the blood they have spilt”.
With a turnout that reached 58.3% (8,456,266 votes cast out of 14.2 million registered) the Shiite Bloc list won the majority of seats in Parliament, securing 140 of the 275 seats with 48.1% of the votes. It will thus have 54% of the seats in Parliament.
The Kurdistan Alliance list won 25.7% of the votes. Essentially formed by the two principle Kurdish organisations. Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as well as some Christian organisations, it will have 75 seats in the national Assembly, or 27.2% of the seats. The Alliance list also secured 89.5% of the votes in the election of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. Furthermore, the Kurdistan Islamic Group list announced, on 22 February, that its two members of Parliament would join the Kurdistan Alliance to form a parliamentary bloc of 77 Members of Parliament in the new Iraqi assembly. “This means that we will support the Kurdistan Alliance’s demands regarding the federal system and the inclusion of Kirkuk with the other regions, thus securing an equitable share of the country’s natural resources” declared the Islamic Group’s spokesman, referring to the oil revenues. However he added that his movement, contrary to its new allies, would continue to be opposed the separation of the State and religion.
Finally, the list formed by the outgoing secularist Shiite Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, came third with 13.8% of the votes. It will have 40 M.P.s or 14.5% of the seats.
The Sunni Arabs, who in the main did not take part in the voting, will be poorly represented in the Iraqi National Assembly. The list presented by the outgoing Iraqi President, Ghazi al Yawar, only secured 150,000 votes, or 1.8%. This will be the principle Sunni Arab party represented in the Assembly, with 5 seats. The secular party, led by the former Sunni Arab statesmen Adnan Pashashi did not secure enough votes to secure representation in Parliament. In the Sunni province of Anbar, reputed to be a Baathist stronghold, only 2% (3,803 people) went to the polls. In Salahaddin province, with a strong Sunni Arab majority, 29% of the registered voters took part in the voting. In Ninawa Province, with a mixed Suni Arab and Kurdish population, only 17% voted — largely because of logistic problems and the negligence of the local Election Commission, infiltrated by Baathists, which had prevented over 200,000 Kurdish and thousands of Christian electors from voting.
For its part, the Turcoman Front, supported and financed by Turkey, secured 3 seats, as many as that of the Independent National Cadres and Elites list (close to the radical Shiite chief, Moqtada Sadr. The Communists of the People’s Union list secured 2 seats, as did the Kurdistan Islamic Group and the Organisation for Islamic Action in Iraq Central Directorate (Shiite). Abed Faisal Ahmed’s National Democratic Alliance, the Mesopotamia National List (Christian) and the Sunni Arab Mishaan al-Juburi’s Movement for Reconciliation and Liberation each secured one seat.
When validating the results, the president of the Election Commission, Abdel Hussein al-Hindawi thanked the electors and all the parties that had helped in holding the country’s first multi-party election in fifty years and described the elections as “historic”. The principal task of the new Parliament will be to draw up a definitive Constitution and to prepare for the General Elections planned for December 2005.
The Shiite list will have to ally itself with others to secure the vote of two thirds needed to elect the President and two Vice-Presidents who must, in turn, unanimously appoint the Prime Minister.
Carlos Valenzuela, Chief UN Election Adviser, considered that “the elections were not perfect. They were fated not to be — but they were extremely successful”. The outgoing Vice-President, the Shiite Ibrahim Jaafari, who is the victorious list’s candidate for the position of head of the new government, declared that “the important question is not who will become Prime Minister but what he will do for the country”. “Our society, our country, need efficiency, need someone able to (restore) the most important matters: security and services” he added.
Since the number of votes cast was 8,456,266 voting was by completely proportional representation, 39,750 votes were needed to secure a seat in the new National Assembly. Only twelve of the 111 lists were able to cross this threshold.
Here are the twelve lists that will be represented in the 275-seat Iraqi National Assembly following these elections:
The Unified Iraqi Alliance, sponsored by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani: 4,075,291votes, 48.1%, 140 seats
The Kurdistan Alliance, formed by the two main Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK: 2,175,551 votes, 25.7%, 75 seats
The list of Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, (Secular Shiite): 1,168,943 votes, 13.8%, 40 seats.
The list of interim President, Ghazi al-Yawar, Sunni Arab notables: 150,680 votes, 1.7%, 5 seats
The Turcoman Front Alliance list: 3 seats
The National Independent Cadres and Elites list (close to radical Shiite chieftain Moqtada Sadr) 3 seats
The People’s Union list (Communist): 2 seats
The Kurdistan Islamic Group: 2 seats
The Organisation for Islamic Action in Iraq – Central Directorate (Shiite): 2 seats
Abed Faisal Ahmed’s National Democratic Alliance: 1 seat
The Mesopotamia National List (Christian): 1 seat
Mishaan al-Juburi’s Reconciliation and Liberation Movement (Sunni Arab): 1 seat
The Iraqi elections have aroused many reactions abroad, mostly favourable. On 16 February, the UN Security Council congratulated the Iraqi people on the success of the elections and encouraged the international community to provide advisors and technical support for UN efforts in Iraq. In a communiqué, the Council saluted the Iraqi people for having “carried out this step to exercise their right freely to determine their political future”. Encouraging the Iraqi people to continue on this path, the communiqué re-iterated the world organisation’s support for a federal, democratic, pluralist and united Iraq, fully observing human rights. Stressing the importance of the widest possible participation of all the components of Iraqi society in the political process, the Council underlined the necessity for sustained political efforts to ensure that the transition be as complete, participative and transparent as possible.
However, several of Iraq’s neighbours, where Sunni Arabs have been dominant are worried at the emergence of a Shiite power in Baghdad, as a result of the elections, fearing this might give ideas to their own Shiite communities and strengthen links between Iraq and Iran. Indeed, these Arab countries fear that an alliance between a future Iraqi government and Iraq, a non-Arab country governed by Shiites might profoundly change the situation in a region that the Sunnis have dominated for centuries. King Abdullah II of Jordan recently provoked the anger of Teheran by declaring that Iran was seeking to create a `Shiite crescent” in the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria and the Lebanon. The monarch later made the point that he was not opposed to Shiites, but his remarks do illustrate some barely veiled anxieties.
On 15 February, the Washington Post reported that US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had sent a team of top ranking advisors to Iraq for a secret mission, which consisted of evaluating the post-election situation in that country. The objective of this mission was to “examine the role of the United States at this politically pivotal moment” in the Iraqi transition, according to this report. The US mission was led by Richard H. Jones, former US Ambassador to Kuwait, the Lebanon and Kazakhstan and assistant to the former US Civil Governor in Iraq for the first 14 months of the American occupation, until the transfer of sovereignty last June. Mr. Jones should become the special US coordinator, reporting directly to Mrs. Rice the paper wrote, citing leading US officials. This nomination shows that Mrs. Rice wishes to assume much closer responsibility in the management of policy in Iraq for the coming year, which will be a decisive one.
