2001 Internal Displacement
There was no major progress in 2001 on solutions to the problem of internal displacement. This practice based on the governmental decree No. 285 establishing a state of emergency (OHAL) on 10 July 1987 evolved since the mid-1980s from the violence around the Kurdish issue and developed into a form of mass movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) reaching its peak between 1993-1997.
PKKKurdish Workers' Party ’s unilateral cease-fire declared in August 1999 and the ensuing decrease in the events of armed conflict in the region brought along a major drop in eviction and burning of villages during the last two years in the OHAL region. However, since the political understanding that created the practices leading to forced displacement remained in place opportunities to thoroughly discuss the problem and to develop lasting solutions to the damages were not taken up. Repression against those IDPs, who wanted to return to their villages, continued in 2001. The authorities continued to ignore heavy problems of more than three million IDPs. Like before official sources presented the projects called “Village-Town” or “Central Village” to the public as if they were the only solution to the problem. These projects have begun to be implemented, as a product of official ideology instead of reconstructing social peace and security, without considering the needs and wills of the displaced people. All criticisms and alternative solutions developed for such projects by both the victims of displacement and some non-governmental organizations were overlooked.
Although the village-guard system was brought to the agenda in the 90s as one of the main reasons of forced displacement, no efforts were taken to abolish the system.
Return to villages happened in scattered form rather than a mass movement, in spite of the rise in hopes that sustainable living conditions might be created for the people forcefully displaced, who wanted to go back to their villages because of the decrease in armed clashes in the region and the fact that in some areas the food embargo and bans on seasonal migration to mountain pasturelands were lifted. It was observed that village-guards and other security personnel subjected people, who wanted to return to where they lived before, to pressure and arbitrary practices.
Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit said on 27 December 2000 that to him the most interesting part of 2001 would be the village-town projects and that he wanted to do most on expanding the village-towns. On 28 May Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit gave an account of the first two years of the 57th government. He claimed that progress had been made on the village-town project as well as on building central villages. Security and productivity in agriculture and stock farming had increased in the region. He also stated that closed pasturelands for stock farming had speedily been re-opened. However, there was no further official information regarding the whereabouts and names of these pasturelands apart from the ones provided by the Bitlis Governor Uğur Boran in early April and Van Governor Durmuş Koç in July.
State of Emergency Region Governor Gökhan Aydıner made a statement on 27 April asserting that during the last ten months 16 thousand people of 2,480 households had been assisted in their return to villages in the framework of the “Back to Village Project” and that among these people those, who lacked the economic means for returning received financial aid from the Office of the Governor. Aydıner said that people should not expect the state to give houses to those who return their villages.
Aydıner furthermore claimed that a total of 5,800 houses were constructed between 1993 and 1994 and given to those who had migrated from their villages to the urban areas; and that the construction of 1,304 houses had started in 2000 with the funds of the Ministry of Interior; and that the construction of 657 of them had already been completed. He added that the construction of 647 houses was about to be completed.
In a ceremony on the ‘Return to Villages’ and ‘Activities in Support of Social Development’ held in Şaklak village in Kocaköy district (Diyarbakır) on 7 August in collaboration of OHAL Governor, Diyarbakır Governor, Command of the 7th Army Corps and Police HQ, Gökhan Aydıner stated that the Ministry of Interior budgeted TL 3,2 trillion for the ‘Return to Villages Project.’ He added that the construction of 5,853 houses had been completed and for that reason 18,600 people had already returned to their villages as of 7 August 2001. Until this date, he stated, the number of returned villagers in Diyarbakır province had reached 3,000. During the month of July, 900 people made their return in Diyarbakır province, he added.
During his visit to Tunceli Governor, Nami Cağan, Minister of Forests and Agriculture, said that his ministry provides credits to people who wants to return to their home village, and for example had already provided credit worth of TL 50 billion for Geyiksu village in Tunceli province and 15 sheep had been donated to each household in the village.
On 4 June a meeting took place at Bitlis Gendarmerie Headquarters. Besides the OHAL Governor governors, industrialists, and tradesmen of Ağrı, Bingöl, Bitlis, Hakkari, Muş, Siirt and Van provinces participated and discussed forced migration and the return to the villages. The meeting was opened and chaired by former Minister of Internal Affairs, Sadettin Tantan. In his opening speech, State Minister Edip Safter Gaydalı said that throughout the year, 16 thousand people applied to the authorities to return to their villages and he continued: “Because of the migration from the region to provinces in the west some small cities developed around Istanbul and other big cities. Therefore we couldn’t urbanize the State of Emergency Region, but ruralized the metropolitan areas. In order to reduce problems of the region we have to recover. There may be malicious persons among people who want to return and there are people who truly want to return their villages. But on the other hand, there are some people, who think to take the aid and go back to the big cities.”
Places opened to settlement
Villages opened within the Village-Town Project
In Çatak district of Van province a central village with the name of Konalga was built in 1999 and finished towards the end of the year. It remained empty for several months until village guards moved in. According to information received from Göç-Der the inhabitants tried to sell the houses for extremely high prices in less than one year after they moved in to villagers who wanted to return.
Bayraklı Village-Town in Eruh district of Siirt was built in 2000. Starting from September more than 100 families settled in Bayraklı.
Şırnak Governor Hüseyin Başkaya said that although 106 families had applied to return to Başağaç Village-Town, three months after its completion only 13 families had moved in. The Governor added that those who moved in were quite satisfied with their new houses.
On 20 November 86 houses that were built in Ovacık district of Tunceli in the framework of the “Village-Town Project” were handed over to their owners. During the hand-over ceremony, Tunceli Governor Mustafa Erkal said, “the aim was to help villagers, who had suffered from terrorism and poverty.”
Regarding the Village-Towns (Central Villages) opened for settlement in April Şefika Gürbüz, Chairwoman of the Migrants Association for Social Cooperation and Culture (Göç-Der) said: “Nobody was satisfied with the situation including the village guards, who were placed in the villages that had been constructed according to the “Return to Village Project. It is compulsory to stay in those villages for 20 years once you accept to settle there. The villagers have to pay for construction expenses. If they refuse to pay this amount, they are taken to court. For example, in Konalga village of Van’s Çatak district, the residents of the village were ordered by court to pay TL 4 billion. The residents of the village are village guards. The village-guards want to return to their native villages, too. 50 villagers in Van applied to us after they had been referred to court, but they had to withdraw their applications as a result of the pressures inflicted upon them.”
In the written rejoinder to the parliamentary question posed by the Deputy of Diyarbakır from the Motherland Party (ANAP), Sebgetullah Seydaoğlu on 23 November, it was stated that during the last 17 months 30,224 persons out of 5,373 households returned to 318 villages and 144 hamlets. From 25 provinces in Southern and Southeastern Anatolia, people had migrated from 1,195 villages and 2,260 hamlets. The answer signed by the Minister of the Interior, Rüştü Kazım Yücelen, recorded the following about the state of construction of villages:
“There are differing programs and methods under way to facilitate the return to villages.
- Return to central villages constructed within a program:
The infrastructure of these villages is provided by the State, the construction of the houses is realized with funds provided by the State.
As of 31 August 2001, there are 50 houses in Diyarbakır İslamköy, 383 houses in Van Kolanga, 68 houses in Şırnak Kaymakamçeşme, 70 houses in Siirt Dağdöşü, 125 houses in Üzümlü and 200 houses in İkiyaka Hakkari, and 40 houses in Bitlis Çalıdüzü under construction.
- 5,853 houses were built in provincial or district centers or much safer areas for the rehabilitation of those migrated during 1993-1994-1995.
- Voluntary returns to those places found to be appropriate to return from a security and economic point of view.
Infrastructure of these types of places is provided by the State. The villagers are responsible for construction or repair activities with material aid from the administration. TL 3 trillion in material aid was distributed [to families who returned voluntarily].”
“There is no practice of ‘granting authorization to return to certain places within a year.’
In 2000 local administrations in consultation with provincial security units determined appropriate places taking social, economic and security concerns into account. Those places that are not allowed to be reconstructed are directed towards Central Village and Centers of Attraction…”
Villages free for return
According to information gathered by the HRFTHuman Rights Foundation of Turkey the following evacuated villages were re-opened for settlement in 2001:
In the circular published in April by Bitlis Governor it is reported that a total of 23 villages were granted permission to return: Ortakapı (Şêtek), Direktaşı (Tito), Karınca (Qênêxder), Aşağı Ölek (Olek a xari), Yukarı Ölek (Olek a juri), Düzkaya (Sizor), Ünaldı (Yako), Ilıca (Germav), Yarönü (Keremum), Oruçlu, Düzcealan (Çorsin), Kavunlu, Çallı (Pertuk), Aspincêr, Kapıkaya (Kurtıyan), Alatoprak (Senasor), Çaygeçit (Çeman a Beğdinan), Kaşıklı (Şêri), Dağören (Nomiş), Koçyiğit, Duyumlu, Köprücük (Ağısto), Yediveren (Kınasor). In the statement of the Governor it was reminded that in 2000 22 villages and 22 hamlets had already been opened for settlement, “83 villages and 124 hamlets were evacuated in Bitlis leaving 27,904 of our citizens migrating to other provinces.”
During the first week of May Tunceli Governor Mustafa Erkal declared that the inhabitants of 29 villages that had been evacuated were given permission to return. The preparations for the return of another 37 villages were underway. Erkal stated that 95 villages and 72 hamlets had been evacuated during the last years, but since the terrorist activities were now under control, the return could be speeded up. He added that the officials were prepared to contribute for the repair of houses and the beginning of farming. He made no statement on which villages would be allowed to return.
It was reported in May that some 80 families from Saklat village in Kocaköy district of Diyarbakır, which had been evacuated in 1992, had returned and started with stockbreeding to make a living. Allegedly the returning villagers did not meet with any repression.
At the beginning of August, Van Governor Durmus Koç said that Sırmalı and Beşbudak villages in Çatak and Gürpinar districts had been opened for settlement. The infrastructure had been established and a total of 600 sheep had been given to the villagers. He argued that the official aid would increase after the end of the economic crisis. Sırmalı and Beşbudak villages, where village guards from the Alan tribe were living, had been evacuated in 1995 on the allegations that the inhabitants supported the PKK. At the beginning of summer 384 families from the Alan tribe consisting of 2,500 people, who had gone to Van, returned to their homes in Beşbudak village and the surrounding hamlets Karyağdı, Çizgili, Bağlıdere, Baltutan, Arkaç, Geçkalmaz and Atabinen. Reportedly they did not receive the promised assistance and had to be content with 80 tents from the Red Crescent.
Preventive acts against village returns
The return to a considerable number of villages in provinces under a state of emergency (Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Tunceli, Hakkari and neighboring provinces) remained prohibited throughout 2001. In many of these places, applications to concerned local administrations and the gendarmerie for a return to the villages were rejected on account of “security concerns.” The return to a few villages for which local administrations had given permission was mostly prevented by the gendarmerie. However, there were some situations where people returned to villages without permission.
In July and August there were allegations that local governors forced the enforced migrants, who wanted to return to their villages, to sign papers. Lawyer Serdar Talay, chairperson of the Diyarbakır branch of Göç-Der, said in July that the villagers were forced to sign statements saying, “I left my village because of terror. I want to return to my village and since there is no more terror I do not ask the authorities for any material assistance.” Mr. Talay called such an act “political cleansing.” Mr. Talay further added, “We do not want the process of return to villages to be accompanied by a violation of rights. At the bottom of each abuse in respect to sustaining the lives of migrants both before and after being forced to migrate lays the Kurdish issue. This situation, which does comply with neither human rights nor the rule of law, should be sorted out in a democratic way. For that reason, the State should make a statement on this situation regarding mistakes in practice. Talay later demanded that such a practice should be abandoned, the state of emergency should be lifted, the area should be cleaned from mines and the enforced migrants should be furnished with all constitutional rights.
