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Why PKK and Turkey Are Fighting?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mohammad Ali Dastmali
Expert on Turkey Affairs

A look at the original statute and decisions made in various congresses of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from 1978 onward will reveal that from the first congress, which was held at Fis village of Turkey’s Diyarbakir Province in 1978, up to the seventh congress of the party, which was held in Iraq in 2000, many great changes have taken place. Those changes covered a wide range from the type to the nature of PKK’s demands and ideals. At the beginning, this party was established on the basis of the Marxist and Leninist ideas in a bid to establish a proletariat organization and bring “the greater and integrated Kurdistan region” into being. Later on, it frequently switched between theoretical and practical ways of Lenin and Stalin. However, following the arrest of its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and his transfer to the prison on Imrali Island, that is, the same prison in which former Turkish prime minister, Adnan Menderes, was executed in 1961, everything suddenly changed, and PKK announced in its seventh congress that it has given up the idea of establishing the Greater Kurdistan.

During the crucial juncture that has started in 2000 and has continued up to the present time, Öcalan and his PKK party did their best to get attuned with the ruling Justice and Development Party in order to continue their activities in political and cultural fields. They faced certain problems in this way and on various occasions, peace talks that were held in many places, including the Norwegian capital, Oslo, and also the latest round of those talks, hit a brickwall due to many bouts of clashes between the two sides. However, PKK has not repeated its idea of Greater Kurdistan again and has resorted to other mottos such as the brotherhood between Kurds and Turks. Perhaps for this reason, it has been chided by many nationalist Kurds and has been frequently charged with being in collusion with the Turkish government and being a stooge of the government in Ankara. With regard to political activities, the PKK became so influential that one of its affiliated parties, that is, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) managed to take part in Turkey’s parliamentary elections as a legal party and have an effect on the political and social equations of the country. As a result, of this achievement and for the first time in the history of Turkey, a Kurdish politician affiliated to Öcalan, namely, Selahattin Demirtaş, took part in the parliamentary elections and won 10 percent of people’s votes.

Much ado for north of Syria

Many political steps taken by Turkey have been considered by critics of the government as theatrical measures which pursue two major goals of currying favor with the European Union and attracting Kurds’ votes. However, steps have been taken toward political development and democratization and more attention to Kurds’ demands, and good measures have been taken such as allowing education in Kurdish language, establishing a 24-hour Kurdish national television station, releasing many political prisoners, civil development and so forth. The two sides decided in their latest round of peace talks, which started in late 2012, to gradually pave the way for PKK members to lay down arms and go back to their normal life. However, that goal has not been realized thus far as PKK is not satisfied with measures taken by the government and this situation has led to resumption of war and conflict following a long truce.

Now, the question is why the swishing sound of bullets is being heard once again in Kurdish regions of Turkey and PKK’s positions are being bombarded? Has PKK changed course and is once again trying to work toward disintegration of Turkey and creation of the Greater Kurdistan? The answer is ‘No’. PKK is just trying to concentrate all its forces in Kurdish regions of Turkey and turn into a big power there in order to emerge as a determining factor along Turkey’s 900-kilometer-long border with Syria. Pursuit of this goal by PKK has scared Ankara because it does not want PKK’s affiliated groups such as the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), to have monopolistic grasp on power. Therefore, at present, PKK in Turkey does not want to see disintegration of the country or create the Greater Kurdistan, but it is fighting in order to emerge as the number one power in the northern part of Syria, so as to have a powerful leverage against Turkey in the future, and in addition to Turkey, be able to take concessions from other countries both inside and outside the region.

Key Words: Turky, Kurds, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Syrian Kurds, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Bombardment, Diyarbakir Province, Greater Kurdistan, Abdullah Öcalan, Dastmali

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*Turkish Kurds and Two Dangerous Scenarios: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Turkish-Kurds-and-Two-Dangerous-Scenarios.htm

*Photo Credit: Yahoo News