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US should reconsider listing PKK as a “terrorist organisation”

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was founded in 1975, which has fought against the Turkish government as a military organisation from 1984 to 2013 for cultural and political rights.

It was founded by Abdullah Ocalan, who is currently imprisoned on Imrali Island, in the sea of Marmara.

From 1999 to 2009 he was the sole prisoner on the Island, and since then has worked eagerly to resolve Turkey’s question, acting as a mediator in the recent peace-talks, which has been ongoing since 2012.

The prominent question among many Kurdish political activists and commentators is whether the US can justifiably keep PKK in its terror list, given the recent change of dynamics in Iraq. While US fighter jets bomb militants of the recently declared Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, PKK Peshmerga fighters are fighting on ground.

PKK was listed in the terror list by United States Department of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  However, there are other reasons to keep PKK, specifically, as  terrorist organization such as  its anti-imperialist, anti-US and Marxist-Leninist views. Since its inception, it has changed this outlook, and clearly no longer holds anti-imperialist or Marx-Leninist ideological outlook. On numerous occasions they have illustrated their willingness to build healthy relations with United States.

Turkey’s initiation of the peace-talks with PKK has been legalised in the Turkish parliament, and this further illustrates that keeping PKK in the US terror list is unjustifiable, and hinders this process.

After Ocalan’s capture, PKK has dramatically changed its political structure and ideology. PKK’s manifesto has been reformulated, it has turned from pushing for a greater united Kurdistan to a democratic autonomy for Kurdish people in Turkey. More importantly, if PKK is allowed to operate as a political institution in a democratic setting, it will permanently put down its arms. There are several factors to consider

  • PKK has not threatened US public or interests
  • PKK has not used threats to advance its political or ideological cause
  • PKK has not used terror attacks but has restrained itself to self-defence strategy
  • PKK has announced more than 10 unilateral ceasefires
  • PKK attacks against Turkish soldiers have been in response to an offensive by Turkish military
  • PKK affiliated media outlets have always tried to educate kurdish people rather than fuel nationalist ideologies

Recommendations for US to consider

  • Delisting PKK from its terror list will have maximum impact at this stage because both US allies and PKK are fighting against the recently declared so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.
  • The on-going peace talks with US opened a new window for US to have direct relations with PKK without undermining Turkey. This means, US can have a beneficial role in settling Turkey’s Kurdish question.
  • PKK should be given an opportunity to speak with US representatives, particularly since they are now part of an ongoing peace-initiative and working towards engaging with the democratic process to make their voices heard.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Kurdish Policy Foundation.

1 Comment on US should reconsider listing PKK as a “terrorist organisation”

  1. Sarkawt Shamulddin // August 14, 2014 at 12:58 am // Reply

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