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TURKEY'S TRUE COLORS By P. D. Spyropoulos After being pursued from Syria to Moscow, Abdullah Ocalan-leader of the PKK, the separatist guerrilla insurgency which seeks autonomy for Turkey's large Kurdish minority-has fled to Italy. An Italian court has ruled that its country's constitution prohibits Ocalan from being extradited to Turkey because he would most likely be executed. The State Department and much of the American media have criticized Italy for upholding its constitution while overlooking a far more important consideration: that Turkey has reacted more like a militant Mideast backwater than a NATO ally. Turkey commenced an assault against Italian interests last week which was unprecedented in the history of the European Union. Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Sezgin warned, "we will carry out a review of our relations with Italy in all areas of the economy." A boycott was launched Monday by the powerful Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and has been backed by numerous state-owned and private firms. Turkey's first state bank, Ziraat Bankasi, declared that it would no longer grant loans for the purchase of tractors and other Italian farming equipment, and further eliminated the Italian company Olivetti from a $500,000 bid for photocopy machines. On Thursday, Turkey's third-largest city, Izmir, disqualified Pirelli from a $200,000 contract to provide tires for city buses. Eight million dollars worth of electrical household contracts with Italian firms were scrapped, and imports of alcoholic beverages from Italy were halted altogether. The Turkish government has blacked out Italian television, and the Turkish telephone company has suspended all commercial ties with Italian companies. Even Turkey's association of travel agents, TURSAB, announced that Turkish tour operators had canceled their tours to Italy. Perhaps the best news coming from this boycott-at least for Turkey's neighbors and for Kurds, political dissidents, religious minorities and other oppressed groups living under a government with one of the worst human rights records on earth-is that Turkey has announced a ban on military imports from Italy worth up to three hundred million dollars. Fomented by the inflammatory statements of Turkish leaders and the government-controlled press, Turkey's anti-Italian hysteria peaked into a frenzy this week with protests taking place in several parts of the country. Italy's Foreign Ministry advised its nationals not to travel to Turkey and to "exercise caution", avoiding places in Turkey that are venues for large demonstrations. Fearing for the safety of Italian players, the European football association decided to postpone a game between the Turin-based Juventus soccer team and a Turkish team until December. Thousands have been protesting outside the Italian embassy in Ankara for the past week and a half, shouting anti-Italian slogans, burning the Italian flag and torching an effigy of Ocalan hung from a scaffold. According to Anatolia news agency, nearly 130,000 demonstrators paraded along a three-mile street in the central city of Kayseri chanting "Italy terrorist" and burning Italian-made shoes and portraits of Ocalan. Other demonstrations were reported in Istanbul and Bursa, while in the Mediterranean town of Antalya the Italian honorary consul, Gaye Doganoglu, said she would quit her post. Last week, a mob trampled Italian food for sale in a market and three Frenchmen and their interpreter, all members of a religious aid organization that were arrested when police sacked the headquarters of a pro-Kurdish party in Diyarbakir, were expelled. Since Ocalan's arrest, two Kurds have died in police custody and more than 3,000 people have been detained during a nationwide witchhunt of supporters of Turkey's main legal Kurdish party, HADEP. Police raids on HADEP offices began after relatives of prisoners on hunger strikes gathered at party centers nationwide to join the fast. Television pictures showed right-wing militants beating party members as they were being escorted into police detention, and on Saturday a retired teacher and HADEP member died as a result of blows from extremists who seized him from police custody in the western town of Izmit. The Turkish Government has sent 30,000 troops to crack down on the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, in the eastern Tunceli province, a region that is currently under the emergency rule of a Turkish military governor. Danielle Mitterrand, the president of the France-Freedom Foundation and widow of the late French president Francois Mitterand, declared "if you judge Ocalan as a terrorist, you should also judge and impose sanctions for state terrorism represented by [Turkey's] official army." In Bonn, Hasan Denizkurdu, Turkey's Minister of Justice, fumed that there would "no longer be relations" between Rome and Ankara unless Ocalan is handed over to Turkey, and warned that Turkey would consider Italy a "terrorist state" if it granted him political asylum. Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz further warned Italy that it is risking Turkey's "eternal enmity" and threatened that Italy's "mistake[s] will certainly have a very high price." Last Saturday, Yilmaz attacked the Italian government in front of 10,000 of his party supporters during a major congress of his Motherland Party who chanted "Damn Italy." Yilmaz threatened that "the whole world should know that if Italy persists in this disgrace, Turkey will not leave it unanswered." Yilmaz's speech was greeted with chants and thunderous applause. Italy's Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, responded that he would not bow to "economic blackmail", and characterized Turkey's acts as "illegal" and in violation of international conventions. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini denounced the anti-Italian frenzy as "an aggression against all of Europe." What concerned many European leaders is the possibility that it was instigated to deflect attention from Yilmaz's own domestic political woes; after a series of government scandals involving underworld connections and corruption charges, Yilmaz's government fell this past Wednesday after losing a confidence vote in the Turkish Parliament. Yet the Italian imbroglio is just the latest swell in a rising tide of Turkish anti-European hostility following the rejection of Turkey's application for E.U. membership last year. In a step unprecedented for a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey stated in August that it would refuse to comply with a European Court of Human Rights ruling-which ordered Turkey to pay substantial damages to a Greek-Cypriot woman forced to leave her home as a result of Turkey's 1974 invasion and present occupation of northern Cyprus. No other member of the 40-nation Council of Europe has ever failed to comply with a compensation order from its human rights court. Such a breach of the underlying Human Rights Convention can result in the expulsion of the offending state. Turkey has also rejected a resolution adopted by the Strasbourg-based European Union Parliament calling on Turkey's President Suleyman Demirel to exonerate Akin Birdal, who was recently sentenced to one year in prison for his activities as president of the Turkish Association for Human Rights. In May, Birdal was shot repeatedly in the chest and legs by two extremists linked to the military but managed to survive the attack. The resolution, endorsed on Thursday, also demanded that the Turkish authorities allow Birdal to travel abroad for medical treatment and emphasized the need for reform in the Turkish judicial system. Perhaps the gesture most illustrative of the widening gap between the progressive, pluralistic European democracy Italy represents, and the militaristic pariah Turkey continues to be, came from Benetton's Turkish partner, Bogazici Hazir Giyim. Mocking the Italian clothing company's "united colors" campaign, which encourages multicultural tolerance, Bogazici painted all of its 171 shops' windows black. Thus Europe has not only discovered that Turkey is "giving up on colors", as Bogazici declared-Europe has discovered Turkey's true colors. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Mr. Phillip Spyropoulos is the founder and Executive Director of the American Hellenic Media Project, a non-profit think-tank created to foster accuracy in journalism and to address bias and misinformation in the media. An attorney and former New York city prosecutor, he has been widely published and interviewed in the media.