Turkish, Kurdish and Arab tribes condemn PKK

The heads of 181 powerful families vital to maintaining peace and security in Turkey's southeast declare support for the government amid increasing tensions and clashes in the region.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Society in southeastern Turkey is increasingly fragmented and polarised by the spillover of violence from Syria.

Tribe representatives in southeastern Turkey issued a joint statement on Sunday condemning the PKK as the region continues to see some of its worst clashes in decades.

The PKK ended a two-year ceasefire with the Turkish government in the summer of 2015 in protest against the construction of dams in southeastern Turkey, the group’s main field of operation.

Tensions between the Turkish state and the PKK have also been inflamed by events happening across Turkey’s southern border in northern Syria, where the PKK’s Syrian branch - the YPG - have been capturing territory from DAESH with the support of the US-led coalition.

Although both Turkey and the US recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation, the US treats the YPG as a separate group key in the fight against DAESH, despite considerable evidence suggesting their link with the PKK. 

Since the ceasefire ended, southeastern Turkey has bore much of the brunt of spillover violence from Syria with attacks conducted both by DAESH and the PKK, leaving people there polarised and fragmented on ethnic, religious and ideological lines.

Even during the two-year ceasefire, instead of withdrawing from Turkish territory as promised, the PKK set up inner-city youth wing YDG-H to fight against Turkish security forces.

But on Sunday, the heads of 181 Turkish, Kurdish and Arab tribes from 16 provinces in the region gathered in the eastern city of Van to shun the violence.

“We are against all sorts of terrorism, coups, and violence ... We condemn PKK terrorism and we abide by rightful policies against terrorism,”  the declaration read out by the Ertosi tribe leader Iskender Ertus said.

The statement comes at a crucial time for Turkey, which is still recovering from a coup attempt in July allegedly orchestrated by a network of military commanders linked to US-based cult leader Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is accused of leading a group dubbed by the Turkish authorities as the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETO) which seeks to undermine the government through the infiltration of state institutions.

FETO leader Fethullah Gulen has been living in self-exile in the US since 1999. He is accused of being behind a plot to overthrow the Turkish government in a coup attempt on July 15.

In Turkey’s largely tribal southeast, the loyalty of powerful families has been pivotal in determining election results and overall security in the region for hundreds of years.

A question mark over the position of the tribes has loomed since the coup attempt, especially in areas where the authority of the Turkish state seems to be waning.

Ertus, in his speech, put such concerns to rest, reiterating the tribes’ support for the Turkish government.

“In the past week, rumours that tribe leaders have received money from the British government and support from the FETO terror group have particularly hurt us deeply,” Ertus said.

“The tribe leaders of the region stand with preserving the peace and unity of our country, and we are ready to do our duty for this.”

TRTWorld and agencies