Blood and Belief: PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence

The Kurdish conflict has directly affected the political and social conditions of Middle East since the establishment of Turkey. From 1919 up to the present, Kurdish people rebelled for 29 times against the regimes in charge of the land they live in.

Except the last rebellion of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), all the Kurdish rebellions were suppressed by force in a short period of time.

Regimes, including the Turkish state, after suppressing the rebellions, have implemented the denial and destruction policies against the Kurds. The continuation of the these policies against the Kurdish population in each country they live in namely Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, caused new and better organised rebellions, like a vicious circle.

However, the fate of the last rebellion was not to be as the rebellions before it. The last one is organized and led by a political and ideological party called the PKK, Kurdistan Worker Party. The fight between Turkish army and the Kurdish guerrillas, armed members of the PKK, has marked, the last 30 years of the Middle East.

Over 40 thousand people were killed, three thousand villages were evacuated and destroyed, 17 thousand people are disappeared and many extra-judicially killed, tens of thousands people were jailed, tortured and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to migrate internally to metropolitan cities in Turkey and externally to the European Union countries.

I am one of the Kurds who was affected directly by the conflict in the region. Due to this vital reason I have been interested in the turbulent Kurdish Conflict. Many books are published regarding the Kurdish conflict and the PKK. Almost all of them were written by state minded authors favouring the regimes against the Kurds.

The first book, in English, came out in 1996 which was written by journalist Ismet Imset and titled “The PKK: Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?” It was very difficult even dangerous to ask this question.

There was a big knowledge gap related to the PKK, its leader Abdullah Ocalan and their fight for independence.

Alica Marcus is an American journalist who works presently for The Boston Globe. She covered the struggle of PKK for eight years. She worked for The Christian Science Monitor, Reuters News Agency and received a National Press Club Award.

In order to understand the PKK, its leader Ocalan and its fight for independence we must look at the period of establishment of Republic of Turkey. To my way of thinking the main causes of the conflict are reserved there.

Aliza Marcus’s book starts in late 1940s, the PKK founder Ocalan’s date of birth, whereas she should go further back than 1940s to find the true origin of the PKK and Kurdish conflict.

“One chilly fall night in 1978, a small group of university dropouts and their friends gathered behind blacked-out windows in Turkey’s southeast to plan a war for an independence Kurdish state…” The book starts with this introductory sentence which is a very short summary of the PKK’s establishment.

In the first section she bases the PKK’s origin on the period of 1949-1976. We can find Ocalan’s personality formation and development on the first pages of the section. The author takes us to a historical journey. Ocalan’s childhood, his family, absolute poverty, his first impressions of life and his student life in the capital city of Turkey, Ankara.

The PKK’s inner circle during that period of the time comes together and discusses what to do. Ocalan asks to the group; “Why did the Kurds always lose?” he refers to previous 28 Kurdish uprisings and the leadership.

The answer is clear: the main reason is weak leadership. The way of leadership for Ocalan opens with this accepted view.

The inner circle rapidly grows and the PKK, an outlawed armed organisation, is established on 27 November 1978.

Aliza Marcus argues that the PKK fights with pro-state Kurds and it inspires non pro-state Kurds. “The PKK understood well the psychology of the Kurdish people,” quoted from Huseyin Topgider, a former member of outlawed Turkish leftist party called TKDP.

The subject deepens in following sections.

The first attack is as important as establishment of the PKK. Kurdish guerrillas attack two centres of Turkish army on 15 August 1984. The attacks transformation is based on lecturing of former members of PKK, such as Sari Baran, Selehattin Celik.

The rise and fall of the guerrilla war against Turkish State for an independent Kurdistan is explained in different period of time such as 1985-1991, 1991-1997 and 1997-2007. The time periods are determined by strategic change and transformation processes.

Aliza Markus transfers to readers the views and memories of the former members of PKK to explain the process, which was started since 1984. Selim Curukkaya, Sukru Gulmus, Sait Curukkaya, Ayhan Ciftci, Huseyin Topgider, Selahattin Celik are main former members of the PKK among narrators.

“This book is based on extensive interviews with former members of the Turkish Kurdish rebel group the PKK”, says Aliza Markus on her book. This makes the book half true or should make the readers suspicious of the content, because most of the people interviewed are actually PKK opponents now.

Some opponents of the PKK, such as Sukru Gulmus, Selim Curukkaya, Sait Curukkaya and Ayhan Ciftci are fighting against the PKK, are known to be extreme opponents of the organisation.

On the other hand there is not even one member of the PKK who is still involved or supports the organisation’s perspective among Aliza’s interviewees. I asked her for the reason, “They did not talk to me,” she said.

Aliza’s Blood and Belief is seemed by many as a reference book. However the book only explains half, negative side, of the PKK and its struggle. It should be completed by other half to be a real reference book.

Hasan Usak
Kurdish Aspect
March 1, 2011.h

Aliza Marcus, Blood and Belief – The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence. New York University Press.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ali on March 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    it is a well written peice
    Blood an Blief should be critized
    Thanks for Hasan Usak dit it.
    I am waiting for Hasan’s new peices


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