10 Feb 2015
Many Kurds in the USA, UK and in other European Union states – alongside Kurdish communities in Australia and elsewhere[i] - are being (and have been) subjected to publicly unaccountable surveillance, targeting and criminalisation actions that need to be exposed and opposed. Due to European supra-state ('Fortress Europe'), US-NATO-UK and other 'deep political' agendas of governments, intelligence agencies, private surveillance companies, arms firms and corporations and immigration agencies, Kurds in the UK have been placed under extensive surveillance, targeting and criminalisation since the 1980's, particularly after the armed struggle by the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) was launched in the wake of the military coup in Turkey that intensified processes of genocide against the Kurds and 'Others'.[ii]
By the 1990's, according to the solicitor Gareth Peirce, "the British and Turkish governments, under the rubric of 'suppression of terrorism', ha[d] managed to criminalise the Kurdish community of Great Britain. Without engaging the legitimacy of a Kurdish struggle for national rights, the British police ha[d] deliberately worked to cast doubt on every Kurd in the UK as terrorist suspects".[iii]
This was even after Yasar Kemal, one of the leading novelists in Turkey, had alerted the world to the following:
One of the greatest tragedies in Turkey’s history is happening now. Apart from a couple of hesitant voices, no one is standing up and demanding to know what the Turkish government is doing, what this destruction means. No one is saying: “After all your signatures and promises you are riding towards doomsday, leaving the earth scorched in your wake. What will come of all this?” Turkish governments have resolved to drain the pool to catch the fish; to declare all-out war. We have already seen how it can be done. The world is also aware of it ... The water was being drained in so horrendous a fashion that the smoke ascended to high heaven …
The draining of the waters has cost Turkey and humanity much. And looks like continuing to do so. Already over 1,700 people have been the victims of murder by persons unknown. Intellectuals in the west have begun to debate whether a new genocide is taking place; the possibility of a Human Rights Court for Turkey’s politicians and an economic boycott against Turkey is being discussed ... They have burnt almost all the forests of eastern Anatolia … Turkey is disappearing in flames along with its forests, [an] anonymous act of genocide, and 2.5 million people exiled from their homes, their villages burnt, in desperate poverty, hungry and naked, forced to take to the road, and no one raises a finger.[iv]
As he noted with alarm:
Turkey’s administrators have got so carried away that intellectual crimes have been regarded as among the most serious; people have rotted away in prisons, been killed and exiled for such crimes. Today, over 200 people are serving sentences for crimes of thought in our prisons. Hundreds more are on trial. Among these intellectual criminals are university lecturers, journalists, writers and union leaders. Conditions in the prisons are ... fearsome … As if a racist, oppressive regime were not enough, there have been three military coups in 70 years …
The sole reason for this war is that cancer of humanity, racism … And much more is happening in Turkey! Having exiled 2.5 million people, now they have put an embargo on food in eastern Anatolia … The coup of 12th September 1980 not only forced intellectuals to keep their heads down, not only threw hundreds of people into prison and tortured them. The entire country cowered in fear, was made degenerate and driven further from humanity. It made informers of ordinary citizens, created bloody wolf-mouthed confessors, and totally destroyed human morality ... The [current] Constitution [is the one] which the leader of the coup Evren Pasha passed in the shadow of his weapons and bayonets … Turkey has been governed according to this Constitution. Yes, Turkey has a parliament. Its parliamentarians are like kittens, even when they catch them by the neck at the door of parliament and take them to prison. There is even a Constitutional Court. A Constitutional Court that, according to the Military Constitution, decides whether a law shall be enforced or not.[v]
The Nature of Targeting and Criminalisation Initiatives
Despite such a repressive – even 'genocidal' - atmosphere in Turkey, as the Defend the Kurds Campaign has documented, linked criminalisation initiatives against the Kurdish diaspora in the UK were taking place due to friendly diplomatic, economic, military and intelligence-linked relationships with Turkish authorities. A succession of frame-up's and miscarriages of justice were identified that were chilling in their nature and dimensions.[vi]
Tony Bunyan, the editor of Statewatch, noted as early as 1995 that MI5 would have been already acting in the following way: “They will” target and “try and get to know the group, they will come to public meetings of the group … They will take down the numbers of the cars which are outside the building, a technique which again goes way back and was widely used in the days of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in this country. They will try and infiltrate the group and get a feel for the group and … they will often use inducements. They say: ‘We will give you the right to stay in this country. We will get you a passport, if you give us information, if you will inform on your group’. These are well-tried techniques from their history. They will produce assessments of the threat posed by the groups. They will associate groups with terrorists – ‘all refugees equal criminals, equal terrorists’ … Of course, they have a long history of working with their counterparts, with their so-called friendly allies in NATO, which has included the CIA, and Mossad and no doubt Turkish intelligence. There is a long history of collusion with these foreign intelligence agencies”.
The Defend the Kurds Campaign in 1995 noted, with alarm, that it had received testimonies from frightened individuals within ‘Turkish’ Kurdish refugee communities that British state directed agencies had explicitly targeted/criminalised them by harassing and arresting them for no reason, breaking into their homes, brutally attacking peaceful demonstrations and protest marches, placing them under surveillance and blackmailing and intimidating them into becoming ‘informers’ and/or agents provocateurs: “Police agents and the Special Branch PKK Desk” were allegedly involved in even “making deals with actual criminals; hit-men who are subcontracted to carry out physical assaults and intimidation of the [‘pro-Kurdish’ refugee] community. Outside London,the situation is worse. Through phone tapping and informants, police are tipped off about any [public community/refugee centre] event taking place: in one case prior to a [public Kurdish] community centre event in Scotland” – which was taking place legally – “police were waiting outside to arrestKurds from the local community arriving to attend. Those travelling from London” – again, perfectly legally – “to address the meeting, were stopped six times en route by police controls. Another witness elsewhere revealed the gun he was given by police to ‘shoot up’ visiting Kurdish [human rights] speakers… Shop keepers have told us how they’re being pressured and threatened” – in much the same way that several asylum seekers/refugees from 'Other' communities are also being scandalously questionably targeted – “to act as police informants. In return for information, they’re being bribed with money or offered more secure legal/asylum status and protection”.
