Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Kurdish Rebels: “We’re Not Terrorists”
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:23
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
Ken Timmerman with PJAK guerilla leader Biryar Gabar in the Qandil
Mountains (Photo Copyrigh
2007t© Kenneth R. Timmerman)
Qandil Mountains, Iraq – Some have called them the “Iranian branch” of
the PKK, the Kurdish separatists who have been waging a guerrilla war
in eastern Turkey for over twenty years
That’s certainly what the governments of Iran and Turkey would like the
world to believe.
Both are calling the Party of Free Life of Iranian Kurdistan, better
known as PJAK, a “terrorist organization,” because of its reported ties
to the PKK, which is on the U.S. list of international terrorist
But in extensive interviews at rebel bases deep in the Qandil mountains
on the Iraqi border with Iran, PJAK guerillas denied that they were a
branch of the PKK.
They called the PKK a “sister organization,” but nothing more.
While they claimed “a strong affinity” with the thinking of PKK founder
Abdullah Ocalan, now in a Turkish jail, they argued that their party is
totally separate from the PKK.
A Turkish Kurd named Xerat, who commands a PJAK guerrilla base within
sight of the Iranian border, told Newsmax that he joined an Iranian
rebel group that ultimately became known as PJAK in early 2000, after
Ocalan disbanded the PKK’s military wing.
“Since 1993, I had been with the PKK,” Xerat said. “Once Ocalan
disbanded the organization, I joined PJAK.”
Xerat brought with him extensive experience as a former PKK guerilla
leader, which he has been able to pass on to new PJAK recruits.
But as he and former PKK members made clear, the PKK simply doesn’t
exist any longer as a military organization. PJAK was built “out of the
ashes of the PKK,” guerilla leaders said.
The Kurdish guerillas whose bases Turkey now wants to hit in Iraq are
either PJAK, or the self-defense forces of the recently-created
pan-Kurdish People’s Congress, the KCK.
“After the PKK dissolved in 2000, separate parties were set up in
different parts of Kurdistan,” Nilufer Koc, a vice-president of the
KCK, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview in northern Iraq.
Among the newly-formed parties were PJAK, the Party for the Democratic
Union of Syrian Kurdistan (PYD), and the Party for a Democratic
Kurdistan (PCDK) in Iraq. In the latest elections for the Kurdish
Regional Government in northern Iraq, the PCDK got less than 1% of the
Unlike the PKK, which sought to establish an independent Kurdish
entity, the newly-formed KCK and its member groups have a different
goal and use different methods, she said. “Each is seeking to establish
a confederation within their country, and to democratize all those
Instead of launching broad offensive military actions aimed against
government troops and facilities, the “People’s Defense Forces” (HPG)
now operating in Turkey seek “to prevent reprisals against local
families and activists,” she said.
But the Turkish Kurds still conduct sabotage operations in response to
Turkish military attacks.
On October 9, the HPG claimed responsibility for an attack that blew up
a 100 meter section of the Iran-Turkey natural gas pipeline between the
villages of Tewre and Takya\Dogubeyazit in eastern Turkey, part of an
effort to disrupt the growing economic, diplomatic, and military ties
between the governments of Turkey and Iran.
The HGP takes orders not from PKK, which today exists only as a rump
political party, but from the KCK leadership, which is comprised of a
central coordinating committee of 31 members.
Kurds are present in large numbers in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, with a
smaller Kurdish population in Syria. All four countries are represented
in the KCK leadership.
For its part, PJAK seeks nothing less than to “change the regime in
Iran,” said Biryar Gabar, a senior guerrilla leader who walked two
hours down rugged mountain paths to meet with Newsmax at a rebel base
near the Iraqi Kurdish village of Marado.
PJAK also seeks to transform the culture of the Iranian opposition, to
make it more open and democratic. “PJAK wants to bring the opposition
into the culture of the 21st century,” he said.
PJAK began to coalesce as a Kurdish resistance movement in 1999-2000,
although it wasn’t official born until it held its founding conference
in April 2004.
“The ideology and the philosophy of concentrating first on political
work, backed by self-defense guerrilla forces, was a new paradigm set
out by Abdullah Ocalan after he was jailed,” Biryar Gabar told Newsmax.
“We gained all the experience of the PKK. But that doesn’t mean that
PJAK is the PKK,” he added.
The irony that both Iran and Turkey would seek to call PJAK a “branch”
of the PKK was not lost on these guerrilla leaders, many of whom have
advanced university training and spend their spare time in the
mountains studying history and politics.
“Our country, Kurdistan, has been divided,” said Biryar Gabar. “So have
our people. If the enemy gets together to fight the Kurds, there should
be nothing wrong with the different Kurdish parties getting together to
have a dialog and common strategy to fight the enemy.”
The fact that Iran and Turkey were treating the Kurdish resistance
parties as a single entity argued that they considered Kurdistan to be
a single entity, he said.
But neither PJK nor the Kurdish People’s Congress is seeking to
establish a single Kurdish state. Instead, all have focused on the
struggle to achieve political and cultural rights and the respect
internationally-recognized standards of human rights in each country
where Kurds are present in large numbers.
PJAK forces have played a strategic role in protecting Iraq’s borders
and preventing the infiltration of arms and insurgents from Iran, Gabar
“Between August 16-24, the Iranians tried to seize the border line in
the mountains, but we pushed them back. If they had been successful,
they would have controlled this whole area and been able to open a new
smuggling route for arms and Islamists into Iraq,” he told Newsmax.
[A village in Iraqi Kurdistan that was shelled in August by Iranian
artillery. No PJAK base is located in the village. Photo by Kenneth R.
Timmerman. All Rights Reserved]
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