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08.11.1996

How Far has the Cancer Spread?

How Far has the Cancer Spread?  » Agar in the Firing Line Over police-Mafia-Politician Scandal » Did 'Deep Throat' Leak Information Prior to Bond Sale?  » State of the Affairs or the Affairs of the State  » Mini-Poll Comes as Shot in the Arm for Coalition  » In Search of a Country  » The Week in Perspective  » Focus on Human Rights
Untitled 8 November, 1996, Turkish Probe issue 203, Copyright © Turkish Daily News
CONTENTS
  • How Far has the Cancer Spread?
  • Kaynak: "I do not expect an investigation to go far enough because there are no independent powers able to do this... There are no such conditions in Turkey."
  • Agar in the Firing Line Over police-Mafia-Politician Scandal
  • Sacrifice: Mehmet Agar from the True Path Party (DYP) became the number one target after the road accident
  • No Comment: Prime Minister and Welfare Party (RP) chairman Necmettin Erbakan preferred to keep silent
  • Hidden: Deniz Baykal stated that there exists a state within the state, and that the state is under invasion
  • Did 'Deep Throat' Leak Information Prior to Bond Sale?
  • Enquiry Erbakan, upset by small banks making massive purchases in the biggest sale of bonds in recent years and earning trillions of lira, assigns a minister to look into this matter
  • Something Fishy? The owners of Demirbank and Iktisat Bankasi, the two banks which made the biggest purchases at the auction, are known for their closeness to Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's husband Ozer Ciller. Those who made big purchases include True Path Party (DYP) Bursa Deputy Cavit Caglar's Interbank
  • State of the Affairs or the Affairs of the State
  • Mini-Poll Comes as Shot in the Arm for Coalition
  • In Search of a Country
  • Strikers Critical: on Nov. 8 -- the 48th day of their hunger strike at the Human Rights Association (IHD) Center -- four of the hunger strikers have deteriorated to critical condition
  • Moving On: The Interior Ministry has decided, in parallel with the agreements between Turkey and Iran concerning political groups, that the Iranians will leave Turkey by Jan. 2, 1996 at the latest
  • The Week in Perspective
  • Focus on Human Rights

    How Far has the Cancer Spread?

  • Kaynak: "I do not expect an investigation to go far enough because there are no independent powers able to do this... There are no such conditions in Turkey."
    By Hakan Aslaneli and Zafer F. Yoruk

    Three dead and another in hospital, nothing unusual among the reports of Turkey's road carnage. Indeed, the Minister for the Interior, Mehmet Agar of the coalition's minor partner the True Path Party (DYP), said that it was a very ordinary accident and "nothing special".

    However, when one of the dead was the right wing criminal Abdullah Catli, wanted by police for 18 years, another Huseyin Kocadag, a former deputy security chief of Istanbul, and the third a woman, Gonca Uz, best known for her affairs with underworld figures though reputedly linked to the National Intelligence Service (MIT), and the injured man was a DYP parliamentarian, Sedat Bucak, who was the alleged target of a mafia assassination plot only months ago, the fatal accident on November 3 near Susurluk, Balikesir, becomes slightly more than "nothing special"

    The presence of Catli, known to be involved with both the mafia and the Ulkucu movement, the armed youth wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP); Bucak, the head of the Bucak tribe, the tribe that fills many of the ranks of the paramilitary forces in the Southeast known as "village guards"; and Kocadag, the head of the Istanbul Police Academy, tasked with training the new generation of police officers, in the same car has raised more than just eyebrows. Yet again questions are being asked about how deeply organized crime has penetrated the state apparatus.

    The leader of the opposition Republican Peoples' Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, believes that this and other incidents indicate that there is a cancerous tumor in the structure of the state.

    "Does the state control such underground figures, wanted by Interpol?" he asked. "What right do such people have to exist within a judicial framework?"

    No right perhaps but proof of such existence is hard to refute, despite the efforts of the Interior Minister to play down the latest scandal.

    Having first claimed that Catli was not in the car, Agar shifted his position to make another untrue claim -- that Kocadag and Bucak were taking Catli to Istanbul to hand over to security forces. Then saying that "there is nothing special" in the incident Agar had to back track and state that there would be an investigation when it was revealed that all four victims of the accident had stayed in the same hotel in Kusadasi for three days before setting off for Istanbul.Normal luggage for a Sunday drive?

    In the boot of the wrecked Mercedes, five pistols of different types and sizes, two MP- 5 machine guns, silencers for these weapons and two listening devices were found. Also in the wreckage, a green passport and a number of police ID cards were discovered. An ID card in the name of Mehmet Ozbay which had been alleged previously that the Ulkucu murderer Abdullah Catli was using was also found by the police. It is alleged that the green passport, normally given to top state officials, was also in Catli's possession.

    It has also been learnt that Bucak, when being taken to Balikesir hospital after the incident talked about a white bag containing TL 10 billion and that upon this being said members of the Bucak tribe who came to the incident scene took the bag away from the car.

    So why the strange luggage and why the, on the surface at least, strange assortment of passengers -- and why the evasive answers? The possible answer to the question came from Dogu Perincek, the leader of the left wing Workers Party (IP), in a press conference on Monday when he claimed that the Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller were at the head of a 700-strong conspiratorial organization consisting of the members of security forces, MIT agents, the Ulkucu mafia and the special forces.

    Perincek said that he had prepared a file containing the proof of his allegations and sent it to President Demirel and the Speaker of the Parliament during the Parliamentary investigation in June this year into the alleged misuse of funds by Mrs. Ciller.

    Perincek said that all the victims of Sunday's road accident were the members of this illegal organization. According to him, Catli was the leader of the Ulkucu mafia and the key person of Ciller's special crime ring. He claimed that the former Istanbul police chief and the present Istanbul DYP deputy, Necdet Menzir, and President Suleyman Demirel were against Ciller's alleged criminal organization and were fighting to reveal this organization to the press and public.

    Professor Mahir Kaynak, a former senior official with the MIT agrees that there are secret organizations at work with links both within and outside the body politic.

    "As I have said many times before, some people are organizing to `rescue' the state," Kaynak said. "They organize illegally since they claim that they would protect the state in spite of the law. The victims of the road accident are all the men of this struggle.

    "Find out about where the money from the slush funds was spent and you will solve the mystery (of Sunday's accident), because this money was neither spent in the MIT nor on the General Staff budget. It was given to somewhere outside these institutions."

    Kaynak then said other interests might be involved in such illegal organizations apart from the ideal of protecting the state.

    "The living standards of all these people are above those of normal state officials. It has been claimed that they are involved in drug trafficking, but it is also claimed that the income from these mafia dealings is used to finance the organization," he said.Latest bump in the road

    Last Sunday's road accident was the latest in a string of incidents which underscore the links between the mafia and the state. The first of these incidents is the "Civangate" scandal which began with the armed attack on the former manager of Emlakbank, Engin Civan, in 1994 over a matter of unpaid loans and services not rendered, and continued with a series of trials and murders which concluded with the assassination of mafia boss Tevfik Agansoy in September this year. The most important angle of this scandal was the alleged involvement of the family of the deceased President Turgut Ozal in the affair.

    The second incident was the assassination of Agansoy himself. Agansoy, who was the hit man of one of the Ulkucu mafia leaders, Alaattin Cakici, had made statements claiming the involvement of the Ozal family in the Civangate scandal which led to a war of words between himself and Cakici. The duel was concluded in September this year in Bebek, Istanbul, with Agansoy's assassination; but the hit man's death only led to more scandalous question marks. Two special protection officers of Deputy Prime Minister Ciller, who were with Agansoy during the incident, were also killed in the shooting. Their presence has not been explained.

    A third incident is the discovery of the Soylemez Brothers mafia gang this summer. The gang was mainly made up of police and army officers. The head of the gang is helicopter officer Faysal Soylemez, and among the top officials who are allegedly involved in the gang are the former deputy chief of Istanbul Police, Deniz Gokcetin, and the former head of Istanbul Security branch, Sedat Demir. It was the Soylemez mafia that had targeted Bucak for assassination.

    The traffic accident on Sunday is the fourth incident which "accidentally" brought together all of these former incidents.

    Abdullah Catli was one of the leading names in the ultra right-wing terrorism of the "Ulkucu" militants of the 1970s; as were Alaattin Cakici and Tevfik Agansoy. All three were allegedly involved in MIT operations in the 1980s, including the raid on the camp of the Armenian guerilla group ASALA in Beirut in 1982. It is even alleged that although officially "wanted," Catli was one of the organizers of the Special Forces formed to be deployed in the Kurdish conflict in southeastern Turkey.

    The Soylemez Brothers gang, on the other hand, were caught with plans to raid the headquarters of the Bucak clan in Siverek, Urfa, the head of which is Sedat Bucak, the only survivor of Sunday's car crash. The blood feud between the Bucaks and the Soylemez gang is allegedly based on the control of arms and drugs trafficking in Turkey and particularly in the South East.Super-prosecutor to clean up?

    The former chairman of Istanbul Bar Association, lawyer Turgut Kazan, called for the appointment of a special investigator to probe the events surrounding the accident. Under normal circumstances a prosecutor would be assigned by the Minister of Justice and be assisted by the police. Kazan said that an investigation of this sort could be trusted to be honest and impartial given the links between the mafia, politicians and the police force.

    Professor Kaynak also had little faith in the normal channels of inquiry producing a result.

    "No official investigation has been carried out into the secret illegal dealings within the state so far, although everyone in the street is talking about them" he said. "Only an accident, a coincidence, could bring these conspiracies onto the official agenda. But I do not expect an investigation to go far enough because there are no independent powers able to do this... There are no such conditions in Turkey.

    "If a super-prosecutor like di Pietro (the special investigator who uncovered widespread links between organized crime and politicians in Italy) came forward in Turkey, tomorrow he would be dragged through Taksim Square as an enemy of the nation." However, at the moment it is the honor of the politicians and the security forces of the country that are being dragged through the mud before the gazeof the public.


    Agar in the Firing Line Over police-Mafia-Politician Scandal

  • Sacrifice: Mehmet Agar from the True Path Party (DYP) became the number one target after the road accident
  • No Comment: Prime Minister and Welfare Party (RP) chairman Necmettin Erbakan preferred to keep silent
  • Hidden: Deniz Baykal stated that there exists a state within the state, and that the state is under invasion
    By Ayla Ganioglu

    ANKARA- The Interior Minister, Mehmet Agar from the True Path Party (DYP) became the number one target after the road accident last weekend which revealed the police-mafia-politician relation. The conflicting statements Agar made after the accident increased the claims against him.

    Republican Peoples Party (CHP) spokesman asked Agar to resign, and demanded a censure motion be taken against him. Motherland Party (ANAP) chairman, Mesut Yilmaz stated that he had documents which support these mysterious related connections with people in "higher-up" positions.

    In the accident at Susurluk, DYP deputy and head of the village guard clan, Sedat Edip Bucak Sedat Edip Bucak survived with wounds; while a suspected criminal and Turkish nationalist, wanted by Interpol, Alaaddin Catli, and former deputy security director, Huseyin Kocadag were killed. The accident helped certain mysterious police-mafia-politician relations to come out in the open.

    While Prime Minister and Welfare Party (RP) chairman Necmettin Erbakan preferred to keep silent, DYP chairwoman and deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller made a statement only three days after the accident. She stated that they will investigate the situation with determination. She added that "there are certain points that we are anxious about, the situation is disturbing." When asked about her name being mentioned in connection with Agar and Catli in the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) report in the Oct. issue of Aydinlik newspaper, she answered "I just laugh at this."

    Agar, who is under the focus of attention, stated right after the accident that it is "a petty event."The next day, he stated that Bucak and Kocadag were going to Istanbul to hand Catli over to the police. However, when his words were not convincing, he made another statement, saying that he was misunderstood. On the fourth day after the accident, when Agar was travelling to the electorate region of Elazig, events were boiling up, he stated that the situation would be cleared up when Bucak, who was in hospital at the time, was interrogated. Unfortunately, the same day the news came of Bucak's amnesia.

    After the opposition parties, ANAP and CHP declared investigation proposals through the Parliament to clear up the accident mystery and pressure from the media, Ciller asked Agar to resign. The political circles interpreted the deputy prime minister's action of sacrificing Agar as preventing the issue to be raised further.

    Republican People's Party (CHP) chairman Deniz Baykal stated that there exists a state within the state, and that the state is under invasion. He added that those in power are trying to cover up the incident.

    Democratic Left Party (DSP) chairman Bulent Ecevit commented that people in critical positions in the security are in close interaction with criminal organizations and the underground. ANAP chairman Yilmaz stated that the research on the gang within the state, which was prepared by ANAP before RP-DYP coalition, is being covered up. He added that if "they had stayed in the power for ten more days, they would have been able to reveal the places the gang had infiltrated."

    Yilmaz declared that if these mysterious relations are not uncovered, future elections will be nothing but a simple formality. Yilmaz also stated that they are determined to deal with this issue and when the time comes, they will reveal the documents they in their possession.


    Did 'Deep Throat' Leak Information Prior to Bond Sale?

  • Enquiry Erbakan, upset by small banks making massive purchases in the biggest sale of bonds in recent years and earning trillions of lira, assigns a minister to look into this matter
  • Something Fishy? The owners of Demirbank and Iktisat Bankasi, the two banks which made the biggest purchases at the auction, are known for their closeness to Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's husband Ozer Ciller. Those who made big purchases include True Path Party (DYP) Bursa Deputy Cavit Caglar's Interbank
    By Kemal Balci

    There are doubts as to how certain small banks may have managed to get inside information prior to the Oct. 25 auction in which the Treasury Undersecretariat received bids for a record amount of bonds maturing on Nov. 30, 1997. Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan has asked the officials concerned to look into the matter to see whether these small banks had received information from a "deep throat." A state minister has investigated the matter and obtained significant data.

    At this year's biggest bond offering the Treasury received bids for TL 1 quadrillion worth of bonds. The average interest on these turned out to be 121.92 percent. TL 311 trillion worth of bonds were sold. What inspired suspicion is that nine private banks with little financial strength managed to get the lion's share of these bonds. These nine banks bought TL 233.5 trillion worth of bonds, three-fourths of the overall sale.

    The owners of Demirbank and Iktisat Bankasi, the two banks which made the biggest purchases at the auction, are known for their closeness to Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's husband Ozer Ciller. Those who made big purchases include True Path Party (DYP) Bursa Deputy Cavit Caglar's Interbank. Here are the names of these nine banks and the size of their purchases:

    Demirbank: TL 60 trillionIktisat Bankasi: TL 34 trillion Garanti Bankasi: TL 32 trillion Finansbank: 22 trillion Akbank: TL 22 trillion Sumerbank: TL 20 trillion Chase Manhattan Bank: TL 15.5 trillion Interbank: TL 15 trillion Esbank: TL 13 trillion

    After Prime Minister Erbakan became suspicious about the small banks making such big purchases, and asked one of his ministers to look into the matter, information was sought from the Treasury as to how the sale was held. Recorded on the Treasury computers were hour-by-hour data about all stages of the sale. It was determined that the Treasury Undersecretariat and the Central Bank had, prior to the sale, determined the highest interest rate at which the bonds would be sold. When the bids were received they sold the bonds to those bidders who made offers below that line.

    The Treasury's computer printouts indicate that the powerful banks, a giant such as Is Bankasi among them, made bids which grossly overshot the Treasury's and the Central Bank's secretly determined "highest acceptable interest rate" line which was 122 percent. The nine small banks, on the other hand, offered interest rates just below the crucial line when they made their bids which were for unusually big amounts. These small banks' bids came relatively late in the course of the auction, just at a time when the Treasury's trend regarding the interest rate was emerging. When the small banks made these big purchases, this goaded the bigger banks into action. They too made further bids, and the overall demand shot up to TL 1 quadrillion.

    Toward the end of the auction, when only a little time was left before closing time, the nine small banks started to sell their newly-acquired bonds before they could even have paid the Treasury for them. Due to the fact that demand was very strong, these sales in the secondary bond market attracted a lot of talk. The interest rate fell to 117 percent. Thus the nine banks in question obtained a net profit of 2.19 percent from bonds for which they had not yet made any payments.

