PKK as Guerilla or Government? Freedom fighters or terrorists?

By Isabelle Santamauro

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) fits the profile of a terrorist group in many ways. They have repeatedly attacked Turkish military and civilian targets, and used radical tactics to try to achieve the results that they seek: an independent Kurdish state. However, one could argue that their violence was the product of a) repeated shattered hopes to establish their own country and b) their long oppression by the Turkish government that would not allow their language, their culture nor the formation of a political party. One can see how the Kurds must have felt that violence would be the only means to get the Turkish, as well as the world’s attention to their desperate state of affairs. The PKK’s terrorist attacks have all been for the goal of achieving basic rights for Kurds in Turkey. Unfortunately, many countries have now categorized their tactics as terriosm. They are fighting for basic human rights, yet they are called a terrorist organization.  Ironically, it is the Turkish Government that has been oppressing the Kurdish people for almost a century and yet they are called a government. What makes one different than the other?  

While the PKK has been actively fighting in Turkey, they have also been an ally to the United States fighting a common enemy, ISIS. The fact that the Kurdish militia is an important ally to the US against a greater threat, and a much more serious terrorist group, should be an indicator that the Kurds want less violence in the future and are perfectly willing to collaborate with other foreign countries.

Since March 2013 the PKK has been trying to seek out a compromise with Turkey when they released eight Turkish hostages, and Ă–calan (the leader of the PKK), still in Turkish imprisonment since 1999, declared a cease-fire. However, the two-year cease-fire collapsed after the Turks bombed PKK positions in Iraq, in the midest of Kurdish-Islamist conflict in Syria. The Kurds responded with more violence, and in October, 2015, they had one of their deadliest attacks on Turkey. Once again, the tensions between the PKK and Turkish government were high. The next year, Erdogan, the president of Turkey, cracked down on suspected coup conspirators, arrested an estimated fifty thousand people, and increased airstrikes on PKK militants in southeastern Turkey. These events illustrate that the PKK showed real effort towards ending the violence, embracing a peaceful cease-fire, and eventually finding a compromise. However, they were again attacked and were forced to respond with retaliation.

The PKK are freedom fighters and should be treated as such. They want to be formally recognized by the Turkish government and be part of the local and statewide administration. The PKK was forced to resort to violence because violence was always used against them. It is time to give them their political rights and turn their violence into constructive negotiations. It is time for Kurds and Turks to find a way to live peacefully and respectfully with one another. It is time to leave radicalism behind and unite against the bigger threats in the region. When this can be achieved, it will be possible to bring more stability to the Middle East. 

Putin and His Buddies Give Money to the People of Russia? Haha No.

Vladimir Putin became president after Boris Yeltsin in 1991. To get this power he relied on the help of a small group of powerful businessmen and members of the Russian government. These men became Putin’s inner circle once he became a very strong leader. They received many benefits from Putin for helping him win the presidency; like jobs for the Russian government and money. The Kremlin under Putin’s regime leads many to wonder how much influence he has over the country, he has a good amount of influence but does not have full power like a gang.

The United States has recently sanctioned a few people in Putin’s group. These men are the ones who helped Putin get elected and now Putin is repaying them. Vladimir L. Bogdanov is the co-owner and director general of Surgutneftegas, which is Russia’s fourth largest oil company. On paper he owns 0.37 percent of the company, but most of the money from the company is with “noncommercial partners”. He has been friends with Putin for a long time, and there are rumors that Bogdanov hides money for Putin, yet the rumors are not supported with any evidence, since the finance and ownership information is difficult to find. Andrei V. Skoch is a member of parliament and is said to be involved with gangs. Igor A. Rotenburg is the son of Putin’s former judo partner and as Putin has succeeded so has the Rotenburg family business, which is Russia’s largest construction company. Suleiman A. Kerimov is the owner of Polyus, which is Russia’s largest gold mining company. He is a member of the Federation Council, which is an upper chamber of Russia’s parliament. In the past, France has investigated him for money laundering after he bought a few houses in Cap d’Antibes, seemingly, through shell companies. Oleg V. Deripaska owns more than 100 companies, internationally and in Russia, and through family connections is close to Putin. A former contact of Mr. Deripaska, Paul Manafort, offered to testify for Russia’s role in electing Donald Trump. Viktor F. Vekselberg is one of Russia’s richest men. He is the main owner of Renova Group and has put many of his investments in different types of businesses, yet is known as a real businessman who is not corrupt and does not make deals with friends. He is so discreet that there were no obvious links to Putin, he is just very rich and powerful. Kirill N. Shamalov is said to be Putin’s son-in-law. He became a highly ranked executive and a shareholder of Sibur right before marrying Katerina Tikhonova, who is believed to be Putin’s daughter. Then in 2014, Gazprom lent him $1 billion dollars which he used to buy a bigger share in the company. After he and Ms. Tikhonova separated, he sold all of his shares.

Russia has had a large mafia for decades and under each ruler the role of this mafia shifts. Fifty years ago, the mafia was completely separate from the government. They were an institutionalized gang, they were known as the vory, but under Putin’s rule the mafia were given a chance to play a part in the government and work alongside it, those who refused this offer were disposed of by the Kremlin. The mafia became nationalistic, operating under Putin’s rules, and the Russian government picked up a few of the mafia’s tricks of the trade. The mafia now are comfortable working with members of the Russian government and Western financers, they have been immersed fully by Putin’s government. By doing so, members have helped Putin in Ukraine and the United States but none of the trails lead directly back to him.

A recent incident involving Alexander Shestun, a governor of Serpukhov, part of the Moscow district, who used to tape conversations for Putin and the Federal Security Service. When Andrei Vorobyov, a member of Putin’s inner circle, took control of the Moscow region, he requested that Mr. Shestun step down from his position so he could claim it for more power. Mr. Shestun refused. Previous people in this position have been threatened and then, if they still objected, put in jail for not abiding Putin. At first Vorobyov blocked off money to Serpukhov, but when that did not scare Shestun extreme actions were taken. The Federal Security Service searched Alexander Shestun’s house and said they found cash there, which Shestun states was planted. He later uploaded a plea video to YouTube to ask Putin for help, which he knew he would not receive. In the video, Mr. Shestun speaks about how he is getting blackmailed and how the situation seems like a gangster movie.Then on reelection day, the roads to Shestun’s house were blocked off, forty men dressed in black went into his house, and he was taken to Lefortovo jail.

Putin has led the Kremlin to have some ganglike tendencies, such as an elite group and merging the vory and the government, but overall Russia operates as a government and Putin and his oligarchs do not have complete control.