Cablegate: Pkk Terror Violence Causes High Anxiety

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




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Representatives of non-governmental
organizations in southeastern Turkey recently told DPO that the
region's human rights situation has been steadily improving over
the past five years. Human rights workers' anxiety is
increasing, however, with every new clash between PKK/Kongra-Gel
terrorists and government security forces. While contacts are
not ready to say that the government's "old measures" for
combating the PKK are coming back, even the most optimistic
observers fear that in the coming months, the public will be
caught in the middle of overzealous security forces and a terror
group that has proved its ruthlessness. Many interlocutors
claim that public support for the PKK terrorists is low, even
among rank and file members of the pro-Kurdish DEHAP party, but
that despite anti-violence dialogue within the Kurdish
community, fear of PKK reprisals prevents public criticism for
now. Meanwhile, a government official in Diyarbakir stated that
he understood undertaking anti-PKK actions in Iraq would put the
U.S. in a difficult spot, but it is "impossible to explain that
to a large segment of the population," he said. End Summary.

PKK iolenc Ceaes Anxiety

2 (SU "A month ago," said one iyabair umn Rghs
Association (HRA) member, "I would have stressed he positive
more than the negative in discussingreforms and
implementation." But with the PKK/Kngra-Gel's abandonment of
its ceasefire, contactsin southeast Turkey assert, anyone who
takes a sand against anything now will now be labeled PKK, nd
the security forces will use the attacks as apretext to crack
down. While not ready to say yt that all the "old measures"
are coming back, clarly anxiety is rising among generally
hopeful oservers in southeast Turkey. Diyarbakir lawyers
stated tat t
man pobem they are currently sein reates
to access to lawyers for suspected PK emers henfailis
of terror-related suspets reuest asitane,the Bar responds
by approchig the Securiy Diretor. They report being
outinely told that the suspect in question has notrequested a
lawyer, but officials produce no siged document to that effect
from the suspect. Latr, in court, claim the Bar members,
suspects indcate that they had wanted a lawyer.

No One Wats the Violence to Return

3. (SBU) "This violence is affeting us all now," said one
Diyarbakir lawyer, as ttacks are no longer limited to rural
areas. Hehad recently planned a trip to Tunceli to get away
but cancelled it after hearing there was a secuity operation
being conducted in the area. "I ws thinking of my kids," he
said, and he didn't want them to be exposed to checkpoints.
Contacts insist that no one wants the violence back. Villagers
are put in the worst no-win situation, contacts say: first they
will be extorted by the PKK and if they refuse, they'll be
beaten; then the army will accuse them of aiding and abetting
the terrorists, they say.

4. (SBU) A private businessman agreed that sympathy for the PKK
among the population had decreased. He recently had visited a
previously pro-PKK village to pay his respects to the family of
an elderly person who had passed away. During the visit, he
tentatively brought up his anger about the PKK's abandonment of
its ceasefire, expecting an argument. The villagers agreed
openly, he said, and were more vigorous in their disapproval
than he was. Dialogue about the need to speak out against
violence is happening, even among DEHAP members, according to
contacts, but people feel it is too dangerous to go public. A
member of the Tunceli Bar said that "even sympathizers in
circles close to the organization [PKK] say this is not to their
benefit and will damage them." He claims that rank and file
members of human rights NGOs and DEHAP, for example, are
moderate even if their leaders appear "rigid." It is impossible
to show a reaction to the violence, though, as the PKK would
show its "counter-reaction," he said.

5. (SBU) One Tunceli businessman opined that the politicians
(referring to DEHAP) had to move first on publicly denouncing
violence. Another in Diyarbakir apparently agreed, saying that
he had visited Diyarbakir's Mayor Baydemir recently to express
his disapproval of the mayor's recent condolence visit to the
family of a suspected PKK militant. Businessmen in Diyarbakir
had been putting together an anti-violence statement recently,
he added, but scrapped it when the Governor called them in and
asked them to do it. In the wake of that request they decided
timing wasn't right and the statement would not be perceived as

Deputy Governor: Attacks not "serious"

6. (SBU) Unlike NGO contacts, the Deputy Governor of Diyarbakir
was skeptical that the renewed violence would have any impact.
The situation is different now, he said. Five hundred militants
at a time could enter previously, and the PKK used to receive
more support from Europe and the drug trade. Today, he said,
the U.S. is in Iraq and understands security differently, and
overall support for the PKK is down (Note: He did not provide
detailed information to back up that assertion. End note).
Only small groups are coming in and staging ambushes and
harassment attacks to cause problems, he said. Before, the PKK
killed "50 people at a time," he said, adding that the current
activity did not represent "serious" attacks.
Timing of Ceasefire Abandonment "Very Strange"
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) With the slow but steady progress acknowledged by so
many human rights activists in the Southeast, and demands for
additional progress flowing reasonably well through democratic
dialogue and courtrooms, why the PKK would decide to abandon its
ceasefire at this time baffled all interlocutors. The timing is
"very strange and meaningless," they said, unless there is truth
to conspiracy theories about forces from both sides conspiring
to spoil Turkey's chances for EU accession. This argument
posits that in addition to dampening the EU's enthusiasm for
giving a date, a return to chaos and violence in the region
materially benefits no small number of people. As a brief
example, one contact said, certain individuals gain from having
jandarma checkpoints in place: if you have a restaurant or even
sell gum by a checkpoint, it adds up to income. This is just
one small example, he said, compared to the organized crime
activity that can flourish when freedom of movement is
restricted for security reasons. The violence of past years had
largely ended because the PKK had given up terrorism, claimed
one lawyer. He added that when Abdullah Ocalan said to resume
the "war", it was resumed, and he wondered whether or not Ocalan
could get messages out of prison if they were not "approved" by
the state. "I'm not a conspiracy type, but this is too
strange," he said.

Impact on Public Opinion about the U.S.

8. (SBU) According to non-governmental contacts, the recent
increase in violence in the region is not having an effect on
public opinion about the U.S. in southeast Turkey. "Any
thinking person knows that this violence does not benefit the
United States," said one Diyarbakir lawyer. He claimed that
Abdullah Ocalan and the Turkish media are trying to foment the
idea that the U.S. supports the recent up-tick in violence.
Another human rights activists averred that most in Turkey's
Kurdish community understand that the "Kurdish issue" can't be
solved the same way in Turkey as it may be in Iraq. "In Turkey
this must be solved in framework of democracy, and we expect you
to push Turkey in this direction," he said.

9. (SBU) The Deputy Governor of Diyarbakir had a slightly
different take. He diplomatically recalled that there has been
great support in Turkey for the United States since 1945, and
that our support especially vis-a-vis the Soviet Union pre-1980
was especially appreciated. However four to five thousand PKK
militants are nested in Iraq, he said, and they'll take actions
according to U.S. posture. There are U.S. armed forces 100
kilometers from Turkey's border, he continued, and though Turkey
sees the resistance U.S. troops are facing, and understands that
anti-PKK operations would put the U.S. in a difficult position,
"it is impossible to explain that to a large segment of the
population, so the PKK must be taken under control."

10. (SBU) Comment: Some of the reforms enacted during the EU
harmonization process in Turkey have taken hold, and will be
difficult to turn back under any circumstances. Others,
however, are more fragile and will be tested as the GOT
implements its response to violent attacks by PKK terrorists.
The Diyarbakir Bar's assertion that some terror suspects are
being denied immediate access to a lawyer, for example, are
worrying. Human rights activists are watching security forces'
response to PKK violence carefully, and will vociferously
denounce actions perceived as disproportionate to the threat.
It is, however, uncertain that southeast Turkey's Kurdish
population would overcome the traditional barriers to public
voicing of criticisms of PKK terror.


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