30 September 2012 / MESUT ÇEVIKALP, ANKARA / ZAMAN – The pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) branch based in northern Syria, is Syria’s terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) — an umbrella network that includes the PKK — an expert has said.
“The best definition of the PYD is that it is Syria’s KCK. Actually, this is not a new topic; the PYD has always been a part of the KCK. Their organization as well as their ideological rhetoric and political demands are very reminiscent of the KCK,” Serhat Erkmen, an expert at the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) think tank, told Sunday’s Zaman.
Erkmen added that it was impossible to consider the PYD as separate from the PKK, adding the PYD was a part of the PKK. “There are many PKK members who are part of its organization. The PYD has been affected by two basic factors since its formation. The first is the desire to see Syrian groups carrying their operations further into Syria. The second is regional balances. The PYD carries on along the PKK axis even today,” said Erkmen.
Turkey has recently been alarmed by the Kurdish control of five Syrian cities near the Turkish border. A military group linked to PYD — a PKK offshoot — has been controlling the predominantly Kurdish cities after the Syrian army withdrew from the region in order to concentrate on the fight against insurgents in more central cities such as Aleppo and Damascus. When asked how Ankara will take preventive steps against the Kurdish organization in Syria, Erkmen replied that Turkey’s foreign policies were inconsistent regarding the issue. “At the start of July, there was great outcry that “a Kurdish state is being formed in Syria.” But a few days later, this outcry was replaced by other matters. So at the time, the debates on what was really happening were not completed. It appears that the bureaucracy is following this matter more closely,” said Erkmen. The prominent analyst also added that PYD and the Syrian Kurds were getting stronger day by day, adding that among all the Syrian Kurdish groups, the PYD was the most organized. “If Turkey really thinks the PYD will be balanced out with the northern-Iraq led Kurdish National Council, it is really wrong,” said Erkmen.
However, İbrahim Güçlü, a Kurdish politician and writer, told Sunday’s Zaman that the real nerve center of the PYD lies in Kandil, an area in northern Iraq where the hideouts of the terrorist PKK are located. “The PYD is connected completely to the PKK. Even though it may appear that the PYD is run by a local team, the fact is that the real brain of the PYD is in Kandil. Right now, the Syrians and Iranians are helping Kandil,” said Güçlü.
On the other hand, Mehmet Özcan, chairman of the Ankara Strategy Institute, noted that the PKK is trying to benefit from the power vacuum in Syria, which has emerged due to the Arab Spring.
The PKK, which has been conducting terrorist activities in Turkey for nearly 30 years, can now be expected to conduct attacks in an effort to transform the so-called Arab Spring into a Kurdish Spring in Turkey, and thereby give the impression that it is a dominant force in the Southeast of the country, where the Kurdish population is the majority.
Özcan told Sunday’s Zaman that on orders from the terrorist PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was captured and jailed in 1999, the PKK was attempting to use the Arab Spring as a process to create their own sort of “Kurdish Spring,” adding that Öcalan aims to turn Diyarbakır into another Tahrir Square. “PKK carries on its ideal of ‘Greater Kurdistan,’ a concept that embraces Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey,” said Özcan. Despite claims that the PKK had dropped its target, Özcan affirmed that the PKK has been working towards its goal. “The PYD is in fact the wing of the PKK that works specifically within the framework of the ‘Greater Kurdistan’ idea. Though the PYD may appear to be a political party, it is actually the Syrian arm of the whole KCK structure. It is just not right to identify the PYD as separate from the PKK, or independent of the KCK. The PYD is the Syrian wing of the confederate structure,” said Özcan.
Relations between Turkey and Syria were thorny before 1998. The two countries were on the brink of war when Turkey threatened military action if Syria continued to shelter Öcalan in Damascus, his longtime safe haven. The signing of the Adana agreement in 1998 marked a turning point in the relations between the two countries. The agreement established cooperation against the PKK terrorist organization, and relations subsequently flourished in all aspects, including politics, economics, security and culture, until the recent developments in Syria.
A senior Turkish official, who spoke to Sunday’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity, said that PKK members have accepted that even when the relations between Ankara and Damascus were good, the Syrian regime was not taking serious steps against the PKK.
The same officials noted that the documents and information obtained through operations held by Syrian authorities against the organization were not shared with Ankara despite the previous signing of an accord on this matter. “[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, like his father, has protected the PKK, so that he would be able to use the PKK card when needed. Today, Turkey’s problem with terror on its borders with Syria is completely due to the double-faced stance of Damascus,” said the official.
KCK was founded in Syria
Although the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) states openly that the PYD has not been involved in violence, testimony from Syrian PKK member Avin Jamil Akram to the Mukhabarat (Assad’s intelligence service) reveals every aspect of the PKK-PYD relationship. Akram stated that the PKK members in a difficult situation like himself have often been taken to PYD strongholds in Damascus, Aleppo and Kamışlı and offered assistance as well as protection.
Other testimonies reveal that the PYD leadership cadre is directed by important names from Kandil.
As for Dilan Khalil Süleyman, who joined the PKK in 1990, he stated that Kurdish women’s groups purportedly working for peace in Syria have in fact been aiding and assisting the PKK. Süleyman noted that the Yekitiya Star — a Kurdish women’s group — worked to support sick or injured female PKK members, while also offering ideological training for young protestors in Turkey and around the region.
Süleyman also said that the terrorists were able to travel throughout the Middle East and Europe easily thanks to the fake identity cards and passports they were able to produce in Syria. Süleyman, who confirmed receiving arms and guerilla training in the Zap camp, noted that with the help of the PYD’s Aleppo representative Bave Bekas he passed into Lebanon using a fake identity card and passport, and that many other sick and injured PKK members use the same route regularly.Testimonies of the captured PKK members make it clear that the PKK-PYD organizations collect payments from the Kurdish region. Some of the money collected by the PKK, in the name of taxes, donations or simply assistance, is given over to activities in Syria. The rest, which is the majority, is sent to Northern Iraq. The Mukhabarat was able to obtain a full list of names of those who had donated money to the PKK in Kamışlı, a Kurdish city in Northern Syria.
The Aksiyon magazine obtained the testimony of four PKK members captured by Syrian security forces in July-August of 2010. Their testimonies gave important details about the general structure of the PKK in Syria, as well as activities in the Damascus-Kandil-Beirut triangle. These four captured PKK members, all born in Syrian towns near the Turkish border, joined the organization very early in their lives. Their statements reveal that in fact, contrary to popular belief, the PKK has been active in Syria from very early on, all the way back to the 1990s.