1. "Turkish Gov't to Raise Salaries", nearly 500,000 state workers will get raises in salary after Turkey's government cut a deal with trade unions to issue the increases.
2. "A world of pain: The Kurds", in the first three months of this year, more than 2,900 people from Iraq and Turkey sought political asylum in the UK, according to Home Office statistics. The majority of them probably described themselves as Kurds.
3. "Bahceli gets tough with TUSIAD", Bahceli: The are creating fog in people's minds.
4. "Rights court condemns beatings of Turkish Cypriots", the European Human Rights Court on Wednesday condemned Greek Cypriot police for inhuman behaviour in beating up Turkish Cypriots who had illegally entered the southern part of the divided island.
5. "No matter what...", TUSIAD, which includes some of Turkey's biggest capital, has once again and in very clear language said, "Democracy... no matter what." There is nothing that is not included in TUSIAD's ten-article democracy report.
6. "Realistic demands, hard implementation", having stumbled after the first year of a three-year stabilization program implemented with the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and asked to put into effect economic reforms demanded by the same international institutions, Turkey is now preparing for political reforms.
1. - AP - "Turkish Gov't to Raise Salaries":
The 15 percent raises will apply to 480,000 workers at state-owned paper, sugar and oil companies, said State Minister Mehmet Kececiler, who negotiated with the unions. The raise doesn't apply to other public sector workers.
The workers will receive the pay raise for the first half of this year, but will have to wait until February 2002 to receive the extra money as a one-time payment.
State industry workers earn an average of 600 million Turkish lira ($600) a month, compared with average public sector salaries of 230 million lira ($230).
Turkey also said a law that will let it privatize the state telecommunications company, Turk Telecom, is expected to take effect Wednesday.
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer approved the law Tuesday, which is a key component in Turkey's International Monetary Fund-backed program to help the country out of an economic crisis.
The law, approved by parliament 10 days ago, allows Turkey to sell off the company, but limits the amount of foreign ownership to 45 percent and gives the government the right to veto strategic decisions.
2. - The Guardian - "A world of pain: The Kurds":
In the first three months of this year, more than 2,900
people from Iraq and Turkey sought political asylum in the UK, according
to Home Office statistics. The majority of them probably described themselves
Denied self-rule after the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of the first world war, Kurds repeatedly rose in revolt against the successor states of Turkey and Iraq during the 20th century. Their rebellions were suppressed with excessive brutality and bloodshed. In 1919, the RAF - in charge of maintaining order in Iraq at the time - foiled a Kurdish uprising by aerial bombardment. Since then Middle Eastern states, particularly Iraq and Iran, have exploited rival Kurdish tribes and political factions in wars with one another, betraying their junior allies when circumstances shifted.
The uprising by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, the genocidal Anfal campaign initiated by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s against rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq and the tumult of the 1991 Gulf war led to millions of Kurdish refugees streaming out of their traditional heartlands.
The pattern of persecution, revolt and displacement has, if anything, grown more complex in the past decade. Within Turkey, thousands of Kurdish villages were destroyed by the army in an attempt to remove the PKK's support networks. Although the PKK is formally on ceasefire, there is still fighting in the mountains and as many as 10,000 Turkish troops are inside northern Iraq hunting down the remnants of the organisation. Broadcasts in Kurdish are still banned in Turkey.
The London-based Kurdish Human Rights Project continues to win dozens of cases - involving allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and freedom of expresssion - against Turkey in the European court of human rights.
Within the UN-established no fly zone in Northern Iraq, Saddam Hussein's forces are forbidden to enter. American and British jets patrol the skies, striking at anti-aircraft batteries and radar stations deemed to be a threat. On the ground, in the Kurdish safe haven established at the end of the Gulf war, most of the territory is held by two rival, semi-autonomous groups: the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan (PUK).
The Home Office recently changed its immigration practice, insisting that Kurds seeking asylum were not in immediate danger and could be sent back to northern Iraq. The UN provides food and aid to the Kurdish zones, but Turkey blocks international aid workers - and journalists - from crossing into the Kurdish territories.
Although the KDP and PUK areas have been relatively peaceful for the past three years, Saddam's agents regularly travel in and out. Most of the population live in a state of suppressed anxiety about what will happen when Saddam, or his successor in Baghdad, tries to reassert control over the Kurdish regions of Iraq.
Last autumn a battalion of Iraqi troops seized a village in the south of the KDP's land, testing the allies' military response. US and British fighters buzzed the area and the Iraqi contingent eventually surrendered to the KDP.
The situation is far worse for those Kurds around the oil-producing cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, which were left in the hands of troops loyal to Saddam in 1991. The Iraqi government has been pursuing a policy of forced Arabisation, expelling Kurdish families northwards and replacing them with Arab-speaking families from southern Iraq. Many of those now fleeing Iraq and travelling across Europe are thought to be victims of this policy.
If the political will to sustain the no fly zone seeps away and Saddam's forces re-enter northern Iraq it could release a flood of refugees that would make the current influx of asylum seekers look like a tiny trickle.
3. - Turkish Daily News - "Bahceli gets tough with TUSIAD":
Bahceli: The are creating fog in people's minds
Devlet Bahceli told his parliamentary group that those who had taken on the mission of "fogging people's minds" were targeting the MHP. He said the party was being perceived as a point of national and political resistance. "Their taking issue with the MHP because this is their true vocation and this is what they are going to be doing on the future as well," he said.
Bahceli said the MHP was resolved to follow its own path towards its own targets and said that these days isolating oneself from the world is no longer an option for any country and that nobody in their right mind would advocate such an idea. He pointed out that integration with global developments and dynamics needed to be done by necessarily preserving the national interest and civilized heritage. He went on:
"Just as talk of bankruptcy was wrong yesterday, so talk of trading in miracles is equally wrong. We have to get to grips with the problems and mistakes in a more cautious but decided manner and we have to work with patience and determination in order to get bring dynamism to the economy. Just as it is impossible to easily explain the problems we are living through, so there are no easy fixes and miracle cures either."
Stating it was wrong to make the political institution take all the blame for the economic crisis, Bahceli said those accusing the political structure for the crisis were in fact the same people who were trying to establish different political schemes. He also said they had to finalize and win the fight against corruption, irregularities and injustice.
Bahceli noted that the economic crisis was now in its second stage now that the economic program was being implemented. "In other words, we have moved from a period of uncertainty, panic and worries into a period of restructuring, where we can boost our morale and pull ourselves together. The urgent matter of finding foreign funding needed to help our economy has by and large been resolved. Provided the loans are used appropriately, it will be possible to bring this second stage to a successful conclusion, " he said.
4. - AFP - "Rights court condemns beatings of Turkish Cypriots":
Eight plaintiffs or their families had claimed they suffered mistreatment at the hands of police after they had entered the Greek Cypriot area seeking work in 1994. The ruling by the Strasbourg-based tribunal said the brutality was "serious enough to be considered inhuman in respect of each applicant." The plaintiffs had been beaten and then expelled back to the northern, Turkish Cypriot, part of the island. "Between 4 and 22 April 1994, the applicants ... were arrested by Cypriot police officers and ill-treated," the court found: "They were obliged to sign statements saying they were leaving for the northern part of Cyprus of their own free will. They were then expelled to northern Cyprus and told they would be killed if they returned."
Police officers had "intentionally subjected them to ill-treatment of varying degrees of intensity," the ruling stated. However, in their ruling the judges said they had not been able to establish who was responsible for the death of 24 year-old Turkish Cypriot Ilker Tufansoy in 1994. The action brought before the panel had alleged that Tufansoy had been shot by Greek Cypriot police when he illegally returned to the Greek Cypriot part of the island a month after having been expelled. The Greek Cypriot government has already been censured for police abuses in December 2000 in connection with an altercation on the demarcation line between the two parts of the island. But Wednesday was the first time the Strasbourg court upheld group complaints by Turkish Cypriots who had suffered police brutality after going south illegally.
