Wednesday, October 24, 2007


"It's a delicate situation, and one that requires a clear-eyed view of what's actually happening. But both American press coverage, and America's official response to the problem have been misleading. I've seen a series of errors in fact and judgment that if uncorrected, could drag the United States into yet another regional conflict."
~ Andrew Lee Butters.

I have read so much garbage about the situation with Northern Kurds and PKK in the last couple of weeks that there is no point in even responding to it all. Take a browse through Technorati or Google Blog search with the terms "Kurds," "Kurdistan," or "PKK," and you'll see exactly what I mean. What is most striking about posts on the situation is the extremely high level of ignorance displayed by most who write on the subject. None of these writers has any context; they know nothing about the Dirty War; they don't even know that there are 20 million Kurds in Southeast Turkey.

Most of these are blowing their opinions out of their asses, and are totally bereft of any knowledge of the Kurdish reality in The Southeast--except, of course, for one particular blogger from The Netherlands, who admits he has a Turkish girlfriend, in which case we know from what part of his anatomy he opines. Then we have the propagandists for the extreme Right, neocon elements (like the freaks at Pajamas Media), or the nutcases on what passes for the Left (like the lemmings at Daily Kos).

The most pathetic thing about all of this garbage is that, in the West, it is nothing to access information published by fairly neutral parties, such as human rights organizations, in order to learn context. There is little censorship of this kind of information on the Internet so there is no excuse for all the stupidity.

Having said all that, there has been one voice from Western journalism that has written two short analyses of the situation that have been on target. One was published last week and one has been published today. Both are from a journalist who's been to Qendil and, thus, understands the geography as well as the implications of "official" reportage (read: Propaganda).

From Andrew Lee Butters at TIME:

1) The press keeps repeating that the PKK are a separatist group. The PKK was indeed a separatist group in the 1970's and 1980's, a time when the Turkish state practiced widespread discrimination against its Kurdish citizens, including banning the use of the Kurdish language. But the PKK has given up its demands that an independent Kurdish state be carved out of Turkey, and moderates in the organization have called for a peaceful, democratic solution to the Kurdish question.

Why does this matter? Because the PKK's new platform is a basis upon which Turkey could start political negotiations. But instead of dealing with the demands, Turkey either tries to ignore the PKK or destroy them. Neither has worked.

2) I keep seeing things written about the PKK staging "cross-border raids" and I myself once made that mistake, writing back in June. But in fact most of the fighting that is taking place is well inside Turkey. There are PKK guerillas scattered all over Turkey, perhaps twice as many as there are inside Iraq. And although the most recent attack on Sunday did take place in the border area near Iraq, that doesn't necessarily mean these fighters were coming from Iraq.

Why does this matter? Because it gives the impression that Turkish miltary operations in Iraq, or the "hot pursuit" of PKK fighters might stop clashes with the PKK and help the Turks dismantle the PKK. But they won't. The main PKK bases in Iraq are far away from the Turkish border. They are in fact near the border with Iran and would be extremely difficult to reach except by air-strikes, which are of little use aginst guerilla forces. They will do nothing to stop fighting with the PKK inside Turkey.

Likewise, in a few places I've also seen statements about how the PKK bases in northern Iraq are key to sustaining the PKK's armed struggle. Perhaps, but perhaps not. The PKK has significant fund-rasing and political activities in Europe, including satellite television stations. But Turkey isn't threatening Europe. Just Iraq and America.

3) When Turkish soldiers are killed by the PKK, the press calls them "PKK attacks." But is the PKK attacking or is the Turkish army attacking the PKK and sustaining casualties? The Turkish army is engaged in large-scale operations in PKK areas. A PKK spokesman told me today that these fights are taking place when Turkish search-and-destroy missions stumble upon PKK fighters or are ambushed. We don't really know the truth one way or another, because the Turkish army has sealed off the areas where it is operating.

