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 PKK factions wanted to kill Karayilan, Stratfor analyst claims

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PKK factions wanted to kill Karayilan, Stratfor analyst claims  12.6.2012  

Murat Karayilan is the acting commander of the Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan - PKK) and chairman of the executive council of the Kurdish Democratic Confederation (KCK). Photo: HPG
June 12, 2012

LONDON, — Murat Karayilan assumed the position of de-facto leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after Abdullah Ocalan was imprisoned in 1999. In emails sent in August 2010, leaked by WikiLeaks, Stratfor analyst Michael Wilson claimed there were concerns within the Turkish government that “more racial factions in Germany could eliminate Karayilan” during negotiations between the Turkish intelligence service and PKK.

The Turkish government held secret talks with the PKK in Norway in 2010. Experts generally agree that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) adopted a more hard-line policy against the PKK after the talks proved fruitless.

PKK spokesperson Roj Welat told Rudaw that despite the Turkish delegation’s acceptance of Ocalan’s roadmap, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected it and “stepped up violence and terror against the freedom struggle of the Kurdish people as a whole,” including arrests of Kurdish politicians and activists, and stepping up military operations.”

In August 2010, Wilson suggested that the “real man in charge is Murat Karayilan,” and that he was the only one within the PKK able to implement a ceasefire, not Ocalan. Stratfor analysts discussed the state-PKK talks, and the policies of the AKP government towards the PKK.

Wilson thought that the imprisoned PKK leader did not have the same influence over the party that he used to and that efforts by the AKP to negotiate a ceasefire with Ocalan had failed. The PKK allegedly ignored Ocalan’s call for a ceasefire and carried out an attack in Silvan on July 14, 2011 that killed 13 soldiers and wounded seven others.

Wilson wrote, “The PKK uses Ocalan when they need him. They lament his treatment in prison and follow his call, etc., to benefit from his charisma among the Kurds but they don’t take orders from him as much as they did before. This is especially true of the PKK branches in Germany. The real man in charge is Murat Karayalin in Qandil. Only when the MIT [Turkish intelligence] negotiated with him were they able to implement the ceasefire.”

Wilson added, “I have seen some internal documents expressing concern that the more radical factions in Germany could eliminate Karayalin. We need to keep him alive. He is the only one who will negotiate with us and who can enforce it. We can't afford to lose him.”

Reva Bhalla, Stratfor’s director of analysis, agreed with Wilson that there were government concerns over “keeping Karayilan alive.” “The MIT learned the hard way when they attempted to quietly negotiate a ceasefire with him [Ocalan] months ago, and that Karayilan is their main guy that they can deal with, but he faces a lot of resistance from more radical factions in Europe.” Bhalla said.

But Stratfor’s Turkish analyst Emre Dogru disagreed that Ocalan’s influence over Karayilan and PKK was waning.

A source within a pro-PKK organization in Europe told Rudaw on condition of anonymity that Ocalan is still the “number one” within the group. This source said that Karayilan was actually appointed by Ocalan to create unity within the ranks of the PKK after the leader’s capture when some PKK members tried to create a splinter party.

The PKK thinks Stratfor’s sources are misleading and think this is part of Turkey’s campaign to target the PKK leadership. In March 2012, Turkey offered up to 1.6 million euros in reward for information leading to the capture of members of the PKK leadership. PKK spokesperson Roj Welat said that the news is “a part of special warfare structure of the Turkish state and its government against the freedom struggle of the Kurdish people and its leadership.”

Michael Günter, a prominent expert on Kurds, told Rudaw that he was under the impression from meetings with Kurds that they would like to restart the Oslo process. “Of course, there are always some who are very radical, but I do not think there is any strong radical element in Europe that wants to get rid of a too mild Karayilan. If anything, Karayilan is too militaristic for most in Europe. Also, from everything I’ve heard, it is not true that Iran captured and then released Karayilan last year.”

Another PKK expert who wished to remain anonymous told Rudaw that Stratfor might be correct that Ocalan’s ability to lead the PKK from prison is limited, but emphasized that the idea the PKK in Europe want to kill Karayilan is “absurd” and “typical Turkish hysteria and conspiracy thinking.”

Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly, an analyst and scholar who has written extensively about the PKK, told Rudaw she doubts that “German PKK members or its network of sympathizers would advocate the elimination of Karayilan. While Kurdish activists articulate increasingly diverse positions, it is incorrect to interpret that development as a weakening in the hierarchical structure of the PKK core. In my estimation, Karayilan's position has not significantly changed among PKK members in Europe.”

Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based analyst, says that some of the comments by the analysts were inaccurate, and added that the “the analysts' willingness to take the claims published in Taraf at face value without examining them in detail raises questions about some of the other information they provide, including whether they are just repeating what they have been told without attempting to substantiate it.”

Jenkins added that there are indeed tensions within the broader Kurdish nationalist movement between younger, more radical elements and the older generation. “One of the challenges for the PKK has been to keep these younger elements under control,” he said. “I don't know that it is necessarily elements in Germany, and the leadership of the PKK in the mountains of northern Iraq is so well-entrenched. I would be surprised if anyone coming from Europe could displace them. People like Karayilan have been in the mountains for around 30 years.”

A retired U.S. diplomat told Rudaw, on the condition of anonymity, that some of his sources confirm there are tensions within the PKK in Germany. He said, “Indeed there are elements in the PKK in Germany hostile to Karayilan, but he [his source] doubts seriously that they have the capacity to ‘get rid of’ him.”

Jenkins added that Karayilan is relatively moderate compared to other PKK leaders such as Cemil Bayik. But he suggested that the main problem is the risk of increased violence in Turkey after the failure of the Oslo process.

On May 25, a suicide car bomb killed one policeman and wounded more 20 other people, including children. The attack was blamed on the PKK. The PKK is holding AKP’s Kulp district chairman Veysel Çelik, a district governor, a police officer and two soldiers as prisoners. The provincial leader of the AKP was killed on May 17 in Sirnak, and several PKK insurgents and Turkish soldiers were killed in recent clashes.

Jenkins emphasized the danger of increased violence due to young Kurds being frustrated over the fact the PKK is not pursuing a more ruthless line, especially during ceasefire periods. “Of course, the situation now is a little different. It was the AKP which broke off negotiations with the PKK and it is the AKP which is refusing to resume them. Under such circumstances, the PKK leadership feels that it has no choice but to resort to violence, both to demonstrate its relevance and to try to ensure that small groups of young radical Kurdish nationalists don't attempt to take things into their own hands.”

Cemil Bayik, a senior PKK official, told the pro-Kurdish news agency Firat that “Unless negotiations are resumed – and, of course, in order to reach some form of agreement both sides have to make concessions – not only will there be sustained PKK violence, but the younger generation of Kurdish nationalists, who at the moment are barely being held in check by the organization's leadership, are likely not only to be much more ruthless but to demand full independence.”

By Vladimir van Wilgenburg

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