1. In suppot of Kurdish prisoners of conscience – Kurdish Human Rights Initiative- Australia
9. Ethnic tensions rise in Aegean town of Altınova
17. Iran refuses plane carrying Iraq speaker
Kurdish Human Rights Initiative (06 October 2008): On the 25th of August 2008, over 200 Kurdish prisoners of conscience in Iran including journalists, human rights and women’s rights activists, teachers, students and intellectuals went on hunger strikes to protest against arbitrary arrests, torture, maltreatment and their denial to have access to an attorney.
The Kurds in Iran are deprived of their basic human rights and there is no recognition of their cultural, social, economic and political rights. Any demand for legitimate Kurdish rights has been met with arrests, torture, imprisonment and execution.
Human rights abuses by the Islamic Regime of Iran are well documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, U.S. State Department and other bodies; the world is well aware of these abuses. However, Western countries have often ignored the plight of the Kurdish people and other opposition groups in Iran. Their main focus is on the Iranian nuclear program while turning a blind eye on human rights abuses. Other states, either to preserve their economic interests, or having similar records of human rights abuses, have chosen to keep quiet over the issue.
Today is the 44th day since the hunger strike has begun and their lives are in danger. Yet, the Iranian Government has not responded to the demands of the prisoners. The Kurdish Human Rights Initiative calls upon the Iranian Government to:
1. Respond to the demands of Kurdish prisoners of conscience who are on hunger strike.
2. Reform the Iranian court and legal system according to international standards.
3. End arbitrary arrests, torture, maltreatment and execution of all political prisoners.
4. Release all prisoners of conscience
5. Recognise the rights of all minorities in par with Persians and end discrimination against minorities.
The Kurdish Human Rights Initiative further calls upon the Australian Government and non-government organisations to:
1. Support Kurdish prisoners of conscience who are on hunger strikes by asking the Iranian Government to end its human rights abuses and respond to the demands of the prisoners.
2. Put pressure on the Iranian Government to meet its international obligations by observing international laws and regulations.
3. Demand the Iranian Government to grant the rights of minorities and end its discrimination policies against the minorities in Iran.
Kurdish community in Melbourne and Sydney to support Kurdish prisoners of conscience and to condemn torture and maltreatment of political prisoners in Iran will stage a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in Canberra on Wednesday 08 October 2008, at 10.00 am.
06 October 2008
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
“The dissolution of political parties should be regarded as an exceptional measure, to be applied only in cases where the party concerned uses violence or threatens civil peace and the democratic, constitutional order of the country,” read Friday’s statement from Lluís Maria de Puig, the president of PACE.
The chief public prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, filed the closure case against the DTP in November last year, arguing that the DTP was a center of separatist activities and had organized connections with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
“Respect for the principle of proportionality is of special importance with regard to the dissolution of political parties in view of their essential role in ensuring pluralism and the proper functioning of a democracy,” Puig’s statement read. “The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stated that the dissolution of a political party, accompanied by a temporary ban prohibiting its leaders from exercising political responsibilities, is the most drastic measure; a measure of such severity should be applied only in the most serious cases.”
Urging for a new constitution, the statement said it would “open a window of opportunity for a broad national debate involving all actors of society.”
“The new text should in particular guarantee an appropriate system of checks and balances and give a prominent place to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with European standards, in order to fully ensure the democratic functioning of Turkey’s institutions and the consolidation of its modernization and reform process,” the statement said, adding that the Council of Europe, in particular through its Venice Commission, stands ready to help the Turkish government in such an endeavor.
5 10, 2008
ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel hideouts in neighbouring northern Iraq Monday after at least 15 soldiers were killed in a rebel attack last week, the military said.
The air raid targeted a group of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants holed up in the Avasin Basyan region and followed an initial operation Sunday night in which Turkish forces fired artillery at two other rebel groups detected in the same area, the statement said.
Both strikes targeted PKK militants who attacked a Turkish military outpost at the Iraqi border Friday, in which at least 15 soldiers were killed, it said.
The statement described the air raid as “successful,” but did not mention any casualties among the PKK.
All jets returned safely to their bases, the military said, adding that utmost attention was paid not to harm local civilians.
“We have two Turkish soldiers. I cannot confirm if they are dead or alive. We will announce this soon,” PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees said by telephone to a Reuters journalist based in Kurdish northern Iraq.
Turkish officials have said Kurdish separatist rebels killed 15 Turkish soldiers and wounded 20 others in clashes in the Semdinli region bordering Iraq and Iran on Friday.
Turkey carried out an air operation on Monday inside northern Iraq against rebels suspected of killing the 15 soldiers, the country’s military said.
Turkey blames the PKK, for the deaths of more than 40,000 people since the group launched a campaign for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
(Reporting Shamal Aqraqi, Writing by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Sami Aboudi
HPG military attacks: 34
Wounded Turkish forces: 82
military vehicles destroyed: 7
Helicopters shot down: 1
Helicopters damaged: 1
Grenades launcher: 1
Los Angeles Times
October 5, 2008
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Fierce new fighting flared Saturday between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels after months of relative calm. Fifteen soldiers and at least 23 separatists were killed.
Turkey’s military called in helicopters, fighter planes and heavy artillery after the Kurdish separatists struck an army outpost in southeastern Turkey early Friday, apparently overwhelming the defenders. The fighting near the border with Iraq, which also wounded 20 soldiers, represented Turkey’s largest loss of troops this year in a single incident.
In an indication of how seriously Turkey viewed the incident, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cut short a visit to the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to return to the capital, Ankara.
The fighting was considered likely to spur Turkish military strikes at rebel hide-outs across the border in northern Iraq. Within hours of the rebel attack, the Turkish military was aiming artillery strikes across the frontier.
“We have no doubt they (the rebels) will receive the response they deserve, in the harshest way,” Koksal Toptan, the Parliament speaker, told reporters in Ankara. Most of the deaths on the Turkish side were in or near the outpost that was attacked near Tktutun, five miles from the Iraqi frontier.
Because Turkey’s military is far better-equipped and stronger than the fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the rebels’ ability to inflict a large number of deaths in a fortified army position constitutes a significant propaganda victory for the separatists, and a demoralizing blow for Turkey.
The fighting came days before Turkish lawmakers are to take up a measure that would give the army continued authority in the coming year to stage strikes across the border in Iraq.
Late last year and in the early months of 2008, Turkish troops waged an intense campaign of cross-border incursions in an effort to root out the rebels.
The PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has been waging a sporadic battle for a separate Kurdish homeland for nearly 25 years.
Bush administration officials have expressed concern that the spillover of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict into northern Iraq could leave U.S. troops caught between two forces friendly to the United States — NATO member Turkey, and the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration in Iraq.
The renewed fighting comes only a month after Gen. Ilker Basburg took over as head of Turkey’s powerful military. Observers have been watching closely to see how harsh a stance he will take toward the Kurdish separatists.
AYŞE KARABAT ANKARA
An ethnic clash between Turks and Kurds in the coastal town of Altınova, in Balıkesir province, during which two were killed on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, has raised the already high tension in the town.
Balıkesir Governor Selahattin Hatipoğlu tried to downplay the situation by claiming that the clash erupted for economic reasons. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the Human Rights Association (İHD) sent delegations to the town on fact-finding missions.
According to witnesses, a group of youngsters were playing loud music on Tuesday in front of a building in which Kurds formed the majority of residents. The witnesses claimed that the youngsters in the car had in the past had hostile relations with the residents of the building, who warned them to stop playing the music. A quarrel between the two groups escalated when they called in their friends for assistance. M.A. then drove his car toward the group, playing the music and two were killed. Some houses and shops belonging to Kurds were attacked and set on fire, subsequently extinguished by the fire department. A group of people then formed and marched through the town, shouting slogans such as “We don’t want Kurds here” and “Kurds out.”
Funerals for the two victims were held on Wednesday and increased tension as new attacks on Kurds took place. The gendarmerie intervened, detaining 46 individuals. Entry into and exit from Altınova is now strictly controlled by the gendarmerie; some Kurds have already left.
Altınova, a holiday resort and district of Ayvalık, has for long been a scene of ethnic clashes. A story published by Sunday’s Zaman on Nov. 11, 2007 described the situation in the town with the headline “‘Town of the First Bullet’ Ayvalık reveals bitter ethnic rift.”
However, Governor Hatipoğlu, addressing the public yesterday, said the clashes erupted for economic reasons. “The incident erupted because of commercial competition. The youngsters then called their friends to get involved in the fight. All exits from the town will be controlled; everyone should return to their business,” he said and added that the responsible persons were detained and that they will soon be arraigned.
“Altınova is a tourism center whose future is bright. Those kinds of events will harm this bright future. The state will ensure security,” he said and urged families to keep an eye on the town’s youngsters.
Meanwhile, the DTP issued a statement and declared that it had sent a fact-finding delegation including party co-chairperson Emina Ayna.
The İHD also sent a delegation to the town to meet with officials and the public. İHD Chairman Hüsnü Öndül noted that the region was the scene of ethnic rifts before.
“It is very dangerous. Even a small incident can suddenly turn into an ethnic clash. For years people have heard racist propaganda and the state has not taken measures to prevent it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bolu High Penal Court ruled out that an article urging the public to kill DTP members does not contravene the law. The article, published in a local newspaper, claimed that as long as the DTP does not label the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a terrorist organization, DTP members should be targeted.
“For every martyr one member of the DTP should share the same destiny and this is the wish of the society,” the article claimed.
DTP deputy Selahattin Demirtaş petitioned public prosecutors in Bolu, demanding a lawsuit be filed against the newspaper, which had also published the names of DTP members. After the prosecution denied Demirtaş’s request, the DTP filed a lawsuit with the court itself, after which the court ruled that inciting people to commit murders is not against the law. The DTP is expected to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Works had begun last year to move Aktutun outpost to Bercar Tepe, Igsiz said, adding that the outpost would be moved by 2009.
Friday’s PKK attack was the fifth launched against the Aktutun gendarmerie station, in which a total of 44 soldiers have been killed since 1992.
Observers and experts are divided over the timing of the announcement and the plans to move the stations.
Some commentators and observers questioned on Monday that if the stations were to be moved, then the security situation in the Aktutun station, the target of Friday’s PKK attack, could have been strengthened.
However others say the terror organization would benefit from such debates and that the military posts had been targeted in numerous attacks and therefore moving them is the right decision.
The stations are positioned on the mountainous areas bordering Turkey and Iraq, and are of strategic importance as they positioned on the transit route used by terrorists to enter Turkish territory from their bases in northern Iraq.
AYŞE KARABAT ANKARA
Kurdish intellectuals, civil society representatives and pro-Kurdish politicians have voiced serious concerns over the potential for a regression on basic rights and democratization.
After an ethnic rift in the Aegean region last week and an attack on a border station that left 17 soldiers dead, Kurdish rights activists are emphasizing that the state and the government are not giving any signs that they will take concrete steps to solve the Kurdish problem, but pro-Kurdish politics don’t have much to offer either.
While rage within society intensified following the death of 17 soldiers during an attack on a military outpost in Şemdinli, located along the border with Iraq and Iran, by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), harsh measures, including prolonging the period of detention of terrorists, are on the agenda once more and this situation is leading to serious concerns among human rights activists. The ethnic rift between Turks and Kurds seen last week in Ayvalık, in the Aegean region, cost two lives and is increasing the sour mood.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association; Tarık Ziya Ekinci, a prominent Kurdish intellectual; Şah İsmail Bedirhanoğlu, chairman of the Southeastern Anatolia Businessmen’s Association (GÜNSİAD) and spokesperson of a civil platform composed of nongovernmental organizations of Diyarbakır; and Akın Birdal, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), all agree that Turkey is about to enter a very dangerous era in which basic human rights will be under threat, racism within society will be stronger than ever and the possibility of intra-ethnic clashes will grow. But all agree that there is little civil society can do — even under these circumstances.
Tanrıkulu pointed out that a part of Kurdish society silently condones the PKK attack, giving a psychological advantage in the region to the PKK.
“With every passing day we get closer to the risk of intra-ethnic clashes and walk away from the feeling of solidarity. The PKK does not mind blocking the road of democratic politics. It does not care about the risk of closure the DTP is facing. It thinks that the deadlock in democratic politics will fall in its favor. But the government and the state do not give any signs or hope that a positive change will come about in their policy toward Kurds. The man on the street no longer believes that the problem can be solved through peaceful means,” Tanrıkulu said.
Bedirhanoğlu, speaking on the increase in violence, pointed out the importance of the timing of the latest events. “Every time we talk about a democratic constitution, steps in the democratization process or the fight against gangs, violence increases,” he said, and added that some actors try to convince the public that Ergenekon-style organizations are necessary.
Ergenekon is a terrorist organization in which some high military elements and the mafia are involved and aim to overturn the government. Ergenekon used the pretext of “fighting against terror” for all of its illegal actions. The organization is currently under investigation and a court case is due to start on Oct. 20.
“I think the Ergenekon investigation will be harmed. Some are trying to say that Ergenekon is a legitimate structure under these conditions,” Bedirhanoğlu pointed out.
DTP deputy Birdal underlines that he has some doubts about the timing. “A parliamentary commission has to be established in order to uncover all the facts,” he said.
In a program broadcast on PKK-affiliated Roj TV, Aysel Tuğluk, former DTP co-chairwoman, said a military approach is still seen as the solution. “In Turkey, it is still thought that this problem is an operational problem. The responsibility of the events belongs to those who maintain this mentality,” she stated, adding that new policies have to be developed.
“Politicians have to be aware of their responsibilities and, instead of speaking like military commanders, they must propose solutions,” Tuğluk underlined.
Tanrıkulu, Bedirhanoğlu, Ekinci and Birdal think if the government was taking some steps to recognize the cultural rights of Kurds, the problem would be solved. However, no signs of change have been observed. “Neither the government nor the army have any intention of changing. They have ventured out on a continuous war, irrespective of the cost in lives and money. It seems that the PKK also agrees to this continuous war,” Ekinci said.
He also underlines the importance of cultural rights. “Unless further steps are taken for the cultural rights of the Kurdish population, this war will continue,” he warned.
Tanrıkulu added that the recognition of cultural rights will bring an end to the sympathy the PKK enjoys in the region and pave the way for a non-violent way ahead. “Many are in favor of democratic politics and non-violent methods but the radical atmosphere is not letting it happen,” Tanrıkulu said.
Birdal claimed that many opportunities had been wasted. “The DTP’s existence in Parliament was a way to discuss the problem, but we [the DTP] have been excluded,” he complained.
Birdal, who served as the former chairman of the Human Rights Association (İHD), also noted that there have been several calls in the past to lay down arms, but that they had produced no results.
“If the government is not taking any steps to bring about democratic solutions, there is no use in calling for laying down arms as in the past,” Birdal said.
Ekinci and Bedirhanoğlu are skeptical. Ekinci said there is nothing to do under these circumstances: “We issued many declarations before and they fell on deaf ears. The situation is beyond our power,” he said.
Bedirhanoğlu agreed. According to him, there are few avenues that can be pursued under such circumstances. Harmonization with the EU acquis can be accelerated and no concessions can be given to the democratic process.
Tanrıkulu shared a similar view but added that if Kurdish rights activists and pro-Kurdish politics want to maintain legitimacy, they have to act. “Pro-Kurdish politics have to urge the PKK to lay down its arms. Local elections are approaching and can serve as a very good opportunity for Kurds. If they can be successful in local elections, they will be confident in gaining new political grounds to aid in bringing about a solution.”
ERCAN YAVUZ ANKARA
The government has plans to launch a new strategy in the fight against terrorism. Under the new plan, only professional teams will fight and a temporary security zone in northern Iraq may be set up along the Iraqi border.
Turkey’s search for a new strategy to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Southeast has taken a decisive turn following an attack at the Aktütün military outpost in Hakkari last Friday in which 15 soldiers were slain. PM Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday that Turkey will implement a new strategy, without giving any further details.
Prime Minister Erdoğan immediately called a meeting of the Higher Counterterrorism Board (TMYK) after Friday’s attack and consulted with top representatives from Turkey’s security forces. Yesterday he met with some of his Cabinet ministers to lay out the structure of the new strategy, which will be finalized at the next TMYK meeting, scheduled for Thursday.
The key feature of the new strategy, according to a senior security official who asked not to be identified, is having professional troops conduct operations against terrorist organizations. The idea of establishing a professional army, first proposed in June 2007 by then-Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ, will become a reality under the new plan, the same source said. A new special force, initially of 7,000 privates from gendarmerie operation battalions and ranger brigades, will be deployed in the region as soon as possible. In the following year, an additional 8,000 will be recruited to the new force. The recruitment process will be on a voluntary basis. The minimum salary will be $2,000. In other words, no longer will unprofessional soldiers deployed in the region after a short period of basic military training be conducting military campaigns against terrorism. Conscription soldiers will be acting in the background as supporting units. The professional units will be deployed along Turkey’s eastern frontiers, from the Armenian border to the Syrian border.