Again, this matters because the Turkish army's version of events makes it sound like the PKK is hell-bent on provoking the Turkish army. And very possibly hard-liners within the PKK are determined to goad the Turkish military into invading northern Iraq, which would be a disaster for Turkey in the long-run. But it is also possible that hard-line elements in the Turkish military are trying to provoke clashes with the PKK and use that as an excuse to threaten the Kurds of northern Iraq, and gain leverage over its civilian adversaries in the Turkish government. It's no secret that there's no love lost between the former Islamists of the ruling AK party, and Turkey's secular generals. And Turks have been long implacably hostile to the whole idea of a Kurdish mini-state in northern Iraq, and refuse to recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government there.

4) I've seen a few things written about Iraqi Kurds allowing the PKK to use northern Iraq as a safe haven, and US Undersecretary of State David Satterfield today accused the Iraqi Kurds of not doing enough to control the PKK. But the Iraqi Kurds don't have very many options. Their pershmerga soldiers are busy in Baghdad and Mosul and along the Kurdistan's borders with Arab Iraq, trying to keep the lid on Iraq's raging insurgency. How are they supposed to also defeat a hardened-guerilla group in mountain terrain -- a job that the huge Turkish army hasn't been able to do in 30 years?

The reality is that the PKK's presence in Iraq is the result of an unresolved Turkish civil war spreading into the failing state next door. There needs to be a political solution: peace talks, amnesty for the PKK, reforms to how Turkey deals with its Kurdish population, PKK disarmament with international monitors, security coordination between Iraq and Turkey, and Turkish recognition of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Gelek sipas, Andrew. Dest xweş.


Glafkos said...

Is the Dutch blogger you refer to with the Turkish girlfriend, that idiot Michael Van Der Galiën?

If it is him where does he mention this?

Glafkos said...

Nevermind I searched myself and found this:

I want to know what stupid Westerners married to Turks think when they choose to abandon their own values and adopt the evil Kemalist fascism.

Renegade Eye said...

Thank you for visiting my blog.

It is not easily available here in the US, some of your information.

I'm not writing from home, and I didn't digest your comments yet.

I'm going to link to your blog.

Mizgîn said...

Glafkos, you got it. I guess he's no different than Joost Lagendijk in that regard. I find it very disturbing, to say the least, that one could overlook the vast human rights atrocities committed against the Kurdish people, and not only since the 1980 coup.

But just looking back to that coup, a person would have to be totally brainwashed in order NOT to see the context for the rise of PKK and legitimate Kurdish resistance.

Thanks Renegade. I posted something in response on your blog. As I mentioned there, I don't have a problem with the Weston article as a whole and in theory, it's just that we've been there and done that so I thought I'd throw in that little piece of history.

Mick Hall said...


As one of those stupid westerners who have written about the PKK-Turkish army conflict in northern Iraq, instead of hearing about some Dutchman and his girlfriend from you, what I would like to hear about is just why the PKK have gone on the military offense at this time.

True there has been a military conflict for years but undoubtedly in the last few months the PKK has upped the anti, especially across the Iraq-Turkey border. What is the reasoning behind thus, what is the PKK hoping to achieve by this.

Mick/Organized Rage

Mizgîn said...

Mick, check item #3 in Andrew Lee Butters' list.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of this?
Maybe you haven't read it yet.

Mick Hall said...

Basically up until the recent outburst of PKK activity I would have concurred with the articles analyses, the writers says one interesting thing when he wrote that, "The decision to return to violence in June 2004 was taken despite the opposition of many PKK field commanders, who argued that the organization was too weak militarily, lacked a state sponsor"

The purpose of my piece for Organized Rage was to raise the question whether a section of the PKK in Iraq has found a new State sponsor.

You see in politics it is always wise to ask who gains; and for the life of me in the long run I cannot see how the militants of the PKK or the Kurdish people who live in Turkey can gain from these recent events. Perhaps I am missing something, time will tell.

With the election to the Turkish Assembly of members of the DTP at the last general election and the more liberal stance being taken by the AK Party government in Ankara, things seemed to be looking up, then all this occured and one could almost see the smile on Yasar Buyukanit face.


Mizgîn said...

Anonymous, I saw the Jenkins article a couple of days ago at Jamestown.

