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Cablegate: Poll Opens Door Into Turkey's Southeast

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
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DE RUEHAK #2879/01 3371517
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031517Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4522
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 1082
RHMFIUU/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 002879

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: POLL OPENS DOOR INTO TURKEY'S SOUTHEAST


1. (SBU) Summary. A clear majority of residents polled in 14
southeastern Turkish provinces said they would prefer to live
in Turkey even if an independent Kurdish state were founded
in northern Iraq. The Turkish polling company Metropoll
claimed its November survey of 1,079 people is the first of
its kind in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Metropoll director Ozer Sencar acknowledged the difficulty of
obtaining reliable results on the southeast's most sensitive
issues but stood by the survey's sometimes surprising
findings. Metropoll, a generally reputable polling firm,
conducted the survey by telephone to overcome residents' fear
of retaliation by the terrorist PKK or the police and to
increase the responses' credibility. "You have to make more
calls in the southeast to get the same results because of
people's fears," Sencar said, adding that rather than lying,
participants tended not to answer sensitive questions. End
summary.

Kurds and Zaza vice Turks and Arabs
-----------------------------------
2. (U) The poll, conducted in Siirt, Sirnak, Batman, Mardin,
Diyarbakir, Sanlirufa, Adiyaman, Hakkari, Bitlis, Mus, Van,
Tunceli, Bingol, and Agri provinces, indicates that 50% of
participants spoke Kurdish as their mother tongue, 7% spoke
Zaza (a Kurdish dialect), 30% spoke only Turkish and
approximately 13% spoke Arabic. According to the poll, 95%
of participants spoke some Turkish. Kurds and Zaza generally
shared similar attitudes, as did Arabs and Turks.

Economic Development Trumps Human Rights, Democracy
--------------------------------------------- ------
3. (SBU) Unemployment, not human rights, ranked as the most
important problem in the southeast for 42% of respondents.
Terrorism was a distant second, at 15%, followed by economic
underdevelopment (11%), education (7%) and social and
cultural backwardness (4%). Only about 5% listed democracy
(.5%), human rights (.6%), Turkish-Kurdish discrimination
(2%) and Turkey's Kurdish problem (1.8%) as top concerns.
The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) focus on
regional economic development is spot-on, Sencar noted:
"Intellectuals see human rights and democracy as the biggest
problems but the people say it's the economy." The poll also
indicated that 10% of participants attribute Turkey's recent
increase in terrorist violence to unemployment and poverty in
the region, followed by a US plan to corner Turkey
politically (9%), a desire to establish a Kurdish state (7%),
lack of education (7%) and efforts to create conflict between
Turks and Kurds (4%). Unemployment and poverty were also the
reason people join the PKK, according to 17% of respondents.
Ignorance (11%), effective PKK propaganda (6%), insufficient
government policies (4%) and Kurdish loyalty to the PKK (3%)
were also cited. Only 1% cited lack of democracy.

Mixed Support for Northern Iraqi Kurds, CBO and PKK
--------------------------------------------- ------
4. (U) The poll results also refute the common misperception
that all southeastern Kurds support northern Iraqi Kurds and
the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), despite strong
cultural and economic ties. Sixty-five percent of
participants viewed the creation of a Kurdish state in
northern Iraq negatively, and 95% of respondents said they
would stay in Turkey rather than move to such a state.
Seventeen percent viewed a northern Iraqi Kurdish state
positively and 19% had no idea. "The concept of 'Kurdistan'
is an intellectual utopia that average people don't actively
support," Sencar commented.

