At dawn on 30 December, three years after being captured in a “rat hole” in his native region of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging. Iraqi television broadcast pictures, showing him (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/proces-saddam-hussein.html) with his hands tied behind his back, refusing to be blindfolded, pushed to the gallows by two masked hangmen who put the rope round his neck. The broadcast stopped short of showing the hanging itself, which took place just before 6.00 a.m. (3.00 a.m. GMT). A private television later broadcast stealthily take pictures of his body, with a broken neck, in a bloodied white shroud. The execution of his two co-accused, his half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, former head of the Intelligence Services, and Awad al-Bandar, former president of the Revolutionary Court, was postponed at the last moment.
The timetable and circumstances of the Iraqi former dictator’s hanging gave rise to a diversity of reactions both in Iraq and abroad. It all happened as if Prime Minister Maliki wanted to fulfil his promise to finish with Saddam Hussein before the end of the year. His subordinates must have worked frantically to carry out, in record time, all the administrative formalities required and get round President Jalal Talabani’s opposition to the death sentence.
The timetable and circumstances of the Iraqi former dictator’s hanging gave rise to a diversity of reactions both in Iraq and abroad. It all happened as if Prime Minister Maliki wanted to fulfil his promise to finish with Saddam Hussein before the end of the year. His subordinates must have worked frantically to carry out, in record time, all the administrative formalities required and get round President Jalal Talabani’s opposition to the death sentence.
While considering that they could not, in the place of the families of hundreds of thousands of victims, pardon Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish leaders would have liked the tyrant to be tried for his mass crimes and be sentenced to life imprisonment at the end of these trials.
Finally, recalling the fear that the Baathists might kidnap hostages to secure the release of their leader, the prime Minister, supported by the other Shiite coalition partners decided to speed up the execution process, without even taking into account the customary truce observed on the occasion of the Moslem Feast of the Sacrifice.
His decision, considered a proof of his determination, was widely approved by the Shiite population. The news of his hanging was greeted by joyful firing into the air at Najaf, a Shiite holy city, but with relative indifference in Baghdad. Here, the announcement of the ex-dictator’s death was only greeted by a few shots in the air in quarters that were essentially Shiite. The Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, welcoming the “execution of that criminal Saddam”, launched an appeal for reconciliation directed at the old regime’s supporters whose “hands were not stained with blood”.
The President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, took note of the hanging while recalling the importance of continuing the Anfal proceedings, in which the former president was being tried for genocide against the Kurds. “We hope that the execution of Saddam Hussein will open a new chapter in Iraq’s history and that it will mark the end of the use of force and violence against civilians” declared Massud Barzani, in a communiqué dated 30 December. “It is important that this execution should not be an excuse for not revealing the extent of the crimes committed during the Halabja and Anfal operations, as well as the massacre of thousands of Kurds and of members of the Barzani clan”, the President of autonomous Kurdistan nevertheless qualified.
The Party for a Democratic Society (DTP) the principle pro-Kurdish organisation in Turkey, for its part, denounced the execution. “Even though the Kurds suffered the most during his period in office (…) Saddam Hussein should not have been hanged”, considered Aysel Tugluk, DTP co-president, in a communiqué. Mrs. Tugluk pointed out that her party was opposed to capital punishment and considered that hanging the ex-dictator could produce the outcome of still further inflaming the situation ion Iraq, which is already torn apart by sectarian violence. “Saddam had already been sentenced in peoples’ awareness. This punishment is much more severe than the death sentence that we must reject”, she further stated.
Immediately welcomed in Washington: the execution “will not put an end to the violence in Iraq, but it is an important stage in Iraq’s road to a democracy that can govern itself (…) and be an ally in the war against terrorism”, declared the US President George W. Bush in a communiqué. Saddam Hussein “has paid”, the British government considered, while still reaffirming its opposition to the death sentence, while the French Foreign Ministry “took note” of the execution and called on the Iraqis to “work towards reconciliation and national unity”. The Finnish presidency of the European Union, states it has always been against capital punishment, considered that the execution “could also turn out to become the carrier of future divisions in Iraq”. The execution was also seen as a “new tragedy” in the Vatican, which is opposed to capital punishment, as well as the Council of Europe, that considers that Iraq had missed an opportunity “to rejoin the civilised world”. The Russian Foreign Ministry regretted that international appeals for clemency had not been heard while the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated that she “respected” the verdict, while recalling that Berlin was opposed to capital punishment.
On 30 December, Iran welcomed the execution of Saddam Hussein, described by Teheran as the “author of the most horrible crimes against humanity”. “With Saddam’s execution, the case of one of the worst criminal dictators has been closed”, commented the Iranian State Television service. Also demanded that the Iraqi Criminal Court, set up to try Saddam Hussein, sentence him for crimes committed during the Iran-Iraq war, and in particular for the use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops. As soon as Saddam Hussein’s death was announced, demonstrations of joy took place in several parts of Teheran, but also in Khorramshahr, a port city on the Iraqi borders, where scenes of popular rejoicing were reported by official Iranian media. Khorramshahr had been occupied by Iraqi forces at the beginning of the invasion of Iran in 1980. The Iranian Army liberated the city during a decisive battle in May 1921.
In the Arab countries, reactions were mainly official and token. The hanging of Saddam Hussein, taking place, as it did, on the first day of the Moslem Feast of the Sacrifice caused “surprise and consternation” according to the SPA news agency, that reflects the official views of the Saudi kingdom. Its Jordanian neighbour expressed the hope that it would have no negative effects on the country. In Gaza the death of Saddam Hussein was described as a “political assassination” by the Islamic movement Hamas. Finally, several thousands of demonstrators came out on the streets to protest against this execution in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Human Rights defence organisations regretted the execution. “Saddam Hussein was responsible for many terrible violations of human rights. However, these acts, however brutal they may be, cannot justify his execution — a cruel and inhuman punishment”, declared Human Rights Watch, for its part. In the view of Amnesty International, this was “a missed opportunity” for obliging the former dictator to face up to his crimes.
On 19 October 2005, at the opening of his first trial for crimes against humanity, for the deaths of 148 inhabitants of the village of Dubail after an attempted assassination, Saddam had taken advantage of the platform provided by the court. In July he stated that, in the event of his being sentenced to death, he should, as an officer, be shot not hanged. In the course of his trial, he alternately played the tune of Arab nationalism, Islam and Iraqi patriotism. He presented himself as a pious Moslem, never going anywhere without his copy of the Qoran.
Since last July, Saddam Hussein has been on trial in a second charge in which he was accused of genocide against the Kurds in the context of the Anfal campaign carried out during 1987 and 1988, in the course of which over 180,000 people were killed in mass executions or chemical bombardments. The Anfal trial, in which six other people are being charged, including one of his cousins, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali” will continue, but all charges against Saddam Hussein are extinguished by his death under Iraqi law. The chemical attack carried out by the Iraqi Air Force in 1988 on Halabja, where some 5,000 people were killed in a few minutes and some 10,000 others injured, as well as the execution, in 1983, of some 8,000 members of the Barzani tribe, are two other separate cases covering the massacre of Kurds.
As far as the Anfal trial is concerned, Mr. Badih Aref Ezzat, the lawyer representing Tareq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s former Deputy Prime Minister, announced that this wished to give evidence in the Anfal case before Saddam Hussein’s execution. Tareq Aziz “has asked to be able to give evidence in the Anfal case before Saddam Hussein’s death sentence was carried out — and this was also Saddam Hussein’s wish”, he declared, adding that “Mr. Aziz told me that he had important information that would provoke great embarrassment inside and outside” Iraq, without giving any details. Tareq Aziz, who was Saddam Hussein’s spokesman on the international stage, surrendered to American troops in April 2003. He has, since then, been detained by the Americans and his family constantly calls for his release because of the deterioration in his state of health.
Another disturbing fact — a document presented at Saddam Hussein’s trial in which the Iraqi officers were ordered to “cooperate with the Turkish party in accordance with the agreement signed with them for hunting down refugees” was handed to the Iraqi High Criminal Court on 21 December. This document was presented by the Iraqi Prosecution as one of the proofs that Saddam Hussein had, indeed, given the order to eliminate 182,000 Kurds. The Turkish authorities immediately went on to the defensive, recognising that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had, indeed, tried to secure Turkish support against the Iraqi Kurds in the 80s, but that Ankara had apposed this. Nuzhet Kandemir, formerly special representative for relations with Iraq, indicated to the daily paper Milliyet that this proposal had been made to him by Taha Yacin Ramadan during a meeting in Baghdad in 1988, a few months after the launching of the murderous campaign against the Kurds called Anfal. “We will push the Kurds Northward, you will block their way and we will be able to put an end to the problem in a fundamental manner”, Mr. Ramadan had planned, according to Nuzhat Kandemir. The former ambassador states that Turkey, on the orders of the then Prime Minister, Turgut Ozal, had rejected this offer. The former ambassador added, however, that the document undoubtedly referred to another Turco-Iraqi security agreement, signed early in the 80s, authorising both countries to cross their common border in pursuit of Kurdish fighters.
In the course of this hearing, the Iraqi Public Prosecutor, Munkith al-Farun, had exhibited documents from the General Staff, dated April 1988, ordering the destruction of “the saboteurs’ bases” by air and artillery bombardment using “the special weapon”, a reference to the use of chemical weapons. The Prosecutor had ordered, on four occasions, that the microphones be switched off so as the continue, in camera, discussion of the documents regarding “Iraq-Turkish relations” at the time and then showed the court a memo ordering Iraqi officers to “cooperate with the Turkish party, in accordance with the terms of a protocol of cooperation providing for the turning back of Kurdish refugees”. A letter dated 28 April 1988 demanding “the destruction of all the houses” of a village and concluded with “inform the President, may God bless him,” was also presented. Another document, from then Chief of the General Staff Nazar Abdel Kareem and dated 21 August of the same year, ordered “deal with the populations with strikes using the special weapon so as to create panic” and expressing the hope of “the total destruction of the Northern zone (…) before the possibility of a fresh conflict with Iran”. Finally a circular dated April 1988 ordered the Iraqi forces “to use the special ammunition against the enemy forces for as long as possible and to strike the saboteurs’ bases as hard as necessary”. This letter is “initialled by a signature that we believe is that of Saddam Hussein”, according to the Prosecutor. “This is the first time in history that an army has used chemicals against its own people”, he concluded.
A long expected report, the fruit of eight months work by the Iraq Study Group (ISG), on the United States’ strategy in Iraq recommends a gradual disengagement, the US Army having, henceforth, to focus its mission on training, equipping and supporting the Iraqi forces rather than on fighting. The commission, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Democrat Congressman Lee Hamilton, thus published its report on 6 December without proposing either a precipitous retreat or a limitless deployment. “The military priorities must change”. The independent commission, composed of five Republicans and five Democrats opt rather for “completing the mission of training and equipping” before the end of March 2008. To this end it calls for increasing the number of US troops allocated to training Iraqi troops from the present 3-4,000 to a final figure of10-20,000, this increase coming from units already in Iraq. On the other hand it suggests that Washington reduce its “political, military and economic support” for Iraq if the Baghdad government fails to show substantial progress in the area of security.
During a Press Conference, Mr. Baker considered that there was no “magic formula” for resolving the crisis in Iraq. “A slide to chaos could bring about the collapse of the Iraqi government and a humanitarian crisis. Neighbouring countries might intervene”, according to the report. “Clashes between Sunnis and Shiites could spread and Al-Qaida could win a propaganda victory and broaden its operational base”, warned the Commission. At regional level, it recommended a diplomatic offensive, and, above all, directs discussions with Teheran and Damascus “to try and secure their commitment to conducting constructive policies towards Iraq and other regional problems”. It recommends “dissuasive” and “incentive” measures.
The day after the publication of the report, US President George W. Bush recognised the necessity for a “new approach” during a discussion with British Prime Minister Tony Blair aimed at reviewing the different strategies open to them. Following a discussion with Tony Blair, he admitted that the situation in the country was “bad”.
Moreover, the reactions to this report and to its recommendations only served to underline the sectarian divisions of the new Iraq. Divergences centred on certain of the most sensitive themes in present day Iraq: national reconciliation, the sharing of the wealth in oil and the role of neighbouring countries in the efforts to extricate the country from the present chaos.
The Kurds sharply criticised the report. “Unrealistic and unacceptable”, thundered Massud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, in a communiqué published on 8 December, criticising the ISG report. “We will, in no circumstances, conform to this report”, insisted Mr. Barzani in a communiqué published 8 December. “Despite our gratitude to President George W. Bush and his Administration for having overthrown the old regime and for their efforts to build a new Iraq, we think that several of the recommendations of the Study Group are unrealistic and inappropriate”, he added. Mr. Barzani criticised the fact that the reports authors had never visited Kurdistan during the nine months they worked prior to drawing up the report. “The report contradicts what James Baker told us over the phone two days ago, assuring us that the special status of Kurdistan was taken into account”, the President of Kurdistan further stressed. The report suggests delaying the application of Article 140 of the Constitution, which envisages a referendum to decide the future of the oil-producing province of Kirkuk that the Kurds claim. “Any delay would have serious consequences and will not be accepted by the people of Kurdistan”, warned Mr. Barzani, rejecting the recommendations for sharing the revenues from oil discovered in Kurdistan. 'r. Barzani also protests against the return to office of ex-members of the Baath or that Iraq’s neighbours should have a say (in Iraq’s affairs).
Similarly, on 10December, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sharply rejected the report, considering that it “was an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty”. “The Hamilton-Baker report is unjust. It contains some dangerous articles that attack the sovereignty of Iraq and its Constitution. I reject it as a whole”, the Iraqi President stated, without beating about the bush, before journalists at his official residence. The Iraqi President showed particular hostility at several key points of the report. Thus he attacked the implied will to involve former Baathists in the political process in Iraq, “which is part of a long struggle of the Iraqi people against the dictatorship”, and the increase in the number of American advisors integrated into the Iraqi units. Mr. Talabani also criticised the recommendation, contained in the report, of threatening the withdrawal of aid in the event of lack of progress. “This amounts to treating Iraq like a new colony on which any conditions can be imposed, by denying the fact that we are a sovereign and respected country”, he considered. As for General Wafiq al-Samarrai, President Jalal Talabani’s adviser on security questions, he considered, when speaking in a broadcast on the Pan-Arab television channel Al-Jezeera, that the date of 2008, when the Iraqi Army could become totally autonomous, was realistic “and even earlier if suitable measures are taken meanwhile”.