As a spokesperson for Amnesty International noted, use of this type of targeting/blackmailing action raises very real public concerns: “Any suggestion that asylum applications could be contingent on ‘co-operating’ with the UK security services raises the most serious concerns”. One also needs to appreciate that these types of blackmail threats allegedly issued by MI5/Special Branch officers to targeted individuals were being taken seriously by many in the Kurdish refugee community, who were all too aware of the case of Shafiq-ur-Rehman, a Muslim cleric in Oldham who was served with a deportation order and unjustly smeared as a ‘national security threat’ and ‘terrorist mastermind’ after he refused to act as an informer for MI5.
NCADC, reported, for example, that “the mullana from Oldhams Ross Street mosque denied any involvement with armed struggle, and claimed that he was simply being punished for rejecting an attempt by MI5 to recruit him as an agent”.[xi] His appeal against the deportation order was successful when the circumstances surrounding his targeting became clear: “In the case of Shafiq-ur-Rehman, the Home Office had to produce their evidence in open court. This they did and the Special Appeals Tribunal ruled that the evidence the Home Office had given against Shafiq was not believable”.[xii] Mr Kadri, QC for Mr Rehman, … also criticised a decision by the Lord Chancellor's Department not to grant Mr Rehman legal aid for his case, saying the tribunal had pointed out that the cleric should be properly represented for a legally important case”.[xiii]
Many Kurds would also have been largely aware of the much publicised targeting of Hassaine, as exposed by Jason Burke in an investigative report: “Hassaine, an asylum-seeker, disclosed how” MI5/Special Branch “officers blackmailed him into carrying out … illegal … burglaries … in Muslim places of worship … by threatening him with expulsion if he refused … During two years as an informer, Hassaine was asked to steal scores of documents from senior preachers at mosques in north London”.[xiv] Burke revealed that Hassaine, having outlasted his usefulness, had his asylum application turned down.[xv]
According to the Defend the Kurds Campaign: “There ha[d] also been attempts” in the 1990's “to confiscate the London deliveries of the” entirely legal “pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Ulke. People [were] scared and some [were] officially [also] warned off going to ... [a particular Kurdish community centre in London] ... even to consult legal advisors and translation services there. They were told: ‘If you go [there], you won’t get asylum’ … There [had also] been several reports” during the 1990's “that police officers ... forcibly removed/confiscated from shops the official charity boxes for the Kurdish Children’s Fund, which has controlled registered charity status”.
Solicitors acting on behalf of one refugee/community centre in London during the early-1990's further confirmed that they had even written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to voice their concerns over other types of unjustified and publicly unaccountable, targeting actions. In one highly damaging article in the Sunday Telegraph, entitled ‘Gun Toting Kurds Bring Terror to Streets of Britain’, they noted how an unnamed “police source … throughout the article … is named as authority for the unsubstantiated allegations in the article. You will see from our letter to the Press Complaints Commission that we consider that the allegations cannot be justified, are racially motivated and are calculated to cause racial hatred against Kurds living in London”.
In the letter to the Press Complaints Commission, it was clearly pointed out that the article, which was published in 1992 and “purports to be a legitimate – if one-sided – investigation into the PKK, … rapidly declines into unsubstantiated allegations against the whole Kurdish community in Britain”, accusing it “of committing crimes of violence and dishonesty ... According to the article, this suggestion [was] based upon statements from ‘police sources’”.
In another article – this time from The Sunday Times – which attempted to criminalise the activities of the PKK and also “impl[y] that the majority of [‘Turkish’ Kurdish] asylum seekers are involved in ‘terrorism’”, Alan Brooke detailed the manner in which unnamed police “detectives” questionably sought to criminalise an unspecified Kurdish group without providing any supporting evidence. “The claim” which was made by the detectives, concludes Brooke, was clearly “transparent nonsense”. In Sheri Laizer’s opinion (as quoted in Labournet, 1998), “Kurdish refugees” have undoubtedly “been the target of a smear campaign and vilification by the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police in recent years”. Several Special Branch officers, it needs to be noted, often liaise with MI5. And MI5, as with MI6, is often clearly involved in planting disinformation in the tabloid press and in broadsheet newspapers.
As David Leigh, a leading British journalist has acknowledged, the following situation exists in the wider context of activities in the UK: “British journalists - and British journals - are being manipulated by the secret intelligence agencies … Intelligence agency propaganda stories” are often “planted on willing journalists, who disguise their origin from their readers. There is - or has been until recently - a very active programme by the secret agencies to colour what appears in the British press, called, if publications by various defectors can be believed, information operations, or ‘I/Ops’ … One of the traditional roles of I/Ops is to plant stories … We all ought to come clean about these approaches, and devise some ethics to deal with them. In our vanity, we imagine that we control these sources. But the truth is that they are very deliberately seeking to control us”.
As early as 1995, it also needs to be noted that the Defend the Kurds Campaign noted that civil liberties monitoring teams had been clearly aware – during the 1994-5 period - that “racial attacks, police harassment [of Kurds] and house raids” were continuing, and police had been “utilising stop and search powers under the Criminal Justice Act to carry out identity checks, notably on the main road outside” a particular refugee centre, “whose Management Committee reports that police posted themselves for two days and intimidated those [Kurds] seeking to enter the centre”. Moreover, it was “reported that Turkish Embassy officials and British police have visited many local – specifically Kurdish-owned – shops selling the paper (Ozgur Ulke), asking if the shopkeepers have been forced to supply it, threatened in any way or had money extorted from them ‘by the PKK’. However, the only reported threats ha[d] been those issued by the authorities themselves. British police threaten[ed] deportation; Embassy officials intimidate[d] Kurds” from refugee communities “who s[old] or read the paper with warnings that if they d[id] not stop, their families back in Turkey/North Kurdistan w[ould] be hunted down. This amount[ed] to the importation of the much-condemned Turkish ‘anti-terror’ laws to British soil and with the assistance of the UK state. With state harassment” and targeting/criminalisation “of Kurds distributing and selling the paper in the UK, it seems that Britain ha[d] joined Turkey’s repression of the paper and [wa]s helping to silence the voice of opposition. In doing so, it denie[d] the democratic rights of both Kurds and Turks … By its recent actions, Britain [wa]s giving a clear message that it condone[d] the death of Ozgur Ulke and its staff and with it, the suppression of democracy and freedom of expression”. In 1994, “there were at least two arrests of [Kurdish] sellers of the daily newspaper Ozgur Gundem/Ulke. The second of those [was] still being detained in Pentonville Prison supposedly for immigration reasons. In fact, irregularities in his case” were set to “bring (about) his release”.
Zinar Hogir, chairman of a Kurdish Refugee/Community Centre in Croydon, additionally confirmed in 2001 that there had been widespread targeting and surveillance of Kurdish refugees, and harsh use - even before the passing of the UK Terrorism Act in 2000 - of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) provisions to harass, monitor and terrorise individuals and groups. Moreover, “there is no stopping the monitoring … It continues”. He was aware of break-in's and one particular case in which a member of the Kurdish refugee community was targeted and “continually harassed and approached by an officer who openly mentioned that he was from Special Branch”.
Later, “he was threatened: If you don’t co-operate, you’re going to ‘lose’ … They openly did say that they did want him to become an informer”. The Kurd, whose shop was later subject to an arson attack (the perpetrators were never found or identified), was traumatised by all these events, and even approached his local MP to voice his concerns.
Hogir further alleged that members of Kurdish refugee communities in London, Croydon, Portsmouth and Hastings had reported that they had been subjected to the following types of intimidation: “A lot of the officers ma[de] visits to the kebab shops, usually. Knock[ed] on the people’s doors. We had a lot of people who came in. They said: ‘If you co-operate with us, we will give you British citizenship. If you don’t, forget it’”. Hogir also alleged in 2001 that certain officers, when confronted with charges that certain sections of the police had been responsible for spreading blatant disinformation/misinformation to the press over two criminal incidents that were falsely attributed to the PKK (one being a murder, another a scuffle and fight in Portsmouth) and which sought to unfairly target and criminalise the wider Kurdish refugee community, apologised verbally over the matter, and agreed that they thought that he was “right” in his interpretation of “those incidents. But it wasn’t us – It was done before we [personally] were in control of the case”.
As Trevor Rayne and Stephen Long have long pointed out, under the types of circumstances in which “the only potential source of terrorism in Britain identified by name alongside the IRA in [MI5 head] Stella Rimmington’s maiden broadcast were the Kurds”, “MI5 and police Special Branch [we]re making a considerable investment in portraying Kurds in Britain as terrorists” and criminals.[xxxiii] By 1999, William Clarke concluded that “there has been a concerted effort to destroy any pro-Kurdish activity in the UK. Private Eye no. 954 reported on a Kurdish community centre in North London which was raided by Special Branch on 20/11 97. They were investigating 'alleged terrorism' and took lists of members, files, computers, discs and so on: 'No one has been arrested or even interviewed. The Kurdish Community Centre is a highly respected charity. Its main activity is giving advice and teaching English to Kurdish asylum-seekers' ... Private Eye also stated that Special Branch informed the charities board about the raid with a view to poisoning the centre's funding relationship. The board responded by freezing the centre's grant of £120,000, effectively disrupting their activities. A follow up story in Private Eye No. 962 revealed that after leaving the centre without funds for 11 months, Special Branch contacted them on 21/10/98 stating that: 'Police will not be bringing any criminal proceedings in connection with this matter'. Special Branch also sent a letter to the charities commissioners questioning the right of the centre to register as a charity, thus further preventing the re-instatement of the grant. A more direct approach was used on another Kurdish community centre in London. It was fire-bombed”.[xxxiv]
The Kurdish satellite station Med TV (licensed in the UK) was also subjected to highly questionable raids conducted simultaneously in EU countries as part of a co-ordinated US-UK-NATO-Turkey anti-terrorism initiative (this pre-dates the US-Denmark-Turkey-NATO initiative undertaken against Roj TV).[xxxv] As Nick Ryan reported in Wired magazine in 1997:
The biggest attack on the station to date was a raid on the Belgian studios on September 18th 1996. Over 200 'special forces' personnel stormed the premises in the middle of the afternoon, rounding up staff and guests alike. They were made to lie face down and handcuffed, on the floor of the main hall. Talking and eye contact were forbidden. At the same time, there were raids on the London offices and on the German homes of some of the staff. Tape machines were taken, computers, video news archives, disks, printers and other equipment. The damage done when doors were smashed down was still evident when I visited in December.
"I suddenly heard glass breaking and thought there might be a fire or something", says Turan Demir. "I was just going out of this room when I saw three men in black suits, armed to the teeth, with machine guns pointing at us. They were shouting 'hands up, freeze' in English and we were later told they had orders to shoot if there was resistance. I don't know what they expected to find, because there aren't any weapons or terrorists here. If there were, I would leave this second".
