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Cablegate: Southeast Turkey Situation Report: Improving

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ANKARA 001717

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


ANKARA PASS IZMIR


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ECON TU SY IZ
SUBJECT: SOUTHEAST TURKEY SITUATION REPORT: IMPROVING
CONDITIONS ARE NOT SET IN A SOLID FOUNDATION

REF: A. ANKARA 1646
B. ANKARA 1624
C. ANKARA 1423
D. ADANA 022


THIS CABLE IS FROM AMCONSUL ADANA.


1. (SBU) From February 22-27, consulate personnel traveled
the eastern part of the consular district, including the
cities of Diyarbakir, Batman, Mardin, Nusaybin and Sanliurfa.
The primary issues that emerged in meetings with
academicians, medical and legal professionals, politicians,
local administrators, civil right activists and business
leaders were civil rights, local elections, security and the
economy. While there are positive trends in all of these
areas, the recent clashes over the border in Syria between
Kurds and Arabs (REF A) illustrate how easily external events
might affect a fragile stability. As Newroz and the local
elections approach, the combination of emotions and large
seasonal gatherings could be influenced by a negative turn of
events in Northern Iraq.


HUMAN RIGHTS


NEW AMENDMENTS CREATE DIFFICULTIES FOR WORSHIPPERS


2. (SBU) In Diyarbakir, a nondenominational Protestant
congregation of about 50-60 worshippers is experiencing
difficulty since new amendments on religious buildings were
passed in December 2003. The amendments, which allow the
word &mosque8 to be replaced by &place of worship,8
appear at first glance, to be an improvement. The
congregation up until December 2003 was in compliance with
all procedures. However, the new amendment requires an
application filed with local administration, approval by the
municipality and final certification by the governor,s
office for a need for the prospective place of worship.


3. (SBU) The congregation diligently pursued meeting the new
requirements but failed to receive the required approvals.
Subsequently, the Security Directorate brought charges
against Pastor Ahmet Guvener for opening an unauthorized
church and disobeying official orders. On March 18,
consulate personnel confirmed that there will be a court
hearing on May 12.


KURDISH LANGUAGE SCHOOLS OPEN*FINALLY


4. (SBU) After waiting periods of 18 months to two years,
several Kurdish schools in southeast Turkey are finally
opening their doors. Consulate personnel visited the new
schools in Batman and Urfa. The consulate personnel who
visited the facilities agreed that these were probably among
the most up-to-building code facilities they had ever
visited.


5. (SBU) The Turkish Education Ministry (YOK) placed some
limitations on what could be taught at the schools. In
Batman, the school is permitted to teach only conversational
Kurdish and no grammar. The Batman school was printing
textbooks and working on a dictionary. Teachers told
consulate personnel that it was possible to buy Kurdish books
in local stores in both Batman and Urfa. Right now, the
registered students are 18 years of age or older, but there
are plans at both schools to teach younger students.
Qualified instructors will continue to be a problem because
there is no formal higher education in the Kurdish language
in Turkey. When consulate personnel asked the rector of a
prominent university, he stated that there was no need for
Kurdish in their language department.


SERIOUS ABUSE DECLINING*DEMOCRATIZATION ON EVERYBODY,S MIND


6. (SBU) In Sanliurfa, human rights activists told us that
reports of physical torture have significantly decreased, but
that the Security Directorate continued to impede their
efforts to assemble for meetings or presentations. According
to one Sanliurfa NGO leader, the Security Directorate
frequently refused to allow NGOs to hire halls or get permits
for gatherings. A prominent Diyarbakir lawyer also stated
that the overall civil rights situation was improving. The
lawyer was pleased with the passage of EU reforms but stated
that the implementation wasn,t taking place at the local
administration level. For example, it might be legal now to
give a child a Kurdish name, but it was still possible to
encounter a local official who would refuse to register it.
He noted that people living in southeast Turkey could be
expected to oppose decentralization reform because of
difficulties experienced with local officials.


7. (SBU) A prominent Diyarbakir business leader emphasized
the importance of a solution in Cyprus to the democratization
process in Turkey. The businessman stated that many in
southeast Turkey believe that a Cyprus solution will speed up
the EU accession process and lead to more democratic reforms.
He added that with reform the parliament,s power would
increase and &other organizations8 within the GOT would
come under civil control. He emphasized (as consulate
personnel heard in most meetings) his belief that the USG had
the ability to strongly influence the GOT.


SE LOCAL ELECTIONS


DEHAP,S ONLY SERIOUS OPPOSITION IS DEHAP


8. (SBU) In Nusaybin, a local administration official told
consulate personnel that the only serious opposition to DEHAP
in southeast Turkey was DEHAP itself. He stated that there
was an internal fault line separating the moderates from the
more radical elements in the party (REF B). In Diyarbakir, a
mayoral candidate related that the southeast was the one
place where the AK Party and the military were getting along
well. According to the candidate, AK Party and the military
shared the common goal of seeing DEHAP factionalized and
defeated.


9. (SBU) Many DEHAP supporters were clearly frustrated that
KONGRA-GEL had been named a terrorist organization by the
USG. In Mardin, DEHAP officials strongly supported a general
amnesty to encourage militants to disarm and like most DEHAP
officials and party supporters that spoke with consulate
personnel, believed that the USG could strongly influence the
GOT on this point.


9. (SBU) The effect KONGRA-GEL exerts on DEHAP was not clear
from the meetings with local elected DEHAP officials, legal
professionals, and human rights activists. In Batman, an
elected DEHAP official stated that &if KONGRA-GEL orders
everyone not to vote for DEHAP, not one vote will go to
DEHAP8. On the other hand, a prominent civil rights lawyer
in the same city noted DEHAP factionalization was being
exacerbated by some DEHAP members, resistance to KONGRA-GEL
pronouncements. In Nusaybin, for example, a local
administration official related that KONGRA-GEL recently
called for the closure of shops in the city as a protest, but
few people responded.


AK PARTY*PLAN OF ACTION FAILED IN BATMAN AND MARDIN


10. (SBU) There were signs that AK Party is making serious
efforts to win voters in southeast Turkey. Common AK Party
themes in Diyarbakir, Batman and Mardin were transparency and
candidates native to the area with no record of corruption.
The Diyarbakir AK Party Vice Chairman emphasized the
importance the AK National Headquarters places on Diyarbakir;
for example, PM Erdogan visited the city on March 14. In
Batman, the AK Party Vice Chairman noted that the government
had already sent 2000 tons of asphalt to Batman (even though
they had a DEHAP mayor) and that the PM had promised that
natural gas would be available by 2005. The Batman Vice
Chairman described an impressive plan of action for the city.
However, AK Party candidates in both Batman and Mardin were
disqualified for not getting their applications submitted in
time.


11. (SBU) The Diyarbakir CHP Chairman stated that
personality is more important than the party affiliation in
these elections, and that &people were only interested in
the AK Party because the ruling party gets them more
services8. This reminded consulate personnel of the Adana
mayoralty race (REF C). Incumbent Aytac Durak (now
officially the AK Party candidate) stated publicly that he
only wanted to belong to a &stronger8 party. However, most
Diyarbakir contacts with whom consulate personnel met, of
whom some were rank and file voters and others party
officials, showed strong ideological views as opposed to
choosing based on personality as is more common in Adana or
Mersin.
12. (SBU) During the course of this trip, contacts did not
express any fears about casting their votes safely during the
election process, but showed some concern that there would be
irregularities. In Batman, one elected official suggested
that there should be election observers sent to Southeast
Turkey.


SECURITY*CALM BUT POTENTIAL FOR INSTABILITY REMAINS


13. (SBU) Without exception, all contacts expressed their
unease at the situation in Northern Iraq and stressed that
any action taken by the USG there could threaten the
stability in southeast Turkey. Recent events in northern
Syria illustrate the volatility of the Kurdish issue (REF A).
In Mardin, DEHAP officials told consulate personnel that
DEHAP only represents Kurds in Turkey; KONGRA-GEL represents
all Kurds, opening up the possibility that some unspecified
action might be taken there by KONGRA-GEL. The situation
remains calm near the Syrian border on the Turkish side, but
this, and the situation in Northern Iraq, pose potential
problems for stability, especially with Newroz and local
elections approaching.


14. (SBU) There were some positive signs in local
administration in Batman and Nusaybin. In Batman, SHP/DEHAP
coalition party officials reported constructive dialogue with
the security director and blamed the occasional arrest during
demonstrations on a few racist police officers. One official
stated that Batman was &more democratic than Diyarbakir or
Siirt8. In contrast, on March 9, near Batman (on a road
traveled by consulate vehicle on February 25) two jandarma
were killed when a remotely controlled land mine was
exploded, reportedly by PKK militants.


15. (SBU) In, Nusaybin, local administration showed genuine
efforts to embrace diversity and promote conflict prevention.
The subgovernor stated that in the recent year, residents
had become more likely to declare themselves Turkish
citizens, no matter what their ethnic background. Nusaybin
is a diverse community of Christians, Muslims, Kurds and
Arabs. Sociologists from Dokuz Eylul University had been
invited to study the area to improve the cooperation of the
various groups. The subgovernor had also made contacts in
Europe with groups of Christian and Jewish former residents
to encourage them to return to Nusaybin. Overall, the
atmosphere remains calm in Nusaybin, however, on February 13,
there was a clash between security forces and the militant
group, People,s Defense Force (HPG). One militant was
reported killed. The Nusaybin subgovernor,s office
confirmed the report.


INCENTIVE LAW, IRAQ TRADE SEEN AS UNLIKELY TO HELP ECONOMY


16. (SBU) Diyarbakir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI)
President Kutbettin Arzu praised the new tax incentive law,
but stated that the inclusion of western cities as
beneficiaries would negate any positive effect for the cities
in the southeast (REF D). Mardin CCI President Faruk
Ugurgel reported that the used industrial capacity in Mardin
increased from 10-50% in the last year, but that there will
be no new job creation until it reaches 100%. Some trade is
being done with Iraq, according to Ugurgel, but profit
margins on general goods such as foodstuffs and water, are
being impacted by the $100-300/truck levy being collected on
the Iraqi side of the Habur gate.


17. (SBU) Ugurgel confirmed that the operation of the gate
was seriously degraded from prewar throughput. According to
Ugurgel, prewar rate was 5000 trucks/day, now down to 1500
trucks/day, with an average wait of 10 days to clear the
gate. Chamber members, he stated, would like to see a second
gate at Nusaybin handling trucks to Iraq through Syria.
Ugurgel explained that it would speed things up, and of
course, a Nusaybin gate would be close to Mardin (also the
closest free zone to Syria). The Mardin CCI President
believed that this would facilitate trade with Iraq and
Syria. When consulate personnel met with CCI officials in
Diyarbakir, Mardin and Sanliurfa, all complained of a general
lack of information on doing business with the CPA or in
Iraq. The CCI officials didn,t expect to profit from trade
with Iraq when they couldn,t understand the contracting
process.


18. (SBU) Consulate personnel met with Diyarbakir Grameen
Microcredit Project Director Abdul Matin. Matin reported no
problems with managing or funding the project. He expected
further funding to be forthcoming from the Soros Foundation
in the near future. The project consists of groups of 8-10
recipients, each of whom receives a small loan (about 500
million Turkish lira) and is required to pay it back in a
specified time. Matin reported a 99% repayment success.
Mostly the beneficiaries are buying and selling small market
goods, but some have formed cooperatives and made larger
investments, such as a washing machine. The only negative
feedback that consulate personnel received was from a NGO
director, who expressed concern over the project,s political
support from an AK party parliamentarian.


19. (SBU) The most visible signs of economic prosperity were
in Batman and Sanliurfa. In Batman, consulate personnel
noted an unusual number of Ankara (6) and Istanbul (34)
plates. It is common for the elite of a southeastern city to
register their cars in Ankara or Istanbul and maintain
residences there as well. To have an Istanbul or Ankara
license plate is considered a status symbol. Incumbent DEHAP
Mayor Huseyin Kalkan reported the unemployment at 17%. The
mayor described a 39 million Euro loan from a German bank for
infrastructure improvements. Of the 39 million Euro total,
20 million was to be a grant and 19 million a long term loan.
Kalkan complained the Treasury Department was delaying the
project by refusing to cosign on the loan.


20. (SBU) In Sanliurfa, the CCI office was extremely
well-appointed and the CCI President asserted that in
southeast Turkey, Sanliurfa was probably one of the most
successful cities. CCI President Ismail Demirkol noted the
superhighway planned from Gaziantep to Sanliurfa and road
widening from Mardin to Urfa. Demirkol also stated that the
Sanliurfa cargo airport is 70% complete.


21. (U) However, the current road from Mardin to Gaziantep is
easily the worst major highway consulate personnel travel on
in the region, used by a large number of heavily loaded
vehicles, most of them on the way to Habur Gate. There are
overturned fuel trucks every few kilometers and the ditches
along the highway are filled with spilled petroleum products
not water.
EDELMAN

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