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 Kurdish PKK rebels sceptical of Turkey's olive branch

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Kurdish PKK rebels sceptical of Turkey's olive branch  4.11.2009  

November 4, 2009

QANDIL Mountains, Iraqi Kurdistan, — Holed up in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq, Kurdish rebels are determined to fight on, viewing Turkey's pledges to broaden Kurdish freedoms with mistrust.

Murat Karayilan, number two of the Turkey's rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), says Ankara's promises of reform are a "comedy" and an attempt to "deceive" the Kurds and the international community.

"It is just a show. The mentality remains the same -- refusing to recognise the Kurdish people's identity, refusing to recognise them as interlocutors," Karayilan told AFP in the Qandil mountains, the PKK headquarters.                         

Kurdish PKK leader Murat Karayilan
Ankara says it is working on fresh reforms to improve Kurdish rights in a bid to end 25 years of bloodshed.

But it rejects dialogue with the PKK, which it considers a terrorist group, urging the rebels to either surrender or face the army.

Details of the reform plan are likely to emerge next week when parliament is expected to debate the issue.

Karayilan insisted Turkey should end military action, negotiate with Kurdish representatives on the terms of settlement, grant the Kurds constitutional recognition and free PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan,
www.ekurd.netserving a life sentence for treason since 1999.

"We trust our leader Ocalan. If a dialogue begins with him, the process will advance," he said.

Other rebel commanders or the Democratic Society Party, Turkey's main Kurdish political movement, may be alternative interlocutors, he said, adding that no secret talks had so far taken place with Ankara.

In an extraordinary gesture, Turkey last month let free eight PKK militants who left Qandil and turned themselves in to the authorities in a show of support for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

But the hero's welcome Kurdish crowds gave the rebels sparked nationwide protests against the government for tolerating "terrorists," prompting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt the arrival of a second such group.

If Ankara insists on rejecting dialogue, Karayilan said, the PKK would fight on.

"The Kurdish people are with us and we can continue to resist from Kurdistan's mountains for decades," he said, adding the PKK will only act "in self-defence."

PKK militants have long taken refuge in northern Iraq, relying on the rough terrain and their Iraqi Kurdish cousins who run an autonomous administration in the region.

Ankara has often accused the Iraqi Kurds of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, but a marked improvement in bilateral ties since last year has added a new element of pressure on the rebels.

However, PKK leaders remain defiant, boosted by the knowledge that neither Turkey's numerous cross-border operations in the 1990s nor its frequent air raids since December 2007 have succeeded in uprooting them from Qandil.

"We control hundreds of mountains in Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The Qandil mountains alone are of the size of a European state, twice as big as Luxembourg," boasted Sozdar Avesta, a veteran militant.

"We can continue the war for 30, for 50 years, if need be," she said, escorted by two guerrillas in baggy khaki pants and Kalashikov rifles strapped on their shoulders.

Avesta spoke in a so-called "political zone," where PKK rebels mingle with Iraqi Kurdish villagers and meet journalists. They keep their communication infrastructure and even run a hospital there.

Combat units are up in the hills, adhering to a rule of "permanent mobility" as a precaution against the fire of Turkish warplanes and cannons of the Iranian army.

Visitors to the rebel-controlled territory are stopped at a small building adorned by Ocalan portraits and PKK flags, where armed "customs clerks" search vehicles before waving them in.

Turkey's appeals on the rebels to lay down arms and "return home" under a law that reduces sentences and even ensures that many go free are met with skepticism.

Ankara "prefers to handle the situation with small arrangements rather than confronting the real problem: a reform that will recognise the Kurdish reality in the constitution," Avesta said.

For Roj Welat, the PKK's "foreign relations" officer, "returning home" is also a distant option.

"Our home is the freedom of the Kurdish people," he shouted.

Since 1984 the PKK took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan) which has claimed around 45,000 lives of Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority.

The PKK demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas, the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, ranting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

Turkey has rejected calls to halt military action against the PKK.

Copyright, respective author or news agency, AFP | Agencies     


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