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WikiLeaks: 2004-12-16: 04ANKARA6984: Diyarbakir Governor - a Breath of Fresh Air?

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 03:37 PM CT



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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04ANKARA6984 2004-12-16 10:34 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 006984 
E.O.12958: DECL: 12/16/2025 
      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 
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' 
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 
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 
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. 


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