Letter: Turkish responsibility for Kurdish fears

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The Independent Online
Sir: Following your report 'Talks may end Kurdish war' (3 April) of the ceasefire announced by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Kurdish area of Turkey, we are writing to draw attention to the urgent necessity for a constructive response from the Turkish government. It is now acknowledged on all sides that the ceasefire has held since 20 March and the PKK has recently extended it without limit of time at a press conference.

It is unfortunate that the Turkish government has as yet made no response to the call for a ceasefire and that state forces killed a number of people during the initial month. The death of President Turgut Ozal last Saturday removes from the scene the member of the Turkish government who was perhaps the most inclined to recognise Kurdish democratic rigthts. The Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel, has consistently refused to acknowledge any form of Kurdish political representation and has supported the desire of the army to crush the Kurdish people by force.

Eleven to 12 million Kurdish people live in Turkey. The Kurdish area of Turkey in the south-east is under emergency rule, with articles in the criminal law that make any expression of Kurdish political aspirations a criminal offence. The Kurdish political party, the HEP (People's Labour Party), has been taken to court by the government in an attempt to ban it and its officials are being systematically killed.

Last week Davut Yalcinkaya, chairman of the HEP in Kiziltepe, became the 46th HEP official to be assassinated. Assassinations of human rights activists and Kurdish journalists (nine in the last year) are being carried out by persons rumoured to be linked to the security forces. No action has been taken to prevent the assassinations. The Kurdish people live in a real atmosphere of fear, surrounded by armed troops, giving the whole area the atmosphere of a country under military occupation.

The best hope for the continuation of the ceasefire is that effective pressure can be brought to bear on the Turkish government, and we urge the British government, which has strong trading and other links with the Turkish government, to ensure that this international pressure occurs speedily.

Yours faithfully

LOUISE CHRISTIAN, HAROLD PINTER, MICHAEL FEENEY, BRUCE KENT, PETER HAIN MP, PIARA KHABRA MP, JEREMY LANDOR, FRANCES d'SOUZA

London, N4

23 April

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