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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More