On 18 September, after months of haggling between the Shiite, Sunni and Iraqi Kurdish communities, the Iraqi Parliament finally approved the draft Constitution, which will be submitted to a referendum on 15 October. The Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hussein al-Shahristani, declared to the press that the text voted by the members would not be further amended. “There will be absolutely no changes from now on”, declared Mr. Al-Shahristiani. “The draft will be presented to the United Nations and will shortly be submitted to the Iraqi people”.
The final draft embodied the essence of the amendments made to the text when it was presented to the United Nations on 14 September. The only significant modification since then was in Article 3, in which the phrase that the “Arab people (of Iraq) form part of the Arab nation” was deleted. The Sunni Arabs considered that this clause implied that Iraq did not form part of the Arab nation. Article 3 mentions, as in the version presented to the UN, that “Iraq is a founder member of the Arab League” to try and satisfy the Sunni Arabs and the pan-Arab organisation. Moreover, the final draft deleted Article 44, regarding “international conventions and agreements regarding human Rights”, thus confirming the primacy of the Iraqi Constitution over international conventions. The new draft adds that the Prime Minister shall be seconded by two Deputy Prime Ministers throughout the new Parliament’s first term of office. Two other clauses covered the fair sharing of water resources.
The draft will now, without any further amendments be put to the electorate for approval. UNO has now only a few weeks to print five million copies for the referendum. The UN official responsible for the constitutional referendum, Nicholas Hayson, considers that, despite the time taken to adopt it, the first copies of the draft will be out for distribution in the next five days. “We are fully confident of our ability to this”, he said. “We have had a large number of requests from various civic groups, political parties and others for copies of the Draft Constitution and to distribute it”, he pointed out.
The Sunni Arab minority, after having been coddled by Saddam Hussein, have opposed many of the clauses continued in the Draft, this delaying its adoption. Many of them have already announced that they will vote “NO” at the referendum. They are opposed to increased autonomy for the Shiite South and to Kurdistan, fearing that the document will crystallised the loss of their predominance.
On 16 September, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyam Zebari, considered that the democratic process was under way in Iraq, now that the draft constitution had been finalised. In his view, the Constitution, drafted at the end of “difficult and tough negotiations”, was “the best agreement for all (the (country’s) communities”, even if each one of them had not secured all they wanted. “We have finalised a draft Constitution, and the Iraqi people will have the last word” on the text, he declared to the journalists who questioned him during the 60th UN Summit. “All those who took part in drafting this document (…) have had to make compromises reciprocally and thus reached a consensus”, he continued. “They could not agree on every clause, but what we have agreed is what is really realisable, it is what we believe to be the best agreement for all the communities”.
The head of Iraqi foreign relations stressed that there will always be the possibility of “improving the document in the future”, but that for the moment “we are seeking to complete the process and improve security” in Iraq, he added.
A source close to the principal Shiite religious authorities stated, on 23 September, that the Grant Ayatollah Ali Sistani, would be publishing a fatwa calling on the Iraqis to vote “YES” to the Constitution.
A number of Sunni Arabs, including the Ulema Committee, their principal Sunni religious authority, have called for a “NO” vote. They are opposed to the idea of federalism, which they believe will end with the country’s partition. If two thirds of the electors in 3 of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject the draft, — and the Sunni Arab community is, potentially, able to do this — the Constitution will be dropped and the whole process of constitutional negotiation will have to go back to square one, by the new transitional Assembly to be elected next December.
On 27 September, the Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Kurds to vote “YES” to the draft Constitution, which will be subject to a referendum on 15 October. “The citizens of Kurdistan must go to the polls and vote YES to the draft Constitution because it offers them fundamental rights, and establishes the basis of a democratic society which observes Human Rights” stated Mr. Adnan Mufti, the Speaker of the Assembly, during an extraordinary session. “The Constitution will set up a Federal Iraq, which is what we wish for”, he added, assuring his audience that the document would be a tool for “maintaining a united Iraq”. “This draft Constitution will allow (…) Kurdistan to enjoy the federalism for which we fought, and for which so many of us have died”, added the Assembly’s Deputy Speaker, Kamel Kirkuki. On 24 August, the Parliament had approved the draft Constitution, seeing in it “an important gain”. During the negotiations, the Kurds threw all their weight behind the defence of the idea of a federal structure to the Iraqi State, which the country’s Sunni Arab minority rejects.
On 7 September, UNO General Secretary, Kofi Annan, accepted responsibility for the mistakes made in the management of the “Food for Oil” programme in Iraq while stating his wish to remain at his post. The head of the independent commission, the former head of the US Federal Reserve bank, Paul Volcker, had stated that the responsibility should be “broadly shared”, including by the Security Council. “The report is critical of me and I accept this criticism”, declared Mr. Annan, to the Council, that had just received the main report from Mr. Volcker. “The commission has shown that the management was characterised by weak administrative practices and inadequate controls and audits. For these, as administrator, I must assume responsibility”, added Mr. Annan. However, he continued, “at the beginning of the year the commission had concluded that I had not influenced or attempted to influence, the process of attributing contracts. I am glad d to note that this conclusion has been re-affirmed”. Kofi Annan, his assistant and the Security Council all shared responsibility for the situation that allowed Saddam Hussein to embezzle over 10 billion dollars in the context of this programme.
The report stresses that the commission had found “no evidence” that Mr. Annan had tried to influence the decision making process that attributed a contract to the Swiss company Cotecna, which employed his son Kojo. Mr. Annan admitted, however, that he had not been “sufficiently diligent or efficient” in seeking the truth when it was revealed that Cotecna had received a contract in the context of the programme. “I deeply regret this” he remarked. Speaking to the press soon after, Mr. Annan excluded any suggestion of resigning. “I do not expect any one to resign. We are continuing our work”, he stressed.
Mr. Volcker, for his part, stated that the responsibility for the mistakes noted in the management were “ broadly shared”, starting with the member States of the Security Council. The programme, as conceived, left too much initiative to Iraq” he considered. “It was like a pact with the devil, and the devil had the means for manipulating the programme to his advantage”. Mr. Volker also stated that the administrative structures and practices of the Secretariat and of certain UN Agencies “were not up to the extraordinary challenge” represented by this 100 billion dollar programme, 64 billion of which were for oil purchases. “These weaknesses, alas, were compounded by corrupt and unethical behaviour at the top of the programme and in the acquisition department”, he added. “Over billing, back-handers, and smuggling allowed Saddam Hussein and his regime to be supplied with hard currency without any control by the secretariat and the Security Council”, his report continued — the fourth of a series of five.
In an earlier report, the commission had accused the former programme director, a Cypriot, Benon Sevan, of corruption because he had received $147,184 for a contract. The Volcker commission had also accused Alexander Yakovlev, a former Russian civil servant, in the UN acquisitions department, of having received back-handers. “The evidence of real corruption amongst a small number of UN personnel is profoundly disappointing”, Mr. Annan also declared. “The enquiry’s conclusions illustrate the importance of the administrative reforms that have been proposed”, he continued.
A three-day Summit of some 170 heads of State and government, starting on 15 September and intended to adopt a deep-searching reform of the UN failed, however, to produce any concrete results.
The “Food for Oil” programme had enabled Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil, under UN control, between 1996 and 2003 and to buy, in exchange, goods needed by its population despite the international embargo. However, the Iraqi government had perverted the system and several billion dollars were embezzled. The scandal, revealed in January 2004, tarnished the UN’s image. Between the start of the programme in 1996 and the collapse of his regime in 2003, Saddam Hussein embezzled 10.2 billion dollars, according to the Volcker report. O the total, 1.8 billion came from sources linked to the application of the programme, and 8.4 billion obtained from illegal sales of crude oil to Jordan, Syria Egypt and Turkey — with the full knowledge of the members of the Security Council responsible for supervising observance of the international sanctions.
Furthermore the report revealed that he Iraqi authorities had offered a million dollars to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN General Secretary at the time the programme was set up, to win his favour. There is no evidence, however, that he was ever aware of Baghdad’s intentions, or that he accepted the money, but the enquiry is continuing. The commission also pinpointed Louise Frechette, the General Secretary's assistant, to whom Mr. Annan had ended up by confiding the direction of the programme. The Canadian diplomat “apparently uncertain of her role, failed to assume the full scope of the authority and control required by this complex programme”, the report stressed.
Furthermore, Serge Boidevaix, former French Ambassador to Germany between 1986 and 1992 and former General Secretary of the French Foreign Ministry, is the subject of an enquiry into “influence trafficking” in a case linked to the UN “Food for Oil” programme. On 8 September, the Paris investigating judge, Philippe Courroye, in charge of this case, which was opened in 2001, informed him that proceedings against him were under way. Serge Boidevaix is suspected of having received “vouchers” representing 32.6 million barrels of oil from the Saddam Hussein regime and of having passed back part of the proceeds to Baghdad officials. Today a private businessman — he presides over the Franco-Arab Chamber of Commerce — Serge Boidevaix had formerly had a high level diplomatic career, in particular working in Jacques Chirac’s inner cabinet when he was Prime Minister between 1974 and 1976. His name appears on a list of beneficiaries of the Iraqi regime’s largesse, which was attached as an appendix to the UN commission report and included in the files of the French case against the illicit practices committed in connection with the “food for oil” programme. The “vouchers” were resold through intermediaries to oil companies who were thus able to import oil despite the embargo.
Four Total executives, including Alain Le Chevalier, responsible for exploration and production in part of the Middle East, are already being investigated by Judge Courroye in this case, as well as Bernard Guillet, formerly the right hand man of Charles Pasqua, a former Minister of the Interior. The latter also appears, amongst other, on the UN enquiries list of beneficiaries, but the latter, now a senator and so covered by parliamentary immunity, has not been questioned to date.
On 5 September, the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, allowed himself to express his anger at the Arab States, reproaching them for their lack of concern for the victims of the recent murderous tumult in Baghdad and their reluctance at being represented at ambassadorial level in Iraq. Mr. Talabani’s outburst came on the eve of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) that had intended demanding “clarifications” on the draft Iraqi Constitution, which, in their view, disregards the country’s membership of the Arab world. “Iraq will not starve to death through lack of assistance from the Arab countries” declared Mr. Talabani to the press, echoing other Iraqi leaders who had been shocked at the lack of Arab humanitarian response to the catastrophic panic on the Al-Almah Bridge, in Baghdad, on 31 August, which had caused the deaths of a thousand Shiite pilgrims.
Few Arab countries announced any humanitarian aid for the victims, while Kuwait announced a donation of 10 million dollars. “The Arab countries are not doing much for Iraq, where they are not represented by any Ambassadors”, continued the Iraqi President. “This contradicts the interest they claim to have in Iraq’s Arabism” he added, referring to criticisms of a clause in the draft Constitution that only stresses that the Iraqi Arabs are part of the “Arab nation”. Mr. Talabani, moreover, evoked amendments to this draft, considered unacceptable by the Sunni Arabs, mentioning the Iraq was “a founder member of the Arab League”.
After this outburst, the Arab countries’ Foreign Ministers approved the opening of an Arab League Office in Baghdad. Meeting on 8 September, the Ministers “welcomed the announcement by the General Secretary (Amr Mussa) that an Arab League Office was being opened in Baghdad”, they declared in a separate communiqué on the Iraqi question. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Saud al Feisal, had declared shortly before the start of the meeting that the Ministers should discuss the question of raising the diplomatic representation level of the Arab countries in Iraq. “There are no obstacles to sending an Ambassador to Iraq, but there is a security question ”, he had explained.
In their final communiqué, they called on “the Arab countries concerned to cancel or reduce the Iraqi debt, in accordance with the decision of the Paris Club”. The Iraqi leaders stated that they had inherited a debt of 125 billion dollars from the Saddam Hussein regime.
Furthermore, on 6 September, the Gulf Cooperation Council called for safeguarding the Arab identity of Iraq at the opening of the meeting, in Jeddah, of the Foreign Ministers if the six member countries. The call was launched by the Bahrain Foreign Minister, Mohammed ben Mubarak al-Khalifa, current rotating Chairman of the GCC. Sheikh Mohammed asked that “the Iraqi Constitution respond to the aspirations of the whole Iraqi people and safeguard the Arabo-Islamic identity so that Iraq might remain an active member in its Arab and Islamic environment”.
On 28 September, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), after a heated debate, gave its support, with some reservations, to the opening of negotiations for Turkey’s joining the European Union, putting pressure on Ankara to recognise Cyprus and the Armenian genocide. In a non-binding resolution, passed by 356 votes to 181 against and 125 abstentions, the MEPs noted that the European Commission and the Council considered that Turkey has fulfilled the last conditions required for the opening of negotiations for membership, due on 3 October. However, judging that the “carrying out” of the conditions remain to be “applied”, they draw the Turk’s attention to a whole series of issues. The MEPs “sincerely deplored” the fact that Ankara had accompanied its signing, last July, of the protocol extending the customs union to Cyprus, with a declaration that this did not amount to recognition of the Nicosia authorities. They call on Turkey to recognise Cyprus “as soon as possible”. “It is not possible to become a member of the European Union without recognising another member State”, considered the leader of the Socialist group in the Parliament, Martin Schulz. The German MEP, firmly defending the opening of the process, even considered that its conclusion “cannot be then outcome of 15 years of negotiations”. It must take place “after one or two years”, otherwise the negotiations should be “suspended”. The leader of the European People’s Party (EPP — right) Hans-Gert Poettering went even further: “If, within a certain lapse of time after opening negotiations, Turkey has not made appreciable progress in the areas of Human Rights, then the process will be have to be interrupted” he said. Mr. Poettering recalled the support of his group for the opening of “open” negotiations without any effective guarantee that of Turkey’s eventual admission. “If, at the end of this process, Turkey could not be admitted to membership of the EU, we should then made efforts to offer it an alternative of friendship and cooperation”, he added.
The European Parliament, which is also raising, for the first time, the question of recognition of the “Armenian genocide” as a precondition for membership, furthermore recalled that, overall, the “objective” of the negotiations was admission to membership, but “not with any automatic a priori”. The MEPs, thus refused to give Turkey a blank cheque. To such an extent, indeed, that Emma Bonino, in the name of the Liberal and Democrat Group (centre-right) considered that the European Parliament was “very hard” in laying down its requirements. The Green Group co-president, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, for his part called for avoiding the creation of any “resentment” in the discussion. “After 11 September, it is important, in European interests, to give Turkey a chance to join (…) The question must be dealt with on this basis, and not on that of religious or racist feelings”, he stated, accusing certain opponents of the country’s membership of the EU of “surfing on a racist wave”.
