Kurdish War: The Sad Syrian Situation


April 5, 2012: Debate continues in Turkey as to whether or not the government has a new strategy for dealing with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Of course, the deeper question is whether or not the Turks can adequately address the political and cultural demands of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The so-called new strategic approach to the PKK appears to be that the government will no longer negotiate with the PKK. However, the government has never officially negotiated with the PKK, since it considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization. The trouble began when the public learned that Turkish intelligence officers were talking to PKK commanders. This isn’t new, either, though one of the intelligence officers involved was very senior. Kurdish members of parliament want the government to talk with PKK representatives, but first of all the Kurdish parliamentarians want the government to take them seriously. Meanwhile, a senior cabinet member (and senior member of the governing Justice and Development Party, AKP) told Turkish media in March that he was unaware that there was any new strategy. The government wants to focus on using the democratic process. Several opposition leaders agreed that the new approach wasn’t new but combined security operations (ie, fighting the PKK) with politics.

April 1, 2012: The Turkish government has said that it will not provide arms to Syrian rebels. The Kurdish War plays a role in this official stance. Turkey has accused (with good reason) Syria of arming PKK guerrillas and providing aid to anti-Turkish terror organizations. Arming Syrian rebels invites Syrian aid (and perhaps Iranian) to the PKK. Kurdish militants in Turkey have threatened to retaliate if Turkish forces intervene in Syria. Three Turkish provinces border Syria’s predominantly Kurdish north-eastern triangle: (moving east to west) Sirnak, Mardin, and Sanliurfa. Turkey is constructing a refugee camp in Sanliurfa which can handle at least 20,000 refugees. There are two million Kurds in Syria and a quarter or more of PKK gunmen are believed to be Syrian Kurds.

March 31, 2012: Turkish security forces in Istanbul arrested eight individuals that prosecutors allege have been involved in PKK terror attacks. The arrests were described as being part of a special security operation. That usually indicates participation by elements of a special counter-terror task force operation (gendarmes and national police) and possibly military special operations personnel.

March 27, 2012: Italian police arrested 13 people allegedly involved in extorting money from businesses run by expatriate Kurds living in Italy. The money was to be used to finance PKK operations in Turkey. Italian investigators reported that the PKK representatives claimed they were levying revolutionary taxes on the Kurdish immigrants. The investigation began after a Kurdish kebab salesman was beaten. The arrests took place in Pesaro, Udine, Modena, Padua, and Rome. Turkey has demanded that European Union member's crackdown on the PKK, particularly on its financing operations.

March 25, 2012: Turkish gendarmes and police killed 25 PKK fighters in a two-day operation in Bitlis and Siirt provinces. There was also another operation in Sirnak province. Six policemen were killed in the operations and ten security personnel were wounded. One village guard (local militia forces) was also killed. In the biggest operation, 15 female PKK rebels were killed. This received a lot of headlines in Turkish media but the PKK has recruited and used women in its operations since the 1980s.

March 23, 2012: Turkish officials reported over 700 protestors were arrested in the last week during what the government called illegal Nevruz protests. The protestors were allegedly involved in pro-Kurdish rights demonstrations associated with celebrations of Nevruz (also Nowruz and Nawruz, the Kurdish New Year, except many non-Kurds celebrate it as well). The government had banned celebrations prior to March 21, the official New Year's day. The government reported that a police officer had died of a gunshot wound sustained in a riot in the town of Cizre on March 22, 2012. Militant pro-PKK Kurdish activists threatened to turn Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish areas into a war zone if Turkish troops intervened in Syria. Presumably this includes establishing a border buffer zone. The threats came after a PKK senior commander, Murat Karayilan, claimed that Turkish military forces were about to enter Syria. Karayilan indicated that PKK forces in Turkey would retaliate. Interestingly enough, Karyilan specified Turkish intervention in Syria’s Kurdish region, which he referred to as western Kurdistan.

Turkish security personnel reported killing seven PKK fighters in continuing operations near Mount Cudi in Sirnak province. Six special security policemen were wounded. One PKK fighter was captured.

March 21, 2012: Five Turkish special security policemen were killed in a firefight with PKK rebels. The battle took place in Sirnak province (near Mount Cudi). Three Turkish soldiers were wounded in the firefight. The military reported that AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships supported ground forces in the battle.

March 20, 2012: Several riots broke out in Kurdish areas throughout Turkey as police and security forces tried to stop what the government called illegal celebrations of Nevruz (Kurdish New Years). The demonstrations and riots occurred in the cities of Batman, Van, and Mersin. There were also several violent demonstrations (multiple days) in Cizre (Sirnak province). In one riot protestors reportedly attacked using Molotov cocktails. Another violent demonstration occurred in Viranehir (Sanliurfa province). A major protest occurred in the city of Diyarbakir on March 18. One person died in that protest. Several protests have occurred (multiple days) in Istanbul.

March 19, 2012: Apparently a senior PKK commander, Fehman Hussein, was wounded and is now in Syria receiving medical treatment. Hussein is a Syrian Kurd. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the October 2011 attack in Cukurca which left 24 Turkish security personnel dead. The government has indicated that it believes he is behind several other recent terror attacks in Turkey. Hussein was reportedly wounded in a firefight with a Turkish gendarme special counter-terror unit (gendarme special forces).

March 14, 2012: A member of Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK’s political arm in Syria, told a Kurdish website that the PKK is reviving in Syria. He also said that the PKK has not yet decided whether or not it will try to stop Syrian Kurds from protesting against the Assad regime. The statement is viewed by many as an attempt to counter claims that the PKK has allied with the Assad regime. A senior member of the Kurdistan Future Party (a pro-democracy Syrian Kurd organization) was allegedly killed by the PKK for criticizing the PKK and PYD support for the Assads.

March 9, 2012: Turkey's Interior Ministry will begin implementing a rewards program for information leading to the arrest of senior PKK leaders. There will also be smaller rewards for information which leads to the arrest of any member of the PKK.

March 2, 2012: Despite public arguments over government meetings with the PKK, Turkish Kurd political leaders are urging Turkey to continue discussions with PKK representatives. The phrase is "negotiations at a distance" with the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) as the conduit.

February 29, 2012:   Police arrested 13 people associated with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). The government contends the KCK is the PKK’s political arm. The arrests took place in Mardin province. Several of the people arrested are accused of throwing fire bombs and home-made bombs in riots. The police claimed they seized 15 bombs and 15 Molotov cocktails in the raids. In Sirnak province police detained 20 people for questioning about KCK activities. Meanwhile, Turkish gendarmes reported that five PKK fighters surrendered to them in a village near the town of Silopi (Sirnak province, near the Iraqi border). One of the surrendering fighters was a woman. The gendarme report described the surrendering fighters as being very young.



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