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DATE=12/28/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=TURKEY / KURDS (PART ONE OF THREE) NUMBER=5-45135 BYLINE=AMBERIN ZAMAN DATELINE=HAZRO, TURKEY CONTENT= VOICED AT: /// EDS: THIS IS THE FIRST OF THREE REPORTS BY AMBERIN ZAMAN BASED ON A RECENT VISIT TO THE KURDISH REGION OF SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY /// INTRO: A semblance of peace is returning to Turkey's largely Kurdish southeastern region as rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party obey a call by its imprisoned leader to end their armed campaign for independence. Amberin Zaman recently toured the area and filed this (first of three) report(s). TEXT: Haci Gokcer is a Kurdish farmer from Hazro township in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeastern region. Like tens of thousands of civilians here, Mr. Gokcer was forced to leave his village seven years ago at the height of a 15-year Kurdish insurgency that has claimed nearly 40-thousand lives. /// GOKCER ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER /// Mr. Gokcer says he abandoned his property and livestock after rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (P-K-K) raided his tiny mountain village one night and demanded that he and other men in the village join their forces or leave. Mr. Gokcer refused to take up arms with the P-K-K, and instead joined a state-run Kurdish militia known as the Village Guards to fight the rebels. Accused of treason, Village Guards members became prime rebel targets. Their wives and children often were murdered as well. Mr. Gokcer's story is a familiar one in this war-torn region. But there is another side to it. Hundreds of thousands of other Kurdish villagers were forced to leave their homes by Turkish security forces who accused them of supporting the P-K-K because they refused to become Village Guards. In some cases, their homes were burned down, their animals killed, their crops destroyed. Today, however, a steady trickle of displaced civilians, including Mr. Gokcer and his family, is beginning to return home. Mahmut Gur is the chairman of an association - Goc-der - that is dedicated to resettling refugees. /// GUR ACT ONE - IN TURKISH FADE UNDER /// Mr. Gur says tensions in the southeast have eased visibly after a call by imprisoned P-K-K leader Abdullah Ocalan for his fighters to end their armed struggle and withdraw from Turkish territory to neighboring Iran and Iraq. He says that as peace begins to settle over the region, a growing number of villagers want to return home. Cemil Serhatli is the newly appointed governor of Diyarbakir province, which includes the town of Hazro. Mr. Serhatli confirms that clashes in the southeast provinces have sharply declined as the rebels withdraw. /// SERHATLI ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER /// Mr. Serhatli says the government's duty is, as he puts it, to "heal the wounds of our citizens" and show them what he terms a "welcoming lap," a "compassionate face." Mr. Serhatli and his team are at the forefront of efforts to rebuild villages destroyed in the rebellion, providing free bricks, cement, and engineering expertise for a number of pilot resettlement projects. And in Hazro township, the government is funding a carpet-weaving project to increase employment among local women. Emine, a 14 year old, is among two-hundred young girls who earn a living from the carpet-weaving program. /// EMINE ACT - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER /// Emine explains that her wages are performance-based. The more rows (of carpet yarn) she knots, the more money she makes. She is very happy, she says, not only to be back home but to have a job as well. Mahmut Gur, chairman of the resettlement association, Goc-der, says many problems still remain. /// GUR ACT TWO - IN TURKISH - FADE UNDER /// Mr. Gur says a so-called food embargo - under which food allowed into villages is still being rationed by the authorities - remains in place. The authorities defend the rationing on the grounds that food surpluses would wind up in rebel hands Mr. Gur points out also that the majority of Kurdish villagers who want to return home are being denied permission to do so by the Turkish authorities. Usually, they come from villages whose residents had been accused of supporting the rebels. Governor Serhatli denies such charges. He says some villagers are not permitted to return home because security in remote mountainous areas where they used to live cannot yet - as he puts it- be 100 percent guaranteed. He says that once P-K-K fighters come down from the mountains and lay down their arms, then everyone will finally be able to go back to their homes. (Signed) NEB/AZ/JWH/JP 28-Dec-1999 12:01 PM EDT (28-Dec-1999 1701 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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