According to the 2 July edition of the daily paper Der Standard, the Austrian authorities hold documentary evidence indicating that the new Iranian President, Mahmud Ahmadinjad played a role in the assassination of the Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghaessemlou and two of his assistants in Vienna in 1989. Peter Pitz, head of the Austrian Green Party, stated to the paper that he hoped a warrant rapidly be issued for the arrest of Mahmud Ahmadinjad, who is “strongly suspected of being implicated” in the triple murder. Mahmud Ahmadinjad, who at the time was a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is said to have gone to Vienna a few days before the murders to deliver arms to the assassins, stated Mr. Pilz, explaining that his information came from an Iranian journalist living in France is said to have had contacts with one of the members of the hit team. On 1 July, the Prague daily Pravo made similar allegations. Hossein Jazdan Panah, a member of the Kurdish opposition in exile, stated to that paper that the recently elected Iranian President “was in charge of covert operations abroad” at the time of the Vienna triple assassination.
Former Iranian President Bani Sadr, for his part, stated that he had met, at his home near Paris, the exile Iranian journalist who accused the newly elected Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinjad. He made the point that this man had written a testimony in Persian on the Vienna assassination affair. “He made a written statement, in his own hand, in which it appeared that there were two teams charged with assassinating Abdulrahman Ghassemlou on 13 July 1989 in Vienna. According to this testimony, Mahmud Ahmadinjad was a member of the second team, which was to act in the event of the first team failing” stressed the former President, who fled the country in 1981. “But this journalist also added that Mr. Ahmadinjad was the intermediary between the Iranian Embassy in Vienna and first team. However, since the assassination of Ghassemlou and the other two Kurdish leaders was carried out by the first team, Mr. Ahmadinjad was no longer needed”, the former President continued. “This statement was then translated into German and is in the hands of the Austrian authorities”, he added.
On 13 July, 1989, emissaries sent by the then Iranian President Rafsanjani, to “negotiate a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict” shot down, at point blank range, their Kurdish opposite numbers on the second day of the “discussion”. The first day of the negotiations took place in the presence of former Algerian President Ahmed Ben Bella. Two of the members, Sahrarudi and Mostafavi, rapidly identified and sheltering in the Iranian Embassy, were able to leave Vienna, covered by their diplomatic passports. On their return they were congratulated and promoted. Thus, fearing reprisals from the Islamic Republic, Austria let the murderers escape with impunity. Austrian-Iranian relations, which had deteriorated after Ghassemlou’s assassination, warmed up again at the end of the 90s, Vienna becoming again Teheran’s most favoured European trading partner. The Austrian public prosecutor’s office took four months before issuing warrants for the arrest of the three members of the hit squad — the Iranian “diplomats” Amir-Mansur Bozirgian, Mostavi Haji and Mohammad Jaafari-Sahrarudi. In 1997, a resolution for a Parliamentary enquiry, introduced by the Greens, was rejected by the Social-Democrats (SPO) and the Conservatives (OVP), then sharing office. In 1991, Iranian ex-President, Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr, stated that Teheran had “means of exerting pressure” on Austria, including documents that accused Vienna of having effected illegal arms deliveries during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).
In Teheran, the Iranian authorities described the accusations as “ridiculous and unfounded”. “These accusations are ridiculous and unfounded and, for this reason we have summoned the Austrian Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry to ask him for explanations”, declared the spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Hamid Reza Assefi. “We categorically deny these accusations, that are part of a scenario set up by Zionists, annoyed at the high turnout of Iranians for the Presidential elections”, he declared, referring to the poll on June 24. On 5 July, the Austrian courts announced the re-opening of the enquiry into this assassination. The Public prosecutors want to question several witnesses, some of who are living in France.
Washington has also opened an enquiry on the Iranian President. According to some former hostages of the US Embassy in Iran, the new President was among their guardians during the storming of the American Embassy (described as “a nest of spies”) in which were 90 people on 4 November 1979. They kept 52 of them hostage for 444 days.
Ankara is again raising the possibility of carrying out military incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan to pursue the PKK. “We have a certain degree of tolerance at the moment, but we cannot continue like this much longer”, declared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to journalists accompanying him during a visit to Mongolia, according to the 20 July issue of the Turkish daily Hurriyet. “We must put the PKK problem behind us”, he pursued. Mr Erdogan considered that international law authorised Turkey to carry out incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan on grounds of self-defence against the PKK if the Iraqi authorities remained inactive. “Turkey can conduct such an operation with the approval of international law”, he explained, as quoted by the daily paper Milliyet. “Without a doubt, Turkey will do it after consultation with the Iraqi authorities”, he added. “But the time can come when it will act without consultation. Why? Because it is an internationally recognised right”. The Prime Minister pointed out he had informed his Iraqi opposite number, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and US President George W. Bush, of his concerns during his meetings with them in May and June. He had also complained of the absence of any response from Washington to Turkey’s support of the United States in its struggle against terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan and after the 11 September attacks, according to Milliyet. “Whereas Turkey was so open (in its support) the United States have not yet taken the slightest measures against the PKK infiltrations in Turkey, apart from the intelligence efforts”, Mr. Erdogan considered. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, for his part, pointed out that no immediate decision had been taken for any action across the borders, but affirmed Ankara’s impatience with the presence of the PKK in Iraq. The N°2 man in the Turkish Armed Forces, General Ilker Basbug, for his part, stated on 19 July that Washington had ordered the arrest of some PKK leaders who were in Iraqi territory. The Army also called for the creation of an institution that could define the strategies and ensure co-ordination in the anti-terrorist struggle.
The PKK retorted on 20 July by stating that it was ready to transform Iraqi Kurdistan into a “quagmire” for the Turkish Army should it launch any operations across the border to wipe out their camps. “We want to announce that we are ready for any possible attack (…) and that we will ensure that it fails transform (Iraqi Kurdistan) into a quagmire for the forces that carry it out”, stressed the armed branch of the PKK in a communiqué quoted by the Kurdish news agency MHA. Any operation across the borders would “just have the result of escalating the war” added Murat Karayilan, one of the PKK leaders.
In an interview published on 21 July by the daily paper Vatan, the Turkish Minister of Justice, Cemil Cicek, stated that Turkey was envisaging amending its anti-terrorist laws to mane its struggle against the PKK easier. “We will put a Bill before Parliament as soon as it returns” on 1 October, after its summer recess. The Turkish anti-terrorist law was recently purged of its more serious restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press. Mr. Cicek insisted on the fact that the European countries themselves were revising their anti-terrorist laws. “We will examine the measures taken by Spain and Great Britain following the attacks by al-Qaida” against these countries, the Minister explained. “We will also introduce measures in this context”.
After declaring a unilateral ceasefire, which ended in June 2004, the PKK has intensified its attacks on Government and military targets in the Kurdish provinces. Judging Ankara’s concessions insufficient, the PKK issued fresh claims, in particular for an amnesty of all the fighters and the freeing of their chief, Abdullah Ocalan. According to the Turkish Army, at least 105 soldiers and 37 civilians have died in the last 12 months in violent clashes with the PKK, which is said to have lost 62 fighters since April.
On 4 July, the PKK, for its part, announced its June assessment casualties in the clashes that took part in Kurdistan. According to the organisation, 12 0fficwers and 141 soldiers were killed as well as 10 of its own fighters. According to the PKK’s declarations, the operations by the Turkish Armed Forces have intensified. The Turkish Army is said to have conducted 44 military operations in Kurdistan in June. The fighting was particularly violent in the Botan region, with 33 clashes. The PKK said it had responded with 24 successive offensives.
The PKK, in particular, kidnapped a Turkish soldier at the beginning of July. The 21-year old Turkish soldier was kidnapped as he was going on leave, on 11 July by PKK fighters who had set up a roadblock in the province of Tunceli. The PKK took the soldier into the surrounding mountains, setting off a vast search operation by the security forces, backed by helicopters, involving hundreds of men. This is the first time in six years that the PKK has conducted an operation of this kind. The Kurdish PKK fighters also claimed on 31 July, the kidnapping four days earlier, of the mayor of the Yayladere district in the Kurdish province of Bingol. “The mayor, (…) of Yedisu Hasim, Akyurek, was arrested by one of our guerrilla teams on 27 July (…). This action was carried out because of numerous complaints and requests by the population regarding this person”, stated the PKK communiqué. Mr. Akyurek, who is of Kurdish origin and member of the Justice and Development Party, (AKP — in office) was kidnapped while visiting a mountainous part of his constituency. In addition, a “village guard” (member of the paramilitary units recruited by the Ankara) was killed and another wounded in the night of 31 July fighting PKK members about 70 Km North of Diyarbekir. Following this incident, the security forces launched a search operation in the region. In the course of a clash that occurred in a rural area of Van province and in the context of a vast fifteen-day operation conducted by the Turkish gendarmerie in this and the neighbouring Sirnak and Hakkari provinces, seven PKK fighters were killed in clashes with the Turkish security forces, according to local security sources. The PKK also announced that its fighters had shot down a Turkish Sikorsky helicopter on 22 July, while the Turkish Army merely indicated that four of its soldiers had been wounded as a result of losing control of a helicopter causing an “accident” of unspecified nature in the mountainous region near the town of Cukurca in Hakkari province. In the same area, on 19 July, four Turkish soldiers were killed and four others wounded in a country path of the same province, when their vehicle was blown up by a land mine. According to the Sirnak Provincial governor’s services, ten PKK fighters were killed during clashes with the Turkish Army between 13 and 16 July. Elsewhere, four Turkish soldiers were wounded when the vehicle carrying them hit a mine in the neighbouring province of Bitlis. Five civilians and three policemen were wounded by the explosion of a mine near Sirnak city centre, while PKK attack at Hozat, in Tunceli caused the wounding of three policemen on duty. The day before three Turkish soldiers were killed and 13 others wounded near Semdinli, when their vehicle was blown up by a mine. On 2 July, a bomb exploded as a train, carrying passengers and freight, was passing along a line linking the towns of Elazig and Tatvan in a rural part of Bingol province, causing five deaths and 12 injured.
However, the PKK denied being the source of the bomb attacks against tourist targets, of which the most recent, in mid-July, caused five deaths, including two foreign visitors on holiday, at the seaside resort of Kusadasi. The PKK stated that it had no connection with the nebulous group calling itself the Hawks of Kurdistan Freedom (TAK), which had also claimed responsibility for an attack at Cesme, another tourist centre of the same region, which had injured 20 people, on 10 July. “The accusations are completely wrong and unfounded … We have nothing to do with (the attack at) Kusadasi (…). We have no connection with the TAK organisation”, stressed a communiqué published on 17 July. Furthermore, in a joint statement published on 16 July in Ankara, some Kurdish public figures condemned the Kusadasi attack: “We will never approve and we firmly condemn any action against innocent and defenceless civilians, whatever might be the motives and whoever might be the authors”, stressed these public figures. Amongst the signatories of this declaration are Mrs. Leyla Zana and Mr. Tuncer Bakirhan, President of the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP).
Furthermore a Kurdish public figure was killed by “persons unknown” on 6 July in Diyarbekir. Struck by a bullet in the head, Hikmet Fidan, 50 years of age, was killed outright while his murderer managed to escape. Hikmet Fidan was an important political leader in the Kurdish movement in Turkey. He had, in particular, held the position of Vice-President of the Party for a People’s Democracy (HADEP), until it was banned by the Constitutional Court in 2003.
All these acts of violence have given birth to the fear of a new generalisation of conflict in the region, which could seriously endanger Turkey’s efforts on the road to democracy. The Kurdish politicians publicly distance themselves from the PKK, but support many of its demands, including that for a general amnesty. “We have passed the point where arms can take any part in the resolution of problems”, stated Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbekir. “We must bring the PKK onto the terrain of political struggle”. “This is the most worrying period of the last few years … We call on the two parties to stop this violence unconditionally”, the mayor of Diyarbekir pointed out. “By adopting a few measures, the government considered that the issue of the Kurdish problem was now shelved”, Mr. Baydemir considered. “People here have come to think that no one will recognise their rights so long as they keep quiet”. According to Selahattin Demirtas, the representative of the Diyarbekir branch of the Human Rights Association, the number of complaint has increased since the E.U. decided, last December, to begin negotiations for membership with Turkey and have doubled with the return of tension. During the first four months of 2005, the local authorities have opened preliminary investigations aimed at 2,700 people, regarding their freedom of expression — that is as many as for the whole of 2004, stated Mr. Demirtas. “The laws haven’t changed, but the prosecutors are becoming less tolerant, the government is closing its eyes”, he stressed. The local politicians are demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in public institutions and schools, the lifting of the legal obstacles to the entry of a Kurdish party into Parliament, and the return to using the original Kurdish names of villages that had been officially given Turkish names. They are also calling for an amnesty for the PKK activists and their reintegration into society. These demands are greeted with suspicion by the government, which fears that they would encourage separatism, and with anger by the Army, determined to crush the PKK in the field.
Furthermore, on 28 July, a member of the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP) in the locality of Erzurum, sued for having used a polite term of respect with reference to Abdullah Ocalan, was sentenced to ten months imprisonment by a Turkish Court. He had been acquitted at an earlier trial, but the Prosecution had appealed and the case was retried. The accusation charged Bedri Firat of having referred to Ocalan, during a televised interview last year, using the term “sayin”, a term of respect equivalent to “honourable” or “worthy”. The Turkish authorities are careful to clamp down on the slightest act or remark that could be interpreted as support or sympathy for the Kurdish movement and in Turkish “official speak” Ocalan is only referred to as “the terrorist chief”. In the same way, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply attacked the BBC and Reuters news agency, on 14 July, for having described the Kurdish in Turkey fighters as a “militia” and called on the international press to opt for an “objective approach” regarding the incidents in Turkey between the Army and the Kurdish rebels. The head of the Turkish government was speaking before a group of Turkish businessmen, after observing a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the bomb attacks in London
Iranian Kurdistan has been particularly disturbed since recent events in Mahabad — today incorporated into the Iranian Province of Western Azerbaijan, but which, in 1946, was the capital of the autonomous Republic of Kurdistan. This city was the scene, in July, of clashes with the police following the death of a young Kurd, Seyed Kamal Astom, who the police say was shot while resisting arrest. Officially, one policeman was killed during the clashes and dozens of people arrested. The photos of Seyed Kamal Astom’s swollen face displayed on Internet accredited the idea that he had been tortured, — which the authorities denied. This exacerbated the general discontent of the Kurdish population and revived demands for rights and freedom. According to the Iranian authorities, one of the inhabitants and a soldier were killed in the clashes in the city on 18 July, and the tradesmen closed their shops as a protest against the arrests.
Discontent is widespread in Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurds expressed this during the Presidential elections with a very low-level of participation. Several towns in the region have also experienced unrest. The Deputy Governor of the Province,
Abbas Khorshidi, stated that six people had been killed on 26 July in Iranian Kurdistan, including four soldiers, in an attack attributed to a group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “Four soldiers were killed and five others wounded yesterday evening in an ambush near Siah Kuh” on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, near Ochnavieh, in a region that is very tense at the moment. “The attack was probably perpetrated by the PEJAK (The Party for free life in Iranian Kurdistan)”, he stressed. At the same time, at 23.30 (19.00 GMT) in Ochnavieh “some unknown persons opened fire on several patrols”, reported Abbas Khorshidi. A woman was killed by ricochet and the body of an armed man, apparently one of the fighters, was found abandoned outside the town, he stated. Teheran and Ankara are linked by an agreement that commits them to fighting the PKK, in Iran’s case, and the People’s Mujahiddin in Turkey’s case, the latter being an Iranian armed opposition group long based in Iraq.
Ahvaz, the restless capital of the mainly Arab populated Province of Khuzistan (Arabistan), Iran’s main source of oil, was also the scene of fresh clashes recently. This province has gone through several days of clashes in April between the Arab population and the security forces. Officially, five people were killed and hundreds of others arrested. On 12 June Ahvaz was also shaken by four bomb attacks that caused six to eight deaths (the figures vary according to the sources). The Arabs make up the great majority of the population of Ahvaz and of Khuzistan, though only representing between 3 to 5% of the population of Iran.
Iran is, in fact, a multi-national empire, in which the Persians, politically and culturally dominant, make up barely 40% of the population. The come the Azeris, (18 million), the Kurds (11 million), the Baluchis (4 million), the Arabs (3 to 5 million) and the Turcomen (3 million).
Moreover, on 24 July the Iranian press reported that an official report of the Iranian judicial administration had recognised, for the first time, that Human Rights were habitually violated in the country’s prisons, where torture is still used. Last year, the Iranian Minister of Justice, Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, had expressly forbidden the extraction of confessions under torture. But this order has not been carried out, according to the report drawn up by Abbas Ali Alizadeh, head of the Teheran judicial administration. The police have carried out a number of arrests without sufficient evidence and placed the suspects in undeclared detention centres, added the report, which made the front page of the government-owned daily Iran. The State radio also echoed this report. “Blindfolding the accused and beating them, placing a 13-year-old boy in the worst detention centre for having stolen a chicken, jailing a woman of 73 for lack of financial means, locking up a woman because her husband was on the run. These are flagrant examples of Human Rights violations discovered by the judiciary in a few months of enquiries”, accuses the report submitted to the Minister, Mahmud Hashemi. The report also raises the case of a man who has been in prison since 1988, without any verdict having been levelled against him.
Given the extent and systematic character of the use of torture in Iran, this kind of report aims, essentially, to put the phenomenon into “perspective” and give the impression that it is done without the authorities being aware and that they are going to do something about it.
On 16 July, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, began a historic visit to Iran in the context of a diplomatic mission mainly centred on oil co-operation between these two former “deadly enemies”. His visit was the first to Iran by senior Iraqi leader for several decades.
Iran will do everything to accelerate the reconstruction and ensure security in Iraq promised Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, on 17 July, to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will do everything possible to ensure the reconstruction and security of Iraq”, declared Mr. Khatami. “Iran’s strategy is to support a free, independent and developed Iraq”, he added. Security was one of the major themes of the discussions. The Iranians have frequently been accused by the Americans (but also by certain Kurdish leaders) of interfering in he internal affairs of its neighbour so as to destabilise it. Baghdad expects Teheran to strengthen controls of its borders to prevent hostile infiltration and all sorts of illegal trafficking.
During the meeting, on 18 July, with the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the sensitive question was raised, for the first time, of the American occupation, which causes “great harm” to Iraq. But the Guide avoided demanding of his visitor, as he had in the past, the departure of the Americans from Iraq. Indeed, Mr. al-Jaafari was accorded the rare privilege, for a foreign leader, of being invited to the holy city of Mashhad (holy to both Iranian and Iraqi Shiites) to meet him. “This visit has consolidated relations” between Baghdad and Teheran, declared Mr. al-Jaafari before taking the plane for Mashhad. It “marks a turning point in bilateral relations” Added, for his part the Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref. In the face of fears by the Americans, the Arab States and the Sunni community in Iraq that Iran was seeking to impose its own theocratic model on its neighbour, which, like it has a Shiite majority, the Guide assured his visitor that “the first priority, for the Islamic Republic of Iran, is to see an independent, united safe and prosperous Iraq”.
Mr. al-Jaafari’s arrival at the head of a delegation of a dozen ministers should also strengthen economic cooperation, such as the signature of a memorandum on oil. The two parties should also agree on connecting their electric distribution grids. The issue here is to meet the crying need of fuel and power of a country whose reconstruction is restricted by attacks and bombing, by disorganisation and corruption. A thaw between Iraq and Iran is likely to worry many Arab leaders, most of them being Sunni Arabs. Iraq is the first modern Arab State to be governed by a government with a Shiite majority, and certain Sunni Arabs suspect it of being under Iranian influence. There are close bonds linking the Shiites of Iran and Iraq. The most influential Iraqi religious dignitary, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was born in Iraq. As for the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Guide of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, he had passed some fifteen years of exile in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.
During his visit, the Iraqi Prime Minister also had discussions with President Khatami’s elected successor, Mahmud Ahmadinjad, who will be taking office officially on 3 August, and the Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharazi.
The first flight of a plane belonging to a Kurdish company took place on 21 July between Dubai and Irbil Airport, while the day before a second airport was inaugurated in Iraqi Kurdistan, at the city of Suleimaniyah. The only plane of the Kurdistan Airlines Company, landed at 10.30 am, (6.30 GMT) with some 46 Iraqi and Kurdish businessmen returning from the United Arab Emirates to Irbil airport, itself just inaugurated on 15 April. “The Company was recently created and is wholly owned by the Kurdish government. It has secured the approval of the Directorate of Civil Aviation, itself answerable to the Iraqi Ministry of Transport but for the moment only has a single aeroplane, a Boeing 737”, stated Mr. Rashad Omar, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan. “It is an Iraqi National Company, just like Iraqi Airways. We are going to charter other planes to ensure regular links with Europe”, he added.
Hitherto, only Iraqi Airways and the Lebanese company Flying Carpet have made flights between Baghdad and Irbil. “This is a historic day, as it is the first time any aircraft has carried out a direct flight between Irbil Airport and a foreign country”, stated the Region’s Minister of Transport and Communications, Haidar Faili.
Moreover, on 20 July, the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, who is also head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, inaugurated the Soleimaniyah Airport, 200 Km from Irbil. An Iraqi Airways plane, coming from Jordan, landed at this airport, carrying an official delegation, including the Iraqi Minister of Planning, Barham Saleh.
More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, only in minute part of the billions of dollars promised to the Iraqi authorities have been distributed, because of concerns about corruption and bad management of the funds on the one hand, and the incessant violence on the other. Some representatives of about sixty countries and international organisations met on 19 July, on the banks of the Dead Sea, in Jordan, to continue the work begun during the conferences held over the last two years in Madrid (October 2003) and Tokyo (October 2004) in the course of which those taking part had promised Iraq some 14 billion dollars. The Jordan Conference was devoted to technical details regarding the feasibility and funding of projects proposed by the Iraqi authorities and gathered together in global document entitled Strategy of National Development.
On this occasion, Baghdad urged the international community immediately to deposit the promised financial aid, failing which there was a danger that the situation in Iraq would deteriorate still further — which could endanger world security. The World Bank granted Iraq an interest-free loan of 500 million dollars over ten years, which is intended to finance infrastructure projects. This loan is the first granted to Iraq by the World Bank since 1973.
The Iraqi Minister of Planning, Barham Saleh, speaking to the conference, stated “if we do not act rapidly, we will indeed have serious problems in the next few months”. “Failure is not an option, because this would have terrible consequences for the Iraqi people, for the region and for world security” he added.
In addition, on 19 July, Iran and Iraq signed the protocol of an agreement to build three oil pipelines, which should cover the most Iraq’s urgent need for petrol and refined oil products. Iraq will export crude oil to Iran and Iran will send back to Iraq petrol and refined oil products to offset the shortcomings of Iraq’s petrochemical industry. The formal agreement is due to be signed in a month’s time. Under the terms of this agreement, Iraq will export to Iran 150,000 barrels per day of crude through Basra to the Abadan refineries. In return, Iraq would receive petrol, diesel oil, and kerosene products from its neighbour, the Iraqi delegation pointed out. The exchange will start six months after signing.
Furthermore, millions of dollars of reconstruction aid have been embezzled by American officials and firms, according to a senior American official. The Justice Department is at the moment examining the case, pointed out Stuart Bowen, Inspector General for reconstruction in Iraq on 29 July. He nevertheless stressed that despite these misappropriations, the work of reconstruction was going forward. A thousand projects have been completed and a thousand more are under way.
The United States has granted 23 billion dollars of aid to Iraq for reconstruction work and, in several earlier reports Mr. Bowen had already highlighted substantial misappropriation of aid. Moreover, according to an official report, some American firms that had secured contracts for infrastructure reconstruction had not expected such a degree of violence and had spent over 760 million dollars to ensure their security.
On the other hand, on 27 July, a senior official of the State Department declared that the Syrian government “can and should do more” to help recover the funds illegally received through oil smuggling during the period of the UN oil sanctions. “The Syrians have supplied us with a certain amount of information and access, but there is very much more that they could and should do”, declared Elizabeth Dribble, during a hearing organised by two Foreign Affairs sub-Committees of the House of Representatives. Between June 2000 and July 2003, the sale of Iraqi oil to Syria, in violation of the UN sanctions, earned some 3.4 billion dollars, according to Washington. At this time, some 262 million dollars of this trading is still in a Syrian bank — the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS) and the United States would like to see them transferred to the Iraqi Development Fund. Referring to a commitment made at the beginning of the month by the Syrian government to the Iraqi Finance Minister, Mrs. Dribble warned that if these funds were not transferred soon, sanctions would be started, in application of the anti-laundering provisions of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act. An agent of the US Treasury, charged with investigating the transfer of funds between Syria and Iraq, Dwight Sparlin, made the point that the transfers of funds between Syria and Iraq were “the principle source of Iraq’s illicit revenue between 2000 and” the American intervention in March 2003. Sixty percent of the ums due to the Iraqi government were deposited in a commercial account at the CBS, in Damascus, for eventual purchases. The rest were deposited in a cash account with a subsidiary of the CBS, the Syria-Lebanon Commercial Bank (SLCB) in Beirut. In May 2003, there remained some 850 million dollars on the first account but since then the Syrian authorities have drawn some 580 million, leaving only 266 million. There remain 72 million dollars at the SLCB in Beirut, which were transferred to the Iraqi Development Fund in June, according to Mrs. Dribble. On the other hand, “266 million dollars are still in the CBS”.
Turkey has fulfilled the major conditions set by the European Union for the opening of negotiations for membership on 3 October, by signing a crucial agreement extending the customs union to the Republic of Cyprus, but has not finished with quibbling. Ankara’s representative at the E.U. initialled, in Brussels, a protocol extending to the ten countries that joined the European Union in May 2004 (thus including Cyprus) the Customs Union agreement that has existed between it and the other countries of the Union since 1996.
However, Turkey added to this document a declaration stipulating that its gesture did not amount to any recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. “The signature, the ratification and the application of this protocol in no way means any recognition of the Republic of Cyprus to which the protocol refers”, states the declaration. Turkey only recognises as sole legitimate authority on the island the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), self-proclaimed in 1983, nine years after the invasion of this part of the island by Ankara’s troops in response to a attempted coup d’état by some Greek Cypriot nationalists, backed by the colonel’s dictatorship in Athens aiming at annexing the island to Greece. The European leaders admitted, in December, when they had made the signing of this protocol a condition of opening negotiations for membership with Ankara, that this gesture did not, on a “legal level” amount to recognition of this state by Turkey. The E.U. nevertheless expressed the desire to see an end to the impasse created by a candidate for membership refusing to recognise a member state of the Union. In this context, the declaration made by Ankara could be a blow to the already precarious consensus reached by the European partners on the opening of negotiations for membership. In fact, if Turkey does not recognise the Nicosia government by 3 October, Greece and the Cyprus Republic could veto any formal negotiations.
The Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman, George Koumoutsakos, declared, “with this unilateral declaration (…) Turkey is insisting on prolonging a political and legal paradox”. “The Republic of Cyprus deeply regrets that Turkey has judged it necessary to make a unilateral declaration on Cyprus at the very moment of signing the protocol” wrote, for his part the Cyprus Government’s spokesman, Kypros Chrysostomides, in a communiqué.
This potential apple of discord could also provide a further argument for the opponents of the integration of Turkey, whose candidacy already arouses strong reservations in the public opinion of several countries, such as France and Germany.
Since the rejection by the Greek Cypriots, in April 2004, of a peace plan proposed by UNO, supported by Ankara and approved by the Turkish Cypriots, the Turks are henceforth better placed than the Greek Cypriots to assert their views within the European Union, the Milliyet columnist Fikret Bila considered. In the eyes of the international press, the Greek-Cypriot Prime Minister, Tassos Papadopoulos “is today more disagreeable than before the referendum”, agreed Ertugrul Ozkok, Chief Editor of the Turkish daily Hurriyet. It remains to be seen is this alleged weakening of the Greek Cypriot position is confirmed during the summit of E.U. Foreign Ministers in Great Britain over the 1st and 2nd September and it the latter will accept without flinching the terms of the Turkish declaration.
In anew report published in London on 25 July, Amnesty International considers that “the armed groups that are opposing the US-led multinational force and the Iraqi government are showing an absolute contempt for the lives of Iraqi civilians and foreigners by perpetrating a cycle of war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
“At the close of one of the most terrible month since the launching of the war in Iraq in March 2003, in the course of which the armed groups have committed a very great number of homicides”, Amnesty international’s report denounces “the lack of determination of these groups to respect even the most elementary of standards of humanitarian law”. In this 50-page document, the international human rights defence organisation “recognises that many Iraqis are hostile to the permanent presence of the American forces and their allies in their country”, which have themselves “perpetrated serious violations of human rights”. But “the violence committed by one camp cannot justify those of the other: this is all the more true when the principal victims are ordinary citizens, men, women and children who are trying to go about their everyday business in peace”. “Those who order or who commit such atrocities are going beyond all acceptable limits. What honour or what heroism is there in blowing up people going to pray or in assassinating a terrified hostage? Those who indulge in such acts are no more than criminals” Amnesty accuses.
Drawing up a list of these “attacks on human rights” (“attacks directed against civilians, having the aim of killing the maximum, hostage taking, kidnapping, acts of torture and homicide, aggressions targeting women and girls”…) Amnesty “urges the armed groups to put an immediate end to all attacks aimed at civilians and to all exactions”, calling on them to “conform fully to international law in all their actions (…)“. “All the parties in the conflict have a prime obligation to respect the rights of civilians and defenceless people. There must be an end to activities of those who are violating this obligation, whatever may be their camp, and to bring them to account for their acts” Amnesty stresses.
The report quotes a Minister of the Iraqi government who had instanced 6.000 civilians killed and 16,000 injured in the course of attacks made by these armed groups between March 2003 and March 2005. Amnesty considers, however, that it is “impossible accurately to calculate the real toll that the civilian population is paying”.
Moreover, the organisation calls on the principal religious dignitaries and influential public figures in Iraq and abroad “to condemn the indefensible and clearly to make it known that no circumstances whatever can authorise or justify war crimes or crimes against humanity”. “If we fail together, it is the Iraqi civilians, in the front line, who will continue to pay the price” Amnesty concludes.
On 20 July, the Iraqi authorities published a new assessment of a total of 8,175 Iraqis, mainly civilians, killed in the fighting between July 2004 and May 2005. The day before, the British humanitarian organisation, Iraq Body Count (IBC) had estimated that about 25,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the violence since the intervention in Iraq by the US-led forces in March 2003, that is “an average of 34 ordinary Iraqis killed every day”, pointed out Professor John Sloboda, Director of the Oxford Research Group and co-founder of Iraq Body Count, the two university organisations that conducted the enquiry.
Of the 8,175 killed, the coalition was responsible for 37.5%, three quarters of which were during the war itself, i.e. before 1 May 2003; 35.6% are imputed to the increase of crime following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, a figure which covers the robbing, kidnapping, and settling of personal scores, but also to clashes between ethnic and religious communities that were not directly linked to the intervention; 9.5% are imputed to the insurrection and 11% are due to the suicide bomb attacks and other attacks not aimed at any military target. Three out of ten of those killed lost their lives between the beginning of the war in March 2003 and the end of “principal combat operations” announced six weeks later by US President G. W. Bush. After the intervention, the number of deaths reported by IBC was 6,215 during the first year of the occupation, and 11,351 in the second year, when the insurrection became more active and the American Army launched its offensive against its Falluja stronghold *1,874 civilians killed). Women and children represent a fifth of those killed. Nearly one death in ten was of someone under 18 years of age. The enquiry bases itself on the analysis of 19,000 press articles, a large number of which were by Iraqi journalists and many using as sources employees of the morgues and doctors on the spot. Professor Sloboda does not present his study as an exhaustive counting of civilians killed in Iraq but as “the absolutely solid base” of the minimum number of violent deaths.