The Kurds of Iraq will propose that the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Jalal Talabani be President of the country declared the Interim deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh on the American TV network CNN on 13 February. “The Kurdistan Alliance list will nominate Jalal Talabani for the position of President. We think that he has the qualities and general respect necessary for this position and we are working with other groups in parliament (…) to this end” declared Mr. Saleh. “If a Kurd acceded to the post of President of Iraq, this would constitute an affirmation that, in the new Iraq that we want, the Kurds are no longer second class citizens” he added. Mr. Saleh made the point that he expected a Shiite would become Prime Minister. But he added that “whoever be the person chosen, we will work with him, on the basis of the political options and guarantees that must be given, that we will remain faithful to the ideals of democracy, that we will work on the constitutional process and that we commit ourselves to creating a State of Law and Justice in Iraq”.
Already, on 3 February, Jalal Talabani had openly put himself forward as candidate for either the position of President or Prime Minister. “I am the candidate of the democratic Kurdish list for one of the two sovereign posts (of President or Prime Minister)”he had said after a meeting with Massud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Barham Saleh in Salaheddin.
For his part, Massud Barzani said he was candidate for the Presidency of the Autonomous Region, formed of the PUK-controlled Province of Suleimaniah, and the KDP-controlled Provinces of Irbil and Dohuk. “We have put forward the candidature of Mr. Barzani for the position of President of the Kurdish Region” declared Mr. Talabani, adding that Nechirvan Barzani would be charged with the task of forming a government for the Region in which PUK and KDP would take part. He furthermore stressed that “the question of including Kirkuk to Kurdistan will be crucial in the negotiations for concluding any alliance with another political force”.
The Sunni Arab leaders’ first reactions did not express undue alarm at these announcements, considering that any political figure had the right to stand as candidate for the State’s key positions. “Any person who has won the elections can stands as candidate, and Mr. Talabani is an important activist who led the Government Council (set up by the Americans just after the fall of the old regime) and has the necessary experience” remarked the Minister for Industry, Hajem al-Husseini. This election candidate on the list presented by the outgoing President Ghazi al-Yawar, another Sunni Arab, considered that the Kurdish candidates were not the sort of people to marginalise still further his community. “It is too early to speak, because discussions have still to take place, and this depends on the composition of the government” he added, stressing that “if the composition is homogenous, no one will be marginalised”.
After a meeting with Jalal Talabani on 12 February, the outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, stated that he supported the wish of the Kurdish leaders to accede to presidential positions. “Starting from the principle of the equality of all Iraqis, we support the wish of Kurds to accede to any positions (of power) in Iraq” declared Mr. Allawi after meeting the PUK leader in Suleimaniah. Mr. Allawi, who was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin, had also met Massud Barzani on 10 February in Irbil, where the latter had expressed himself against any monopolisation of power by any one Iraqi community.
Moreover, on 28 February, Mohsen Abdel Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country’s main Sunni Arab organisation, declared his support for Jalal Talabani’s presidential candidature. “We support the candidature of Mr. Talabani for the position of President of the Republic” Mr. Abdel Hamid stated before the Press, fallowing a meeting with Jalal Talabani at Qala Cholan, 45 Km North of Suleimaniah the day before. Mr. Abdel Hamid, whose party had withdrawn from the election contest before 30 January after having called in vain for its postponement, stressed that “the next government must be formed on a consensual basis and open whether people took part in the elections or not”. “All parties and ethnic minorities must be represented in the government,” he added.
Similarly, on 24 February, a Turkish delegation had discussions on the future of Turco-Iraqi relations with Mr. Talabani in Iraqi Kurdistan. The mission, led by Ambassador Osman Koruturk, coordinator for Iraq of the Foreign Ministry, met the Kurdish leader at Dohuk. “The fact that a Turkish delegation has met Mr. Talabani in Iraq shows that Turkey is not opposed to his becoming President” of Iraq, the Turkish leaders pointed out for their part.
Meanwhile, twenty-three parties and political associations, mostly Sunni Arab, met in Baghdad on 27 February and decided to form a monitoring committee with the task of studying ways and means for taking part in the drawing up of the definitive Constitution. The meeting took place in the premises of Adnan Pashashi’s Independent Democrats — a party that did take part in the elections but failed to win any seats.
For his part, Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari received the victorious Shiite list’s official nomination for the position of Prime Minister on 22 February. Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the principle Shiite party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and head of the United Iraqi Alliance’s list, announced that “Doctor Ibrahim Jaafari has unanimously been appointed (…) despite the presence of other public figures capable of assuming this task, such as Adel Abdel Mehdi, Hussein Shahristani, and doctor Ahmed Shalabi”.
Faced with this candidature, the national security councillor, Kaseem Daood announced the creation of a coalition to support the candidature of the outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi as head of the government resulting from the January general elections.
However, this effective nomination makes Dr. Jaafari the favourite for the position of Prime Minister. He leads Iraq’s oldest Shiite Party, which enjoys broad popularity for its struggle against Saddam Hussein’s regime but his alleged links with Iran arouse anxieties. “We will start with security because it’s a question that allows our citizens no respite” he declared. “The interests of the State are threatened by insecurity, which paralyses reconstruction” he added, announcing his intention of “increasing the manpower of the security forces, improve their effectiveness and strengthen the means at their disposal”.
The United States has hastened to stress its will to cooperate with the future Iraqi government. “We are impatient to work with any Iraqi government that will emerge” indicated the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. “We can’t wait to have constructive relations with the Iraqi transition government,” he added.
On 23 February, representatives of Kurdish and Sunni Arab organisations declared their readiness to work with Ibrahim Jaafari. “We hope that Mr. Jaafari will form a transition government as soon as possible, with public figures who are up to the task” declared Mohammed Ihsan, who is Minister for Human Rights in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We are going to support and help him,” he stated. “Mr. Jaafari is a longstanding activist in the struggle against the dictatorship, he believes in the rights of the Kurdish people in a federal and democratic Iraq” he asserted. “Moreover, he is not one of the dogmatic Shiite politicians and, in the present conditions, is the best man for the job” Nr. Ihsan added further. Sami Choresh, Minister of Culture in Iraqi Kurdistan, for his part, declared: “We have a position of neutrality towards Mr. Jaafari’s candidature. What is important is that the candidate recognise the natural rights of the Kurdish people (…) We will be the ally of any party that recognises the democratic system for a federal Iraq”. The Kurds reaffirmed their rejection of an Islamic Republic in Iraq. “The Kurds will oppose the installation of an Islamic Republic in the event of this being put forward by other political forces in Iraq,” declared Adnan Mufti, member of the Political Committee of the PUK on 16 February. “We are certainly a Moslem people and our Moslem identity must be respected, but religion cannot be set up in opposition to democracy,” concluded Mr. Mufti, who is candidate for the position of Speaker of the Kurdish Autonomous Region’s Parliament.
“It is normal that the victorious list appoint its candidate for this position and this appointment was the fruit of discussions, which is a good sign” declared for his part a leader of Adnan Pashashi’s Movement of Independent Democrats. “We are open to cooperation with him as Mr. Pashashi has not ceased repeating” declared Jalal Meshta, who nevertheless called on Mr. Jaafari to “take into account the fact that, in many (Sunni Arab) provinces, the participation was weak and that certain forces did not take part in the election and others were unable to elect anyone despite their long political history”.
The Iraqi press seems also to have welcomed favourably the choice of Mr. Jaafari by the Shiite list. “Jaafari is authentically Iraqi. He’s a patriot and it doesn’t help to judge him through personal viewpoints” wrote the independent daily Al Furat. “Saying that Ibrahim Jaafari will push Iraq towards an Islamic State is pure speculation because, despite his good relations with Iran, he is more closely linked to the Najaf Marjaiya, which is opposed to the Velayat al-Fikih and the institution of an Islamic regime” stresses the PUK paper Ittihad. Velayat al-Fikih, the concept at the heart of the thinking of Imam Khomeiny, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, authorises the Shiite clergy to interfere directly in politics, which the senior Ayatollahs of the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf oppose.
The official daily, Sabah, calls on Mr. Jaafari to tackle “the burning issues of corruption, security, the economy and the recovery of sovereignty, with a united cabinet”.
The Iraqi National Congress paper, Moatamar, considered that Ahmed Shalabi, the organisation’s leader, had, “by withdrawing his candidature, favoured the unity” of the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA). The daily paper Baghdad, of outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s the Movement for National Entente, limited itself to reporting Mr. Jaafari’s nomination, without any comments, as did the KDP paper Taakhi (Brotherhood).
The Kurdish and Shiite organisations that dominate the new Iraqi Assembly have formed commissions to negotiate the formation of the government. On 24 February, the UIA’s nine-man commission, which includes Mr. Jaafari, began “discussions with other lists that had won seats in the elections, including the Kurdish list, to reach agreement and decide on the date of the first meeting of the National Assembly” indicated Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, a UIA member of parliament and former Oil Minister. Mr. Bahr al-Ulum made the point that the Shiite group had set two principles for any alliance with other organisations: a break withy the distribution of posts in proportion to the population distribution of each community and the integration of all political forces. “The first means that the coming government will not be formed on a sectarian or communal basis. The second means the participation of all the forces in the political process, including those that boycotted the elections or who abstained and those who participated without winning any seats” he pointed out, with reference to the different Sunni Arab movements.
The Kurdish alliance also formed a commission to conduct negotiations. This included the Interim Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, Vice-President Roj Nuri Shawis, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, and Kamal Fuad, of the PUK Political Committee. The Kurds lay down, as condition for any alliance, the joining of Kirkuk to their three autonomous provinces, the maintenance of their security forces and a share in the country’s wealth. On 25 February, Massud Barzani repeated on the Reuters TV network the Kurdish demands: the guarantee of securing several important Ministries and the affirmation of the Kurdish identity of Kirkuk. “In future, we want Kirkuk to become an example of ethnic, religious and national coexistence. But first of all the Kurdish identity of Kirkuk must be defined as an entity of Kurdistan” warned Mr. Barzani. “The identity of Kirkuk is Kurdish, as the elections have just proved,” insisted Mr. Barzani.
On 27 February, at a Press Conference in Irbil, the outgoing Vice-President Roj Nuri Shawis declared: “We have not yet concluded any alliance for the moment”. “We are trying to take part in forming a government that unites all the Iraqi parties and we expect to have one of the leading positions,” he added. “With the good results obtained in the elections to the National Assembly, the Kurds will have an important role in the formation of the next government” stressed the Kurdish leader. “For us, the most important thing is the orientation of the new government and we are insisting on the maintenance of a federal system for Iraq and the restoration of security and cooperation with the multi-national force” Mr. Shawis concluded.
The complex mechanism for appointing a three-man Presidential Council by two thirds of the members of parliament is compelling the parties to form a “general consensus”.
The list formed by the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties won an absolute majority in the elections for the Taamin Province, of which the city of Kirkuk is the capital, with 58.4% of the votes, according to the official figures published on 13 February. The Kirkuk-Fraternity list formed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) scored 237.303 votes out of the 405,951 votes cast, indicated the Election Commission that organised the poll. A PUK leader in Kirkuk, Jalal Jawhar, stated that these results “are a victory for the will of Iraqis and of their determination to build a federal Iraq”. “Our list has won an overwhelming victory because it brought together all the communities,” he continued, insisting on the Kurdish character of Kirkuk.
The Turcoman Front of Iraq came second with 79,791 votes, that is 16% of the votes cast. The chief of the Turcoman Front, Faruk Abdallah Abdelrahman, stated “We will work in the National Assembly and in the Kirkuk Council to prove that Kirkuk is an Iraqi city” while calling for “peaceful political cooperation”.
After the announcement of the results, the Kurds celebrated this victory by driving around the streets in the North of the city, headlights ablaze and hooting their horns. Waving Kurdistan flags, some of them fired shots into the air as a sign of joy. The quarters with an Arab or Turcoman majority, for their part, were quiet and deserted, the shops having lowered their blinds earlier than usual. On 13 February the Kirkuk police chief, Turhan Yussef, announced an extension of the curfew “ to prevent any act of violence or provocation” in the town. The curfew was imposed from 6 pm (3 pm GMT) to 6 am (3 am GMT) until further notice. The Iraqi police and Army were deployed in the streets of Kirkuk and dispersed any gatherings and prevented any shooting into the air and announced that anyone disobeying its directives would be arrested.
The Kurds demand that Kirkuk be joined to their three autonomous provinces of Kurdistan and thousands of them, forcibly displaced by Saddam Hussein’s regime, were authorised to return and vote in the city on 30 January. The Kurds represent over 45% of Kirkuk’s 1,200,000 population. By virtue of an agreement with the government, 100,000 Kurds, driven out of the city by the Saddam Hussein regime and cooped up in camps, were thus able to vote for the national and local elections.
Turkey is dissatisfied with the election results in Iraq, which have, for the first time in the country’s history, have put the Kurds in a strong position. It considers that they do not reflect a fair representation of the different ethnic and religious groups of the country and demands balancing measures. “The poor participation of certain groups in the elections, the fact that, in certain provinces, hardly anyone voted and of manipulations in certain regions, notably Kirkuk, have led to unbalanced results are problems that must be seriously examined” declared the Turkish Foreign Ministry, on a communiqué on13 February. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, the day after the elections, had already expressed anxiety lest the Kurds take control of the oil producing city of Kirkuk and the dangers of confrontations between the different communities living there. “Turkey will not remain with its arms crossed at the perspective of an inter-Iraqi conflict round the oil producing city of Kirkuk” Abdullah Gul had declared from Baghdad, as reported in Al Quds Al Arabi dated 1 February.
Ankara is haunted by the fear that Kirkuk should be joined with the autonomous region of Kurdistan and, eventually, become the rich capital of a future independent state. In 1925, the former Ottoman provinces of Mossul and Kirkuk were annexed to Iraq, at the time created and governed by the British Empire, against the wishes of the majority of the population. Despite many calls from Turkish ultra-nationalist circles for Turkish armed intervention in Kirkuk, the powerful Turkish Army and government prudently avoided raising such an eventuality, which would have led to a confrontation with the United States.
During her visit to Ankara on 5 and 6 February, the US Secretary of State, Condleezza Rice, who met the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, her opposite number Abdullah Gul and Head of State Ahmet Necdet Sezer, had tried to reassure the Turkish authorities regarding the extent of Kurdish ambitions in Iraq.
Turkey also complains that American troops have not carried out militarily actions against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On 2 February, Mr. Erdogan had been particularly critical of this when speaking to members of Parliament of his Justice and Development P, accusing the United States of remaining simple spectators of events in Iraq that irritated his country. “I am sorry to say that the forces charged with ensuring order in Iraq have failed to respond to certain developments that our nation deeply regrets,” he had stated. Yet on 1 February, US Under-Secretary for Defence, Douglas Feith, had indicated to Ankara that the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq were as much a priority for the United States as for Turkey. Stressing the importance of Turco-American relations, Mr. Feith had indicated that it was natural that two allies, like the United States and Turkey, should have differences, but that should not prevent them maintaining strong and close bi-lateral relations.
For his part, the Kurdistan Democratic Party leader, Massud Barzani, had affirmed that any Turkish military intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan would be a “disaster” and called on Turkey not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. “I hope that such a thing will not happen — but if it did, it would be a disaster for all concerned,” he had pointed out on 4 January from his stronghold of Salaheddin, to the Turkish TV news Channel CNN-Turk. “Kirkuk is a city with a Kurdish identity” he had declared “Who gives Turkey the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq?” Mr. Barzani considered that “independence is a natural right of the region (of Iraqi Kurdistan). It is not a fantasy”. But, he continued “the present objective of the Kurds is the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Iraq and the creation in Iraq of a pluralist and federal system”.
The independent commission of enquiry on the “Food for oil” programme in Iraq has implicated its former director, Benon Sevan, who has “seriously damaged UNO’s integrity” by intervening in the allocations of Iraqi oil. In an interim report, the commission accuses Benon Sevan of having directly intervened in the choice of oil companies for receiving allocations of Iraqi crude oil, whereas this decision should have been Baghdad’s alone. “By making these approaches, Mr. Sevan created a serious conflict of interests over a long period. His conduct was ethically inappropriate and has seriously damaged the integrity of the United Nations” judged the Commission, led by the former President of the US Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Volcker.
UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, had appointed Mr. Sevan, a former Cypriot Civil Servant, to this post by that he had occupied between October 1997 and the end of 2003. The General Secretary was “shocked” by the report’s conclusions and “terribly disappointed that a colleague for over thirty years should be accused of having breached the UN’s rules of behaviour” stated Mr. Annan’s chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown. He pointed out that disciplinary procedures had been started, although Mr. Sevan had already resigned from the United Nations. But the latter’s lawyers reacted sharply, stating that Mr. Sevan had “never taken a cent” and that he was being used as “a scapegoat”.
The report indicated that Mr. Sevan had sought allocations of crude oil from the Iraqi authorities for the Panamanian company Africa Middle East Petroleum (Amep). Baghdad had “provided these allocations with the aim of winning support in several areas, and in particular to secure funding to repair and rebuild the oil production infrastructures in Iraq” he pointed out. The report adds that Amep had only begun to receive oil after Mr. Sevan’s intervention with the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad in June 1998.
The report “does not state that Mr. Sevan had received any backhanders” stated Mr. Volker during a Press Conference, while adding “the enquiry is continuing”. However, the report does indicate that Mr. Sevan had not provided convincing explanations for cash payments made for a total of $160,000 between 1999 and 2003. There are “convincing” evidence to show that the selection of companies responsible for either supervising oil or consumer goods transactions or of managing the funds allocated to the programme “was not in conformity with the usual financial or competitive rules” the document added.
The companies cited are the Paris National Bank (BNP, France), Saybold Eastern Hemisphere (Netherlands) and Lloyds Register Inspection (UK). Regarding the BNP, the report indicates that the contract regarding the management of the programmes bank accounts had been attributed to it by the former UN General Secretary, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In this instance, it points out, the BNP had not “submitted the best price” in its response to the invitation to tender. The choice of the French bank had been dictated by political considerations and not by any illicit means, pointed out a member of the commission, Mark Pieth.
The “Food for Oil” programme, in operation from 1996 to 2003 to lighten the impact on the Iraqis of the international embargo imposed on the Saddam Hussein regime, allowed Baghdad to sell oil and buy everyday consumer goods. Totalling 64 billion dollars, it was perverted by the Iraqi government and several billion dollars had been embezzled. The final report should be presented next summer, according to Mr. Volker.
On 15 February, the State Security Court, Damascus’s special emergency tribunal, sentenced 15 Kurds to prison sentences of between two and three years, according to the human rights lawyer Anouar Bounni. These men had been arrested during the bloody clashes that occurred in the Kurdish regions of Syria in March 2004. “Four of the fifteen were sentenced to three years imprisonment, the rest to two years,” Mr. Bounni pointed out.
