The secular-progressive PKK has played a critical role in fighting the IS ultra-reactionaries and yet the NZ government has it on their ‘terrorist’ list and bans people here from supporting it; above, PKK guerrilla fighters.
Faced with the armed forces of Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi army has tended to run away. The forces that have been able to take on IS and, in several places, beat them back, have been the Kurdish armed forces associated with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party). PKK-aligned guerrillas helped save the lives of thousands of Yazidis and other facing death at the hands of IS. Yet the PKK is on the list of designated ‘terrorist’ groups in a number of western powers, including the United States and New Zealand. (For a full list of the groups on the NZ list, see here.)
The PKK, of course, is not a ‘terrorist’ organisation – it is a movement for the national liberation of the Kurdish people. It has an armed wing because the governments which deny the Kurds their national rights do so through military repression and have tended to be vicious dictatorships. Even where the dicatorships have been replaced with elected civilian governments, these governments have continued to use murderous violence against the Kurds, as in Turkey for instance.
The fact that the PKK is on the NZ government’s ‘terrorist’ list is one of the things giving the lie to John Key’s claim that his government cares about democracy and human rights in the Middle East and that’s why NZ armed forces are again being involved in Iraq. His government is actually trying to prevent people here supporting the PKK’s defence of secular and progressive values against IS. And, of course, it’s not that long ago that Washington was supporting – indeed, playing an instrumental role in creating – Islamic fundamentalist outfits as a counter to secular, progressive, national liberation movements in the region.
People opposed to imperialist intervention in the region, including the involvement of NZ armed forces, need to demand that we be able to build support for the PKK’s resistance to IS and their fight for the emancipation of the Kurds, including publicising and raising funds to assist their efforts. The PKK should be allowed to have an office and operate legally in New Zealand. Any and all restrictions on them should be removed.
The article below was written in November 2014, so is a little bit dated as events in Iraq and Syria have moved quite fast. Nevertheless we think it is a valuable article to put up on Redline as it covers much more than just the precise situation at a moment in time.
by Florian Wilde
The West has suddenly begun supporting various Kurdish organisations in its fight against the Islamic State. So why is the largest Kurdish organisation of all, the PKK, still outlawed? This article discusses current developments in Kurdistan and gives a brief overview of the history of the Kurdish liberation movement and the PKK’s illegal status in Germany. It argues for a radical left strategy focused on defeating the ban on the PKK.
“It wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”
August 2014: Terrorist militias under the leadership of the Islamic State (IS) storm a region in northern Iraq near the Syrian border inhabited by the Yazidis, a millennia-old monotheistic ethno-religious Kurdish minority. Divisions of the Peshmerga, the region’s armed forces, flee from the advancing IS troops without firing a shot. The Yazidis beg the Peshmerga to at least leave them their weapons so as to give them a chance at defending themselves, but the Peshmerga refuse. Tens of thousands of Yazidis are forced to flee into the nearby mountains. Those who stay behind are subjected to brutal, genocidal acts: thousands killed, hundreds buried alive, and countless acts of rape, kidnapping and enslavement are perpetuated against Yazidi women. To add insult to injury, IS fighters ransack and destroy ancient Yazidi holy sites.
But even those who were able to flee faced the possibility of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. The fleeing Yazidis were surrounded by the IS and trapped in the mountains with little food or water under conditions of extreme heat. Abandoned by the rest of the world, it seemed as if they had little choice but to wait for death – that is, until unexpected reinforcements arrived: divisions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PYG) break through IS lines in northern Syria, while guerrilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) advance from the north and fighters from their Iranian sister organisation, the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), from the east.
The Kurdish fighters manage to establish an escape corridor, through which tens of thousands pass into liberated Kurdish areas of northern Syria. It is only days after their escape that the US bombing campaign and accompanying Peshmerga offensive begins. Surviving Yazidis repeatedly insisted to western journalists that “it wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”
The northern Syrian Kurds came to the Yazidis’ assistance despite having to defend themselves from the IS on their home territory as well. The north Syrian Kurds in question are (more…)