On 29 August, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, called for a vote in favour of the Constitutional Bill, on his return to Irbil after taking part in the negotiation on its terms in Baghdad. “I call upon the people of Kurdistan as a whole to vote during the referendum on the Constitution” on 15 October, Mr. Barzani declared to the press. He affirmed that this document represents “a solid basis for building a democratic, federal and pluralist Iraq”. “I cannot say that the document fully lives up to all the aspirations of the people of Kurdistan, but it is an advance for our people and that of all Iraq”, he pointed out. “I want to reassure the people of Kurdistan by telling them that this document will bring them progress and prosperity”, he further stated, declaring that the projected Constitution was even better that the Fundamental Law at present governing the country. With respect to the Sunni Arabs, whose unelected negotiators had expressed serious reservations about the draft, he pointed out that “no one knows whether or not they represent all the Sunni Arabs — the referendum will show this”, he stressed.
On 6 August, Kurdistan President Massud Barzani had stated, before the 111 members of the Kurdish Parliament, that he would defend his people’s demands at the meeting of political leaders on the Constitution. He had listed several points in this respect: “Iraq’s identity, the Kurdistan borders, the question of the peshmergas (the Kurdish fighters), the natural resources and Article 58” of the Fundamental Law, which stipulates the return of the expelled Kurds to the City of Kirkuk, forcibly Arabised under Saddam Hussein. “This is a golden opportunity for the Kurds and for Kurdistan and we must not miss it” he had stated before going to Baghdad to discuss the Constitution determined to give nothing away regarding his country’s borders, the maintenance of its fighting force or the Kurdish character of the oil-producing city of Kirkuk. “The Kurds will not accept that Iraq’s identity be defined as Islamic. We respect all religions, particularly Islam which is the religion of the majority, but we will not accept the imposition of Moslem identity on Iraq”, he added.
The majority of the Kurds are Sunni Moslems, with a Shiite minority (the Faili) but they reject the idea of Iraq becoming a theocratic state like Iran and they also reject the dissolution of the peshmergas, who fought Saddam Hussein’s army and who, today, are maintaining order in Kurdistan. “Let the Arab regions of Iraq be part of the Arab Nation, but we are not part of it”, he had stressed, referring to Kurdistan. “We will not compromise on the rights of the Kurdish people nor, indeed, on other rights of the Iraqi people”, such as Human Rights and women’s rights, Mr. Barzani had indicated. “The other Iraqi parties must understand that we have chosen to remain part of Iraq, even if our people would like independence and self-determination”, he snapped. The 111 members of the Kurdish Parliament had backed Mr. Barzani’s stand after a two-hour long session.
On 5 August, Turkey had expressed its concern, in a communiqué, that the Iraqi Constitution being drafted might grant the Kurdish people the right to decide on their future by referendum. “Turkey thinks that the Iraqi people will not allow such an eventuality”, indicated the spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Namik Tan, at a press conference. “If there are some people who have the partition of Iraq as their short or medium term aim, this would not only be an Iraqi problem”, he added. Mr. Tan had indicated that he considered the political process under way in Iraq and the preparation of a new Constitution to be efforts aimed at guaranteeing Iraq\s unity and territorial integrity. The Constitutional Bill, finalised after the ultimate bargaining with the Sunni Arab public figures, will be submitted to popular ratification by referendum on 15 October.
On 1st August, the Kurdish leaders proposed to the Turcoman provincial councillors that one of their number be appointed Assistant Governor of Taamin Province, of which the oil-producing city of Kirkuk is the capital. “We offer our Arab and Turcoman brothers five important positions in the Provincial Council. We offer the Turcomen the position of Assistant Governor as well as another position in the Council and three other posts for the Arabs”, declared Rizgar Ali, one of the local leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). “The ball is now in their court — it is up to them to appoint the incumbents to these posts” he added at the end of a meeting of mediation in Kirkuk to secure the return of the Arab and Turcoman representatives, who have been boycotting the Taamin Province Council since February.
On 30 January, 26 Kurds, 9 Turcomen and six Arabs were elected to the Taamin Provincial Council in an election in which Kurds, driven out of Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein were able to vote. As part of his Arabisation policy, Saddam Hussein had driven Kurds out of the city in the 80s and settled Sunni and Shiite Arabs in their place, thus altering the demographic representation of each community. The Kurds are demanding a return to the earlier situation, and urging that the Arabs, settled there at that time, return to their former lands with suitable compensation.
Moreover, on 14 August, hundreds of Kurds demonstrated in Kirkuk and throughout Kurdistan to demand that their claims, in particular their right to self-determination, be recognised in the Constitution.
In Kirkuk, the demonstrators, some 1,500 strong according to the organisers, strongly contained by the police, waved banners demanding that a secular state and women’s rights be included in the Constitution. “Give us the right of self-determination”, “Kirkuk is Kurdish” could be read on the banners in Arabic, Kurdish and in some cases in English. “Down with Jaafari” shouted some demonstrators, dressed in traditional Kurdish costumes and carrying Kurdish flags. The rally, in the city centre was “a clear message to the Constitution drafting Committee not to ignore the rights of the Kurds”, declared one of the organisers, Sattar Mustapha. He accused Ibrahim Jaafari’s government of having ignored Kurdish demands. “The forcibly displaced Kurds must be brought back to Kirkuk and the Arabs settled here under the fascist Saddam Hussein regime expelled”, he added. “We have fought for our rights, we have had tens of thousands of martyrs in facing up to the dictatorship and we are ready to continue our fight to secure the right to self-determination”, affirmed for his part Shirzad Abdel Khalek, of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Similar demonstrations took place in Suleimaniah, Irbil and Dohuk. “The Kurds are not part of the Arab Nation but of the Great Kurdish nation and, like the other peoples of the world we have our rights”, declared Bayan Mohammad, a civil servant in Suleimaniah. “We have decided to organise these demonstrations to make ourselves heard by the leaders of Iraq and the world, and to tell them that is a Constitution that does not recognise our rights is imposed on the Kurds we will organise demonstrations going as far as civil disobedience” pointed out Helkewt Abdallah, one of the activists of the Movement for a Referendum.
These demonstrations take place at a time when the political leaders are engaged in a race against time to complete the Constitution Bill, which, amongst other things, is supposed to settle the status of Kirkuk and the relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government.
On 12 August, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdigan, visited Diyarbekir for the first time since his election and promised to undertake democratic reforms in favour of the Kurds. Recep Tayyip Erdigan assured his hearers that the Kurdish question would be solved by “more democracy”, despite the upsurge of armed operations. “I want you to know that, at the point to which Turkey has arrived, there will be no turning back (…) We will not allow any regression in the democratic process”, declared Mr. Erdogan before several hundreds of Diyarbekir’s inhabitants. “We will solve all problems with more democracy, more civil rights and more prosperity”, he added. Mr. Erdogan’s visit to Diyarbekir was surrounded by major security measures, with 3,000 members of the security forces deployed in the city. In particular, many police were draw up all along the route take by the Prime Minister from the airport to the city centre and sharpshooters were positioned on the rooftops. Mr. Erdogan indicated that Ankara would not renounce the use of the Army to counter PKK activities. “Terrorism and violence are the country’s worst enemies and will never be tolerated”, he stated, advocating an “unshakeable determination” to oppose violence. He also stressed that the mistakes had been made by the State while taking up the Turkish State “one country, one nation, one language” before the hundreds of people who had come to hear him. The head of the Turkish government thus dismisses a strictly military response, but does not, for all that, specify the content of new measures liable to show the E.U. his will to a political opening.
While many Kurds are complaining about the government’s incapacity to check the chronic poverty from which Kurdistan suffers, the Prime Minister indicated that the government did not envisage industrial investment in the region, calling on local businessmen to take the initiative by taking advantage of the incentives the government had recently set up.
The Mayor of Diyarbekir, Osman Baydemir, welcomed Mr. Erdogan’s commitment to a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. “I hope that his declarations will lead to the beginning of a new page”, he declared on the NTV television channel. The PKK, for its part, considered, in a communiqué, that after his declarations the Prime Minister should move on to actions. “We find this declaration by Erdogan is important. But what counts is the way it will be carried out, what its content will be”, stated the communiqué quoting the PKK chief Zubeyir Aydar. The statement recalled that Mr. Erdogan’s predecessors had also “recognised the Kurdish reality” but, nevertheless, had sent their “tanks, helicopters and planes” into Kurdistan instead of resolving the question peacefully.
Two days before visiting Diyarbekir, during a televised debate with some intellectuals, including several writers, journalists and human rights activists, the Turkish Prime Minister had declared that “economic and cultural problems (…) must be discussed in the context of the principles of the Republic and of the Constitutional order (…) We are seeking a solution in the context of a greater democratisation and of more reforms of the constitutional order. For us, the Kurdish problem is a problem of democratisation”.
In the context of its efforts to join the European Union, Ankara has undertaken many reforms, such as the ending of the 15 year long State of Emergency in Turkish Kurdistan, the authorisation of Kurdish language programmes on the public radio and TV networks, and the opening of private centres for teaching Kurdish. However, the application of these reforms remains very limited and is often purely formal.
On 30 August, the chief investigating magistrate of the Iraqi Special Court (ISC) visited Kurdistan to collect evidence against Saddam Hussein prior to his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judge Raed Juhi’s visit to Suleimaniah aims at inspecting the ISC offices there and examining means of securing evidence of Saddam Hussein’s crimes against the Kurdish people. The ISC offices in Suleimaniah consists of four magistrates who are busy collecting evidence from the victims of the Anfal operation, which made 182,000 victims and of the gas attack in the Kurdish town of Halabja, which cause 5,000 deaths, in 1988. After Suleimaniah, Judge Juhi is due to make a similar visit to Irbil.
Saddam Hussein was captured by the US Army in April 2003 in the Tikrit region, North of Baghdad. Since then he, along with several of those close to him, has been detained in a prison guarded by Americans, near Baghdad airfield. His trial could open in the next two months according to a source close to the ISC, which is composed of Iraqi magistrates.
In July, the fallen dictator, driven from office in April 2003, was charged with the massacre at Dujail, a locality north of Baghdad, where 143 Shiites perished in 1982. This case is considered relatively minor, compared with the other charges against Saddam Hussein, and especially the gassing of 5,000 Kurds at Halabja in 1988, the assassination of clerics and the bloody repression of the Shiite and Kurdish uprisings of 1991. The investigating magistrates consider, however, that the evidence is easily collected and could allow the Iraqi dictator overthrown in March 2003, to be rapidly sentenced to death.
Furthermore, Saddam Hussein’s family has announced that it has decided to reorganise the former Iraqi dictator’s defence in preparation for his trial by dismissing the international team of lawyers, which was based on Jordan, a retaining only one lawyer. Saddam Hussein’s family pointed out, in a communiqué dated 8 August, that it had appointed the Iraqi lawyer Khalil Duleimi as “sole and unique legal counsel” of the ex-Rais. Duleimi has been a member of the international team of lawyers for a year, and took part in Saddam Hussein’s first preliminary hearings in Baghdad. The family explains that it had to “rearrange the defence campaign given the uniqueness of the case”. A source close to the family, who wishes to remain anonymous, added that Saddam Hussein’s relations had been irritated by the multiple statements made by different lawyers and wished, henceforth, that his defence should speak with a single voice.
Saddam Hussein had available a team of 1,500 voluntary unpaid lawyers, a majority of whom were Arabs, and 22 barristers from the United States, France, Libya, Jordan and Iraq. Amongst them were, in particular, the former US Minister of Justice, Ramsey Clark, and Aisha Moammar Khadafi, daughter of the Libyan President. According to the communiqué, other lawyers might, in the future, be “explicitly authorised by the family” to make statements, which leaves the door open for further developments.
On the other hand, Tarik Aziz, former Deputy Prime Minister and an eminent figure in the Saddam Hussein regime has announced that he will not be giving evidence against the fallen president. “I would like to make it clearly known (…) that I will not give evidence against anyone, and in particular not against Saddam Hussein” wrote Aziz in a note to his lawyer, Badia Aref, who disclosed some of certain extracts on 9August.
On 3 August, the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, inducted the ultra-conservative candidate, Mahmud Ajmadinjad, into office as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Teheran. “I congratulate the Iranian people for its vote. I confirm that vote and I appoint Mr. Ahmadinjad as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran”, declared the Supreme Guide in a declaration read by the outgoing President, Mohammad Khatami.
Thus, at 49 years of age, Ahmadinjad becomes the sixth President of the Islamic Republic in a climate of sharp international tension, due to Iranian nuclear activity, and of great internal uncertainty. Elected for four years, Mr. Ahmadinjad, a former officer of the special services of the regime’s ideological army (the Guardians of the Revolution) and former Mayor of Teheran, is the ally of the conservative religious hierarchy, which holds the real power in Iran. Unexpected winner of the Presidential election of 24 June, with 61.69% of the vote against Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, he takes office when the country is, more than ever, threatened with being brought before the UN Security Council after renewing its ultra-sensitive nuclear activities. Ahmedinjad waged his campaign by centring it on the observance of the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “We did not make the revolution to set up a democracy”, he thundered. Before the first round of the poll, on 17 June, few observers give Ahmadinjad, the most conservative of all the candidates, much chance of winning. In Teheran he had rejuvenated the municipal teams and undertake a struggle against trafficking. He had replaced the cultural centres by prayer meeting halls and introduced segregation of the sexes in the municipal lifts …
With Ahmadinjad, all the control levers of power are in the hands of the conservatives. In his declaration, the Supreme Guide described the “massive participation” in the Presidential elections as a “slap in the face of the enemy”. According to certain observers, his arrival in office endangers the settlement of the differences over Iran’s nuclear programme, which Washington suspects is in pursuit of military aims.
The first law proposed by the new government is the creation of a “love fund” of 1.3 billion dollars to help young people find jobs, settle down and find a home.
For some weeks past, the some 19 million Iranian Kurds have been subjected to increased repression after the disturbances following the death of a young Kurd. Iranian Kurdistan is divided between the administrative provinces of Kurdistan, Western Azerbaijan, Kermanshah and Elam. The disturbances began after the death of Seyed Kamal Astom, shot down while being arrested, in the first half of July. His swollen face, displayed on Internet after his death, gave credit to the idea that the young man, described by Kurdish organisations as an activist in the Kurdish cause, had been tortured. Several days of disturbances caused, officially at least, twelve deaths, including eight policemen, but according to non-governmental organisations, the real assessment is much higher. The cities of Mahabad, Sanandaj, Oshnavieh, and Saghez were shaken by violence by popular demonstrations. Hundreds of people have been arrested. On 3 August, two people were killed by shooting at Saghez and eight others injured — a member of the police force, a member of the (Islamic) militia and six inhabitants — and 150 were arrested during the disturbances. Moreover, two Kurdish papers, the daily Achti and the weekly Assou, published in both Kurdish and Persian, were banned by the courts of Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province. “The reason for this ban has not been made public, but it is linked to the news published these last few weeks”, stated Jalil Azadikhah, chief editor of Assou, on 4 August.
Elsewhere, on 17 August, an Iranian policeman was killed and five were wounded by the explosion of a mine, which is said to have been laid by a group of Kurdish fighters in a locality near the town of Sardasht, near the border with Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iranian authorities impute this explosion to PEJAK, a little known group that appeared about two years ago and is believed to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Eight Iranian soldiers and two civilians were killed in clashes in the last few months in Iranian Kurdistan, according to the Iranian authorities. On 15 August, the Chief of Police, General Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, declared that four policemen had been taken hostage in Western Azerbaijan by the PEJAK.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, over 400 people rallied, on 6 August, in the centre of the city of Suleimaniah, waving banners in which were written “We condemn the crime that resulted in the death of innocent people in Iranian Kurdistan” and “Death to the Islamic Republic of Iran”. The demonstrators shouted slogans in support of their Iranian brothers. The organisers of the rally stated that they had asked for authorisation of the police a few days earlier to march to the UN offices in Suleimaniah, but that it had been refused. “We are calling for the freeing of all political prisoners and for an end to the state of emergency in Iranian Kurdistan”, stated Mostafa Fatih, an Iranian Kurdish refugee in Iraq. “We also call on the human rights defence organisations and the international organisations to demand an end to the arrests and the oppression of the Kurds by the Iranian authorities”, he added.
On 14 August, Iran openly accused the United States and Great Britain of being the instigators of the disturbances in Iranian Kurdistan and also in the largely Arab province of Khuzistan. The Iranian authorities accused, pell-mell, the Arab separatists, the People’s Mojahiddin (an armed opposition group in exile) supported by the Americans, or Baathists still loyal to Saddam Hussein.
On 15 August, at least 47 Syrian Kurds were detained at Serê Kaniye (Ain al Arab), 560 Km North of Damascus, after clashes with the Syrian police, according to a communiqué issued by the Progressive Democratic Party of Syrian Kurds. The Kurds were protesting against the refusal of the Syrian authorities to authorise their celebration of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan, a Kurdish organisation that is not unrecognised in Syria. Cars were damaged during the rioting, in which the demonstrators threw stones at the police who replied with tear gas, according to the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHM).
Moreover, on 28 August, the State Security Court, a special emergency law body, sentenced three Kurds, Mustapha Hanif Khalil, Abdel Karim Alo, and Mohammad Naaman Mohammad Hanan, members of the Democratic Union Party to two and a half years jail for membership of “a secret organisation”. “This is the usual charge levelled against any Kurd appearing before this court. It is completely baseless, as the Kurds demand a solution to their problem in the context of Syrian territorial unity” declared their lawyer, Fayçal Badr. The lawyer described “unconstitutional” the verdicts of the State Security Court, which was created by Emergency Law decree.
