WikiLeaks: 2004-03-15: 04ANKARA1532: Tensions Remain in Southeast, Despite Reforms
Viewing cable 04ANKARA1532, TENSIONS REMAIN IN SOUTHEAST, DESPITE REFORMS
If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs
Every cable message consists of three parts:
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #04ANKARA1532.
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 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2014 TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU OSCE SUBJECT: TENSIONS REMAIN IN SOUTHEAST, DESPITE REFORMS 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 mountains. ------------------------------------- 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 PKK. ------- Comment ------- ¶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. EDELMAN