    The bonds proved highly popular because of the news that the government was about to issue a decree which would make the revenues from bonds subject to 10 percent withholding tax. Indeed, a few days after the sale the government put into force a decree to this effect.

    The profits the nine banks earned from the withholding tax-free bonds in a few hours have been calculated to be nearly TL 2.3 trillion. This sum is assumed to have been shared by these banks as follows:

    Demirbank, TL 591 billion; Iktisat, TL 328 billion; Garanti, TL 306 billion; Finansbank, TL 219 billion; Akbank, TL 219 billion; Sumerbank, TL 197 billion; Chase Manhattan Bank, TL 153 billion; Interbank, TL 153 billion and Esbank, TL 131 billion.

    Thus the total estimated profits from the dealings of the nine banks suspected of having obtained inside information, is TL 2.297 trillion.


    State of the Affairs or the Affairs of the State


    By Dogu Ergil

    Thank you "Traffic Monster!" You have exposed a more serious and sinister monster which is not only shedding the blood of citizens just like you, but which is corrosive and corruptive as well. This other monster is commonly called "mafiozation of the state." Why is the last and still-shining star (The Turkish Republic) in the presidential emblem composed of 17 Turkish states in history in eclipse? How did a state created by selfless chevaliers become hostage to the mafiosi or fall victim to its own mafiozation?

    There are two basic structural reasons for the decay of the system:

    1- The Republican regime was created in antagonism to four things:

  • The Left: The left was always crushed leaving no room for the discussion of social equality, social justice and popular participation in politics.
  • Religion: The state took control of the realm of beliefs. That is why secularismwas never applied as a policy of leaving faith to the civil society. Thus the realm of beliefs was rendered political from the very inception of the republic. The developing civil society sooner or later would demand what belonged to it. So complaints about the "politicization of Religion/Islam" spring from the fact that the state put the administration of religion under state control from the very beginning. The seeds of the tug of war between the state and society as to who would control religion (politicization of the cultural realm) stem from an intentional choice not to allow burgeoning centers of authority to compete with the mundane authority of the republican elite.
  • Liberalism: Some nations are formed in the marketplace. Others are formed on the battleground. The driving force of the former is capital, while for the latter it is the sword. We call the states created by the first "Nation States." The others may be called "State Nations." In "State Nations" the state (the bureaucratic elite) controls all vestiges of life including the marketplace and its forces, namely capital (ists) and labor. Whatever entrepreneurship grows or is encouraged is on the whole a privilege bestowed upon the "selected." So the Turkish entrepreneurial class always remained dependent on the state. They never became competitive or progressive. They did not perform the role of the "transformer." That is why democracy remained rather limited in Turkey. Statism or the central role of the state continued to influence the economy as it did other spheres of life.

    The Ottoman past: The Ottoman past was denied because of the need to find a different basis of legitimacy for the new regime. The society's multicultural, multi-ethnic character, and statecraft based on the unity and conciliation of the social-cultural diversity of the society was also abandoned.

    What was the outcome: Primacy and superiority of the state over the society... The state was attributed with the powers and rights of forging a nation along the lines of the dreams and expectations of the republican elite. This process took place in a historical and social vacuum. The would-be nation was perceived as a "population" with no culture, history or identity. This was, and remained, another source of tension between state and society.

    The method of nation building rendered the state omnipotent and omnipresent. Its authoritarian character never changed much although it began to be criticized when multi-party politics began after 1950.

    2- Despite the fact that the principle of separation of powers has its place in the Turkish constitution, it was never realized. The executive and the legislature were always intertwined. But after the late President Ozal, who saw the law as a fetter to his quick judgement and practice, the judiciary was taken hostage and attached to the executive branch of the government. So, today no one can talk about the separation of powers and the supervisory role of the judiciary over the other powers. This unfortunate union took away the ability of the system to cleanse itself from the misuse of power and excesses of the executive. It rendered the legislature an accessory to the misdemeanors of the governments and rendered the judiciary helpless in the face of corruption.

    There are two additional factors regarding the corruption and unchecked abuse of power of the governments:

  • The political institutions created in the early 1920s are no longer sufficient and efficient to meet the needs and demands of a much more developed and complex society. Whatever services are not provided by the official institutions are taken care of by unofficial, often criminal organizations. That is why the "unrecorded economic sector" yields as much value added as the "recorded sector."
  • Astronomic incomes created in the "unrecorded sector" are shared by the criminals, and by some bureaucrats and politicians who collude in carrying their personal corruption to the system. Their interest lies in keeping the system corrupt. The method employed to suppress terrorism acts like a dirty quilt covering up criminal liaisons. Together, all of the these factors createan aura of confusion, corruption and covering up to a degree unmatched in the history of the republic.

    Mini-Poll Comes as Shot in the Arm for Coalition


    By Ayla Ganioglu

    Of the 85,000 voters who went to polling stations on Sunday to elect mayors for a town-cum-city and eleven other lesser settlements, supported the candidates put forth by the coalition partners, the (Islamist) Welfare Party (RP) of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, and the center-right True path Party (DYP) led by Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller. Expectedly, the voters put self-interest ahead of their political beliefs when casting their ballots, seeking quick relief for their myriad woes. But without knowing -- or intending -- they blew new life into the partnership becoming increasingly problematic. Grabbing the "lion's share," Islamist RP, the senior partner in the coalition, took 30.5 percent of the votes while DYP followed with 26.6 percent. The right-wing opposition rivals Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP) increased their votes compared to their past showing. So did the left-wing Republican People's Party (CHP). The main opposition Motherland Party (ANAP) was also the main loser.

    The numbers involved in the contest were insignificant. Twelve districts up for grabs did not even constitute a drop in the ocean of the 40 setllements big or small across the country. The votes were less than three-thousandths of the total.

    Nevertheless the partners were ecstatic with the result which crowned the campaign they waged against ANAP ahead of the poll in inverse proportion to its size. Ciller, was particularly pleased since her party was the biggest winner, having increased its in the contested settlements from the previous 18.6 percent.

    The material gain was not the only reason for Ciller's lit up face and broad smile for days on end. The shot in the arm also caused the reaction among the DYP's diehard secularists to the policies of the senior Islamist partner in the coalition. Ciller's sudden U-turn from her anti-RP stance to enter an aliance with the Islamists had caused hjer to come under scathing criticisms and had caused 11 DYP deputies to quit. The opponents of the coalition with the RP had recently begun to raise their voices once more charging that it was rapidly eroding the party's electoral support. Buoyed with the result, Ciller was not only able to silence her critics, but she felt bold enough to issue a call to the ANAP deputies to defect and join her party.

    The results thus enabled the coalition to turn the tables on ANAP which had been issuing similar calls to the DYP deputies in the context of a destabilization campaign it launched with the start of the new legislative year in October. Hitting back, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, has met with Korkut Ozal, a senior ANAP politician with Islamist views. The RP has also been courting lately two other ANAP Islamists, Ali Coskun and Cemil Cicek who have been publicly lambasting ANAP leader Mesut Yilmaz for "taking the party off its nationalist-conservative course."

    After ANAP took only 8.5 percent of the votes in Sunday's mini-poll with a loss of 10 percentage points compared to its previous showing, the Islamist critics were joined by others who raised their voices against Yilmaz. The common accusation leveled at the party leader was that he had dragged the party into a "crisis of identity" by declaring that the party was now addressing the "nationalist left" caucus. More recently Yilmaz also raised conservative eyebrows within the party when he did not dispute his deputy chairman Yilmaz Karakoyunlu's statement to the effect that "ANAP has now become a liberal party."

    Another Yilmaz "sin" in the eyes of the ANAP malcontents was his meeting with author Yasar Kemal, the object of controversial prosecutions over his support for a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem, just before the mini elections.

    Finally, the rise to responsible positions of Turgut Yilmaz, the brother of the ANAP chairman, caused further flak for the embattled Motherland chairman.

    Yilmaz, in his defense, could only say that the government partners had employed state's facilities for partisan ends "in the basest fashion" attributing the coalition success to the status-rise given to Osmaniye, the chief bone of contention in the poll which was made a provincial center just before the contest.


