The Newroz festival, the Kurdish New Year, was marked by incidents and arrests in Istanbul on 21 March, but celebrated by over 500,000 people, in an atmosphere of calm, in the Kurdish provinces.
In Istanbul, the anti-riot police acted against a group of 200 people who are alleged to have shouted slogans in support of Abdullah Ocalan after a peaceful demonstration of a crowd of about 3,000 in a square near Topkapi Palace. The police fired in the air to disperse the demonstrators and detained a number of people. Also in Istanbul, the police detained a person while intervening against demonstrators who had lit a bonfire at Dolapdene.
The People’s Democratic Party (HADEP – pro-Kurdish) was not authorised by the Istanbul Governorate to organise the festivities to celebrate Newroz.
The evening before, nine people, including a policemen, were wounded and fifty others detained in several Kurdish towns. Major security measures had been taken throughout Turkey in preparation. At Mersin, which has a large Kurdish community, 300 demonstrators who met "illegally " on 20 March, shouted slogans. When the police intervened, one of the latter was injured by a thrown stone, 45 demonstrators were detained, 32 of who were released soon after.At Antalya, some persons unknown threw stones at a police car, breaking its headlights – four suspects were detained. In Siirt, the police intervened to break up an "illegal " demonstration. Seven people, including two children, were injured. Celebrations took place without incident in several other major Turkish cities like Ankara, Izmir and Bursa.
Newroz, a pagan spring festival of Zoroastrian origins (or earlier) that heralds the awakening of nature, is traditionally an occasion for the Kurds to affirm their identity and has often, in the past, been perturbed by bloody incidents. For the Kurds, it also comemorates the first revolt in the history of their people who rose up, according to a legend, against the Persian tyrant Dehaq, led by the blacksmith Kawa. The latter summoned his compatriots to revolt by lighting fires on the mountains. Following his example, the participants at the celebrations set fire to tyres and dance around the resulting bonfire. This year, for "ecological " reasons, the Batman governorate distributed wood for these bonfires. HADEP did the same at Diyarbekir.
After banned this "separatist " holiday for seventy years, the Turkish State has adopted it since 1995, claiming it was a traditional New Year for many peoples of the regionm including the Turks. In 1992 the celebrations had been marked by clashes with the security forces that led to aver a hundred deaths, particularly at Cizre.
On the other hand HADEP has been authorised, for the second consecutive year, to organise the celebrations in Diyarbekir, the principal Kurdish city, and in the adjoining province of Batman, where they took place without untoward incidents.
In Diyarbekir, some 500,000 people gathered at the fairground on the outskirts of the city, danced folk dances and lit bonfires in the traditional manner, under police supervision. Many representatives of German and Italian NGOs took part in the celebrations. "Newroz in the festival of peace and brotherhood (…) We are in favour of democracy and dialogue " declared HADEP’s
President, Murat Bozlak, addressing the crowd.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, Newroz was celebrated officially, with concerts and open air artistic events in the main towns and picnics in the countryside. The festival was also officialised as a three day holiday. In Iranian Kurdistan, Newroz is generally celebrated as a family affair at home. This year, however, there were demonstrations in some towns like Sanandaj and Mahabad – about twenty young people were detained for shouting slogans against the regime.
In Paris, the Kurdish Institute organised a Newroz dinner mith entertainment by musicians like Issa, Canê, Adnan and a Rumanian gipsy singer. Besides the Kurdish celebrants many foerign guests – Catalan, Armenian, French, Latin-American as well as the President of PEN Club International – took part in this festival of hope and friendship.
The arrival on the French coasts of a boat loaded with hundreds of Kurdish boat-people has arroused lively feelings in French and European public opinion.
Who are these refugees?
Why have they fled their country?
What are the structural and conjunctural circumstances behind this exodus towards Europe?
Can the question of refugees be settled without dealing with its political causes, without tackling the political conditions that impell Kurdish populations to leave their country?
To debate all these questions, to establish the up to date situation and raise the perspective ahead, the Kurdish Institute organised an International Conference on deportations and population displacements of Kurdish civilians in Iraq and Turkey, the two countries that produce the bulk of the Kurdish refugees to Europe. This took place on 10 March 2001, from 9am to 6.30 pm (9,00 to 18,30) at the Centre des Conferences Internationales. 19, Avenue Kléber Paris 16.
This conference brought together in Paris the best experts (academics, journalists) on this question as well as political public figures so as to contribute towards informing and helping the reflection of public opinion, and especially the political deciders, the leaders of voluntary organisations and social services, journalists and concerned citizens.
The morning session, presided by Patrick Baudoin, Honorary President of the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH) was devoted to assessing the present day situation. After an introduction by Mrs. Joyce Blau, Professor at INALCO (France’s School and Research Institute for Oriental Languages) and chief editor of the quarterly Etudes Kurdes , Hosham Dawud of the CNRS paid tribute to the work of the late Ali Babakhan on the deportation of the Fayli Kurds from Iraq, stressed the pioneering role of that research worker on the study of Kurdish deportation and recalled the reason why the conference was dedicated to his memory. Then Hamit Bozarslan, lecturer at the EHESS, spoke about the place deportation had played in Kurdish political history, illustrating his analysis by precise examples of Kurdish communities deported without there being any context of revolt– in Syria, in the ex-USSR, and in Turkey. Mrs Hania Mufti, of Human Rights Watch made sensitive and well argued analysis of the displacements of Iraqi Kurdish populations from the viewpoint of international law. Then Fuad Hussein, Vice-President of the Kurdish Institute, presented a long account of the Arabisation of Kurdish regions since the Baath Party’s coming to power. After a showing a moving film by the British journalist Gwynne Roberts, entitled "Mass deportation and disppearence: the Anfal operation seen through documents of the Iraqi Intellegence Services " (Broadcast by BBC Television but never before shown in France) the morning ended witha very documented account of the Turkish forced deportations in the 1990s by the Dutch research worker Joost Jongerden, of the University of Amsterdam and a discussion with all the speakers.
The afternoon session began with an account by Khosrow Abdullahi, of INALCO, on the situation of the Kurds in Iran. Then, in a first Round Table presided by journalist Marc Kravetz, Mrs. Ferda Cemiloglu, President of the Migration and Asylum Center of Turkey, Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, Francis Wurtz, President of the United Left Group in the European Parliament, Mr. Feridun Yazar, Vice-President of the People’s Democratic Party of Turkey (HADEP) and reponsible for external relations of his party, and Ragip Zarakoglu, General Manager of the Istanbul daily, Yeni Gündem, discussed the future of the Kurds in Turkey in the perspective of Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union.
The future of the Kurds in Iraq was the subject of a second Round Table presided by Bernard Dorin, a retired French Ambassador. To introduce the discussion, Mrs. Nasrine Berwari, Minister of Reconstruction and Development in the Kurdish government of Irbil, made an assessment of the work of her government, thanks to the financing allocated to the Kurdish provinces by U.N. Resolution 986, called the Oil for Food Resolution. In discussing the perspectives she said: "Without this 13%of the oil income allocated to Kurdistan and without the cover of the air exclusion zone, the work already achieved, substantial but fragile, could be destroyed and the civilian population again take the road to exile ". Her colleague, Salih Rachis, Minister for Refugees and displaced persons in the Suleimaniah regional government, said he fully agreed with this analysis before going on to raise "the fate of tens of thousands of displaced Kurds still living in very precarious material conditions. They are, for the most part, Kurds expelled fromthe territories still controled by the Iraqi regime. Deprived of hope for a future, they still want to emigrate to Europe. The only means of stopping the exodus is to stabilise the economic and political situation in Kurdistan " he concluded. Dr. Mahmoud Osman who, as a close associate of of General Barzani, then as President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Socialist Party has taken part ian practically all the Iraqi-Kurdish negotiations, explained "why a compromise with the Saddam Hussein regime seemed improbable. Given the weakness of a fragmested Iraqi opposition, the least bad situation was the maintenance of the status quo unteil the fall of Saddam Hussein. Brovided that the Kurdish movements overcome their divisions and speak with one voice and that they show that they can mobilise the support of public opinion in the Western countries, the present international situation is, for once, in their favour " he concluded.
Dr. Najmaddin O. Karim, President of the Washington Kurdish Institute, and Jonathan Randal raised the uncertainties of American foreign policy. Finally, in the absence of M. Védrine, the French Foreign Minister, who had been invited but was on a visit to the Balkans, his representative described : French poliy regarding Iraq and the Kurds: the defence of Kurdish identity and cultural rights in all the countries where they live, the disarmament of Iraq and a review of the present sanctions policy which mainly penalises the civilian population .
After a general debate with the audience, Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute, closed the session, repeating the appeal for the organisation of an International Conferenceof Foreign Minoisters of the countries of the European Union to define a common European policy on the Kurdish question: "This appeal is supported by the National Committee of the Socialist Party, by the Communist Party and the Greens, by about twenty French NGOs and a number of public figures, it also has the support of the Socialist International. It is more than time that this found a political expression at Government level and that France, which has historic responsibilities in the Kurdish tragedy, take the initiative in this area " he concluded.
The transactions of this conference will be published later in the quarterly review Etudes Kurdes.
Of the six thousand odd languages spokenat present in the world, 80% are liable to disappear in the next two or three generations.
Weakened, marginalised, ground down by the steam roller of the official languages of States, the indigenous peoples and/or minorities represent an irreplaceable part of humanity’s linguistic and cultural heritage. They need to be recognised, protected and assured of their development and expression.
The Council of Europe, after years of discussion, has drawn up a European Charter of linguistic rights which is a considerable advance in the area of the protection of the linguistic diversity of Europe. However, certain countries, including France and Turkey, have not yet ratified this Charter, which is not only concerned with the European continent.
What must be done for the threatened languages of other continents which, like the Amerindian languages or those of Africa and Asia, are legion.
At the call of PEN International and about sixty NGOs, including the Kurdish Institute, that are committed to the defence of endangered languages, adopted a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights at Barcelona on 6June 1996. This declaration received the support of outstanding moral figures across the world such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama. Alfonso Perez Esquivel, Seamus Hearney, Rigoberta Menchu, Octavio Paz etc.
To assess the present situation and arouse awareness in UNESCO, the Declaration’s standing committee, in cooperation with several of the signitary NGOs, inluding PEN International and the Kurdish Institute, organised a threatened languages Day at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (7, Place Fontenoy, Paris 75007) on 20 March, from 10.00 to 17.00 in Hall 12 of the building.
By organising this day in UNESCOs own premises, the NGOs that had signed the Declaration hoped that this international body, whose vocation is the defence of the universal cultural heritage of mankind, would take steps, in a reasonable time, to examine and adopt this Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, which expresses the aspirations for the survival of their culture and language of the neglected and ignored part of humanity.
The morning began with a Round Table bringing together experts on the threatened languages of South America, Africa the Near East and Europe. Mr. Juan De Dios Yapita described "the difficult struggle for the survival of Amerindian languages ". Salim Chaker, Vice-~President of the Scientific Council of INALCO, gave an account of the status of the Berber language in the countroies of the Maghreb (North-West Africa) – a language that is neither recognised not banned, but left to its fate, beseiged, reduced to a minority position, fragilised by the linguistic policies of the various regimes that, in the name of an authoritarian and centralist conception of the Nation State, impose the official use of the Arabic language alone. Kendal Nezan described the contrasting situations of Kurdish in the States that have divided Kurdistan between them: as an official language of education, governemnt administration and media in Iraqi Kurdistan, a tolerated but not taught language in Iranian and Syrian Kurdistan, an language subjected to a systematic policy of eradication in Turkish Kurdistan and finally a veritable renaissance in the Kurdish diaspora of Western Europe. The Institute’s President alsoraised the fate of two other languagesof people without a state – Aramaic, which was a major language of culture, civilisation and international exchange for several centuries, and which is the the process of withering away in the mountains of Kurdistan and Beluch, an unrecognised Indo-European language of a people divided between several states.
After this sombre picture, Mr. Leo Conradie, Minister Plenipotentiary to UNESCO of the South African Embassy recalled that the withering away of minority languages was not inevitable, quoting the experience of his country to show that, with a political will to favour pluralism, the tendency can be reversed. Thus, after the end of apartheid, the new South African regime set up apolicy of allowing the principle ethno-linguistic communities of the country free use of their mother longue for teaching and the media without this encouraging any form of separatism – quite the opposite, in fact. For his part, Mr. Jouis Jou, General Manager of the linguistic policy of the government of Catalonia, gave an account of the remarkable achievments of his government for the renewal and spread of the Catalan language since they win autonomy after the end of the Franco regime.
To broaden the discussion, Yves Plasseraud, President of the minorities group, gave an account of the situation of minority languages in Europe.
The Director General of UNESCO, had been invited but, being away from Paris, arranged to be represented by the Director of the Education Division who attended the whole of the morning session.
The symposium continued over a working lunch, presided by Mrs. Mitterrand, at which ambassadors and diplomats from fifteen countries attended, including Germany, Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa etc.
The afternoon session was devoted to thinking of means of advancing the cause of threatened languages. In the name of the Universal Declaration’s standing committee, Carlos Torner described the history of the approaches made, firstly in Barcelona with the participation of about sixty NGOs from five continents, who, together, drew up the Universal Declaration. Since then considerable ground has been covered and the objective of getting UNESCO to adopt a convention inspired by the principles of this Declaration is not beyond our reach, despite the stubborn resistance of some countries like Turkey, Algeria or China. Aureli Argemi, General Secretary of CIEMEN presented the priciple proposals of the Declaration, some articles of which were read in Kurdish, Aramaic, Catalan, Turkish, Berber etc… Mr. Homeo Aridjis, President of the PEN Cllub International closed the session with a moving plea in favour of the linguistic diversity of humanity as vital for the survival of mankind and civilisation as is biodiversity for that of the planet.
The principal speakers then joined the Kurdish Institute’s guests to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, in a truely multilingual and multicultural atmosphere over an oriental dinner with songs in many different languages.
On 19 March, with a view to joining the European Union, Turkey adopted a programme of reforms which falls far short of European demands for the granting of cultural rights to the Kurds, the abolition of the death penalty and the reduction of the Army’s role.
The "national programme ". adopted by the Council of Ministers, provides in general terms for lamendments to the law to improve freedom of thought and expression, conditions in the prisons and the fight against torture. But it excludes any teaching in Kurdish, maintaining that the "official language of Turkey, including in education, is Turkish ". It recognises the right of citizens "freely to use other languages or different dialects in their daily life " on condition that this be not for "separatist ends ". The programme leaves to Parliament the responsibility for deciding, in the medium term, whether to abolish the death and penalty and describes as a "consultative " body the National Security Council (MGK) – a body dominated by the armed forces and incorporating the top civilianand military leaders, through which the latter openly exert their weight on political life. Its role and structure, embedded in the Constitution as in the country’s mentality (where the people appear to have more confidence in its army than in its politicians), is to be reviewed "in the medium term ".
Turkey was declared a candidate for E.U. membership in December 1999, but must fulfill the "Copenhagen criteria " in respect of Human Rights and democracy before being able to start negotiation for membership. This mational programme is the fruit of a compromise between the Prime Minster Bülent Ecevit’s coalition partners: his party the "Democratic Left" Party (DSP), the Motherland Party (ANAP) and the National Action Party (MHP) (ultra-nationalist and neo fascist).
The MHP is opposed to Kurdish cultural rights, as is the Army. The MHPis equally opposed to abolishing the death penalty, because of Ocalan. It waged its whole 1999 election campaign, that brought it into office, around a demand for his execution. Turkey has postponed thispending a decision of the European Human Rights Court.
Mesut Yilmaz, Minister for European Affairs and boss of the Motherland Party, stressed before the press that the programme "must be carried out in five years at the most. Otherwise, I fear, we will not be able to keep up with the timetable of the E.U.’s expansion ".
"The ball is still in Turkey’s court " stressed another European diplomate. "The Europeans can say that this does not go far enough, but it is up to the Turks to set the pace. At least the programme conveys the message that the government is still committed to the European process, despite all the problems ".
"The ball in in Turkey’s court " stressed a European diplomat. "The Europeans may say that it doesn’t go far enough, butm its up to the Turks to set the pace.At least the programme delivers the message that the government is still committed to the European process despite all the problems ".
The programme also includes an economic aspect, intended to harmonise with The European Union’s. But the financial crisis ravaging Turkey, whose currency has devalued by 30%, is not in the forefront of the Governemnt’s (and people"s) preoccupations, which is liable to make it all the harder to put into effect. On 26 March, the European Union approved the economic part of Turkey’s programme for joining the E.U. but stressed that "supplementary efforts " were needed regarding Human Rights and the abolition of the death penalty.
The programme for membership is a package of about 200 Bills to be debated and passed within the next five years. This programme "is an important contribution to preparing Turkey for membership of the E.U. and the first step in a deep reaching preogramme of political reform " remarked Günter Verheugen, the European Commissioner for Enlargement. In this sense it constitutes "the starting point for the undamental transformation of Turkey into a modern democracy ". However, continued Mr. Verheugen, "a preliminary analysis indicates that supplementary efforts are neccessary in areaas such as the abolition of the death sentence and the ensuring of cultural rights for all the citizens, whatever their origin may be " he indicated, thus implicitly referring to the Kurdish question.
The thirteenth anniversary of the gassing of the inhabitants of this Kurdish town by the Iraqi Air Force was marked, on 16 March, by a series of memorial events more or less everywhere in Kurdistan and the Kurdish diaspora.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, in the areas governed by the Kurds, Halabja Day was celebrated in schols, universities, and government offices. The local media gave considerable space to this tragic event, graven into the collective memory as the Kurdish Hiroshima.In the Kurdish provinces under Iraqi, Turkish, Iranian and Syrian control, the political context did not allow public meetings, but the inhabitants followed with intense feelings, the special programmes on Halabja broadcast by Kurdish satellite TV stations. In most European cities, Kurdish associations organised photo exhibitions, conferences or memorial meetings to comemorate Halabja.
Finally, in Washington, the State Department spokesman. Richard Boucher, made a statement, of which the following extracts cover the main points:
Thirteen years ago today, Saddam Hussein attacked, with chemical weapons, the town of Halabja, in North-Western Iraq, the majority of whose population was Kurdish. On march 16th 1988, nearly 5,000 people were killed and 10,000 injured, when the Iraq Air Force bombed the town of Halabja with mustard and other poison gases. Thirteen years after this massacre, the population of Halabja still suffer from an number of serious illnesses. Cases of cancer, neurological disorders, children born deformed, miscarriages are all too frequent.
Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapon attack was not an iosolated incident. It wqas part of a systematic campaign, organised by Saddam Hussein and executed by his assistant Ali Hassan al-Majid, the infamous "Chemical Ali", againmst Iraqi Kurdish civilians.
International observers estimate that, during the campaigns known by the name of ‘Anfal’ (booty), the Iraqi Armed Forces killed 50,000 to 100,000 people. Furthermore, between 1983 and 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi regime also killed thousands of Iranians with chemical weapons.
We are working for the day when the leaders who gave the order to bomb Halabja, whereever they may be, will be frought before an international tribunal in a free and democratic Iraq.
These crimes must never be forgitten. At the same time as we remember Halabja, we reaffirm and call on the international community to see to it that the Saddam Hussein regime be never again authorised to rebuild its programme of developping arms of mass destruction".
• THE EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS COURT FINDS TURKEY GUILTY OF "INHUMAN TREATMENT ", On 1st March Turkey was found guilty of "inhuman treatment " of a young Kurd while he was being detained.
Devrim Berktay, 17 years of age at the time of the events in question, was seriously injured in 1993 in Diyarbekir, after having been pushed from his balcony by Turkish police who were carrying out a search of his home. The young man’s father Huseyin Berklay, also accused the police of delaying him when he wanted to take his son to receive emergency medical help.
The police, for their part, asserted that the young man, who was in being detained at the time, had jumped over the bannister.
The Turkish government, which should have provided a "plausible explanation " for the young man’s injuries, had been content merely to "refer the matter to the internal penal procedure where decisive weight was given to police explanations ", in the view of the European judges.
Turkey will have to pay £ 69,500 (sterling) to Devrim Bektay and his father.
• THE STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED MAINTAINED FOR FOUR KURDISH PROVINCES. On 27 March, the Turkish Parliament renewed the State of Emergency, in operation for the last 14 years, in four of the Kurdish provinces. Parliament decides every four months whether or not to maintain the state of Emergency. The provinces concerned are Diyarbekir, Hakkari, Sirnak and Tunceli.
The lifting of this State of Emergency is one of the "medium term " political measures that the European Union calls upon Turkey to make if it wants to open negotiations for membership. The Turkish government has committed itself to lifting them (but without giving any date) in its "national programme " – a vast catalogue of measures intended bring Turkey into conformity with European political and economic standards.
The fighting has virtually ceased in the region, but the Turkish Army declares itself determined to hunt down the "PKK rebels " to the bitter end unless they give themselves up, and it regularly conducts operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, to which the majority of the PKK fighters have withdrawn.
An increase of tension, however, was felt at the end of January 2001, following an attack which cost the life of the Diyarbekir Chief of Police (he authors of this attack has still not been found) and the disappearence, after a visit to the gendarmerie station, of two HADEP officials of Sirnakprovince (who are still ‘unfindable’). There are many who accuse the "deep State " (ie the Army) of cultivating terror in the region so as to keep it under military rule.
• TURKISH PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY PROTECTS CRIMINALS. On 24 March, the Turkish police arrested four men, including the nephew and chauffeur of Mustafa Bayram, a Turkish M.P., who were trying to sell two painting, stolen from Pablo Picasso, to two plain clothes policemen. Mr. Bayram’s nephew had just, apparently, agreed to sell them to the plain clothes police for 1.5 million dollars.
In additionto these two seized paintings, were six others which were also works by the Spanish painter, found in Turkey in the previous year. They are said to have been stolen from a Kuweiti palace during the gulf war, in 1991, and smuggled into Turkey via Iraq.
Since the arrest of the Member of Parliament for Van, the Turkish media have not stinted their revelations of matters hitherto passed by in silence. The first statement make by Mr. Bayram was "You don’t know who you’re dealing with. I am a representative of the people at the Turkish National Assembly ". Mustafa Bayram, today an independent M.P. first on the ANAP list for the 1995 election, then stood on the list of the Islamic Party (RP) in the 1999 elections. Questioned about this, the Electoral Commission retorted that Mr. Bayram, who is being being sued in eight cases, including murder and drug trafficking, had misled the commission by making a deliberate spelling mistake in his name, pasing as "Bayrak" instead of "Bayram" thus avoiding any challenge to his right to stand.
The Turkish Parliament, today, has amongst its members, a number of persons implicated in crimes and various offenses, but the latter avoid any legal proceedings thanks to the amnesty, to prescription due to the slowness of the investigations and grotesque subterfuges such as this latest affair. Whereas Leyla Zana and her colleagues have seved 7 years of their 15 year sentences, for just denouncing Turkish policy on the Kurdish question, Parliamentary immunity, so easily lifted when the offence is one of opinions, successfully protects a substancial batallion of Turkish M.P.s implicated in infamous crimes and all sorts of trafficking.
• CENGIZ SOYDAS, 28 YEARS OF AGE, FIRST CASUALTY OF THE HUNGER STRIKE LAUNCHED IN THE TURKISH PRISONS FIVE MONTHS AGO. Cengiz Soydas died on 21 March at the age of 28 as a result of a hunger strike launched in November 2000in the Turkish prisons. According to the Ankara Chamber of Doctors, there are 31 other detainees running "the risk of sudden death which even their doctors will not be able to prevent ".
The prisoners began a hunger strike movement to protest against their transfer to new penal establishments provided with 2 or 3 person cells instead of collective dormitories, saying they feared ill treatment from the guards if isolated. The Turkish security forces launched a massive assault between 19 and 22 December to break this hunger strike movement by extreme Left-wing prisoners in the jails. 19 prisoners died of burns – according to the authorities after setting themselves alight. 10 other died in the course of confrontation with the security forces and one detainee died from wounds whose nature have never been specified. Two gendarmes also found their deaths in the assault.
A woman detainee, Hatice Yazgan, is at the moment in a critical condition. Reduced to 30 Kg in weight, she has lost all signs of intelligence, incapable of even telling how old or in what country she is, not even able to recognise members of her own family.
On 16 March, the Council of Europe exhorted the Turkish authorities to reform the Turkish prisons and enquire into the allegations regarding ill treatment said to have been suffered by some detainees. Beating up of prisoners, firing on unresisting detainees: the Anti-Torture Committee of the Council of Europe is unsparing in its criticism of the methods of the Turkish authorities during the murderous assault on the prison hunger strike movement.
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) a delegation of which twice visited Turkey, in January and in February, has highlighted methods "not always in proportion " used by the security forces in the course of their actions of 19 to 22 December, which resulted in 32 deaths.
In some preliminary remarks, made public in Strasbourg on 15 March, with the assent of the Turkish authorities, the CPT delegation expresses, in particular, its "serious doubts " about the manner the action was conducted in a women’s dormitory at the Istanbul Bayrampasa prison and detention centre. Six women, of the 27 occupants of dormitory C1, were killed and several others injured although the had simply locked themselves in, without putting up any "violent resistance " according to explanations collected by the delegation. The detainees are said, nevertheless, to have been "bombarded with tear gas grenades " for several hours and that intermittently "they had been fired upon ". Furthermore a fire had been started in the top floor of the dormitory without the security forces (who had the necessary equipment) acting immediately to extinguish it, the CPT states in its communiqué.
The delegation, which was also present in Turkey between 10 and 16 December and from 10 to 15 January, also pinpoints the beating up of detainees already subdued, as well as "indiscrete and humiliating body searches ". "Some detainees are said to have been beaten by members of the gendarmerie after they had been evacuated from the prison domitories where these actions took place ". the CPT relates, citing "numerous concurring allegations " and "medical evidence compatible with the allegations of beating up of the detainees ".
The CPT, which noted that "the security forces came up against barricades and a violent resistance " in many prisons, thus calls for a "deep reaching and independent enquiry " regarding dormitory C1 and all the actions taken as from 19 December.
The CPT, empowered to enter all the prisons of member states of the Council of Europe, in order to prevent torture and ill treatment, will shortly draw up a detailed report on its visits to Turkey, but Ankara’s authorisation is needed before it can be made public.
• THREE NOBEL PRIZEWINNERS SUPPORT THE KURDO-SWEDISH WRITER MEHMED UZUN, WHO RISKS 15 YEARS IMPRISONMENT FOR TWO NOVELS. An appeal in support of the Swedish Kurdish writer Mehmed Uzun, subject to legal proceedings by the Turkish Courts, has been signed by three Nobel Prize winners: South African writer Nadine Gordimer (1991 Nobel Prize for Literature), her German opposite number Gunter Grass (1999 Nobel Prize for Literature) and the American writer of Rumanian origin, Elie Wiesel (1986 Nobel Peace Prize) have all supported and signed an Appeal by the Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman. These writers and intellectuals are protesting against proceeding started by the Istanbul State Security Court, which accuses Mehmed Uzun of having "supported terrorism, incited rebellion leading to separatism ".
"All members of the Swedish Royal Academy and the Royal Academy of Denmark have also signed the appeal, without counting famous writers from all over the world " declared Mrs. Kerstin Ekman. This appeal was sent to the President of the Turkish Republic, to the Prime Minister and other members of the Turkish Government, the Swedish writer specified.
Mehmed Uzun, who arrived in Sweden in 1980 as a refugee, is a Kurdish language novelist. His books have been translated into Swedish, German and French. Two of his novels: "Bright as love, dark as death " and "The blossoming pomegranite ", translated into Turkish and published in Istanbul, are the subject of these legal proceedings.
On 30 March, the Swedish author of Kurdish origin will visit to Istanbul, where his trial will take place, and where he risks 15 years imprisonment. "It is important that I should stand before the Turkish Public Prosecutor to refute the crude accusation that I support terrorism " stated Mehmed Uzun, "I must do this because I believe in freedom of expression, in the struggle for democracy and in Human Rights " he added.
On 29 March, Mehmed Uzun met the Swedish Minister of Culture, Mrs. Marita Ulvskog, who assured him of the support of the Swedish government, which at the moment is acting a President of the European Union.
• THE EXTENTION OF THE ARBITRARY DETENTION OF A FRENCH CITIZEN IN ISTANBUL. Dr. Zeki Budak, a French citizens of Kurdish origin, arrested on 16 January 2001 at Istanbul Airport and detained since then in Bayrampasa Prison, appeared before the N°1 Istanbul State Security Court on 29 March. After verifying the identity of the accused, the Court heard evidence from two French neighbours of this dentist, married to a French woman and father of three children. The witnesses confirmed that for years they had regularly seen Dr. Budak, who lived in Rouen as they did, that they knew his humanitarian and non-violent opinions and that the Public Prosecutors accusations, that he was the PKK chief in Cologne, seemed incredible to them.
According to the Public Prosecutor, these accusations were made by three alleged PKK members. However, their lawyer, Mr. Ummuhan Yasar, attested before the court that the Turkish police had forced his clients’ to sign these accusations, but that they formally denied knowing Dr. Budak.
The defence lawyer, Mr. Seref Yilmaz, called on the Court to recognise that there was no case to answer, that the charge sheet was void and inconsistant and that his client should be released. The Public Prosecutor demanded that he be kept in detention for "supplementary verification ". Granting this request, the Court decided to extend Dr. Budak’s arbitrary detention till 7 June.
The French authorities are watching this trial without intervening officially because it concerns someone with dual nationality.
• FINAL AND PERMANENT CLOSURE OF THE PRO-KURDISH DAILY 2000’DE YENI GUNDEM. The pro-Kurdish daily "2000’de Yeni Gündem" first published on 27 March 2000 in Turkey and in Turkish was obliged to stop publishing on 31 March 2001. After the dailies Yeni Ulke, Ozgür Gündem, Ozgür Ulke, Yeni Politika, Demokrasi, Ulkde Gündem and Ozgür Bakis, banned one after the other 2000"de Yeni Gündem was unable to resist any longer the multiple pressures exerted by the Turkish authorities.
As from the 6th day of its appearence, the daily was forbidden distribution in the State of Emergency Region (OHAL) by the OHAL Super-Prefect on the simple excuse that it was "harmful". However, 40% of its readers lived in this region. It has been seized fifteen times , the first time on 13 July for denouncing the strong-arm actions of the Turkish authorities at the Burdur prison. The paper was also sued in 53 separate cases, mostly before the State Security Courts. Nor had the Turkish Courts hesitated about sentencing the paper and its management to unprecedented fines.
Ragip Zarakoglu, Chief Editor of the now extinct paper declared: "Gündem gave voice to another Turkey and, in one of the most difficult times for Turkey, tried to make its contribution to the democratisation of the country ".
• BULENT EVEVIT IS STUDYING PLACE NAMES TO FIGHT AGAINST THE KURDISH LANGUAGE. According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet of 31 March, Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, determined to fight against place names in any other language than Turkish, has launched a campaign of "Turkisation ". Thus he has published a Ministerial circular asking all institutions and organisations to devote particular attention to ‘Turkising’ names that are, too often for his taste, in Kurdish. He has also sent all administrations and local authorities a dictionary of place names to guide them –Dictionary for the using and explaning Turkish – published for this purpose and "in conformity with the political, historic, national and cultural structure of the country ".
In his circular, the Prime Minister says he is concerned by "the deterioration of the Turkish language " and stresses "the weight of the protection of Turkey’s political and cultural identity and of the consolidation of national unity in the strengthening and importance of |Turkey in this period of globalisation ". "We know that those who have designs on our country first stress the question of language, that is to say Turkish, in order to provoke the aspirations of separatist movements in Turkish society " he added.
Still in this circular, its application will be examined by an observation committee, that brings together officials of the High Committee of History of the History, Language and Culture of Atatürk, of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Armed Forces General Staff, the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture as well as the very controvertial High Committee for Education (YOK).