Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Peace Talks are Falling Apart, and the State of Gender Equality in Turkey


My first diigo post this week was a news report on the BBC about the peace talks between Turkey and the PKK. In this news article, a PKK commander claims that while the both sides leadership desires to move forward with the peace process, the peace talks with Turkey are in danger of turning into conflict. Cemil Bayik, a PKK commander in the Qandil mountains, says that the Turkish government’s treatment of Kobane shows that it still views the PKK and the Kurdish people as a bigger threat than ISIS. Meanwhile, a Turkish government official, Yasin Aktay, vice-chairman of the ruling AK Party, gave a statement saying that the PKK and the Kurds are using current time of instability to try to “upset the status quo”, and try to set up a system of self-governance like Iraqi Kurdish groups. This article ends with dire warnings by both sides. Aktay warns that in the coming weeks and months, Turkey will actively try to prevent a “power grab” by the PKK in Kurdish towns. Meanwhile, Cemil Bayik says that unless the Turkish government changes its policies, the conflict between the Kurds and Turkey will continue, asserting that “if necessary the Kurds will fight against the Islamic State and the Turkish army”. None of this bodes well for the peace process, and it seems like the next few weeks will bring only escalating conflict between the two groups. Kurdish groups continue to hold rallies in support of Kurdish fighters in Kobane  in the Turkish capitol (pictured above).  This article is fairly unbiased, and interviews leaders from both sides of the conflict, so it is difficult to say which perspective on globalization it holds. 

My second diigo post this week was a news report about a speech Turkey’s President Ergodan made about gender equality. The Turkish President was subject to international criticism after his remarks at a gathering in Istanbul aimed at discussing women’s rights and freedoms, in which he said that gender equality is “against nature”. In his speech, Ergodan stated that Islam has defined a role for women in society, and that that role is motherhood. He also offered a strong admonishment to Turkish feminists, whom he says have rejected motherhood. Women’s and human’s rights activists have consistently criticized Ergodan and the AKP party since they came into power in 2003, claiming that Turkey has increasingly become authoritarian and politically conservative.  While this article is not directly about the PKK and the Kurdish people, I thought it was important to address gender equality in Turkey, particularly as there is currently such debate about whether the PKK actually practices gender equality. According to  World Economic Forum’s 2013 Gender Gap Index, Turkey  is ranked 120th of 136 nations in gender equality. As this is an article in the Hurriyet Daily News,  a Turkish newspaper, this article is certainly less critical of Ergodan than other articles I read about the same event. A good subject for my final paper would be comparing gender equality in the PKK and Turkey. 

Germans and the PKK: an Unlikely Romance


My two blog posts this week were about how the PKK has an unexpectedly high degree of support in Germany.  My first post is an article for Al Monitor, a news site launched during the Arab Spring which brands itself as “the pulse of the Middle East”. In it, a physician from Hamburg talks about her more than 20 years in the Kurdistan Workers Party in a rare interview. Dr. Medya joined the the PKK in 1993, after she saw the aftermath of the conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK, in which several Kurdish villages were burned. She has since served as a combat medic in the PKK and as a family doctor in Kurdish villages. Many westerners have joined the PKK in the last few months because they want to fight the Islamic state, but according to Dr. Medya, they “cast the war against IS in religious, rather than political terms”. Dr. Medya was motivated to join by the plight of the Kurdish people, whom she describes as “a people who suffered a lot but never lost hope and knew what to do to achieve their aim, even if this meant losing their lives”.

My second post is a news report in Rudaw, an online Kurdish news network. On November 14, 10 members of the German Parliament unfurled the PKK’s flag (pictured above). This move was in support of both the PKK and Nicole Gohlk, a fellow MP who lost her parliamentary immunity last month after waving the PKK’s flag at a pro-Kurd rally in Munich. According to the ten MPs, Germany should no longer classify the PKK as a terrorist organization, particularly in light of its contributions in the coalition against the Islamic State. Initially, it did not make sense to me that there would be so much support for the PKK in Germany. However, upon further research, I found out that Germany has a very large Kurdish immigrant population. Furthermore, many Westerners see the PKK as one of the few Marxist liberalization movements, and also sympathize with and support the ideas the PKK’s tenets of marxism, environmentalism, and gender equality. These two articles suggest that there is a growing degree of support for the PKK in the West, which may in turn lead to increased support in a separate Kurdish nation.

Female Fighters and Peace Talks Between the PKK and Turkey



This week, my two diigo posts were about female fighters in the PKK and the PKK’s peace talks with Turkey.  My first post is a tweet of a drawing by Sazan Slemani, a Kurdish woman who is very active on Twitter in support of the female fighters of the YPG, a branch of the PKK. In the drawing, a female PKK soldier is depicted putting her hair up in a ponytail, as if in preparation for a battle, and as her hair flows down from her hands, it changes into the shape of a gun. While art critique is not exactly my forte, I found this image to be really moving. I thought it was particularly interesting how long hair, which typically symbolizes femininity, was paired with something traditionally masculine like assault rifles and war. The popularity of images like this is evidence of the growing positive perception of the PKK: people are inspired by female soldiers, particularly when they are fighting against IS, a group under which women suffer numerous abuses. The PKK certainly benefits from its perception as an advocate of gender equality, but whether or not it actually practices it is a question for my final paper.  The author is a Kurdish woman, and a strong advocate for the PKK on social media, but it is difficult to tell which perspective on globalization she identifies with based purely on her artwork. However, her use of social media to create and communicate with network of PKK supporters all over the world is something that a cosmopolitan would certainly appreciate. 

My second diigo post is a report published on November 6, 2014 by the International Crisis Group about the current peace talks between Turkey’s President Ergodan and leaders of the PKK. It discusses how after decades of conflict which cost tens of thousands of people their lives, neither Turkey nor the PKK believe that military victory is possible, and are meeting to discuss a peaceful resolution. However, the events in Syria has reignited ever-present tensions between the two groups, and a fruitful compromise between them is seeming less likely. In this report, the International Crisis Group details the parameters of a possible peace deal, and states that differences need to be put aside so that basic issues like “transitional justice, disarmament and decentralization” can be resolved. It is clear that this is a group of political liberals: they advocate solving this issue through diplomacy, and by bringing both parties to the same table, rather than by individual, lone-wolf states.

PKK: Terrorist Group, or Bastion of Gender Equality?



This week, my two posts were about the PKK’s status as a terrorist group and whether its claims of gender equality are actually factual.  My first post is an article published in The New Republic, an American left-leaning political magazine, in which the author, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, argues that the PKK should no longer be considered a terrorist organization. He cites four “factors” as evidence. First, that though the PKK committed terrorist acts in the ’70s and ’80s, the organization renounced violence in 1999, and secondly, that it has transformed since then into an entity that advocates for the Kurdish State with “dialogue and confederation”. Henri-Levy also claims that the PKK should not be considered a terrorist group because they have acted so effectively in the coalition against the Islamic State. Lastly, he argues that the organizations Marxist-Leninist roots have made it a strong supporter of moderate Islam, secularism, and gender equality, and that in order to support the spread of those ideals in the Middle East, Western powers should support the PKK. I would disagree that the PKK has renounced violence: in 2004, the group returned to guerrilla tactics and attacks in southern Turkey became frequent. Henri-Levy seems to take the political liberalist’s approach, arguing that the PKK is necessary to the multilateral coalition to defeat the Islamic State.

My second diigo post is partly a news report and partly a discussion of gender equality in the PKK. On October 27, rumors began to spread on social media that a Kurdish female fighter known by the pseudonym Rehana may have been beheaded by Islamic State militants in Kobani. Rehana became the face of the PKK’s female fighters after a photo (pictured above) of her making the victory sign was retweeted hundreds of times on Twitter. An image of a beheaded woman whom IS fighters claim to be Rehana was posted on pro-IS social media sites on the 27th, but it is impossible to verify whether the photo is genuine. The author goes on to discuss the complicated history of gender equality in the PKK. Currently, the group has the largest female militia in the world, and has a history of feminism rooted in it’s founder Abdullah Ocalan’s ideology. However, the author cites claims made by Berfu Kiziltan about how while the PKK has historically recruited women as well as men, in its early days, recruitment was sometimes by force. The author also mentions the PKK’s history of female suicide bombers, as well as a recent suicide bombing in Kobani carried out by a female PKK soldier. The author remains unbiased in her discussion of the PKK and gender equality, so it is difficult to determine which perspective on globalization she has. If anything, I would say that she is also a political liberal, because she seems to value the contributions of the PKK in the anti-IS coalition, as part of a multilateral approach.

Kurdish Fighters in Kobane, and the PKK’s Rhetoric about Gender Equality


This week, my two articles were about Kurdish fighters. The first one was a news report about developing events in Kobane. On October 20, after mounting domestic and international political pressure, the Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Turkey will allow some Kurdish forces to cross the border into Syria to fight the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobane. Turkey will not allow all Kurdish forces to fight, and will only allow the Peshmerga, rather than the PKK, to cross the border. “Peshmerga” is a Kurdish word for armed fighters, but more specifically refers to nationalist soldiers for an independent Kurdish state. The Peshmerga are not associated with the PKK, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.  My second post was about gender equality in the PKK. Over the past few months, there have been dozens of articles published about how Kurdish women of the PKK have been engaged in combat against the Islamic State. I’ve attached a picture of female PKK fighters above.  In an article in the Hurriyet Daily News (a major Turkish newspaper), Berfu Kiziltan examines the PKK’s claims about being an organization that practices gender equality. Rather unsurprisingly for a Turkish author, he argues that the PKK’s history of terrorism, in particular its use of female suicide bombers, is ignored in recent news articles, and that the organization has a long history of abuses towards women. In regards to the last article, it is hard to determine how credible the author’s argument is. It is clearly biased, but that not necessarily mean it is not factual or correct. Members of the PKK say that allowing females to participate in all PKK activities, even terrorist ones, allow women to prove that they are just as capable as men. The author’s argument about female suicide bombers has left me with some questions to consider: Is allowing women to be suicide bombers an abuse towards women, or is it promoting (albeit in a rather twisted way) gender equality? And does gender equality even matter when the perpetrator will be blowing up buildings filled with civilians?