15 March 2005

1. "U.S.–Turkish tensions", Turkey is in flames. A U.S. air attack has leveled Istanbul and Ankara, and now American tanks are rolling in to occupy the country.(..) The stuff of fantasy, to be sure, in a best-selling Turkish novel titled “Metal Storm.” It has indeed taken the Turkish public by storm and politicians as well with an outrageous plot that somehow strikes a responsive chord. Readers seem to find its fiction uncomfortably close to fact. One of its two authors, Burak Turna, a former military affairs reporter, claims his book is not just another conspiracy theory but a “possibility theory.”

2. "Ankara denies claims of slowdown in reforms", Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, yesterday rejected suggestions that his government was suffering from "reform fatigue", insisting that preparations to launch membership negotiations with the European Union in October were on track.

3. "Freedom of Expression Cases Continue", Camyar and Ilhan have been released. The Supreme court of appeals introduced a broader outline for freedom of expression. Demirtas was acquitted. But Zarakolu, Tunc and Aygun continue to stand trials on freedom of expression.

4. "Erdogan’s AKP, Fethullah Gülen’s opium, and the Kurdish Question", recently in a Wall Street Journal article, senior journalist Robert L. Pollock emphasized an important point regarding Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s religious Muslim party and its basic view of the West. Erdogan cultivated a view of the West that polarized Turkey and non-Islamic nations as well as those that supported Kurdish autonomy. Because Erdogan deeply desires Turkey to maintain its territorial integrity and the Kurds to assimilate and thereby to avoid independence.

5. "In Iraq, Iranian Kurd rebels hope for their moment", Komala is just one of several Iranian Kurd political parties now based in the Kurdish zone of northern Iraq, and the region is also home to around 10,000 Iranian Kurd political refugees.

6. "Kurds in the Syrian Arab Republic one year after the March 2004 events", the history of the Kurds in Syria took a violent turn in March 2004. Tensions rose dramatically on 12 March between rival Arab and Kurdish fans during a football match in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, and security forces responded by firing live bullets into the crowd, reportedly only into the Kurdish section, killing several people.

1. - Voice of America - "U.S.–Turkish tensions":

14 March 2005 / by Ed Warner

Turkey is in flames. A U.S. air attack has leveled Istanbul and Ankara, and now American tanks are rolling in to occupy the country. In desperation, the Turks call on Russia and the European Union for help, and these onetime enemies of Turkey stall the U.S. advance and end the war – but not before an enterprising Turkish agent has destroyed much of Washington with a nuclear device.

What is going on? How can two erstwhile allies, cooperative in so many areas, go to war? At the moment, there is certainly a war of words. A BBC survey indicates Turkey is now the most anti-American nation on earth. In this atmosphere, no monstrous act is considered beyond America or its Israeli partner in crime who are even compared to the German Nazis. Columnist Arnaud deBorchgrave says some Turks may be outvenoming Osama bin Laden.

Real life has contributed to this startling shift of opinion. Turks, like many others, strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and suspect U.S. plans for the region. They are particularly uneasy over the growing separatism of Kurds in northern Iraq. This, in turn, could enflame the already restive Kurds within Turkey. What, they ask, is the U.S. up to?

The Kurdish question is central, says Sabri Sayari, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown University. Turks believe the United States has failed to suppress the anti-Turkish rebels operating in northern Iraq.

Professor Sayari says, "I think Turkish sentiment has to be explained in the context of what is happening in Iraq. Obviously, the war in Iraq has not been popular in Turkey for a variety of reasons, especially the situation in northern Iraq with the growing power of the Kurds and the general instability that has engulfed a neighboring country."

Henri Barkey, professor of international relations at Lehigh University, says there is Turkish concern of spillover. A separate Kurdish entity in Iraq could revive the separatist movement in Turkey.

Professor Barkey notes, "There is an enormous fear in Turkey, a paranoia if you want, that events in Iraq will propel Kurds in Turkey to seek the same thing. I think this is overly exaggerated. The Turkish Kurds have had problems with the Turkish government and the Turkish elite, but they are part of a very vibrant economy and a very vibrant society, which is on its way to become a member of the European Union a decade and a half from now."

For this reason, says Professor Barkey, Turkish Kurds have little incentive to imitate Iraqi Kurds. But they understandably resent the condescending way they are often treated in Turkey. That needs to change, says Professor Barkey.

Underlying U.S.-Turkish tensions is the growing presence of Islam. When the current Islamist government took over in Turkey, Washington at first responded positively, says Professor Sayari.

Professor Sayari contends, "The U.S. has been pretty much in support of Turkey’s experiment with a party that originates from the Islamist movement. When it initially came to power in 2002, this party was viewed as something that would prove that Islam and democracy are compatible and there should be no clash of civilizations. So the US was upholding Turkey as a kind of model in a way."

But Washington cooled, particularly over Turkey’s refusal to let U.S. forces invade Iraq from its territory.

Even so, says Professor Barkey, U.S. actions hardly excuse the constant anti-American drumbeat of Turkish politicians and journalists. Nothing Washington says is believed.

Professor Barkey says, "When you have serious newspapers publishing articles about the United States having a secret weapon that makes earthguakes and that Istanbul is the next target. When you have newspapers that publish all kinds of scurrilous articles about the United States, that is more worrisome. The problem is that some Turkish politicians have joined the fray and have accused the United States of genocide and all kinds of other activities in Iraq."

It is time for dialogue, says Professor Barkey. U.S. and Turkish officials should sit down and map out the steps ahead to restore proper, if not amicable relations. The two countries are too important for each other to let the current rancor persist.

2. - Financial Times - "Ankara denies claims of slowdown in reforms":

LONDON / 15 March 2005 / By Leyla Boulton,
David Gardner and Quentin Peel

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, yesterday rejected suggestions that his government was suffering from "reform fatigue", insisting that preparations to launch membership negotiations with the European Union in October were on track.

"We know that implementation [of the reforms] is most important," he said in an interview with the Financial Times. "We will continue. There is no way to stop this."

He also promised that a controversial draft law on regional subsidies would be revised to enable the International Monetary Fund to approve a $10bn (€7.4bn, £5.2bn) standby programme by early April. However, the changes were being made as much in response to domestic criticism from Turkish industry, than to any demands from the IMF, he said.

Mr Gul was reacting to charges of inaction levelled since the EU member states agreed in December to start full membership negotiations with Ankara this year. They emerged last month when Erkan Mumcu, the reformist tourism minister, resigned from the government, expressing his frustration at the process.

Mr Gul denied that divisions within the ruling AK party, between its reformist and more conservative religious wings, were slowing the process.

"We are strong, and definitely we will continue," he said. "We are the owners of the process. We are very much proud of it."

Mr Gul admitted that heavy-handed police action last week to control a women's rights demonstration on the eve of talks with top EU officials and ministers had damaged Turkey's international image. Television pictures showed police beating women demonstrators lying on the ground. The minister said that any police found guilty of "violating their responsibilities" would be punished.

"We cannot hide this thing," he said. "It happened. But what is important is that they investigate and, if there is wrong, then punish."

He said a full investigation was under way, and its results would be announced in a few days.

Turkey's reforms to pave the way for EU membership range from economic measures to ensure free competition to social and human rights measures, including steps to curb excessive police violence and torture in prisons.

Mr Gul said it was not up to the police to administer punishment, but merely to curb violence.

On the economic front, he expected the board of the IMF to approve Turkey's latest loan in the first week of April, or even sooner. He agreed that the proposed "incentives" legislation had gone beyond what Turkish and IMF negotiators agreed in December.

There had also been "very sound criticisms" from Turkish business that the law would create unfair competition, by favouring some regions above others.

"We will look at it again," Mr Gul said.

The foreign minister, who was in London for talks with Jack Straw, his British counterpart, on preparations for the launch of membership negotiations in October when the UK holds the EU presidency, said the other outstanding problem to be resolved was the continuing division of Cyprus.

He said Turkey was quite ready to sign the protocol extending its customs union with the former EU members to all the new states, including the Greek majority Republic of Cyprus, although trade between Turkey and Greek Cyprus was moving already. But both Turkey and the other EU member states had agreed that signing the protocol did not amount to recognition of the republic.

Last week Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, asked Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, to reopen negotiations for a settlement.

Mr Gul said that it was now up to the other EU states to persuade Tassos Papadopoulos, the Greek Cypriot president, to return to the table.

3. - Bianet - "Freedom of Expression Cases Continue":

Camyar and Ilhan have been released. The Supreme court of appeals introduced a broader outline for freedom of expression. Demirtas was acquitted. But Zarakolu, Tunc and Aygun continue to stand trials on freedom of expression.

11 March 2005 / by Erol Onderoglu

Charges and cases brought against journalists and others who use their freedom of expression, usually have been ending in a positive way so far in 2005. However, new cases based on the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) prevent thought from ceasing to be a crime in Turkey.

For example, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals recently overturned the conviction of writer Selahattin Aydar from the "Milli Gazete" (National Newspaper) and introduced a broader outline for the notion of "public order" in terms of thought an freedom of expression.

Acquittals from Articles 159 and 312

Yasar Camyar, the former chief editor of "Alinterimiz" newspaper, who was arrested on December 17 based on Article 159 of TCK, was released on February 7. Writer Cevher Ilhan of the "Yeni Asya" (New Asia) newspaper, who was sentenced based on Article 132 of the TCK, for a piece about the Marmara earthquake, was released on January 15. The two acquittals were positive developments in Turkey, which has for years, been one of the countries with the highest number of imprisoned journalists.

The acquittal of Selahattin Demirtas, head of the Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), who stood trial for criticizing the inclusion of KONGRA-GEL in the list of terrorist organizations in Europe, was acquitted in January 24. That also served as an example that Turkish courts have begun to take into account the European Union reforms. Demirtas had been charged with "praising an action deemed crime by law".

Cases in Tunceli and Istanbul

The prosecutor's office in Tunceli twice decided that there is lack of grounds for legal action as a response to complaints filed by Paramilitary Police Regiment Commandership against journalist Huseyin Aygun. The prosecutors' office decision was an exception compared to the previous years.

The commandership filed complaint against Aygun, the owner of "Munzur Haber", twice for citing a news titled, "they burned down my house," and an IHD report on local officials being threatened.

Aygun is also being charged for "insulting the republic," and "praising an action deemed crime by law," for defending the right to receive education in mother tongues during 2002 Newroz celebrations. Aygun, who is also being accused with "criticizing implementations in Tunceli and in the country, and encouraging the crowds to chant slogans," will stand his first hearing on March 29.

On March 9, another hearing took place on the case against Ferhat Tunc, who is being charged with "insult" for criticizing the continued conviction of Leyla Zana and other former deputies of the closed-down Democracy Party (DEP). Editor-in-chief Mehmet Colak and Tunc, who described the Zana case as "political" in his article for the "Yeniden Ozgür Gundem" (Free Agenda Again) newspaper, face up to three years in prison.

"Membership in an illegal organization" is still a problem

Accusing journalists with "membership in an illegal organization" has been a problem for many years. There were seven media employees among the 46 people detained and arrested during the demonstration by the Socialist Platform of the Oppressed about three months ago. The demonstrators were protesting the draft Penal Execution Law. The journalists will stand the first hearing on March 11 in an Ankara court.

Austrian journalist Sandra Bakutz, who is currently at the Ulucanlar prison in Ankara, is also being accused with membership in an illegal organization. She will have a hearing on March 30th at the Heavy Penal Court in Ankara. The accusation is putting Turkey in a difficult position. The Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) sent a letter to Justice Minister Cemil Cicek arguing that Bakutz is arrested without a solid charge and that she is not being tried transparently.

4. - KurdishMedia.com - "Erdogan’s AKP, Fethullah Gülen’s opium, and the Kurdish Question":

15 March 2005 / by Aland Mizell

Recently in a Wall Street Journal article, senior journalist Robert L. Pollock emphasized an important point regarding Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s religious Muslim party and its basic view of the West. Erdogan cultivated a view of the West that polarized Turkey and non-Islamic nations as well as those that supported Kurdish autonomy.

According to Pollock, during the 2002 elections, the relationship with America changed, “The mainstream parties that had championed Turkish-American ties self-destructed, leaving a vacuum,” that was filled by “the subtle yet insidious Islamism of the Justice and Development (AK) Party” (2005). In his view, under Erdogan’s current policies Turkey is again becoming “the sick man of Europe” rather than a model of a democratic, secular government. Its most telling symptom is its abandonment of a friendship with the United States in favor of decidedly “an extreme combination of America and Jew-hatred” (Pollack 2005).

Erdogan deeply desires Turkey to maintain its territorial integrity and the Kurds to assimilate and thereby to avoid independence. To accomplish this end, Erdogan has befriended the once distanced Syria and Iran, adopted an anti-Israeli stance, and shunned the once friendly America. By collaborating with potential allies of the Kurds, Erdogan can prevent Kurds from gaining financial dominance through the oil and water resources. Influenced by the ideology and strategies of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic scholar with a global network of excellent schools who uses religion as the opium for the masses, Erdogan continues the policies of subjugating the Kurds. Gülen addicts them to his Turkish [fundamentalist] Islam to keep them silent and then uses this opiate of ideology to keep them following him as the mehdi or century’s holy man. Similarly, Erdogan drugs the citizenry with his opium of symbolic democratic initiatives while radically advancing Islamism in Turkey through his domestic and foreign policy.

In 2000, Claude Lorieux described the battle for Turkey in the French newspaper Le Figaro, under the subtitle “The Army of Ankara against Islamists,” indicating that secularists fought against fundamentalists who interfered with justice, as in the case of Fethullah Gülen (Lorieux 2002). Charged with conspiring to overthrow the secular state, Gülen had for years trained his students, at least those of Turkish, not Kurdish lineage, to gain control of the key positions in the government and in other institutions.

?ric Biegala noted in the same newspaper in 2002, that the AKP (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) is moving closer to fundamentalism, the government has acquiesced to the demands of Islamists who are abolishing Ataturk’s principles of secularism, and the schools of Fethullah Gülen are windows into modern Turkey with their Islamization of the youth and preparation for leaders (Biegala 2002). While petitioning for accession into the European Union (EU), a "re-Islamized Turkey," Biegala claims, will bring about an "unforgettable gullibility" for the EU in a continent with a reputation for Fascism and Nazism. Advocating a secular Turkey with, for example, freedom of clothing as in the European universities, and a respect for human rights, the newspaper denounced an Islam that would come to power under the mask of democracy while violating human rights, as readers would surely think of in the case of the Kurds. A probing of Erdo?an‘s influential cadre, most of them affiliated with Fethullah Gülen’s movement, would reveal the mastermind behind the Prime Minister’s thinking and his mentor’s masterwork.

Fethullah, a shrewd leader, does not directly affiliate himself with politics but instead shapes policies behind the scenes and counsels his followers behind closed doors about ways to implement his directives. This is not the first time Fethullah Gülen has influenced politicians. For example, the former president of Turkey Turgut Ozal was also one of his followers, but not until Ozal’s death did any one know that he had studied under Gülen’s ideology. During his administration, the military discharged many of Fethullah’s students. Gülen wanted Ozal to prevent these dismissals, but Ozal could not do more at that time because of the military’s power.

In 1993, Fethullah Gülen sent Ozal to Central Asia to legitimize his movement there, particularly when, for example, Islam Karimov was becoming apprehensive of fundamentalists. On his trip to Central Asia, he spent most of his time in Gülen’s schools, and after his return to Turkey the president passed away, when it was revealed that he was a sakird or student of the Qur’an. Gülen ordered his supporters to participate in a mass ceremony for Ozal to demonstrate that a Muslim leader was beloved by his fellow countrymen. Thus, his custom of secretly infiltrating high levels of the government and the military with his students is long-standing.

During the soft coup in 1980, Fethullah distanced himself from the National Salvation Party’s leader Necmedin Erbakan. After its disintegration, Erbakan, however, followed with the Welfare Party and as its leader was elected Turkey’s first Islamist prime minister in 1995. Fearing that the party was engaging in fundamentalist activity and thereby violating the Constitutions secular principles, the Constitutional Court banned the Welfare Party. In 1999 the reincarnated Virtue Party gained twenty percent of the seats in Parliament. At that time Erdogan was Erbakan’s right hand, but Fethullah ordered his followers to vote for leftists and rightist to balance both groups. In so doing he wanted the leftist party to protect him from being accused of being a fundamentalist and of having a secret agenda to overthrow the secular government. In 1999, as a member of the pro-religious Virtue Party (FP), however, Erdogan was charged with "openly inciting public enmity and hatred by pointing out racial and social differences" and sentenced to a ten-month prison term for quoting a poem, "The mosques are our barracks, the minarets our bayonets, the domes our helmets and the believers our soldiers."

So, the question that scholars should ask Fethullah is that if Erdogan did not have even a party when he -- the former mayor of Istanbul -- was released from prison, how did he so quickly become Prime Minister? The answer lies in Fethullah’s power to direct his followers to vote for Erdogan and thereby make him the majority party and in such a manner as to become a noteworthy comparison to Ozal’s party — the Fethullahci.

At a briefing in 1999, a high level official in the Turkish government told Prime Minister Ecevit that “Gülen’s followers will try to get control of the state,” explaining, “Fethullah Gulen tries to be recognized officially with his ‘goodwill’ contacts to high rank politicians. Gülen’s aim is to bring an alternative to the secular system.” (Briefing 1999). Ecevit refused to accept the warning. Today Erdogan’s clandestine strategies mimic his mentor’s goal to establish a neo-Ottoman Turkey with the aid of Islamic neighbors.

When Gülen’s name is mentioned, the first thing that comes to the mind of his students is Said Nursi, known by the Kurds known as Saidi Keri. But Said Nursi is a vehicle used to recruit Muslim people to his community, his cemaat. His leaders use Said Nursi as a mask. First his students read and study the Risale-i-Nur, Said Nursi’s books, but then little by little they introduce the students to Fethullah Gülen, an idol replacing Said Nursi in reverence and in commitment to his writings. It is true that Mr. Gülen does have a depth of knowledge about Islam but also that he uses it to his advantage. When the question of the Kurds comes on the table, Fethullah Gülen sends a mixed message. He uses religion as opium for the masses to oppress the Kurdish people. His rhetoric claims Islam does not sanction an inferior or a superior status. An individual is deemed superior only if he is close to God. It is true that the Qur’an says that God created all nations and tribes, and therefore no individuals or nations are to be favored because of their wealth, power, or race, but only because of their faith and piety (Qur’an 49:13).

By this criterion, only infidels are inferior. Muhammad said, “An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety.” Writing in an article entitled “A Comparative Approach Islam and Democracy, Gülen pronounces, “The Prophet says that all people are as equal as the teeth of a comb. Islam does not discriminate based on race, color, age, nationality, or physical traits. The Prophet declared: ‘You are all from Adam, and Adam is from earth. O servants of God, be brothers [and sisters].’ Those who are born earlier, have more wealth and power than others, or belong to certain families or ethnic groups have no inherent right to rule others” (Gülen 2001). However, Fethullah goes further to claim that Islam can be best represented only by the Turks, thus claiming the superiority of the Turks. When a Kurd says, “I am a Kurd and a Muslim,” then it seems he is insulting his hearer. The Kurd will be chastised for establishing his identity in terms of his ethnicity and be challenged to think of himself as a Muslim only, united with his Islamic brotherhood as the Qur’an requires. If he claims a shared allegiance to his ethnic heritage, he will be asked, “Why are you prejudiced?” and be told, “We are all brothers,” a tranquilizer numbing his followers into submission. Yet, this same examiner will never stand for the rights of this “brother.” Instead, as always, Kurds will be oppressed while the religious demagogies keep silent with the same tactics. When it comes to the Kurdish question, when it comes to many questions about the Kurds, the examiner will note that they are caught in the fire and continue to burn — illiteracy is high, the mortality rate is high, and unemployment is high. Many Kurds are living with their cattle in the winter because they cannot afford to buy enough coal or wood to provide heat for their children during the freezing winter. When the military served as the major police force in that impoverished region, they raped many Kurdish women and killed children and older people as well. These advocates of homogeneity and opponents of racism tried to turn attention to their Muslim brotherhood, pointing to the injustice in Chechnya, Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Algeria.

When in early 1990 the Soviet tanks stormed Azerbaijanis in Baku, Fethullah cried and was hospitalized because of his heartache. But when Turkish gendarmes burned more than 5000 thousands villages and imprisoned many Kurds who happened to be at the wrong place under the terrorist campaign, he shed no tears. How many people are still missing? How many mothers have not heard from their sons? Nobody knows their fate. Why did Gülen never become hospitalized for his Kurdish Muslim brothers? The sad thing is that many young Kurds, students, and businessmen accept this opium and become addicted to it. His followers claim that they do God’s will and that God requires them to give to their Muslim brother, and indeed the Qur’an advocates these principles. Does God, however, forbid speaking the Kurdish language and enjoying the culture? Is God on Turkey’s side? God’s requirement can be a sin if it is based on this wrong assumption. Fethullah cried when Bosnia’s Muslims were slaughtered by Serbian butchers, yet when a twelve-year old Kurdish boy was slaughtered by a Turkish death squad, was Fethullah hospitalized? Did he get heartaches for those cruel bullets that killed Ugur? No, he did not because this twelve-year old Ugur Kaymaz was deemed a terrorist, according to their Turkish nationalistic definition. How can the Greek Orthodox devotees open Gülen’s schools in Cyprus, but Kurds cannot have their own education? Why did Gülen open thousands of schools abroad to teach the native language and Turkish, while the Kurds could not learn their language in his and their own country? More than thirty million Kurds demand their minority rights because even though they may live in Turkey, they are not of Turkish origin.

Gülen tries to assimilate Kurds by emphasizing the Ottoman ideology in his school, causing many Kurds to see themselves as Osmanli rather than as Selahattin Kurdi. Many Muslims know Saladin as an Islamic hero for having recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Saladin was Kurdish by heritage, and during most of his career he used primarily Kurdish officials as his closest partners, but he is renowned for being Islamic.

Today Christians have begun to translate the Bible into the Kurdish language to ensure that those who want to explore its message can understand the principles. To teach them, these followers of Jesus continue to respect the Kurd’s culture and identity without humiliating them or denying their language. By contrast, Mr. Gülen privileges Turkish identity over Islamic religion. Gülen Turkifies Islam in a nationalistic homogeneity.

His support of the Grey Wolves, a fascist-leaning utlra-nationalist organization in Turkey dating back to the 1960s, demonstrates the degree of his nationalism. As an unofficial branch of The Milliyetci Hareket Partisi (MHP) that argued for a military solution to the Kurdish problem, The Grey Wolves, mostly drawn from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization’s (MIT) secret service, killed hundreds of Kurds. Despite their militant approach to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) insurgency and to their opposition to Turkey’s granting any concessions to the Kurds, Fethullah attended the funeral of the leader Alparslan Turkes demonstrating support for the Kurdish opposition. Very telling, however, is Gülen’s slogan—and his goal—derived from the MHP banner: "One Turkish world, from the Adriatic Sea until the Chinese Wall," a motto constantly used by the government’s parties and other parties in conformity with the system to establish a greater Turkish Muslim world and to oppress the Kurdish people. With a Turkish nationalism called Turanism, the Grey Wolves’ ideology does not allow any national or personal rights to the Kurds, Armenians, Laz, Arabs, or Syrians in Turkey.

While neither Erdogan nor Gülen claims membership, they share the goal of expansionism of Turkish ideology at the expense of all others, and in the case of the later two, it is that of fundamentalist Islam. This approach of ignoring the rights of ethnic minorities is wrong. Now, thanks to the United States and to President Bush’s administration, Saddam Hussein, arguably one of the world’s most evil people, is imprisoned, and the Kurds are freed from his wrath. Mr. Gülen is sad that Saddam has been removed, but the Kurds are free and will no longer be assimilated because they are studying and trying to rediscover their identity.

Since the collapse of the Baathist regime, Mr. Gülen and his media conglomerate are advocating the rights of 300 or 400 thousand Turkmen in Northern Iraq. In what forum was he voicing protest against the treatment of the Turkmen before Saddam was removed? Did the Turkmen not live there for a long time under the Saddam’s regime? Now he publishes articles on his web page accusing the United States of doing wrong in removing Saddam from his dictatorship? He fears that the Kurds will have access to oil and water resources and consequently will have power in the region, the great fear of the AKP and of Fethullah; as a result, the Kurds will refuse the systematic ideology, the opium.

It is critical to compare the strategies of Gülen with that of his protégée Erdogan in tracking Turkey’s shift in foreign policy and in recognizing the opium effect of using religion to advance his agenda. In reading about Erdogan’s reforms, a casual observer would note a reinforcement of secularism and an effort to modernize Turkey as it allies itself, at least on the surface, with the European Union, but a careful scholar would discover a concerted effort to return Turkey to what a few journalists have astutely recognized as a neo-Ottomanism (Rubin, “Is Turkey” 2004).

From a carefully forged relationship with Israel under Ozal to a reinvented foreign policy of calling Israel a terrorist state, Erdogan has dramatically altered the Turkish-Sinai alliance. He has crafted Syrian and Iranian collaboration with Turkey in agendas to disempower the Kurds, while stiff-arming the U.S. Coming into power with the victory of the AKP in 2002, Erdogan spoke of a secular agenda, yet three years later his policies signal a move toward Gülen’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

Writing in the Middle East Quarterly, Michael Rubin explains the AKP’s rise to power in Turkey and its consequential initiation of Islamic referendums, “Erdogan has taken a slower, steadier path, careful not to rock the establishment too quickly while at the same time floating an occasional trial balloon for social reforms to advance the Islamist agenda” (Rubin “Green Money” 2005). He tirelessly works for Turkey’s accession into the European Union (EU), in part to reduce the role of the military in governmental affairs as the EU commission has required and further to dissolve its co-dependency on America as it rebuilds an Islamic world. Violating a ban, his wife and daughter wear scarves at public events, a seemingly insignificant gesture but one signaling his intentions. To gain widespread support for his ideological policies, many of his cosmetic policies address issues that his constituents favor. Incurring popularity ensures an advancement of his goals; winning the favor of the public through decidedly visible reforms masks initiatives invisibly Islamic.

Rubin attributes the rise of the AKP to the reforms such as free textbooks and consumer goods tax relieves but finds the economic Islamic boom alarming, “More troubling yet is the pattern of tying Turkish domestic and foreign policy to an influx of what is called Yesil Sermaye, ‘green money,’ from wealthy Islamist businessmen and Middle Eastern states” (Rubin, “Green Money” 2005). In his view, Abdullah Gül’s background in fiscal affairs in Saudi Arabia prepares Gül for the unannounced goal of constructing an Islamic financial system. “The Islamic banks—and especially those sponsored by Saudi Arabia—regularly channel money to Islamist enterprises. On November 9, 2004, Deniz Baykal, leader of the parliamentary opposition Republican People’s Party, accused the AKP of trying to create a religious-based economy” (Rubin, “Green Money” 2005).

Erdogan’s rapidly accumulated billion dollar wealth goes to subsidize the Islamization of Turkey first and other nations second, through such conglomerates as Ulker and holding companies as Koc Holding. Rubin explains the source of income in spite of the secrecy, “Circumstantial evidence may mean that the AKP has a significant source of green money, but economic interests have resulted in an official wall of silence.” In his view, money from such Islamic countries as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia has fueled the $5 billion dollar growth in the economy since the AKP gained power. What is obvious is that Erdo?an’s power is gaining as that of the Turkish General Staff is waning.

Rubin concludes that the AKP’s increase in power through popular reforms, media control such as that of the Dogan group, and the reduction of alternate authority such as that of the military will change the secular Turkish government that renders hope for minority groups, [such as the rights of the Kurds.], "The AKP is like a cancer. You feel fine, but then one day you start coughing blood. By the time you realize there’s a problem, it’s too far-gone." In advancing the fundamentalist agenda of a neo-Turkish Islam, Erdogan systematically and secretly undermines the Kurdish gains through globalization and EU requirements.

Having been unified as democracies against the threat of militants-sheltering Iran and Syria, Turkey and Israel no longer enjoy a strong diplomatic relationship but have taken on an almost adversarial one (Bar’el 2005). Erdogan attacked Israel for its “state terrorism” after the assassination of the founding Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in a helicopter strike. Subsequently Turkey’s Prime Minister condemned vigorously Israel’s tactics, comparing them to those used in the Spanish Inquisition in a meeting with Israeli Minister of Infrastructure. He repeated the charge against Sharon’s government calling it a “terrorist state” after Israel raided the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and closed the Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle weapons. As further evidence of this unraveling of Turkish-Israeli diplomacy, Erdogan failed to meet with the visiting Israeli deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, when he came to Istanbul in 2004 (Stahl 2004).

Alon Liel, former Israeli Charges d’Affairs to Turkey in 1992, said that for the first time that Turkey is linking its bilateral relations with Israel to Israeli-Palestinian relations (CNS 2004). Erdogan’s trilateral relations with Syria and Iran hinge on ties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but more immediately, to Turkey’s domestic “question”— its rapport with the Kurds.

In terms of Erdogan’s political policies, the Kurdish card figures significantly, as a consequence of his affiliation with and influence under Fethullah Gülen. In strengthening trilateral relations with Iran and Syria against Israel in order to build a pan-Islamic coalition against the Kurds, Erdogan has forged new agreements with his neighboring dictatorial regimes and taken an anti-Israeli stance. For example, using the commonality of a fear of Kurdish rebels, Prime Minister Erdogan recently visited Iran to convince the government to list Turkish Kurdish fighters as terrorists and to cooperate in fighting the former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), insurgents reinvigorated as the Kongra-Gel (“Erdogan” 2004).

Setting aside formerly strained relations, Erdogan shared with Iran the concern that the Iraqi Kurds’ move toward autonomy might ignite neighboring Kurds in Turkey and Iran, a worry that caused the Iranian security forces to crackdown on dissidents hiding along the Turkish-Iranian border. Erdogan, thus, has shifted from accusing Iran of sheltering Kurdish dissidents to signing one security initiative and three financial agreements with his neighbor. Yet while Iran may have decreased its support for and pledged retributions against the PKK, the Iranian security machinery continues to sponsor terrorism directed toward Turkey.

After the visit of President Bashar al-Assad, the first Syrian head of state to tap into their shared Muslim brotherhood, Erdogan exchanged visits in a "new era" of Turkish-Syrian bilateral accord. Ankara and Damascus are both apprehensive about the Iraqi Kurds’ aspirations for self-rule. If an Iraqi federation leads to Kurdish autonomy, Syria and Turkey fear the destabilization of their minority populations. Formerly antagonistic because Turkey accused Syria of sheltering Kurdish separatists, Syria in 2003 signed a security agreement with Turkey to stop supporting the PKK, with other security measures that included extraditing terrorists charged in Turkey, as well as economic agreements. Erdogan set aside the issues of water from the Euphrates and the dual claim of the Hatay province to achieve his ends of using the Kurdish card to strengthen Turkish Islam.

Erdogan wants to continue Turkey’s bent toward nationalism and its inclination toward seeing minorities as Turks as a means of ushering in a new strain of Turkish Islam. To achieve his goal, he has negotiated with Iran and Syria, to ensure that the Kurds do not accrue financial and educational power and thereby jockey into a position of creating an autonomous state (Gulerce 2005). Further he has denounced Israel and America in favor of a symbiotic relationship with Europe. Like his mentor Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan has tantalized the Turkish public with the opiate of democratic initiatives until they have become addicted to his popular reforms and are too drugged to notice his return of Turkey to a government ruled by fundamentalist ideology and its misuse to suppress the "mountain Turks.”

Works cited

Arabic News. “Erdogan Deplores Israeli Practices against the Palestinians.” Turkey-Israel, Politics, 27 May 2004.

Aras, Bulent. Turkish-Iranian-Syrian Relations: Limits of Regional Politics in the Middle East. The Power and Interest News Report (PINR). 07 Mar. 2005.

Bar’el, Zvi “Erdogan’s Israeli Dilemma.” Haaretz Israel News. 8 Mar. 2005.

Biegala, ?ric. “Les Mysterieux Lycees de Maitre Fetullah.” Le Figaro. 17 Jan. 2002.

Briefing from a High Ranking Official. "Breakdown: Gülen’s Followers Will Try to Get Control of the State” Milliyet. 22 June 1999.

“Erdogan Ends Landmark Iran Visit.” Agence France Presse. Arab News 30 July 2004.

Gülen, Fethullah. “A Comparative Approach to Islam and Democracy.” SAIS Review. Volume XXI, No. 2 (Summer-Fall 2001): 133-138.

Gulerce, Huseyin. “Iraq, Government, Troops, Gülen…” Zaman. 2 May, 2005.

Lorieux, Claude. “Armee d”Ankara contre les Islamistes.” Le Figaro. 2 Sept. 2000.

Pollack, Robert. L. “The Sick Man of Europe—Again.” Wall Street Journal. 16 Feb. 2002.

Rubin, Michael. “Green Money, Islamist Politics in Turkey.” The Middle East Quarterly. 12.1. Winter 2005.

---. “Is Turkey Shifting Sides? The Problems of Neo-Ottomanism.” The Progressive Conservative, USA: An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis Ed. Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., 6.181. 14 Aug. 2004.

Stahl, Julie. “Israeli-Turkish Relations Could Unravel, Diplomat Says.” CNSNews.com Jerusalem Bureau Chief Cybercast News Service. 1 June, 2004.

* Aland Mizell, University Of Texas at Dallas, School of Social Science

5. - Reuters - "In Iraq, Iranian Kurd rebels hope for their moment":

ZARKUS / 15 March 2005 / by Seb Walker

From the military bunker which serves as his office, Ibrahim Alizada can glimpse the snow-capped mountains of his homeland as he plots the downfall of Iran’s Islamist government just 50 km (30 miles) away.

Alizada, who fled Iran in 1985, heads the Iraqi branch of Komala -- an Iranian Kurd socialist party which gives succour to Kurds crossing into Iraq to escape persecution in Iran.

About 1,000 Iranian Kurds live in the party’s hillside compound near Sulaimaniya, in the heart of northern Iraq’s Kurdish zone, and nearly a third are trained guerrillas. Each week dozens more arrive.

"We’re getting about six new arrivals every day. Of these, we usually accept two or three," said grey-haired Alizada, who describes himself as an intellectual.

His group takes on about 30 trainees each month, half of whom are sent back into Iran to conduct "clandestine activities" after receiving training at the mountain camp, he says.

Despite growing U.S.-led pressure on Iran, Alizada is quick to play down the prospect of linking up with Western powers to try to bring down the Islamic government that has ruled in Tehran since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah.

"We can’t rule that out, but we think it’s unlikely," said Alizada, adding that his party receives no support from Washington, although, "they close their eyes to our activities."

"We don’t expect changes in the short-term -- perhaps two or three years ... we are waiting for the people to start changing the situation (in Iran)," he said, somewhat wishfully.


Kurds, perhaps the world’s largest ethnic group without a nation, number about 20 million spread mostly across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. They enjoy the most strength and autonomy in Iraq, where there is a Kurdish regional government.

Komala is just one of several Iranian Kurd political parties now based in the Kurdish zone of northern Iraq, and the region is also home to around 10,000 Iranian Kurd political refugees.

As well as Komala, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran also draws wide support from the exile community.

The groups have differing ideologies, which has led to friction in the past, but activists say there is a new-found sense of unity -- seven Iranian opposition groups, including the main Kurdish ones, have signed a co-operation pact.

Iraqi Kurd officials acknowledge the presence of politically-active Iranian Kurd groups in their region, which encompasses three provinces of northern Iraq, but say military activities are both non-existent and prohibited.

Iranian Kurd groups participated in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, but fell out with the central government due to the Shi’ite Islamic revolutionaries’ hardline religious principles -- Kurds, while more secular, are predominantly Sunni Muslims.

After years of armed resistance in the Kurdish region of western Iran, many fled to Iraq pursued by Iranian forces who staged frequent cross-border raids to eradicate subversive elements -- Komala’s camp was attacked three times in the 1990s.

These days, the bomb shelters which protected Komala’s members from Iranian missile and mortar attacks are used only for practice drills. But the group has its own expanding militia force and armed guards keep watch over the camp.

In one of its huts, young men and women in traditional Kurdish military uniform gather for a lesson in political thought. Each holds a Kalashnikov rifle and listen attentively as their teacher outlines the ills of Iranian society.

"Women must defend themselves from the suffering they endure in the Islamic Republic. Any revolution which does not include women will fail," is one female trainee’s fierce response to a question about sexual equality.

Many of the camp members are heartened by rumblings of dissent emanating from within Iran, but there is suspicion over the wisdom of any Western-backed direct intervention.

"Iraq is a good example. The U.S. came here and liberated the area, but people are still being killed here every day," said Shoresh Salahi, 26, who left Iran seven years ago.

"We are ready to fight if necessary ... but we don’t think the U.S. is trying to help the Iranian people. They have their own interests at heart."


Salahi said fomenting change in Iran indirectly and through the media was preferable to joining up with external forces, and that seems to be the focus of the group’s activities.

From a makeshift recording studio in another section of the camp, subversive radio programmes are broadcast across Iranian frequencies. The party also publishes a newspaper and leaflets intended for distribution inside Iran.

"We try to make connections with social organisations and communities inside Iran," Alizada said. "We’re not expecting the United States to do the same thing they have done here in Iraq."

But having seen their Iraqi Kurd neighbours first rid themselves of an oppressive government and then win a powerful voice in their own country, some Iranian Kurds are eager for action.

"We’re coming here to make something happen, to fight for our rights," said Bijen Sultani, 25, who arrived Iraq this year.

Sultani said that because of discrimination against Kurds and women, she was barred from certain university courses and could earn only $30 a month despite as a physiotherapist.

Pointing to the improved situation for Iraq’s Kurdish minority, she said she hoped for a similar scenario in Iran.

"With the help of the international community we can remove the unbearable segregation which exists within our society," she said.

6. - Amnesty International - "Kurds in the Syrian Arab Republic one year after the March 2004 events":

10 March 2005


The history of the Kurds in Syria took a violent turn in March 2004. Tensions rose dramatically on 12 March between rival Arab and Kurdish fans during a football match in Qamishli, north-eastern Syria, and security forces responded by firing live bullets into the crowd, reportedly only into the Kurdish section, killing several people. The next day, a funeral procession and demonstration was fired upon by members of the security forces, reportedly causing a number of fatalities and injuries. There followed two days of protests and riots in Qamishli and other towns in the north and north-east, including al-Qahtaniya, al-Malkiya and ‘Amouda. A number of state-owned and privately-owned buildings were vandalised or set on fire. A police station in ‘Amouda was attacked and a police officer received fatal injuries from stones that were thrown. Amnesty International has the names of at least 36 people who were killed in total, almost all Kurds who are believed to have been killed by the security forces. Over 100 people were injured. More than 2,000 people, almost all of them Kurds, are believed to have been arrested in the wake of the events. Most were held incommunicado at unknown locations and there were widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including children, women and the elderly. About 200 Kurds remained in detention at the beginning of 2005, of which 15 were referred to trial before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose procedures fall far short of international standards for fair trials. Dozens of Kurdish students were also expelled from their universities and dormitories, including at least 11 expelled from Damascus University on 18 March 2004, reportedly for participating in peaceful protests. No official investigation is known to have been carried out into how tension at a football match escalated into such widespread riots, or into the use of lethal force by the security forces, or the mass arrests and reports of torture and ill-treatment that followed, or into any possible root causes of the events.