In June, over 6 Kurds were arrested during a demonstration following the assassination of Mohammad Maashouk Khaznaoui. This Kurdish cleric was Vice-President of the Damascus Centre for Islamic Studies and enjoyed great popularity in his community. According to the spokesman of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, Amar Korbi, the 60 people were released from the Hissaké Central Prison on 3 August.
The Kurds of Syria are estimated to number about 2 million, or about 9% of the total population. Some 300,000 of them have no official civic status, the Syrian authorities refusing to accept them as citizens.
The number of US soldiers killed in Iraq in August reached a level unequalled since the January, and American leaders predict an escalation of violence as the mid-October referendum on the Constitution approaches. The US Army assessment is that at least 84 US soldiers were killed in Iraq in August.
On 31 August, the Pentagon let it be known that, since its intervention in March 2003, the Army has recorded 1,879 deaths in its ranks as well as 14,265 wounded. Colonel Steve Boylan, the Army spokesman in Baghdad attributed this increase in the number of deaths to large-scale operations recently undertaken against the insurgents. The only month in which the Army suffered more losses this year was in January, when 107 soldiers lost their lives in the build up to the 30 January elections. Since the start of the war, nearly two and a half years ago, the average of the losses suffered by the American forces has been 2.1 deaths a day. At this rate, the total score will reach 2,000 dead by mid-October.
These figures are far below the losses suffered during the Vietnam War, in which the US lost 58,000 soldiers. But they are also greatly inferior to the deaths amongst Iraqi civilians during this same period. The United States has about 140,000 soldiers in Iraq. The Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, let it be known that the Pentagon will certainly order a temporary increase in military personnel in this country to reinforce security as the referendum approaches.
Furthermore the average cost of the war in Iraq is already higher that hat of the conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, according to a report entitled “The Iraqi quagmire” prepared by the Institute for Policy Studies and Foreign Policy in Focus, two organisations opposed to the war. According to them, the cost of military operations in Iraq has risen to 5.6 billion dollars per month — equivalent to some 186 million dollars per day. “In comparison, the average cost of the military operations in Vietnam over the eight years of the war was5.1 billion dollars per month, taking inflation into account” the report says. On the other hand, the Vietnam War cost more in terms of national production, since it represented 12% of the GNP, as against 2% for the Vietnam conflict. However, some economists point out that the Iraqi war is being financed by deficit spending, which could double Congresses Federal budget over the next ten years. The US Congress has voted four Bills to finance the war in Iraq, totalling, so far, 204.4 billion dollars. It is shortly due to vote to release 45.3 billion dollars more. “If the cost of the war is expressed per US inhabitant, it comes to 727 dollars per person, which makes it the most costly war efforts of the last 60 years” write the authors of this report, Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver.
On the other hand, according to recently published documents, the US State Department had warned the Army Central Command, even before the allied offensive on 2003, of “serious gaps in the planning” of post-war security. In a note dated 7 February 2003, a month before the start of the war, leading State Department officers had pointed out “serious gaps in the planning of security after the war, and of humanitarian aid between the end of the war and the beginning of reconstruction”. “A failure to tackle short term civil security problems and off humanitarian aid could result in serious violations of human rights, which would undermine an otherwise potentially successful military campaign and tarnish our international reputation”, the note warned. This note was acquired by the National Security Archives of George Washington University and was published on 17 August on the Internet site of the research group. It had been written by three State Department Bureau heads for the attention of Under Secretary Paul Dobriansky, but also communicated to the Army authorities.
On 8 August, the independent commission enquiring into the “Food for Oil” scandal stated that there had, indeed, been corruption in the management by UNO of the programme in Iraq, its former Director, Benon Sevan having “corruptly obtained financial benefit” from it. In its third stage report, the commission, led by the former President of the US Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Volker, indicated that Mr. Sevan had benefited, to the extent of 147,184 dollars from the allocations of oil granted, at h is request, to the African Middle East Petroleum (AMEP) company, directed by the Egyptian, Fakhry Abdelnur, a cousin of former UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali. A friend of Mr. Sevan, Efraim Nadler, played the intermediary role in these transactions.
The report traces the course of the sums of money obtained from the sale of about 7.3 million barrels of Iraq oil by AMEP, first to a bank account in Geneva controlled by Mr. Nadler, then towards a New York account belonging to Mr. Sevan.
This is the first time that Mr. Sevan, a 67-year-old Cypriote, has been directly accused of corruption. Mr. Sevan denies the accusations made against him. A first report of the enquiry commission, last February, had accused Mr. Sevan of having infringed UN rules by intervening personally in AMEP’s favour in the distribution of contracts, but the commission had not, at that time, established whether he had enriched himself personally. Mr. Sevan, who directed the 64 billion dollar “Food for Oil” programme throughout its existence, from 1996 to 2003, had resigned on 7August and accused Mr. Annan of having “sacrificed” him, according to his lawyer, Eric Lewis. ‘r. Sevan left New York for Cyprus in June, which earned him a further accusation by the commission of failing to cooperate with the enquiry. A Manhattan prosecuting attorney opened criminal proceedings against him in July.
Furthermore, the commission accused another former UN employee, a Russian, Alexander Yakovlev, who resigned in June. According to the report, Mr. Yakovlev, who worked in the UN purchasing department, of having asked for backhanders, with the help of a Frenchman called Yves Pintore, from the Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) in 1996. The company was in the running for a contract for checking on Iraq’s oil exports under the “Food for Oil” programme. The Volker commission indicated that there was no proof that SGS had paid this backhander, in principle intended to secure the contract. In fact, an American firm, Seybolt Eastern Hemisphere, not SGS, secured the contract. Alexander Yakovlev pleaded guilty before the American courts on 8 August, according to which he was alleged to have received “at least hundreds of thousands of dollars” from firms wishing to secure UN contracts.
