Kurdish PKK rebels sceptical of Turkey's
November 4, 2009
Iraqi Kurdistan, — Holed up in the rugged mountains
of northern Iraq, Kurdish rebels are determined to
fight on, viewing Turkey's pledges to broaden
Kurdish freedoms with mistrust.
Murat Karayilan, number two of the Turkey's rebel
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), says Ankara's
promises of reform are a "comedy" and an attempt to
"deceive" the Kurds and the international community.
"It is just a show. The mentality remains the same
-- refusing to recognise the Kurdish people's
identity, refusing to recognise them as
interlocutors," Karayilan told AFP in the Qandil
mountains, the PKK headquarters.
Kurdish PKK leader Murat Karayilan
Ankara says it is
working on fresh reforms to improve Kurdish rights
in a bid to end 25 years of bloodshed.
But it rejects dialogue with the PKK, which it
considers a terrorist group, urging the rebels to
either surrender or face the army.
Details of the reform plan are likely to emerge next
week when parliament is expected to debate the
Karayilan insisted Turkey should end military
action, negotiate with Kurdish representatives on
the terms of settlement, grant the Kurds
constitutional recognition and free PKK leader
a life sentence for treason since 1999.
"We trust our leader Ocalan. If a dialogue begins
with him, the process will advance," he said.
Other rebel commanders or the Democratic Society
Party, Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, may
be alternative interlocutors, he said, adding that
no secret talks had so far taken place with Ankara.
In an extraordinary gesture, Turkey last month let
eight PKK militants
who left Qandil and turned themselves in to the
authorities in a show of support for a peaceful
solution to the conflict.
But the hero's welcome
gave the rebels sparked nationwide protests against
the government for tolerating "terrorists,"
prompting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to
halt the arrival of a second such group.
If Ankara insists on rejecting dialogue, Karayilan
said, the PKK would fight on.
"The Kurdish people are with us and we can continue
to resist from Kurdistan's mountains for decades,"
he said, adding the PKK will only act "in
PKK militants have long taken refuge in northern
Iraq, relying on the rough terrain and their Iraqi
Kurdish cousins who run an autonomous administration
in the region.
Ankara has often accused the Iraqi Kurds of
tolerating and even aiding the PKK, but a marked
improvement in bilateral ties since last year has
added a new element of pressure on the rebels.
However, PKK leaders remain defiant, boosted by the
knowledge that neither Turkey's numerous
cross-border operations in the 1990s nor its
frequent air raids since December 2007 have
succeeded in uprooting them from Qandil.
"We control hundreds of mountains in Turkey, Iraq
and Iran. The Qandil mountains alone are of the size
of a European state, twice as big as Luxembourg,"
boasted Sozdar Avesta, a veteran militant.
"We can continue the war for 30, for 50 years, if
need be," she said, escorted by two guerrillas in
baggy khaki pants and Kalashikov rifles strapped on
Avesta spoke in a so-called "political zone," where
PKK rebels mingle with Iraqi Kurdish villagers and
meet journalists. They keep their communication
infrastructure and even run a hospital there.
Combat units are up in the hills, adhering to a rule
of "permanent mobility" as a precaution against the
fire of Turkish warplanes and cannons of the Iranian
Visitors to the rebel-controlled territory are
stopped at a small building adorned by Ocalan
portraits and PKK flags, where armed "customs
clerks" search vehicles before waving them in.
Turkey's appeals on the rebels to lay down arms and
"return home" under a law that reduces sentences and
even ensures that many go free are met with
Ankara "prefers to handle the situation with small
arrangements rather than confronting the real
problem: a reform that will recognise the Kurdish
reality in the constitution," Avesta said.
For Roj Welat, the PKK's "foreign relations"
officer, "returning home" is also a distant option.
"Our home is the freedom of the Kurdish people," he
Since 1984 the PKK took up arms
for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of
Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan) which has claimed around
45,000 lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK
guerrillas. A large Turkey's Kurdish
community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish
population as a distinct minority.
The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds'
identity in its constitution and of their language
as a native language along with Turkish in the
country's Kurdish areas,www.ekurd.net
the party also demanded an end to ethnic
discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution
against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.
The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians
say the measures fall short of their expectations.
Turkey has rejected calls to halt military
action against the PKK.
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