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Kurdish press ban deepens conflict

KURDISH rebels have banned all reporting in a swath of south-eastern Turkey, from today.

'The international press is also forbidden because of its silence in the face of the dirty war being led by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people,' said Cemil Bayik, commander of the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Rebel officials also quoted by the German-based Kurdistan News Agency said the ban would last until the 'democratic conditions for a free press were secured'.

Such conditions certainly do not exist now. If truth was ever alive in the nine-year-old Kurdish revolt, it was buried along with at least 7,400 soldiers, guerrillas and civilians killed so far.

The ban will undoubtedly widen the gulf of misunderstanding between Turks and Kurds that is blocking the resolution of their worsening armed conflict. It follows a recent 'briefing' by the Turkish armed forces, in which editors and columnists of Istanbul newspapers were encouraged to be yet more pro-Turkish in their reporting of Turkish victories and Kurdish defeats.

The rebels' response came at the weekend when two armed guerrillas went to the South-East Journalists' Association in Diyarbakir, the centre of Turkish emergency rule of the southeast, picked up Turkish newspaper representatives and conducted them to a guerrilla camp. They were told this was a 'pilot project', but no reporters intended to test the ban. Promises of protection by the local authorities were scornfully dismissed. 'We will be closed. Everybody will be. And anybody who can has left the region,' said a correspondent for the biggest-selling Turkish daily, Milliyet.

Turkish misunderstandings about the conflict have been one of the most unfortunate aspects of a war increasingly pitting Turkey's 12 million Kurds, one in five of the population, against the Turkish majority. Fighting and propaganda have drowned out the voice most Kurds, who probably still want only some respect for their identity and to live in peace and economic union with the rest of Turkey.