PKK to refrain from military action against Turkiye until after elections
The PKK announced a unilateral ceasefire in Turkish territory after last month’s earthquake, however, Ankara has continued to target Kurds in Syria and Iraq
By News Desk - March 31 2023

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

The Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), announced on 29 March that it will expand its unilateral ceasefire with Turkiye until after the country’s 14 May presidential and parliamentary elections.

Co-chair of the PKK executive council, Bese Hozat, told media that the elections hold historic value for the Turkish people and that the group has decided to maintain its “[military] inaction” against Ankara during this period.

“We will evaluate this decision after the elections,” she said, affirming, however, that the PKK will still respond to any aggression from Turkish military forces.

Following the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkiye last month, the PKK declared a ceasefire for all military action within Turkish borders.

“We call on all our forces that carry out military actions to stop all military actions in Turkey, in metropolises and cities,” senior PKK leader Cemil Bayik said on 9 February.

“Thousands of our people are still under the rubble,” he said at the time, adding that the ceasefire would stay in place “until the pain of our people is relieved and their wounds are healed.”

The Turkish state and the PKK have been sworn foes for decades. Conceived as a political organization in Turkiye in the late 1970’s, the group’s armed wing was formed not long after and has been engaged in guerilla warfare against Ankara since.

Outlawed in Turkiye, the PKK operates illegally southwest of the country, as well as in northern Iraq and Syria, through its Syrian branch, the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which is military aligned with the US-backed Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In Iraq, Turkiye regularly launches cross-border operations and bombing campaigns against the group in violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

In Syria, there has been a five-year Turkish military occupation north of the country under the pretext of securing the Turkish border and preventing Kurdish military activity against Ankara.

This unilateral ceasefire has only been upheld by the PKK, as Ankara has continued to launch strikes against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, even after the earthquake.

The PKK official also said that it supports the decision of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) not to nominate a presidential candidate in the Turkish elections. The HDP has instead endorsed the candidate of the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

“We find the HDP’s manner important and valuable and within the scope of its principles,” she said.

The Turkish election is scheduled to be held on 14 May. Following the 6 February earthquake, Ankara was strongly criticized for its failure to adequately respond to the crisis. As a result, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chances at reelection have slimmed, according to the most recent polls.

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