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Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 06:27:00 GMT
Reply-To: Arm The Spirit <ats@etext.org>
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From: Arm The Spirit <ats@etext.org>
Subject: Turkey: 60 Minutes: An American Dilemma
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

An American Dilemma

Sixty Minutes, Vol. 28, no. 16, 14 January 1996

ED BRADLEY: Since the end of the cold war and the disappearance of the Soviet threat, the United States probably has no more important ally in NATO than Turkey. And there is probably no other NATO member facing as much turmoil. The Western leaning, Yale educated Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, was unseated in recent elections in which an Islamic party, whose leader is anti-Western, got the most votes. On top of that, one American Congressman says Turkey, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid, is engaged in genocide. He's talking about the campaign against the Kurds, an ethnic minority of mostly farmers and sheep herders who have lived with their own language and customs for more than four thousand years.

In 1993, when we went to Iraq, just across the border from Turkey, we saw evidence of what Saddam Hussein had done to the very same people, the Kurds. There were mass graves where people had been shot and buried; villages that had been burned, or the people hit with poison gas. After the Gulf War, to protect the Kurds, the United States mounted Operation Provide Comfort, a military-run effort that polices Northern Iraq, providing protection and humanitarian aid at a cost of $130 million a year. But next door in Turkey, Kurds are still being tortured and killed; persecution that human rights organizations charge the U.S. Government actually supports with some of its tax dollars. William Schulz is the Executive Director of Amnesty International, U.S.A.

WILLIAM SCHULZ: This year, Turkey will receive $320 million dollars in military loans. That's $320 million dollars of U.S. taxpayer money, which is not going for anything here at home, and it's not going to build democracy or human rights around the world. It's is going to the Turkish Government for the purpose of killing their own citizens.

ED BRADLEY: Those citizens are Turkish Kurds, and they've been caught in the crossfire of an eleven-year-old war. There are some 20 million Kurds, the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country. They live in Iraq, Iran and Syria, but most of them are in Turkey. Since 1984, the Turkish military has been fighting this small army of Kurdish guerrillas. They have been seeking to establish an independent Kurdish nation in southeastern Turkey. During the war, both the guerrillas and the Turkish military have been accused of human rights violations against civilians. But Republican Congressman John Porter says there's an important difference; one side -- the Turkish Government, is the third largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid in the world.

JOHN PORTER: We cannot sit on the sidelines while these kinds of abuses are going on, while our ally uses our military equipment to kill and maim innocent people in their society.

ED BRADLEY: But reports persist of brutal repression of Kurdish civilians by the U.S.-backed military; reports of torture, murder and the destruction of hundreds of Kurdish villages. Here in the southeastern part of Turkey, there are an estimated 2500 villages like this one, either evacuated or destroyed. People who used to live in them say Turkish army soldiers would come to a village and give them a choice; they either had to join the Village Guard, which meant they'd had to take up arms against Kurdish guerrillas, or they'd be forced out of their homes. Most chose not to fight the guerrillas, who are known as the PKK. As a result, there are some two-million refugees from this part of Turkey. Onur Oyman is the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister.

ONUR OYMAN: It is our homeland, Turkey. And we are defending our homeland.

ED BRADLEY: Oyman says his government's military operation is a legitimate response to the threat posed by the PKK guerrilla insurgency.

ONUR OYMAN: They have killed so many women and children, teachers, professors, judges and religious persons. So it is a pure bloody terror organization.

ED BRADLEY: But Congressman Porter says regardless of the PKK threat, the Turkish Government has gone too far.

JOHN PORTER: I think what is going against the Kurds in Turkey, approaches government terrorism; state terrorism by the Turkish military. And while any country has the right to fight terrorism and to prevent separatism, the kinds of repressive measures, extra- judicial killings, burning of villages, and the like, is -- is -- goes too far, far beyond reasonable measures to fight terrorism, and amounts -- amounts to genocide against the Kurdish people.

