News / Middle East

Tensions Rise as Turkey Continues Offensive Against PKK

Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL — Turkey's military is ratcheting up its offensive against Kurdish fighters seeking autonomy in the southeast, with warplanes and helicopters pummeling the mountainous region with bombs, forcing many villagers to flee their homes. Analysts claim the action is a bid to squelch any Kurdish advance should Syria fall.  

Fighting erupted last week when PKK fighters set up checkpoints around the town of Semdinli in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.

Many villagers living in the mountainous rural region have been forced to flee their homes.

"Children were crying and in a terrible state, they wanted to get away," one woman said.   "Every hour, every minute, every second there was a sound of cannons. They were bombing the area surrounding the village. We had to flee the village."

Thousands of Turkish soldiers have been drafted into the region. Reporting and access to the region is limited and, as a result, there have been no official figures on casualties.

The PKK, however, claims to have killed 49 soldiers and shot down two helicopters. But the army denies this, saying only two soldiers had died and that it had killed at least 37 rebels.

"There is a serious operation going on there," said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay this week. "There is a strong operation continuing in the region."

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey in 1984, fighting for minority cultural rights and operating mainly from bases from neighboring northern Iraq.

International relations analyst Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University says the PKK appears to be gaining traction.

"The PKK are not running back. They are trying to hold their ground," Ozel said. "The city is blockaded by our authorities, therefore something very serious must be going on there. Particularly in view of the fact that there is a lot going on with Syrian Kurds. That is important because the PKK brother organization, let's say, is very effective in northern Syria."

The escalation in PKK operations coincides with Syrian Kurds seizing a number of towns last week from Syrian forces close to the Turkish border. Ankara voiced concern the region could fall under control of a Democratic Union Party which is accused of having links to the PKK.

Metehan Demir, a defense journalist and Ankara bureau chief for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, says the PKK may be inspired by events of the Arab Spring.

"Hundreds of militants try to capture a small city in an effort to show this area as a place of freedom, where similar things could happen in Turkey, like Tunisia or Syria of Libya," Demir said. "But of course Turkey will not allow such activities, therefore clashes are very, very tough."

With the ongoing fighting with the PKK occurring close to Turkey's border with Iran, questions are being raised about how such large numbers of rebels are entering Turkey undetected.

Bilateral relations between Tehran and Ankara have markedly deteriorated over Ankara's strong support for Syrian rebels against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad - a key Iranian ally.

A pro-government Syrian newspaper this week reported that Tehran had warned Ankara of serious repercussions if it intervened militarily in Syria.

International relations expert Ozel pointed out that Tehran in the past has used the PKK as a means of pressure on Ankara by allowing the rebels to use its territory.

"It's not all that surprising if the Iranians are annoyed with Turkey vis-a-vis Syria, maybe going back to the old days of assisting the PKK so long as it fits its purposes," Ozel said. "They've done it in the past until the late [19]90s."

Observers warn the escalation in PKK operations in Turkey is adding a new destabilizing ingredient in an already increasingly unstable region, with various unresolved conflicts threatening to merge.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Taner from: NYC
August 09, 2012 1:39 PM
You guys know nothing about PKK. PKK has the absolute support of Turkish Kurds and EU recently confirmed that PKK ha snot been involved in heroine trade in Europe, and that this was again another smear campaign of Turkish Gov't! Get your facts right... In Dersim Massacre of 1938 the very same Turkey has killed 13600 Kurdish civilians and in 90s 17600 Kurdish business men, writers and professionals under mask of "war on terror"... Until 2000 Kurds were not allowed to speak their own language without enduring prosecution by Turkish Gov't. You CANNOT fight an entire folk by means of state terror and oppression! Viva Kurdistan!

August 05, 2012 8:06 AM
In Response

by: Taner from: NYC
August 09, 2012 1:33 PM
It is "OCALAN".. and learn some English before you spread crap in the forums and here!

by: Buckeye219 from: USA
August 04, 2012 3:32 PM
You people know nothing about the PKK, they supply 90% of the Heroin to Europe, Kidnap and kill ethnic Kurds who do not join them and most of their fighters are under the age of 18. They are a pure terrorist organization and are funded by Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Greece.

by: Godwin from: Nigeira
August 04, 2012 3:05 PM
So Turkey has such big problem at home? So all that support for the flotilla was to divert attention? So the Ayatollah regime has such a stranglehold on Turkey? No wonder, like Pilate and Herod Turkey needed a confrontation with Israel as a bet to win over Tehran. What a Shame! What is the difference between Europe's Turkey and the barbarian Syria? It is wrong for civilized Europe to admit countries based on economic health only. Freedom is the game of democracy, why not allow the Kurds their freedom? Why should Turkey be vying for Hamas while repressing the Kurds. What right has Turkey to send or support a flotilla to break Israel's blockade of a people that have vowed to destroy her while it (Turkey) is suppressing a people who only harmlessly ask for autonomy? This is the proof that had any other country (especially in the Middle East) been in Israel's position surrounded by avowed enemies and having Israel's endowment, they would have done far worse than Israel. Kudos to City of David. Blessed be the root of Jesse.
In Response