Kurds in Syria have been subjected to serious human rights violations, as other Syrians, but as a group they also suffer from identity-based discrimination, including restrictions placed upon the use of the Kurdish language and culture. In addition, a large proportion of the Syrian Kurds are effectively stateless and, as such, they are denied the full provision of education, employment, health and other rights enjoyed by Syrian nationals, as well as being denied the right to have a nationality and passport. Kurdish human rights defenders who raise such issues or undertake other peaceful human rights activities are particularly at risk of arrest and imprisonment on specific charges which, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, are mostly used against Kurds, such as "involvement in cells seeking to weaken nationalist consciousness and to stir up racial sectarian strife", "aggression aiming to incite civil war and sectarian fighting and incitement to kill", and "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign state". The bringing of such charges, as well as "involvement in an unauthorised organisation" which is also often used against non-Kurdish human rights defenders, leads to unfair trials before the SSSC or military courts. The maximum sentence, for "aggression aiming to incite civil war and sectarian fighting and incitement to kill", is the death penalty.

This report documents a range of human rights violations to which Kurds have been subjected in specific instances and incidents in Syria over the past couple of years. Chapter 2 of the report describes briefly the legal context in which such violations more generally occur in the country, and provides an overview of the identity-based restrictions that Syrian Kurds face and of the discriminatory measures specifically affecting the stateless Kurds. Chapter 3 illustrates a cycle of human rights abuses through the cases of a number of Kurdish human rights defenders who have sought to promote rights of the Kurdish population in Syria. Chapter 4 focuses on apparently un-investigated cases of alleged unlawful killings of Kurds, and alleged deaths as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody, since March 2004. Chapter 5 describes patterns of torture and ill-treatment against Kurdish detainees, including children, who were held in the wake of the March 2004 incidents. The report includes recommendations to the Syrian authorities concerning specific human rights violations, and concerning Syria’s obligations under international human rights treaties to which it is a state party.


a) The human rights context

Amnesty International and other organizations have documented serious violations of human rights in Syria throughout the years(1). Amnesty International’s main human rights concerns in Syria include: arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of people solely for the peaceful exercise of their fundamental human rights; "disappearances"; prolonged incommunicado detention; widespread use of torture and ill-treatment in detention; unfair trials; impunity for members of the security forces suspected of perpetrating human rights violations; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association; harassment of human rights defenders; and the imposition of the death penalty.

Amnesty International remains gravely concerned at the continuing enforcement of the State of Emergency Legislation (SEL) in Syria. March 8, 2005 marks the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of the SEL, whose body of legislation has been augmented over the years and has resulted in thousands of suspected political opponents being detained, tortured and held incommunicado without charge or trial, and others being convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms after grossly unfair trials before the SSSC or Military Courts, including Field Military Courts (FMCs).

Trials before the SSSC, which was created under the emergency laws in 1968 with the sole task of dealing with political and state security cases, do not meet international standards for fair trials: its verdicts are not subject to appeal; defendants have restricted access to lawyers; and wide discretionary powers are granted to the judges. Military Courts were granted exceptional powers under the SEL including the capacity to hear cases against civilians under Decree No. 46 of 1966. These courts do not appear to be independent and impartial and do not respect the right of the defendant to be present at trial and to present a defence with or without the assistance of legal representation. Trial sessions before FMCs, which may also hear cases against civilians, may consist of one or two hearings, in many cases inside a prison, wherein the defendants appear only to plead guilty or otherwise to the charges filed against them. In other cases defendants were reportedly informed about their sentences without ever being asked to attend a hearing.

b) Restrictions on Kurds’ economic, social and cultural rights

The Kurds are the second largest ethnic group in Syria. Arabs number about 90 per cent of the population of nearly 20 million, while Kurds amount to about 1.5 – 2 million or almost 10% of the population, and other minorities about one per cent. Major concentrations of Kurds are located around Aleppo in the north of the country, and the al-Jazeera region in the north-east. These predominantly Kurdish areas lag behind the rest of the country in terms of social and economic indicators; a situation compounded by direct and indirect discrimination against the Kurdish population.

In 1962 the Syrian government started implementing a policy of ‘Arabisation’ of the Kurdish-populated areas, whereby about 100,000 Kurds were forcibly relocated from about 300 villages and replaced with Arabs, with the strategic aim of creating an ‘Arab belt’ between Syria’s Kurds and the Kurdish populations of Turkey and Iraq. Scores of Kurdish-named villages and towns were renamed in Arabic(2).

Restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language

In Syria, the Kurdish language is not recognised as an official language and it is not taught in schools. Since 1958 it has been forbidden to publish materials in Kurdish. In 1987 the Culture Minister reportedly extended the ban to the playing and circulation of Kurdish music cassettes and videos. According to some sources, the ban on Kurdish being taught in schools and universities was re-stated by a Secret Decree issued in 1989 which also banned the use of the language in all official establishments(3). There are unconfirmed reports that by the summer of 2002 the authorities had raised the maximum sentence for printing in Kurdish, as well as for the teaching of Kurdish, to five years imprisonment. Kurdish is also reportedly banned from use at private celebrations and in the workplace(4).

However, in practice, the circulation of a small number of Kurdish materials appears to be tolerated and in 2004 an officially authorised dictionary in Arabic-Kurmanji (the dialect of Kurdish spoken by ‘northern’ Kurds, including in Syria) was reportedly published. Similarly, the bans on the use of Kurdish language and materials appear to be loosely applied. Despite that, while other minorities in Syria, notably Armenians, Circassians, Assyrians and Jews, are permitted to run private schools, the Kurds are not. In the largely Kurdish-populated al-Hassaka province, businesses are banned from having Kurdish names(5). In contrast, businesses may have names in Armenian and Arabic, or Russian and Arabic, and there appear to be no legal restrictions on the use of other languages or publication of materials in other languages. In 1992 the Minister of the Interior banned the registering of children with ‘non-Arab’ names in al-Hassaka province(6). Over recent years, tens of Kurds have been arrested in apparent connection with their involvement in celebrations of Nawruz, the Kurdish New Year(7).

Concerns over discrimination against the Kurds have been expressed by UN bodies, including the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which has strongly recommended that the Syrian authorities: "take effective measures to combat discrimination in practice against minority groups, in particular the Kurds. Such measures should be aimed especially at improving birth registration and school attendance and allowing for the use of their languages and other expressions of their culture."(8)

The stateless Kurds

No reliable official records are available, but it is estimated that there are now between 200,000 and 360,000 of Syria’s Kurds who are not entitled to Syrian nationality and therefore are denied accompanying rights of nationals. Since 1962 these stateless Kurds have been divided into two official classifications: ajanib (‘foreigners’) and maktoumeen (‘concealed’, effectively meaning ‘unregistered’) who have even fewer rights than the ajanib. As a result of Law 93 of 1962 and the accompanying census in al-Hassaka province, about 120,000 Kurds were stripped of their Syrian nationality or denied the right to claim it, if they could not prove they had lived in Syria since 1945 or earlier(9). There were many reports that the census was carried out arbitrarily. These stateless Kurds are not issued passports or other travel documents, and so may not legally leave or return to Syria. They lack the correct documentation to guarantee treatment in state hospitals. They are not allowed to vote or to run for public office. They are prohibited from owning a house, land, or a business. They are prohibited from employment as lawyers, journalists, engineers, doctors or any other profession requiring membership of the profession’s union – which is not permitted for stateless Kurds; and they are prohibited from employment in the public sector. Maktoumeen children are unable to study in school beyond the ninth grade. With such restrictions on employment, with there being no university in the al-Jazeera region, and with maktoumeen being prohibited from attending university altogether, higher education is not an option for a large percentage of the Syrian Kurdish population(10).

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have all expressed their concerns regarding the discrimination faced by Syrian-born Kurds(11).


a) Participants in the June 2003 children’s demonstration

On 25 June 2003 a group of 100 to 200 children and adults gathered outside the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) building in Damascus calling for the rights of Syrian Kurdish children to be respected, including the UN-recognised right for everyone to have a nationality and the right to learn their own language(12). The organisers had reportedly composed a statement which they planned to hand to UNICEF officials, in which was described the restrictions imposed on the registering of Kurdish names and the discrimination faced by Kurdish children within the education system. The peaceful protest was broken up by police officers and members of the security forces, injuring about 20 people in the process.

Seven protestors, all men, were arrested, held incommunicado and reportedly tortured for 23 days at the security branch of al-Mezze Police Station in Damascus before being moved to the political wing of ‘Adra Prison, near Damascus, where they were put into solitary confinement in tiny cells and suffered further ill-treatment. For several months the men were denied all access to families, lawyers and doctors. In August or September 2003 they were said to have appeared blindfolded and without legal representation in front of the SSSC. One detainee, Muhammad Mustafa, stated before the SSSC that his tiny cell at ‘Adra Prison was in fact a toilet with a cover over the hole. A second detainee complained to the Court of the ill-treatment he had suffered in prison, while a third said he intended to sue the prison authorities and General Intelligence for the torture he had suffered and whose effects reportedly remained visible on his body. The Court President rejected the complaints and ordered the detainees to be removed to the Court’s holding room. No investigation is known to have been carried out into their complaints of torture. On 27 June 2004, all seven men were convicted of "involvement in an unauthorised organization" and "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign state", crimes often ascribed to Syrian Kurds for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations and other peaceful activities. Muhammad Mustafa, Sherif Ramadhan and Khaled Ahmad ‘Ali were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Four others - ‘Amr Mourad, Salar Saleh, Hosam Muhammed Amin and Hussayn Ramadhan - were sentenced to one year, and were released immediately, given the time they have already spent in pre-trial detention. Muhammad Mustafa, Sherif Ramadhan and Khaled Ahmad ‘Ali reportedly continue to suffer cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in ‘Adra Prison. They remain in solitary, largely incommunicado detention. They may receive one 30 minute visit from immediate family members every two months, but prior permission has to be obtained from the Political Security Department. Visits take place in the presence of a security officer and no talking in Kurdish is allowed. Sherif Ramadhan and Khaled Ahmad ‘Ali are reported to be held in cells measuring 1m x 1.5m, while Muhammed Mustafa’s cell, the ‘toilet’, is said to measure 80cm x 80cm. Amnesty International considers the men to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for the peaceful expression of their views(13).

b) Student photographer of the June 2003 children’s demonstration

Mas’oud Hamid, a student of journalism at Damascus University, was arrested by Political Security officers on 24 July 2003 after he sent photographs he had taken of the demonstration to several Internet sites including the German-based Kurdish site www.amude.com. He was detained in the political wing of ‘Adra Prison and, on 10 October 2004, was convicted by the SSSC of being a member of "an unauthorised organization" and "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign state". He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and remains held incommunicado in solitary confinement. It was reported in December 2004 that he had begun a hunger strike after his trial in protest at the conditions in which he is held. Mas’oud Hamid is one of several people convicted in Syria in 2004 in relation to Internet use, all of whom Amnesty International consider to be prisoners of conscience(14).

c) Participants in the Human Rights Day demonstration

Hassan Saleh and Marwan ‘Uthman participated on 10 December 2002 in a peaceful demonstration celebrating the universally-recognised Human Rights Day, outside the People’s Assembly in Damascus. The demonstrators were calling for the government to officially recognise the existence of the Kurdish nationality within the unity of the country, remove the barriers imposed on the Kurdish language and culture, and release all political prisoners. The two men, both leading members of the illegal Kurdish Yeketi Party, were arrested five days later when they appeared, as requested, to meet with the then Minister of the Interior, Major General ‘Ali Hammud. On 20 December 2002 they reportedly appeared without legal representation before the Military Court where they were charged with "involvement in an unauthorised organisation". They were initially detained at the Political Security Department in Damascus, where, after two and a half months of incommunicado detention, they were allowed monthly visits by close members of their families. The visits were restricted to between 15 and 30 minutes each, and carried out from behind bars in the presence of a security officer. While held at the Political Security Department they both reportedly suffered beatings by security officers, and for prolonged periods were denied visits by lawyers and doctors. There were particular concerns for sixty-year-old Hassan Saleh’s health as he was suffering from chest pains and was denied medical treatment.

In March 2003 the Military Court, having added the charge of "inciting sectarian strife" to the initial charge, transferred the case to the SSSC which added a further charge of "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territories and annex it to another state". They were only permitted to talk very briefly with a lawyer, reportedly for three or four minutes, through a window while in the SSSC’s detention centre. After almost one year’s detention, they were transferred to a Military Police detention centre where they reportedly suffered physical and psychological torture, including being stripped naked in front of security officers and other prisoners. A military judge then ordered them to ‘Adra Prison, where they were put in solitary confinement for about three months. In February 2004 the SSSC convicted them of "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territory and annex it to a foreign state". They were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment which was reduced immediately by the Court President to 14 months, which time they had already served in prison, and they were released on 24 February 2004. Amnesty International considered both men to be prisoners of conscience(15).
Marwan ‘Uthman was detained again on 15 March 2004, during the mass arrests of Syrian Kurds in the north of the country. While detained at the Political Security Department in Qamishli he was reportedly beaten by a security officer and sustained damage to his teeth and an eye. After his release the following day, he had an operation to remove a broken tooth.

d) People involved in cultural and linguistic activities

While the authorities do appear to tolerate the circulation of a small number of Kurdish-language publications and music, and, particularly in rural villages, the practise of some Kurdish cultural activities, promoters of and participants in Kurdish cultural and linguistic activities continue to risk harassment, detention, torture and ill-treatment, and imprisonment. In 2001 Habib Ibrahim established a cultural club in Qamishli to promote Kurdish-Arabic dialogue. During one lecture, security forces arrived and closed the club. Two of the members were reportedly arrested and tortured and ill-treated while held in detention, many hours of which were reportedly spent held in a toilet.

In another case, Muhammad Hammu, the owner of a Kurdish bookshop in Aleppo, was detained from 27 August to 3 September 2001, reportedly in connection with his involvement in the distribution of Kurdish literature. He was released without charge but was threatened that his bookshop would be closed unless he ’’cooperated’’ with the authorities(16).

Ibrahim Na’san was arrested in Aleppo on 8 January 2002 in connection with distributing cultural and educational material in the Kurdish language. He was reportedly held incommunicado for at least six months at the State Security Detention Branch of Kafr Sousa, in Damascus, and then sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the SSSC. Amnesty International wrote to the Syrian authorities on 20 August 2002 urging that he be released, but received no response. He was released at the end of his sentence in January 2005.

On 30 August 2003, Khalil Sulyman was arrested after he organized a party - at which Kurdish songs were sung - to celebrate the graduation of a group of students. He was charged before the Military Court with inciting racial hatred – but the charges were subsequently dropped and he was released on 18 January 2004.

On 8 March 2004, seven Kurds were arrested in connection with Kurdish musical celebrations for the universally-recognised Women’s Day, around al-Hassaka(17). They were reportedly released after several days’ detention.


a) Alleged unlawful killings during the March 2004 events

During the events which started at the football stadium in Qamishli on 12 March, at least 36 people were killed. Almost all of them were Kurds killed apparently as a result of the use of lethal force by the security forces. No official investigation is known to have been carried out into the series of incidents which led to widespread riots, or into the use of lethal force by the security forces, or the mass arrests and reports of torture and ill-treatment that followed, or into any possible root causes of the events.

Unofficial reports indicate that the security arrangements at the al-Baladi stadium were inadequate and that the security forces’ firing of live bullets into the crowd was disproportionate. The apparent absence at the stadium and during the ensuing demonstrations of suitable non-lethal policing arrangements may have contributed to the rapid escalation of violence. Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, law enforcement officials shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms and shall give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms with sufficient time for the warning to be observed. The Principles also specify that intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

b) Deaths as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody

The widespread use of torture in Syrian prisons and detention centres is well documented. Over the years, Amnesty International has recorded at least 38 different methods of torture employed by Syrian security officers(18). Deaths reportedly resulting from torture and ill-treatment in custody have been reported in different types of cases, whether the detainees were political or ordinary criminal suspects, and irrespective of their ethnic origin or nationality. However, a significant increase in the number of reported deaths of Kurdish detainees occurred in the weeks and months following the March 2004 events, all reportedly caused by torture and ill-treatment in custody. Of nine such deaths reported to Amnesty International in the six months from March 2004, five were Kurds. The five, all of whom were reportedly being held incommunicado and without charge, are: Hussein Hammo Na’aso, 23, who died on 6 April, reportedly after torture and the denial of specialized medical treatment for his diabetes; Ferhad Muhammad ‘Ali, 19, who died on 8 April, reportedly after torture; Ahmad Husayn Hasan (also named as Ahmad Husayn Husayn), who died on 1 or 2 August, at the Military Intelligence Branch in al-Hassaka and whose body was buried without anyone being allowed to see it; Ahmad Ma’mu Kenjo, 37, who died at home on 3 August from a brain haemorrhage resulting from head injuries received in a beating by a security patrol in Ras al-‘Ayn and while detained during April and May; and Hanan Bakr Deeko, who reportedly died in custody between 16 September, when he was arrested by Military Intelligence officers from Aleppo, and 22 September, when his body was delivered to his family. His body reportedly showed scars of torture, bruises on his neck, feet and back and injuries to his skull. No investigations are known to have been carried out into any of these deaths(19).

To Amnesty International’s knowledge, in contravention of the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, no independent investigations or inquests have ever been held into any deaths in custody, including those allegedly caused by torture or ill-treatment.

c) Deaths in suspicious circumstances of Kurdish conscripts

No investigation is known to have been carried out either into any of at least six deaths in suspicious circumstances of Kurds carrying out their military service in the weeks and months after the March events. The deaths were reportedly due to beatings or shootings by military superiors or colleagues.

Khayri Berjes Jando, 21, a Yazidi Kurd, began his compulsory military service on 7 March 2004, at the al-Qutayfa barracks, about 25km north-east of Damascus. After the outbreak of violence from 12 March, his concerned father Sheikh Berjes Jando travelled to the barracks from the village of Saradek, near al-Hassaka, and on 22 March, reportedly after hours of waiting, was allowed to see his son. Khayri Berjes Jando was reportedly unable to walk and was being held up by two colleagues. His eyes and face were badly swollen and he said he had been beaten with batons and kicked on his body and head for hours by at least one officer whose name was later published in the Kurdish and German media. The beatings had started on 21 March, Nawruz, Kurdish New Year’s Day. He had reportedly been summonsed to his commanding officer, together with four other young Kurdish conscripts who were also beaten, on account of being Kurdish. He reportedly pleaded with his father to get him released from the barracks as he feared for his life. He died of his injuries in a military hospital on 24 March. No autopsy was carried out. His body was quickly buried by military officers in a manner not adhering to Yazidi customs, in a cemetery near Saradek.

