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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 15:55 GMT
Turkey lifts last state of emergency
Turkish commandos near the border with Iraq
Troops have been one sign of the state of emergency
The BBC's Jonny Dymond

Doctors, lawyers and human rights activists have met in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir to mark the lifting of the state of emergency in the last two Turkish provinces where it was in force.

Diyarbakir and Sirnak, both in the south-east of Turkey, have been governed under a state of emergency for 15 years.

Representatives of the groups welcomed the lifting of emergency rule, but warned that divisions remained between different parts of the country.

Map of Turkey showing Ankara and Diyarbakir
The lifting of emergency rule that once covered 13 Turkish provinces and the militarisation that went with it is a sign of the victory of the Turkish Government over the Kurdish and left-wing paramilitaries that once threatened the state.

A ruthless struggle against Kurdish separatists in the 1980s and 1990s left more than 30,000 dead and millions uprooted from their homes.

The end of the state of emergency will lead to the gradual relaxation of the military hold on Diyarbakir and Sirnak, typified by high troops numbers, regular checkpoints, curfews and a lack of recourse to the courts.

Cautious welcome from activists

A bout of impromptu celebration ended the meeting of 300 or so activists drawn from different spheres of life in Diyarbakir.

"Long live the democratic republic of Turkey," sang some of the audience, accompanied by some sarcastic laughter.

There is pleasure here at the lifting of emergency rule.

There is the hope that life might improve as the army scales down its presence and legal rights are returned to the population.

But there is also a great deal of caution.

Long-standing conflict

Few believe that the state will relax its grip on an area which until recently was a battleground between the security forces and Kurdish paramilitaries.

Ali Oncu spoke for the democratic platform which called the meeting.

A Turkish Kurd man
Some areas have been under emergency or martial law for decades
He said that even without a state of emergency the provinces would still be denied real freedom.

"This is a different version of holding Turkey in an under-developed position which Turkey does not deserve," he said.

"We would like Turkey to take a strong position near the democratic countries.

"All sectors of society must be able to exist and live together in peace and safety in a democratic society."

During the meeting, a plainclothes policeman stood with a hand-held camera, taping not only the speakers, but members of the audience.

Afterwards, organisers met police after the authorities raised objections to a planned outdoor meeting later in the day.

Emergency rule may have been lifted, but the mentality which underpins it and the atmosphere of fear which it creates shows no sign of disappearing.

See also:

22 Nov 02 | Europe
18 Nov 02 | Europe
16 Nov 02 | Country profiles
16 Nov 02 | Europe
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