|Saturday, 25 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 3, 99-01-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 3, 6 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJANI EX-PREMIER PLEADS NOT GUILTY ON COUP CHARGESuret Huseinov pleaded not guilty on 4 January to charges of attempting a coup d'etat in October 1994, setting up illegal armed formations, and drug trafficking, Turan reported the following day. Huseinov also denied any involvement in the declaration of a separate Talysh-Murgan Republic on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border in mid-1993. He claimed that the disturbances in October 1994, which the prosecution characterized as an attempted coup, were orchestrated by former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev. Huseinov, who led the insurrection that precipitated the flight from Baku in June 1993 of President Abulfaz Elchibey, served as prime minister under Heidar Aliev until October 1994, when he was dismissed on suspicion of attempting to oust Aliev, He fled to Moscow but was extradited to Azerbaijan in April 1996. The prosecutor has demanded life imprisonment for Huseinov. The final sentence is to be handed down later this month. LF
 ANOTHER JOURNALIST BEATEN IN AZERBAIJANYalchin Imanov, a journalist with the independent "Yeni Musavat" newspaper, was beaten in two separate incidents on 3 January when he tried to obtain an interview with the chief administrator of Barda Raion, Turan reported. Imanov was first assaulted by a guard employed by the administrator and then taken to the local police department, where he was beaten again. Reporters Sans Frontieres has lodged a protest with Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov over both incidents. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CALLS FOR DEFENSE PACT WITH TURKEYIn a statement published by the Turkish daily "Zaman" on 31 December and cited by Groong on 5 January, Vafa Guluzade said that in view of what he termed the "Cold War" between Russia and Turkey, Baku wants to conclude a defense agreement with Ankara on the lines of that between Russia and Armenia. Guluzade added that military assistance to Azerbaijan would strengthen Turkey's own security as well as its position in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 December 1998). LF
 NEXT JAMES BOND MOVIE TO BE SHOT IN BAKUA spokeswoman for Eon Productions told journalists in Baku on 5 January that the company plans to shoot a new movie featuring the British agent 007 in Baku, Reuters reported. She said the plot will focus on "power- hungry criminals in an oil-rich former Soviet republic" and that Baku was selected for the location because of its petroleum infrastructure. Also on 5 January, Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR announced that it exceeded the 9 million metric ton target for oil extraction in 1998 by 52,000 tons, ITAR-TASS reported. But an RFE/RL correspondent noted that because of plummeting oil prices, Azerbaijan failed to make any profit on oil exports last year. LF
 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH BLASTS ELECTIONS IN KAZAKHSTANHuman Rights Watch, in a 5 January press release on the presidential elections in Kazakhstan, blasted the upcoming vote as "blatantly unfair," according to RFE/RL, which obtained a copy. The organization said that incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev "likes to present himself as a dignified partner for Western leaders and investors" but "the way his government has twisted arms in this campaign should leave no illusions about what kind of leader Nazarbayev really is." The release lists a series of abuses, including pressure on workers and students to sign petitions in support of President Nazarbayev, the violation of citizens' rights to freely disseminate and receive information, the government's encroachment on the right to free speech, bias in registering political support groups, and obstruction of public demonstrations. BP
 CANDIDATE IN KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS COMPLAINS ABOUT LEAFLETSThe campaign office of Gani Kasymov, the head of Kazakhstan's Customs Committee and a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, issued a statement on 5 January complaining about leaflets being distributed in Almaty, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The leaflets say that Kasymov is "a member of the corrupt nomenklatura and a puppet candidate brought into the race by the incumbent president's people." No one has claimed responsibility for distributing the leaflets. Kasymov's campaign manager, Zhanquat Abdigaliyev, said two state-controlled newspapers, "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" and "Yegemen Kazakstan," have refused to print Kasymov's political platform. Meanwhile, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the Communist Party candidate in the elections, has said he will appear on national television on 7 January and has challenged President Nursultan Nazarbayev also to appear for a debate with him. BP
 OSCE SAYS IT WILL BE ABLE TO ASSESS KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTIONSDimitr Dimitrov, a representative of the OSCE mission to Kazakhstan, said on 5 January that the mission has full access to documents necessary to assess the conduct of the 10 January presidential elections, ITAR-TASS reported. Dimitrov said the authorities in Kazakhstan are not interfering with the mission's work and that the mission expects to release a brief official statement on the day after the elections and a detailed analysis one month later. BP
 TAJIK SUPREME COURT PASSES DEATH SENTENCEThe Supreme Court on 5 January handed down the death sentence to Sharip Sharipov and prison terms to 17 of his accomplices, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 January. Sharipov was accused of organizing and carrying out attacks on Tajik and Russian servicemen in the Dushanbe area in 1994-1995. He and his group are alleged to have been responsible for "dozens of murders" and to have planned to bomb the presidential palace. Sharipov has claimed that he is a victim of slander. Observers say Sharipov has no chance of being granted a presidential pardon. President Imomali Rakhmonov rejected a request for pardon in late December by six men sentenced to death for their alleged role in an attack on Rakhmonov in Khujand in April 1997. Among those sentenced for involvement in that incident was Abdulkhafiz Abdullayev, the brother of former Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov. Abdullojonov is wanted on charges by the Tajik authorities. BP
 UNITED TAJIK OPPOSITION ORDERED TO CONTROL ITS UNITSTajikistan's National Reconciliation Commission on 5 January ordered the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) to inspect the temporary bases of its units on the outskirts of Dushanbe and to inventory stockpiles of weapons and munitions, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy leader of the commission, Abdumajid Dostiyev, said it is "necessary to control the presence of opposition personnel...as well as armaments and ammunition." Dostiyev added that every absence without leave or unauthorized opening of weapons lockers must be reported and investigated. The decision comes following a gun battle between two UTO field commanders in downtown Dushanbe (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). BP
 CHINARA JAKIPOVA RESIGNS FROM SOROS FOUNDATION IN KYRGYZSTANFormer Minister of Education Chinara Jakipova on 5 January announced she will step down as head of Kyrgyzstan's branch of the Soros Foundation. Jakipova has received high popularity ratings in polls on likely future presidential candidates and is known to be a very influential figure in Kyrgyzstan's political circles. However, she told an RFE/RL correspondent in September that she is not yet considering running in the 2000 presidential elections. Jakipova said on 5 January that she is leaving the Soros Foundation to engage in some "creative work." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 VIOLENCE BREAKS OUT IN PRISHTINAUnknown persons tossed a hand grenade at a Serbian café in central Prishtina on 5 January. Angry Serbs then attacked nearby Albanian cafes with rocks and broken glass. Three Serbs and four Kosovars were injured. Until now, the Kosovar capital had remained largely unaffected by the previous 10 months of violence. Meanwhile in the Rahovec area, south of Prishtina, international monitors began an investigation of a purported mass grave of Kosovars killed in August by Serbian security forces. PM
 NATO COMMANDER BLAMES SERBS FOR KOSOVA CRISISGeneral Wesley Clark, who is the supreme allied commander in Europe, told the "International Herald Tribune" of 6 January in a telephone interview from Paris that Belgrade's termination of Kosova's autonomy in 1989 "plunged [Kosova] into a cycle of repression, [which led to Kosovar] resistance andvastly excessive reaction" by Serbian forces. He stressed that the Kosovars "have to continue to struggle because they can't risk another catastrophe of falling under political repression from Belgrade." The Serbian authorities, Clark added, "are violating their commitments to NATO" under the October agreement between Belgrade and the Atlantic alliance. He noted that the Serbs have broken their promises by deploying additional troops and giving heavy weapons to the paramilitary police. Clark told his French hosts that he disagrees with Defense Minister Alain Richard, who recently blamed the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) for the continuing crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). PM
 UCK WARNS THAT 'TIME IS RUNNING OUT'Adem Demaci, who is the UCK's chief political spokesman, said in Tirana on 5 January that the Serbs "should realize that this is the last moment for them to lay down their arms, give up their terror and killings, and join the civilized world." He said of his talks with President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that "we understood each other very well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). Demaci appealed to Albanian politicians to end their squabbles because "a strong, stable Albania is a great source of support for [ethnic] Albanians in Kosova," dpa quoted him as saying. Demaci and Milo agreed on the need for regular contacts between Tirana and the UCK. Demaci's visit was the first in which a leader of the UCK was officially received by the top Albanian political figures, who favor a negotiated solution to the crisis. PM
 HILL RESUMES DIPLOMATIC MISSIONChristopher Hill, who is Washington's chief negotiator in the Kosova crisis, resumed his shuttle diplomacy on 5 January by meeting with shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova in Prishtina. Hill said that he came "to review the situation," including the "serious deterioration on the ground." He stressed that "we need to make sure that the cease-fire holds. The cease- fire is critical to getting a political settlement." Jacques Huntzinger, who is France's chief envoy in the crisis, has taken on an increasingly active role in recent weeks, which led some observers to suggest that Paris would like to replace Washington as the key sponsor of a negotiated settlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). PM
 GLIGOROV STALLS ON AMNESTYMacedonian President Kiro Gligorov on 5 January returned to the parliament a proposed amnesty law that would end the jail terms of some 800 people found guilty of violating the 1997 law on the public display of national symbols (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998). Most of the 800 are ethnic Albanians. It is unclear what changes Gligorov would like to be made. Some observers suggested that he may be testing the political determination of the new government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, which sponsored the amnesty in order to defuse ethnic tensions and concentrate its energies on the economy. The VOA's Albanian Service reported that Georgievski may push through the amnesty without Gligorov's signature if the prime minister feels that the president is deliberately obstructing the measure. PM/FS
 OSCE BACKS DODIKU.S. diplomat Robert Berry, who heads the OSCE's mission in Bosnia, said in Banja Luka on 5 January that "on behalf of the international community, we continue to support the [bid] of Milorad Dodik [to remain the Republika Srpska's] prime minister." Berry's visit to Dodik came in the wake of hard- line President Nikola Poplasen's nomination of Brane Miljus to succeed Dodik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). Elsewhere, Miljus told Belgrade's Radio B-92 that Dodik should be jailed for his business activities during the 1992-1995 war and that former President Biljana Plavsic should be tried for war crimes. Spokesmen for the international community have repeatedly said that the Republika Srpska will continue to receive reconstruction and other aid only if the Bosnian Serbs choose a moderate government. Poplasen defeated the moderate Plavsic for the presidency in the 1998 elections. PM
 ABDIC BALKS AT MOVE TO TRY HIM FOR WAR CRIMESFikret Abdic, the former kingpin of the Bihac pocket in northwestern Bosnia, told journalists in several telephone interviews from Rijeka on 5 January that the Bosnian government's recent moves to have him extradited from Croatia for war crimes are politically motivated (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 5 January 1999). Abdic charged that Sarajevo Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic wants "to see me dead[or] at least in jail" lest Abdic defeat Izetbegovic's allies in a future electoral contest to succeed the elderly Izetbegovic. In the 1998 elections for the Muslim seat on the joint presidency, Abdic won 36,000 votes, compared with Izetbegovic's 511,000, AP noted. Abdic's popularity is largely limited to the northwest, where many regard him as a champion of local interests. His detractors consider him a crook and a war criminal. PM
 WOULD CROATIA EXTRADITE ABDIC?Spokesmen for the Justice Ministry said in Zagreb on 5 January that the authorities have not received a formal request from Sarajevo for Abdic's extradition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The spokesmen added that the constitution prohibits the extradition of Croatian citizens. This could prove the deciding factor in Abdic's case, since he holds Croatian as well as Bosnian citizenship. The Croatian independent media have repeatedly suggested that Zagreb may be "holding Abdic in reserve" for a possible role in an unspecified future partition of Bosnia. PM
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SIDES WITH STRIKING MINERSFormer President and Party of Social Democracy in Romania Chairman Ion Iliescu has said the Jiu Valley striking miners' demands are "justified" and the causes of the labor conflict are "more complex" than presented by the government. He called on President Emil Constantinescu to mediate the conflict, adding that the miners' planned visit to Bucharest to stage a protest is "no solution." Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor called on the population to organize a general strike to end "Constantinescu's anti-popular and anti-national regime." He added that the parliament must meet in an extraordinary session to debate the strike. Valeriu Tabara, chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, said his party is backing the miners' demands, "except some exaggerated ones," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN RULING PARTY APPOINTS NEW OFFICIALSThe leadership of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic, meeting in Bucharest on 5 January, appointed Constantin Dudu Ionescu as acting secretary-general of the party and Remus Opris as its acting spokesman. Both positions were held by Premier Radu Vasile until his appointment as head of government. Ionescu and Opris are to fill the posts during Vasile's tenure as premier, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIA INTRODUCES MANDATORY HOLOCAUST STUDIESHistory textbooks are to be revised to correct "errors and omissions" on the inter- war and communist period, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education announced on 5 January. Particular attention will be paid to the "apex of modern world barbarity," the Holocaust. The ministry will cooperate with specialists on the Holocaust from Israel and other countries in revising the textbooks. MS
 MOLDOVA THREATENS TO LEAVE CIS INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLYMoldovan parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, in a letter to Russian State Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev, said Moldova will be "forced to examine the possibility of taking adequate measures, including quitting the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly" if the Duma does not strike from its agenda a planned debate on recognizing the Transdniester as an independent state, BASA-press reported on 5 January. Diacov said that the separatist region is an "indivisible part of the Republic of Moldova" and that the "whole international community" acknowledges this. He added that "some forces in the Russian Federation" play "a negative role" in seeking to "exploit the Transdniester problem for purposes that have nothing in common with the fundamental interests of our [two] peoples." MS
[C] END NOTE
 KURDISH NATIONALISM IN ARMENIABy Onnik Krikorian
The arrest last month in Rome of Abdullah Ocalan, president of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has led to a dramatic increase in support for the Kurdish national liberation movement, even among those Kurds living in countries where repression has not been particularly evident in recent years. In Armenia, Ocalan's arrest has served to accelerate the trend among the country's 50,000--60,000 strong Yezidi community to identify themselves not only as Yezidi but also as Kurds.
The Yezidi are indeed Kurdish, speaking the same language as the majority of the Kurds (Kurmanji), and all Kurds were originally Zoroastrian before the majority converted to Islam. The Yezidi religion--even with elements of the Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Christian faiths--closely resembles that of the Armenians before the adoption of Christianity, and the PKK has recently acknowledged that fact in an attempt to clarify the origins of the Kurdish nation. Visiting Armenia in June 1998 in what was most likely a recruiting drive, Mahir Welat, the PKK representative to Moscow and the CIS, affirmed, "I am a Muslim Kurd but I also honor all religions. All Kurds used to be Yezidi [Zoroastrian] in the past. Some of us were forced into becoming Muslim, but now it is our intention to return and to educate ourselves again."
The Yezidi are currently the largest ethnic minority in Armenia, the Muslim Kurds having left during the early years of the Karabakh conflict. Moreover, both the Armenians and the Yezidi fled Ottoman Turkey during the massacres of 1915, and both harbor the same hatred of the Turkish and [Muslim] Kurdish perpetrators that has shaped much of the identity and policy of present-day Armenia.
Although relatively small in size, the Yezidi community in Armenia still has strategic significance for the PKK. An upsurge of Kurdish nationalism in Armenia would inevitably affect an estimated 200,000 Muslim Kurds who have assimilated into Azerbaijani society. Indeed, with the PKK representative to the Caucasus based in Armenia and with Welat's recent visit, the situation of the Azerbaijani Kurds may already be targeted for attention.
According to Welat, "the attitude of Armenia toward national minorities is considered part of the generosity and graciousness of the Armenian people. Azerbaijan has many nations too, but if we consider their national policy, it is very bad. For those who show loyalty toward Azerbaijan, the attitude towards them is normal, but for those such as the Kurds, the attitude is quite different. They do not have normal lives."
Official PKK policy is to praise Armenia but to criticize Azerbaijan for the treatment of its own Kurdish population-- despite a notable silence when the Kurds living in Kelbajar and Lachin were expelled by Armenian forces during the Karabakh conflict. The PKK even remained silent when, under the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrossian, there was a short-term policy to promote a Yezidi identify far removed from any Kurdish origin. That policy, however, only strengthened the resolve among the Yezidi to develop a strong Kurdish identity. Yezidi villages now openly demonstrate their support for the PKK by displaying portraits of Ocalan and PKK guerillas on their walls. In early December, buses ferrying villagers to Yerevan to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the formation of the PKK displayed ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan) and PKK flags, and a recorded message from Ocalan himself was broadcast to the hundreds who attended.
While the reasons for the increase in Kurdish nationalism among the Yezidi are complex, there is little doubt that one significant factor is a marked reluctance among many Armenians to consider Armenia anything other than a mono-ethnic country. Even though policy toward minorities may change under President Robert Kocharian, the Yezidi have so far been overlooked during the development of the new social and political structures. Thus, it was inevitable that the opportunity to find themselves an integral part of a nation fighting for liberation would prove attractive. With Ocalan in Rome and with the Yezidi having found a new identity desirable in a new Armenia, open support for the PKK in Armenia is currently politically expedient in that it is directed against Turkey.
As the result of the developments in Rome--and regardless of sensitivities over identity in the past--50,000 Yezidi in Armenia have come to identify themselves as Kurds virtually overnight. But that new sense of purpose may pose problems in the near future, both for the Yezidi themselves and for Armenia. Given the sensitivity of the Kurdish question, it is uncertain how long Armenia will continue with its new-found tolerance toward a minority that enthusiastically identifies itself with a movement that might well achieve autonomy in eastern Turkey, which many Armenians consider part of historical Western Armenia. (Some Armenian political groups such as the Dashnaktsutiune--the Armenian Revolutionary Federation--have reportedly held talks with the Kurds on reconciling the two nations' respective claims on those territories.)
And if there is indeed an upsurge of Kurdish nationalism among the Kurds of Azerbaijan, Baku may choose to attribute that development to a deliberate policy of destabilization on the part of Armenia, rather than lay the blame on the PKK or on its own reluctance to address the needs and aspirations of a significant ethnic minority.
The author is a free-lance journalist currently based in Yerevan. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organization with which he may be employed or otherwise affiliated.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty