The Tampa Tribune

Thursday, February 25, 1999


Page: 18


Turkey's war with Kurds

The lion's share of the 30,000 deaths resulting from Turkey's war with its indigenous Kurdish minority has been inflicted by the far better-equipped, well-trained and more numerous Turkish military forces hunting poorly armed Kurds.

A brief perusal of official Turkish death tolls, in which Kurdish casualties vastly outnumber Turkish ones, reveals the disingenuous nature of Turkey's claim that these deaths are the Kurdish separatists' responsibility. It is a claim that has been used as a propaganda device by the Turkish state to justify its rabid pursuit of Ocalan as well as its vilification of him and other Kurdish insurgents as "terrorists."

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of civilians killed in the conflict have been Kurds and that most have been the victims of Turkey's security forces, not of retaliatory actions by the PKK (a Kurdish rebel group).

In its annual report on human rights worldwide, our own State Department confirmed in 1994 that Turkey's scorched-earth policy destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages and forcefully displaced up to 3 million Kurds from Turkish Kurdistan.

An investigation leaked last year by the Turkish prime minister's office revealed that the Turkish government had spent $50 million financing a shadow government of death squads and right-wing militants that perpetrated thousands of murders, kidnappings and bombings of businessmen, religious leaders, journalists, intellectuals, teachers, writers and other dissidents during the past 10 years.

According to The Associated Press, the investigation concluded that "Turkish death squads carried out many of Turkey's 14,000 unsolved murders."

New York, N.Y.
The writer is executive director of the American Hellenic Media Project.