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Cablegate: Turkey: Prominent Kurdish Intellectual Urges U.S. Support for Turkish Democratization, Rapprochement with Northern Iraq

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P 190910Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2646
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
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RHMFISS/39ABG CP INCIRLIK AB TU
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/425ABS IZMIR TU//CC//
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001560

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2022
TAGS: PREL PTER TU IZ
SUBJECT: TURKEY: PROMINENT KURDISH INTELLECTUAL URGES U.S. SUPPORT FOR TURKISH DEMOCRATIZATION, RAPPROCHEMENT WITH NORTHERN IRAQ


Classified By: Classified by Adana PO Eric Green for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d)

1. Summary: (C) In a meeting with Adana PO, prominent Kurdish
author Mehmet Uzun urged the U.S. to establish a permanent
military presence in Northern Iraq to protect the democratic
advances of the KRG, which he believes will catalyze
liberalization elsewhere in the region. He discounted the
prospect of an incursion into Iraq by Turkish forces,
claiming that the current troop build-up is a product of
Turkish internal politics -- namely, the struggle between
modernizing, democratic forces and the military. Turkey's
democratic deficit is the principal reason for the
perpetuation of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, which will
ultimately be resolved through the country's modernization,
he said. Uzun blamed both the PKK and the state for
prolonging their conflict, which has also stalled the
achievement of further democratic and cultural rights for
Turkey's Kurds. Uzun's opinions accurately mirror the views
of Turkey's leading Kurdish intellectuals. End summary.

2. (C) On June 15 we met in Diyarbakir with Mehmet Uzun, the
world's foremost living Kurdish author, who has devoted much
of his life to guaranteeing the survival of Kurmanji, the
main Kurdish dialect, though he has also published works in
Turkish and other languages. After being jailed in Turkey
for publishing a Kurdish-language journal, Uzun spent nearly
30 years in exile in Sweden, returning to Turkey in 2005. He
is currently undergoing chemotherapy (successful, thus far)
after being diagnosed with cancer last year.

3. (C) Uzun spent most of the meeting talking about politics,
though did mention his admiration for Faulkner, Toni Morrison
and Saul Bellow. He is well informed about current events
and has spent time in Northern Iraq, where he met with
Barzani and senior members of his government.

Northern Iraq: An Historic Milestone
-------------------------------------

4. (C) Uzun heaped praise on the U.S. for liberating Iraq and
calling attention to the need for democratization in the
region. By protecting the Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG), the U.S. has helped midwife the birth of a society
that is democratic and protects the rights of minorities,
including Turkomens and Assyrian Christians. He noted that
modernization in the Arab world -- as well as in Turkey --
depends on spreading democracy and that the KRG provides a
powerful example for neighboring countries. He urged the
U.S. or NATO to establish a permanent military presence in
the region to protect these gains and prevent outside forces
from threatening the KRG. The greatest threats to Northern
Iraq, he said, come from Turkey and Iran, not from the other
parts of Iraq. During the Saddam era, he noted, many Iraqi
opposition leaders (who now run Iraq) took refuge in the
mountains of Kurdistan and they enjoy close relations with
the Kurdish leaders.

5. (C) Uzun believes the current threats by Turkey to go
after the PKK in Northern Iraq are largely part of the "chess
game" of internal Turkish politics, pitting Ankara's
military-bureaucratic elite against democratic forces that
want to modernize and Europeanize Turkey. But while the
Turkish military understands that an intervention would be a
disaster, they are both contemptuous of the KRG's
achievements and fear those same achievements will nourish
democratic developments inside Turkey.

6. (C) Uzun pointed out that the Erdogan government is
interested in working collaboratively with the KRG but has
been blocked from doing so by the Turkish military. If the
Turkey-Northern Iraq relationship improves, so too will the
life of Turkey's Kurds. Barzani, he said, recognizes that
the PKK is a liability to Kurdish aspirations and is prepared
to work with the GOT to end the conflict, but cannot do so
without assistance from Ankara. In some ways, it seems the
top leadership within both the Turkish military and the PKK
are working together to prolong this conflict, Uzun said.


ANKARA 00001560 002 OF 002


7. (C) Regarding the continuing struggle for expanded Kurdish
cultural and political rights within Turkey, Uzun remarked
that he has never supported violence and that now, more than
ever, Turkey's Kurds will be best served by working
exclusively within the political process. He added, however,
that the PKK cannot be defeated militarily; the GOT needs a
political exit strategy. Uzun noted that even Mehmet Agar, a
Turkish politician who was a hard-line police chief in the
1990s, has called for PKK fighters to be allowed to come down
from the mountains and participate in politics. Meanwhile,
he lamented that a new generation of Kurds is growing up
without hope: "Ninety percent of our high-school graduates
can't go to university or find jobs. So they sit in
teahouses and watch ultra-nationalists degrading them on TV.
What do you expect them to do?"

The Deep-State Cancer
---------------------

8. (C) A democratic deficit is at the heart of the Kurdish
issue and of Turkey's problems generally, Uzun said. The
current struggle in Ankara is all about a
military-bureaucratic elite trying to cling to its power to
run the country. "This deep state," he said, "is an even
worse cancer for Turkey than the tumor inside my body."
Turkey is being ruled with an ideology that has not evolved
and adapted sufficiently in its 80-year history. Uzun was
optimistic that it will change: "Modernization and
westernization must and will continue. Our future is with
the west, with Europe."

9. (C) Uzun also blamed visceral anti-Kurdish sentiments
within the Turkish establishment for the relentless legal
harassment of Kurdish politicians. In Diyarbakir, the people
overwhelmingly elected Osman Baydemir, a Kurd, as mayor. In
response, the judiciary has opened over 100 indictments
against him for "offenses" such as using a Kurdish phrase on
his annual holiday card. The previous day, a district mayor
in Diyarbakir had been dismissed from office for offering
multilingual services to his constituents (many of whom speak
no Turkish). These elements of the state, Uzun stated,
remain intent on stamping out individuality and cultural
diversity in Turkey.

Comment
--------

10. (C) Uzun's views are worthy of attention as they closely
reflect those of Turkey's leading Kurdish intellectuals,
human rights lawyers, journalists, leaders of NGOs and
moderate elements of Kurdish political parties. Kurdish
intellectuals are perhaps the only constituency in Turkey
still favorably disposed towards the U.S., which they credit
with liberating their brethren in Northern Iraq and
advocating for continued liberalization within Turkey. In
the coming months the GOT will face critical decisions on
Northern Iraq: whether to continue its policy of denial and
isolation or reconcile itself to reality and work
cooperatively with the KRG on common economic and political
interests. Turkey's choice will determine not only its
ability to positively influence events in the region, but
also whether it can establish trust with its own Kurdish
population.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

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