Category Archives: PKK

Turkish army relying on US ‘real time intelligence’ whilst in northern Iraq.

Robert Gates, the US Defense Decretary, said yesterday he would tell Turkish leaders that the on going Turkish military assault into northern Iraq must not continue for longer than two weeks. This is the first time the US or any of Turkey’s NATO allies have put a time limit on Turkeys military incursion into Iraq. Within hours of Gates announcement, the Turkish military and government were briefing the Turkish media that,“Turkish ground troops who entered northern Iraq on February 21 for a ‘cleanup operation’ of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases, expected to return home in a couple of weeks’ time.*

One of the military spokesmen also gave an insight in to how much the Turkish military have been relying on the United States for intelligence information when he told the media,

“During the previous operations the Turkish armed forces have mounted into northern Iraq they did not have the capability to find the PKK targets accurately. We did not have detailed, almost surgical information about the PKK’s hideouts. Consequently more troops were needed at the time. But most definitely the latest operations are taking place more logically and are based on the US’s real time intelligence.” He went on to say, “Turkey has been providing the US with the list of possible targets, and through the ‘real time intelligence,’ US experts based in Ankara are supplying the Turkish military with accurate locations of the PKK hideouts.

A military analysis told the Turkish Zaman daily newspaper, “Against expectations, the Turkish ground offensive came earlier than planned, in late February instead of some time in March, with the primary goal of catching the PKK by surprise.” “During the massive 1995 Turkish cross border offensive inside northern Iraq, which used around 35,000 troops, the majority of the PKK terrorists had already left the camps as, among other things, the large number of troops were more visible unlike this time when the Turkish military have sent in smaller but equally efficient units which are supported by accurate real time intelligence”.**

If this is true then it seems the Turkish military will have little choice but to withdraw from Iraq at the end of the USA’s new time limit, although this does not mean they will not leave special forces within northern Iraq, or return at sometime in the future.

Whilst the Turkish army is claiming their armed forces have been successful in killing PKK Pesmerga and over running their camps, to date we have seen no video footage of the PKK camps etc which the military have claimed to overrun. Which is surprising as the Turkish military are media savvy, the General Staff even have their own web site. This makes one wonder if the operation is going as well as has been claimed?

Mean while Ahmet Türk the head of the pro Kurdish, Democratic Society Party’s (DTP) group in the Turkish Parliament has said the ground operation launched by the Turkish Armed Forces, (TSK) against the camps of the ‘outlawed’ Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq is a violation of human rights and international law. Which in itself demonstrates just how far Turkey has changed in recent years, for it was not that long ago when anyone who criticized the Turkish military would have been hauled before the courts for slandering the guardians of the Turkish State.

Indeed Mr Türk has in the past been sentenced twice to terms of imprisonment under the above laws, first for using the word ‘Sayin’ in front of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan name, (the word means esteemed and is used as Mr is in English) and the second time he was imprisoned was for distributing a political leaflet in the Kurdish language. As I said all is not bad news, as for him to get up at this time and criticize the Turkish incursion into northern Iraq without sanction amounts to real progress.

The Photos above are of Turkish troops in northern Iraq and the DTP politician Mr Ahmet Türk.




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Turkish Army launches ground offensive in northern Iraq against Kurdish PKK.

Yet another unwelcome spin off from GW Bush and Tony Blair’s disastrous decision to invade and occupy Iraq began last night, when the Turkish Armed Forces began to move into northern Iraq in large numbers in search and destroy operations against the Kurdish PKK, who have been engaged in an armed insurgency against the Turkish State since 1984.

A military spokesman issued a statement on behalf of the Turkish General Staff, “A ground operation backed by the Air Force was launched at 1900, [1700 GMT on Thursday] the offensive began on Thursday evening, following shelling and aerial assaults against PKK targets in the region. After the successful bombing, a cross-border ground incursion backed by the Air Force started at 1900” (1700 GMT). The spokesman went on to say, “Two divisions of the Turkish Army, 10,000 troops had been sent into northern Iraq overnight as part of the land operation.

