Letter: Let Britain defend the Kurds- not turn a blind eye to killing

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From Ms Heather Clarke

Sir: Last month Turkey entered into a customs union with the EU on the understanding it would improve its human rights record, particularly in relation to the Kurdish minority. Within a day of the customs union being signed, the Turkish Foreign Minister threatened to integrate the Turkish republic of northern Cyprus into the state of Turkey. Last week Turkish police shot dead 28 members of the non-conformist Alevi sect.

Now 35,000 Turkish troops have violated the "safe havens" set up after the Gulf war to protect Kurds from Saddam Hussein. News agencies report that two villages have suffered aerial bombardment and 4,500 refugees have been forced across the border to Turkish police stations.

I visited the Haftanin refuge camps in northern Iraq in August last year. Ali, a Kurd from Sirnak told me, "It took me a week to walk here. My wife and children are lost. We hoped to escape but Turkey follows us, and we're still in fear of our lives."

The UN protected "safe havens" were the much heralded initiative of John Major, who was responding to public pressure when thousands of Kurds were allowed to die in the aftermath of the Gulf war. This time there may be no TV coverage - Turkey has banned journalists from the area, but we must not abandon the Kurds. It is an outrage that Turkey, a Nato ally and a member of the Council of Europe has violated international law and abducted UNHCR-recognised refugees. Britain must again take the lead to defend the Kurdish people.



London, W1

21 March