The European Union’s October report on Turkey’s progress towards membership of the Union highlights some “substantial efforts” that need to be made regarding not only freedom of expression but also freedom of association and meeting, religious freedom and, finally, little, if any, progress in certain aspects regarding the conflict with the Kurds.
It is still forbidden to use any other language than Turkish in public or administrative services, despite the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Congress of local and regional authorities. Turkish Courts have ruled against any use or more than one language by municipal services. Despite dropping some charges and some acquittals, legal proceedings against mayors and local councillors for using other languages than Turkish have been reported.
The minister of the Interior has temporarily suspended 55 representatives of local authorities, including the Mayors of Van, Sirnak, Silopi, Idil, Uludere and Cizre together with members of the municipal and provincial councils as part of an enquiry into the KCK. In only one case (that of the Mayor of Siirt) the suspension was cancelled after the 3rd judicial reform came into force.
The number and quality of detention centres for minors remain insufficient. Following allegations of ill treatment in the Adana Pozanli children’s prison, the children were transferred to Ankara, far from their families. In all prisons, moreover, children are not separated from adults, especially the girls.
There are still abusive restrictions on access to newspapers, magazines and books as well as on the use of Kurdish during visits to prisoners and in their correspondence, Many sick detainees, some terminally ill, receive no suitable medical attention. There have been complaints about the living conditions in the high security type prisons (type F) resulting in psychological and physiological damage
Freedom of expression
A number of journalists have spent an excessive length of time in detention awaiting trial.
Wile the third judicial reform forbids the seizing of writing before their publication, it makes easier restrictions on media coverage of criminal investigations. The report notes, however, that it is easier to discuss certain sensitive subjects like the Armenian question and the role of the Army and that the opposition regularly expresses its ideas.
Despite this, the reform has failed really to improve freedom of expression and the number of violations of this freedom, as well as that of media, continues to grow. There is also an increase in the imprisonment of journalists, of media professionals and of distributers.
The European Court for Human Rights has received a great number of petitions regarding violations of freedom of expression in Turkey. Many of these cases cover authors and journalists, but also academics, and researchers writing and working on the Kurdish question. Many Kurdish and Left wing journalists have been arrested for propaganda in favour of terrorism and some are still imprisoned. Moreover, over 2 800 students are also detained for the same reasons. The legal framework connected with the crime of organised terrorism is still imprecise and contains definitions that provide a free field for many charges and sentences. Especially as the interpretation of these laws by prosecutors is not in conformity with the European Convention of Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court for Human Rights. Turkey must reform its anti-terror legislation to establish a clear distinction between incitement to violence and the expression of non-violent ideas.
Thus application of Articles 6 and 7 of the Ant-Terror Law combined with Articles 220 and 314 of the Turkish Penal Code lead to abuses: writing an article or making a speech can lead to lead to court action and a heavy sentence for “membership of a terrorist organisation” or for “leading a terrorist organisation”.
Freedom of assembly.
The 1st of May demonstrations took place in peaceful atmosphere throughout the country. However, several activities including the commemoration of the Armenian genocide, organised by several groups of the civil society to commemorate the events of 1915 did not take place so peacefully. Restrictions persist on freedom of assembly and the administrative constraints on demonstrations such as the choice of place or date are inappropriate. The celebrations of Newroz (the Kurdish New Year) are only allowed for a single day.
On several occasions, violent scenes, disturbance of demonstrations and a disproportionate use of force by the police have occurred, principally during demonstrations connected with the Kurdish question , with the rights of students and Trade Union rights. Two students were sentenced to 8 years in prison for having unrolled a banner protesting against the tuition fees during a demonstration at which the Prime Minister was present.
In some provinces, press communiqués issued y NGOs and Human Rights defenders have been subjected to fines under law N° 2911 covering demonstrations or else as criminal offenses.
Allegations of excessive violence by the security forces are still not the subject of proceedings or serious enquiries, On the other hand, legal proceedings have been peaceful assembly aimed at Human Rights defenders or representatives of civil society who had exercised their right to peaceful assembly. The same human Rights defenders also face charges and legal proceedings for “terrorist propagandas” following demonstrations or for have taken part in press conferences.