Mr. Cohn-Bendit’s remarks did not fail to provoke the anger of some MEPs, in a chamber that is also divided on an often tabooed issue of European opinion. Another sign of sensitivity on this issue: the new postponement of Parliament’s vote on the extension of the Customs Union protocol. This vote is needed to the protocol to come into force, not for the negotiations. Its postponement was decided on the initiative of the EPP, which justified its action by Ankara’s repeated refusal to recognise Cyprus or allow Cypriot planes or boats access to its airports of harbours. Turkey also considered the declaration of the EU, adopted on 21 September, to be “biased”. This declaration makes the recognition of Cyprus a “necessary element” for Turkey’s membership of the EU.
Furthermore, the planned opening of negotiations on Turkey’s membership has been threatened by Austria, which, on 30 September blocked the adoption of a framework for negotiations with Ankara. Vienna seemed to want some sign from the EU in favour of Croatia as a condition for giving its agreement. “Undoubtedly there is a danger of not being able to start negotiations for membership”, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, considered. “On the other hand intense efforts are being made to reach a solution”, he added, stressing that there was “still time to resolve the problems”. To overcome this new European crisis, after weeks of discussions on the necessity of Turkish recognition of Cyprus, before joining the EU, the British presidency of the European Union announced an extraordinary meeting of Foreign Ministers in Luxemburg.
On 29 September, the Ambassadors of the 25 EU members in Brussels, once again failed to agree on a document that should set the principal lines of the negotiations for Turkey’s membership — because of Austria, according to a number of diplomatic sources. The document adopted by 24 member states provides that the objective of the negotiations is membership, in an open process without any guarantee of success. But Vienna, despite having accepted, along with its peers, that negotiations should begin by December, asked that the EU think about adding an explicit clause covering an alternative solution to full membership.
On 29 September, one of the most murderous attacks on the Shiites in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, took place in Bilad, a mainly Shiite town about 80 Km North of Baghdad. Three car bombs exploded almost simultaneously near a bank, a vegetable market and in the town centre, causing at least 99 deaths and 124 injured, according to hospital sources. Most of the 99 deaths were civilians, and at least five policemen, including the local police chief, were amongst the injured. The Shiite community ad been badly hit on 31 August when almost a thousand pilgrims died in a panic on a bridge in Baghdad — the most bloody tragedy in past Saddam Iraq — provoked, many believe, by rumours that a suicide bomber was in the crowd spread by the insurgents. The day after this tragedy, the government announced the first executions and death sentences of people involved in violent incidents, and the Prime Minister had ordered the setting up of a Commission of Enquiry, presided by a judge, and payment of compensation equivalent to $2,055 for each of the dead. All the people and movements had been shaken by the extent of the tragedy. Some, like senior Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a symbolic Shiite leader in Iraq have called on the government to clarify its circumstances.
On 14 September the Al-Qaida organisation in Iraq decreed “total war” on the Shiite community. On the same day, it put its threats into action in Baghdad with a series of car bomb attacks, here too very well co-ordinated, that caused nearly 160 deaths and 570 injured — mostly members of this community. On 15 September, three suicide bomb attacks causing at least 23 deaths aimed at Iraqi policemen struck Baghdad, as a riposte to the US operation in Tel Afar — an important insurgent base and centre weapons for distributing weapons in the area. In the course of a large-scale offensive, over 150 rebels were killed and over 400 suspects arrested since it began on 4 September. The US forces also struck a heavy blow at al-Qaida on 26 September by killing Abdullah Mohammed al-Jawari, alias Abu Azzam or sometimes Abdullah Nahim, allegedly the N°2 man in the organisation, during an Americano-Iraqi operation in Baghdad.
The Iraqi insurgents also assassinated Faris Nasir Hussein, an Iraqi member of parliament and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with his brother and chauffeur, in an ambush on 17 September as the M.P. was going to Baghdad to attend Parliament. Another PUK M.P., Haidar Shanun, was wounded in an attack near the town of Dujail, 80 Km North of Baghdad. The next day the M.P.s paid tribute to Faris Nasir Hussein with a minutes silence. “The terrorists have declared war (…) against all Iraqis but we are ready for them”, declared Deputy Speaker Hussein al-Shahristani.
Furthermore, all oil exports going to the Turkey’s Mediterranean oil terminal at Ceyhan via the pipeline linking it with Kirkuk were suspended on 3 September following a bomb attack. According to a US Congress report drawn up in April 2005, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline consists of two parallel pipes, the first with a theoretical capacity of 1.1 million barrels/day (a real capacity of 900) and the other of up to 500,000 barrels/day. Iraqi Kurdistan exports could reach 350,000 b/day, but the pipeline only works intermittently, at about three days a week because of limited storage facilities at Ceyhan and of frequent attacks on oil infrastructures. According to the Iraqi officials concerned, the country’s exports, including the irregular ones from Kurdistan, only increased by about 15% between June and July, reaching 1.6 million barrels/day in July against 1.44 million in June.
On 21 September, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, accused Syria of failing to cooperate in the struggle against terrorism and of violating its obligations to Iraq, as laid out in the UN Security Council resolutions. “We have a strong feeling that Syria has not the political will to fulfil its commitments to Iraq”, he stated during a Security Council meeting. “Unfortunately most of the foreign fighters and terrorists infiltrating into Iraq are doing this through the Syrian borders and the Syrian government is no seriously cooperating in stopping their passage”, he added. “We are again asking our neighbours to uproot the terrorist elements and to join us in a strategic cooperation. The neighbouring countries have responsibilities towards Iraq that they accepted in the course of bi-lateral meetings. Commitments that are defined in Security Council Resolution 1618”, he recalled. Resolution 1618, adopted on 4 August last, condemned a series of very bloody bomb attacks in Iraq committed earlier, and urgently asked all the member states to “prevent the passage of terrorists to or from Iraq”.
On 22 September President G.W. Bush ruled out any US withdrawal from Iraq, while foreseeing further violence as the October referendum on the Constitution and the General Election, planned for December, approach. But the US President excluded any withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. “Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that they may escape the violence” stressed president Bush “but they are wrong”. The US President explained the increase in the number of bomb attacks by the proximity of the referendum on the Constitution. On 13 September, Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, had declared that Iraq would not set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. “We will not draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. A timetable would help the terrorists, encourage them in the idea that they can beat the world super-power as well as the Iraqi people”, declared Mr. Talabani during a press conference following discussions with US President George Bush at the White House. “We hope that, by the end of 2006, the security forces will be able to take responsibility out of the hands of the American troops in the context of a global agreement with the Americans”, Mr. Talabani had pointed out. In an interview published in the Washington Post on the same day, Mr. Talabani indicated that the United States should be able to withdraw some 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of 2006, stating that the Iraqi forces would be ready to assume control of some of the countries towns.
Moreover, on 27 September, the NATO General Secretary, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, together with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, inaugurated a Military Academy for training Iraqi officers by the Atlantic Alliance.
On the other hand, the US Army announced, on 26 September, that it had released 507 detainees from the Abu Ghraib prison, and that some 500 more would be released in the course of the following week. This latest batch of releases came at a time when the American NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), had published reports of ill treatment inflicted on detainees in an US base in 2003 and 2004. HRW Published a report entitled “Failings in the Command: eye witness evidence of torture of Iraqi detainees by the 82nd Airborne Division”, in which two sergeants and a captain described the daily bullying and beating of prisoners at the Mercury base, near Fallujah. According to these witnesses, this ill treatment was often carried out at the orders, or with the approval, of, senior officers. Following these accusations, the US Army announced that an enquiry was under way .
According tom the Geneva International Institute for Peace Research, the human and economic costs of the war in Iraq are constantly rising. The conflict will be prolonged and it will be very difficult to put an end to it, warned a paper published on 22 September by the institute. Since 2003, the war has cost 200 billion dollars and, as officially recorded, 2000 deaths amongst the coalition troops and amongst 27,000 Iraqi civilians. But this does not cover the mercenary and paramilitary forces on the coalition side nor the Iraqi troops killed and Iraqi civilians who were rapidly buried. According to an estimate by The Lancet, a figure of 100,000 Iraqi deaths, directly or indirectly due to the conflict since 2003, is perfectly credible.
Iran is threatening to refuse any inspection of its nuclear installations, following the adoption by the IAEA of a resolution aimed at placing the its case before the UN Security Council at some so far unspecified date. The resolution, passed by the governing Council of the International Atomic Energy Agency on 24 September, was described as illegal by Iranian Foreign Minister, Manushehr Mottaki.
At the moment, Iran is observing the additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requiring it to let the UN experts carry out surprise inspections of its installations. The protocol has not yet been ratified by the conservative-dominated Iranian Parliament. “Iran has not yet committed itself legally to continue applying the terms of the additional protocol”, stated Mr. Mottaki. “The resolution is illegal, illogical and has underlying political considerations”. However, Mr. Mottaki stressed, Teheran had no intention of withdrawing from the NPT, even if the Islamic Republic were to be condemned by the Security Council. “Iran intends to observe the NPT and to continue cooperating with the IAEA”, he indicated. According to Mr. Mottali. Iran will not give in to international pressures aimed at making it renounce its nuclear activities but it is ready to pursue discussions within the NPT framework. “We will never exclude the possibility of a dialogue. But Iran will invite new countries to take part” he insisted.
The resolution calls on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and resume talks with the European “troïka” consisting of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The current discussions, which have been going on for two years, reached a dead end last month and Iran resumed certain sensitive nuclear activities. Russia, China and the non-aligned countries, like India, are opposed to placing the matter before the Security Council. They also fear international sanctions for fear that the give rise to further escalation of the conflict. For his part, President Ahmadinjad stated that Iran would not change its stand and did not fear the Security Council. On 17 September, he denounced the “nuclear apartheid” between those states that possessed this technology and those that are prevented from doing so. He also demanded that South Africa should henceforth be included in the discussions with France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Iranian President even raised the bidding in the confrontation of nuclear ambitions by proposing to share its knowledge on the subject with other Islamic nations in the Near East and Africa. On 15 September, the fringe of the United Nations’ world summit in New York and following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mahmud Ahmedinjad declared that Iran was also ready to supply nuclear technology to other Islamic nations. “The Islamic Republic will never seek to procure weapons of mass destruction”, he declared according to the official Iranian Press Agency Irna. “We are prepared to transfer our nuclear know-how to other Islamic countries in accordance with their needs”.
On 11 September, during a press conference, the Iranian Foreign Minister had declared that Iran would be issuing an international invitation to tender for the construction of two new nuclear power stations. “Parliament has passed a Bill for the construction of twenty nuclear power stations and the production of 20,000 Megawatts of electricity. The decision to issue an invitation to tender is the government’s first step towards carrying out Parliament’s decision”, stated Mr. Mottaki, without giving any further details.
On 18 September some conservative members of parliament urged the government to renew its uranium enrichment activities. “It is an unjust resolution. We urge the government gradually to cancel its voluntary suspension of Iran’s peaceful nuclear work”, reads the text of a statement signed by 180 members of parliament.
According to a report of the IAEA, made public on 2 September, since the resumption of its nuclear activities last month, Iran has produced nearly seven tons of a gas used in uranium enrichment — a quantity sufficient for making an atom bomb. “The Agency is still unable to clarify certain questions still unresolved after two and a half years of inspection and enquiry”, the document pointed out. “Iran’s total transparency is indispensable and has been too long delayed”. The IAEA report confirms that the traces of highly enriched uranium discovered on the Iranian sites were found on the Pakistani equipment bought on the black market. However, it warns, “it is still not possible at this moment to establish a final conclusion”, in particular as to the origins of other traces of uranium.
However, the report, draw up by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad el-Baradei, affirms that Iran has produced about 6,800 Kilograms of uranium hexafluoride, a gas that is a necessary stage in the enrichment of Uranium. Depending on the degree of enrichment carried out, the material so produced can be used either as a source of power or to produce atomic weapons. According to a former IAEA nuclear inspector, David Albright, this quantity is enough to produce an atom bomb.
In a report published in London on 6 September, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimated, for its part that Iran could equip itself with enough material to make an atom bomb within five years if it devoted all its efforts to the task. “If Iran abandoned all caution and sought to obtain nuclear capacity as soon as possible, it could be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a single atom bomb by the end of the decade” declared John Chipman, IISS Director, presenting the report to the press. “The Iranian nuclear option is not imminent. For purely technical reasons, Iran seems still to be several years from producing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. And it is not known if Iran has the expertise for making a nuclear weapon with this material”, he continued.
The experts at the IISS, a respected London research centre, estimate that Teheran could opt for more caution, so as not to risk international isolation, without, for all that, closing the nuclear option in the long term. “Rather than rushing towards a bomb, Iran could gradually acquire a greater nuclear production capacity, over a decade or more, before deciding whether to use the weapon’s option”, Mr. Chipman considered. The Iranians have, in the moment, the feeling that keeping the option open allows them to “swim in a sea of nuclear states” and to “strengthen their negotiating position in the face of more powerful states, such as the United States” he explained. But it might be difficult for future leaders to resist the temptation once they do have the option, he remarked. For international diplomacy the challenge is delicately balanced: “it will be important to apply pressure and find compensations to persuade Iran not to develop a mastery of the fuel cycle that it could later transform into an armament programme”, he believes.
On 8 August, Iran had announced the renewal of its uranium conversion activities — a step towards enrichment — a decision that runs the risk of bringing it before the UN Security Council and possible sanctions. The international community’s margin for manoeuvre is, moreover, reduced. “Iran is now a great deal less worried by an American attack because of the situation in Iraq. It is putting out feelers”, declared Gary Samore, author of the report “The Iranian Strategic weapons programmes — an evaluation”.
The IISS, which had already published similar reports Weapons of Mass Destruction programmes on Iraq (September 2002) and North Korea (January 2004), points out that Iran in a “more open” society and so has more interest than Iraq or North Korea in avoiding international condemnation.
On 20 September, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced the extension to 3 October of a truce decided the month before — coinciding with the planned date for the opening of negotiations between Ankara and the European Union. In a communiqué published by the pro-Kurdish MHA news Agency, Kongra-Gel, considered to be the political arm of the PKK, explained that this extension was aimed at proving that the fighters were not seeking to harm or hinder the process of Turkey's joining the European Union, contrary to the government’s claims. “We are calling on the government and the Prime Minister to use this period till 3 October for a democratic solution” to the Kurdish conflict declared Kongra-Gel. “We do not intend to sabotage the process of Turkey’s membership of the E.U.”, it added. “We have always supported the entry of a democratic Turkey that has resolved the Kurdish question into E.U.”
