Accurate and detailed statistics about movements of IDPs are a precondition for the Turkish government to begin planning how it can meet its obligations and commitments in relation to the internally displaced, and for the outside world to evaluate what is being done. For years, government figures have been increasingly upbeat but also contradictory and inconsistent. Moreover, because they never listed the settlements to which villagers returned, the statistics were impossible to verify.
In 1999, the government commissioned the Turkish Social Sciences Association to carry out a large survey of the displaced. After four years, the survey failed to produce statistics on the overall scale of displacement or the rate of return. Independent efforts to develop statistics have been unwelcome. In 2001, for example, the central government blocked an attempt by Diyarbakır municipality to collect reliable data about the number, conditions, and aspirations of the displaced.23 The authorities prosecuted the organization Göç-Der for publishing a similar survey in April 2002, and in January 2004, as publisher of the report, Göç-Der director Şefika Gürbüz was sentenced to ten months imprisonment (converted to a fine) for incitement under article 312 of the Turkish criminal code.
The European Commissions October 6, 2004 Regular Report on Turkey stated that the Turkish government had provided information that since January 2003, 124,218 IDPs (approximately one third of the official total of 350,000) have returned to their villages.24 Surprised at this unexpectedly brisk rate of return, Human Rights Watch visited the Turkish Embassy in Brussels on October 7, 2004, and requested a breakdown of the statistics provided to the European Commission, in order to evaluate their accuracy. On November 25, 2004, the Turkish Foreign Ministry supplied a list of villages and hamlets to Human Rights Watch with columns for pre- and post-displacement populations. Human Rights Watch wrote to the government formally on December 8, 2004, to welcome the list, which contains the first detailed and verifiable data about the return process.
In late November 2004, Human Rights Watch visited a small sample of the villages and hamlets listed, to compare the official numbers of pre-displacement and returned populations with figures given by village inhabitants. Human Rights Watch also looked at returnees conditions, and the extent of official support to individual returnees and communities.
Our evaluation indicated that the governments return figures are not accurate, and identified two particular shortcomings. First, the statistics under-record the number of inhabitants in communities prior to displacement and therefore underestimate the scale of the displacement. Second, the statistics overstate the number of returnees. In some settlements, the government list reports substantial numbers of returns that were either temporary, or did not take place at all.
Nobody knows for sure how many people were displaced in the 1990s. In 1998, the governor of the south eastern provincesthen under state of emergencystated that 378,335 villagers had been displaced from 820 villages and 2,345 smaller settlements.25 The Turkish government rounded this down to 350,000 in the figures supplied to the European Commission for the 2004 Regular Report. The U.S. State Department report for 1998 considered 560,000 a credible estimate.26 The Diyarbakır Bar Association suggests that as many as two million may have been displaced.27 At any rate, the estimate of 377,882 derived from provincial displacement figures is almost certainly too low.
In almost every case, inhabitants of villages and village muhtars interviewed by Human Rights gave a much higher figure for the number of inhabitants at the time of displacement than was indicated in the government list.28 The following are some examples of such discrepancies:
Local inhabitants interviewed by Human Rights Watch agreed that the government figures for Laleyran, Valdere, and Vankom hamlets of Kırkpınar were correct. It is difficult to account for the discrepancy between official statistics and local estimates in such a large number of cases. There is no reason why villagers and muhtars should exaggerate the predisplacement figure. They are relying on memory, but insisted that their accounts of pre-displacement figures were correct and could be verified by records of electricity supplies in the year of the displacement.
In some cases, settlements whose populations were displaced were omitted from the government list altogether. The Bismil district section of a 2003 survey carried out by the Diyarbakır branch of Göç-Der gives details of temporary and permanent returns to twenty-six evacuated settlements.32 The government list shows only seventeen such settlements. The Göç-Der list for Silvan district shows twenty-six evacuated settlements while the government list shows twenty-two.
