On 12 July, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani claimed the right of the Kurds to have well trained and armed forces capable of defending them. “Because of the injustices it has suffered, our people has the right to have a regular Army, trained in accordance to the latest military criteria”, declared the Prime Minister during a military ceremony in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. He stated that a Kurdistan defence force was in line with the Iraqi Constitution’s recognition of the federal character of Iraq and insisted that the peshmergas (Kurdish fighters) “were different today from what they had been in the past”.
“In the past, the peshmergas defended the freedom of our people, today they ar3e called upon to preserve its gains”, declared Mr. Barzani. “The Kurdish forces will attack no one but exist to preserve our people from war”, he added.
Moreover, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who was visiting Irbil, declared to the press: “I do not see the country plunging into a civil war, despite regrettable actions of some people who ignore the fact that Iraq is united”. He added that “the security services continue to be in firm control of the situation and we want to see things develop towards political (compromises) and not towards the resort to force. We have the capacity, if needed, to impose order and to repress those who are rebelling against the State”. Mr. Maliki considered that the question of the militias could be resolved in the framework of national reconciliation, by involving their members in the task of rebuilding the country. The Prime Minister denied the existence if divergences between the central government and the government of Kurdistan over the extraction of oil, following the recent oil discoveries in the region. “A Kurdish delegation will be coming to Baghdad to reach an agreement on unified legislation regarding oil”
Federal law, inherited from the period of the nationalisation of hydrocarbon fuels in 1972, forbids foreign shareholding in this sector, whereas the Kurds want to attack foreign firms. In the course of the same Press conference, Kurdish Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, considered that relations between Kurdistan and the Central Government should be based on the Constitution.
On the other hand, on 9 July the Make Oil AG Company announced that Iraqi Kurdistan would be equipping itself with an oil refinery with a 250,000 barrels-a-day capacity. An agreement for building such a refinery in the Irbil region was signed between the Kurdish Minister for Natural Resources, Ashti Horami, and the Lebanese company Make Oil AG. According to this agreement, construction of the refinery should take two years. Make Oil AG, registered in the Lebanon since 1995, is already building a cement plant at Dohuk, in Kurdistan. On its web site, the company indicates that it specialises in crude oil trading, but also in building and managing refineries. The agreement follows on the announcing, last April, of the discovery of an oil field in the Zakho, near the border with Turkey — the first in federated Kurdistan. (The Kirkuk oil fields have been operated ever since the 1920s, but this predominantly Kurdish province is not politically integrated into Iraqi Kurdistan.)
The Iraqi Deputy Minister for Oil, Moatassam Akram, had then announced, at a press conference at Irbil, “the discovery of an oil field at Zakho”, about 470 Km North of Baghdad, adding that the wells had been drilled by the Norwegian company DNO. It was due to start producing some 20,000 barrels/day in 2008. The Iraqi Kurdish authorities announced, early in March, that negotiations were taking place with the Canadian oil company Western Oil Sands, for a concession to explore for oil in the Garmian region, about 120 Km South of Suleimaniyah. Proven reserves of federated Kurdistan are evaluated at 3.6 billion barrels, or 2.9% of Iraq’s proven reserves.
On 25 July, the US Presidential Advisor of National Security, Stephen Hadley, indicated that Washington and Baghdad had agreed to cooperate with Ankara and prevent “in a more energetic manner” PKK Kurdish fighters from using their bases on the Iraqi-Iranian borders for striking at Turkish interests. The issue of the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been discussed “at length” during meetings between American and Iraqi officials on the sidelines of the White House meeting between Mr. Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, he pointed out before the press. “We have already identified concrete measures that can be taken, which the Iraqis will take and, I am sure, will announce”, he stated. “We must be able to take concrete measures to show both the Iraqis and the Turks that a plan exists to settle this problem. And that is something to which we must respond more energetically”, he added. “We have made known to the Turks that (…) we recognise the seriousness of the problem of the PKK’s activities, which are resulting in the deaths of Turkish nationals and members of the Turkish security forces. We do have the slightest doubt that we consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation”, he declared.
Stephen Hadley nevertheless stressed the necessity of joint action by the Americans, Turks and Iraqis. The issue is to dissuade the Turks from any unilateral intervention, which would risk provoking reaction from Iraqi Kurdistan. “We have proposed that the question be settled in a trilateral context. I think that the Turks accept this idea”, pointed out Mr. Hadley. He recalled that Mr. Bush had already given assurances to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Now we must ensure that actions match the words”, he concluded.
On 22 July the White House had announced that US President G. W. Bush had assured the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States would help Turkey face the PKK. The US President and the Turkish Prime Minister “also discussed PKK attacks on Turkey and the President indicated to the Prime Minister that the United States were working with Turkey to face up to the terrorist threat”, added a US spokesman.
Mr. Bush and the Turkish Prime Minister had already talked together on the phone on 20 July, after Turkey had threatened intervention by the Turkish Army into Iraqi Kurdistan. On 19 July, the United States had affirmed that Turkey had the right to defend itself after Turkey had accused it, the day before, of practicing double standards in the region. The communiqué distributed by the US Ambassador to Turkey, nevertheless repeated Washington’s opposition to any unilateral intervention by the Turkish Army in Iraqi Kurdistan. “Turkey, like any other country, has a right and duty to defend itself and its population”, pointed out the document. The communiqué follows on the Prime Minister’s acid remarks, the day before, that the United States was supporting the Israeli offensive taking place in the Lebanon and Palestinian territories but not a possible Turkish action in Iraqi Kurdistan, mentioning double standards. “Terrorism is terrorism”, he rapped out, “It is not possible to agree with an attitude that is lenient about the actions of country A but that shows a different attitude in the case of country B (…) After all, we know how to settle our problems (…) The authorities concerned are working accordingly (…) We are standing by ready for any eventualities”.