These Kurds, whose trials had begun in August 2004, were accused of “aggression against the authorities”, of “being members of a secret society aiming at the annexation of part of Syria by a foreign country” of “religious dissensions” and of “incitement to sedition”, according to the lawyer. They were arrested during the clashes that occurred, in March 2004, between Kurds and the police or Arab tribes in the Kurdish region of Northern Syria— clashes that resulted in 40 deaths according to Kurdish sources but only 25 according to the Syrian authorities.
In all 200 Kurds were imprisoned following these clashes. A certain number of them are due to appear before the Damascus military court, according to Mr. Bounni.
Furthermore, on 12 February Mr. Bounni announced that over fifty detainees had been on hunger strike since 8 February “in protest at the torture and inhuman treatment” to which they had been subjected in Adra Prison (30 Km from Damascus). The prisoners, including ten women, belonged to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They had been arrested in May 2004, in the course of a campaign launched against members of the PKK “following the announcement of their ending their truce with Turkey”, indicated Mr. Bounni in a communiqué. According to Mr. Bounni, the prisoners “were forced to sleep on bare ground, were beaten, lacked hygiene and were forbidden visits”.
Until 1998, Syria had supported the PKK, but Damascus ended up by stopping its support for this movement and expelled its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, now in prison in Turkey.
According to the Pentagon’s figures, 44 US soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq in February — the lowest figure since July 2004. This drop in the number of American victims, doe to greater efficiency of their intelligence, was, however, accompanied by an intensification of suicide bomb attacks, which caused many deaths in the Iraqi civilian population. On 1 February, against the background of the opening of the country’s borders, the interim President, Ghazi al-Yawar considered that it would be “completely absurd to demand that the (foreign) troops leave in this chaos and power vacuum”. “By the end of this year, we could see the number of foreign soldiers diminish,” pointed out Mr. al-Yawar. “There have been mistakes in the occupation, but, to be fair, (…) I think that the contribution of the foreign forces in Iraq has shown itself, in the end, to be positive” he stressed, “It was worth it” he concluded.
At Hilla, a car bomb attack on 28 February caused 118 deaths and 133 injured. The car bomb exploded in the middle of a crowd of civil servants gathered for medical examination near the municipal offices. The civil servants, some of whom had been fired after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, were there for medical examination prior to re-employment in the province’s administration.
This attack occurred at a time when Damascus was again on the hot seat after the capture, at the Syria-Iraqi border, of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, former Iraqi Intelligence chief and N° 36 on the American list of 55 most wanted public figures of the old regime. According to Iraqi intelligence, this man frequently visited Syria. National Security councillor Muaffak al-Rubai pointed out that “just under 30 people were arrested with Mr. Hassan” who had enormous sums of money available, but who neither confirmed nor denied any Syrian cooperation. Most of the 55 people on the list drawn up at the start of the American offensive in Iraq have been arrested or have given themselves up. Only a dozen still cannot be found, amongst whom is Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, one of Saddam Hussein’s closest associates and N° 6 on the list.
Moreover the most sacred festival on the Shiite calendar was turned into a blood bath. The terrorists took advantage of the Ashura festival to launch a series of attacks across the whole country, including eight suicide attacks, killing at least 42 people and wounding 70 others. This demonstration of force came the day after an already very bloody day in the course of which 36 people, mainly Shiites, were killed. These acts of violence also coincided with the visit to Baghdad of an American parliamentary delegation. Five members of Congress, including Senator Hilary Clinton, met government leaders in the fortified “green zone” sector.
The murderous attacks also targeted the Kurds. Two members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party security forces were killed on 1 February by the explosion of a bomb they were trying to defuse in the centre of Irbil. “A bomb was discovered in Sitteen Street, opposite a building complex of the Zanyari quarter and some police specialising in defusing had gone to the spot to neutralise it” a police source indicated.
In Kirkuk, some armed men ambushed a detachment of the Iraqi forces, killing twelve Iraqi soldiers, a senior officer announced on 3 February The Iraqi soldiers were returning to Kirkuk after a spell of duty guarding oil installations. The armed gang ambushed then near the village of Zab, 65 Km Southwest of Kirkuk, specified General Anwar Mohammed Amin.
Furthermore, a Kurdish religious dignitary, close to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was assassinated on 19 February in the city of Kirkuk. Sheikh Mullah Mohammad Rustom Kaka, Head of the Committee of Kurdish Ulemas (Sunni) was killed by gunfire from unknown people directed at his car in Eastern Kirkuk at 10.55 am (7.55 am GMT). A KDP leader in Kirkuk, Najat Hassan Karim, imputed responsibility for the assassination “to the Kirkuk police forces and administration”. Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded on 22 February near the Baghdad headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, killing four people and wounding 30 others. The attack was apparently aimed at an Iraqi military convoy near the Green Zone, where the Iraqi government and the American and British Embassies are located.
In the Sunni Arab region, a number of attacks took place, particularly one in Tikrit on 24 February, where a suicide attack caused ten deaths and 22 injured in the courtyard of the police headquarters. The kamikaze exploded his car in the middle of the police assembling for the morning roll call.
On 22 February, the European Union offered to train 770 Iraqi police officers and judges in Europe and countries bordering on Iraq. The mission is planned to start mid-2006. It could be extended to Iraq itself if security allows. This plan, approved by the European Union Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels, comes at a time when George Bush’s visit marks the rapprochement of the United States and the Europeans, which the Iraqi war had divided. “This is the first united action of the EU (…) going beyond economic and monetary aid that we have offered,” declared Javier Solana, head of European Union foreign relations. The European diplomats estimated that the training mission would cost about ten million euros of E.U. funds. To this would be added some 15 to 18 million euros provided by individual members states.
The NATO General Secretary, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer prided himself on the commitment of the Alliance’s 25 members to taking part in the training of the Iraqi Army. However, wide differences exist as to the contribution of each country. In all, NATO will send about 160 training personnel. Sixty of them will come from the US Army while France, one of the countries most critical of the intervention in Iraq, will only accept to make one officer available to co-ordinate, from NATO Headquarters, the aid in equipment for the Iraqi Army.
The European Union has also proposed to organise, jointly with the United States, a conference aimed at “encouraging and co-ordinating international support for the Iraqi people” declared the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, current president of the EU, at a joint Press Conference with president George W. Bush at the end of the USA-EU summit in Brussels. “If the new Iraqi government asks for it the USA and the European Union are ready jointly to organise an international conference to offer a forum aimed at encouraging and co-ordinating international support for Iraq” added Mr. Junkers, without specifying either the date or place of such a conference. According to Mr. Juncker, the discussions between George Bush and the 25 EU leaders showed that the two parties “shared the same calendar”.
