A new report by a UK-based think tank details the connection between the PKK and YPG. It also outlines its practices including crimes against humanity and establishing a funding infrastructure in Europe based on organised crime.
The YPG/PYD shares the same ideology as the PKK, and "consolidated an authoritarian regime in Syria," according to a report by UK-based think tank, The Henry Jackson Society.
Released on Thursday, the report titled "The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria" gives a detailed account of the PKK's formation, practices including crimes against humanity, and its vast funding network in Europe, “based almost entirely around organised crime.”
The report also outlines how the PKK tried to rebrand itself through a network of organisations like the YPG.
“The fact is the PKK and the YPG, are the same entity,” said Kyle Orton, a fellow at the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society.
The YPG forms the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
In May, US President Trump announced that the US would directly support the YPG with ammunitions and heavy weapons.
This has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington, as Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist organisation.
Turkey, the US, EU and NATO all consider the PKK to be a terrorist group, but Washington has insisted that the YPG is a separate group.
“[Foreigners who fight for the YPG] need to understand the nature of the organisation. Far from battling terrorism, they’re in effect aiding one proscribed terrorist organisation overcome another,” Orton said.
"The [different constituents] are not 'affiliates' or 'offshoots' or 'sister groups' of the PKK; they are organically integrated components of the same organisation – sharing membership, ideology, and a command structure," the report says.
“Crimes against humanity”
The report also highlighted the "campaign of violence" waged by the PKK, that included "both targeted and indiscriminate aspects."
"Nurses, teachers, civil servants, and other ‘state agents’ were murdered by the PKK, and, as always, a particular example was made of Kurds that opposed it,” it said, adding that the PKK’s conduct amounted to crimes against humanity, according to human rights groups.
Europe network based on “organised crime”
The report also noted the PKK's "vast infrastructure" in Europe which it said was built to generate funds and raise support for the terrorist group was rooted almost entirely around organised crime.
"By some estimates, the PKK's European wing brings in nearly £80 million per year by extorting the Kurdish diaspora, laundering money, and trading in narcotics, human beings, illegal weaponry, and more mundane items like cigarettes and tea," it said.
The full report can be read here.