News / Middle East

PKK Pullout from Turkey Raises Tensions

A Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighter stands guard at the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km northeast of Baghdad, March 24, 2013.
A Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighter stands guard at the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km northeast of Baghdad, March 24, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Members of the Kurdish rebel group the PKK have started withdrawing from Turkey into neighboring Iraq. The move is being seen as a crucial step in the peace process but both sides are voicing concerns over the withdrawal process. 
The withdrawal of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 fighters is part of ongoing peace efforts to end the nearly three-decades-long fighting with the Turkish state.  The spokesman and deputy head of the ruling AK party, Huseyin Celik, said in a press statement Wednesday that the withdrawal is the latest positive development in peace efforts.

The fact that fingers are lifted off the triggers, that the guns are now silent and the bombs are no longer exploding is a first step, and this is important, he said. 
However, disarming the PKK is a priority of the government, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday reiterated his call for the withdrawing rebels to lay down their arms before leaving the country.  
The PKK has refused to disarm its withdrawing forces. PKK military leader Murat Karayilan voiced concern over what he claims is an increase in Turkish military activity and, in particular, the presence of the unmanned drones in the region from which they are withdrawing. 
In 1999, the last time the PKK withdrew its forces from Turkey, it suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Turkish army. The co-leader of the pro-Kurdish BDP, Gultan Kisanak, expressed concern over the latest withdrawal.
Recalling the PKK withdrawal in 1999, she said that "we will hold the government responsible for any military operation." She added that disarmament will "only come as part of a political process."

Prime Minister Erdogan has promised that PKK rebels will not be attacked while they withdraw. But he also said the risk of confrontation would be minimized if the rebels were unarmed. 
Thus far there have been no formal negotiations between the PKK and the Turkish government. The current withdrawal is the result of informal talks between the head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, and the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan.
Kadri Gursel, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet who is an expert on the Kurdish conflict, says expectations for government concessions will grow during the withdrawal.
"The expectation of the PKK will be to see major steps being taken in solving the Kurdish problem. If Turkey will be reluctant to take these steps, this will be a looming menace over Turkey. But the process itself has gained its own independent momentum and dynamic right now. And those who will impede this process will bear a major responsibility and pay a price," he said. 
Prime Minister Erdogan has ruled out any formal negotiations with or concessions to the PKK before its forces withdraw from Turkey. Now that the withdrawal has started, Turkey is likely to feel more pressure to take steps to meet Kurdish demands. Both the PKK and political Kurdish leaders are calling for release of thousands activists from jail, as well as political and cultural reforms.

Turkish government spokesman Huseyin Celik said Wednesday that Ankara would inject more "oxygen" into the peace process.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: james chen from: USA
May 08, 2013 2:53 PM
U.S. has be wrong morally and also strategically not supporting PKK. The most absurd thing was to label PKK, a group of freedom fighters fighting for a secular government, autonomy and workers' rights, as a terrorist group. All the founding fathers of U.S.A. would come out of graves to slap faces of our current polilitical leaders.
In Response

by: Ferdi from: Turkey
May 08, 2013 4:03 PM
Why you guys do not mention that PKK is a terrorist group killed thousands of people over the years. I'm sure you know that USA and EU accepted PKK as terrorist group but in all articles I'm reading here, PKK is being mentioned like a political party or freedom fighters of Kurt people living in Turkey... This is so wrong! Please be objective! Do you think a terrorist group that attacked the USA is so bad but others are freedom fighters?
There is no difference between Kürt and Türk citizens here they all have equal rights in the eye of law, even there were Kurt origin presidents in Turkey’s history. We all live side by side, but some radical groups say Kurt people are suffering. They do this because they have different agenda…

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs