Honouring Özal discredits Australian government
By Turkish and Kurdish communities
[This statement was issued by the Turkish Community Resource Centre, the Union of Australian Turkish Workers and the Kurdish Association of Victoria.]
The Turkish and Kurdish communities of Australia are distressed and strongly protest against the decision to decorate the president of Turkey, Mr Turgut Özal, with the Order of Australia.
No other head of state has been granted this honour, and we dispute Mr Özal's credentials to receive it. Our communities are deeply concerned about Australia's stand on democracy, human rights and the freedom of people in Turkey.
By honouring Mr Özal, the Australian government is honouring a head of state who has systematically abused democratic and human rights, as extensively documented by amnesty International. The most recent such abuse is the so-called "anti-terrorist" legislation ratified by the Turkish parliament. In the course of implementing this legislation, Turkish police and military have been allowed a free hand to repress people seeking basic democratic rights. During the past three months, 13 people have died from torture — their only crime was to protest peacefully against Turkey's involvement in the Gulf War and against the oppression of the Kurds.
Mr Özal has also legislated for a supposed "amnesty of all prisoners". Members of fascistic death squads — proven sadistic murderers — criminals and thieves were discharged. Democrats, trade unionists, leftists remain imprisoned. Only a handful of progressive people were able to take advantage of the new law. The whole operation was a sham, designed only to mollify international public opinion.
The rights of the Kurdish people have long been denied under Mr Özal's regime. Some very minor softening of government policy towards the Kurds is occurring, but over 1000 Kurds are in Turkey's prisons for political offences, suffering torture and facing death daily. Their crime is to want freedom for their people. Mr Özal says he wants freedom for the Kurds of Iraq; why doesn't he allow all of Turkey's 10 to 13 million Kurds to go free?
Through his notorious collaboration with the US government on the Cyprus question, Mr Özal has acted exactly like Saddam when he annexed Kuwait. Mr Özal keeps the Turkish army on this island, strengthening the illegitimate government in the north, deepening the division of the island, thus creating a great deal of tension between the people of Cyprus and the people of Greece and Turkey. We want Cyprus free of any intervention, because the island belongs to all those who live on it — the Greek and Turkish Cypriots — just like Kurdistan belongs to the Kurds, not to the governments which have colonised it.
We believe that the Australian government is well aware of the Turkish government's true human rights and anti-democratic record. Refugees from turkey have been accepted for years by successive Australian governments due to Turkey's proven abuses. We are deeply n to honour Mr Özal — a step which we believe only brings discredit upon the present Australian government.