The Greek Cypriot government has said the incidents occurred at a time of particular tension after two bomb attacks in mosques in Nicosia, capital of the Greek Cypriot republic, and the assassination of Theophilos Georghiades, chairman of a committee for solidarity with Kurdistan, an area of south-eastern Turkey whose Kurdish inhabitants want autonomy from Ankara.
The ruling came two weeks after a one in which the European court found that Turkey had committed "massive and continued violations" of human rights after it occupied northern Cyprus in 1974. The charges upheld by the court against Turkey were brought seven years ago by the Greek Cypriot government in the south, which is internationally recognized as the government of the whole island. They related in particular to the disappearance of almost 1,500 Greek Cypriots after the 1974 invasion and the forced displacement of 211,000 others from regions occupied by Turkey.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say Cyprus should be a two-state confederation of Greek Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as the Turkish part of the island is called. The Turkish state was declared in 1983 but has so far been recognised only by Ankara. The Cyprus government and the United Nations, on the other hand, favour a federation of two zones, one for each community.
5. - Kurdish Observer - "No matter what...":
TUSIAD, which includes some of Turkey's biggest capital, has once again and in very clear language said, "Democracy... no matter what." There is nothing that is not included in TUSIAD's ten-article democracy report.
The "Democratization Perspectives in Turkey and the EU Copenhagen Political Criteria - Views and Priorities" report prepared by the Turkish Association of Industrialists and Businessmen (TUSIAD) was announced to the public through a press conference in Istanbul.
TUSIAD stressed that the draft laws on the agenda of the government and parliament would not be sufficient for structural transformation and called for new legislative arrangements on ten different subjects. The report brought clarity to the basic political problems of Turkey - the Political Parties Law, the election system, legal immunity and parliamentary investigations, capital punishment, freedom of thought and expression, freedoms in individual and cultural life, the right to associate and civil society, torture and maltreatment, the National Security Council, and the rule of law - and stressed that it was essential for these to immediately be straightened out to conform to universal criteria.
Giving the opening speech at the press conference to present the report, TUSIAD Board of Directors Chairman Tuncay Ozilhan said that Turkey had entered a new phase with the IMF Letter of Intent that was announced last week, and added that after the deficient elements of macro economic framework and foreign sources in "Turkey's Program for the Transition to a Strong Economy" had been determined, Turkey's economy had begun to restructure in a manner in which it would not create new crises.
Political structure must undergo fundamental change
Ozilhan recalled that TUSIAD had for a long time said that it was wrong to take up economic, political, and societal subjects independently of each other, and, underscoring the negative effects of a faltering political structure on economic stability, said that the association had carried out many activities and arranged many meetings on this subject.
Ozilhan continued to say the following: "It is not just the imbalances in the economy that are the reason for the economic crisis which is putting all segments of society into difficulty today, but it is blockage in the political system. We all see that it springs from Turkey having a weakness in administration. Therefore, if we are going to enter a period of restructuring, it in unavoidable that it be taken up in a manner that encompasses deep-rooted transformation of political structure also."
Ozilhan said that, unfortunately, the National Program accepted by the Council of Ministers had not taken up the Copenhagen criteria in a comprehensive manner, and that this had cast a shadow on the credibility and sincerity of the politicians on the subject of raising the standards of democracy. Ozilhan finished his comments by saying: "The rules of democracy are as universal as those of economy, and the time has come for us to understand that we are not an exception to this rule."
Also speaking at the press conference, Mustafa Koc, the chairman of TUSIAD's Parliamentary Works Commission, said that from time to time, the interests of the representatives and the interests of those represented did not coincide, and that the corruption and lack of productivity that resulted caused a lessening of the trust society felt in the public administration. Koc continued to say, "It is essential to renew the legal and institutional infrastructure in Turkey in order to increase the level of welfare of its citizens and to achieve international competitive strength."
Otherwise, the entire system will become blocked
Can Paker, chairman of the TUSIAD Political Criteria Working Group, for his part, said that some of the ten items in the report - the Political Parties Law, the election system, the National Security Council (MGK), and state of law - would be subjects that would take some time.
