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The latest news on kurds

1. Millions marking spring festival
2. DTP mayors from southeastern cities meet with Kurdish leader Barzani
3. Newroz festivities start early, security on high alert
4. MHP, DTP Agree on Making Newroz a National Holiday
5. Report: Turkey bombs Kurd rebels in Iraq
6. Turkey bombs Kurdish bases in Iraq
7. Iranian Bombardment Against Kurdistan Region Border Villages Persisting
8. Iranian military shells Iraqi villages: mayor
9. The Foundation for Democracy in Iran…Revolutionary Guards aircraft have been conducting surveillance flights inside northern Iraq
10. Turkish AKP’s legal efforts to prevent closure draw criticism
11. Turkey issues hefty sentence in Avsar murder case
12. Turkish secularism breaches democracy
13. Turkish opposition leader accused government of double standards
14. Israel, Germany plan int’l summit to stop Iran nuke program
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1. Millions marking spring festival

Thu. 20 Mar 2008
By Pam O’Toole
BBC News

Tens of millions of people are celebrating Nowruz, a spring festival believed to have originated thousands of years ago in ancient Persia.

Nowruz, which means new day in Farsi, marks the solar New Year and the beginning of the calendar year in Iran.

It is the country’s biggest holiday of the year.

But it is celebrated across a vast region, from largely Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and Turkey, to Central Asian countries and Western China.

Price rises

In Iran, schools close down for several weeks, people buy presents and special foods, observe specific rituals, and visit friends and family.

This year, Iran’s oil ministry has given the country’s motorists – hard-pressed by petrol rationing for the past nine months – a special Nowruz gift, allowing them to buy extra petrol during the holiday period, albeit at higher prices.

Azerbaijan is one of a number of former Soviet states to have recognised Nowruz as a holiday and enthusiastically embraced its traditions.

But in Baku, steep prices rises over recent months have left some Nowruz shoppers struggling.

“Just before the holidays, prices are going up, but we have to buy food for the celebrations, we have no choice,” one Iranian woman said.

“Maybe the traders have to buy at a higher price and so they have to sell us their products at more expensive prices too,” she said.

Tensions

Nowruz is also New Year for Iraq’s Kurds, many of whom head to the countryside or mountains to picnic.

But it is often a more tense affair in neighbouring Turkey.

Known there as Newrouz, it has traditionally become a time when some Turkish Kurds to take to the streets to demonstrate support for the armed Kurdish militant group, the PKK – somethin which has often provoked violent clashes with Turkish security forces.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the main Nowruz ceremonies will be taking place amid tight security, following the increasing violence of the past year.

But many Afghans will also use the time to watch traditional buzkashi matches or camel fights, go to funfairs, attend picnics, or listen to special Nowruz music.
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2. DTP mayors from southeastern cities meet with Kurdish leader Barzani

21.03.2008
Today’s Zaman Ankara

Several mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), including Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, had talks with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Wednesday, news reports posted from Arbil said yesterday.
Şırnak Mayor Ahmet Ertak, Doğubeyazıt Mayor Mukaddes Kubilay and Beytüşşebap Mayor Faik Dursun were among mayors who met with Barzani at the Salahaddin resort.
“The guests expressed their happiness over visiting the Kurdistan region and their participation in the 20th anniversary of Halabja and the International Municipalities Conference. The guests also expressed their hope of establishing continuous ties between Turkey’s and Kurdistan’s municipalities. President Barzani thanked the guests and hoped for relations between Kurdistan’s and Turkey’s municipalities to enter a new stage,” Pukmedia, affiliated with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said.
On Monday Iraqi Kurds commemorated the anniversary of the chemical weapons attack in Halabja, located near the Iranian border, with solemn observances. Saddam Hussein ordered the 1988 attack as part of a scorched-earth campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the north which was seen as aiding Iran near the end of its war with Iraq. Saddam was executed for other crimes against humanity before he could face trial for the attacks.
Earlier this week a prosecutor in Diyarbakır launched an investigation into reported remarks delivered by Baydemir in a speech at a ceremony commemorating Halabja.
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3. Newroz festivities start early, security on high alert

21.03.2008
Today’s Zaman İstanbul

The spring festival of Newruz, traditionally a source of tension in Turkey as it has in the past been seen as a Kurdish event, arrived early this year.
Festivities started yesterday, about a day earlier than usual, but celebrations have thus far taken place in a different atmosphere, with everyone in the country calling their own the ancient festival that marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) launched Nevruz celebrations to be held over the course of three days in the cities of Ağrı, Mardin and Erzurum.
These are in addition to the country’s largest Newruz festivity, to be held in Diyarbakır. DTP member Yücel Genç said the festivities to be held today in Diyarbakır will show that the residents of this southeastern city are very attached to their Kurdish identity and that not even the city walls cannot be penetrated, let alone its fortress collapse. Genç’s statement referred to an earlier row between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who ordered his party’s officials to win the upcoming local elections in Diyarbakır and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who said the mainly Kurdish city is a “DTP fortress that will never fall.”
On Thursday Diyarbakır Mayor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu warned the city’s residents against provocation and agitation. “[This warning is for] not only our security forces but the organizers, those participating in the celebrations. Everyone who is participating is responsible. This responsibility is before Diyarbakır, before our region. It is the responsibility of celebrating a festival like a festival.”
The DTP celebration in Ankara is scheduled for March 25. Ruşen Sümbüloğlu, a member of the DTP Nevruz Committee, said they will not allow provocations during the festivities. The Human Rights Organization (İHD), the Confederation of Public Laborers Unions (KESK), the Ankara Chapters Platform, the Ankara 78’ers Association, the Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP), the Labor Party (EMEP), the Socialist Platform of the Oppressed (ESP), the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) and the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association will also celebrate with the DTP. The demonstration will be held at Abdi İpekçi Park in the capital.
The Turkish General Staff also released a message on its Web site to mark the festival, which it referred to as the “festival heralding spring.” It also put up banners on its site to accompany the message; one poster features a blossoming tree and another one a soldier with a young boy feeding sparrows.
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4. MHP, DTP Agree on Making Newroz a National Holiday

20-03-2008
TDN

In a rare agreement between the country’s ultra-nationalist and pro-Kurdish parties, Parliament decided late Tuesday to discuss a draft bill that will make the traditional Nevruz festival celebrated on March 21 a national holiday.
Nevruz has become an occasion for Turkey’s Kurds to demand more freedoms. However, previous celebrations have been marred by bloodshed, leading the state to recognize the event as a Turkish festival to celebrate the coming of spring.
Atilla Kaya, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy, made a proposal to Parliament late Tuesday to place the draft bill on the agenda of the General Assembly, the Anatolia news agency reported. Kaya said that Turks have celebrated Nevruz as a festival for centuries, like many Middle Eastern and Turkic states. Hasip Kaplan, pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputy, said his party group supports the proposal
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5. Report: Turkey bombs Kurd rebels in Iraq

February 20, 2008
AP

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq Thursday, private news channel NTV reported.
The planes flew reconnaissance flights over the border area before bombing targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the station said, citing Iraqi Kurdish officials.
There were no reports of civilian casualties, it said.
Last month Turkey launched a major ground operation into northern Iraq to hit Kurdish guerrilla camps there. The eight-day incursion ended on Feb. 29.
There was no immediate confirmation of the new attack from the Turkish military. But military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit has said Turkey will continue its attacks against rebels in northern Iraq.
The military has said it inflicted heavy losses on a large group of rebels in Iraq’s Zap region, close to the Turkish border, during the ground incursion. The rebels have disputed that claim.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who visited Ankara earlier this month, said the rebels would not be tolerated inside Iraq’s borders and that Baghdad was pressuring them to lay down their arms.
The PKK has said it wants political and cultural autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since it began in 1984.
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6. Turkey bombs Kurdish bases in Iraq

Fighter jets target rebels in run-up to controversial cultural festival
March. 20, 2008
MSNBC
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – Turkish warplanes reportedly bombed Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq on Thursday, before a spring festival traditionally used by Kurdish activists to stir anti-government sentiment and assert demands for political autonomy and cultural rights.
The planes flew reconnaissance flights over the border area before bombing targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, private news channel NTV reported, citing Iraqi Kurdish officials.
It said there were no reports of civilian casualties.
Last month, Turkey launched a major ground operation into northern Iraq to hit Kurdish guerrilla camps there. The eight-day incursion ended on Feb. 29.
There was no immediate confirmation of the new attack from the Turkish military. But military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit has said Turkey will continue its attacks against rebels in northern Iraq.
Later Thursday, several fighter jets took off from an air base in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast. The roar of jets drowned out loudspeaker announcements inviting Kurds to celebrate the Nowruz festival on Friday.
Police reinforcements dispatched
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, believed by many Turks to be a political front for the PKK, is organizing the festival and said it intended to keep the celebrations peaceful. But police were bringing in reinforcements as part of strict security measures, especially because the festival will be held close to the city center.
“As we experience the joy of this festival, we should abandon the language of violence and hatred and exult in the universal language of love, peace and brotherhood,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Emine Ayna, deputy chairman of the pro-Kurdish party, urged Turkey to establish dialogue with the rebels and expand cultural rights to end the conflict. The party planned to use slogans such as “Enough is enough” during the festival, but police confiscated its banners, claiming the slogans are used by rebels.
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7. Iranian Bombardment Against Kurdistan Region Border Villages Persisting

PUKmedia
20-03-2008

Today at about 5 pm the Iranian artillery once again bombarded the border areas of Kurdistan region in Pishder area including Rezegah and Maraud villages heavily and directly targeting the villagers’ houses, PUKmedia correspondent reported.
The bombardment is still ongoing and the casualties are unknown.
The bombardment caused panic among local citizens who may leave their houses if the bombardment persists.
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Unidentified War Planes Patrolling over Kurdistan Region Border Areas

PUKmedia
20-03-2008

Today Unidentified war planes have been patrolling over the Kurdistan region border areas in Kirnaka, Pishtashan and Newdasht of Sangasar sub-district, Pishder district, Sulaimani province, an exclusive source from the area told PUKmedia.
On the other hand, 2 other unidentified war planes have been Patrolling over the airspace of Sidakan and Qandil areas in Bradost area of Erbil province. The war planes didn’t bombard any places, but causing panic among local citizens who are celebrating Nawroz Feast in their areas, a source from the area confirmed the news.
The warplanes are still patrolling over several areas of the Kurdistan region and the triangle border among Iraq, Iran and Turkey including Kawart, Spiyran, Almoshe, Hert plane, Khwakurk, Kalaki Balayan, Pirdashal, Zargali, Lewzha and Kirnaka, the sources emphasize
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Iranian Artillery Resumes Shelling Kurdistan Region Border Villages

PUKmedia
2008-03-20
The Iranian artillery has resumed shelling the Kurdistan Region border villages in Zarawah sub-district in Pishder area, causing heavy damages to the area and forcing the local citizens to leave their homes.
“Since yesterdays evening till 6 pm on Thursday the Iranian artillery bombarded the villages surrounding Zarawah sub-district casuing heavy damages to Shinawa village, several houses were destroyed”, Mayor of Zarawah , Azad Wissu exclusively told PUKmedia on Thursday.
Since the local citizens have evacuated their villages previously, fortunately there were no casualties, he added.
Zharawah is one of Qala Diza suburbs, it is 160 kilometers to north of the city of Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Iran frequently shells the Kurdistan region border areas on the pretext of targeting bases of the Iranian Kurdish group PEJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan).

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8. Iranian military shells Iraqi villages: mayor

19 March 2008
FOCUS News Agency

Sulaimaniyah. The Iranian military on Wednesday shelled seven Iraqi border villages, causing no injuries or damage but terrifying residents, an Iraqi official said.
The shells were apparently aimed at bases of Kurdish rebel group Pjak (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), said the mayor of Zarawah, a frontier town in northeastern Iraq.
Pjak is accused by Tehran of launching deadly attacks on security forces in northwestern Iran.
“Iranian troops fired artillery shells at border villages inside Iraq,” mayor Azad Wassu, under whose jurisdiction the villages fall, told AFP, adding the attack lasted 30 minutes and seven villages were hit.
He added residents were terrified by the shelling.
Zarawah is near the major town of Qalat Dizhan, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of the city of Sulaimaniyah in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Iran in September confirmed for the first time it had fired artillery shells on camps of Kurdish militants inside northern Iraq, saying the local authorities had heeded its warnings.
The shelling, in August, sent hundreds of Iraqi Kurds fleeing remote mountain villages near Iraq’s eastern frontier.
Earlier this month, Iraq and Turkey pledged to take measures against PKK rebels in northern Iraq during talks to soothe tensions following a Turkish cross-border offensive against the militants.
Turkey charges that more than 2,000 PKK militants use northern Iraq as a base for their separatist campaign against Ankara and accuses Iraqi Kurds of tolerating the rebels.
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9. The Foundation for Democracy in Iran…Revolutionary Guards aircraft have been conducting surveillance flights inside northern Iraq