    In Search of a Country

  • Strikers Critical: on Nov. 8 -- the 48th day of their hunger strike at the Human Rights Association (IHD) Center -- four of the hunger strikers have deteriorated to critical condition
  • Moving On: The Interior Ministry has decided, in parallel with the agreements between Turkey and Iran concerning political groups, that the Iranians will leave Turkey by Jan. 2, 1996 at the latest
    By Sinem Sakaoglu

    ANKARA- The story began almost 15 months ago when the Iranian "refugees" set off for the unknown. They left their country and came to Turkey seeking political asylum. Little did they know Turkey would not grant refugee status to those coming from the East and that they would either be repatriated or sent to a different country ... or maybe they knew better.

    For over a year the situation for these people has remained uncertain. They were neither repatriated nor sent out of Turkey. Their applications to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were considered, with the UNHCR deciding they did not conform to the definition of political refugee. They started a sit-in protest on Aug. 4, 1995 which ended on July 2nd this summer. Fifteen of the 90 asylum seekers began a hunger strike on Sept. 23, 1996. The initial reason for the protest was the fear that their residence permits would not be renewed and that they would be deported to Iran. The UNHCR arranged with the Turkish government to extend the permits for another three month period. But they did not end their hunger strike and requested that they be able to settle in other countries.

    Through the sit-in and other demonstrations, such as the one in front of the Iranian Embassy in Ankara where they burned the Iranian flag and a poster of Ayatollah Khomeini, they exposed and identified themselves, thus losing the chance for a safe return to Iran. Now, on Nov. 8 -- the 48th day of their hunger strike at the Human Rights Association (IHD) Center -- four of the hunger strikers have deteriorated to critical condition. The Interior Ministry has decided, in parallel with the agreements between Turkey and Iran concerning political groups, that the Iranians will leave Turkey by Jan. 2, 1996 at the latest.

    A group of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and political parties, including the IHD, formed a platform to back the Iranian refugees. Their first show of support was a press statement on Wednesday in front of the UNHCR and marched to the office of Turkey's Representative to the United Nations (U.N.) to submit a letter written to U.N. Secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

    Speaking on behalf of the concerned NGOs and political parties, President of the IHD Akin Birdal accused the UNHCR of "closing its eyes to realities and remaining as just another onlooker." He said that although the UNHCR was aware of the fact that Turkey did not consider those coming to Turkey from the East as refugees, it had not taken any steps to resettle them in other countries and merely said that these people could return to Iran.

    The letter written by the groups to the U.N. secretary-general read, "Despite various applications made to the UNHCR's representative in Ankara, the UNHCR has continued its stubborn attitude which was initiated one and a half years ago, and having claimed that their situation does not fit the norms of "political refugee" as formulated at the United Nations' 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, it has never reconsidered these asylum-seeker's files. The decision of the UNHCR is indeed based on political issues."

    The supporting NGOs and political parties want the homeless Iranians' lives to be secured and a permanent solution to be found by Jan. 2, 1996 -- uncertainty still dominates the asylum-seekers' situation.


    IHD President Blames UNHCR

    IHD President Akin Birdal said the United Nations was diverting from its ideals. Upon a TDN reporter's question on whether the letter they had written to U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali would have any impact on the situation of the refugees, Birdal said it would at least be useful in respect to showing what situation the United Nations was in.

    He said they wanted the United Nations to use its power to impose sanctions on the UNHCR and Turkey. Birdal emphasized that the NGOs and political parties would make further efforts if they could not achieve a result through the letter.

    He said they mentioned in the letter that the UNHCR had kept silent against the repatriation of an Iranian asylum seeker during the 15 month period. Birdal said if any of the hunger striking asylum seekers died, it would be the UNHCR's responsibility.


    UNHCR Blames the NGOs and Political Parties

    Metin Corabatir, an official responsible for Foreign Relations at the Ankara Representation of the UNHCR, stresses that since the UNHCR has not found that the asylum seekers' claims meet the international criteria defining a refugee, a solution other than asylum should be found. Corabatir said the UNHCR has been providing medical aid and assistance for 13 out of the 14 families who had approached the UNHCR for help.

    He said a political refugee would be happy to have been provided protection, that is to have been assured that involuntary repatriation would not take place, whereas these Iranian asylum seekers were not satisfied with the "people of concern" status granted to them in July and insisted on being sent to a third country. "The UNHCR deplores the hunger strike as a tactic to obtain visas to richer countries," a UNHCR statement read.