On 19 August, the PKK had proclaimed a unilateral cease-fire till 20 September, but the clashes between its activists and the Turkish Army in Turkish Kurdistan, where it concentrates its activities, have continued. The truce came about following a speech by Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdigan, expressing assurance that the Kurdish question in Turkey would only be resolved with “more democracy” and a multitude of appeals from civil society for an end to the fighting. The PKK accuses Mr. Erdogan, in its communiqué, of having failed to put his own words into practice and the army of having launched “large scale annihilation operations” against its fighters in the mountains. It also deplores the fact that the government had not managed to ease the isolation of its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, one of their recurrent demands.
On 19 September, the Turkish Parliament met in extraordinary session to discuss the rise in the violent clashes between the PKK and the Army in Kurdistan. The Republican People’s Party (CHP - in opposition) that had called for the recall of the M.P.s from their holidays (theoretically until 1 October) managed, with the support of some small parliamentary groups, to reach the quorum of 184 members needed for holding an extraordinary session. The Justice and Development Party government (AKP) had opposed the holding of this meeting, considering that it would harm Turkey’s image when Ankara was due to begin negotiations for membership on 3 October. Once the quorum was reached by the opposition, its members finally took their places in a tense Chamber where Deniz Baykal, leader of the CHP, accused the government of lacking “political will” in the fight against the PKK. “There is no need for new conditions to struggle against terrorism. What matters is to show some political will, at present absent in Turkey” stated Mr. Baykal, considering that the present development of “terrorism” was creating “the basis for a generalised conflict”. During his visit to Diyarbekir, Mr. Erdigan had stated that his government would not authorise any “regression in the democratic process” and assured his audience that “the Kurdish question” would be resolved with “more democracy”. The government defended its actions through the Minister of the Interior. Abdelkadir Aksu, who declared that it was “not possible to wait for an absolute success in the struggle against terrorism without suppressing the situations and the conditions that fuel it”.
The violence in Kurdistan was resumed in June 2004, after a five-year pause, when the PKK, considering that Ankara was not doing enough to grant the Kurds the liberties that they demanded, put an end to the truce they had unilaterally observed. The PKK attacks in the region have increased noticeably since April. Act of violence, in particular lynching attempts began in September in the West of the country between supporters and opponents of their chief, Abdullah Ocalan, followed by appeals for moderation from the political caste as a whole. The Turkish authorities also imputed to the PKK several bomb attacks in Istanbul and several seaside resorts of Western Turkey. The PKK rejects these accusations, accusing action by an uncontrolled radical group.
On 29 September, in the course of clashes with the Turkish security forces, three Kurdish PKK fighters were shot down. Two of them were killed in Sirnak Province and the third in Bitlis. The day before security forces killed two Kurdish fighters in a clash that took place at Bismil, in the earlier hours of the morning. In another clash in Hakkari on 26 September, PKK fighters attacked some “village guards” (local government armed Kurdish militias former to fight the PKK) killing two of them.
On 23 September the Turkish security forces shot down a Kurd, suspected of taking part in the murder of two policemen, while a soldier perished in a mine explosion. An alleged member of the PKK was killed during clashes at Gurpinar, in Van province, during a police operation launched following the death of two policemen in a PKK attack on a police station the week before. Moreover a soldier lost his life and two others were wounded in Siirt province when their vehicle hit a mine. Two others were wounded in Diyarbekir Province when a delayed action bomb exploded as they were trying to defuse it near a checkpoint, according to the Provincial Governor’s office. Some officials of Sirnak province stated, furthermore, that six fighters, including one former bodyguard of one of the PKK leaders, Cemil Bayik, had surrendered to the authorities. On 19 September, a land survey official and tow workers were killed in Bingol Province by a mine explosion. The Bingol Governor’s Office imputed the incident, which took place near the town of Genc during land surveying operations, to the PKK.
On 17 September, two Turkish police were shot down in the town of Van by shots fired by persons presumed to be PKK activists. They also wounded three other police while another policemen was killed in the town of Urfa when two unidentified men opened fire on a police car on patrol. Two other Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded when their vehicle hit a mine. The incident occurred during a patrol of the countryside near the small town of Semdinli.
On 11 September, five Turkish soldiers were killed and three others wounded in clashes. A first incident occurred in Bingol Province. According to the Turkish authorities, two PKK activists attacked the Yeniyazi checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding two others. This is the first attack on an Army position in this region, which had been the scene of a low intensity war, for several years. Two other clashes occurred at Sirnak. Four soldiers, including a non-commissioned officer, were killed and an officer was wounded.
In a communiqué from the Governor's Office of Tunceli Province, the security forces shot down, on 9 September, four members of the PKK, including a woman during an operation in the rural region of Cicekli. On 4 September, the Turkish security forces had killed two alleged Kurdish fighters in clashes in a rural area near the locality of Bilgili in the same province. On 6 September, a Kurdish demonstrator was seriously injured during incidents with police in Siirt died from his wounds in Diyarbekir hospital. Abdullah Aydan, 35 years of age, had been hit in the head by shots from the police during a demonstration of some 500 people demanding improvements in the conditions of Abdullah Ocalan’s imprisonment. The police stated that they had fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd who threw stones at the police. In addition to this victim, nine other people, including a policeman, were injured in the incidents. On the same day, two Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded by a mine explosion. The incident occurred when soldiers were patrolling a country path near the town of Cukurca.
Moreover, on 17 September, Abdelkerim Kilic, mayor or the small town of Catalca Koyu in Hakkari Province, was kidnapped from his home by a PKK group, according to the governor’s communiqué. The PKK had already kidnapped a village mayor and a soldier on leave in Turkish Kurdistan during the summer, before releasing them.
On the other hand, nearly 200 people were injured during violent clashes that began in the course of the night of 4 September at Bozuyuk (North West Turkey) between local inhabitants and supporters of Abdullah Ocalan. Many Kurdish activists, travelling in several coaches, were attacked by the inhabitants of Bozuyuk as they were returning to the Kurdish provinces after having been prevented by the authorities from visiting the neighbouring Turkish town of Gemlik. They had wished to take part in a protest rally against the conditions of detention of Abdullah Ocalan at Gemlik but had to turn back. The Kurdish activists, who are estimated to have been about 2000 strong, had deployed banners and placards in support of A. Ocalan. Which exasperated the inhabitants of Bozuyuk, according to the NTV news channel. The inhabitants broke the coach windows with the stones and violent confrontations took place between the two parties until the security forces, backed by the gendarmerie intervened, according to the Anatolia press agency. Seventeen police, seven soldiers and a doctor were injured in the clash, which lasted for several hours, declared the local governor Musa Golak, who accused the Kurdish activists of having “provoked” the inhabitants. Four of the injured are in a serious condition, according to NTV. About 25 people were injured during the clashes that lasted into 5 September at Diyarbekir and 20 others were arrested by the police. In the city of Van ten people, including three police were wounded and 80 demonstrators were arrested.
Elsewhere, 88 Kurdish activists, who were protesting against the ban on demonstrations in support of A. Ocalan at Gemlik, were arrested on 4 September after clashes with the police. The authorities had banned the demonstration, declaring it was organised by the PKK. The CNN-Turk television network showed pictures of the demonstration throwing Molotov cocktails at shops in the Alibeykoy quarter, in the European part of the metropolis. In other quarters, a bank was also targeted by the a Molotov cocktail, a bus was set alight and a police station attacked by stone-throwing — all according to the television. The police used truncheons and tear gas against the protesters. Some of them fired in the air to disperse some 150 demonstrators who were blocking a motorway in the Kadikoy quarter, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, according to the Anatolia News Agency. Police and paramilitary gendarme units set up checkpoints on all the entrances to Gemlik and stopped about sixty coaches that were carrying Kurdish activists coming from different parts of the country. Hundreds of demonstrators, forced to get down from their coaches, had to wait six hours before re-embarking without any of them having been able to enter Gemlik.
On 1 September, seven people were wounded, one of them seriously, when a low intensity bomb exploded, apparently aimed at a meeting by a pro-Kurdish party in the town of Sendini. A device that was placed near a tent set up by the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP - pro-Kurdish) for “world peace day”, celebrated on 1 September in Turkey, exploded. Most of the injured, including some women, suffered bruising, but one was seriously hurt.
To Ankara’s great annoyance, Washington has refused to take military measures against the PKK in Iraq, on the grounds of the instability in the region. Turkey has, indeed, long been urging the United States to act against the PKK fighters who sought asylum in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan after 1999. Washington acknowledges Ankara’s complaints but lets it be understood that the principal target of its troops deployed in Iraq remains the Iraqi insurgents and is encouraging Ankara to find a political solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey.
On 28 September, the US Under Secretary of State, Karen Hughes, stated in Ankara that the United States was determined to do more to fight “the terrorist threat”. “I want to make tit very clear — the United States absolutely condemns the PKK, even as we condemn al-Qaida”, pointed out the American diplomat, who was touring Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “We know that the Turks are suffering every week, that Turks are being killed every week, by PKK terrorists” she added. Ambassador Tuygan, for his part, stressed the necessity of a “more structured” dialogue on present day questions of Turko-American relations, citing in particular Iraq and the Near East. Ms. Hughes then had a short meeting with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
On 9 September the Turkish and American General Staffs met to discuss means of fighting the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan, without, however, setting up any timetable or defining concrete stages for going into action. According to a Turkish General Staff communiqué, General James Jones, head of the US land forces in Europe, and the Turkish General Hilmi Ozkok, Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed forces, had discussions that “stressed the need for a common determination and cooperation in the struggle against” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The two generals agreed on the fact that the PKK was “a danger to Turkey as to Iraq and the region” and that measures must be taken to put an end to the support received by the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan and prevent the infiltration of fighters into Turkey.
General Jones, who is also Supreme Commander of NATO forces, stated at a Press Conference after the meeting that the discussions had essentially covered means of driving the PKK from Iraqi Kurdistan. “The US central command has taken part in fruitful discussions with the Turkish General Staff to re-affirm the spirit of cooperation and speak concretely about what must be done with the Turkish armed forces” in Iraqi Kurdistan, he declared.
Questioned as to whether the US forces could undertake military action against the PKK, general Jones assured Turkey of the American determination to settle scores with the PKK, classified as a “terrorist” group by the US and the EU. “The discussions must represent a guarantee to Turkish public opinion and show that the struggle against terrorism is real, that those taking part are committed and that the problem will be successfully resolved” added General Jones.
In Germany, searches were launched in September after the decision by the German Minister of the Interior to ban a press and publishing house. On the premises of the E. Xani Company, that publishes the Turkish language daily Ozgur Politika (which has a circulation of 10.000 and is located at Neu-Isenburg, near Frankfurt) the police found 22,000 euros, 70,000 Swiss francs (nearly 45,000 euros) and several tons of propaganda material, mainly attributed to the PKK, according to the Ministry. Police operations began in eight of the regional States in the context of this decision, the Ministry added in a communiqué. “It is proven that the European edition of the Turkish language daily Ozgur Politika is linked to the PKK organisation” stated Mr. Schily.
On 25 September, the Syrian State Security Court (an extralegal emergency court) sentenced two Kurds to two and a half years imprisonment for membership of “a secret organisation” reported Anouar Bounni, a well-known lawyer and Human Rights activist. The two Kurds, Shahin Mohammad and Hashem Ahmad, members of the Democratic Union Party (a banned Syrian Kurdish organisation) were charged with being members of “a secret organisation aiming at securing the annexation of part of Syrian territory to a foreign country”.
Kurdish leaders all deny any secessionist aims and insist that they only want recognition of their language and their culture as well as their political rights. About 1.5 million Kurds live in Syria. “The Syrian authorities are tightening the screws on civil society, and particularly on the Kurds”, stressed Mr. Bounni, pointing out that the authorities have recently forbidden several meetings by Human Rights groups.
Furthermore, on 15 September, a Syrian Kurd was killed when opposing police who were destroying houses that had been illegally built in a locality West of Damascus, Mr. Anouar Bounni. According to him, a woman was killed in a clash between police and Kurds at al-Dimas, 25 Km West of Damascus. “The clash occurred when the police bulldozers began to demolish houses occupied by poor workers, mainly Kurdish, built illegally”. According to Lokman Ousso, leader of an unauthorised Syrian Kurdish organisation, the woman was “beaten to death by the police as she opposed this destructive operation. Two other women were injured.
On 28 September, some Syrian exiles held a meeting in Paris of political opposition to the regime, but stressed that many potential participants had remained in Syria for fear of reprisals. Some Syrian-based opponents had given up the idea of going to Paris to attend this two-day meeting, presented as the first of its kind, according to the organisers. There were, nevertheless, some thirty participants, mainly Syrian Kurds. “The Syrian regime threatened to jail many participants if they attended the meeting” declared Fahad al-Masri, one of the organisers and a member of the Rally for Syria, a party of exiles.
The aim of the meeting was to unite the Syrian opposition and to rally the international community to its cause. The exiles demanded the creation of an independent judiciary, freedom of the press and political pluralism in Syria.
One hundred and twenty police have been killed and 64 others injured in clashes with Kurdish fighters in Western Iran in less than six months indicated a local official, cited by the Isna news agency on 3 September. “Since the beginning of the year 1384 (beginning on 20 March 2005) 120 police have fallen as martyrs while fighting the PEJAK, the PKK the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Komaleh” stated Hojatoleslam Akbar Feyz, the chief Justice of the Province of Western Azerbaijan, as quoted by the student press agency Isna.
Over the last few months the press has given news of regular attacks by groups of Iranian Kurds m including PEJAK — an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other banned Kurdish parties that are active near the borders with Iraq and Turkey. Teheran and Ankara are linked by an agreement by which Iran commits itself to fighting the PKK and Turkey to fighting the People’s Mujahaddin, an Iraqi-based Iranian opposition movement. Hitherto, official sources had reported 12 deaths, including eight soldiers, in violent actions since mid-July, though non-governmental organisations put the figures much higher.
Mr. Feyz added, always as reported by Isna, that last month, 190 people from towns with a predominately Kurdish population, had been arrested, nine of whom are still behind bars. The judges in the province have all been armed “for self defence, following death threats” made by Kurdish groups, according to him.
On 24 September, a conference of Turkish historians on the situation of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and on the massacres directed against this population finally took place after having been twice postponed because of the extreme difficulty of dealing with certain subjects in Turkey today. On their arrival at the private university of Bilgi, the participants were greeted by a rain of eggs and tomatoes thrown by demonstrators annoyed at the idea that they dared to discuss the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. The demonstrators waved Turkish flags and shouted slogans accusing the participants of betraying their country. Putting forward the idea that the Turks could have committed genocide against the Armenians not only contradicts the official line (and can give rise to legal proceedings!) but also offends considerable part of the population that considers the Ottoman Empire as a symbol of Turkish grandeur.
This is, indeed, a first ever in modern Turkish history. Indeed, for the first time ever, historians can discuss publicly a “past that refuses to lie buried”, in particular within the Armenian diaspora, whose members have been demanding Ankara for decades to recognise the first genocide of the 20th Century — a genocide that caused over a million deaths in the year 1915. The group of academics who had initiated this conference has become emblematic of that part of the Turkish population that wants to advance towards a modern democracy, according to Halil Berktay of the History Faculty at Istanbul’s Sabanci University, who thus makes the point that they are acting “for Turkish democracy, for freedom of speech and for academic freedom”.
At first, the organisers of this conference had been accused, last May, by the Minister of Justice himself of “stabbing the people in the back”. On 22 September, those opposing this initiative had succeeded in getting the conference postponed by an Istanbul court — an action criticised by the Prime Minister who considered that this kind of censorship was unworthy of a democracy.
The Turkish press is speaking about a victory for democracy and welcomes, for its part, the very fact that it be taking place. “Another taboo has been destroyed. The conference has begun, but the last trump has not sounded”, wrote Milliyet on 25 September. The daily Radikal also rejoiced at this development “Even the word genocide was uttered during the conference, but the world is still turning and Turkey is still here”, read the paper’s front-page headline. “Free discussion. Free demonstrations”, burst out the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, putting on the same level the freedom of expression of the conference participants and their detractors.
In a message to the conference the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, expressed the official line, declaring that many citizens of the Ottoman Empire had suffered terribly during the war but that the thesis of genocide against the Armenian people was false, with underlying political considerations. “The Turkish people is at peace with itself and with History”, he insisted.
Furthermore, the Foreign Affairs Commission of the US House of Representatives recently passed, by overwhelming majorities (35 for and 11 against then 40 for and 7 against) drafts of resolutions urging Turkey to recognise the “massacre” of Armenians between 1915 and 1917. In 2000, the House of Representatives had nearly voted recognition of the “Armenian genocide”, but the resolution was withdrawn at the last moment from the agenda of the plenary session.
On 20 September, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty in rulings regarding petitions drawn up by about thirty Kurds. The Strasbourg judges did not uphold all the complaints made by the petitioners but Ankara did not escape unscathed in the rulings handed down.
Thus the Court upheld violations of article 3 (torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) and article 13 (right to recourse) in the case of Baki Karayigit. Suspected of membership of the PKK, he was arrested on 6 February 1999 by the anti-terrorist section of the Istanbul Police Directorate and suffered physical and mental abuse. The Court awarded him 15,000 euros damages.
In another ruling, the Court concluded that the enquiry conducted after Mesut Dindar was found strangled on 6 February 1992 — killed according to his father by security forces near the village of Sulak. The Court awarded 10,000 euros to his heirs and 3,500 to the petitioner, his father.
The Strasbourg judges also found in favour of Hayattin Seygin and Cevat Ince, residing in Diyabekir. Sevgin, detained at the Sagirsu Gendarmerie Directorate, is said to have been tortured for 18 hours. Both men were forced to sign false confessions of membership of the PKK. The Court awarded them each 6,000 euros damages.
On 14 September, the European Court for Human Rights also found Turkey guilty of violating human rights during police operations against alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Strasbourg judges criticised the “inadequate enquiry” by the authorities into two deaths during this operation, which was carried out in 1996.
Moreover, on 27 September, a Turkish journalist, tried for “Kurdish separatist propaganda”, had Turkey found guilty of “attacks on freedom of expression” by the European Court in Strasbourg. Asli Gunes was chief editor of a political review, Hedef (The Target) when she co-signed an article in which she criticised the military operations against the Kurdish fighters. The article called for “refusal to fight amongst the Turkish troops who are going to darken the future of the Kurds”. Mrs. Gunes was sentenced to one year and four months imprisonment in December 1995. The State Security Court then decided on a reprieve, replacing imprisonment by a three year suspended sentence, and then at the end of her period her three years probation, declared her sentence invalid. Finding Ankara guilty of breaching Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention (right to freedom of expression), the Strasbourg judges stressed that the incriminated article did not develop a discourse of hatred, which (in their view) is the “essential element to be taken into account”. They also considered that the suspended sentence had the effect of “considerably limiting her ability publicly to express criticism” for three years. Furthermore, the Human Rights judges pointed out that the proceedings were stretched out over a period of six years and seven months, which they considered excessive in view of Article 6 of the Convention. The Ankara authorities will have to pay Mrs. Gunes 8,500 euros damages and costs.
On 18 September, the new US Under-Secretary of State responsible for public diplomacy, Ms. Karen Hughes began a tour of three Middle East countries closely allied to Washington: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Ms. Hughes, a former Texas journalist and close to President Bush, who is officially charged with improving the US image abroad and with struggling against anti-American feelings, visited Cairo, Jeddah, Ankara and Istanbul.
At the beginning of September, Ms. Hughes had considered that the United Sates should react “more rapidly and more aggressively to mistaken information” that circulated about its policy. According to a study published in August and carried out before the July terrorist attacks in London, Americans said they were concerned at their reputation in the world, particularly in Moslem countries, and did not have much idea what to do about it. Three out of four Americans said they were as worried by the lack of confidence they inspired as by the hatred stirred up in Moslem countries, according to this poll published by the review Foreign Affairs and the Public Agenda Research Institute.
In the course of her visits the Under-Secretary of State received the full brunt of the Arabo-Moslem world’s complaints about America. The reproaches were made politely and very deferentially during the encounters and “exchanges of views” of these countries allied to the US: students and teachers in Egypt, veiled women students and journalists in Saudi Arabia.
Ms. Hughes, a specialist in communications, who contributed to forging the public image of the American President, who is officially charged with the task of “gilding the lily” of the US image following on the Iraqi war, arrived in Ankara on 27 September for the third leg of her journey of “listening”, which she ended in Istanbul. “It is confirmed — this is an enormous challenge”, she stated to the journalists who accompanied her in the plane from Jeddah to Ankara, speaking of her mission, described as “mission impossible”, especially by the Egyptian analysts. Very close to George W. Bush, this is the first time she has visited this part of the world.
On 29 September, General Ali Habib, Chief of the Syrian Army General Staff, ended a four-day visit to Moscow centred on Russian participation in the modernisation of the Syrian Army’s arsenal. In keeping with tradition, the visit was the subject of very little publicity and official sources only announced generalities. Thus General Habib’s meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov the day before, according to a communiqué, covered “the maintenance and modernisation of Syrian military equipment by Russian specialists, the training of Syrian troops in Russian military academies and the possibility of purchases of Russian weapons”. The type of weapons concerned was not specified, but they could be anti-tank missiles. Indeed, on 27 September, the Syrian general visited an establishment in Tula that specifically specialises in the manufacture of highly accurate missiles. The Tula Office of Instrument design and manufacture is one of the leaders in this field in Russia and is rated seventh in volume of arms exports. Apart from third generation anti-tanks missiles, baptised Kornet-E, its star product, it also manufactures light arms and “active armour plating” systems.