With this invasion of northern Iraq it seems the will of the Turkish military has finally prevailed over that of the AK Party led democratically elected government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who were hoping to avoid a military incursion with land forces across the Iraqi border. The rank and file of the AK Party along with many Turks have been taken by surprise by the General Staffs decision to invade northern Iraq at this time, as earlier this week Government Ministers were telling the media that due to the weather there would be no invasion until the early spring. Which they hoped would give Erdoğan enough time to reach and agreement with the PKK to come down from the mountains.

It is not the first time the Turkish military have launched a major land-force into northern Iraq with the aim of destroying the PKK, seven divisions of the Turkish army were sent into northern Iraq in 1995 and six in 1997, neither were successful in destroying the PKK. Most military analysts doubt the Turkish military will be any more successful this time, at best they can hope to disrupt the PKK chain of command and supply.

Not least because it is thought following recent Turkish military air strikes the PKK has withdrawn its fighters from their bases in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains and moved them across the eastern Iraqi border into Iran, whilst setting up small bases in the Sincar Mountains in northern Iraq. Unless the Turkish military has made some sort of agreement with their Iranian counterparts to expel the PKK fighters back across the Iraqi border, it is difficult to see how the current invasion will be any more successful than the previous two I mention above. Indeed for the Turkish Government it can only make a bad situation worse as past history has shown that any military incursion to attack the PKK in Iraq has acted as a recruiting sergeant for that organization.*

Photos above are of
1/ Map of where the Kurds live in the region.
2/PKK fighters
3/ Turkish troops in northern Iraq.


Filed under Democracy/Elections/democratic accountability/Turkey/Is, equality, GWBush, Northern-Iraq, PKK, Turkey, Turkish-army, war-crimes

Jaw Jaw is better than War: No to closure of Turkish/Kurd DT Party

Whoever made the decision within the Kurdistan Workers Party, [PKK] to re-launch armed attacks across the northern Iraqi border against the Turkish military in south eastern Turkey is caught in a 1980s ‘peoples war’ time warp. For these hit and run raids in the 21st century can never amount to more than an irritant as far as the Turkish military is concerned and a useful one at that. For the Kurds who live in the Turkish Republic it is another matter, as the PKK’s decision to reignite its military adventure at a time when the Kurdish DTP party has made spectacular political gains defies the political reality on the ground; and has not only backfired upon the Kurdish people but also emboldened reactionary elements in the Turkish State and military to go on the offensive against Kurdish political organization such as the DTP.

Those within the Turkish State bureaucracy who oppose full equality and an extension of the democratic rights of the Kurds who live within the Turkish Republic have lost no time in exploiting this foolishness on the part of the PKK leadership in Iraq. The extreme right wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, a man who had thrown a noose from the podium during a speech he was making about the problems in the Kurdish south-east of Turkey, has been busy stirring the pot within the Turkish Parliament. Demanding not only that the Turkish army invade Kurdish northern Iraq and search out and destroy any PKK bases there; but also that the pro Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) be banned and its elected parliamentarians be stripped of their immunity and dismissed from the Turkish Parliament.

These inflammatory statements have now been followed by reactionary state prosecutors within the Turkish Supreme Court asking the Constitutional Court, that deals with such matters, to bring a court case against the DTP, which if approved would see the party banned and its elected MP’s removed from the Turkish Parliament. According to court documents they have also asked the Constitutional Court to ban 221 named members of the DTP, including eight members of the Turkish Parliament, from taking part in political activity for five years after the closure of the party. The purpose being to remove the Kurds political representatives from Parliament and make them unable to stand and campaign at the next general election.

