Examination of Witness (Questions 100
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
100. Is that getting worse?
(Mr Barchard) I think the temptations for politicians
are getting worse as a result of economic development in Turkey,
the proliferation of large contracts and those kinds of things.
That is, in a sense, a rather different problem and there have
been a number of scandals in the last few years. But the ability
of the Turkish system to detect, expose and punish such cases,
including cases in the parliamentfor example the president
of the Grand National Assembly was actually brought to book for
irregularities a few years backshould not be underestimated.
101. In terms of the dynamics within Turkish
society, what are the most powerful media which shape opinion
of the population at large? I have been told that because of the
expansion of satellite television in the Turkish communities,
rural communities living in large communities in mainland Europe,
the process of integration has been reversed in many ways because
you will find the Turkish communities simply sitting and watching
television. Within Turkey itself, what are the most powerful ways
in which the opinion on the ground is formed? Is it radio, newspapers,
(Mr Barchard) As you say, it is television. It is
also, at the local level, leadership. Turkey is in some respects
a patriarchal society: there is a great deal more deference or
respect for authority and therefore a great deal of willingness
to listen to what those above you say and to take a lead from
them. But, yes, you have mentioned television, and there is no
doubt that television is immensely powerful. There is a very great
deal of television in TurkeyI think over 30 television
channels. Of those, there are about four or five commercial television
stations linked to the press empires and I suspect those are the
ones which lead the way. They tend, actually, to have fairly liberal,
even radical, political attitudes, particularly on questions like
public order, demonstrations and corruption. They go quite a long
way to make quite radical criticisms of the status quo.
102. Would you mind telling us a bit about who
controls the media in Turkey?
(Mr Barchard) There is one very large group, which
is the Dogan Media Group, and then there are smaller ones. There
was a second very large group but they got into financial difficulties
as a result of the crisis last year. There is one other influential
group and that obviously is the mosques and the religious establishment
and also the underground semi-legal religious brotherhoods. Obviously
there are sections of rural society in eastern Anatolia, and of
course some parts of the more advanced western metropolitan regions
where they are also very influential.
103. What element of political control is there
(Mr Barchard) I do not think there is any formal political
control over television. There is a culture of abiding by what
are considered to be patriotic ideas and standards.
104. Looking at religion, some of the evidence
which Mr Leigh gave early on, the whole question of the traditional
role of the military within Turkish society, and this is probably
something which we find probably more difficult to understand,
I was wondering whether you would like for the benefit of the
Committee to explain what your view is of the changes in the National
Security Council vis-á-vis to what extent you think
that it has made any real changes in reducing the role of the
military within civic society.
(Mr Barchard) I always think that the role of the
National Security Council is perhaps slightly exaggerated partly
because it permits itself to have such an enormous amount of publicity
shown on television. There is a great deal of ritualism and things
of that sort. As regards the role of the military in particular,
it is fairly clear that Turkey is a front line state. It is very
aware that if it did not have a record of military prowess it
would not exist today in its present form. There was a time, fairly
recent in people's consciousness, where it stood totally alone
against the rest of the world and was saved by its soldiers. There
is also a perceptionand do not forget that all Turkish
men have done service in the armythat the military is better
organised: the hierarchy is functioning properly, there is a command
system, people know whom to take orders from, and therefore it
is a more effective institution than other institutions. It is
also in some ways a more altruistic institution than other institutions
because it exists for the national good. At the local level it
also does other things. It is quite common in Turkish rural society,
for example, to find pop concerts and things of that sort being
organised by the local gendarmerie.
105. And meritocratic?
(Mr Barchard) And meritocratic of course, yes, so
there tends to be a certain amount of respect for those kinds
of things. Increasingly we should not forget that in Turkey, as
in any other society, there are people who are quite modern and
rebellious"bolshie" might be a slightly unfortunate
expression in the circumstancesand who do not like authority
and those attitudes are to be found in Turkey too. There is not
a record of total deference but, given that many Turks still see
themselves as facing challenges internally and externally, because
Turkey is always very conscious that some of its neighbours are
both unfriendly and undemocratic and there is this potential risk
from Islamism, there is a tendency to feel that the role of the
military, no matter how unruly or rebellious you are, could in
the last resort be necessary. I tend to go along with that to
some extent because I think it is quite clear that if the military,
for instance, had not intervened in the situation in the mid-1990s
in the way that they did on the 28 February 1997, we would not
be sitting round this table today talking about Turkey's membership
of the European Union. Turkey would have continued to Islamise
and the question of Turkey's accession would have become a dead
106. Do you think there is a case to be made
that the military should become more readily engaged in the discussions
on EU membership given its significant role?