Mr. Erdogan was reacting to the remarks of US Ambassador Ross Wilson, who had considered that a Turkish incursion into Kurdish territory “would be unwise” when being interviewed on NTV Television Channel. “The PKK is not just a problem in Northern Iraq, it’s a problem in Europe and it is a problem in Turkey”, stated Mr. Wilson. “Dealing with the PKK in Northern Iraq does not settle the problem”, he insisted. “This will not lead to what we, Iraq and Turkey want to see — that is an end to these terrorist activities and an end to the sufferings and deaths Turkey has endured”. Mr. Wilson insisted that Washington had achieved “some success” in dismantling some networks financing the PKK and had discussed with Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish authorities about “the necessity of acting to throttle the PKK’s activity and its apparent freedom of manoeuvre”. “Working together with the United States and the Iraqi Kurdish authorities can be an essential element for strengthening Turkish security”, stressed the Ambassador, expressing Washington’s will to see Turco-American cooperation in anti-terrorist struggle continue
The warning came after Ankara, on 17 July, had called on Baghdad and Washington to act against the PKK and had brandished the possibility, in the event of not being heard, of intervention by its own army.
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also called on NATO to take part in the struggle against the PKK
“NATO, in the same way as it has joined in the struggle against terrorism in Afghanistan (…) should carry out the same task here”, declared Mr. Erdogan on 24 July at his holiday residence in North West Turkey. “It would be well if we could work in a trilateral effort and secure results”, commented Mr. Erdogan. “Otherwise we will deal with out problems ourselves”.
For his part, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, stressed, in Athens on 6 July, that his country expected Turkey to respect its territorial integrity. Questioned on the eventuality of Turkish Army incursions into Kurdish territory to hunt down PKK fighters, Mr. Zebari pointed out that “so far, according to information we have received, there has been no violation of Iraqi territory in its Northern parts (…) Should this occur in the future, Iraq will work to prevent violations of its borders”, he added. “Iraq has always sought to strengthen its links with Turkey and all its neighbours on a basis of non-interference (…) All the countries know that they must observe the sovereignty of every other country”, he continued. The Iraqi Minister recalled that he had raised these issues during his visit to Ankara on 3 July. He had then made public the willingness of both capitals to renew tri-lateral meetings (with the United States) to struggle against the entrenched PKK. “This tripartite mechanism will again be operational very shortly and further meetings organised, accompanied by new measures”, he declared during a press conference at the end of a meeting with his Turkish opposite number, Abdullah Gul. Mr. Zebari, on a working visit to Ankara, did not spell out what these measures would be but insisted that his country was determined not to allow activities threatening the security of neighbouring countries to operate from its soil, specifically the PKK. He admitted that “these people are in areas that are not entirely under (Iraqi or American) control”. The last Turco-Iraqi-American meeting on the PKK was held in Ankara in January 2005. According to Turkish diplomatic sources, it is pointed out that Turkey had asked Mr. Zebari to do everything needed for the extradition of the PKK leaders whose names have already been given on a list sent to the Iraqi authorities. Both parties decided, furthermore, to open two new border crossing posts within the next three years so as to ease the load on the only one existing. Finally, according to Turkish sources, Turkey proposed to Iraq the training of its police force at Diyarbekir. Hoshyar Zebari, who has directed Iraqi diplomacy uninterruptedly since September 2003, also met in Ankara, apart from Mr. Gul, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also inaugurated the Iraqi General Consulate in Istanbul.
The Turkish army has intensified its operations against the PKK. At least 94 fighters and 56 soldiers have perished since the beginning of the year in Kurdish Turkistan, according to AFP calculations. Kurdish fighters also claimed 11 bomb attacks that caused 9 deaths and nearly 114 injured, in urban areas. On 16 July, the Turkish Prime Minister announced that his government intended a tough response to the violence perpetrated, in his view, by Kurdish fighters on 13 July that had cost the lives of thirteen Turkish soldiers. “We have, till now, tried to treat the problem patiently (…) with a democratic approach … but these actions are intolerable”, warned Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a televised speech from Agri. In the night of 16 July Kurdish fighters killed seven soldiers and a member of a paramilitary group in clashes in Siirt Province, according to Turkish officials. On 13 July five Turkish soldiers were killed and four others wounded when their vehicle hit a mine in Bitlis Province. In the neighbouring town of Bingol, a PKK activist was killed. In Ankara, the Council for Anti-Terrorist Struggle, composed of Ministers, generals and security officials and presided by the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, analysed the situation in an emergency meeting.
Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly argued in favour of a more democratic solution to the conflict that took into account the economic development of the Kurdish minority. However, the government refuses to negotiate with the PKK. Mr. Erdogan had indicated, last April, that he would also avoid any dialogue with the principal Kurdish political party, the Party for a Democratic Society (DTP), until they openly denounced the PKK as a “terrorist group”.
Meanwhile, a soldier was killed and two others injured on 27 July by a mine explosion during a combing operation in a rural area near the town of Genç, in Bingol Province. Two “village guardians” were also killed on 22 July by a mine explosion on the outskirts of the village of Daglica, in Hakkari province. Six Kurdish fighters and two Turkish soldiers died in clashes on 21 and 22 July. Two PKK fighters were shot down by Turkish security forces in a mountain area of Sirnak Province. Four other PKK members were also killed in Van province in an operation that also wounded four members of the security forces, one of whom died of his wounds in hospital. Another soldier was killed in Sirnak by shots fired at the helicopter in which he was sitting. In addition, two PKK fighters and a policeman were killed on 17 July during fighting at Gercus, in Batman Province.
Furthermore, on 18 July, Zubeyir Aydan, head of the political branch of the PKK, signed the Geneva Appeal, renouncing the use of interpersonnel mines. “The fighting in Eastern Turkey in continuing. Renouncing the use of a weapon in such a context bears witness to our will to solve the conflict by other means”, rejoiced Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, President of the Geneva Appeal. The PKK is the 29th insurgent group to sign the Appeal. Turkey protested to Mrs. Reusse-Decrey, considering her efforts to be “illegitimate and unacceptable”. For his part, Mr. Aydar declared: “We are going to observe our signature, point by point”. Mrs. Reusse-Decrey is said to have visited the Kurdistan mountains to get the Geneva Appeal initialled by the PKK’s military wing. Concretely, the movement commits itself no longer to laid antipersonnel mines (which it says it has not laid since 1988), to destroy any such stocks in its possession and further to help mine clearance programmes. Signatories are also committed to accept missions of verification and control. Several years of negotiations were needed to get to this signature. “We had first to understand the PKK’s chain of command”, explained Mrs. Reusse-Decrey. The PKK fighters also wanted to know the exact extent of the commitments contained in the Geneva Appeal. Only anti-personnel mines are covered. These weapons explode at the slightest contact, whether from a soldier or a civilian. On the other hand the appeal does not cover anti-tank or re3mote controlled devices.
On 25 July, Mr. Maliki made his first official visit to the United States since coming to office last May. He was welcomed in Washington by President George W. Bush for discussions on security in Iraq. The next day it was the turn of both Houses of the US Congress, meeting in joint session, to welcome the Iraqi Prime Minister. Mr. Maliki’s visit has a major political dimension in the United States, where the autumn mid-term Congressional elections are taking place. The war in Iraq, the calls for the American Army’s withdrawal, are likely to be major issues in this poll. “If Mr. Maliki does not have a credible plan for disarming, demobilising and re-integrating the militia, even President Bush would have to admit that it would be better that our (troops) begin to leave Iraq rather than take sides in an unwinnable sectarian civil war”, stressed Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. “President Bush must explain to Mr. Maliki that our commitment in Iraq is not indefinite”, added Harry Reid, Democratic leader in the Senate, going one better. On 26 July Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked the US Congress to help “bury” terrorism, after having vaunted the progress achieved in his speech. “We need your help” for reconstruction, pleaded Mr. Maliki before promising “I will not let Iraq become a launching pad for al-Qaida or any other terrorist organisation”. “Be sure that Iraq will be the tomb of terrorism and of terrorists, for the greater good of humanity”, cried Mr. Maliki.
Whereas then war in increasingly unpopular in the United States as the November mid-term elections approach and as a growing number of Congressmen are demanding a timetable of troop withdrawals, Mr. Maliki echoed the arguments of the Bush Administration, which presents Iraq as the principal front of the “war against terrorism”. “It is your duty and our duty to defeat terrorism”, said Mr.Maliki “our country’s destiny and yours are linked”. “We have chosen democracy” he insisted. “We are rebuilding Iraq on new, solid bases of freedom, hope and equality”.
The Iraqi Premier declared that Iraq was, henceforth, in the front line of the war against terrorism and that his country was determined to overcome the sectarian violence. “Iraq is in the front line of this struggle and history will show that the sacrifices made by the Iraqis for peace will not have been in vain”, declared Mr. Maliki. “The future of both our countries in linked. If democracy is allowed to fail and terrorism to triumph in Iraq, then the war against terrorism cannot be won anywhere else”, stated Mr. Maliki. “Iraq and the United States need one another to defeat terrorism that is submerging the free world. In partnership we will triumph, because we will never be slaves of terrorism since God has made us free”, declared Mr. Maliki.
Furthermore, during his stopover in London on his way to Washington, Mr. Maliki defended his record in a BBC interview, refuting the idea that Iraq is the scene of a civil war. He insisted that there was no need to wait “decades or even years” before the Americano-British coalition troops could be withdrawn. “We have two kinds of conflict — there is a conflict of sectarian nature (and) another type of conflict (consisting) of criminal activities which target innocent people in the markets and public places. This one requires us to have a law and order approach and vision to resolve it”, he explained.
On 28 July, the Turkish Army announced an enquiry following on revelations in a weekly review regarding a retired general who stated he had ordered bomb attacks in Turkish Kurdistan while he was stationed there in the 90s. Turkey is enjoined to provide explanations about these accusations against certain units of the security forces, which are said to have indulged in summary executions, extortion, kidnapping and smuggling in Kurdistan during the 90s, at the height of the fighting against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The retired general, Altay Tokat, declared to the weekly Yeni Aktuel that he had ordered that bombs be thrown near the homes of two regional officials so as to intimidate them and, as he put it, “convince them of the gravity of the situation”. The general did not provide any other details about the target of these atrocities, nor of their location. He described them as “carefully planned”, stressing that they had a “purely psychological impact” and had made no victims. The general’s remarks were a comment on his justification of a fatal grenade attack against a bookshop run by a Kurd who was alleged to be a member of the PKK in Semdinli. Two soldiers have each received a 40-year sentence for murder. “What should we do? Cross our arms while the bookshop passes on PKK messages? Throwing a grenade is an illegal act? That law is unacceptable”, concluded the general. According to the weekly, the general went into retirement in 1999, after a 39 years career during which he was decorated three times. He is at present a member of the Executive Committee of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP — neo-fascist).
On 31 July, the general in command of the Turkish land forces, well known for his radical stand, was appointed Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff, following several weeks of speculations on the eventuality of manoeuvres to block his promotion by the government, which is an offshoot of the islamist movement. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, signed the decree appointing 60-year old General Yasar Büyükanit to the highest position in the Armed Forces, stated the Presidency. Appointments to the head of the Armed Forces are closely scrutinised by analysts in Turkey, where the Armed Forces, self-proclaimed defenders of the principle of secularism, continue to enjoy a major influence in political life despite recent reforms to align Turkey on European Union standards. The Presidential office let it be known that Yasar Büyükanit would take up his new duties on 30 August. The Supreme Armed Forces Council of Turkey was due to announce his appointment on 4 August, after its annual meeting, presided by the prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to some analysts, this was made earlier than usual to forestall political tensions linked to this appointment. “The government took the decision before the meeting to dispel speculations, which was a good initiative. (…) A campaign has been conducted against Büyükanit for several months past”, stated Sedat Ergin, of the daily paper Milliyet, speaking on the CNN Turk television channel. “Büyükanit is more inclined towards the American side and security concerns than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanisation of Turkey, but he is clearly more influenced by nationalist tendencies”, estimated Huseyin Bagei, of the Middle East Technical University (Ankara). “He will be much tougher in the fight against he Kurds”.