Freedom of opinion, of conscience or religion.
In general, religious freedom continues to be respected. A certain number of “crypto-Armenians” have assumed their original names and resumed the practice of their religion. Some religious leaders have received police protection as have several churches during religious services.
In Ankara a magistrate’s court had rejected a demand to sentence an association that had helped build a “cem house” (an Alevi religious service). The appeal court quashed its decision in June. The case was then taken to the Courts by the Minister of the Interior.
New religious education manuals containing information about the Alevis have been designed by the Minister of Education for the year 2012 -2013.
However, the ruling given in 2007 in the case of Zengin v Turkey by the European Court for Human Rights on the religious culture and lessons on customs and morals and remain obligatory for all primary and secondary schools have not been applied. The children who do not attend them a subjected to discrimination and no alternative id offered to them.
The non-Moslem communities continue to face problems connected with their absence of any legal status, which has negative effects on their right to own property, their right of access to the courts the possibility of securing work permits or residence permits for foreign priests, as well as the possibility of collecting funds. The recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 2010 have not been applied.
Restrictions on the training of clergy remain in force. Neither Turkish legislation nor the education system provide for private religious higher education for the communities. Despite announcements made by the authorities, the Greek Orthodox Seminar at Halki (Heybeliada) is still closed. The proposal by the Armenian Patriarch to open a University department for teaching the Armenian language has remained suspended for 5 years. The Syriac Orthodox community has only the right to provide some informal training outside schooling.
Personal documents such as identity cards contain information of a person’s religion (at birth) which leads to discriminatory practices or harassment by the local authorities , especially for people who have converted from Islam to another religion and who seek to have this change shown on their identity papers. The ruling by the European Court of human Rights, handed down in 2012, that any indication of religion on identity cards was a violation of the Convention on Human Rights has not been applied..
The “openness” promised to the Alevis in 2000 has not been put into effect. The “Cem houses” are not officially recognised and Alevis meet difficulties in trying to create new places of worship. The Alevis are concerted by the way their houses have been marked out in some provinces and the resulting incidents threatening them. Some Alevis associations have filed complaints and some administrative and legal enquiries are taking place. The demand to open a Cem House in the parliament has been rejected on the grounds that Alevi members of parliament can go to the mosque. Several commemoration ceremonies have been banned by the police —sometimes forcibly. Alevis suffer from discrimination in their access to public employment
In general, the non-Moslem religious communities report discrimination, administrative uncertainty and obstruction to the opening of places of worship. In the (Kurdish) Southeast especially, the renewal of residential permits to foreign clergy have been refused without any adequate explanation and in an incoherent manner. Clear criteria for refusing to renew permits to reside or work must be established.
The Alevi and the other religious communities have to pay for the supply of electricity and water to their places of worship, whereas the State covers these expenses for the upkeep of mosques. These communities have been targeted by several hate crimes. The incitement to hatred and to anti-Semitism is also found in some TV series and films, without being sanctioned. There is a culture of intolerance towards minorities.
The trial of the murderers of three Protestants at Malatya in April 2007 is continuing and its links with the Ergenekon organisation have been alleged following the arrests in 2011. No clear conclusions have yet been made regarding the murder at Trabzon in 2006 of Father Santoto, a Catholic priest. As for the murder of Bishop Padovese, at Iskanderun in 2010, the case is still being investigated.
The Syriac community continues to be exposed to difficulties over their property rights and land registers. Legal proceedings are under way involving both individuals and religious institutions. The Orthodox monastery of Mer Gabriel is still undergoing court proceedings over its property deeds: the Court of Appeals passed a strongly criticised ruling that quashed the previous decision of a local court in favour of the monastery. Legal proceedings with the Water and Forests authority against this monastery have been brought before the European Court of Human Rights, which is due to rule on the admissibility. All these proceedings have been initiated by the State, which has even confiscated a considerable number of properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Church that, like the other non-Moslem religious communities, has no legal status.
