Dáil Éireann - Volume 643 - 06 December, 2007
Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Deputy Thomas P. Broughan
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives the Government is taking or in which the Government is involved to ensure that the rights of the Kurdish people are vindicated, fully respected and to assess the present situation of the Kurdish people within the five States which encompass historic Kurdistan. [33185/07]
Deputy Dermot Ahern Deputy Dermot Ahern
 Deputy Dermot Ahern:There are significant Kurdish minority populations in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and a smaller population in parts of Syria.
There are 15 million people of Kurdish ethnic origin living in Turkey, mostly in the south east of the country. The Government’s concerns about the human rights situation in Turkey, including the situation of people of Kurdish origin, are raised on a regular basis in our contacts with the Turkish Government. Most recently, I raised our concerns about the human rights situation in Turkey at my meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Babaçan on the margins of the UN General Assembly in October.
In recent years Turkey has made significant progress in the adoption of wide-ranging political and legal reforms. Important human rights reforms have been introduced and legislation enacted aimed at strengthening the enforcement of human rights, including the cultural rights of all citizens, including those of Kurdish origin. The security situation in the south east of the country, which had gradually improved since 1999, has worsened in the past two years. This follows the resumption of violence by the PKK, a Kurdish separatist organisation that appears on the EU list of terrorist organisations. Tensions have been particularly high in recent months, with an increase in casualties on both sides. The killing of 12 Turkish soldiers in a coordinated attack on a post on the Iraqi border, and the capture of a further 8 in the same incident, were the most high profile incidents. This has prompted the dangerous possibility of a large-scale Turkish incursion into northern Iraq to quell the threat. We continue to closely monitor developments in the region through our Embassy in Ankara, and in cooperation with our EU partners.
In Iraq, the de facto autonomy of the Kurdish region since the mid 1990s has been confirmed and strengthened following the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The two main Kurdish parties are key members of the broad coalition that makes up the Iraqi Government. The President of Iraq is the Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani. The Iraqi Constitution, adopted by popular vote in October 2005, recognises Kurds as one of the component peoples of Iraq, and provides for the exercise of a large degree of autonomy by the three Kurdish provinces, acting together as a Kurdish region. There is reason to hope that this settlement, if it can survive the serious violence threatening to destabilise Iraq, can provide a long-term solution to the issue of the rights and aspirations of Kurds within Iraq.
The Government are not aware of any serious discrimination against Kurdish people in Iran specifically on the basis of their ethnic origin. However, the conservative regime which has come to power in Iran in recent years shows much less tolerance than its reformist predecessor for expressions of identity by Iran’s many ethnic  minorities, and this has led to violent incidents and arrests in a number of provincial cities, including in Kurdish areas. In addition, the overall human rights situation in Iran continues to be a matter of concern, and Ireland co-sponsored a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 2007, which expressed serious concern at the continuing violations of human rights in Iran. Among a number of recommendations, the resolution called upon the Government of Iran to eliminate all forms of discrimination based on religious grounds or against persons belonging to minorities.
Regrettably, there has been a continual worsening of the human rights situation in Iran in recent years. The EU’s human rights dialogue with Iran, through which we sought constructively to encourage improvements, has fallen into abeyance due to Iran’s refusal to agree to further meetings. We will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Iran, including the situation of the Kurdish minority, through our Embassy in Tehran and in cooperation with our EU partners.
Dáil Éireann 643 Written Answers. Human Rights Issues.