August 06, 2012 1:34 PM
look here u retard its jokers like you what start problems . firstly dont talk about turkey being wrong we turks will protect our selfs against terrorists what ever the cost we fight for that mother land our mother land . pkk are terrorists they dont even like the kurds that live in the north iraq see them as outcasts do you get my drift go and educate your self first before acting the fool .also israel are just like the pkk terrorists they invaded and killed thousands for what autonomy as you say for what land. hamas is the state army just like turkeys army and the pkk dogs are just like the israel army trying to control a land which was never yours u see this is why turkey will always be hated by retards like you we fight for our land our people that came from that land not invaded but jews well they like to invade just like the flotilla boat been invaded in international waters, meaning not yours but once a dog always a dog u carry on supporting the dogs . bye retard

by: Rob Swift from: at BritainGre
August 04, 2012 2:09 PM
The PKK accounts for (sells) 90% of the heroin traded. It comes into Europe via Turkey.
In Response

by: Taner from: NYC
August 09, 2012 1:40 PM
That was proven to be a LIE spread by Turkish government by EU very recently. Next... :)
In Response

by: Mickey Mouse from: Pistani
August 04, 2012 5:34 PM
Rob Swift you are incorrect.

Most heroin gets into Europe from the CIS. Heroin is made in Afganistan, transported up Tajikistan/Uzbekistan and then on to Kazakhstan afterwhich its smuggled in Russia, from then on it
goes into a border EU country, finally it reaches all of western europe through the EU.

The heroin taken through the turkish/serbia route that your talking about lost its predominance long ago and acounts for 15-20% of EU heroin.

The Kurdish people are fighting for independence. Thet are the largest ethnicity in the world without a state of their own.
And for what its worth the CIA transports cocaine as do many many other governments.

by: alitheturk from: clouds
August 04, 2012 4:38 AM
Ahmadinejad -Big trouble you allow pkk into Iran to go to Turkey. If Turkey support economic war against Iran the result in Iran will be revolution; which will not be healthy for present ruling groups in Iran

by: amos33 from: USA
August 04, 2012 2:57 AM
This action of indiscriminate bombing of villages is Exactly what Assad of Syria is doing to the Syrian citizens. Recep Erdogan should be held to the same bar of justice as Assad is. When will the UN Security Councel slap sanctions on Turkey? This action by Recep Erdogan is a crime against humanity!
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
August 05, 2012 10:08 AM
Desidero--it would be interesting to see what the USA would do if a "small city" rebelled---wait, it's already happened! The US would send troops in and do whatever it took to take it back. If someone suggest the UN send in observers and condemn US leaders what would we do? Ignore them/kick them out. History is written by the winners...and so is law. There is no absolute fairness, just the biggest guys on the international block who make their rules "fair" for everyone.
In Response

by: desidero from: US
August 04, 2012 11:20 AM
You go try to capture one of small city in US and see what happens. You moron.

by: moostaff from: Cyprus
August 04, 2012 2:33 AM
End Of The Line "Kurdish Spring?" More Like "PKK Kurdish Fried Kritters!" There Is No Escape! You Burned Your Own Bridges Gettin In Now Youre Trapped! The Turks Have Surrounded You! Now What? And Syrian PKK! A Message To You! "Youre Next!"

by: Joseph Bloughberg from: USA
August 04, 2012 1:46 AM
The UN Security Council should immediately condemn the attacks by the Turkish regime and demand that the Turkish regime allow UN observers into the contested territory.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 04, 2012 10:29 AM
what bright suggestion

by: Gökhan from: Rotterdam
August 04, 2012 12:29 AM
I condemn attitude of VOA for PKK terrorists! They are not fighters aiming to provide a better, liberated life for Kurds, most of Kurds also know that. If Kurdish population hadn't believed that PKK is a terrorist group, Turkey were not be able to handle PKK, not at all. But most of Kurds love their state and PKK cannot change this.
In Response

by: Taner from: NYC
August 09, 2012 1:44 PM
Most Kurds know what Turkish gov has done to them for a century. Banning their language, prosecuting them, massacring them in Dersim and in 90s, torturing them. Get your facts right. And I ban you to speak on behalf of Kurds.

The very same mentality you present even denies ever killing 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, yes yes! To this day you morons deny this genocide! And you expect people to believe your words? Give me a damn break kid...

Kurdish people, like any other, have the right to basic human rights and to have their own HOME! Period...

In Response

by: Serheng from: istanbul
August 04, 2012 5:10 PM
In their own land, the Kurdish people have the right to free, dignified coexistence with the other nations on the basis of safety and equality. This innate and justified right derive from being a nation.

The federal system is a system is the most realistic and inclusive system, which would suit the pluralist structure of Turkey. Kurdish problem can only be solved in an equitable solution in a federal system. Kurdish people can fully attain their fundamental rights in such a system.

Therefore, in the new constitution, Turkey must be reconstructed on the axis of federalism and within this context the Kurdish people must be allowed self-governance with the recognition of federal status.
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs