The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, paid a visit to Syria, described as “historic” as its is the first of its kind in nearly three decades. Syrian president Bachar al-Assad, welcomed him warmly and, on 14 January, declared that his country was ready to contribute to the “national reconcilition” and stability of Iraq (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html). “Syria is ready to help the Iraqis achieve national reconciliation as well as the unity, security and stability” of that neighbouring country, declared Mr. Assad during a first meeting with his guest, according to the Syrian official news agency Sana. Mr. Talabani, who arrived a the head of a substantial delegation for a six-day stay declare, for his part “Syria helped us in the darkest days, and we are grateful”. “We are determined to establish better political, trade and oil relations. We also want to break this vice that was imposed on us by the colonialist forces to prevent all cooperation and any Syrio-Iraqi reconciliation” added the Iraqi President, as quoted by Sana. The two presidents made these remarks during a more open meeting attended by the official delegations of both countries. Apart from the Minister of the Interior, Jawad Bolani, the Iraqi President was accompanied by the Ministers of Trade, Abdel Falah Hassan al-Sudani, of Water Resources, Latif Rashid, and of National Security, Muaffak al-Rubai, as well as several Members of parliament. Cooperation agreements in the areas of trade and security were signed during this visit. According to his advisor, Fakhri Karim, a security delegation preceded Mr. Talabani to Damascus for meeting that ended in “positive results for both countries”. On 10 January, the Syrian Vice President, Faruk al-Shareh, declared that “the rapprochement between the two countries aimed at consolidating relations” and “did not come about for external reasons”, that is Damascus’s desire to improve its relations with the United States (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html).
Mr. Talabani’s visit came following the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries in November, after a break of over 25 years. Saddam Hussein’s predecessor, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakri, (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/process-saddam-hussein.html) had gone there in 1979, at a time when the two countries, governed by branches of the Baath Party, were considering fusing into a single nation. (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/050228/295/485ob..html). Although both were governed by the Pan-Arab Baath Party (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/050228/295/485ob.html) relations between Syria and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq deteriorated and became very strained (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/process-saddam-hussein.html). They were re-established on the occasion of the visit to Baghdad by the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) who had promised his country’s assistance in re-estabishing security in Iraq. At the end of December, the Damascus office of Mr. Talabani’s party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that Mr. Talabani visit aimed at “settling various questions (…) in all friendship and brotherhood”. During the period of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, Mr. Talabani used to stay regularly in Syria (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/process-saddam-hussein.html) and had close links with the Damascus leadership, which, at the time, used to shelter various movements of the Iraqi opposition. His last visit to Syria was back in July 2003, after the US intervention but before his election as president of Iraq in April 2005 and his re-election in April 2006.
In an interview published on 21 January by the Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa, Jalal Talabani nevertheless called for an end to interference in Iraq’s internal affairs and for helping the country restor peace and stability. “I know who is interfering in Iraqi internal affairs and who is not but it is not, at the moment, in Iraq’s interest to cite names of those interfering”, pointed out the Iraqi President. “I should, at least avoid adding oil to the flames”, Mr. Talabani stressed in this interview given during his visit to Damascus. President Talabani expressed the hope that the new Iraq might play “a positive role in the strengthening of Arab solidarity and genuine regional cooperation based on respect for sovereignty and independence by all its neighbouring countries”.
For his part, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manushehr Mottaki, announced on 22 January that Iran and Syria had agreed to propose the organisation of a regional conference on Iraq, to be held in Baghdad. “We have agreed to ask the Iraqi government and the neighbouring countries to hold a conference of Foreign Ministers in Baghdad”, declared Mr. Mottaki during a Press conference with his Syrian opposite number, Walid Muallem, who was visiting Teheran. Furthermore, on 21 January, the radical Shiite chief, Moqtada Sadr, who leads a large militia, the Mahdi’s Army, which is regularly accused of abuses against the Sunni Arab community and of attacks on the coalition forces, decided to suspend his boycotting of the government, thus strengthening the position of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. “We are going to take part in the political process”, declared a Sadrist Member of Parliament, Saleh Hassan Issa al-Ogaili, explaining that some demands expressed by his movement had been satisfied. The Speaker of Parliament, the Sunni Arab Mahmud al-Mashadani, who had negotiated with the Sadr bloc its return to the government, confirmed this decision during a press conference. “A five-member commission representing the different parliamentary blocs has negotiated with the Sadrist trend and has presented recommendations that have been accepted”, he indicated, considering that the demands made by the Sadrist trend were “legitimate and served the national interests”.
Moqtada Sadr’s supporters (who hold 32 seats in the 275-seat parliament and six Ministries) have been boycotting these institutions since 29 November in protest at the meeting between Mr. al-Maliki and US President G.W. Bush. Their return to the political scene should strengthen the Prime Minister’s position, weakened by his inability to quell the violence. Support “from Sadr is a good thing asmit will consolidate Maliki’s position, the more so as the two parties are allies” considered the Kurdish M.P., Mahmud Osman. This easing of political tension follows “an agreement signed with the parliament envisaging discussions on a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops”, explained Mr. Ogaili without giving any details. “We have also demanded a timetable for the training of Iraqi security forces and that the government refrain from renewing the mandate of the occupation forces with referring the matter to Parliament”, he added. Today, “the Sadr group wants to show that it is part of the political process and that it will not resort to violence at a time when the Iraqi and American forces have set them selves the objective of tackling the militias”, Mahmud Osman considered.
On 19 january,the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, received, at Salahaddin, General Joseph Ralston, the US President’s special envoy and coordinator for the PKK question, so as to discuss questions linked to the final status of Kirkuk and the situation of Kurds of Turkey. The Kurdish Presidency’s chief of staff, Dr. Fuad Hussein, stated that General Ralston expressed the official opinion of the American Administration and of the State Department, stressing that Kirkuk was the internal business of the Iraqi people. General Ralston also visited the Makhmur refugee camps that have been sheltering kurdish refugees from Turkey for the last ten years.
Following his journey to iraqi Kurdistan, General Ralston visited Turkey for discussions with his Turkish opposite number, Edip Baser and the Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul. On 30 January, the American emissary promised Ankara to work towards the struggle against the Kurdish organisation while Turkey accuses the United States of inactivity. “We are working on several possible actions to counter the PKK” declared Mr. Ralston. “We remain very focused on this effort, with several initiatives and I have a great hopes that, with a little patience on the part of the Turkish people, we will successfully fulfill our task”, he added. He particularly expressed the hope that the president of iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, would help to fight the PKK. “I consider that I can convince him thet the PKK is a threat to stability in Northern Iraq as well as a threat to the Turkish people and I have asked for his help in countering the PKK”, stated the American official. Mr. Ralston also met the Chief of the Turkish General Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, before leaving Turkey on 31 January. His visit came after sharp criticism expressed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused the United States and Iraq of inactivity regarding the PKK. Last month, Mr. Erdogan had considered that Washington and Baghdad had not kept their promises and that the nomination of Mr. Ralston in August had produced to results, going on to evoke a “stalling tactic” by the American authorities. “We have jointly appointed coordinators fot the struggle against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party —banned) but nothing has come of it. (…) We were expecting some seripous advances, but this hasd not been achieved”, deplored the Prime Minister on 3 January. The Turkish coordinator, Mr. Baser, when questioned by the Turkish paper Vatan stated, for his part, that his mission could come to an end by the end of February or beginning of March if “concrete steps were not taken” against the PKK in Iraq.
The americans explain their lack of eagerness for going to fight the PKK by the violence that is al;ready keeps them busy in many regions of Iraq and say that they prefer non-military methods, such as cutting off the organisation’s finances. Washington charges Ankara not to launch any unilateral cross-border operations, considering that such actions could destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan and increase tension between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds.
The Iraqi Kurdish leadershave, on numerous occasions, called for a political solution to the Kurdish question in Turkey and insist that they are opposed to any Turkish military intervention in their region.
Furthermore, on 18 January, the European Court of Justice decided that the European judges should re-examine a petition filed by a former PKK leader, Osman Ocalan, against the inclusion of this Kurdish organisation on the E.U.’s list of terrorist organisations. In February 2005, a primary court had ruled Mr. Ocalan’s petition to be inadmissible on the grounds that he could not represent “an organisation that no longer exists”. “This court quashes the lower court’s ruling in so far as it rejects Osman Ocalan’s petition on behalf of the PKK as inadmissible”, it summed up in a press communiqué. The Court explains that the lower court “wrongly ruled, in examining Mr. Ocalan’s petition, that the PKK no longer existed and thus could not be represented by him”. “This organisation cannot be both sufficiently in existence to be the subject of restrictive measures (by the E.U.) and not have available the means of contesting these measures”, it added.
Inclusion on the E.U. list of terrorist organisations essentially implies a freezing of the funds of people or organisations targeted. The PKK, considered as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States, has been on the E.U. list since 2002. Following the call by its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, its fighters unilaterally decreed a truce, which was rejected by ankara, on 1 October 2006. The European list of terrorist organisations, which was drawn up in the wake of the September 2001 attacks, has been seriously criticised for several weeks now. The most senior Judge of the 27-nations union acknowledged last December that the E.U. has started to review the manner in which it is drafted. Following a ruling, last December, canceling the freeze on the funds of the People’s Mujahaddin the judge indicated that the E.U. was going to define “a clearer and more transparent procedure” for inclusion on the list and allow, if need be, a re-examination of certain decisions.
On 17 January, the pro-Kurdish press agency. Firat News, reported that Abdullah Ocalan had launched an appeal for a “truth commission” on the Kurdish conflict in Turkey so as to achieve peace between Turks and Kurds. “We must confess our mistakes and uncover the realities. Only such an approach can reconcile us”, declared the PKK chief in a letter sent the week before to the Turkish Members of Parliament and to NGOs. In it he proposes an independent “truth commission” composed of intellectuals, jurists and academics to look into the Kurdish question. “On reaching the stage of laying down our arms, we will lay them down only to such a commission that would be working for justice”, he stressed in his letter, which so far has remained unanswered, according to his lawyers’ chambers, through which he communicates with the outside world.
The day before, a Turkish soldier and three PKK activists were killed during an operation and a second soldier wounded in the fighting, which occurred in a rural region near Diyarbekir. Four PKK fighters were killed on 14 January in the course of fighting. A first clash had caused two deaths in the Lice rural zone of Diyarbekir province. In another incident, in a remote part of Bingol province, another fighter was shot in the evening, according to the local governor. In the course of the same day and in the same area, a first fighter had been killed and a soldier wounded.
On 28 January, during the 39th hearing of the Anfal trial, in which six former Iraqi leaders are being tried by the Iraqi High Court, Saddam Hussein’s cousin, Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali” assumed full responsibility for the destruction of villages and stated that he had no need to apologise for it. He is being charged with committing genocide during the Anfal military campaigns in Iraqi Kurdistan between 1987 and 1988. “It is I who gave the orders to the army to destroy the villages and deport the inhabitants”, declared confidently “Chemical Ali”, so called because of his extensive use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population. “I have no need to defend myself, for this. I do not apologise. i have committed no fault”, he added. Once again “Chemical Ali” had taken the seat formerly occupied by Saddam Hussein, who had also been charged in this trial, prior to being hanged on 30 December as sentenced in another case — that of the execution of 148 Shiite Arabs in the 1980s. In the course of this hearing, the prosecution presented about twenty letters, and telegrammes sent to the General Staff and political authorities. These documents are aimed at establishing the chain of command and of responsibility for the chemical bombings, the destruction of thousands of villages and the deportation of their inhabitants. “We took the measures needed to destroy the villages as ordered by Ali Hassan al-Majid. Please confirm further villages to be demolished”, thus requested a telegramme sent by an officer of Army Intelligence in the North to the Ministry of Defence. Another letter, signed by a Brigadier General informed “We have destroyed all the villages with tanks”. In another telegramme, the Intelligence officers in Suleimaniyeh warned the Army “We inform you that a group of journalists has gone to the site site of the chemical strikes”, the prosecutor stressing the last two words in particular. Children were separated from their parents when the kurdish populations were deported, stressed the prosecutor. “These orders were given at a time when Iranian agents were infesting the region. We had to isolate the saboteurs. Iran had grabbed a substantial part of our territory, as large as the Lebanon”, argued Chemical Ali in justification. However, as the prosecutor pointed out, the Anfal military operations against the Kurds continued after the 8 August 1988 signature of the cease-fire which ended eight years of war.
On 24 January, during an earlier hearing, the Public prosecutor, Munqith al-Fara’un, had presented fresh documents. Amongst these written documents were mission orders sent by the top Iraqi authorities to the Intelligence services in Kurdistan “calling on them to confiscate the land, forbid the movements of people and to wipe certain villages off the map”. The day before, Chemical Ali had stated before the High Criminal Court that his anti-Kurdish invectives, during this campaign at the end of the 80s, were tactics aimed at intimidating the Kurdish fighters. The prosecutor had presented fresh audio cassettes. On one of them a voice, presented as that of Ali Hassan al-Majid, was shouting anti-Kurdish insults during the Anfal campaign.
Chemical Ali acknowledged, during the 11 January hearing, having ordered the execution of villagers who refused to leave their homes. “Yes, I gave instructions that those villages be decreed no-go areas and I ordered the troops to arrest anyone they found in these zones and execute them after interrogation” he had stated. “I am responsible for the expulsions (of the villages’ inhabitants) and I took this decision on my own, without referring to my superiors in the Army or the Baath party leadership. I acknowledge this before the court and before God”, he had added. However, the former commander of the Northern zone denied any responsibility for the execution of 300 Kurdish fighters evoked by the prosecution. In the audio recordings presented by the prosecutor and heard during this 35th hearing, a voice, that sounds like that of Ali Hassan al-Majid, accuses all Kurds of being “saboteurs” and affirms having received a letter from the present President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, calling on him to negotiate and suggesting concessions in exchange for stopping the demolition of Kurdish villages by the government.
At the start of the 34th hearing on 8 january, the judge, Mohammad al-Oreibi al-Khalifqa had officially announced the dropping of charges against Saddam Hussein. However, tape recording of the former dictator’s voice, which evokes the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds was heard during the hearing. “I will take responsibility for using the chemical weapon. No one can decide on a chemical strike without my authorisation (…) It is better to use this weapon in an inhabited area so that it causes as much damage as possible”, states Saddam Hussein in these extracts. “We must drive the Kurdish people towards other provinces or other countries (…) to put an end to the Kurdish nationality, stop the activity of the Kurdish saboteurs. We must arrange things so that they can live and work in Tikrit, so that they become Arabs”, affirmed Saddam Hussein on another undated tape recording. The prosecution then played to the court a video showing Chemical Ali, in full dress uniform, twice declaring during a military ceremonial: “I will attack them with chemical weapons. To hell with the international community”. New pictures of the victims of chemical bombing were also shown: the corpses of whole families lying on the ground. Frozen in death, women still clasping their babies in their arms as if to protect them from the deadly vapours. “Look at these children, their burnt skin. Are these saboteurs, agents of Iran?” the prosecutor cried out to Chemical Ali. A document signed by Saddam Hussein and dated 22 March 1987 gave “full powers to comrade Ali hassan al-Majid in the Northern region”, while another mentioned the use of “the special weapon” — a reference to chemical weapons —in Kurdistan. The accused face the death penalty if their responsibility is proven for the Anfal operations, carried out between 1987 and 1988 in Kurdistan, in the course of which some 180,000 people were killed bhy mass executions and chemical weapons.
There are many Kurds who regret that Saddam Hussein is unable to answer the accusation of genocide, the most serious charge against him. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who comes from the Shiite Arab majority, had wished to execute Saddam Hussein without delay (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/process-saddam-hussein.html), despite calls from Washington for a postponement and the reservations of his Kurdish partners in the National Union government, which had counted on long appeal proceedings to enable them to put their own grievances before the courts (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/s/securite.html). While deploring the fact that he can no longer answer for his crimes, other Kurds, nevertheless, say that they could be satisfied by the sentencing of the other six, particularly Ali Hassan al-Majid, considered the principal promoter of the massacre. There are amny, however, who fear that the the absence of the dictator may rob the trial of much of its interest. “I have waited all these years to find out what was their fate”, stressed Shamsi Khader, whose husband and one son disappeared in 1988. “Now I have lost all hope”, she concluded.
Furthermore, on 15 January, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, Barzan al-takriti, former boss of the secret services, and Awad al-Banda, ex-President of the Revolutionary Tribunal were hanged in the greatest secrecy two weeks after the execution of the former Iraqi President. Both had been sentenced to death, along with the ex-dictator, for a “crime against humanity” — their responsibilty for the massacre of 148 Shiite villagers from Duail, killed as a reprisal for a failed attempt at a bomb attack on a presidential convoy in the 80s. The execution took place at 3 am local time (midnight GMT) at an undisclosed location, before by a rigorously selected witnesses so as to avoid any incidents. Their bodies were transported by a US helicopter to Tikrit where they were buddied near Saddam Hussein, himself burried at his native village of Aouja. The announcement of the deaths of these two former dignitaries of the Baath regime caused no noticeable reaction in Baghdad, but was greeted with demonstrations of rejoicing at the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
Turkey is exerting the strongest pressure on the Baghdad government to “protect the interests of its blood brothers”, as it likes to call the Turcomen. In a communiqué of 19 January, the Kirkuk provincial Council accused the Turkish government of adding to the sectarian violence in Iraq. Razgar Ali, who leads the province’s Council, specifically denounced the holding of a conference on the future of Kirkuk in Ankara on 15-16 January. “Organising a conference on sectarian lines will do no favours to any ethnic group. It will only add to the sectarian violence initiated by the takfiris (the Sunni extremists), Saddam Hussein’s supporters and their allies”, judged Mr. Ali, who is a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). “This conference is part of the continuous efforts being carried on by the Turkish government to disturb the process being conducted in accordance with Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution”, he added, calling on the Iraqi government to take a stand.