Governor of Kulp district of Diyarbakır, İbrahim Akın called on the former inhabitants of Naderan (Alaca) village to return. The village consisting of 450 houses had been evacuated in 1993. The governor asked the villagers to file petitions with the headman of Naderan, Vehbi Başer. Villagers who followed that call later reported that they were forced to sign statements that they would return on their own capacity. Earlier allegations said that the villagers were put under pressure to sign statements that the village “was burnt down by PKK.”
With such practices Turkey tries to deny official responsibility for internal displacement, to evade any material or non-material liability and to block any kind of official assistance for village returns, despite the fact that the ECoHR found her guilty and imposed great sums of compensation for its practice of evacuating villages.
Among the villagers from Naderen who wanted to return, some were reportedly not allowed to return. One of them, Mehmet İlbey said, “When our village had been burnt down, it was declared a ‘forbidden area’. Still, we were pleased, when the governor called us back after the armed conflict stopped. But when we were forced to sign a paper that we would return with our own means, we refrained from lodging an application.” Mr. İlbey argued that this practice was to avoid assistance. He added, “We already are victimized. Our destroyed homes should be mended and we have to be provided with an assistance scheme to start making our living in farming and stockbreeding.”
Göç-Der’s former chairperson, Mahmut Özgür, said in January that people who have not been seeing their villages for years face a scene of destitution in their villages when they return. “They are obliged to establish a new life, must repair their homes and need funds to start stockbreeding again. A compensation scheme should be founded to enable people to start a new beginning. Internal displacement is a problem that deeply affects Turkey's social, political and economic life. If we look deeper, the illegal import of meat can easily be linked to this problem. Before internal displacement, Turkey was exporting meat, but now has to import it.”
Inhabitants from Oymakılıç village in Siirt province examined the conditions for return together with Siirt Governor Nuri Okutan on 14 December. A dispute erupted between the village headman Mahfuz Yılmaz, who wanted the village to be built on his land, and IDPs, who returned to Siirt. Later the village headman and some of his relatives came to Siirt and attacked the IDPs with stones and sticks. One of the injured IDPs, M. Ali Koçak had to be taken to hospital. Adil Beştaş, Hurşit Beştaş, Kazım Beştaş, Ömer Kızgın, Nezir Beştaş and Salih Beştaş were detained.
On 15 January Kozluk Gendarmerie Battalion drove about 10 families, who had returned to Gündüzlü (Zirnaqet) and Kalkancik (Mezraxalke) villages in Kozluk district of Batman, out of the villages. The IDPs later settled in deserted Nawala Emero hamlet, but it is reported that there was an attempt to drive them out of that place as well.
On 17 January Tevfik Baz and Cemal Taş went to the Kozluk Gendarmerie Battalion to apply for authorization to return. It is reported, however, that gendarmes threatened Tevfik Baz and Cemal Taş: “We won’t see you two here again, or else…” Tevfik Baz reported that they had appealed to the governors of Kozluk and Batman twice, but had not received any response. He added: “We cannot make a living in the places we are in. But in our village we have fields, trees and gardens and could live there without any problem.” Baz said that the region reportedly was declared a “forbidden zone” and the other villagers added that they only wanted to return and did not ask anybody for help.
The displaced villagers, who wanted to return to their native village Taşlık of Mardin’s Savur district in April, were once more driven out of the village on the first day of their return. Taşlık village had been evacuated on 17 April 1992. When they went to Taşlık village in April, the villagers were threatened by officers from Savur Gendarmerie Regiment and reportedly asked to “go where they had come from”, if they did not want “bad things to happen.”
On the other side, in May news were spread that Van Governor accommodated 11 families consisting of 450 persons from Ertoş hamlet, who had come to Van but not found shelter, in a barn that belongs to the Veterinary Clinic since 1995. 93 people were staying in 9 rooms of the barn and had difficulties in finding facilities like drinking or otherwise water. The listening to radio or watching of TV was out of question. Following the earthquake of 17 August 1999, little assistance hitherto provided by the Governor was ceased, and this put the community into a very difficult situation to find even bread to eat.
Sivirce Gendarmerie Station prevented 20 members of the Zümrüt family, who had been driven out of Konuklu village in Kulp district of Diyarbakır in 1994, from returning to their homes, although they had been granted permission from the governor. Nesibullah Zümrüt, former headman of the village, had appealed to the Governor of Diyarbakır on 29 December 1998 and received a positive answer. On 2 April, the family attempted to go back, but was prevented by a junior officer at Sivrice Gendarmerie Station. The family made another attempt on 28 July and settled in the village. Later the elder brother Yusuf Zümrüt was called to the gendarmerie station and told that they had been informed not to return. The family went back to Diyarbakır and on 1 August received a second permission from the deputy governor. This time another junior officer named Menaf told them that the gendarmerie did not care about what the governor said and that everybody had to behave according to their orders. Nesibullah Zümrüt went to the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (HRAHuman Rights Association ) and complained that they were unable to look after their crops and gardens. He also filed an official complaint against the commander of Sivrice Gendarmerie Station with the office of the public prosecutor.
The Taşkın family composed of 9 persons was left without their basic needs after returning to their home village, Salasor (Alatoprak) in Mutki district of Bitlis that was evacuated in 1992. Ekrem Taşkın stated on behalf of the family that his family received TL 60 million financial assistance from the Social Solidarity Foundation under the auspices of the Office of the Governor, but they could not mend their house with that little assistance, he added: “Now we are indeed left out in the streets. I do not know how long I can endure this situation with my seven children. Authorities want me to send my children to school. How can I do that, I cannot provide them with shelter, a place to sleep, how can I be expected to send them to school. Now the only thing I can think of is to have place to pass the winter.”
A villager named Fedile Kartal approached the HRA Diyarbakır Branch on 11 September reporting that permission to return to their home village Bulgurlu in Genç district of Bingöl would only be granted if they signed a statement indicating “the village was burnt down by PKK.” Kartal stated that people wanted to return but they did not want to sign anything without their free will.
Sefika Gürbüz, chairwoman of Göç-Der, said, “The second biggest obstacle is the village guards. Village guards have occupied the land of many villagers who left their homes. They are trying to prevent people from returning in order not to lose that land. The village-town project that was developed by Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit did not meet the expectations. Only village guards moved there, but the areas are not suitable for agriculture or cattle breeding and, therefore, the people have problems to make their living.”
A row broke out between the village guards of Buzıkri and Hergule villages of Siirt’s Eruh district on 19 March in connection with a dispute over the fields of evacuated villages. The village guards named Abdurrahman Kaya, Sait İnan and Guri (surname not known) were injured. Following the incident the village guards of Buzıkri village Mahfuz, Haci, Sıdık and Mustafa Aslan were detained. The detainees were released after testifying at the prosecution office. After that, Buzıkri village was raided by the security forces and the firearms of Halil Beştaş, village headman, and village guards Hacı Aslan Mahfus Aslan, Sıdık Aslan and one more guard whose name was not disclosed, were seized.
Village guards of Nurettin village in Muş’ Malazgirt district attacked villagers, who wanted to return their village. One villager was injured. It is reported that a group of villagers, who didn’t accept to be village guards, had been forced to migrate in 1994. On 25 June2001 they tried to return with the permission of the district governor. But the village guards attacked them near the village. Thus, they had to return to the district center. The villagers approached Muş and Malazgirt governors in order to start an investigation.
Some families from Şimiz village in Beşiri district of Batman, who had gone to Germany after their villages had been evacuated in 1994, wanted to return home in the summer of 2001. However, village guards had occupied their fields. The victims of the Yezidi faith appealed to the authorities to intervene.
It shows that, even though occasionally, some IDPs have sought avenues of redress to return to their villages in spite of all pressures and intimidation.
Yezidi families, who were displaced because of lacking life security and pressures from village guards in 1992, wanted to return to their village Çéniri (Yolveren) in Beşiri district of Batman. The Yezidi families were denied entry to their village by village guards who had occupied the land and homes of those families. The families later applied to Batman Penal Court to order the handover of their property. A friendly settlement was reached during the trial. The village guards left the village by the end of December. The court case concluded in mid-December in favor of the original inhabitants of the village.
An IDP named Kadri Yaşa, who was displaced in 1995 from his home village Kırmataş in Diyarbakır, filed an official complaint with the public prosecutor in Kocaköy against village guards for threatening him and confiscating the woods on his land.
Villagers from Çıralı (Heraki) village in Lice district of Diyarbakır filed an official complaint against those, who set their homes in fire and forced them to migrate. The complaint dated 7 August asserted that the village had been put on fire in 1992 and 61 out of 68 homes had been destroyed. Representatives of the association Göç-Der said many families had returned this summer.
Efforts of IDPs to resort to national remedies often put them at risk of at least getting threatened by, for instance, village guards. In one case Diyarbakır SSCState Security Court put five internally displaced persons on trial seeking the death penalty on the basis of accusations by village guards. Abdullah Örnek, Nurettin Ergün, Yusuf Bil, Mahsum Şişman and Abdurrahman Üstün, who were forced to emigrate from Kırca village of İdil, Şırnak, in 1993, filed an official complaint against village guards in 1996, accusing the guards of illegitimately possessing their own houses and lands.
The village guards, in turn, made an official complaint against those villagers on the basis of an incident, during which the village guard Yusuf Gürmen was injured in a mine explosion on 24 September 1993. The prosecutor at Diyarbakır SSC Prosecutor indicted the five villagers on 15 November 2000 on charges of “being members of the PKK, laying mines and causing injury on behalf of the organization”. In the indictment, the prosecutor said, “the five defendants were known as PKK supporters before the incident, they left their village when the complainant and his relatives from other villages, who also settled in the said village, became village guards; the defendants settled in the district of Nusaybin; they were breeding animosity against the complainant for this reason; they procured land mines and laid them in cooperation with PKK members on a field owned by the complainant; the defendants threatened the witnesses Arafat Alptekin, Behçet Kısa and Fikret Korkut, also village guards settling in the said village later, to leave the village when they confronted each other in the courthouse of Idil, saying to the witnesses, “you may face the same as Yusuf Gürmen before”; this was established by the statements of Arafat Alptekin, Behçet Kısa and Fikret Korkut.
Among the typical deficiencies of the indictment, the only material evidence in the file against the five IDPs were statements by village guards, whom those persons were challenging in a case of illegitimate possession accompanied by a few other legal cases. There was no question relating to the nature of the conflict at the bottom of the confrontation of the villagers and village guards in Idil courthouse. The prosecutor provided no evidence on whether the mine was really laid by or on behalf of the PKK, but nevertheless demanded the death penalty for the defendants. (See Personal Security)
Since legal remedies in Turkey could not be effectively utilized by IDPs, they have occasionally applied to the ECoHR. For instance, 24 villagers, who were forcefully displaced from Dolapdere village and its hamlets (Cumat and Melagir) in Silvan, Diyarbakır, in May 1994, filed a petition with the ECoHR on 30 January. They complained under Article 1 of the Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention of not being able to enjoy the fruit of their agricultural land they left behind. Lawyer Mahmut Vefa, the attorney of the villagers Abdulrezzak and Seyithan Yavuz, İhsan and İlhan Yavaş, Hüseyin and Ferzande Deniz, Hasan Nergiz, İsmail, Abdulhani, Abdurrahim, Nizamettin and Nezir Aykanat, Ahmet Biçer, Kasım Kur, Hanifi, Hamduselam, Mukaddes, Sakine, Nesime, Aygül, Siracettin, Saliha and Mustafa Bal, wrote that the applicants were displaced when their village was burnt down in May 1994. They lodged complaints with civilian and military authorities to go back to their village, to get their losses compensated, and for the prosecution of the offender security officers. However, as they did not get any result, internal remedies had to be deemed exhausted. Lawyer Vefa raised the issue under Article 1 of the Protocol No.1 guaranteeing the protection of property, under Article 6 (Para. 1) of the Convention guaranteeing “the determination of civil rights and obligations that criminal charges have to be heard in a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law”, and under Article 13 guaranteeing effective remedies under national law.
According to information collected by the HRFT, 2 villages were completely evacuated in 2001. Such incidents dropped drastically after 1999, nevertheless once again threats of village evacuations were reported from Şırnak, Hakkari and Van provinces.
On 12 April soldiers from Lice Commandership Station raided Darakol, Hezmaz, Herqıl and Heraq villages in Lice district of Diyarbakır and threatened villagers to be forcibly displaced from their villages should they have not demonstrate against the PKK.
On 3 August soldiers raided the villages Sirangêl (Tokagaç), Memiste (Ikizli), Sêgizan (Cevizli) and Glort (Bostaniçi) in Yüksekova district of Hakkari province and forced the population to leave the settlements. Abidin Enis, member of the general assembly of Hakkari province said that they wanted to contact the commander with the headmen of the four villages concerned, but had not been able to meet him. They had asked the governor of Yüksekova to stop the initiative.
The Beytüşşebap Incident
Following the death of one and injury of two soldiers by a mine explosion near Ilıcak (Germav) village in Beytüşşebap district (Şırnak province) on 9 July Germav village and the surrounding villages of Bêzal (Ortali), Tivor (Dagalti) and Çemêpîrê (Asat) were subjected to intense pressure. These four villages were raided and 32 people were detained. They were held in custody for 10 days and at the end 10 of them were arrested on charges of “aiding and sheltering PKK members.” All of the villagers belonged to the Gevdan tribe. They alleged that they had been tortured in detention. The names of the arrested villagers are: Cafer Aslan (78), Kerim Acar (66), İsa Abi (61), Yakup Ceylan (55), Fahri Ceylan (30), Şeyhmus Abi (25), İsa Abi (30), Yasin Abi (23), Hadi Abi (30), Keser Acar (49), Hamit Acar (78), Orhan Abi (239, Kemal Acar (25) and Şemsettin Abi, Turan Aslan, Bahattin Aslan, Mirza Aslan and Hekim Aslan.
On 28 July, Kasım Aslan from Ulucak village could escape, despite the blockade against the village and reported the incident to the HRA Diyarbakır branch. He told the HRA that Ortalı and Asat village had been evacuated, Tivor, Ilıcak and Hisarkapı villages were under siege and that the villagers were close to starvation because of the food embargo. Some 250 villagers were living in tents outside Beytüşşebap and 70 villagers, who had been working as village guards had been deprived of their arms.
First a delegation comprised of Abdulvahap Ertan of the HRA Branch in Van, Abdulbasit Bildirici from the Mazlum-DerHuman Rights Association for the Oppressed Branch in Van and Şirin Aslan went to Beytüşşebap and talked to the villagers and the prisoners Turan Aslan, Bahattin Aslan, Cafer Aslan, Kerim Acar, Mirza Aşan, Yakup Aşan and Hekim Aslan. In their report they stated that the villagers had been beaten, suspended at hooks, hosed with pressurized water, raped with truncheons and forced to eat excrements. The villagers were subjected to a food embargo and their families were under severe pressure. The mine explosion had taken place some 30 to 40 kilometers away from the village in an area that had mainly been used by soldiers.
On 31 July a report on the suffering of the Beytüşşebap villages was announced at the HRA Diyarbakır Branch in a press briefing. In the briefing an investigation by the GNATGrand National Assembly of Turkey Human Rights Inspection Commission was demanded. The report was sent to the GNAT Human Rights Inspection Commission, the State Ministry in charge of Human Rights, the Ministry of the Interior, the OHAL Regional Governor, Şırnak Governor and Beytüşşebap governor.
On 5 August Şırnak Governor paid a visit to Hisarkapı village in an attempt to deny the news on food embargo. Soldiers, who cursed at the population and tried to force them to deny the existence of an embargo, accompanied him. It was reported that 35 members of the Temel family had to leave the village within 24 hours.
On 8 August a second delegation with members of the HRA, Mazlum-Der, the Chamber of Architects and Engineers, the HRFT, the Turkish Medical Association, Göç-Der and the Democracy Platform of Diyarbakır went to the area and investigated the situation over two days. The results were announced during a press conference at the Human Rights Association (HRA) in Diyarbakır on 10 August. On 11 August the weekly „Yedinci Gündem“ published a document confirming the application of a food embargo in Dagalti and Ilıcak villages.
The Village-Town Project
Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit issued promising statements one after the other on the opportunities offered by the Village-Town/Central Village Project. He announced that authorities should undertake assistance schemes ranging from funds dispersal to loan allocation to support the return to villages. The project, not to the liking of IDPs, was subjected to heavy criticism from NGOs, experts and parliamentarians.
Prof. Dr. Gürol Ergin, chairman of the Chamber of Agricultural Engineers of TMMOB, commented in February that the project had no chance of success even within its own logic. He emphasized that rural development was one of the prerequisites of the return to villages, and that people should be able to return on a voluntary basis. In this sense, he said, the State of Emergency regime should be abolished and the land should be cleared of mines. Prof. Ergin also suggested that the villagers should be given monetary aid of TL 18 billion for reconstruction purposes. He commented that huge amounts of public funds were spent for the project without any discussion in detail or in general, implementing technically insufficient and badly prepared projects on the basis of commands. He also commented that even the defenders of the “Village-Town Project” were not taking it seriously. He said, the fact that the entire project was prepared within 9 weeks including the field research justified concerns about the quality of the project.
Şefika Gürbüz, chairwoman of Göç-Der, indicated in a statement issued in April: “The Village-Town project shall not fulfill the expectations. If the real desire is to facilitate village returns, OHAL and village guard system should abolished and all damages inflicted upon IDPs should be compensated.”
Prof. Dr. Hayati Doğanay, chairman of the Atatürk University Geography Department, called attention to the fact that politicians are putting forward new projects in order to take people’s vote and said that according to Ecevit the project supposes one village-town per 10-15 villages and this requires 3700 village-towns to be built. Experts of the issue found the village-town project of Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit “utopist.”
In a panel entitled the “Migration Problem and its Solution”, held by Göç-Der, Haşim Haşimi, chairman of the GNAT Migration Commission cited the main reasons of migration from the Region according to the report prepared by the Commission as follows: “The State of Emergency, village guard system, special teams, killings by unknown assailants, absence of life security, pressure and violence, economic compulsion due to annihilating animal husbandry and farming”.
Haşimi also noticed that only TL 3 trillion would be allocated from the state budget for restoring the damaged villages and added that with this source only 4 hamlets could be reconstructed. Haşimi also criticized the village-town project and argued that IDPs had to be compensated.
Parliamentarian Question Tabled: Deputy chairperson of Bliss Party (SP) and member of the Human Rights Commission in GNAT, Mehmet Bekaroğlu tabled an official question with Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit on 9 June concerning the project “Return to the Villages” and received a rejoinder by State Minister Mustafa Yılmaz on 5 July.
The rejoinder stated that the “return to the villages” project was continuing according to the decree issued by the Prime Minister on 27 January 1998. The basics were named as follows:
- The return is a voluntary act.
- The principle of unifying settlements is being followed. It will not be allowed to establish sub-units to the villages.
- Priority will be given to those settlements that do not require additional measures for security.
- The settlements to be reopened for accommodation will not be subjected to migration for security or other reasons.
- Priority of additional security measures and housing will be given to those settlements, whose inhabitants are without a home.
- During all these activities efforts for economic, social and cultural development will continue.
- All kinds of aid will be given to those citizens, who after leaving their villages built their own house in forms such as „Help for those, who build their own home“.
Mustafa Yılmaz added that the last item had not been applied, because the families involved had not shown an interest in it. He said that the „return to the villages“ project had started in 1999 and was still continuing.
Minister Yılmaz mentioned the fact that 9 families had been settled in Aşağı Beyan village of Diyarbakır and 68 families had been settled in Kaymakam and Çeşme villages of Şırnak. For the provinces Diyarbakır, Batman, Bingöl, Bitlis, Hakkari, Kars, Muş, Siirt and Van a total of 2,859 families had been included in the project and the building works of 555 houses was continuing, while investigations were being carried out in 52 villages.
Mustafa Yılmaz maintained that there were no obstacles to those, who wanted to return and argued that after applications handed over to the governors a detailed investigation was carried out on security and social conditions and, if necessary, the families were shown alternative places and everything was done to secure the infrastructure. He stated that the village guards were part of the project and there was certainly no pressure deriving from them or at least there was no information to that effect. The Minister left the question on land mines open.
On 3 August Mehmet Bekaroglu stated in the daily “Günlük Evrensel” that the answer was far from being satisfactory. He said that he had witnessed how the return to the villages was hindered and that the military authorities in particular imposed difficulties for the return. Mehmet Bekaroglu argued that a return to the villages was not possible as long as the village guard system existed.
Mehmet Bekaroglu reported that he had carried out inspections in Bingöl, Tunceli and Diyarbakır provinces. He had talked to people, who wanted to return to their villages, but were prevented from doing so. He said that the military authorities were discouraging the people by saying that the area was not safe and they could not guarantee for their security. “The commander may say ‘yes’ or he may say ‘no.’ But since the answer is 'no' the people don’t go back to their places.”
Mehmet Bekaroglu called the material aid provided by the governors arbitrary and demanded that this must change, should people be encouraged to return. He further said that one should stop to look at the people as “potential criminals” and that it was high time for the people to get back to their homes.
Regarding the official answer Mehmet Bekaroglu complained that no answers had been given to the number of applications made so far; no details had been provided as to how the return is being planned. Figures on the money given to the governors were missing. He reminded of an incident in Hakkari, when 6 villagers went to collect nuts and were found dead. He asked for an investigation into this incident to find out, who the murderers were.
On 17 November Ajay Chibber, the World Bank representative in Turkey, talked to Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit stating that they put a great importance on the Village-Town Project and were prepared to finance it. After the meeting he talked to journalists and said: “We find this project very important, because it emphasizes the development of the rural areas. We hope that we can find the necessary resources until the summer of 2002.”
Social Research on Internal Displacement
The Ministry of the Interior stopped the Metropolitan Municipality of Diyarbakır from implementing a survey on the issue of internal displacement in February. The Municipality wanted to organize a survey on “the Impacts of Migration on Municipal Services”. In a letter by the State Institute of Statistics (SIS), informing the Municipality about the Ministry’s decision, it was said “although there are no inconvenience in your survey form in technical terms, the Ministry of Interior finds the survey inconvenient in terms of its substance. Therefore, you are not allowed to implement the survey in the field.” The survey form included 27 questions, and one was on the “reasons of leaving the village”; options included the answers “due to pressure to become village guards”, “due to religious pressures”, “due to the State of Emergency practices”, “due to pressures from the PKK”, and “due to the pressures by security forces.”
The finding of a research carried out by Batman Bar Association in March, asserted that forced displacement is one of the main reasons for suicides that intensified in the region. In the research it was found out that most of the people, who committed suicide, had been forced to migrate to Batman since 1985.
In another research carried out by the Department of Psychology at Tigris University it was found out that migration from the rural areas to the urban settlements resulted in more children making their living on the streets. In the research carried out with the aim of determining the socio-cultural and economic conditions of “street children” in Diyarbakır and “children on the streets”  in the city, the number of children in both categories were estimated at 6,000, 98% of whom were internally displaced children, and 16% of whom had been detained at least once. The research further found out that 35% of the “children on the streets” did not have identity cards, and 93% of them had more than 5 siblings. The following was stated in the report:
“The physical development of these children is behind that of their peers. Likewise, their areas of interest and the way they respond to the events are considerably different to those of their peers. They have to work in order to contribute to their family incomes. This on the one hand prevents them from acting like other children and the demising attitudes displayed by their environments compel them to see themselves as adults. Since they have to face many difficulties at an early age, they have many psychosocial problems. In order to get rid of these problems, the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of the families should be investigated in detail, their needs should be determined, the parents should be provided with jobs with enough wages and after all they should not be allowed to send their children for work on the streets.”
|Van Field Mission of the (ad hoc) Human Rights Delegation
A delegation from HRA, HRFT, the Research Foundation for Social Jurisdiction (TOHAV), Göç-Der, HADEP and the Party for Freedom and Solidarity (ÖDPParty for Peace and Solidarity ) carried out a field mission to Van between 26 and 27 May upon HADEP’s invitation. The delegation met with a number of pressures during the mission. On 31 May, the delegation made their observations public by a press statement in HRA headquarters in Ankara.
JOINT PRESS RELEASE
"It is not the security forces, but the people themselves who should decide upon which villages they are going to return. The security forces' duty is to sustain security in those villages; other public institutions are responsible for compensating the losses of people, and supporting the provision of humanitarian living conditions in the resettled villages."
Cited from: Report (10/25) by the Parliamentary Investigation Commission 1998
In the context of return to village, a delegation formed by representatives of the Human Rights Association (HRA), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), The Union of the Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), Immigrants Association for Social Cooperation and Culture (Göç-Der), the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) and the Research Foundation for Social Jurisdiction (TOHAV) made a visit to Van province between 26 and 27 May 2001 on invitation of the People's Democracy Party to meet victims of internal displacement and to visit 3 villages that were evacuated in Van and Bitlis provinces namely; Söğütlü village of Van, Düzcealan(Çorsin) and Çevre(Êz) villages of Tatvan (district of Bitlis). The observations of the delegation are as follows:
The practice on evacuation of villages and forcible displacement of people gained momentum during the 1990s and lasted until the end of 1999 as an administrative measure. Throughout this period, almost 3,700 settlements were evacuated and over 3 million people were forcibly displaced from their homelands. During the 16-year armed conflict, not only villages were burnt down and evacuated, but also the use of highlands was banned, thousands of acres of forestry were set on fire.
Basic infrastructure facilities such as roads, irrigation networks, and electricity were destroyed in the evacuated villages. Most of the arable fields are no longer in use. Gardens were destroyed and trees were cut down. The ban on the use of pasturelands caused the collapse of stockbreeding. Fields and other properties in the evacuated villages were seized by the village guards or were destroyed.
People of these villages had to migrate to city centers in the region or to metropolitan areas in the West on their own without being shown any place to live in by the authorities. They were deprived of basic welfare facilities like shelter, job, health, and education. Uprooted people were excluded from the production process, were deprived of their basic rights and freedoms, and were left to live under the subsistence level. Families were broken into pieces. Because of their identities, they were subjected to many attacks and pressures in their new surroundings.
Following the peaceful atmosphere during the last two years the desire of the families to return to their villages has enormously increased. However, in many instances the administrative authorities have created several problems not to allow them to return. The governors’ offices have not responded to tens of thousands of applications for return. The Village-Town and Central Village projects of the government were put into practice as another means of compulsion. Furthermore, the Village-Town project is not reasonable in socio-economic sense, either, because it does not allow for the cultivation of arable fields.
The security forces prevent people from returning to those places of settlement, where the governors’ offices have already authorized returns. The life security of villagers is under threat. No steps have been taken for cleaning the villages and surroundings from mines. Moreover, the internally displaced people are forced to fill in formatted petitions confirming that they left their homelands because of terror, and to withdraw their demands for material and spiritual compensation, in case they want to return their villages.
As the organizations undersigning this document, we believe that:
It is a basic right of the individuals to freely choose their places of settlement and return to the places where they used to live before the process of enforced displacement. From the perspective of human rights, the choice of communities return to their homelands or settlements or to live somewhere else should be based on the principle of “voluntarism.”
Having displaced people against their will, the Central Administration is responsible for compensating the material and non-material losses of people, providing them with a healthy and sufficient living environment with adequate housing, nutrition, health, employment and education facilities so that people can lead a life in line with human rights standards, respecting human dignity.
The land mines should completely be removed from the fields of evacuated villages and their surroundings, before people return there.
People should be provided with both material and technical assistance so that the problems they might encounter are minimized. The provision of adequate accommodation should be given priority. The assistance provided by the governors’ offices fall short of meeting the needs of people on return. Such assistance should be provided in an organized and regular way to meet the aggregate demand.
Economic activities like beekeeping, tobacco growing, and animal husbandry should be encouraged, the necessary equipment should be provided.
The oppressions and obstacles imposed on people who want to return to their homelands should be brought to an end. Any threats to the security of life in the region should be eliminated. The temporary village guard system should be abolished. Relations between security forces and people in the region should be based on the principle of mutual confidence. Authorities should spend an effort to eliminate the feeling of fear created by the prolonged violence in the past. The subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder of people who were subject to violence should be rehabilitated.
Implementing the return to villages or the resettlement of uprooted villagers, the state organs should cooperate with non-governmental organizations working in the field of enforced displacement, professional organizations, human rights organizations and other civil democratic institutions to build confidence and to enable villagers to participate in reestablishing their life. Suitable conditions should be provided in the region for effective functioning of non-governmental organizations. It is imperative to prepare an extensive regional development program based on such a democratic process.
There is a need to dissolve the conflict between governors’ offices and the gendarmerie to facilitate the return to villages for those who want to return.
An effort, which will sustain the nature of life and take the aforementioned suggestions into account, will not only give an end to a social tragedy, but also contribute to the development of both democracy and economy of our country. Consolidating the real peace process is only possible with healthy programs giving the priority to basic rights and freedoms.
We will keep in solidarity with the people in the region and raise this issue until a true solution of this problem is attained.
The suspicion of security forces in the region is not limited to the people, who want to return their homelands, but also extended towards organizations that are trying to find solutions to the problem. Our delegation and the villagers we met were subject to an extraordinary control of the security forces.
Plain clothes detectives followed the delegation throughout the mission, the gendarmerie officers stopped the delegation on the way three times, conducted an identification control, searched their cars and belongings and seized the notes that the delegation had taken. The mission was ordered to proceed to Van province without ever giving a stop. Villages visited and planned to be visited were subjected to the pressures of the security forces. The request to meet with the Governor of Van province made by representatives of People's Democracy Party (HADEP), the Union of the Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Immigrants Association for Social Cooperation and Culture (Göç-Der) was refused.
Human Rights Association (HRA)
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)
Union of the Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB)
Migrants’ Association for Social Cooperation and Culture (Göç-Der)
Research Foundation for Social Jurisdiction (TOHAV)
Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP)People's Democracy Party (HADEP)
Activities of Göç-Der
A delegation composed of representatives from the institutions in Germany on the migration issues and the problems it creates arrived in İzmir on 25 March, and investigated the living conditions of IDPs. Among 14 members of the delegation were Udo Moerschen, from Amnesty International, and Brigitte Schubert, from the Association of Freedom for Leyla Zana. The delegation visited Sehmuz Aksoy, chairman of the Izmir Branch of Göç-Der, and gathered information on their activities on the problem of forced displacement. Aksoy stated in the interview that this problem is a crucial one affecting the lives of millions of people in Turkey. Aksoy noted that an overwhelming majority of those people who had migrated from the Eastern and South Eastern region were victims of forced displacement. Later, the delegation went to the nylon-tents in Torbalı district of İzmir where a considerable number of IDPs were living and met the people there. Members of the delegation also met IDPs in Aydın that made their living by collecting garbage and selling it to recycling centers.
|Between 18 and 24 June Göç-Der organized a series of activities to draw attention to the problems of IDPs. The activities included a letter of Göç-Der with demands on stopping forced migration to the Office of the Presidency, Prime Ministry, Parliament Presidency and political party leaders. In the letter, these solutions were proposed:
- In order to identify and cover the damages of the victims of internal displacement a “Damage Identification Commission” should be constituted and representatives of related Institutions of the State, civil society organizations, and victims of internal displacement should take part in it.
- It is seen that the State of Emergency practices are not the solution to the situation, on the contrary they cause much more damages. The sustained State of Emergency and the system of village guard should be abolished and conditions should be constituted under which people can live in security.
- Appropriate conditions for a return to the villages must be created and any kind of compulsion must be removed. Basic infrastructure facilities of destroyed villages must be established by the State. House building, farming and horticulture may not be obstructed.
- Pecuniary assistance for families who want to return to the village, repair of their houses, and participation in the production process should be supplied.
- To stop the poverty support loans should be supplied by the State in order to improve modern farming and stockbreeding.
- 15 years of fighting that started in 1984 caused thousands of deaths and left many more disabled, thousands of evacuated villages, millions of victims of internal displacement. In order to get over this entire problem, the Kurdish issue should be dealt with in a democratic framework.- Contemporary constitutional and legal regulations should be prepared in order to guarantee basic democratic rights like shelter, property possessing, right of travel of people who have different religious, cultural, linguistic, and intellectual origins.”
The police did not allow the Van office of Göç-Der to make a press announcement on 20 June.
On the other side, in the rejoinder to petitions submitted by 17,000 IDPs through a sign-off campaign held by Göç-Der, it was stated that “in order to revitalize evacuated places, the State Ministry allocated TL 1 trillion for a project aimed at 1,017 families, the project shall be implemented by governors and village works departments.
Civil Initiative 2001
Bingöl Chief of Police did not allow a meeting of 71 associations and foundations from migrants of Bingöl and Elazığ. They wanted to meet in Bingöl on 1 July under the name of “Civilian Initiative 2001.” A delegation of 7 people wanted to meet the governor, but was not able to see Governor Tamer Ersoy. On 30 June they finally succeeded to contact the governor and received permission for their meeting on 22 July. However, this meeting was banned on orders by deputy governor Yalçın Sezgin without giving any reason.
Demands by the Initiative
The State should pay the damage of destroyed houses,
Schools shall be reopened; the needs of open schools should be met,
Obstacles in front of the cultural nature of the people in the region should be lifted,
Incentives should be made for small production unities,
Loans should be given for agriculture and stockbreeding,
Problems of transport have to be solved,
Telephone lines must be renewed in the villages,
Needs in the health sector must be met, Industrial zones should be established,
Ban on the pastures must be lifted.
Return to Village Campaign
- of the Industrialists and Business Persons’ Association of Diyarbakır (DİSİAD)
On 29 December DİSİAD’s chairman Şeyhmuz Akbaş announced in a press briefing that DİSİAD would launch a return to village campaign. Mr. Akbaş said that the City of Diyarbakır became the biggest village with migration from the rural areas. He further added, “It is known that with the violent events going on for years there has been a rush of human force to metropolitan areas. Once producers, villagers had become consumers here.” Mr. Aktaş continued indicating that the former “Return to Village Project” was a failure, “For our fellow citizens from villages to return to their villages, we shall repair their houses and provide financial assistance when needed. At this point, we will call upon each and every Member of Parliament to support the campaign. All should support this campaign. For our fellow citizens from villages to become productive again, with the objective of progress in economic revival, huge efforts will be put on this project. We also call upon entrepreneurs to come and realize the natural assets in the region.”
The Human Rights Conference 2001
The 4th Human Rights Conference was held between 25-26 November under the theme of “Trauma” in Kızılcahamam of Ankara by a joint initiative of the HRFT and the HRA. A workshop was held at the Conference regarding trauma caused by forced displacement. A declaration was prepared at the of the workshop by the participants Ferda Cemiloğlu, Hasan Kemal Elban, Mahmut Özgür, Metin Kılavuz, Mıgırdıç Margosyan, Necdet İpekyüz, Serpil Doğan, Yavuz Önen, Sezai Sarıoğlu, Suavi Aydın, Şeyhmus Ülek, and Zübeyit Gün on the characteristics, sources, results of the trauma and solutions for it.
- ↑ In the research the term “street children” refers to the children who live on the streets without receiving any support from their families, while the term “children on the streets” refers to those children who do street selling in order to contribute to their households economically.