5. (U) Among the Kurds and Zaza polled, roughly one-half
sympathized with the PKK; predictably, virtually all the
ethnic Arabs and Turks opposed the PKK. Over half of all
respondents said pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP)
should declare the PKK a terrorist organization, while 30%
said DTP should not (18% had no idea). Sixty-six percent of
respondents believed Massoud Barzani and northern Iraqi Kurds
support the PKK. Fifty-two percent wanted Turkey to launch a
military cross-border operation (CBO) into northern Iraq to
root out the PKK (35% opposed), though 40% admitted it would
not solve the PKK problem (27% said it would). About 40% of
Kurds and Zazas supported a CBO and 40% opposed (14% gave no
answer); 60% of ethnic Arabs and Turks favored a CBO, with
26% opposing. Almost one-third said a CBO should target both

ANKARA 00002879 002 OF 003


the PKK and the northern Iraqi Kurdish administration, while
45% said only the PKK should be targeted. Nearly half said a
CBO would never cause a Turkish-Kurdish clash (26% said it
definitely would), and 41% expected a CBO would definitely or
possibly cause a clash between Turkey and the USG. While 40%
agreed Turkey should talk with Iraqi Kurdish leaders about
the PKK, 45% opposed dialogue (16% had no idea). Almost half
of respondents supported sanctions against the KRG to cut
support for the PKK, with 34% opposing that approach.

Skepticism of the US
--------------------
6. (U) The early November poll showed 73% of respondents
believed the US does not support Turkey in its fight against
the PKK, while 17% agreed that the US supports Turkey either
partly or fully. Twenty-eight percent of those who believe
the US does not support Turkey blame US interests for the
policy, 11% said the US supports the PKK and uses it as a
trump card, and 7% said the US does not want a strong Turkey.

AKP Out In Front
----------------
7. (SBU) Sencar speculated that many Kurds may oppose the
PKK because it is a leftist, atheist organization while most
Kurds are deeply pious conservatives. Almost 40% of
participants indicated they are politically conservative,
with 10.8% describing themselves as leftist and 21.5% stating
they are neither. Over half of the leftists allied
themselves with DTP and 42% said they support the People's
Republican Party (CHP). Respondents split on whether DTP
represents Turkey's Kurds, with 37% saying it does and 35%
saying it does not. Ten percent said DTP does not represent
Kurds sufficiently and 16% had no idea. A resounding 68% of
participants said they would vote for the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) if elections were held now; no other
party received more than 4% support. AKP has continued to
win over southeast voters by expanding successful programs to
improve economic and political conditions in the region.
Sencar pointed to PM Erdogan's and President Gul's visits to
the southeast, and the party's instructions to southeastern
MPs to spend substantial time in the region, as smart
strategies. Sixty percent of respondents said they believe
AKP can solve Turkey's Kurdish problem (26% did not, and 14%
had no idea).

8. (U) Also countering stereotypes, 65% of respondents
reported they do not feel uneasy traveling outside the
southeast, though 26% said they do and almost 20% expected
some discrimination against Kurds following the recent spate
of PKK attacks. Twenty-five percent predicted a CBO into
northern Iraq would cause tension between Turkey's Turks and
Kurds. Participants had no clear explanation for the recent
increase in terrorism, with 37% of respondents declining to
answer. Sencar ventured the PKK's goal is to hamper AKP
efforts to develop the region by making Turks and Kurds clash
again. Chaos in the region will revive support for the PKK
and DTP, which have been losing ground to AKP. Given AKP's
jump from 21% of the southeast vote in 2002 parliamentary
election to 50% in the July 2007 vote, Sencar may be right.
Respondents favored dialogue as the best way to solve
Turkey's Kurdish problem (13%), followed by economic
improvements (8%) and improving democracy and human rights
(6%). Only 3% said violence was the solution. Almost 12%
said Turkey has not Kurdish problem.

9. (SBU) Comment: Despite the poll's limitations (including
an error margin of plus/minus 3), it provides a window into a
poorly understood segment of Turkey's population. Metropoll
admits to not directly asking highly sensitive questions,
such as whether respondents support the PKK or its jailed
leader Abdullah Ocalan. As a first step into probing
stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Turkey's toughest
domestic challenge, the survey succeeded in raising a few
eyebrows. Follow-on polls may help dispel misconceptions
about how southeast residents define themselves and where
their loyalties lie -- information essential to finding
political solutions to undermining the PKK and bringing
stability to a troubled region. End comment.

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

ANKARA 00002879 003 OF 003

WILSON

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