Just What Is The PKK Trying To Do? – OpEd


By Hasan Selim Ozertem

During the last month the PKK has staged attacks that display every trick it knows and reveal the kind of terrorist organisation that it is. The organisation has engaged in every kind of operation it is capable of, ranging from raids on police stations to full-scale attacks by 500 people and from kidnappings to bombings. It has given the impression that it is determined not to act as a force for positive changes in Turkey but to cause chaos.

The PKK attacked a military vehicle at Foça in İzmir province ın the Aegean and then followed this up with a car bombing of a police station in Gaziantep. Then came a 500-strong terrorist attack at Hakkari-Şemdinli but this sustained serious losses and it was forced to withdraw. Since then the PKK appears to have returned to the kind of attacks it has undertaken for many years, organised in groups of three to ten persons. It may be said that it carries out these attacks in different parts of Turkey because it no longer aims at increasing its regional impact but is instead trying to bring terror to the whole of the country and instil fear into the population as a whole. A further aim of the bomb attacks may also be to help the organisation regain its morale in the wake of the rout it suffered in Hakkari.

The PKK would like to turn Hakkari-Şemdinli into something resembling the events happening in Syria. So it deliberately conducts manoeuvres which put pressure on the security forces, aiming to make them take security measures which will result in civilian losses. That these efforts have proved unsuccessful may be accounted an important gain for Turkey. Putting it another way, the PKK and the forces behind it want to create the apparent impression that Turkey, which is currently making strong criticisms of the al-Assad government, is engaged in comparable massacres of its own people. However they have been unsuccessful.


The purpose of the PKK’s game was to kill several birds with one stone and put Turkey in difficulty internationally, but now that this game has failed, its new goal may be said to be to try and increase the pressure of public opinion on the government. If one looks at the pronouncements by the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) after the kidnapping of the opposition member of parliament Hüseyin Aygün and the bomb attacks, it appears that as the party has difficulty in making direct criticism of the PKK, its statements are aimed making policies which the government has followed the target of its criticisms. By using language accusing the government of primary responsibility, it is attempting to create the impression that there is an absence of security in Turkey.

Does the BDP want to be shut down?

There are all sorts of ways in which one could criticise the policies which the government has followed over the struggle against terrorism and the Kurdish problem. But when one see people (MPs) claiming to represent the sovereignty of the nation contained within the Turkish Grand National Assembly then behaving with insensitivity when it comes to drawing a line separating themselves from a terrorist organisation and treating the PKK terrorists who blocked the road in the village of Bağlar as if they were popular heroes, one can only wonder whether the BDP is once again trying to get itself shut down as local elections approach. It might be that the party is acting like this and steadily ramping up the tension and at the same time, calculating that the closing down of the party could enable it to play the victim card in the run up to the local elections.

All these developments affect the continuing confusion in Turkey on Kurdish issue in one direction. There are a number of measures proposed up till now for a settlement over which everyone is agreed, whether they be liberals or nationalists, Turks or Kurds, but there has persistently been slowness at putting them into effect. Its ultimate cause is the spiral of attacks, that starts in the spring and carries on until winter and has now become a vicious cycle causing us to respond with reactionary policies. After each attack, Turkey broods over their details on the silver screen. While having evening meals, we all vicariously visit the homes of those who have been martyred and as the pain sinks deep into people’s hearts, vows are made that this country will never be split up. But that does not lead to any fall in the frequency with which events linked to terrorism take place in the country.

Look at the timing of the attacks and it is rather easy to make an analysis based on a continuing causal relationship. It is much easier today to get access to weapons when Syria is increasingly involved in the conflict. And at the same time border security is another serious problem. Consequently that implies that it is getting easier to obtain the explosives and weapons needed for sensational attacks despite the fact that the PKK has been weakened by the operations against it. Put another way, although the organisation has lost ground both in the countryside and in the cities between the time of the Silvan attack and the bombing at Uludere in which 35 Turkish citizens lost their lives, external circumstances are enabling it to draw breath again.

The statements coming out of Iran and those made by the BDP after the explosions in Gaziantep overlap with each other. Both the BDP and the Iranians stress the idea that Turkey should review its policy towards Syria. It becomes more and more debatable just why the PKK is carrying out these acts and whether or not its demographic structure is becoming steadily more heterogeneous, so the congruence between the rhetoric of the PKK and that of Iran is rather interesting.

One does not need to be an expert or to indulge in unique forecasts to be able to say that in the period ahead of us Turkey will face a lot more terrorist incidents. What needs to be done is to apply integrationist policies without wasting time or letting ourselves be obstructed. Otherwise it would appear that the current course of events will continue to be shaped by an internal situation in Turkey which is getting steadily harder to repair and by the international situation.

*Translated from Turkish version by David Barchard.

Hasan Selim Ozertem
USAK Center for Energy Security Studies


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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