Paker said that they would follow up on all these subjects and make use of means of communication to spread these subjects to the government, parliament, and all the public. Paker said that the basic philosophy on which TUSIAD had based these demands for transformation was "getting rid of a potential situation which would bring Turkey, which is face to face with blockage, to a crisis in the entire system of political structure."
Paker said that it had been widely accepted that the basic reason underlying the crisis that exploded this year in February and the economic crisis which had created intense difficulties for everyone was the political structure, and that as long as this did not change, there would be no escape from economic crisis. He continued to note the following: "Some legal reforms that were the first to come to mind in the formation of the economic crisis have become the most important subjects in parliament in recent days. But we must never forget that political reform and political restructuring on the agenda are not restricted to these laws."
6. - Turkish Daily News - "Realistic demands, hard implementation":
Having stumbled after the first year of a three-year stabilization program implemented with the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and asked to put into effect economic reforms demanded by the same international institutions, Turkey is now preparing for political reforms. The Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TUSIAD) has argued that the real reason for the economic crisis endured by Turkey after the mini-crisis in November 2000 is political. It has missed no chance to state that Turkey is being mismanaged. Most recently the representatives of the top private sector institutions have put their recommendations in a report and presented it to the public.
With this report, TUSIAD, which represents the A league of the business community in Turkey, has asked for the implementation of political reforms which have been frequently discussed since the beginning of 1990. The 30-page "Democratization Perspectives in Turkey and EU Copenhagen Criteria, Views and Priorities," prepared by rapporteur Suheyl Batum, demands reforms in 10 main areas ranging from increasing the civilian members of the National Security Council (MGK) to the abolition of the death sentence, from education and the right to broadcast in the mother tongue to the political parties and electoral laws.
The announcement the previous day of the TUSIAD report demanding political reforms has brought about a new discussion. A few days ago Rahmi Koc, a prominent member of TUSIAD and the private sector, warned politicians to not alienate Economy Minister Kemal Dervis. Koc said Turkey needed loans to emerge from the economic crisis. According to him, the United States had made economic reforms a precondition to giving credit and sent Dervis to Turkey. Turkey had to utilize well this last chance and other politicians had to support Dervis.
As Koc warned the government during a trip to Bulgaria, his son Mustafa Koc, who is TUSIAD deputy chairman, called on the government to implement political reforms. It seemed that the 1990s had created fundamental changes in the Koc Group. Opposing the Customs Union (CU) agreement with the European Union in 1995, the Koc Group had expressed unease over TUSAID's democratization report in 1997. The situation seems to have changed now, with the Koc Group making a double leap. While Rahmi Koc warned against compromises in economic reforms, his son demanded the implementation of political reforms.
First the carrot, then the stick
More institutions than just the Koc Group were bothered by the democratization report presented by TUSIAD in January 1997. Some TUSIAD members had also expressed reservations at the time about the report, which lead to a rift in the group. But the situation appeared different this time around. Not only did TUSIAD members seem united but TUSIAD Chairman Tuncay Ozilhan said, "We will support the report until the end and check the progress." According to TUSIAD, it was just the right time to bring to life the economic reforms, and the opportunity should not have been missed. The longer that the political reforms were put off, the worse were Turkey's chances to get on the EU train.
TUSIAD pressed for reform, but how sincere was it on this count, and could the reforms really be implemented? According to analysts, it will not be easy for Turkey to make progress on this count. While Professor Mehmet Altan said Turkey was more concerned with refreshing its make-up than making reforms, journalist Etyen Mahcupyan noted that a change of mentality was necessary for radical reforms. According to Professor Dogu Ergil, while TUSAID may press for reforms, the political actors who could implement them were not there yet.
Professor Mehmet Altan evaluated the TUSIAD report in the context of the change in the Koc Group during recent years, and noted that a significant change had taken place in Turkey's policies in comparison to the aftermath of the February 28 process. He said: "The Koc Group was opposed to the Customs Union and the EU. That was why it was opposed to TUSIAD's 1997 report prepared by Professor Bulent Tanor. It is important that the same group is today defending TUSIAD's report. The Koc Group started to establish partnerships with foreign groups during the 1990s and was integrated to the world."
Altan maintained that as a result of the change in attitude after the February 28 process, there emerged a conception where ideologies like Kemalism were not prevalent in every sphere of life, the headscarf was not a specter, the Kurdish question was approached in a more democratic manner, and while the military was not seen as an antagonist, the intractable problems of Turkey for two centuries were viewed from a more open perspective. He assessed TUSIAD's report as an effort to find a place in the changed atmosphere.
Years of change
Altan said the private sector was marked in the last eleven years by an effort to find a place in the world and argued that this process did not herald fundamental changes. He pointed out that the system in Turkey was based on the distribution of illegal profits, which was why there would be a lot of opposition to change. Arguing that political reforms could not be implemented before a reckoning with the old system, Altan said, "Superficial changes in politics may occur, but the real face will not change before a reckoning."
No call for change
Journalist Etyen Mahcupyan said TUSIAD's latest statement should be evaluated in the context of the economic reforms initiated by Dervis and the process of globalization. He noted that foreign and domestic pressure was not geared towards fundamental reform. Mahcupyan argued that big capital had until today sought to make an inroad in the bureaucracy, and the winds of change around Dervis represented technical changes rather than deep-rooted reforms. He said: "I don't believe that deep-rooted and truly liberal political reforms can be put into effect in Turkey. I also believe that big capital may wage its struggle to penetrate some points in the bureaucracy through a political party."
Efforts to establish harmony
Mahcupyan noted that it was hard to isolate oneself from new ideas and organizations in this era and argued that big capital had to take a new position vis-a-vis a changing world. He added that Dervis' program would not be as liberal as it was believed. Stating that the program was technical and macroeconomic, Mahcupyan said the following:
"A technical and macroeconomic program suits the interests of big capital. The projected political system will not mean broadening the scope of freedoms, as we see from the attitude of Dervis, the media and the military. If the demands on Turkey do not entail a loss of power, then big capital will go along with it. We imagined that there would be radical economic and political reforms but we were wrong. What is being done now and what is projected is taking place in a framework that will relieve big capital and invite it to center stage."
We are further removed from the EU
Noting that globalization did not make demands on Turkey to make radical political reforms, and world powers were more interested in whether or not the system in Turkey was in harmony with their interests rather than its liberalism, Mahcupyan said Turkey had moved further away from the EU during the last year. Neither the private sector or the political parties could implement fundamental political reforms in Turkey, Mahcupyan said, adding: "Even if the public in Turkey asks for more freedom and reforms are implemented, Greek Cyprus' accession to the EU would change the whole atmosphere. Only nationalism will then remain. This has to do with the way of thinking. We have seen examples of this before."
According to Professor Dogu Ergil, while TUSIAD's last report demanding political reform represents a positive step, it is not very easy for political reforms to take place in Turkey. He stressed that barring a 5 million population who "pay taxes, receive professional education, look to the future of the country and establish links with the world," there was no public pressure for political reform in Turkey, and predicted that Turkey would go through a difficult period.
Besides this 5 million, the rest of the population is
divided and halfway between peasants on one hand, and merchants and
the unemployed on the other. Ergil said: "The peasants and merchants
ask for support. The unemployed also wants the state to provide protection
and favor it. These groups, which comprise a large part of the population,
desire nothing but freedom from oppression and to be left alone. They
are for the most part nationalist and conservative."
Turkey has two chances
The economic crisis may have represented a fortunate event in forcing reforms upon the country, Ergil said, adding that Turkey's second chance was the 120-page EU legal arrangements that the country had to heed. He argued that the question remained as to who would implement reforms and said:
"Who will make these fundamental political reforms with whom? This is the question. We don't get a positive response when we get down to specifics. I could not answer questions such as who will lead the way, with which program and in which time range when the question was directed to me three years ago. The same questions remain. The scenario and the actors were missing in the past as well. Now there is a scenario but the actors are still not there."