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YENI ARSLANBASAR, Kurdistan — “Ocalan is a dog, I say he must die,”
said Mahammad Servas.
Servas, the public relations director at a major hotel in Ankara,
Turkey, was referring to the only military “leader” the Kurdish people
have to call their own, a man who is said to have killed 37,000 innocent
Turkish women and children on behalf of his cause. And while many Kurds
don’t support Abdullah Ocalan, the trail of violence left by him
certainly doesn’t endear the Kurds to the average Turkish citizen.
“I have always been afraid of go to eastern Turkey because of him,”
continued Servas. “But if the government executes him, they fear that
might start up more terrorism. So the government is appealing to the
Turkish people who have been victims of the PKK [Kurdish Worker’s Party]
terror campaign to show patience.”
Said Servas, “I say, once you use terror as a part of your
independence movement, well, it is like bad water from a faucet. You
can’t just turn it off. Is this kind of terror that the PLO and PKK want
in their new homelands? It’s craziness.”
Ocalan managed to evade the Turkish army for the better part of the
last 15 years. That is, until the government in Ankara got serious and
brought in foreign mercenaries to train the Turkish special forces to
capture Ocalan in the former British colony of Kenya. Today, Ocalan sits
in solitary confinement on the heavily militarized island of Imrali off
the coast of Istanbul, awaiting his execution.
The rocky relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurds
goes back to the very establishment of modern-day Turkey in 1923.
A life of trials
For thousands of years, the Kurds have inhabited Kurdistan,
which consists of parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. For the most
part, they are members of the Sunni sect of Islam. Even though the
difficult history of the Kurds extends back thousands of years, most in
the West know of them only from witnessing the last decade of struggle
in the Middle East, and it is the last few years that have transformed
the Kurds into a scattered, desperate people.
During the Gulf War, President George Bush told the Kurds to rise up
and fight Saddam Hussein, promising American support if they would. They
did rise up, only to find a lack of U.S. assistance and a violent
crackdown by Saddam’s forces. Next, the covert operation of the CIA to
empower the Kurds and overthrow Saddam failed and more Kurds were
destroyed or forced into exile.
The Kurds have no nation. There are a few
advocacy groups working on their behalf in Washington, D.C., but in reality the Kurdish people are on their own.
|Both the U.S. and UK use Turkish airbases to launch strikes against Saddam’s regime in Iraq.|
Having been targeted by both the Turkish special forces and Saddam’s Republican Guard, the Kurds have been victimized by chemical warfare in northern Iraq. The “no-fly zone” enacted by the United Nations Security Council and enforced by the U.S. and the UK can’t protect Kurdish villages. Ironically, when the U.S. and UK bomb Iraq on behalf of the Kurds, they launch their sorties from bases in Turkey.
The land occupied by the Kurds sits atop vast water resources, oil and even uranium, so both Iraq and Western interests have designs on the area. Saddam does business with the Kurds through his
import-export company, Asia, but the Kurds don’t seem to fit into the “master plan” of the European-Arab economic development scheme.
The typical Kurdish response to their recent trials has been to run away — to Scandinavia, Canada, the U.S. In doing so, they have found that they are just a small part of a giant wave of third-world immigration that many in Europe no longer want.
the real-life Lawrence of Arabia, who once worked as an archaeologist near Kurdistan, sought to give a homeland to the Jews, Palestinians, Jordanians, Kurds and all of the Middle East’s peoples after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. But the British and the French would not listen to him. President Wilson’s call for “self determination” was ignored in what he called the “disgusting scramble” for Arabia by the European colonialists.
Terms of endearment
The year 1999 was not a good one for Turkey in general. The government did capture Ocalan, but it also suffered a devastating “depram,” or earthquake, losing — in just 45 seconds — over 20,000 lives and over 100,000 homes. Although Turkey, through the Seljuks, was the first nation in history to create the idea of state-sponsored insurance, no amount of insurance could cover this catastrophe. Even though the heavily affected areas were not tourist regions, it created a major psychological effect. Tourism suffered. Fewer Western journalists traveled to remote southeastern Turkey to document the plight of the Kurds.
The earthquake served an important function, however, as Greece, Turkey’s long-time enemy, sent aid and rescue teams to help Turkey in her hour of need. And the Kurds, led by their Marxist PKK put a halt to their armed terrorist campaign.
The cloud of distrust and violence in Turkey was temporarily dissipated by the extension of the collective goodwill exercised by Greece and the PKK. Turkey’s problems with the PKK, however, extend far beyond its borders and into Europe:
- The female terrorist Fehriye Erdal, accused of killing a leading Turkish industrialist — Ozdemir Sabanci — went on a 45-day hunger strike last summer in Belgium, where she is being detained. Belgian authorities announce she will stand trial in Belgium, not Turkey, for terrorism.
- On Aug. 30, Turkish special forces killed 16 PKK fighters in Tunceli and Hakkari.
- On Aug. 31, a German court jailed two PKK members for taking five office workers hostage to protest the arrest of Ocalan.
- On Sept. 1, Ocalan renewed his call for dialogue with the Turkish government in an effort to end the terror campaign being waged in southeast Turkey. The Turkish government rejected Ocalan’s offer and claimed it was only an attempt to avoid his execution.
- The U.S. Congress, through
H.R. 461, has called on the Turkish government to release several Turkish Kurds who have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses. Among these include a Kurdish woman named Leyla Zana, who was legally elected to parliament and whose only crime was speaking her native Kurdish language before a government assembly.
- The Turkish government, fearing the breakup of its unified state, refuses to grant the Kurds even minor cultural autonomy, such as the right to teach or broadcast in Kurdish. Turkey grants Jews, Armenians and Greeks minority status, but has rejected that right for the Kurds living within its borders.
- Turkish authorities arrested the mayor of Batman in southeastern Turkey for making a speech in Denmark in which he allegedly incited “hatred” among people. The mayor, Abdullah Akin, is a leading figure in the legal People’s Democracy Party, which Turkish leaders claim is assisting the PKK while endorsing a diplomatic solution.
- The Turkish government expressed outrage over a resolution before the U.S. Congress acknowledging officially that the
against the 1.5 million Armenians in the early years of the 20th century actually occurred. Despite massive eyewitness, documentary and photographic evidence, the Turkish government has denied consistently that the genocide took place. Although the congressional resolution had overwhelming support and definitely would have been passed, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, at the eleventh-hour urging of President Clinton, removed the resolution from consideration on Oct. 19. Clinton, under intense pressure from the Turkish government, warned Hastert in a letter that a vote on the bill “could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States.”
- Nadire Mater, a Turkish journalist who criticized the Turkish military’s brutal campaign against the Kurds in her book, titled “Mehmet’s Book,” was finally acquitted by a court in Istanbul. Mater was charged with “insulting the military.” Scores of journalists and intellectuals have been jailed for criticizing the war or even for calling for a peaceful solution. The EU has condemned Turkey’s laws limiting journalists in this way.
|Two young Turkish boys tend to their goats in the shadow of Mount Ararat.|
What to do about the hundreds of thousand of Kurds whose homes, farms and businesses were completely wiped out in the Turkish army’s military campaign to eliminate the PKK in Kurdistan? Over 3 million Kurds were left without a home and over 3,000 villages were destroyed.
Still, the government fears that PKK sympathizers will scatter themselves in Maoist-style cells in various Kurdish villages in Kurdistan and organize a new resistance movement against the government. As such, the Turkish government spent $4.5 million on building “centralized villages” for the nomadic Kurds. The European Union has condemned this project of trying to force the nomads into the “central or new cities,” and international human rights groups want the Turkish government to let the nomads return to their respective towns and villages.
When WorldNetDaily recently visited one of the new villages set up for the Kurds, a place called Yeni Arslanbasar, it discovered a Kurdish population of 2,000. All of them had fled 10 individual villages that had been wiped out by the Turkish army. The town is surrounded by concrete bunkers, and the Turkish army strictly monitors the movements of all residents coming into or out of the new city.
Kurds who wish to pick cardoon (eaten as a vegetable) outside of the new city are given a short amount of time to complete their task. If they are “late” in returning, they are subject to physical harassment by the Turkish military “guards.”
|Turkish soldiers on patrol in eastern Turkey.|
“Whatever we do, we can’t win,” one Turkish army officer told WorldNetDaily. “We are always going to be seen as the bad guys. Still, we are not just soldiers, but human beings. We treat the children with respect, and the women. You will never hear of rape or anything like that. If any of our soldiers hurt a Kurdish child, or beat or raped a woman, I would see that the soldier was summarily executed. Never mind military law and courts. I tell you this truth by my oath to Allah — we even are kind to the kittens and puppies the Kurdish children keep as pets. One Kurdish girl gave me a kitten the other day, and she named it Snuggles. It really brought a tear to my eye. We are trying to do the right thing. Allah sees everything, and Allah looks well upon those who show mercy to the weak.”
Asked about the physical intimidation of the Kurds, the officer added, “Sure, there are problems. In any army, you have soldiers who are unkind. But they have not been trained to be kind, but to kill. It is a double-edged sword. On one side, you have the killer and the beast, on the other, now the humanitarian. We are not the Red Cross. But as I said, we are trying to do the right thing by the Kurds and for our nation of Turkey.”
TOMORROW — Saddam’s female assassin squads: Reporter Anthony LoBaido follows the Kurdish trail to Scandinavia, where he discovers a bizarre international cat-and-mouse game. In a maniacal program to crush the life out of any opposition movement, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has sent trained female assassins to Denmark and other European destinations to wipe out Kurdish refugees and defectors fleeing Iraq, and even has installed spies on the Danish Refugee Council, according to the Danish Red Cross.