- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

The article “Kurds cautious on independence” (World, Wednesday) distorts the facts about Turkey's Kurdish population.

First, Ozdem Sanberk, retired Turkish ambassador and the current director of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, was not the spokesman for Turkey at the reported conference. Mr. Sanberk underlined this fact at the outset of his remarks.

Second, Mr. Sanberk did not “insist” that “Turkey protects its own Kurds,” as misinterpreted in the article. Mr. Sanberk's remarks were, verbatim:

“Our understanding of nationality is based on citizenship rather than ethnicity. Turkey is a democratic country in which everybody has a single vote. We are proud of our Turkish nationals of Kurdish origin who always had served in Turkish parliament and in the government since the establishment of the Turkish Republic.”

As for the statement that Abdullah Ocalan was a “Kurdish leader who led a 15-year battle for autonomy in eastern Turkey” and “did not even know his own language,” it is wrong on both counts.

Ocalan has only led the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a most brutal terrorist organization whose bloody campaign has cost Turkey more than 30,000 lives, mostly Kurdish. The PKK has been listed consistently by the State Department as an international terrorist organization, a label finally confirmed this year by the European Union as well.

That Ocalan does not speak Kurdish must be mainly because his mother is Turkish and he enjoyed the privilege of a publicly paid college education at one of Turkey's most prestigious universities.


GULER KOKNAR

Executive director

Assembly of Turkish American Associations

Washington


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