(Mr Barchard) No, I do not think that would be proper
in Turkey or by European standards. What is appropriate is to
try and strengthen the civilian structure, to breed a culture
of civic responsibility, and to make sure that Turkish institutions
can function properly. This I think is the answer that the military
themselves would give. In 1980 and other periods it was very clear
that they had not had the disposition to intervene in politics.
They had intervened because they were sucked in by weak political
structures and a growing power vacuum.
107. So the military itself perceives itself
as a kind of reluctant sheriff in this?
(Mr Barchard) A guardian of the last resort, yes.
108. Are they comfortable in that role?
(Mr Barchard) I suspect that, having had it for a
long time, many of them are, but others are also aware that the
role of a professional army might be a more limited one and that
perhaps in some respects would be in the longer term a more satisfactory
role. I have certainly heard it said that in the longer term if
Turkey were integrated into the European Union many of the concerns
that the military face and which give them some sort of involvement
in politics would no longer be live issues and therefore it would
be possible for them to deal with what are more traditionally
109. We talked earlier about the old men of
politics (and I noticed that there was not much mention of women
in politics) hanging around a long time. What do we know about
the body that forms the opinion of the military? Is there any
new blood coming in or is it a fairly conservative body (with
a small "c")?
(Mr Barchard) I think "conservative" is
the wrong word. I think that the main criteria which they look
for these days are obviously Communist connections or things of
that sort which would be taboo, but that is not really very much
of an issue. They do have a policy of very specifically recruiting
people from backgrounds where they can be quite sure that they
are not dealing with potential Islamists.
110. Let me say first of all that your paper
was remarkably well written and very clear. I thought it gave
me a lot of information in a concise way. One of the things that
alarmed me was the points you made about the access to the UK
from Turkey visa situation. I think many of us who regularly have
to deal with our own constituents who have relatives in the Indian-sub-continent
will be familiar with the problems that Turkish citizens face
in trying to get visas. It is no surprise to me at all. We have
had another paper which outlines just that particular point and
enlarges upon it, but I wanted to ask you how much you think the
visa restrictions that have been implemented for the last 12 years
or so are restricting trade between our two countries. You mentioned
that the United Kingdom is the third or fourth largest trading
partner with Turkey. How much is that trade being restricted by
these visa problems?
(Mr Barchard) I find it very difficult to quantify
that. You certainly hear stories of business men abandoning deals
with the UK because they have been told to come back in five months
for a visa interview, so they do not pursue that option. Because
Britain is not in the Schengen agreement, a Schengen visa, which
most Turkish businessmen would have, is not valid here. There
is the additional point of course that people who want to go to
language schools or spend holidays here or things of that sort
cannot do so, so that money is also lost to the UK by the very
tight visa regime.
111. You made mention of the Schengen countries.
How difficult would it be to get a visa to get into the Schengen
(Mr Barchard) Again I cannot give a precise figure
but it looks to me like it is a great deal easier just because
one knows people who go to those countries and travel around once
they are inside them. One always hears of difficulties of Turks
coming to the UK.
112. Let me be clear on this. It seems from
what you say that the UK is the worst country to get a visa to
visit if you are a Turk.
(Mr Barchard) It is difficult to quantify that precisely
but that is the impression I have, possibly because I am English
and so possibly because people tell me about the difficulties
they have experienced.
113. Let us move on if we may to human rights,
which is one of the key areas where Turkey has not even got over
the first hurdle of the political criterion of the Copenhagen
Council. First, since we are going to meet representatives of
Amnesty International after you, Mr Barchard, to put Turkey in
its regional context, how do human rights in Turkey compare with
those in its immediate neighbours?
(Mr Barchard) First of all I think that the situation
in Turkey is broadly in line with what one would expect in a north
Mediterranean country at this level of development. I suspect
that it is not as different as it might be from Spain, Italy or
Greece some decades back. I think also that Turkey has moved fairly
rapidly in the last 20 years in terms of personal freedoms and
in particular in freedom of expression. If one compares it with
the countries around it, obviously the difference between Turkey
and Syria, or the difference between Turkey and Iraq, or even
the difference between Turkey and Iran, is rather like the difference
between day and night. There is absolutely no comparison between
those regimes, whether in political activity or freedom of expression.
It is totally suppressed.
114. But if we compare Turkey not with its immediate
neighbours but with European norms, Turkey practises torture,
for example. Clearly Spain in the very recent past has not done
that, so how quickly would you believe that Turkey, with its current
record, could accommodate itself to the Copenhagen criteria?
(Mr Barchard) Can I take the first point first: torture?
