On 6 October, the Us Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visited Iraqi Kurdistan. Mrs. Rice met and spoke to the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, at Irbil. The discussions at Irbil were mainly aimed at convincing the Kurdish leaders to support a Bill being debated in Baghdad providing for the sharing of oil resources amongst all the Iraqis. “We think that oil must be a resource shared between the Iraqi people as a whole”, declared Mrs. Rice to the journalists accompanying her. “Our point of view (…) is that oil must be a factor of unification and not a resource that would lead to a less united country”, she added.
At a joint press conference at Irbil, (at which only two flags were flying — that of Kurdistan and that of the United States, but not that of Iraq) Mr. Barzani affirmed that Kurdistan was in favour of “an equitable distribution of the oil resources over the whole of the national territory, as is laid down in the Iraqi Constitution”. He then continued that “Kurdistan, liked any other nation, has the right to self-determination”. However “the Kurdish parliament has opted for a federal system within a democratic Iraq”, he added. The Prime Minister of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, had affirmed, at the end of September, that the Kurds wanted to have control of their oil and warned that any outside interference would only revive the calls for Kurdish independence. Major oil reserves have already been found in various regions of Kurdistan and experts are expecting fresh discoveries. Kurdistan’s proven oil reserves are estimated at 3.6 billion barrels or 2.9% of the proven reserves if Iraq. The Iraqi Constitution provides for the sharing of oil-field revenues from existing fields pro-rata to the population but gives regional government the control of fields yet to be discovered. The Kurdistan parliament began, in September, discussing a projected Constitution for Kurdistan in which it claim Kirkuk and reaffirms the right to self-determination, the effective exercising of which will depend on the evolution of the situation in Iraq as well as on the regional and international context.
Mrs. Rice arrived in Baghdad on 5 October, for a surprise visit intended to encourage the process of Iraqi national reconciliation following visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories, as part of a tour of the region. In Baghdad, she had discussions with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the context of a visit that allowed her to insist that it was urgency for the Iraqi leaders to put an end to their political differences. “Our role is to press all parties to work towards a prompt settlement because it is clear that the security situation cannot be tolerated and that political inaction does not help”, she recalled. She also met the Sunni Arab vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mahmud al-Mashadani and the heads of the principal Sunni Arab parliamentary group, Adnan al-Dulaimi. She also had discussions with Shiite leaders, in particular the Vice-President, Adel Abdel Mahdi, and Abdel Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) before dining with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. In the course of these meetings with representatives of Iraqi society, Condoleezza Rice insisted on “the three fundamental pillars of stability” in Iraq: “reconciliation, security and economic development”, according to an American source.
On 4 October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting in Strasbourg passed resolution, encouraging Turkey to improve the cultural situation of the Kurds. The document, passed by a very substantial majority, also asks the governments of Iran, Iraq and Syria to recognise that the Kurdish language and culture are part of their heritage and that they represent an enrichment, not a threat against which they should fight. The Parliamentary Assembly had previously evoked the situation of the 25 to 30 million Kurds living in Iran, in Iraq, in Syria as well as in Turkey — the only one of the four countries concerned that is a member of the Council of Europe. In their resolution, the members of parliament called on Turkey “to lift the unreasonable administrative obstacles that the Kurds come up against in their cultural activities”. They hoped for the creation of an increased number of local centres for the encouragement of Kurdish culture and for giving Kurdish-speakers access to modern means of mass communication.
The Resolution N° 1519 (2006) was adopted on the basis of the report of the Commission of Culture, Science and Education. The British reporter of the Commission, Lord Russel Johnson, had paid a visit to Turkey over the 7th to 13th June 2004. He had taken part in a conference on the subject, organised in Brussels in November 2004. An exchange of views took place on 17 March 2005. On January 18 2006, a hearing took place in Paris of Kurdish public figures from Iran, Iraq, Syria and from the Diaspora, including Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute. On 13 April, the Reporter presented his draft report and the Commission asked its Turkish members for their comments. The full text of the resolution adopted by the Council of Europe is as follows:
On 11 October, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law creating a Federal State. The law was passed by the exact simple majority required of parliament, namely 138 votes out of 275. The law will allow alteration of the powers and attributions of the eighteen provinces existing today. To try and find a formula that did not just cover the Shiites and Kurds, the Members approved, at the end of September, a compromise aimed at reassuring the Sunni Arabs: they agreed to prepare an amendment of the Constitution, whereby the Sunni Arabs mean to secure the passing or regulations setting limitations on federalism. This compromise was straight away materialised with the setting up of a commission charged with preparing the revision of the Constitution. The timetable has been carefully planned: the amendments to the Constitution must be ready in a year, and federalism will not be applied before eighteen months. The Sunni Arabs are endeavouring to ensure that the Constitution set a ceiling on the number of the existing provinces that could, tomorrow, gather together to form a federal region — the objective being to prevent the creation of a single Shiite “super-region”. The Sunni Arabs also want to ensure that an equitable share of national wealth — in the first place oil — remains effective, which implies that the central authority continues to have powers of decision.
On 24 October, taking up the issue in the middle of the Fitr Festival, Iraq’s principal Shiite party demanded the creation of a great Shiite Federal Region. Abdel Aziz Hakim, President of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) argued in favour of federalism before a crowd of several thousands of Shiites gathered in front of his home in Baghdad. It would be a rampart, he declared, against “dictatorship” and “an unjust central power”. Arguing the creation of a Great Shiite Region, he stated: “the best insurance for our people is to set up federalism in the provinces of the centre and the South. Federalism will guarantee, to our children and grant children, that the injustice of the past will not be repeated” he added, referring to the Saddam Hussein regime, which had based itself on the Sunni Arabs to repress the Shiites and the Kurds. Of the 18 Iraqi provinces, nine provinces in the centre and the South have a Shiite majority and are rich in oil. Intervening in the debate, the British Foreign Minister, Margaret Beckett, did not oppose an eventual partition, but, on 23 October, warned that it was up to the Iraqis to decide. “This is really the Iraqis own business, There are enough people from outside who decide on arbitrary borders and take arbitrary decisions”, she said on BBC’s Radio 4. A week earlier, George W. Bush, on the other hand, had opposed the partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions. According to him, this would cause greater “disorder” and would raise problems, in particular, with Turkey, which was opposed to anything that could resemble a Kurdish state. “Three autonomous regions, (would create) not only a situation in which the Sunnis, the Sunni countries and the Sunni extremists (would compete) with the radical extremists. The Kurds (would cause) problems with Turkey and Syria”, he declared, on 16 October, on Fox News television channel. Mr. Bush’s words do not, however, seem a warning against the vote passed last week. The White House is busy trying to appease the anxieties aroused by this law. The Russian Foreign Minister, Serguei Lavrov, for his part, warned against the breaking up of Iraq if nothing is done to “unify” the country.
The Iraq Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, launched a new attempt at reconciliation, including a four-point plan, aimed at checking sectarian violence. The Maliki plan includes an essential principal, which is the creation of local security commissions throughout the country, and firstly in Baghdad, composed of representatives of political and religious groups, of civil society and the Army. Thus each or the actors would get to know whether abuses committed by a Shiite militia were punished or not, and inversely. At national level, a committee also consisting of all the parties concerned would supervise the application of the measures decided by the government. This new plan has already been preceded by other initiatives of a like nature ever since the Maliki government took office in May — but they have not given the results expected. The Maliki plan does not directly tackle the disarming of the Shiite militia, which is an essential demand of the Sunni
Furthermore, at a meeting between Iraq and the donating countries held in Kuwait, Mr. Ali Dabbagh, Iraqi government spokesman, declared during a press conference on 31 October that Iraq needed nearly $100 billion from the donating countries, to develop its infrastructure, over the next five years. Representatives of 14 countries and seven international institutions, including UNO and the European Union took part in this meeting which is due to approve a project for an international agreement to come to Iraq’s assistance. At the opening of this preparatory meeting for an “International Pact with Iraq”, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah, particularly affirmed that the meeting would examine ways for a better use of the aid promised to Iraq by the donating countries during the Madrid conference in October 2003. The donating countries ask Iraq to apply a programme of economic, social and security reforms and to fight the corruption that is widespread in the country, before granting this aid to Baghdad. The “International Pact”, prepared on the initiative of the present Iraqi government, has the objective of guaranteeing Iraq the political and financial assistance of the international community to restore peace and democracy in the country.
The assessment of US Army losses in Iraq for the month of October passed the symbolic threshold of 100 deaths with 103 killed, according to the American command on 30 October. This is the fourth bloodiest month for the US Army since the start of the intervention in Iraq in 2003. One would have to go back to January 2005 for heavier casualty figures (107 dead) for the US forces. The bloodiest of all was November 2004, when 137 soldiers perished. Since March 2003m 2,815 American troops have lost their lives in Iraq. Moreover, a US Defence Department assessment shows that 776 soldiers were wounded in September, which is the highest monthly figure for two years. It is the highest monthly figure for wounded since the US Army operation in November 2004, aimed at recapturing Fallujah. This substantial increase, added to 300 for the first week of October, reflects the great efforts by the American Army to avoid full-scale civil war in Iraq, according to the same source. Over 20,000 US troops have been wounded in fighting in Iraq, about half of who are back on duty. The ratio of wounded to killed in Iraq is about 8 to 1 — as against 3 to 1 for Vietnam.
The casualty lists are even heavier for the Iraqis, since General George Casey, Commander of US troops in the country, declared the week before that 300 members of the Iraqi Security forces had died during the Ramadan month of fasting which has just ended. The head of UN humanitarian activities, Jan Egeland, estimated on 11 October, that murders and retaliations between religious communities in Iraq were “out of control”. Citing statistics showing that 110 people are being killed every day in Iraq, Mr. Egeland pointed out that “many of them are killed by shooting or have been tortured to death”. “Vengeance murders seem completely out of control”. This “brutal violence” is aimed at police, recruits, judges and lawyers — but also at women, increasingly victims of “honour crimes” he added. Apart from the many victims dying from bomb attacks, kidnapping and shoot outs, the “very worrying deterioration in living conditions” of Iraqi civilians, also due to this wave of sectarian violence and to military operations, has led to 315,000 people being displaced from their homes in the last eight months. Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing their country every day in a “perpetual and silent exodus” and the renewal of sectarian violence has dissuaded thousands of them from returning home, according to Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR). Over 50,000 Iraqi exiles had returned to their country in 2005, hoping that the situation would become more stable after the January 2005 elections. This year, the number has dropped to one thousand. He pointed out, on 12 October, that the HCR was seeing some 2,000 people a day entering Syria from Iraq. It is estimated that 1.6 million Iraqis are living outside their country, mainly in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, the Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf States and in Europe. The HCR and the Iraqi government estimate that about 1.5 Iraqis have also been displaced inside Iraq — 365,000 since last February. For his part, Emmanuel Khoshaba, of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, affirmed on 12 October that over 35,000 Iraqi Christians had fled to Syria to escape the violence in their country. In 2004, 20,000 Iraqi Christians, who represent 3% of the 26 million Iraqis, had sought refuge in Syria. The Iraqi Parliament, on 2 October, extended for a further month the State of Emergency in force in Iraq (except for in Kurdistan) since 2004.
While the American forces in Iraq concentrate their efforts on Baghdad, bomb attacks are increasing alarmingly in Kirkuk. Car bomb attacks increased five-fold in Kirkuk last month and hundreds of Kurdish families have left Mossul to escape the violence. These last few months the authorities in Kirkuk and Mossul have been discovering corpses, their hands bound and bearing signs of torture. Some 2,000 Iraqi police and soldiers launched a cleaning operation in Kirkuk at the beginning of October, carrying out house-to-house searches for arms and suspects. The number of car bomb attacks in the town jumped from 3 in August to 16 in September, according to the police, while the number of violent deaths has increased from 12 to 42. Statistics for the rest of Kirkuk Province are unavailable, but a body count carried out by Associated Press records at least 93 deaths in July as against about 20 a month in the spring. On 15 October, Kirkuk experienced a whole series of bomb attacks. Two little girls died when a “kamikaze” blew himself up in front of a girl’s 6th Form College in the centre of the city. Five other people died in a suicide attack with a car bomb. This was aimed at a convoy of vehicles belonging to the Infrastructures Protection Service, which covers the surveillance of public buildings. Ten other people were wounded, according to Sarhat Abdul-Kader of the Iraqi police. In the South of the town, three other people were killed and eight wounded in a suicide attack in a market, according to the police. At least two other car bombs exploded in the town, causing one death and five injured, he added. The attacks are essentially attributed to Sunni Arab insurgents, who target Kurds and the police. Kirkuk has, today, one million inhabitants, including a substantial Kurdish population and Arab, Turcoman and Christian minorities. The Iraqi Constitution calls for helping previously displaced Kurds to return to Kirkuk and for helping the Arab colonies, settled in their place by the old regime, to leave, prior to holding a referendum on whether the town should join the federated region of Kurdistan.
In Mossul, a city with a Sunni Arab majority and a large Kurdish minority (about 35%) as well as a Christian community, the Kurds feel besieged. About 750 families have left the city in the last three months, fleeing towards Kurdish villages, according to Hamid Zaimil, a Kurdish member of the municipal council. According to Abdul-Ghani Botani, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, 1,500 families have fled the city since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003. On 7 October, a lawyer member of the KDP was shot down outside his house and in August a suicide attack with a car bomb struck the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the other major Kurdish party, causing nine deaths. According to an Associated Press body count, there have been 80 violent deaths a month from July to September in Mossul Province, where the Sunni Arabs are in the majority, as against a dozen a month in the spring.
The Americans had up to 160,000 troops deployed in Iraq just after the January elections. Their number had dropped to 127,000 in June but, faced with the worsening situation, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had decided to keep a front line brigade on the spot for a further year. Mid-September General John Abizaid, head of Central Command (Centcom) had indicated that 140,000 US soldiers would remain in Iraq, till the Spring of 2007. The number of American soldiers deployed in Iraq oscillates between 142,000 and 147,000. In an interview published on 31 October by the French daily Le Figaro, the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, estimated that an “immediate withdrawal” of the United States from Iraq “would have catastrophic effects”. For his part, Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, in an interview with Reuters on 30 October, considered that the maintenance of American troops was “indispensable”. He insisted that there were no differences between Baghdad and Washington, although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had, on 27 October, expressed some reservations on American strategy, to which he attributed the “very poor security situation in Iraq”.
On 5 October, several hundreds of Kurdish demonstrators were violently prevented from meeting in a square near the Council of Ministers Offices, in the Syrian capital, by police who had been specially deployed there. The demonstrators “wanted to commemorate the 44th anniversary of the census” carried out in Hassake (North-East Syria) in 1962, following which Damascus withdrew Syrian nationality from 120,000 Kurds who inhabited this province at the time (Editor’s Note: today they and their descendents are estimated at 300,000).
A member of the co-ordinating committee of three Kurdish parties (Yakiti, Azadi and Tayyar al-Mostaqbal al-Kurdi) declared that “many of them were taken in for questioning” and that the demonstrators wanted “to regain their Syrian nationality”, obtain “a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem in Syria in the context of the country’s unity” and “the annulment of discriminatory policies” practiced against the Kurds.
During its Congress in June 2005, the Baath Party, in power in Syria, had recommended “settling the problem of the 1962 census in Hassake and working for the development of the (Kurdish) region”, with its 1.5 million Kurds, who represent 9% of the country’s population.
On 2 October, the day after the beginning of the new unilateral truce proclaimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the head of the Turkish Armed forces, General Yasar Büyükanit, affirmed that the Army would hunt down the Kurdish fighters to the last man. “The armed forces have repeatedly declared that they would carry on their struggle till there is not a single armed terrorist left. Our attitude has not changed an inch and will not change”, he indicated, during a speech made to the War Academy in Istanbul. The general called upon the Kurdish fighters “unconditionally” to renounce armed struggle and to surrender to Turkish justice, considering that “there is no other solution” to the conflict. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had discussions with US President George W. Bush on 2 October before flying, the next day, to the United Kingdom to meet the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, placed the struggle against the PKK at the centre of his meeting. Questioned by journalists, in the plane flying him to New York, as to the most important subject that had to be tackled with Mr. Bush, Mr. Erdogan replied “the Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (PKK), according to the report of the mass circulation Turkish daily, Hurriyet. “I am going to ask for an acceleration of the carrying out of decisions taken. I am going to ask for things like the prevention of infiltrations, the closing down of offices (of the PKK in Iraq), the clarification of the (American) attitude to the terrorists in Iraq”, continued the Prime Minister, as quoted by Hurriyet. In the plane taking him to New York he had, nevertheless, let it be understood (with a remark open to more than one interpretation …) that the Turkish Army could, henceforth, show more circumspection before launching operations against the PKK. “Security forces do not put an end to their operations anywhere in the world, they carry out their mission. They are operational and cannot cease to be so”, affirmed Mr. Erdogan as quoted by the daily paper Milliyet. “We have discussed with General (and Chief of the General Staff, Yasar) Büyükanit the declaration of a cease fire. If the terrorist organisation keeps its word, no operation will be conducted without reason” by the Army, he had indicated. Turkey expects from Washington and Baghdad more cooperation in repressing the PKK, declared for his part the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, in an interview published on 1 October in Newsweek. Questioned about a possible Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq, Mr. Gul replied: “We will do everything necessary to fight this organisation. I want to send this message that if our friends do not help us, we will do the work ourselves”.
The first death of a victim of fighting between the Turkish Army and the PKK since the new unilateral cease-fire occurred on 1 October. A Kurdish fighter was shot down while fighting the security forces in Mardin province where a mechanised unit of the Turkish Army has been conducting a vast operation against the PKK since 28 September. His death brings the number of Kurdish fighters shot down since the beginning of then year to 113, while 79 members of the Turkish security forces have also been killed in the same period according to a body count by AFP on the basis of figures supplied by the Turkish Army. Moreover, on 5 October, two Turkish soldiers were wounded near Ovacik, in Tunceli Province and tow other Kurdish fighters were shot down by the Turkish army on 11 October in Sirnak province and a third, the next day at Eruh, while, on 23 October three Kurdish fighters were killed and two soldiers wounded in a clash that took place near the small town of Hasankeyf, in Batman province.
On 12 October, following his discussions with his Turkish colleague, the former General Edip Baser, the retired US General Joseph W. Ralston, charged by Washington with co-ordinating the struggle against the PKK, indicated that the PKK “must lay down its arms and announce that it renounces violence”. The former US officer welcomed the unilateral cease-fire proclaimed by the PKK but considered that this “first step” did not eliminate the threat to Turkey, allied to the United States in NATO. However, he added, “the use of force is a very serious question. It must not be the first option”. Mr. Baser, for his part, indicated that he had discussed “concrete proposals” with his American colleague, including the closing of the Makhmur refugee camp, near Mossul. Ankara has been asking for then closure of this UNO-controlled camp for several years. It shelters several thousands of Kurds from Turkey, which argues that it is controlled by PKK elements. Following discussions with Joseph W. Ralston, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, in turn visited Turkey on 16/17 October to discuss with the Turkish authorities questions of bi-lateral trade and the struggle against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In the course of this visit he met his Turkish opposite number, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Mr. Erdogan’s press office stressed that the visit was of “special importance” and described Mr. Maliki as a leader “who is working to protect the political and territorial integrity of Iraq and peaceful links between Iraq and its neighbours”.
Furthermore, on 20 October, Kurdish activists announced that they had collected over three million signatures in support of Abdullah Ocalan. “As an inhabitant of Kurdistan I consider and recognise Abdullah Ocalan as a political entity in Kurdistan”, states the signed text. The signatures will be sent to the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to the Head of State, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and to the Speaker of Parliament Bülent Arinç, pointed out one of Abdullah Ocalan’s lawyers, Irfan Dündar, who regretted that these three public figures had refused to see them.
On 17 October the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty of having subjected several people to inhuman and degrading treatment. The ECHR concluded that Turkey had breached five Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Court observed that the petitioner, Sabahattin Goçman, who is at present serving an 18-year sentence for “membership of the PKK”, had been subjected to ill treatment during his pre-trial detention, nor did he have an equitable and impartial trial. In the second case, the ECHR noted that a woman had been subjected to arbitrary arrest and had been knocked about and manhandled in front of her children while she was visiting her husband in jail. The last case concerned a child of twelve years of age, Halil Ibrahim Okkali, an apprentice in an Izmir garage, beaten in 1995 by the police who were trying to force him to confess stealing from his employer, something he denied having done. The Court denounced the feebleness of the sentences against the police — ten months suspended jail sentences. The ECHR considered that the Turkish court had not taken into account “the particular gravity” of this ill-treatment in view of the victim’s age and concluded that the sentences passed could not have “any dissuasive force likely to ensure the effective prevention” of such actions.
Ankara was sentenced to pay a total of 55,000 euros damages in three cases of ill treatment of Kurds by the police forces. Turkey has already been obliged to pay several hundreds of thousands of euros in similar cases going back to the 1990s.
Furthermore, on 3 October, the father of a Turkish Alevi family, who demands a secular education in Turkey and recognition of the right to religious freedom, was heard by the European Court’s judges. Hassan Zengin had petitioned the Court to challenge the neutrality of the classes in religious culture and moral teaching that his daughter, now aged 18, is obliged to attend in the Turkish state school where she was educated. Of the Alevi faith, Zengin considers that this teaching is contrary to the principle of secularism. Ruled out of court in his different appeals before various Turkish jurisdictions, he also maintains that the manner in which the classes in religious knowledge and morals are given in Turkey does not respect the religious rights of his daughter or the right of her parents to provide her with a teaching inconformity with their religious convictions. He invokes Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as Article 2 of the Protocol and Article 1 (right to education) of the Convention.
The majority of Turks are Sunni Moslems, but between 10 and 14 million are Alevis. Although representing a fifth of the Turkish population, the Alevis, whose rites differ profoundly from those of Sunni Moslems, have no recognised status and do not receive any of the subsidies granted to Sunni cultural institutions. They follow a moderate interpretation of the Qoran, defend secularism and call for the abolition of compulsory religious classes.
The trial of Saddam Hussein for genocide against the Kurds was resumed on 31 October, in the presence of the former dictator and the six other accused, in the absence of the lawyers for the defence but in the presence of lawyers officially appointed by the court. A trial of strength between the court and the defence lawyers takes place at every hearing. The defence lawyers, in particular, demand that lawyers from Arab countries or other regions be accepted by the court (at present lawyers have to be Iraqis) and that the accused be allowed to speak without having their microphones cut. Saddam Hussein and his six co-accused have been on trial since 21 August for having set up and carried out, between 1987 and 1988, the Anfal military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, which caused 180,000 deaths, according to the prosecution. All face the death sentence.
In the course of the last few weeks, several witnesses have described scenes in which groups of Kurdish villagers were executed, taken by the Iraqi Army out into the desert to be shot down. Thus the first witness to speak on 31 October, a man speaking anonymously from behind a curtain, described how he saw a collective execution at night, organised in Iraq’s Western desert. Taken prisoner during the Anfal-3 campaign, in April 1988, he was taken in a bus towards the West of Iraq with a group of Kurdish prisoners. By the light of the headlamps, which illuminated a ditch, he saw the execution of 35 Kurds who were then pushed into the ditch. “The guards took the prisoners two by two and executed them while the others waited in the bus. I saw them because I had succeeded in undoing my bonds and the blindfold over my eyes, while the guard was away”, he explained. “The ditch was full of corpses and some of the victims were still alive. I noticed a guard, wearing a green uniform, go down into the ditch and shoot some of the survivors in the head as he insulted them”, he continued. Another anonymous witness, originally from Kirkuk, had been through a series of prisons and detention camps in which there were many Kurds in the years 1987-88, many of whom had not returned. In the Tob Zaoua camp, near Kirkuk, “it was filthy. The children were in there with the adults and at night we could not sleep”, he told the court. During a transfer towards Mossul, a detainee tried to take the weapon of one of the guards. He failed, but that unleashed a burst of gunfire, under cover of which the witness managed to escape. “When I tried to return to my village, near Kirkuk, it had been razed to the ground”, he declared. A third villager gave evidence about an event already frequently described by previous witnesses: the bombing of Kurdish villages with chemical weapons on 18 May 1988.
During the 19th day of hearings, on 30 October, four witnesses described the tragedy their Kurdish villages had experienced as they were preparing to celebrate the end of Ramadan, in the spring of 1988, when the Iraqi Air Force dropped chemical weapons. In these Kurdish villages, the feast that should have celebrated the end of the Ramadan fast in the spring of 1988 is remembered as “the day of the Last Judgement”. That day, Iraqi planes sowed death in the middle of the festive preparations. This is the nightmare that an imam, Jamal Suleiman Kadir, came to describe to the Iraqi High Court. On 18 May, the imam found himself near his village. “Four planes arrived and I could see columns of smoke rising over the village, which was being bombed with chemical weapons. On entering it, I passed a tractor loaded with about fifteen injured people, then I saw twenty corpses near the drinking fountain and the cattle dying. I heard children crying for their father and wives for their husbands. It was like the day of the last judgement”, he recalled. He described the piles of corpses, including those of children still clutching in their hands the special sweets of the Aid, the festival that marks the end of the Moslem month of Ramadan. He said that he had then noticed that the eyes of the survivors were tear-filled and red and that they seemed to be suffocating. Some weeks later, in August, the planes returned and again bombed the village with chemical weapons. Then came the artillery and the soldiers who “destroyed everything, including the mosques, and engaged in looting”, stated Jamal Kadir. Directly addressing Saddam Hussein, who habitually holds a Qoran in his hand while in Court, he asked: “Is there a difference between the Qoran that you are holding and those that you burnt in Kurdistan?”. “I thank God because the day has arrived when, dressed in my traditional Kurdish clothes, I can, in my own Kurdish language, lodge a complaint against Saddam Hussein”, he cried.
At 84 years of age, Aisha Hamad Amin does not remember exactly in what year her village was bombed. But “it was in the spring, the last day of Ramadan, and I was in the village fields when it happened” she told the court. “My son called out to me to stay away. Suddenly he fell, then he died. Saliva was running out of his mouth. I felt my head spinning and I also fell before losing consciousness”, she continued. She told how the villagers had thought she was dead and that when she recovered consciousness she had vomited and was not even able to drink some milk. “My husband died three years later with stomach pains. I still have trouble with my sight”, she added.
Fakhir Ali Hussein was a child at the time but he remembers the day when, with his father, his mother, a brother and three sisters, he saw the bombing of villages of the region of Banisan, near Suleimaniyah. “There was a smell of rotten apples and the inhabitants had difficulty in breathing. They began to vomit and their eyes cried”, he described.
On 19 October, Abdallah Saed, an old Kurdish villager, provided new information about Nugrat Salam prison, in the desert of Southern Iraq and about its director. “Three days after our arrival at Nugrat Salam, the water was cut. We asked Hajaj to turn it back on but he told us: we have cut the water so that you can die. You are here to die”, declared the witness. He described his astonishment on arriving at Nugat Salam: “the prison was jam-packed, full of Kurdish prisoners: children, old women, young people, old men. For a moment I thought that the whole of Kurdistan had been displaced to this prison”, he declared. Questioned by the judges on the reasons for the deaths, the witness remarked “how do you expect an old man to survive by eating the prison’s spoiled food and that an old woman live with her head full of lice”. “I myself helped bury about twenty prisoners”, pointed out Abdallah Saed, who declared that 1,800 prisoners died during his stay in Nugrat Salam. The witness affirmed that his village, Gop Tappa, had been bombed by the Iraqi Air Force with chemical weapons. “I was working in my field when four planes bombed two villages”, he told the court. “We then inhaled a smell of rotten apples. They were chemical weapons and the inhabitants of my village began to cry”, continued Mr. Saed. “We loaded the back of a tractor with children, women and people infected by the chemical weapons and rapidly left for another village”, he explained. Then, as with other witnesses that have followed one another over the last few weeks, there was his arrest by the army, his transfer to Nugrat Salam and the release of the survivors a few months later. Abdallah Saed pulled out a list of names of eight members of his family who died during these events. “I ask for reparation for these eight relatives”, he stressed.
During the 17th hearing on 18 October, the witnesses told how the Iraqi Army had taken groups of terrified Kurdish villages by truck to the middle of the desert to shoot them down. Providing fresh evidence, the first witness described how he and his fellow- detainees were, one day, taken out to the desert in trucks stinking of urine and excrement. A second, anonymous, witness described in similar terms, the transfer of prisoners by trucks, then their execution in a desert region while the detainees tried, in a last burst of resistance, to overcome their guards. “We decided that, if only one person survived, he could testify before the whole world what had happened to us”, the witness explained. He indicated that, taking advantage of the opening of the door of the truck, the prisoners attacked their guards. In the shooting that followed, he was wounded in the back and the right eye. He could not say how many of the 34 prisoners in his truck had survived. “I do not know how many were killed. I was wounded, I could no longer see with my right eye”, he stated.
The day before, Saddam Hussein had accused the witnesses at his trial of threatening the unity of Iraq by describing the ill treatment from which they had suffered in the old regime’s prisons.
“We are a united people. When witnesses say that they were attacked because they were Kurds, that will create disunity in the heart of our united people”, the former dictator added. The first witness, Mutalib Mohamed Salman had told how he had had to flee from his village during the army’s attacks in 1988, before being arrested by the Iraqi army and sent to Nugrat Salam prison: “we lacked food and water, the prisoners’ health continually deteriorated. We counted thirty deaths a day amongst the detainees”. Another witness Baba Abdallah Rassol had described his family’s agony in Nugrat Salam prison, particularly when his 25-day old son wouldn’t stop crying of hunger “bothering everyone with his crying”. He was then summoned with his son to Hajaj’s office “who struck us with a cable. My son later died of hunger”.
One after another, the witnesses who have been coming forward since 21 August, when the Saddam Hussein’s trial for genocide against then Kurds began, have recalled this grim person. He ran the Nugrat Salam camp in the Southern desert and seemed to have full licence to practice all forms of abuse on the prisoners packed into this death camp. Witnesses told how he had women brought to his office so as to rape them, that he threw the bodies of dead prisoners to the dogs or tied prisoners to the goalposts on the prison’s football field to beat them.
During the 14th hearing, on 10 October, some women described the brutal rapes and other forms of savage violence that they had witnessed twenty years earlier, in the death camps where the Kurds were detained while their villages were being bombarded. One Kurdish woman told how she had seen, in one camp, a woman forced to give birth to a child in the toilets. “We had to cut the umbilical cord with a piece of glass from a broken bottle and wrap the baby in some rough canvas”, she declared before the court, hidden behind a curtain to shield her identity. The day before, also hidden behind a curtain, a Kurdish woman had described the circumstances in which her family had disappeared during the Iraqi Army’s offensive against Kurdistan in 1988. “I know the fate of my family — they were buried alive”, she declared. Abdel-Hadi Abdallah Mohammed, a farmer from the Suleimaniyah region, declared for his part that his mother had died in the filthy prison of Nugrat Salam. It was his stepmother, one of the rare survivors, who told him what had happened. “She was buried then dug up by a dog that fed on her corpse” he declared before the court.
Furthermore, on 23 October, The Hague Court of Appeal decided to hear evidence from Saddam Hussein, as demanded by a Dutch businessman, found guilty of having taken part in the making of chemical weapons by Iraq. On 9 October, during a procedural hearing before The Hague Court of Appeals, the lawyers appearing for Frans van Anraat, 64 years of age, had presented a list of witnesses in defence of their client, amongst whom were former high ranking Iraqi leaders, starting with Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali”. The Court of Appeals asked that the practical possibility of hearing such evidence be studied before taking any decision. In the lower court, Mr. van Anraat’s lawyers had already made a similar request in vain. Last December, the businessman had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for war crimes. In its ruling, the lower court had indicated that genocide had taken place in Iraq against the Kurdish population and had found Mr. van Anraat guilty of having supplied the Saddam Hussein regime with the chemicals used in the gas attacks on this population in the 80s. Mr. van Anraat and the prosecutor, who had also charged him with being an accomplice to genocide, had both appealed against the sentence.
On the other hand, on 1 October the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, called for the creation of a commission of enquiry in Kurdistan, following the publication of la list of Kurds who are alleged to have cooperated with the dreaded Iraqi security services (mukhabarat) under the Saddam Hussein regime. The President Barzani’s personal staff announced, in Irbil, that this commission will have to investigate the people whose names were published in two Kurdish weeklies, Awina and Hawlati and verify if they “had been involved with the old regime’s security services”. The head of the Presidential staff, Fuad Hussein, stated that discussions would be conducted with various Kurdish institutions to appoint the members of the commission. He indicated that this commission would be both judicial and political. It will have to establish the facts, not top punish. Its conclusions will be sent to the political leaders and to the judicial administration, which will decide on the measures to be taken. “This question has become a sensitive and important matter for the Kurdish people. For this reason, it has been decided that the lists will be examined by a commission”, added Fuad Hussein.
The Kurdish weeklies Awina and Hawlati, published last week some 150 names of people suspected of having spied on their Kurdish fellow countrymen after the Kurdish uprising that followed the first Gulf War, in 1991. According to the two reviews, which were obliged to make several print runs that were rapidly sold out, the mukhabarat recruited people close to the PUK leader, Jalal Talabani, at present President of Iraq, and to the KDP leader, Massud Barzani. Amongst the names published are those of people who have held high office in the Kurdish government and political parties. On 30 September, more than half of the 111 members of the Kurdistan Parliament signed a petition demanding an immediate evaluation of the truth of the documents published by the two reviews and a debate on their implications. “Those who worked with the mukhabarat must be tried”, declared Ariz Abdallah, a member of Parliament for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main parties. “These agents of the odious Saddam Hussein regime must become examples for others of the same kidney in the future”, added Xeman Zirar, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
The Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, is receiving the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature. On 12 October, the Swedish Academy rewarded one of the best known writers of Turkey, an author inspired by the impact and mixture of cultures, who had recently been charged with “insulting Turkish identity” after having recalled the massacre of the Armenians and the 30,000 Kurds killed, particularly during clashes with the Turkish Army. The president of the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl, was applauded when he announced that the Prize had been awarded to Orhan Pamuk, “who, in searching for the melancholy soul of the town where he was born, found witty new images of the struggle and intertwining of cultures¿. “Pamuk is known in his country as an anti-establishment writer, although he considers himself to be a writer of literature, without any political intensions”, recalled the Swedish Academy in its biographical note. “He was the first writer in the Moslem world openly to condemn the fatwa against Salman Rushdie”.
The Academy also stressed that he had defended his Kurdish fellow novelist, Yasar Kemal, who was prosecuted in 1995, before being, himself, charged for having recalled the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the First World War and the more recent clashes with the PKK fighters. “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians have been killed on these lands and no one else but I dares to mention it” he had stated in this interview. Threats on his life have followed as well as an order to burn his books, issued in a Western province of Turkey. This order was later withdrawn under pressure from the government, anxious to avoid tarnishing its image before negotiations for its joining the European Union had even begun. Last January, under international pressure, the Turkish legal system decided to drop the charges a against the writer, putting an end to a trial that had scandalised all Western observers and raised serious doubts as to Ankara’s commitment to freedom of expression.
The 54-year-old Istanbul novelist was amongst the favourites for the Literature Prize. Translated all over the world, his writings include, in particular, “Snow”, “My name is Red” and “The black book”. Orhan Pamuk, who was born in Istanbul in 1952, in a middle class and secular family, studied architecture then journalism. His latest novel, “Snow”, takes place in Kars in the early 90s, once a Kurdish border town between the Tsarist and Ottoman Empires, to which a poet, exiled to Frankfort, returns to rediscover his country. Coming to investigate the suicides of a number of young girls, who had been subjected to pressure because they wore the veil, and with the additional hope of meeting again the woman he loves, he finds himself in the middle of an Army putsch in a town cut off from the world by snow. At once a love story and tale about poetic creativity, “Snow” also describes “the political and religious conflicts that characterise Turkish society today”. Targeted by Turkish nationalists, Orhan Pamuk has accumulated literary prizes, including the prestigious German booksellers’ Peace Prize in October 2005 and the French Prix Médicis for foreign authors in the same year. The irritation of his detractors was heightened by his refusal, in 1998, to accept the title of “State artist”. He had already then become the number one writer in Turkey, with record sales and the appearance of his sixth novel.
Despite the perspective of membership of the European Union, the Turkish authorities do not hesitate to ring to court those whose opinions seem, in their eyes, to be dissident. Thus, on 17 October, the owner of a publishing house, a translator and two publishers were brought before an Istanbul court charged with “inciting hatred” for having published a Turkish translation of a book by the American philosopher Noam Chomsky. The four accused face up to six years imprisonment for “inciting (race) hatred” and for “defaming national identity” because of their role in publishing the Turkish edition of “Manufacturing public opinion: the political economy of the American media”. This book, co-authored by Noam Chomsky and S. Herman, analyses, through examples taken from several countries the influences to which individuals and media are subjected. It contains references to the treatment of the Kurds of Turkey in then 1990s, which the Public Prosecutor found insulting.
The accused — Fatih Tas, owner of the Aram publishing company, the publishers Omer Faruk Kurhan and Taylan Tosun and the translator, Ender Abadoglu — rejected the charges. The judge adjourned the hearing to allow them more time to prepare their defence. “No one should be astonished if the distributors, the booksellers and the readers are, in turn, charged soon”, commented Mr. Tas on leaving the courtroom. Mr. Tas had already been charged and acquitted in 2002 for having published another book by Noam Chomsky, which already had criticised Ankara’s attitude to its Kurds and the US sales of arms to Turkey. The famous professor of linguistics at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had, on that occasion, attended one of the hearings in Istanbul to demonstrate his support for the publisher and to give lectures in Diyarbekir.
Furthermore, the trial of a woman journalist, Ipek Calister, accused of having insulted Ataturk, began in Istanbul on 5 October. The journalist is accused of having insulted the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in a book about the latter’s wife. In her book, “Latife Hanim”, published in June, Ipek Calister quotes a witness describing how Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in danger of being attacked by an armed political opponent, had put on a Chador (an item of Islamic women’s clothing) to leave the Ankara Presidential palace under the nose of his aggressor. There is, however, a special law to protect the memory of the Great Statesman
These proceedings were started following a petition launched by a reader, called Huseyin Tugrul Pekin, who wrote: “It is the greatest insult to affirm that Mustafa Kemal, whose courage none of us would dare to judge, has done such a thing”. Ms. Calister, and the Editor in Chief of the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, which published extracts from the book, face up to four and a half years jail. Neither of the two accused attended the first hearing, which was held on the last day of the visit to Turkey of Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for the Enlargement. The latter had warned the Turkish government that the question of freedom of expression could harm the country’s membership of the E.U. He hoped that Ankara would amend the legal provisions that restrict this, and in particular Article 301 of the Penal Code, which has provided the basis of proceedings against some 70 intellectuals. The hearing was adjourned till 19 December 2006.
On 12 October, the members of the French National Assembly passed (by 106 votes to 19 against) a socialist Bill to punish any negation of the Armenian genocide, despite the openly expressed opposition of the government and pressure from Turkey. Virtually all the Left and Right members present in the Assembly voted in favour, but the majority of the UMP (conservative — the government’s party) did not take part in the voting. The vote was welcomed by applaud from members of the Armenian community present in the public galleries. The single article of the Bill provides up to five years imprisonment and 45,000 euros fine for those who deny the existence of the Armenian genocide, which caused 1.5 million deaths between 1915 and 1923. The Bill complements the law passed on 29 January 2001, which merely states that “France publicly recognises the 1915 Armenian genocide”. On the other hand the members rejected an amendment proposed by the UMP member Patrick Devedjian, which aimed at restricting the proposal by excluding university and scientific researchers from the law’s field of application. The Bill passed by the members of the Assembly is far from final — it still has to be passed by the Senate, and it is the government that decides whether to put it on the order paper. The Socialist Party, for its part, said that if the Right blocked the proposal being tabled in the Senate, it would bring it up again after the elections in the Spring of 2007, in the event of a Left victory.
