1780) The PKK: A Privileged Terrorist Organization?

The PKK is a Kurdist and separatist terrorist organization. The U.S. and E.U. laws say that it is a terrorist organization. According to the British MI5 reports, it is one of the bloodiest terrorist organizations in the world. It means that there is no difference between Al Qaeda and the PKK before the Western legal system. . .

However the PKK has armed terror bases in Iraq under American occupation and propaganda offices in many E.U. capitals. The terrorist organization is probably the only terrorist organization that has satellite TV channel. The PKK’s Roj TV has been broadcasting from Denmark. It uses the Hotbird satellite. France and the UK had banned the previous PKK channels (MED and MEDYA TVs) after Turkey’s years-long struggle. Furthermore, the PKK controls the drug business and human trafficking in Europe, and all the money comes from this illegal business goes to the so-called media institutions. The PKK media in European countries make money-laundering, and the organization uses all this sources to finance its activities.

The PKK has offices in Denmark, Belgium and in many other Western European cities. The US officials openly blamed the EU states of allowing the PKK propaganda activities in their countries. Kurt Volker, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs in the U.S. State Department, said last year that media channels belonging to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) in Europe should be declared part of terrorist organizations and must be closed down. Delivering a speech at a U.S. House of Representatives meeting discussing emerging threats in Europe, Volker labeled the PKK a threat to Europe's security.

When we look at the past, we see that the PKK has always been a privileged terrorist organization in Europe. Greece and the Greek Cyprus openly supported the PKK activities in the past: When the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in the Greek Embassy in Kenya, a Greek Cypriot passport was found on him. The official documents vividly show that the Greece and Cyprus Greeks financed many PKK activities and they gave great political support to PKK terrorism.

When the Syrians deported the head of the PKK terrorists, Abdullah Ocalan traveled many European states, including Russia, Greece and Italy. Many European politicians, including Germans, Italians, British and French, openly visited him though their own laws named Abdullah Ocalan as terrorist. When Ocalan arrived in Rome on November 12, 1998 traveling on a false passport, he was arrested. However he was never seen as a ‘real terrorist’ by the Italian authorities. For the ordinary Turks, the Italians simply protected him. They even did not fulfill what the Italian laws said.

Ocalan requested that Rome grant him political asylum, and Italy did not know what to do with a terrorist. Now we see that the Turkish people never forget the Italians’ strange attitude towards one of the bloodiest terrorist in the world. Ocalan was not only a leader of the PKK. He had ordered and personally committed many murders and even massacres. His targets were not only the Turks but Kurds and even the not-loyal PKK members. There are hundreds of eye-witnesses for his individual murder crimes.

Italian courts have ruled that, despite an existing international arrest warrant issued, Ocalan cannot be extradited to Turkey because the death penalty could be applied in his case, despite Ankara’s moves to remove capital punishment. This was the source of the great Turkish anger against Italy. Italy could put Ocalan to an Italian court, because he was a terrorist according to the Italian and EU laws as well. Yet the Rome Government could not dare to do as well.

Germany had an existing arrest warrant for Ocalan, and Turkey hinted that it would accept a solution where Germany would try Ocalan. But the German government decided it did not want him both out of fear of terrorism and because of likely clashes between the Turkish and PKK militants in Germany. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder declared, "We decided to protect the peace of Germany." Germans preferred not to combat against terrorism. It meant that they only considered peace in Germany and they did not give importance to peace in Turkey. Thus the German Government, in spite of the existing arrest warrant for Ocalan and existing laws considering PKK as a terrorist organization, did not put Ocalan to a German court. Strangely Italian and German politicians argue that the both countries courts are independent and they have no tool to intervene their legal system. However we saw in the Ocalan case that both countries courts did what their Government wanted.

German and Italian officials adopted the argument that an International Court should try Ocalan, ignoring the absence of an international body with the jurisdiction to try an individual like Ocalan. Italy could try Ocalan under existing anti-terrorism treaties, but Rome shown no interest in doing so.

Ocalan was one of the most significant terrorist leaders in the world, with a legacy of untold carnage to his name. And he has lost his international backing, which is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the condition that allows terrorism to flourish. Yet as Tzvi Fleischer put it, “the response of both Italy and Germany was to do their best to make the problem go away, fear of revenge being their reason to avoid responsibilities they have under international anti-terrorism agreements”. (1)

Ocalan then visited Greece and no Greek authorities captured or arrested him. The next stop was Russia and the Russians, who always complaining from terrorism, did nothing to arrest him.

Finally Ocalan was captured in Kenya, Africa. He was in a Greek Embassy and his passport from Greek Cyprus. Turkish special team was assisted by the Americans and all of the Turkish media underlined the American assistance in capturing Abdullah Ocalan. The Washington clearly accused the EU states on handling the Ocalan case. The Turkish public has never forgotten the EU’s and the US’ stance towards the PKK and Ocalan.

* American Double Standard?

The American assistance in combating PKK made Bill Clinton the most popular American president in Turkey. The situation has shifted dramatically after the Iraq War. The PKK, which was on the US’ and EU’s terrorist organization list, established many terrorist camps in Northern Iraq. The US authorities first promised to remove all these camps when they invaded Iraq. Iraq was their responsibility and removal of the terrorists, including the PKK, was their one of the foremost tasks. However, the Americans simply ignored the PKK terrorists for the past years. The PKK established training camps, armed bases etc. They established logistic stores. They collected ‘donations’, bought arms. The drug smuggling and human trafficking were continued as financial sources of the PKK. Money went to the European PKK propaganda network and terrorist activities in Turkey. In 4 years the PKK reached 3.000-armed-terrorists under the American and local Kurdish protection.

The local Kurdish political groups, namely Barzani and Talabani groups, saw the PKK as guarantee of their independence. Turkey was seen as the only country could prevent Kurdish independent state in Iraq and as far as Turkey was busy in struggling against the PKK terrorism, Turks were not able to involve the Iraqi policies. Both the neo-cons and the Kurdist groups in Iraq prevent Turkish approach in Iraq. Turkey was kept away from the Iraq policies. While the cost of the Iraqi occupation for the US has rocketed, Turkey has suffered from the PKK terrorism. The PKK used Iraqi territories to attack Turkish territories. The local Kurds and the US have done almost nothing to stop the PKK terrorists.

Nowadays the American diplomats in Ankara hint that the US authorities did not promised to remove the PKK camps, which is not true. Imagine the American diplomats are right: American President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, former secretor of State Powell and many other Americans did not promise to remove the terrorist camps from Iraq. As a matter of fact, this would be the worse than unfulfilled promises.

The PKK camps in Iraq have undermined Turkey-US relations. The U.S.A.K. Survey showed the damage: According to the Survey, 74 % of the Turks saw the existence of the PKK camps in Iraq as the ‘thorniest problem’ in US - Turkey relations. The US and Turkey are NATO allies and have been strategic allies since the end of the Second World War. Turkish people have all the rights to expect from the US to remove the terrorist camps from Iraq. At least the US has to demilitarize the PKK militants as it demilitarized the anti-Iranian groups in Iraq.
To make it clearer let’s make comparison: If Turkey acted against the terrorist as the EU and the US today do, the Al Qaeda would have a satellite TV station broadcasting from Ankara to Western Europe and Northern America. This Al Qaeda channel would encourage violence in the West and always call for terrorist attacks against the Western targets. Turkey, in response to the Western governments would have said that Turkey was a democratic country and the Al Qaeda TV station should be considered under the free speech principle. If Turkey acted against the terrorist as the EU and the US today do, all of the radical Islamist terror organizations would have terrorist camps in Istanbul or in Izmir operating terrorist activities against Greece or France. If Turkey acted against the terrorist as the EU and the US today do, the IRA, ETA and all other terrorist organizations would have offices in Ankara and they would declare war against the US, UK or Spain. If Turkey acted against the terrorist as the EU and the US today do, Ankara Government would have allowed the terrorist organization to collect donations, to make drug smuggling and money laundering in Turkey. If Turkey acted against the terrorist as the US today do, all Iraqi insurgents had camps in Turkey and they would use Turkish territories to attack the American targets…

Sedat LACINER, PhD: Director, International Strategic Research Organization (USAK - ISRO) & 2006 Davos Economic Forum Young Global Leader


(1) Tzvi Fleischer, “Apo-calypse Now, What can you do with a problem like Abdullah?”, AIJAC, 4 - 31 December 1998, http://www.aijac.org.au/review/1998/2315/ocalan.html


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