By Kani Xulam
February 24, 2000
On January 17, 2000, members of the elite Turkish police, acting on a “tip” from intelligence agents, surrounded a house at Beykoz in Istanbul. What followed and was televised live on the Turkish televisions was a scene reminiscent of what the elite Peruvian commandos did at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, back in 1997. Huseyin Velioglu, the leader of Turkey’s Hezbollah was killed. Two of his friends were captured. There were no hostages in the house to liberate, but guns, long ago mangled dead bodies and footage of torture scenes on videotapes were found.
The spoils of the “successful” raid have been a fixture on the Turkish television ever since, but what is on the videos has only been seen by a select group of people in the government. There is a debate in Turkey now as to whether the public at large should be given access to these videotapes. While the pros and cons of the debate are still continuing, 58 other tortured dead bodies, mostly Kurds, have been exhumed. President Demirel of Turkey, in the mean time, has gone on record to say that no one should be exposed to these videotapes since, in his words, “barbarity has no instructive value.”
Who is Mr. Velioglu? What is “Hezbollah” or more specifically its Turkish reincarnation? Did Mr. Velioglu and his cohorts really ask for an Islamic Republic of Kurdistan as some in the West have claimed they did? No one gets straight answers to these questions in Turkey. Abroad, the emerging picture disturbs the Kurds, pains the friends of Turks and reveals to all that the government in Ankara has forfeited its right to rule over the Kurds.
To be sure, Mr. Velioglu was a Kurd. His place of birth was Batman, a Kurdish province in the impoverished Kurdish region of Turkey. A drop out of the Faculty of Political Science in Ankara, his name had been associated with the Islamic circles, but no one had thought of him as a Kurdish patriot. At Beykoz, in Istanbul, he could have been easily tricked out of his house and arrested to account for his crimes. But the police chose to kill him and in so doing wanted to protect certain circles in the government.
But enough has surfaced about him to ascertain that he was a Kurd in name only. He allowed himself to be used by the Turkish government against his people’s rising struggle for political rights and self-determination. With Kurdish rebels’ declaration of peace, he became a burden and liability. He was killed because he knew the dirty laundry of too many. Some careers might have come to an abrupt end with his admissions. A few can now rest and die as statesmen worthy of Machiavelli’s “Prince”.
The party that the Turkish government officials now claim that he founded had a different mission and an unsavory beginning. Back in the early 1990s, the Kurdish rebels had connected with the Kurdish masses and the government forces were on the defensive. Kurds were becoming aware of the dissolution of the totalitarian systems such as the Soviet Union and were clamoring and fighting for rights that smaller nations such as Latvia and Estonia were given.
That is when Kurdish dropouts such as Huseyin Velioglu and his ilk were recruited and armed with a potent ideology to wage a holy war on the independence-seeking Kurds. For a government that refuses to recognize the Kurdish minority, pitting one group of Kurds against another was ‘realpolitik’ at its best. The policy had the additional bonus of keeping the Turkish boys at home or limiting their exposure to combat duty. Kurds killing Kurds was an old movie for the Middle Eastern tyrants and Turks had bona fide credentials as best directors in this field.
In the last decade alone, over 1000 people have disappeared. In Turkish Kurdistan, the number of the victims of the so-called actor unknown assailants rose above 3.000 people. The list included Mehmet Sincar, a duly elected Kurdish member of Turkish parliament. Nizamettin Toguc, another Kurdish member of the same parliament, was heavily injured. The Kurds who took the high road to politics and refused to lose faithin participatory democracy were especially targeted and murdered.
With Turkey’s admission to the European Union as a candidate state, the role for the Kurdish villains has changed. Last Saturday, three Kurdish mayors were arbitrarily arrested. I suppose we Kurds should be grateful that a lonely cell in a Turkish prison is preferable to an unmarked gravesite somewhere in Turkey. This is the same Europe that extends a welcome mat to Turkey and also stands up to Austria for accommodating Haider types in its government. It remains to be seen if the imprisonment of the mayors would be equated with the ugly racism that has risen its head in Vienna.
So the talk about Turkey’s Hezbollah wanting to establish an Islamic Republic of Kurdistan is another attempt to whitewash the crimes of the Turkish state and to discredit the Kurdish struggle for political rights. Istanbul, the city that gave the world the word “Byzantine Intrigue” is still engaged in the same calumny — this time it is against the Kurds. The Turkish government may choose to beguile its Turkish population and abuse its Kurdish subjects but it will not be able to go on with this policy for too long. The new residents of Constantinople should look no further than Moscow: the totalitarian regimes don’t last forever.