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October 25, 2001

Mr. Selçuk Polat
Undersecretary for Return to Village and Rehabilitation Project
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara

Dear Selçuk Polat,

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a non-governmental organization that works to protect fundamental human rights around the world, conducting systematic investigations of human rights abuses in some seventy countries. Since its foundation in 1978, HRW has monitored developments in Turkey. The organization documented the forcible displacement of villagers from the southeast in the early 1990s, and in June 1996 published "Turkey's Failed Policy To Aid The Forcibly Displaced In The Southeast," based on field research conducted in the region. In June and July this year a HRW delegate visited Turkey and interviewed many displaced villagers, as well as representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations with an interest in this issue, in order to assess the progress of return in the light of international human rights standards, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles).

    In 1997 the Emergency Region governor reported to the Parliamentary Commission on Internal Migration that 378,335 villagers, 820 villages and 2,345 smaller settlements (mezra) had been displaced from the provinces in or bordering the state of emergency region. Inquiries made by Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicate that most of these villagers were forcibly displaced by gendarmes in the early and mid-1990s, apparently because they were suspected of giving logistical support to the PKK. A smaller but still substantial number of villagers who had participated in the village guard system were driven out by repeated attacks by the PKK, or left for their own safety at the recommendation of the security forces.

    Many villagers now believe that conditions in the southeast have improved enough to consider returning to their homes. Since the PKK announced a unilateral ceasefire within Turkey in 1999, clashes as well as security operations have continued, but at a much lower level than in earlier years. The inclusion of the Return to Village and Rehabilitation Project (RVRP) in budget documents in 1999 suggests that the government shares the villagers' view. Although these developments give cause for optimism, hundreds of thousands of displaced villagers, deprived of home and income, continue to be displaced, living with considerable hardship in cities throughout the rest of Turkey. Most of the villagers who talked to HRW were keen to return to their homes for personal and economic reasons, but they had encountered various difficulties with state authorities. To summarize their complaints,

    · governors either flatly refused permission to return, or refused permission unless the villagers signed prepared petitions indicating that they were not forcibly displaced;
    · local gendarmes refused them permission to return;
    · village guards who had occupied their lands refused to let them return;
    · they received no compensation for their years as displaced persons; and

      · they were receiving little or no government assistance in rebuilding their property and re-establishing themselves economically.

    Villagers also expressed general concerns about their security. In particular, they fear that if they return and the PKK resumes its attacks within Turkey, they may be subjected to violent raids by security forces or PKK and even a possible repeat of the trauma and expense of forced displacement. They also expressed discomfort at the prospect of returning to rural areas where their immediate neighbors are village guards, armed by the state and invested with vaguely defined but extensive powers and with a documented history of serious abuse. The dangers presented by anti-personnel mines or abandoned munitions are an added worry.

    HRW's interviews raised many questions that villagers, non-governmental organizations, and official representatives were unable to answer. When our delegate asked in June for a meeting with civil servants in the Prime Minister's office responsible for the RVRP in order to resolve some of these questions it was suggested that we should address our questions in writing to you, rather than trying to deal with a multitude of issues in a brief meeting. Grateful for this suggestion, HRW would welcome your response on the questions and requests for documentation detailed below.

1. Statistics and other information relating to the original displacement

The success of the plans for return will require that the original problem be accurately documented and quantified through reliable statistical data. In its 1998 report, the Parliamentary Commission stated that the statistics provided by the Emergency Region Governorate (OHAL) were "problematic." Indeed, the Commission president, parliamentary deputy Haşim Haşimi estimated the number of displaced persons as "in excess of 1,000,000 citizens"-more than double the OHAL's figure. HRW is not aware that a revised figure has been produced.

    Equally important as statistics regarding original displacement is a transparent accounting of government efforts and progress made in promoting return. Our efforts to piece together a full and detailed statistical accounting of the RVRP have been frustrated by the various contradictory figures given for numbers of returns and government funding of the return process. For example, a letter dated May 11, 2001 from the General Directorate for Village Services of the Office of the Prime Minister (B.02.1.KHZ.0.11.03/15.g-0798) to the Association for Social and Cultural Solidarity with Migrants (Göç-Der) states that 1 trillion TL had been allocated for the resettlement of twelve villages in four provinces. By contrast, an undated one-page summary concerning the RVRP that was emailed by the GAP administration to Göç-Der in May 2001 reported that 220 settlements were being resettled by 26,433 returnees. The Emergency Rule (OHAL) Governor Gökhan Aydıner speaking at a ceremony at Şaklat village, Diyarbakır province on August 7, 2001 offered another apparently contradictory account, stating that 3.2 trillion TL was earmarked for return and that 18,600 villagers had returned. But the U.S. State Department had been told by the Turkish government that 26,481 people had returned by the end of 1999 (Report on Human Rights Developments, 2000). A clear example of how partial information can be confusing or misleading is a letter written by the governor of Bingöl to Istanbul Göç-Der, dated May 27, 2001, which states that 713 billion TL had been spent on the RVRP in that province alone-but the expenditure seems to have been mainly on reconstruction of roads, and HRW's impression is that very few villagers have returned in Bingöl province.

    HRW would greatly appreciate your assistance in clarifying and reconciling these statements and in obtaining a detailed comprehensive statistical picture of the return process, enabling analysis in comparison to the situation on the ground from province to province and from year to year. Specific information we request includes:

a. What is the government's current estimate of the number of people internally displaced since 1984?
b. What is the government's current estimate of the number of people who remain internally displaced?
c. How many villages and mezra were wholly evacuated?
d. How many of these evacuations were officially recommended or required on security grounds?
e. How many of these evacuations were carried out with the informed consent of the villagers?
f. How many of these evacuations were carried out by security forces?
g. How many of these evacuations were made by villagers on their own initiative, prompted by fears for their security or other reasons?
h. How and when was this information collected?
i. Has any government department kept or compiled a full record of evacuations?
j. Are the names of displaced persons and settlements and their current status/whereabouts kept on record? If so, which department holds these records?
k. How many villagers have officially applied to return?
l. How many villagers have been granted permission to return?
m. How many villagers have been refused permission to return?
n. How many villagers have received compensation for the original evacuation?
o. How many villagers have received compensation for their loss of livelihood and income?

2. Procedural guarantees relating to displacement and return

The Guiding Principles state that decisions to relocate villagers must be taken by a State authority empowered by law to order such measures and that displaced people must be given full information on the reasons and procedures for their displacement.

    None of the forcibly evacuated villagers interviewed by HRW had any official documents indicating who was responsible for the decision to evacuate them, under what powers the decision had been carried out, or how long the displacement would continue. Most of those who had been told by the authorities that they would not yet be permitted to return said that such information was given verbally by provincial governors, town governors or gendarmerie officers who refused to put their decision in writing. The villagers believed that the officials were trying to avoid creating an administrative act that could form the basis of a subsequent legal challenge or action for compensation. A small number of villagers had received notification that the Provincial Security Commission had ruled that their village was "not among those villages considered appropriate for priority return." Even where permission was given, governors showed the same reluctance to commit administrative decisions to paper: many of those interviewed by HRW who had been told that their village was now open to resettlement had no documents confirming this decision.

    HRW has received parts of a list of villages in Diyarbakır province entitled "dönüşü uygun görülen köy ve mezralar." The muhtar who gave this partial list to HRW suggested that it was prepared by the Diyarbakır Provincial Governorate or the Emergency Region Governorate. HRW was unable to obtain an official and complete copy of this list, since our requests to speak to both these authorities were rejected. We would therefore be grateful to receive the full text of this list, and any other list showing villages that are currently considered unsuitable for resettlement. In addition, we would appreciate information regarding the following aspects of procedures governing displacement and return:

a. What written notification should a Turkish citizen have received when they were displaced from their home for security reasons?
b. Which authorities are responsible for informing a Turkish citizen of the reasons for their displacement, and steps that will be taken to rehouse, compensate and support them?
c. What written notification should a householder expect to receive confirming that they are able to return to their home?
d. On the basis of which laws or regulations were evacuations on security grounds carried out?
e. Were surveys of any evacuated properties (including extant buildings, orchards and crops) carried out at the time of evacuation, and if so, where are the records of the surveys?
f. Are any steps being taken to set the internal displacement of Turkish citizens on a documentary and legal basis, and if so, what steps?

3. Humanitarian assistance

The UN Guiding Principles state that all internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living, and that at the minimum, competent authorities shall provide them with essential food and potable water; basic shelter and housing; appropriate clothing; and essential medical services and sanitation. The principles require that special attention should be paid to the needs of vulnerable groups, including women, children and disabled persons (Principles 4, 18 and 19).

    HRW is aware that some initiatives were taken to provide housing in cities for displaced villagers, particularly those that had been forced to leave because they had participated in the village guard system and were targeted for attacks by the PKK. Our delegate visited one of these developments-the Yalım Erez Konutları outside Van. This was a major central government investment, which was generally appreciated by residents, who came from the border regions of Hakkari. As a rather ad hoc and temporary arrangement, however, it suffered a number of shortcomings. Funding ran out before the sewage disposal system was completed and residents said that more than one child had drowned in cesspools flooded during the winter months. Most of the villagers are stockkeepers by profession, unskilled in other trades, and therefore find difficulty in maintaining themselves economically in an overcrowded city with a high rate of unemployment. They told HRW that they would prefer to return to their original homes. Moreover, provision of this kind was rare, and even in Van HRW spoke to other villagers from the same area who had left their homes under the same circumstances but had been unable to find accommodation in the Yalım Erez Konutları or elsewhere, and were therefore living in agricultural buildings.

    HRW spoke to women with young families and disabled people who underwent great hardships during and after their evacuation, who said that they were not aware of any government initiatives to provide them with special support and assistance.

    We would appreciate information from the government that would confirm or correct this impression we had of the humanitarian conditions for the displaced. Specifically, we are interested in your response to the following questions:

a. What provisions were made by successive governments throughout the 1980s and 1990s to provide basic needs to displaced persons?

    i. What provision was made to find employment for villagers who had lost their livelihood?
    ii. What provision was made to house displaced persons?
    iii. What provision was made of health services for displaced persons?
    iv. What provision was made of food and fuel for displaced persons?

b. What special provisions were made to meet the needs of women, children, and the disabled?

4. Current security risks

The initiation of the RVRP suggests that the government believes the general security situation in the southeast has improved sufficiently to permit villagers to return to their homes in safety.

a. Does the government consider that armed attacks by the PKK and other armed groups have diminished sufficiently to permit resettlement in all parts of the east and southeast without exception?
b. If not, which villages in which districts are considered to be too dangerous for resettlement?
c. Have the inhabitants of these villages been informed in writing that their village is not yet sufficiently safe to permit return?
d. Is there any public source of information indicating which areas the government does consider safe and those it does not?

One of the possible risks facing returned villagers is unexploded mines and other munitions.

e. What arrangements are being made to ensure that villages opened for return are thoroughly de-mined?
f. Has Turkey sought the assistance of international organizations with expertise on de-mining?
g. Are returning villagers offered any guarantees of safety from mines or information about de-mining operations?

5. Consultation

The Guiding Principles require that displaced persons should participate in the planning and management of their return or resettlement (Principle 28).

    HRW's inquiries gave the strong impression that villagers had not been given any opportunity to participate in the planning of their return. Although some had been summoned for meetings with provincial or town governors, the opportunity for dialogue was extremely limited. Some villagers were turned out of such meetings by governors when they complained that they had been forcibly displaced by security forces. At any rate, none of the villagers HRW interviewed had received any written record of the proceedings of these meetings.

a. To what extent have displaced villagers participated in the planning and management of their return or resettlement?
b. How does the government communicate with the very widely dispersed villagers to ensure that they are fully informed of developments and that their views are integrated at the planning stage?
c. What public or community meetings have the authorities conducted with communities?
d. Can the government supply HRW with the minutes of any such meetings, and an indication of how villagers' views were incorporated into the planning process?

6. Government initiatives for village return

Various government authorities are making efforts to address the problem of internally displaced people, but the variety of initiatives is confusing for displaced people themselves and non-governmental organizations working on their behalf. In fact, even some government representatives interviewed by HRW did not seem quite sure how the RVRP, the RVRP sub-regional Development Plan, Central Village, Villagetown and Attraction Center projects fit together.

    HRW would therefore be grateful to receive copies of legislation and regulations concerning Central Village, Village Town and Attraction Center projects. In addition, Human Rights Watch would appreciate thorough clarification of the plans for return and resettlement throughout the southeast, in the form of answers to the following questions:

a. According to the columnist Hasan Cemal writing in Milliyet of June 12, 2001, an Action Plan for the East and Southeast was approved in May 2000 by the National Security Council. Is this document publicly available?

    i. If it is publicly available, HRW would be grateful to receive a copy of it.
    ii. If it is not publicly available, what are the reasons for this?
    iii. Is the section dealing with resettlement, or a summary of that section, publicly available?

b. What is the distinction between the Attraction Center Project (Cazibe Merkezi Projesi) reportedly run by the governor of Tunceli, the Central Village project, and the Village Town (Koykent) project?
c. How do the above projects interlock with the RVRP and what will they offer displaced people?
d. Which villages in the southeast have been designated as Central Village projects?

    i. Who designed, coordinated, and funded Central Villages?
    ii. What is the legal or regulatory basis for Central Villages?

e. Which villages in the southeast have been designated as Village Town projects?

    i. Who designed, coordinated, and funded the Village Town project?
    ii. What is the legal or regulation basis for the Village Town project?

f. Which villages in the southeast have been designated as Attraction Centers?

    i. Who designed, coordinated, and funded the Attraction Centers project?
    ii. What is the legal or regulation basis for the Attraction Centers project?

g. Where the construction of residential units (konut) are planned, will full ownership of those units pass to the villagers in all cases?
h. If not, in which cases and under what conditions, if any, will full ownership rights accrue to returnee occupants of the units?
i. For any who do not obtain ownership rights, under what terms will they occupy the houses-as rent payers or non-paying tenants?
j. According to what building standards are the konutlar designed and constructed?
k. Are villagers who have agreed to live in Central Villages and accepted the benefits (such as the gift of sheep) free to leave at any time without penalty?
l. Will villagers be required to pay any deposit in order to take up a place in these villages?
m. Will villagers living in Central Villages or Village Towns retain ownership of their former homes and land?
n. If villagers living in Central Villages or Village Towns choose to rebuild and live, temporarily or permanently, in their former homes, will they be permitted to do so?

7. Return to Village and Rehabilitation Project (RVRP)

During his visit to Turkey, HRW's delegate was unable to obtain any substantial text describing the aims, methods, legal basis, scope and resources of the RVRP. If such a text exists, HRW would be grateful to receive it. If detailed progress reports on the RVRP are available, HRW would be grateful to receive copies of these as well. In addition, we would greatly appreciate answers to the following questions:

a. Is the RVRP an extension of the Return to Village program of 1995 or an entirely separate project?
b. When was the RVRP established?
c. What are the aims and scope of the RVRP?
d. Which government body has overall responsibility for the RVRP?
e. Which government bodies have responsibility for implementation of the RVRP at the local level?
f. What laws or regulations regulate the implementation of the RVRP?
g. Have displaced persons been invited to contribute to the planning of the RVRP?

    i. If so, how were such people invited to contribute?

      ii. How were they selected in order to ensure a representative cross section of the internally displaced community?

    iii. How were their contributions integrated into the RVRP?
    iv. If displaced persons were not invited, what were the reasons for this decision?

h. What is the overall budget for the RVRP since its inception and for the foreseeable future?

    i. How was this budget calculated?
    ii. What are the sources for these funds?
    iii. What are the budget lines for allocation of these funds?

i. Has funding for the RVRP or other schemes for resettlement of internally displaced persons been invited or obtained from foreign sources.

    i. If so, from which sources, and how much was applied for or obtained?

j. Does the RVRP safeguard villagers' right to the enjoyment of their own property?
k. Does the RVRP provide for re-establishment of community infrastructure, such as schools, health-care, piped running water and proper sanitation, to the status quo prior to displacement?
l. Does the RVRP provide for bringing community infrastructure up to a minimum standard level of provision?

    i. If so, what are those levels and from what standards were they drawn?

m. Do all displaced villagers qualify for assistance under RVRP?
n. If any displaced villagers do not qualify, who are they and why do they not qualify?

