No sooner had the Constitution establishing federalism in Iraq been adopted than the Kurdish President, Massud Barzani undertook a diplomatic tour of the United States and Europe. He first went to Washington in response to an official invitation from the US President, who wanted to thank him for the crucial role he had played in the process of drafting and adopting the Iraqi Constitution, in particular by acting as mediator between the Sunni and Shiite Arabs. On 25 October he was warmly welcomed at the White House by George Bush. Massud Barzani’s arrival at the White House in traditional Kurdish dress and George Bush’s use of the word “President” when addressing him and the use of the Kurdish language aroused many comments. The Kurds, regardless of their leanings, were delighted at this diplomatic recognition of Kurdistan, of its language and of its President, while some saw there a sign that Washington was giving its blessing to the creation of a separate Kurdish entity in Iraq. However, the US President wanted to sound reassuring about the unity of an Iraqi shared between Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs by adding that the Constitution, approved on 15 October and the elections, planned for December, would allow everyone to “make their voices heard on the country’s future”. For his part, Mr. Barzani expressed, to President Bush, his “sympathy” for the families of American soldiers killed in combat in Iraq for “liberating other peoples”. In the course of his four-day visit to Washington, Mr. Barzani had a number of other high level meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defence Ronald Rumsfeld. The American, Kurdish and Near Eastern media gave considerable coverage to this highly symbolic visit.
The Turkish press acted as a sounding board of the Ankara authorities’ fears. In an editorial in Turkish Daily News headlined “A Peshmerga in the White House” Yusuf Kanli considered that this the point is “a demonstration of the strong political determination of the United States to favour Kurdish aspirations to have their own State”. Washington is “rewarding” the Kurdish leaders for their “loyalty” and their “cooperation” in the war in Iraq. The United States, Yusuf Kanli regrets, has given “Presidential treatment” to an the Iraqi Kurdish leader “who has unceasingly repeated that he dreamt of creating and independent Kurdish State”. He stressed that “Kurdish flags have replaced the Iraqi flag even at the Habur border post” with Turkey, that Barzani’s administration seems “determined not to authorise the Iraqi flag to fly in the region under Kurdish control”. An the editorial writer recalled, in a few words, the very uncomfortable position of Ankara in this case: “Still trying to find a real Iraqi policy, Turkey is trying to show its solidarity with the United States and, at the same time, to keep up an image of independence to attack the Americano-sceptics in Europe, the Arab world and others; but a Turkey that hopes, nevertheless that the adoption of the new Constitution would “open the way” for all the communities in Iraq, and that the future Parliament will be a reflection of all the components of the country. Authorities in Ankara, finally, who warn that their patience is exhausted so leaving it to be understood that they could resort to unilateral action against the terrorists in Northern Iraq”.
The famous columnist Mehmet Ali Birand agrees , in his column in the same paper, that the Bush-Barzani meeting “marks the beginning of a new historic process”. “A new page has opened in the history of the Kurdish problem. The most important thing, at present, is to find our what Turkey is going to write on this new page”, stresses Mr. Birand.
After this very notable visit to Washington, President Barzani was welcomed to 10 Downing Street on 31 October by Tony Blair. The latter congratulated Mr. Barzani, remarking that it is easier to work in peace and live in Kurdistan, and that the region was in advance on the socio-economic level. It also was an example to the whole region, adding that “it is a demonstration of what the region could be like in peace”. President Barzani also met the British Defence Minister before flying off to Germany where he had a long meeting with Mrs. Angela Merkel. The latter assured Mr. Barzani of her country’s support for the process of democratisation in Iraq and for the development of Kurdistan.
On 14 November it was Pope Benedict XVI who received the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, in audience, even as he had received, on 10 November, the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Mr. Barzani presented the pope with a tapestry showing Jesus Christ, which had been specially woven in Kurdish workshops. The Pope thanked him and expressed the Vatican’s gratitude at the Kurdistan authorities’ exemplary treatment of the Christian minorities. The day before, President Barzani had met the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
At the end of this fruitful journey, President Barzani’s delegation, which included the Kurdistan Prime Minister as well as the Iraqi Minister of planning, Berhem Salih, and a member of the leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) returned to the Kurdish capital, Irbil. There it reported back to the Kurdish Parliament and to the Kurdish political parties as a whole the results of this tour, described as historic by the Kurdish media.
Following this visit, the United States, Great Britain, and Italy have decided to open consulates in the Kurdish capital, Irbil, “as soon as possible”. They will probably be followed by Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, South Korea and Russia,
Moreover, the Senegalese President sent a special envoy to Kurdistan to invite President Barzani to Senegal with a view to establishing diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries.
Senegal is the first country in Africa to thus commit itself to opening diplomatic relations with Kurdistan.
The Iraqi President is devoting himself to taking up the threads of dialogue with neighbouring countries and obtaining their support for the stabilisation of the situation in Iraq. He undertook a three-day visit to Iran, where he was met by his opposite number there, Mahmud Ahmadinjad, who assured him that Tehran supported the democratisation process in Iraq. “An independent, developed people’s Iraq would be the best friend of the Iranian nation. We totally support the political process that Iraqis experiencing and which will guarantee its territorial integrity, its independence and its progress”, declared the Iranian President. “I am certain that the Iranian party will provide us with all the help needed to eradicate the terrorism” striking at Iraq, indicated Mr. Talabani following his meeting with Mr Ahedinjad. “We discussed the policy of economic and security cooperation”, stressed the Iraqi Head of State, mentioning exchanges of gas and oil, a possible rail link between Basra, in the South of Iraq and Khorramshar in Iraq as well as the easing of travel for Iranian pilgrims to the holy sites in Iraq. Iran, the second greatest oil producer in OPEC “is prepared to make its experience in the fields of oil, gas petrochemicals and electricity available to Iraq” Mr. Ahmedinjad had replied when greeting Mr. Talabani.
The next day, Jalal Talabani met Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Guide of Iraq, who urged the Iraq President to seek to obtain a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, stating that the American presence harmed the country. Following his meeting with his Iranian equivalent, President Talabani stated that he had received a commitment that Iran would help put an end to the terrorism striking his country. The Iraqi President, who was accompanied by the Iraqi Ministers of Electricity and of Planning, also met several other Iranian leaders and explained that his visit was aimed at strengthening political and commercial relations between the two neighbours. Accompanied by his Security advisor, Muaffak al Rubai, the Iraqi President declared that he was certain of securing Iran’s cooperation in the area of anti-terrorist struggle.
However, questions of security affecting Iraq remain a sensitive subject in relations between the two countries. Several Iraqi leaders, backed in this by the United States and Britain, accuse Teheran of interference in Iraqi affairs, in favour of those laying bombs. In 21 November, while visiting Moscow, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, thus “asked Russia (…) to use its authority to help us find an agreement with certain of our neighbours to settle a series of questions connected with security”.
Elected in April, Jalal Talabani is the first Iraqi Head of State to make an official visit to Iraq since that of Abdel Rahman Aref, President of Iraq between 1966 and 1968. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, had visited Iran in July. Mr. Ahmedinjad’s predecessor at that time, Mohammad Khatami, had then described the visit as “a turning point in the historic relations of the two countries”, which should make it possible “to dress the wounds and repair the damage caused by Saddam to their mutual cooperation”. He was referring to the war between Iraq and Iraq between 1980 and 1988, which had caused about a million deaths, according to a generally admitted estimate. Relations between the two countries have markedly improved since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, and even more so since the success of the Kurdish and Shiite lists in the January 2005 general elections in Iraq, since several of the present Iraqi leaders have spent several years of exile in Iran.
Furthermore the Iraqi Head of State was in Vienna on 14 November, where he opened a conference on “Islam in a Plural world”, which was attended, in particular, by his Afghan opposite number Hamid Karzai. Along with the General Secretary of the Islamic Conference Organisation, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a Turk, several specialists of inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Moslems, took part in the conference. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the spiritual head of Orthodox Christianity, the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Sch?nborn, the American Rabbi Arthur Schneier and the Ministers of religious affairs of Egypt, Mahmud Zakzuk and of Morocco, Ahmed Tawfiq, were also present. Before the start of the conference, Mr. Talabani visited the Catholic monastery of Heiligenkreutz, to the South of Vienna, accompanied by his wife, Hero.
On 12 Nvember, as the Iraqi General Elections approach, the UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, made a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet there the Iraq leaders and to call for national “reconciliation”. Kofi Annan, who was making his first visit to Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime, met the Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, the Deputy Prime Minister, Roj Nuri Shawesh, the former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, political and community leaders as well as UN staff. Kofi Annan used his journey to express his support for the conference on national reconciliation that the Arab League proposed organising in Cairo. “Reconciliation is absolutely vital in Iraq”, declared the head of UNO, pointing out that his organisation had supported all efforts aimed at bringing peace to the country. However the Shiites reaffirmed their reservations regarding a conference to which all the Sunni groups would be invited. Thus the head of the principal Iraqi Shiite party, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, explained to Kofi Anna that his organisation did not wish the presence of those who were formerly close to Saddam Hussein, members of the former regime and the radical Sunni religious movements suspected of supporting the suicide bomb attacks targeting civilians in the country. Other Shiite and Kurdish leaders, who distrust the Arab League and fear that it would favour the Sunni Arabs, have already expressed this position. Indeed, the majority of the Arab country are essentially Sunni, which is not the case in Iraq, where 60% of the population is Shiite — and half the Sunni Moslems are Kurds, not Arabs. For his part, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told Kofi Annan that the Iraqi authorities hoped that UNO would help them organise the elections on 15 December, thus promoting democracy and “improving the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces” in their struggle against the Sunni Arab insurgents.
Mr. Annan expressed his indignation at the pursuit of violence in the country, mentioning the bomb attack that morning, which had killed four women in a market place and wounded forty civilians. “No ideology can justify these murders”, he declared.
Kofi Annan’s visit follows on an independent enquiry led by Paul Volcker on the management of the Oil for Food programme, which had allowed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to buy essential goods. The report accuses over 2.200 firms and influential political public figures throughout the world of having benefited from the 1.8 billion dollars that the Iraqi regime had embezzled in the context of the programme, aimed at counter-balancing the effects of the embargo imposed after the first Gulf War in 1991.
Renault VI, Peugeot and nearly 180 firms established in France are accused by the Volcker Commission of having, knowingly or not, paid tens of millions of dollars in backhanders to the Saddam Hussein regime, in violation of the international embargo on Iraq prior to the war in 2003. According to documents secured by the investigators into the Oil for Food programme, the Renault VI (later renamed Renault Trucks and now a Volvo subsidiary) is said to have paid over 6.5 million dollars in backhanders. The car builder Peugeot, for its part is suspected of having illegally paid nearly 7 million dollars.
