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Middle East

European decision to keep PKK on terrorism list ‘unwise,’ politicians say

By Deniz Serinci 12/6/2015
In the European Parliament, 493 MPs voted in favor of delisting the PKK, 138 voted in favor and 64 abstained.
In the European Parliament, 493 MPs voted in favor of delisting the PKK, 138 voted in favor and 64 abstained.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Politicians in Europe have criticized a European Parliament vote this week that turned down a proposal to remove the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from an EU list of terrorist organizations.

By a large majority on Wednesday, the European parliament voted against delisting the PKK, which has carried out an armed conflict in Turkey for greater rights for the country’s oppressed Kurds. The group is also banned by the United States and the rest of NATO.

But with the PKK in peace talks with the Turkish government, and its armed wing in Syria receiving recognition and some US and other Western help as it stands up to the Islamic State (ISIS) group, there are calls worldwide for its delisting as a terrorist organization.

In the European Parliament, 493 MPs voted in favor of delisting the PKK, 138 voted in favor and 64 abstained.

Harry van Bommel, a Socialist Party MP in the Dutch parliament, argued that the terrorism label hanging over the group hinders serious negotiations in the 2013 peace process between PKK and Ankara.

“The peace process has not been entirely successful, so if we want further development PKK should be delisted and thus become an official and serious partner,” van Bommel told Rudaw.

Recent events have raised the PKK’s profile: in the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobane, the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been supplied with some Western weapons and backed by US-led air strikes in the war against ISIS. In January, the YPG pushed out ISIS forces from Kobane after months-long offensives and counter-offensives that have virtually flattened the city.

Van Bommel said that was reason enough to scratch the PKK off the EU list of terrorist organizations.

“We cannot rely on the PKK in the war against ISIS and at the same time call it terrorist. It’s a double standard,” van Bommel said.

He noted the importance of last Sunday’s election victory by the People's Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, which is set to become the first pro-Kurdish party to enter the Turkish parliament in the country’s modern history. HDPhas been the main negotiator between the government and the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.  

“By winning the election, the Kurds have now become an important player in Turkish politics, which makes the (terrorism) label problematic,” van Bommel noted.

He admitted that the PKK stands accused of killing civilians and tourists in Turkey in the 1990s. 

“But in recent years PKK has had a ceasefire, and therefore we should allow them to have a transition to regular political organization,” van Bommel said.

Ogmundur Jonasson, a member of the Council of Europe and until last year Iceland’s interior minister, agreed there must be new thinking about the PKK.

He said the decision to keep the terrorism label attached to the PKK is wrong at this point in time, in light of the peace process and “visible signals from the PKK to find peaceful solutions.” 

“To reassert the terrorist brand now is in fact a slap in the face of this (peace) process and all those working to this end,” said Jonasson, who is among European politicians who have signed a petition for Turkey to free Ocalan from jail.

Jonasson noted that the fight against ISIS is backed internationally: “In light of this, branding the PKK as a terrorist organization at this point in time is particularly ill advised.”

Nikolaj Villumsen, a Danish MP and member of the European Council, also called the European Parliament decision ”unwise.” 

“Instead of endorsing the peace process, the EU now sides with one part of the conflict,” he said. “I think that the terror labeling of the PKK is wrong, since there is now a peace process and ceasefire,” he said.

Lars Erslev Andersen, a researcher in Denmark and author of books on terrorism, thought it was “contradictory and illogical” to label the PKK as a terrorist organization, “when the EU countries at the same time are actually supporting the PKK with weapons in the war against ISIS.”

Michael M. Gunter, an expert on Kurds and a professor at the Tennessee Technological University in the United States, believes it is Turkey that needs to rehabilitate the PKK first.

"Turkey should remove the PKK first (from the list) since it is the party to the conflict. Once Turkey acts, the EU and the USA will follow,” he said.

In 2008, The Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance decided that the group should be delisted because the listing was illegal under EU law. The ruling changed nothing, and the PKK remained on the list.

Those advocating for the PKK to remain listed argue that it is still armed and still occasionally threatening to return to its guerrilla war in Turkey. Occasional clashes involving the PKK still take place in Turkey.


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Rafi | 12/6/2015
So the Kurds of Turkey have been getting terrorized by the Turkish government and Kurds form a group that fights for freedom and human rights is labeled a terrorist just to not hurt Turkeys feelings because Turkey is a member of NATO? Shame on you America.
René Descartes | 12/6/2015
The Turkish state does not recognize the existence of the Kurds and forbids Kurdish language in the public schools.Turkish state is based on the denial of the Kurds and their rights.Europe should distance itself from such a brutal Turkish state.Europe must help the Kurds to achieve their legitimate rights.Europe should care to appease Kurdish grievances and rightful resentment.
Worship freedom and equilty only and nothing els. | 12/6/2015
Terrorist is a label just like corruption is a new trend used by any state or rivals parties of the same state to humanize themselves and to dehumanize their opponents.As far as poor ordinary working people are concerned all states and their bosses are terrorists and corrupt because all states based on exploitation and coercion and always state and bosses are heavy burdens to be carried around by ordinary working people on their shoulders all their life at the expenses of their own joy in life and in the mean time they are muzzled and they are stopped from throwing the burdens away.So according to the EU and USA peace!! loving states that a racist armed to teeth a Turkish state which denied the Kurdish people in Northern Kurdistan even their existence till 20 years ago and subjected the whole Kurdish people to the most brutal racist treatment for decades,this state,the Turkish state is not terrorist but the Kurdish people who are fighting back against the Turkish state are terrorists.True PKK as a hierarchy organisation force is not a libertarian organisation and the aim of the their leaders ultimately are to become the new rulers of the Northern Kurdistan,but not any state can judge them and label them as terrorists or not but that judgement is left to the ordinary people alone.
Kandil | 12/6/2015
Oooooooh my God. Unbelievable Kurds that fight for Freedom, Democracy and Respect to beliefs of others, considered terrorists.
Only kurdish | 12/6/2015
Europa country have two faces like trorrist country turky who sponsor isis or Hezboulld.I wounder what Europien country did somting good too kurdish?they only helping trorrist country like turky and iran.kurdish leder who murder in Berling for many years ago Germany goverment had drickt link with trorrist Irani spy grupp.

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