According to sources close to the Russian Defence Ministry, no significant agreement was announced following the Syrian general’s visit, though according to Interfax some Russian munitions were purchased and the number of Syrian officers being trained in Russia will increase from about 30 to over 50.
General Habib, who also met his Russian opposite number, Yuri Baluievski, is also said to have had discussions with Rosobironexport, the official organisation responsible for arms sales. Russia is one of Syria’s principal arms suppliers. The sale of Russian short-range anti-aircraft missiles last spring had unleashed violent protests from Israel.
On 13 September, the Iranian official news agency IRNA announced that Iran was going to sign a free trade agreement with Syria to promote bilateral trade. The Iranian Ambassador in Syria, Mohammad Reza Baqeri, stated in Damascus on 12 September that a free trade agreement between the two countries was in the last stages of being reached. “We hope that the two countries will see their bilateral exchanges develop following the signing of the free trade agreement”, declared Mr. Baqeri.
Iran ahs carried out various economic projects in Syria, costing about 700 million dollars, and Irano-Syrian economic cooperation could increase to about 3 billion dollars in the coming years, he added. Iran and Syria both suffer from American economic sanctions and are both accused by Washington of financing terrorists. In February, the Syrian Prime Minister, Mohammad Naji Otri, had called for both countries to form a front to face us to the economic sanctions and the Iranian media have classed Syria as a strategic ally.
On 8 September, the UN Aid Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) published an alarming Human Rights report, condemning the acts of violence and criticising the behaviour of the local police forces. The report cites the situation in the period 1 July to 31 August. It paints a dark picture and calls on the local authorities to observe their obligations with respect to human rights. It stresses UNO’s “anxiety at the lack of protection for civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights” of Iraqis. “The insurgents continue to target innocent civilians, including children, police, politicians, diplomats and those who are connected with the Multi-national Force, or perceived to be”, notes the report. “Bodies continue to be found, in Baghdad and elsewhere, mostly bearing signs of torture, and seem to be the result of extra-judicial executions”, adds the report, which recalls the principal murderous incidents and attacks, including the panic in Baghdad that caused nearly a thousand deaths on 31 August. It also recalls the discovery of corpses, including over 30 recently reported South of Baghdad, pointing out that the families had blamed these executions on “local forces linked to the Ministry of the Interior”. The document pinpoints an “excessive use of force” by Iraqi police, acting on their own or jointly with the Multi-national Force.
The report indicates that there have been several meetings with Iraqi leaders on this issue and states that UNO expects that these violations be the subject of enquiries. According to UNO, instructions have been given at Ministry of the Interior level, to observe Human Rights but “it is too early to evaluate the results”. “The United Nations are ready to help the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the measures taken to counter terrorism and the insurgence do not contradict their commitments regarding Human Rights, refugees’ rights and humanitarian laws”, the report points out. It expresses anxiety at the treatment of citizens of Arab countries obliged to renew their residential permits every month, at the execution of three people sentenced to death despite UN protests and at the public television programme Iraqia that continues to show suspects making “confessions” of their acts of violence before being tried. It also takes up the complaints of ill treatment of minorities, such as the Turkomen, the complaints of women who consider their freedom is threatened and announces training courses in Human Rights in Irbil (Kurdistan) and Basra (in the South of Iraq.
A mass campaign has been launched in Turkey in favour of education for some 520,000 girls who, according to estimates, do not go to school. Baptised “Come on girls, we’re going to school!”, the campaign was launched in 2003 in Van, a Kurdish province bordering on Iran. It has been extended to 53 provinces. In two years, some 120,000 Kurdish and Turkish girls have started at school, including 20,000 in Van. UNICEF, the UN Child Protection Agency has contributed $420,000 to this campaign. In certain poor provinces the authorities estimate that half the girls do not go to school, although it is compulsory to the age of 14, in secular Turkey. But these estimates, based on comparison between the schooling of girls and boys are far below the reality.
A major part of the funding is used to close up the educational net. In one village, near Van, there are only two classrooms with one teacher for 185 schoolchildren. With the help of the World Bank, Turkey offers to the poorest parents 39 TL ($30) a month if they send their daughters to school and 28 LT ($21) for the boys. This allowance is intended to pay for the purchase of educational material, which many parents can’t afford to pay for their children. One of the key factors in the campaign has been the mobilisation of Imams (who are paid by the State in Turkey) to overcame religious reservations.
This campaign also comes up against the resistance of certain Kurds, who reject education in Turkish. Turkey does not recognise its 18 million Kurds as a minority and all the state school education is solely in Turkish.
Furthermore, in a report published in Istanbul on 28 September, an American Non-Governmental Organisation denounced “inhuman” practices sometimes verging on “torture” in the treatment of mental illness in Turkey. “We have identified a practice of torture: the use of electric shock treatment without anaesthetic” in violation of the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture, declared Eric Rosenthal, President of the NGO Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), at a press conference presenting the report. “We have found children in orphanages and rehabilitation centres tied to their beds, being refused access to medical treatment, left without rehabilitation and without support that they need to obtain nourishment to keep them alive” he continued. Mr. Rosenthal also insisted on the fate of “many people who do not suffer from any handicap” who are, nevertheless interned, given the absence of any legislation defining the conditions of confinement of the mentally handicapped, because they are born deaf or have a handicapped mother.
The presentation of this report, the fruit of two years of investigation in Turkish mental institutions, comes a few days before 3 October — the date planned for the opening of negotiations for Turkey’s membership of the European Union. The resident of MDRI insists that it is not aimed at harming Turkey’s European process but to ensure that it faces up to its responsibilities. “I want to stress that there is no reason why these abuses should hinder Turkey’s membership, since Turkey has plenty of latitude for putting an end to the most serious abuses in this field” he stated, adding that he was not asking any more of Ankara than what has been demanded of other countries wishing to join the E.U. The report estimates that the capacity of Turkish public institutions specialised in the treatment of the mentally handicapped, at 9,000 places.
The most symbolic of Iranian political prisoners, the dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, has been taken back to prison after leaving the hospital where he had ended his hunger strike. Akbar Ganji left hospital on 3 September and has returned to prison, stated the Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimi-Rad, without giving any further details. He “has been taken back to Evine prison after leaving hospital and will serve out his sentence” stated earlier the Deputy Public Prosecutor in charge of prisons, Mahmud Salarkia, as quoted by the Student news Agency Isna.
Akbar Ganji, 46 years of age, was sentenced in 2001 to six years imprisonment following an article that implicated a number of religious dignitaries in a series of murders of intellectuals and writers. He started a hunger strike on 11 June that lasted nearly two months in protest at the conditions of his detention and secured an unconditional release. He was transferred from his prison to Milad hospital on 17 July, officially for an operation of the meniscus, and then admitted to the intensive care unit. Mr. Ganji’s wife had indicated, at the end of August, that her husband might be freed “in the next few days”.
The Court and the Teheran Public Prosecutor, Said Mortazavi were irritated by the defiant attitude of the dissident, over whose name some very virulent statements against the regime continue to be published as well as by the mobilisation in his support. US President George W. Bush, the European Union, and the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, have all called for Akbar Ganji to be freed. He is defended by the group of lawyers round the Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.