Following the conclusions of this report, the Indian Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, accused of having benefited from the Oil for Food swindle, lost his portfolio. Natwar Singh and the Congress party, in office at the time, are cited as “non-contractual beneficiaries”. An Indian Commission, chaired by R.S. Pathak, a former Indian and International Court of Justice Judge, has been formed to enquire into the involvement of the Minister and of the Congress Party in the scandal. The UN Commission accused Congress of having benefited from 4 million barrels of oil in another transaction. Another Indian oil company, Reliance Petroleum, is also said to be involved.
After iraq, Mr. Annan visited Kuwait, as part of a tour of the region which also took him to Jordan, which was hit by a bloody triple suicide attack claimed by the Iraqi branch of the al-Qaida terrorist network. Mr. Annan’s visit to Baghdad came just after that of the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, come to plead for the participation of all Iraqis in the political process, and particularly that of the Sunni Arabs, just five weeks before the General Elections. British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, had preceded Mrs. Rice to Baghdad and had also brought his country’s support to the Iraqi authorities, who have to face daily acts of violence.
On 18 November, the bloodiest attack aimed at Shiite Kurds, called Faylis, was perpetrated in the town of Khanaqin, where two suicide bombers blew themselves up during the Friday prayer. Particularly murderous, the attacks caused 74 deaths and hundreds of wounded, according to Kamran Ahmed, director of the Khanaqin general hospital. One of the witnesses indicated that the terrorists had mingled with the congregation and set off their bombs during the sermon, at intervals of four minutes. The two mosques targeted, the Husseynia al-Mazraa and that of Mehdi suffered serious damage. The roof of one collapsed onto the congregation. There were no special security measures in force round either of the mosques. Shortly before the attacks, a car bomb exploded near the Khanaqin bank, according to a Ministry of the Interior source. These terrorist attacks, that have plunged Kurdistan in mourning, also provoked many reactions abroad, particularly in Washington and London. For its part, France reacted to these attacks against mosques by speaking of “odious attacks”. Paris “condemns with the greatest firmness these terrorist acts” stressed a Foreign Ministry spokesman in a communiqué.
Elsewhere, a suicide bomb attack caused 22 deaths and 26 injured in the evening of 22 November in the city of Kirkuk. A veritable trap had been set for the police. Rushing to a busy shopping street following a first explosion and the murder of a colleague, the police were taken by surprise by a suicide attacker who drove through the crowd in a car bomb. According to the Ministry of the Interior, four police were amongst the dead, along with women and children. Five police were also wounded. The victims had to be buried separately to avoid providing a collective target for other suicide numbers. O 2 November, a civilian was killed and nine others wounded in a car bomb attack in a residential quarter of Kirkuk, mainly inhabited by Christians and Kurds. “A car bomb exploded at 15.45 (12.45 GMT) as an American convoy was passing through the Almaz quarter, causing one death and nine injured amongst the passers bye. The convoy continued on its way unharmed”, declared the police General, Moanes Ishak. Several small shops were destroyed by this attack, which took place in the Northern part of the city.
On 18 November, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, stated in an interview with the Turkish TV news network NTV that the Kurds would have no other choice but to proclaim their independence if a civil war were to break out in Iraq. Questioned in Rome on the eventuality of independence for the Kurds of Iraq, Mr. Barzani replied: “may God preserve us” from civil war, “but if others fight one another and there is a break-up (of Iraq) then we would have no other option”. Stressing that the right to independence is a “natural and legitimate right” of the Kurds, Mr. Barzani nevertheless considered that, for the moment, his people had no other demands that that the new Constitution be applied to advance towards a “democratic, federal and plural” Iraq.
On 19 to 20 November, the Paris Kurdish Institute, in partnership with the Kurdistan Ministry of Culture and the Regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, organised a conference round the question of the “Democratisation of the Middle East: problems and perspectives”. This took place in Irbil, at the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament. Apart from the Speaker of the parliament, Mr. Adnan Mufti, and the Kurdish Minister of Culture, Mr. Sami Shoresh, many eminent Arab and Iraqi Kurdish public figures and about fifty intellectuals, academics, journalists and politicians from Middle Eastern countries and Europe took part in this debate, sub-divided into several themes. Simultaneous translation, a first ever in Kurdistan, was provided in Kurdish, Arabic, French and English — as well as, for some individuals, in Turkish and German — enabled this cosmopolitan assembly to communicate and exchange their views,
The conference took place some weeks after the referendum on the draft Iraqi Constitution and was aimed at allowing those who, on various grounds, were concerned with the democratisation of the Middle East, to exchange their opinions, to inform themselves directly about the political process taking place in Iraq and to establish contact with its actors. It also aimed at responding to the thirst for exchange and discussion of ideas amongst Kurdish and Iraqi intellectuals. The conference took place for two whole days, and brought together over 400 participants. The local and foreign media — Kurdistan TV, the BBC, France-Culture and even the Quebec daily, Le Devoir — all gave considerable coverage to the event.
The conference was inaugurated by an opening speech from Mr. Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, who welcomed the programmed speakers and described the composition of the Parliament elected on 31 January 2005. The Kurdish Minister of Culture, Mr. Sami Shoresh, then made a speech welcoming all the participants and outlined the expectations the conference had aroused. Kendal Nezan, for his part, outlined the situation and expressed the hope that it would draw the attention of Western public opinion to the democratic experiment in Kurdistan by making an inventory of the overall situation in the Middle East.
The first round table, on the “Question of democracy in the 21st Century” — was chaired by Dr. Khalid Salih, a Kurdish academic from Sweden, and included Dr. Awat Asadi, of the Centre for Kurdish Studies, Navend, based on Bonn, Germany; Mr. Bastiaan Belder, Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP); Dr. Hamit Bozarslan, historian and sociologist at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales; Professor Andreas Buro, a German academic and Mrs Juliette Minces, a sociologist and specialist on Islam. The speakers developed the relationship of peace to democratisation and assessed the present situation.
The Kurdistan Minister for Human Rights, Dr. Mohammed Ihsan, chaired the second round table of the morning entitled “the role of civil society and the media”. A German journalist, Jurgen Hoppe, a specialist on the Kurdish question, and Christian Rioux, a journalist on the Quebec daily Le Devoir, expounded their views on the relation between the authorities and the media and of the place given to freedom of expression and of the press in democracy. These points were developed by Mr. Yavuz Onen, President of the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights, who described his experience in Turkey. The discussioin was widened by Mrs. Eva Weil, psychologist and former director of the Sigmund Freud Library in Paris, who spoke of trauma and transmission and who, basing herself on her own work on the after WWII period, wondered about the case of the extermination of Jews: “should we wait till all the witnesses, both victims and executioners, have died or be on the point of dying, before History can be built?”. She concluded by stressing that “for the survivors, the recognition by society of what they had experienced also represents the authentification or, indeed, the proof, of the truth of what had happened”.
The third round table was called “The role of democracy in plural societies, or how to manage diversity in a democracy”, and was initiated by Professor André Poupart, a Quebec constitutionalist. He made a comparison between the two constitutions, since the Kurds often cite the Canadian experience as a federal example to be followed. “Failing a solution, foreign experiences can serve as models, more or less adapted to the Kurdish experience” he declared. This contribution was further developed by Mr. Aureli Argemi Roca, Director of the International Centre for ethnic minorities and the study of nations (CIEMENS) who described the Catalan experience. Dr. Mirella Galleti, an Italian historian, for her part, explained the workings of the Italian system of regions and their autonomy and Mrs. Gülten Kaya, a music publisher, spoke of the place accorded to diversity in creative activities in Turkey.
This first day concluded with a round table on “the role of diasporas”. Dr. Ilhan Kizilhan, a psychologist and lecturer at Constance University, in Germany, was in the chair. He first highlighted the interaction and influence of the Kurdish diasporas in Europe on the development and democracy in Iraq, and then gave the floor to various representatives of Kurdish organisations in Europe. Mrs Aso Agace, Director of Hinbun, the International Centre for information and education of women, in Berlin, Mrs. Lily Baravi, Director of the Kurdish Institute of Montreal, in Quebec, Mrs. Keya Izol, former President of the Federation of Kurdish Associations, in Sweden, Mr. Akil Marceau, Vice-President of the Department for Human Rights if the Paris Kurdish Institute, in France and Mr. Mozaffar Shafei, former Director of the Kurdish Cultural Centre, in England, all took part in the discussion.
The next day the discussions were structured round four round tables. The first was chaired by the French journalist marc Kravetz, brought together on the subject of “The Middle East” Mehmet Ali Aslan, former President of the Workers’ Party of Turkey, Mr. Salah Badreddin, a Syrian politician, Dr. Magnus Norellem an expert of the Swedish Agency for research on Defence. The second round table, entitled “The political process in Iraq” brought together, under the chairmanship of Dr. Najmaldin Karim, President of the Washington Kurdish Institute, Mrs. Nasreen Barwar, Iraqi Minister for Local Councils and Public Works, Dr. Khaled Salih and the Chaldean Philosopher Dr. Ephrem Isa Yusif.
“The experience of Iraqi Kurdistan” was expounded by a third round table chaired by Dr. Fuad Hussein, Vice-President of the Paris Kurdish Institute. Two members of the Kurdish goivernment spoke, Mr. Yonan Hozaya, Minister for Industry was able to explain the situation of Christians in Kurdistan and Mr. Abdul Aziz Taieb, Minister of National Education drew a picture of eduction in Kurdistan, which was further developed by the President of Salahaddin, Dr. Mohammed Khosnaw, and Dr. Nebez Majid, President of Koya University. Mr. Kharki Alti Parmak, a member of the Kurdistan National Assembly was also able to explain the situation of the Turkomen and Dr. Nuri Talabani, a member of the National Assembly rounded off the discussion on the Kurdistan experience in the legislative and constitutional areas. He also raised ths still unsettled question of Kirkuk, The particularly rich discussions of this round table enabled the foreign guests to be better informed on the realities of Kurdistan from the best sources.
The last round table was “Western democracies and the democratisation of the Middlwe East”, chaired by the President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, Dr. Kendal Nezan. Other members of this round table were Mrs. Lotta Hedstroem, Swedish Member of Parliament, Mrs. Nina Larsson of the Swedish Liberal Party, Mr. Munther al-Fadhal, an Arab member of the Iraqi Parliament, the French journalist and specialist on the Kurdish question, Chris Kurschera, Mr. Harry Schute, an American expert on security matters and Mr. Pierre Serne, representing the French Green Party.
Throughout the course of this conference, exchanges between the audience and the members of the round tables were broadly able to take place. The participants from abroad were invited to a dinner by the Kurdistan Prime Minister before meeting President Barzani the next day.
The month of November was a particularly bloody one in Iraq, with an increase of almost 50% in the number of Iraqi deaths in these acts of violence. This total passed from 407 in October to 666 in November. The overwhelming majority of the victims (548) are civilians. The number of wounded is also higher than in October, rising from 520 to 734, according to the figures of the Ministries of Health, Interior and Defence. In the course of this month, the authorities noted 24 car bomb attacks, 30 by explosives and mortar bombs, 58 by assorted weapons of varying calibres and 3 by suicide bombers with explosive belts.
In October, 27 car bomb attacks were recorded and two by suicide bombers. The number of insurgents killed in November was 273 and there were 1,364 arrests as against 282 killed and 493 arrests in October. Since 1 January 2005, 5,446 Iraqis (3,862 civilians, 1154 police and 430 soldiers) perished through acts of violence in the country, according to the statistics issued by the three Ministries. Furthermore, 1,662 insurgents have been killed by the security forces since the beginning of the year. Faced with the persistence of violence, US President George W. Bush declared, on 30 November, his opposition to any timetable for the withdrawal of American troops present in Iraq (100,000 today) thus earning himself sharp criticisms from the Democratic opposition. During a planned speech at the Annapolis Naval Academy, President Bush stressed that the level of American troops in Iraq depended on conditions on the spot. In a document distributed by the National Security Council, the White House limited itself to envisaging a possible alteration of the level of troops in the course of 2006, depending on the progress of the Iraqi forces’ ability to control their country. “Some people demand a timetable for withdrawal (…) But I think they are wrong” the President said. “I will be satisfied by nothing less than complete victory”. The mission will be ended “when the Iraqi security forces can ensure the security of their own citizens and when Iraq can no longer be a refuge for terrorists preparing fresh attacks against our country” he added.
Another sign of the persistence of violence: five Westerners were kidnapped on 25 and 26 November, whereas kidnappings of foreigners had declined recently. The Qatar television Al-Jazira, broadcast, on Tuesday, a short video, dated 27 November, shot by a group calling itself the Brigade of the Sword of Law, which shows two Canadians, a Briton and an American, working for the Christian NGO Christian Peacemaker Teams. The German public TV channel, ARD, indicated, for its part, that its Baghdad office had received a cassette claiming the kidnapping of a German archaeologist, Suzanne Osthoff, 43 years of age, and her Iraqi chauffeur.
Furthermore, according to a UN report published on 14 November, over 30,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the conflict in March 2003. According to this five-page report, drawn up by the UN Aid Mission in Iraq, chance murders and terrorist actions have killed or wounded 26,000 persons since 2004. In addition, 23,394 people are detained in Iraq, 11,559 by the international force, according to this document, that cites “open sources”. The enquiry, that covers the period from 1st September to 31 October, explains that the UN had several times raised the question of imprisoned doctors and the occupation of medical centres during military operations carried out in October in Anbar province. “Such activities are contrary to international law regarding armed conflicts and in any caser a breach of the laws guaranteeing human rights” state the writers of this report. They also suggest that the American armed forces indulge in an excessive use of force during their operations. The price paid by the civilian populations during these operations must lead to “fresh thought about the nature of the conflict and on the proportionality of the use of force” they stress.
On 8 November, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution authorising the maintenance of the American-led “Multinational Force” in Iraq to the end of 2006. The Iraqi government had requested the 15 members of the Council to approve this resolution, needed to prolong the mandate of this 1788,000 strong force beyond 31 December 2005, at which date the new democratically elected government is due to come into office in Baghdad. The resolution passed authorises the Iraqi government to put an end to this foreign military presence whenever it so wishes. The Security Council can also reverse this decision any time during 2006. The Iraqi authorities, for their part, must continue to pay their oil revenues into a fund managed by an independent organisation. This fund and the accompanying supervisory organisation were created in May 2003 by the Security Council to guarantee that the foreign forces on the spot could not divert the Iraqi oil resources to their own benefit.
On 14 November the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Daniel Fried, declared for his part that Germany and the other European countries that opposed the war in Iraq should contribute more to the stabilisation of that country and support its new democratic institutions. The United States does not demand that Germany sent troops to Iraq, pointed out Daniel Fried. Europe should, however, give more support to “one of the most democratic regimes” in the Near East, he added.
On 21 November, The Hague court began the trial of a trader in chemical products, Frans van Anraat, accused of complicity in genocide for having supplied as from 1984, chemicals used by the Saddam Hussein regime, in particular during the massacre of Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Frans van Anraat invoked his right to silence when the judges tried to question him on the case. “It is not a matter of disrespect to you or this court, but I invoke my right to remain silent” he declared. Frans van Anraat is on trial for war crimes and genocide. He is accused of having delivered the chemical products needed by the Saddam Hussein regime to manufacture chemical weapons. Aged 63, and arrested in December 2004, he is the first person to be tried for this massacre. “He is accused of having delivered the raw materials needed for the making of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein. The use of these weapons by the Baghdad regime led to the death of thousands of people in Iran and in Iraq”, declared the Public Prosecutor Fred Teeven, at the start of the trial. “He is an accomplice of serious international crimes”, he added.
In a preliminary move, the defence asked the Court to declared itself incompetent and so release its client, arguing that the trial is not equitable and that the principal suspect in this case, Saddam Hussein, should be tried on the basis of the same charges in Iraq. “The fact that two courts are trying such a crime could lead to a juridical doubt. From a practical point of view, the Netherlands court could rule that the accusations are well founded while the Iraqi Special Court could rule to the contrary”, stated the defence lawyer, Jan Peter van Schaik. The Judges rejected this request. “It was simply something I did as a side-line. It was not central to my business”, he had declared during the Dutch TV broadcast that brought his case to public attention. “I only learnt later, but it was already too late”, he pointed out. “The pictures of the gas attack on the town of Halabja were a shock. But I did not give the order to do this. How many chemicals, how many bullets, for example, do we make in the Netherlands?” had stated Frans van Anraat in an interview to the Dutch magazine “Nieuwe Revu” in 2003.
The Halabja massacre, which caused 5,000 deaths in a single day, is on the list of crimes of which Saddam Hussein is accused, but for which he has not yet been formally tried. The former Iraqi President and seven other leaders of his regime have been on trial since 19 October for the murder of 143 Shiites in the village of Dujail (North of Baghdad) in 1982.
In addition to Halabja, he is accused of being the accomplice of several gas attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the villages of Giktapa and of Birjinni, but also in Iran, for which he is answering charges of war crimes. The UN inspectors described Frans van Anraat as one of the most important of Saddam Hussein’s intermediaries for procuring chemical weapons. F. van Anraat does not deny the sale of these chemicals but insists that he was unaware of their final usage. “Without any scruple, the accused delivered the chemicals even after 1984 (Editors Note: after the ban on exporting these products to Iraq) in quantities that excluded any normal usage”, declared the Prosecutor Fred Teeven during the preliminary hearing. According to the Prosecutor, even after the attacks on Halabja, which were widely covered by the media, van Anraat continued his exports to Iraq of material intended for the manufacture of chemical weapons. The prosecution states that the businessman was at the head of eleven firms, based in different countries, which supplied ingredients for making mustard gas and other gases having harmful effects on the nervous system.
Pinpointed by an American enquiry, he was arrested in 1989 in Italy, then fled to Iraq where he remained till the attack by the American-led coalition in 2003, at which date he sought refuge in Holland. In 2000, the Americans abandoned their demand for his extradition, without any explanation. The accused was arrested on 7 December 2004 in Holland, just as he was preparing to flee. He has several times been refused release on bail. The Netherlands Court can charge van Anraat for genocide in Iraq, since a ruling by the Netherlands Supreme Court gives Dutch Courts universal jurisdiction in cases of war crimes and genocide provided that the accused is resident in the Netherlands. The trial is expected to last three weeks, which is unusually long for Dutch proceedings, which does not usually hear witnesses during the hearings. In this case, many witnesses are being called, as well as some victims who will evoke in court the sequels that were produced by these gas attacks. The verdict is expected to be handed down on 23 December. Moreover, several Iranian and Iraqi victims of chemical attacks also intend to demand up to 10,000 euros damages each. Frans van Anraat risks a life sentence.
On 2 November, Syrian President Bachar al-Assad, granted pardon to 190 political prisoners so as to counter the hostile campaigns against Syria and improve his country’s image and “in the context of global reforms, which aim at consolidating national cohesion, which is fundamental for the social fabric and national interests” of Syria, according to the official news agency, SANA, which announced that “new measures in this direction will be taken later”. Amongst those released are members of “islamist organisations” including Azzam Ghareib of the Moslem Brotherhood (banned since 1980), the President of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, Mohammad Raadoun, and the writer Ali Abdullah, a member of the political forum the “Atassi salon”, both incarcerated in May stated the well known Human Rights activist Anouar al-Bouni. The latter, who pointed out, last March, that 232 detainees had been released in two waves by Presidential decree, makes the point that about a hundred Moslem Brothers are amongst those pardoned. Thirteen Moslem “salafists”, six members of the Party of Islamic liberation, 20 former members of the Iraqi Baath Party and 20 Palestinians also benefited from this pardon.
According to Anouar al-Bouni and Ammar Kourbi, the spokesman of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, at least a thousand other political detainees are still rotting in Syrian jails. “This is a step in the right direction, but it is insufficient and must be completed by the liberation of all the remaining political detainees, the lifting of the State of Emergency, the return home of political exiles, the dissolution of the Superior Court, a sort of Damocles sword, the settlement of the case of the Kurds deprived of their Syrian nationality”, stated the Human Rights activists. “We hope for a radical reform to finally close the case of all political prisoners, including repeal of law 49 that imposes the death sentence for membership of the Moslem Brotherhood, the amendment of Article 8 of the Constitution, that invests the Baath Party with the role of leader of the State and of society”, stressed Mr. Kourbi. This Human Rights activist, hostile “to cosmetic measures” urges “a unifying national congress to achieve national reconciliation”.
However, the human rights activist, Anouar Bouni, announced that the Syrian police arrested, on 13 November, a dozen people who were protesting in front of the State Security Court, an emergency law court, in Damascus. The people arrested were part of a group of about a hundred Kurdish and Syrian demonstrators protesting before the court that was trying their relatives. They shouted slogans in support of “national unity” and “denouncing special courts” and “the emergency decree” that has been in force since 1963. Meanwhile, Amir Holilo, a member of the Democratic Unity Party (a banned Syrian Kurdish party) was sentenced b y the State Security Court to two and a half years jail for “membership of a secret organisation” indicated Mr. Bouni. On the other hand, the court postponed the trial of fourteen others “accused of membership of a salafist (ultra-islamist) organisation”. All these people come from the region of Outaibah, 20 kilometres East of Damascus. Mr. Bouni denounced “the violations of civic rights” as well as the “savage behaviour” of the police towards the people gathered before the Courthouse.
Enjoined by Security Council resolution 1636 to cooperate with the UN Enquiry Commission into the Assassination of Rafic Hariri in Beirut, where Damascus’ influence was, at the time, paramount, Syria has promised its cooperation while denouncing the “unjust” character of the resolution.
Ankara and Teheran have not failed, however, to display their support for Syria. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, began a surprise visit to Damascus on 16 November. “Turkey cannot remain indifferent to developments in the region”, the Minister stressed in a communiqué. Mr. Gul had discussions with the Syrian President, Bachar al0Assad. During his meeting with the president, he urged Syria fully to cooperate in the equiry on the Hariri case. The Syrian government has been under pressure ever since the UN Security Council unanimously demanded, last month, that it fully cooperate with the enquiry into the death of Hariri, killed by a bomb on 14 February in Beirut. “In Damascus, our Minister concentrated essentially on the necessity of fully conforming to the UN decision”, pointed out the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The United States share the same objective as Turkey on the Syrian question, declared on the same day the Assistant spokesman of the State Department, Adam Ereli, reacting to this surprise visit. “It is a visit that was decided, organised and undertaken by the Turkish government” Mr. Ereli let it be understood during a press interview. “Our point of view is that Turkey and ourselves share the same objective regarding Syria”, which is that Syria should cease its “reprehensible” acts going from supporting the insurgents in Iraq to interfering in the internal affairs of the Lebanon, stressed Mr. Ereli.
On 14 November it was the turn of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manoushehr Mottaki, to go to Damascus to discuss with President Bachar al-Assad “events in the Near East”. Mr. Mottaki, for whom this is the first visit to Syria since his appointment this summer, also met Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri and the Foreign Minister, Faruk al-Shareh. His discussions in Damascus covered “bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and dangerous events that are taking place in the Near East” indicated the official Syrian news agency SANA.
The first test drills in Iraqi Kurdistan began in November, giving this region hope for a strengthening of its economic autonomy. The inauguration of the wells, located to the East of the town of Zakho, took place on 29 November, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani. The Kurdish Prime Minister spoke of this “historic” project, “For the first time, we are looking for oil in Kurdistan” he declared during the official ceremony. “This project will take part in the economic growth of Kurdistan and in its reconstruction”, he stated. “The hour has finally come when the Kurdish people is no longer oppressed and when it benefits from its natural wealth”, Mr. Barzani considered. “We all know that the oil revenues were used to buy the weapons and gas that were used against Iraqi towns and villages, and we will never again allow this”, insisted the Prime Minister. Mr. Barzani also thanked Turkey that had eased the passage of the Norwegian company’s equipment through its territory towards Kurdistan.
The Norwegian oil company, DNO, announced at the start of the drilling of well Tawke 1, which is expected to take 60 days to reach a depth of 3,000 metres in an area believed to contain three oil deposits. An official of DNO, Magnus Normann, indicated during the inaugural ceremony, that the crude in this region was expected to be good quality “light oil”. According to the company, the block operator, with a 40% share in the operation, these are the first drillings under the Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) signed with the Kurdish authorities in June 2004. The PSA are contracts whereby foreign companies are called upon to finance the investment enabling the drilling and extraction of oil resources in a particular zone in exchange for a share of the future production of that zone. An official of the Kurdistan Oil Company, Serbaz Horami, noted “the importance of this project for the economy of Kurdistan”. He pointed to other oil projects, “in particular with Turkish oil companies”. According to him, a mixed American-Turkish company is due, soon, to start a new drilling programme and a similar one has been signed with a mixed British-Portuguese company.
The activation of these agreements comes after the adoption of the Iraqi Constitution, which gives the Kurdistan authorities the right to explore and exploit the natural resources of their region and to control their revenue.
Kurdistan claims the incorporation of the oil producing city of Kirkuk. But, since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, its oil plants have been the target of repeated attacks, which has disturbed its oil exports to Turkey and even its deliveries to Iraqi oil refineries. No less than 290 acts of sabotage have been aimed at the plant and the pipelines in the region, causing losses of several billions of dollars. The average production for these deposits is between 500,000 and 650,000 barrels/day (b/d) as against 700,000 to 800,000 b/d before the American invasion. The most recent act of sabotage, on 20 October, targeted a grouped network of 16 oil and gas pipelines, which provoked a total stoppage of pumping. A new 1 metre diameter pipeline is being built North of Baili. This pipeline will be buried several metres underground so that no explosive device can reach it. The present pipelines run alongside the roads and are in the open.
On 9 November, a little more than a month after the historic opening of negotiations for Turkey’s membership of the European Union, the European Commission presented its report on Turkey’s progress. In its stage report on the process of Ankara’s joining the European Union, the Commission accused Turkey of having slowed down its reforms in the areas of Human Rights and of judicial reform. Brussels considers that “the pace of reforms slowed down in 2005”. “If the violations of Human Rights have diminished, they are continuing and it is urgent to put into practice the legislation already passed and, in certain areas, to take still further legislative measures”, the Commission continues.
The European executive calls on Turkey to “redouble efforts” so that the authors of tortures and ill-treatment “no longer remain unpunished”. “The rights of women enjoy increasing attention, but violence against them remain a matter of great concern”, the Commission also notes. The Commissioner in charge of the enlargement, Olli Rehn, urged Turkey, in the course of a press conference, to work so that all forms of torture be abolished in the course of the next two years in the context of the “short term priorities” suggested by Brussels.
Concretely the Turkish authorities are urged to act in a more decisive manner against torture, which continues to be rife in the country, especially towards extreme left activists and Kurds. The European Commission has repeatedly criticised the obstacles to freedom of expression, the legal proceedings undertaken against journalists and intellectuals. The European Commissioner for the Enlargement, Olli Rehn particularly called for the cancellation of the proceedings against the writer Orhan Pamuk. He demanded that Turkey amend its legislation if this led to the writer being found guilty for his stand on the fate of the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th Century. The reference to cultural rights in the Commission’s report covers the authorisation of Kurdish language teaching and radio and television broadcasts. Ankara has already modified its legislation in this respect, but Brussels calls for more. The report sets Turkey some 150 short term objectives towards the country’s being able, eventually, to join the E.U.
Furthermore, the European Commission considered that Turkey could be considered to have a “viable market economy”, on condition that it continued its economic stabilisation and its reforms. This decision, even though qualified, is an important stage for Ankara and a sine qua non condition for joining the European Union. “Turkey can be considered as endowed with a viable market economy so long as it continues to keep on the course of its recent stabilisation and its achievements with respect to reform”, indicated Brussels in its report.
By opening its doors to Turkey as well as to the Balkan countries, the European executive thus wants to send a strong signal to the euro-sceptics and does not intend to stop the enlargement trend, despite the French and Dutch NO to the European Constitution. “The enlargement is not a leap in the dark”, declared the European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel before the meeting. “The alternative is the death of Europe as an idea”. The report will be examined by the Twenty-five during the December summit in Brussels.
Thus, on 8 November the Turkish Minister for the Environment, Osman Pepe, declared that Turkey must invest some 35 billion Euros (41 billion Dollars) in environmental protection projects to reach the standards of the European Union. A research study on the state of environmental protection measures has concluded that “Turkey must make investments of the order of 30 to 35 billion euros to be able to become a full member of the European Union”, pointed out the Minister in a television interview. Mr. Pepe declared that Ankara had set itself the goal of fully meeting the environmental standards of the E.U. by 2023-24. The hardest to settle in the process of harmonisation covers the management of effluent water and industrial gas emissions he added. “Ours is a country that throws 65% of its waste into the sea and discharges 65% of its effluent waters without any treatment”, he continued.
Furthermore, Turkey announced a drastic series of tax reductions in the hope of attracting foreign investments in a context of heightened rivalry between emerging countries. “The lowering of rates of taxation will help Turkey better to face up to competition from its neighbours and European Union countries for international investments” delared Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on 29 November during a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Some economists had welcomed this measure, which is due to come into force in 2006, stressing that it would strengthen Turkish firms in the face of competition and that it should not compromise the latest plan for economic stimulation adopted by the country to the tune of 10 billion dollars with the backing of the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Erdogan pointed out that the taxes on these companies would be reduced from 30% to 20% — a greater drop than had been expected, and that the maximum tax rate for income tax would be dropped to 30% as against the present rate of 40%.The minimum rate of the latter would be maintained at 15%, As for taxation of foreign investments, it would be reduced to 28% in all, as against 37% at the moment, added the head of the government. The Turkish Prime Minister contributed to bringing the country out of a serious financial crisis in 2001. The Turkish economy is now more vigorous than it has been for several decades, with a rate of growth that should reach 5% this year as against 10% in 2004. Inflation has fallen to under 10% for the first time in a generation, domestic consumers are more confident and the privatisations have recommenced. The OECD expects Turkey to achieve a growth rate of about 6% in 2006 and 2007 following renewed confidence, inside as outside the country following the opening of negotiations for membership of the E.U. on 3 October.
Tension increased in hakkari, a Province on the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, following a bomb attack that took place on 9 November against a bookshop in Semdinli. Located in a shopping complex, this bomb attack is considered by many to be the work of members of the security forces and caused one death and several injured.
Three people — two gendarmes and a Kurdish security forces’ informer — were arrested after the attack. The Semdinli Public Prosecutor, Harun Ayik, confirmed that one individual in detention, after escaping being lynched by the crowd that suspected him of having placed the bomb, was a gendarme intelligence agent. The Prosecutor added that two gendarme NCOs, suspected of taking part in the attack, were being questioned by the police and that a third will be for having fired in the air during the incidents. Three machine guns were found in the car wrecked by the angry crowd as well as other weapons and documents — a sketch of the bookshop and a list of names , including that of the shop owner, according to the press.
Two of the four people taken in for questioning during this clash have been charged with murder and attempted murder. Nearly 10,000 people assembled in this town on 11 November to attend the funeral of the man killed by the explosion of the bomb in the bookshop and of the man shot during the clash with the police. Local representatives of pro-Kurdish political parties called on the population to remain calm and no major incident was reported during the funerals. Shouts of “Assassin State!”, “Terrorist State!”, were nevertheless shouted by the crowd. The inhabitants set up barricades in several streets using electric pylons to prevent the expected deployment of police form neighbouring localities. Furthermore, clashes occurred the next day in Van between hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the events in Semdinli. The windows of several shops were broken by the crowd that also set fire to a car.
In the night of 1 and 2 November, a bomb attack attributed by the authorities to the PKK had already hit the town. A car filled with explosives had blown up near the local gendarmerie, causing 23 wounded. The force of the explosion had caused considerable material damage to the 67 flats and shops nearby and blew in the windows of several public buildings. Many wounded, mostly be flying glass, were treated in the Semdinli hospital. Furthermore, one person was killed and another wounded during a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Mersin, that now has a substantial Kurdish community, according to a report on the NTV television channel on 21 November. About a hundred demonstrators had gathered to protest at the death of two other people on 15 November, in Hakkari Province. One of them was killed by gunfire during clashes between demonstrators, who were throwing stones. This death brings to six the number of persons killed during the virtually daily confrontations between demonstrators and police since the bomb attack on the Semdinli.
In the course of a visit to Hakkari on 21 November, the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was greeted by demonstrators’ hostile slogans. The Prime Minister’s whose visit (accompanied by the Ministers of the Interior and Justice) was not announced in advance, urged the population to be calm. On the evening of 20 November he had visited the neighbouring province of Van and in the morning Semdinli, a township of about 15,000 inhabitants, from which he went on to the near-bye village of Yuksekova. “I appeal to all my fellow citizens to act with moderation. We cannot gain anything by hatred and violence”, declared Mr. Erdogan in speech made in square before several hundreds of inhabitants of Semdinli and broadcast live on television. Mr. Erdogan reaffirmed that his government was determined to clear up this bomb attack. “We will pursue this case to the end (…) all will be brought to light”, he promised during his visit surrounded by important security measures. The Turkish government finally proceeded, on 23 November to the transfer of the governor of Hakkari, after riots had multiplied in his district. Governor Erdogan Gurbuz was appointed to the province of Tokat (North) where he replaced Ayhan Nasuhbeyoglu, who was transferred to Hakkari.
Since the Semdinli attack the Turkish Army has launched operations to repress demonstrations what have aroused sharp feelings throughout the Kurdish provinces. These acts of violence underline the rising tensions in a still disadvantaged Kurdistan, after a period of relative calm following the announcement of the PKK’s unilateral cease fire, maintained from 1999 to2004.
Some members of Parliament and news papers have draw a parallel between the events in Semdinli and a scandal that occurred at the end of the 90s, that had revealed the extent of the collusion between the security forces fighting the Kurds, local clan chiefs and politicians and the mafia. The members of the security forces indulging themselves in summary extra-judicial executions, kidnappings and trafficking in arms and drugs. Coming to Semdinlui to calm the population, the mayor of the neighbouring village of Yuksekova, Salih Yildiz, a member of the People’s Democratic party (DEHAP – pro-Kurdish) attributed the bomb attack to a loose conglomeration, fighting the Kurds on the fringe of the State’s official activity. “An event occurred here that resembles that at Susurluk” the local councillor according to CNN-Turk TV channel. This is a reference to that scandal, exposed near the town of Susurluk, which had revealed the extent of the links between the security forces, the extreme-Right political groups and the mafia. “Provocative Bombs” headlined the daily paper Radikal, taking up the accusations made by the opposition member of Parliament Esat Canan, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who evoked the possibility of a bomb attack perpetrated by the “deep State”, an expression, in Turkey, that describes a collusive relation between the secret service and the mafia. The President of the Parliamentary Commission on human rights, Mehmet Elkatmis, for his part, indicated that a delegation of members would visit Semdinli to conduct an enquiry.
Three Kurdish activists were sentenced to heavy prison sentences for “membership of counter-revolutionary groups and activities against the regime of the Islamic Republic” the Iranian papers reported on 27 November. The Iranian Supreme Court confirmed these sentences delivered by the Mahabad Court against Reza Amini, Halmet Azarpur and Abdollah Mohammadi. The first was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and the two others to 15 years. The three men were found guilty of “membership of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (IKDP), banned in Iran, and of propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. The date of their arrest was not given.
Furthermore the Iranian border guards killed a Kurdish fighter and captured another after having wounded him, in the course of fresh clashes in the Province of Western Azerbaijan (the official name for the Northern part of Iranian Kurdistan), according to a report dated 12 November by the student news agency Isna. Mohammad-Sadegh Mohsenpur, governor of the provincial capital, Urumiyeh, stated that the two fighters belonged to PEJAK, a group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that for their part, had found asylum in the Kurdish border region where Iran, Turkey and Iraq meet.
The Kurdish provinces of Iran, essentially divided between the provinces of Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Western Azerbaijan and Ilam have experienced several months of disturbances following the death of a young man hunted by the police and shot down in July 2005 during his arrest, according to the police. Ton the morning of 20 November, the old historic city of Mahabad, capital of the short-lived Kurdish Republic, experienced new disturbances after a policeman shot and killed a young Kurd, who was alleged to be attacking another policeman with a knife. A hundred and twenty policemen were killed and 64 others injured in clashes in less than six months, according to Hojatoleslam Akbar Feyz, Chief Justice of Western Azerbaijan Proivince.
On 25 November the Iranian journalists announced an impending visit to Turkey of the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottki— the first visit of a senior Iranian official to Ankara since the Election of Mahmud Ahmedinjad. Turkey and Iran, which accused one another of supporting one another’s opponents
On 23 November, the Iranian Parliament placed the president in a embarrassing position by rejecting his third candidate for the post of Minister of Oil. Mohsen Tasaluti, who has worked in the petrochemical industry since the age of 11 but is not well known on the political scene, was criticised for his lack of experience of directing a Ministry that controls an industry that generates 80%of Iran’s public revenue. This is the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that the Majlis has rejected three proposals and the reverse is all the more bitter for President Ahmedinjad that the national Assembly is dominated by the ultra-conservatives of his own camp. The two first candidates were close to the President: Ali Saidlu, rejected inAugust for lack of experience and General Sadegh Mahsuli, chief of the Revolutionary Guards lack of experience in oil. Meanwhile the Ministry of oil is being run by Kazem Vaziri, Deputy Minster under the previous President, Mohammad Khatami.
Moreover, for the first time, one of the top personalities of the Islamic regime has come to the fore to denounce the “purges” being carried out by the new president. Former President Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani, at present president of the Council of Judgement and one of the ,ost influential Iranian leaders, clearly indicated, on 16 November, that the purges taking place were playing into the hands of “enemies” of the Islamic Republic — a serious charge in the official rhetoric vocabulary. “Some people today (…) are calling into question actions made in the past, they are carrying out a policy of purges, they have started a policy of general banishment and of pushing aside competent public figures”, declared this former President of the Republic from 1989 to 1997, despite the call to order of the President’s critics issued by Iran’s topmost leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei two days earlier. “The government must be supported”, the Supreme Guide had declared before the imams who lead the Friday prayers in Teheran. “I have heard unjust criticisms made against the government and the president”, Ayatollah Khamenei had indicated in an unprecedented intervention so soon after the installation in office of a new chief executive. “The president must be given time and be supported so that he can accomplish his task” the Guide stressed, welcoming the “revolutionary” identity of a “blessed” government.
Three months after taking office, on 3 August, Mr. Ahmedinjad is thus still unable to complete his government and impose his authority over Parliament. A conservative member of Parliament, like Elias Naderan, openly accuses the President of being more concerned with personal likings than individual competence and of recruiting his assistants in the ideological army (the Guardians of the Revolution), from which he has emerged, from Teheran municipality, of which he was the Mayor, or from the University where he was a lecturer.
Voices are increasingly being raised increasingly criticising the President for giving more priority to Islamic and revolutionary purism than to realism. The idea announced of of bringing down to a single figure all the bank rates of interest as the returns on investments caused a shock. Officials are worried at a flight of capital that some say is unprecedented since the Revolution. The Teheran stock exchange is steadily falling. The President is carrying out a massive reshuffle of the administration that is taking on the aspects of a purge. He has changed the heads of the six public banks, replaced the provincial governors and recalled dozens of Ambassadors. Iran has 98 diplomatic representatives abroad and 15 Consulates, according to its Foreign Ministry. It is thus being said that at least a third of the Iranian foreign missions will be changes in the next few months. The Iranian Embassies to Paris and London have confirmed the departure of their heads, officially appointed by Mr. Ahmedinjad’s predecessor.
According to the Danish daily Berlingske Tilden (conservative) dated 21 November, the United States have sharply urged Denmark to close down a Kurdish television that broadcasts from its territory — considered by Turkey to be a PKK mouthpiece. Ankara has several times called on the Danish authorities to act against Roj-TV, which broadcasts its programmes to Europe and the Near East from Copenhagen. It accuses the channel of being linked to the PKK, which is on both the European Union’s and Washington’s lists of terrorist organisations. “We vigorously call on the Danish government to close down Roj-TV, Mesopotamia-TV and MBMG (which cooperates with them) and freeze their assets”, indicates a confidential note addressed to the Foreign Ministry, whose contents the Berlingske Tilden has revealed.
Roj-TV, which has been broadcasting from Danish soil since March 2004, recently nearly caused a diplomatic crisis between Copenhagen and Ankara after the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to take part in a press conference in Copenhagen because of the presence of one of the channel’s journalists. The head of the Danish Government, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, invoking the freedom of the press, had refused to exclude Roj-TV, “which has not infringed any Danish laws” from this press event. However, the police are investigating any possible links between the channel and the PKK.
Using the same argument as Ankara, the American note to Copenhagen stresses that Denmark must not be “a refuge” for such a channel. In Washington’s opinion, Turkey’s problems with the PKK are due to the support this movement receives in Europe. “Whereas the bulk of the PKK attacks take place in Turkey, the PKK is deeply dependent on European sources for financing and organisational support, for recruitment and propaganda operations” insists this note. “In the light of the threat that the PKK represents for our allies in Turkey and in other parts of Europe, we would like to cooperate with the Denmark and the Turkish government to fight this problem”, Washington continues.
On 5 November, Turkey had violently criticised Denmark’s refusal to withdraw its authorisation of the Kurdish TV channel. “They (the Danes) do not ban a channel that gives its support to ethnic terrorism”, the Turkish Minister of Justice, Cemil Cicek, had declared in Stockholm. “This is contrary to the European Union’s legislation. No one should play at three wise monkeys”, the Minister had added.
At the beginning of the year, the Danish Radio and Television Supervisory Council had concluded that the channel’s broadcasts contained no incitement to hatred and asked the police toenquire into any possible links between the channel and the PKK. Turkey has, in the past, succeeded in having banned two European-based television channels: MED-TV, whose authorisation to broadcast was withdrawn by Great Britain and its successor, MEDYA-TV, that France refused to authorise.