The French government tried to preserve its diplomatic and economic relations with Turkey by distancing itself from the vote. Embarrassed, the government fears that a new open crisis with Ankara would, indeed, result in reprisals and the loss of billions of euros in contracts in Turkey for French firms. The junior Minister responsible for European affairs, Catherine Colonna, who was representing the government, recalled that it was “not in favour” of the Bill. “It is not up to the law to write history” she interjected. The French Minister for foreign trade, Christine Lagarde, stressed that relations with Turkey were “most important economic issues for France”, with an outstanding debt of 10 billion euros in contracts for French firms and “a little over 5 billion euros of exports every year”. On 7 October, the Turkish Prime Minister had met representatives of French companies doing business in Turkey in Istanbul, to persuade them to put pressure on the French legislators. The head of the legal commission of the Turkish Parliament indicated, for his part, that Turkey could pass Bills describing as genocide the massacres by the French in Algeria during the period of colonisation. These Bills also provided for prison sentences for those who would deny such massacres. The Bill had, in fact, been discussed in May, but its examination had been interrupted for lack of time and no vote had ever been taken. For her part, Dorothée Schmid, a specialist at the Institut Française des Relations Internationales (IFRI — French institute for International Relations) considered that “apparently the Turks are very angry, but it can be questioned whether they have a real interest in imposing sanctions at a time when they are engaged in difficult negotiations for entry into the European Union and must nurse their image among Europeans”.
The vote was immediately denounced by Ankara. The Turkish government considered that a severe blow had been “struck at Franco-Turkish relations”. “Franco-Turkish relations, which have developed over centuries (…) have, today, been damaged by false and irresponsible affirmations by French political public figures who fail to see the political consequences of their actions”, retorted the Turkish Foreign Ministry, in a communiqué. The European Commission also regretted the French vote, considering that this law, were it to come into force, “would prevent dialogue for reconciliation” between Turkey and Armenia. In the Commission’s view, Turkey, which at present only recognises “inter-ethnic massacres” in 1915, had begun to move on this issue by creating a commission of historians to establish the historic truth on the subject. “This law would have the effect of blocking the debate which is just beginning” added the European Union spokesman for the Enlargement, Olli Rehn, who considers that “to write history, an open and free debate” is necessary. The Commission was also irritated by the initiative taken by French President Jacques Chirac who, during a visit to Armenia two weeks ago, had called on Turkey to recognise the Armenian genocide so as to join the European Union.
On 5 October, on the occasion of her first official visit to Turkey as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel declared that Turkey must observe its commitments towards Cyprus so as to be able to continue negotiations for membership of the European Union. “The Cyprus question is a precondition. This question must be settled for talks to continue” for Turkey’s membership of the Union, she warned during a joint press conference with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Chancellor, who will become President of the E.U. on 1 January next, called on Ankara to apply the so-called “Ankara protocols” and to open its ports and Airports to Cypriot ships and planes. Turkey signed this document in July 2005, extending its customs union with the E.U. to the ten member states that entered the Union in 2004 — and thus to the Greek part of Cyprus. On 4 October, the eve of the German Chancellor’s visit to Turkey, Ankara had cancelled the visit of a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) after the latter had refused to satisfy Ankara’s demand that the delegation exclude a Cypriot MEP. These MEPs were due to meet the Turkish Ministers of the Environment, Health, Cypriot, Marios Matsakis (who Ankara accuses of anti-Turkish propaganda) be excluded from the delegation. The MEPs rejected this Turkish demand and angered that Turkey should wish to impose on them the composition of their Parliamentary group.
During her visit to Turkey, Mrs. Merkel also met, on 6 October, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish, Moslem and Christian communities in Istanbul, including the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. Germany is Turkey’s first trading partner. The volume of trade between the two countries was about 23 billion dollars (18 billion euros) in 2005. Germany also shelters a large Turkish community of 2.5 million immigrant workers and is the second largest investor in Turkey.
Berlin will take over the six-month rotating Presidency of the European Union as from January 2007. Now the European Commission’s evaluation report on Turkey criticises Ankara’s record with respect to Human Rights and on the failure of its negotiations with Cyprus. The annual report that the European Commissioner for the Enlargement, Olli Rehn, is due to publish on 8 November does not, however, recommend suspension of the negotiations for membership begun in October 2005. Because of the persistent violations of the Ankara protocol, many European leaders, including the Finnish Foreign Minister, whose country is at the moment holding the rotating Presidency, have threatened Turkey, in recent months, for an at least partial suspension of its negotiations for membership. The decision may be examined at the EU summit in December. To find a solution to the Cyprus question, Helsinki is concentrating on the lifting of the trade embargo on the Turks settled in the North part of Cyprus since the division of the island in 1974. The ending of this isolation of North Cyprus has been demanded by Ankara as a condition for its allowing Greek Cypriot ships and planes to enter its ports and airports and thus observe its obligations under the so-called Ankara protocol, extending its customs union with the E.U. to the ten member states that entered the Union in 2004 — and thus to the Southern part of Cyprus.
The strongest criticisms in the next stage report are also in the question of freedom of expression and the legal proceedings still under way against writers for “insulting Turkish identity” on the basis of Article 301 of the Penal Code. On 28 October, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared that he had no intention of amending this controversial clause in the Penal Code, despite the demands to this effect from Brussels. The draft report makes the point, on the other hand, that cases of torture have decreased. However, it stresses the strong political influence that the Army continues to exercise and makes appoint of the lack of independence of the courts, the corruption and the inadequate protection of minority rights.
On 3 October, the mayor of Diyarbekir appeared before a local court under suspicion of “collaboration with the PKK”, faced up to 10 years in prison. Osman Baydemir is charged accused of “conscious and deliberate aid to an illegal organisation” in the basis of his “attitude” during the riots that occurred in his town last year. The mayor had praised the “courage” of the young Kurdish rioters even as he made efforts to bring reason to bear and put an end to the violence that followed the funerals of PKK fighters killed by the Army. Mr. Baydemir had also stated he shared the sorrow of the demonstrators at the deaths of the former.
At the opening of the trial, the mayor rejected the accusations, considering that he had not acted just on his own initiative but at the request of the province’s governor, to calm the rioters, The court adjourned the trial to a later date so be able to hear more witnesses.
The riots, which began in Diyarbekir in March before spreading to other towns of the region and to Istanbul, had caused a total of 16 deaths. Politicians, like Mr. Baydemir, connected with pro-Kurdish parties like the Party for a Democratic society (DTP), are regularly suspected of supporting the PKK.
On 25 October, Alberto Nisman, head of a team of Prosecuting Attorneys, charged with the case of a bomb attack, which had caused 85 deaths, aimed at a Jewish Association there in 1994, declared that the decision to commit the attack “was taken by the highest authorities if the Islamic Republic of Iran, that had charged the Hezbollah with carrying it out”. These magistrates call for an international warrant for the arrest of the highest authorities of the Iranian government of the time, including President Ali Rafsanjani.