Www.iran.org

March 20, 2008: Rev. Guards Air Force overflies northern Iraq. Reports from FDI sources inside Iran and from northern Iraq this morning confirmed that Rev. Guards aircraft have been conducting surveillance flights inside northern Iraq this morning in areas controlled by PJAK guerillas. This is the first time that Iranian government aircraft are known to have violated Iraqi airspace in recent years. Meanwhile, Rev. Guards artillery units continued to shell PJAK-controlled areas near Qalat Dizeh this morning, according to local reports and PUK media.

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10. Turkish AKP’s legal efforts to prevent closure draw criticism

March 20, 2008
Hurriyet

Turkish media reported on Thursday ruling AKP officials are working on formulas to amend the Constitution for surviving the closure case in a move likely to increase tension and drew criticism. Turkish media and legal experts criticized the move, saying this will hurt the rule of law principle

The conservative Yeni Safak, said the ruling party is planning a “Japanese formula” to amend three articles of the Constitution. The package will include the nationalist MHP’s proposal of judging the members who is claimed to commit the crime not the party, according to the pro-AKP daily.
The paper also said an amendment which envisages Supreme Court of Appeals chief prosecutor’s taking permission from the parliament before filing a case, which is also known as the “Japanese model”, will be included in the proposal as well. The package is aimed at amending the articles 68, 69 and 149 of the Constitution.
Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, Turkey’s chief prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, on Friday filed a lawsuit to the country’s Constitution Court demanding the closure of the ruling AKP for undermining secularism and President Abdullah Gul, Erdogan, former parliament speaker Bulent Arinc and other senior AKP members banned from politics for five years.
Other papers claimed the ruling party is working on “Venetian formula”. AKP is expected to offer MHP that they should implement “Venetian Criteria” of the European Union in regard to closure of a political party, Sabah daily reported. According to the judicial practice known as Venetian Criteria, only the parties advocating violence and racism may be closed down, it said.
The leftist Cumhuriyet criticized the move to implement the Venetian Criteria, saying it will not prevent the closure of pro-Kurdish DTP. AKP officials are expected to add “praising the terror, violence and racism” as a condition for party closing to woo MHP, Cumhuriyet said. DTP’s closure case is being proceeded in the Constitutional Court.
CRITISICM AND LEGAL UNCERTAINTY
Turkish media and legal experts criticized the move saying it will cause a legitimacy problem. “Efforts to amend the Constitution just to save a party mean pushing the limits of the legitimacy. We shouldn’t forget that at the point where the ‘legitimacy’ ends, ‘the coup of the majority’ starts”, Ertugrul Ozkok, editor-in-chief of Turkey’s leading newspaper Hurriyet, wrote in his column on Thursday.
The legal experts said such a move could be taken as a proof in the closure case. The former head of Council of State, Nuri Alan, said the 138th of the Constitution prevents such move. “The Constitution strictly bans any move that will affect the outcome of a lawsuit… Moreover this means the legislation is trying to use a mandate of the judiciary,” he was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.
The Milliyet daily reported another formula that AKP officials are working on aims to change the structure of the Constitutional Court. The number of the members of the Court will be increased and the decisions will be made with absolute majority, according to Milliyet.
Sabih Kanadoglu, the Honorary Chairman of the Court of Appeals, told Milliyet this move will breach the rule of law principle and the chief prosecutor could file an additional indictment accusing the party for attacking the Constitution.
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11. Turkey issues hefty sentence in Avsar murder case

