Q-1: Is Turkey fighting against the Kurds?
Answer: No. Turkey is fighting against PKK terrorism. Kurds and terrorism should be conceptually disassociated. Kurds are an integral part of the Republic of Turkey and an overwhelming majority of Kurds, widely dispersed throughout the country, are law-abiding citizens. This majority is totally integrated into the society and economic, social, and cultural life. The point, which is of cardinal importance, is distinguishing between PKK terrorism and the wider phenomenon of Kurdish ethnicity. Kurds actively take part in local administrations, in the municipalities, the parliament and the government as elected representatives of these bodies.
Q-2: What is the PKK?
Answer: The PKK is a terrorist organization. Since its foundation in 1984, more than forty thousand people have lost their lives because of PKK terrorism. The PKK's ideology is founded on revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and separatist ethno-nationalism. The PKK wants to suppress the diversity of Turkey, prevent the participation and integration of Turkey’s citizens of Kurdish origin and intimidate the people in the region. The PKK’s primary targets include police, military, economic, and social assets in Turkey. The PKK also attacks civilians and diplomatic and consular facilities. The PKK is also involved in extortion, arms smuggling, and drug trafficking.
Turkey's tourism industry, economic infrastructure, educational institutions, teachers, hospitals, public and private enterprises, particularly in southeast Turkey, have been the main targets of PKK terrorists. The group uses a wide range of methods to carry out acts of terror ranging from attacking infrastructure, various facilities, and schools and ambulances; kidnapping nurses and customs officials; using cyanide to poison drinking water supplies; engaging in unconventional tactics, assassination, drive-by shootings, executing uncooperative civilians, ambushes, kidnapping, etc.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by numerous countries, including the United States, members of the European Union, Canada, and Australia. The European Union collectively designated the PKK as a terrorist entity in 2004, as did The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The PKK’s funding is based on variety of sources. For instance, in European countries parties and concerts organized by branch groups in the form of façade organizations constitute a source for the financing of terrorism. Besides affiliate organizations, there are sympathizer organizations which perform legitimate or semi-legitimate commercial activities which are used to provide donations. In a number of European countries, there are ongoing investigations and court cases related to the financing of PKK terrorism. In a major European country, the number of court files related to PKK-related illegal activities reached the thousands.
The PKK is also funded by organized crime, illegal human smuggling, and 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 Murat Karayılan, the head of the PKK, and high-ranking members Ali Riza Altun and Zübeyir Aydar, as significant foreign narcotics traffickers. On April 20, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of PKK founders Cemil Bayık, Duran Kalkan, and other high-ranking members as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Q-3: What are the rights that the citizens of Kurdish origin in Turkey enjoy?
Answer: The constitutional system in Turkey is based on the equality of all individuals without discrimination before the law, irrespective of “language, race, color, gender, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such consideration.” Democracy, the rule of law and human rights are fundamental pillars of Turkey and the main principles of our Constitution.
With a view to better respond to the democratic needs and aspirations of its citizens, the Turkish government has launched several reform packages including comprehensive sets of constitutional amendments over the last decade. Additional measures have been taken to promote economic, social, and cultural rights. Moreover, socio–economic disparities among regions in Turkey have led the government to devise targeted regional development strategies in its development plans.
These steps also address the grievances of people of Kurdish origin that the PKK terror organization tries to exploit. These improvements were hailed by many international human rights organizations and human rights observers and defenders as major steps. Here are some examples of the steps that have been taken in the recent years;
- With the Third EU Harmonization Package passed in 2002, opening up private courses for teaching different languages and dialects which include Kurdish was made possible. For this, relevant infrastructure was built and the opening of these courses was enabled in 2003.
- In 2003, the related paragraph in the Law on Population Registration was changed; allowing citizens to name their children as they wish and ending their suffering due to this issue.
- This development regarding languages was sustained in the later periods as well. In this respect, legal barriers to broadcasting in languages and dialects other than Turkish by both private TV channels and TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Channel) were removed in 2003.
- With the regulation prepared in this context, radio and television broadcasts in different languages and dialects have been made possible. Finally, in 2008, this issue was given legal guarantee and all barriers to the issue in private radio and television outlets and TRT were removed.
- Within this framework, a channel of TRT (TRT 6) started full-time Kurdish broadcasting. In 2009, it was made possible for private radio and television outlets to broadcast in this language continuously. With these amendments, broadcasting in different languages and dialects has been provided with legal guarantees, and TRT started broadcasts in Kurdish and Arabic.
- With amendments made in the bylaw in 2009, convicts were allowed to speak in languages other than Turkish on the phone, in the event that the convict declared that the person she or he would talk to does not speak Turkish.
- With a later regulation, speaking Kurdish in courts also became possible.
- The Universities of cities such as; Mardin, Bingöl, Muş, Tunceli, Diyarbakır, and Siirt have established Kurdish Language and Literature departments.
- The scope of the Law on Political Parties was broadened with an amendment in 2010 and legal obstacles to the right to conduct political propaganda have been removed. Hence, it was made possible for political parties to address people in various languages and dialects including in Kurdish.
- The Ministry of Culture has started publication of some important Kurdish language and literary works such as “Mem-u Zin.” Some performance arts have also begun to be put on stage in Kurdish by the General Directorate of National Theaters. For the first time, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Council for Movie Support provided financial support to a movie containing frequent Kurdish dialogue (İki Dil Bir Bavul).
- The national television channel TRT started airing a new channel called TRT XEBER, a Kurdish news channel.
- In call centers founded by certain governorates for the purpose of increasing the quality of public services, Kurdish speaking personnel have been employed in order to facilitate communication with citizens who don’t speak Turkish.
- Turkey is determined to continue the reform process aimed at further protection and the promotion of human rights.
Q-4: Does Turkey have a strategy to solve the problem of PKK terrorism?
Answer: Yes it does. Turkey is well aware that solving the problem of terrorism requires a multidimensional approach that includes social, politic, economic, and other components.
With the intent to implement a multidimensional and comprehensive strategy in combating PKK terrorism, along with the sweeping scope of reforms, the Turkish government also took the initiative to start a process in 2012 aiming to put an end to the terrorist violence. In 2014, Government introduced a law that enables legal ground for negotiations and more recently renewed the roadmap to address social, economic, and political aspects with a comprehensive approach.
During the past four years, the Turkish government has heavily invested in developing a process where unprecedented and very bold steps to end the PKK terrorism have been taken. Reforms that enhanced our democracy and rule of law have been introduced. Cultural and social-economic grievances particularly voiced by our citizens of Kurdish ethnic origin have been addressed.
Regrettably however, the PKK continued to exploit every opportunity to sabotage the process. It resorted to acts of terrorism in the form of attacks against public order and security by burning schools, kidnapping civilians, attacking security forces, destroying economic infrastructure, etc.
Q-5: Do the Kurds support the PKK’s violent tactics?
Answer: No. The PKK represents neither the Kurds nor their expectations. The most obvious indication in this respect has been the results of the November election. The election showed that the people living in southeastern Anatolia are on the side of those who favor peaceful politics.
In fact, in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) there are many deputies with Kurdish ethnic background in a number of political parties. There is also a political party whose 59 members are overwhelmingly from the region. In other words, despite the fact that there is a legitimate political basis and infrastructure for any expectation to be brought up and addressed in constitutional institutions through the legitimate means, the PKK excludes this option and resorts to terrorist acts. While it is possible to seek and claim any kind of rights and liberties through the legal and political means and processes, the PKK’s choice of violence is unjustifiable and unacceptable.
Q-6: What happened to the process?
Answer: It was abandoned by the PKK. The PKK did not accept the preference for peaceful politics. It felt threatened by the ongoing democratic reforms.
No one should be under the illusion that the so-called “ceasefire” was broken upon operations started by Turkey. Actually it was broken by the PKK with the intent to impose its own agenda following the elections which took place on the seventh of June.
On July 11, 2015, the PKK declared that the “ceasefire” was over. Instead of disarming it chose to continue with the method of using violence as the only thing it has known since 1984, the year of its establishment — more violence, more attacks, and more destructive means. Only a few days later, the PKK issued another declaration announcing that they would target infrastructure such as dams and road construction as well as the companies which construct them, and its violent attacks followed soon after.
The government is now ready and willing to go further in that process if the PKK fulfills its promise to lay down its arms.
Q-7: How did PKK abandon the process?