A special operation command already established under the National Police Department will be fortified to protect against potential urban terrorist attacks. Another possibility, according to the same source, is that governors of the provinces hit worst by terrorism will be granted special authorities to allow garrison commanders to conduct operations against terrorists at any time. However, the government is not warm to the idea, which is reminiscent of the Emergency Rule Regions (OHAL), areas placed under martial law in Turkey’s Southeast that remained so well into the beginning of the 2000s. The military is also demanding certain temporary amendments to restrictions established in the Criminal Procedures Law. Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin is expected to brief Prime Minister Erdoğan on the military’s demands. The government is determined not to step back from the democratizing reforms Turkey has made during the European Union harmonization process.
One of Turkey’s greatest concerns in fighting terrorism is PKK camps located in the Zap, Avashin, Hakurk and Basyan regions of northern Iraq. The government is set to ask northern Iraq to set up temporary security zones in these areas, where the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will be in charge of ensuring security. President Abdullah Gül is expected to take up the issue very soon with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
According to this plan, which heavily relies on Iraq’s consent, Turkish troops will provide security across an area extending 40 kilometers into northern Iraq from the southeastern province of Hakkari. Large military outposts will be set up along the border, protected by large steel barriers, not unlike the NATO missions’ posts in Afghanistan. The government is also determined to deal with European countries, which have been inactive over the sale of arms to the PKK, which usually gets its weapons from Europe.
The TMYK determined that a delay in the delivery of Heron unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) ordered from Israel has also caused difficulties in obtaining intelligence in northern Iraq. Turkey will work to speed up the delivery process to ensure enhanced intelligence gathering in the region.
The statement came in a meeting today between Iraqi deputy foreign minister Labeed Abawi and Turkish ambassador in Baghdad.
Derya Kanbay said that the attack would do harm to the positive relations between Turkey and Iraq.
In his part, the Iraqi deputy foreign minister stressed making joint cooperation and taking necessary measures to prevent the attack from being repeated.
Students and activists say some of those who have spoken out against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government have been detained or blacklisted from university courses. Ahmadinejad and his government insist they support free speech and welcome constructive opposition. “Police arrested 10 student activists for staging an illegal protest in front of parliament,” Fars said.
“The students, two women and eight men who claimed to be banned from enrolling at universities, were taken away by a police minibus.” Fars did not say where they were being held. The report could not be confirmed independently and was not carried by other news agencies.
TEHRAN – Iran will not stop uranium enrichment even if it is guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel from abroad, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday.
Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted as saying on Thursday in Brussels that Iran would consider renouncing enrichment if it was assured of fuel supplies from abroad.
But Mottaki, asked on Sunday whether Tehran would shelve enrichment with such a guarantee, said: “No … Iran’s uranium enrichment policy remains unchanged. Enrichment will continue until Iran becomes self-sufficient in fuel production for nuclear plants.”
Iran says it needs to master nuclear fuel-cycle technology to supply nuclear power stations. The United States and its European allies fear the Islamic state is trying to build bombs under cover of its nuclear programme.
Tehran has been hit by international sanctions for refusing to suspend enrichment, a process which can be used to make both fuel for reactors and the fissile core of an atom bomb.
“As soon as we become self-sufficient in fuel production, we are ready to supply it to countries in need,” Mottaki told reporters.
Iran on Sunday condemned a nuclear deal between the United States and India. The deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation Mohammad Saeedi said it violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Saeedi said transferring nuclear technology to nuclear-armed India, which unlike Iran has not signed the NPT, would undermine the treaty.
The U.S. Senate approved a landmark deal on Wednesday ending a three-decade ban on U.S. nuclear trade with India.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Roche)
October 06, 2008
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was on an Iraqi Airways commercial flight to Tehran on Monday, but the plane was not allowed to land after the airport was informed that dignitaries were on board, said the official who works in the speaker’s office.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
He added that Iranian authorities gave no reason for denying permission for the plane to land.
Iraqi media earlier reported that al-Mashhadani was leading a parliamentary delegation to mainly Shiite Iran.