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Country Reports
TURKEY, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Turkey continues to be in the grip of an ongoing war between Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish military. The PKK are seeking autonomy for Turkey’s estimated 12 million Kurds living in the southeast of the country. Landmines have been used by both sides in the conflict.

Mine Ban Policy

Turkey has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty, though a Turkish delegation was on hand for the signing ceremony in Ottawa on 2-4 December 1997. In a news report published on 4 December 1997, an unidentified Turkish official was quoted as saying: “[W]e have to protect our borders. Although we respect the reasons for that treaty, in order to keep our borders secure, we have to take measures.”[1]

According to an official at Turkey’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Turkey is “very much interested in signing on” to the treaty, but cannot do so at present due to security concerns related to Turkey’s neighbors. Turkish officials have cited what they believe to be the military effectiveness of landmines[2] as well as security concerns --the need to protect borders-- for refusing to sign the treaty.[3] Turkey’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, Tuluy Tanc, has stated that “Ankara can fulfil the aspects envisaged by the agreement only in stages” which he said owed to Turkey’s geographical position and its neighbors in the southeast.[4]

On 22 March 1999, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Bulgaria signed an agreement committing both countries not to mine their common border and to remove the mines that are currently in the area. A joint statement by the foreign ministers said, “According to the Agreement, the two countries undertake not to use under any circumstances antipersonnel mines and to destroy or remove all stocked or emplaced antipersonnel mines from the area of application as defined in the Agreement. The Agreement also envisages a verification regime.... [B]y signing this Agreement the two countries have proved their determination to contribute to the ongoing efforts of the international community aimed at the total elimination of this inhumane weapon.”[5] Bulgaria has signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty.

The Turkish UN Mission said that on Turkey’s borders with its other neighbors, especially in mountainous regions in the country’s southeast, “landmines do play a role.” The official stated that Turkey has become more supportive of an international ban in recent years, noting in particular that after abstaining from votes on UN General Assembly resolutions supporting a ban in 1996 and 1997, Turkey voted in favor of a similar resolution in 1998. The official said that Turkey would send a representative to the First Meeting of the States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo, Mozambique in May 1999. Without fixing a date or time period, the official said that Turkey plans to sign the Mine Ban Treaty “as soon as possible,” but expressed the wish that parties to the treaty expand their focus to include mine use by rebel groups.[6]

Turkey attended the Brussels conference but did not endorse the final declaration. Turkey also attended the negotiations in Oslo in September 1997, but only as an observer state. Turkey was one of only ten nations which abstained in 1996 from voting on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 51/45 S, which called for a binding international agreement to ban use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of landmines, and was supported by 156 states. Turkey also abstained in 1997 from voting on General Assembly Resolution 52/38 A, which called on states to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty. In 1998, Turkey signaled a new receptivity to the Mine Ban Treaty by voting in favor of General Assembly Resolution 53/L.33 in 1998, which uses language similar to the 1997 resolution calling on states to sign and ratify the treaty.

Turkey is not a state party to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons or its Protocol II on landmines. Turkey is a member state of the Conference on Disarmament and favors using it as a forum for negotiating a ban on mine transfers. In February 1999, Turkey was one of twenty-two countries to endorse a statement advocating the negotiation of a transfer ban through the CD. The statement, delivered by Bulgaria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations in Geneva, stated that a CD-sponsored transfer ban would “play an important role in stemming the supply of APLs” and that its negotiation would involve “the relevant States not yet party to the Ottawa Convention or CCW.”[7]

Production, Transfer, and Stockpiling

A 1993 U.S. Department of State report listed Turkey as a landmine producer, though not an exporter.[8] A recent reference work on antipersonnel mines indicates that Turkey has produced copies of two U.S. mines: the M14 non-detectable blast mine, and the M16 bounding fragmentation mine; both manufactured by MKEK in Turkey.[9] Turkey also produces three types of antitank mines: the 2kg antitank mine, the 4.5 kg antitank mine, and the M19.[10] On 17 January 1996 Turkey declared a 3-year moratorium on landmine exports and increases in Turkey’s landmine stockpile. This moratorium was renewed for another three years in 1999.[11] Data on any possible landmine exports by Turkey prior to 1996 are unavailable.

Turkey imported more than 35,000 antipersonnel landmines from the United States between 1983 and 1992.[12] U.S. mine exports to Turkey have included the conventional, hand-placed M-18-A1 Claymore mine and the modern “scatterable” Area Denial Artillery Munition (ADAM) mines. In 1988 the US sold 34,476 ADAM mines to Turkey, one of the few customers for this “smart” mine. The ADAM is artillery-fired for remote delivery, and arms on delivery, sending out seven tripwires which, when triggered, blow fragments in all directions. It has a self-destruct mechanism.[13] The interviewed Turkish official was unaware of any current importation of mines by Turkey. It is unknown how many landmines remain in Turkey’s stocks.

The principal non-state actor regarding landmines in Turkey is the PKK, a rebel group which is seeking autonomy in the mainly Kurdish south east of the country. Turkish troops hunting the rebels in the south east of the country - as well as northern Iraq - regularly recover caches of APMs among other weapons that have been stockpiled by the rebels. In May 1996, for example, two antipersonnel mines were in a cache discovered by security forces in Igdir near the border with Iran.[14] Similarly in November 1997 three APMs of an unstated type were among a stockpile of weapons reportedly recovered by troops in the Agri region of eastern Turkey[15]. No independent efforts have been made to establish the number or quantity of mines stockpiled by the PKK.


Turkey uses mines on its border regions, particularly in the southeast region bordering Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The Turkish mission to the UN claims that all areas mined by the Turkish military are clearly marked with warning signs. In 1996, however, a commission of Turkish parliamentarians reported that the military does not have charts for many of its minefields and that in some cases PKK rebels knew these fields better than Turkish soldiers.[16] The PKK also uses landmines in its campaign against the Turkish government, particularly on roads traveled by Turkish military personnel in the southeast. The Turkish UN mission denied reports that Turkish military forces have used landmines to deter villagers from returning to evacuated villages which are considered sympathetic to the PKK.

There is evidence that landmines continue to be used in Turkey. New landmine use is almost exclusively in the southeast of Turkey where the Turkish military continues to be embroiled in a guerrilla war with the PKK. PKK weapons caches, regularly uncovered by Turkish security forces, often include landmines. In an effort to halt PKK attacks on Turkey from neighboring Iraq - which has a number of PKK bases - Turkey’s military have mined large swathes of the Iraqi-Turkish border.[17] In 1992 the Turkish military commander of the border region, Gen. Necati Ozgen, was quoted by Turkey’s semi-official Anatolian news agency as saying, “There will be no point left unmined along the border this year.”[18] Given the large number of mines that have obviously been sown along such border areas, it would be difficult in the extreme to determine whether casualties in such regions are from new or old use of APM’s.

As both sides have used landmines the exact number of mines scattered throughout Turkey’s southeast remains an unknown quantity. There are no records for the number of mines that have been laid by the PKK and records of the numbers laid by the Turkish military are unavailable. In addition it must be taken into account that access to the south east of Turkey is periodically forbidden to all independent news organizations - occasionally all foreigners - by the Turkish government.

Determining exactly who is laying landmines and where - if they are not detonated - in the ongoing conflict thus remains extremely difficult. Concerning many reports of landmine deaths it remains next to impossible to ascertain either who has died or who laid the mines. In June 1997, for example, the semi-official Anatolian news agency reported that four PKK rebels had been killed by mines they themselves had planted in the Hakkari province of Turkey.[19] There was, though, no independent confirmation as to who had died or who had laid the mines. In all probability, given the large unknown and unmapped numbers of mines that have been laid, it would be impossible to say whether the mines had been laid by the PKK or the Turkish military. Turkish officials regularly admit that soldiers in the southeast are killed by landmines, which they say have been laid by the PKK.

The PKK are regularly accused of planting mines by the Turkish military. Captured PKK weapons displayed to journalists often include APM’s. In December 1997, the then deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, said that the government planned to lay asphalt roads in the south east of the country to guard against PKK landmines.[20]

While there has been no in-depth assessment of the extent of the problem in Turkey there have been parliamentary inquiries into mines along the Turkish - Syrian border. [21] Turkey’s Parliamentary border security commission was quoted as reporting that between the towns of Kilis and Cizre along the Syrian border there are several hundred thousand mines.[22] The commission reported that the mined area existed along a 600 kilometer stretch of the border and was between 400 - 600 meters deep. The report also stated that no military maps of the minefield existed. [23]

In a parliamentary debate on the findings the report concluded: “In the end these mined areas are not an obstacle to terrorists or smugglers, but to the security forces?these minefields which serve no purpose from a security point of view should be cleared, cleansed and opened to agriculture.”[24]

In addition large areas of Turkey’s border with Iraq have been mined by the Turkish military. Other areas that are affected by APMs are roads, national parks, grazing and agricultural areas - again almost exclusively in the south east of the country. In the Kilis province of Turkey, fires lit by farmers burning crops around the village of Arpakesmez reportedly set off a number of APM’s, which were said to have been heated by the fires.[25] No information was available on either the types or number of mines that exploded.

Turkish human rights and green activists have sought to draw attention to some of the areas affected by mines, which they say are destroying the ecosystem.[26] In the case of the Munzur National Park, which the activists maintained had been heavily mined, situated in the south eastern province of Tunceli the activists were denied access to the park by the Turkish military. [27]

Mine Action Funding/Mine Clearance

Turkey has not contributed to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance, but has pledged $25,000 for a project to modify tanks for mine clearance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Turkey has also offered to provide mine clearance assistance to Egypt.[28] In 1995, however, Turkey barred the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) from delivering equipment to support its mine clearance work in the heavily mined northern area of Iraq. Turkish government officials claimed that the equipment could come into the possession of the PKK.[29] Ankara has given support to the idea that mines should be cleared from border areas between Turkey and countries such as Georgia with which Ankara has good relations.[30] No information was found on mine awareness activities in Turkey.

