ISIL expanded its attacks on Monday against the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, trying to relieve pressure on its own defences around Mosul, the group’s last major urban stronghold in the country. About 80 villages and town held by ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) were retaken in the first week of the offensive, bringing Iraqi and Kurdish forces closer to the edge of the city itself – where the battle will be hardest fought.
The Mosul campaign, which aims to crush the Iraqi portion of ISIL’s declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, may become the biggest battle yet in the 13 years of turmoil triggered by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some 1.5 million residents remain in the city, and worst-case forecasts see up to a million being uprooted, according to the United Nations. UN aid agencies say the fighting has so far forced about 7,400 people to flee their homes.
|English: Members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Kurdish Partiya Karkerên, PKK) in Kurdistant/Iraq Kurdî / كوردی: Gerîlayên Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (PKK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan or پارتی کار کهرانی کوردستان Parti Karkerani Kurdistan), commonly known asPKK, also known as KGK and formerly known as KADEK (Freedom and Democracy Congress of Kurdistan) or KONGRA-GEL (Kurdistan People’s Congress), is a Kurdish organization which has since 1984 been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistanand cultural and political rights for the Kurds in Turkey. The group was founded on 27 November 1978 in the village of Fis, near Lice and was led byAbdullah Öcalan. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism — although since his imprisonment, Öcalan has abandoned orthodox Marxism. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by states and organizations, including United Nations, NATO, the United States and the European Union.
The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called theKurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK).
The 1980 Turkish coup d’état pushed the organization to another stage, with members (such as Sakine Cansız, one of the co-founders) doing jail time, being subject to capital punishment, or fleeing to Syria. On November 10, 1980, the PKK bombed the Turkish Consulate in Strasbourg, Francein a joint operation with the Armenian radical group ASALA, which they claimed as the beginning of a “fruitful collaboration.”
Starting in 1984, the PKK transformed into a paramilitary group, using training camps located in France. It launched attacks and bombings against governmental installations, the military, and various “institutions of the state” — some of which were connected to the Southeastern Anatolia Project. The PKK became less centralized, taking up operations in a variety of European and Middle Eastern countries, especially Germany and France. The PKK has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, such as Turkey, France, Belgium and Iraq.
Beginning with the mid 1990s, the organization lost the upper hand in its operations as a consequence of a change of tactics by Turkey and Syria’s steady abandonment of support for the group. In the mid 1990s, it also began a series of 15 suicide bombings, 11 of which were carried out by women. In the late 1990s, Turkey increased the pressure and the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria ended open Syrian support. In 1999,Öcalan was captured, prosecuted and sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life imprisonment as part of the government’s seekingEuropean Union membership.
The organization originated in the 1970s from the radical left and drew its leaders, members from other existing leftist groups, mainly Dev-Genç.:127 The organization initially presented itself as part of the worldwide communist revolution. The organization’s aims and objectives have evolved over time towards the goal of national autonomy, and what Ocalan dubs “Democratic Confederalism”.
During 100000031s the movement included and cooperated with other ethnic groups, including ethnic Turks, who were following the radical left.:127 The organization initially aimed to establish a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.:129
In 1991, following the capture of Ocalan, the organization announced a “peace initiative,” and spoke more often about cultural or linguistic rights. However, the group renounced its self-imposed cease-fire in 2004. Besides the activities directed towards Turkey, on 17 July 2005, one of the chief executives Coskun komurcu was murdered in Austria. Hasan Özen wanted to leave the organization, and the PKK is widely thought to be responsible. In Diyarbakir, on 6 July 2005, [], the former founder of the legal branch the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP), was also murdered. Hikmet Fidan had tried to form an alternative, non-violent Kurdish political party called the Patriotic Democratic Party (PWD) with Osman Ocalan, the brother of Abullah Ocalan. At least 3 other persons involved with the PWD were also killed. The PKK is widely thought to be responsible for these killings also.
The PKK has multiple heads in various West European countries. However, Abdullah Öcalan was unchallenged leader of the organization. After the capture of Öcalan, authorities induced him to publicly plead for a ceasefire. Though serving life imprisonment, Öcalan is still considered the honorary leader and figure-head of the organization.
