Turkey targets PKK financial sources in Europe
As part of a multi-pronged strategy to fight the PKK, Turkey launches a new diplomatic initiative to cut off its financial resources in Europe.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 01/09/11
Under its new initiative, Ankara will share dossiers, including evidence to EU-member states, in hopes European states will take stronger action to end terrorist financing. The names of companies contributing financial aid to the PKK are also being sent to relevant countries.
Kurdish cultural centre in Berlin with PKK flag and poster of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan hanging on the wall. [Reuters]
Turkey has long been critical of the EU for its inability or unwillingness to curtail the activities of the PKK, recognised by Turkey, the EU, and the US as a terrorist organisation.
"We need sincere support from our European friends to dry out PKK's financial resources, otherwise it is impossible to overcome this problem," Mehmet Metiner, MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), explained.
"Our message to Europe is that we have no intention to kill the [Kurdish] people in the mountains. Help us to help them," Metiner said.
More than 160 Kurdish rebels have been killed in over a week of air and artillery strikes on suspected PKK bases in northern Iraq, according to the Turkish military. Ankara began the strikes after a rise in PKK attacks that have claimed more than 40 soldiers' lives over the past months.
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a journalist for the Kurdish newspaper Rudaw, believes the diplomatic initiative targeting the PKK's financial resources is a part of the recent military operations and the worsening conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government.
"It's clear that the PKK is dependent on money from Europe and the Kurdish diaspora for its media activities. Furthermore, according to the Dutch intelligence services, the PKK supplies goods to the PKK camps in northern Iraq," he said.
"The support the PKK gets is mostly from financial contributions that are collected from its supporters through social-cultural unions. In every European country there are these federations or unions," he explained. "However, Turkish Kurds do not own major companies and are mostly involved in small companies like small restaurants, supermarkets and other businesses. Often it's difficult to track these money flows."
Francesco Milan, a PhD candidate at the Department of War Studies at King's College in London, notes that Interpol and Europol identify Turkey as a major staging area and transportation route for heroin destined for European markets, while the PKK is one of the main players in drug smuggling and human trafficking inside the EU.
"The development of a laundering and financial sub-system is just a natural evolution for such a large and pronged terrorist organisation, so I would not be surprised at all if investigations would lead to the discovery of more companies involved in these kinds of activities, especially those that should be small enough to operate below police forces' radars," he added.
In the medium term, he says, an initiative targeting PKK financial resources could be successful in limiting the rebels' military strength, but "it is hard to see it as the silver bullet that would eliminate PKK".
Institutions' stances towards the issue have changed in recent years and European countries are fighting the PKK with much more commitment than previously.
"But public opinion works in a different way. Part of the European public is still quite attached to the romantic image of PKK as a freedom and democracy-inspired group," Milan says.
Salih Akyurek, a former army colonel and PKK analyst at the Wise Men Centre for Strategic Studies in Ankara, believes the Turkish government is very serious this time as it develops a multi-pronged strategy to weaken the PKK.
"Turkey's role and support is increasing in Europe. We expect more visible measures will be taken [by the EU] on the issue of the PKK's financial resources," Akyurek notes.