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TURKEY'S TRUE COLORS

By P. D. Spyropoulos


After being pursued from Syria to Moscow, Abdullah Ocalan-leader of
the PKK, the separatist guerrilla insurgency which seeks autonomy for
Turkey's large Kurdish minority-has fled to Italy.  An Italian court
has ruled that its country's constitution prohibits Ocalan from being
extradited to Turkey because he would most likely be executed.  The
State Department and much of the American media have criticized Italy
for upholding its constitution while overlooking a far more important
consideration: that Turkey has reacted more like a militant Mideast
backwater than a NATO ally.

Turkey commenced an assault against Italian interests last week which
was unprecedented in the history of the European Union.  Turkish
Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin warned, "we will carry out a review of
our relations with Italy in all areas of the economy."  A boycott was
launched Monday by the powerful Union of Chambers of Commerce and
Industry and has been backed by numerous state-owned and private
firms.  Turkey's first state bank, Ziraat Bankasi, declared that it
would no longer grant loans for the purchase of tractors and other
Italian farming equipment, and further eliminated the Italian company
Olivetti from a $500,000 bid for photocopy machines.

On Thursday, Turkey's third-largest city, Izmir, disqualified Pirelli
from a $200,000 contract to provide tires for city buses.  Eight
million dollars worth of electrical household contracts with Italian
firms were scrapped, and imports of alcoholic beverages from Italy
were halted altogether.  The Turkish government has blacked out
Italian television, and the Turkish telephone company has suspended
all commercial ties with Italian companies.  Even Turkey's association
of travel agents, TURSAB, announced that Turkish tour operators had
canceled their tours to Italy.  Perhaps the best news coming from this
boycott-at least for Turkey's neighbors and for Kurds, political
dissidents, religious minorities and other oppressed groups living
under a government with one of the worst human rights records on
earth-is that Turkey has announced a ban on military imports from
Italy worth up to three hundred million dollars.

Fomented by the inflammatory statements of Turkish leaders and the
government-controlled press, Turkey's anti-Italian hysteria peaked
into a frenzy this week with protests taking place in several parts of
the country.  Italy's Foreign Ministry advised its nationals not to
travel to Turkey and to "exercise caution", avoiding places in Turkey
that are venues for large demonstrations.  Fearing for the safety of
Italian players, the European football association decided to postpone
a game between the Turin-based Juventus soccer team and a Turkish team
until December.  Thousands have been protesting outside the Italian
embassy in Ankara for the past week and a half, shouting anti-Italian
slogans, burning the Italian flag and torching an effigy of Ocalan
hung from a scaffold.

According to Anatolia news agency, nearly 130,000 demonstrators
paraded along a three-mile street in the central city of Kayseri
chanting "Italy terrorist" and burning Italian-made shoes and
portraits of Ocalan.  Other demonstrations were reported in Istanbul
and Bursa, while in the Mediterranean town of Antalya the Italian
honorary consul, Gaye Doganoglu, said she would quit her post.  Last
week, a mob trampled Italian food for sale in a market and three
Frenchmen and their interpreter, all members of a religious aid
organization that were arrested when police sacked the headquarters of
a pro-Kurdish party in Diyarbakir, were expelled.

Since Ocalan's arrest, two Kurds have died in police custody and more
than 3,000 people have been detained during a nationwide witchhunt of
supporters of Turkey's main legal Kurdish party, HADEP.  Police raids
on HADEP offices began after relatives of prisoners on hunger strikes
gathered at party centers nationwide to join the fast.  Television
pictures showed right-wing militants beating party members as they
were being escorted into police detention, and on Saturday a retired
teacher and HADEP member died as a result of blows from extremists who
seized him from police custody in the western town of Izmit.  The
Turkish Government has sent 30,000 troops to crack down on the Kurdish
separatist group, the PKK, in the eastern Tunceli province, a region
that is currently under the emergency rule of a Turkish military
governor.

Danielle Mitterrand, the president of the France-Freedom Foundation
and widow of the late French president Francois Mitterand, declared
"if you judge Ocalan as a terrorist, you should also judge and impose
sanctions for state terrorism represented by [Turkey's] official
army."

In Bonn, Hasan Denizkurdu, Turkey's Minister of Justice, fumed that
there would "no longer be relations" between Rome and Ankara unless
Ocalan is handed over to Turkey, and warned that Turkey would consider
Italy a "terrorist state" if it granted him political asylum.  Turkish
Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz further warned Italy that it is risking
Turkey's "eternal enmity" and threatened that Italy's "mistake[s] will
certainly have a very high price."  Last Saturday, Yilmaz attacked the
Italian government in front of 10,000 of his party supporters during a
major congress of his Motherland Party who chanted "Damn Italy."
Yilmaz threatened that "the whole world should know that if Italy
persists in this disgrace, Turkey will not leave it unanswered."
Yilmaz's speech was greeted with chants and thunderous applause.

Italy's Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, responded that he would not
bow to "economic blackmail", and characterized Turkey's acts as
"illegal" and in violation of international conventions.  Italian
Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini denounced the anti-Italian frenzy as
"an aggression against all of Europe."  What concerned many European
leaders is the possibility that it was instigated to deflect attention
from Yilmaz's own domestic political woes; after a series of
government scandals involving underworld connections and corruption
charges, Yilmaz's government fell this past Wednesday after losing a
confidence vote in the Turkish Parliament.

Yet the Italian imbroglio is just the latest swell in a rising tide of
Turkish anti-European hostility following the rejection of Turkey's
application for E.U. membership last year.  In a step unprecedented
for a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey stated in August that it
would refuse to comply with a European Court of Human Rights
ruling-which ordered Turkey to pay substantial damages to a
Greek-Cypriot woman forced to leave her home as a result of Turkey's
1974 invasion and present occupation of northern Cyprus.  No other
member of the 40-nation Council of Europe has ever failed to comply
with a compensation order from its human rights court.  Such a breach
of the underlying Human Rights Convention can result in the expulsion
of the offending state.

Turkey has also rejected a resolution adopted by the Strasbourg-based
European Union Parliament calling on Turkey's President Suleyman
Demirel to exonerate Akin Birdal, who was recently sentenced to one
year in prison for his activities as president of the Turkish
Association for Human Rights.  In May, Birdal was shot repeatedly in
the chest and legs by two extremists linked to the military but
managed to survive the attack.  The resolution, endorsed on Thursday,
also demanded that the Turkish authorities allow Birdal to travel
abroad for medical treatment and emphasized the need for reform in the
Turkish judicial system.

Perhaps the gesture most illustrative of the widening gap between the
progressive, pluralistic European democracy Italy represents, and the
militaristic pariah Turkey continues to be, came from Benetton's
Turkish partner, Bogazici Hazir Giyim. Mocking the Italian clothing
company's "united colors" campaign, which encourages multicultural
tolerance, Bogazici painted all of its 171 shops' windows black.  Thus
Europe has not only discovered that Turkey is "giving up on colors",
as Bogazici declared-Europe has discovered Turkey's true colors.


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Mr. Phillip Spyropoulos is the founder and Executive Director of the
American Hellenic Media Project, a non-profit think-tank created to
foster accuracy in journalism and to address bias and misinformation
in the media. An attorney and former New York city prosecutor, he has
been widely published and interviewed in the media.

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