A cursory reading of government officials' figures on return suggests that villagers are heading home in large numbers, but as more and more upbeat statistics have emerged, the figures have begun to contradict one another. An undated letter sent by the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) to the Göç-Der received in May 2001 reported that 220 settlements were being resettled by 26,433 returnees. But Emergency Region Governor Gökhan Aydıner, speaking at a ceremony at Şaklat village, Diyarbakır province, on August 7, 2001, said that only 18,600 villagers had returned.74 The Interior Ministry stated in November 200175 that 30,224 villagers had returned in the previous seventeen months. Government sources informed the U.S. State Department that 26,481 people had returned by the end of 1999,76 and 35,513 between June 2000 and December 2001, a total of at least 61,994.77
On April 3, 2002, Emergency Region Governor Aydıner said that villagers had returned to 406 villages and 164 mezra between June 2000 and December 2001.78 On March 12, 2002, the Interior Ministry said that inhabitants had returned to 294 villages and 159 mezra in that period.79
The statistics are useless for the purpose of assessing the progress of return, not only because they are inconsistent, but also because they never list the settlements to which villagers have been able to return. Detailed lists would enable observers to compare government claims with the reality on the ground, and would reveal whether villagers are correct in claiming that most of the returns have been to communities that enrolled in the village guard system. A clear example of how partial information can be confusing or misleading is a letter written by the governor of Bingöl to Göç-Der headquarters, dated May 27, 2001, stating that U.S. $570,000 had been spent on return in that province alone. The expenditure seems to have been mainly on reconstruction of roads, and few villagers have returned in Bingöl province.80 In a letter of October 25, 2001, Human Rights Watch asked the Turkish government for a detailed breakdown of statistics on return (see Appendix), but did not receive a reply.
Efforts to develop independent statistics have been confounded. The central government blocked an attempt by Diyarbakır municipality to collect reliable data about the number, conditions, and aspirations of the displaced.81 The State Statistical Institute approved the methods used by the municipality in its five-page questionnaire designed for distribution to displaced persons, but the Interior Ministry banned the study because it included questions concerning the reasons for migration and included "pressure by security forces" as one of the optional responses.82
In the absence of reliable statistics that are open to analysis, it is impossible to make an accurate estimate of the number of genuine returns. Even if the government's most optimistic figures are correct, only 10 to 20 percent of the displaced population has returned. Nongovernmental organizations in close contact with displaced persons such as Göç-Der and the Human Rights Association (HRA) believe that all the government's conflicting figures are exaggerated and that in fact relatively few villagers have been able to return permanently.
82 In the Göç-Der April 2002 study "Sociological Analysis Of The Migration Concept, Migration Movements In Turkey And Their Consequences" (see above), 83.7 percent of the sample reported that the state of emergency rule and the activities of the security forces were the principal cause of displacement.