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WikiLeaks: 1985-05-07: 85BEIRUT2659: Turkey: Prominent Kurdish Intellectual Urges U.S. Support for Turkish Democratization, Rapprochement with Northern Iraq

Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 08:02 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
85BEIRUT2659 1985-05-07 10:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
O 071026Z MAY 85
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001560 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2022 
Classified By: Classified by Adana PO Eric Green
for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d) 
¶1. Summary: (C) In a meeting with Adana PO, prominent Kurdish 
author Mehmet Uzun urged the U.S. to establish a permanent 
military presence in Northern Iraq to protect the democratic 
advances of the KRG, which he believes will catalyze 
liberalization elsewhere in the region.  He discounted the 
prospect of an incursion into Iraq by Turkish forces, 
claiming that the current troop build-up is a product of 
Turkish internal politics -- namely, the struggle between 
modernizing, democratic forces and the military.  Turkey's 
democratic deficit is the principal reason for the 
perpetuation of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, which will 
ultimately be resolved through the country's modernization, 
he said.  Uzun blamed both the PKK and the state for 
prolonging their conflict, which has also stalled the 
achievement of further democratic and cultural rights for 
Turkey's Kurds.  Uzun's opinions accurately mirror the views 
of Turkey's leading Kurdish intellectuals.  End summary. 
¶2. (C) On June 15 we met in Diyarbakir with Mehmet Uzun, the 
world's foremost living Kurdish author, who has devoted much 
of his life to guaranteeing the survival of Kurmanji, the 
main Kurdish dialect, though he has also published works in 
Turkish and other languages.  After being jailed in Turkey 
for publishing a Kurdish-language journal, Uzun spent nearly 
30 years in exile in Sweden, returning to Turkey in 2005.  He 
is currently undergoing chemotherapy (successful, thus far) 
after being diagnosed with cancer last year. 
¶3. (C) Uzun spent most of the meeting talking about politics, 
though did mention his admiration for Faulkner, Toni Morrison 
and Saul Bellow.  He is well informed about current events 
and has spent time in Northern Iraq, where he met with 
Barzani and senior members of his government. 
Northern Iraq: An Historic Milestone 
¶4. (C) Uzun heaped praise on the U.S. for liberating Iraq and 
calling attention to the need for democratization in the 
region.  By protecting the Kurdistan Regional Government 
(KRG), the U.S. has helped midwife the birth of a society 
that is democratic and protects the rights of minorities, 
including Turkomens and Assyrian Christians.  He noted that 
modernization in the Arab world -- as well as in Turkey -- 
depends on spreading democracy and that the KRG provides a 
powerful example for neighboring countries.  He urged the 
U.S. or NATO to establish a permanent military presence in 
the region to protect these gains and prevent outside forces 
from threatening the KRG.  The greatest threats to Northern 
Iraq, he said, come from Turkey and Iran, not from the other 
parts of Iraq.  During the Saddam era, he noted, many Iraqi 
opposition leaders (who now run Iraq) took refuge in the 
mountains of Kurdistan and they enjoy close relations with 
the Kurdish leaders. 
¶5. (C) Uzun believes the current threats by Turkey to go 
after the PKK in Northern Iraq are largely part of the "chess 
game" of internal Turkish politics, pitting Ankara's 
military-bureaucratic elite against democratic forces that 
want to modernize and Europeanize Turkey.  But while the 
Turkish military understands that an intervention would be a 
disaster, they are both contemptuous of the KRG's 
achievements and fear those same achievements will nourish 
democratic developments inside Turkey. 
¶6. (C) Uzun pointed out that the Erdogan government is 
interested in working collaboratively with the KRG but has 
been blocked from doing so by the Turkish military.  If the 
Turkey-Northern Iraq relationship improves, so too will the 
life of Turkey's Kurds.  Barzani, he said, recognizes that 
the PKK is a liability to Kurdish aspirations and is prepared 
to work with the GOT to end the conflict, but cannot do so 
without assistance from Ankara.  In some ways, it seems the 
top leadership within both the Turkish military and the PKK 
are working together to prolong this conflict, Uzun said. 
ANKARA 00001560  002 OF 002 
¶7. (C) Regarding the continuing struggle for expanded Kurdish 
cultural and political rights within Turkey, Uzun remarked 
that he has never supported violence and that now, more than 
ever, Turkey's Kurds will be best served by working 
exclusively within the political process.  He added, however, 
that the PKK cannot be defeated militarily; the GOT needs a 
political exit strategy.  Uzun noted that even Mehmet Agar, a 
Turkish politician who was a hard-line police chief in the 
1990s, has called for PKK fighters to be allowed to come down 
from the mountains and participate in politics.  Meanwhile, 
he lamented that a new generation of Kurds is growing up 
without hope: "Ninety percent of our high-school graduates 
can't go to university or find jobs.  So they sit in 
teahouses and watch ultra-nationalists degrading them on TV. 
What do you expect them to do?" 
The Deep-State Cancer 
¶8. (C) A democratic deficit is at the heart of the Kurdish 
issue and of Turkey's problems generally, Uzun said.  The 
current struggle in Ankara is all about a 
military-bureaucratic elite trying to cling to its power to 
run the country.  "This deep state," he said, "is an even 
worse cancer for Turkey than the tumor inside my body." 
Turkey is being ruled with an ideology that has not evolved 
and adapted sufficiently in its 80-year history.  Uzun was 
optimistic that it will change: "Modernization and 
westernization must and will continue.  Our future is with 
the west, with Europe." 
¶9. (C) Uzun also blamed visceral anti-Kurdish sentiments 
within the Turkish establishment for the relentless legal 
harassment of Kurdish politicians.  In Diyarbakir, the people 
overwhelmingly elected Osman Baydemir, a Kurd, as mayor.  In 
response, the judiciary has opened over 100 indictments 
against him for "offenses" such as using a Kurdish phrase on 
his annual holiday card.  The previous day, a district mayor 
in Diyarbakir had been dismissed from office for offering 
multilingual services to his constituents (many of whom speak 
no Turkish).  These elements of the state, Uzun stated, 
remain intent on stamping out individuality and cultural 
diversity in Turkey. 
¶10. (C) Uzun's views are worthy of attention as they closely 
reflect those of Turkey's leading Kurdish intellectuals, 
human rights lawyers, journalists, leaders of NGOs and 
moderate elements of Kurdish political parties.  Kurdish 
intellectuals are perhaps the only constituency in Turkey 
still favorably disposed towards the U.S., which they credit 
with liberating their brethren in Northern Iraq and 
advocating for continued liberalization within Turkey.  In 
the coming months the GOT will face critical decisions on 
Northern Iraq: whether to continue its policy of denial and 
isolation or reconcile itself to reality and work 
cooperatively with the KRG on common economic and political 
interests.  Turkey's choice will determine not only its 
ability to positively influence events in the region, but 
also whether it can establish trust with its own Kurdish 
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