Turks 'winning', but warned over Kurd rights: Military success alone cannot end nine years of insurgency, writes Hugh Pope in Istanbul, but the colonels are determined to fight on

TURKEY may at last be winning its Kurdish conflict on the military front, diplomats say, as a result of massive operations in south-east Turkey and northern Iraq, tying down more than 300,000 Turkish troops and militiamen.

But diplomats and some influential Turks are warning that military success alone cannot end nine years of crippling insurgency. The key, they say, is a substantial recognition of Kurdish rights. The increasingly nationalist Turkish establishment has so far proved unable to take that step.

'Getting in is much easier than getting out,' warned one Western diplomat. 'We've seen all this in Algeria and Vietnam but the Turks think such parallels just do not apply to them,' said another.

A Turkish spokesman said yesterday that 103 Turkish Kurdish guerrillas and six Turkish soldiers had been killed since several thousand Turkish troops crossed into a remote mountain area of northern Iraq on 12 April. Operations were continuing there on a front nine miles deep and 15 miles wide, as well as in two war zones inside south-eastern Turkey, he added.

'We are determined to remove all threats from the region. We'll continue for as long as it takes,' said Colonel Dogu Silahcioglu, a spokesman for the Turkish army. Turkish newspapers have raised the possibility of a 10-mile deep security zone all along the border inside northern Iraq, from which guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party have been infiltrating Turkey.

One Western intelligence expert said the Turkish troop build-up has forced thousands of an estimated 10,000 guerrillas to flee to anti- Turkish countries such as Armenia and Greece, or to remote areas of Iran and northern Iraq. 'The guerrillas have got their backs to the wall,' he said.

Turkish experts believe new appeals for peace and talks by the Kurdish guerrilla leader, Abdullah Ocalan, reflect this weakness. Mr Ocalan told the newspaper Ozgur Gundem he was only fighting for more Kurdish rights, not for an independent state for the 12 million ethnic Kurds of Turkey or the 20 million Kurds of the Middle East.

The Turkish general staff apparently believes that Turgut Ozal, the late Turkish leader, made a serious mistake in sponsoring a March 1993 cease-fire, which saved the guerrillas from a planned offensive. Many officers believe that the local population must simply be made to fear the army more than they fear Mr Ocalan's guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The President, Suleyman Demirel, has made ambiguous hints of constitutional compromise. The Social Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, are trying to link long-promised Kurdish liberalisation to economic reforms. But the position of the Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, is weak, and she seems unable to think differently from the military.

Not everybody is hard line. Some influential Turks think it is time to move on from the blanket denial of the Kurdish identity, started by the country's founder, Kemal Ataturk, after the first modern Kurdish revolt in 1925.

'The whole military initiative has passed into military hands,' said Gungor Mengi, the chief commentator of the newspaper Sabah. 'To make this victory permanent we must accept the Kurdish identity. This is the only way to isolate terror from the people'. Amnesty International is concerned about the fate of Kurdish activists. It cited a case on 9 April of two men in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, ordered to be released from police custody by a court. Instead they were found shot dead in a field four days later.

Western powers have soft-pedalled their criticism because of Turkey's parlous finances and a perceived role as a Western ally in a tough neighbourhood, threatened by Russian ambitions and Islamic fundamentalists. That may not last for ever. 'I find many of my Turkish friends extraordinarily complacent about human rights abuses', Michael Lake, the representative of the European Commission, said.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker