Experts weigh in on how Greece’s Lavrion refugee camp came to be known as a breeding ground for PKK terrorists.
The question whether Athens is harbouring terrorists belonging to the PKK terror group has resurfaced again after Türkiye nabbed two of the group’s affiliates in Edirne as they tried to flee to Greece.
The detained terrorists are said to have received training at a “refugee” camp in Lavrion, situated approximately 60 kilometres southeast of Athens. The development came not too long after Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced to have captured another PKK terror suspect in a joint operation by the Istanbul and Diyarbakir police.
Sevgili Kılıçdaroğlu;— Süleyman Soylu (@suleymansoylu) September 4, 2022
Üzücü bir haber daha:
HDPKK’nın, Lavrion Kampı'ndan Türkiye’ye, büyükşehirlere eylem için gönderilen
Delil kod Hüsamettin Tanrıkulu,
İstanbul ve Diyarbakır Emniyeti tarafından yakalandı.
Sadece savunduğun HDPKK’nın değil Yunanistan’ın da ilgiye ihtiyacı var pic.twitter.com/YcV4PprZBz
The link in both the arrests was a camp in Greece’s Lavrion, which Athens say is meant for “refugees”, but evidence made public by Turkish authorities show the place being used as a training ground for new PKK recruits.
Earlier in March this year, footage by a Greek private broadcaster Star News revealed how Greece was ignoring the PKK’s activities within its borders.
The broadcaster’s interviews with the PKK affiliates, such as Hacer Karakus Sahin and Resul Ozbey, gave credence to Turkish claims that the Lavrion camp has been turned into a safe haven for the PKK terrorists.
Sahin is an active member of the PKK’s youth wing who illegally crossed into Greece along with her husband Metin Sahin in January, Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish sources as saying on condition of anonymity. Ozbey, on the other hand, was also a part of the PKK’s youth wing and had been jailed in Türkiye for over three years before fleeing to Greece in November last year.
It’s not a new accusation against Greece that it harbours terrorists and known to be a “favourite hideout” for various terror groups. Since 1980s, terrorists fleeing Türkiye have taken refuge in Lavrion under the guise of asylum-seekers.
Professor Mesut Hakki Casin, faculty of law at Yeditepe University, says international law and treaties concerning the fight against terrorism prohibit any kind of political, financial or educational support to terror groups.
The Greek state, he adds, as a member of NATO and EU is a part of these agreements and stands in violation of them, endangering peace and political stability.
“Supporting terrorism is a crime against humanity and Athens was caught red-handed in the Lavrion camp,” he tells TRT World. “The poster and symbols about the PKK terrorist organisation in the Lavrion camp are clear.”
Professor Casin, meanwhile, says it is Greece that revealed through its own press organisations that it has turned the Lavrion refugee camp into a training centre against Türkiye.
How the Lavrion camp came to be known as a breeding ground for PKK terrorists?
A report by a Greek media outlet, Newsbomb, in its attempt to show the camp was hosting refugees, brought to the attention the symbols of the PKK terror group, photos of its leader Abdullah Ocalan and other members such as Viyan Soran and Sakine Cansiz framed to the wall, raising doubts and establishing the PKK connection.
📸 #Greece harbouring PKK/YPG terrorists, in a refugee camp in southeast of Athens.— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) June 14, 2022
The camp has been used as a PKK political base while the terror group reactivated the camp in #Lavrio last summer.
Türkiye’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar spoke about the presence of the PKK and FETO — Fetullah Terrorist Organisation — in the Lavrion refugee camp earlier in June this year. “While Ankara is in an intense battle with terrorism, it goes against the nature of the NATO alliance that Greece provides a place for the PKK and FETO,” he said.
Last month, an official with the Turkish foreign ministry reacted strongly against Greece, calling it to have built its entire structure of governance on anti-Türkiye rhetoric.
In response to a question regarding the Lavrion camp, the official said, “Athens is a safe haven for the terrorists of PKK, FETO and DHKP-C.”
The PKK has a history of 35-plus years of carrying out terrorist activities against Türkiye. The group, declared a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU alongside Türkiye has so far been responsible for the death of more than 40,000 people including women and children.
DHKP-C participated in a number of terror attacks in Türkiye, including a suicide bombing at the US embassy in Ankara in February 2013. The group was also behind the killing of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz at a courthouse in Istanbul in March 2015.
The Europol, too, is aware of the group’s activities.
In a report published in July, titled European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2022, it notes that the PKK and its affiliates continued its propaganda, protest, recruitment and fundraising activities throughout Europe despite Covid-19, and that PKK members were involved in “organised crime such money laundering, racketeering, extortion and drug trafficking”.
Abdullah Agar, a Turkish security analyst, brings to attention that the Lavrion camp has been in operation since the 1980s.
“It is a place where not only the PKK, but other illegal armed extreme-left terror organisations, such as DHKP-C or MLKP, nest and operate in tandem with Greek intelligence services,” he says.
Türkiye has long accused Greece of harbouring FETO, DHKP-C and PKK terror group escapees. And tensions have now flared after a PKK terrorist trained in Greece's Lavrion camp was captured in Istanbul pic.twitter.com/HrLhIvpk8U— TRT World (@trtworld) September 12, 2022
Agar, who is also a retired army veteran, says this camp comes to the forefront of the news cycle every once in a while and then loses popularity soon.
“But somehow it makes the headlines with the people who have fallen into the web of the organisation, who are under the protection of the organisation, hiding and nesting there, and receiving ideological education or terror techniques and tactics about the PKK,” he tells TRT World.
Agar stresses that Lavrion is just one of the camps that the Western intelligence organisations have laid their hands on. So, could there be other camps within Greece?
“The answer is, definitely yes,” he says.
“This is not just about that place, this camp is a known location. Then there are the unknown locations. I mean at the very end it is very telling that a terrorist who received bomb training there was captured."
“This is very dangerous. Greece has been playing a very dangerous game against Türkiye. They have adopted a very hostile attitude.”
Agar calls the coordination between Greece and terror organisation “a great destructive truth”, saying, “Türkiye will eventually have to do something about it.”