Some progress has been recorded since the adoption, in 2008, of the law regarding foundations — bit this legislation does not include “merged” foundations (taken over by the General Directorate for Foundations) or the property confiscated from Alevi foundations. The case of Mar Gabriel has aroused concern and Turkey must guarantee full observance of the property rights of non-Moslem religious communities and others.
Respect and protection of minorities’ cultural rights.
Turkey has still not endorsed the Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities or the European Charter on regional languages and minorities,
Several groups, Kurdish or other languages and some civil organisations have submitted demands to the Conciliation Committee of Parliament for lifting, in the new Constitution of the restrictions on the use of their mother tongues.
In June 2012 the Ministry of National Education published a new programme for primary schools that included, an obligation for schools to add a course on living languages, like Kurdish or Cherkassy or some dialects if at least 10 pupils asked for this.
Artuklu University, in Mardin, continues its programme of Higher Education in Zaza or Kurmanji Kurdish. The Department of Kurdish language and literature at Alparslan University, at Mus, continues its optional course on the Kurdish Language. However, because of a lack of qualified teachers, the future of these higher education courses is not secure.
In December 2011 the Council for Higher Education (YOK) approved a demand of Dersim University (Tunceli) to open a department of Oriental language and literature, including Zaza and Kurmanji Kurdish for a 4 0year University degree course. Recruiting of additional staff is needed to make this department fully operational.
A Syriac Language monthly (the first ever in Turkey) began publishing in March.
Turkey has achieved some progress regarding cultural rights and there are fewer restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language in prison or in the detainees’ correspondence. However, some laws still restrict the use of other languages than Turkish, particularly in the courts.
The situation in the East and Southeast (Turkish Kurdistan).
In April 2012, a whole series of measures to encourage investment in the less developed regions and to reduce the disparity between regions were taken. The GAP project to “improve the socio-economic development of the region” was extended by 5 years. The projects of building dams is continuing but are criticised as threats to lasting development and destroying to the living conditions of the local population as well as their historical heritage, the natural habitats, animal and vegetable species and agricultural land.
Mine clearance of the land is continuing.
As far as the Kurds question is concerned, the reporters note that this remains “the principal challenge for democracy in Turkey” and that the “democratic opening” announced in 2009 has not been followed by any results. “The terrorist attacks by the PKK, which is still on the European Union’s list of list terrorist organisations” have significantly increased and are “strongly condemned” by the European Union. The investigation into the Communities of Kurdistan (KCL) The enquiry into the Union of Kurdistan Communities, which I presumed to be the “urban branch” of the PKK and its extension has led to an increasing number of Kurdish political men affiliated to the BDP being held in detention. This includes Mayors and members of local councils, which affects democracy at regional and local levels as well as their effective running. According to official figures, 31 mayors and 226 local representatives are at present locked up.
The deaths of 34 civilians at Uludere (Sirnak) on 28 December 2011 during air raids and the absence of any transparency or public enquiry have also undermined public confidence. The authorities prevented NGOs from visiting the places bombed. In February, a Parliamentary Human Rights sub-commission was set up and legal and administrative enquiries took place. However, there are concerns about their lack of transparency and effectiveness. At the end of February the Sirnak Public prosecutor sent the Uludere case to the Diyarbekir Prosecutor (who is invested with special powers) saying that did not come under his jurisdiction. There has been no discussion on the political responsibilities, on the mistakes or the military intelligence, nor have the inhabitants received any direct apologies of excuses from the military or civil authorities.
The EU therefore recommends that special attention be paid to maintaining the primacy of law in the KCK enquiry and that a public enquiry take place on the Uludere tragedy.
The Kurdish question, like other long-lasting problems in Turkey, could, nevertheless be resolved by a Constitutional revision.
Thus, between November 2011 and April 2012, a Commission of Conciliation has thus held public consultations with a wide range of parties not represented in Parliament: State organs, trade associations, trade Unions, non-governmental organisations. For the first time representatives of religious minorities were officially invited to Parliament.
The major challenges of constitutional reform are the separation of powers, the relations between the State and religion and civil society and finally the Kurdish problem (citizenship, the use of one’s mother tongue and decentralisation) on which the Kurdish BDP party was the only one to adopt a “firm position” by presenting, in July 2012, a detailed note on fundamental rights and freedoms.
The new Constitution must consolidate the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the primacy of law, Human Rights, the respect and rights of minorities and resolve long-standing problems, in particular the Kurdish question. “On the whole. The government is committed to a democratisation of the country and to political reforms through working on a new constitution, but legislation was drafted and adopted with sufficient preparation and consultation”.
The trail regarding the JHTEM and Colonel Temizoz regarding their extra-judicial executions and the disappearance of people during the 90s is continuing in the Diyarbekir Court for Serious Crimes. However many of the cases are approaching the statute of limitations.
No plan has yet been draw up to dismantle the Village Guardians system — that para-military force of over 45,000 militia paid and armed by the State.
The refugees and displaced persons.
Period for carrying out the law for compensation of losses resulting from “terrorism and the fight against terrorism” was extended for another year in April. By September, 361,391 demands had been submitted to the Commission for evaluating damages, 305,758 have been evaluated, 166,158 cases have received remuneration, and 139,600 have had their demands rejected. The commission granted 1,230,000,000 € to petitioners who signed for an out of court settlement. However there are still delays in payments. Various claims were rejected by the administrative courts and certain cases are pending before the European Court for Human Rights. It is necessary to examine the effectiveness of the legislation and the procedure for granting compensation.
The number of people displaced internally has increased as a result of the as a result of the two earthquake at Van in October and November 2011. The Tuzla camp for displaced persons at Mersin, that was set up 15 years ago, needs to be improved in terms of provision of services and housing. Displaced persons often live in worse conditions than are the norm in other camps. Many cannot be returned to the paces where they used to live principally for security reasons, the Village Guardians system, the presence of mines a lack of basic infrastructure as well as the limited possibilities of employment. The authorities have not yet provided any information about any plans for Rebuilding and town planning for Van.
On the other hand the report considers that “the Turkish authorities have shown a high level of efficiency and operational ability” in facing up to the continuous inflow of Syrian refugees into Turkey since the start of the crisis in Syria. The status of temporary Protection, granted to all the camp residents at the end of October 2011 now implies open frontiers, humanitarian assistance and the impossibility of forcibly sending Syrian citizens back to their country.
According to official estimates, the number of Syrian citizens residing in Turkey is almost 100,000 people. The bulk of them are in camps and container sites set op in four Southern provinces. The general living conditions in these camps have been praised by a number of international observers, including the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) and the General Management of Humanitarian aid (ECHO). The HCR gave the Turkish authorities on the spot help: it followed up and supervised the operation of the camps and, in a consultative capacity, took care of the procedures of registration in the registration centre of Hatay (Antakya).
A growing number of observers were able to supervise and report on the situation in the camps. However, some supplementary efforts are needed to ensure full transparency and allow access to the camp installations to the other actors concerned, particularly the organisations of civil society, very active in the area of asylum.
The critical situation of the freedom of media has been confirmed by another report — that of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) entitled “Crisis for the freedom of the Press in Turkey, Dark days for the imprisoned Journalists and the criminalised dissidents”.
The CPJ points out that the editing of the report was following three observation and enquiry missions in Turkey en 2011 and 2012 and very many meetings with journalists, political observers, and lawyers. It shows that a total of 76 journalist were detained as of 1st August 2012, of whom at least 61 were there for having exercised their profession, principally for having covered politically sensitive subjects connected with “terrorism” and reported or covered the activities of banned groups or associations. Another 15 cases are less clear and investigations are still being made into the reasons for their imprisonment.