The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, considered, for his part, that the conclusions in the Iraq Study Group’s report, “were no surprise” and stressed that the Iraqis should assume responsibility for their own security. “The situation is serious, very serious in fact, and cannot be tolerated”, declared Barham Saleh on the Al-Arabiya satellite television channel. “Absolute dependence on foreign soldiers is not possible. The priority must be to strengthen the Iraqi security forces”. “In fact, the recommendations are, at least in principle, in accordance with an Iraqi national vision that hopes for the strengthening of Iraqi capacity, the handing over of security files to the Iraqis and respect for the will of the Iraqis”, added the Deputy Prime Minister. He pointed out, however, that “there could well be details about which our views diverge”.
For Dr. Mahmud Othman, head of the Kurdish alliance in the Iraqi Parliament, Washington wants gradually to withdraw its support for the Iraqi government so as to put pressure on it to increase its efforts to dismantle the different militias and to fight against sectarian violence. “This is a two-edged weapon and could prove to be negative because, under the Geneva convention, the occupier is responsible for the country in all its aspects and they should be facing up to their responsibilities not abandoning them”, he had stated before the publication of the report. “On the other hand, this could make the Iraqi government face reality and the necessity of acting to stop this chaos”.
Furthermore, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the SCIRI (Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and the principle Shiite political figure, judges that the report includes “inexact information based on dishonest sources”. He also rejected the connection made between Iraq and the settling of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Another Shiite leader considered that the Baker-Hamilton report’s conclusions were partial and biased in favour of the Sunni Arabs. “We are all in the same boat, we are not only fighting internal criminals but international terrorists. We need help for this”, was the view of Haidar al-Ibadi, a Member of Parliament from the Prime Minister’s Dawa party.
While the Sunni Arabs are in agreement with the report’s assessment, they are not about the solutions proposed. They consider the idea of involving Syria in the search for a solution particularly “positive”. However, the solutions proposed, “are not up to the analysis of the situation”, deplored the Ulema’s Association, through its spokesman Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Fayadh. The same tune from Falah Shanshal, a Shiite Member of Parliament of the Sadrist Bloc: “Iraq is capable of building its own army without the help of others”, he retorted.
The ISG’s report invites the US Administration to develop diplomatic relations with Syria and Iran to bring stability to Iraq. It also advocates direct negotiations between Israel, Syria, the Lebanon and the Palestinians, considering that a settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict would improve the situation in Iraq. Thus Syria, on 7 December, reacted favourably to the Baker-Hamilton report, welcoming the importance the document gave to settling the Israeli0Arab conflict and re-iterating Damascus’ determination to recover the Golan, annexed by Israel. According to a leading official of the Foreign Ministry speaking off the record, but quoted off by the Syrian official news agency, the Iraq Study Group’s report is “positive since it deals with the role of Iraq’s neighbours in bringing security and stability to Iraq”. He explained that Damascus could help ease the situation in Iraq in exchange of the return to its sovereignty of the Golan, occupied by Israel since 1967. “Syria’s priority is to totally recover the occupied Arab Golan Plateau”, he indicated. The US President had replied to the ISG’s suggestion of negotiating with Syria and Iran that “the countries that take part in discussions must not finance terrorism, must help the young democracy to survive and must help the country’s economy”.
Iran reacted cautiously to the ISG’s proposals. “The United States’ decision to withdraw from Iraq do not require negotiations with any other country of the region”, considered, on 7 December the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr. Manushehr Mottaki, on the Al-Jazzier TV channel. “This report contains certain important points (…) it seems that certain aspects of American policy in Iraq are considered to be mistakes” he pointed out.
If the ISG’s conclusions intensify the pressure on the White House in favour of reorienting the present policy in Iraq — already demanded by the American electors in November — George Bush is not bound to follow its recommendations. All the more so as other options are at present being studied by the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council.
Furthermore, according to a report of the International Crisis Group (ICG), published on 19 December, Iraq is on the point of “disintegrating”. The ICG considers, in particular, that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s National Unity Government is not representative. “The country and its institutions are in danger of sinking into chaos”, threatening the stability of the whole region, says in alarm the Chairman of the ICG, Gareth Evans, in this report. “The Baker-Hamilton Commission, and the renewal it represents of American policy in Iraq, are, a first important step, but radically insufficient if we want to avoid the collapse of Iraq and a regional war”, the ICG considers. “All the Iraqi political actors involved in violence must be brought to the negotiating table and put under pressure until they accept a compromise”, the ICG stresses. “The Iraqi government and the security forces cannot be considered allies that we support: they are simply part of the many part of the many actors in the conflict”, notes the organisation. The Baker Commission talks about a “government of national union representing the Iraqi people” — “this is not at all true” according to the ICG, that proposes “a new multilateral approach that really puts pressure on the national actors”.
On 19 December, Iraqi leaders reached a provisional agreement regarding a draft law on the country’s oil resources, which allow the regions to negotiate contracts with foreign investors but leave the last word with the central government, according to sources close to the negotiations. The Kurdistan region, for its part, has accepted to re-examine the contracts that it has already made with foreign oil companies regarding its oil fields, to check their conformity with the law. Amongst these companies is the Norwegian DNO.
Iraq has great need of foreign investment to put back on its feet a very sick economy that remains very dependent on the export of crude oil, of which the country has the third largest reserves in the world. Sources close to the negotiations indicate that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has “signalled his approval” of the draft, which, however, still needs the green light from the political parties and be adopted by the government. The Bill envisages the creation of a National Oil Council (directed by either the Prime Minister or the Deputy prime Minister) that would have the power of rejecting any contract proposed for a field. The regions, in the presence of a representative of the national oil organisation, would negotiate in accordance with specific parameters and investment models decided by the National Council, which would be responsible for oil policy. In the event of a refusal, or if the region insisted on a contract, a commission of experts would be charged with arbitrating. The Oil Minister, the Governor of the Central Bank, a representative of each of the regions and oil, financial and economic experts would sit on the National Oil Council. A contract would only become effective if the National Council accepted it. If it rejected a project within a 60-day deadline, the contract would not be effective. The Bill also provides for the two national Iraqi oil companies to be transformed into a single holding company with several operating subsidiaries to manage the various stages of production. The Bill also calls for the setting of Iraqi oil policy at national level and recommends that the Ministry of Oil be restructured and transformed into a regulatory body and that all oil revenue be centralised in a single fund.
On 2 December, the Kurdistan Prime Minister had made public the failure of discussions with the central government in Baghdad regarding an agreement on the budget and the sharing of oil revenues. “We have been unable to reach agreement on the budget, on the oil law or on the sharing of oil revenue. I hope that the situation will not become more acrimonious”, Nechirvan Barzani had said at the time, during a Press Conference in Irbil. The Kurdistan Prime Minister had met the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and the Oil Minister, Hussein Shahristani in Baghdad to discuss what percentage of the oil revenues, Iraq’s principal source of budgetary revenue, should be allocated to Iraqi Kurdistan. “The government proposes to allocate us 13% of these revenues but we have replied that this is not enough — we want 17%”, Mr. Barzani had explained.
The Iraqi Constitution allows for each of the country’s regions receiving a share of the oil revenues. At the same time the government of the autonomous region of Kurdistan asked Baghdad to be able to continue signing oil contracts with foreign countries, from which it would retain the benefits. The two parties also failed in their efforts to reach an agreement on the application of Article 140 of the Constitution that foresees the organisation of a referendum to enable certain Kurdish regions to join Kurdistan.
On another level, on 14 December, thirteen trucks loaded with domestic fuel oil arrived at Suleimaniah from neighbouring Iran. “Trucks carrying Iranian produced fuel oil arrived following an agreement between the local authorities and the city of Kermanshah last September”, announced the governor of Suleimaniah, Zana Mohammed Saleh. “Thirteen trucks, transporting the first part of this fuel oil, arrived today”, he indicated, pointing out that each truck contained 30,000 litres of fuel oil intended for domestic heating and cooking. Seven other trucks were also expected to arrive from Iran the next day. The agreement between the Iraqi Kurdish leaders and the Iranian authorities covers the importing of 300 million litres of Iranian fuel oil over a period of three months, to deal with a shortage of refined oil products in Iraqi Kurdistan. Despite having some of the world's greatest oil reserves, Iraq is suffering from a shortage of refined products, mainly due to a weakness in refinery infrastructures and to sabotage by the insurgents.
On 14 December, the heads of states and governments, in summit meeting, agreed to freeze eight of the 35 chapters of the negotiations taking place with Ankara, because of Turkey’s refusal to normalise its trade with Cyprus as it had committed itself to do in “the Ankara protocol”. The Foreign Ministers of the E.U. countries had, on 11 December, already decided to suspend discussions on eight chapters mark out the discussions with the Turks because of Ankara’s persistent refusal to open its sea and air ports to Greek Cypriot traffic. The 25 first agreed to suspend the eight chapters, thus de facto slowing down Ankara’s advance towards membership of the E.U. (already expected to take at least 10 to 15 years). They also decided not to finalise any other chapter so long as Turkey fails to accept to open its sea and air ports to Greek Cypriot traffic — its refusal on this point being the source of the sanction by the 25. They also found a compromise “if necessary” for the annual evaluations till 2009 of such progress as Turkey may have made. Finally, they agreed to “thaw out” the suspended chapters “at any moment” in the event of Turkish progress.
On December 13, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, described the freezing of negotiations as “a credible and equitable decision”. This decision “taken unanimously by the Foreign Ministers of the E.U. countries, is a credible and equitable decision because it (the E.U.) sends a very strong signal to the Turks — that obligations must be observed”, was his analysis. “It is a strong signal, but a signal that is not intended to close the door on Turkey. It is not only a matter of not opening the eight chapters, but of not finalising any of the 35 chapters until Turkey respects its obligations”, he pointed out.
In reaction, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denounced an “injustice”. “Despite all our good will, the decision of the E.U. Council of Ministers is, unfortunately an unjust one”, he declared to his Justice and Development Party’s Parliamentary group. “Relations between the E.U. and Turkey are going through a harsh trial, despite all our efforts to resolve the blockage”, Mr. Erdogan added. The Turkish Prime Minister nevertheless declared that Turkey was determined to continue putting into practice the reforms needed for its entry into the European Union. “In the coming period, we know full well that we have to carry out our reforms with the same determination” he pointed out. For his part, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, deplored “the lack of vision” of his European opposite numbers. As for the Turkish press, the present situation is not the worst scenario since the 25 are agreed to unfreeze the chapters in the event of Turkish progress. “The European train has braked” headlined the daily Radikal, while for Zaman (moderate Islamic) “the E.U. train is continuing on its way”. The Turkish authorities refuse to allow ships or planes to enter their sea or airports that come from the Cyprus Republic, which occupies the Greek part of the island, divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974. They demand that the E.U. first end the economic isolation of the “Turkish Republic of North Cyprus” — that is recognised by Ankara only.
According to the final results made public on 21 December by the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, the opponents of the Iranian President have taken the lead in the municipal elections and in the Assembly of Experts, thus making a first electoral setback for Mahmud Ahmedinjad. The electors had top elect over 113,000 local councillors out of 235,000 candidates. Overall, the participation in these elections was about 60%, that is, 26 million of 46.5 million Iranian electors, according to the government. The two previous local elections in Iran’s history, following their being set up in 1999 by the then president Mohammed Khatami, had drawn between 50% and 55% to the polls. However, four years ago less than 12% had taken part in the Teheran municipal elections. According to the final results, the winners were essentially “moderate conservatives” opposed to the present very radical President, followed by reformers. These results may well embarrass Mahmud Ahmedinjad, whose anti-Israeli rhetoric and inflexible stand on the nuclear issue have provoked condemnation in the West. The two polls on 15 December were a test for President Ahmedinjad, who has already lost the support of many conservatives, who considered that he was spending too much time in confrontations with the West at the expense of the economic question. The Iranian President, for whom these elections were considered to be a first test of popularity, since taking office in 2005, avoided any fundamental analysis of these first results. Mr. Ahmedinjad simply declared: “The people have won”.
In Teheran, supporters of President Mahmud Ahmedinjad, former Mayor of the city, where he built up his popularity, arrived last in the municipal elections, behind both the conservatives and the reformers, according to the State television. Four “reformist” candidates are also due to join the Council, whereas the reforming camp, which had controlled the municipality, was completely eliminated at the 2003 elections. Only two candidates of the ultra-conservative “The good odour of service” list were amongst the first fifteen. One of these was the President’s sister, Parvine Ahmedinjad, who was placed 10th. The second candidate came 14th. Several Iranian women came at the top in several important provincial cities. This was particularly the case in Shiraz (Southern Iran), with a 25-year-old student, Fatemeh Hushmand, close to the reformists, and also in Arak (Centre) and Ardebil (Northwest).
Regarding the elections to the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 clerics responsible for watching over the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the presidents opponents were also very much in the lead. Former President Hashemi Rasfanjani, beaten by Mr. Ahmedinjad in the 2005 presidential elections, was easily elected. On the other hand, his main rival, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, generally seen as Mahmud Ahmadinjad’s spiritual mentor, only just managed to get elected. The latter’s list, called “The experts of the Theological Schools and Universities” failed completely in the Holy City of Mashhad. The Assembly, where the supporters of Ayatollah Mezbbah Yazdi will only be a handful, remains dominated by the “Association of Fighting Clergy”, the conservative block loyal to the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The electiosn for the Assembly of Experts took place at provincial level in each proivince. In Teheran Province, there were 16 seats. The candidates chose in which one of the 30 provinces they wanted to stand. Teheran draws the most eminent public figures. During the previous election for this body, in 1998, the electoral turnout was 42.5 %. This time, its being held at the same time as the municipals encouraged the greater turn out.
Otherwise, the Iranian authorities have blocked access to the web site for sharing videos on line, YouTube.com. The free press organisation Reporters sans Frontières expressed its concern at this measure, that it perceived as an intensification of Internet censorship by the regime. Net surfers who tried to log on to this site were greeted by the following message: “On the basis of the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, this site is not authorised”. This same explanation also appears in the place of sites that are pornographic or run by the country’s political opposition groups. The Iranian government regularly blocks Web sites and blogs, and this banning message has been appearing more and more over the last year. It is mainly used to counter messages from opposition groups, but also Iranian pop music clips that YouTube.com puts on line. According to Reporters sans Frontières, the New York Times Web site is also blocked, as is the English language version of the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. The Iranian authorities refuse to discuss the matter. Reporters sans Frontières also recalls that the Iranian authorities banned broadband access to the news from the Western in October. The authorities deny these news items.
Because of the persistent discontent at the failure to suppress the violence, the principal partners of the coalition governing Iraq are examining, in the wings, ways of getting rid of Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki. Discussions aimed at forming a new parliamentary block, enabling the replacement of the present government and excluding the supporters of the radical Shiite Imam, Moqtada al-Sadr, are mentioned. The new alliance could be led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who met US President George W. Bush on 4 December. He is unlikely to claim the position of Prime Minister, preferring to remain above the day-to-day concerns of office. One of the key people in such a possible alliance, the Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, of Sunni denomination, went to Washington on 10 December to meet George W. Bush, three weeks earlier than planned. The other Vice-President, the Shiite Adil Abdul-Mehdi, who had been suggested before ht emergence of Nuri al-Maliki, is said to be in the running for the Premiership.
On 13 November, George W. Bush particularly consulted the Kurds before taking time to think about a new strategy. Telephone discussions with the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani and the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, confirmed that his agenda was still fluid and that one of his working hypotheses was the formation of a “moderate block” to strengthen Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s fragile political base. “Over the last few days we talked about a moderate block that would include Sunni leaders, Shiites and Kurds” (the three main Iraqi communities) and Messrs Talabani and Barzani “enter this moderate block (…) not only by contributing a broader support to the government but also by acting against those who want to destabilise it by terrorist actions” stated the White House spokesman, Tony Snow.
It was in this context that the Conference of National Reconciliation completed its work on 17 December. The 200 delegates present proposed a series of “recommendations”, including the return of former members of the Baath party (formerly the sole party under the Saddam Hussein regime) to the army. This measure, that could be seen as a gesture of opening towards the Sunni community, covers several tens of thousands of ex-officers, and could convince many ex-Baathists, today active in the opposition, to lay down their arms. The various proposals made at the conference “are declarations of good intentions that remain to be put into practice”, admitted, however, Nasser al-Ani, spokesman of the conference. “A single important practical measure was recommended”, which still has to be presented to Parliament by Mr. Maliki, “is the payment of significant pensions to ex-servicemen”, explained Mr. Ani. After the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003, Paul Bremmer, the former American governor of Iraq, dissolved the Iraqi Army, which at the time was some 400,000 strong, largely composed of Sunni Arabs. Many observers, at the time, had considered this a mistake, which had pushed many former soldiers into the ranks of the insurrection. The Baath Party remains banned, in accordance with Article 7 of the Constitution, “but, in their individual capacities, its members may take part” in the conference, stressed a Shiite member of Parliament, Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
The conference had begun its work on 16 December, in Baghdad, in a conference centre in the “green zone”, the highly protected sector of the city centre where all the principal Iraqi instituti0ons and the US embassy are located. Its sessions had been broadcast live by the national television service. On 3 December the Iraqi President had rejected the proposal of UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, for holding an international conference on Iraq, considering that the Iraqis themselves should decide the fate of their country. Jalal Talabani was the second Iraqi leader to take this stand, after Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. “We are an independent and sovereign nation, and it is we who must decide the fate of our nation”, Mr. Talabani had declared, according to a communiqué issued by his office.
The conference was promised at the beginning of December, but its realisation remained uncertain until the last few days. As its initiator, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, took the stand. “The new Iraqi Army has opened its gates to members of the old Army, to soldiers and officers, and the government of national union is ready to welcome those who wish to serve the nation”, declared Nuri al-Maliki. He make the point that the number of places in it would, no doubt be limited, because of the army’s size, but that those who were not accepted would receive a pension. For many Shiites and Kurds, victims of the Baathist repression, the idea of re-integrating ex-Baathists in the Army and the administration is unacceptable. For many Sunni Arabs, on the other hand, they are political actors who cannot be ignored.
The Committee of Moslem Ulemas had announced that it would boycott the conference: “We have too often seen, in the past, the government sign agreements that it later denounces”, explained sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, spokesman of this body, the principal Sunni religious organisation. Its leader, Sheikh Hareth al-Dari, at present a refugee abroad, is accused of inciting sectarian violence. His absence was “no surprise” for the Kurdish member of Parliament Mahmud Othman, who considered that the Committee is in “perpetual refusal”. The Sunni Arabs principally criticise Maliki’s government for not attacking the militia that they consider responsible for the violence. Omar Abdul-Sattar Mahmud, of the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) calls for them to be purely and simply broken up to “stop the terror”. The radical Shiite leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi’s Army is a 60,000-man strong militia, is considered a counter power, suspected of having actively participated in the sectarian violence. The Sadr tendency, which has 6 Ministers and 32 members of Parliament (out of 275), has nevertheless always been present at the negotiating table.
The White House hoped that Mr. Bush would be able to make a new strategy public before Christmas. He was obliged to push this back to after the New Year. The Administration invoked the complexity of the task and the multiple implications of a new policy. Iraq’s neighbours are worried at what the new policy might be. On 13 December the New York Times reported that Sunni Saudi Arabia had warned the United States that it might support the Sunni Arabs in the event of a war against the Iraqi Shiites if the American troops withdrew.
On 17 December, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, visited Baghdad to affirm his support for his Iraqi opposite number, Nuri al-Maliki. Arriving in the greatest secrecy in the course of the morning he went to the “green zone”, the highly protected sector of the City centre, where he met Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani. Mr. Blair declared that Great Britain “will support the Iraqi government and people to ensure that your democracy be not destroyed by the terrorism, by the sectarianism (…) of those who want to live in hate rather than in peace”. “Innocent blood is being shed today, but it is not shed by the democratically elected government, or those who support it”, Mr. Blair considered. Nearly 7,100 British soldiers are at present deployed in Iraq, principally in the Basra region (550 Km South of Baghdad). Mr Blair’s journey comes at a time when he is under increasing pressure from his countries public opinion to withdraw the British contingent from Iraq.
The British Prime Minister had earlier visited Turkey and Egypt as part of a regional tour. During his short stay in Ankara, Tony Blair met Mr. Erdogan in the evening of 15 December to inform him of his support for Turkey’s membership of the European Union and to discuss the Cyprus question and events in the Near East. He took parting a joint press conference with his Turkish opposite number, Recep Tayyip Erdogan before leaving for Cairo on 16 December.
Furthermore, on 12 December, before his trip to the Middle East, Tony Blair had declared at a press conference that Iran represented a “major threat” to the stability of the Middle East and that there was no chance of associating Teheran in efforts to check violence in Iraq. “I do not believe that we have the slightest reason to hide the fact that Iran is a major strategic threat to the cohesion of the whole region”, Mr. Blair had indicated. “At this time Iran is creating the maximum of problems for moderate governments and to ourselves in the region — in Palestine, in the Lebanon, and in Iraq”, he continued. “I observe then region as a whole at the moment and everything Iran is doing is negative”, had added Mr. Blair. He had, nevertheless sent an envoy to Damascus to propose to the Syrians the “strategic” possibility of cooperating with the international community and ceasing to support terrorism, on pain of remaining isolated…
Diplomatic visits have accelerated in the Middle East in general, and in Syria and Iran in particular throughout December. First the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Iran on 2 December to meet the Iranian Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmud Ahmedinjad to examine the latest developments in Iraq, Syria and the Lebanon as well as bilateral relations. Then he went on to Syria on 6 December for discussions with President Bachar al-Assad and Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri on bilateral relations and to strengthen their close cooperation. He revealed that a free trade agreement would come into effect on 1 January 2007, noting that Syria is an important country regionally, with which Turkey has good neighbourly relations.
Damascus was also the last stage of a four-day tour of the Near East by the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. On 4 December he visited Syria to meet his Syrian opposite number, Walid Muallem, and Bachar al-Assad. Last August he had cancelled, at the last minute, a visit to the Syrian capital following an anti-Israeli speech by President al-Assad. Moreover, following the report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) that recommends contacts with Damascus and Teheran, the US Democratic Senator for Massachusetts, John Kerry, George Bush’s the defeated rival at the last presidential elections judged that Washington’s refusal to dialogue with Syria and Iran was a “mistake” and also visited Damascus to meet Bachar al-Assad in mid-December.
For his part, Bachar al-Assad made a working visit to Moscow on 18 December, during which he had discussions with his Russian opposite number, Vladimir Putin. According tom Evgeni Posukhov, the Russian diplomat in Damascus, Mr. Assad, for whom this is the second visit to Moscow since 2005, examined the “difficult situation” in the Near East and the “means of settling the crises” in the region with his Russian opposite number. “This new Russia wants to keep a special role of negotiator with Bachar al-Assad”, notably wrote Fedor Lukianov, editor in chief of the review Russia in global politics. The two countries intend to raise their trade from its present level of about $300 million to $600 million, according to the Russian diplomat. Mr. Assad, whose country had been the principal Near Eastern ally of the ex-USSR, made his first visit to Russia in 2005, thus renewing bi-lateral cooperation. Syria continues to buy the bulk of its weaponry from Russia.
According to the official daily paper Al-Baas, quoting the Syrian Ministry of the Interior, Syria has received more than 800,000 Iraqi refugees since the beginning of the conflict in their country. Of this total, 648,000 Iraqis reached Syria in the months immediately following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, according to a Ministry official quoted by the paper. This influx of refugees can be attributed to the Syrian laws that make it easy to obtain a visa for Arabs as well as Syria’s proximity to Iraq. Iraqi refugees can secure a one-year residence permit, renewable annually if they have a regular source of income in Syria, own property or enrol their children in a Syrian school, according to the official cited by Al-Baas. The majority of the Iraqi refugees have settle in or around Damascus. Most of them come from the middle classes and are living on their savings.
Furthermore, Syria and Iraq have re-opened embassies in their respective capitals. Damascus and Baghdad have thus put an end to a diplomatic breach of over 20 years. The Iraqi flag was thus hoisted over the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus during a ceremony attended by Syrian and Iraqi leaders. A similar ceremony took place in the Mansur quarter of Baghdad, outside the green zone, the authorities declared on 11 December. Iraq and Syrian had broken off diplomatic relations when Damascus sided with Iran during the Iraq-Iran war, in the 80s. The two governments agreed, the month before, to re-establish full diplomatic relations during a visit to Baghdad by the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem.
The number of Iraqi civilian victims of violence reached a record level in December, after having considerably increased the month before, as shown by figures coming from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. The number of civilians killed in Iraq in November increased by 43% as compared with October, itself particularly bloody. According to figures from the Ministries of the Interior and Defence, 1,847 civilians were killed in November throughout Iraq, as against 1,289 in October, marred by murderous attack on the occasion of Ramadan. Furthermore, the number of insurgents killed in November was more than twice as many as in October, reaching 423 as against 194 the month before, according to the two Ministries.
The statistics, that are considered to be indicative, rather than necessarily covering all the deaths from violence, show 12,320 civilians killed in 2006, Of these, half were killed in the last four months of the year victims of acts described as terrorist by the Iraqi authorities. Of these, half were killed in the last four months of the year. The Ministry reports 1,930 civilians killed in December – a figure three and a half as great as January’s (580), which was before the tide of violence following the bomb attack against the Shiite mosque in Samarra, in February. The Ministry of the Interior recorded the deaths, in December, of 125 Iraqi police and 25 soldiers – figures similar to those for November and October. The US Army, for its part, announced the deaths of 112 US soldiers in December – its heaviest casualty list in two years. On 31 December, the Pentagon announced the death of a Texan soldier in Baghdad, bringing the total of Americans killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war to at least 3,000, according to a body count made by Associated Press based on official communiqués. At least 820 US soldiers were killed in Iraq in 2006, 111 of whom in December, the most murderous month that year.
Further more, according to a Pentagon report published on 19 December, Iraq experienced 959 attacks a week between 12 August and 10 November – a record since Congress demanded, in 2005, that the Pentagon set up this kind of report. “In the course of the last three months; the number of attacks has increased by 22%. Part of this increase is due to the seasonal peak in violence during the month of Ramadan”, stresses this report, to the US Congress, which covers the period from 12 August to 10 November. The Pentagon report points out that the coalition forces remain the principle target of these attacks (68%) and that half of these attacks took place in only two provinces, (Baghdad and Anbar). But, in terms of the death-roll, it is the Iraqis who suffered most. The number of civilian victims (killed and injured) increased by 2% over the period examined. The Pentagon points out, however, that violence against Iraqi civilians remains localised. “Outside the Sunni triangle, more than 90%if Iraqis feel very safe in their neibourhoods”, the report claims. It also stresses that “the number of attacks against infrastructures has continued to drop” but that “the cumulative effect of their attacks and the ineffectiveness of the repairs and maintenance” of these infrastructures weighs heavily on the supply of essential services for the Iraqis. The report, moreover, considers that the political process of national reconciliation “has made little progress”, “sectarian violence in Iraq has considerably increased despite the meetings between religious and tribal leaders”. As against this, the Pentagon recognises that “violence in Iraq creates a serious threat to political progress”. “The group that at present has the most negative impact on the security situation in Iraq is the Mahdi’s Army, that has replaced Al-Qaida in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerator of lasting sectarian violence in Iraq”; states the report with reference to the militia run by the radical Shiite chief Moqtada Sadr. The report also shows that, at present, only two provinces are not ready for transferring responsibility from the Coalition to the Iraqi forces: al-Anbar (West) and Basra (South). Two provinces, Muthanna and Dhi Qar (South), have already been transferred to the Iraqis and others are ready or partly ready for transfer.
All statistics in Iraq are controversial. The figure of 3,700 civilians killed in October, the latest figure put forward by the United Nations, based on data provided by the Ministry of Healthand the Baghdad morgue, are considered exagerated by the Iraqi government. According to UNO's figures, an average of 120 civilians are killed every day. The Associated Press news agency calculates its figures of American casualties since 2003, on the basis of official communiqués, thus:
Number of troops died in Iraq since the end of the main combat operations was announced on 30 April 2003: 2,861
Percent of the troops killed since 30 April 2003: 95%
The bloodiest months since the beginning of the war, in March 2003:
|November 2004||137 dead|
Percent deaths by military corps:
A single death is recorded amongst the Coast Guards.
Percent deaths by terms of service:
The ,ost murderous Iraqi provices:
Percent deaths by community:
killed since March 2003:
American losses in Iraq compared with the other major conflicts in which the US has been engaged: 3,000 as of 31 December 2006
Guilf War I 382
N. B. Figures based on those of the US Defence Department and the Associated Press. Most statistics are based on the figure given by the Pentagon on 28 December 2006 of 2,988. AP’s figures, which take into account the deaths reported by journalists in Iraq, havew always been ahead of those of the Pentagon. The percentages by ethnic minority werte last updated on 2 December 2006.
Furthermore, Rob Portman, Director of the White House’s Budget Office, indicated that the cast of the war in Iraq for the Budget Year 2007, which began last October, is likely to exceed $110 billion. According to Associated Press calculations,based on the estimates of Congress’s two official budget bodies, the cost of the Iraq war, begun in March 2003, was $290 billion as of the end of the 2006 budget year (end September 2006), of which $254 billion are military costs, according to a report dated 22 September 2006. The Congressional Research Service evaluated total at $319 billion, pointing out that this represents 73% of the expenditure on the “war against terrorism” launched following the 11 September 2001 attacks.
On 19 December, Turkey was found guilty by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, following the murder in 1992 of Musa Anter, a well known writer and editorialist and one of the founders of the People’s Labour Party (HEP). His three children, who accuse the Turkish authorities of having carried out an “extra-judicial execution”, will jointly receive 25,000 euros damages and 3,500 euros casts. According to the European Court, Turkey had been lacking in its obligation to protect the life of Musa Anter, knowing that he was being threatened, and to then conduct an effective enquiry into the circumstances of the death of this well known man, at that time Director of the Kurdish Institute of Istanbul.
On 20 September 1992, Musa Anter was killed with five bullets by an unknown man, while in Diyarbekir where he had been invited to a festival organised by the municipality. The murder was committed by a gendarme of the JITEM (the Gendarmerie Intelligence and anti-terrorist Service) who later repented and confessed this murder in a book published in 2004. The European Court considered, for its part, that no concrete fact proved that an extra-judicial execution was committed by agents of the State, but it was convinced that Turkey could have taken measures to protect Musa Anter, a particularly exposed target, because of his political commitments.
The Strasbourg judges also found Turkey guilty in another case on the same day. Turkey will have to pay 25,000 euros damages to a Turkish couple, today residing in Cologne (Germany), victims of torture by the police during their interrogation by the anti-terrorist section of the Istanbul police in 1994.
Moreover, the European Court for Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating freedom of expression in several cases, particularly ones linked to the Kurdish question. Among the five petitioners, two — Erdal Tas and Mehmet Emin Yildiz, respectively chief editor and owner of the daily 2000’de Yeni Gündem — had been sentenced to heavy fines by the Istanbul State Security Court for havinfg published articles summarising statements by leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Two others, Bülent Falakaoglu and Fevzi Saygili, at the time chief editor and owner of the daily paper Yeni Evrensel, had been sentenced to the same penalty for having sharply criticised two policemen, who the Court considered had thus become potential “targets” for terrorist organisations.
The last, Mehmet Erol Yarar, President of the Association of Independent Industrialists and Businessmen (MUSIAD) had been sentenced for a speech allegedly inciting hatred on the basis of a distinction founded on membership of a race or region. The ECHR considered the grounds accepted by the Turkish courts for limiting the freedom of expression of the five petitioners were insufficient and judged that the sentences passed on them “disproportionate”, as in many other similar cases. It awarded the petitioners a a total of 24,000 euros damages and 9.500 euros costs.
Following the publication of a report entitled “The results of the internal displacements in Turkey” by the Turkish Foundation for Economic and Social Research (TESEV) the Turkish daily Milliyet interviewed Dr. Dilek Kurban, director of the TESEV programme and Dr. Deniz Yukseker, lecturer at the University of Koç, about the forced displacements carried out in the 90s by the Turkish authorities. The following are extensive extracts taken from this interview by the journalist Derya Sazak:
It is still too early to say that there are improvements but we know that the government is becoming aware of the report and showing a certain interest in it. Van Province has been chosen as a pilot region. A plan called “Service for the displaced population” has been drawn up in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme and the Van Governorate was revealed in September, but there have not yet been any concrete results. Moreover, in 2004, a compensation law was passed leading to 200,000 applications from villagers who had been victims of those forced displacements. To date, 27,000 applications have succeeded but we have observed that the compensation given is very small and in no way realistic (…) The State recognised that it had displaced 360,000 people. The Turkish Parliament, in a report published in 1998, gives a figure of 378,000 people. Civil society associations, for their part, talk of between 3 and 4 million people. We, at TESEV, think that these figures are not realistic but without having carried out demographic research think estimate their number at a million. According to the Ministry of the Interior, over 900 villages and 2,000 hamlets were evacuated. A report drawn up at the request of the State Planning Office by Hacettepe University Population Research team, which has not yet been published, should enable to understand these statistics more clearly”, points out Mr. Deniz Yukseker, adding: “Citizenship must be restored in Turkey after these forced displacements, which are illegal even in periods of armed confrontation. The Parliamentary report, which goes back to 1998, expresses the same idea. The Prefect responsible for the State of Emergency Region (OHAL)was given the authority to displace people for security reasons, but this was carried out in an illegal manner. It is time to face up to these forced displacements”.
“The Turkish State has the authority to displace the population in a legal context for security reasons. This is called “evacuation”, and international law allows this. However, the situation in the South-East (Editor’s Note: Turkish Kurdistan) it was applied illegally. As we have revealed in our research, this took place in many places under “threats”. The villagers were first called on to become “village protectors” (Editor’s Note: State regional auxiliary militia) — then, in the event of a refusal, told to evacuate their village within two days! If they did not evacuate, the village was burn to the ground! We have collected many testimonies in which the events had many similarities”, stresses Dr. Yukseker.
Dr. Dilek Kurban, for his part, pointed out that “the victims at the beginning of the 90s decade applied to the European Court for Human Rights, which found Turkey guilty and sentenced it to heavy fines. The Turkish Republic, recognising that it was administratively responsible for the region as a State, accepted to settle the compensation due to breaches of rights committed by anyone whatsoever. But the State has never accepted that it had evacuated villages and accused the PKK. 1,500 petitions have been filed against Turkey and, on the recommendations of the Council of Europe, the European Court decided to carry out a pilot scheme in collective cases. Taking into account the petitions of January 2006, the European Court reached the following conclusion: a new internal legal system regarding compensation must be applied. In practive, applications to the European Court are blocked but the compensation is too small and the procedure too slow”.
As for the solutions recommended, Dr. Kurban pointed out that “we, as part of TESEV think that the Kurdish question is a major obstacle in the way of democratisation. The source of the problem is the Kurdish question, thus the solution is also linked with that of the Kurdish question (…) Turkey has never accepted the term civil war (…) If this was accepted it would be possible to evacuate civilians for their own security, on condition that this was only temporary. The victims of of displacements were, to a large extent those who refused to assume the role of “village protectors”. It can thus be seen as a punishment. Moreover, the armed clashes have ceased since 1999 but these people have still not been able to return to their villages. Thus it is not temporary and, even so, humanitarian aid from the United Nations was refused until 2002 (Editor’s Note: or from the Red Crescent) for this population. Even if at least 355,000 people have been displaced, this is a great catastrophe and the State should deploy as much effort as for an earthquake”. Dr. Deniz Yukseker indicated emphatically “they are not concerned that this event is breach of the Constitution” and added that “the State announces the return of 150,000 people to their homes. However there are no means of subsistence in these villages since the agriculture and stock breeding have been destroyed and that there are no roads or electricity, not to mention conditions of security.Thus the people just remain there for the summer …”
Still on the subject of solutions Dr. Kurban stressed that “We have still not heard of any solution from the government regarding the fate of this population (…) A citizen goes before the (compensation) Commission stating that his village was evacuated by the gendarmerie, who simply reject the allegation and the petition is refused. We will not be able find any solution without macro-political development. The system of village protectors must be abolished and the region must be cleared of mines. Without this the people will never be able to return home …) By a decision of the Council of Ministers, the recruiting of village protectors ended in 2000, but today there is a system of voluntary protectors. They have no official tenure, are not paid but are armed (by the State)”. Dr. Deniz Yukseker added that “since the system has been in existence, village protectors have been involved in over 5,000 crimes and offenses, particularly “acts of terrorism”. This system constitutes a security problem in itself”.
On 7 December, one of the leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran announced that he was leaving the party to form his own party with several of the cadres and activists. “Our departure is the outcome of two years of disagreement with the party regarding our demands for reforms and the setting up of a collective leadership”, explained Abdallah Hassan Zadeh, former General Secretary of the KDPI, speaking from his office near Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
For its part, the Party announced in a communiqué that after “many meetings between the two camps it had not been possible to find common ground, which explains the split”. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, founded in 1945, is the principal Kurdish opposition movement in Iran and has several offices in Iraqi Kurdistan. Two of its General Secretaries, Dr. Abdulrahman Ghassemlou and Dr. Sadegh Charafkandi, were assassinated by agents of the Iran secret services in 1989 and 1993, respectively in Vienna and in Berlin.
On 23 December, the principal pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, denounced Ankara’s “indifference” to the cease fire unilaterally decreed by the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “We expect the government to take advantage of this process aimed at putting ann end to the blood bath, but unfortunately (…) the State remains indifferent”, declared Ahmed Turk, president of the Party for a Democratic Society (DTP) in Diyarbekir. He particularly criticised the Speaker of Parliament, Bulent Arinc, for having refused to meet a group of Kurdish activists in December. “We see this as a blow against peace”, he pointed out. “In the eyes of our people the government has failed to pass the test”, he added. Mr. Turk declared that his party, which has no seats in Parliament, will continue to work for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question.However, “we are always ready to pay the price, to pay with our lives for freedom and democracy”, he added.
The retired general, Edip Baser, charged since August 2006 with coordinating the fight against the PKK with Washington had, the day before, declared on the NTV news channel, that he would discuss “concrete priority steps” with his opposite number, the retired US general Joseph W. Ralston when they met in January and to nask for measures against the PKK. “We (Turkey) have a timetable in mind” he had continued. “If we have not achieved concrete steps between now and the due date of this timetable (…) then we say that there is no reason to continue wasting our time and will put an end to this joint effort”. Their paths could “separate” if the United States rejected measures that Turkey judged appropriate for fighting the PKK he had added. Mr Baser had recognised that it was “not realistic to expect major concrete steps against the PKK overnight” but had stated that Ankara hoped to see signs of progress as from the start of next year. General Baser also stressed that in case of need, Turkey could conduct operations beyond its borders with Iraq, thus into Iraqi Kurdistan and that “this is not a question in which anyone else could interfere”.
The PKK unilaterally declared a cease fire at the end of September, to take effect as from 1 October, essentially calling on Ankara to negotiate. On the same day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected this out of hand, demanding that the PKK lay down its arms and surrender. Military operations against the PKK had been increased when, at the end of June 2004 the PKK had ended an earkier unilateral cease fire, which it had been observed for five years.
On 8 December, the Turkish General Staff stated that the crash of an army helicopter the day before, which had caused the deaths of a non-commissioned officer and wounded five other soldiers had been due to Kurdish fighters in the region. The aircraft had landed in a mountainous region of Bingol Province in the course of combing operation against the PKK and was damaged on takeoff by a remote controlled explosion. Additionally, on 5 December three Turkish soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded by the explosion of two mines near the locality of Güclükonak, in Sirnak province.
Furthermore, on 5 December the Iranian governmental daily paper Iran reported that the security forces had arrested 87 members and sympathisers of Kurdish organisations and killed nine others in the province of West Azerbaijan since the previous March. “Twenty-two members and 65 sympathisers of terrorist groups have been arrested since the beginning if the Iranian year” (which begins on 20 March) declared Hassan Karami, commander of the province’s police force, as quoted by the paper. “Nine other members were killed during clashes with the police”, he added. He also made the point that seven members of the police forces had been killed, three of whom by stepping on mines. The province of West Azerbaijan is mainly inhabited by Kurds, who also inhabit the neighbouring province of Kurdistan as well as those of Ilam and Kermanshah. The first two provinces are regularly the scene of armed clashes between Iranian troops and activists of Kurdish parties, particularly those of PEJAK, an Iranian Kurdish group close top the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party)
In another context, on 5 December, the Maastricht court rejected a demand by Turkey for the extradition of Nedim Seven, who is accused of murderous terrorist attacks on behalf of the PKK. Nedim Seven, 38 years of age, was arrested in the South of the Netherlands during a routine identity check in August. Following the appeal against the first refusal to extradite him in October, he was placed in detention, but the court ordered the immediate lifting of this detention. The judges justified their decision on the grounds that it had been established that he had been tortured by the Turkish security forces after his arrest in Adana in 1989, shortly after a pro-Kurdish demonstration. The “demand of extradition (…) was linked” to his alleged membership of the PKK, the court considered. Yet “it has been sufficiently established that Mr. Seven’s torture occurred in relation” to this political membership, which constitutes a violation of his fundamental rights, the court continued. On 15 September, the Netherlands Supreme Court had already forbidden the extradition of a woman leader of the PKK, Nuriye Kesbir, considering that she was in danger of being tortured and that the guarantees given by Ankara were insufficient.
On 10 December, the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (NOHRS) indicated in a communiqué that a Syrian had been sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for being a member of the Moslem Brotherhood, a banned organisation. “Muhammed Thabet Helli was sentenced to 12 years in prison for membership of the Moslem Brotherhood by the High State Security Court”, an Emergency Law court whose verdicts are without any right of appeal, pointed out Ammar Qorabi, leaders of NOHRS. Syrian law awards death sentences for membership of the Moslem Brotherhood. However, since the mid-90s members of the Moslem Brotherhood are no longer executed, their sentences being commuted to long terms in prison.