Iranian Kurdish refugees, the forgotten victims of the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988) have been re-housed in Iraqi Kurdistan after fleeing the insecurity and destitution of a makeshift camp in the Sunni Arab province of Al-Anbar. “Some families fled from the Tash camp, on the Iraqi-Jordanian border, without the United Nations realising it”, pointed out Dindar Zebari, responsible for co-ordination with international organisations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). “They have been brought together in Suleimaniyah”, under Kurdish administration and “have been settled in the region”, headed. Other refugees have been sent to Irbil where a camp was opened on 10 November to receive them. “In all, 350 people coming from Tash have been found places in a camp called Kawa” South of Irbil, the official stated.
In the tented camp located in the plane South of Irbil, 84 people have been settled in tents supplied by the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR). “Owing to the deterioration in security conditions in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003, our life in Tash had become a hell”, said one of the new arrivals. “In two years, about twenty refugees were killed by armed men and the camp inhabitants were not spared from raids by the American Army”, stated Askar Wali, aged 29 years. “We were also the targets of armed men who did not hesitate to strip us of our poor possessions. I myself lost an eye in an explosion in Ramadi (the capital of Al-Anbar province) where I had gone to find work”, added another refugee of 25. These two were some of the thousands of Iranian Kurds who fled the fighting between Iraq and Iran. After the fall of the Iraqi dictator, some returned to Iran while others tried in vain to go to Jordan, and found themselves caught at the border, in the desert that separates the two countries.
To prevent any attacks on the refugees, the Kurdish police has set up a police post at the entrance to the camp, near Irbil. “The post was set up as soon as the camp was opened to protect the people here and to resolve any conflicts that might arise between them”, stated a policeman, Mamend Hussein Khadr. According to the Kurdish official responsible, Dindar Zebari, the United States and the HCR have helped in settling in Iraqi Kurdistan the Iranian refugees who fled the province of Al-Anbar. “The decision to settle them here was justified by humanitarian considerations and approved by the Council of Ministers” in Baghdad, he pointed out.
In the new camp, many of the refugees dream of finding asylum in a European country, as have 220 of them who left Tash camp for Sweden after the Swedish government had accepted to receive them in December 2004. For the moment the Kurdish authorities say that they intend to settle 2,000 of them in Irbil province and 1,500 in that of Suleimaniyah.
Elsewhere, the British Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior) announced that fifteen Iraqis, refused the right of asylum in Great Britain, were sent back to Iraqi Kurdistan on 20 November. “The government announced its intention to begin forced return to Iraq in February 2004” stated a Home Office spokesman. “All those displaced have been informed in advance of this action and have received assistance to help then settle in Iraq and allow them to contribute to the reconstruction of their country”. On 17 November, Channel 4 television, quoting Home Office documents reported that about fifteen refugees would be sent to the Kurdish city of Irbil. London decided, in February 2004, to resume forcible repatriation but this decision has not yet been carried out because of the situation in Iraq, considered too dangerous. There are some 7,000 Iraqi asylum seekers in Great Britain. So far their return has been ona voluntary basis.
L On 7 November, the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk received the “Prix Medicis” for foreign novels for his novel “Snow. This prize is one of the two principal French distinctions awarded for a foreign novel. “Snow“, at once a novel of suspense and a political book, is a plea for secularism, a reflection on the identity of Turkish society and on religious fanaticism. This work of fiction, which appeared in Turkey in 2002, tells the story of a young Turkish poet-journalist, Kerim, leaving his German exile to conduct an enquiry in the small town of Kars into “several cases of suicide of young women wearing the headscarf”. In this town, full of turmoil at the approach of crucial elections, Kerim starts his enquiry. Until the evening when the staging of a play against Islamic fundamentalist turns into a military putsch and becomes a blood bath. “With Orhan Pamuk, a writer is being honoured who, more than any other contemporary poet, is following the historic footprints of the West in the East and of the East in the West” as the Association of German booksellers put it. He has written, in particular, “The House of Silence”, “The White Castle”, “The Black Book” and “My Name is Red”, subtle reflections on the confrontation between East and West in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 16th Century.
Proposed for the Nobel Prize, Orhan Pamuk, whose writings have been translated into over twenty languages, is being charged before an Istanbul court for “deliberate insults to the Turkish identity” for remarks made in a Swiss magazine about the massacre of Armenians in 1915. His trial is due to start on 16 December. He faces between six months and three years imprisonment according to his Turkish publisher Iletisim. This also threatened with another trial for having harmed the Army’s image in an interview with the German daily Die Welt in October. Born in 1952, in a pro-French middle class Istanbul family, Orhan Pamuk, a fervent defender of Turkey's membership of the European Union, has received several foreign prizes, including the prestigious German booksellers’ Peace Prize in October 2005.
The European Commission, which published an equivocal stage report on Turkey’s preparations for joining the E.U. cited the case of Orhan Pamuk. In a very diplomatic style, the Commission nevertheless didn’t mince its words in demanding, purely and simply, “an amendment [to the Turkish Penal code) to preserve freedom of expression in Turkey”. Brussels recalls that five other intellectuals were found guilty in 2005 of “insulting the nation” and pinpoints article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code that, according to Brussels, “would seem to be misinterpreted by certain judges and Public Prosecutors”. An interpretation that runs counter to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Samia Azizx Mohammed, a Kurdish woman elected to the Iraqi Parliament in January 2005, and formerly a refugee in Denmark, has received the “Freedom Prize” of the Danish Liberal Party (at present in office) its intiators announced during the party’s annual assembly in Odense on 28 November. Samia Aziz Mohammed, 58 years of age, has been a member of the Iraqi National Assembly since the elections last January. She was a refugee for 14 years in Denmark, where she obtained Danish nationality. In her speech the prize-winner thanked “the Danish troops (deployed in Iraq) that are supporting us and are contributing to establishing peace and democracy”.
The President of the selection jury, Carl Holst, for his part, underlined “the particular character of the recipient, inspired by ideals of freedom and democracy, who has chosen to leave her very safe life in Denmark to return to Iraq and an unsettled life”.
The 2004 Prize had been awarded to the Dutch Member of Parliament of Somali origin, Ayaan Hirsi, the script writer of the film, critical of Islam, “Submission” by the film director Theo van Gogh.
On 29 November, Javad Vaidi, chief Iranian negotiator, declared in an interview to the Press agency Mehr, that Iran was refusing to negotiate with the Europeans under the threat of its nuclear programme case being sent to the UN Security Council. Mr. Vaidi also insisted that negotiations with the Europeans should only cover the conditions of the enrichment of Uranium in Iran itself, according to this semi-official agency politically close to the conservatives. “If, during the next meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)the threat is raised of sending the Iranian case to the Security Council, negotiations would become meaningless”, declared Mr. Vaidi. “So long as the 24 September resolution of the Board of Governors (which leaves the door open for reference to the Security Council) is maintained like a sword (of Damocles) over Iran’s head, the pursuit of negotiations has no benefit” he insisted.
Meeting in Vienna over 24 to 25 September, the IAEA Executive decided to defer the possible sending of Teheran to appear before the Security Council to give a chance for Russian mediation whose object would be to enrich the Uranium in Russia. But, as Mr. Vaidi recalled, “Iran will only accept a plan that guarantees Iran the right to made nuclear fuel on its own soil”. He added that Iran would reject any plan that aims at “totally or partly depriving it of the nuclear fuel cycle”. Outside this meeting, some diplomats and officials of intelligence services affirmed that Iran was preparing to renew the activity of its Natanz plant that had been suspended since the beginning of negotiations with the Europeans in 2003. Iran had only revealed the existence of this underground enrichment plant at Natanz after opponents in exile had revealed it in August 2002.
On 28 November, some European diplomats in Berlin indicated that there was a “readiness” in principle on the part of the European Union to start “exploratory discussions” with a view to a possible new phase of negotiations, but on condition that Iran abstained from any unilateral measures. The United States and the European Union suspect Iran of seeking to endow itself with a nuclear arsenal under cover of a civilian programme — which is denied by Teheran. The Islamic Republic affirms that it only wants to produce electricity.
On 19 November, the Arab League brought together for three days about a hundred Iraqi leaders in Cairo to prepare for holding a “conference for inter-Iraqi understanding” in Baghdad in 2006. But the stormy atmosphere was a reflection of the deep lying tensions in Iraq. Some hours after the beginning of its work, the Shiite and Kurdish delegates walked out slamming the door on the meeting, infuriated by the remarks of a Christian delegate, Ibrahim Menas al-Youssefi, a former Baathist. The latter had denounced, from the platform, the other Iraqi representatives of being in the pay of the United States and also denounced the political process in Iraq as illegitimate and orchestrated by Washington. The Arab Foreign Ministers present, in particular the Saudi Minister, Saud al-Faisal, were obliged to intervene to convince the Kurdish and Shiite delegates to return to the meeting, which resumed work an hour after the incident, following excuses from the Christian delegate.
Opening the meeting, the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had, straight away warned that members of the insurgency and Saddam Hussein loyalists could not be included in the political process. “Every Iraqi outside that little circle is a partner in the new Iraq. Everyone must have the same chance of contributing to the reconstruction and to the forming of its democracy”. For his part the General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, called on the countries of the region and to the rest of the international community, to “protect Iraq from the danger of a slide to sedition or civil war is in the Arabs’ interest”. “No one will win from transforming Iraq into a battle field of regional and international conflicts and tensions”, added the head of the Arab League. However, even before the start of the meeting, Amr Mussa had warned that one should not expect excessive advances, and against “too high or exaggerated expectations”.
The head of the largest Shiite party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, indeed, refused to go to Cairo and sent here a low level delegation. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Shalabi also refused the invitation to go to Cairo, as did the Speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly, Hashim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab. From the start the Shiites, who dominate the transition government, showed themselves very sceptical about the conference of reconciliation. The Shiite majority distrusts the Arab League, the majority of whose 22 members had opposed the American military intervention in Iraq in March 2003 and has since avoided taking any part in the political process. The organisation is accused by the Shiites of being biased in favour of the Sunni Arab minority. The month before Amr Mussa had been sharply criticised by the Shiite leaders, who accused the Arab League of delaying acting and of not sufficiently condemning the bomb attacks carried out by the insurgents.
The Shiites refuse to see, in Cairo, Sunni Arab leaders who came from ex-President Saddam Hussein’s regime or from groups that favoured the Iraqi insurgents. The Arab League accepted to exclude those involved in atrocities against Iraqis from those those invited, including representatives of four key Sunni Arab parties.
On 9 November, a new pro-Kurdish party registered its rules at the Turkish Ministry of the Interior. The Party for a Democratic Society (DTP) brings together many Kurdish politicians and should benefit from DEHAP’s heritage and electorate, the latter being subjected to judicial procedures aimed at banning it. The founding members of this new organisation, the 49th in the country, met on 10 November to elect its leading bodies. The party has two joint presidents, Ahmet Turk, former member of Parliament for Mardin and of the Party for Democracy (DEP — banned) and Mrs. Tugluk, a lawyer known for having been part of Abdullah Ocalan’s defence team. “We will work for peace”, declared Mrs. Tuglok. “There is a Kurdish conflict that currently exists in our country. The DTP attaches great importance to settling this question through dialogue”, she also said to journalists in front of the Ministry of the Interior.
Two of the four ex-Members of Parliament of the Party for Democracy (DEP) who have served ten years imprisonment for “collaboration with the PKK” are amongst the founders. The work of creating the party had begun after their liberation. Mrs. Tugluk explained that four public figures, including Mrs. Leyla Zana, an activist for Kurdish rights, were subject to a ban on any political activity and that Hatip Dicle and Selim Sadak had become founders “to see of legal proceedings would be taken against them”.
On 22 November, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated the freedom of expression of a lawyer, sentenced in 1997 for “spreading separatist propaganda by means of the press”. The Court considered ,that Ankara had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on human rights and granted the petitioner 7,500 euros damages.
In April 1995, in the context of an interview for the review Medya Günesi, Eren Keskin had described the actions of the Turkish authorities in Kurdistan as “war” and “barbarity”, the Court recalled in its ruling. Two years later she was sentenced to a year and four months imprisonment by the Istanbul State Security Court — a sentence finally reduced to a year, a month and ten days. In 1999 the public Prosecutor suspended execution of the sentence because of the new law on press offences. “The motives accepted by internal jurisdictions cannot, in themselves, be considered sufficient to justify interference in the right of the petitioner to freedom of expression” the Court ruled. “The sentence is disproportionate to the intended objectives and, as such, unnecessary in a democratic society”, the Court continued. It also found Turkey guilty of “inequitable trial” because of the presence of an army judge on the bench of the State Security Court that had tried the petitioner.
Furthermore, the European Court for human rights found Turkey guilty for having inflicted two years imprisonment on a local political leader accused of “incitement to hatred”. On 8 November the Court considered that Turkey had violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on human rights and awarded 3,000 euros to the petitioner, Haydar Kaya, president of the Ankara country section of the Labour Party at the time of the events. In 1997 he had made a public political statement condemning the Turkish State’s policy and accusing certain political and Army public figures, whom he described as “putschists” and “gangs”. A sentence “disproportionate to the intended objectives and, as such, unnecessary in a democratic society” in the view of the Strasbourg judges.
On 28 November, the Iraqi High Criminal Court that is trying Saddam Hussein and seven of the top brass of his regime adjourned the trial to 5 December. The Court announced this when hearing resumed in the afternoon, after having been suspended for about an hour. Saddam Hussein’s defence collective had announced, the day before, its intention of asking for proceedings to be adjourned. Saddam Hussein and seven of his regime’s top leadership are being tried for the massacre of 148 Shiites at Dujail at the beginning of the 80s.
This second hearing since the trial began on 19 October before this Court, which is sitting in the highly protected Green Zone of Baghdad, had begun at 12.17 (9.17 GMT). All the accused and their defence team were present as well as the international Juridical advisers, including former US Secretary of Justice, Ramsey Clark. The fallen dictator was the last of the accused to enter the courtroom. He was dressed in Western style costume and held a Coran in his hand. He greeted his fellow accused, who, however, were wearing the dishdasha, the traditional Arab robe and had their heads covered with a keffiah. The principal co-accused are Taha Yassin Ramadan (former Vice President), Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti (his half brother), Awad Ahmad al-Bandar (former revolutionary court judge and assistant head of Saddam Hussein’s inner cabinet). The four others are former Baath Party leaders in the region of Dujail, Abdullah Kadhem Rueid, Mazhar Abdallah Rueid, Ali Daeh Ali and Mohammad Azzam al-Ali.
The High Court is sitting in the former Baath Party Headquarters and is presided over by Judge Rizgar Amin. The latter has indicated to a German weekly that he had thought of delocalising the trial to Kurdistan, where security could better have been ensured. “I asked myself if the Court aught not have been moved to Kurdish territory” said the Kurdish judge in the 28 November issue of the magazine Focus. “A trial must take place in the most normal conditions of security possible but the situation in Iraq in recent times are not normal”, he insisted. He also insisted that he was not motivated by “anger”, whereas some people have accused him of wanting to settle his scores and those of the Kurdish people with Saddam Hussein in the course of this trial. “We are a court (…) there is no anger of any sort in us”, affirmed Rizgar Amin.
Draconian security measures were enforced on all people (magistrates, lawyers or journalists) entering the building. The journalists could not carry anything other than a notebook “without metallic components” — even the pencils were supplied by the court. The lawyers for the defence were amongst the first to arrive in the courtroom. Khalil al0Dulaimi, the former dictator’s principal lawyer, leads the defence collective. Following the assassination of two of them since the opening of the trial on 19 October, the defence lawyers had decided to boycott the court, before going back on this decision. The trial continues to arouse strong feelings amongst both the adversaries and partisans of the former dictaor.
At Dujail, some 200 inhabitants demonstrated calling for the execution of Saddam Hussein. The demonstrators, including many relatives of the victims, carried photos of assassinated inhabitants and banners proclaiming “Cursèd be Saddam and Baathism!” and “We call for the execution of Saddam the Dictator”. Several Iraqi security barricades had been set up at all the entries to Dujail. In contrast, at Tikrit, bastion of the overthrown dictator, several dozen people demonstrated to demand his liberation. The demonstrators, mostly students, brandished photos of the former dictator and shouted slogans hostile to Ibrahim Jaafari’s government: “God is Greatest! O Arabs the trial.is unjust”. Saddam Hussein and his co-accused face the death sentence by hanging following their trial at the High Criminal Court specially set up in December 2003 to try him and the leaders of his regime for crimes against humanity, for genocide and also for embezzling State property.
On 8 November a German Defence Ministry spokesman announced that Germany had sold Turkey 298 tanks of the Leopard 2 type, at the moment belonging to the German army. The sales contract, for an undisclosed amount, was signed by both parties on that same day,the spokesman pointed out.
This sale has, up to now, been strongly opposed because of the Human rights situation in Turkey. The Greens, coalition members of the outgoing government, have, in the past, vetoed delivery of tanks to Turkey mainly because of the situation in Kurdistan and the fear that already delivered tanks were being used against the Kurdish population. Germany wants to sell 850 of its 1,200 Leopold 2 tanks as part of a programme to modernise its Army.
According to the police, on 29 November, some 500 Kurdish activists demonstrated in front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, to demand the liberation of Abdullah Ocalan, sentenced to life imprisonment in Turkey. Coming from Alsace, but also from Germany and the Netherlands, they met peacefully in the morning then demonstrated in the afternoon before the Council of Europe behind banners demanding “Peace in Kurdistan” and “Freedom for Ocalan”.
Lat May, the European Human Rights Court had confirmed its condemnation of Turkey for an inequitable trial of Abdullah Ocalan and recommended a retrial. Sentenced to death in 1999, the sentence of the boss of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for “treason and separatism” had been commuted to life imprisonment on 2 October 2002. The Ministerial Committee of the Council of Europe holds its last meeting of the year in November to supervise the carrying out of the rulings of the European Court covering several hundreds of cases. To enjoy a retrial the condemned person must apply for it. The man most concerned in the case has repeatedly indicated, through his lawyers, that he would refuse to be retried in Turkey so long as the impartiality of its courts could not be guaranteed.
In Erevan, nearly thousand Kurds of Armenia demonstrated on 9 November to demand the liberation of Abdullah Ocalan and to protest against Ankara’s policy towards the Kurdish people. The demonstrators marched through the centre of the Armenian capital with slogans “Freedom for Ocalan” and “Peace in Kurdistan” before ending their action in front of the offices of the UN representative in Erevan. “We are very concerned at the fate of our leader in prison (…). We also condemn the policy of Turkey (towards the Kurds) and we want our action of protest to draw the attention of the international community (…) We have often knocked at UNO’s doors but we never receive anything but promises”, pointed out Therkez Rach, the leader of the Kurdistan Committee of Armenia, who leads a community of estimated at some 60.000 to 80,000 people. In Cyprus, on the same day, a Kurd tried to set himself alight in front of the European Commission offices to demand justice for Abdullah Ocalan. The man, 42 years of age, suffered 2nd degree burns over 18% of his body. Some 150 Kurds took part in this demonstration to demand a fair trial for their leader Ocalan and to denounce the violations of Human Rights in Turkey. The demonstrators handed in a petition to an official of the UN office in Cyprus.
In Diyarbekir, about ten people were injured, on 13 November, in clashes between the police and demonstrators at the end of a rally of 10,000 people to urge a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem. The demonstration, organised by local NGOs and pro-Kurdish parties round the theme of “democracy and peace”, took place under strict security controls in a square in the city centre. The demonstrators in Diyarbekir shouted slogans in support of Abdullah Ocalan. The anti-riot police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse a group of several hundred people who wanted to organise a march at the end of the rally. Ten people were injured in the clashes and the police carried out a dozen arrests.
The Turkish authorities have, for several weeks past, prevented the PKK leader’s lawyers from having any access to their client. According to Mrs. Aysel Tugluk, the authorities have “put forward feeble excuses such as the bad weather or other things” to refuse the lawyers requests to visit Imrali by boat — the only means of access to this island jail where Ocalan is the only detainee. The lawyers have not been able to meet Ocalan since 1 June last. At first it was the defence lawyers who had given up going to the prison in protest at the “undemocratic” practices of the authorities who tape-recorded their talks with Ocalan. “But we have decided to talk to our client to discuss his defence” explained Mrs. Tugluk. For the first time in two months, A. Ocalan received a visit from his sister and his brother.
The instability in Kurdistan has increased following the announcement by the PKK in June 2004 that it was putting an end to its five-year unilateral truce. Four gendarmes were wounded by the explosion of a remote controlled mine in Sirnak province, the Anatolia press agency announced on 26 November, quoting local security sources. The min had been placed by the side of a road, 8 Km from the gendarmerie garrison of the small town of Maden. The day before presumed Kurdish fighters are said to have attacked a police outpost in Idil (Diyarbekir Province) with anti-tank rockets. On 10 November a PKK Kurdish fighter was killed by the explosion of a mine that he is said to have tried to lay, in Tunceli province, according to the Governor of Tunceli, Mustafa Erkal. In the night of 1 November, two Turkish gendarmes, an Army auxiliary and a Kurdish fighter were killed in an attack of a gendarmerie position in Sirnak province. Four other troops were wounded during the attack, carried out by the PKK near the town of Uludere, pointed out these sources, adding that a vast security operation was taking place to hunt down the fighters.
