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WikiLeaks: 2004-03-15: 04ANKARA1532: Tensions Remain in Southeast, Despite Reforms

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 11:57 AM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04ANKARA1532 2004-03-15 15:50 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 001532 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2014 
Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.4 b and d. 
1. (C) Summary: Kurds in southeast Turkey want the U.S. to 
solve the Kurdish problem internationally as part of the 
Greater Middle East Initiative.  They criticize the USG 
decision to list PKK successor Kongra Gel as a terrorist 
organization, arguing that the GOT should negotiate with 
Kongra Gel the surrender of PKK militants.  Our Kurdish 
contacts say the ruling AK Party does not sincerely support 
Kurdish rights, but they see no better alternative to AK at 
the national level at this time.  Despite the recent 
EU-related reforms, Kurds say State authorities continue to 
block progress in the southeast.  However, security officials 
say the situation in the region is improving, and blame 
lingering conflict on the pro-Kurdish Democracy People's 
Party (DEHAP).  Kurdish language courses are expected to 
begin soon in several southeastern cities.  End Summary. 
2. (U) Officers from Embassy and Adana traveled February 
23-26 to the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Batman, 
and Mardin and met with a wide range of government, security, 
NGO, and professional contacts. 
Greater (Kurdish) Middle East Initiative 
3. (C) As if speaking from shared talking points, our Kurdish 
contacts across the board -- doctors, teachers, politicians, 
journalists, and human rights activists -- insisted that the 
U.S. resolve the Kurdish problem internationally as part of 
the Greater Middle East Initiative (GME).  They are anxious 
to learn about GME, and hopeful it will prove beneficial to 
Kurds.  They warned us that GME will fail if it does not 
address their problems.  "There will not be democracy in 
Turkey or the world until the Kurdish problem is solved," 
said Necdet Ipekyuz_, president of the Diyarbakir Chamber of 
Doctors.  We told our interlocutors that GME is not a 
unilateral U.S. effort; we are developing it with countries 
in the region and other allies around the world. 
Kurds Deny Kongra Gel is "Terrorist" 
4. (C) The Kurds with whom we spoke were equally uniform in 
their disappointment with the U.S. decision to include Kongra 
Gel, the latest iteration of the terrorist PKK, on its 
official list of terrorist organizations.  While 
acknowledging that Kongra Gel members are armed and hiding in 
the mountains of the southeast, they rejected our assertions 
that the organization is merely the PKK with a new name. 
They claimed PKK members formed Kongra Gel in an effort to 
establish a dialogue with the GOT.  Reyhan Yalcindag, 
attorney and member of the Diyarbakir branch of the Human 
Rights Association, argued that the GOT refuses to recognize 
any interlocutors who can speak for Kurds, and has therefore 
blocked any non-violent outlet for Kurdish frustrations. 
Cemal Dogan, director of Gun ("Day") TV and Radio in 
Diyarbakir, expressed similar views, noting that the Turkish 
State closed the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP) 
and several of its predecessors, is seeking to close DEHAP, 
HADEP's successor, and has labeled every PKK successor 
organization terrorist.  "If DEHAP and every Kurdish party is 
terrorist, and every group with links to the PKK is 
terrorist, then who can represent Kurds?  How will the 
Kurdish problem be solved?" Dogan asked.  We emphasized the 
USG view that Kongra Gel is a terrorist organization, and 
noted that DEHAP (for the time being at least) remains a 
legal political party.  Batman Mayor Huseyin Kalkan, a DEHAP 
member, told us DEHAP and Kongra Gel are both important for 
Kurds in the southeast.  While Kurds look to DEHAP for 
political leadership, Kongra Gel speaks for the PKK. 
Southeastern Kurds are hoping that Kongra Gel can negotiate 
an agreement to bring their sons and daughters down from the 
No Alternative to AK, "Unfortunately" 
5. (C) Like many of our contacts, teachers Medeni Alpkaya, 
Zeyyad Ceylan, and Ihsan Babaoglu -- members of the Egitsen 
teachers' union -- believe the ruling AK Party has no sincere 
interest in developing a new relationship between the Turkish 
State and the Kurdish community.  They support the AK 
government's EU-related legislative reforms, and say there is 
currently no better alternative party that is viable at the 
national level (DEHAP is dominant in the southeast, but lacks 
strong national support).  But they claim there are no AK 
leaders who can speak for Kurds -- they derisively dismiss 
Interior Minister Aksu, who is Kurdish, saying he has never 
supported Kurdish cultural rights during his extensive 
political career.  As Alpkaya sees it, the GOT is moving 
forward on a number of fronts -- even working on a Cyprus 
settlement -- but is dragging its feet on reforms related to 
Kurdish rights.  While the Turkish Parliament has passed 
legislation allowing, in principle, Kurdish language 
broadcasts and courses, these have still not been implemented 
after more than a year of delay. 
Despite Reforms, Mistrust Persists 
6. (SBU) Despite the ever-popular EU reforms, and the lifting 
of the regional state of emergency in 2002, mutual distrust 
continues to cloud relations between the mostly Kurdish 
southeastern population and the Ankara-appointed authorities 
in the region.  Our Kurdish contacts cited many examples of 
cases which, they believe, illustrate how the State holds 
Kurds in contempt and seeks to keep them mired in poverty and 
backward traditions.  Ipekyuz_ and fellow doctor Ilhan Diken 
told us that 50 percent of births in the southeast take place 
in the home, with no nurse or other qualified practitioner 
present.  Many women have so little basic health knowledge 
that they try to treat their babies with tea and alcohol when 
they are sick.  They said the Diyarbakir Chamber of Doctors 
applied to the High Board of Radio and Television to 
broadcast health-related programming on local stations -- but 
were rejected without explanation.  Our teacher contacts told 
us Education Ministry authorities rejected their proposal to 
provide free Kurdish language instruction on weekends. 