During his annual State of the Union speech on 2 February, US President George W. Bush refused to supply “an artificial calendar” for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, considering that country was “a vital front in the war against terrorism”. Applauded by members of Congress. The US President recalled that the United States found itself in Iraq to achieve a result: “a country that is democratic, representative of its people, in peace with its neighbours and capable of defending itself”. George W. Bush also appealed to Congress to support his demand for a supplementary budget of 80 million dollars for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “In these times of war, we must continue to support our army and give it the instruments of victory” he declared.
Finally, on 27 February, the human rights defence organisation, Human Rights Watch warned against an American project aiming at setting up a new, remote controlled system of anti-personnel mines in Iraq. This new system, called Matrix, allows a soldier to set off, by radio, from a distance of several kilometres, Claymore type mines through a portable computer.
On 3 February, the President (Speaker) of the French National Assembly, Jean-Louis Debré, and the presidents of the four parliamentary groups visited Turkey to “listen, and understand without prejudice” Ankara’s position on its eventual membership of the European Union. This journey is unparalleled, since never, under the 5th Republic, has a President of the Assembly gone abroad accompanied by all the groups presidents. “This is a quiet revolution,” admitted Jean-Louis Debré on 1 February. For all that, as he pointed out, this is a not a matter of “parliamentary diplomacy”. “Diplomacy is carried out by the State. Diplomacy is a negotiation. We just want to be informed,” he insisted “since, in the last resort, we will be called upon decide” about Turkey’s joining the E.U.
Apart from its original character, this journey was of particular importance at a time when Parliament was examining constitutional revisions as a preliminary to the spring referendum on the European Constitution. Indeed, all through the debates in the Assembly, the Turkish question held an important place, whereas President Jacques Chirac, and the supporters of the YES to the proposed European Constitution, are busy trying to dissociate the two issues. Many fear, in fact, that the eventuality of Ankara’s membership, which would not take place for another fifteen years, would be grist to the mill of the supporters of the NO vote. And this despite a provision, in the proposed constitutional amendment, requiring a referendum for any new members — which could apply, when the time came, to Turkey’s case.
By taking with him the four group presidents, Bernard Accoyer (UMP), Jean-Marc Ayrault (SP), Alain Bocquet (CPF) and Hervé Morin (UDF), jean-Louis Debré (who is one of the Head of State’s close associates) can hope to take the heat out of the issue, even though he insists that it is “not an operation of domestic politics”. In his view “we could have two possible attitudes: slam the door in their face or else see if we could cohabit under the same roof”. He also hopes to show that “on important issues, the Assembly is both one and multiple” through the diversity in the positions taken by the groups.
During their three-day visit, the members of parliament met, in addition to Turkish political leaders like President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, Trade Unionist, religious and military leaders, NGOs, Human Rights associations and students. Mr. Debré’s objective is to renew this mission, in the same form, every “year or 18 months”. He also raises “one-off” missions of members of parliament on specific issues like the penal code, trade union law, secularism, and the law on associations.
For the first time in Turkey’s history, a former head of government has appeared before this special court that tries former ministers. On 16 February, former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and his former Economics Minister Gunes Taner appeared before a special court to answer charges of corruption in events that go back to 1998. These charges did not prevent Mesut Yilmaz being warmly cheered on his arrival at the court in the centre of Ankara. Nearly 250 of his former supporters were present. The old Constitutional Court, renamed the Supreme Court, is the country’s highest juridical body. There is no appeal against its rulings.
Messrs Yilmaz and Taner, suspected of embezzlement at the time of the privatisation of the Turkbank State bank, had been sent for trial by the Turkish members of parliament in October 2004, following a parliamentary commission of enquiry. The two men are principally charged with having sold the bank (which has since ceased operations) in an irregular manner to a controversial businessman, reputed to be a mafia chief. This scandal had caused the fall of the three-party coalition government Mr. Yilmaz led at the time.
This Court is, at the same time, separately trying, on corruption charges, four former ministers, including two Fuel and Power ministers, who had been in office in past governments led by the Motherland Party (ANAP — conservative).
Mr. Yilmaz, three times Prime Minister in the 90s and former leader of ANAP, has several times faced accusations of massive fraud before his peers of the National Assembly, but been cleared each time. Like Mr. Taner, he retired from political life after the defeat of ANAP in the 2002 General elections. He had suspended Ankara’s political dialogue with the European Union for a year when the European leaders did not include Turkey on the list of eligible candidates for membership at their Luxembourg summit in December 1997.
The traditional Right, represented by former Prime Ministers Mesut Yilmaz and Mrs Tansu Ciller (who has also quit politics) were the main losers of the last general elections, having failed to secure a single seat in parliament. Following that election a new political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP — an offshoot of the Islamic movement) found itself alone in office.
On taking office in November 2002, this organisation, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, committed itself to eradicating corruption, which had been endemic in Turkey. It is now being urged to keep its promises, both by its electorate and by the E.U., with which it will begin negotiations for membership on 3 October next.
On 27 February, Iran and Russia signed a contract for the supply of Russian nuclear fuel that will allow the first Iranian nuclear reactor to be started. The Vice-President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Russian atomic energy Agency, signed this agreement at Bushehr. This signature had been postponed a day after a last minute disagreement regarding the timetable.
By this agreement, Moscow will supply Teheran with enriched uranium nuclear fuel and take back the spend fuel — an arrangement supposed to prevent any of it from being diverted to military uses. Teheran accepted this measure, but the two parties have not managed to reach agreement on its financing. “In the next few days a number of Russian technicians will be arriving at Bushehr to accelerate” the operations of assembling the reactor, Mr. Rumyanstsev declared. “Our cooperation is in accordance with international regulations. Iran is observing all the regulations on banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he added. The two parties affirm that they have reached an agreement on the return of the spent fuel, but point out that the timetable and financing of the operation were confidential.
This signature follows on the 24 February meeting in Slovakia between Russian President, Vladimir Putin and his opposite number, President George W. Bush. Washington accuses Teheran of wanting to build an atom bomb — accusations denied by the Iranian regime. Mr. Putin is said to be certain that Iran is not seeking to equip itself with nuclear weapons and states that cooperation will be continued. Russia has taken part in the building of the reactor of the Bushehr power station, which has cost 80 million dollars. This light water reactor is capable of generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Alexander Rumyantsev specified that the experts and technicians would complete its installation in the course of the next ten months. “Three months later, the power station will be tested and in the following six months it will start producing electricity”.