Answer: Since July 20 (as of January 11), 221 members of the Turkish police, gendarmerie, and military and 89 civilians have been killed (total: 285); 1,170 security personnel and 477 civilians wounded (total: 1,647); 14 security personnel and 110 civilians kidnapped (total: 124) by the PKK terrorist organization.
As mentioned, the PKK had already decided to increase the level of violence while the process was ongoing. In fact, it began to spread the terror threat to the cities through the activities of the YDGH, backed by the HPG.
On July 19, PKK/KCK Executive Council Co- Chair Cemil Bayık stated that “All our people must arm, train and organize themselves. In all cities and villages, underground systems, tunnels, and fighting positions should be established against all kinds of attacks from all forces.”
On July 27, PKK/KCK executive committee member Duran Kalkan in an interview to MED NUCE TV announced that “the struggle should be based on the building of democratic self-administration.”
On August 13, PKK/KCK announced that “autonomous administrations” were declared in various settlements in a number of cities (Silopi, Cizre Nusaybin, and Şırnak).
As the counterterrorist operations by Turkey against DAESH, DHKP-C, and the PKK continued, the PKK declared “autonomous administrations” in a number of other cities and the PKK’s senior figures called upon the Kurdish origin people and particularly the youngsters in Turkey to revolt and rebel.
Q-8: What are the PKK’s plans in those cities?
Answer: In settlements where the PKK declared so-called autonomous administrations, it dug trenches and set up barricades and ambushes to cut off access to public services, including in the fields of health, education, etc., and to prevent the entry of security forces.
It used and continues to use weapons such as RPGs in urban areas which have a high potential of endangering the local population, while the security forces use unmanned aerial vehicles to make sure that no civilians are harmed.
What the PKK is actually currently doing is trying to assure its defenses by blending with civilians. Terrorists dig in, including in the urban areas and they hide behind civilians.
The PKK plans to create an atmosphere of terror in the cities and incite the Kurdish origin youth to violence, expose civilians to security units, and intimidate the public. This way it would be much easier for the PKK to deceive the public opinion into perceiving that “the security forces are fighting against the Kurds.”
Q-9: What was the response of the security units?
Answer: No democratic country around the world can permit such a situation and stay indifferent to such a serious threat to its security and to the lives of its own people. Thus the security units are carrying their counter-terrorist operations with utmost diligence.
Turkish security units, aware of the PKK tactic to blend in with civilians, carry out their operations in a very careful manner and with full respect for the rule of law. Curfews are declared for a limited period of time with the purpose of protecting civilians as necessary.
Q-10: What happens to the people caught between security units and the PKK?
Answer: In certain cities such as Silopi, a town in Şırnak, civilians were removed from their houses to safe spots by security forces. They are sheltered in places such as sports halls initially, before being moved to the houses of their relatives in calm districts.
In Turkey, it is possible for victims of terrorism to obtain compensation from the state. Applications in this regard continue. The deputy prime minister has already declared that the government would compensate the losses of the people affected by terrorist activities.
The government remains committed to improving the socio-economic living conditions of its citizens of Kurdish origin to ensure that the state prioritizes protecting their lives, establishing public order, and providing for their access to basic public services. No government can allow its citizens to be held as hostages of a terrorist organization.
Q-11: What are the conditions in those areas where curfews are implemented?
Answer: In those cities where curfews were imposed, security forces aim to normalize the situation and eliminate the extraordinary security risks to civilian lives. The operations aim to arrest members of the YDG-H as well as the HPG (the PKK’s armed wing) and bring them to justice. The YDG-H was established in 2013, during the reconciliation process, with the purpose of enlarging the PKK threat to residential areas and cities. As the PKK decided to intensify and enlarge the scope of terrorist acts since the end of July 2015, it used this entity in particular.
For example in Cizre alone, a town made up of four suburbs, the YDG-H set-up at least 257 trenches and booby-trapped barricades (with mines or other type of planted explosives) on the streets. Armed men stand along those barricades at those points where obstructions were set up. The houses close to the barricades are used as ammunition depots by the PKK. Civilians also reside in these houses and are obstructed from leaving their houses and the town.
Q-12: Is there concrete data on the operations carried out in places where curfews are in place?
Answer: Yes there is. The data here below regarding the operations carried out between July 23 and December 23, 2015 reveal the conditions created by the PKK in those places where curfews are imposed.