Kurdish Human Rights Project
20/03/2008

The Diyarbakir Heavy Criminal Court Number 3 today sentenced Gültekin Sütçü, a former member of the Turkish security forces, to 30 years imprisonment under 448 of the Turkish penal Code for “homicidal attempt to murder”, for his involvement in the killing of Mehmet Serif Avsar in Diyabakir, south-east Turkey in 1994.
KHRP welcomes this decision, 14 years after the killing of Mr. Avsar, as an indication of Turkey’s new willingness to hold members of its security forces to account for their violations of Turkish law. Mr. Avsar was taken into custody by several armed policeman on 22 April 1994 in Diyarbakir and was later found dead. In a KHRP-assisted case in 2002, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey responsible for his death, in violation of the Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well Article 13 based on its failure to adequately investigate the killing. Whilst several individuals were convicted by Turkey in 2000 for their involvement in Mr. Avsar’s death, Sütçü has until now escaped prosecution.
However, KHRP, along with the victim’s family, is deeply concerned to learn that the court decided not to remand Sütçü in custody until his sentence is ratified by the High Court of Appeal. This is in keeping with Turkey’s handling of the case since Sütçü’s arrest in October 2006. Prior to this, Sütçü had spent several years in hiding, thus showing himself to be a serious flight risk. Now that he has been sentenced, it is highly likely that he will once again disappear and evade justice.
Upon learning of the sentence, KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz stated, “The sentencing of Gültekin Sütçü is in itself a positive development, indicating greater recognition on the part of Turkey for the crimes committed by its security forces during the conflict in the Kurdish Region of Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet any failure to ensure that he serves his sentence will severely undermine this process. Over the past 15 years, KHRP has been involved with a number of cases in which Turkey has failed to bring to justice members of its own security forces for torture, abductions and murder. Indeed, the ultimate casualty of this is the integrity of the rule of law, which is severely undermined by a culture of impunity that this creates.”
Kurdish Human Rights Project
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12. Turkish secularism breaches democracy

Kurdishaspect.com
By Dr. Kirmanj Gundi

In its simplest form, secularism can be defined as an ideology, which separates religion from the state affairs. It guarantees the right to be free from religious rule and teaching. It is not against religion, but independent of it. Secularism doesn’t necessarily mean democracy, albeit it can be used as a step toward modernization, and establishing democratic institutions in which equality and equity is fairly observed within the social, political and economic context.
In 1846, for the first time, the British writer George Jacob Holyoake introduced the term “secularism” as a notion of “free thought,” to serve as a “frame of social contemplation.” Later, in his article, Secular Ethics, published in 1896, Holyoake defined secularism as follows:
Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: 1) The improvement of this life by material means, 2) That science is available provi- dence of men, and 3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.
Basic characteristics of secularism are premised on a conceit of “goodness” where common human beings are granted equal opportunity to develop. Nonetheless, under many secular regimes including Turkey, secularism is perpetuated at the expense of basic democratic principles. Turkey as an Islamic country governed by radical secularism whose guardian is military institution and is against every religious accoutrement.
When Turkey’s parliament lifted the ban of “headscarf” to give women in Turkey an opportunity to exercise their God-given right and wear it if they so desired, the military and radical secularists attempted to vitiate the AKP government and accused President Gul and Prime Minister Ordagan of undermining the Turkish secularism. Giving back the right to citizens to exercise their natural rights is not a breach of secularism, but a modus operandi of a plural and multicultural democracy. It is true that secularism would be enervated if religious indoctrinations were embodied in the Constitution. But similarly, a rigid refusal to allow citizens the right to freely express their cultural and religious beliefs in public, as long as that expression of their beliefs does not violate the freedom of others, transforms ‘secularism’ into “radical secularism,” which creates a culture of intolerance. The legislative body that has denounced the headscarf ban has not meant to change the Turkish Constitution from secular to a theocratic system, but rather to encourage the democratization of Turkish society.
The recent action by the Turkish chief prosecutor against the AKP and current government to ban them from politics is another reminder to the world about how gravely the Turkish justice system is deficient of true justice and therefore lacks moral authority.
The Islamo-phobia that the Turkish Generals have created and used as a vindication to maintain their influence on the political decision-making process and excoriate liberal democracy is a breach of every democratic principle and can only weaken democratic elements. This prevents Turkey from achieving its dream of becoming a respected member of the European Union. For Turkey to embrace its goals, it must not only be seen as a secular state, but also accepted as a democratic nation who respects democratic practices. Only then can Turkish secularism complement a democratic society.
Democracy as a political philosophy is premised on the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, rule of law, freedom of religion, and civil control of the military. It is founded on pluralism and majority rule with the respect to the minority rights. Therefore, for Turkey to grow into a civil society, it must respect human rights, grant genuine civil liberties, and hold its citizens equal before the law.
Turkish radical secularists can no longer claim that they enjoy popular support by “pinning democratic labels upon themselves.” They must allow citizens of Turkey to exercise their democratic prerogatives. To do so, they need to overcome the narrow and exclusionary idea of “Turkishness,” and accept Turkey as a state with citizens, not “Turks,” but citizens from a mosaic of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, which are a legitimate part of the region’s history and its future – one that is made culturally rich and dynamic by virtue of a plural society. Turkey needs to reform its social, political and economic policies across the nation in order to prosper. It cannot live in peace with itself unless it recognizes its own multi-ethnic identity, and its ambition of becoming part of Europe can only remain a distant dream. Turkey must pull itself out of the cycle of fear and hate in order to have a more internal tranquility and better future with its neighbors.

Dr. Kirmanj Gundi is a professor at Department of Educational Administration and Leadership at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.

References
About.com. (2008). Agnosticism/Atheism, Secularism 101: Religion, Society, and Politics.
http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_sec.htm.
Holyoake, George J. (1896). Secular Ethics. Publication English Secularism.
Miller, Lisa (2008). In Defense of Secularism. http://www.newsweek.com/id/112719.
USINFO.STATE.GOV (Website, 2008). What Is Democracy? http://usinfo.gov/products/pubs/whatsde.
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13. Turkish opposition leader accused government of double standards

The leader of the CHP said that justice would not discriminate against party’s according to the percentage of votes they got.

18 March 2008
NTV-MSNBC
ANKARA – Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has changed attitude when they faced a judicial probe that may result in its closure, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party said Tuesday

Addressing a meeting of parliamentary deputies from his Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Ankara, Deniz Baykal said that when the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) faced charges the AKP called on them to have faith in the justice system. However, now the AKP has been touched in the same way, it is taking a different stand, he said.

Baykal stressed that the CHP did not welcome the court case against AKP. “Although the case is opened with just cause it was a blow to democracey he said.

There were great contradictions between the practices carried out by the ruling party and the constitutional law in place in Turkey, said Baykal The present crisis had been caused by the ruling party not having accepted secularism in Turkey, he said.

Last Friday, the chief prosecutor of the Court of Appeals filed a case with the Constitutional Court seeking to have the AKP closed on the grounds that it was a focus for anti-secular activities and was undermining the secular regime in Turkey.
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14. Israel, Germany plan int’l summit to stop Iran nuke program

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
21/03/2008
Haaretz

Germany and Israel will try to initiate an international conference aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed during their working meeting in Jerusalem on Monday.

Haaretz has meanwhile learned that Iran has provided Syria with more than $1 billion for arms purchases, reflecting Syria’s drive to build up its military power in the last year, as well as the strengthening of ties between the two countries.

Olmert and Merkel discussed steps to continue the international pressure on Iran that has developed following the third round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Both leaders voiced ideas on increasing the pressure on Iran and enlisting the international community to support the effort
A senior source said that Olmert had suggested holding an international conference on Iran. The two leaders decided to advance the initiative and will try to enlist other states to back it, including the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China, as well as other European states and Arab countries that are threatened by Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel hopes that states from the moderate Sunni bloc in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and others would take part in the conference.

Olmert said a widely supported international gathering would initiate diplomatic pressure on Iran. A government source said such a conference could discuss practical suggestions for dealing with the nuclear issue, while sending a message to Tehran.

The $1 billion that Iran has recently provided Syria has been used to buy surface-to-surface missiles, rockets, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft systems.

Israel has learned that Syria is buying more missiles than tanks, on the assumption that attacking the Israeli home front would deter Israel on the one hand, and help to determine the war on the other.

A government official said this week that Iran was making huge efforts to upgrade the Syrian army. He said the close relations between Iran and Syria could make it difficult for Syria to sever its strategic alliance with Iran.

The London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported in July 2007, during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Damascus, that he promised his counterpart Bashar Assad that Iran would finance Russian and North Korean weapon deals for $1 billion. In exchange, Syria reportedly undertook not to proceed with the peace process with Israel.

Intelligence officials presented different opinions on the Syrian-Iranian alliance at the annual intelligence evaluation presented to the cabinet some two weeks ago.

Mossad head Meir Dagan said Syria would be unlikely to break its ties with Iran, even if talks with Israel resumed and it repaired relations with Washington.

Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin disagreed, and said it was possible Syria could sever these ties in exchange for a reversal of American policy and an Israeli agreement to talk about the Golan Heights.

Israel is concerned over Iran’s continuing weapon deliveries to Hezbollah via Syria. Recently, it has become known that Iran sent Hezbollah a number of deliveries, including a large amount of explosives.