In all, 80 staff were arrested, and five were continually rearrested for 42 days - a process known in Belgian legal circles as "The Carousel". The aim of the raids, including simultaneous operations against the London offices and German homes, was to find evidence of money laundering, drug trafficking, prostitution and smuggling "illegals". None was found; all staff and guests were released. Everyone I met at Med TV was extremely upset by these raids … Reuters-supplied news archives [we]re still being held by the Belgian authorities, which ha[d] frozen some US $10m of funds. Betacam machines damaged or removed in the raid ha[d] not been replaced ... The International Press Institute - a global network of editors and media executives from 85 countries - condemned the ... raids as "a grave violation of the right to 'seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers' as guaranteed by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights".[xxxvi]
By early 1999, Med TV had been closed down in controversial circumstances in the UK:
"So, for the moment, Med-TV is unable to broadcast, unable to inform its viewers of the results of bombing raids in Iraq, of the elections in Turkey and the forthcoming trial of the PKK leader there (who faces a death sentence), of the actions of NATO countries, many with significant Kurdish refugee communities, in the Balkans – denying Kurds, effectively, a voice"
(Gill Newsham, Index On Censorship, 21 May 1999).
"After a hearing on April 9th this year, Sir Robin Biggam announced that the ITC was revoking the licence of the Kurdish satellite television station Med TV for "repeatedly flouting the regulations on incitement to violence and impartiality by sympathising with Turkey's Kurdish separatists"
Another company of which Sir Robin is a director – British Aerospace (BAe) – is about to start up licensed production in Turkey of assault rifles and grenade launchers for the security forces, who are far from impartial or non-violent themselves. Med had already been fined £90,000 by the ITC. The Turkish 'government' has been leaning on the UK government for some time to ban the station – the bargaining chips are all those lucrative defence contracts. The Turkish prime minister took credit for the decision as soon as it was announced. Sir Robin is maintaining that he was perfectly impartial in the matter.
Other pathetic lies (and also the government's position) came from the Defence Secretary, George Robinson who told a BBC News 24 interviewer that Turkey does not use the weapons that the UK arms companies sell it "on anyone inside or outside the country". It is wrong now to even talk of UK arms companies – a planned merger between BAe and GEC Marconi reported in Statewatch (Vol. 9 no. 2) means that "for all practical purposes, 90 to 95% of all British production is by one company".
In Turkey, the standard charge for anyone – be they Kurdish, Turkish, a writer, journalist or politician – who supports any form of Kurdish expression, is to label them a 'PKK terrorist'. Our own government is following in their footsteps if indications with Med TV are correct.
"We knew, from diplomatic sources, that Turkey had given a dossier on Med-TV to the then PM, John Major, asking for it to be closed down. Reports were that America had been approached in the same way, urged to do whatever was in its power … We knew our opponents would stop at nothing – the experience of working at the station involved being followed, threatened, beaten up, homes raided, working undercover (for our news-gathering teams in the Middle East), being excluded from press conferences, arrested, questioned, detained, and for one of our reporters in Iraq, murdered"
(Gill Newsham, Index On Censorship, 21/5/99).
Newsham, who has worked with Med, states that the station knew that the Foreign Office had expressed 'concerns' about Med-TV. She couples this with the current climate of the 'information war' backing up the UK's war with Serbia: "When television stations are bombed without embarrassment, journalists killed and declared as 'legitimate targets'. Of course, the bombardments are largely controlled by the emperor of NATO, America, but our own government insists we are fighting a 'moral' war and have to be seen to be primary motivators behind any actions".[xxxvii]
In the opinion of the United Kurdish Committee (UKC), the MED TV targeting operation was partially influenced by British and Turkish governmental concerns and agendas: “We have no doubt that, whatever excuses ITC might have for this appalling action, this is a political decision based on Britain’s policy of securing a lucrative share of arms sales to Turkey and assisting th[e] oppressive and anti-democratic barbarism” of the Turkish state. Mike Ingram agreed: “The ITC has now taken action on behalf of the governments of both Turkey and Britain. The Foreign Office has supported the decision, while maintaining that the commission had made it independently. The closing down of Med TV is the latest act in the systematic suppression”, targeting and criminalisation “of the democratic rights of Kurdish people”.
The UKC concluded that “it is noteworthy that Turkey broadcast the news of the ITC’s decision to close down Med TV well before it became known to anyone else”. Med TV – according to the Belgium based media production company BRD - had clearly interpreted this targeting action as “politically inspired; the British government suffered from Turkish pressure and the chairman of the competent commission (ITC) is one of the directors of a company called British Aerospace which sells arms to Turkey”.
Alongside this form of criminalisation of a Kurdish satellite channel, Kurdish politicians were also targeted and criminalised in shocking ways in the UK. Whilst some were barred entry into the UK as they sought to promote or publicly debate the nature of conflict resolution initiatives of the PKK and its General Secretary (Abdullah Ocalan), notable 'Others' were targeted differently. Kani Yilmaz – invited by British parliamentarians to debate and detail the PKK's conflict resolution initiatives in the British parliament – found himself being arrested just a few hundred yards from the UK Houses of Parliament as he was making his way to his meeting. A visibly shocked Robin Cook (MP and then Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson) had stated at the time: “In my twenty years as an MP, I have never heard of anyone being arrested” and targeted in this manner “on their way to address a parliamentary meeting”.
As an open letter protesting his arrest from Kurdistan Committees and Information Centres from 17 countries noted that:
This incident has angered the Kurdish community, particularly the reference to 'terrorism' which is an insult. One should understand the following: About 2,000 villages have been burnt down and totally destroyed; 30 civilians are being killed every day; people are being forced to flee from their villages. All this is being done by [Turkish NATO-backed] state forces. And everywhere in the world, any actions by Kurds is being suppressed, even to the extent of trying to prohibit meetings.
The Turkish state is trying to depopulate Kurdistan. So we ask: Is the Turkish state terrorist or are the people who are raising the Kurdistan question and trying to show the world what is going on to be called terrorist? The attitude of the British state shows clearly that it is assisting the Turkish state - this means it is helping with the massacre in Kurdistan. Kani Yilmaz should be immediately released".[xliii]
Hans Branscheidt, Chair of Medico International, in January 1995 assessed the action in the following manner:
On October 26, 1994, a Kurd entered the United Kingdom - Kani Yilmaz, European representative of the ERNK (the National Front for the Liberation of Kurdistan) - on his way to London where he was to take part in an event organised by MP's and members of the House of Lords. He was able to enter the country, but he did not make it to the event. Kani Yilmaz was arrested by the British authorities. On November 11th, it was announced that an investigation was underway and that both Germany and Turkey sought to have him deported. It is no coincidence, rather is it extremely significant, that Kani Yilmaz was arrested on his way to the world's oldest parliament building.
At the international conference on north-west Kurdistan in Brussels on March 12-13, 1994, Yilmaz brought together several hundred of the most important representatives of Kurdish parties, members of the Turkish parliament, prominent Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals, union representatives, European MPs, academics, and human rights activists from all over the world. One participant read a statement from the general secretary of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. This statement was an offer of a bilateral ceasefire under international monitoring and it was a pledge to "recognize all resolutions passed by the conference which aim at solving the conflict". This statement was greeted by the conference and was documented in the conference's final resolution as being a significant contribution to the political solution of the Kurdistan conflict.
This clear sign of being prepared to work toward a peaceful political solution was like an alarm signal to those carrying out genocide in Kurdistan, as well as to their helpers and arms suppliers. It was a danger to the delay of peace - the danger of a political solution.
Indeed, for much the same reason that Adem Uzun had to be targeted, imprisoned and falsely charged in France more recently:[xliv]
That's why Kani Yilmaz had to be arrested. That's why he [was] still being detained under deplorable conditions in a British jail, after which the German authorities hope[d] to keep him detained even longer so as to disrupt his activities which [we]re aimed at making peace … Let us conclude with some words from Kani Yilmaz himself: "There is a concrete solution pa[ckage], it was given by our general secretary, Abdullah Ocalan, during the international Kurdistan Conference in Brussels. This solution pa[ckage] includes proposals for a peaceful solution. This is further proof that we are prepared for a just political solution. The Kurdish and Turkish people can solve this problem together. We must strive toward a common solution. In response to this, the Turkish government and the Turkish state spread propaganda, saying that we want a separate state! That is not correct. That is Turkish propaganda. In the Kurdish solution pa[ckage], it is clear that we are willing to reach a political solution within the present borders".[xlv]
Onnik Krikorian concluded over the 'affair' that “what we now know is that the forces that were working behind the scenes were very powerful, and that Turkish pressure was being applied on the British Government to arrest Yilmaz with a view to enacting his extradition to Germany, and then by implication on to Turkey where he too would have certainly faced the death penalty. Extradition proceedings were frustrated by British lawyers and parliamentarians, and it was to take nearly three years before Yilmaz was to leave … for ... Germany”.[xlvi] 16 British MP's signed the following Early Day Motion (EDM – proposed by John Austin) in parliament on 24th June 1997:
That this House is concerned about the proposed extradition to Germany of the former European representative of the Kurdistan Workers Party, Kani Yilmaz; notes that Kani Yilmaz came to this country two and a half years ago to speak to members of both Houses regarding a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the war being waged by Turkey in his country, in which massive human rights abuses are being perpetrated against the civilian Kurdish population by the Turkish army and other Turkish government forces; is deeply concerned that he was arrested outside the House on instructions of the former Home Secretary, the honourable Member for Folkestone and Hythe, and prevented from addressing honourable Members and that he has spent the last two and a half years in HM Prison Belmarsh; calls on the current Home Secretary to exercise his powers under section 12(2) of the Extradition Act 1989 to consider all circumstances and actions surrounding the case and to establish an independent review; and believes that if a peaceful political settlement is to be found to the Kurdish question, Kani Yilmaz should be released to carry on his lawful political and diplomatic work.[xlvii]
The lawyer Mark Muller has clarified that Kani Yilmaz “gained legal entry into Britain to brief parliamentarians on the PKK's ceasefire, but was later arrested without a warrant on the grounds that he posed a threat to national security. This came under pressure from Turkey. This was all long before the new Terrorism Act ... Mr Muller recalled that 70 MP's signed a letter protesting at Yilmaz's arrest”.[xlviii] William Clark also noted the manner in which the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw's record on Kurdish issues (inclusive of his decision to extradite Kani Yilmaz to Germany) was “appalling – because the UK's record on Kurdish issues proves it has contributed to and supported the genocidal war against them by Turkey. Let us assume that Jack Straw did have convictions and did seek justice in this area: the treatment of Yilmaz reveals that the Kurdish issue is beyond the predilections of a single politician, beyond the powers of the Home Secretary of the UK. As for the law, it is applied and ignored when it suits each state”.[xlix]
Trevor Rayne has additionally documented the way in which disinformation and smear stories aimed at publicly discrediting the PKK Kurdish movement appeared in several leading international papers during the 1990’s. Many of these features, he concluded:
are the work of policy making specialists, with close relations to US andNATO military strategists. These are the propaganda counterpart of the US and NATO intelligence gathering overflights by surveillance aircraft targeting PKK bases in south Kurdistan (northern Iraq) for Turkish military raids … In large part, the … articles are written to a formula applied wherever the US establishment sees a threat to its New World Order ...
It follows that if some Kurds are vile opponents of ‘democracy and decency’ in Turkey, then their kith and kin and supporters here in Britain are likewise a threat to our British ways. The process of criminalising the ['Turkish'] Kurdish [refugee/diasporic] community here in Britain began with stories in the press. Its purpose is to criminalise the Kurdish people and to distance them from potential British sympathisers. At the same time, this would buttress the Turkish government’s propaganda war and leave its military war unrestrained by pressure from overseas”.
Kurdish and 'Other' asylum seekers and Kurdish refugee communities in the UK found themselves targeted and increasingly criminalised in a number of ways. The people who ended up being targeted, Ferkete observed, were increasingly being “dehumanised by the [legal and administrative] process[es]. In law, the asylum seekers [ar]e [now] being equated with the traffickers as if they were complicit in an illegal” and criminal “act. What [i]s ignored [i]s that asylum seekers ha[ve] a perfect right under present law – i.e. under the 1951 Convention - to use illegal means, such as false documents, to claim asylum. What [i]s evolving”, she had noted in 2001, “is a new European system of control”, targeting “and surveillance, with Europe-wide detention centres and a whole range of special holding centres and airport prisons” to criminalise Kurdish - as with 'Other' - asylum seekers.Although the British government possessed an ‘opt-out clause’ for this emerging ‘common EU’ criminalization/asylum policy, Baroness Sarah Ludlow, MEP, has detailed the way in which the British government, under the guidance of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, had by 2001 actively chosen to “opt-into the most repressive aspects of th[is] legislation”.
Several Kurds during this period were also unjustly targeted by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and detained before being released, without charge. As the Defend the Kurds Campaign observed at the time, it was being used primarily “as a handy device to intimidate and harass” people. During one such targeting operation in 1995 (after which, all ‘Turkish’ Kurds were, once again, released without charge), it became clear from the Special Branch interrogation that ‘Turkish’ Kurdish refugees and refugee/community centres were being systematically monitored and secretly photographed. One interrogating officer made it clear that, as far as the British authorities were concerned, “all Kurds” in Britain were being regarded as part of the ‘terrorist’ PKK. By this logic, notes the Defend the Kurds Campaign, all ‘Turkish’ Kurds in Britain were disturbingly and unaccountably being collectively “branded as terrorist” and deserving of targeting action, surveillance and criminalization. This, at a time when the PKK was still a legal organisation that had not yet been proscribed in the UK. The said officer is also alleged to have ludicrously informed the Kurds – and a British human rights campaigner who was accompanying them at the time – that it was her conviction that “the PKK are a greater threat to British national security than the IRA had ever been!”.
The solicitor Gareth Peirce has also detailed the way in which provisions of the PTA “appeared also to have formed the basis for police raids upon a number of Kurdish community centres, as a result of which no prosecutions took place, but in the process of seizing” and targeting “the property of those institutions and ‘investigating’, the police brought the lawful and essential community work of those [refugee/community] centres to a halt over an extended period of time”.
According to Corrine Souza, the privileged surveillance information which the UK based consultancy group, Aims Ltd, was able to offer to its clients, further proves that the Kurdish diaspora/refugee community was being subjected to highly secretive and intrusive targeting/surveillance operations by British intelligence agencies: “Take, for instance, Aims Ltd, ‘which has close links to British Intelligence and the SAS’ … Aims’ claims are worth considering: ‘[It] said it could also provide intelligence experts to gather information on Kurdish (i.e. PKK) rebels in each of the European Union countries. For £57,000 per month, information would be provided on their sources of funds, public relations and their connections with various governments’ … As a former lobbyist, I have an idea what £57,000 per month buys. We are talking here about tracking the European Kurdish diaspora; their contacts with friendly politicians in some of the national parliaments, ditto journalists; we are talking about the committees these politicians sit on and, therefore, their colleagues whom they are lobbying - and that's before you have taken a look at the European Parliament and all the inter-groups which duck and dive, collapse, re-emerge; and before you have followed the European politicians across the pond to America; and, because you cannot ring fence such a brief to the EU, before you have tracked them into the international quangos. And that is just the elected representatives, not the bureaucrats. Do you know how many cigars and dinners that means? Considerably more than £57,000. Unless, of course, you are accessing existing information compiled by national intelligence agencies, in which case, all you are doing is checking it; and, in which case also, the [British] taxpayer has subsidised the loathsome alleged activities of the company”.
It is interesting to note that Aims Ltd, which has been so enthusiastic in offering these kinds of ‘targeting’ operations against particular Kurds in each EU country, also happened to be the organisation which was exposed as having “plotted to assassinate Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the … PKK group” and “offered to arrange to irradiate Kurdish rebels held by the Turks in northern Iraq. The company told Turkish authorities that after the Kurds were released, the radiation would make it possible to track” and target “their movements and follow them to their bases. It added that the prisoners could fall ill from radiation poisoning within 21 days”.
Confidential documents ... show that Brian Smith, the company's boss who goes by the name of "Tom", suggested the radiation poisoning in a five-page briefing document prepared for the Turkish security authorities. After discussing options for tracking the rebels, including heat detection or ultraviolet or infrared viewers, he wrote: "Radiation detection - This is a method in which a radioactive source is placed in the target and the source is then monitored. This can be done by aircraft or satellite. The downside is that the target succumbs to radiation poisoning in approximately 21 days. This has been used by certain nations when they have released PoWs". A security official involved in the deal said Aims proposed to irradiate the prisoners from a source hidden in a metal box on a table in an interrogation cell.[lxi]
Aims Ltd was also “one of two British firms which provided military equipment and training facilities to members of the Turkish special forces who captured Ocalan”, the leader of the PKK in Kenya in a CIA linked operation that some equate to a form of rendition. The British police are known to not have taken any formal action over these matters with Aims.