According to specialists, Iran acquired the knowledge needed to make nuclear weapons through the black market and the secret networks set up by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Moreover, the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, recognised on 23 February, that “profound divergences” persisted between the European Union and Teheran regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. The Europeans are trying to convince Teheran completely to give up its programme for enriching uranium, activities that Teheran has already suspended temporarily at the end of an agreement concluded with the E.U. last year. “We must give objective guarantees to (the Europeans) to the effect that we will not wander away from the peaceful path,” the Iranian president had stressed. But, in return, the Europeans “must give us objective guarantees that our rights and security will be protected” he had added.
Moreover, a representative of the powerful National Security Supreme Council, Ali Agha Mohammadi, affirmed on 2 February that Iran would never abandon its nuclear programme, stressing that the discussions with the Europeans aimed at protecting its nuclear achievements. Mr. Mohammadi specified that Iran would not go back on its nuclear ambitions even if the discussions under way with the Europeans ended in failure.
In a report dated 17 February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Ali Hassan al-Majid, best known as Chemical Ali for his role in gassing Iraqi Kurds in 1988, of having orchestrated the massacre of dozens of Shiites after a revolt in Basra (Southern Iraq) in 1999. The international human rights defence organisation has brought forward fresh evidence against one of the fallen regime’s most notorious butchers, which could lead to further charges being brought against him at a time when he is preparing, like other members of the Baath party, to appear before his judges. “Majid’s role in the genocide against the Kurds is well known, but it appears that he also shed blood in Basra in 1999” states Joe Stork, director for the Middle East and North Africa of that New York-based organisation.
Saddam Hussein is said to have personally ordered the assassination, that year, of the Shiite dignitary Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr. This ayatollah had been the instigator of a Shiite uprising in the South of the Country. According to HRW, documents prove the implication of Chemical Ali, first cousin of the fallen dictator, in the execution of at least 120 men in Basra, soon after the uprising.
Its report, written after an enquiry in Basra in 2003, “suggests that the Iraqi security forces and members of the Baath party, under the command and supervision of Ali Hassan al-Majid, carried out systematic extra-judicial executions, arrests and arbitrary detentions of a grand scale as well as tortures and collective punishments”. The report essentially uses official documents to prove the direct responsibility of Majid in these exactions.
According to lawyers, Majid’s guilt may be hard to prove regarding attacks that occurred so long ago. But the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch is much more recent and thus could prove to be more convincing in court. Its investigators went to Basra in April and May 2003, and secured a written four-page document from Shiite dignitaries. This document had been found in the offices of Saddam Hussein’s secret police during the pillaging of government building after British troops entered the city in April 2003. This list is anonymous and has no official letter heading enabling it to be linked to the Iraqi security forces — a precaution already taken by the old regime with other potentially incriminating documents, according to Human Rights Watch. But its authenticity is strengthened by the fact that relatives have already identified 29 people on it whose bodies were exhumed in a mass grave near Basra. Clearly divided into columns are the names of men and youths from 16 to 36 years of age, their addresses in Basra, the date of their execution and the teams that carried out the executions.
Every page is headed “List of names of criminals who have confessed having taken part in the events of 17 and 18 March 1999”. The prisoners were executed in four waves, between 25 March and 8 May 1999 and the document specifies that the order was from “the South Sector Commander”, that is to say Majid. “This is the way he described himself in the official communiqués of the Iraqi regime. All the people questioned by Human Rights Watch in Basra in 2003 identified the “South Sector Commander” in 1999 as being Majid” the report points out. The organisation has also found witnesses to the executions.
Chemical Ali was arrested by the US Army on 21 August 2003. He is also accused of having taken part in the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and of the repression of the Shiite revolt of 1991. He could become the first of the 11 leaders of the old regime now behind bars to be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — charges that could lead to his being sentenced to hanging or to the firing squad. Chemical Ali and former Defence Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmad were the first of the Saddam Hussein regime’s top brass to be heard by an investigating judge of the Iraqi Special Court (ISC) in De3cember 2004.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an organ of the Council of Europe, has denounced the discriminations from which the Kurds, the Roms and other minority groups continue to suffer in Turkey. In a report adopted in June 2004 and made public on 15 February, the ECRI shows that, despite “important” constitutional and legal reforms passed in the last few years, there is much progress still to be made regarding Kurds, Roms and immigrants. These last, the report notes, continue to be subjected to ill treatment by the police. “Intolerant remarks and actions” aimed at them by the media or the general public are “never punished”.
The ECRI recommends that the Turkish authorities take measures “to settle the problem of the Kurds, particularly those who have been displaced within the country, but also the Roms and minority religious groups”. The ECRI also considers that “progress” remains to be made in the matter of religious freedom, particularly the mention of religion on identity cards (it is not possible to indicate that one is an atheist) and the compulsory religious teaching in school. These lessons should become optional for all and be reviewed in the future “so that they really describe religious cultures as a whole and be not perceived as courses of instruction in the Moslem religion” the ECRI suggests.
The ECRI is an organ of the Council of Europe, founded in 1993, and regularly highlights problems of discrimination in member countries, without any connection, direct or indirect, with their relations with the European Union or process of joining it. Nevertheless it has considerably irritated the authorities in Ankara.
• LEYLA ZANA IS BEING TRIED FOR THE THIRD TIME BY A TURKISH ASSIZE COURT. On 25 February, Leyla Zana and her three colleagues, former Kurdish members of parliament, pleaded not guilty during the first hearing before a court in Ankara, which is trying them for the third time. “I reject the charges,” declared Leyla Zana before the Assize Court. The winner of the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament asked that the trial be “equitable” in accordance with the ruling of the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR). Her three former fellow detainees, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan also rejected the charges and pleaded not guilty.
The Court set the next hearing for 22 April after the defence had asked for further time to seek advice on the manner of conducting the trial in the light of recent legal reforms adopted by Turkey to align itself with European and democratic standards.
After passing ten years behind bars, Mrs. Zana and her three comrades were released by an Appeal Court in June 2004 pending the review of their last trial. The verdict against them of their 1994 trial on the grounds of “separatism” had been contested by European human rights defence organisations. The ECHR had ruled their first trial inequitable and demanded a retrial. The four detainees were retried last year, but the retrial merely confirmed the previous sentence, provoking negative reactions in Europe. This third trial opened in October 2004 after the Court of Appeals had quashed the second trial on technical grounds.
• STRASBOURG: ANKARA FOUND GUILTY OF ILL-TREATMENT INFLICTED IN DETENTION ON A KURD. On 3 February, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty of torture inflicted on a 34-year-old man during his detention in 1997 on suspicion of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Court awarded Lazin Biyan, still detained in Aydin prison, 9,000 euros damages for breaches of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (banning the use of torture) and 3,000 euros costs.
