PKK takes advantage of Syrian instability
Turmoil within Syria gives the PKK an unwelcome opening in Turkey.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 10/09/12
The PKK is taking advantage of the internal strife in neighbouring Syria to wage a bloody campaign against Turkey, making this one of the most violent summers in years.
The government blamed the PKK for last month’s car bomb in Gaziantep that killed nine people and injured 64. [Reuters]
The situation in Syria, with the emergence of a self-governing Kurdish region in the northeast of the country, is "a big game-changer in the region; the PKK is taking advantage of the fact that a Greater Kurdistan now can be realistically envisioned," Halil Karaveli, a senior fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Programme, told SES Türkiye.
"[Syria President Bashir al-]Assad did play the Kurdish card against Turkey; his contribution was his move to let the Kurds take control of parts of northeastern Syria a couple of weeks ago," he said.
The terrorist organisation's attacks against both civilian and security targets have increased in recent months.
Approximately 80,000 Syrian refugees are now living in Turkey, fleeing fighting that has continued for 18 months, killing more than 30,000 in Syria. Ankara has spent about $300 million to care for the refugees.
"The public now sees the Syria issue and the PKK issue as one," Atilla Yesilada, political analyst at Global Source Partners, an Istanbul-based research firm, told The Wall Street Journal. "They believe the government's failure to oust Assad after hawkish promises has strengthened the PKK and made Turkey less secure. It's hurting the government's popularity as Syria seems headed for a crucial moment."
Turkish television has broadcasted images of the country's nationals who have been kidnapped by groups loyal to Assad, who are targeting Turks because of the government's strong stance against its neighbour.
Ambassador Murat Bilhan, the former head of the Strategic Research Department at the foreign ministry, told SES Türkiye that Turkey has had difficulty explaining the seriousness of the terrorism threat on its border to its international allies.
"There are a host of factors for Turkey to worry about the real terrorism threats from Syria," Bilhan said.
"It is not a secret that Turkey is faced with a huge refugee flow in the border every day, which is beneficial for al-Assad-backed terrorists, such as Kurdish rebels, al-Qaeda members and others that are directly or indirectly connected to the terrorists," Bilhan, vice chairman of the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies, said.
Ankara would like to see a buffer zone in the north of Syria to reduce the number of refugees within Turkish borders.
"However, whether this would have a direct effect on PKK activities in Syria and Turkey is not clear," Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere, an analyst at the Istanbul office of the European Stability Initiative, said.
Bilhan adds that many Turks believe that Syria's government has been aiding the PKK for months, in response to Turkey's criticism of the brutal crackdown on protesters that led to the current civil war.