Landmine Casualties

The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has lasted fourteen years and resulted in more than 28,000 deaths. Landmine casualties in the region are reported to be common.[31] In July 1998 six Kurdish militiamen fighting against the PKK for the Turkish government were killed by a landmine.[32]

In 1997, allegations surfaced that the Turkish military had forced Kurdish villagers to act as human mine detectors.[33] In March 1997 a Turkish parliamentary commission investigated allegations by villagers in the Batman region that troops had forced them to walk through a minefield.[34] According to Hadji Mohamed, a local farmer,

“The security forces came to the village and rounded up 30 of our men and forced us into their cars. They said we were being taken to collect wood. Instead they drove us to a huge field they dais was full of mines.”[35]

Another man, who refused to give his name said:

“The lieutenant who was leading the operation ordered us to stand in a line and start walking towards the field. We were terrified. When we refused, he began cursing us, slapping us and beating us with his rifle butt. He (the lieutenant) said, ‘From now on you will be mine detectors and I will make you walk through this field every day for the rest of your life.’”[36]

The villagers said they spent hours wandering around the field. Local security forces denied the allegations.


[1] "Turkey: Citing Security Concerns, Ankara Opposes the Ban,” Turkish Daily News, 4 December 1997.

[2] Elif Semiha Kuflu, “Canada Seeks Turkey’s Support to Ban Landmines,” Turkish Daily News, 17 November 1997.

[3] “Citing Security Concerns, Ankara opposes the Ban.”

[4] “Official Explains why Turkey Won’t Sign Landmines Agreement,” Anatolia news agency, 16 October 1998.

[5] Joint Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Repubic of Turkey, H.E. Ismail Cem and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, H.E. Ms. Nadezhda Mihhailova, Sofia, 22 March 1999, on the “Agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Bulgaria on non-use of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Removal from or Destruction in the Areas Adjacent to their Common Borders.”

[6] Landmine Monitor interview with official at Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, 26 March 1999.

[7] Statement by Ambassador Petko Draganov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations Office and the other International Organisations in Geneva, (undated) February 1999.

[8] U.S. Department of State, Outgoing Telegram, Unclassified, Subject: Landmine Export Moratorium Demarche, 7 December 1993.

[9] Eddie Banks, Antipersonnel Mines: Recognizing and Disarming (London: Brassey’s 1997), pp. 212-213.

[10] U.S. Department of Defense, “Mine Facts” CD ROM.

[11] Landmine Monitor interview with official at Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, 26 March 1999.

[12] U.S. Defense Security Assistance Agency, U.S. Landmine Sales by Country, March 1994.

[13] Human Rights Watch Arms Project, Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey (Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Watch, 1995) p. 34

[14] “Syrian Reportedly Among Terrorists Captured In Central Turkey”, TRT TV (via BBC monitoring), 31 May 1996.

[15] “Kurdish Rebel Organizer Surrenders To Security Forces In East”, TRT TV (via BBC monitoring), 28 November 1997.

[16] "Turkey Hindered by own Landmines on Syrian Border,” Reuters News Service, 6 December 1996.

[17] “Turkey Puts Minefields Along Iraq Border,” Reuters News Service, 8 April 1992.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Turkey Says Rebel Kurds Killed By Own Mines,” Reuters news service (Quoting Anatolian agency), 17 June 1997.

[20] “Government to Asphalt Roads,” Yeni Yuzil newspaper, 23 December 1997.

[21] “Turkey Hindered by Own Landmines On Syrian Border”, Reuters news service, 6 December 1996; “Border Security Report,” Sabah newspaper, 11 March 1997.

[22] Hurriyet newspaper, 11 October 1998.

[23] “Border Security Report”, Sabah newspaper, 11 March 1997; “Turkey Hindered By Own Landmines On Syrian Border,” Reuters news service, 6 December 1996.

[24] Hurriyet newspaper, 11 October 1998.

[25] Hurriyet newspaper, 16 October 1998.

[26] “Turk Activists To See Green Cost Of Kurd Conflict,” Reuters news service, 24 September 1997.

[27] “Turkish Military Turn Back Activists,” Reuters news service, 26 September 1997.

[28] U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 1998) p. C-4.

[29] "Turkey Blocks Mine Clearance,” Financial Times, 22 March 1995.

[30] “Official Explains Why turkey Won’t Sign Landmines Agreement,” Anatolia news Agency, 16 October 1998.

[31] Country Profiles, United Nations Demining Database, http:www.un.org.Depts/Landmine/ (Ref. 3/26/99).

[32] "Six Kurd Militiamen Die in Turkey Mine Blast,” Reuters News Service, 6 July 1999.

[33] "Turk Parliament to Probe Human Mine Detector Claim,” Reuters News Service, 20 February 1997.

[34] Amberin Zaman, “Turks Used Kurds As Mine Detectors”, The Daily Telegraph, 6 March 1997; “Parliamentary Committee Investigates Disturbing Allegations,” Sabah newspaper, 12 February 1998.

[35] Zaman, “Turks Used Kurds as Mine Detectors.”

[36] Ibid.