What is terrorism?

The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization and listed on the Terrorist Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) website. According to TRAC PJAK was declared a terrorist organization by the Obama administration in 2012.

I was a bit surprised that this universally feared title, terrorist organization, had been given to a group that, from my understanding and knowledge, promotes and fights for complete equality for all.  After I discovered PJAK’s label I became curious to know if I even knew the true definition of a terrorist/terrorist organization. So, I looked it up. The first definition I found and many I discovered afterwards all had a similar pretense. The definitions I found all loosely state that terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Now, from my understanding of the world and its political realm, this sounded to me like almost every major country I can think of has committed some sort of terrorist action. So why are the only internationally identified terrorist organizations ones without an internationally recognized state? Why is Iran not recognized as a terrorist state? Or easier than that, North Korea? Is the international system just too afraid to break it to them? I mean even the United States falls under the definition, but that could be considered a bit blasphemous.

PJAK states on their European website that they fight against the “ethnocide” that constitutes many of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s objectives. I believe that the ethnocide the Kurdish people have faced over the centuries is universally known. I’m not sure I understand why their social resistance against a state who opposes and acts in violence against their opposition should be considered a terrorist group.

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After these thoughts I was afraid I was being one sided on the matter. So I looked more into Iran’s side of the relationship. From what I read off of the oh-so reliable wikipedia was that Iran allows the Kurds to live within the region and have had Iranian government accepted political parties in the past. However, Kurds have currently lost the ability to have a political party. Moreover, they do lack rights that other Iranian’s possess. They have also suffered many losses to their population due to uprisings and rebellions against the Iranian state. Many critics of the PJAK have mentioned that Turkey and Iraq have shown more violent opposition to Kurds than Iran has committed. Which makes me question why the PJAK has put all of its energy towards Iranian resistance? Iraq has given Kurds a semi-autonomous state and I believe that Iran does not want Kurds to even ask for that freedom.

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At the end of it all I am left to even more confusion and frustration. Questions I still seek answers for after this week of research include…. 1) What is a terrorist group? 2) Why hasn’t anyone created a more direct definition of a terrorist group? … and 3) Why is PJAK only picking on Iran?

Now what I have figured out is that one should ask who is a terrorist organization rather than what is a terrorist organization.



EDIT: As I was re-visiting my old diigo posts I came across the Vice video on PJAK I featured in my first blog entry. I watched the first of the three videos on PJAK and the video brought up one of the questions I was puzzled by at the end of this blog entry… The question that may have possibly been answered was question 3) Why is PJAK only picking on Iran? The Vice video mentioned that PJAK is a militia formed in 2004, the militia lacks allies and is commonly associated with the PKK, a kurdish group that fights against Turkey, a US ally. Peshmerga the Iraqi Kurdish militia has previously fought against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, a US enemy. Peshmerga is the only Kurdish militia that receives aid and funding from the US. The Vice video inferences that the PJAK may only fight against Iran because they are trying to create an ally out of the US. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s working out well for PJAK due to the US deeming them as a terrorist organization in 2012…. but keep trekking PJAK the world is forever changing!

If PJAK’s underlying mission is to get US aid it’s interesting…. and a bit nauseating to see how hegemonic the present day world really is.

The PJAK’s Multitude of Identities

I do not have a depth of knowledge about the dynamics and history of the Kurdish people and their society; I have collected a bit of information on the subject. What I have gathered is that the Kurds are a group of mountain people living within the borders of several countries in the Middle East. In Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, in the mountainous regions where they reside Kurds make up  most of the population. The Kurds speak their own language, have their own society, and culture. Surprisingly, Kurds practice a variety of religions. Unfortunately, due to their unconventional beliefs, in the perspective of their neighbors, they have been patronized, oppressed, and have suffered immensely.

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The Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), is a guerrilla group in Northern Iraq. The group  fights against opposing militants, however, there is much more to them. PJAK is more an ideology than anything else. Their belief, termed Apoism, branches off from the philosophy of Abdullah Ocalan, the National Leader of the Kurds. The inspiration for Apoism comes from Maoism. They believe that their philosophy can eliminate extremism in the Middle East. The belief  emphasizes the individual and the struggle to free ones-self from an oppressive mindset. They also believe in gender, class, religion and ecological equality.

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In the Vice News episode on the PJAK’s female fighters they claim that their forces are top notch militants that endure extensive military training. However, what they claim and what appears seem to be a bit disconnected. The footage of the female fighters displays the women line dancing, reading books under trees, attempting to do sit ups, and playing leap frog. The PJAK’s ideology and their activities outside of battle do seem to be in more synchronicity than what they claim. The group exhibits a sense of peace and connection to each other and their environment. It is possible that the group was trying to impress and convey to the American news channel, Vice, a sense of action and responsibility. Or maybe their actions are merely situational, only answering to the call of action due to their oppressive circumstances.

– Natalie

Vice News