My impression was that there was a great deal more physical violence
during the emergencies and military rule. There was clearly torture
in the eighties and in the previous decade but perhaps it did
not exist in the 1960s to the same extent because there was a
much more liberal system, there was much less conflict in Turkey
in those days. It is a response to emergencies. I cannot guess
what the Amnesty International spokesmen will say but I wonder
what the situation with Spain is in the Basque country and around
there? I suspect you would get allegations of torture and serious
irregularities there. Most of the allegations in Turkey are connected
with the emergency regions or sometimes with the spillover from
them occasionally you get stories of abuses committed by officials
recently returning from those areas. I do not think it would be
fair to say that the situation in Turkey bears comparison with
what it was like during the early 1980s or in 1971 or in those
days. I think there has been clear progress. Secondly, you come
up against a problem, that I do not think anyone at the top of
Turkish politics is in favour of torture at all. I do not think
anyone wants to wink at it or turn it aside. Anecdotally, I have
heard many stories over the years of politicians, beginning with
the late President Turgut Özal, confronting certain police
officers very aggressively on this topic. Mr Mesut Yilmaz, the
Deputy Prime Minister some years ago, had to intervene personally
to ensure that some police accused of torture actually turned
up for their trial. In other words, it is a problem of weak control
at the local level. This is a problem that a certain number of
the Turkish police are themselves very concerned about and it
again points to the need to have a more coherent structure.
115. Is it being addressed?
(Mr Barchard) It is being addressed to the extent
that it is becoming progressively easier in Turkey to launch criminal
proceedings against officials. That was very difficult in the
past. There have been changes in the legislation over the last
two years making it much easier (although perhaps not as easy
as it might be) to make complaints against officials and get prosecutions
going and get punishments enforced and indeed from time to time
they are. But I think everyone would accept that there is still
room for progress in that direction, but that politicians want
that kind of progress I think is indisputable.
116. What about the media? Is there any real
prospect that the authorities will permit truly free debate within
the Turkish media?
(Mr Barchard) I do not know whether anyone here has
read the Turkish media but there is an enormous amount ofalmost
endlessdebate in them. There are certain no-go areas, usually
to do with (in fact almost entirely to do with) the right of secession
and the unity of the state, and occasionally to do with matters
like the ones I alluded to earlierthe questions of incitement
or in particular insult of officials. Again, the number of such
cases I would have thought is considerably less than it would
have been five or certainly ten or 20 years ago. In those days
one was constantly getting into difficulty on those things. One
must not forget, for example, that the Prime Minister today, Mr
Ecevit, himself served a spell in jail for an interview he gave
to the BBC in 1981, I think. Clearly Mr Ecevit and other politicians
have a strong interest in making sure that there is continued
117. But it is not, with respect, entirely restricted
to the state of emergency because we had our attention drawn to
a judgement of the 14 December 2000 at the Istanbul State Security
Court No 4 which banned all publishing or broadcasting of information
which portrays Turkey "in a state of weakness" and that
in August 2001, for example, ten radio and television stations
received penalties for closure from one to 365 days mainly for
unacceptable comments on current events.
(Mr Barchard) Those are two different issues. I cannot
comment on the specific case in the martial law courts because
I do not know it but I wonder to what extent that particular case
was upheld on appeal.
118. There is no indication that it has been
(Mr Barchard) In regard to the second thing you mentioned,
the powers of RT UK, the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme
Board, I agree that the methods it uses are as far as I know without
parallel anywhere else in western Europe and they were, when they
were introduced, regarded as highly controversial. It has to be
said that one does not see a great deal of criticism of those
regulations and the fact that if you, for example, have a profanity
or an obscenity on television your station may be shut down for
a day. One does not see a great deal of criticism of that in the
media or on the radio. This is perhaps the kind of issue to which
Turkish society as a whole will have to address itself as it moves
closer towards the European Union and find ways of managing the
media or keeping media discussion within reasonable limits. It
is not usually, discussion which is involved; it is usually what
one might call the `Mary Whitehouse' type of issues, I think,
which have figured in those kinds of closures.
119. One understands the case for the integrity
of the state, the argument against secession, but is there a ban
on any discussion of ethnic or minority diversity within the media?
(Mr Barchard) I think that has to be viewed in terms
of Turkey's historical experience in the 19th century when discussion
of such matters was almost invariably the prelude to collusion
with the outside powers, including, it must be said, Britain,
leading to autonomy and ultimately to the creation of the modern
map of the Balkans and the Caucasus and so forth. It is not surprising
that when people have personal experiences which may well be bound
up with very painful experiences for their own families they tend
to look askew at such matters. I will give you one example. A
friend of mine, who was a leading Turkish civil servant, is of
a family of Georgian background but when they came to Turkey they
made a conscious decision that, having arrived there, they were
now Turks and they would take no interest in their Georgian background,
and he does not.