No official reaction was made public following the direct implication, by these magistrates, of the Iranian authorities of the time and the Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah. The attack had partly destroyed the head offices of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Benefit Insurance Association in 1994. An Argentine high official explained the caution of the government by the necessity to await a decision of the judge who will have to rule on the case drawn up by the prosecutors. However, whatever may be this decision, the Argentine legal system has already let it be understood, through Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, in charge of the case, that the chances of reaching any conclusions were very slim. This is not, moreover, the first time that Argentine law has implicated Iran in this bomb attack — the most murderous one ever committed in the country. Thus Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who conducted the enquiry for nine years, had pointed to Moshen Rabbani, cultural attaché of the Iran Embassy in Buenos Aires as chief of the operation, before having the case withdrawn from him because of irregularities. This accusation aroused considerable tension in both Buenos Aires and Teheran, which reached their peak in 2003 when, in the basis of an Argentine warrant, the British law arrested the former Iranian Ambassador to the Argentine, Hadi Soleimanpur before releasing him for insufficient evidence. The Argentine authorities were sharply criticised for the shortcomings in their enquiry, which never succeeded in finding the authors of this attack. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, under pressure from the important 300,000-strong Jewish community in the Argentine, had recognised in 2005 the State’s responsibility in these successive failings.
This case cannot fail to call to mind the assassination, by the Iranian regime, of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) in Vienna on 13 July 1989. This opponent of the Islamic Republic was killed by two bullets in the head, along with his two comrades in a flat in Vienna by members of the Iranian secret services claiming to be diplomats. Mohammed Jaffar Sahrarudi, assistant chief of the external intelligence of the Guardians of the Revolution in Iranian Kurdistan, wounded in the shootout, was allowed to leave the hospital where he was being treated and find refuge in the Iranian Embassy before leaving Austria on 22 July. The Austrian authorities also allowed another Iranian, a certain Buzurgian, the subject of a warrant of arrest, to leave. Moreover the third man, Haji Mustafavi Lajeverdi, who was no less than the Head of the secret services (internal) of Iranian Kurdistan, was able freely to leave Austria without being bothered in any way.
The Abdel Rahman Ghassemlou’s successor, Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi and his assistants suffered the same fate. On 17 September 1992, Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi, General Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and three of his colleagues were coldly shot down in the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin. On 10 April 1997, more than three years after the beginning of the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the attack (an Iranian and four Lebanese) the Berlin Assize Court handed down its verdict: the Iranian, charged with having organised the murders at the orders of the Iranian secret services, and a Lebanese named Abbas Rhayel, charged with having fired the fatal shots received life sentences. Two of their Lebanese accomplices, Yusef Amin and Mohammad Atris, were respectively sentenced to eleven and five year's imprisonment. The fifth accused, a Lebanese named Atallah Ayad was acquitted.
On 10 October, the BBC announced the launching of a television channel in Persian, aimed at Iran, which would round out its radio and Internet programmes. This channel is due to come into existence early in 2008 and will be London based. It will, at first, broadcast eight hours a day, seven days a week, from 5.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m. — peak viewing hours in Iran. It will be accessible to anyone in the country with a satellite dish aerial or with access to cabled television. The cost of the operation, estimated at £15 million (22.5 million euros) a year, will be born by the British government. “The BBC Persian radio and online services are highly esteemed by Iranians, especially by opinion makers”, stated the director of BBC World, Nigel Chapman. “In Iran we are considered the most objective international broadcaster”, he added. “However, television is become more and more the dominant means by which Iranians receive their news and information”, he pointed out. The BBC had announced, in October 2005, its intension of launching an Arabic language channel for the end of 2007, thus competing directly with pan-Arab satellite television channels mike Al-Jazeera.
Furthermore a new daily paper, close to the reformist camp appeared on the newsstands on 17 October in Iran, in which journalist from another publication banned by the authorities. “Ruzegar is not the replacement of Shark but its cultural contribution is part of the campaign in support of Shark”, declared Mohammad Atrianfar, editorial advisor of the new paper, alluding to the daily that was banned by the Press Control Council. Shark had been banned for refusing to replace one of its directors who was charged with having published blasphemies and insults against representatives of the authorities. The management of the paper deny these charges and want to appeal to the courts. The circulation of Chark was limited to 130,000 — as against the 70 million inhabitants of Iran.
On 24 October, the English language Cyprus daily Cyprus Mail, quoting the report published in the “Defence and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy” bulletin reported that “during the years 1984-88, many Greek Cypriots and Greek soldiers captured during the invasion [by Turkey in 1974) were discovered in the secret biochemical laboratories of the Turkish Army” and “They were used as guinea-pigs”. The report “was prepared by staff who based their finding on research conducted on the spot, principally in Turkey”, explained Greg Copley, director of the “International Strategic Studies Association” to which the bulletin that originated the report is affiliated.
The Cyprus Foreign Minister, George Lillikas, has indicated that Cyprus wants to study the report before announcing its stand. The problem of those who disappeared “is a tragedy for many families who still suffer even more when such reports are published”, the Minister pointed out. “Thus we must be very cautious before announcing our stand” he stressed, according to the Cyprus Mail. He also indicated that the government expected to receive the report. For his part, the government spokesman, Christodoulos Pashardis, affirmed that “the government took the American report on the missing persons very seriously, considering its shocking contents, but is not in a position to verify them”. “The government will investigate the contents of this report very seriously and in a responsible manner, but so far has no evidence to confirm its reliability”, he pointed out. According to UNO, 1,468 Greek Cypriots and 502 Turkish Cypriots disappeared during the communal violence in 1963-4 and the Turkish invasion of the island by Turkish troops in 1974.
On 4 October, at the end of his assignment in Syria, the Russian Ambassador to Damascus was entertained by the top Syrian leaders, with the President Bashar al-Assad at their head. Robert Marcryan, the Russian diplomat, who has filled this post for all of seven years, gave a lecture at the Arab Centre for Strategic Studies in Damascus in the course of which he analysed the strategic relations between the two countries and the increasingly developed exchanges, at all levels, that characterised the cooperation between Damascus and Moscow.
Insisting on the important geostrategic place that Syria occupies in Russian policies in the field of world affairs, the Russian Ambassador declared that his country was firmly decided to supply Syria with all the arms it will need, in quantity and quality. In other words, including high technology ones, though without giving any details on the military cooperation between the two countries. The interest Russia shows in the development of its relations with Syria and of raising them still further has been increasingly confirmed recently, as is evidenced by Moscow’s decision to cancel ten billion dollars of Syria’s debt to Russia.
Moreover, the Syrian President, Bachar al-Assad, issued a decree authorising the creation of a Stock Exchange in the context of measures aimed at building up a “social market economy” according to official economic sources. The “Damascus Stock Exchange” will open in 2007. It will “strengthen investments and create new jobs. It is a measure that will have a positive impact on the economy in general”, the Minister of Finance, Mohammad al-Hussein said on 2 October, according to the Sana News agency. “It is most important for the process of economic reforms”, continued Mr. al-Hussein, recalling the government’s decision “gradually” to transform Syria’s economy, still very state managed, into “a social market economy”. Syria began liberalising its banking sector by authorising the setting up of private banks early in 2004. But investors are waiting for the pursuit of economic and administrative reforms.