Murat Karayılan has the control of the organization in practice, although undergone numerous conflicts between Cemil Bayik. Cemil Bayik beside Abdullah Öcalan, Kesire Yildirim Ocalan, and Hakki Karaer was one of the core leaders. Cemil Bayik’s military skills and leadership were criticized by Abdullah Öcalan during his 1999 trial. The organization appointed “Doctor Bahoz,” the nom de guerre of Fehman Huseyin, a Syrian Kurd, in charge of the movement’s military operations signifying the long-standing solidarity among Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan.
The organization had sympathizer parties in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey beginning in early 1990s. The establishment of direct links to the organization has been a question. In sequence HEP/DEP/HADEP/DEHAP/DTP and the latest Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have been accused of sympathizing with the PKK, since they have refused to brand it as a terrorist group. As of June 2007 report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies stated that “It is an obvious secret that DTP is connected to PKK in a way and PKK is a terrorist group.”
Political organizations established in Turkey are banned from propagating or supporting separatism. Several political parties supporting Kurdish rights have been banned on this pretext. The constitutional court claimed to find direct links between the HEP/DEP/HADEP and the PKK. IN 2008 the DTP-party was prosecuted by the constitutional court.
Kurdish politician Abdülmelik Fırat claims that Democratic Society Party (DTP) was founded by PKK, and that 80 percent of Kurds do not vote for this party. However, senior DTP leaders maintain that they support a unified Turkey within a democratic framework. Aysel Tuğluk published an article in Radikal in May 2007 as the co-president of DTP, to prove that claim.
Several parliamentarians and other elected representatives have been jailed for speaking in Kurdish, carrying Kurdish colors or otherwise “promoting separatism”, most famous among them beingLeyla Zana.
Alleged drug trafficking
On October 14, 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted the senior leadership of the PKK, designating as significant foreign narcotics traffickers, Murat Karayılan, the head of the PKK, and high-ranking members Ali Riza Altun and Zubayir Aydar. On April 20, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of PKK founders Cemil Bayik and Duran Kalkan and other high-ranking members as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). Pursuant to the Kingpin Act, the designation freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these individuals.
Parties and concerts are organized by branch groups. Additionally, it is believed that the PKK earns money through the sale of various publications, as well as receiving revenues from legitimate businesses owned by the organization. Besides affiliate organizations, there are sympathizer organizations such as the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Europe (KON-KURD, headquartered in Brussels) and the International Kurdish Businessmen Union (KAR-SAZ, in Rotterdam) which constantly exchanges information and perform legitimate or semi-legitimate commercial activities and donations.
A report by INTERPOL published in 1992 states that the PKK, along with nearly 178 Kurdish organizations were suspected of illegal drug trade involvement. Also INTERPOL’s chief narcotics officer Iqbal Hussain Rizvi stated that the PKK was also heavily involved in drug trafficking Members of the PKK have been designated narcotics traffickers by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
During its highest point in the early 1990s the militant membership was around 17,000. After the capture of Öcalan this number drastically decreased. The membership increased from 3,000 to more than 7,000 since 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2008, according to information provided by the Intelligence Resource Program of the Federation of American Scientists the strength of the organization in terms of human resources consists of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 militants of whom 3,000 to 3,500 are located in northern Iraq.
A study carried out by the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Department of Directorate General for Security over a sample of files about people convicted of being a militant under Turkish laws including 262 militants from the organization has found that 54% of the members are aged 14 to 25, 34% 26 to 37 and 12% 38 to 58. University graduates make up 11% of the members, high school graduates 16%, secondary school graduates 13%, primary school graduates 39%, literate non-graduates 12% and illiterates 9%.
At the height of its campaign, the organization received support from many countries. According to Turkey, many countries have previously/currently received support from: Armenia,Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Russia & Syria. The level of support given has changed throughout this period.
- Support of Syria
-  From early 1979 to 1999 Syria had provided valuable safe havens to PKK in the region of Beqaa Valley. After the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria, Syria placed restrictions on PKK activity on its soil. Turkey is expecting positive developments in its cooperation with Syria in the long term, but even during the course of 2005, there were PKK operatives of Syrian nationality operating in Turkey.
- Support of Iran
- Iran listed PKK as a terrorist organization after Iran’s supply of resources to the PKK began to be used on its own soil. Iran provided PKK with supplies in the form of weapons and funds.
- Support of Greece
- retired Greek L.T. General Dimitris Matafias and retired Greek Navy Admiral Antonis Naxakis had visited organization’s Mahsun Korkmaz base camp in Bakaa valley in October 1988 along with parliamentarians from the panhellenic Socialist movement (PASOK). At the time it was reported that the general has assumed responsibility for training. Greeks also dispatched arms through the Republic of Cyprus. In December 1993, Greek European affairs minister Theodoros Pangalos was quoted as saying “we must be supportive of the Kurdish people to be free”.Greece declined to join Germany and France and the eleven other members at the EU to ban the organization. During the 1990s, Greece supplied the rebels.
- Support of the Republic of Cyprus
- was alleged when Abdullah Öcalan was caught with a Cypriot passport to the name of Mavros Lazaros, a nationalist reporter.
- Support of the Soviet Union and Russia
-  According to the former KGB–FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in 2006, PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan was trained by KGB–FSB. As of 2008, Russia is still not among the states that list PKK as a terrorist group despite intense Turkish pressures.
- United Kingdom
- MED TV broadcast for five years in the UK, until its license was revoked by the regulators the Independent Television Commission (ITC) in 1999. The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organisation since 2001. In 2008 the United Kingdom detained members of the PKK and seized the assets of the PKK’s representative in Britain, Selman Bozkur, alias “Dr. Hüseyin”. His assets remain frozen.
- Support of various Europe states
- Despite Brussels’ designation of the group as a terrorist organization, the EU continues to permit the broadcasting of the organization’s networks on the Hot Bird 3 satellite owned by the French company Eutelsat. MEDYA TV started transmissions from studios in Belgium via a satellite uplink from France. MEDYA TV’s license was revoked by the French authorities. A few weeks later Roj TV began transmissions from Denmark. It has also been argued that the Netherlands and Belgium have supported the PKK by allowing its training camps to function in their respective territories. On November 22, 1998, Hanover’s criminal police reported that three children had been trained by the PKK for guerrilla warfare in camps in the Netherlands and Belgium. After the death of Theo van Gogh, with increasing attention on domestic security concerns, the Dutch police raided the ‘PKK paramilitary camp’ in the Dutch town of Liempde and arrested 29 people in November 2004. Denmark allows Kurdish satellite television stations (such as ROJ-TV), which Turkey claims has links with the PKK, to operate in Denmark and broadcast into Turkey.
Various PKK leaders, including Hidir Yalcin, Riza Altun, Zubeyir Aydar, and Ali Haydar Kaytan all lived in Europe and moved freely. The free movement was achived by the strong ties with influential persons. Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the former President of France, had active connections during the 90s with elements of the organization’s leadership that forced a downgrade in relationships between the two states. Ali Rıza Altun, a suspected key figure with an Interpol arrest warrant on his name, after harboring him for some time Austria arranged a flight to Iraq.. Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gül summoned the Austrian ambassador and condemned Austria’s action. On September 30, 1995, while Öcalan was in Syria, Damascus initiated contact with high-ranking German CDU MP Heinrich Lummer and German intelligence officials.
The Chief of the Turkish General Staff during 2007, General Yaşar Büyükanıt, stated that even though the international struggle had been discussed on every platform and even though organizations such as the UN, NATO, EU make statements of serious commitment, to this day the necessary measures had not been taken. According to Büyükanıt; “this conduct on one side has encouraged the terrorists, on the other side it assisted in widening their [the terrorists] activities. The most distressful part of it is that many of the European countries being a member of NATO, an organization that had announced that terrorism was the greatest threat to itself. ” Sedat Laçiner, of the Turkish think tank ISRO, says that US support of the PKK undermines the USWar on Terrorism. Seymour Hersh claimed that the U.S. supported PEJAK, the Iranian branch of the PKK. The head of the PKK’s militant arm, Murat Karayılan, claimed that Iran attempted to recruit the PKK to attack coalition forces, adding that Kurdish guerrillas had launched a clandestine war in north-western Iran, ambushing Iranian troops.