August 2000



Speak Out Against the Sale of Attack Helicopters to Turkey!

Hold the State Department to its pledge to put

 human rights before arms sales!



In July 2000, the Turkish government chose Bell Helicopter Textron’s AH-1Z KingCobra as its first choice for a purchase of 145 attack helicopters, a deal worth about $3.5 billion.  To keep the pressure on for an export license and the best possible contract terms, Turkey is keeping a Russian-Israeli model in the competition until the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered.

Initial criticism of the sale was voiced by human rights and arms control groups in 1997, but was matched by forceful industry lobbying, leading the State Department to forge a compromise deal. A marketing license was granted to the U.S. companies, but State promised to condition approval of an export license—if a U.S. helicopter were to be selected—on specific improvements in Turkey's human rights and democratic practices. 

These conditions have not been met. While there has been much discussion of reforms, Turkey has made no concrete progress on human rights, especially vis-à-vis its Kurdish population. The Government of Turkey has prohibited all existing legal avenues for Kurds in Turkey to express themselves politically or culturally, including closing Kurdish political parties and arresting Kurdish leaders. More generally, the persecution of other opposition leaders continues at high levels, torture continues with impunity, and the military regularly interferes with the democratic process and the work of elected officials. Journalists and opposition leaders have been silenced Text Box: State Department’s human rights benchmarks
decriminalization of free speech x release of journalists and parliamentarians x steps to end torture and police impunity x reopening of NGOs closed by authorities x democratization and the expansion of political participation x lifting of the state of emergency in southeast Turkey x resettlement of internally displaced persons x  access to the Southeast to monitor end-use of U.S. weapons 
through threats and prison sentences.

The State Department has reason enough to reject the deal based on Turkey's failure to make the requisite improvements in its human rights practices. But another strike against the deal is that attack helicopters could contribute directly to future human rights abuses. In the past, U.S.-supplied aircraft was used against civilian targets. And as Turkey will not permit the U.S. to monitor how U.S. weapons are being used, and military action still continues against Kurdish rebels future abuses could occur.


What you can do: Write to your Member of Congress and urge them to express their opposition to the attack helicopter sale to Secretary of State Albright (see sample letter below);


Note: If your Senator is one of the following, please send them a special letter of thanks for signing a letter on April 14, 2000 that opposes the attack helicopter sale until the human rights benchmarks are met: Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), James Jeffords (R-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA),  John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Charles Robb (D-VA), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR),


For more information contact Tamar Gabelnick at the Federation of American Scientists (202-675-1018, [email protected])



Sample Letter


Dear Rep./Sen. X,


I am writing to seek your support in [I am writing to thank you for signing the April 14th letter to Secretary Albright] opposing the sale of 145 U.S. attack helicopters to Turkey until it meets the human rights benchmarks the State Department previously established for approval of the sale. In late July, the government of Turkey began negotiations with Bell Helicopter Textron for the purchase of AH-1Z KingCobra attack helicopters, and the sale could be finalized within the next several months. 

In early 1998, senior State Department officials informed both NGO and industry representatives that a license for the export of attack helicopters would not be given until significant progress had been reached on seven areas identified by then Prime Minister Yilmaz as needing the most work in Turkey. Despite well-intentioned promises by Yilmaz and his successor, these conditions – which include an end to impunity for torture, decriminalization of free speech, re-opening of state-closed non-governmental organizations, and ending the state of emergency in the Southeast –have not been met. Persecution and imprisonment of peaceful Kurdish, Islamic, and other opposition leaders remains high; torture and police brutality continues with impunity; human rights organizations are systematically closed; and the military continues to exercise enormous influence over elected officials. Indeed, newly elected President Sezer’s calls for democratic reforms, including an end to restrictions on free speech, are actively undermined by military officials supposedly under his command.

Moreover, the war with the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Southeast continues despite the capture of PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan and his call for peace. As recently as January 2001, Turkey launched a major military offensive into Iraq using military aircraft, most likely of US-origin (as the US has supplied 90% of Turkey’s arsenal). In the past, both the State Department and international human rights organizations have documented the use of U.S. weapons by Turkish security forces in attacks on civilian targets and other abuses. The U.S. government has a responsibility to prevent the future use of U.S. arms in such abuses by halting exports until the conflict is peacefully resolved and the rule of law is back in force throughout the country. Stability in Turkey depends on a strong democracy, a fully-enfranchised population, and peace in the southeast. By providing the tools with which Turkey wages war against its own citizens, the U.S. government will not promote the long-term security of either Turkey or the United States.

Moreover, as part of the deal, Turkey will co-produce the helicopters, gaining access to valuable technology with which Turkey aims to become an independent producer and exporter of helicopters. Along with creating future competition, co-production deprives the supplier of many jobs, undermining the defense industry's claim that the contract would be a boon to the U.S. economy.

I urge you to make your opposition to the sale of these helicopters known to the Secretary of State and the White House before Congress is officially notified of the sale.


Respectfully yours,