The day before, during a stormy debate in the Turkish Parliament, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, had declared that his country could not remain indifferent to the well-being of the Turcoman minority. “The question of the integrity of Iraq has become a problem of the integrity of Turkey”, declared the leader of the centre-right opposition ANAP (Motherland) party, Erkan Mumcu, during the debate. “If Iraq disintegrates, Turkey will split up”, he added. Ankara is also frustrated by the reluctance of the United States and the Baghdad government to act ruthlessly against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), some of whose activists have found asylum in Iraqi Kurdistan. The principal Turkish opposition organisation, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) sharply criticised the government for being submissive to the United States. “Are we not going to defend our borders so long as the United States does not allow us?” asked a leading CHP member, Onur Oymen, during the debate. Turkish prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared, on 27 January, that Kirkuk could be torn apart by a “great civil war” if the Kurds insisted on wanting to incorporate this oil-rich city into their autonomous region. “It is imperative that Kuirkuk have a special status. it belongs to all the Iraqis and a takeover by one ethnic group would be a mistake”, insisted Mr. Erdogan in an interview on the Private channel Kanal 7. “I have stressed Turkey’s sensitivity regarding efforts to change the demographic composition of Kirkuk. We cannot remain spectators of developments in Iraq, a country with which we have historic and cultural links”, the Prime Minister had declared on 16 January during a meeting of his Juastice and Development Party (AKP). “The execution of Saddam Hussein and, above all, any attempt to carry out a referrendum in Kirkuk, which would be a fait accompli, could provoke some very dangerous developments as much in iraq as in neighbouring countries”, he had declared to his party’s Members of Parliament.
In the course of the last fifty years, Kirkuk has had a succession of demographic changes. In 1957, the last Iraqi census in which ethnic distribution was recorded, Kirkuk had 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turcomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyro-Chaldean Chriastans. Then, during his 23-year reign, Saddam Hussein organised the Arabisation of the city and the mass deportation of Kurds (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/monde/moyen-orient/irak/process-saddam-hussein.html). To give Arabs an incentive to settle in Kirkuk, Baghdad did not hesitate to provide them with free housing and substation cash grants. At the same time the Kurds were sent off to refugee camps in the adjoining Kurdish provincesof Suleimaniyeh, Irbil and Dohuk. However, since the American intervention of in march 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, ethnic lines have again been shifted: tens of thousands of Kurds, perhaps as many as 100,000, mainly former deportees, have returned to their original home town,according to local authorities. Officials agree that the Kurds again form the majority of the population of Tamim Province (of which Kirkuk is the capital), with the Turkomen and the Arabs about equal but well behind them. In the Provincial elections of December 2005, the kurds won 26 of the 41 seats, the Turkomen 9, the Arabs five and the Christians one. Article 140 of the Constitution stipulates that the atatus of Kirkuk should be settled before the end of 2007. The Kurds want to keep to this timetable, hoping that Tamim province and its capital, Kirkuk, would join Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi central government (in which President Jalal Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari are Kurds) rejects any foreign interference — particularly from former imperial overlord Turkey…
Another controversy has arisen, following on Ankara’s warnings about the status of Kirkuk. On 11 January, the Turkish authorities became aware of letters issued by the Iraqi National Oil Trading Company (SOMO) sent to Turkish firms advising them that the renewal of contracts would, henceforth be carried out through the Kurdistan regional government. On 29 January, Turkey demanded that the Iraqi government cancel its decision appointing the representatives of Iraqi Kurdistan as sole corespondents of Turkish firms exporting oil products to Iraq for renewal of their contracts. The Turkish Secretary of State for external Trade, Kursad Tuzman, accused the central government of having broken bi-lateral agreements and warned that if the situation did not return to normal ankara would have “to review certain policies” regarding its Iraqi neighbour. “A unilateral decision like this impliesa change of policy (…). We expect an explaination”, declared Mr. Tuzman to the press. “We hope that Iraq will honour its signature. If it applies the agreements, the problem will be resolved”. “Our patience has its limits”, added the Minister, whose remarks were televised by the news channel NTV. “A failure by Iraq to apply the agreements would le3ad us to review certain policies”. About thirty Turkish firms are imvolved in the sale of oil products in Iraq. Turkey imports Iraqi crude oil which it refines and re-exports by tanker truck to Iraq.
Furthermore, on 30 January, bombs placed in front of nine houses, mainly occupied by Kurds, exploded in Kirkuk, injuring 11 people, 5 of whom were children, according to the security services. Seven of the houses targetted by the bombs belonged to Kurds and two to Shiite Arabs. The day before, the son of a major of the Kurdish security forces was killed in the explosion of a car bomb, which totally destroyed four houses and damaged seven others.
On 19 January, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was assassinated in front of the offices of his paper, the bi-lingual Turkish-Armenian weekly, Agos, in the very heart of Istanbul. A 17-year old unemployed youth, Ogun Samast, was incarcerated with four other alleged accomplices on 24 january. The young man acknowledged having shot the 52-year old journalist, who has always stood firm on his Turkish citizenship but had aroused the fury of nationalist circles for his denounciation of the Armenian genocide of 1915-17, which Turkey categorically denies (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html). The assassin explained his act by the “insults” against Turkey that Hrank Dink, according to him, had uttered (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) in the context of his stand on the fate of minorities, particularly Armenian, and for freed of expression.
The murder provoked a shock wave in Turkey (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) as it is the first time that a member of the Armenian minority has fallen victim of an assassination considered to be politically motivated. On 22 january, several dailies extensively published the murderer’s confessions and gave details of the enquiry. According to the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, Ogum Samast did not seem to show any remorse. “I have nothing to say. I went there and I bumped him off”, he stated to the police. “I was chosen because I run fast a shoot well”, declared Samast during his interrogation, Hurriyet reports.However, the Turkish authorities seem to exclude the terrorist avenue, favouring the action of a little group. Thus, on 21 January, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor, Aykut Cengiz Engin had stated that no link with any “organisation” had been established at the time. Stressing the youth of the alleged murderer, Hrant Dink’s lawyer, Erdal Dogan, for his part expressed the hypothesis of a manipulation. “The boy may have pulled the trigger, but the authorities should find those who are behind him” he considered. “My client did not act alone. He was pushed into it by someone” declared, for his part, the murderer’s lawyer, Mr. Levent Yilderim, officially appointed by the Istanbul Bar association. Among those taken in for questioning are Erhan Tuncel, a student close to an ultra-nationalist group, accused of having masterminded the attack and Yasin Hayal, 26 years of age, also suspected of having organised the attack, who is on close contact with Erhan Tuncel. Yasin Hayal has already served an 11 month sentence for having carried out a bomb attack on a McDonald’s restaurant in the city of Trabzon to protest at the American occupation of Iraq. This “big brother” as the Turkish press is calling him0 has taught a dozen young men, including Ogum Samast, all of whom frequent internet cafés (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/i/internet.html), how to handle pistols, in the woods round this town. The pistol with which he shot Hrant Dink, is a;llso said to have been provided by Yasin Hayal. The spotlights are thus again turned on this major harbour city of Trabzon where, in February 2006, a Catholic priest was shot down at the entrance to his church by a 16-year old adolescent, found guilty in October.
On 23 January, in a rare demonstration of unity, over 100,000 people, mainly Kurdish and Armenian, took part in the Istanbul funeral of this public figure, well respected for his commitment in favour of Turkish-Armenian dialogue. The people carried little black and white boards proclaiming “We are all Armenians!” or “We are all Hrant!” in Kurdish and Armenian. “In a country where the word Armenian is an insult for many people, it is a great step to say, today, “We are all Armenians” ”, pointed out an Armenian journalist, Raffi Hermonn. The funeral was marked by calls for reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples, deeply divided by the question of the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire. This the Armenian Patriarch, Mesrob II (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html), paying tribute to Hrant Dink’s commitment to Turkish-Armenian dialogue, stated that his death had, in a paradoxical manner, enabled the bringing together, on the occasion of this funeral, leaders of Ankara and Erevan. The Patriarch also launched a moving appeal to the Turkish leaders, calling on them to work for the eradication of anti-Armenian feelings (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) in Turkey. “We always retain the hope of seeing the beginning of efforts urgently to eradicate animosity against Armenians in Turkey (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html), beginning with the school textbooks and in the schools”, he declared in a sermon at his Patriarchal Church. Following a religious service, Hrant Dink was burred to loud applause in the Armenian cemetery.