    HRW is concerned at the very extended schedule for the RVRP implied by such limited information as has emerged about arrangements currently under way. If the Toplumsal Bilimler Derneği (Social Sciences Association - TBD) finishes its initial field study in January 2002 (see below), it will provide proposals as to how the resettlement process might be carried out in one hundred villages-no more that 12% of the OHAL's estimate of evacuated villages (820), or 3% of the figure for all evacuated settlements including mezra (2345). The relevant ministries will then presumably begin deliberating about implementation of the program as a whole. Until the ministries produce a comprehensive and fully funded plan, villagers will remain cut off from their homes and livelihoods in very difficult circumstances of aggravated uncertainty about their future. In a letter received by Göç-Der headquarters from the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission (December 5, 2000; no: 00737) it is stated that Interior Ministry informed the Commission that the RVRP goal for 1999 was to secure the return of 1017 families. However, the Göç-Der has submitted petitions from 10,539 families seeking to return. If the families who have submitted petitions through Göç-Der were to be rehoused under the RVRP at the rate implied by the Interior Ministry's letter, some of them might expect to wait for a decade, unless, as is widely feared, the RVRP will be limited to only a small number of selected settlements.

o. What target dates does the RVRP set for returns and reconstruction for all evacuated settlements?

    Quite reasonably, government authorities have introduced stop-gap measures pending the results of preliminary RVRP field studies. Some villages have benefited from these schemes, but others have not. Since the temporary schemes are even less transparent than the major plans, they added further confusion and in some cases, disquiet.

    On July 23 Anatolia Agency reported that deputy prime minister Mesut Yılmaz had referred to an Immediate Implementation Project providing for 2,850 families in Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Şırnak, Batman, Hakkari, Tunceli, Bitlis, Van, Muş, Siirt, and Kars. HRW spoke to villagers living in, or displaced from, seven of those provinces and none of them reported any involvement with the Immediate Implementation Project. Provincial governors have set up provisional systems for supplying building materials for returning villagers, but these appeared to be extremely variable in their implementation and some involved highly questionable practices. HRW received a copy of a "Return to village project specification" (Köye dönüş projesine ait şartname). This document, issued by the Muş provincial governorate for signature by villagers applying for assistance, states that a provincial Return to Village and Rehabilitation Commission will decide whether or not to supply reinforcing steel, cement and bricks to villagers who have brought their homes up to the damp proof course level. This means that indigent villagers have to make a substantial investment in excavating and pouring the foundations of houses (and presumably laying water, electric and sewage services) before they will learn whether or not they can receive assistance with materials for the rest of the building. The specification contains no provision for supply of doors, windows, stairs, bathroom and plumbing materials, or roofing materials.
    The specification also contains alarming provisions which seem to suggest that the house can be confiscated: Article 8 of the specification states that the houses will be built and inhabited by those who will occupy the house, and that if the property is put to any other use (presumably rental or temporary residence), the provincial governorate will take possession of the house, and the villager will be required to repay the cost of materials supplied with interest.

