15 Kurdish women rebels killed as Turkey faces increased turmoil

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Kurdish women rebel soldiers
Kurdish women rebel soldiers, known as the Peshmergas, have been part of the P.K.K. - Kurdistan Worker's Party since 1984. Image: Kurdistan Post

(WNN) Sirnak Province, TURKEY: Before the killing of 15 women members of what Turkey considers a ‘terrorist organization,’ tensions set the stage with national protest and tear-gas in Turkey’s capital city of Istanbul as well as the city of Diyarbakir in the southeast region of Turkey on March 18, 2012. As Kurds hit the street to celebrate the historic Kurdish date for Newroz (New Year) government officials warned them to stay away. The Kurdish crowds went to the streets in spite of a Turkish Ministry warning that New Year celebrations would be celebrated ‘officially’ according to Turkish policy, with a celebration of Newroz on March 21. As a result, Turkish police forces and thousands of Kurds faced off as security forces tear-gased the crowds and stones were thrown by those on the streets.

“The ministry can ask for banning our celebrations but we will hold them in all cities and districts at the planned location and time,” said Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.) in a post on his twitter. The B.D.P. won regional government elections in 98 towns across Turkey in 2009. In spite of this numerous B.D.P. leaders of the party have been arrested due to accusations of having links with the P.K.K. – the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a group that has been fighting since 1984 against Turkey, as well as Iraq, for a Kurdish autonomous state. But the organization has been classified as a ‘terrorist group’ by Canada and the U.S., as well as the European Union and others after the P.K.K. was accused of conducting suicide bombings in the 1990s. A recent October 2011 suicide bombing, said to be committed by a woman from the P.K.K. may actually be the work of one of numerous extremist splinter groups, say Kurdish advocates.

“There have been horrendous crimes committed by the Turkish government against the Kurdish population and for some, the P.K.K. is seen as a legitimate resistance organization,” said independent radio producer and journalist Reese Erlich who went to P.K.K. camps in to Democracy Now producer and anchor Amy Goodman during a 2007 interview. “The problem of course is it’s more or less a cult formed around Oshelan [the P.K.K. founder, a Turkish Kurd who has been incarcerated in prison] and you’ve got two, the Turkish government on the one hand and the P.K.K. on the other, neither which offer a real alternative for the Kurdish people,” continued Erlich.

Four days later, extended clashes in Turkey’s southeast region broke out between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (P.K.K.) and Turkey’s security forces killing 23 people from both sides as unrest followed the region’s New Year celebrations. Following Turkish government air and land operations that were part of conflict across the mountainous region of Sirnak province, fifteen women P.K.K. rebel soldiers, known as Peshmerga fighters, were also killed on Saturday March 24. At least six members of the Turkish special forces were killed in the conflict in the region, according to reports by the Kurdpress International News Agency.

The P.K.K. has a long history of giving women equality as equal members of their rebel fighting units who continue to clash with Turkish special forces. In October 2011, 49 members of the P.K.K. were killed by Turkish forces during escalating and ongoing violence in the southeast region.

“The pro-Kurdish political parties, and recently the PKK, have made repeated attempts to obtain a resolution of the 30-year-old conflict through democratic dialogue and negotiations rather than violence. The PKK has called for “ceasefires” on several occasions, and has just now declared that the present ceasefire, due to expire at the end of the month, will continue until the elections taking place next June [2011],” said human rights journalist and contributor to The Guardian News, Margaret Owen in November 2010.

“But time and again the authorities have closed down pro-Kurdish political parties, imprisoned Kurdish political leaders and declared Kurdish civil society and human rights organisations illegal. Peaceful protests and demonstrations calling for an end to armed conflict and respect for human rights are subject to brutal harassment by the police,” continued Owen.

The 28 year Kurdish movement for autonomy has claimed over 40,000 lives to date.


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