Finally, Mr. Volker indicated to the press that the enquiry was continuing with regard to Mr. Annan. In its second report, at the end of March, the commission had revealed that, according to “elements in its possession” there had been no influence trafficking by ‘r. Annan in the attribution of UN contracts in Iraq to the Swiss company Cotecna, which employed his son, Kojo. Mr. Annan, who has always affirmed that he was not aware that Cotecna was a candidate for a contract, considered that he had been exonerated in the scandal. Mr. Volker raised the discovery of an email “raising new questions on how much the General Secretary knew”. In this email, dated December 1998, the Vice President of Cotecna, Michael Wilson, mentioned a meeting in Paris with Mr. Annan at the end of November 1998, and assured his correspondent that he had received a guarantee of being able to “count on the support” of Mr. Annan and his entourage. At the time, UNO had affirmed that it had found no trace of any such meeting in the archives regarding this visit to Paris by Mr. Annan, who said he had no memory of it. Soon after, Mr. Wilson himself retracted his statements.
The “Food for Oil” programme had allowed Baghdad to sell limited and controlled quantities of oil in exchange for food and necessities for its population despite the international embargo. However, the Iraqi government had distorted the system and several billion dollars had been embezzled by its leaders. The scandal is a serious source of embarrassment for UNO. Many of the Organisations, especially in the US, have demanded the resignation of Mr. Annan — who has several times repeated that he would not resign.
Furthermore, in a letter to the Security Council, Kofi Annan has recommending the extension of the UN mission to Iraq by another 12 months. There are, at present, 260 civilian and military UN personnel working for this mission in Iraq, whose mandate expires on 12 August. It is almost certain that the Security Council will agree to this recommendation. In a letter date 4 August, Kofi Annan explained that the mission has extended its work beyond Baghdad since August 2004, despite “major operational and security constraints”. He hoped to increase the staffing of the mission and open new reception centres in Basra and Irbil.
On another register, the Security Council, on 4 August, unanimously passed a resolution firmly condemning the recent bomb attacks in Iraq, including the murder of foreign diplomats. The new US Ambassador to UNO, John Bolton, who was taking his seat on the Council for the first time, seized the opportunity to stress that the resolution showed “broad international support for the Iraqi government” and called on Syria and Iran to honour their promises to work to ensure the stability of Iraq. The resolution passed “unreservedly and in the firmest terms condemns the attacks that have occurred in Iraq” and points out that such acts are “a threat to peace and security”. It calls on the international community “fully to support the Iraqi government in the exercise of its responsibilities of protecting the diplomatic community, the UN personnel and foreign citizens working in Iraq”. In the name of France, Michel Duclos, the N°2 man in the French delegation to UNO, indicated that France “fully supported” this text. But, he added, “France also wished to recall its conviction that only a political solution is of a nature to provide Iraq with perspectives of peace and stability”. “This political solution must be based on national reconciliation, the rejection of all forms of exclusion or discrimination and on the association of all the Iraqis in the transition”, he pointed out.
On 1st August, he full-length feature film “Tortoises also fly” directed by Bahman Ghobadi won the Hassan II Prize at the 11th Rabat International Festival of Art and Culture. The jury also rewarded the actors of this Kurdish language film, which opened the official competition for the Hassan II Film Prize, by given them special mention for their acting.
“Tortoises also fly” follows the events of the war, its repercussions on the normal development of children and adolescents as well as the privations that result from this tragic situation. The film takes place in a village of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Turkish and Iranian borders. The inhabitants are actively trying to find a parabolic antenna to pick up the news by satellite, because it is the eve of the American attack on Iraq. A disabled boy from another village, accompanied by his little sister and his child, predict it. The film is set in Iraqi Kurdistan, that Bahman Ghobadi had already filmed in an impressive way in “A time for drunken horses” and “The songs of my mother’s country”.
Hasan Cemal, a respected Turkish journalist and privileged observer of the political situation in Turkey, analyses, in his column in the daily paper Milliyet, Ankara’s Kurdish policy with reference to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent declarations. During his visit to Diyarbekir, Mr. Erdogan spoke, for the first time ever, of the Kurdish problem in Turkey and recognised the State’s mistakes. Here are extensive extracts from this analysis, published over the period 23 to 28 August under the heading of “The Kurdish Problem”.
“What did the Prime Minister say? He spoke of the Kurdish question. He openly gave the problem its name, thus becoming the first Prime Minister to speak about the Kurdish problem with out tying himself up in knots and without official cant. He stood out from the statesmen who, hitherto, have affirmed “there is no Kurdish problem but a terrorist problem” or, like Ecevit (a former Prime Minister, several times in office) “there is no Kurdish problem but a problem of the South-East”.
He then announced that “the Kurdish question will be solved with more democracy, more citizenship and more prosperity”.
The he indicated that “the State has also made mistakes in the past”. “Not to recognise past mistakes is unworthy of great States. Great States advance into the future in the light of their sins. We must not burden our future with past actions”. This statement is also a first — and a very important first. Hitherto people had no hesitations about stating that the State was white as snow and, for years, justified its actions by “the necessary struggle against terror”. It was hardly convincing, but widely alleged. That is why the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan admits mistakes made by the State in the past, in Diyarbekir and before the Kurdish citizens of the Republic of Turkey is a point to be underlined in Indian ink.
Furthermore, by clearly separating the Kurdish question from terrorism, Erdogan again marks his difference from his predecessors — with the exception, to some extent, of Turgut Ozal. While very firmly condemning terror and violence, he insisted on the fact that there will be “no breach on the way towards democracy” with regard to the Kurdish question.
The official policy of the State has put (the struggle against) terrorism before democratisation. Every time that democracy, justice and human rights have been raised, with the various prime Ministers, they answered us “it’s impossible, it would be considered as a concession to terrorist (…)”.
The fact of conjugating the struggle against terror with actions in favour of a democratic State of Law has never really been taken into consideration — even it Ankara sent out different signals from time to time.
In other terms, the State has never questioned what it had learnt by heart. For years it managed the situation by sending out lies, in the form of hot air balloons, to occupy the attention abroad (…) By affirming his wish to fight against terror even while pursuing his actions in the direction of democratisation, Erdogan has also declared that all this would be done in the framework of the unity of the Republic of Turkey— that is a single State, a single nation and a single flag (…).
If democracy, peace and prosperity must be achieved in Turkey, Prime Minister Erdogan must back his remarks with determination and political will. Will he be able to do this?
Why are some people so angry with Erdogan? Simply because, as Prime Minister, he has described the Kurdish problem without beating around the bush and because he has recognised past mistakes of the State before the people directly concerned.
According to Erdogan’s denigrators, there is a terrorist problem, not a Kurdish problem in Turkey, there is, thus, no problem of identity but social and employment problems (…). Raising the Kurdish problem, speaking about the Kurdish problem and revealing in this respect mistakes made by the State in the past is unpardonable for these people (…) (If you do) you will be described as a traitor to the nation … (be asked ) have you become a separatist all of a sudden? Are you without “honour”…
It would be better to stick to the reality of the matter, since the Kurdish problem is at the top of the list of this country’s serious problems. And if the problem still persists today it is because the past mistakes of the Republic of Turkey have also played their part. But what mistakes?
You denied the existence of Kurds, You affirmed for years “There are no Kurds, they are Turks”. You denied the existence of the Kurdish language and forbade its use in the public services. You even drew up laws against the Kurdish language.
You also forbade teaching the Kurdish language, banned Kurdish personal names for the new born, wrote Turkish name in their official papers as dictated by the law, Turkised the names of Kurdish villages, hamlets and homes.
For long years you banned Kurdish songs, and never authorised broadcasts in Kurdish. You even forbade people from wearing their red, yellow and green colours. There were reports of police raids on weddings at which the guests wore these colours.
To sum up, as the State you considered the Kurdish identity and culture did not exist. You had denied it. And what happened? The Kurds, the Kurdish language and the Kurdish identity weren’t annihilated. They continued to exist. To understand the situation one doesn’t have to be a learned scholar. All you have to do is take a plane to Diyarbekir and discuss with the town’s shopkeepers, have a coffee with the Kurdish citizens.
If you deign to make this effort you will understand what is a Kurd, the Kurdish language, the Kurdish identity, the aspirations of the Kurdish citizens and you would put yourself in their shoes in a few instants. (…)
Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey there have been 28 more or less important Kurdish insurrections. The most recent one would, therefore be the twenty-ninth. (The 9th Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel, made the same statement). If you insist there is no problem, how do you describe what is happening in the land? If no problem exists why so much blood and tears? If no problem exists why did we have to decree that the Kurdish language and songs did not exist? Why deny the Kurdish identity?
If you cannot ask these questions, then you brain has been taken hostage by clichés. You can continue to live with your head in the sand like an ostrich. But it won’t change the facts. The question raised is “the Kurdish problem”. The question raised in “the problem of terror”.
To resolve the first of these problems we need, as Prime Minister Erdogan said, more democracy, more citizenship, more prosperity. To resolve the second we must call for the security, with a police and military consequences (…).
Suppose we never used the word “Kurd”, we never pronounced the word “Kurd”, that Kurdish intellectuals never spoke about the Kurdish language and that we didn´t evoke the Kurdish problem. Supposing that we closed all the private language classes, once again banned Kurdish music, erased everywhere the colours red, yellow and green, put an end to broadcasts and publications in Kurdish, that we returned to the old state of affairs by jailing for “separatism” everyone who spoke about Kurds and about the Kurdish language (…). Do you think that you will be in any greater peace and quiet?
Have you never crossed the border post at Habur to go into Northern Iraq(Kurdistan)? I did so for the first time in1992 and last time in 2003.
In 1992 I entered Iraqi Kurdistan, as the Kurds call it, by passing in front of a big board wishing me “Welcome to Kurdistan” in Turkish and English. Then, in Irbil, I met the President of Kurdistan and the Prime Minister of Kurdistan. My articles were then published in the daily Sabah. I then paid several visits to the region. I had the opportunity of briefly following our Army’s operations in Northern Iraq in 1995. My last visits were after the fall of Saddam in May and then in November 2003. Did you know that the Kurds had several Universities, at Duhok, Irbil and Suleimaniah? They also have primary schools, lower and upper secondary schools, TV networks, radios, newspapers reviews and books. They read and learn their language, their literature and their history — and all this just the other side of our borders. If today I stared decrees laws prohibiting all this, what use would it be?
Do you think you can stop Kurds looking at the Kurdish networks being broadcast just the other side of the border, without even needing parabolic antennae? Can you avoid the passage of newspapers, reviews and books that can be delivered only a few steps away? Can you stop them listening to their music in Kurdish? Can you prevent them learning their own language, their history and their literature through television or Internet? After all, you’ve been unable to do it in the past …
Do you know that there is taking place, in the South-East (Turkish Kurdistan) an emigration regarding education and employment towards North Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan)? Some young Kurds, even though the numbers are still small, are going to North Iraq to enjoy the benefit of Kurdish education. I have even heard that some have enrolled in the military academy … And some Kurdish businessmen are visiting North Iraq, briefcases under their arm to try and do business.
In any case, when you forbade all this in the past, you didn’t harvest what you hoped. In Diyarbekir, in Istanbul, they continue to sell, under the counter, books of Kurdish history and literature. With the help of parabolic antennae they can also watch the Kurdish TV networks.
In France, in Sweden, in Holland, Germany and Russia Kurdish Institutes have been able to promote Kurdish identity. Kurdish nationalism has been in the limelight since the beginning of the last century.
To very rejection, at every interdiction we decreed, these organisations abroad did all the could for years on end to promote the Kurds for academic, humanitarian and even political reasons — and continue to do so.
For some time now, the Kurds and the Kurdish question have had a place on the international scene, be it at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Court for Human Rights, the United States or on the agenda of the European Union. The Kurdish question continues to have a place on the agenda of different States and international organisations.
To sum up: a prohibitive or undemocratic policy has ended up without any solution. It ism indeed, unbelievable that it is still being carried out today. Those who advocate a truncheon policy in the present situation had better rapidly abandon the idea. It will only lead Turkey into a fine mess. It will become unstable, civil peace, harmony and the economy will get worse and worse.
Today Turkey is on the right road. It is acting in a democratic framework, because it has to. Turkey will evolve on the road to Europe, because it must do so (…)
I was in Diyarbekir in April 1991. We were four journalists, discussing with Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel in the guest suite on the top floor of the House of Culture, which also houses the State Theatre.
The coalition between the Right Path Party (DYP — Right wing) and the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP — Centre Left) had just been set up. Demirel and Inonu (respectively leaders of the DYP and the SHP) were making their first national visit to Diyarbekir. Demirel declared: “We are going to draw up a new Constitution that will conform with human rights and the Paris Charter”. Then he launched to an explosive statement: “We can’t stand in the way of Kurdish identity. We must recognise the Kurdish reality”. The Prime Minister made this statement so that the Press would report it. The next day, accompanied by Erdal Inonu he repeated the remarks from a specially build rostrum.
A wind of good intentions swept over us. The Foreign Ministry and the protocol services translated the parts of the governments programme regarding democratisation into English under the heading “The Kurdish reality” and sent it to Brussels, to the capitals of the European Union and the Council of Europe. A few months later I covered the visit of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Hitmet Cetin to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The atmosphere was particularly auspicious, there were smiles everywhere. But nothing came of it in the end …
The statements remained on paper. There was no new Constitution in conformity with Human Rights or the Paris Charter. Demirel never repeated the phrase “Kurdish reality”. Hopes collapsed, at home and abroad.
At the time I asked myself whether the Prime Minister’s statement regarding Kurdish reality was not part of the “policy of grey lies” used by our State whenever it found itself in a tight corner or again to gain time?
I know that Ankara resorts to this policy more especially when the Kurdish problem is at issue. That is why I cannot help asking myself whether the latest sortie of Prime Minister Erdogan on the Kurdish problem might not be part of the same policy? I do not think so. The Erdogan government has shown political courage such as no political party has done so far. This is why I think it probable that it will pursue its political determination (…) because the policy visibly contains international aspects.
What I want to say is this: more democracy, more citizenship more prosperity, that is more social issues and more employment — all these could fail to finally and permanently end the Kurdish problem. Terrorism and violence could continue and even win important victories and even marginalise those advances (…)
To illustrate this look at the Basque problem in Spain. If you’re talking about democracy, there is democracy there, the rights of citizens, legality are there. As for prosperity, they talk of $20,000 national revenue per person … But the Basque problem persists. There are still people who demand independence and ETA still has recourse to violent actions. On the basis of the Basque example, some of us are opposed to democratisation and to legality with respect to the Kurdish question. This attitude leads to a dead end (…)
Spain has managed to get out of the dead end exactly because it has not failed to maintain the requirements of democracy regarding the Basque problem and has recorded progress in economic and political issues because it has pursued the European road. Turkey must take the same route (…)
One well known political public figure in Diyarbekir told me over the phone yesterday morning: “I am a Kurd but, as a Kurd, I cannot live without Istanbul and Izmir. What I want above all, as a Kurd, is that I should be taken into account, as an individual, that the State consider me as a citizen … The day this will be achieved, I assure you many things will change”. (…)
Another asked me “Why was the Annual Art and Culture Festival at Tunceli cancelled this year? Yet this festival continued to take place even during the last two years of the State of Emergency …”. “Do you know the Yerel Gundem 21 (Local Agendas 21)? They are consultative municipal assemblies, established by law, bringing together both the elected representatives and the State appointed officials. Prefects, Mayors of urban agglomerations, small towns, Health Centre directors, leaders of civil society, meet at regular intervals to discuss the problems of their province, and they hand in to the prefect, or the mayor proposals in the form of reports. These Agendas have had notable successes in Bursa and even in Antalya”. (…) “However, they don’t take place in Diyarbekir because the Prefect does not take part in the meetings. The Assistant Prefect has attended once or twice and that’s all ÷ Why is it that the representatives of the State cannot bring themselves to meet with the representatives of the people? (…) What can the man in the street think of such a situation? Doesn’t the State take any account of the men we have elected?”
A Prime Minister who comes out strengthened from the 3 October appointment with the European Union, should be able to do more to resolve the Kurdish problem, they say (…)”
TURKEY – E.U. ANKARA REFUSES TO RECOGNISE NICOSIA AND ADOPTS A MORE AGGRESSIVE TONE.
On 4 August, Turkey repeated its categorical refusal to recognise Cyprus before the start of the negotiations for membership and said it was “saddened” by this “new condition” set by France. Reacting for the first time in public to the remarks by French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, (who, on 2 August, had judged “unconceivable” the opening of negotiations for membership without Ankara’s formal recognition of Cyprus, His Turkish opposite number declared “We are saddened by the statements of the French Prime Minister and of President Chirac”. “It is out of the question for us to discuss or envisage any new condition before 3 October”, he added, referring to the date planned for the opening of negotiations between Turkey and the E.U.
Ankara, which only recognises the Turkish occupied part of this Mediterranean island, signed a protocol on 29 July broadening its customs union to the ten new member states of the European Union, one of which is Cyprus, — the last condition put by the European Council last December for opening discussions. But Turkey immediately made a point of stressing that the signature of the protocol was not, in its eyes, any sort of official recognition of the Nicosia government. For Turkey, such recognition could only be the outcome of a final settlement of the Cyprus question in the context of the efforts undertaken under UN mediation. On this point, Ankara considers it has fulfilled its side of the contract by inciting the Turkish Cypriot to accept the UN peace plan by referendum, whereas the Greek Cypriots had rejected it during the simultaneous vote in 2004. Cyprus has been divided in two since the Turkish invasion of 1974 following an abortive coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists backed by the military junta in power in Athens at the time.
