Kurdish War: The Bumpy Road To Peace


June 30, 2013: The Turkish government recently noted that the national fertility rate is a near-stable 2.08 off-spring per woman (2.1 children per woman is considered to be the population replacement rate). The replacement rate in the pre-dominantly ethnic Kurd (and rural) southeast, however, is much higher –almost four children per woman.  In other words, Turkish Kurds in southeastern Turkey are having more children per family than any other major ethnic group or region in the country. Over the long term this means there will be more ethnic Kurd voters in Turkey –or, should the peace process collapse, more Kurd rebels. The driving reasons for the peace process between the government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are (1) the grinding war is expensive and (2) the Kurds and the Turks are both tired of fighting a no-win war. The PKK’s senior commander, Abdullah “Apo” Ocalan, may have seen the Arab Spring revolutions and the mess in Syria as an optimal moment to strike a bargain. The Kurd fertility rate, however, is not a totally irrelevant factor. (Austin Bay)

June 28, 2013: Turkey acknowledged that the PKK withdrawal is going slower than expected. The government now believes the withdrawal will be completed in mid-autumn. The withdrawal began in early May 2013.

June 27, 2013: Turkish police and pro-PKK protestors once again battled in the city of Cizre (Sirnak province). A senior Turkish police commander was injured when a protestor struck him with a home-made fire bomb. Police and demonstrators have clashed in Cizre several times this month. The latest clashes are more serious. The Turkish government said that PKK militants in the city have organized their own police unit (a public order unit). The unit is manned by members of the Movement of Patriotic and Revolutionary Youth (also called the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement, YDG-H). The YDG-H has allegedly set up traffic control checkpoints in Cizre.  A member of the YDG-H called on everyone who is for Kurdish rights in Turkey to join what he called the Gezi Park resistance movement. This is clearly an attempt by PKK extremists to join their issue with the nation-wide demonstrations against prime minister Erdogan. The demonstrations began in late May when citizens of Istanbul objected to the government decision to cut down trees in Gezi Park (on Taksim Square, in Istanbul) as part of an urban renewal project.

Turkish security officials reported that a group of armed attackers raided a chromium mine in Tunceli province. The attackers did not injure anyone but they burned six vehicles and several buildings. The attackers took an unknown number of hostages. The regional Gendarme Command is pursuing the attackers. Security officers have yet to determine if the raiders are members of the PKK. Armed raiders, using similar tactics (property destruction), also attacked a village in Tunceli province earlier in the day.

Syrian rebels accused Syrian Kurd Democratic Union Party (PYD) gunmen of killing three people and wounding several more in the town of Amuda (Syria’s Hasakeh district). The PYD fighters fired on demonstrators who were demanding that the PYD free several anti-Assad regime activists that the PYD militia had arrested. Syrian rebel groups accused the PYD of collaborating with the Assad dictatorship.

Provincial officials in Turkey’s Bitlis province reported that two construction engineers the PKK kidnapped on June 21 have been released. The two men were freed near the town of Caglayan.

The Iraqi government continues to oppose the PKK withdrawal from Turkey into Iraq and will permit Iraqi citizens to withdraw to Iraqi territory but regards the withdrawal of non-Iraqi PKK fighters as an infringement of Iraqi sovereignty.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has decided to let the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK) participate in future elections. The PCDK is basically the PKK’s actor in Iraqi politics. The PCDK has been banned in Iraq since 2006. Iraqi Kurdistan’s two major parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK),  tend to regard the PCDK as either a nuisance (it does not have very many supporters) or a source of unnecessary political trouble with Turkey. However, the KRG decided to let the PCDK participate since the Turkish government is engaged in a peace process with the PKK.

June 26, 2013: Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan said that only 15 percent of the PKK fighters inside Turkey have withdrawn to Iraq.  Since there were an estimated 2,000 PKK fighters in Turkey before the withdrawal began, this means around 1,700 fighters are still in Turkish territory. Erdogan made the figure public at a meeting of the Wise People Commission (WPC), which is tasked with working out a detailed peace agreement between the government and the PKK.

An Iraqi Kurdish political coalition won the most seats in an election in Iraq’s Nineveh province. The Taakhi and Taayish List won 11 of 39 seats in the provincial legislature. The Sunni Arab Mutahidoon List won eight seats. Nineveh is a predominantly Sunni Arab region of Iraq, though many ethnic Kurds live in the province.

June 25, 2013: Abdullah Ocalan released a statement which said the peace process has entered a second phase. He implied that the process is in a political phase where participation in democratic politics is essential. In an interview conducted in Iraq (presumably earlier this month) but released on June 25, PKK field commander Murat Karayilan stated that when the peace process is completed PKK commander Abdullah Ocalan will be released from prison. Karayilan said that Ocalan’s release will occur when the third phase of the peace process is completed.

June 24, 2013: The Turkish military released casualty figures for the Kurdish War. Since 1984, 6,205 servicemen have died fighting PKK rebels. The heaviest casualties have occurred in five provinces: Hakkari, Van, Sirnak, Bingol, and Elazig.

June 22, 2013: Senior Turkish officials claim that political extremists in the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and members of PKK are trying to use the Taksim Square/Gezi Park protests occurring in Turkey to pressure the government into making concessions regarding the peace process. It’s been noted that many of the demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara say they distrust the PKK and are against making peace with PKK terrorists.

June 21, 2013: On June 20, a PKK rebel group in Hakkari province (southeastern Turkey) fired on a military helicopter that was carrying a Gendarme Security Corps commander, a division commander, and senior members of their staffs. Military investigators indicated that the helicopter, identified as a command-control helicopter, was definitely targeted. The helicopter was fired at four times while passing through the Ikiyaka Mountains near the town of Yuksekova (Hakari province). The helicopter suffered structural damage but landed safely, and no one was hurt in the incident.

June 16, 2013: Turkey announced that the PKK withdrawal is going well, even though the peace process is proceeding without a written peace agreement. The Turkish government and the PKK leadership are proceeding on the basis of trust. The Turkish government’s decision to let Turkish Kurds have Kurdish language education in schools was an important first step in ending the insurgency. Turkish Kurds now have Kurdish radio and television programming.

Senior PKK commander Abdullah Ocalan’s brother said that Ocalan had told him on June 12, that the peace process was stagnating and that could produce a dangerous situation. Ocalan encouraged the Turkish government to take the initiative and speed up the peace process

June 10, 2013: Iraqi Kurds are breathing a sigh of relief that the June 3 shooting incident did not escalate. Turkish security personnel in Turkey had exchanged fire with PKK fighters near the Iraq border. When it became clear in late April that the PKK might actually withdraw from Turkey, many Iraqi Kurds living in northern Iraq said that they were worried that an inevitable glitch would lead to a major battle on the Iraq-Turkey border. Then Turkey might launch another incursion. So far that has not occurred, though the June 3 incident is a warning that the peace process remains fragile.

June 8, 2013: The Iraqi government announced that they are working to reach a workable oil production and revenue agreement. The government said that it is talking with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Iraqi government is very aware that for a brief time in 1946, Kurdish separatists formed their own statelet in Iran, the Mahabad Republic. 

June 7, 2013: Turkish police fought with demonstrators in the city of Cizre (Sirnak province). The protests began after a public funeral for a PKK fighter. Police claimed the demonstrators threw fire bombs. Protestors accused the police of over-reaction. The police fired tear gas and used a water cannon. 

June 4, 2013: Senior leaders in the Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have given the Iraqi central government in Baghdad a not-too-subtle warning. The KRG has told Baghdad that it may consider developing "new forms of relations" with the rest of Iraq if the central government cannot settle Iraq’s various land disputes and reach a new oil production and revenue distribution agreement.

June 3, 2013: Turkish military helicopters fired back at PKK rebels who fired at a Turkish border security post. The Turkish Army reported that PKK fighters fired at a post near the city of Sirnak (southeastern Turkey). The fire wounded one Turkish Army soldier. Apparently the PKK fighters were inside Turkey but very near the Iraq-Turkey border. This was the first reported armed clash between the PKK and Turkish security forces since the peace process began in late March.

May 29, 2013: From January through April 2013, arrests, detentions, and incidents involving Kurdish separatists have declined to the lowest level in three decades.

May 21, 2013: The U.S. government noted that it has been three months since March 21, 2013, when imprisoned PKK senior commander Abdullah “Apo” Ocalan publicly asked his supporters to end the war, put down their weapons, and withdraw to PKK bases in northern Iraq. 


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