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WikiLeaks: 2002-11-22: 02ANKARA8569: Turkey's Southeast: Better, But Still Backward as Got Prepares to Lift State of Emergency

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 10:11 AM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
02ANKARA8569 2002-11-22 15:07 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 008569 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2007 
Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch; reasons 1.5 b and d. 
1. (C) Summary:  The GOT is expected to complete the phased 
lifting of the state of emergency November 30 by allowing the 
regime to expire in the last two southeastern provinces where 
it continues -- Diyarbakir and Sirnak.  While the regime's 
demise is welcome, five longstanding problems will continue 
to plague the region: underdevelopment, the village guards, 
traditional tribal structures, political alienation, and 
displaced persons.  End Summary. 
2. (U) Based on a five-province survey by Embassy Human 
Rights Officer, tensions in the southeast are down 
significantly from years past, but residents are concerned 
about longstanding impediments to the region's economic and 
social development.  This cable, which builds on reftel 
report from Consulate Adana, is based on November 12-16 
interviews with human rights activists, security officials, 
mayors, sub-governors, attorneys, and religious leaders in 
Diyarbakir, Batman, Siirt, Sirnak, and Mardin provinces. 
3. (U) Conditions in the southeast have improved greatly over 
the past three years, following the capture of PKK leader 
Abdullah Ocalan and the virtual end of armed clashes between 
PKK terrorists and security forces.  For example, at the 
security checkpoint outside the town of Eruh, Siirt Province, 
police today check IDs and keep a record of travelers.  In 
years past, according to Eruh Mayor Hamit Nas, police used to 
thoroughly search all vehicles and passengers, and enforce 
strict quotas on transported goods, a process that lasted 1-2 
hours.  Today, relations between the elected mayor and the 
Ankara-appointed provincial governor and sub-governor are 
good, Nas said.  The sub-governor operates a restaurant 
providing free food to 120 families, and has organized a 
soccer team that includes both members of the security forces 
and local residents. 
4. (U) Still, Nas said, economic conditions have not improved 
much since the GOT lifted the state of emergency in Siirt in 
November 1999, and very few residents forced from their homes 
during the height of the conflict have been able to return. 
Eruh provides a reminder that eliminating the state of 
emergency will have limited effect unless followed up with 
other measures.  By completing the phasing out of the regime, 
the GOT will be shutting down the state of emergency region 
Governor's Office and eliminating special powers of search, 
detention and interrogation given to security officials in 
state of emergency provinces.  However, our contacts identify 
five obstacles that will continue to block progress. 
5. (C) The region has suffered from official neglect dating 
back to the founding of the republic, long before the 
emergence of the PKK and the establishment of the state of 
emergency.  The GOT has focused on controlling, rather than 
developing, the region, out of fear that the mostly Kurdish 
population would separate from Turkey.  Mayors and human 
rights activists cite illiteracy as a major problem, and say 
the education system in the region has always lagged behind 
the rest of the country.  They also say the GOT has recently 
begun restricting fuel trade across the Habur gate on the 
Iraqi border, shutting off an important source of income. 
Seyhmus Diken, advisor to the Diyarbakir mayor, said the 
region is unable to reap benefits from its natural resources 
-- including agricultural and mineral wealth -- because of 
Turkey's centrally controlled economy.  The GAP dam project 
is expected to provide irrigation, but has not made a 
significant impact to date.  Diken said a history of conflict 
and lack of GOT support also prevent the southeast from 
drawing tourists by exploiting its historic riches, ranging 
from the ancient walls of Diyarbakir to the Syriac Christian 
monasteries of Mardin.  The city of Diyarbakir, fed up with 
attempts to gain support from Ankara, is currently restoring 
the city walls on its own.  Diken said GOT officials have so 
little regard for local governments in the southeast that one 
Ankara bureaucrat refused to believe that Diyarbakir was nine 
months away from completing the wall project, and asked for a 
6. (C) Human rights activists and local elected officials 
universally condemn the village guards as a menace.  The GOT 
formed and armed the village guards, who number about 65,000 
in the southeast, as part of its campaign against the PKK. 
