The PKK is Not a Terrorist Group

The maintenance of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party on the Canadian government’s list of terrorist organizations is a bizarre classification given the recent nature of the group. The PKK in its current inception has very little to do with the terror tactics it occasionally employed in the 80s, 90s and early 00s. Correspondingly, the armed wing of the group is smaller than it has ever been, and with regards to Turkey is strictly engaged in insurrection towards military and police installations. If the PKK were today attacking civilians because it saw no other way to redress the grievances of Anatolia’s Kurdish population, then someone arguing for its blacklisting would have a ghost of a point. But this is simply no longer the case.

I proffer no defence of the PKK’s violent actions between 1984-2013, but I invite readers to remember the campaign of brutality and repression visited upon the Kurds in Turkey during those years. The history of Turkey’s “problem” minority is a tragic but resilient one. We are talking about the largest identifiable group of people in the world who don’t have a state of their own. A unique culture, with its own languages, traditions, heritage, and I argue, right to self-determination. But Ankara has always seen the Kurds as an impediment to Atatürk’s vision for an ethnically homogenous Turkey. And for decades the PKK has struggled against state repression in the southeastern quarter of the country.

It’s annoying that I have to waste ink clarifying the obvious, but I will do so anyways to avoid any charge of unfairness. The activity of the PKK in years past is disgraced by the harm that befell civilians. Killing non-combatants is never justified. That being said, I don’t think any thoughtful audience would consider Turkish soldiers complicit in the systematic destruction of an estimated 2,400 Kurdish villages to be pacific actors.

The chronological trend within the PKK has been concurrently towards a more tepid socialism and a deescalation of violent acts towards civilians and foreigners. In 2013 the group’s leader Abdullah Öcalan wrote a letter from the prison cell in which he is being held indefinitely, instructing PKK forces to withdraw across the mountains into Iraqi Kurdistan. This command was followed almost immediately and since 2013 the PKK has sought refuge in the Autonomous Region of northern Iraq. But this retreat has marginalized the PKK in terms of its ability to leverage in discussion of autonomy.

In blacklisting the PKK, Canada is echoing the Turkish government’s position that neither the organization nor its totally benign subsidiaries deserve a seat at the table. The fastest way to broker a peace in this conflict is to invite actual representatives of the Kurdish community to have a say in their own future. This necessarily means including the PKK.

The most compelling argument on this subject is related to the rise of ISIL in the neighbourhood. How can we label the PKK and her affiliates as terrorist groups and simultaneously depend on their bravery in the fight against ISIL? It seems self-evidently hypocritical to condemn the guerillas and then wager against the implosion of the region because of its actions. Remember, it was the PKK who shepherded the Yazidi Kurds to safety on Mount Sinjar. It was the PKK who shouldered rifles to restore Kobanî. And it is the PKK who settles down at night in the mountains of Northern Iraq and wait for the Turks to start shelling them from across the border.

And we repay our brothers and sisters in Kurdistan by taking Erdogan’s side. This great debt we owe tothe people struggling against ISIL on our behalf is reimbursed by freezing their assets, by pigeon- holing a vast umbrella organization for events that transpired decades ago. We recompense their bravery with our cowardice, with confused and dated classifications. As for solidarity, we have abandoned the principal.


  1. In Australian list of terrorist organizations there is the PKK but not the Taliban!
    I think the lists of terrorists organization is not very credible.
    Mandela who was elected president in
    South Africa from 1999 was on terrorist list until 2008, 14 years after
    Mandela had been elected president and nine years after he had left

  2. If you ask 50+ million people living in Turkey PKK is definitely, certainly and absolutely a terrorist organization. There is enough empirical evidence to prove that it is a terrorist organisation. Aims cannot justify the means. It has been a terroris organisation in 80s and 90s but also happens to be in 2016. If you use guns and bombs, rely on ethnic nationalism combined with a flawed Marxist rhetoric to bring democracy to your own people you can only deceive illeterate and alienated Kurdish under age militants and 16 year old girls (who often get sexually abused/harrassed in the camps).
    I don’t claim that Turkish government has established a proliferated democracy with equal citizenship for Kurds or poor masses. However this is not a situation that can be fixed by killing soldiers, policeman or even Kurdish people who don’t support PKK views. All the acts by PKK resulted in tenfolds of death of Kurdish people, brought misery and underdevelopment to southeastern provinces in Turkey.

  3. If an armed group launched attack disguised in women’s clothes, smuggle drugs, they explode car bombs in the streets and employ female suicide bombers, are they terrorists or not? Both PKK and ISIS do ALL those things.

  4. Just last week, the PKK blew up a HUGE car bomb in the city of Diyarbakir on the open street killing 5 CIVILIANS including a months old child. The PKK is not terrorist? I guess if they only kill Muslims, then you approve of them. What about revealing the open secret that the iranian-backed PKK is the prime drug smuggler of Iranian drugs into Europe? Will it change your mind to know that European kids lost their lives to drug addiction thanks to the PKK? Google ‘PKK and narcotics’ and you get THOUSANDS of detailed reports from US and EU agencies. But you don’t care about the Truth. Have some journalistic integrity Mr.Forster…

  5. PKK female suicide bomber targeted AKP office in Kurdish city Bingol in 2011. A Kurdish mother Hatice Belgin was passing by and noticed the explosive vest on the PKK terrorist. The mother pleaded with the terrorist not to detonate and jumped on her when she saw that the explosion was imminent. Sadly, Veysel Belgin, one of the children of Hatice Belgin, was still injured and later died from the blast. The PKK is not terrorist??

  6. True, the author seem to lack information about the actions of PKK.

    The Kurds are routinely humiliated, persecuted and killed in their own home, and when you lose everything, you want to fight back, thus joining the self-defence teams of PKK.

    But the fact remains that PKK has never killed a single American or European and hasn’t employed “terror” tactics since their very beginnings in the early 80s.

    The PKK has never claimed responsibility for killing civilians – EVER.

    Funny thing is that it has come out in dozens of scandals that Turkish special forces have killed Kurds and then blamed Kurds for doing the terror attacks.

    Kurds killing their relatives doesn’t seem strange to anyone?

    These Turkish false flag terror attacks were very common before the spread of mobile phones and the internet, and arguably still happen.

    The most recent scandal is actually very interesting! :

    “So nothing really has changed. Obama’s speech made some intriguing gambits, and the symbolism of meeting with Kurdish MPs, a group that has been shunned up to now, will no doubt resonate; but without straight talk and an abandonment of the lavish armaments contracts that are the true core of Turkish-American relations, nothing ever will change. Like a baby in an iron womb, Turkish democracy has gestated for decades without hope of accouchement. Turkey’s governance has always had one goal: to maintain the state and its power. And the pattern continues. For the sake of the all-important State, political parties have been closed, papers shut down, reporters imprisoned, YouTube prohibited, websites darkened, letters of the alphabet proscribed, and thought crimes punished. While murderers of liberals and ethnic minorities, caught red-handed, go unpunished, people who speak the simplest truths are arraigned and convicted within weeks. Inquiries into the most blatant thuggery drag on, without resolution, for years. Judges render verdicts that defy common sense, then retire to drink tea out of tulip-shaped glasses. And so it goes.”

    “In a report published on 28 January 1997, the Turkish government’s chief inspector described how, in the juridical no-man’s land of Kurdish south-eastern Turkey, the army’s “special war” units were not just killing with impunity, but had also become involved in protection rackets, blackmail, rape and drug trafficking (1). The report also describes how the Turkish government handed over the security of a huge area – around the towns of Siverek and Hilvan – to the private army of tribal chief Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament close to the former prime minister, Tansu Çiller, who thus acquired the power of life and death over the area’s inhabitants.”

    Full text at:

  7. I love the “occasionally” qualifier on terror tactics. Like, you know, they weren’t FULL TIME terrorists, they just did some terrorizing every once in a while! God! And that was way back in the early 00’s! Basically, like, forever ago! Or maybe their violent actions extended all the way to 2013, but I can’t be sure without looking it up, as the author can’t seem to make up his mind.

  8. And I should also believe your real name is also Terry? That’s where your lies start. Lies and Turks are like Turks and isis, they are one and the same. Maybe you should start now be explaining why your wonderful system is shooting kids, stripping dead women and taking pictures of them, or dragging dead bodies, all done by POLICE. If you really are that delusional to believe Kurds are treated equally, your wife will leave you as soon as the Kurds rule themselves, which is no far at all.

  9. Who really is the terrorist? Not only does Turkey attack civilian Kurdish people, they also censor what the entire free world can post on Facebook or instagram. Abdullah Ocala is the only person, living or dead, whose photo you are not allowed to post on facebook and that’s because in order for Facebook to gain access to the Turkish market, they had to agree to censor virtually anything pro kurdish.

  10. The armed wing of the PKK is bigger than its ever been, you cant even compare it to the past, they rule northern Syria and parts of Iraq and parts of Turkey.

  11. Why don’t you speak about how many HDP MP’s have been arrested since Erdogan restarted the war? How many have been arbitrarily removed from their positions by AKP judges?

    Why don’t you speak about Cizre which was besieged by Turkish forces resulting in the deaths of 21 civilians?

    Why don’t you talk about how Erdogan is trying to lift the immunity of HDP members including and especially Co-Chair Demirtas? Another Leyla Zana perhaps?

    Speaking of ‘law’, can you guess the number of times the word Kurd (the indigenous people of south-east Turkey) are mentioned in the Constitution? Or for that fact, any minority, whether indigenous or not? Allow me to help you.

    Zero. Zip. Nil. 0.

    That number, interestingly, also represents how much faith Kurds have in Turkey’s democracy.

  12. Kurds have been represented in Turkish parliement for a long time.the commentator ” me” knows nothing about Turkish politics.they have been represened under right and left parties long time,but since the nednof 80s and beginning of 90 s they have been represented in Turkish parliament under their own party.they were first chosen as independent mps and afther they formed their own group,kurdish ,in the parliament.i am married to a kurdish woman and i saw pkk terror first hand in that region.they re no different from isil or al kaida.

  13. go fck yourself and take in all the pkk terrorists to canada. You can create a Kurdistan in Ottawa, we will send every dick you want, suicide bomber, child molester, rapist and all the cavemen hiding in dungeons…

  14. When the system is built to keep Kurds powerless, yes. The Kurds made it into Parliament for the first time EVER this year and this is what they got in retaliation. This is a modern version of Turkish brutality and human right violations in a history full of them.

  15. Well written, BRAVO! I would also add that Turkeys harm to Kurds goes beyond Turkeys borders. It’s shocking how Turkey is feared so much by the west.

  16. According to statistics in the Gendarmerie General Command Report only first seven months of 2015, there were 832 PKK terror actions. Altough HDP represented the Kurds in the last election most in this year. Still do you really think that violance is only options for Kurds?

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