PKK displays show of force on anniversary despite Turkish strikes

As Karayilan gave a speech to his fighters, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was celebrating its 16th anniversary in Ankara.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) celebrated on Monday the anniversary of the 1984 attacks, the first they carried out on the Turkish army, despite threats of daily bombing runs by warplanes on the Qandil mountains that straddle the Iraq - Iran border.

Led by the commander-in-chief of PKK's armed wing, the People's Defence Forces (HPG), Murat Karayilan, about 500 fighters attended a ceremony in an undisclosed forest-clad mountainous area controlled by the group.

The PKK, founded as a Marxist group in 1978 with the initial aim of a united and free state of Kurdistan, began its armed campaign on Turkish troops six years later on August 15, simultaneously launching attacks in the Kurdish provinces of Hakkari and Siirt.

In a video of the ceremony released by the PKK affiliated Kurdish Firat news agency (ANF), Karayilan affirmed loyalty to the group's imprisoned founder, Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on the island of Imrali in Turkey's inland Marmara Sea. He was captured by the Turkish intelligence in Kenya in 1999.

As Karayilan gave a speech to his fighters, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was celebrating its 16th anniversary in Ankara with its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in attendance. Erdogan founded the Islamist-rooted party on August 14, 2001.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wave at supporters, Ankara, August 14, 2017. (Photo: AA)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wave at supporters, Ankara, August 14, 2017. (Photo: AA)

Erdogan, who in 2009 as Prime minister launched secret talks with Ocalan - a move which at the time was considered a political taboo - and eventually reached the 2013-2015 ceasefire and peace negotiations, praised the renewed fight on the Kurdish rebels.

"We have entered PKK's caves. We are razing them to the ground," he told thousands of supporters, vowing the continuation of an all-out military strategy against the Kurdish group that his government adopted after the ceasefire collapsed in 2015, reported Kurdistan 24's Ankara Bureau.

The Turkish leader also evoked his army's incursion last year into a strip of land in northern Syria to deny the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is spearheading the war on the Islamic State (IS) group in Raqqa, further territorial gains.

Karayilan, on his part, said were it not for the PKK, Rojava, the name Kurds give to the Kurdish-controlled region in Syria, would not exist. Erdogan, however, labels the area a "terror corridor."

Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian franchise of the PKK, a view not shared by its NATO ally - the US - though both countries agree on designating the latter a "terrorist organization."

Appearing alongside another top PKK commander, Bahoz Erdal, whom Turkish media has numerous times claimed had been killed, Karayilan promised "victory against Turkish colonialism," which he said would not only "free Kurdistan but also democratize Turkey."

"If Erdogan is alive today, he should know it is thanks to Leader Apo. We have said before Apo's safety ensures the safety of all Turkish leaders," he stated in an apparent threat, using a popular Kurdish short form for Ocalan's first name.

Meanwhile, the conflict raged on in Turkey's heavily militarized Kurdish regions, which witnessed large scale infrastructural destruction and death of over two thousand people, including hundreds of civilians, during the 2015-2016 urban hostilities in the aftermath of the peace talks' breakdown.

 

A single standing mosque stands behind construction vehicles demolishing remnants of apartments in the Kurdish city of Sirnak destroyed during a months-long Turkish offensive to reclaim the city from PKK affiliates, July 2016. (Photo: AFP)
A single standing mosque stands behind construction vehicles demolishing remnants of apartments in the Kurdish city of Sirnak destroyed during a months-long Turkish offensive to reclaim the city from PKK affiliates, July 2016. (Photo: AFP)

The Interior Ministry announced the killing of 28 PKK fighters during army operations during last week.

State-funded Anadolu Agency separately reported that Turkish warplanes conducted airstrikes on the Qandil mountains of the Kurdistan Region, killing 13 PKK fighters and wounding eight others.

The PKK, on the other hand, claimed it killed at least 30 Turkish soldiers in the past week, in raids on military outposts and clashes in the Hakkari, Sirnak, Mus, Dersim, Diyarbakir, and Batman provinces.

 

Editing by G.H. Renaud