General Büyükanit found himself in the lime light last March, when a Public Prosecutor demanded an enquiry intop links between him and some uncontrolled elements in the Army, perpetrators of a bomb attack aimed at creating more tension in Turkish Kurdistan. Mr. Büyükanit is seen as a “hawk”, much more determined to fight the AKP (the government party) than his predecessor, Hilmi Ozkok. The general is also known for his outspokeness, which strengthens the perspective of increased repression against the Kurds. Yasar Büyükanit replaces General Hilmi Ozkok, who contributed to keeping the army calm during a delicate period of liberal reforms — and particularly of reduction in the army’s number strength — aimed at preparing Turkey for entry into the European Union. The Ataturkist opposition, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the Turkish media swept aside the accusations and criticised the Public Prosecutor of acting on behalf of the Justice aqnd Development Party (AKP), in office, with the aim of discrediting the general and preventing his rise to being the head of all the Armed Forces. The army rejected these “ill intentioned” accusations by the Public prosecutor (later struck off the rolls by his peers in the Ministry of Justice) and ruled out any question of an enquiry aimed at the Commander in Chief of the Land Army. However, certain observers saw in the Prosecutor’s gesture a health collapse of the taboo protecting the Army from any criticism. The Turkish Armed forces have carried out three coups dèétats — in 1960, 1971, and 1980 — and also forced the resignation of the first islamist Prime Minister in the history of the Turkish Republic — an event described as a “post modern” coup d’état by the Turkish generals.
The Iraqi National Reconciliation Commission, consisting of the principal Iraqi political actors, began work on 22 July. Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, affirmed to the press, on the opening of its work, that “the commission will start its work, organise work meetings and launch a campaign of reconciliation”. About thirty public figures, including Mr. Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the leaders of the principal parliamentary groups, some tribal chiefs and representatives of civil society took part in the meeting, which must set the reconciliation plan, launched by Mr. Maliki on 26 June, to work. The objectives include, in particular, “dialogue between those who do not share the same political positions, the stopping of summary liquidations and the recourse to law for settling conflicts”. For his part, the Great Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual chief of the Iraqi Shiites, on 20 July called for and end to intercommunity violence in Iraq, warning against a prolonged maintenance of American forces in the country. At the same time, the Iraqi National Security Councillor Muwafak al-Rubai stated that eight of the country’s eighteen provinces would be coming under the control of the Iraqi forces before the end of the year. Responsibility for the whole country will be transferred in the course of the first six months of next year.
On 25 July, representatives of some of the principal Iraqi communities and minorities began discussions in Cairo on means of achieving reconciliation and putting an end to the violence that is beginning to divide Iraq. About thirty delegates, representing the Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish and other minority communities are taking part in these talks, sponsored by the Arab League. The League’s General Under-Secretary, Ahmed Ben Heli made the point that these three days of discussions aimed at drawing up a programme for the meeting, in August, which should have the advantage of the presence of former supporters of ex-president Saddam Hussein. A number of the delegates expressed scepticism about the outcome of these discussions and some complained about insufficient preparations. One delegate stressed, of the record, that the Arab League regards them as a “shop window” for “propaganda objectives” but it has “nothing concrete” to offer.
Moreover, on 18 July, a Conference of Foreign Ministers from Iraq’s neighbouring countries opened in Teheran, where those taking part essentially discussed the security situation in Iraq and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, President Mahmud Ahmedinjad called on all those concerned to support the new Iraqi Government and to make an effort to help the country re-establish peace and stability, describing the Iraqi problem as one of the most essential challenges confronting the international community. The Conference was chaired by the head of the Iranian Diplomatic Service, Manushehr Mottaki. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain were represented at this 2-day encounter by their Foreign Ministers. Representatives from UNO, the Arab League and from the Islamic Conference Organisation were also present. The Conference ended without any concrete results.
On another level, the Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdel Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), joint mainstay of the government alongside the Dawa Party, highlighted his differences with his ally, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, on the question of the amnesty planned, by the national reconciliation plan
In the course of an interview on 3 July, Mr. Hakim also displayed his criticism of the way the US Army was conducting operations in Iraq. To the question whether perpetrators of attacks on American troops should be covered by the amnesty Mr. Hakim replied: “Yes, whatever might be their orientation”, whereas Mr. Maliki excludes them. At the same time the Shiite leader rejects any possibility of dialogue with those still loyal to the overthrown president Saddam Hussein and to Sunni extremists. “No truce and no dialogue is possible with Baathist criminals, those who are loyal to Saddam or with the takfiris”, he stressed forcibly. On another issue, Mr. Hakim expressed scepticism about the possibility of dialogue with some armed groups. “I do not know any armed groups that haven’t committed crimes against the Iraqi people, and if there is a resistance, as some claim, let it show itself”. “All the resistance movements in the Arab world have declared themselves openly and the people are proud of them. If such movements exist in Iraq, the door of dialogue would be open to them but I see no proof of their existence”, he added. Mr. Hakim also defended his idea of autonomy for the oil-rich region South of Baghdad. “There will be no concession on federalism” with is recognised by the Constitution, he pointed out. In his view, “the existence of an autonomous Kurdish region in the North could create an imbalance” and the Sunni Arabs have nothing to fear from a Shiite region. “I was the first to defend the idea of sharing of wealth by the central government”.
In publishing a list of 41 “criminals”, the Iraqi authorities have shown that they are primarily seeking cadres of the fallen Saddam Hussein regime, whereas the Americans prefer to hunt down the islamists. More than half the names made public on 2 July by the Councillor for National Security, Muwaffak al-Rubai are Saddam Hussein henchmen, including members of his own family. In March only a handful of jihadists of al-Qaida or Ansar al-Sunna were listed, and the price for these latter is meagre compared with that offered for Baathists.
“I think that Iraq knows best who are its enemies”, opined Joost Hiltermann, Middle East director of the International Crisis Group. “If the list contains mainly names of Baathists it is because the Iraqis are convinced that those who harmed them in the past are the ones mainly fuelling the insurrection today”, he added. The biggest bounty, $10 million, is offered to whoever enables the arrest of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the N°2 man in the old regime, still at large and considered to be the operational chief of the terrorists. The new boss of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who the Americans consider their “number one enemy”, is only in 30th place on the list. The second name on the list is little known — Mohammed Yunes al-Ahmed is described as the man who had reformed the banned Baath Party. The third, Taher Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, former head of the intelligence services, is the financier of the Baath. Their head carry a price of $1 million. The Iraqis also suspect Raghad and Sajida, respectively daughter and wife of the former dictator, who live in Amman and Doha respectively, of financing the insurrection. “These fugitives have committed crimes against the Iraqi people”, explains the Kurdish Member of Parliament Mahmud Osman. “It is most important that they be brought before the courts because, for us, the Baathists are criminals”, he added.