ED BRADLEY: Few could argue with scenes like this. German television was documenting this 1992 Kurdish holiday celebration in Cizre, when government troops opened fire. At least four civilians were killed. Yet in the face of mounting evidence of military repression of Kurds, the Turkish Government categorically denies any wrongdoing.

ONUR OYMAN: Can you believe, for a moment, that a democratic country can kill its own women and children?

ED BRADLEY: It's happened.

ONUR OYMAN: Just -- just -- just to -- to accuse terrorists? It's against common sense. It's against our traditions. It's against our way of life. And you cannot find such cases throughout our history. We are not criminals. We are not barbarians in Turkey.

ED BRADLEY: But since 1993, there have been more than 4000 official complaints of human rights abuses made by Turkish Kurds against the Turkish Government. In addition to the outright killings, reports of civilians disappearing and systematic torture are widespread. This Kurdish doctor says he was detained and tortured by the Turkish military because he was suspected of treating PKK guerrillas.

VESI (TRANSLATOR): They seemed to be aiming for my sides and my back. They were hitting me very hard in my kidneys. They then asked me to undress, and threatened me with a stick, to put the stick inside of me. Then I was soaked with cold water from a high pressure hose. They squeezed my testicles and from time to time they gave me electric shocks.

ED BRADLEY: In the U.S. State Department's country report on human rights in Turkey, it says that commonly employed methods of torture include high pressure cold water hoses, electric shocks, beating on the soles of the feet, beating of the genitalia, hanging by the arms, blindfolding, sleep deprivation, taking away of clothes, systematic beatings and vaginal and anal rape with truncheons, and, in some instances, gun barrels. This goes on in your country?

ONUR OYMAN: Well, all these are prohibited in Turkey. And punishable -- severely punishable by law. What we hear, what we listen on such reports, or other reports, are allegations. So we cannot accept these general allegations. And we consider that it's -- it's a pity that -- a friendly country can write such reports without proven facts.

ED BRADLEY: That friendly country is the United States, and the report was written by the State Department. John Shattuck is the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights.

JOHN SHATTUCK: I think the documented cases of human rights issues and problems in Turkey are very clear, and I think we have, in the areas of freedom of expression, and in the areas of torture, and in areas of massive injury to civilians, some very serious problems.

JOHN PORTER: This is not an effective way to fight terrorist activity. It only alienates a very large segment of the population, and causes massive human rights abuses.

ED BRADLEY: So the PKK murders civilians?


ED BRADLEY: And the Turkish Government murders civilians?


ED BRADLEY: So, the people are caught in the middle.

JOHN SHATTUCK: People are caught tragically in the middle of this. There's no question about it.

ED BRADLEY: And there is increasing evidence that the U.S.- supplied military hardware is contributing to the conflict. U.S.- made equipment is everywhere in southeastern Turkey. F-4 fighter jets, M-60 tanks, helicopters and armored personnel carriers; all part of the $6.9 billion dollars worth of military firepower the U.S. has provided Turkey in the last ten years. In this 1992 offensive, the Turkish military used their U.S.-made F-4 fighters and Cobra helicopters to bomb Kurdish guerrilla strongholds. Abdullah Ocalan is the leader of the PKK guerrilla army. We spoke to him at a safe house in the Middle East.

ABDULLAH OCALAN (TRANSLATOR): It is an absolute reality, that without U.S. technology, Turkey could not have prolonged the war against us this long.

ED BRADLEY: And have those weapons been used against civilians?

ABDULLAH OCALAN: This is very obvious. All the villages have been burned by the American weapons, on an everyday basis. Today, these weapons, F-16's and helicopters, are being sued.

ED BRADLEY: In fact, the U.S. State Department did acknowledge, for the first time in a report last spring, that it is highly likely U.S.-made equipment has been used in human rights violations against innocent Kurdish civilians. But despite that, the administration's policy is to continue supporting massive military aid for Turkey. John Kornblum helps shape policy as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

JOHN KORNBLUM: It -- it can't be overestimated, how central the role of Turkey is. Ten years ago, Turkey looked to most people as being at the end of the world. All of a sudden, almost overnight, Turkey was put right in the center of an area of the world which is changing rapidly, which is strategic, economically militarily, and which there is the danger of immense and massive conflict.

ED BRADLEY: The threat of conflict in the region is why Incirlik air base in Turkey is now the hub for the U.S. military in this part of the world. There are more than 2000 U.S. military personnel, and an arsenal of sophisticated weaponry stationed there. Surrounded by several aggressive fundamentalist regimes, Turkey is now the new front line of NATO. That's why U.S. policy- makers say they have to funnel weapons to the Turkish Government, despite its continued mistreatment of the Kurds.

JOHN KORNBLUM: It has a difficult, lamentable situation in its southeastern area, and it is taking measures which we don't support.

ED BRADLEY: Well we provide them with about 80 percent of their military equipment. Correct?

JOHN KORNBLUM: Yeah. But their military equipment is based on a much different role of Turkey. Their -- their role as a NATO ally, and their very important strategic considerations.

ED BRADLEY: Kornblum says the U.S. routinely pressures Turkish officials to clean up their human rights record. But Congressman Porter says the results so far are only promises not kept by the Turkish Government.

JOHN PORTER: There is cosmetic progress. But the changes are very, very minimal. Every time there's a budget cycle where anyone threatens to cut their economic aid, they suddenly say, well, we're going to change things. We're meeting in Parliament, and you'll see some real change occurring. And as soon as we get through the cycle, and -- and the aid is given, then no real change occurs at all.

ED BRADLEY: It goes back to what is was?

JOHN PORTER: It goes back to what it was. Repression only.

ED BRADLEY: Meanwhile, the PKK's Abdullah Ocalan told us that he wants peace now. And he is willing to give up on his wish for an independent Kurdish state, in exchange for negotiations on Kurdish rights. Have you ever approached the Government of Turkey to talk about peaceful negotiations?

ABDULLAH OCALAN: I am calling them every day. I am prepared to sign anything that would guarantee some form of democracy. I am prepared to accept it now.

ED BRADLEY: So, you don't want to have an independent Kurdistan?

ABDULLAH OCALAN: No. The main thing is the freedom of the Kurdish people; political and cultural freedom for the Kurds.

ED BRADLEY: Would you consider negotiating a political settlement with the PKK?

ONUR OYMAN: Of course not. No governments, no democratic government can negotiate with terrorists.

ED BRADLEY: While the war continues between the Turkish Government and the PKK, the U.S. will spend more than $100 million dollars this year on Operation Provide Comfort to protect Kurds right next door in Iraq. But the U.S. will also provide the Turkish Government hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid, as Turkish Kurds and their villages continue to disappear.

WILLIAM SCHULZ: It's strange, isn't it -- It's schizophrenic -- a schizophrenic policy. Because one would think that if it was in fact the welfare of the Kurds that the U.S. Government had at heart, that the policy would be more consistent. Obviously the U.S. policy is -- is impacted by the foreign policy considerations and strategic considerations with regard to those two countries.

ED BRADLEY: Policy and strategic considerations, that even the State Department knows are of little comfort to Kurds in Turkey. How does the destruction of Kurdish villages in Turkey differ from the destruction of Kurdish villages across the border in Iraq, by Saddam Hussein?

JEFF KORNBLUM: If you're in the village, there's no difference whatsoever.

ED BRADLEY: During our interviews, the State Department told us it is now giving more scrutiny to proposed weapons sales to Turkey, and even canceling some. Since then, however, the Clinton Administration announced yet another shipment to Turkey -- one hundred and thirty-two million dollars worth of sophisticated anti- personnel missiles.