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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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The Kurdish Human Rights Project, an independent NGO with specialist knowledge of the Kurdish regions of southeast Turkey, has compiled a detailed short critique of Turkey’s continuing deficiencies in meeting the Copenhagen criteria for accession to the European Union.

The thirteen-page memo was sent yesterday to the main protagonists of the critical EU accession summit in Copenhagen, which takes place today and tomorrow. Recipients included Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, the country currently holding the EU presidency; Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission; Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the Council of the EU; Guenter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enlargement; Valery Giscard d’Estaing; and the Permanent Representatives of all the member states.

While acknowledging that Turkey’s efforts at reform have produced some significant changes in law, the memo nonetheless concludes that very few concrete changes in practice are as yet apparent in the Kurdish regions. The report lists Turkey’s ongoing violations of social and human rights under three categories: inadequate reform measures; malfeasances as yet unaddressed by reforms; and issues which may affect accession but have not yet been brought into the debate.

Inadequate reform measures include the Harmonisation Law, many of whose provisions, particularly those on broadcasting and teaching in Kurdish, have been heavily circumscribed by the Turkish state; the lifting of the State of Emergency (OHAL) in the Kurdish regions in name only, rather than in practice; continuing intimidation and fraud during the recent elections; the increase rather than drop in reported instances of torture in custody; and the persistent dominance of the military in Turkish political life.

Wrongdoings and human rights violations that remain unaddressed include the over 3 million Kurds now squatting in illegal slums and still prohibited from returning to their home villages after years of displacement; Turkey’s persistent failure to implement the adverse judgments found against it by the European Court of Human Rights, and the compromised independence of the domestic judiciary; the continued repression and censorship of the press; the persistence of ‘internal exile’ for dissenting public servants; the repeated attempts to close civil society and organisations and NGOs critical of the state; and the undermining of elected officials in Kurdish areas through imposed budget cuts of up to 100%.

Issues which may imperil Turkey’s accession but have not yet been considered in the debate include the project agreements of the Baku-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, whose legal framework may well violate Turkey’s legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other treaties; and the scope and intentions of the Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP), a network of vast dam and power projects which if built would flood hundreds of thousands of Kurds out of their homes.

The report concludes by stating, “it is therefore incumbent upon the European Union to ensure that its standards for accession are not traduced by a piecemeal and superficial adherence to the Copenhagen criteria on the part of applicant states, one which precludes rather than produces real change in respect for democracy and human rights. If the EU does not ensure that changes in theory are matched by equivalent changes in practice, it risks irreparable damage to its credibility and integrity. It also risks compounding rather than alleviating the systematic violations to which the Kurdish citizens of Turkey have been subjected for decades, and thereby reigniting the bloody conflict which wracked the southeast for nearly two decades.”

“The Kurdish Human Rights Project therefore urges the representatives of the European Union meeting in Copenhagen this week not to submit to irrelevant and unfair external political pressure, and to consider in detail whether Turkey’s reforms are sufficiently proven and established to grant a definite date for the start of accession talks. To offer rewards for work not yet done is to set a precedent which imperils rather than expedites the utterly desperate need for genuine human rights reform in Turkey. We trust that such rewards will only be made on merit.”



The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.