Army chief says he dislikes terrorist term

Army chief says he dislikes terrorist term

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has said he disliked the term “terrorists” to describe Kurdish militants, while raising objections to using Kurdish in education and the public realm on grounds such freedoms will damage Turkey’s unity.

In remarks published in daily Milliyet yesterday, Özel said recent surrenders by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had raised awareness among soldiers on the importance of convincing the militants to lay down their arms.

“We do not like using this word [terrorists] for our own citizens. We see them as individuals who have been deceived in various ways,” he said. “We are the happiest when they surrender because we know how those youths are deceived and forced to stay in the mountains. When we see them reunite with their families, we understand better how important, humane and democratic our efforts are, even though the soldiers sometimes risk their lives.”

Citing ongoing investigations, the general declined to comment on the botched air raid at the Iraqi border killing 35 civilians.

Asked about demands for Kurdish to become a second official language, Özel said: “The Turkish language is what everybody in this country shares. Using other languages in education and the public realm will create divisions in society.”

Reports of a PKK truce are not true; on the contrary, the group has declared a “winter of war.” Turkey has received no “concrete support” against the PKK from the central Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurds, Özel said. In the past six months, 165 militants were killed and 50 captured, while 112 surrendered.

Özel asserted the imprisonment of senior commanders as a result of probes into anti-government plots had an impact on the functioning of the military and called for the lengthy pre-trial detentions to be remedied. He said the generals and admirals behind bars included 17 from the Land Forces, 25 from the Navy, 13 from the Air Forces and three from the Gendarmerie.

The military will submit to “the related authorities” its position on the new constitution to be drafted, he said.

Referring to the army’s archives over the killings in Dersim during the 1930s, Özel said the documents were currently being classified and would be made available to researchers. k HDN