Other examples of villages that were forcibly evacuated but which do not appear on the list include: Erenköy village, near Eruh in Siirt province, where there were approximately one hundred households prior to displacement, and Çölköy village, near Eruh in Siirt province, where there were approximately fifty households prior to displacement. Both villages are now reportedly occupied by village guards.33 In Hakkari central district, further examples of villages evacuated but not included in the government list include the villages of Ağaçdibi, Akkuş, Baykoy, Boybeyi, Demirtaş, Doğanyurt, Geçimli and its four hamlets. The town of Uzundere and its associated villages of Alkan, Çiftkonak and Haydaran in Hakkari were evacuated in 1995, and formally abolished on December 30, 1998, and therefore do not appear on the government list.34
Some villages are not included in the list because they occurred in provinces outside the emergency zone, including for example, Yastık village, near Tercan, Erzincan province and which was evacuated and bulldozed flat in 1994, together with its hamlets Kurubey and Mazan.35
The failure to correctly record settlements on government records as having been evacuated was identified as a problem as early as 1998. In that year, Orhan Veli Yıldırım, parliamentary deputy for Tunceli province, informed the Turkish Parliamentary Migration Commission that: The official statistics on the number of evacuated villages are wrong. For example, Baylık village [in central Tunceli] is my own village and it is currently empty .it is shown as full. But it is empty. Çemçeli, another central village, is also supposed to be full, but that is empty also. Yeşilkaya is close to where the mayor [of Tunceli] comes from, and it is shown as full, but it is empty.36 The three villages identified by Yıldırım in 1998 as having been wrongly recorded were not included on the government list of evacuated settlements.
Some villages are recorded as having had no inhabitants at all prior to displacement. In the case of Siirt province, the underrecording of the original population seriously distorts the picture for the province as a whole. Siirt suffered heavy displacement. Local sources indicate that the rate of permanent return has been low. Yet according to the government figures, 53.36 percent of the inhabitants have returned. The illusion of a respectable return rate derives from inaccurate government statistics. The government list shows returns to the following villages in Siirt with a zero population prior to displacement:
These settlements account for a total of 1,111 households and 7,249 individuals within the return figure. The failure to include the populations of these villages in the total pre-displacement population in Siirt province, creates a misleading impression about the rate of the return in the province. When this error is discounted, the average return rate for Siirt falls to 29.76 percent even before other patterns of inaccuracy noted in this evaluation are taken into account. The figures for Bingöl show the same form of inaccuracy, listing several villages as having had zero population prior to displacement. For example, Yeniyazi village in Bingöl province is shown on the government list as having no inhabitants prior to displacement, and yet 487 inhabitants are shown as having returned there.
In some settlements, the government statistics show substantial numbers of returns that upon inquiry by Human Rights Watch appear either to be significant overestimates, or to include returns that were only temporary.
On November 18, Human Rights Watch visited Koçbaba village, near Hazro in Diyarbakır province. The government list indicates that there are currently twenty-seven households with 278 inhabitants. Human Rights Watch counted thirteen households with a total population of just sixty-nine. In the nearby village of Çiftlibahçe, by contrast, the government list figure of forty-nine households returned was accurate.
Some interviews with local displaced inhabitants produced figures which differ widely from the government list. A former muhtar of Yolaçtı village near Genç in Bingöl province, and now living in Genç, reported that his village currently has eleven households with approximately fifty inhabitants, whereas the government list shows ninety-nine households with 449 inhabitants.37 A former inhabitant of Yeniyazı village told Human Rights Watch that eight families have returned, whereas the government list indicates that sixty families have returned.38
According to official government figures, in Duru village in Lice, Diyarbakır province, there are now 207 households comprising 346 inhabitants, but two displaced former inhabitants of Duru told Human Rights Watch that there are currently fewer than ten households living in the village.39 According to the government list, there are sixteen households at Dibek, Lice, whereas an inhabitant of a neighboring villager interviewed by Human Rights Watch strongly asserted that there are no permanent dwellings in Dibek and no families living there year-round.40
According to the Siirt branch of the Human Rights Association (HRA), the figures for Siirt province are accurate for some villages, but seriously inaccurate for others. Siirt HRA provided the following examples from the Eruh district: in Yerliçoban village, government statistics indicate that there are sixty-eight households but to the HRAs knowledge there are fewer than twenty; in Ballıkavak village, the government list states that there are twenty-two households but the HRA reports that only two houses in the village are occupied; in Yorulmaz village, the government list states there are fourteen households but the HRA indicates that the village has no permanent residents.41
According to the Muş branch of the HRA, the government list records significant returns in several communities where there are no permanent returns and currently no permanent residents at all, including: Yongalı, where the government records the return of eighty-four households with a population of 500; Ilıca where the list records the return of thirteen households with a population of seventy-six; and Demirci, in Korkut, where the list records the return of thirty-two households with a population of 213.42
According to the Bingöl branch of the HRA, fifteen households have returned to Inandık village, near Solhan in Bingöl province, while the government list records forty-four households as having returned. The government list states that forty-two families have returned to the Aşağı Yayıklı and Yukarı Yayıklı hamlets of Mutluca village, but Bingöl HRA reports that no families have returned permanently.43
In some cases, the inhabitants of villages are shown as having returned when the villages have in fact been occupied by other communities, often members of the village guard. Çizmeli village in Siirt province, for example, is shown on the government list with thirty-two households and 230 villagers, while Siirt HRA report that the village is occupied by village guards who lease the lands to migrant livestock herders.
The government list also inflates the rate of return by including villages that were never evacuated. These entries generally relate to communities that joined the village guard corps. For example, according to Vetha Aydın, president of Siirt Human Rights Association, the villages of Otluk, Yayladağ, and Meşecik near Şırvan, and Karasüngür near Pervari were never evacuated. On the government list the entire population of these villages is shown as having been evacuated and successfully returned. According to Bingöl HRA, the villages of Esmataş and Kırık were never evacuated. These also appear on the government list as having been evacuated and repopulated.
At present, official government statistics do not give a reliable picture either of the original displacement or the current state of returns. The Turkish governments claim that a third of the displaced are now back in their homes is based on inaccurate figures. It presents an over-optimistic picture that is not warranted by facts on the ground.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry informed Human Rights Watch in November 2004 that the State Planning Organization and Hacettepe University signed a contract on November 2, 2004, for a new IDP survey.44 The universitys Department of Population Studies will carry out the research. Human Rights Watch understands that the research will include an overall estimate of the number of the original displacement, generated using statistical methods, presumably from government data. If the current government list is used without efforts to verify its content with independent sources, it is likely to produce another underestimate.
It is essential that, at the very least, the list of settlements that suffered displacement is a full one. This can only be done by checking the existing list with local sources, including nongovernmental organizations working on displacement and municipalities. Many districts have local associationssuch as the Association of People from Tunceli (Tuncelililer Derneği) and Kayy-Der (Kığı-Karakoçan-Adaklı-Yayladere-Yedisu Social Solidarity, Development and Culture Association)which could also assist in developing an accurate list.
Even if the raw numbers contained in government statistics were correct, the mere fact that displaced persons have returned to their home communities provides insufficient information fully to evaluate the returns process. In order to properly evaluate the success of the return process, qualitative data is required. Specifically, information must be collected on the conditions in which returnees are living, the state of the infrastructure in return communities, and the levels and types of assistance provided to them by the state. Only then will it be possible for observers to determine whether or not returns are taking place in safety and with dignity.
In particular, efforts must be made to assess whether those who return remain permanently in their villages. One reason for the wide discrepancy between the government list and local sources is that the government list has counted temporary summer returnees, who visit the village during the warm months in order to earn some money by raising a crop, and to live cheaply during the long school holiday. Several village leaders pointed out to Human Rights Watch that it is not possible to assess the success of the return process merely by comparing the number of those originally displaced with those who have returned, even if the figures were 100 percent accurate on the day of the count. A population count on August 1 might differ from a count on February 1 by a factor of ten or more. For example, according to the former muhtar of Yolçatı village in Bingöl, 90 percent of the villages six hundred inhabitants returned in the summer of 2004, most of them living in tents.45 By November 2004, fewer than fifty people were living in the village.
Many IDPs now stay temporarily in their village during the long summer school holiday and return to urban areas during the winter, leaving a much smaller number of permanent residents. Villagers reported that the main reason for the winter exodus was not that they could not resist the attractions of city life, but that winter in an unrehabilitated village is unsustainable and dangerous. Many villages lack access to electricity and telephone services, water and sanitation systems, and are inaccessible by road for up to three months a year. They also lack medical facilities and, most importantly, schools. The fact that any villagers choose to remain in such villages over the winter reflects just how miserable conditions are for the displaced in urban areas.
Some argue that wide seasonal fluctuations indicate that villagers are abandoning village life in line with the general process of urbanization since 1950, and that villages are becoming mere summer residences. The individual motivations of villagers are difficult to assess, but many reported to Human Rights Watch that they had no choice but to return to the city at the end of the summer because they wanted to put the children in school. Furthermore, they could not afford to reconstruct their ruined houses in order to make them habitable during the extremely harsh winter months. The muhtar of Sağgöze village, near Genç, in Bingöl province said I cannot speak for others, but I know that if our village was provided with water, a road, and a school, it would be completely full.46
 Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, monthly bulletin for February 2001.
 European Commission, 2004 Regular Report on Turkeys progress towards accession, October 6, 2004, B.1.3.
 Turkish Parliamentary Migration Commission Report on Remedies To Be Undertaken On The Basis Of Research Into The Problems Of Citizens Who Have Migrated As A Result Of Evacuation Of Settlements In East And Southeast Anatolia, submitted to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, January 14, 1998, p11.
 U.S. Department of State, Turkey Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998.
 Diyarbakır bar association statement on draft Compensation Law, February 2004.
 The fax quality of the government list was poor and there may be literal errors with some figures.
 Source for Batman displacement figures: telephone interview with Saadet Becerikli, Batman HRA president, November 28, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Sağgöze muhtar, Genç, Bingöl, November 21, 2004.
 Source for Dicle villages: Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of the Kırkpınar Village Association, Diyarbakır, November 25, 2004.
 2003 survey of villages in Diyarbakır province, Göç-Der, Diyarbakır branch.
 Telephone interview with Vetha Aydın, president of Siirt Human Rights Association, November 26, 2004.
 Email from Hakkari lawyer, November 30, 2004. Name withheld to protect safety.
 Telephone interview with Yastık villager, February 7, 2005. Name withheld to protect safety.
 Turkish Parliamentary Migration Commission Report on Remedies To Be Undertaken On The Basis Of Research Into The Problems Of Citizens Who Have Migrated As A Result Of Evacuation Of Settlements In East And Southeast Anatolia, submitted to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, January 14, 1998, p. 11.
 Human Rights Watch interview with former muhtar of Yolaçtı, Genç, Bingöl, November 21, 2004. Name withheld.
 Human Rights Watch interview with former muhtar of Yeniyazı, Genç, Bingöl, November 21, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview, Diyarbakır, November 25, 2004. Names withheld.
 Human Rights Watch interview, Diyarbakır, November 25, 2004. Name withheld.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vetha Aydın, president of Siirt Human Rights Association, November 26, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sevim Yetkiner, president of Muş Human Rights Association, November 26, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rıdvan Kızgın, president of Bingöl Human Rights Association, November 26, 2004.
 Letter to Human Rights Watch from Ambassador Duray Polat, Director General for Multilateral Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ankara, November 24, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with former muhtar of Yolaçtı, Genç, Bingöl, November 21, 2004. Name withheld.
 Human Rights Watch interview with former Sağgöze muhtar, Genç, Bingöl, November 21, 2004. Name withheld.