The new PKK 

Between extremism, political violence and strategic challenges (part 1)

Walter Posch


In contrast to its relevance for the political development inTurkeyand to the inner security inEurope, the forbidden “Labour Party of Kurdistan - PKK” was seldom given scientific interest. Additionally, most papers suffer from the fact that their authors position themselves either as opposes or as apologists of this organisation. Important exceptions are the works of Aliza Marcus, who was the first to write an unemotional presentation of the history of the PKK, and the chapter on the new PKK, or KCK (“Unionof the Societies of Kurdistan”) in an omnibus volume on Turkish foreign policy edited by Baskin Oran. Marcus’s work deals with a time period of three decades, from the origins of the organisation in the left-wing radical Turkish students’ ambience of the 1970ies to the crisis in the beginning of the 2000ies. In the main she deals with the policy of the PKK in Europe and with the insurgency movement againstTurkey, whereas ideology and organisation are not in the focus of her interest. In the paper at hand the author tries the contrary: Ideology and organisation structures of the PKK are to be analysed on the basis of its own documents and selected works by Abdullah Öcalan. The historical development and contemporary positioning of the organisation are cited solely for explaining ideology and structure. It is certainly not the author’s intent to write a comprehensive history of the PKK, because for the time being this would be too early. Nevertheless, the reassembly and restructuring of the organisation can only be made understood against the background of the current historical development, from Öcalan’s arrest 1999 until today. The Turkish authorities had underestimated the dimension of the forming up of the PKK as the KCK at first. When about 2008/2009 they began to comprehend the dimension of the KCK-organisation, they interpreted it as preparations for a rebellion. The subsequent violations of human rights and perversions of justice in the course of KCK-operations and processes can be explained as caused by partially political panic and partially revenge and resistance of bureaucracy to Erdogan, whose line of negotiation was supposed to prevent an unhallowed alliance of the Gülen-movement and nationalists. The KCK-system was again massively pressurized by the Turkish security authorities because of the events inSyria(Kobane) 2014 and, later on, due to the elections of the summer of 2015. Their intention of strongly weakening and defanging the organisation structures of the KCK can be clearly detected. Here, both the military and the civil structures of the KCK are affected. The defence of Kobane made the women units of the PKK/KCK famous the world over and gave great sympathy for the PKK in the Western World. Naturally, Kurddom plays a central role, as it is the most important motivation for its fighters to join the organisation. Article 4h stipulates a solution of the Kurd problem in a democratic way, including acceptance of the Kurd identity on all social levels and teaching in the mother tongue. Thus, the communist heritage is “kurdisised” in a sense. Instead of a liberal national state a “radical collectivistic democracy” is to be created.