Five other cases have been reported to Amnesty International. On 6 May 2004 Huseyn Khalil Hasan was reportedly killed in suspicious circumstances while serving with the Air Defence battalion at Ras al-Basit on the western coast. On 15 May the body of conscript Dhiya al-Din Nuri Nasr al-Din, with two shot gun wounds to his head, was handed over to his family. In June, Qasim Muhammad was reportedly shot dead in circumstances which were not clarified, while serving in the al-Kiswah district south of Damascus. In August, the body of 19-year-old Bedia’ Jelo Delef was handed over to his family after suffering – according to the authorities – a heart attack while carrying out his military service in the Hama province. The body in this case, as in the others, was reportedly buried without autopsy. Also at the al-Qutayfa barracks, on 24 October 2004, Muhammad Sheikh Mohammed died when he was shot from behind. Reportedly, no autopsies were allowed into any of these suspicious deaths and in at least one case the family of the deceased was forced to make a statement, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that there was no need for any autopsy. In cases where the families of those who died filed applications to the judiciary asking for permission to file suits against those allegedly involved in the deaths, the applications were reportedly dismissed. Amnesty International has not received reports of any non-Kurdish conscripts having died in suspicious circumstances in the same period.


a) Children

In its consideration of the Syrian authorities’ second periodic report in 2003, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns that strict limitations to pre-trial detention of juveniles and children do not seem to be observed in practice, and that conditions in detention centres for juveniles are often harsh(20). In the wake of the March 2004 events, Amnesty International received reports that children as young as twelve had been tortured in detention.

Four 12 and 13-year-old Kurdish schoolchildren, Nijirfan Saleh Mahmoud, Ahmad Shikhmous ’Abdallah, Walat Muhammad Sa’id and Serbest Shikhou were arrested by Political Security officers on 6 April 2004 in apparent connection with a quarrel they had with Arab children. The four Kurdish children were brought before the al-Hassaka Criminal Court for Juveniles and charged with "inciting sectarian strife". They were detained in the Minors’ Section of Qamishli Prison where they were reportedly subjected to torture by being beaten with electric cables and having their heads clashed together. They were also reportedly ordered to strip almost naked while counting from one to three and were beaten if they did not complete the stripping in time. It was reported in December 2004 that they had been released and had the charges against them dropped, as a result of a Presidential Amnesty.

Amnesty International has the names of more than 20 other children, aged between 14 and 17, who were reportedly subjected to various types of torture and ill-treatment while detained for over three months in the wake of the March 2004 events. The ill-treatment reportedly left scars on their bodies, and led to injuries including broken noses, perforated ear drums and infected wounds. Like those cited above, they were reportedly subjected to beatings with electric cables, had their heads clashed together, and were ordered to strip almost naked while counting. Other types of torture reportedly used against them were: receiving electric shocks on hands and feet and sensitive parts of the body; having toe-nails pulled off; and being beaten with rifle butts. Charges against them include "congregation in a manner that may disturb public tranquillity"; "uttering phrases that may cause discord among the elements of the nation" and; "[carrying out] attacks with the intent of preventing authorities from carrying out their functions"(21). At the time of writing, at least two of them, Tareq al-‘Amri and Muhammad Saleh ‘Aziz, reportedly remained imprisoned at al-Hassaka Prison while on trial before the al-Hassaka Criminal Court for Juveniles.

b) Testimonies of released adults

More than two thousand Kurds are believed to have been arrested following the March 2004 events. All but about 200 are thought to have been released by December 2004. Amnesty International has received many allegations of torture and ill-treatment from those released. The allegations concern torture and ill-treatment that they had suffered or witnessed while detained in Criminal Security, Political Security or Military Security detention and investigation centres. Amnesty International has the names of many victims who have requested not to be identified. The types of torture and ill-treatment they reported include:

- beatings to all parts of the body, including by bamboo sticks, batons, whips and cables. In a number of cases people had bones or teeth broken;

- electric shocks to the body, including to the penis;

- cigarettes being stubbed out on the detainees’ bodies;

- having finger-nails pulled off. New detainees would reportedly bite down their nails themselves for fear of suffering the same ill-treatment;

- the "German Chair": being strapped to a metal chair with moving parts in which the back-rest is lowered backwards causing acute hyperextension of the spine and severe pressure on the victims’ neck and limbs;

- insults to themselves and their families;

- being threatened with execution;

- mock execution: at least one man had a noose put around his neck;

- being held in extremely poor and unhygienic conditions. Food was scarce and of poor quality; access to the bathroom was severely restricted and often there was no water, and no soap, available; detainees became covered in body-lice;

- denial of medical treatment for illnesses including tuberculosis and serious tooth infection. In one case of the latter, the detainee pulled his own tooth out using a metal wire but the infection continued;

- being held in prolonged long-term incommunicado detention without access to families or a lawyer. It appears that in most cases the families were not given any information at all about the detention of their family members.

The testimony of Hassan (not his real name) is in line with other testimonies by former Kurdish detainees alleging torture and ill-treatment in detention. Hassan stated that he was beaten and kicked during his arrest, and suffered and witnessed many types of torture and ill-treatment during two months’ detention in several detention and investigation centres. On arrival at the first detention centre, he stated,

… all our clothes were removed in order to search us, even our underpants, then we were beaten with whips and insulted with dirty words like calling us animals and insulting our parents. [Shortly afterwards, wearing underpants only] we were asked to stand facing the wall, lifting one leg with hands in the air, for 72 hours ... Every hour we had a rest and were made to lie on the floor. After two days we were no longer able to stand, and because our arms could no longer go up from the pain, they asked us to put our hands behind our heads ... Every time we started to fall asleep, we would be hit.

[There was] no bathroom, just an area, full of dirt and a hideous smell, all in the same room. All the time we were not allowed to talk to each other… For three days there was no questioning, we were not allowed to sleep, and there was no food. To get us exhausted to the point where we could not talk clearly, then they would start the questioning…They would present one [of us], blindfolded, to three or four interrogators, and each one would ask a question to confuse you so you could be accused of a crime, for example, ‘Who did you kill? A policeman?’ They would accuse you of being in the march in Qamishli, or in other events that were happening on the outside…If we did not answer properly during the questioning, we were put, blindfolded, into the ‘dulab’ [the ‘tyre’, whereby the victim is forced into a tyre which is turned around till the person is upside down] and beaten with bamboo sticks or whips … till we were no longer able to stand up. Then they would ask us to run so our blood would circulate and bring colour to our feet that had become black from the beatings. After a while we would be returned to the room and after a few hours…they would then take another one of us. So for weeks either we were being beaten or heard our friends being beaten.

[Hassan stated that he witnessed other forms of torture and ill-treatment]. They brought in five Kurdish girls who they insulted; beat on their bottoms and touched in front of us…They said they would do what they wanted to them. [Then] in the girls’ presence, a young detainee, about 14 or 15 years old, was told to play with the genitals of one of the guards. [Hassan gave Amnesty International the names of two brothers and a father and son who were forced to beat each other with a whip. Hassan named a man who was whipped one thousand times on his hands, and hung naked in the air by his legs, while being whipped on his back and legs]. He ‘confessed’ after being tortured. Others would be taken and have a rope put around their throats, to frighten them and force them to ‘confess’ to crimes they had not committed.

[From the sixth day they were finally given some food, but just] jam and one or two pieces of bread a day, not enough to satisfy our hunger, just to keep us alive…They always asked us to take off our clothes, especially when they brought the food, then they would beat us – to the extent that we never wanted the food to come since it meant being beaten again. [Throughout the detention] we were told that we would be executed because of being accused of several crimes, that we were ’traitors’ and ’infidels’…working to destroy the country.

We were so tired, we started seeing things on the walls that were not there.

Hassan stated that at another detention centre where he was detained for some weeks,

We were put in a closed room where we couldn’t see anything at all…sleeping on the floor with lice and mice. Our hair was shaved. They would only open the door to throw in the food then close the door again. During meals they would turn on the water tap and put us under it clothed, and then we would be beaten. [In this detention centre] they made us undress, and placed us on top of each other. Then a fat person came on top of us while beating our heads with a whip. We were insulted with words like ‘You animals, now you don’t like the penis of Saddam Hussein’. Or ‘You are ungrateful while we provide you with the best life here…and yet you want a separate country.’

For none of this time, stated Hassan, was he allowed any visits from his family or a lawyer, nor allowed to take a shower, nor to take exercise, nor to take fresh air. For prolonged periods he says they were denied access to the toilet.

c) Kurds still detained and facing unfair trial

Of approximately 200 Kurds believed to remain detained since the March 2004 events, 15 were referred to the SSSC on 24 June 2004. They are: ‘Ammar ‘Umar, Kahdar Khaled, Mas’ud Khaled, Hasan ‘Umar, Murad Aslan, Daglash Khalil, Shenidan Muhammad Yusuf, Shiyar Muhammad Yusuf, Zedeshta Muhammad Yusuf, Zibar Muhammad Yusuf, Tawfiq Husayn, Manal ‘Abdi, Diyar ‘Ali, Juwan Khaled, and Jivara Shukri. They are charged with: "attempting to sever part of the Syrian territory to annex it to a foreign state" (Article 267 of the Penal Code); "involvement in cells seeking to weaken nationalist consciousness and to stir up racial sectarian strife" (Article 285 of the Penal Code); "involvement in an unauthorised organisation" (Article 288 of the Penal Code); and "aggression aiming to incite civil war and sectarian fighting and incitement to kill" (Article 298 of the Penal Code). The maximum sentence, under Article 298, is the death penalty(22).

On 3 December 2004, these 15 Kurdish prisoners began a hunger strike protesting at their conditions of detention in ‘Adra prison. They are said to suffer from ill-treatment in prison including very poor quality and insufficient food and drink, beatings and insults, and restrictions on receiving visits and taking exercise. Visits are limited to the immediate family and can take place only every two months if and when prior permission is granted by the Political Security Department. The visits last 30 minutes, take place in the presence of a security officer and no talking in Kurdish is allowed. Reportedly, after calling off their hunger strike on 16 December 2004 when the prison authorities said they would improve conditions of detention and stop beatings, the prisoners were beaten and whipped.

Most of the approximately 190 other Kurds still in detention were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Military Judge, who reportedly decided to form a special body to consider their cases. At the time of writing, the composition, functions and procedures of the special body had not been made public and the trials had not started.


Regarding prisoners of conscience, freedom of expression and the promotion of human rights:

- Release prisoners of conscience Muhammad Mustafa, Sherif Ramadhan, Khaled Ahmad ‘Ali and Mas’oud Hamid, as well as all other prisoners of conscience in Syria;

- Ensure that the legislation, under which prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned, be brought in line with Articles 18 - 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria has been a party since 1969, guaranteeing the right to freedom of conscience, expression, assembly and association and the right to exercise these freedoms without undue interference;

- Overturn the decisions to expel dozens of Kurdish students from university for having peacefully expressed their views;

- Respect the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, which states in Article 1 that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels" and implement measures laid out in the Declaration for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Regarding suspected unlawful killings and deaths as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody:

- Establish independent and impartial investigations into the following allegations of unlawful killings including deaths as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody; prosecute anyone suspected of unlawful killing, and give compensation to the families of the following victims:

a) at least 36 people killed during the March 2004 events;

b) the Kurds who died allegedly as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody;

c) the Kurdish military conscripts who died in suspicious circumstances allegedly on account of their Kurdish identity.

Regarding the March 2004 events and discrimination against Kurds in Syria:

- Set up an inquiry into the March 2004 events to:

a) establish how tension at a football match escalated into widespread riots;

b) investigate the apparently disproportionate response of the security forces;

c) examine systemic discrimination and other human rights violations that may have contributed to the tension and the outburst of violence;

d) propose remedies that address these violations in order to help prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.

- Amend legislation on nationality so as to find an expeditious solution to the statelessness of Syrian-born Kurds as recommended by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1999 (23), and by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 2003 (24), and put an end to all accompanying discrimination against stateless Kurds including in the fields of education, health care, freedom of movement, employment, and property ownership;

- End the prohibitions on the use of the Kurdish language in education, the workplace, official establishments and at private celebrations, and allow children to be registered with Kurdish names and businesses to carry Kurdish names;

Regarding Syria’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its cooperation with the UN thematic mechanisms:
- Review legislation and practices in line with the requirements of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Syria acceded in August 2004, and ensure that all its provisions are fully implemented.
Amnesty International welcomed the accession and encourages the Syrian authorities to: officially and publicly condemn torture; abolish Legal Decree no.16 of Constitutional Decree No. 14 of 1969 which states that employees of the State Security administration shall not be prosecuted for offences they commit while carrying out their duties.

The authorities should also review, and abolish if necessary, any other legislation that grants immunity from prosecution to employees of the other security forces regarding offences they commit while carrying out their duties; make incommunicado detention illegal, as called for by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture(25); put an end to all secret detention; implement safeguards during interrogation and custody including the authorisation of regular visits by an independent body to places of detention; establish an independent body to promptly and impartially investigate all complaints and reports of torture or ill-treatment; prohibit the use of statements and other evidence extracted under torture as evidence in trials or any proceedings except against a person accused of torture; bring to justice anyone who is suspected of having committed acts of torture or ill-treatment; set up training procedures for all officials involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of prisoners to make clear that torture and ill-treatment are criminal acts and that they are obliged to disobey any order to torture; enable victims of torture and their families to be entitled to obtain financial compensation and for victims to be provided with appropriate medical care and rehabilitation; sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

- Issue invitations to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, to visit Syria.

Regarding reform of the justice system:

- to urgently review the State of Emergency Legislation (SEL) that is inconsistent with the requirements of human rights law, particularly Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria is a state party(26);

- to undertake reforms of the justice system, in particular to ensure that all court procedures comply with international standards for fair trial.


(1) See, for example, AI, Report from Amnesty International to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, MDE 24/04/83, 1983; AI, Torture by the Security Forces, MDE 24/09/87, October 1987; AI, Long-term detention and torture of political prisoners, MDE 24/12/92, July 1992; AI, Syria: Repression and impunity: the forgotten victims MDE 24/002/1995, 1995; AI, Caught in a regional conflict: Lebanese, Palestinian and Jordanian political detainees in Syria, MDE 24/01/99, January 1999; AI, Briefing to the Human Rights Committee, MDE 24/001/2001, March 2001; AI, Tadmur Military Prison: Torture, Despair and Dehumanization, MDE 24/014/2001, September 2001; Syria: Smothering freedom of expression: the detention of peaceful critics, MDE 24/007/2002, June 2002.

(2) Letter, from Yahya Abu ‘Ali, Minister for Local Administration, 20 December 1997, referring to Ordinance No. 36, 11 August 1971, and Law No. 56 (15 July 1980) [cited in Kerim Yildiz and Georgina Fryer, The Kurds: Cultural and language rights, KHRP, August 2004, p89].

(3) Secret Decree No. 1856-S25, 1 November 1989 [cited in Yildiz and Fryer, p255].

(4) Decree No.2013S52, cited in Mohammaad Mullah Ahmad, al-Qadhiya al-Kurdiya fi Suyiya (2001), p81 [cited in Yildiz and Fryer, p87].

(5) Order No. 933, 24 February 1994 [cited in Yildiz and Fryer, p88].

(6) Decree No. 122 [cited in Yildiz and Fryer, p88].

(7) See for example, AI, Annual Report 1997, p300; AI, Annual Report 1998, p322.

(8) See E/C.12/1/Add.63

(9) Indeed, thousands of Kurds had fled poverty and repression across the newly-created Turkish-Syrian border in the 1920s.

(10) For further information on the stateless Kurds in Syria see, for example: Human Rights Watch, The Silenced Kurds,1996, www.hrw.org/reports/1996/Syria.htm; Report of Danish Immigration Service fact-finding mission to Syria and Lebanon: Conditions for Kurds and stateless Palestinians in Syria etc., 17-27 September 2001, http://www.ecoi.net/pub/ds194_02376syria.pdf; Human Rights Association of Syria (HRAS), Effect of Denial of Nationality on the Syrian Kurds, November 2003, http://www.hras-sy.org/.

(11) The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed its regret that children of Syrian-born Kurdish parents who are stateless and have no other nationality at birth continue to be denied Syrian nationality and are subject to discrimination, contrary to articles 2 and 7 of the Convention, (CRC/C/15/Add.212); The Human Rights Committee has expressed its concerns "about the fate of Kurds born in Syria whom the Syrian authorities treat either as aliens or unregistered persons and who encounter administrative and practical difficulties in acquiring Syrian nationality. The Committee considers this discriminatory situation to be incompatible with articles 24, 26 and 27 of the Covenant." (See: CCPR/CO/71/SYR); The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recommended further action to protect the rights of all persons belonging to ethnic and national groups to enjoy, without discrimination, the civil and political rights listed in article 5 of the Convention, notably the right to nationality and cultural self-expression. In particular, the Committee recommended that the State party review its legislation on nationality in order to find an expeditious solution to the situation of Syrian-born Kurds and refugee children born in the Syrian Arab Republic. (See CERD/C/304/Add.70 para 14); see footnote 10, See E/C.12/1/Add.63.

(12) The event was reportedly planned to coincide with the International Day of the Child, but this should in fact be on the second Sunday of December.

(13) See, for example, AI, Syria: Kurdish prisoners of conscience must be immediately released, MDE 24/002/2004, 9 January 2004.

(14) See, for example, AI, Syria: Punished for using the internet - Amnesty International calls for an end to the suppression of the right to freedom of expression, MDE 24/017/2004, 12 March 2004.

(15) See, for example, AI, Syria: Release three prisoners of conscience, MDE 24/014/2004, 20 February 2004.

(16) AI Annual Report 2002, p237.

(17) AI, Urgent Action 107/04, MDE 24/018/2004, 12 March 2004.

(18) See, for example, AI, Syria: Torture by the Security Forces, MDE 24/09/87, October 1987; AI, Syria: Tadmur Military Prison: Torture, Despair and Dehumanization, MDE 24/014/2001, September 2001; AI, Syria: Unfair trial of Kurdish prisoners of conscience and torture of children is totally unacceptable, MDE 24/048/2004, 29 June 2004; AI, Syria: The authorities must investigate deaths in detention and end torture and ill-treatment , MDE 24/053/2004, 11 August 2004.

(19) On 18 June 2004 Amnesty International wrote to then Minister of the Interior, Lieutenant General ’Ali Hammud, requesting clarification of the circumstances surrounding five deaths in 2004, but has not received any response. A similar letter to the Minister of the Interior in August 2003 concerning the death in custody, at the Military of Intelligence Detention Centre in Aleppo, of Syrian Kurd Khalil Mustafa bin Muhammad Sherif has also remained unanswered. Reports received by Amnesty International alleged that severe injuries and bruises were visible on his corpse, including a leg broken in two places, a missing eye, and a head wound.

(20) See CRC/C15/Add.212, para. 36, 52, 10 July 2003.

(21) AI, Syria: Unfair trial of Kurdish prisoners of conscience and torture of children is totally unacceptable, MDE 24/048/2004, 29 June 2004.

(22) In 2002 and 2003, at least 27 people were executed in Syria.

(23) see CERD/C/304/Add.70, paragraph 14

(24) see CRC/C/15/Add.212, paragraph 33 (b)

(25) The Special Rapporteur on torture stated that "Torture is most frequently practised during incommunicado detention. Incommunicado detention should be made illegal, and persons held incommunicado should be released without delay." E/CN.4/2003/68, para. 26.

(26) In its consideration of Syria’s second periodic report in April 2001, the Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ implementation of the ICCPR, expressed concern over the SEL in Syria which it said "does not provide remedies against measures limiting citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms". The Committee recommended that the SEL be "formally lifted as soon as possible".