Of these prisoners, 30% are accused of having take part in anti-government “conspiracies” or of being members of banned organisations. Some are accused of being linked to Ergenekon, that ultra-nationalist conspiracy that had aimed a coup d’état, but journalists who were just enquiring into the procedure were accused of trying to create “social chaos” by their articles, This was the case with Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, who remained in detention for over a year before being released pending trial. They had, indeed, written a book about the Ergenekon case. Ahmet Şık had also written a book on the growing influence of the religious brotherhood Fetuhllah Gülen in Turkish society and Nedim Sener another work on highlighting the failing in the state’s enquiry into the murder of Hrant Dink.
The massive use of preventive detention must also be pointed out, since many journalists spend long months in prison pending trial or even in the course of the preliminary enquiries. Moreover ¾ of the journalists whose cases were studied by the CPJ were not found guilty but are still waiting behind bars for the end of the procedures. In 2011 there were between 3000 and 5000 there criminal cases regarding journalists awaiting trial. This “temporary” detention can, sometimes last as long that the prison sentence the charge incurs: Füsün Erdoğan, General Manager of a Left wing radio station Ozgur (Freedom) has this spent 6 years behind bars, without trial. During their detention the accused can be placed in solitary confinement, deprived of meetings with their lawyers and access to the charge files.
This figure of 76 journalists detained brings Turkey back to the level of the 90s, during the “dirty war” against the Kurds, since in 1996 the number had reached 78. If these figures are taken as criteria, Turkey has now outstripped Iran (43), Eritrea (28) and China (27) and there are all the signs of a spectacular acceleration of this policy, since 2/3 of the journalists were arrested between 2011 and 2012.
The report also confirms the predominance of Kurds among these journalists (about 20%) —generally they are all accused of membership of the PKK or the KCK or else of passing on their propaganda. The press organs most targeted are the Dicle news agency, the Turkish language daily Özgür Gündem and the Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat. The Anti-Terrorist Law and its “prolific use” enable prosecutors to charge and imprison journalists, identifying any political support or sympathy with active membership and “terrorist” activity. Merely writing about the PKK is tantamount to “collaborating with the PKK”. Meeting or interviewing certain well known political people can be identified as a crime. Yayip Temel, Chief Editor of Azadiya Welat, faces 22 years jail as he is accused of membership of KCK. The only evidence against him is his publications, phone calls with colleagues and sources, including members of Kurdish political parties.
“The government still uses the antiquated laws of the period following the 1980 coup d’état” explains Mehmed Ali Birand, Chief editor of the News Department of Kanal D. “These laws were drawn p in such a way that they are open to any kind of interpretation. A judge can read them from left to right and another from right to left. You can never tell. That is why we are always afraid of facing problems of one kind or another”.
The terms the press must use to describe the Kurdish conflict are increasingly subject to censorship. This, this year, the State Council forbade television from using the word “guerrilla” considering that this could “legitimate the terrorists and terrorism”. Another reform adopted, leading to self-censorship, is the possibility of suspending proceedings against a journalist — on condition that he does not repeat the same offense for 3 years. Moreover, the AKP has proposed another Constitutional amendment to restrict press freedom so as to “protect national security, public order, moral order, the rights of others, family and private life, avoid crimes ensure the independence and impartiality of Justice, prevent bellicosity, discrimination, hostility and the propagation of any form of hostility, resentment and hatred”
Thus the editorial writer Nuray Mert was subjected to personal attack by the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who disliked her criticism of the government’s Kurdish policy before the European Parliament, which he considered an act of “treason”. Nuray Mert was then virtually publicly lynched, with physical threats that finally led her employers to cancel her television programme and the publication of his editorials. She this told the CPL reporters that she had been made the object of intimidation, of having received hateful and sexist mail, of being accused of supporting “Kurdish terrorists”. She found that her luggage was inexplicably searched when she travelled and that here private telephone conversations had been tapped and sometimes recorded and published on Web sites and some newspapers to prove her collusion with the KCK. Other TV channels stopped inviting her their sets from fear of reprisals.
Payments to oil companies working in Kurdistan that Iraq had left pending since last April started at the beginning of October, announced the Deputy Prime Minister Roj Shawais, mentioning a sum of 650 million US dollars.
Three days later, on 5 October, the President of the oil company Genel Energy, Mehmet Sepil stated that, in the event of Iraq’s debts not being settled he would advise the Kurdistan Regional Government to against stop exports of crude. However, on 8 October this tone was softened, Genel Energy calmed down by announcing that it intended continuing its exports since the promised payments had been made. The KRG had, moreover, made the point that it was expecting another payment of 350 billion Iraqi Dinars.
Of the 170,000 barrels per day that Kurdistan provided to the central government, Genel Energy produced 110,000from the TaqTaq and Tawke fields (which could reach an output of over 90,000 bpd). The company complains it hasn’t been paid for all the oil exported from 2009 to 2011 and the same applied to the other operating companies like the Norwegian DNO.
However, the relative easing of the Kurdo-Iraqi conflict over foreign contracts may not last very long, to the extent that the investors will be called upon to choose between Baghdad’s approval or cooperation with Irbil or else will opt of their own accord to for the one or the other of these options. Very often contradictory statements are issued by Baghdad or Irbil respectively on the maintaining or cancelling of contracts signed with Kurdistan and foreign companies and of companies having interests in both Iraq and the Kurdish Region.
This is the case with ExxonMobil, about which the government has several times announced that it had given up its investments in Kurdistan while the KRG asserts the opposite and the investors concerned refuse to make any comments. This American giant was one of the first to sign contracts with the Kurds without the approval of the Maliki government and “Diplomatic circles” reported last month that this company might give up its activity in Iraq to invest more in Kurdistan. ExxonMobil is said to be dissatisfied at the profits gained from its operations in the Qurna-West field and hopes for better investments in the Kurdish region, especially as the central government is constantly threatening to cancel this contract if the Americans persist in their negotiations with the Kurds. The company has also complained, as have other foreign operators, of deficient infrastructures in Iraq and delays in payment as well as bureaucratic hassles that hamper its activity. This Exxon might dispose of 60% of its share in the Qurna-West 1 field if it found a buyer who would enable it to get our quickly.
Moreover, according to the weekly Nefte Compass, that specialises in fuel and power issues, Baghdad could have envisaged ousting ExxonMobil in favour of Russian companies like LUKOIL and Gazprom Neft, after a meeting between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Vladimir Putin, even though no official statement was made on the subject. A LUKOI: spokesman even denied any intention of increasing their investments in Iraq, in particular by acquiring additional shares of the Qurna-West1 field and declared that they were satisfied with their current share in Iraq. Gazprom, for its part, once again refused any confirmation or denial.
To add to the confusion, other Iraqi voices are making themselves heard, asking Washington to encourage Exxon to remain in the South. This is true of the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States who has warned that the companies withdraw to Kurdistan could aggravate tensions with the Kurds.
“The American government must put pressure on this company” thus stated to the press Jabir Habib during a conference that took place at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies.
Relating a discussion he had had with an American political leader responsible for fuel and power issues, the Iraqi ambassador had been answered that the State did not have much margin or manoeuvre on Exxon´s policies, whose decisions mainly depended on its shareholders. To this Jabir Habib had retorted that the current conflict could have such political and social repercussions that they could also be subjects of concern for the shareholders. In this taking an openly opposite view to some vindictive statements in his own government, particularly from Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Sharistani, the Ambassador affirmed the determination of his country to Keep Exxon as operator in Southern Iraq: “We prefer that they be there and, I think, that the oil bearing potential in Southern Iraq is incomparably better than in Northern Iraq and I think that they understand this fact”.
As for the Russian company Gazprom Neft, put forward as a possible for replacing Exxon, there as also contradictory rumours around abbot its investments in Kurdistan. Sources close to the Iraqi government state that it had frozen its projects for the Region but others, from the company itself (but without the spokesman directly express himself on the subject) have denied this, indicating that they were also interested in the Kurdish oil. The KRG spokesman, for his part stated that Gazprom had given them to understand that the contracts they had signed were still valid. (Reuters)
For its part, not satisfied with signing contracts with foreign companies, the KRG has started to sell its own crude directly on the international markets, thus opening the way to economic self-management whereby the Regions would no longer be economically dependant on the more or less good relations between Irbil and Baghdad. Moreover, while the threats of retaliation to ExxonMobil have never been followed through, it is even more unlikely that Baghdad try sanctions against Trafigura and Vitol, the two largest oil brokers in the world, on which Iraq depends as much for its imports of petrol and diesel fuels as for the sale of its own crude.
Thus last month Trafigura loaded up its first cargo of light crude oil (condensate) that had previously been transported from Kurdistan to Turkey by lorries. Vitol followed suite with 13,228 tons of condensate (valued at $ 890 per ton — all without any approval from Baghdad, whose usual protests had not given rise any comment from the two companies.
Nothing seems to deflect the Kurds’ determination to manage an sell their own natural resources and, for the moment, one is obliged to recognise that phases of the energy conflict, with its trials of strength and its truces, have enabled them to position themselves favourably, even though there natural resources might seem slight compared with Iraq’s enormous production. Yet the Region seems increasingly promising both for exploration and for production while its political and economic situation in incomparably more stable that that of Iraq.
Furthermore al-Maliki’s political choices (for example his support of he Syrian regime and his alleged closeness o Iran) could harm Iraq’s relations with the region’s other countries. These, like Turkey, could well drop their reservations and deal directly with he Kurdish region, hitherto long considered a factor of disorder and separatism.
This very month Dubai and the United Arab Emirates announced that they would help Iraqi Kurdistan to open in the near future, its own financial market. Abdullah Abdulrahim, the head of the Irbil market confirmed to the daily paper Rudaw, the signature of a 3-year protocol of understanding with the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) to benefit from help in technical expertise for setting up, in the next 6 months a stock exchange.
The TV channel Al-Arabiyya reported documents proving that the Syrian State was the originator of the assassination of the Kurdish politician Mashaal Tammo.
A document revealed by the channel establishes that an order had been issued by Colonel Saqr Mannoun on 3 October 2011 in obedience to the Presidential Palace.
The order was sent to a member of the Air Force Intelligence Service, Colonel Jawsat Hasan, who is charged to go to Hassaké Province, without delay, to execute Mashaal Tammo and return immediately. Mashaal Tammo had already escaped two attempts at his life and his party had urged him to leave the country. Another political leader, Eman Eddin Rasheed, who runs the Syrian National Rally’s National Committee, speaking on the on the d'Al-Arabiyya set, said that he had spoken to the Kurdish leader the morning of his death to ask to leave the country and Mashaal Temmo had replied that he would remain till the Friday demonstrations and then leave. He was killed at 2 pm.
An undated document stamped “Top Secret” was sent by Colonel Saqr Mannoun to Bashar al-Assad confirming Tammo’s mender and mentioning an order from the President dated 22 November 2011.
Information received by the secret services about a meeting of the Kurdish opposition, including Mashaal Tammo, his son and Zahida Rashkilio at Qamishlo led the Armed forces to carry out a raid on the meeting place. The document says that all the people present had been eliminated.
Moreover the document records the motive of the operation: lead the Turkish authorities to adopt a neutral and cooperative attitude regarding the Syrian crisis.
On 25 and 26 October 2012, the First International Conference of Freedom of artistic expression took place in Oslo. This was entitled “All that is banned is desired” and was organised by the Norwegian Fritt Ord Foundation and the NGO Freemuse — the World Forum on Music and Censorship, whose offices are in Copenhagen and that is active in favour of Freedom of expression for musicians, singers, performers and composers throughout the world.
On this occasion, the Initiative for Freedom of Expression in Istanbul prepared an 19-page pamphlet that it distributed during the conference: “Silencing Music in Turkey” that made an inventory of the violations of this freedom of expression and the forms of intimidation and pressure both against the artists and their public that had taken place in Turkey over the last 12 months.
The Kurds, especially in the Dersim region, are amongst those most exposed to these violations be they from the authorities or the population.
- On 23 December 2011, at Izmir, a young Kurd, Gazi Akbayır, was killed in a bar for having asked to hear a song in Zaza. At the end of the song he was taken to task by the spectators and replied that he had the right to listen to a song in his mother tongue. He was then attacked with knives and was finally fired at as he was trying to run away in his car. He was dead on arrival at the hospital.
- On 12 February 2012, 6 students were given prison sentences of between 1 and 3 years for “membership of a terrorist organisation” because they had sold tickets for a group called Yorum (which is not a banned group) at Malatya.
- On 24 February 2012, the mayor of Pertel (Dersim), Kenan Gehin, was also subjected to legal proceedings for having attended a concert by the same group at Dersim’s Ataturk Stadium on 20 July 2011. He had been seen shouting slogans and waving a banner. Kenen Cetin faces 2 years imprisonment if found guilty of justifying criminals or crimes.
- The Second chamber of the Erzurum Criminal Court sentenced the Kurdish singer Hemé Geci to 10 months jail for “propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation”. At Newroz 2010 he had sung at Kars some songs that the denied were propaganda but verses in favour of freedom of expression. He has appealed against this.
- On 8 March 2012, 17 co-detainees at the Kocaeli prison, were given 3 months additional detention for disciplinary reasons — that is having “sung and danced illegally”. Moreover, Hatice Sahin and Dogan Sahin Ermis should have been released on 23 and 24 February 2012, but their detention had been extended during an enquiry into these unwelcome artistic performances, as Hatip explained in a letter addressed to the Istanbul IHD (Association for Human Rights: “I have now been in prison for 7 years. My sentence ended on 23 February but I still have not been released. The guards have started an enquiry because I sang in my mother tongue, Kurdish, and this is why I am still here. They say that I will not leave so long as the enquiry has not be ended”.
- On may 11 2012, new legal proceedings were against begun Penar Aydınlar and two members of the group Munzue Group, Oalem Geroek and Erkan Duman. The prosecution asked for between 1 and 5 years jail for terrorist propaganda because, during the Munzur Festival in Dersim, the names of Ali Haydar Yıldız and Ibrahim Kaypakkaya (members of the TIKKO revolutionary movement, who died in 1973) were mentioned in the songs: 'Ibrahim’e Agıt’, ‘Ali Haydar’ and ‘Kırmızı Gül'. Moreover, a group of spectators waved posters of Ibrahim Kaypakkay and of Mao Tze Tung, shouting “The martyrs of Ovacik are immortal”, "Mahir, Hüseyin, Ulas, fight on till liberation", "Güler Zere is immortal", “Oppression cannot stop us” and “Our leader is Ibrahim Kaypakkaya" which led the Prosecution to claim that the accused had changed a concert in to a political demonstration and that the accused had thanked the audience. The case has been suspended for 3 years because of the judicial reform that exempted the perpetrators of such offences from Prosecution provided they did not repeat the offence in the following 3 years.
- On 25 may 2012, some students, Zülküf Akelma, Yavuz Kılıç and Özgür Yıldırım were subjected to police investigation for having sung the Kurdish song "Herne Pesh" at a meeting organised by the Turkish Union of Medical Students. They are thus accused of PKK propaganda. In fact, although "Herne Pesh" is a song popular with the guerrillas, it originally was a poem by Cergerxwîn, written in the 40s that had been made popular by the singer Şivan in 1977. The Yorum group made a recording of it in 1995 (with the approval of the Minister of Culture) and can be found on sale absolutely everywhere.
- On 29 June 2012, the Kurdish singer Ferhat Tunç was sentenced by the 3rd Chamber of the Malatya Criminal Court to 2 years imprisonment for propaganda for an illegal movement, the MKP (Maoist Communist Party). During a May Day Concert he had paid tribute to the “revolutionary spirit” of Deniz Gezmis, Mahir Çayan, et Ibrahim Kaypakkaya.