Kalkan, mayor of Batman, said he applied to the Treasury 
Ministry two months ago seeking approval to use a USD 48 
million loan for infrastructural development, and has heard 
nothing.  When we offered Dicle University Rector Fikri 
Canoruc books on the U.S. for the university library, he 
nervously asked if they contained any "separatist" language, 
and claimed he could be punished if the content were found to 
be inappropriate. 
Police: DEHAP Is To Blame 
7. (U) Orhan Okur, Diyarbakir Security Director, said 
tensions in the region have dropped sharply.  He told us that 
one of the first decisions he made after taking office in 
December was to reduce the police presence on the streets, 
especially armored vehicles, in order to create a more 
relaxed atmosphere (Note: We saw far fewer police than during 
our last visit, in September.  Moreover, we saw no 
police/intelligence unit assigned to tail us during our 
entire trip, something even our veteran Adana FSN colleague 
could not recall. End Note).  Okur acknowledged there are 
still occasional violent clashes involving police, for which 
he holds DEHAP solely responsible.  He accused DEHAP members 
of deliberately sparking confrontations with the police in 
order to maintain the crisis atmosphere the party needs to 
thrive.  In some cases, for example, DEHAP supporters receive 
permission to demonstrate, and then pass out brochures at the 
demonstration, which is prohibited.  When the police seize 
the brochures, the demonstrators accuse them of violating 
their rights.  Okur insisted that police in Diyarbakir no 
longer torture detainees under any circumstances.  When we 
asked to visit a local police station, he instead gave us a 
tour of the anti-terrorist wing of the Diyarbakir 
headquarters.  The recently built holding cells were empty, 
and Okur pointed out the hidden cameras which, he said, 
protect officers from false torture allegations.  He also 
showed us the one blemish in an otherwise immaculate ward -- 
the word "direnis" (resistance) was written in blood on the 
wall of one cell. 
Kurdish Courses on Horizon 
8. (U) Though the EU-related reforms have been slow to impact 
the southeast, there is at least one area where progress 
appears to be on the horizon.  Kurds in several southeastern 
cities are preparing to open Kurdish language courses.  We 
visited the schools in Diyarbakir and Batman, where school 
directors proudly showed us the brand new facilities, 
complete with desks, blackboards, snack bars, etc.  The 
Batman school features a new twist on the mandatory "Ataturk 
corner" -- beneath the bust of the Turkish Republic's founder 
is the Ataturk slogan "The Greatest Virtue in the World is 
Science" written in Kurdish.  School directors in Batman have 
received all the necessary approvals and expect to begin 
instruction April 1 (official opening ceremonies were held 
March 15); the Diyarbakir school director says he is a couple 
of months away from opening.  Aydin Unesi, head of the Batman 
school, told us the language courses are important for Kurds, 
for both symbolic and practical reasons.  At least 90 percent 
of Kurds speak Turkish, largely because education is in 
Turkish.  But outside the classroom they cannot always 
express themselves fully in Turkish.  "To write a poem or a 
novel, to talk to our wives or doctors, we need our mother 
tongue," Unesi said. 
Tensions Still Too High for Peace 
9. (C) Omer Ulu, subgovernor of Nusaybin, on the Syrian 
border, has perhaps the most balanced view of anyone we met. 
He told us he deeply regrets Turkey's history of 
ethnic-religious clashes that have scarred the southeast so 
deeply.  He admires Nusaybin's rich, diverse history, and 
would like to see the town's Syriac, Jewish, Yezidi, and Arab 
residents return and re-establish their abandoned 
communities.  He opposes restrictions on Kurdish and other 
traditional languages, and the closing of political parties. 
"Turkey needs to become a multi-ethnic, multilingual, 
multi-religious state, like the U.S. or UK," he said.  "If it 
continues to be monolithic, it will fail."  But he also 
recalls how PKK terrorists attacked his motorcade shortly 
after he assumed office, and how the DEHAP mayor of Nusaybin 
was recently caught recruiting PKK members.  There has been 
too much blood spilled on both sides for the GOT to negotiate 
with any parties representing the PKK.  For now at least, 
tensions are still too high for real peace. 
10. (U) Those tensions were evident later that afternoon as 
we rode with Nusaybin Police Chief Cemil Beyazit in his 
official vehicle.  An oncoming group of cars departing from a 
traditional wedding forced us off the road.  Several 
screaming passengers held out streamers of green, yellow and 
red -- the colors of the banned Kurdish flag, and also of the 
11. (C) The state of emergency has been lifted, Kurdish 
language courses are about to open, and Turkey appears to be 
making progress toward eventual EU membership.  But in spite 
of all this surface progress, the deeper problems of the 
southeast remain unaffected.  The State is perpetually 
focused on control rather than development -- working to 
prevent the region from breaking away, instead of trying to 
bring it into the fold.  And the Kurds, for their part, 
continue to look for someone else (the U.S.) to solve their 
problems.  Although we have repeatedly told them otherwise, 
they believe the U.S. can force the GOT to offer a general 
amnesty to the PKK, and that all they have to do is give the 
organization a new name. 



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