The islamist extremists, accused of having been the perpetrators of the biggest slaughters since 2003, are tail end of the squad, with only $50,000 for the capture of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi’s successor. “Al-Qaida is rather helpless without Zarqawi and Masri is new on the job. If he proves to be dangerous the bounty may increase”, pointed out Mr. Hiltermann. “For the moment the Iraqis are hunting for then dignitaries of the old regime, but I do not have the impression of a witch hunt for all the former Baathist, many of whom are innocent”, he insists. Mr. Rubai shares this view. “We are only chasing the key men and if we catch them I assure you that 90% of the attacks will cease”, he revealed. “The Americans do not see the Baathist the way we do because they were friends in the past. For them, al-Qaida is the main threat”, continued Mahmud Osman. The United States affirm that only a small part of their troops are hunting al-Qaida and that the others are co-ordinating their actions with the Iraqi government. “It sets the priorities and we work in cooperation with it”, stressed the spokesman of the Multilateral Force, the US general William Caldwell. “When we say that we are targeting members of al-Qaida, we only use special forces for that, but the vast majority of the 127,000 American troops are operating under direction of the Iraqi government”, he added.
Furthermore, on 27 July, the Iraqi government and the United Nations announced the official launching of a Contract of Objectives for Iraq, aimed at developing a new partnership between that country and the international community. This contract, backed by the World Bank, “will enable, in the course of the next five years, the international community and the multilateral organisations to help Iraq to achieve its national project”, stressed the Iraqi government and UNO in a joint communiqué. It is a matter of creating a framework enabling the development of the Iraqi economy and its integration into the regional and international economy. “It is envisaged that the Iraqi government will present the finalised contract, including the principal priorities, the stages and the commitments before the end of 2006”, the communiqué points out.
In addition, on 17 July, a Finn, Ilkka Uusitalo, was appointed head of the new European Union Delegation in Iraq, according to a European Commission press communiqué. Mr. Uusitalo, an experienced member of the Commission, recently served as delegation head to Pakistan. He will replace Mrs Ana Gallo, former European Commission chargé d’affaires in Iraq. One of Mr. Uusitalo’s most urgent tasks will be to take part in the preparations for the international pact for Iraq, which will be examined in the next few days in Baghdad, indicated Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner in charge of external relations and European “good neighbour” policies. According to this docume3nt, Mr. Uusitalo had directed the European Commission delegations to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He previously held a variety of responsibilities in the Red Cross, both at its Headquarters and in the field, in Iran and other countries. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein the European Commission has spend 720 million euros on reconstruction in Iraq. The recently announced 200 million euro programme for the year 2006 aims at improving the life of the Iraqi population, this communiqué reveals.
According to a UN report made public on 18 July, nearly 6,000 civilians lost their lives in Iraq in May and June — an increase in the number of deaths that reflects the escalation of inter-community violence. The report of the UN Aid Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) details the assessment of instability and insecurity in the country, where assassinations, bomb attacks, kidnappings, torture and intimidation are increasing. Hundreds of teachers, judges, religious leaders and doctors have been particularly targeted. “While welcoming the recent positive measures taken by the government to encourage national reconciliation, the report sounds the alarm regarding the growing number of victims in the civilian population, either killed or injured by random or targeted attacks perpetrated by terrorists or insurgents”, the UN notes.
According to the report, 2,669 civilians were killed in May and 3,149 in June. There figures, included those of the Ministry of Health, including data from the hospitals, and those of the Baghdad Forensic Medicine Institute, which records the unidentified corpses. UNAMI is also concerned by the increase in kidnappings, on a particularly large scale, and the setback in women’s rights. The report shows that the number of civilian deaths has increased in the last months from 710 in January to 1,129 in April. In the course of the first six months of the year, 14,338 people have been killed.
The Iraqi parliament, meeting in Baghdad on 15 July, voted to extend the State of Emergency in Iraq for 30 days as from 3July, except for the autonomous region of Kurdistan. This vote was proposed at the request of the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and the council of Ministers because of the bad security situation in the country, pointed out Mahmud al-Mashhadani, Speaker of parliament. The State of Emergency had first been decreed by Iyad Allawi’s transitional government in November 2004, before an offensive again Fallujah, West of Baghdad. It has been renewed every 30 days since then by the head of the government but, with the election of a permanent Parliament on 15 December last, the Constitution required that it be approved by its Members. The State of Emergency gives the Executive extensive powers, allowing it, in particular, to impose restrictions of peoples’ movements, the holding of public meetings and to order arrests and search operations.
Between 17 June and 14 July the Iraqi capital saw the largest number of attacks per unit area and, consequently, the highest number of deaths per unit area of the whole of Iraq, according to US statistics. The plan to improve the security in Baghdad, “Forward together”, launched on 14 June and which was the Prime Minister’s “priority” has not been a success: violence has increase by 40% between its start and mid-July. The Americans will, henceforth, throw more troops into the fight to try and check the spiral of violence. There mare, at present, an average of 70 attacks a day in the Iraqi capital all together — cars bombs, home made explosive devices and shoot-outs included. This does not include kidnappings without an exchange of gunfire, which generally end with summary execution. On 25 July, President George W. Bush announced the transfer of US troops to the capital of a country threatened by civil war, as even the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki admitted
Clearly it must offset the failure of the plan to improve security in Baghdad, one of the head of the government’s very first initiatives.