The petitioner, suspected of being a “member of a secret committee formed to give aid and assistance to the PKK” and sentenced in 1998 to 12 years imprisonment for “membership of an illegal organisation” was arrested in March 1997. He complained of being undressed during his preliminary detention, being subjected to electric shocks, being beaten with sticks and cables, of being drenched in icy water and being subjected to insult and threats of death to extort confessions from him. The Turkish government had maintained, according to the Court, that “influenced by his anxiety, the petitioner had mutilated himself by using buttons from his jacket and his trousers”.
In its ruling, the Court has asked itself “about the possibility of the petitioner himself inflicting such lesions on different parts of his body, especially on his back” and considered that the government’s explanation was “not plausible”. The ECHR also found Turkey guilty under Article 6 (right to an equitable trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the lack of independence and impartiality of the State Security Court that had tried him.
• “TWELVE YEARS, THIRTEEN BULLETS, WHY?” DEMANDED THE DEMONSTRATORS MEETING DURING THE TRIAL OF POLICEMEN CHARGED AFTER THE DEAD OF A YOUNG KURD AND HIS FATHER. The trial of four policemen charged after the death of a young Kurd and his father, shot down by Turkish police in November, began in Mardin on 21 February. The four officials, transferred to other regions of Turkey, did not appear for the hearing, which was marked by demonstrations, exceptional security measures and the presence of a number of politicians and observers from civil society. Several hundreds of demonstrators assembled in front of the Mardin provincial governors offices, near the courthouse, to condemn the murder of Ahmed Kaymaz and his 12 year-old son, Ugur. They were killed on 21 November by gunfire from outside their house in the town of Kiziltepe. `Twelve years, thirteen bullets, why?” could be read on the banner brandished by the demonstrators, as shown by the pictures broadcast by the NTV television network.
In the course of the hearing, the defence lawyers stated that their clients, who could face between two and six years imprisonment, had only responded to shots fired at them by the victims. “They opened fire on our clients. It was in the course of a confrontation that Ahmet and Ugur Kaymaz lost their lives,” argued Sedat Altun and Veysel Guler, after demanding that the trial be transferred to another town for security reasons, according to the Anatolia Press Agency.
Representatives of the family, like some human rights defence organisations had denounced the scandal, considering that the father and son were unarmed civilians, demanding that the policemen involved be jailed and disputing the charge sheet. This mentions that a pistol that had been used in an attack on a local police station had been found on the father’s body and merely charges the police with having gone beyond the legitimate limits of self-defence.
Last month a parliamentary enquiry commission accused the police of “serious negligence” and concluded that Kaymaz and his son could have been captured without harm. “We demand that the accused be arrested and tried for the murder of more than one person,” declared the lawyer Tahir Elci.
Apart from the victims’ family, the president of the local People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP) Tuncer Bakirhan, members of the parliamentary commission on human rights and representatives of the bar associations of several towns in Turkey attended the hearing.
Following the advice of the Public Prosecutor, the court rejected the demands of the family and civic associations and forwarded that regarding delocalising the trial to the Mardin Public prosecutor. The Judges finally postponed the hearing to 16 May.
• THE HCR IS ANXIOUS ABOUT THE FATE OF 102 IRANIAN KURDS WHO ARE FLEEING ONE OF THE LEAST STABLE REGIONS OF IRAQ, WHILE JORDAN ONLY ACCEPTS THEM IF IN TRANSIT. On 13 February, the spokesperson of the Jordanian government, Asma Khodr, declared that Jordan was ready to let the Iranian Kurds blocked at the border between Iraq and Jordan pass in transit but would not allow them to remain on its territory. The UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR) and the international community must find a permanent solution for these refugees, indicated Mrs. Khodr, in an interview published by the Jordan Times. “The Kingdom is ready to facilitate the entry of these refugees in transit if the HCR manages to find them a reception country” she indicated. “We cannot give them asylum,” stressed Mrs. Khodr, reaffirming Jordan’s position, which is opposed to accepting refugees on its territory for economic and demographic reasons. Jordan already shelters 1,7 million Palestinian refugees.
On 11 February, the HCR says it was concerned about the 102 Iranian Kurds who were refused entry into the Hashemite Kingdom. According to the HCR, these people, amongst whom are many children and at least five pregnant women, fled the Al Tash refugee camp West of Baghdad, between the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi — i.e. one of the least stable regions of Iraq. “We cannot let them enter Jordan nor join another group of 600 refugees (principally Iranian Kurds from al Tash) who have been living for a year and a half in a camp in the neutral zone between the two countries” the HCR had added, indicating that it wanted to try and rehouse them in Iraqi Kurdistan or Al Tash.
In December 2004, 185 Iranian Kurds blocked at the Iraqi-Jordan border had been accepted by Sweden where they had obtained political asylum
• TURKEY DECIDES TO SECRET THE CORRESPONDENCE AND PRIVATE DIARIES OF ATATURK’S WIFE TO AVOID TARNISHING THE FORMERS IMAGE. Turkey has decided to make public the correspondence and private diaries of the wife of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which could have clarified the mystery surrounding the stormy marriage of the founder of the Turkish Republic. Although the debate about publication of the writings of the enigmatic Latife Usakligil has raged for several weeks since the expiration of a 1980 court interdiction on their publication, the president of the Turkish History Foundation stated on 3 February that the family of Mrs. Usakligil has asked that the documents be kept secret. “The affair is closed. It is henceforth impossible for us to issue them,” declared Yusuf Halacoglu to the Anatolia Press Agency.
Half a century after her divorce and 37 years after the death of her former husband, Mrs. Usakligil died in 1975, taking the secrets of her brief marriage to Ataturk with her to the grave. Fragmentary information about this marriage has, however, filtered through the memoirs published by Ataturk’s assistants, who described “Madame Latife” as an authoritarian and quarrelsome young woman, frustrated by her husband’s alcoholic excesses and the invasion of their private lives by his comrades. According to these accounts, the young wife was quite capable of giving a public dressing down to her husband, 20 years her senior, and of stamping her feet in rage when working dinners, well washed down with raki, lasted into the small hours. Ataturk finally decided, after two years of marriage, to divorce this Western educated and polyglot wife, who, ironically, is also described as being the inspirer of many of the reforms carried through by the Head of State to free Turkish women from the grip of patriarchal traditions.
The opponents of the revelation of Latife Usakligil’s writings put forward the argument that details of Ataturk’s private life could tarnish his image and be misused by the Islamists, who deplored his reforms. “No one in the country would be capable of transforming Latife and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk into media–friendly pets” commented columnist Emin Colasan in the daily Hurriyet of the same day.