    Where governors are supplying bricks and cement, or in other cases, windows and doors, villagers are in all cases expected to supply the labor for reconstruction. HRW was informed that in some villages, such as Şaklat, Diyarbakır province, materials were only supplied to some villagers or that villagers were required to sign blank pieces of paper on receipt of the materials. In other villages, materials were promised but did not arrive.

p. Is the supply of only limited materials with no funding of the labor element a stop-gap measure or will be it be adopted for the RVRP as a whole?
q. If villagers are expected to supply labor, will this element be costed and set off against, for example, tax liabilities?
r. Will RVRP assistance be given to all those villagers whose property has been destroyed irrespective of where the villagers choose to live or other factors? If not, which factors will determine eligibility?
s. How will municipalities, which are well placed to seek further support from foreign funding agencies, be involved in the RVRP?
t. At the village of Beşbudak, HRW noticed a slogan hung from the houses which read: "The army and villager hand in hand." There appeared to be a substantial military presence in the village. What is the role of the military within the RVRP?

    Our research indicated that the application procedures adopted by local governors for the RVRP have caused anxiety among villagers. Joint applications and applications submitted through the initiative of third parties such as political parties and non-governmental organizations have been ignored or refused. In particular, governors have insisted that villagers submit their applications using a printed form that asks the applicant to mark the reason for their original migration. The alternatives range from "employment" and "health" to "terror" but do not include any space for those villagers who were forcibly evacuated by the security forces.

    Recently, the reverse side of the petition form has included a printed declaration that the head of the applicant family must sign. It states: "I left my village as a consequence of the pressure of terror. I am going to return. Since there is no pressure of terror in my village, I want to return to my village without making any material demand upon the State." Forcibly displaced villagers fear that by signing this official document, they will not only put their name to an official lie, but also relinquish their legal claim in respect of state abuses and compensation for loss of livelihood and loss of enjoyment of their property. On the other hand, they are unlikely to be able to return at all unless they do sign.

u. Is the Prime Minister's Office aware of this practice?
v. Have steps been taken to revoke the offending form and replace it with a form that will gather accurate information about the pattern of displacement and permit all villagers to benefit from the RVRP irrespective of whether they were forced from their homes by the PKK or the security forces?

8. Compensation for displaced persons

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement state that where recovery of property and possessions is not possible, competent authorities have the duty and responsibility to provide or assist people to obtaining appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation. (Principles 7 and 29)

    Some villagers were forced out by repeated armed attacks by the PKK, others may have been instructed to leave by armed forces who were unable to defend distant settlements.

a. What provisions exist in Turkish law and regulations to compensate villagers displaced by illegal armed organizations such as the PKK?
b. How many villagers received such compensation and what sums were paid?
c. On what basis were such compensation payments calculated?
d. Were villagers obliged to take legal or other administrative action to obtain such payments? If so, please describe the requirements.
e. Can you provide descriptive examples of villagers who received such compensation?

    Many other villagers report that they were summarily displaced by gendarmes, and sometimes by village guards, who destroyed their property with fire or explosives.

a. What provisions exist in Turkish law and regulations to compensate villagers summarily displaced by security forces or village guards?
b. How many villagers received such compensation and what sums were paid?
c. Did the compensation cover loss of livelihood as well as loss of property?
d. On what basis were such compensation payments calculated?
e. Were villagers obliged to take legal or other administrative action to obtain such payments? If so, please describe these requirements.
f. Can you provide descriptive examples of villagers who received such compensation payments, other than those who received damages payments following judgments against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights?

    Under the state of emergency law, the emergency region governor has powers to move populations for security reasons.

a. Were these powers exercised at any time since 1984?

    i. If so, in respect of which communities were these powers used?

      ii. Were the moved populations served with any papers documenting that these powers were to be invoked?

    iii. Were they compensated?
    iv. How many villagers received such compensation and what sums were paid?
    v. On what basis was compensation in such cases calculated?
    vi. Were villagers obliged to take legal or other administrative action to obtain such payments?