For his part, the Iraqi Minister for émigrés and displaced persons let it be known, on 20 July, that the upsurge of violence in Iraq had brought the number of displaced persons to at least 162,000 people. The day before, in Washington, the United Nations had expressed it concern at the increase in the number of religiously motivated acts of violence and the “dangerous” influx of displaced persons, 32,000 more of whom have arrived in the last three weeks. The great Ayatollah, Ali Sistani, spiritual head of the Shiite community of Iraq, has also denounced “displacement campaigns”. The number of 162,000 people is calculated on the basis of 27,000 families who have asked for help from the Ministry of Émigrés and Displaced Persons since 22 February, the date of the bombing of the Samarra Mosque. Furthermore, on 21 July the Baghdad morgue announced that it had received a thousand corpses between the 1st and 18th of July, a further indication of an intensification of violence in the Iraqi capital. On an average, over 55 corpses a day have been brought to the morgue in July, as against 53 in June, 44 in May and 39 in April.
Moreover, on 13 July the budget experts of the US Congress stated that the war in Iraq could cost the United States between 202 and 406 billion dollars between now and 2016 and that the amount depended of the speed with which the US forces were brought back. If the US draft could be reduced from 190,000 to 140,000 by 2007 pending a total withdrawal in 2009, the Iraqi operation will const a further 166 billion up to 2016, according to the estimates of the Congress Budget Office (CBO). If the withdrawal is slower, the cost of the operation will rise to 368 billion dollars. Tom this the CBO adds, in particular, the costs linked to the financing of the Iraqi forces and to the financing of development as well as pensions paid to US troops. The war, launched in 2003, has so far cost nearly 300 billion dollars, according to the CBO. This body stressed that its task had been made more difficult than usual by the scarcity of information provided by the Bush Administration. Prior to the military intervention, the White House economic councillor of the time, Lawrence Lindsey, had estimated the cost of the operation at between 100 and 200 billion dollars. Other members of George Bush’s entourage had immediately refuted this evaluation, which they considered much too high.
On 23 July, a Syrian Kurdish student was freed after serving three years imprisonment for having published photos of a demonstration in Damascus on Internet, announced the National Organisation for Human Rights in Iraq (NOHRS). “The authorities have freed Massud Hamed, 30 years of age, who had been sentenced by the State Security Court to three years imprisonment in 2003 for publishing (photos of a) demonstration of Kurdish children”, indicated Ammar Qorabi, President of the NOHRS, in a communiqué. Thirty-year old Massud Hamed, studying journalism in Damascus, was accused by the State Security Court, and extra-legal court, of “being a member of a secret organisation” and of having “tried to annex part of Syrian territory to another country”, according to the communiqué. These charges are routinely levelled against Kurds point out Human Rights activists. The NOHRS has called on “the authorities to free all prisoners of conscience in Syria”. Massud Hamed was detained at Adra prison, in a Damascus suburb. He spent his first year in solitary confinement. He is said to have been tortured repeatedly in the months following his arrest. It is alleged, in particular, that he was beaten on the soles of his feet with a knotted whip. As a result of this ill treatment, Hamed feet, today, are totally paralysed and he suffers from dizzy spells and backache. Moreover he has not been allowed to wear spectacles, which has led loss of his visual sharpness. Massud Hamed has been awarded the prize of Reporters sans Frontiers, which has conducted a relentless campaign for his release.
Furthermore on 17 July the President of the Syrian Organisation for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammad al-Hassani, declared that the Syrian authorities had arrested a young Kurdish woman suspected of being a member of the Democratic Union Party. “The intelligence services arrested (the day before) Faydan Abdel Rahman Qumboz, apparently for her activity in the Democratic Union Party”, announced Mr. Hassani. This Kurdish party is the result of a split in the Yakiti (Unity) party. The 24-year old activist comes from the Afrin region of the Aleppo governorate. Violent clashes in this governorate, as well as at Qamishli, resulted in 40 deaths in March 2004, according to Kurdish sources (25 according to the authorities)
“We demand the release of the citizeness Faydan Rahman Qumboz or that she be brought before an impartial court, liable to guarantee an equitable verdict in the event that any legal justification for should exist”, added Mr. Hassani. “We condemn political arrests in all their forms and call on the authorities finally close this case” pointed out the lawyer.
Moreover, the trial of the Syrian opposition activist Kamal Labuani, accused of having contacts with the United States with a view to inciting “an aggression against Syria” continued on the 17th and again the 25th July in Damascus, indicated the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (NOHRS). Kamal Labuani, founder of the Liberal Democratic Rally was arrested in November 2005 at Damascus International Airport, on his return from a tour of Europe and the United States in the course of which, in particular, he had discussions with the Assistant National Security Advisor of US President George W. Bush. His trial began on 11 May, in Damascus. The charges are based on his meetings with European and American leaders and on statements he made, in particular on the American satellite television channel al-Hurra. Mr. Labuani has already served a three-years sentence for having taken part in the “Damascus Spring” — the short period of liberalisation that followed Bashar al-Assad’s accession to the Presidency in 2000.
On the other hand, thirteen members of the Moslem Brotherhood (banned) have been freed in Syria, according to Mohammad al0Hassani, who described this measure as a “positive” sign. “The Syrian authorities have freed thirteen islamist prisoners, members of the Moslem Brotherhood, who have been incarcerated since 1981-1983”, declared Mohammad al-Hassani on 7 July, without giving the exact date of their release. The Syrian Moslem Brotherhood were severely repressed in February 1982 at Hams, with thousands killed or arrested after the Army took the city by storm. Law 49, passed in 1980 proscribed the death sentence for all members of the banned Brotherhood. Mr. Hassani also indicated that Suheir Atassi, President of the Atassi Forum for Democratic Dialogue, Samar Labuani (wife of the imprisoned opponent Kamal Labuani), the former member of parliament Riad Seif, Dr. Walid al-Bunni, and Fawaz Tello, an engineer, had been informed that they were forbidden to leave Syrian territory. Mr. Hassani, who states that “there is no law (…) that stipulates an ban on travelling”, has called on the authorities to “cancel this punitive measure”.
On 27 July, an Istanbul Court acquitted the Turkish journalist and novelist Perihan Magden, who was sued on the basis of a complaint by the Armed Forces General Staff for having defended the right to conscientious objection in Turkey in an article. The court considered that Mrs. Magden had not exceeded the limits of freedom of expression and that the offence of “discouraging the people from national service through the press”, for which she faced up to three years imprisonment, had not been established, according to her lawyer, Fikret Ilkaz. In an article published in December by the weekly review Yeni Aktuel, the author ofd several popular novels, including “The story of two young girls” (2002) had defended a homosexual activist who was refusing to fulfil his compulsory military service and had proposed that an alternative solution of civilian service should be made available.