What's interesting is that Jenkins gives the impression that PKK just recently changed tactics, which is not true. Information on tactical changes came out in 2005. Jenkins talks about an "urban bombing" campaign carried out by PKK. Not true. That campaign was carried out by TAK and PKK condemned each operation after it was carried out. PKK did not abandon armed struggle in 1999; it called a ceasefire. Each of those is significantly different from the other.

As for a "return to violence in June 2004 was taken despite the opposition of many PKK field commanders . . . etc.," how does Jenkins know this? What's his source? The Ankara regime? Because I know something of what went on at Qendil at the time, do you? Tell me what happened to the "opposition". If Jenkins has good information, why isn't he naming any of the "opposition"?

Who gains? Put it another way: Who stands to lose nothing? What did the Ankara regime do during the 5-year unilateral ceasefire to repair the destruction it caused during the Dirty War? Nothing. What did it intend to repair? Nothing. It's documented by KHRP and HRW how villagers cannot return to their villages to rebuild because of the threats and intimidation of the regime's security forces. So they live in total poverty in places like Amed. What's the unemployment rate there?

If anyone had been following the situation since the Amed uprising, they would have known then that we were returning to the 1990s. That was when the liberal AKP gave it's blessing to the murder of Kurdish women, children, and elderly and actually carried out the murders. That was when the liberal AKP detained and tortured hundreds of children in adult prisons in Amed alone. That was when laws started to change so that shooting to kill demonstrators who had covered their faces became the order of the day.

Of course, all of that followed the killing of gerilas by the regimes use of chemical weapons, to be followed this summer by the use of cluster bombs against Kurdish civilians in South Kurdistan.

Then we had the rejection of Gül by the Paşas, followed by elections, followed by Gül's presidency, followed by Gül's visit to the military in The Southeast. AFTER the liberal AKP's Abdullah Gül returned from his visit to the military installations in The Southeast, THEN TSK operations increased in intensity and people wonder WHY HPG and YJA-STAR fight back?

I didn't mention Şemdinli, which made Büyükanıt smile because his "iyi çocuklar" were the perpetrators and I didn't mention PKK's offer of a democratic, political solution, in full compliance with EU accession criteria, which the Ankara regime rejected in August 2006. I didn't mention the ceasefire of 1 October 2006, which the Ankara regime and Lockheed Martin rejected last year . . . or the fact that a reiteration of that ceasefire has been rejected again by the liberal AKP regime, even though the same liberal AKP regime claims it wants to use diplomatic measures to solve the problem.

And what is the liberal AKP regime doing to the handful of Kurdish parliamentarians, by the way? That's another little point for everyone to research.

That brings us to the problem itself. What is it? It is the severe repression and brutality meted out to the Kurdish population of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. This brutality has been carried out by the Ankara regime since 1923. Military solutions have been applied since 1923 and they have never worked. PKK has offered a political solution, the only kind of solution that will work and no one is taking it up even though everyone is talking about the need for political solution. There's the hypocrisy of the matter, right there.

Don't worry about the captured troops, although you probably won't see them until next spring. They'll be spending the winter with the gerilas, living with the gerilas, living like the gerilas, under the same conditions. If these captured get a cold, or a headache, or a hangnail, they'll be treated by HPG medics in HPG medical facilities. They won't be tortured or abused . . . I mean, that's the American way and the Turkish way . . . the NATO way, right?

Now we're back to Andrew Lee Butters' piece and its accuracy. It is the points that he brings up that all point to the context of the situation, the thing that is totally lacking in 99.99% of all Western commentary, so-called analysis, or opinion purposely refuses to include. It is a purposeful refusal to see the situation through the eyes of Kurds in Turkey. It is a purposeful refusal to see the Kurds in Turkey as human beings.

I lost all patience for this purposeful refusal a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Mizgin, did you hear any news in Belgium? I hear the government is pretty upset with the Turks living there and has even gone as far as to contact their embassy. Any news?

Mick Hall said...


Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply, there is a lot for me to analyze, I will get back to you.

Take care.