Kurds versus Albenians

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Mon Feb 19 13:33:06 MST 2001

http://www.kurdstruggle.org/kosovo/june11.html   Turkish Kurds endure conditions
`just like Kosovo'

Observers decry `double standard' in U.S. tolerance of NATO ally's war on ethnic

June 11, 1999
Toronto Globe and Mail

ANKARA, Turkey - They've been evicted from their homes by soldiers, often at
gunpoint, seen their villages burned and been forced to leave their native
region. In some cases, they've been the victims of massacres and disappearances.

These aren't Kosovo Albanians - they are Kurds from southeastern Turkey.
Estimates are that between one million and two million Kurds have been expelled
from their homes and about 4,000 villages destroyed or evacuated during the
Turkish government's 15-year war against the Kurdistan People's Party (PKK).

``It's just like Kosovo,'' said James Ron, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins
University and a consultant to Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group
that has studied the treatment of civilians in both disputes. ``The Kurds are
not being stripped of their citizenship but they are stripped of everything
else. They can't go back to their homes and rebuild.''

The Turkish government insists that it is fighting an insurgency movement that
threatens the country's unity and has led to more than 30,000 deaths.
Authorities argue that it's a purely internal matter and none of the outside
world's business.

``The rhetoric is identical to that of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic
but [the Turks] get away with it because they're an important NATO member,'' Ron

The treason trial of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, which began May 31 on a prison
island south of Istanbul, has brought the Kurdish problem back into focus. Yet
the emphasis here has been solely on the brutality and atrocities attributed to
the PKK and nothing has been said in the court or the press about the military's
harsh reaction to the rebellion and the effects of its actions on the civilian

B. Firat Dayankili, a member of parliament representing Turkey's Democratic Left
Party, a member of the ruling coalition, declines to even speak about a Kurdish

``We call it the southeast problem,'' he said. ``We don't separate any ethnicity
in Turkey in our hearts and minds.''

Asked about the thousands of villages that critics say have been destroyed by
Turkish military forces, Dayankili said: ``There might have been some evacuation
of some villages for security reasons. The area is harsh geographically with
little settlements distributed over a wide area and it's difficult to protect

``The villagers have been relocated in other parts of southeastern Turkey. ...
It's done in the interests of the people living there to provide them with
better security and more services.''

Turkey is a unitary state that brooks no claims for minority status by any
group. Speaking Kurdish was illegal until 1991 and the language still cannot be
legally taught in schools or broadcast on radio or television.

Ron, who spent more than three months studying the treatment of Kurds in the
southeast in 1995, says that the outside world has chosen to ignore the actions
of Turkish authorities in fighting the PKK.

``Relations between Turkey and the European Union have been very tense but
they've escaped the blanket sanctions that the Serbs have received,'' said Ron,
who recently returned from Albania, where he saw firsthand the flood of refugees
from Kosovo. ``Yet their record is very similar. If you do Kosovo, you have to
do Turkey. Otherwise, you've got a double standard.''

The situation in southeastern Turkey can be compared to that in Kosovo before
the start of NATO bombings, when Serb forces engaged in actions against the
Kosovo Liberation Army, which the Serbs said aimed to shatter the territorial
integrity of Serbia.

In pursuing the war against the KLA, the Serbs burned villages and allegedly
committed massacres, leading to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced

In Turkey, the pattern was not very different. Although the PKK began its
insurgency in the 1980s, it wasn't until the end of the 1991 war in the Persian
Gulf and the subsequent weakening hold of Iraq on its Kurdish region that a
serious threat was posed by the PKK in southeastern Turkey.

In 1992, Turkish authorities launched a major counteroffensive against the
guerrillas, at first by moving into cities such as Cizre and Sirnak near the
Iraqi border. To flush out the PKK guerrillas from the hilltops, the military
decided that all villages above a certain altitude would be emptied,
particularly because many villagers were believed sympathetic to the rebels. It
was a process U.S. forces have seen firsthand from aircraft over-flying
southeastern Turkey on missions into Iraq on a regular basis.

``They'd drive into a village and tell people to up and move, sometimes within a
few days, but sometimes within six hours,'' Ron said. ``When they didn't move,
they'd burn the villages.''

Essential to the Turkish military's strategy against the PKK has been the
village-guard program, where villagers who agreed to fight the PKK were given
weapons, Human Rights Watch says.

Those who resisted joining up were often forced out of their homes, the group
adds. But those who joined the village guards were under threat from the PKK,
who targeted them as collaborators with the enemy.

Unlike the Kosovo Albanians, 800,000 of whom who have been expelled to other
countries, the Kurds remain within Turkey and they admittedly haven't been
subjected to the same level of brutality. But Human Rights Watch has chronicled
massacres and Ron says that mass expulsion is viewed as an atrocity in and of

``We do see a pattern of sexual abuse, rape, et cetera,'' he said. ``The worst
[perpetrators] in this respect are the special teams coming from the ministry of

Ron is convinced that Turkey has been able to escape international condemnation
because of its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its
strategic importance at the gateway to the Middle East.

"Turkey is much more important than Serbia,'' he said. "Serbia doesn't matter.''


    --- Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx Ph.D Student Department of Political Science SUNY at
Albany Nelson A. Rockefeller College 135 Western Ave.; Milne 102 Albany, NY

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