For its part, the British medical review The Lancet, which published, last October, a figure four times as great, estimates that the figure of 25,000 is an “absolute minimum”. This previous study, based on interviews, compared the periods before and after the war and projected a number of “deaths in excess”, not only through violence but also through poverty, lack of medical care, etc. It estimated that the risk of death was 2.5 time higher after the intervention, a rate brought down to 1,5 times if the case of Falluja was excluded. The Iraqis “have a right to know the real price paid — in the number of lives lost — during a conflict, undertaken in their name” stated this review in its editorial on 20 July, judging “indefensible” the refusal of the coalition forces to take part in a methodical counting of civilian deaths. The database used by IBC “only covers deaths reported by at least two press agencies. Thus incidents for which no journalist observers were present are not counted”, added the review.
The boss of the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, on a visit, to Baghdad on 27 July, pressed the Iraqi leadership to advance the political process more rapidly, at a time when the American Commander was raising the possibility of a substantial reduction in the number of GIs in 2005. The Commander of the US Forces in Iraq, George Casey, declared that the number of GIs could be reduced considerably if the political process remained on the right track. Some 140,000 US soldiers are at the moment deployed in Iraq.
On 14 July, the Pentagon presented Congress its quarterly evaluation of the situation in Iraq, without giving any public indication of the time scale of any possible relief of the American troops by the Iraqi forces, which still remain very dependent on them. This evaluation, which also covers the aptitude of the Iraqi Army and police, is confidential. However, one officer, General Walter Sharp, has recognised that only a small number of Iraqi units is up to acting independently of the American forces. The Iraqi troops — 76,700 individuals — have only 60% of the equipment they need, the report also reveals. Absenteeism and desertions have diminished and now are only 1% for certain divisions.
Furthermore, on 30 July, the Iraqi official who leads the commission charges with establishing which towns could be handed over to Iraqi control put forward seven Shiite and Kurdish towns, which, he said fulfilled the conditions for such a transfer. “There are some stable towns that we could ask the multinationals forces to leave, such as Najaf, Kerbala, Samawah, Diwaniyah, and perhaps Nassiriyah, Suleimaniyah and Irbil” declared Muwafak al-Rubaie after a meeting with the senior Ayatollah Ali Sistrani, a top Shiite leader. The timetable of transfers must be drawn up by a joint Americano-Iraqi commission, in particular on the basis of the security conditions in each town. Suleimaniyah and Irbil are amongst the calmest towns in the country. The other towns are located in regions with a population that is mainly Shiite, in the South and Centre of Iraq.
On 26 July, Turkey was found guilty by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) over the riots that had caused 17 deaths in March 1995 amongst members of the Istanbul Alevi brotherhood.
The Court found in favour of 22 relatives of people who had died then, considering that the Turkish authorities had violated Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights by having recourse “to a force that was not absolutely necessary” to repress demonstrations in the Gazi and Umraniye quarters of Istanbul.
The riots in Gazi, a deprived quarter inhabited by Alevis (Moslems whose Islam is inspired by Sufi mysticism) followed on the murder of a taxi driver on 12 March 1995. There were 15 people killed and 276 others injured by the police who, according to the petitioners, had not hesitated to open fire on the crowd and had prevented the demonstrators from taking the injured to hospital.
Three days later, at Umraniye, fresh demonstrations were brutally repressed by the police, in the course of which two more people were killed and many were injured.
According to the Turkish authorities, the bullets recovered from the victims’ bodies did not correspond with the weapons used by the security forces on duty during the two incidents. This was contested by the victims’ relatives who had registered a complaint with the Turkish courts the following month. Two policemen were sentenced respectively to five years and one year eight months imprisonment for having killed a total of five people, but an enquiry, opened at the time, covering the deaths of four others is still pending.
The ECHR also found Ankara guilty of not having conducted a “rapid and adequate enquiry” into the circumstances surrounding the deaths, considering, in particular, that “the manner with which the Turkish penal justice system had operated in response to the tragic events of 1995 did not allow any guarantee that the officers concerned had fully answered for their actions”. Turkey, finally, was found guilty of the absence of any “effective recourse” (Article 13) that would have allowed the petitioners to “complain of the deaths of their relatives” and obtain action in reparation. The families of the victims have, so far, received 150 million Turkish lire (2,800 euros) indemnity from a Turkish mutual aid fund. The European Court decided to allocate 30,000 euros jointly to six of the petitioners and 30.000 each to the 16 others in damages.
Furthermore, on 14 July the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty for having insufficiently investigated the murder of a man, close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) shot down in Diyarbekir in 1994. The Court considered that Ankara had violated Articles 2 (the right to life) and 13 (right to effective recourse) of the European Convention on Human Rights and granted 10,000 euros damages to the widow and three orphans of Halis Kaçar. He had been killed by several bullets in the back on 11 March 1994, as he was leaving his home, the Court recalled in its verdict. His wife maintained that he was the victim of an extra-judicial execution while the government stated that he had been killed in a settling of scores between terrorist organisations.
“In the light of the evidence in our possession” the Court considered “that a conclusion that Halis Kaçar had been killed by agents of the State, or with their connivance, is more in the area of hypothesis and speculation that reliable evidence”. However, “the Turkish authorities have shown a lock of diligence in the manner in which they conducted the penal enquiry, which was marked by periods of unexplained inactivity” the Court continued. It also expressed astonishment at the negligence in the ballistic examination. Moreover, while an enquiry was opened on the presumed authors of the murder, “they have not all been found and the proceedings against certain of the suspects” questioned or located is “still pending”, it added.
THE KURDS DENOUNCE THE BLUNDERS OF AMERICAN SECURITY AGENTS.
The Irbil police has asked the American Army to hand over to it the members of a private security team that is said to have fired on the car of a Kurdish political leader, seriously wounding his brother. On 14 July, at 9 am (5 m GMT) American members of a private security company opened fire on the car of Bayez Ismail, a leading member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Irbil, stated the city’s Chief of Police, Farhad Salim. The Kurdish leader’s brother, Ari Ismail, was seriously wounded in the head, he added, pointing out that the car had come too close to the Chevrolet in which three security agents were sitting. “We have asked the American Army to hand over to us those responsible for these shots. They are American. They must come before the Kurdish courts. This is not the first time that this kind of incident has occurred”, declared Farhad Salim.
A local leader of the KDP has denounced the blunders of security agents on Kurdish television, recalling that the city of Irbil is located in a zone largely spared the attacks that are daily bathing the rest of Iraq in blood. An enquiry has been conducted jointly by the American Army and the Iraqi police on the shooting but the different parties were unable to reach a common conclusion the American Embassy pointed our in a communiqué. Consequently “men in uniform” have begun to stop the cars of foreign private security agents to try and identify those responsible for the shooting, the Embassy added. “The American Embassy has, consequently, suspended all operations by private security agents in the Irbil region”, the Embassy announced.
Decree N° 17 of June 2004, defines the status of foreign forces in Iraq. This decree, signed by the former American Administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, give full immunity to the multinational force and to foreign security agents, whose members cannot be arrested or tried by the Iraqi authorities but only by the country that had sent them.
A Swiss citizen of Iraqi Kurdish origin, Salah Jmor, was killed by bullets at the end or June in Baghdad, shot down in error by an American soldier. According to the testimony of his father and brother, the man was shot on a Baghdad motorway. Switzerland has also intervened, both with the Iraqi and American authorities, to obtain information. A spokesman of the American Embassy in Berne did not want to comment on the subject, as investigations were under way.
Furthermore, a policeman and an activist of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were killed when a homemade bomb exploded as a police patrol was passing, in Kirkuk, near one of the offices of the Kurdish Party. Also in Kirkuk a suicide bomber droving a booby-trapped car killed three civilians and wounded ten others on 10 July, near a building of the local authorities.
KURDS ATTACKED BY TURKISH NATIONALISTS DURING THE TRIAL OF POLICEMEN ACCUSED OF HAVING KILLED A 12-YEAR-OLD CHILD AND HIS FATHER IN MARDIN.
Several people were injured on 20 July during clashes between Kurdish and extreme right demonstrators before the Eskisehir Court house, in Western Turkey, where four policemen are appearing on charges of murdering a 12 year old child and his father. The clash began when a group of nationalist activists, armed with sticks, attacked some 200 people come to demonstrate before the court. The NTV Television network broadcast, in particular, pictures of a young man, his head covered in blood, being thrown to the ground before a policeman intervened.
The Kurdish demonstrators were in Eskisehir for the trial of four policemen involved in the murder of Ahmet Kaymaz and his 12 year old son Ugur, shot down on 21 November before their house in Kiziltepe, a small town in Mardin province. The trial had been moved to Eskisehir for security reasons according to the Turkish authorities, which had, in fact, isolated the Kurds.
The police stated that the father and child had been shot down in the context of an operation against armed Kurdish fighters, but the local Human Rights defenders and the neighbours asserted that the victims were unarmed civilians. A parliamentary enquiry, moreover, had concluded that it was a case of “police negligence” and considered that Kaymaz and his son could have been captured without any bloodshed.
If the police are found guilty, they risk two to six years’ imprisonment. Their trial is considered a new test of Turkey’s commitment to making the state of law respected while it is seeking to join the European Union.
SYRIA: DAMASCUS IS OPENLY COOPERATING WITH THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT TO FIGHT THE PKK.
On 24 July, the State Security Court, a state of emergency tribunal, condemned four Kurds to sentences of two and an half years imprisonment for membership of “a secret organisation” indicated Anouar Bounni. The four Kurds, Zakaria Rashid, Hussein Kanbar, Mohammad Hassan Abdel Rahman and Mohammad Maamo, members of the Democratic Union Party, a banned Syrian Kurdish organisation, are accused of membership of “a secret organisation aiming at the annexation of parts of Syrian territory by a foreign country”. They are also accused of “damaging relations with a friendly country”, Turkey, according to Mr. Bounni.
For, his part, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallim, declared on 22 July that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was banned in Syria and that Damascus considered it a terrorist organisation. Speaking at a press conference, Mr. al-Muallim declared that cooperation between Turkey and Syria on security matters should be an example to the Iraqis, adding that Syria hoped to overcome past difficulties with the Iraqi people.
American and Iraqi leaders regularly accuse Damascus of closing its eyes to the passage across its borders with Iraq of foreign fighters joining the terrorists in that country. The Damascus authorities have several times denied any implication in the violent taking place at their neighbours. In a gesture of good will, they recently authorised some diplomats accredited to Damascus to visit the 700-Km long border with Iraq. The control arrangements were strengthened by deploying 7,500 border guards and the installation of 500 surveillance posts, according to a Syrian military source.