Turkey (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html), which recognised its Armenian neighbour on its independence from the USSR in 1991 without, however, establishing any diplomatic relations, invited some Armenian religious leaders to Istanbul. Moreoverm the Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister, Arman Kirakossian, represented Erevan. Khajak Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern diocese of the United States (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) made the journey as well as, for the first time ever, a delegation from the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organisations in France. The Turkish government was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, and the Minister of the Interior, Abdulkadir Aksu.
On 31 January, the Members of the European Parliament observed a minutes silence in memory of Hrant Dink. “I would like to express our indignation in the name of the European Parliament”, declared the Speaker of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, during a plenary session in Brussels (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/b/belgique.html). The participation of thousands of people at his funeral “leads us to hope that this sad event will be an excuse for the Turkish authorities to proceed towards new reforms to guarantee freedom”, he added. The E.U. has been incessantly calling on Turkey for a reform of an article in its penal Code (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) that limits freedom of expression. On 25 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also called on Turkey (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) to abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code. Article 301, which describes as a crime any insult to Turkish identity, national institutions or security forces, has brought before the courts dozens of intellectuals, including Hrant Dink. “The existence of this legal clause limiting freedom of expression only serves to justify legal and other attacks on journalists”, considered this Assembly of 46 member states of the Council of Europe, in a resolution on press freedom.
Furthermore, the German publisher of the Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, 2006 Nobel Literature Prize winner, indicated on 31 January that the author had cancelled a visit to Germany (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/a/allemagne.html) planned for early February, on security grounds. Orhan Pamuk was due to be made Doctor honoris causa by the Free University of Berlin before going on to read extracts of his works in the German capital, then in Hambourg (North), Cologne (West), Stuttgart (South-West) and Munich (South). The novelist’s life was threaten by one of the suspects of Hrant Dink’s murder — Yasin Hayal had called our “Let Orhan Pamuk beware!” as he entered court on 24 January. A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior insisted, at a press conference, that he possessed no concrete information from his department’s services of any likely threat to the Turkish writer (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/a/allemagne.html) in Germany. Targeted by Turkish nationalist circles for his stands on the Kurdish conflict and the Armenian question, the author of “Snow” and “The Black Book” was taken to court charged with “denigrating Turkish national identity” after having stated, in an interview in a Swiss magazine in February 2005 (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/s/suisse.html): “a million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds have been killed on these lands, b ut no one but me dares to say so”. The proceedings were dropped early in 2006.
On 13 January, intellectuals, academics and political personalities began two days of discussions on the means of peacefully resolving the Kurdish conflict in Turkey and called for the ending of the violence that is particularly tearing apart Turkish Kurdistan. The guest of honour of this conference, entitled “Turkey is seeking its peace”, the famous Kurdish writer, Yasar Kemal, launched a moving appeal for peace, proclaiming, during his speech, the need for “a genuine democracy or nothing”. he denounced the fact that a “light weight war” in Kurdistan had cost the lives of tens of thousands of people since the launching, in 1984, of armed struggle by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The 83-year old author of “Memed the hawk” and of “Iron land, copper sky” stated that the claims of the Kurds of Turkey remain, to this day, misunderstood — mainly because the authorities persist in “ignoring” the existence of a problem and in “abusing the honour” of Kurdish people. “This situation cannot last — it must be ended (…), this war is rotting Turkey away. I am no hero but I am obliged to say this”, stressed this novelist, who has been several times imprisoned for his political opinions.
The conference, the fruit of several regional symposia, aims, according to its organisers, at drawing up a “road map” to encourage the Turkish government to find a solution to the Kurdish question. “The total cessation of violence is of vital importance for peace” considered Yusuf Alatas, President of the Turkish Association for Human Rights. About fifty intellectuals and journalists spoke. Several speakers stressed the necessity of integrating the principal pro-Kurdish party, the Party for a Democratic society (DTP)into the national political scene. Thus the political commentator, Fuat Keyman, proposed that the threshold of 10% of votes needed at national level to be represented in Parliament be reduced to 5% before tyhe next general election, planned for November.
Several Kurdish uprising have been repressed since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The latest, that of the PKK, has caused some 40,000 deaths (including some 25,000 Kurdish fighters) the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated on 12 January. The kurdish community is estimated at 15 to 20 million people out of 73 million inhabitants overall. The Kurdish conflict has caused 3 million displaced people and has led to violations of Human Rights such as the systematic use of torture or the burning down of Kurdish villages by the Turkish Armed forces. The closing speach was due to be made by the Kurdish writer Mehmed Uzun, considered to be one of the founders of modern Kurdish literature, but as his long illness prevented him coming his speech was read in the hall.
The following is the full text of Yasar Kemal’s speech:
The 20th Century experienced a series of events that darkened to no small measure the decency of the human race. We experienced then two bloody world wars. There were genocides. Those were terrible years that we are leaving behind us. The survivors of the First World War were never the men they had been before the conflict: plagued by fears, deprived of all self-confidence, of all creativity, without hope and with their personalities torn to shreds… Those who survived the Second did not know a much better fate. Especially when we think of that “Third War”, which was a cold war… All that was simply ruin for humanity… We cannot say that humanity has completely escaped from the destruction caused by these wars. And then there is this expectation of the atom bomb and the fire ball that it mught make of our planet … Living in expectation of war is nothing else than dying a little.
You will tell me that I’m putting the responsibility for all the ills of humanity just on war. No, of course, I am not one of those idealists: nevertheless I recognise that wars were their most frequent causes. Wars are death sentences for individuals as for lands and the natural environment in which we live. So let us leaving behind us this century, in its fears, its sufferings with its passion for death. But let us not forget, all the same, all that can be put to humanity’s credit at the same time. All that was able, as much as it could, to bring a glimmer of light to men’s faces. Humanity can also be proud of some of its achievement during that century.
The European Project.
Europe is gradually pulling itself out of the ruins of these three wars. And it will pull itself out. So great an effort cannot fail to succeed. The E.U. was not founded for nothing. It was founded for peace without deaths, for the mutual fertilisation and enrichment of cultures; for a happy world without war. It was founded in the name of peace, of beauty, of respect for human dignity, to release the means of no longer belittling or exploiting men. What I am saying here are not just a pious wishes: they are the roots, the essential causes of the founding of the European Project. This is what was written in 1973 in the declaration of the 9-nation Europe:
“Based in the perspective of creating a developed collective and on the determination to guarantee the political, legal and spiritual values of all those who feel defeated, Europe carries the hope of being able to protect Human Rights as well as to develop towards a form of a Social State the predominance of the rule of law, of representative democracy and of economic progress which share its founding values and its identity”.
And this is the European Community that embraces this hope after having known three terrifying conflicts, after having gone through three wars that carried within them the annihilation of the human species. The countries that had not taken part in these conflicts being no less affected than the belligerents. These three confrontations have reduced the world to poverty. Every war, throughout the centuries, has always been the cause of massacres and heavy loss. The victors as well as the vanquished and the non-belligerents were unable to escape its procession of baleful consequences.
And if we come to this low intensity conflict that some call a “light weight war” that we have been experiencing for the last 25 years, we observe that, despite some unilateral cease fires, there seems no means of putting an end to it. Why is this? How is it possible? There must be here some secret that only the gods are capable of sharing. The First World War lasted 4 years. The Second World War lasted 6. How much longer will our 25-year war last? No one is a position to predict anything.
A 25-year war.
Our country has greatly suffered from this conflict. 30,000 deaths amongst the fighters. Over 70,000 civilian fighters, the notorious village defenders, have been involved in this war. Over 5,000 villages burnt down, man and women sent off the the four corners of our country. some, broken by hunger or poverty. “unexplained” assassinations have become everyday occurrences: a weapon of war amongst others. Kurdish elites have been seen to indulge in such criminal methods. A whole part of the State’s institutions have been infected by the virus of corruption. Would things have been any worse if we had taken part in the Second World War?
Thsi conflict is ruining the country. We are going to war against our own people. And, given time, our own position is deteriorating compared with the rest of humanity. We are never considered right about anything.
The world is looking at us as well as our situation. We have called the guerrillas terrorists, expecting help and relief. But words change their meaning all the time and everywhere: and it happens that one day they become useless. From abroad, the observers do not know the reasons why young men take to the hills as guerrillas: they at first thought it was a guerrilla type of adventurism. And the european press then didn’t attach much importance to these things.
Today, on the other hand, the press of the whole world knows everything that is happening here. The war has to be conducted looking the whole world in the eyes — a war that will irreparably corrupt the country. It is also said that some $100 million have gone up in smoke in this conflict. Whatever they say, this is far from the reality. The price is much higher. As for yet newer losses, many countries would be unable to recover from them.
