American Hellenic Institute


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Greek American Organizations' Policy Statement on Turkey's Suppression of Human Rights
March 9, 2004—No.17 (202) 785-8430


WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute founder, Gene Rossides, announced today that the major Greek American membership organizations approved the policy statement on "Turkey’s Suppression of Human Rights" prepared by the American Hellenic Institute. These are: the Order of AHEPA, the Hellenic American National Council, the Cyprus Federation of America, the Panepirotic Federation of America, the Pan-Macedonian Association of America and the Evrytanian Association of America, the American Hellenic Council of California and the American Hellenic Institute. The approved statement on "Turkey’s Suppression of Human Rights," which is part of the 2004 Greek American Policy Statements, follows:

Turkey’s Suppression of Human Rights

Turkey’s brutal assaults against its Kurdish minority and its restrictions on the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate reveal that democratic norms have still not taken root. In view of Turkey’s horrendous human rights record, U.S. policy toward Turkey should be driven by forceful incentives for democratic reform. These include an arms embargo and economic sanctions. We condemn Turkey’s toleration of assaults against its Greek Orthodox religious minority and continuing illegal closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology in Istanbul. AHI calls on the U.S. to press Turkey to enforce strictly the guarantees of religious freedom set forth in the Treaty of Lausanne, the UN Charter, and other international agreements. In accordance with U.S. law expressed in Section 2804 of the Fiscal Year 1999 Appropriations Bill, we urge the U.S. government to use its influence with the Turkish government to safeguard the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its personnel, and its property, and to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.

Turkey has a notoriously dismal human rights record, which is well documented in numerous credible reports. Of special interest is the November 1999 report "Arming Repression: U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey During the Clinton Administration," produced jointly by the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists. Other reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and successive State Department Country Reports on Turkey have stated that "extrajudicial killings, including deaths in detention from excessive use of force, ‘mystery killings,’ and disappearances continued. Torture remained widespread." Thousands of political prisoners cram Turkish jails. Dozens of journalists have been assassinated, and many others are in jail.

Abuses against the Kurds

The suppression of human rights by the government of Turkey has been particularly brutal against Turkey’s twenty- percent Kurdish minority and amounts to ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Kurds have a unique language and traditions. Mostly Sunni Muslims and numbering 15 plus million in Turkey today, they have been settled for more than two millennia in a broad arc spanning southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran (7 million), and northeastern Iraq (4 million). They have traditionally resisted subjugation, but history has consistently denied them a national homeland. They are therefore political and ethnic minorities wherever they live, the easy target of majorities casting about for targets to attack and divert attention from domestic issues. In Turkey, the abuses against Kurds by the government have been chronic and genocidal.

In the past two decades, the Turkish military and mercenary groups have killed, either by direct military intervention or assassination, tens of thousands of Kurds, over ninety percent of whom have been innocent civilians. It is also well-documented that since 1984, the Turkish military’s genocidal policy has destroyed over 3,000 Kurdish villages (some in northern Iraq outside of Turkish territory), creating over 3 million Kurdish refugees. France’s former ambassador to Turkey, Eric Rouleau, detailed Turkey’s massive elimination of Kurds between 1984 and 1999:"According to the Turkish Ministry of Justice, in addition to the 35,000 people killed in military campaigns, 17,500 were assassinated between 1984, when the conflict began, and 1998. An additional 1,000 people were reportedly assassinated in the first nine months of 1999. According to the Turkish press, the authors of these crimes, none of whom have been arrested, belong to groups of mercenaries working either directly or indirectly for the security agencies." (Eric Rouleau, "Turkey’s Dream of Democracy," Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec. 2000, page 112).

In view of Turkey’s bloody record, U.S. policy toward Turkey should be driven by forceful incentives for democratic reform. These include an arms embargo and economic sanctions.

For the full text of our policy statements click here.

For additional information, please contact Angeliki Vassiliou at (202) 785-8430 or at For general information on AHI, see our Web site at