EU accession offers the Kurds a crucial and unprecedented opportunity to finally shake off Turkish oppression, end the cycle of violence and vilification to which they have been subject for so many years and live freely as Kurds within the borders of their home state.
This prospect, though, can only be achieved if it becomes the mutual aim of Turkey, the Kurds and the EU.
For the EU to ensure that Turkey genuinely tackles the substantial outstanding impediments to democratization, it is imperative that the Union deals openly and robustly with the situation of the Kurds.
Europe has a historical responsibility towards the Kurds, and is politically and morally obliged to facilitate a just and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. European states did, after all, build the foundations of the current situation in the Kurdish regions by failing to uphold an independent Kurdistan in the wake of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
Developments since Europe washed its hands of the Kurds in the 1920s further compel the view that responsibility for ameliorating the Situation of the Kurds must be placed firmly at Europe’s door.
Europe has failed substantially to issue any real condemnation of Turkey’s policies towards the Kurds, despite the fact that for many years a brutal armed conflict accompanied by a high incidence of torture was occurring on her doorstep.
This stems to a significant extent from European conceptions of the Turkish regime as a Western ally, a NATO member and a prospective EU partner. The Kurds in Turkey are seen in Europe through Ankara’s eyes, frequently portrayed in the press and elsewhere as violent terrorists engaged in an illegal Separatist campaign.
Far from calling Turkey to account for her treatment of the Kurds, Europe has provided the raw materials for her anti-Kurdish military operations in the form of assisting Turkey to develop a formidable arms industry and supplying weapons often for free or at greatly reduced cost.
Two reports (1) in the 1990s highlighted that specific weapons Systems supplied by EU member states and used in Turkey were linked to individual incidents of Turkish violations.
Such equipment was found to have been used to carry out village evacuations, indiscriminate fire, torture, and summary executions.
To give an example about the aggressive role of a leading EU Country, Germany, towards the Kurds:
Germany was the most significant arms dealer which Ankara enjoyed. The largest quantity of arms which was exported by Germany after the 2nd World went to Turkey: (2) most of the stuff was given "free of charge". Turkey’s 3,000-man anti-terror unit against the Kurds, the "Black Beetles", known for its killer mentality, was trained by the Germany’s own anti-terrorist elite, the GSG-9. (3) Turkey has been the largest customer of the world’s fourth largest arms exporter, Germany. Arms exports from Germany to Turkey totalled 6.3 billion DM from 1964-94. The so called "NATO defence aid" which Turkey receives, enough to equip an entire army, wasvirtually free. (4) In addition to the deal for 68 Million DM of arms from 1992-94, a report from the Foreign Ministry has noted that Turkey received an additional 1.5 billion DM in other materials from Germany. This included the free delivery of former NVA army weapons from the former East Germany Army. (5) The total amount of arms gifts given to Turkey since 1989 makes the real dimension of this transaction clear: Here are just a few examples: 30 fighter jets, 170 Leopard-1 battle tanks, 300 BTR-60PB (East German) armoured tanks, 537 M-113 armoured tanks, 1,000 air-to-air rockets, 5,000 tank shells, RPG-7s (East German) with 200,000 grenades, more than 300,000 Kalaschnikov machine pistols (East German), and175,000 gas masks. (6) On the other hand: "private" deals between German multi-national arms corporations like Siemens, the Daimler-Benz company, AEG, Dornier, MBB, MTU, and others, deals which are easier to hide from the public, continue. Dornier delivered Stinger air defence systems, DASA sold Phantom fighter jets. The Leopard-1 tanks were specially fitted for Turkey by the Kraus-Maffai corporation. German grenades fired from Leopard-1 tanks were discovered after the destruction of the Kurdish city of Sirnak in mid-August 1992. (7) The ca. 40,000 so-called "village guards", instruments in the hands of the Turkish "security forces", are usually armed with G3 guns made by the firm Heckler & Koch. The 300,000 Kalaschnikov machine pistols from East German ressources found their way into the hands of the secret police and the "special teams". (8) During his visit to Turkey in July 1993, the Bundeswehr’s General Inspector Klaus Naumann, after meetings with Turkish Chief of Staff Dogan Gures and Defence Minister Nevzat Ayaz, stated that the use of German weapons in Kurdistan was "fully legitimate given the present conditions". (9)
Without the political, economic, and military support of leading EU Country Germany, Turkey would not have been able to carry out its crimes against the Kurds.
The EU, as the political body of Europe, has a legal responsibility to address the Kurdish Situation.
Most obviously this is because Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds continues to defy the political elements of the Copenhagen Criteria, that is the protection of human and minority rights, the fulfilment of which is a prerequisite to the opening of formal EU accession negotiations.
If the Kurdish issue is not addressed, the EU will pass over an unparalleled opportunity to bring lasting peace to the southeast and implicitly legitimize Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds, as well as sidelining what must, in the broader context of the need to overcome chauvinistic Sentiments of ethnic nationalism within Turkey, be regarded as a touchstone issue in the accession process.
Signs from the EU over the past 4 – 5 years do not offer the perspective of a constructive approach to the situation of the Kurds in the accession procedure.
The role of Europe will only be successful and constructive if it recognizes the need for open dialogue and discussions that addresses the roots of the present conflict which is the nature of Turkey and its relations with the 15 Mio. Kurds, and ensures that this becomes a formal part of the accession agendas.
(1) Report "Deutscher Waffenstransfer, Evangelische Kirche (Official Report Protestant Church), page 15 – 18, 1990. See also: BITS Institute on Arms Transfer, Berlin, March 1990.
(2) SIPRI, London, General Report on Arms Transfer, May 1990.
(3) DER SPIEGEL, 5/1991, Seite 124, GSG 9 in Turkey.
(4) DER STERN, Hans Leyendecker, Research on Transfer of fromer NVA-
East German) Army equipment to Turkey, No. 21, 1992.
(5) DER STERN, aao.
(6) Report "Deutscher Waffentransfer", aao. S. 22.
(7) BUKO, German Arms Industries – Turkey & the Kurdish Problem,
No. 34, 1994, Seiten 22.
(8) Medico International, Fact finding mission, März 1995.
(9) FAZ, Interview, July 1993, S. 7
Hans Branscheidt is co-editor of the leading German Magazine for development policy "Weltsichten". Branscheidt is Psychologist – Former Director of medico International Frankfurt.
E-mail: [email protected]