Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
June 8, 1999

The Honorable William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500-0005

Dear Mr. President:

As the bloodiest century in human history draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s best hope for a more peaceful and secure future. From Northern Ireland to Kosovo, from the Middle East to East Timor, American diplomacy continues to facilitate negotiations to end sometimes decades and sometimes centuries old conflicts. The world is a better place because of these peace initiatives and more is needed to make this world a safer place for all.

In Turkey, the Kurdish people continue to suffer atrocities at the hands of Turkish troops.  Their land has become the setting for war, despite the repeated cease-fires and calls for negotiations by the Kurdish rebels.  The Kurdish language is illegal in the country and Kurdish dissent is not tolerated by the authorities.  Turkish Kurdistan, once home to 18 million livestock, can now only feed 4 million.  In Kurdish lands, over 3, 000 villages have been destroyed; more than 3 million Kurds have become refugees.  37,000 people have died.

The case of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, holds a mirror to the Kurdish predicament and with some foresight offers the best hope for the resolution of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.  In Turkish custody since February 15, 1999, Mr. Ocalan has been the sole inmate of Imrali island prison.  Charged with treason, he was given the death sentence on June 29, 1999.  As these lines were written, an appeal is in process.  Denied due process, the Amnesty International has called for a new trial.  Human Rights Watch has noted that there were “grave shortcomings” in the Turkish court.

This mockery of the rule of law and such abuse of the rights of the Kurds and the imminent execution of Mr. Ocalan are ingredients of a major conflict with serious implications for Turkish and regional stability.

Mr. President, in 1962, the United States government, in a case similar to Mr. Ocalan’s, helped the Apartheid system in South Africa to apprehend Nelson Mandela.  Years later, the Apartheid leaders negotiated with him to heal the bleeding wound that had become their country. With some guidance from us, Turkey and its leaders can take a similar road to talk with Mr. Ocalan and take the road to the dawn of peace for the peoples that make up Turkey.

We urge you, accordingly, to use the considerable American influence with Ankara to convince that country’s leaders to spare Mr. Ocalan’s life and consider his offer of peace to end the cycle of violence that has blemished the international reputation of Turkey.  The United States has been a beacon of hope to the Kurds of Iraq.  We believe the Kurds of Turkey also have the right to live free of persecution, and that America can play a leading role in helping to resolve this tragic conflict.


Bob Filner, M.C.

Frank Pallone Jr., M.C.

John Edward Porter, M.C.

Neil Abercrombie, M.C.

Wayne T. Gilchrest, M.C.

Maurice D. Hinchey, M.C.

Jesse Jackson Jr., M.C.

Sharrod Brown, M.C.

Henry Waxman, M.C.

Carolyn B. Maloney, M.C.

Cynthia A. McKinney, M.C.

Darlene Hooley, M.C.

Jim Maloney, M.C.

Michael R. McNulty, M.C.

Patrick J. Kennedy, M.C.

Robert A. Underwood, M.C.

Rush Holt, M.C.

Mary Bono, M.C.

George E. Brown Jr., M.C.

John Lewis, M.C.

Lynn C. Woolsey, M.C.

John F. Tierney, M.C.

David E. Bonior, M.C.