Desmond Fernandes is a member of the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) and the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign. He was a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Genocide Studies at De Montfort University (UK) and is the author of 'The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides: From Censorship and Denial to Recognition?' (Apec: Stockholm, 2007; Peri, Istanbul, 2013), 'The Struggle for Kurdish Language Rights in Turkey' (Peace in Kurdistan, London, 2011), 'Zana's Wait for Me, Diyarbakir, the Kurdish Genocide, Turkish State Terror and US-NATO inspired Torture' (Apec: Stockholm, 2015, forthcoming) and co-author of 'The Targeting of “Minority Others” in Pakistan' (BPCA: London, 2013) and 'The Education System in Pakistan: Discrimination and the Targeting of the Other’ (BPCA, London, 2014). His articles have appeared in a number of journals and magazines, including 'Genocide Studies and Prevention' (the official journal of the International Association of Genocide Scholars); 'Kurdistan Aktuell', 'L’Appel du Kurdistan', 'Armenian Forum', the 'Thailand Environment Institute Journal', the 'International Journal of the Sociology of Language'; 'Peace News'; 'Law, Social Justice and Global Development' and 'Variant: Cross Currents in Culture'.
[i] See Welch, D. (2010) 'Police raid Kurdish groups at daybreak', The Age, 20 August 2010 (accessed at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/police-raid-kurdish-groups-at-daybreak-20100819-12s3y.html); FECCA (2005) 'Letter to the Committee Secretary, Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security', 19 January 2005 (accessed at: http://www.fecca.org.au/images/stories/documents/Submissions/2006/Submissions_2006001.pdf); RACS (2006) 'Submission in relation to the proscription of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)', RACS, 30 January 2006 (accessed at: file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/http---www.aphref.aph.gov.au-house-committee-pjcis-pkk-subs-sub17.pdf); Walker, C. (2014) 'The Terrorism Suppression Act and Criminalisation of National Liberation Groups', New Zealand Human Rights Blog, 1 April 2014 (accessed at: http://nzhumanrightsblog.com/uncategorized/the-terrorism-suppression-act-and-criminalisation-of-national-liberation-groups/). “A coalition led by the Kurdish Association of Victoria and the Federation of Community Legal Centres [in Australia] strenuously opposed the ban, gaining considerable support for what was a media-starved issue. The City of Yarra and groups such as Liberty Victoria supported the campaign, and two members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee dissented from the decision to proscribe the PKK. As this proscription is regularly reviewed and re-listed, the campaign against it continues … Many Kurds in Australia fear the abuse of anti-terrorism laws, not surprisingly given that persecution in Turkey was often justified in the name of fighting terrorism. The Kurdish Association of Victoria reported that Australian Kurds were worried that they could unknowingly be breaking the law when sending money to Kurdish charities that may end up going through PKK hands. The Federation of Community Legal Centres argued that Australia's anti-terrorism laws were so broad they could criminalise mere agreement with the PKK's political goals, pointing out that several people had asked whether they would be jailed for having a copy of the PKK constitution. They also argued that proscribing the PKK could lead to arrests being made on the basis of intelligence provided by Turkey, and that given Turkey's history of persecuting Kurds this risked people being arrested for peaceful advocacy of Kurdish rights. Another fear was that some Kurds... could have their refugee status affected because of perceived past PKK associations” - Zammit, A. (2010) 'Kurdish raids not a misuse of terror laws', The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 2010 (accessed at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/kurdish-raids-not-a-misuse-of-terror-laws-20100824-13pkk.html).
[ii] For more on the genocide issue, see my The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides: From Censorship and Denial to Recognition? (Apec: Stockholm, 2007; Peri: Istanbul, 2013), 'Le Genocide Kurde', L'Appel du Kurdistan, Special Issue, October 2001 and Zana's Wait for Me, Diyarbakir, the Kurdish Genocide, Turkish State Terror and US-NATO ‘Inspired’ Torture (Apec: Stockholm, 2015, forthcoming).
[iii] As reported in Vosbigian, V. (1999) ‘Press Release: London, 17 July 1999: Seminar Discussing Kurdish and Armenian Genocides, 1915-99’. London: KIC, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and the United Kurdish Committee, p. 2 and also quoted in Fernandes, D. (2001) The Targeting and Criminalisation of Kurdish Asylum Seekers.The Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: London, p. 15.
[vi] See Fernandes, D. (2001) The Targeting and Criminalisation of Kurdish Asylum Seekers.The Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: London.
[vii] Bunyan, T. (1995) ‘Secret and unaccountable bodies’, Kurdistan Report, No. 21, May-June 1995, p. 31-32.
[viii] These reports were presented at a Defend the Kurds Campaign meeting which was held on 13th December 1994 at the National Union of Journalists building, London – The quoted statements come from the 'minutes' of this meeting.
[ix] See Burke, J. (2001) ‘MI5 and Police Ordered Illegal Break-Ins at Mosques’, The Observer, 18 February 2001 (accessed at: http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,439636,00.html).
[x] NCADC (undated) ‘Shafiq-ur-Rehman Wins Deportation Battle Twice’ (accessed at: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/letters/frontpage/shafiq.html).
[xi] NCADC (undated) ‘Shafiq-ur-Rehman Wins Deportation Battle Twice’ (accessed at: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/letters/frontpage/shafiq.html).
[xii] NCADC (undated) ‘Shafiq-ur-Rehman Wins Deportation Battle Twice’ (accessed at: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/letters/frontpage/shafiq.html).
[xiii] NCADC (undated) ‘Shafiq-ur-Rehman Wins Deportation Battle Twice’ (accessed at: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/letters/frontpage/shafiq.html).
[xiv] Burke, J. (2001) ‘MI5 and Police Ordered Illegal Break-Ins at Mosques’, The Observer, 18th February 2001 (http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,439636,00.html).
[xv] Burke, J. (2001) ‘MI5 and Police Ordered Illegal Break-Ins at Mosques’, The Observer, 18th February 2001 (http://www.observer.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,439636,00.html).
