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WikiLeaks: 2004-04-30: 04ANKARA2446: Southeast Turkey Economic Outlook Pessimistic, Some Religious Freedom Issues Persist

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:47 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04ANKARA2446 2004-04-30 15:05 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.

301505Z Apr 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 ANKARA 002446 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2014 
(U) Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch.
Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
(U) This cable was drafted by Consulate Adana. 
1. (C) Summary:  Reporting officers traveling in southeast 
Turkey April 19-22 heard negative economic outlooks from a
broad array of contacts, as well as reports of some
continuing religious freedom restrictions.  Contacts said
implementation of the recently passed Turkish EU reform
packet laws was decidedly mixed and incomplete, depending
on local official attitudes and interpretation, though some
noted improving human rights conditions, such as
Syriac Christian returns in Mardin, in some areas.
The Habur gate continues functioning roughly at
approximately 2600-2700 total transits daily
(north and southbound), below the 3700 daily transits target. 
Southeast Turkey's road infrastructure feeding
the northern Iraqi ground line of communication (GLOC)
is seriously degraded by heavy use and seasonal weather.
The Habur Gate modernization project is reportedly ready
to start in May-June and expected to take 
six months to complete. End Summary. 
2.(SBU)  Embassy Ankara EconCouns and AmCon Adana PO
visited contacts in Diyarbakir, Mardin, Batman, and
Sirnak provinces, also transiting the full GLOC through
Adana, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, and Sanliurfa provinces from
April 19-22. 
Iraq Trade 
3.  (C) Discussions at the April 21 weekly Habur Gate border 
meeting indicated that the gate continues functioning at 
approximately 2600-2700 total transits daily
(north and southbound), below the 3700 daily transits target.
Border relations remain functional, but heavy coordination,
troubleshooting and border liaison remain necessary daily to
keep the operation from derailing. 
4.  (C) Meanwhile, Southeast Turkey's road infrastructure 
feeding the northern Iraq ground line of communication (GLOC)
is being seriously degraded by heavy use and seasonal weather
effects. The highway from Sanliurfa through Cizre and Silopi
to Habur Gate is in uniformly bad shape.  The Habur Gate
modernization plan, according to a Cizre Chamber of Commerce
contact working with TOBB - the project's prime mover 
- is slated to start in May-June and expected to take six 
months to complete. It is unclear what impact the
modernization process will have on border transit rates since
only part of the available border inspection positions are
staffed and in use at any one time. There is still 
inadequate information from the GOT on which to base an 
assessment of interim impact on operations and possible
expanded productivity post-modernization. 
Economic Conditions 

5.  (SBU) The consensus among our interlocutors was that 
regional economic conditions remained poor and local
conditions near the Habur gate communities of Cizre and
Silopi decidedly downbeat, despite two years of 
national economic growth.   Contacts consistently cited
lack of jobs -- and little hope for future job opportunities
-- as the biggest problem. In Cizre, per capita income was
assessed at USD 680 dollars and falling by the local Chamber
of Commerce head.  Rumors of (an apparently phantom) 
U.S.-Iraqi trade show shift from Baghdad to Diyarbakir or 
Gaziantep had swept the region's small business community
like wildfire even though reporting officers could not
corroborate it.  The manner in which the rumor was embraced
and nurtured suggested the almost desperate nature of
the region's commercial community.  There was little evidence 
of new investment, and we received a credible report,
confirmed to AmCon Adana by the plant's owner, that the Sirnak
province-based "Mezopotamya" lentil processing factory had
closed its operations in Turkey and moved to northern Iraq's
Dohuk province to minimize exposure to relatively high
Turkish taxes and take advantage of lower northern Iraqi
labor costs. 
6.  (C)  Contacts in Cizre and Silopi argued that the sharp 
increase in Turkish-Iraqi trade over the past year had so far
had little positive impact on the local economy.  In fact,
a local contact who is a Nakshibende tarikat leader with wide
regional contacts explained how the recent decision of the
Sirnak governor to close the Habur gate to local day 
traders (largely in fuel) was threatening widespread small 
entrepreneur failure since many day traders had taken out
loans in recent months to buy a truck, small tanker or car
to pursue day trade.  He also decried that same governor's
continuing resistance to allowing former villagers now
resident throughout southeast Turkey to return to their 
Sirnak province villages where, he maintained, they could
at least maintain subsistence levels of agriculture. 
Religious Freedom 

7.  (C) In Diyarbakir, EconCouns and PO met with Diyarbakir 
Protestant Evangelical Church leader Ahmet Guvener.  Guvener
is currently facing prosecution for operating a church in a
building not approved for non-residential purposes.
His next hearing is May 12.  Guvener explained that the church
has been meeting since 1994 and that, when its current
facility was submitted several years ago for construction 
zoning, the law did not allow for any religious dwelling other
than a mosque.  Therefore, at that time, the city applied
a residence label to the structure. Later, in late 2003 when
the law was amended to allow for non-mosque religious dwellings,
the Diyarbakir governate brought suit against him for operating
a church in a dwelling.  He explained that he has applied for
the new religious dwelling designation,
but the same governate authority has yet to grant it.  

8.  (C) In a subsequent meeting, the Deputy provincial 
prosecutor as well as the prosecutor assigned in the
Guvener case explained that they were pursuing the case,
under Article 261, based on an order from the Diyarbakir
governor's religious and historical commission.
They said that they had no leeway in whether to pursue the 
case, that it was not religious in nature, but zoning-based,
and that the prosecutor's office was using the same statute
to pursue similar cases against two improperly zoned private
schools in the province. 
9.  (C) In Midyat, Mardin province, Syriac Orthodox Bishop
Samuel Aktas and other Syriac community leaders told us that
the religious freedoms of their community continue to be
restricted.  While noting the slow, but steady return of
Syriac Orthodox returnees from western Europe, Bishop Aktas
criticized the GOT for continuing to prevent foreign
Syriac Orthodox clergy access to the important Tor Abdin area
through visa denial, GOT refusal to allow instruction
of Syriac Orthodox clergy in Turkey, and the continuing GOT 
denial of the right to teach openly Aramaic to the
Syriac Orthodox community. monastery through early morning
classes for school-age children, the Bishop and the
community want open language rights embraced in public
schooling which they consider denied since their 1995
request to teach Aramaic openly continues to be
unanswered by the GOT. Asked whether they have repeated
the language education request since the new laws were
passed in 2003, they said that they had not, but some
community members in Istanbul were considering doing so. 

10.  (C) The Bishop confirmed the Mardin governor's
assertion that he (the Governor) had authorized people
to return to 120 of 129 previously-evacuated villages
in Mardin, many of which has been majority Syriac.
He said that the "problem areas" for Syriac return
now was in neighboring Sirnak province, where on some
occasions village guards were being allowed to reside
in the villages. 
The Bishop complained that some local jandarma,
village guard and district level officials were using
zoning laws to frustrate and delay historical church
and building restoration in Mardin and Sirnak provinces,
claiming that such buildings were not included on 
state historical building registries and therefore
deserved no state protection.
He argued that the Syriac Orthodox community was 
systematically denied community protections because
it was not explicitly mentioned in the Lausanne Treaty
and that state authorities had rebuffed past attempts
to garner recognition of these sites. 
Other Human Rights Issues 

11. (C) Diyarbakir Bar Association contacts said that
torture remains a police tool, especially in
terrorism-related cases, and that -- based on documented
cases to date projected forward for the year -- there
would be "several hundred torture cases again 
this year." 
A Bar Association contact said that police and Jandarma
now used more sophisticated torture methods, mentioning
that "they use less electric shock and more foot beating,"
which left less easily catalogued effects.
He also said that the strong solidarity showings of entire
district police forces in the few cases in the region in
which which prosecution of alleged torturers have been
pursued demonstrate the depth of institutional belief
in the continued validity of that technique. 
12.  (C) This contact explained that the bar association
was distributing several hundred thousand small cards to
explain detainee attorney access rights through the
province county clerk-equivalent system (muhtar system),
and also was mulling starting a bar association-supported
radio broadcast to raise citizen awareness on legal 
defense issues.  Another bar association contact noted
similar awareness-raising activities are needed to counter
high rates of domestic and children's violence as well as
women's rights issues.  Both bar association contacts
expressed the need for the GOT to offer an improved
version of the "return to home law" offered in late
2003-early 2004, explaining that they had offered
informally to the GoT as early as June 2003 what they
considered options short of a general amnesty which 
would have had markedly better success that that
garnered by the recently closed "return to home law." 
13. (C) The Diyarbakir Deputy Provincial Prosecutor
said that the Prosecutor had implemented a series of
seminars to educate all prosecutors and senior law
enforcement officials on the new EU reform packet laws,
and that 60 of the roughly 200 designated personnel
had received instruction to date.  Also prosecutors had 
recently spot-inspected 14 of 16 Diyarbakir districts
recently to determine whether detainees were being given
access to attorneys. He reported that approximately
80 percent of initial detainees had been released
within a day of initial detention because their offenses
were minor and resolved locally or scheduled for
prosecution at a later date.
Almost all the remaining detentions, he said, had sought
and obtained access to an attorney. When asked whether
a procedure could be implemented whereby all detainees
could express whether they wanted an attorney in the
presence of a lawyer, the Deputy Prosecutor agreed
such a step could resolve gray area attorney access
issues, but said it would require a new law. 
14.  (C) As noted above, contacts indicated that
villagers were being allowed to return to
previously-evacuated villages in Mardin province,
but not in Sirnak Province.  Bishop Aktas attributed the
Sirnak governor's resistance to a concern that returning
villagers might support Kongra Gel, as well asa preference
not to upset the balance between the Ministry of
Interior-linked governorate and the military, which he
alleged favored the position of their village guard allies
now controlling cultivation in the currently evacuated villages.
Osman Baydemir, the newly-elected Diyarbakir mayor (DEHAP)
expanded this charge to include alleged village guard
involvement in narcotics and its transformation into a
regional organized crime syndicate of considerable scale. 
15. (C)  The sole UNHCR field officer in Silopi explained 
that she was largely idle awaiting finalization of a
Makhmour refugee camp resettlement agreement.
She had recently performed some resettlement verification
in Sirnak and Siirt provinces and found little complaint
from the few returnees.  She noted that it was hard to
determine the validity of these comment, as her
verification missions always were conducted in the
presence of Turkish security force escorts.  She said that
there was little consistent information available on the
resettlement assistance funds offered by the GOT for
returnees, though she had witnessed the extension
of basic infrastructure and, in some cases, building
materials, to some villages.
Funding stipends did not seem to have been provided to
the returnees, but it was not clear to her that such money
ever was promised explicitly.  She said that the one
consistent complaint by returnees was the lack of
job opportunities in the region, which she observed
was part of a broader regional unemployment problem
not specific to returning refugees.  This problem,
she predicted, could be a negative factor influencing
possible Makhmour return flow should a final agreement
be reached. 
Security Situation 
16. (C) There were credible reports from UNHCR and local
Mardin contacts of road-placed, command-detonated
improvised explosive devices or possible mines used in the
last several weeks against Jandarma vehicle patrols in
south Mardin and Siirt province, the latter near Eruh 
township.  Jandarma observed patrolling the road near
Gercus in south Batman province on 4/21, site of another
IED or mine attack about six weeks ago, were using heavy
six or eight wheeled APCs and riding on top of the vehicles 
in improvised sandbagged positions. 
17. (C)  Diyarbakir Bar Association contacts claimed that 
ongoing GOT military operations were the result of a
Kongra Gel decision to move its center of activity into
traditional Spring-Summer encampments in anticipation of
possible coaltion actions against them in northern Iraq.
They claimed that the Turkish military knew Kongra Gel's
intentions and regular routes for performing this
redeployment and was taking advantage of the movement
to hit the Kongra Gel in Siirt, Sirnak and Hakkari provinces
before it had consolidated into new fortified areas.



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