Kurds defy repression by Turkish army

Issue 

By Jennifer Thompson

A report in late January from the liberal Turkish Daily News unveiled the latest in the Kurdish struggle for independence: a Kurdish-language satellite TV station, broadcasting from Britain. According to the report, the station — MED-TV — will be operated by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and will begin broadcasting in the first half of 1995.

The initiative, which will reach Kurdish communities in Iraq, Iran and Syria, in addition to Turkey, where the PKK is based, is intended to be out of the reach of the Turkish state, which has stepped up its repression of Kurds.

In addition to the razing of up to 600 villages, the banning of the Kurdish Democracy Party and the imprisonment of seven parliamentary representatives, there has been a campaign against the Kurdish daily newspaper Ozgur Ulke.

On December 3, the Ankara and Istanbul offices of Ozgur Ulke (Free Land) were bombed. The editorial offices and printing presses were completely destroyed in the ensuing fire. Office workers who attempted to put out the blaze were arrested by Turkish police, witnesses reported. At least two dozen people were hurt in blast, and one of the drivers for the paper, Ersin Yildiz, was killed.

Indications are that the bombing was the work of the Turkish fascist party MHP and/or the Turkish secret police.

On December 5, several thousand people took part in Ersin Yildiz's funeral. According to the European office of Ozgur Ulke, the Turkish police banned all gatherings and buried Yildiz themselves. Police then attacked and seriously injured several people wishing to attend the funeral.

Several small Turkish democratic presses have pooled their resources in order to make it possible for Ozgur Ulke to continue publishing, albeit in a smaller format.

Since the bombing, each issue of the paper has been censored, and correspondents and distributors arrested and tortured. Its Diyarbakir correspondent, Salih Gueler, was arrested on January 4 and subjected to extended detention and torture by security police. According to a January 20 report, Ismail Hakki Kelleci, who also works for the paper in Diyarbakir, has also been arrested.

Ozgur Ulke's reporting of the destruction of Kurdish villages by the Turkish military undoubtedly attracted the attention of the Turkish state. In three weeks in September and October, more than 30 villages in the province of Dersim (Tunceli) were attacked and burned.

Ozgur Ulke published a list of the names of the villages destroyed, as well as pictures of soldiers making victory poses in front of burning houses. People fleeing from the villages reported that military commanders spread a "white, quickly burning powder" in the houses, and then a soldier set the houses on fire.

At the same time as villages were being destroyed and their inhabitants forced to flee, residents were being subjected to aerial bombardments from helicopters seeking to destroy all the forests in the province. One high-ranking military official, who has since fled Turkey, told Ozgur Ulke that the military code name for the destruction and burning of the villages is "Operation Rome", a reference to the burning of Rome by the emperor Nero.

Soldiers also informed the newspaper that the military planned to destroy another 150 villages and settlements in the region. The Turkish interior minister justified the military operation, stating that "the region around Tunceli is a nest full of terrorists".

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