WikiLeaks: 2004-12-16: 04ANKARA6984: Diyarbakir Governor - a Breath of Fresh Air?
Viewing cable 04ANKARA6984, DIYARBAKIR GOVERNOR - A BREATH OF FRESH AIR?
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. #04ANKARA6984.
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 006984 SIPDIS ISTANBUL PLS PASS ADANA E.O.12958: DECL: 12/16/2025 TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL TU SUBJECT: DIYARBAKIR GOVERNOR - A BREATH OF FRESH AIR? REFS: A. ADANA 104 ¶B. ANKARA 6277 (U) Classified by Political Counselor John Kunstadter, E.O. 12958, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). This message is from AmConsul Adana. ¶1. (SBU) Summary: NGO contacts in Diyarbakir confirmed recent press reports of friction between Diyarbakir's Governor Efkan Ala and Security Director Orhan Okur attributing it to the Director's unhappiness with the Governor's relatively liberal views on freedom of expression and assembly. In Van, Poloff discussed with the Governor court cases involving Amcits Victor and Kristy Bedoian, expressing the U.S. Mission's interest in the case. The Sirnak Governor expressed to poloff his dissatisfaction with northern Iraqi customs officials and predicted (as others have for two years) that a Union of Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) Habur modernization project would be up and running soon. End Summary. Let Them Demonstrate! --------------------- ¶2. (C) In a recent visit to Diyarbakir, Sehmus Diken, advisor to Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, corroborated press reports that friction between Diyarbakir Governor Ala and Diyarbakir Security Director Okur had surfaced since the Governor's appointment some four months ago. (Note: As background, per Ref A, Okur asserted to poloff on a previous occasion that all civic associations in Diyarbakir have ties with terrorists. Ala, on the other hand, is viewed positively for his accessibility and views by civic association contacts in Batman province where he previously served. End note). According to Diken, Okur has taken leave and left town twice already since the Governor's appointment, and was on leave when we visited Diyarbakir in early December. When queried as to which of the Governor's policies might be considered so liberal as to offend Okur, Diken responded that Governor Ala has been approving all NGO requests to publish press statements and hold demonstrations, a break from practices of the previous Governor. ¶3. (SBU) Providing another example, Diken pointed to a literature festival underway in Diyarbakir during our visit that brought some 250 visitors to the city from inside and outside Turkey, including Laz, Armenian, Syriac, Turkish and Kurdish writers. At the previous year's festival, said Diken, the Security Director reportedly requested copies of identification documents for all the participants, and security officials filmed participants. This year there was no such request, nor uninvited cameramen. (Note: Despite municipal governments' frequent lamentations regarding their budgets, this cultural event was reportedly being funded completely by the municipality to the tune of $200,000. End note.) Warmth Breeds Warmth -------------------- ¶4. (C) Other non-governmental contacts in Diyarbakir agreed that Governor Ala is off to a good start with the citizens of heavily-Kurdish Diyarbakir. Lezgin Yalcin, who staffs the EU's Business Corner in Diyarbakir, referring to the Governor, said, "We warm up to anyone who shows warmth to us." The Governor, he said, has bought a positive climate to Diyarbakir, especially with his public statements about the need for implementation of recent reforms. Separately, Yalcin added that Mayor Baydemir recently gave an excellent speech on the need for reconciliation and peace in the region. Yalcin also noted that while the city's previous mayor was sometimes criticized for traveling internationally too much, Baydemir is not facing criticism despite his frequent travels because he goes out of the way to report back and share information about his trips. ¶5. (C) Reyhan Yalcindag, National Vice-President of the Human Rights Association (HRA) added that Security Director Okur has been in Diyarbakir for just one year, during which time there has been an increase in arbitrary detentions and overall tension. Her impression now is that Governor Ala is approving all NGO petitions for demonstrations, and is sending signals to the police not to use force to solve "problems" at demonstrations. Some in the judicial, administrative and military bureaucracies are resisting this, she claimed. We were unable to raise the question of tensions between the governor and security director in our meeting with Diyarbakir Sub-Governor Vahettin Ozkan since a security directorate chief inspector unexpectedly invited himself to sit in. Cannot Even Imagine an EU "No" ------------------------------ ¶6. (C) On the upcoming EU decision, Diken stated that he "cannot even imagine what will happen if Turkey gets a 'no' from the EU." When former EU Commissioner for Enlargement Verheugen visited Diyarbakir earlier in the fall, he told the civic association representatives attending a dinner in his honor that they had made his work easier by sharing with him their worry related to a negative answer. According to Diken, Verheugen implied that before that visit he had not been aware of just how much support there is for Turkey's EU candidacy among the Diyarbakir civic associations and many in the pro-Kurdish community. However, Diken also told poloff Turkey has no idea what it will do the day after a 'yes' answer. On Amcits in Van ---------------- ¶7. (C) Elsewhere in the region, poloff recently met with Governors in Van and Sirnak. Van has a reputation for being one of the wildest wild-east provinces: a Governor was almost assassinated last summer and a former MP recently had his drug-smuggling son broken out of jail. Van Governor Mehmet Niyazi Tanilir responded to poloff's query regarding the court cases of Amcits Kristy and Victor Bedoian (ref B) by saying he is hoping for a fair and speedy resolution. Proclaiming, "We trust the Turkish justice system," he asserted that the judiciary is independent. Poloff stressed that the U.S. Mission is following the Bedoians' cases carefully, and also hopes for an expeditious decision in the property ownership case, noting that such disputes can have a dampening effect on potential foreign investors' enthusiasm for Turkey. On a separate issue, Tanilir told poloff that the controversy that has surfaced about the definition of the word "minority" shows that democratic debate is expanding in Turkey, and that once taboo topics are out in the open now. He was uncertain that the Compensation Law would have much impact on returns to villages, stating that many who have moved from their villages are becoming more accustomed to their homes in the city, or earning an income there. The young, especially, he thought would be unlikely to return to villages. In discussing the village guard program, he noted that it had always been meant to be a temporary program, and that it had been created for a specific reason. The resumption of PKK attacks in June showed that the program is still needed, he averred. Modernization Project for Habur Gate: Finally? --------------------------------------------- -- ¶8. (C) Despite our request for a private meeting, in front of the media Sirnak Governor Osman Gunes harangued poloff for continuously visiting the same individuals in the region and demanded to know why we did that. When we asked whom he was referring to, the Governor insisted we knew who he was talking about. On this trip, we did not visit the human rights organizations that so often agitate government officials; we did visit a Syriac bishop in Midyat and a local sheik in Cizre, however, which might have been the source of the Governor's pique. His performance appeared staged for the consumption of other Sirnak officials, including security officials, but the internal politics were unclear. After this introduction, Gunes focused on his concerns and complaints surrounding Habur Gate and trucker security. He charged that Turkish Customs officials there have no reliable counterparts in Northern Iraq, and charged that the officials on the Iraqi side are extracting bribes from Turkish truckers and "closing down whenever they want to." Iraqi trucks are allowed to jump to the front of the line ahead of Turks, he claimed. ¶9. (SBU) The Governor told poloff that in late October, the Union of Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) and the GOT had signed a protocol for TOBB's modernization project at Habur Gate. He expected construction would be underway within a month and that the project could last up to one year. Many Chamber of Commerce representatives and the Habur Customs officials with whom we spoke gave the same prediction. However, it appears that one more step remains before the project moves forward: according to the Cizre Chamber of Commerce, TOBB must now "guarantee" the project by depositing an unspecified amount of money in an account before the High Planning Council gives final approval to the project. (Note: This account has not been corroborated/confirmed by other sources. End note.) In any event, when the project does move forward, it is expected to follow the Build-Operate-Transfer model that TOBB used in its Ipsala Border Gate project on the border with Greece. It is unclear what impact the construction will have on processing capabilities at Habur Gate, though at least one contractor with whom we spoke believes the negative impact should be minimal. ¶10. (C) Comment: The tension between Diyarbakir,s Governor's and Security Director mirrors a larger debate within Turkey over whether the EU reform process has gone too far. The Governor,s reform-minded approach has won praise from even a representative of the normally-hypercritical HRA. Still, as evidenced by the inspector,s intrusion into our meeting, the forces that oppose reform are far from moribund. End Comment. EDELMAN