Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence

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NYU Press, Aug 1, 2007 - Political Science - 363 pages

The Kurds, who number some 28 million people in the Middle East, have no country they can call their own. Long ignored by the West, Kurds are now highly visible actors on the world's political stage. More than half live in Turkey, where the Kurdish struggle has gained new strength and attention since the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.
Essential to understanding modern-day Kurds—and their continuing demands for an independent state—is understanding the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. A guerilla force that was founded in 1978 by a small group of ex-Turkish university students, the PKK radicalized the Kurdish national movement in Turkey, becoming a tightly organized, well-armed fighting force of some 15,000, with a 50,000-member civilian militia in Turkey and tens of thousands of active backers in Europe. Under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan, the war the PKK waged in Turkey through 1999 left nearly 40,000 people dead and drew in the neighboring states of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of whom sought to use the PKK for their own purposes. Since 2004, emboldened by the Iraqi Kurds, who now have established an autonomous Kurdish state in the northernmost reaches of Iraq, the PKK has again turned to violence to meet its objectives.
Blood and Belief combines reportage and scholarship to give the first in-depth account of the PKK. Aliza Marcus, one of the first Western reporters to meet with PKK rebels, wrote about their war for many years for a variety of prominent publications before being put on trial in Turkey for her reporting. Based on her interviews with PKK rebels and their supporters and opponents throughout the world—including the Palestinians who trained them, the intelligence services that tracked them, and the dissidents who tried to break them up—Marcus provides an in-depth account of this influential radical group.


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Aliza Marcus. Blood and Belief. A Critical Review from a Pro Kurdish Freedom Struggle Perspective. After the establishment of the modern Turkish state, the 'Young Turks' set about a policy of forced assimilation of the Kurdish people, after the Kurds had supported Kemal Ataturk in his war of independence. A betrayal that sowed the seeds of the present conflict. First provided with the possibility of a state in the Peace Treaty of Sevre, the Kurds were denied by trickery and betrayal in The Treaty of Lausanne. The Shiekh Said uprising in 1925 was in response to this stated policy of annihilation and forced assimilation summed up nicely by Ismet Inounu to the Turkish Congress in May of 1925. "We are frankly Nationalist......and Nationalism is our only factor of cohesion. Before the Turkish majority other elements have no kind of influence. At any price, we must turkify the inhabitants of of our land, and we will annihilate those who oppose Turks or 'le turquisme." And annihilate they did, brutal suppression and criminalisation of the Kurds began during this period. Over 29 Kurdish uprisings have taken place against Turkish genocidal policies towards the Kurds since that time, the present one led by the PKK being the most recent. Recently, many media outlets have been quoting from a new book written by Aliza Marcus, Blood and Belief. Hevallo has read this book and unfortunately, this book, nor the issues that it address's, cannot be understood without placing the PKK in its historical and political context, which the book does little to address. For example, the book is based, solely, on interviews with ex members of the PKK, firstly. We all know that ex members of any group have axes to grind. Secondly, and much more importantly, the book focuses solely on 'internal discipline' issues, again from the point of view of ex members, but does not look at how the Turkish intelligence forces have aggressively tried and succeeded, to infiltrate, agitate and provoke the Kurdish Freedom Movement. Not to mention the many assassination attempts upon the lives of many of its leaders. The fact that the PKK is not a state, with organs of judiciary, police, courts nor laws, but is fighting for the rights of millions of Kurdish people with little more that Kalashnikovs, plimsolls and a thirst for justice, deserves a little more depth of analysis, especially in regards to the all consuming strength of the Turkish psychological warfare aspect of this conflict. I'm sure if you look into any freedom struggle you will see an ugly side, consider the placing of a tyre full of petrol around the neck of a traitor who gave information to the enemy during the struggle of the ANC against Apartheid. Or the 'knee capping' punishment given to 'informers' of the Irish Nationalist Movement in Ireland. Oppressed people who do not have a judicial system, nor organs of state, often have little option but to resort to summary punishments as a way of maintaining discipline and avoiding information being given to the enemy. This has happened in liberation struggles and wars since the beginning of time. Many Kurdish people have joined or have been forced to join the State sponsored 'Village Guard' system where Kurds are forced to fight against the PKK. They are uniformed, armed and fight alongside the Turkish Army and yet when attacked by the PKK they are continuously called 'civilians' by critics of the PKK. This at best disingenuous and at worst it is promoting Turkish psychological warfare. The Kurds have not chosen the conditions under which they have had to carry out their profound struggle for freedom, against a particularly cruel enemy and this book only further demonises the Kurdish Freedom Struggle, without any real context in regards to the situation in which the PKK found itself in, in any particular time. I'm sure if given the right of reply and in some future date a history of the PKK is written by someone within the organisation 


I Ocalan Kurds and the PKKs Start
II The PKK Consolidates Power
III PKK Militants Fight for Control
IV Ocalans Capture and After
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Page 1 - The end of the war did not mean the end of 'the state of emergency'.
Page 15 - This consisted mainly of labor on the cotton plantations of the Mesopotamian plain two hundred metres below. All except the very old or very young would descend to the plain daily, to work an eleven-hour day. For this the rates of pay were US$1 for a child, $1.50 for a woman, and $2 for a man.
Page 11 - Hussein to boast thai the Kurdish organizations would never be able to achieve anything since they were hopelessly divided against each other and subservient to foreign powers . . .." '8 Saddam Husain gab einen teilweisen Abzug des Militärs aus den kurdischen Gebieten des Irak bekannt.
Page 16 - Even though it was forced on me this first time, my tendency for action [toward taking revenge] had started. I began to be an attacker; I cracked the heads of many children,"7 he recalled.
Page 18 - I did not catch the faintest breath of Kurdish nationalism which the most casual observer in Iraq cannot fail to notice."13 new, liberal approach to civil and political rights.
Page 16 - Not even his relatives took him seriously, and he was hurt by them. It was as if he did not exist, he was gone,"6 Ocalan said in one wide-ranging interview in the early 1990s.
Page 17 - I recall having a sense of regret," noted Ocalan, referring back to that period when his sister was married. "[I was thinking that] if I were a revolutionary, then I would not let this happen. They would not be able to take her away."8 Like many small settlements, Omerli did not have its own elementary school.

About the author (2007)

Aliza Marcus is formerly an international correspondent for The Boston Globe and lives in Washington, D.C. She covered the PKK for more than eight years, first as a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and later as a staff writer for Reuters, receiving a National Press Club Award for her reporting. She is also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for her work.

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