30 December 1996
This is the report of the delegation that visited Lice (pronounced Lygee) on 30 December 1996 in response to an appeal by the Diyarbakir Democracy Platform. This report was compiled by reporters appointed by the Platform following a meeting at which 14 reports sent by representatives of organisations which joined the delegation were discussed.
1) The delegation was organised following calls by the residents office and in order to investigate allegations covered by the press regarding incidents occurring since 11 December 1996.
A meeting was held in the town of Lice on 11 December to which all the village and neigbourhood representative of Lice were invited by the District and Gendarme Command. At the meeting the Diyarbakir Gendarme Regiment Commander and Senior military officers asked all the local representatives to submit the men for the village guard list. The local representatives said that this would not be feasible, that the people would not accept it and they rejected the demand saying that the would be put in a difficult position with the people. The representatives were then threatened concerning the town.
3) Delegation to Investigate Allegations
A total of 64 people, comprising 43 of the peoples representatives, 37 organisations and 21 local and national journalists met in the Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Associations at 9-30 am.
Following a brief preliminary meeting regarding a visit to Lice a seven person delegation went to the Diyarbakir Provincial Authority in order to inform the authorities of the planned visit to Lice. However due to the fact t
hat none in authority could be found in the building, the meeting could not take place. A fax was also sent to the State of Emergency Region Governor (OHAL) office.
After the commission had returned to the Human Rights Office a short press statement was made regarding the commissions attempt to inform the authorities. At 11 am. the delegation set off for Lice, in four mini busses and 3 private cars. The delegation convoy was first stopped at Mermer Military Post. The Commander said the delegation could not be permitted to pass without written permission from the OHAL office, and that the journalists needed written authority from the OHAL press office. A telephone call was then made to the OHAL governor Necati Bilican as a result of which, permission was given for the delegation to proceed. After short delays at Kocakoy and Duru military posts the delegation reached Lice at 2pm without encountering further difficulty.
From the approach road to Lice we were escorted into the town by security forces. When we reached the Gendarme Battalion a group of about 20, mainly elderly woman and children, who had probably had heard about our visit stopped the delegation.
The members of the group were confronted by a human drama, and while trying to understand what people were saying amidst shouts and cries, got out to speak to the crowd. The people held the delegations arms and collars and said "Help! Help! We do not want the village guard system. We are being held here like prisoners". The security forces intervene to make sure we moved on as soon as possible to prevent the people expressing their reaction.
In order that nothing untoward occurred as a result of the intervention we proceeded towards the district governor's office where a meeting was to be held. The delegation met the proxy governor, Captain Haci Ilbas, without the journalists, who began to speak to the people gathered in front of the building.
It was clear that there was a great contrast between the explanations of events offered by Captain Haci Ilbas and the scene witnessed by our delegation. He said, "No one has been forced to become a village guard. 84 people in Lice have voluntarily applied to us to become village guards. We then issued weapons. Our goal is to provide our impoverished people with material opportunities. Halis Toprak is going to build two factories in Lice. There will be a need for village guards to protect these factories. Our entirely well-intentioned ideas have been misrepresented and this has led to a reaction. However such reactions in many places have been short lived," he said.
Captain Ilbas then responded to our delegation's request by speaking to the people gathered infront of the building, to confirm what he had told us. He said "People of Lice, didn't you ask to be village guards?" The people shouted back as one "No, you are forcing our people to become village guards. What you are saying is not true". A member of the delegation then explained the purpose of the visit and said the group would follow up the matter.
In conversations with the delegation people said, "Our children and husbands are being forced to become village guards. We can't put up with the hunger, begging and even leaving here, but you must stay if you go the pressure on us will increase even further." We then went with the people to the centre of town. We spoke to the shopkeepers there. Most of them were reluctant to speak to us and said a food embargo had continued for years, adding: "you can see everything for yourselves, you can guess what will happen to us after you've gone if we speak".
We then selected a three-person commission to meet with the 84 men forced into training. The commission went to the Gendarme Battalion. When our commission met the 84 they all had their heads down and a sad look on their faces. The captain asked the commission members to walk with the group towards the rest of the delegation. At this juncture the men told members of the delegation that they had been previously instructed by the captain to say that no one had been forced to become a village guard, and that they had been told that any one saying anything contrary to this would suffer the consequences.
They said that none of them wished to be a village guard that they wanted to hand their weapons as soon as possible and asked the delegation to help by going public support. They also said they would not be able to express these things in front of the delegation and would respond to all questions by remaining silent. When they reached the place where the rest of the group was waiting a member made a short speech on behalf of the delegation which was stopped by the Captain, who instructed the security forces to intervene. The security forces then harassed and began to jostle the members of the delegation and journalists had films taken from their cameras.
In order not to permit the situation to get worse the delegation left the town shortly after at around 4pm.
Our delegation arrived in Diyarbakir with a security forces escort at about 5.15pm. The investigation ended with a short press statement in the Southeast Journalist Association.
Our delegation reached the following conclusions following meetings with both the authorities and people.
a) It is abundantly clear that the people and that this was illegally imposed on them by the military authorities.
b) It has been ascertained that the residents who are being subjected to compulsory training at the Gendarme Command are under great material and moral pressure.
c) We have come to the conclusion that between 21-30 December 1996 a tense situation developed from time to time as the families of those forcibly taken under arms waited on side the gate of the Gendarme Command, and believe upsetting incidents may occur.
d) It is clear that the reason for the male population of Lice being reluctant to speak to members of the delegation was due to the people being warned not to say anything before the group entered Lice. However the fact that despite this women and children explained what had been happening, their reactions and their openly stating that being a village guard was not compatible with their sense of self-respect is proof of the bankrupt of the persistence of the military rationale.
e) Once more in Lice the most concrete example of the impoverishment, forced migration and poor living conditions created by the long-running civil war environment has been observed in Lice. As is the case in many other places there is rationing in Lice.
f)We are worried that if oppression continuous in Lice there may be a mass exodus from the town.
1) An official delegation of high-level officials must go to the town as soon as possible and urgently alleviate the situation of the people by putting an end to the arbitrary nature of authority there.
2) Both our report and press coverage demonstrate that the situation in the town is illegal, and these findings should be accepted as a report of an offense by the legal authorities and action taken.
3) National and International human rights organisations and all democratic organisations should urgently take action and ensure that a Lice Monitoring Committee is established.
4) Given the importance and seriousness of the issue MPs from the region in particular should raise the matter in the Turkish Grand National Assembly, call for a Parliamentary investigation and not remain silent.
Diyarbakir Democracy Platform
Translated by Kurdistan Information Centre (KIC)
from Turkish original.
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