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About the Latest Developments in Turkey and the Kurdish Question (en anglais, la fin du cessez-le-feu et ses conséquences)



• Kongra Gel took the decision to declare a one month unilateral cease fire following the calls from the intellectuals and comments by Erdogan regarding the problem.

• HPG announced that it will obey the one month unilateral ceasefire decision taken by Kongra Gel. Its forces did not engage in any clashes during operations in absolute necessary situations.

• The Kurdish public, who has made efforts to stop the operations, marched to the front in Batman. On 1 September voices requesting peace were raised.

• Tens of thousands of people participated in the funerals of guerrillas killed during the one month unilateral cease fire period. During these ceremonies many, including the families of the guerrillas, killed demanded peace.


• In the beginning, and through diplomatic interference, the announcement of a‘one month unilateral cease fire’ made by Kongra Gel President Zubeyir Aydar in Brussels was prevented.

• Starting from day one when the unilateral cease fire was announced operations in which many soldiers and guerrillas lost their lives continued through the whole month.

• The provocative attitude of the military and media lead to the increase in lynching against Kurds. The funerals of the soldiers killed during the operations were turned into revengeful oath ceremonies.

• Abdullah Ocalan was prevented from seeing his family following the ban on visits from his solicitors. All his links with the world were cut. The whole Kurdish population was put under pressure.

On 10 August Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan met a group of intellectuals regarding the Kurdish problem. Two days later, Erdogan along with three ministers and a strong advisory group, addressed the public in Diyarbakir. Erdogan here named the problem and also gave the following political messages which spelled out the role of the state : “Yes we have a Kurdish problem ; we are ready to face this ; you are considered important. The Kurdish problem above all is my problem”. It did not take very long for the messages to echo in the Kurdish political community. Kongra Gel laid the announcement of Erdogan on the table and made an evaluation of the situation, to give Erdogan an opportunity to act, and to start a period free from clashes and weapons. Kongra Gel decided to make a press announcement on 19 August to inform the public of its decision to call for a one month unilateral ceasefire.

Intolerance !

The unilateral ceasefire decision was to be announced to the public in a press statement in Brussels. Unfortunately the Turkish government who wanted to prevent the press announcement had diplomatic contact with the Belgium government which resulted in the prevention of Kongra Gel President Zubeyir Aydar making the press announcement. Thereupon 5 members of Kongra Gel handed out leaflets to the journalists at the front of the building where the press announcement was to have taken place. However those who distributed the leaflets were later detained by the Belgium police. When the press announcement did not take place the public was informed of the decision in writing.

Ceasefire decision did not get the response it deserved

The ceasefire decision found nobody willing to negotiate officially on behalf of the state. Prime Minister Erdogan kept quiet about the decision while politicians who did choose to comment criticised Kongra-Gel. DYP leader Mehmet Agar said : “This matter is being dealt with and we should leave it like this” while CHP leader Deniz Baykal pointed the finger at Abdullah Ocalan by saying : “There is only one source of authority and they all have to obey it. Nobody may go outside that. That authority is on Imrali”. General Hursit Tolon when changing places with General Ilker Basbug, Chief of the 1st Army Command, said to him that the intellectuals want to destroy the unitary state, and blamed the intellectuals for the ceasefire decision. The overwhelming majority of the media said that Kongra-Gel’s decision was inadequate, and that instead of a ceasefire demanded that they go down the road of permanently laying down their weapons.

Army began provocations

The very day after the ceasefire decision was announced, in fact on 20 August, the first day in which the ceasefire was in force, repression against the people of Hakkari was stepped up. Units from Bolu and Kayseri were moved to the town the previous day, and in the evening a series of raids on houses was organised. The streets were continually full of tanks, and a public demonstration took place. A committee was set up chaired by the Mayor, Metin Tekce, which made a report on the situation in the town and informed the governor. On 24 August in Duracasi in the Yazihan District of Malatya Serdal-Seda Boztepe’s wedding feast was raided and wedding guests were insulted by men from the Yazihan District Gendarmerie Headquarters claiming that a PKK flag had been raised. On the day that the ceasefire came into force the army conducted various operations so as to sabotage the process, and this became even more evident in the days that followed.

Kurds took responsibility

While the state showed every sign that it could not cope with a ceasefire, on the Kurdish side there was completely the opposite atmosphere. On 23 August Kurdish committees and institutions made a statement supporting Kongra-Gel’s decision to have one month’s ceasefire. Asking for a positive answer from the state, the committees said : “We support any initiative that will prevent the death of children, bring light into a dark time, and ensure social peace.” Meanwhile a campaign to collect signatures for the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Ocalan gathered speed. In Europe, Kon-Kurd collected 100,000 signatures. The campaign was also conducted in Turkey, and the people showed great enthusiasm for it. And on 24 August Murat Karayilan, President of KKK, issued a press statement to news agencies, in which he said that if confidence-building measures such as the ceasefire could be extended, a dialogue with elected representatives could be conducted.

Process sabotaged by National Security Council

On 23 August a National Security Council meeting was held at which the main decision was on how to approach the one month ceasefire. In fact the decisions to sabotage the process were taken at this meeting. The army was influential at the meeting, a “Terror Report” was given to those present, Erdogan was criticised for having spoken in Diyarbakir, and the idea was put forward that “There is no Kurdish question in Turkey, there is a problem of terrorism”. A section of the military put psychological pressure on Erdogan, and they got what they wanted from the meeting. And after it, the following announcement was made to remind the government that the army would insist upon its policy being carried out : “As a priority the government of the Republic will carry out its tasks as described in the constitution.” In many quarters the announcement was taken to be a polite warning.

Legal politics are the target

On the following day the NSC explained its position. An investigation had already been launched into the final report of the DEHAP Regional Secretaries Committee, and after the NSC meeting this was changed to a situation where people were detained. The General Secretary Tuncer Bakirhan and 9 other DEHAP officials were brought before the public prosecutor by the police. It was requested that they be arrested for having knowingly and deliberately aided an organisation. In an interesting decision by the No 11 Criminal Court in Ankara, Bakirhan and his colleagues on the DEHAP management committee were not arrested. Instead they were banned from leaving the country and obliged to go and sign at the police station every week. Bakirhan said that through him a message was being sent to the EU, to the government and to the Kurds. And on the same day Murat Karayilan, head of the KKK Presidential Council, made a statement in which he answered the call to lay down arms. “If we are to lay down our arms, where are we to lay them down ? Is there a mechanism for doing this ? Or is it a committee for surrender ?”

Media campaign

During the ceasefire the attitude of the media closely mirrored that of the General Staff. The media showed that it fully understood its responsibilities as laid out in a briefing given to it previously by the General Staff. It preferred to report all sorts of trivia on the day that Kongra-Gel announced the ceasefire, but on the following day began to demand that PKK-Kongra-Gel should totally abandon all its weapons. On 21 August Hurriyet set the tone, joining Milliyet with a headline saying : “No conditions, just give up the weapons”. On 29 August Hurriyet ran lies about Mehmet Uzun under the heading “I left Turkey because of threats from PKK”. A few days later Hurriyet began the psychological war by reopening the issue of the 33 soldiers who were killed under the headline : “Apo gave the orders”.

Ocalan’s isolation intensified

Once the ceasefire decision had been taken, Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Ocalan was not allowed to see his lawyers for three whole months. Explaining that it would not be possible to make up for the damage caused by this, his lawyers made an application to the European Court of Human Rights on 26 August as a precautionary measure because of the ban on his interviews. Meanwhile throughout the one month ceasefire period Ocalan was allowed to see his relatives only once. When his relatives and lawyers tried to seek his views, every time, they were told “The coastal patrol boat has broken down”. The ferry allotted for visits by the Justice Department was used for other purposes by the army. It became clear that while the treatment being shown to Ocalan was also being reflected in public opinion, the army “was eagerly triggering a very dangerous process”. On 31 August his brother Mehmet, seeing him for the first time for a month, reported that because of reduced time for exercise in the fresh air, Ocalan had developed sores round his mouth, and the lumps on his head had grown bigger. Mehmet Ocalan said that his brother suffers from breathlessness at night and cannot sleep, and that the authorities, instead of letting him see visitors, are killing him. Ocalan left the interview room when he realised that the visit had gone on for forty-five minutes, saying : “You will be provoked continually. I will not rise to the bait. I will endure the conditions whatever they are. I am convinced that I have helped the cause of peace.” During the conversation Ocalan invited intellectuals to come and talk to him. And Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said in a statement on 14 September that Ocalan would not be allowed to talk to his lawyers again.

“General, I don’t speak Turkish”

On 14 September in Erzurum an incident took place which threw an interesting light on the army’s attitude to the Kurds. The governor and mayor of Erzurum were visiting some local schools, and General Hayri Kivrikoglu of the 9th army corps, who was distributing aid, was approached by a Kurdish woman dressed in local costume, whose name was Naime Kandil. She said in Kurdish : “General, I don’t speak Turkish. I would like some aid”, to which Kivrikoglu replied : “Learn Turkish, watch TV ! I don’t understand you”. He later told a reporter : “She doesn’t know Turkish. We communicated through an interpreter. If she wants help from the state, she must learn Turkish.” And on 30 August while speaking at the Victory Festival reception, the land forces commander General Yasar Buyukanit said : “PKK’s Roj TV broadcasts from Denmark. I cannot stomach it”, indicating in a particularly sharp way that he could not bear Kurds broadcasting in their mother tongue.

What did the Kurds do ?

They took the decision to hold a one month ceasefire, hundreds of thousand went on to the streets and demanded their language, culture, peace and democracy, and they made it possible for sixteen mothers and two hundred and twenty two human shields to go to the Kandil Mountains. In Germany at the 13th International Festival of Kurdish Culture 100,000 people took part. They demanded freedom for Ocalan, they claimed the bodies of dead guerrillas as their own, and made it very clear that the people would not accept a solution that does not involve Ocalan and the PKK. Great enthusiasm was shown for the campaign acknowledging Ocalan as their leader.

What did the State do ?

They continued with military operations. The lynch mob atmosphere against the Kurds continued without a break. The army created indignation amongst the Kurds and then carried out provocations in order to sabotage the ceasefire process. It objected to Erdogan’s statement about the Kurdish problem, and said that there is only a terror problem. Intellectuals watched the process silently. Ocalan’s conditions of isolation were intensified. In order to remove their rights of freedom of expression from the Kurds, a new Anti-Terror Law was drafted. The Justice Ministry began an investigation into a visit by Osman Baydemir, the mayor of Diyarbakir, for assigning an ambulance to transport the bodies of dead guerrillas. A case was opened against Orhan Pamuk, with the demand that he be sentenced to three years in prison, for saying : “Thirty thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed”. When the mayor of Kayapinar gave Kurdish names to ten parks, eight of the names were banned for “opening the door to separatism”. And village guards were given green benefit cards as a bribe.

Operations began on day of ceasefire

The decision for a ceasefire on 20th August was not the first PKK had announced. In 1993, 1995 and 1998 the PKK announced ceasefires in order to open the way for peace. However the situation during these ceasefires was somewhat different. For example the government’s response had not been to increase the military operations. However the Turkish government responded very differently to the decision taken on the 20th August than they had at other times. The military began intense operations on the day the ceasefire was announced, resulting in a total of thirty five operations.

On 20th August the Turkish Army began operations in the Bestan and Herekol areas of Sırnak and Siirt.

As a result of the helicopter bombardments by the Turkish Army a large forest fire began in the Gabar area of Sırnak which was within the regions under operation. These operations were followed by those in Dersim and Ordu.

Forest’s in Alphanos, Kutu Deresi and Geyiksuyu regions were set alight as part of the military operations. The military operations carried out in Sırnak, Siirt, Dersim, Ordu, Batman, Bingöl and Dıyarbakır during the ceasefire stage resulted in heavy casualties. A total of twenty two HPG militants and fifty one Turkish soldiers lost their lives.

A summary of the operations during the ceasefire are as follows :

20th August : The day PKK ceased fire, operations were carried out in Dersim and Ordu. As a result of these operations two guerrillas lost their lives when a collision broke out.

22nd August : In Macka, a district of Trabzon, operations resulted in one HPG member losing his life and two being arrested. A group of about one hundred civilians following the events and the operations attempted to lynch the HPG members caught by the security forces.

22nd August : The operations carried out in Herekol and Besta ended.

22nd August : In the Semdinli district of Hakkari soldiers who resided at a radio control building belonging to Turkish Telecom set fire to the surrounding forest area.

26th August : Seven HPG militants lost their lives as a result of the operations in the Bekiri town of Batman.

7th September : In Dersim’s Mazgirt town two guerrillas lost their lives during military operations.

8th September : Seven HPG members lost their lives during operations in Dersim’s Munzur mountain.

9th September : The commander of the United States of America’s European forces General James Jones was in contact with Ankara. Turkey renewed its request for US support for its cross -border operations.

10th September : In the Çukurca district of Hakkari two soldiers lost their lives as a result of the gendarme’s operations.

11th September : As a result of operations in the rural regions of Sirnak there was a collision between the Army and the HPG. Four soldiers were killed in the collision. On the same day in Bingöl HPG carried out an attack against a gendarme station resulting in the death of one soldier and the wounding of two.

11th September : The Army set fire to a forested area in Dersim’s Ovacık district at Çambulak Police Station.

12th September : Eight soldiers, including a junior officer, lost their lives as a result of fire breaking out in the district of Genç in Bingöl and in rural regions of Sırnak.

13th September : HPG announced that a total of thirty- four soldiers and two guerrillas had lost their lives as a result of collisions in Dersim, Bingöl, Diyarbakir and Sırnak.

15th September : A vehicle carrying soldiers returning from operations in Semdinli district of rural Hakkari hit a mine resulting in the death of two soldiers and wounding of six.

16th September : An operation in Semdinli, Hakkari, resulted in the death of an HPG member.

Democratic rights impeded

Fifteen days after the decision for a ceasefire had passed the political atmosphere had gradually grown hotter. A serious attack had developed against legal Kurdish institutions as the operations against guerrillas who had ceased fire carried on.

Even so the Kurdish political arena was insistent on peace. On the 4th September Kurdish people from all around Turkey made way towards Gemlik in an attempt at both bringing to the attention the actions against Öcalan and to highlight the point that the democratic solution for the Kurdish question lies in the will of Öcalan. However, thousands of people were blocked on the roads. Whilst in many places people were stopped even before making way, nearly five thousand people approaching Bursa were stopped at the entrance to Bingöl and Kemalpala districts. Thousands of people who had departed from Istanbul were blocked by the police. Those who could not make it in to Gemlik carried out demonstrations in Istanbul’s Sarıgazi, Gazi Mahallalesi, Kartal and Ikitelli. The young demonstrators used molotov cocktails in response to the pepper gas and bats used by the police. The police were blind to the nationalist-idealist groups who were attacking the demonstrators alongside them.

Turkish-Kurdish conflict provoked

The Kurds who could not make it in to Gemlik were stopped on their way back, by a large group of people in Bilecik’s Bozhuyuk town. Celebrations to be held at the town’s stadium to mark the anniversary of Bozhuyuk’s salvation were cancelled and the attackers were redirected towards the Gemlik marchers. The people in the coaches were beaten and efforts were made to burn them alive. The marchers who had lived through hell for hours later came across attacks from the police and gendarme. IHD, ÖDP and KESK all separately announced their concerns. The leader of DEHAP, Tuncer Bakirhan, blamed the authorities for not taking the right precautions. TUHAD-FED found that during the events two hundred people had been hurt, three vehicles were completely burnt, thirty seven vehicles were damaged, seventy six people had personal belongings confiscated. The images of the lynching shown on television shortly led to uprisings in the region. On the next day many demonstrations were organised in Diyarbakir, Siirt, Van and Istanbul in order to condemn the lynching. However the treatment received by the Kurds was not limited to this. Turkey’s lobbying had found a response in Europe. As a result of pressures from Turkey a day after the lynching hysteria Kurdish institutions in Europe were banned. In Germany police arranged raids at Ozgur Politika, MHA and Roj online, closing down Ozgur Politika and MHA.

Anti-Kurdish wave heightened

In Siirt automatic guns were fired on people protesting the lynching. As a result of this a demonstrator named Abdullah Aydan lost his life. On the other hand police dealt harshly with a demonstration carried out during the night in Van. A civilian named Selahttin Urgan was wounded. The heightened action of the anti Kurdish wave after the events in Gemlik turned to atrocity in the Akçakoca district of Düzce. On the 6th September workers who had gone to Karatavuk, a village in Akcakoca, from Sırnak, Beytüssebap to collect nuts were attacked by villagers. Abdülrezak Özdemir was killed with a rifle and six people were wounded. The funerals of those killed in Düzce and Siirt were carried out the next day. There was great anger towards nationalism. Murat Karayılan, the leader of the KKK, announced that after Kongra-Gel had taken the decision to cease fire, the intellectuals in Turkey had turned silent.

The funeral for Özdemir, who was killed in Düzce, was carried out in Adana and for Aydan a ceremony was arranged in Siirt. The HPG guerrilla killed in Van was buried in Ankara. Thousands of people who attended the ceremony condemned the nationalist attacks. DTH made a call to not increase tensions in all regions. As attacks on Kurds were continuing the military began operations in Dersim, Siirt- Kurtalan and rural Diyarbakır. In a speech made by the prime minister Erdogan on the 10th September, he states that ‘as demonstrations increase the security forces will increase their dose accordingly. This shows his concern about people coming out on to the streets to protest.

People march to the collision zone

The army increased its operations in the region after the MGK meeting on the 23rd August. The most tragic of these operations was the one in the rural part of Batman’s Besiri district. It would be revealed that after the operations in Besiri had ended the army had committed war crimes. One of the wounded female guerrillas was shot in the head by the commander after her statement had been taken. Another guerrilla was burnt alive in the bushes he was hiding in. The operations led to mutiny among the public. On the 28th August the public began a march towards the collision zone in order to show their support for and acceptance of the guerrillas. The marchers were joined by residents of Siirt and Batman en route. In a short space of time the protestors who had grown to more than two thousand were stopped by the police on their way out of Besiri. During the intervention by the police a demonstrator named Hasan Iş lost his life. More than twenty thousand people were gathered for the ceremony. A procession was held from the town centre to Asri graveyard five kilometres away. Those present at the procession chanted slogans sending messages to the government : ‘PKK is the people, the people are here’.

The father of Hasan I, Bereket Işspoke by his sons coffin : ‘My son is a martyr for peace’.

Uprisings at funerals

The events in Batman were the focus of protests in Diyarbakır. Groups who took to the street the same day shouted slogans such as ‘Aksu resign, murderer government will answer’.

As a result of the operations HPG, which had moved from ‘active defence to passive defence,’ experienced great losses. However in all the places where funerals were held for the guerrillas targeted and killed for seeking peace, demonstrations were held. As the government and the US were making a dash to find a solution without the PKK and Öcalan, thousands of people were sending off guerrillas with placards, money and slogans, and shouting out that they see Öcalan as their will. On the other hand the military were in a flurry to find a way of preventing the uprisings.

The breakdown of the funerals turning into uprisings :

Mesut Isa : Lost his life in Trabzon. His funeral was taken from Nusaybin to Syria’s Kamişlo town by twenty thousand people on 27th August. The crowd at the funeral chanted ‘This place is Nusaybin not Trabzon’.

Süleyman Tekin : Lost his life in the operations held at Dersim. He was buried in Kızıltepe on the 26th August with ten thousand people at the funeral.

Cennet Dirlik : Has lost her life during the military operation carried out in Besiri. Her body was taken to Maras on 31st August. She has been accompanied by thousands to Maras. In accordance with her will, and despite obstructions, her body was buried at Mount Nurhak.

Yusuf Avdoyan : Has lost his life in Besiri. His funeral that took place on 3rd September in Batman turned into a massive protest scene. Thousands of people carried Mr Ocalan’s posters and shouted the slogan “martyrs will never die”. His father Mr. Ordo Avdoyan in the speech he gave at the funeral has expressed that they want peace.

Ziver Demirdag : Has lost his life during the military operation carried out in Dersim. 10 thousand people attended his funeral held in Mardin County’s Nusaybin town on 8th September. Police have attacked the group that wanted to march towards the town centre after the funeral.

Ayhan Sever : Was killed during the operation carried out in Dersim. Precisely 80 thousand people have attended his funeral held in Yuksekova on 8 September. All tradesmen in the town pulled down their shutters and attended the funeral. Soldiers shot in the air to stop the people who were taking the coffin to the city cemetery but the march continued. Later an emergency security meeting was held in the city.

Abbas Ermani and Kawa Kobani : They lost their lives in Besiri. Their funeral was organized in Batman on 11 September. Thousands of people attended their funerals. The wave of revolts is widening after KKK’s invitation on 31 August made the Earth Troops General Yasar Buyukanit anxious. Buyukanit who views peoples just request and tiniest reflexes as danger has stated that “Some desire Turkey to become like Palestine”. On 3 September Gendarmes General Commandership has requested the power from the Justice Minister to bury guerrilla corpses in the military operation zones without informing their families in order to obstruct the funeral ceremonies with high attendance. On the other side Bingol Republic Attorney Office started an inquiry on 28 August about IHD (Human Rights Association) Bingol Branch Chairman Mr. Ridvan Kizgin for declaring that the corpse of guerrillas killed in the operation zone were destroyed and for using the expression HPG members for the same people who were killed during the press conference he attended.

OHAL (State of Emergency) is going to be brought back

While PKK-Kongra Gel has requested the problem to be solved in a peaceful way without clashes the government has not been able to resist the military’s requests. The Antiterrorism Draft Law prepared in General Staff Headquarters has been accepted by the majority vote. The distorted arrangements made to the draft law are the followings : While the “Terror definition” is redefined, now every offence may be defined as terrorism. Even when someone is not a member of a terrorist organization “the ones who commit an offence on behalf of the organization” are going to be treated as “terror offenders” and punished as “organization members”. If the objective of the inquiry falls into doubt at that time by an order of Attorney the terror suspect or the offender’s condition will not be notified to his relatives or friends or representatives. The terror offenders will be kept in specially built individual, double or triple- roomed execution institutions. The individuals charged with offences that constitute the belief that their actions were to mean that “the terror organization” is working for just causes and their actions were executed in this direction will face up to 3 years imprisonment. Police will be given power to shoot to kill during their operations.

This dossier was compiled by Cengiz Korkmaz and translated from the Turkish original

October 2005

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