The Cyprus question is a very sensitive issue in Turkey and many specialists state that Ankara might renounce its very old European ambitions if the Union went back on its commitments and demanded immediate recognition of the Greek Cypriot government. The recent resignation of Murat Sungar, the principal Turkish diplomat concerned with the E.U. could augur a shift in the government’s position, which could be tending to prepare public opinion for a postponement of the opening of negotiations.
The European Commissioner for the enlargement, Olli Rehn, stated on 9 October that he was “reasonably confident” that negotiation for membership with Turkey would begin as planned on 3 October. In fact, the E.U. leaders never did make the recognition of Cyprus a precondition for opening negotiations with Turkey, but as a natural development to be reached on the side of it. The ministers should not depart from this line. The European Union indicated on 31 August that it would reply to Turkey’s refusal to recognise Cyprus, and Nicosia threatened to oppose the opening of discussions for Ankara’s membership if Brussels’ reply did not satisfy it.
STRASBOURG: THE EUROPEAN COURT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CONSIDERS TURKEY’S RESPONSIBILITY IS INVOLVED IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF TWO LEADERS OF A PRO-KURDISH PARTY AT SILOPI.
On 2 August, the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating the right to life, following the disappearance, in 2001, of two leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP – pro-Kurdish, dissolved in 2003 by the Constitutional Court for “organic links” with the PKK). The Court considered that the still unexplained disappearance of the two men, and the total absence of any enquiry constituted a violation of Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention for Human Rights. It also considered that the fear and anxiety of their families, left since then in ignorance of their fate, was in breach of Article 3 forbidding inhuman and degrading treatment.
Serdar Tanis and Ebubekir Deniz, who were respectively President and Secretary of HADEP in Silope, (in Sirnak Province) disappeared on 25 January 2001. According to their relatives, they had received death threats from the gendarmerie command in Silopi and that of the Sirnak Province gendarmerie regiment because of their political activity. They had gone to the gendarmerie and have never been seen since.
The Court considered that “Turkey’s responsibility is involved in disappearance of those concerned” because of the context of their disappearance and the fact that “four years later one is still ignorant of their fate” but also because of “the absence of any serious enquiry or plausible explanation from the authorities about what has happened”. It awarded each of the four petitioners 20,000 euros moral damages and up to 40,000 euros to the wives and the partner of the two men.
SOME OF THE FUNDAMENTALISTS, GUILTY OF THE MASSACRE OF ALEVI INTELLECTUALS AT SIVAS IN 1993, ARE ENJOYING HAPPY DAYS WITH COMPLETE IMPUNITY.
The Turkish Press has tracked down a Turk found guilty by his country’s courts of the fundamentalist massacre committed in Sivas in 1993 — one of the most serious fundamentalist crimes in recent Turkish history. Muhammad Nuh Kilic, who has been living in Germany for the last few years, had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his involvement in the massacre of 37 intellectuals of the Alevi faith, burned to death on 2 July 1993 in a hotel at Sivas my islamist fundamentalist. The fire was lit by a mob spurred on by fundamentalists as a protest against the remarks of a satirical writer, Aziz Nessim, who had expressed doubts about the originality of the Qoran during a debate in the context of the Pir Sultan Abdal Festival, organised to celebrate the anniversary of the death of this 16th Century Alevi poet. At the end of a marathon legal case that lasted over seven years, 31 people were sentenced to death for their participation in this attack, but the Turkish courts seem unable to find some of them.
On 18 August, the Turkish Ministry of Justice announced that Turkey was seeking to obtain his extradition from Germany, although till then he had never been bothered by the Turkish authorities, even securing the renewal of his passport at his country’s consulate in Germany. “The translation of the various documents needed for the extradition of Muhammad Nuh Kilic is under way and they will be sent to the country concerned by diplomatic channels” the stated a communiqué from the Turkish ministry. The Federal Court at Karlruhe, however, refused to place the man under provisional detention, demanding the documents relevant to the demand for his extradition.
THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND CALLS ON IRAQ RAPIDLY TO ENDOW ITSELF WITH A CONSTITUTION.
On 16 August, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its first report on Iraq in 25 years. In it, it called on the Iraqi political leaders to endow the country with a Constitution so as to face the country’s “colossal” economic challenges. “Iraq continues to face colossal dangers and challenges in the reconstruction of its economy”, stressed the Fund in its report on the country’s economy (Chapter 4).
Lorenzo Perez, head of the last IMF mission to Baghdad, for his part, stresses “the very important and very positive effect for Iraq” that an agreement on the Constitution would have. “The approval of the Constitution (would be) an important stage in the process of political and economic development in Iraq”, considered Mr. Perez, one of the co-authors of the IMF report, during a Press Conference. Several essential points, such as the distribution of wealth derived from oil could be hard to resolve. “But on the whole, this would have a positive effect on the economic climate”, he insisted.
In its report, the IMF stressed that “the rate of reconstruction and revival will depend, to a great extent, on the development of the political and security situation”. “The economy remains fragile and there is much more work to do to transform Iraq into a market economy, firmly engaged on the road to sustainable growth”, added the document. It calls on the authorities to “set up the most urgent structural reforms”, particularly to establish a budgetary framework “aiming at giving priority to the use of available resources”.
While recognising “the difficult political and social context” the IMF stresses that one of the major challenges is to “eliminate the distortion of prices”, in particular by eliminating “as quickly as possible the substantial government subsidies on oil derived products”. “The level of subsidies in Iraq is probably the highest in the world”, stressed Mr. Perez, while recognising that the Iraqis were suffering, in the immediate short term, from a rise in prices. “Prices must be adjusted gradually, ensuring at the same time that the safety net to protect the poor is strengthened and explaining to people why this is happening”, he added. “It is really a matter of arbitrating between subsidising oil or having more money available for hospitals and schools”, according to Mr. Perez.
The report also stresses “the necessity for reaching an agreement on the refinancing of the debt” with the private creditors and those outside the Paris Club, which would be “comparable to that found last year with the Paris Club creditors”.