News / Middle East

PKK Sets Date for Withdrawal From Turkey

Murat Karayilan, acting military commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km (205 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Mar. 24, 2013.
Murat Karayilan, acting military commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km (205 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Mar. 24, 2013.
Dorian Jones
The military leader of the Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, has announced his forces will soon start leaving Turkey. The announcement is part of ongoing peace efforts between Ankara and the Kurdish rebel group.

The military head of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, said that his forces would start to leave Turkey in early May.

The announcement was made during a press conference at a rebel mountain hideout in neighboring Iraq, where many of the PKK are based. The withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 fighters is expected to take several months.

Kadri Gursel, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says the government will be under pressure to act during this withdrawal.

"It is the first major step of the peace process. It will last until the end of the autumn. And, during this long period of time, I think we need reciprocity from the government, some steps in return, at least in the field of confidence building, because there will be no unilateral solution," said Gursel.

The PKK took up arms in 1984, fighting for greater minority rights and local autonomy. The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives and displaced over a million people.

Many of the rebels' demands could be met by a new constitution, which the Turkish parliament is currently drafting.

But  U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, in a statement released Thursday, stressed the need for immediate steps to be taken to maintain the momentum of the peace process.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, the group's representative in Turkey, says there's an urgent need to address the jailing of Kurdish activists.

"At the moment, we are talking about into the thousands in prison for terrorism offenses, and we know that very well many of those people have not committed any activities that could or should be described as terrorism,"she said. "They are simply held in prison almost as a form political internment and that is something that needs to be remedied fast."

The Turkish government has been facing growing criticism from Turkish nationalists.  This week, police used tear gas and water cannons to break up clashes between Kurdish and nationalist students at an Ankara university campus.

Sinan Ulgen, head of the Istanbul-based research institute Edam, says it is important that expectations are carefully managed by both sides.

"The gap with regards to expectations is starting to build. On the one hand, the Turkish side is looking at this process with a number of doubts regarding what the government has promised to the Kurds," Ulgen said. "On the Kurdish side as well, there still might be a number of areas that the government is ready to accept, but falls short of the expectations. So overall one of the most challenging tasks of both the Turkish and Kurdish leadership will be to manage the expectations from the standpoint of their constituents."

According to recent opinion polls, a majority of Kurds and Turks support the current peace efforts. Observers say such support is giving a powerful political momentum to the peace process.

A successful and peaceful withdrawal of the PKK rebels from Turkey will give further impetus to the process, say columnist Gursel. But he says such a withdrawal does not mean the end of the PKK as a military or political force.

"The PKK is the biggest non-state actor in the region," he said. "They actively engaged in four countries which have Kurdish populations, which are Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. They can transfer their forces from one country to another. They have their popular base there. They can recruit militant and guerrilla activists from these four countries. So the PKK has become a real Middle Eastern actor."

Though there is much support for the peace efforts, huge obstacles to brokering a deal remain. One issue highlighting that complexity is the future of senior PKK operatives, many of whom have expressed interest in trading in their guns for political representation - something many Turks find impossible to accept.

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid