PKK attacks cause national outrage
Violence sparks concerns over regional security and the Kurdish problem.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 04/09/12
Armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, Kurdish rebels attacked a security complex in southeastern Sirnak Province on Sunday (September 2nd), triggering fierce clashes that left about 29 people dead -- one of the deadliest recent single incidents.
Last month, 10 people were killed in a car bomb attack blamed on the terrorist group in the southeastern city of Gaziantep. [Reuters]
Nine security agents were killed and eight were wounded, while 20 members of the militant group were killed in the fighting, according to local governor's office.
In another incident earlier that day, clashes erupted when rebels refused to heed police calls to stop at a checkpoint on a highway in the province of Sanliurfa and instead shot at the police.
The PKK has stepped up its assaults against Turkish security forces in the recent months, especially in Kurdish-dominated provinces.
Last month, 10 people were killed in a car bomb attack blamed on the terrorist group in the southeastern city of Gaziantep, which caused national outrage.
The government launched a large-scale military offensive against the PKK on July 23rd that, it said early last month, had killed a total of 115 Kurdish rebels.
President Abdullah Gul condemned the latest attack, urging "the internal and external supporters of this shameful game will sooner or later understand that they have made a wrongful calculation and will be punished."
"Terror brings no solution to problems, everyone should finally understand it," Mehmet Metiner, a Kurdish intellectual and MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party, told SES Türkiye.
Nearly 800 people have died in the past year in clashes between the PKK and security forces, including about 500 PKK fighters, more than 200 security personnel and about 85 civilians, according to the International Crisis Group.
"It seems that the PKK is trying to prove that it has adequate military power to a full-scale war against one of the strongest armies in the Middle East. This is sending message to its support base," Professor Cenap Cakmak, head of the international relations department at Osmangazi University in Eskisehir, told SES Türkiye.
The group "is not seeking international recognition or legitimacy; instead, it is seeking further legitimacy and prestige among its supporters," he said.
Like many local analysts, Cakmak believes the timing is crucial in the recent attacks for two major reasons: first, "the PKK is trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in Syria and the growing influence of ethnic Kurdish politics. Second, it wants to back the argument raised by the BDP, a pro-Kurdish political party, that it has control in some predominantly Kurdish areas," he told SES Türkiye.
Professor Michael Gunter from Tennessee Technological University, who has written nine books about the Kurdish people, agrees that timing is indeed very important as "the current dynamic situation in Syria demands a response from the PKK to show that it too is involved in developments in Turkey."
"The Kurds in Syria are establishing their own autonomy. Surely the PKK cannot be seen as falling behind their Syrian brethren by not furthering local Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey," he told SES Türkiye.
He argued that by stepping up fighting in Turkey, the PKK may be seeking to tie Ankara down and further discourage it from attacking the PYD in Syria just south of the Turkish border. "Thus the PKK shows its solidarity with its Kurdish brothers in Syria increasingly led by the PYD, which is ideologically close to the PKK".
For Gunter, the PKK may also be seeking to challenge the incipient alliance between Turkey and the KRG, as Ankara can then blame the KRG for not cracking down on the PKK still ensconced in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq.
"It seems the PKK has re-emerged as a potent force in the region and it begs the question about possible support it is receiving--official or otherwise -- from northern Iraq," Professor Paul Kubicek, Turkey analyst at Oakland University in Michigan, told SES Türkiye.
"The PKK, despite Turkish claims of killing many PKK fighters, believes that it has the ability to inflict heavy casualties on Turkish forces," he said.
Clearly, he adds," the situation in the southeast is becoming more serious, [and] the opposition is likely see these events as a way to criticize the AKP."