[xvi] These reports were presented at a Defend the Kurds Campaign meeting which was held on 13th December 1994 at the National Union of Journalists building, London – The quotes are taken from the minutes of this meeting.
[xvii] Christian Fisher and Co. (1992) ‘Letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’, Kurdistan Report, No. 11, p. 31.
[xviii] Hickman and Rose (1992) ‘Letter to the Press Complaints Commission’, Kurdistan Report, No. 11, September 1992, p. 30.
[xix] Brooke, A (1994) ‘Sunday Times Serves the Political Agenda of the Turkish Government’, Kurdistan Report, No. 19, September-October 1994, p. 41.
[xx] Brooke, A (1994) ‘Sunday Times Serves the Political Agenda of the Turkish Government’, Kurdistan Report, No. 19, September-October 1994, p. 41.
[xxi] As quoted in Labournet (1998) ‘Kurdish Refugees – Persecuted in London’, Labour Net (accessed at: http://www.llb.labournet.org.uk/1998/october/news8.html).
[xxii] Leigh, D. (2000) ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Journalist’, The Guardian, 12 June 2000 (accessed at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4028313,00.html).
[xxiii] Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) Expanded Report of a Campaign Meeting that was held on 2 February 1995, NUJ, London, p. 7.
[xxiv] The Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) Discussion Document on the Case of PKK European Representative Kani Yilmaz, the Criminalization of Kurdish Communities in Britain and Europe and the Erosion of Democratic and Civil Rights. The Defend the Kurds Campaign: London, p. 23.
[xxv] Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) Expanded Report of a Campaign Meeting which was held on 2nd February, NUJ, London, p. 7.
[xxvi] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxvii] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxviii] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxix] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxx] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxxi] Interview with Zinar Hogir at the Croydon Community Centre, Croydon, May 2nd 2001.
[xxxii] Rayne, T. (1994) ‘Kurds Targeted in Britain’, Kurdistan Report, No. 19, September-October, 1994, p. 40.
[xxxiii] Rayne, T. (1994) ‘Kurds Targeted in Britain’, Kurdistan Report, No. 19, September-October, 1994, p. 40.
[xxxviii] United Kurdish Committee (undated) ‘United Kurdish Committee Statement: ITC’s Surrender to Turkish Pressure Shocks The Kurdish Community’. UTC, London, p. 1.
[xxxix] Ingram, M. (1999) ‘In a fresh attack on Kurdish democratic rights, UK watchdog shuts down Med TV station’, World Socialist Web Site, 24 March 1999 (accessed at: http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/mar1999/kurd-m24.shtml).
[xl] United Kurdish Committee (undated) ‘United Kurdish Committee Statement: ITC’s Surrender to Turkish Pressure Shocks The Kurdish Community’. London: UTC, p. 1. For further details of these concerns and agendas, see also: Kurdish News Bulletin Weekly (1999) ‘Meanwhile Turkey Continues Its Campaign Against Med TV’, Kurdish News Bulletin Weekly, 13-19th March 1999, p. 1.
[xli] As quoted by BRD (1999) ‘Kurdish Television Back on Air’, Press Statement from BRD, Belgium, 9June 1999, p. 1.
[xlii] As quoted in The Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) ‘Discussion Document on the Case of PKK European Representative Kani Yilmaz, the Criminalization of Kurdish Communities in Britain and Europe and the Erosion of Democratic and Civil Rights’. The Defend the Kurds Campaign: London, p. 1.
[l] Rayne, T. (1992) ‘The Press and the Kurds: Propaganda War’, Kurdistan Report, November/December 1992, p. 30.
[li] See Morgan, D. (2001) ‘KSC/Peace in Kurdistan Campaign Report (dated 15 April) on a seminar called to discuss the threat to Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers’, p. 3.
[lii] See Morgan, D. (2001) ‘KSC/Peace in Kurdistan Campaign Report (dated 15th April) on a seminar called to discuss the threat to Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers’, p. 4.
[liii] The Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) ‘Discussion Document on the Case of PKK European Representative Kani Yilmaz, the Criminalization of Kurdish Communities in Britain and Europe and the Erosion of Democratic and Civil Rights’. The Defend the Kurds Campaign: London, p. 26.
[liv] Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) Expanded Report of a Campaign Meeting, which was held on 2 February, NUJ, London, p. 7. Interview also with one of those targeted who confirmed the nature of the statement made regarding the Kurds (as detailed in the main text).
[lv] Defend the Kurds Campaign (1995) Expanded Report of a Campaign Meeting, which was held on 2 February, NUJ, London, p. 7. Interview also with one of those targeted who confirmed the nature of the statement made regarding the Kurds (as detailed in the main text).
[lvi] Peirce, G. (2000) ‘Britain’s Proposed New Anti-Terrorism Law’, Kurdistan Report, No. 29, March-April 2000, p. 73.
[lvii] Leppard, D., Nuki, P. and Walsh, G. (1999) ‘British Firm Told Turkey How to Irradiate Kurds’, The Sunday Times, 31 October 1999, p. 6.
[lviii] Souza, C. (2000) ‘Rebranding SIS’, Lobster, No. 40, Winter 2000/2001 (Lobster CD Rom).
[lix] Leppard, D., Nuki, P. and Walsh, G. (1999) ‘British Firm Told Turkey How to Irradiate Kurds’, The Sunday Times, 31 October 1999, p. 6.
[lx] Leppard, D., Nuki, P. and Walsh, G. (1999) ‘British Firm Told Turkey How to Irradiate Kurds’, The Sunday Times, 31 October 1999, p. 6.
[lxii] Leppard, D., Nuki, P. and Walsh, G. (1999) ‘Britain’s “Murder Inc” Plotted to Kill Rebel Leader’, The Sunday Times, 22 August 1999, p. 1.