Every Turkish citizen, at the age of 18, is called upon to serve six to 15 months military service, depending on his level of education. Turkey does not recognise the right to conscientious objection, those refusing being then liable to up to five years imprisonment. During the first hearing of her trial, at the beginning of June, Mrs. Magden had been booed in the corridors of the courthouse by nationalist demonstrators accusing her of playing into the hands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A strong police presence was set up round the courtroom, stateded out Mr. Ilkaz, pointing out that Mrs. Magden had not attended the hearing.
Furthermore, the Turkish Court of Appeals confirmed the six months suspended sentence passed on a Turkish Armenian journalist, Hrank Dink, accused of “insulting Turkish identity”, his lawyer reported on 12 July. Mr. Dink, director of the Istanbul bilingual Turko-Armenian paper Agos, will thus have to go to prison should he be convicted of similar offences in the course of the next five years, explained his lawyer, Fethive Cetin. “This is a regrettable decision for Turkey”, she commented.
Mr. Dink was sentenced in October 2005 by an Istanbul court for an article that was published in his paper in February 2004. In this article, devoted to the collective memory of the massacre of Armenians in Anatolia between 1915 and 1917, during the First World War, the journalist called on Armenians to “turn, now, towards the fresh blood of independent Armenia”, which alone was capable of freeing them from the weight of the Diaspora. The case having been submitted to it on appeal, a chamber of the Court of Appeals decided to quash the verdict on technical grounds. The prosecutor of this court had, however, demanded that he be acquitted but the judges finally decided to confirm the prison sentence, according to Mrs. Cetin. The Armenian question is a particularly sensitive one in Turkey, which rejects the use of the term “genocide” to describe the events wheras many countries, on the other hand have officially recognised this genocide. Mr. Dink is also the target of a second lawsuit. He is at present on trial for “attempting to influence the courts” because he had commented on his own problems with the courts. He faces up to three years imprisonment.
On 27 July, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR)found Turkey guilty for not having punished some “village guards” for having shot down a man they wrongly thought was a Kurdish “terrorist”, in the official terminology. The ECHR considered that Turkey had violated Article 2 (the Right to life) of the European Convention of Human Rights. Aged 52, Mehmet Mihdi Bilgin was killed in 1994 in Batmen province by some village guards who explained that they had shot him down in the context of armed operations by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In 1995, the ten guards were sued for intentional homicide before the assize court, but in 1997 the assizes suspended the trial arguing the fact that they had committed the offence while on duty. The following year, the Administrative Council of Besiri, one of the villages involved, decided that there were no grounds for any legal action. The ECHR considered that the behaviour of the guards remained “unjustifiable, even in the context of so-called “heat of action”” and highlighted the “flagrant contradictions in the version of the facts put forward by the Turkish authorities”. The Court also concluded that, in addition to Article 2, the absence of any effective enquiry into the case and of the right of effective recourse constituted a violation of Article 13.
Il allocated 9,000 euros to the late victim’s widow and 6,000 to his daughter and 4,000 to each of his six other children as moral and material damages.
Furthermore, on 25 July Turkey was found guilty by the ECHR for having sentenced a journalist and the owner of a paper for articles considered too pro-Kurdish. The ECHR considered that Turkey had breached Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, by suing the editor in chief and the owner of the paper Ozgur Bakis for “separatist propaganda”. The paper had, in particular, published a letter and an article by an official of the PKK, discussing this movement’s armed struggle and the trial of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. For these things, Cihan Capan, the chief editor, was sentenced in 2000 to 13 months jail and several fines, while the paper’s owner, Halis Dogan, was severely fined. The paper was first seized and then forbidden to appear for three days. While recognising that certain articles painted “a very negative picture of the Turkish State”, the Court considered that the grounds put forward could not be considered “sufficient to justify interference of the right of the petitioners to freedom of expression”. It particularly pointed out that the articles did “not (urge) the use of violence, nor armed resistance, nor any up rising”. The prison sentence imposed on Mr. Dogan has not been carried out, the latter having left Turkey for Switzerland where he has lived since. The Court allocated damages of 5,000 euros to Mr. Capan and 7,000 euros to Mr. Dogan.
The ECHR also ruled that Turkey had violated the freedom of expression of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, Sentenced in his country for hateful remarks, Necmettin Erbakan won his case in Strasbourg where, on 6 July, the European Court for Human Rights considered that his right both to freedom of expression and to an equitable trial had been violated. Mr. Erbakan, who was Prime Minister of Turkey from June 1996 to June 1997, was sentenced in 1998 for remarks considered hateful at a time when he was president of the Refah Partisi (Prosperity Party), which was banned in the same year for “activity contrary to the principles of secularism”. According to the prosecution the Islamic leader had, in 1994, during the municipal elections, at Bingol, incited people to hatred, in particular by remarks on religious differences. A recording, which was entered in the charges against him but whose authenticity is challenged, indicates that he is said to have declared that b y voting for Refah the electors would not become “slaves of the Christians”. He is also said to have reproached the other parties of being “lovers of the unfaithful”.
On 10 March 2000, the Turkish State Security Court had concluded that by madding a distinction between “believers” and “unbelievers”, Mr. Erbakan had gone beyond the acceptable limits of freedom of political expression. Sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, in January 2001 he received a suspension of this sentence. The European Court, in its ruling, pointed out that it had taken into account “the very severe punishment inflicted on the well known politician”, considered out of all proportion to “the interest of a democratic society for ensuring the free play of political debate”. While it is “crucial” that politicians avoid spreading in public intolerant views, it is equally necessary to take into account the “fundamental character of the free play of political debate” before passing a heavy sentence, the European Court added. Furthermore, it considered that, as proceedings had only been established four years after the incriminated speech, it had not created any “imminent” or “present danger” for society. In referring his case to the European Court for Human Rights, Mr. Erbakan further maintained that his case had not been tried by an independent and impartial court in accordance with regular jurisprudence. Here too, the ECHR condemned the presence of an army officer amongst the judges of the State Security Court that had passed the sentence. This presence, in the Courts opinion, constituted “a legitimate motive for fearing a lack of independence and impartiality of this Court”.
In addition, on 3 July the ECHR passed a ruling to encourage the Turkish State to abolish the classes of “religious and moral culture” for young Alevis (a heterodox branch of Islam). Hitherto young Alevis were obliged attend these classes on orthodox Sunni Islam. Consequently since 2005 the Alevis have been campaigning for the banning of these religious classes. The European Court’s decision comes, therefore, just at the right moment. The daily paper Hurriyet quoted the Turkish Minister of National Education, Husseyin Celik, who stated that as from next year the “religious and moral culture” classes would be open to Alevi beliefs. “The school books would contain the fundamentals of Shiite doctrine, references to Fatima (Mohammed’s daughter, wife of Imam Ali who was the originator of Shi’ism), the story of her family …” On the other hand, the Minister considered that “since 99% of the country’s inhabitants are Moslems, an equal place cannot be given to all religions”. Furthermore, the daily points out, “putting the decision into practice will take time”. The 1980 Constitution, imposed by the authors of the 1980 army coup d’état, makes these classes compulsory in primary and junior secondary schools. It may be necessary to amend the Constitution. For the moment, the paper reports, parents who do not want their children to attend these classes can “express the wish” to the administration. The General Secretary of the Alevi Federation, Fevzi Gumus, also quoted in Hurriyet, declared that the stand taken by the ECHR was “a step forward in the struggle” but that “in a modern, scientific, democratic and secular education, classes of religious and moral culture must be abolished”.
On 30 July, the Turkish police took into detention some 130 people during a meeting of the country’s principal Kurdish party, claiming that this event was linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The police stated that the meeting, which was held at Urfa, had been organised in the name of “a terrorist organisation”, a stock term to designate the PKK. The Party for a Democratic Society, the country’s principal pro-Kurdish organisation, declared that the sole purpose of the meeting was to discuss the town’s problems. The detainees are due to appear in court and some of them may be accused of criminal activity, the same sources pointed out.
Kurds active in politics are often accused of being tools of the PKK by the Turkish authorities. The DTP was created at the end of 2005 by former Kurdish members of Parliament with the aim of resolving the Kurdish problem by peaceful means. Several leaders of the Party, which is not represented in Parliament, are already being subjected to legal proceedings for “complicity with the PKK”. Last month a Turkish Public Prosecutor initiated enquiries to determine if the DTP’s first convention had made PKK propaganda since some of those taking part had brandished Kurdish flags and posters showing the PKK leaders, Abdullah Ocalan.
Moreover, on 6 July, the semi-official News Agency, Anatolia, reported that Ahmet Turk, a Kurdish politician who was recently elected to the head of the principal pro-Kurdish movement in Turkey, the DTP, and Aysel Tugluk, former co-President of this organisation, had been charged by the Ankara Public Prosecutor, for having distributed leaflets in the Kurdish language. They face up to two and a half years jail. According to the agency, they are accused of having distributed leaflets in Kurdish on a national scale, which also raised the fate of Abdullah Ocalan, during International Women’s Day, on 8 March. The law on political organisations obliges parties only to use the official language, Turkish, in their political activities.
On 25 July, an Istanbul court, to which an appeal by Abdullah Ocalan had been referred, refused to invalidate a decision of another court, which had opposed his retrial. In May, an Ankara court had rejected a petition for his retrial in accordance with the ruling to this effect by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR). In May 2005, the European Court had recommended a new trial of the PKK chief, incarcerated since 1999 on the island prison of Imrali (North West Turkey)m on the grounds that it considered the original trial, under which he had been sentenced to death in 1999, had been “inequitable”. The death sentence passed on Ocalan, now 57 years of age, was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 after the abolition of the death sentence in Turkey. Turkey has i9nndicated that it would always observe the rulings and recommendations of the ECHR — but that it must first amend its legislation.
A law passed in 2003 allows the retrial of detainees whose trial has been invalidated by the ECHR, but it is not retroactive, which excludes Abdullah Ocalan and about a hundred other people from this measure. The Turkish authorities fear that a fresh trial could put the government in a difficult position with regard to public opinion and exacerbate nationalist feelings in the country.
On 14 July, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (HCR) announced that a group of some 200 Kurds, originally from Iran and stuck at the Iraqi-Jordan border, are refusing help from the HCR and that several of them have begun a hunger strike. This group, stuck in a no man’s land between the two countries for the last two and a half years, are demanding to be admitted into Jordan prior to resettlement in another country, explained the HCR spokesman, William Spindler, in Geneva. “Most of them want to go to the United States”, he pointed out to the Press, adding that the HCR did not have the means of forcing Jordan to open its borders. The HCR is thus encouraging this group to go to a refugee camp at Kawa, in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has already welcomed some 10,000 Kurds from Iran registered with the HCR. “Their integration is constantly progressing without any serious concern for their safety”, stressed Mr. Spindler.
The HCR, which offered help and medical treatment, is “increasingly concerned” for the health of these 200 Kurds “who are systematically refusing” its help, “putting the more vulnerable of them in serious danger”, according to the spokesman. Three of them have started hunger strikes over the last two weeks and their health “has seriously deteriorated”, he added
This group of Kurds had fled the Islamic revolution 25 years ago and, until 2005, had lived in a refugee camp in the centre of Iraq, which they also left when the security situation deteriorated in the region.
On 22 July, about 600 Kurds held a peaceful march in Lausanne to denounce the Treaty of Lausanne, signed 83 years ago in the capital of Switzerland’s Vaud canton. This treaty buried, for a long time, the dream of the Kurds of having their own autonomous state. The demonstrators marched to the Rumine Palace, where the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on 24 July 1923, and sang the Kurdish anthem.
The demonstrators , mostly men, but also including whole families, carried flags in the Kurdish colours and banners denouncing the partition of the Kurdish people between four countries. They then attended a conference devoted to the Kurdish question and to the consequences of the Treaty of Lausanne for Kurdistan. This meeting was organised by the Kurdistan Cultural Centre and the Kurdish Human Rights Centre in Geneva.