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Date: Thu, 7 Jan 1999 14:52:59 -0600 (CST)
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <helsinki@compulink.gr>
Subject: Greece: Ocalan and Greece's Turks; Old Calendarists; Expulsion
Article: 51511
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.3197.19990108121608@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

The Ocalan issue and the related attitude of minority Turks

Greek Helsinki Monitory &l; Mintority Rights Group - Greece,
Press Release 26 November 1998

The cooperating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Greek-Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece express their opposition to the extradition of the leader of the Kurdish PKK Abdoulah Ocalan to Turkey, as well as to the related public call of Turkish minority journalists and MPs, but also to some reactions of the Greek press towards this call.

The numerous violations of human rights by PKK are indisputable. PKK is responsible for at least 1,000 extrajudicial executions of (Turkish, Kurdish and other) citizens of Turkey. Those proved to have committed these crimes or be their instigators should account for them some day to a fair court of a country without the death penalty: of course, contemporary Turkey does not meet these criteria. The same applies to the Turks who have committed or instigated multiple crimes against the Kurds: however, until now we have not seen any call for the arrest or the indictment of a Turkish President, Prime Minister or General, who has been visiting a Western country. The fact that there is no Kurdish state that could ask for their extradition does not absolve the international community from its responsibility. Nevertheless, what is more important today is to find a solution to the Kurdish issue, which will prevent many more violations of human rights, from both sides, in the future. Attributing responsibilities should wait, as in N. Ireland or Spain, where of course the state has no relation whatsoever to the Turkish one. Once responsibilities start getting attributed, it should not be allowed neither to begin with nor to limit them to the weak side, the Kurds.

The logic of non recognition and of oppression of the Kurdish minority in Turkey is similar to the one concerning the Turkish minority in Greece, where fortunately violations of rights are by far less numerous than in Turkey. That is why minority Turks (as well as others) in Greece should express their solidarity to the minorities of other countries (Turkey included) rather than to the mother nation representatives of oppressive nationalisms, who are nationally related to them. Unfortunately, the attitude of journalists and MPs of the Turkish minority in Greece (or rather of one MP, as the call for extradition is not mentioned in the text of Birol Akifoglou) contributes to the creation of the impression that their motive is not the defense of human rights but the protection of the interests of the Turkish state. It is not by chance that, as was reported by the neibouring Bulgarian and Macedonian Helsinki Committees, no personality and no organization of the Turkish minorities in these countries has called publicly for the extradition of Ocalan to Turkey. The Greek state, too, should ask itself to what degree it has contributed, in fact actively and effectively, to the development of similar reflexes by the overwhelming majority of cadres of the Thrace minority in contrast to what happens in the (self-determined and recognized as) Turkish minorities of both neibouring countries.

Invoking the (by all means, inadmissible) beating of Turkish journalists by Kurdish demonstrators in Italy is not a persuasive argument in the call of minority journalists, either. This call would have reflected a commitment to the principles of human rights, if it was accompanied by a condemnation of the almost simultaneous and much more serious violations of the freedom of the press in Turkey. For example, between 19-21 November 1998, police broke into all ten offices of the pro-Kurdish daily paper Ulkede Gundem. This incident resulted in arrests and in many cases continuing imprisonment of many journalists and in partial seizure of equipment. A month ago, the publication of the same newspaper had been banned for 30 days (source: Reporters Sans Frontieres). Let us note that one of the minority journalists (Abdulhalim Dede) is also a representative of human rights organizations, which are currently faced with a serious credibility problem.

Unfortunately, even serious newspapers in Athens and in Thrace have sometimes treated unprofessionally the call of the minority cadres. The exact texts have not been published, so that readers can form their own opinion. The relevant references or summaries were usually inexact. As a result, false impressions were created as to the positions of certain MPs or journalists of the minority. A typical example is the clumsy conclusion of a correct question (by Dina Vagena: in Eleftherotypia, 26/11/98) to the above mentioned journalist: not only was he legitimately asked as someone who for so many years had been active against violations of human rights to clarify what he is , but it was added that the question referred to his nationality, is he a Pomak or a Turk. As if the Turkish identity was necessarily nationalistic and incompatible with the status of a human rights activist . Or as if the minority persons who dared dissociate themselves by not signing the call (Mustafa, Refika, Karabuykly) don't declare themselves as Turks.

The Ocalan issue has caused many problems to the West, but it has, also, created perspectives of finding a solution to the Kurdish problem. Putting aside the problems caused in Greece and, in particular, to its Turkish minority, we would like to wish that it leads to a fertile questioning of these attitudes, so that the dialogue between minority and majority stops resembling to a dialogue of deaf nationalisms.