Just how insidious, destructive and undemocratic the ‘secret state’ is in Turkey is amply demonstrated by the fact that none of the aforementioned was carried out on the instructions of the Turkish Government. Indeed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has issued a statement opposing the Supreme Court prosecutors actions and spoken out against the DTP’s expulsion from Parliament. Arguing that it would be counterproductive and if successful would lead to disillusionment with the democratic road by many of those who voted for the DTP at the last election, when the Party returned 20 Kurdish MPs to parliament for the first time in over a decade.

The current government led by Mr Erdoğan has already in its first term in office removed from the statute book some of the more archaic legislation that prevented Kurds broadcasting and being educated in their own language and as the governing Party the AKP and the DTP jointly gathered in the overwhelming majority of the Kurdish vote in the General Election that took place in July of this year, it seemed certain that further progressive legislation would be passed by parliament in the near future. The Turkish people were optimistic that a solution to the PKK insurgency might at long last be possible, until that is the recent bout of foolishness by the PKK and members of the Turkish ‘secret state’.

In response to the threat of being banned, the DTP leadership called a mass rally on Tuesday last in Diyarbakir, the main city in the Kurdish south east of Turkey. Over 100,000 members and supporters of the DTP attended the rally to protest against any banning of the Party. The DTP MP Sirri Sakik, said the action by the authorities was “not really a surprise.” “It is a step backwards in the country’s democratic process as well as the process of integration with the European Union,” “Turkey is becoming a cemetery of banned political parties. Closing a group does not resolve the problem,” he added.

It is impossible not to agree with this viewpoint, Hadep the forerunner of the DTP was itself banned, after pressure from the military and the secret state and the same silly reasoning to ban HADEP is now being used to ban the DTP. All democrats must stand with the DTP and oppose any attempt to shut the party down and bar its leading members from political activity. At the same time we must point out that the PKK insurgency must come to an end as the political climate for armed struggle has passed. Throughout Europe and around the Mediterranean rim, political parties as different as Germanys Left Party and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have shown progressive parties can gain more political ground by choosing the Parliamentary road.

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A Turkish Kurd speaks out against the use of Turkish military in northern Iraq.

Below is an interview with Kurdish intellectual and veteran political activist Mr Ümit Fırat, it was first published in the Turkish daily newspaper Zaman. As political tensions rise throughout Turkey and northern Iraq due to the possibility of a major incursion into this mainly Kurdish region by the Turkish military, I thought readers might be interested in what Ümit Firat has to say as he looks at the issue from the perspective of a Kurd who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey. By publishing this interview, Organized Rage is neither endorsing the interviewee’s opinions nor opposing them, simply allowing this democratic space to be used to enhance an understanding about the Kurdish reality in Turkey.

Firat is an author and editorial board member for the Kurdish political magazine Serbestî, published in Turkish in İstanbul, he also writes for the Turkish daily newspapers Zaman and Radikal as well as the Bianet Internet news site. Originally from Bingöl, Turkey, he had a bookstore in Ankara between 1973 and 1979 and was sent to jail for four years by the repressive regime that emerged after the 1980 military coup. An İstanbul resident since 1989, he has been active in the formation of many Kurdish organizations, including the Helsinki Citizens Association and Kurdish Intellectuals Initiative, which organized a sizable conference that was allowed by the Turkish authorities to have “Kurdish” in its name for the first time. [The Necessities of Recognizing the Kurdish Reality] That there was such controversy about the title of a conference show the lengths the State has gone to in the past to deny the Kurdish reality in Turkey. In the early 1990s, he worked actively in the New Democracy Movement (YDH). He was also active in 2004 promoting a signature campaign in Turkey for the text “What Do the Kurds Want in Turkey?” published by the International Herald Tribune, Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspapers.


Question/ What would happen if Turkey entered Iraq?

Ümit Fırat replies/ Turkey will have to deal with two actors if it enters Iraq: the autonomous Kurdish administration formed under the Iraqi constitution and the peshmerga units subordinate to this administration. The peshmergas are considered part of the Iraqi army; therefore conflict with them will automatically mean opening war with Iraq, and this inevitably carries with it the possibility of confrontation with the United States. This will all eventually lead to abandonment of Turkey’s six-decade-long international policy.

Q/ But isn’t the region home to the PKK?

ÜF/ The actual sphere of influence of the PKK is in Turkey, and if a solution were sought, measures should be implemented inside the country. Those who are settled on Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq got there through Turkey and return to the same territory. Turkey would not be able to resolve anything in Iraq through a military intervention.
The PKK would fulfill its goal of dragging Turkey into northern Iraq if Turkey launches a military operation. It will not be easy to present a cross-border operation as part of a comprehensive combat against terrorism. Above all, there is a general assumption that combat against terrorism is executed by special forces — not by regular army units. Besides, for such an operation against terrorism [to be successful], the consent of the country where the operation will be carried out is required.
Otherwise, Turkey will be considered an invader. And even though the military and the government seek to present a cross-border operation as a matter of internal security, this action is declaration of war under international law. In that case, it will not be possible for you to call your opponent a terrorist organization as they become the other party of the war. In a possible conflict, international organizations will refer to the terrorist organization as warring party. In that case, calls for cease-fires and calls for implementation of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions might come into consideration.

Q/ Don’t you think that an army operation would have a role in preventing further PKK attacks?

ÜF/ The only benefit of the operation would be proof of military superiority Turkey already has. Besides, it is obvious that no social problem can be resolved through military methods. Attempting to test whether this is the case once more would be too expensive and risky. I want to emphasize that a climate of killing and ending lives has emerged in the region, and attempts should be made to change that and ensure normalization.

Furthermore, a military incursion by Turkey into northern Iraq would possibly de-align the Kurds in the region from the PKK, whereas it would strengthen Barzani’s KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party]. Turkey should be determined to resolve the Kurdish question if it really seeks to eliminate the PKK terrorism. A Turkey committed to resolving the Kurdish question will have the chance to overcome the obstacles in time.

Q/ What was the difference between the Beytüşşebap and Dağlıca incidents?

[On September the 29th of this year, 12 people, seven of whom were Kurdish village Guards in the pay of the Turkish government, were massacred in the Beytüşşebap district of the southeastern province of Şırnak, and then on October 21st at least 12 Turkish soldiers were killed near the village of Dağlıca in the Hakkari province of south-east Turkey. The Ankara Parliament shortly after passed a motion authorizing a cross-border military operation into northern Iraq to hit the PKK bases there if diplomatic efforts fail.]

ÜF/ There is no similarity between the two. In Beytüşşebap, the victims were working on the construction of a canal to transport water to their village. They were killed on their way home for iftar [fast-breaking meal during Ramadan]. I cannot help but remember a very similar massacre that was committed in Şırnak-Güçlükonak in 1996. In that massacre, 11 villagers, including some village guards, were forced to get off the minibus and were killed at the scene. The terrorists burned the bodies. Despite this, the identification cards were found in good condition. The authorities took journalists to the site, but they were not allowed to talk to the local people, who disagreed with the security forces on who had committed the murders. They thought that the massacre was committed by some State agencies.

Q/ Are you convinced that Beytüşşebap massacre was committed by some clandestine powers in the Turkish State?

ÜF/ We know through our experience that we have no reason to believe the official statements, considering past explanations that followed many similar incidents. It may come as no surprise to see the “good guys” who were behind the Semdinli incidents two months ago. Actually, the conclusion I want to draw here is not to single out who the perpetrators of the incident were — that’s not something I can tackle at any rate. But why aren’t these events being illuminated through official [Turkish] investigations? Why are the people who question these events warned or threatened? Why does Turkey insist on this policy?

Q/ Who do you think are the “good guys”?

ÜF/ The powers organized by the “good guys” might include former PKK informants and village guards who became stronger and then turned into gangs that threatened society. It’s possible to get an idea about this through documents submitted to the courts and the memoirs and interviews with retired military men. In the current environment of violence and conflict, nobody would question why this country has one of the largest armies in the world. While some make calculations to increase the influence of the army in politics considering the consequences of the prevalent environment of violence, others seek an opportunity to establish absolute authority by the PKK in the region through the same environment. An organization whose purpose of existence is war and armed conflict may preserve its political survival through the existence of an environment compatible with its goal.

Q/ And what would you say about the Dağlıca incident?

ÜF/ The military unit attacked in Oremar [Dağlıca] was there for a military operation; the PKK militants, acting based on the intelligence on the presence of the military unit at the site, carried out the assault. The Turkish troops would have done the same if they had similar intelligence. That is, if there is a conflict, it is inevitable for one of the parties to suffer substantial losses. For instance, a few days before the Beytüşşebap incident, nine PKK militants were killed in a conflict. I want to emphasize again that a climate of killing rules, and moves are needed to change that.

Q/ What should be done?

ÜF/ The post-Saddam developments following the US occupation in 2003 seriously damaged the “stability” policies of Turkey to preserve the status quo in the region. The new situation in Iraq was perceived by the status quo actors of Turkey as a threat. These actors never accepted the new state of affairs. Turkey should abandon its policy of rejecting an entity that emerged under Iraqi law and its constitution and instead recognize it under international legal instruments as something generated through the internal developments of Iraq. It should view the northern Iraqi autonomous Kurdish administration as a friend. This is the way to end the current tension — a friendly state would not support hostilities. Increasing the tension will not resolve the problem; quite the contrary, it will make it chronic. Effective measures should be taken immediately before further Beytüşşebap-like incidents are committed. Northern Iraq needs peace, and a strong and stable northwestern border.
But the discourse promoted by Barzani and Talabani does not imply peaceful actions from Turkey’s perspective.
In such delicate times, even ordinary actions may fall outside reason and rationale. Considering that the editor-in-chief of a major daily newspaper in Turkey provokes the nation to exhibit a strong reaction and that Barzani makes provocative statements, it’s only normal if the regular citizens of the country act in accordance with their basic instincts rather than reason. History tells us that such statements are of no use. These remarks and statements usually speak to the excessive sentiments of the masses, and they do not transform into permanent policy. Fortunately the initial outrage is gradually being replaced by reasonable action and words, anyway.

Q/ What would you say about the role of the pro Kurdish DTP [Democratic Society Party] deputies on some vital issues, particularly on the release of the soldiers held captive by the PKK?

ÜF/ There is nothing they can do on their own initiative. If the PKK agrees to make a gesture by handing over the eight hostages to DTP deputies, at that time they may be involved in the process. It does not seem possible for them to assume a role at present to determine the PKK’s actions.

Q/ What would happen if the DTP deputies recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization?

ÜF/ Nothing. Let’s say they did. Would the PKK’s strength decrease? No, on the contrary DTP deputies’ power would decrease because these deputies were elected by those who have an affinity or allegiance with the PKK. The DTP deputies have to consider their demands and political views. The deputies have to be influential within the party in order for them to detach from the PKK. However, they are aware how they have been nominated. It now seems impossible that they will have a proper position to attract the moderates, particularly given the latest developments.

Q/ So you’re saying that the DTP deputies cannot have an independent sphere?

ÜF/ Following the 2004 election, Abdullah Öcalan [the imprisoned leader of the PKK] gave a start for the formation of a new party because he was threatened by the autonomous policies of DEHAP [the Democratic People’s Party] and gave orders for the establishment of the new party, naming it the DTP. I don’t think the DTP could be an address — apart from the PKK — in solving the Kurdish problem in Turkey. And I don’t think the Turkish government needs such an address to solve the Kurdish problem as long as it says this is a problem of Turkey.


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