Changing character of struggle with the PKK

Changing character of struggle with the PKK

You might know the famous metaphor Mao used for clarifying the relationship between guerillas and people. The metaphor is based on the relationship between fish and the sea. The sea symbolizes people and the fish symbolize armed militants. If the sea doesn’t have proper conditions, then fish don’t have a chance to live. 

This metaphor also shapes strategies. For example, you have to separate fish from the sea. We are talking about separating terrorists from people. Or you have to change the sea, such a pitch that ruling out fish to survive, like reshaping the economic, social and psychological environment. This approach tells you that you have to build the “center of gravity” at sea, namely people. 

The race between the PKK and the government to gain “the hearts and minds of the people” is in full flow on different platforms and with different means. The PKK is sustaining its effective position by mobilizing the fan base it created over years as well as its traditional means like threats, attrition, intimidation and punishment strategies. At the end of the day, it is trying to rally its supporters while repressing and manipulating the government. 

As for the government’s strategy to achieve popular support, it is based on three pillars. Firstly, it is trying to downgrade the PKK’s social and political mobilization capacity by repressing its “front organization.” So it is expected the people would act with their “free will.” Secondly, as the influence of the front organization decreases, it increases its efforts that would help neutralize the organization, even if not separate the people from it. Finally, it seems like it has hastened security operations toward the armed militants. 

Within this context, the KCK operations constitute the main axis of the government’s repression strategy. What forms the PKK’s organizational culture is its Marxist past. The PKK has spread “front organization” format, which was imposed by ideology, into a wider area compared to the past. Nowadays, it has to struggle with powerful rivals that have different arguments in this field. 
According to the theory, winning hearts and minds of people is “possible with internalizing local culture.” Within this context, the majority of the Kurds have strong religious feelings. The government and the F. Gülen Movement think focusing on this field is a good idea. Accordingly, some 1,000 mullahs (“mele” in Kurdish), who have not been raised at official schools, however have been living in the region, will be charged at mosques.

In the short-run, it sounds like a good idea. As a matter of fact, the PKK, which comprehended the importance of this field, is not idle. Despite both its past refusing religion under the shadow of Marxist ideology and hardship of emphasizing pre-Islam roots of the Kurds, the PKK also discovered the importance of mosques for propaganda. Thus, the race for winning hearts and minds of the people over “religion and mosque” started gathering speed slowly. 

It is not possible yet to perceive who would be the winner of this race. If my memory doesn’t fail me, there are political movements who experienced the same tests in the Middle East. The case in point is Hamas, which owes ideologically fragmented Palestine and its rise to Israel’s facilitative role.