It took almost 20 years for European countries to label the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) a terrorist organization. It was only after the 9/11 attacks that the EU, under US pressure, started to take action against the vicious terror organization. In 2002, the European Council officially declared the PKK as a terrorist organization. Enforcement of this declaration in terms of legal and security actions against PKK militants, who up until the present day are able to move freely and raise money for their actions, came even much later.
The European Council’s Common Position of June 15, 2009 not only mentions the PKK but also lists the organization’s aliases, KADEK and Kongra-Gel. Now that the Turkish court in Erzurum convicted five members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) — an umbrella organization of the PKK — for being part of a terrorist organization earlier in July, the EU should add the KCK as another alias next to the PKK.
But judging from the slow response from the EU on the terrorism threat being faced by its candidate country, Turkey, I am not very hopeful. They will take their time and then use it as a trump card against Turkey. Just as 9/11 changed the political landscape and framed the debate on terrorism in a different context, the attack by a Christian fundamentalist in Norway may well change the discourse, too, prompting Europe to take action over Turkish concerns about its terrorism threat.
You do not need to be an intelligence specialist to decipher the relationship between the PKK and its umbrella organization, the KCK. You just need to replace the word “PKK” with “KCK” in the latest report issued in April by the EU’s police agency, Europol, because all the terrorist activities blamed on the PKK in the last decade have been conducted on orders issued by leaders of the KCK. These crimes included terrorist activities such as assassinations, drug smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering and extortion. In a cynical way, Europeans for a long time turned a blind eye to the activities of the PKK/KCK on their soil as long as they did not commit any killings there.
The Europol report said the PKK was pursuing a “double strategy” of resorting to violence in Turkey while seeking legitimacy abroad. It said: “No execution of attacks in the EU show the PKK/Kongra-Gel’s double strategy of armed struggle in Turkey while at the same time seeking to gain a greater degree of legitimacy abroad.” This “double strategy” is a “double-edge knife” for Europe, however, and may easily turn on our European friends if allowed to grow. In fact, Europol warned that large numbers of PKK militants are living in the EU and that they are capable of carrying out an attack at any time, citing large demonstrations mobilized by the PKK in Europe in the past.
Europol also underlined that the PKK uses Europe to raise funds to finance its terrorist activities in Turkey. In a way, the EU member states are aiding and abetting the vicious enemy of Turkey by not taking strong action to stem fundraising activities of the PKK in Europe. Not only that, Europeans have also given moral support to KCK suspects when they decried operations to take into custody members of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) including mayors, as part of an operation on the KCK.
The evidence in the indictment, which has a 7,500-page document on 151 suspected individuals, however, has painted a starkly different picture of the KCK than its previous image of being a seemingly innocent civilian extension of the PKK. The police, after a painstaking three-year investigation, uncovered that members of the KCK were involved in organized crime from drug trafficking to extortion. The KCK has developed its own legislature, executive and judiciary, in which the PKK’s only role is to conduct armed conflict. The KCK had bigger fish to fry as the deadlier and more vicious version of the PKK itself.
The police examined tens of thousands of documents, tapped phone lines belonging to suspected KCK members and monitored money transfers to decode the terrorist network. It was established that the KCK was set up in 2005 upon the order of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is now the KCK’s honorary leader. Sabri Ok, the individual in charge of the PKK’s European operations, is accused of being the KCK leader. Meanwhile, PKK leader Zübeyir Aydar is the head of KCK legislature, whilst Murat Karayılan leads the executive branch. Cemil Bayık was named as the “KCK executive council vice president” and Duran Kalkan as a member of the KCK executive council and the “Public Defense Center” president.
It is not surprising to see that both the PKK and KCK leadership are pretty much composed of the same names. In the evidence folder submitted to the court, prosecutors describe how members of the KCK were involved in drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering activities. We have to remember that the US froze the assets of some of the names mentioned here. For example, Bayık, Kalkan, Remzi Kartal, Ok and Adem Uzun have been designated as narcotic traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).
The indictment also includes information on the organization’s plans to assassinate any Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidate elected to high-ranking seats in Diyarbakır province. Also among the aims of the organization is to get Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stop visiting the East and Southeast. There is strong evidence to suggest a serious abuse of state and EU funds allocated to municipalities that are controlled by the KCK. For example, the $2 million that the Diyarbakır Municipality gained in a 10-year oil tender was transferred to the KCK. There are even examples of the KCK handing down sentences in a kangaroo court to its district mayors or interrogating them illegally.
Supporters of KCK argue that suspects in the trial do not know what they have been charged with or what evidence the prosecutors’ office has on them. These allegations are simply not true as the KCK indictment and evidence are publicly available to anybody who wants to examine the case. The suspected KCK members have been charged with attempting to disrupt the unity of the state, membership and leadership of a terrorist organization and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, for which they face jail sentences ranging from 15 years to life without the possibility of parole.
The fact that the suspect list includes 12 pro-Kurdish DTP mayors along with city council members does not mean that the prosecutors’ case is weak or politically motivated. The evidence is overwhelming with photos, video footage, phone records and more. There have been hundreds of guilty verdicts confirming that the PKK is a terrorist organization, and some of these trials involve Kurdish politicians as well. The KCK is also a terrorist organization. It should come as no surprise that some Kurdish politicians are also involved in the KCK network as well.
Fatih Özgül, the police chief who led the operations against the KCK in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, said the KCK’s foreign affairs committee is based in Brussels and that the group holds most of its meetings there and also in Strasbourg. The KCK leader and narcotic lord Ok move freely in Europe. As long as the EU remains indifferent to the threat of terror faced by Turkey and turns a blind eye to the actions of KCK militants in its midst, the Turkish public will keep questioning the sincerity of the EU countries’ motives with regard to Turkey.