Turkey. In December, the EU decided that Turkey should
start membership negotiations with the Union in October
2005. The long-awaited message for the Turkish government
came since Turkey during the year had taken the last steps
in a long reform process that the EU adapted, among other
things. the constitution, the legal system, minority
politics and the role of the military. Parliament decided,
among other things, to abolish the death penalty and state
security courts, to strengthen the status of women, to
criminalize marital rape and to tighten the penalties for
torture, honor killings, child sex abuse and child abuse.
According to an original bill, infidelity would also have
been criminalized, but in September the government deleted
this section following massive protests from above all the
CountryAAH, the total population in Turkey is 84,339,078 people in 2020. Imprisoned Kurdish human rights activist Leyla Zana and
three other former MPs were released on orders by the
Supreme Court on June 9. In 1994, the four had been
sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting the Kurdish
guerrilla group PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The Turkish
state radio and TV began broadcasting short programs in
Kurdish and other minority languages in June. Crucial to the
EU's acceptance of Turkish membership negotiations was also
Prime Minister Erdogan's promise that Turkey would sign a
protocol to the so-called Ankara Agreement, which covers all
EU countries, ie Cyprus. It was interpreted as a step
towards the recognition of Cyprus.
Turkey was shaken by a number of attacks during the year,
most of them small-scale. The worst was a blast attack when
four people were killed on a bus in Istanbul on June 24,
just before a two-day city meeting between NATO's defense
pact leaders. Other destinations included tourist hotels,
foreign banks and McDonald's restaurants. The groups behind
the death were unclear; the suspicions were directed in
different directions - against the illegal Turkish Communist
Party-Marxist-Leninists (TKP-ML), against Islamist groups
with links to the terror network al-Qaeda and against the
Kurdish guerrilla group Kongra-Gel (Kurdistan People's
Congress, formerly the PKK). Kongra-Gel returned to arms on
June 1 after a five-year unilateral ceasefire. Hard fighting
raged at the Iraq border at the end of July between
guerrillas and Turkish government troops.
Turkey's newly acquired economic stability continued
during the year. For practical and psychological reasons, on
December 31, six zeros were deleted from the country's
currency so that a new Turkish lira was worth as much as a
million old lira.
In September, 20,000 Turkish soldiers and 100 tanks
crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan to destroy PKK bases. The
Turkish forces received support from Iraqi Kurds in the
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and surrounded the PKK
bases near the Iran border. The PKK accused the KDP under
Massud Barzani's leadership of "betraying the Kurdish case".
Iran condemned the Turkish invasion of Iraq, declaring that
"whatever the problems it may have in relations with
Baghdad, international borders must be respected".
Turkey was one of the 11 countries that wanted to join
the EU, but nevertheless did not attend a conference in
London in April 1998, when the other 10 applicant countries
met with the 15 EU members. The government of Ankara
declared that the absence was due to Greece's veto on its
In April 1998, the best known of PKK commanders, Semdin
Sakik, in northern Iraq, surrendered to forces led by Iraqi
Kurdish leader Barzani. As a reason, he indicated the fear
of being executed by the leader of his party, Abdullah
Öcalan. Sakik had been exempt from command of the operations
in southeastern Turkey, in the mountainous Tunceli region.
The October celebration of the 75th anniversary of the
establishment of the modern Turkish state and the 60th
anniversary of the death of Kemal Atatürk were used by the
government to reinforce the centralization of the secular
state. The offensive against the country's Islamic political
forces had begun in January, when the Constitutional Court
decided that the Welfare Party should be dissolved and that
Necmettin Erbakan and other party leaders should stay out of
politics. In the place of the forbidden party, the Party of
Virtue was immediately formed. In September, an appeals
court upheld a 10-month prison sentence for Istanbul's
Islamic mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In late 1998, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan lost his asylum
in Syria, which sent him on a round trip to a number of
European countries in search of asylum. In February 1999, he
was kidnapped by the Turkish intelligence when he tried to
seek asylum in the Greek embassy in Kenya. It sparked fierce
Kurdish rage in Europe, with Kurdish groups occupying Greek
embassies in protest against the "extradition" of their
leader. After a lengthy trial, Öcalan was sentenced to death
in June, despite asking for mercy, and suggested that a
milder punishment could pave the way for understanding
between the Kurds and Ankara. But the PKK's military
weakening and the organization's demand for the release of
its leader led to a court of appeal in November affirming
the death sentence.
The April 1999 election was won by the Left Democratic
Party with 22.3% of the vote and 136 seats in parliament.
The nationalist movement had to settle for 18.1% of the vote
and 129 seats. The Islamists from the Party of Virtue came
in third place 15.5%, the Fatherland Party gained 13.3% and
the Right Way Party 12.1%.
By an overwhelming majority, in June, Parliament approved
the formation of a new government committed to crushing the
Kurdish partisans in the country's southeast corner. The new
government included Bülent Ecevit's Left Democratic Party,
the ultra-right-wing Nationalist movement and a small
Greece's cooperation in the capture of Öcalan, and the
relief Greece sent to Turkey after the August 1999
earthquake, improved the relationship between the two
inheritance enemies. The Greek government vetoed Turkish and
Cyprus's accession to the EU. After 36 years of waiting, in
December 1999 Turkey was invited to meet with the EU.
The death sentence against Öcalan was suspended in
January 2000 pending an order from the European Court of
Human Rights. In February, a PKK Congress declared that the
movement would abandon the armed struggle, and at the same
time presented a 7-point plan for its transformation into
During May 3rd elections, Ahmet Necdet Sezer was elected
by parliament in May for a seven-year term. Sezer - who is a
well-known defender of democratic rights - was expected to
be able to implement the necessary reforms for Turkey to
become a member of the EU. Months later, Ecevit was
appointed by parliament to a prime minister by a large
In July 2001, Muslim circles formed the party "Saadet"
("happiness"), which followed the Party of Virtues, which
had been banned by the Constitutional Court a month earlier
for conducting anti-secular activities.
For a month, the European Court of Human Rights found
Turkey guilty of violating the Greek Cypriots' human rights
during Turkey's occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
In an opening attempt, in March 2002, the Turkish government
allowed the pipeline of a gas pipeline through Turkey to
supply Greece with energy.