Former Turkish government advisor says U.S. should remove PKK from terror list

Turkish politician and activist Tuna Bekleviç, who has served as an advisor in a Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, said he believes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organisation.

Bekleviç called upon the U.S. government to remove the PKK from its list of terrorist organisations in his article for the Washington Post published on Tuesday.

Support for Turkey’s war against Kurdish political expression by the United States and other international actors furthers efforts for war and hinders those for peace, Bekleviç said as he called for delisting.

The United States had first added the PKK to the foreign terrorist organisations list in 1997 based on violent activities against the Turkish military and civilians.

Understanding the causes of the conflict between Turkey and the PKK beyond the narrow framing of counterterrorism is the only way to achieve democracy and an end to the war, Bekleviç said.

Turkish leaders have justified atrocities against the Kurdish people for decades, using the threat of terrorism by the PKK, he said. “What we were never told is that their movement was founded at a time when state policy was that Kurds … had no identity of their own.”

The Turkish people are taught to view all Kurds as a threat because of the PKK, Bekleviç said, but not that the PKK took up arms after Kurdish politicians were imprisoned and tortured, or that the decision to pursue political organising at all came after decades of massacres and state oppression.

Early pro-Kurdish political movements in Turkey had organised within the Turkish left, with Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and various social movements that gained popularity in the 1960’s, well after several state campaigns like the Dersim Massacre of 1938.

Turkey has refused to acknowledge the political aspect and focused on military solutions, Bekleviç said, while the PKK has continuously called for political settlements and declared multiple ceasefires to urge Turkish governments to consider dialogue as an option. 

Bekleviç referred to the village burnings of the 1990’s, imprisonment of Kurdish politicians and the ban against Kurdish culture and language, and said the PKK’s greatest propagandist and recruiter is the state, with thousands of citizens currently imprisoned for “terror propaganda.”

State policies have sown hatred and division among the peoples of Turkey, Bekleviç said. “The Kurdish movement’s goals of pluralism and decentralization are the only thing that can bring this country back together.”