They are widely regarded as undisciplined and dangerous, and 
have repeatedly been accused of murder, beating, rape, 
corruption, drug trafficking, and other abuses.  Critics of 
the force say village guards across the region are living in 
the homes, and farming the land, of displaced residents, and 
will continue to block the return of residents forced out 
during the PKK conflict.  Security officials and 
sub-governors admit the guards are a problem, and say they 
are no longer needed to fight terrorists.  But they argue 
that the guards served their country in the fight against the 
PKK and the GOT has no choice but to phase them out slowly. 
"If we fire them, they will be an even bigger problem," said 
Ugur Bulut, Sirnak deputy governor for security matters. 
Hakki Uzun, state of emergency region deputy governor, said 
the GOT will not hire any new guards and will gradually close 
down the force as its members resign or retire. 
7. (C) Traditional tribal/feudal structures, though fading, 
continue in the region.  Security officials cite this as a 
major challenge.  Ali Tatli, Batman deputy security director, 
said conservative Kurdish families choose to solve problems 
on their own, rather than go to the police.  This, he said, 
explains the continued problem of "honor killings" -- the 
murder by immediate family members of women suspected of 
being unchaste.  Mayors and human rights activists agree, but 
say the GOT exploits these ancient traditions to maintain 
control.  They accuse the government of providing political 
and financial support to selected tribal leaders (agas), many 
of whom are given positions in the village guards.  Tribal 
leaders exercise tight control over thousands of uneducated 
followers, who work their land and vote according to their 
8. (C) The pro-Kurdish DEHAP (formerly HADEP) party won a 
landslide victory in the southeast in the November 3 
elections, but, as in the past, failed to pass the threshold 
of 10 percent of the national vote required to enter 
parliament.  Though DEHAP officials say harassment of the 
party has decreased, government officials still regularly 
raid DEHAP offices and detain party members.  As a result, 
people in the region have no faith in the democratic process, 
contacts agreed.  To make matters worse, two independent 
candidates elected to parliament from the region were 
nominated by the village guards, according to human rights 
9. (C) The GOT estimates that 378,000 people were displaced 
from the southeast between 1984 and 1999 due to the conflict; 
human rights organizations put the number at more than one 
million.  The GOT claims that 51,000 displaced residents have 
returned.  Turkish and international human rights 
organizations have consistently criticized the GOT's returns 
program as inadequate and secretive.  Provincial officials 
say they are doing their best to assist returns.  Bulut said 
Sirnak officials have approved about half the return 
applications of displaced residents.  The other half, he 
said, were turned down because their villages lack essential 
services -- such as water, power, or roads -- or because 
their homes are in areas that remain unsafe.  Rejected 
applications will be reviewed again as conditions improve. 
But local representatives of the Human Rights Association and 
the Immigrants Association for Social Cooperation and Culture 
claim the GOT opposes large-scale returns, and that most 
returnees have received little or no GOT support.  They say 
displaced villagers cannot receive permission to return 
unless they sign a document stating that they fled their 
homes because of actions taken by the PKK, not the GOT, and 
that they will not seek GOT assistance for their return. 
10. (C) The measures utilized by the GOT to fight separatism 
and terrorism in the southeast have also contributed to the 
region's backwardness.  The virtual end of the PKK conflict 
provides an opportunity for the GOT to chart a new course and 
begin to close the gap between the southeast and the rest of 
the country, a process one sub-governor said could take 
decades.  This would require considerable funding combined 
with a little imagination and common sense; for example, the 
village guards could be re-trained and assigned to tasks more 
suitable for present conditions.  Unfortunately, it appears 
that GOT officials have not yet adopted a "post war" strategy 
for the region. 


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