Cablegate: Increasing Unrest in Se Turkey

Published: Fri 7 Feb 2003 01:00 PM
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: Imprisoned PKK/KADEK leader
Abdullah Ocalan has been denied access to lawyers
and family by the GOT since November 2002. In
SE Turkey, reaction against this enforced
isolation has been angry. There have been
demonstrations, hunger strikes, and Molotov-
cocktail threats. Kurdish interlocutors believe
the prolongation of Ocalan's isolation has the
potential to set off a new wave of violence.
Within the past three weeks, perhaps
coincidentally, there have been two armed clashes
between GOT security forces and the PKK. End
Ocalan's Isolation Provokes Increased Tension
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ::::
2. (U) Press reports -not denied by the GOT -
indicate imprisoned PKK/KADEK leader Abdullah
Ocalan has not met with his lawyers or family
members since November 2002. The GOT has
offered the explanation that inclement weather
has prevented boats from reaching Imrali Island
in the Sea of Marmara, where Ocalan has been
incarcerated ever since his capture in 1999.
This explanation is widely dismissed as bogus by
Kurdish representatives.
3. (U) Starting in December 2002, anger about
the enforced isolation of Ocalan has been
bubbling up in SE Turkey. We have reports from
press and consular contacts of nearly 50
demonstrations or other incidents since December
8. They have included public rallies, marches,
slogan-chanting, proclamations, bonfires and
tire-burnings, roadblocks, and hunger strikes.
The venues have been all over the SE: Diyarbakir,
Batman, Siirt, Saniurfa, Van, Bingol, Mersin,
Adana, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Agri, and Mardin.
Police, in some cases using truncheons and
armored personnel-carriers, have made numerous
arrests, including students and DEHAP members.
In at least one case, police claimed to have
found Molotov-cocktails that were being readied
for use. In some of the demonstrations, protest
against a possible U.S. strike against Iraq has
been mingled with the call for an end to Ocalan's
Tanks Return to the Streets
4. (SBU) In recent travel in the Consular
district, both Poleconoff and Principal Officer
heard simmering rage from Kurdish interlocutors
about the continued isolation of Ocalan. More
than one interlocutor remarked the situation even
had the potential to trigger armed attacks by
PKK/KADEK elements. In the city of Diyarbakir,
at the end of January, Principal Officer observed
the armored personnel-carriers and tanks moving
about and learned that some sections of the city
had been cordoned off for security purposes. The
security presence was the more visible than at
any time she could recall over the past two
GOT-PKK Armed Clashes Escalate
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5. (SBU) It is worth noting that the anger over
Ocalan's isolation has coincided with two GOT-PKK
armed clashes within the past three weeks. The
first, near Lice in Diyarbakir Province, took
place on January 16; the second, on January 27 in
Idol in Sirnak province. In the Lice skirmish,
one Turkish soldier and an unspecified number of
PKK fighters were killed. In Idol, press reports
indicate the PKK forces started the engagement,
which left one Turkish soldier dead. If so,
this would represent the first time in a long
while that the PKK has mounted an offnsie
6. (SBU) Consulate contacts in the Kurdish
community agrees that the temperature seems t be
risng Te iyarbakir B
Asocatin resdet
tld s hatKuds in prpoteousth GO
explaation hat Oclan ha been nable o
reciv viit frm amiy embrs or lawyers for
the past nine weksbeause of "weather". He
opined that some elements could perceive Ocalan's
isolation as a provocation to incite violence and
thereby provide a pretext for the GOT to hit back
hard. A DEHAP member from Sirnak offered us the
view that ordinary people find it very hard to
see Ocalan's enforced isolation as anything other
than a violation of his human rights. (Note:
Amnesty International has now spoken out against
Ocalan's isolation, too. End note.) A human
rights contact of ours said that Ocalan's health
was a matter of genuine concern - if Ocalan were
to fall seriously ill or die in custody, it would
be easy to imagine a renewal of suicide bomb
attacks, as occurred shortly after Ocalan's
arrest in Kenya. A former president of the
Batman Bar Association emphasized that if the
GOT, in denying Ocalan access to his lawyers and
family members, is seen to be reneging on its
promise to uphold Copenhagen Criteria and EU
norms, it will dash many hopes in the region.
7. (SBU) Comment: Whatever the real reason
PKK/KADEK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been denied
access to visitors since November 2002, our
contacts blame the GOT for renewed anger and
tension and tanks in the streets. End Comment.
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