Hardliners who stop at nothing

ISTANBUL - Alone among groups representing the 20 million Kurds split between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey does not hesitate to use terrorist methods in pursuit of its goal of a united independent Kurdish state, writes Hugh Pope.

Hostage-taking, massacres, bombs in Turkish tourist resorts and attacks on Turkish consulates in Europe are part of a strategy to inspire fear and win an international profile for an organisation that even other Kurdish guerrilla groups are not quite comfortable with.

Turkey tries to dismiss the PKK as terrorist bandits, but that does not explain the success of this part- Marxist, part-nationalist, part-Islamic group, where it finds its financial support and who its foreign backers are. It appears to have been given at least transit facilities by hardline elements in Iran, an allegation denied by Iranian officials.

President Saddam Hussein of Iraq has given some aid to the PKK. But the PKK also maintains offices in northern Iraq, which is an anti- Saddam area controlled by Kurdish guerrillas, even though a Turkish- Iraqi Kurdish guerrilla offensive in October forced the PKK away from bases on the Iraqi-Turkish border.

The PKK's main backer has always been Syria. The PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has been based in Damascus or the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley for more than a decade. Some speak of a weakening of Mr Ocalan's influence due to health and other problems, but the increasingly powerful chief of the PKK's military wing, Cemil Bayik, is also close to Syrian control.

But the key to Turkey's Kurdish problem is in Turkey itself. In the past nine years the insurgency has left 6,900 people dead, 1,015 of whom have died since May, when the collapse of a unilateral guerrilla truce plunged the south-east into its worst bout of bloodshed yet.

The rebels are a powerful and feared symbol of a national struggle for many of Turkey's 12 million Kurds.

They have filled a vacuum cleared for them by the Turkish security forces, who have refused to allow the emergence of a moderate Kurdish nationalist political centre.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project