9. The village guard system

During the past decade civil defense measures provoked considerable discord in rural communities. Communities that joined the village guard system were highly suspicious of those that refused to participate. Relatives and colleagues of village guards, and in particular, village guard casualties suspected that neighbors who refused arms may have been sheltering PKK or providing them with intelligence. Conversely, communities that refused arms feared their newly armed neighbors who controlled checkpoints on roads, searched their homes, and often participated in the forced evacuations. Abuses by village guards ranging from theft to murder were documented by the April 1995 Parliamentary Commission Report on Unsolved Political Killings, which recommended abolition of the village guard corps. Some villagers interviewed by HRW said that village guards had occupied their lands and/or homes, rented out their grazing land to third parties, cut their timber, and threatened them when they returned to inspect their property. The UN Guiding Principles state that government authorities have a responsibility to facilitate the reintegration of returned or resettled internally displaced persons (Principle 29). Reintegration of displaced villagers will inevitably mean addressing problems arising from the village guard system.

a. How many village guards are currently employed and armed?
b. When does the government plan to disarm the corps of village guards?
c. Is the government aware of the problems arising from occupations of land and theft of timber, fruit and crops by village guards?
d. What measures are being taken to ensure that village guards do not infringe property rights?
e. What mechanisms are planned for resolving competing property claims?
f. What measures are there or will there be to ensure compensation for property lost by displaced persons as a result of village guard activities?

    Many of the villagers and non-governmental organizations interviewed by HRW suggested that most of the villages that had been reoccupied were villages that had formerly participated in the village guard system, and that Village Towns were largely populated by village guards or members of villages that had participated in the village guard system. Visits to Konalga village town and resettled villages suggested that there may be some truth in this claim. Although village guards were not in the majority, they were a large minority of the male population. In many of the villages that have not yet returned, there are no village guards among the population.

a. Does the Turkish government have a policy of developing different return plans for villages or villagers associated with the Village Guard system than those who are not? If so, what are the differences in policy toward these two populations and what is the official justification for this differentiated approach
b. What proportion of resettled persons have served or are serving in the Village Guard system?

10. The future of mezra and villages in border zones

Official bodies interviewed by HRW in June and July indicated that the government was not encouraging villagers to return to distant mezra because they are often uneconomical and inconvenient for the provision of services.

a. Is there now a clear government policy to avoid repopulation of mezra?
b. Are there any publicly available policy documents concerning resettlement of mezra?
c. If villagers insist on returning to their original homes in mezra, will they be permitted to do so in all cases?
d. If they are permitted to return to mezra, what assistance will they receive?
e. If they are not permitted to return to mezra, on what legal basis will this be refused?

    HRW spoke to former village guards displaced by PKK violence from Uzundere, Cukurca in the border area of Hakkari. It was their view that the Turkish government intends to prevent resettlements on the borders with Iran and Northern Iraq in order to create a permanent buffer zone.

f. Does the Turkish government plan to resettle all villages in border areas?
g. If some villages or mezra close to borders are not to be settled, which are they?
h. What information has the government provided to displaced people from these areas about its plans for the region, whether they will be prevented from enjoying their property indefinitely, and what compensation will be available to them for the temporary or permanent denial of their right to enjoyment of property?

11. Access and assistance by NGOs and IGOs

The UN Guiding Principles state that international humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors have the right to offer their services in support of the internally displaced, and that such organizations should have unimpeded access to internally displaced persons (Principles 25 and 30).

a. Were international expert bodies such as UNHCR, UN Special Representative on IDPs, ICRC, UNDP, OSCE, COE, IOM or the World Bank invited to contribute to the planning and implementation of projects for return?
b. Have these organizations' expertise been offered or solicited?
c. Are any such international expert bodies currently involved in the RVRP or any other initiatives for resettlement of displaced villagers?
d. If they were not invited to participate, what were the reasons for this decision?

    Other appropriate actors in this context are domestic organizations with a mandate for humanitarian work and domestic and international human rights organizations. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders also underlines states' responsibilities to enable such organizations to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.

    To HRW's knowledge domestic organizations with a particular interest in this issue, such as Göç-Der, Migration and Humanitarian Assistance Foundation (GIYAV), the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), the Turkish Human Rights Association (HRA) or the People's Democracy Party (HADEP) were not invited to contribute to the planning and implementation of projects for return. Semi-official bodies such as local chambers of architects, engineers and medical practitioners might also provide local expertise and information, but to HRW's knowledge, such bodies have not been contacted or consulted.

e. Has the government sought to use the expertise and contacts of such non-governmental organizations and semi-official bodies?
f. If so, which organizations have been involved and what has been their contribution? Why have other organizations been excluded?
g. If no such consultations have taken place, why not?

    It is important, in the interests of transparency, that the process of return should be monitored by non-governmental organizations. Domestic NGOs have had difficulties in gaining access to resettled villages. Representatives have been turned back, detained, and had their notes or photographs confiscated. In July, gendarmes turned HRW's own delegate back from visiting a resettled village. After notifying the governor's office, access was permitted three days later.

h. Do non-governmental organizations have an unrestricted right to travel in all parts of Turkey, and to visit such settlements?
i. If not, on what basis are such rights restricted?
j. Does the government recognize the necessity for access by interested non-governmental organizations?
k. What measures will the government take to ensure that such access is permitted and encouraged?

    HRW understands that the Toplumsal Bilimler Derneği (Social Sciences Association - TBD) has been hired to carry out research into the problem of displaced villagers, and that they were given this task after a competitive tender procedure. HRW would be grateful to receive the specification (şartname) supplied to bidders for the competitive tender.

    HRW welcomes the fact that civil society has been incorporated into the process in this way. However, we are concerned that the TBD may be researching a group of communities that is not a true cross section of unresettled villages, and that this may result in the development of inappropriate plans. Among other potential problems, many villagers report that local governors would not accept their petitions unless they completed them in such a way as to indicate that they left as a result of PKK rather than gendarmerie activity. Therefore, the group of returnees presented to TBD as a focus for their field study may be a self-selecting and unrepresentative group, which would skew any findings.

l. Have any significant changes been made to the research project since it was allocated to the TBD?
m. HRW understands that the TBD has carried looked at a number of villages, working from petitions to return held at governors' offices, and it has selected one hundred settlements for which plans will be developed.

      i. What measures have been taken to ensure that the sample taken by TBD includes a representative proportion of villages that did not accept village guard service, and that were displaced by security forces rather than by PKK attacks?

    ii. When and how will the findings and methods of the TBD's work be made public?

n. What is the role of Anadolu Kalkındırma Vakfı (Anatolia Development Foundation) in the RVRP or other projects for return? HRW has written separately to this organization to ask for copies of any projects they may have relating to village returns.

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to put these questions to you and to learn more about the government's return plans. We look forward to your response and to constructive dialogue regarding these issues. Do not hesitate to contact my office-telephone, 1-202-612-4326-should you determine that an in-person discussion or other method of response to our questions would be preferable to a written exchange.


Elizabeth Andersen
Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division
Human Rights Watch


1. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
2. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Turkish)

cc: Mr Hüseyin Akgül, President of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission , Ankara

    Mr Rüştü Kazım Yücelen, Interior Minister, Ankara
    Mr Gökhan Aydıner, Emergency Region Governor, Diyarbakır
    Dr Hüsnü Yusuf Gökalp, Minister for Agriculture and Village Affairs, Ankara
    Dr İ. H. Olcay Ünver, President, Southeast Anatolia Project, Ankara
    Prof Oğuz Oyan, President of Social Sciences Association, Ankara
    Prof Ahmet Akyürek, President of the Anatolia Development Foundation, Ankara
    Av Hüsnü Öndül, President of the Turkish Human Rights Association, Ankara

      Ms Şefika Gürbüz, President of the Association for Social and Cultural Solidarity with Migrants, Istanbul

    Mr Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations, European Commission, Brussels
    Mr Günther Verheugen, European Commissioner responsible for Enlargement, Brussels
    Mrs Karen Fogg, European Union Ambassador, Ankara
    Mr. Adriaan van der Meer, Turkey Unit, European Commission, Brussels
    Mr Francis Deng, United Nations Special representative on Internally Displaced Persons, Geneva
    Mr Mirza Hussein Khan, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Ankara
    Mr Finn Ruda, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva
    Alfredo WITSCHI-CESTARI, UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative, Ankara
    Mr Hasan Kalkan, International Organization for Migrants, Istanbul

      Ms Nedret Durutan, World Bank, Ankara

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