5 reasons why PKK attacks are deadlier now
Why has terrorism in Turkey been claiming more lives recently? Is it because a strong government is not running the country anymore, as advocated by the Justice and Development Party (AKP)? Or is it because the AKP actually caused this crisis with its policies?
In the past three months, 127 Turkish security personnel, including soldiers and police officers, have been killed by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, according to data compiled from state-run Anadolu Agency reports.
After reviewing the nature, causes and outcomes of each attack, five broad reasons can be listed to explain how PKK terrorism is now claiming more lives:
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been widely used in attacks by PKK militants since the 1980s. In the past, most of the IEDs were made by militants at safe houses from easily-found materials such as gas cylinders, which turn into relatively less powerful explosives. More recently, the PKK has started to use more high-explosive charges and chemicals, including tons of fertilizer. Remotely-detonated IEDs were used in the deadliest attacks in the past three months, including the Sept. 6 killing of 16 soldiers in Hakkari and the Sept. 8 killing of 14 police officers in Iğdır. Unfortunately, it is hard to detect these mines now because many of them are said to be left under several layers of asphalt laid by maintenance workers on roads over a period of years.
2) The AKP government’s past indulgence
The PKK’s umbrella organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), ended a ceasefire with the Turkish state on July 11. As admitted by several AKP figures, the government - some stressed that it was the “state” - was too naive while it was conducting the Kurdish peace talks. One pro-government journalist said the PKK “abused the solution process to lay mines” on roads. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself said the outlawed group had piled up ammunition in cities during the solution process. Unrefuted media reports had also said the civilian government had ordered the military “to stay in their barracks” despite the PKK’s ongoing criminal activities. Such confessions may cause legal trouble for the AKP in the future.
3) The PKK’s bid to undermine the HDP
The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) turned Turkish politics upside down when it managed to cross the national election threshold, depriving the AKP of the parliamentary seats required for a single-party government. As a number of analysts pointed out, the HDP’s success was as annoying for the PKK as it was for the AKP. “The development of the events covered up any cracks that might have existed between the PKK and the HDP,” analyst Cengiz Çandar said in a recent interview with daily Hürriyet. As such, the PKK may be attempting to be in the spotlight again with these attacks, claiming that it is still relevant in the Kurdish issue.
4) The dilemmas of Turkish politics
When violence is confronted by violence, and violence only, it leads to a vicious circle. Excluding a few actors, Turkish politics in a broader sense currently lacks a strong will for immediate peace ahead of the Nov. 1 general election. Opportunism by some nationalists on both sides worsens the issue. Every day we read and watch devastating stories on the loss of innocent humans’ lives. The PKK’s crimes against humanity are now on the same page with racist attacks on Kurdish workers and others. The planned marches against terrorism may help, but there is still little incentive for most political parties to take risks by trying every avenue for peace before the elections.
5) The failures of the international community
Turkey’s southern borders have become porous due to the effects of the war in Syria. Despite Ankara’s too-little-too-late attempts to secure it, geographical limitations will keep making it hard on any military force. This situation creates a haven for all kinds of smugglers, which may help explain how the PKK can hit with bigger bombs and weapons now. Several countries can be blamed for the security crisis on a once-safe border over their failures to unite for a joint policy on Syria, which also led to the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the rekindling of PKK terrorism.