On 1 November, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, evoked a “new era” with the United States in the struggle against the Kurdish fighters from Turkey, who have taken refuge in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. “I can announce to you that we have begun a new era”, he said when asked, during a press conference, whether the American ally had accepted to act against the PKK in the face of sharp criticisms from Ankara. Without wishing to give further details, the Minister promised that the results of this cooperation would soon be made public. “We can straight away harvest the fruits of cooperation against terrorism”, he added. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had recently warned that Turkey was at the end of its patience and launched a new appeal to the United States and Iraq for them to control the PKK, which was attacking Turkey from mountains in Kurdistan. Ankara has several times threatened to make incursions into this area to crush the armed PKK activists that have found refuge there. To Ankara's great displeasure, Washington has refused to take military measures against the PKK in Kurdistan, advancing ht argument of the instability in the region.
A UN Supervisory Council has recommended that the United States reimburse Iraq some 208 million dollars for apparently excessive invoices paid to a subsidiary of Halliburton. The International Supervisory Council for the Development of Iraq has carried out an audit on the supply of oil products and the rehabilitation of oil infrastructures in Iraq by Kellogg, Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. It has opposed billings to the extent of 208 million dollars, about which the Army’s auditors had already expressed reservations. In a statement published on its Internet site on 5 November, the Council “recommended that the amounts paid to the firms whose justification cannot be proved be promptly reimbursed”. Cathy Mann, the Halliburton spokesperson, pointed out that the audit cast doubt on the quality of the documents supporting the invoices, not the invoices as such. “It would thus be totally false to say or insinuate that any of the costs incurred by the client are excessive”, she stressed.
The Supervisory Council is empowered to make recommendations but they have no compulsive force. The Iraqi oil account, called the Iraq Development Fund was, like the Supervisory Council, set up by the UN Security Council to supervise the management of Iraq’s natural resources under the regime civil administration by the US. The Council of Supervision’s mandate was extended after the taking of office by the Iraqi provisional government on 29 June 2004. In May, the Council noted “with regret” that the Pentagon’s auditors had tried to hide over 200 million dollars of apparently excessive invoices concerning contracts paid with money from Iraqi oil and attributed, without prior tender, to Halliburton, a company of which Vice President Dick Cheney had previously been chief executive. The Pentagon’s auditors had handed over to the Council documents fundamentally reworked, explaining that they had suppressed passages to protect trade secrets. The subsequent disclosure of a version that had not been reworked showed that the suppressions had been effected to hide questionable invoices. In its recent statement the Supervisory Council indicates that “the process of justification of these expenses is continuing”.
A report drawn up by American and British activists and published on 22 November, states that the multinationals will continue to plunder Iraq’s oil resources if the Iraqi population does not protest against such practices. Oil is exploited in Iraq under an Agreement of Shared Production (ASP), encouraged by Washington and London, generates a substantial return on investment to the oil companies but deprives Iraq of 194 billion dollars, according to the report headed “The Plundering of the Iraqi Oil Wealth”. “Under the influence of the United States and of Great Britain, some politicians and powerful technicians in the Iraqi Oil Ministry are applying press to grant unexploited oil fields to the multinationals so that they can be exploited under the Agreements on Shared production”, states Greg Muttitt, the author of the report. Greg Muttitt is a research worker in the Platform collective, a London-based organisation that studies the social and environmental consequences of oil extraction.
Some ASPs have been in force for years in countries like Russia, Nigeria, or the United Arab Emirates, that allow the oil companies to make substantial profits. In his report, supported by humanitarian associations and think tanks, Muttitt estimates that the first motive of the “energy security” policy pursued by the United States and Great Britain in Iraq is to assure them control of this oil supplying Gulf country. According to the report, the losses to Iraq caused by the ASP is of the order of 2,800 to 7,400 dollars per inhabitant over the 30 years life of such a plan. In comparison, the Iraqi GNP is 2.100 dollars per person. The report recommends that Baghdad resort to direct investments by the government, of borrowing from banks and multinational agencies to obtain foreign investment via more flexible and equitable contracts. But many analysts also consider that the ASPs, the contract most sought after in the oil industry, will allow Iraq to develop its immense oil reserves (the third largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Iran) more rapidly while accelerating the reconstruction of the country and return to investors. According to them, these contracts are the only ones liable to attract foreign experts in view of the country’s instability. As might be expected, Muttitt’s report has aroused the anger of Iraqi and Western leaders in the oil industry. “This is worthless” storms a Western leader. “The ASPs are a widespread means of protecting the producer country and creating the optimum conditions for the host government and the international oil companies”.
Furthermore, the United Nations Programme for the Environment brought held the fourth meeting of donors involved in the project to rehabilitate the marshlands of Southern Iraq. This meeting, which lasted till 8 November, was aimed at making an assessment of progress co-ordinating the actions to follow. Monique Barbut, Director of the Technology Division of the UNPE, three Iraqi Ministers and representatives of local authorities of the South of the country, took part in this meeting, chaired by the UNPE Executive Director Klaus Topfer.
Thanks to the action undertaken at the beginning of 2004, water has begun to return over 40% of the marshland area, which had been 90% dried out by the Saddam Hussein regime after the Shiite uprising in the region in 1991, Mr. Topfer pointed out. Efforts will now concentrate on access to the water, filtering it and making it drinkable, as well as sanitary installations so as to enable the population to return and resettle in the marshlands from which they had fled. According to the Iraqi Minister for water resources, Latif Rachid, about 70,000 people, who had sought refuge in the towns or neighbouring Iran, had returned to the region. “But it is impossible for us to encourage others as we have no infrastructure to provide for them: neither roads, nor water supply nor electricity nor health services” he explained. The drying out of the marshes by the Baathist regime, which had carried out massive drainage programmes and built dams on the Tigris and the Euphrates had reduced the marshland area from 9,000 Km2 in the 70s to 760Km2 when the regime fall in 2003.
For its part, the Japanese government decided, on 24 November, to cancel about 710 billion yen (about XXX billion euros) that was owed by Iraq. This represents about 80% of Baghdad’s debt to Tokyo. This decision corresponds to the Paris Club agreement, made in November 2004. It was made public on the occasion of a meeting in Tokyo between the Japanese Foreign Minister and his Iraqi opposite number Hoshyar Zebari. The two Ministers exchanged notes on this Japan-Iraqi agreement, based on the Paris Club declaration of November 2004, which recommended 80% reduction of Iraqi debts. Members of the Paris Club hold about a third of Iraq's debts. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the global amount of the Iraqi debt at about 120 billion dollars, excluding reparations due to Kuwait for the 1990 invasion and the 1991 Gulf War.
On 28 November, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) denounced a reference to the Kurdish language in the Section of Turkey in the 2006 Almanac of the International Federation of Football Associations (IFFA) and demanded that it be suppressed. The new almanac presents Kurdish as one of the two “official languages” of Turkey, according to a communiqué from the Federation. The document recalls that the Turkish Constitution only recognises a single official language — Turkish. “Reacting immediately to this edition, the Turkish Football Federation sent a letter to the President of the IFFA, Mr. (Joseph) Blatter, demanding a correction of this mistake, which is a vital question concerning (Turkish) national unity”, the communiqué pointed out. The President of the TFF evoked an “error” by the IFFA that had to be corrected.
The IFFA has also opened an enquiry into the hateful welcome given to the Swiss team during an encounter on 16 November in Istanbul. Video pictures on the tapes contained in the surveillance cameras at the stadium show scenes of punch-ups in the tunnel leaving to the changing rooms of the Istanbul stadium. The Swiss press, which talks of one of the “mist shameful matches between nations that are not at war”, openly accuses the Turkish trainer, Fatih Terim, some leaders of the Turkish Football Federation and Mafiosi of deliberately organising it. The IFFA is going to demand that the Turks hand over these tapes, and if they have disappeared the penalties will be all the more severe. The events occurred after the whistle had blown to end the match, which decided qualification for the 2006 World Cup. The Swiss players had to dive into the tunnel leading to the changing rooms to avoid the missiles being thrown by the Turkish supporters. Photos published in the Turkish press showed the assistant trainer of the Turkish team, Mehmet Ozdilek, tripping up the Swiss mid-field player, Valon Behrami, on the field at the end of the match, followed by a kick at the official by the Swiss Benjamin Huggel. On 22 November the Turkish Federation announced the resignation of Mehmet Ozdilek, one of the two assistant trainers of the Turkish Football team, following his involvement in the incidents. The TFF, its president Levent Biçalçi and Fatih Terim remain under fire from the critics. The Minister of Sport, Mehmet Ali Sahin announced that the inspectors attached to the Prime Minister’s Office would be opening an enquiry into the Federation and, if necessary, he would fire the President.
According to the Swiss press, Fatih Terim, hired to ensure Turkey’s qualification, used all his contacts to achieve qualification for the World Cup. During a decisive meeting on 13 November at Istanbul’s Konrad Hotel, in the presence of the Deputy chief of the Istanbul police, it was decided to destabilise the Swiss from the moment they arrived at the airport.
Another leader of the Turkish Federation, Davut Disli, ensure the collaboration of two somewhat shady businessmen, linked to the head of the Turkish mafia, Sedat Peker. Red badges, giving access to the changing rooms were given to two men, Aydin and Kiratli, today accused of having violently attacked, or organised the attack on the cameramen present in the “tunnel of shame”. The cameramen, who are afraid of giving evidence today, reported that the Turkish trainer and goalkeeper, Volkan, broke down the door to the referees room and tripped up the Swiss ref., Grichting, before kicking him in the testicles.
In an interview in 20 November issue of Matin Dimanche, the Turkish Ambassador to Switzerland, Alev Liloç, declared that he was “ashamed” when he saw the Swiss footballers fleeing into their changing rooms after the Swiss-Turkey match and that he expected “more hospitality” of the Turkish people. He also criticised his country’s press. The Turkish Ambassador to Berne was disappointed to see hostile banners displayed at Istanbul Airport — an attitude he described as “shameful and unacceptable”. Asked what he thought of the Turkish press that claimed that the first goal had been won on at the Airport he replied “That’s filthy. A match is won on the playing field”. The diplomat, however, did not feel that Turkey should make official apologies.
For its part, the Swiss Federal Councillor (member of the government) Micheline Calmy-Rey pointed out to Matin Dimanche that if the IFFA enquiry were to show that Turkish officials were involved in the excesses at the match then “she would commit herself officially”. The Swiss Foreign Minister had not sent a note of protest nor summoned the Turkish Ambassador to Berne. She had written to her Turkish opposite number to express her astonishment and her concern following the incidents at the arrival of the Swiss team at Istanbul Airport.