If we look at the great civilisations, we realise that they were only able to prosper on the most fertile lands, under the most favourable climates. Egypt, Western Anatolia, Mesopotamia… The lands of East and South Anatolia are amongst these regions and throughout the centuries and millenia they were the cradles of great civilisations.
The lands of East Anatolia have supported the development of the Mesopotamian civilisations. As did the rivers whose sources were there such as the Tigris and Euphrates. Mespotamia, indeed, takes its name from these two rivers. These lands saw the birth of civilisations like Urartu and Hurria and many others as well. Today the men of these regions are plagued with abject poverty. before this war, the inhabitants of this region, despite all their difficulties, did not experience such poverty. The land of peasants, involved in this war remain uncultivated, stock-rearing is at an end, the orchards are parched dry, the bee-hives abandoned. What remain in evacuated villages were finally left to be pillaged by village protectors (paid by the State to fight the PKK). And an unnamed and unrelieved hostility has been born between the protectors and the non-protectors. As for the villagers who remain on the spot, their lives have been made impossible.
How can a whole region be reduced to a state of neglect: the green pastures, the most fertile land abandoned. The State is waging its war: displacing the populations and leaving the land empty. and, whether to like it or not, condemning the abandoned children to exile or to joining the guerrilla …How many of our young men have taken to the mountains? Has the government the slightest idea? Are they aware, in high places, of the destructive potential of such an attitude?
Do they know the nature and depth of the losses inflicted on Turkey by our very dear nationalist and “war lovers”? Is there anyone there able to think about the way we are exhausting ourselves all through these years of war. is there anyone able to know to what we are being steered?
A Turk has no friend but another Turk.
Whatever you do to a man or a people beware of abusing their honour. That is a saying that, from my earliest childhood, I have unceasingly repeated. Yet those who rule us have never ceased tgo do the opposite. There is nothing to which they have not subjected this people, be it by themseves or the village protectors acting independently, so much pain and suffering, injustice and oppression that my mouth cannot tell.
In our country there are racists clocked in nationalist sayings who have a habit of making your heart bleed with a famous saying “A Turk has no friend but another Turk”. I don’t think that the people of any other country could have put forward a more terrible saying. And above all when it comes to the Kurds one should not say such things. The Kurds would hold it against you. There are other friends of the Turks besides the Turks. They are not so very invisible. From Mantzikert to our days, the Kurds have been the friends of the Turks. A friendship that lasted even to the war of liberation. Some people, indeed, do not hesitate to write that, without the support of the Kurds, this war would have been hard and ill advised. Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s intelligence was able to overcome this difficulty. After having gained a foothold at Samsun, why didn’t he hold the Congress on the Black Sea? Well, let\s say that the coast was unsuitable for such an organisation , why didn’t he hold it at Amasya or at Ankara? Why?
His outstanding brain must have had a solid reason to acting as he did. At Erzurum there was an army that was supposed to be at the disposal of the Inspector of the Army, who was Kemal. The commander of this Army Corps was Kazim Karabekir Pasha: he answered the call of his Inspector. Moreover, along side the Pasha there was yet another force: the Kurds. Haci Musa came to Erzurum as a representative of the Kurds, it was with him that an agreement was reached. Today, there is nothing left of that agreement.
In the 50s, Nurullah Ataç invited his friend Cevat Dursunoglu and me to dinner. During the meal one of the guests asked Dursunoglu, who, in 1919 was a member of the Erzurum Congress, if Haci Musa and Mustafa Kemal had concluded and agreement? And Dursunoglu replied “Indeed, and it was fortunate that Kemal had reached an agreement. it was thanks to this decision that it was possible to end the revolt of the Koçgiri (the name of a Kurdish tribe in revolrt against Ankara in the anti-Taurus region of Sivas, at the beginning of 1920).
At theat ime the National Assembly had 93 Kurdish members. These 93 representatives passed a resolution specifying that they would remain under Mustafa Kemal’s command till the end of the war. Then came the Lausanne Conference. If the Kurds had not supported the Turks but the English instead would we be here today? And think of the fact that, at the very beginning of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, some Kurds had allied themselves with the Kurds living in Russia, the rest remaining loyal to the Ottomans. Just imagine that they had sided with the Russians — would not the the Soviets have ended up making a Kurdish Soviet Republic?
Since it is like this, why do you think they have accepted so much suffering and isolation. Were not the Kurds aware of what was happening in the world? If they were contented with the policy the State is carrying out today they would really seem the kings of asses.
And what about Iraq today?
Our leaders, our journalists are making the issue of the independence of the Kurds of Iraq a downright casus belli. Why? What have you to do with the Kurds of Iraq? Think what you like, Oh, dear national-racists, but if we have in the rest of the world one real friend then it not, indeed, the Iraqi Kurds, who are sitting on vast oil-fields South of us?
And such a friend is worth many others. What a shame that they have had so much stick from their friends that, today, they cant taste pease pudding without expecting to get burnt by it. The Kurds of Iraq do not want independence. Because it would be of no use to them. It is a federation that they want, deep in their hearts. Living in the context of a Federal State would much better serve their interests.
Yet certain people, the State, the Press, like one man stand up and say: “the Kurds will split Turkey”. Perhaps they know something of which we are unaware. Perhaps They possess some information the whole world wishes it had. Perhaps they know that this violence will never cease or lessen. Or if they don’t know it perhaps they wish it … Or perhaps, finally, none of them knows anything.
A war, however low its intensity may be, is still, nevertheless a war. And the State that wishes the war to persist, however powerful it may be, can only experience losses, cannot fail to be affected. We are well aware that the strength of those who want to continue the war fruitlessly is not of any value. The pain caused by the war goes to the heart of everyone.
The Kurds wanrt peace. And if this desire was not sincere is would very soon be obvious. It is always the national-racists who want to exclude the Kurds. They are free to discuss whatever they want. But these people have remained out of touch with the world. Whereas our people burn with desire for democracy, we have been unable to espouse the forms or enjoy the benefits. And if this situation were to persist we never will. In our times, a country’s wedding with democracy take place in the bed of its respectability.
Some years ago I said that democracy would come to pass through the Kurdish question. And you continue to forbid the mother tongue of millions of fellow citizens, to refuse the opening of schools in which to read and write this language… Of Universities in which to study nand develop this same language … The Kurds are not a minority, according to the Treaty of Lausanne. And so much the better, because then there would have been nothing that could not have been forbidden them.
How could we make a minority of our friends since Mantizkert, of those who fought along side us in the war of independence. The Kurds have, indeed, never been seenas a minority. Even under the worst conditions, they have never considered themselves as a minority. In all the exiles, in all the humiliations, to those who held that their language was did not exist, they have never brandished their identity as of a minority. For the simple reason that they are not a minority but well and truly our brothers. No one can tear away from them their brotherhood — it comes from a millennial past.
If we had not had these interdictions for the last 80 years, if we had not forgotten how close the Kurds were, if they had not been stiffled under line after line of bans, then today it would never have come to my mind to say such things. The Turkjish people has not forgotten its brother. A fierce propaganda has used the Kurds as a target. They have had to endure lynching, exile and yet more exile. Some have tried to push us all into a civil war. But there — people who live together on this land have not allowed room for these provocations, these incitements to hatred. There’s a encouraging attitude — a reaction pregnant with hope. We have passed through so many storms till now that, henceforth, we are going to go where we have to by the shortest way.
Democracy and cultural wealth.
Then there are those who say that there is no Kurdish language, that itis only a mosaic of local dialects. Either they do not know, or they are making it up. The Kurdish language is a rich language.And, from the kurdish languages there are derived many local dialects, according to regions, according to towns. The Kurdish language is also equipped with a rich literature — and languages that have a written literature are capable of being perpetuated for centuries. There are great ansd ancient epics in the Kurdish language. The Kurdish bards still continue todaqy to go round from village to village singing these epics: they even create new ones. People still speakm of ancient authors like Evdale Zeyniki— both a great poet and a great story teller…
Feqiye Teyran was another bard. He lived in the 14th Century, was the son of Mukus Emiri. His poetry compositions and his Divan are well known. His verses are still carried around by wandering singers and story tellers. 'ost of his poems are about birds, which is why he is called the “birds’ storywriter”. He passed his whole life with birds. Today there are still storytellers and creators of epics in Kirghizia — they are called Manasji. There were still some in Ireland until the last century.
Our period is going through a crisis of culture. In the last few years in particular a many works were being written about cultures. Cultural questions are issues of major importance, particularly in Europe…
It is no accident that so much importance is being given to culture. What makes a man a man is well culture. The world is a garden of cultures covered with thousands of flowers. Each flower has its particular colour and scent. Humanity owes it to itself to quiver over every culture. If we cut one of all these flowers, we remain orphans of one colour and one scent.
Until the time of imperialism, the various cultures mutually nurtured one another. The same is true of civilisations. There is no culture, no civilisation in the world that has been able to develop all by itself.
There are some people among the scientists and intellectuals who reject the plurality of cultures, tearing themselves apart and our country at the same time. They talk of Anatolia as the cradle of great cultures — but in their eyes we have no right to express ourselves.
Whether they like it or not, until the time of imperialism cultures fertilised one another. Imperialism, for its part, was attached to two notions inherited from the Renaissance: that of primitive man and superior man. And imperialism, confident of its own righteousness, decided to take culture to primitive men.
If we are capable of creating a genuine democracy in Anatolia, then other cultures of this region will start to fertilise one another. And Turkey, as in the past, will again take up this habit of contributing in the best manner to the cultural heritage of humanity.
If the men of this country make the choice of beauty, happiness and humanity then this cannot be by any other way than through the Universal Rights of Man and by freedom of thought, unlimited and universal.
As for the citizens of countries opposed to these values, thye will live without have any respect in the centuries to come, as people incapable of looking humanity in the eyes.
It is in our power to save the honour and the cultural wealth of our country. A genuine democracy or nothing.
On 6 January, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced the launching, in the next few days of a new security plan for Baghdad. The third of its kind in six monthsw, this plan will be carried out by Iraqi troops with the support of the US Army. On 8 January, the Minister for the Peshmergas, Jaafar al-Sheikh Mustafa, declared that “the Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Armywill take part in the security operations in Baghdad”. Three Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army have been sent to Baghdad to take part in the capital’s security plan without the Pesmedrgas taking part in the operations. Based on Suleimaniyah, Irbil and Dohuk, the Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army themselves are answerable to the central government’s Ministry of Defence.
According to a UNO report published 16 january, 34,000 civilians were killed ib the violence in Iraq during 2006, nearly half of them in Baghdad. Violence killed 34,452 civilians (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) in Iraq in 2006, that is an average of 94 deaths a day, the United Nations announced (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/o/onu.html) in its monthly report on the Human Rights situation in the country. Nearly half the violence occurred in Baghdad, which had 16,897 killed according to the capital’s institute of Forensic medicine, while 17,585 were recorded in the rest of Iraq, pointed out the authors of this report. “Baghdad (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) is the centre of sectarian violence”, they noted. “Armed Sunni and Shiite groups try to take control of mixed quarters by intimidating and assassinating the civilian populations, forced to take refuge in quarters of the city inhabited or controlled by their own ethnic group”.
In addition, according to UNO, over 36,000 Iraqis were injured in 2006, while at least 470,094 people have been displaced under constraint since the bomb attack on the Shiite mosque in Samara (North of Baghdad) (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) last February, which sparked off an explosion of sectarian violence. The report’s statistics were collated from Information provided by the Ministry of Health as well as from morgues and hospitals throughout the country.
The assessment of political violence in the civilian population established by the Ministry of the Interior reached a new record in January. The figures published, which only throw a partial light on the number of violent deaths, show 1,992 deaths due to (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/terrorisme.html) terrorism in January, as against 1,925 in December, the previous record. This assessment, which is based on information collected from different Ministries, is not exhaustive, but does confirm the tendency revealed by other statistics. The United Nations (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/o/onu.html) which gathers data from the Ministry of Health and from the Baghdad morgue (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) evaluated the civilian losses in December at 2,914 deaths. The have recorded 3,462 deaths in November. The figures, obtained from the security services, include the dozens of unidentified bodies found every day in Iraq. At the same time, “586 terrorists were killed and 1,921 were arrested in January as against 314 Killed and 1,034 detained in December” according to the same source. Losses among the security forces were lower in January7 than in December: 95 members of the security forces were killed (55 police and 40 soldiers) against 148 in december (125 police and 23 soldiers). The number of wounded was also slightly less: 220 in January (135 police and 85 soldiers) against 249 in December (211 police and 39 soldiers).
The Shiites continue to be the principal victims (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html)in Iraq (77%) according to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The mourning commemorations of the festival of Ashura in Iraq (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html), which draw nearly 1.5 million pilgrims to the holy city of Kerbala plunged several other towns into mourning. In all, 56 people were killed on 30 January in attacks on mosques (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) in Iraq, including ten inhabitants of the Sunni quarter of Adhamiyah, North-West of Baghdad, killed by a mortar shell that fell on their houses, while the bodies of eight assassinated people were found in the capital.
In Kurdisatan, twelve Kurds were killed and 38 injured by the explosion of a bomb near a Shiite place of worship in the centre of Khaneqin. The bomb attack was aimed at the Fayli community at the moment when it was commemorating the Ashura mourning, the principal Shiite festival, which is in memory of the death of Imam Hussein in 680 after his defeat by the armies of the Omayyad Calif Yazid. On 18 november 2005, suicide bombers hit the two principal mosques of Khaneqin, killing at least 74 people and causing great damage to the two religious buildings. Khaneqin is not in the autonomous region of Kurdistan but in the province of Diyala. Today nit is principally inhabited by Faylis.
On the other hand, some two million Iraqis have fled their country to escape the daily bomb attacks and intercommunal violence, giving rise to tensions in Syria and Jordan, two neighbouring countries that receive the major part of the refugees. According to the United Nations (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/o/onu.html), this is the largest population displacement since the Near East (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/p/proche-orient.html) since the palestinian exodus at the time of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. According to Stephane Jacquemet, regional representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR), “between half a million and one million Iraqis are in Jordan, an equivalent number in Syria, probably over 100,000 (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/e/egypte.html) in Egypt, between 20,000 and 40,000 (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/l/liban.html) in the Lebanon, 54,000 (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/i/iran.html) in Iraqn and an undetermined number (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/t/turquie.html) in Turkey. Moreover, according to the American NGO International Medical Corps (IMC), over half a million people fled their homes in Iraq last year because of inter-communal violence and a million others could also be constrained to do so by the summer. On 30 January, the IMC, which has over 300 staff in Iraq, stressed that the number of displaced people would increase at a very great rate, particularly in the capital, which has about six million inhabitants. According to a study by this NGO, 80% of the nearly 550,000 Iraqi civilians who fled their homes after the bomb attack on the Shiite sanctuary of Samara in February 2006, are now in Baghdad. The United Nations estimate that the number of people displaced inside Iraq is about 1.7 million.
Furthermore, on 16 January, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, secured, in Kuwait, the support of some Arab leaders for the Bush plan for Iraq — without, however, any precis commitment to the Iraqi government — to counter Iran’s influence in Iraq (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html). Meeting in the evening roung Mrs. Rice, the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt called on Iran to abstain from any interference in the region and welcomed President Bush’s decision (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) to reinforce the US military establishment in the Gulf. Their joint communiqué, the first since the creation in September of the “CCG+2” — Council of Gulf Cooperation (Saudi Arabia, Kuqait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein, and Oman) plus Egypt and Jordan —does not mention Iran by name. “The participants affirm that disagreements between states should be settled by peaceful means and in accordance with international standards and that relations between all countries should be founded on mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, as well as on the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs” indicates this document. Moreover, the Arab allies (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) of the United States, upon whom Mrs Rice is counting to counter the rising influence of Iran in the region, welcomed the new American plan for iraq. This provides for sending more than 20,000 additional troops and the increase of aid for reconstruction to Iraq as well as the deployment of Patriot missiles to protect Washington’s allies.
According tom a 130-page report published by the Brookings Institution, a private geopolitical Institute close to the Democrats, Iraq is in the process of plunging into a civil war that will probably spread to neighbouring countries, following on the massive death-rolls and the flood of refugees. The report foresees disastrous consequences, including serious disturbances in oil production and a serious drop in American influence in the region. The report recommends the creation of a regional group to help contain the civil war by contacting Iran and Syria , which the present Bush Administration has so far refused. The Institution, located in Washington, indicated that the report bases itself on the lessons learnt from other civil wars,particularly in Afghanistan, the Congo, Lebanon, Somalia and in ex-Yugoslavia.
Mustafa Akinci, former Vice-President of North Cyprus (Editor’s Note: Under Turkish military occupation since 1974, a “state” that is only recognised by Ankara) and President of the Movement for Peace and Democracy has given a long interview to the Turkish daily Radikal. Below are extensive extracts of this interview with its journalist Nese Duizel, published on 15 January under the headline “We are the first to reject control by the Turkish Army”.