    The UNHCR also stated that the asylum seekers should be allowed to stay in Turkey until they manage to find a solution in another country. The UNHCR does not accept that they have ignored the group but claim that on the contrary they have been closely monitoring the developments. "In the absence of specific guarantees of safe return from the government of Iran, the UNHCR has granted them a special humanitarian status and has obtained the agreement of the Turkish government to extend their residence permits." The UNHCR clearly pointed out that they will not submit this group for resettlement to Western countries.

    Corabatir said he found the support given to the asylum seekers by some NGOs and political parties wrong because he said the most important responsibility of a human rights organization would be to convince the hunger strikers to stop this protest that only harms their basic human right -- the right to live.


    The Week in Perspective


    October 29
  • A female suicide bomber acting on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) kills three policemen, a civilian, a fellow-terrorist and herself, while leaving 10 people injured in the central Turkish town of Sivas in front of a police station, marring nationwide Republic Day celebrations.October 30
  • Greek Cyprus issues arrest warrants for the Turkish Cypriot agriculture minister, the former commander of Turkish forces in northern Cyprus, the head of Turkish Cypriot security forces, the commander of a Turkish army battalion, and the chief of the Turkish Cypriot police, saying all are wanted on suspicion of killing Greek Cypriot Solomos Solomos on Aug. 14 as he climbed a pole to tear down a Turkish flag.
  • Britain and the United States protest the firing of shots at two British soldiers who stray into Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) territory, saying the incident was "unacceptable."
  • Rival Iraqi Kurds start fresh Turkish and U.S. sponsored talks in Ankara to bring peace to northern Iraq.October 31
  • The National Security Council (MGK) decides on lifting emergency rule in the southeastern province of Mardin and on the gradual removal of the emergency rule currently being implemented in nine other provinces in eastern and southeastern Turkey.
  • Rival Iraqi Kurds agree in talks in Ankara to extend permanently a cease-fire declared after two months of infighting in northern Iraq.November 1

    Police catch seven people they say are the PKK members who were behind a suicide bomb attack on a crack police force headquarters that killed four people in the southern town of Adana.November2

  • Greek Cypriots demonstrate at a U.N. checkpoint leading to the Turkish north of the island for the third consecutive weekend to discourage tourists from visiting the north.November 3
  • Turkey's Islamist-led coalition passes its first electoral test since its formation in June, doing well at mini local elections in 12 municipalities, while the junior coalition partner, the True Path Party (DYP) also improves its standing.November 4
  • President Suleyman Demirel starts a four-day state visit to Germany to elicit a warmer stance towards Turkey's bid to join the European Union and ensure a continuing crackdown by Bonn on the activities of separatist Turkish Kurdish rebels.
  • Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces begin four days of joint military manoeuvres on and around northern Cyprus.
  • Iranian Oil Minister Gholamreza Aghazadeh arrives in Turkey for talks on energy and other areas of cooperation between the two countries.

    Focus on Human Rights


    Turkey's human rights lawyer quits in despair

    The lawyer defending Turkey in European human rights courts said last week he had quit his post. "Turkey always promises, but never fulfils ... I thought defending Turkey is impossible in the current conditions and resigned," lawyer Bakir Caglar tells Reuters. Caglar was the Turkish government's lawyer at the European Human Rights Commission for four years. Caglar said Turkey now faced 112 cases at the commission, including 61 applications from southeastern Turkey. "If Turkey is convicted it would probably mean hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to the victims. Turkey's budget cannot afford it," the lawyer said.TDN editors acquitted

    A criminal court in Ankara last week acquitted Turkish Daily News Editor in Chief Ilnur Cevik and Editor-at-Large Hayri Birler who were tried on charges of defaming the country's armed forces. The General Staff had sued Cevik and Birler over a TDN report, published Feb. 9, on the results of an opinion survey, commissioned by the military, seeking to establish the public's preferences regarding the ways out from the political deadlock that followed inconclusive general elections in December. TDN published an official denial from the General Staff that it had commissioned such a survey.


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