April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1858

PKK Military Wing Commander: Turkey May Become 'Exact Replica of Iraq'

April 9, 2008
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 1858

In a January 31, 2008 interview with the reformist website, PKK military wing commander Dr. Bahoz Erdal warned about a possible escalation in PKK activity, which would include attacks on tourists in Turkey.

The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

Until Now, the PKK Has Been Using Only 20% of Its Forces

Asked how the PKK would respond to continued Turkish attacks, Dr. Erdal replied that his movement was well prepared for such an eventuality, saying: "...The results will be no different from the results of previous attacks: We will counter these continued [attacks] with equal force. This means that the tension will mount and the clashes will intensify, and it is not inconceivable that the fighting will reach the centers of Turkey's cities. Continued attacks will not only cause economic, political, and social crises, but may adversely affect stability in Iraq, especially in southern Kurdistan [i.e. Iraqi Kurdistan]...

"We are not attacking anyone. We are not fighting without cause, but are defending our national values, and we show sensitivity - especially when it comes to civilians. We have never harmed civilians intentionally, and we will not do so in the future.

"However, if the Turkish state persists in its policy of denying [the rights of the Kurdish people], and continues its military attacks on us, the millions of Kurds living in Turkish cities will be provoked into responding harshly - as was the case in the aftermath of the recent aerial attacks [of December 15, 2007], when Kurdish youths torched government vehicles in Turkish cities.

"Incidents of this kind may proliferate, and eventually, this may lead to the outbreak of a popular uprising in all the Turkish and Kurdish cities that nobody will be able to suppress or control..."

In response to another question about the PKK's reaction to the attacks on it, Dr. Erdal added: "...We have been compelled to use our special forces and the fedayeen battalions in battle. So far, we have been using only about 20% of our forces. We might reassess our defense policy, and this will tip the scales, intensify the clashes, and broaden the scope of the fighting, causing Turkey to become an exact replica of Iraq. But we do not want to reach that point..."

Tourists Are Advised to Stay Out of Turkey

Regarding the potential danger to tourists in Turkey, Dr. Erdal said: "...So far, we have never directly targeted tourists, but now there is a war going on in Turkey. [The Turkish military deployed] more than 50 planes in a single attack [on the PKK], and hundreds of thousands of soldiers engage in daily searches [for PKK operatives]. [The army] also uses tanks, APCs, and cannon, and there are clashes everywhere. In other words, there is a war going on in Turkey, and it adversely affects all areas of life, including tourism.

"Turkey is not safe for tourists, and we advise them to stay away from it. Extremist Kurdish organizations like the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) have targeted tourists in the past, and continue to threaten them in Turkey [today]. We cannot predict what will happen in the future..."

Turkey andIran Are Working Together to "Crush Kurdish Aspirations"

In response to a question about Iranian-Turkish cooperation against the PKK, Dr. Erdal stated that the two countries had a joint interest to "crush Kurdish aspirations."

As for the U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Kurdish problem, he said: "...[The U.S.] wants to go on playing the Kurdish card whenever it wants. It knows that our movement is the main obstacle [preventing it] from attaining its goals. Our movement... has its own independent approach and relies on its own forces. Its policy is to avoid relying on any side, and it refuses on principle to belong to any bloc.

"Know that the solution to all the region's problems - including the Kurdish problem - lies in freedom and in peaceful coexistence of all peoples in the region, without external intervention. Such intervention has only exacerbated the crises. America is troubled by the concept [of peaceful coexistence without external intervention], and therefore objects to the existence of an independent Kurdish force. This is the main reason it wants to [harm] us."

The PKK Wants to Resolve the Kurdish Problem through Negotiations

About past attempts at negotiations with the Turks, Dr. Erdal stated: "...Ever since the ceasefire expired, on June 1, 2004, we have tried to keep clashes [with the Turkish military] to a minimum. We have been careful not to intensify the clashes, in order to give the political negotiations a chance and in order to create a climate in which a peaceful resolution could be reached.

"Over the last four years, we twice initiated a unilateral ceasefire. We did not do so out of weakness, or because we were unable to face [the enemy], or because we had deteriorated as a military organization, as the Turks and others tried to claim. Not at all. Our [policy] was based on our historical responsibility not to drain [the strength of] our people.

"But the Turkish government did not heed our initiatives, and took advantage of the ceasefires to intensify its attacks and its military operations aimed at destroying us...

"We do not see our struggle as a strictly military struggle. Our cause is primarily a political one, and we believe that the real solution will [likewise] be political, and will be attained through peaceful negotiations..."

The PKK Is Committed to Kurdish-Arab Brotherhood

Dr. Erdal also referred to the relations between the Kurds and their Arab neighbors, saying: "...Some Arab intellectuals see the Kurdish problem from a narrow perspective based only on the situation in Iraq. This situation has given them a [false] impression and has prejudiced them against all Kurds.

"But not all of Kurdistan is in Iraq; most of the Kurds live in northern Kurdistan [i.e. in Turkey]. The PKK, which has been leading the just struggle of the Kurdish people for three decades, is a friend of the Arabs and is committed to Kurdish-Arab brotherhood and friendship. The Kurds and the Arabs are neighbors, and share a common history and destiny... Since its founding, our party has worked to cement this friendship, [to consolidate] our joint struggle, and to build strong bridges between the Kurdish and Arab peoples."

"The Simplistic and Over-General View that Sees the Kurds as 'Agents ofAmerica' Is Wrong"

"The Lebanese and the Palestinians are witness [to our solidarity with them]. The simplistic and over-general view that sees the Kurds as 'agents of America' is wrong. There is a group among the Arab intellectuals that has not yet relinquished Arab nationalism, and is still under its influence; they regard all non-Arabs as a threat to the Arabs and as imperialist agents...

"They [i.e. this group] must remember that any deepening of the rift between our peoples serves only our enemies."

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