Mustafa Akinci defines North Cyprus in these terms: “The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (KKTC) is an entity called a state but which cannot fulfill any state functions. It is a construction under the control of Turkey. It is also an entity recognised no other state, of which even Turkey does not fulfill and the conditions required for its recognition. (…)
The Turkish Cypriots do not want to be a minority, neither with respect to Turkey or to the Greek Cypriots, who numerically are in the majority on the island. But today we are tending to become a minority in Turkey. In the KKTC, the number of Turkish Cypriots is reducing daily whereas the number of people originating from Turkey keeps increasing (…) Today the Party oof Justice and Development (AKP — in power), that is to say Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has more influence over thousands of electors in North Cyprus than any local politician, because they have been settled here by Turkey and so look permanently towards Ankara … (…)
The KKYC is in theory independent but, concretely, it is run from Turkey through the civil and military bureaucracy —and has been from the start.Some elections took place during the Annan plan phase, a new President and a new government were elected, as if the status quo had been invalidated. This image suited Turkey, but the status quo had never been destroyed. This could be seen by the fact that the president of a State said to be independent could not even have a crossing demolished (Editor’s Note: the Lokmaci bridge crossing) in his own country’s capital without (Turkish) authorisation. Turkey has tried for years to get the KKTC recognised as an independent State, but with this last incident everyone can see clearly that it is not really an independent State and that it is under (Turkish) military supervision. In any case, along side the army there is also the domination by the bureaucracy of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Today be have to save ourselves from this military and civil bureaucracy and redefine the relations between Turkey and the KKTC.
(…) Of course, there will be soldiers on these lands, but must a President elected b y the people continue to have difficulties whenever he wants to demolish a simple crossing? In this country, must the fire brigade continue to be under the orders of (Turkish) soldiers? Cannot the President of the Central Bank be of Turkish Cypriot origin?”
“During the last Lokmaci crisis the KKTC police prevented the carrying out of the decisions of the country’s own President. Is the KKTC police under the orders of the Turkish General Staff?”, asked Nese Duzel.
Mustafa Akinci replied in the affirmative . stressing that “advertisements such as “Do not come to destroy this crossing. Whoever comes to destroy it will be imprisoned” were published in the press without ever being contradicted” (…)
“In our country the police is not under the orders of the LLTC authorities nor of the Cyprus Turks. It is not connected to the civil authorities, that is to the Ministry of the Interior. In the KKTC there is no security force under the orders of the civil authorities. The police is linked to the Security Forces Command, the Commander is Chief of which is just a general landed on us from Turkey. (…) The police acts in accordance withthe wishes of the military authorities. In any case, the Lokmaci crossing could only have been destroyed after a consensus with Ankara. There has been no development since the foundation of the KKTC in 1983. Turkey has never accepted that the Turkish Cypriots rule themselves as they wished. The Turkish civil and military bureaucracy has always intervened in the disguise of a political party or through the vice-presidents of a political party or even covered by the Army or some civil bureaucrats. Governments have fallen and others formed — even elections were interfered with. Turkey also intervened in the 1990 elections of the KKTC (…)”, Mustafa Akinci continued.
Deputy Prime Minister of the KKTC in 200, Mustafa Akinci thus described his own experience of government: “At the time we were part of a coalition government. We had recommended a civil government and asked that we should not run away from negotiations with the Greek Cypriots. That was why our coalition government was overthrown. The military authorities intervened openly to this end. When I said to our government partner, Dervis Eroglu, who was, moreover, President of the National Union Party and Prime Minister, “We all need democracy. Today it’s me — tomorrow it will be you” — he retorted: “I can’t punch with my fists against a knife‹”. This is how the Prime Minister explained that he couldn’t oppose the military authorities that — quite clearly — were overthrowing the government. (…)
There are two armies in the KKTC. The first is an army called the Security Forces of the Cyprus Turks, and consists of 2 or 3 thousand soldiers, the second is called the Turkish Peace Force. Both armies have, at their head, commanders parachuted there from Ankara by the Turkish Armed forces General Staff. A Turkish Cypriot cannot be head of the KKTC armed forces. The independence of the KKTC is just cosmetic, we must stop calling it an independent State (…) It is a territory where the word of a military or civilian bureaucrat from Turkey has total authority over any important questions. Some time ago, there were riots at them casino owned by Yasar Oz, a public figure involved in the Susurluk scandal (Editor’s Note: a car accident in the Turkish town of Susurluk that brought to light the collusion between the police, the mafia and Turkish politicians). Two people were killed and another seriously injured. Yasar Oz was one of those charged in this affair. Yet after five or six days detention he was expelled by a sudden decision of the council of Ministers (of the KKTC). He returned to Turkey and was freed. The question was to know if this man was guilty. If so why free him? If not, why expel him? Moreover he was married to a Turkish Cypriot girl from here (…) A power superior to that of the council of Ministers was able to do this. it was said that the Council took that decision, but that was just a formality. No one believes that our Council of Ministers could have concocted such a decision of its own free will…
“It is always said that Cyprus is an island of crime and that it secures a large part of its revenue from dirty money” Nese Duzel asked the former Vice-President of the KKTC.
“So long as international law is not in force here, there will always be this kind of problem in the KKTC. àààthis means, for example, not making it possible for criminals, wonted in other countries to roam around in the KKTC without being bothered. Today they can go about in peace (…) Not being recognised by other states, we cannot sign treaties for extraditing criminals with States. Thes e people can then come and work untroubled in North Cyprus, or we have Yasar Oz in the casino sector (…) When I was Minister for Tourism i imposed the condition of “500 beds and five stars” for opening a casino to avoid their proliferation. Later however, authorisation of gambling joints was made more easy. In 2000, in my period in office, there were 19 gaming rooms, today there are 30 with new ones going up — all this in a little area of some 3,300 square Km. International reports indicated that money laundering there. The owners of most of these casinos are from Turkey. Moreover, in North Cyprus there are over a hundred betting shops One can place bets on football matches, horse or dog races. We also have 45 to 50 night clubs in which young women originating from eastern Europe are working, and the State knows that there is prostitution in these places (…) It is not possible for the mafia to develop inan independent country developing in accordance with international law. But if that independence takes place outside of international law, in the context of a pirate island you can have the mafia as well as money laundering. Today there is trafficking in human beings. People are kidnapped from the South and brought North. These are not little affairs There is a gambling mafia and drug trafficking. We do not have a shining panorama.
(…) The KKTC does not claim to want to be a fully independent State in the political sense of the term. The Turkish Cypriots want what is possible. They want to create a federation with the Greek Cypriots. They want to be reunited with the Greek Cypriots in a federal state with equal status. The Annan plan, to which we replied positively, with a 65% YES, which the Greek Cypriots rejected by 75%, would have given this. What we want is a federal European state, similar to that of Belgium or Switzerland. We did not say YES” to the Annan plan just for economic reasons, we accepted it for a new way of living…”, concluded Mustafa Akinci.
On 16 January, the European Court for Human Rights once again found turkey guilty of ill-treatment inflicted by police and gendarmes on a detainee suspected of belonging to the Kurdistan workers’ Party (PKK). The Strasbourg judges awarded 15,000 euros to Veli Tosun, 41 years of age, detained in Diyarbekir prison, who complained of having been beaten up by the Istanbul police and by the gendarmes on his arrival at Diyarbekir prison in 1999.
Placed in detention on 22 June 1999 in the premises of the Istanbul police, Veli Tosum was transferred to Diyarbekir, where a medical examination revealed a bruise covering the whole of his left biceps. Following his complaint, criminal proceedings were started. Part of the gendarmes implicated were acquitted but the case of the others gendarmes involved is still pending. àIn the absence of any explanation of the cause of the lesions observed the European Court considered that Turkey was responsible for the injuries and concluded that the petitioner had suffered inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the Convention — a breach time and again noted in Turkey bu the European judges.
The Court also noted in its ruling that the petitioner’s remand in custody for membership of the PKK has lasted for over seven years and four months — an unjustifiably long period which was not justified by the circumstances. The european judges therefrom a violation of the right to freedom as wellqas hism right to effective recourse.
According to an official report published on 31 January, tens of millions of dollars of aid for reconstruction of Iraq (http://fr.news.yahoo.com/dossier/irak.html) have been wasted by the American government, in particular the projects such as an Olympic swimming pool that has never been used or for military equipment all trace of which has been lost. The war in Iraq has already cost the US taxpayers over $300 billion (232 billion euros) 21 billion of which was for reconstruction — with “limited success to date” estimated Inspector General Stuart Bowen Jr in his quarterly audit. According to this report, the US State Department, for example, paid $43.8 million (33.8 million euros) to DynCorp International to build housing in the Baghdad suburbs for Iraqi Police training personnel. This housing complex has remained empty for months. About $4.2 million (3.2 million euros) was spent building an Olympic swimming pool and on acquiring a stock of 20 caravans intended to welcome outstanding visitors. These last expenses were decided by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior without United States (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usaq.html) approval. Another major irregularity: US leaders spent $36.4 million (28 million euros) on armoured vehicles, body armour and communications equipment, no trace of which remains. DynCorp is also said to have issued $18 million worth of invoices that may be unjustified, according to the audit. Then State Department affirms that it set up a system of invoice verification, which, moreover, rejected a $1.1 million note (850 million euros) from DynCorp this month.
Stuart Bowen’s audit comes at a time when US President George W. Bush is trying to convince Congress, which now has a Democrat majority, to approve a complementary envelope of $1.2 billion (930 million euros)for reconstruction in Iraq. In the course of the last quarter, Stuart Bowen’s office has opened 27 new investigations, bringing the number of affairs to 78. Twenty-nine are likely to lead to legal proceeding, mostly for corruption. However, “fraud has not been a significant element of the American experience in Iraq”, moderates Stuart Bowen. Of the $21 billion dollars (16 billion euros) of the Iraq reconstruction fund created in 2003, the bulk has been allocated to security (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/s/security.html) and Justice (34%) as well as to the production and distribution of electricity (23%), which, however, remains lower than before the war. Twelve percent of the expenditure on reconstruction has been devoted to water, as much again to economic development, 9% to oil (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/crise-du-petrole.html) and gas, 4% to transport and communications, and another 4%n on Health. The auditors their “anxiety” about the future management of reconstruction by the Iraqi government. The latter still has “billions of dollars allocated that remained unspent at the end of 2006”, they write. They also stress that “the most important challenge (in Iraq)remains the strengthening of the State of law — the judicial system, (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/p/prisons.html) prisons and the police”.“The United States has spent billions of dollars in this area, with, to date, limited success”.
Otherwise, on 16 January, the ex-director of the UN “Oil for Food” programme in Iraq, the Cypriot Benon Seven, was charged with corruption by a New York Court, which issued an international warrant for his arrest. According to the charge sheet, Mr. Seven is said to have received $160,000 from the Iraqi government through Ephraim Nadler, another Cypriot, who is also being charged. Benon Seven, 69 years of age, faces 50 years jail. He had resigned from UNO in August 2005 after having been implicated by the commission of enquiry led by a former American banker, Paul Volcker. He had then left New York for North Cyprus. In a communiqué, Benon Seven’s American lawyer refuted the charges against his client, which he described as “groundless”. His co-accused, Ephraim Nadler, is the brother-in-law of the former UN General Secretary, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who is not implicated in the scandal. Mr. Nadler faces sentences of 112 years jail. The American court has issued international warrants for the arrest of Messrs. Nadler and Seven and demands their extradition. “The “Oil for Food” programme was set up to supply humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people and not to fill the pockets of corrupt officials” declared Judge Robert Morgenthau. The american courts have accused a total of 14 people of corruption in this case. Am UN spokesman, Farhan Haq, indicated that the General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, who was in Washington to meet President George W. Bush and members of Congress, “wants to say that the United Nations have co-operated with the authorities in regard to following up on the Volcker report and (…) will continue to do so”.
The “Oil for Food” programme had been set up by the Security Council. It had allowed Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil, under UN control, between 1996 and 2003, and to buy in exchange goods for the population at a time when the country was under an international embargo following the invasion of Kuwait. However, the Iraqi government had perverted the system and several billion dollars had been embezzled. The scandal was revealed in January 2004. An independent Commission of enquiry, led by the former US Federal Reserve banker Paul Volcker was set up. It produced several reports of its investigations in which it detailed many weaknesses and mistakes in the UN’s management of the programme, as well as some cases of corruption. Several governments have launched investigations into certain of their citizens following this report.
On 30 January, the United States (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) announced a freeze on the sale of spare parts for the F-14 fighters to avoid their landing in the hands of the Iranians and warned that any blockage of the Gulf by Teheran could turn against the Islamic Republic. Iran had bought F-14 fighters from the US (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) before the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Sales were suspended on 26 January. Till then, the Americans used to sell spares parts for this planes by auction. US President George W. Bush (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) repeated, during an interview on the ABC TV channel that the US had no plans for invading Iran but would increase diplomatic pressure to convince Teheran to put an end to its programme of uranium enrichment. The strengthening of US military presence in the Gulf is also a signal addressed to Teheran. President Bush has also decided to sent a second aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, with its naval escort group, to the Gulf. Its arrival will reinforce the American naval forces stationed in the region to their highest level since the intervention in Iraq in 2003.
According to the specialist US review Aviation Weekly, citing a senior official, Iran is on the point of launching a satellite into space. Such a launching could represent a new threshold of the Islamic Republic’s military capacities. “Iran has transformed its most powerful ballistic missile into a satellite launching vehicle”, wrote this review, that specialises in space issues, on its internet site on 26 January. The launcher has been assembled recently and will take off soon to put an Iranian satellite into orbit the review affirms, citing remarks by the president of the Iranian Parliament’s Commission for Foreign Affairs and Security, Alla’eddin Borujerdi. This senior leader is said to have made these remarks to a group of Shiite theology students and clerics in the holy city of Qom. It is near Qom that Iran has already carried out several tests of ballistic missiles, the review points out. The American intelligence agencies cited by this magazine believe that the launcher could be a modified version of the Shahab-3 ballistic missile. With a range of 3,000 Km, the Shahab-3 missiles are capable of reaching Israel, Saudi Arabia, the whole Gulf region and Southern Turkey. A launcher with an even greater range would give Teheran the possibility of hitting central europe, Russia, India and China.
Furthermore, on 23 January the Itar-Tass Press agency reported that Russia had completed delivery of the missile defence system Tor-M1 to Iran, citing the chief State managed arms exporter, Roboronexport. Russia fulfilled its contract and “fully completed delivery of the Tor-M1 defence system at the end of December 2006”, indicated Serguei Shemezov, the head of Roboronexport. Iran signed a contract with Russia to buy 29 Tor-M1 missile systems in November 2005, as part of a $700 million contract. Russian leaders have described the missiles as anti-aircraft that can only be used to attack aircraft and low altitude guided missiles, but cannot be used to bomb land targets. “We are developing our military and technical cooperation in accordance with international law and will continue to do so”, the Russian Defence Minister, Serguei Ivanov stressed on 16 January. The Russo-Iranian agreement covers conventional weapons and does not violate any international ruling. The Tor-M1 system can identify up to 48 targets and fire at two of them simultaneously to an altitude of up to 6,000 metres (20,000 feet).
On 5 January, the US State Department announced that (http://fr.fc.yahoo.com/u/usa.html) the United Stateshad imposed economic sanctions on Chinese, Russian and North Korean companies that had sold missiles and weapons to Iran and to Syria. The sanctions, which ban, for the next two years, any trade between the US government or firms and these companies, came into force on 28 December, pointed out a State Department official. He did not specify what had prompted these punitive measures but, according to the Washington Times, which revealed the existence of these sanctions, the targeted companies have in particular sold missiles to syria and arms to Iran and Syria. The three Chines State companies are Zibo Chemical Equipment , China National Aerotechnology Import Export Corp. and China National Electrical Import Export Co. according to a State Department communiqué published in the official journal. The three Russian firms targeted are the State Roboronexport and the firms Kolomna Design Bureau and Tula Design Bureau of Instrument Building. The North Korean mining company is the Mining and Industrial Development Corp. The Russian companies have sharply criticised these measures, affirming that they are observing international legislation.
On 8 January, a congress, organised by the Iraqi High Council for Audiovisual and Telecommunicattions on Freedom of the Press in Iraq opened at the UNESCO offices in Paris. Those taking part, including about a hundred Iraqi journalists and Members of Parliament examined, in particular, the protection of journalists in this country, which remains the deadliest for media professionals. Many of them having come from Iraq, the participants observed a minutes silence in memory of journalists killed in that country, at the request of the Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Koichiro Marsuura. In 2006, Iraq was still, for the fourth year running, “the most dangerous” country for media professionals, with 64 journalists and assistants killed and 17 kidnapped, according to the annual report published on 31 December by Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). “The bulk of the victims were local journalists who defended freedom and encouraged dialogue”. noted the Director General of UNESCO, confirming RSF’s observation that 90%of the victims of violence against the media were Iraqis.
In all, 139 journalists have been killed in iraq since the war began in 2003, “that is more than twice the number killed in the twenty years of the war in Vietnam (63 killed between 1955 and 1975)”. The Director of UNESCO expressed the hope that an end be put to this violence and that the journalists be able to work “in all security”. He also argued in favour of a “strategy of freedom of the press” in this country, where the media were placed under strict control by the former regime of the fallen dictator, Saddam Hussein. “The Iraqi government must be helped to provide an environment favourable to the free exercise of the profession of journalist”, he said, calling on the journalists not to get involved in the sectarian conflict that is tearing the country apart.
UNESCO is contributing to the setting up of an international programme for training Iraqi journalists that is endowed with a three million euros budget. According to a document adopted after three days work at the UNESCO offices, the members of the congress recommended the abolition of the requirement of administrative authorisation as a precondition for exercising the profession of journalism and of newspaper publishing. They also called for the abrogation of all Iraqi laws that hinder freedom of expression and prevent the media from working “in all freedom”. “The government, the US Army and the international forces must work to consolidate the freedom of the press”.