REPORTS AS REGARDS TURKEY
In May 1992, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and
Security of the European Parliament adopted two detailed reports
directly concerning Turkey.
The first report, on EC-Turkey relations, was
drafted by Mrs. Raymonde Dury, Belgian Socialist member of the
Parliament, and considered earlier by the Committee at its its
meetings of 20 September 1991, 27 November 1991, 16 March 1992, 22
April 1992 and 18 May 1992. At the last meeting, the report was adopted
by 24 votes to 11 with 4 abstentions.
The second report, on the rights of the Kurdish
people, was drafted by Mr. Jas Gawronski, Italian Liberal member of the
Parliament, and considered earlier by the Committee at
its meetings of 20 January, 19 February and 19 May
1992. At the last meeting, the report was adopted by 38 votes to 2,
with 1 abstention.
The motions for a resolution, adopted by the
Committee, will be debated at the June 9 session of the Parliamentary
Assembly and the final texts of the Resolutions will appear in the June
1992 issue of Info-Türk.
In this issue, we are reproducing the slightly
abridged texts of the explanatory statements by the rapporteurs.
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT ON EC-TURKEY RELATIONS
Mrs Raymonde Dury, rapporteur for the Committee on
Foreign Affairs and Security on relations between the European
Community and Turkey, visited Turkey from 5 to 11 June 1991 to meet a
number of prominent figures from the Turkish political and economic
A. THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SITUATION IN TURKEY
1. The political climate
At the time the rapporteur visited Turkey, the
political climate was that of an election campaign, although a general
election was due only in autumn 1992. The early general election took
place on 20 October. The turnout was 83.92% and the results were as
DYP - True Path Party
ANAP - Motherland Party
SHP - Social Democratic Party
RP - Welfare Party
DSP - Democratic Left Party
The Right thus won 68% of the votes but no party
obtained a majority of 226 seats in parliament. The cabinet of Mr
Yilmaz resigned. A coalition was now needed to form a government.
Attention should be drawn to the entry into
parliament of the Welfare Party and of Mr Ecevit's DSP.
2. The democratization process and human rights
All those with whom discussions were held
(government and opposition) spoke in favour of democratization, because
it is needed in itself to give Turkey the image of a “civilized
country” and because Turkey has opted to move closer to the western
2.1. Some progress has certainly been achieved, such
as the establishment of a Committee of Human Rights in the National
Assembly and the adoption by the National Assembly of the law of 12
April 1991 abolishing Articles 141, 142 and 163 of the Turkish penal
code; thanks to this law, the use of the Kurdish language is legal once
again, as are the Communist and Islamic parties. Under the
interpretation given by the ruling party, freedom of opinion, speech
and conscience are now fully recognized, provided no violence is used.
The law also provides for the conditional release of all persons
charged with or convicted on related offences.
2.2. Apart from these notable advances, there are a
number of problems which give rise to serious concern and on which your
rapporteur was able to speak freely with members of the SHP, the Press
Council, the association for human rights, students and individuals in
the emergency zone.
- Among these problems is freedom of the press:
according to the Press Council, freedom of the press does not yet
exist; since the Constitution makes no reference to the right to
information, “the press is working in the dark”. The chairman of the
Press Council therefore believes the Constitution should be reformed
and this right introduced and guaranteed. Freedom of the press can
certainly not be said to exist in the emergency zone (the provinces of
south and south-east Anatolia), given the powers of confiscation (or
the risk of harsh penalties for journalists) granted to the prefects of
these regions. However, there were now believed to be no journalists
left in prison. The expulsion of the British journalist Fisk was raised
and roundly condemned. The chairman of the Press Council said that the
expulsion of a journalist for professional reasons was completely
Reference was made to frequent seizures of
newspapers and magazines (e.g. “Ülke”, a newspaper published in Turkish
and advocating an independent Kurdistan, as well as left-wing and
The rapporteur herself fell victim to a sector of
the Turkish press which seems to be devoid of ethical standards: a
Turkish daily attributed statements to her which she never made.
2.3. Certain articles of the Constitution still
prohibit women's and students' associations. Trade union rights, as we
understand them, do not exist. The 1982 Constitution depoliticized
Turkish society. Greater democratization is needed above all at the
level of the authorities themselves. There is also a need for a change
of attitudes. According to the Press Council, Turkish politicians
(whether government or opposition) find it difficult to distinguish
between criticism and insults.
2.4. The main concern (according to the SHP and the
association on human rights) is the anti-terrorist law adopted in April
1991 by the National Assembly, governing all areas of Turkish political
and social activity. This is a law aimed at the terrorist activities of
the PKK and its separatist demands.
Of particular concern were certain provisions of the
anti-terror law which, in the view of the observers and members of the
Turkish opposition, created a particularly indulgent climate regarding
the practice of torture (see, in particular, Article 15). Although
Turkey is a signatory to a number of international conventions on
torture, repeated accusations were made of the widespread use of
torture in various police stations. This is a matter of grave concern,
for there is no doubt that torture is fairly common in Turkey and there
is a clear need to put a stop to it. Even if the authorities claim to
be against it, care must be taken to ensure that it really is
abolished; measures such as Article 15 of the new anti-terror law leave
room for doubt as to the reprisals to be taken against those who use
torture. Proceedings can only be taken against “torturers” on the
authorization of the Minister of the Interior and can only be conducted
before state security tribunals. There are known to be quite large
numbers of torture victims and private initiatives have made it
possible to set up rehabilitation centres for them. The government,
which initially saw such centres as giving implicit credence to torture
claims, has finally given permission for them to be set up.
Various other provisions (Article 6 ff.) of the new
anti-terror law constitute clear restrictions on freedom of speech.
There is a danger that freedom of the press may be restricted even more
than at present.
Article 11 states that people may be kept in police
custody for up to 30 days, which is contrary to the European Convention
on Human Rights.
The Social Democratic Party has lodged an appeal
against this law with the Constitutional Council.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, among others,
was aware of the concern aroused by this law and acknowledged the risk
that it might be enforced in a restrictive manner, in particular as
regards the concept of “separatist activities”. He indicated that the
law might be amended. Many people consider that the law effectively
restores articles of the penal code which had previously been abolished.
2.5. The state of emergency, which is a consequence
of Kurdish separatist activities and the numerous attacks carried out
in the region in question, covers 13 provinces, which have been
governed by emergency law for 12 years (the provinces of south and
south-east Anatolia, a region which is particularly backward in social
and economic terms and provides fertile soil for the Kurdish
separatists). According to the SHP, which is the only party to have a
clear position on this problem, it is unacceptable for a self-styled
democratic state to place its citizens under differing laws. This is,
however, the situation which pertains in this region of around five
million people whose lives are subject to extraordinary regulations and
where the sociological, cultural, social and economic dimensions have
often been neglected.
The prefect in the region of thirteen provinces
covered by the state of emergency believes that it should already have
been lifted. In 1988 and 1991 a wave of Iraqi refugees flooded into the
region and there was an increase in terrorism, in particular from 1984
onwards, largely supported by the neighbouring states; these factors
have justified maintaining the special provisions. The prefect
considers that the state of emergency can only be lifted if there is
genuine economic development in the region. The GAP is seen as a
project of national importance which may be able to assist the
development of this backward region.
2.6. The Kurdish question has been taboo in Turkish
politics for many years. The Kurds are claimed not to exist as such but
to be 'mountain Turks'. The long-standing approach of the government
has been not to recognize any special rights for the Kurds, which, on
the basis of nondiscrimination, meant that Kurds could be given the
same public-sector jobs as Turks.
The Gulf War and the influx of Iraqi-Kurdish
refugees into Turkey are probably the reason for a certain change in
attitudes on this matter. The use of the Kurdish language is now
allowed under the law of 12 April 1991. However, it is not clear how
far this extends - whether it means only the spoken language, as some
would claim, while others point out that the Kurdish language is a
spoken language and that it is extremely difficult to write because
there are a number of variants. One thing is certain: teaching of the
Kurdish language is not allowed and publications in Kurdish are
regularly seized. The Kurds themselves wish their identity to be
recognized but they are by no means all supporters of the PKK, which is
calling for an independent Kurdistan.
It should also be pointed out that the region
effected by terrorist separatist attacks suffers from many economic and
social problems (e.g. illiteracy and unemployment) and provides fertile
soil for such activities. The Turkish Government should therefore be
encouraged - as emphasized by some opposition parties (e.g. the SHP) -
to deal with the political causes of terrorism. Without wishing to
interfere in Turkish internal affairs, there can be no doubt that
recognition of the Kurds' special rights - clearly not involving any
challenge to the territorial integrity and unity of the Turkish nation
- and greater economic support would make it possible to bring back
into the mainstream a whole sector of the population which sees itself
as 'second class citizens' and still lives under a special legal regime.
There was an international outcry recently at the
incursions by the Turkish army into Iraqi territory to bomb Kurdish
terrorist camps. The raids caused a number of civilian casualties. The
Turkish Government made clear that it was prepared to take all measures
needed to guarantee the security of the country. However, the raids
were denounced by one opposition party (the True Path Party of Mr
2.7. Certain developments should be welcomed, such
as the holding of the International Socialist Congress on 9 and 10 June
in Istanbul and the International Congress on Human Rights held last
October, which was attended by representatives of the European
Parliament. This congress would appear to have been primarily for the
benefit of the media... Clearly, criticism can be communicated to the
Turkish authorities through greater dialogue between the Community and
Turkey, via the various existing bodies - the Joint Committee and
political groups. It is hard to grasp that a country that calls itself
a democracy, which is a member of the Council of Europe and of NATO,
which has applied to join the European Community and has just
negotiated an agreement with the EFTA countries should be riddled with
such deep contradictions on the matter of democracy. The positive signs
of the current process must be encouraged, because it corresponds to
the wishes of the Turkish population and is moving in the right
direction, leaving aside any considerations to do with Turkey's
relations with the EC.
2.8. The programme of the coalition government
formed between the DYP (of Mr Demirel) and the SHP (of Mr Inönü), which
was presented on 14 November, is intended to make Turkey a genuine
“state based on the rule of law”. The programme emphasizes the
amendments which need to be made to the Constitution and certain laws -
in particular the antiterror law. These changes will “give Turkey a new
However, the Turkish Grand National Assembly has
come out in favour of renewing the state of emergency in the provinces
in the south-east of the country for a period of four months. The DYP,
the ANAP and the RP voted in favour, the SHP against and the DSP
3. The economic and social situation
3.1. Turkey currently faces serious economic
problems: galloping inflation (around 60%), rapid urbanisation due to
large-scale migration from the country, a population growth-rate of
about 2% (which may be as high as 3.5% in regions such as south-east
Anatolia) and a high unemployment rate. On the whole these problems
were not considered to be obstacles to Turkey's development by the
people to whom we spoke. They emphasized the Turkish people's capacity
for hard work and the rapid industrial growth of the country. However,
it is widely acknowledged that the present education system is
inadequate, in particular vocational training. The recent agreement on
vocational training in the mining and tourism sectors should therefore
be welcomed. In addition, some holding companies (e.g. Sabanci) have
set up their own training programmes. There is still a high illiteracy
rate of around 20% of the population, a problem which particularly
affects women and elderly people in the less favoured areas (the
emergency zone). The programme of the coalition government is aimed
primarily at reducing inflation and cutting taxes.
3.2. Lastly, there is the problem of fundamentalism.
This is not seen as a threat, as Turkey is a secular state, a principle
which, by national consensus, may not be called into question.
Nevertheless, Islam is omnipresent. The results achieved by the Welfare
Party speak for themselves.
The existence side by side of western and
traditional elements (some women still wear the veil) gives the
impression that Turkish society is split into two: on the one hand a
significant part of the economic and political elite which has turned
definitively in the direction of Europe and, on the other hand, a large
proportion of the population which keeps to its traditional customs and
whose standard of living is close to that of a developing country.
Between those two extremes, the middle class appears to be in an
B. RELATIONS WITH THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY
There is a consensus among the leading economic,
business and political classes that Turkey should become a member of
the European Community. This is the maximalist approach. It is based
primarily on cultural arguments: ever since 1963, Turkey has made clear
its wish to be a member of the Community and the association agreement
signed with the Community provided for such a development. This in
effect means opting for western, democratic values. Accession would
guarantee Turkey's position in the family of European democracies.
Parallels are often made in this respect with Greece, Spain and
Portugal. It is also argued that, as Turkey is a member of the Council
of Europe and Nato and proved its European credentials in the Gulf
Crisis, it should play a full part in the Community. Stress was also
laid on the geo-strategic element, i.e. Turkey as a bridge between
Europe and the East.
Apart from the Welfare Party, which rejects these
arguments (also on the basis of cultural values), there are some
nuances within the general consensus. All parties are in favour of the
democratization and modernization of the country. This approach should
be encouraged irrespective of the question of accession, although many
of those to whom we spoke feel that accession could only facilitate
progress in these areas. Some believe that Turkey will catch up to the
level of the Community Member States whether it is a member or not and
the goal of modernization is seen as something separate from the
question of accession; for others, the modernization of Turkey can only
take place if it is integrated into Europe. Some believe in a firm
attachment to the Community of Twelve and wish their country to become
the thirteenth member; others, while in favour of closer ties with
Western Europe, are not entirely committed to accession.
A number of our contacts found it difficult to
understand the present state of development of the Community - i.e. the
introduction of economic and monetary union and political union - and
to see that the question of enlargement of the Community is related not
only to Turkey but, in the near future, to a number of applicant
countries and should therefore be discussed in a much wider context.
Some took the view that there was no possible alternative to Turkey and
that Turkey should be the “thirteenth member”. It would not be
satisfied with a “special status” or a third type of agreement.
The people to whom we spoke hoped that the obstacles
raised by the Commission in its opinion on Turkey's request for
accession, i.e. essentially economic and social obstacles, were the
real reasons for the refusal. However, in the eyes of the then Prime
Minister, Mr Akbulut, these objective reasons were in fact being used
to mask other matters, such as human rights and the problem of Cyprus.
The Turks felt that they were not popular in Europe
and accused the European Parliament and certain left-wing forces of an
unfriendly attitude towards them; they acknowledged that they do not
make a good case for themselves.
The most direct question which was most frequently
posed is as follows: “Tell us whether you want us or not. If you don't
want us we won't declare war on you but we will draw the appropriate
conclusions for developing our markets (Demirel, Inan, Baykal)”. The
President of the Republic, Mr Ozal, made it clear that if Europe did
not want Turkey, Turkey would go elsewhere. The Turks thus wish to be
given a firmer commitment by the Community and they wonder whether it
is their eligibility as such which is being questioned (Demirel).
The feeling is that, following the events in Eastern
Europe and the subsequent applications for accession, Turkey will be
last in line. In economic circles (TOBB), the view is that, while
maintaining the goal of accession, Turkey should continue to seek other
possibilities. Following the developments in Eastern Europe, the
Community is no longer as important as it was; there are other
important economic areas (the Black Sea countries, the Balkans, the
Soviet Union, etc). Nevertheless it is questionable whether this
alternative is really viable for Turkey.
(2) From the technical point of view
Those who were in favour of Turkey's accession to
the Community did not envisage any economic and social difficulties.
They were optimistic about their industrial growth rate and potential
and believed that the Turkish market would be a huge market for the
European Community. The structural disparities referred to in the
Commission's opinion - in the agricultural and industrial spheres,
macro-economic imbalances, the high level of protection for industry,
the low level of social protection and the low per capita income were
considered not to be real obstacles: reference is constantly made to
the level of Greece at the time of its accession. “If there are
economic constraints, we will accept them (Sabanci)”; as regards the
level of protection enjoyed by Turkish industry, this is being sharply
reduced (according to TOBB).
In the immediate future, Turkey wishes to strengthen
relations with the Community and thus implement the Commission's
proposals, which are currently being held up by Greece's veto. The
Turks in fact accuse the Community of having become “a hostage to
Greece”. It is difficult for them to see that any Member State has a
right of veto concerning the agreement in question; they themselves
feel that the dispute between Greece and Turkey would be more easily
settled and dissipated if Turkey were integrated into the European
They wish to strengthen political dialogue and, in
particular, relaunch the Association Council (the ambassador of the
Netherlands confirmed in this connection that his country - which was
to take over the Presidency in the next few months - would ensure that
this council - the only body through which the association can operate
- was reestablished). The meeting of 30 September was a success to the
extent that the psychological hurdle was overcome. There is now a need
to go further and work at a practical level through this body. The hope
was also expressed that dialogue would continue between
parliamentarians on both sides, both within the European
Parliament-Turkish Grand National Assembly Joint Committee and through
the various political groups and parliamentary committees.
There is also a consensus in the country that the
Cyprus issue should be kept separate from accession. There must be no
linkage between Turkey's accession to the Community and the Cyprus
problem. The Turkish authorities are in any case determined to solve
In this connection the Greek authorities are accused
of lacking flexibility. The Turks accuse the European Community of
taking the side of one of its members, Greece. They argue that United
Nations Resolution 649 should be implemented and that it is primarily
up to the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities to solve the
problem. Despite the Turkish Government's declared wish to solve the
Cyprus question, our impression was that they were fairly satisfied
with the status quo. It would therefore seem pointless to use the
financial protocol to put pressure on them to solve the Cyprus question.
(4) The limited overall budget of ECU 600 m is
currently frozen but this has not prevented economic and trade
relations from developing normally, particularly since the Gulf crisis.
(Before the war Iraq was Turkey's largest trade partner). A number of
specific cooperation measures are under way (the 'Cheysson facilities',
preparations for a new EEC-Turkey trade week, attendance by Turkish
officials at European Community visitors' programme, etc). The hope was
expressed that such measures could be strengthened and that Turkey
could participate in the ERASMUS programme.
The recent cooperation agreement in the medical and
health sector should also be welcomed, as should the training projects
in the tourism and mining sector. These, too, are measures which are
helping consolidate relations.
The European Community has every interest in
improving relations with Turkey, while not abandoning its demands as
regards democracy and respect for human rights. These demands are in
the interest of the Turkish people themselves.
The new coalition government should be supported in
its efforts to make changes and attach Turkey to the family of European
democracies, if the country is not to topple into the fundamentalist
camp or face the risk of destabilization. The current fragile political
climate in this part of Eastern Europe should remind the Community that
it is vital that Turkey continues to play a major stabilizing role
there. The best way to achieve this end is to relaunch and strengthen
Six months after the new government came into
office, your rapporteur again visited Turkey (on her own initiative,
while being given a great deal of assistance from the Commission
delegation in Ankara and the Turkish authorities), in a spirit of
objectivity since it seemed that there had been changes in Turkey since
the change in government.
Consequently, there appears to be a need for a
second explanatory statement, to supplement the statement written after
the first visit, based on meetings during the second visit and events
that happened in the meantime. The two statements will give Members a
better understanding of the political situation in Turkey and current
changes and also the numerous difficulties that remain, despite a
change in political direction.
Your rapporteur made her second visit from 12 to 14
March 1992; meetings were held at a very high level, showing that the
Turkish authorities appreciated her personal initiative. Your
rapporteur met the Prime Minister, Mr Demirel, the Speaker of the Grand
National Assembly, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of
Justice, the Deputy Speaker of the Grand National Assembly, the
co-chairman of the joint parliamentary committee for relations with the
European Parliament, and the chairman of the Committee on Human Rights;
overall, these represented the DYP-SHP governing coalition and the ANAP.
Your rapporteur also met the Secretary-General of
the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), which
was restored to official recognition after the October elections, and
representatives of the Association and Foundation of Human Rights.
Talks during the second visit largely focused on the
political situation in Turkey and the implementation of the coalition
protocol and government programme, which the new government had
presented as the basis for establishing democracy.
The impression that emerged from the talks was that
the new government was sincere in its intention of making Turkey a
constitutional democracy that respects democratic freedoms and human
rights and in putting an end to the military regime that had held sway
since the coup d'état of 12 September 1980. There was consensus among
the politicians in power on the need for democratization and the
eventual aim was revision of the 1982 constitution, which did not at
provide a foundation for a democratic state.
The new government was seen as offering Turkey an
opportunity and hope for all those who wanted change. There were some
very encouraging signs: the government's desire to reconcile the state
and people and the way in which unions and human rights organizations
were being associated with preparation of legislation.
During your rapporteur's visit, the Ministry of
Justice presented its programme for the amendment of several articles
in the penal code, the law governing the legal profession, the removal
of several legal provisions on the responsibilities and rights of the
police, the anti-terrorist law, etc. The package of reforms also
included measures to prevent torture; at the same time the police were
issued with manuals showing how to treat suspects in a way that
respected human rights.
The parliamentary coalition recently reached
consensus on amendment of sixty articles of the constitution (e.g.
increased freedom for the press and the unions, ending of the state
monopoly on broadcasting, establishment of judicial independence, etc.).
In view of its assumption of the presidency of the
Council of Europe on 8 May 1992, the Turkish Government has undertaken
to waive all reservations implying a limitation of human rights
expressed by Turkey when signing international treaties.
Draft legislation allowing reconstitution of the CHP
(Social Democratic Party, which was disbanded following the military
intervention on 12 September 1980) has been sent to the Grand National
Assembly's constitutional committee; the party should be reconstituted
on 9 September, the anniversary of its foundation.
The government's expressed wish to introduce
democracy thus seems to be taking concrete form in view of the numerous
bills before the Grand National Assembly, but there are still a number
of problems, most of them left over from the previous regime, that have
still not been removed or solved. The new government has also been
criticized for not having put its promises into effect fast enough.
Certain facts should be mentioned: the continued
existence of anti-democratic forces in the army, the police and the
magistracy, which do not intend to play the democratic game. The
present government contains only three former ministers; civil servants
are badly paid and thus open to corruption, procedures are cumbersome,
The National Security Council, which still contains
members of the military and whose recommendations have to be followed
by the Council of Ministers, is incompatible with constitutional
democracy. Many agree with the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly's
view that it should be abolished but the coalition has to obtain the
two thirds majority needed for reform of the constitution.
Torture, although condemned at the highest level, is
still apparently practised, especially in the South East, where the
state of emergency has had to be extended for four months. At this
level, government statements have not yet been put into effect.
Terrorism: the problem has got considerably worse in
the last few months. During your rapporteur's visit there was an
overwhelming mood of fear on the eve of the Kurdish New Year festival
of Newroz, celebrated on 21 March.
The tragic turn of events taken by the
demonstrations are well known. The European Parliament immediately
responded with a resolution in topical and urgent debate, condemning
excesses by terrorist groups, the military and forces of law and order.
The situation in South-East Anatolia has changed
little since your rapporteur's first visit; the region is still under
state of emergency, with all the restrictions on freedom that this
implies (since the renewal of the state of emergency the HEP Members
from South-East Anatolia have resigned from the SHP political group).
The European Parliament voted in favour of lifting
the state of emergency as soon as possible and introducing a general
amnesty, a democratic fight against terrorism and recognition of the
Kurds. This problem was taboo during your rapporteur's first visit to
Turkey but is now discussed officially. The government is however
showing extreme caution; it intends to grant certain rights to people
of Kurdish descent: cultural rights, the right to publish books and
newspapers in Kurdish and to broadcast in Kurdish, etc. These plans
have of course been heavily compromised by the bloody events at the
The situation has barely changed since your
rapporteur's first visit. The Prime Minister has however stated his
wish to find a solution that respects the United Nations resolutions
and stressed the importance of maintaining good relations with Greece
following the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey
at the Davos Summit in February 1992.
Relations with the European Community
A slight change has become perceptible since your
rapporteur's first visit. Membership has not been forgotten but no
longer seems to be a government obsession. Relations with Europe have
to be improved, Turkey may one day be part of Europe but its main
intention is to play a regional role, which will be of prime importance
and which was highlighted by the French Head of State and a senior
British diplomat during their recent visits to Turkey.
The Turks deserve credit for their attitude in the
conflict in Nagorno Karabakh and the country has an important role to
play in relations with the new “Turkish republics”.
Your rapporteur therefore supports the proposal to
grant Turkey observer status in the Western European Union and of
course supports increased political cooperation with Turkey,
particularly with regard to all Mediterranean and Middle Eastern
issues. There is a need, while showing full understanding of the
interests of Turkey and the Community, to reinforce and regenerate
relations with Turkey, which is destined to play an increasingly
important, in fact a decisive, political role in this particularly
sensitive region. Your rapporteur advocates that the government should
be given every encouragement in putting its electoral promises into
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT ON THE RIGHTS OF THE KURDISH
While all political problems have unique features,
it can be safely said that the Kurdish problem has more than its share.
Any attempt to impose blueprints for a settlement,
drawn for simpler situations elsewhere, are doomed to failure. For
instance the doctrine of self-determination cannot be applied to the
To do so would require first, an agreement among the
Kurds as to what questions should be submitted to them for decision and
second, the consent of the Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and perhaps Syrian
and Soviet Governments to losses of sovereignty over large areas which,
in the cases of Turkey and Iran have been under their flags for
centuries. Moreover very large numbers of Kurds live in areas where
they are themselves a minority and it is unlikely that their Arab,
Turkish, Turkoman and other neighbours would welcome independence for
the Kurds or government by them. In addition the areas where the Kurds
are concentrated are of strategic importance and are also sources of
oil and water, the control of which causes disputes between Middle
To say this is not to minimise the Kurdish problem.
Kurds total between 24 to 28 million people of whom about 12 - 15
million live in Turkey, forming over a fifth of the population, about 5
million in Iraq where, before the recent exodus of refugees to
neighbouring countries, they formed over a quarter of the population,
6-8 million in Iran, where they are well over a tenth of the
inhabitants, one million in Syria, where they are about one twelfth of
the population and about half a million scattered in several republics
of the former Soviet Union. By any standards the future of the Kurds is
a major problem in the Middle East. But any responsible person must
avoid promoting the delusion of a settlement which can fully satisfy
the wishes of those Kurds who aspire to independence. It is important
to note that even after the appalling experience of Saddam Hussein's
tyranny, Kurdish leaders in Iraq were still willing to negotiate with
him to try to secure a degree of autonomy rather than independence.
It is one of the paradoxes of Kurdish history that
their sense of identity is one of the oldest surviving in the world,
tracing its origins to the Medes, but that since the Empire of the
Medes they have never formed a nation. Not only are they separated by
state frontiers, both old and of this century, but they are divided in
tribes, in variants of the Kurdish language and in religion, although
the great majority are followers of Islam of one kind or another. All
this is of course reflected in the political loyalties of the Kurds
which are both ancient and modern. So the class struggle of the
Marxists takes place in a feudal setting while nationalism is
fragmented by a society of clans. Probably the only workable definition
of a Kurd is one who believes that he or she is a Kurd or those who are
believed to be Kurdish by one of their oppressors.
It is of course the scale, brutality and persistence
of their oppression which is at the origin of this report and which
continues to compel the concern of the international community. A UNHCR
report published on 5th December 1991, stated that as many as 200,000
Kurds had fled from their homes since early October. Of these over
140,000 had been driven out by Iraqi shelling of their villages and
60,000 had been forced out by the orders and threats of Saddam
Hussein's soldiers. These are proofs of the continuing large scale and
severity of this oppression.
The Gulf War was undertaken for a variety of
motives. Whatever view is taken of their validity, it cannot be denied
that it amounted to a massive assumption of responsibility by external
and mainly Western, powers in the affairs of Iraq in particular and of
the Middle East in general. That is not necessarily fortunate for the
Kurds. To appease Kemal Atatürk, the Western powers tore up the Treaty
of Sevres of 1920 which had promised self-determination for the Kurds
and signed the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. This defined the boundaries
of the successor states of the Ottoman Empire and conferred League of
Nations mandates on France for Lebanon and Syria and on Great Britain
for Mesopotamia, as Iraq was then called. Since then Kurds have been
massacred in thousands.
In Turkey Kemal Atatürk's forces killed tens,
perhaps hundreds of thousands in crushing the revolt of 1925. Between
1929 and 1938, the Kurds were subjected to brutal repression. For the
period 20th June to 10th December 1930, for a Turk to kill a Kurd was
officially declared not to be a crime. About a million Kurds were moved
by force from their homes between 1925-38. Martial law
persisted until 1946 in Kurdish parts of Anatolia. More recently under
both military and democratically elected Turkish Governments, the Kurds
have continued to be denied cultural expression, have been subjected to
mass arrests, all too often followed by torture and, until the
mid-eighties, by execution. While the emergency laws, which controlled
11 provinces in South East Turkey have been repealed, they have been
replaced by a decree of a similar nature.
In Iran the record is hardly less bloody, whether
under the first Pahlevi Shah, Reza Khan, in the 1920's; following the
break up of the short-lived Mahabad republic by the Iranian Government
in 1946; or since the Islamic revolution of 1979. It must also be
remembered that when the Iranian Government reached its unexpected
agreement with the Iraqi Government at Algiers in 1975 to cut off all
assistance to the Kurds, then in revolt in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was
helped to reinforce his rule of terror. As a result apart from several
thousand killed and wounded, some quarter of a million Kurds fled from
Iraq to Iran, while within Iraq a similar number of Kurds were deported
to the South.
Iraqi Governments of varying political persuasion
repeatedly repressed Kurdish revolts in a brutal manner. For example,
according to a UN report, 40,000 Kurdish houses were destroyed and
300,000 people driven from their homes between 1963-70. But it was the
massacres of Kurds by Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War which
became notorious in the world at large. In 1983, 8,000 civilian members
of the Barzani clan were arrested by the Iraqis and have never been
seen since. In 1985 the bodies of children tortured by the Iraqi secret
police were returned to their next of kin. In 1987 as many as half a
million Kurds were deported to detention camps in the deserts of
Southern and Western Iraq. Those who sought to return to their villages
seem to have been executed. Three thousand villages were razed to the
ground. On 17th March 1988, the Iraqi forces used poison gas against
the small town of Halabja killing over 6000 men, women and children.
Mass killing continued in spite of international protests and it was
only after the intervention of American, British, Dutch and French
forces in the spring of 1991, that it was effectively, if only
temporarily, checked. It must be mentioned that the Turks, who allowed
the allied intervention to be organised from their territory, had
admitted thousands of Kurdish refugees in 1991, even though the great
majority of those who had sought refuge in Turkey after the Halabja
massacre three years earlier have remained in camps, paid for by the
Turks and neglected by the rest of the world. The Iranians have
admitted an even larger number of Kurdish refugees this year as well as
hundreds of thousands of Shiites, adding to the burden of supporting
large numbers of Afghan refugees, who fled from Soviet aggression and
the subsequent civil war in their own country.
Journalists and other visitors to Iraq since the
cease fire in March 1991 have found proofs of the massive scale and
appalling cruelty of Saddam Hussein's crimes against the Kurds and
against other Iraqis, especially the Shiites of the South.
It is necessary to recite this gloomy catalogue of
atrocity in order to be aware of the nature of the problem. The Kurds
in Turkey, Iran and, to a lesser extent, in Syria, are persecuted. In
Iraq, given the past record of the Baathist regime, they are threatened
with genocide. None of the Member States of the European Community can
plead ignorance. Nor, given the Iraqi defeat by the American led forces
of the UN and the successful moves to protect the Kurds in the spring
of 1991, can they plead powerlessness.
As was said at the beginning there is no possible
policy which will resolve the problem by creating a single or several
Kurdish states. But that makes it all the more necessary that the Kurds
as individuals are protected.
For the Governments of the Twelve to criticise the
treatment of the Kurds by Governments in the Middle East, while
refusing entry to Kurdish refugees and even deporting some who have
reached the West, is to expose the European Community to charges of
hypocrisy. Such a policy will also embitter those Kurds who are already
settled in Member States, who number about 1/2 a million.
Unfortunately, some of the European States' capacity to deal with the
Kurdish problem is also handicapped by the burdens of historical
responsibility. German, French and British rivalries have, for
generations, bedevilled the politics of the Middle East.
The award of the League of Nations Mandate for Iraq
to the British Government directly involved the United Kingdom in
The desire of London to control the Mosul oil fields
through its client government in Bagdad, led to the suppression of
Kurdish rebellion by British forces in the 1920s. Poison gas was used.
Earlier in the same decade, Paris allowed free passage to Turkish
forces, bent on massacring Kurds, through French controlled
territories. More recently French Governments have been much involved
in the arming of the Iraqis.
Yet, the long-standing opposition of both British
and French Governments to Turkish ambitions in the Middle East, the
political interference of the Anglo-Iranian oil company in the affairs
of the Persians and recently, the role of Great Britain and France in
the Gulf War, mean that to bitter Kurdish memories of Western conduct
are added the distrust of their enemies Arab, Iranian and Turk. To this
must be added the failure of successive Greek Governments to allow to
the Turks of Greek Thrace the rights which Athens demands Ankara should
introduce for the minorities of Anatolia. The Twelve must therefore
recognise that any efforts they may make will not be regarded as
any of the parties concerned.
Nor should it be supposed that the Kuyrds’ own
historical or contemporary record is unsullied. Kurds took part in the
mass murder of Armenians during the First World War and have since
persecuted the Assyrian Christians. The PKK (the Kurdish Workers Party)
has been guilty of many crimes of violence against Turks. On 7th
October 1991, a Reuters journalist witnessed the brutal massacre by
Kurds of 60 Iraqi soldiers at Sulayminah who were unarmed prisoners.
There are also Kurdish units in Saddam Hussein's army which have been
used against their own people.
But these crimes do not alter the fact that the
Kurdish people as a whole are the most vulnerable and the most
Given that demands for Kurdish independence cannot
be satisfied, it would be grossly irresponsible for the Community or
for its Member States to encourage that demand. It would doom the Kurds
to further repression, to a struggle, often violent and bloody, which
they could not win. To summarise, this is because of their
proportionately small numbers, their geographical isolation, their
cultural, social and political disunity and their poverty. There is
also the fact that support for the Kurdish cause provokes anger among
countries with which much of the world wishes to cultivate good
relations because of their oil and geo-political position. In
combination, these harsh circumstances oblige the friends of the Kurds
and all those revolted by the prospect of more carnage to promote
compromises, however difficult they may be to achieve.
There are some grounds for hope. In Turkey
concessions have been announced in the spoken use of the Kurdish
language by President Özal. He abandoned the pretence that the Kurdish
problem does not exist. While military repression of Kurdish PKK
guerillas continued and has even been extended into Northern Iraq by
Turkish air attacks, the violations of individual human rights by
police and the army seem to have diminished and the carrying out of
death sentences has been stopped. Unhappily the PKK in its struggle to
establish an independent Marxist-Leninist state continues to terrorise
the Kurds who do not support them.
The construction of dams (the Grand Anatolian
Project), which will lead to the fertilisation of much of the area
where Turkish Kurds have lived for generations, while causing anxieties
for Turkey's southern neighbours about their water supplies, at least
shows that Ankara intends to help the economy of these areas, so
discouraging further migration of the Kurds abroad or to Western
Turkey. The relaxation of relations with most of the successor states
of the Soviet Union, following the collapse of Communism, weakens the
voice of the military and at the same time enables Turkey's allies in
the Atlantic Alliance to feel freer to criticise. The wish of Turkey to
cultivate good relations with the European Community, so hoping to keep
their application to join alive, provides other means of pressure on
Ankara to respect human rights. The willingness of the Turks to allow
bases on their soil to be used for the Western intervention to save
Iraqi Kurds and to allow thousands of Kurdish refugees into their
territory, no doubt derived largely from this.
But these hopes could soon be dashed. The operations
of democracy in Turkey do not necessarily favour a liberal policy
towards the Kurds, since both left and right wing critics of President
Ozal attacked him for his relaxation of the repressive measures against
the Kurds. While, in the programme of the coalition government formed
from the True Path (DYP) and Social Democrat Populist (SHP) parties
after the elections of October 1991, it is stated that Turkish national
culture "is enriched by the differences of language, of faith, and of
origin", the Kurds are not mentioned by name.
In Iran hopes are even more slender. While Islamic
fanaticism has somewhat abated and, to their credit, the Iranian
Government and people proved hospitable to Kurdish refugees fleeing
from Saddam Hussein's massacres, there are few signs of the
democratisation without which individuals and minorities will always
remain exposed to officially promoted hysteria. In fact Teheran has
recently been emphasising its links with Peking which hardly augurs
well for human rights. The death penalty continues to be used against
anybody who can be accused of hostility to the Iranian regime.
The Twelve have few means of influence apart from
the Iranian need for investment to rebuild its war shattered economy.
The Syrian Kurds are better protected, if only
temporarily. The Syrian Government is under the eyes of the world in
the Middle East Peace negotiations which began at the Madrid Conference
on 30th October 1991. In these it seeks to represent itself as a
defender of the oppressed, nothwithstanding its appalling human rights
record of torture, terrorism and persecution of minorities. While there
are no signs that the fundamental character of President Assad's regime
has changed or is likely to do so, it would not suit his propaganda to
indulge in persecution of the Kurds. In addition the Syrian dictator
must want to maintain reasonable relations with Kurds in general so
long as he remains the bitter foe of President Saddam Hussein.
It is in Iraq that the gravest and most urgent
questions are posed. It is doubtful whether Western Governments will be
willing to repeat their successful intervention on behalf of the Kurds
made in the Spring of 1991. The allied forces are now again all in
Turkey following their withdrawal from Northern Iraq. The terms of the
understanding, after which they withdrew, left wide scope for further
crimes against the Kurds. The rigours of winter have driven thousands
of people down into the valleys where they are much more vulnerable to
attack. Saddam Hussein, having personally escaped the consequences of
his defeat in
the Gulf War, once more dominates most of Iraq and his machinery of
internal terror, if not that of external aggression, is unimpaired.
If the West in general or the Twelve in particular,
wish to help the Kurds they will have to have policies and the means to
enforce them, to stop Saddam Hussein from renewing his policy of mass
murder. The paper guarantees he may be willing to sign with Kurdish
leaders in Iraq are just that, valueless, unless supported by the
willingness of the West to use sanctions to enforce them.
Led by the United States, most of the Member States
of the EC proved willing to support action against the invader of
Kuwait. Will "the duty to intervene" proclaimed by Mr Dumas, include
the protection of the Kurds of Iraq from the risk of genocide, not only
in the Spring of 1991 when their plight was first exposed on the
television sets of the Western world, but for the indefinite future?