The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by NATO, the United States and the European Union among others.Until recently the PKK carried out a Maoist type people's struggle against the Turkish government. It had guerrilla bases in northern Iraq. The conflict between the PKK and Turkey resulted in over 40,000 deaths.
On 21 March 2013, Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader, from his jail in Turkey declared a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state. Ocalan's statement read:
"Let guns be silenced and politics dominate... a new door is being opened from the process of armed conflict to democratization and democratic politics. It's not the end. It's the start of a new era."Murat Karayilan the functional leader of the PKK promised to implement the ceasefire and claimed that the PKK was as ready for peace as war. Turkish president Recep Erdogan welcomed the statement. Ocalan had been arrested in 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya, by the CIA and Turkish authorities and taken to Turkey where he was sentenced to death. The sentence was later changed to life imprisonment. For years he was held as the sole prisoner on an island. After international observers complained about the conditions of his incarceration, several other PKK prisoners were sent to the island and he is allowed to visit them from time to time.
His trial and conviction have been the subject of controversy:
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated articles 3, 5 and 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights by granting Öcalan no effective remedy to appeal his arrest and sentencing him to death without a fair trial. Öcalan's request for a retrial was refused by Turkish court.While in jail Ocalan read widely and wrote several books. He radically changed his ideology after reading several western social theorists.
His earlier ideology was a version of Marxism and the PKK had adopted a Maoist-type people's struggle for some time. Murray Bookchin the US libertarian anarchist and environmentalist was one of the strongest influences upon Ocalan causing him to reject Marxism altogether as Bookchin had also done:
Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets.
As an article in the Guardian points out, the Kurds are attempting to apply Bookchin's model of libertarian municipalism. There are to be numerous self-governing municipalities based upon principles of direct democracy:
".. the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a wordwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state."The author, David Graeber, notes that throughout Rojava popular assemblies have been created. These groups are chosen so as to reflect ethnic balance and thus lessen tension between varied religious and ethnic groups:
Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils,
Western media howl that Turkish tanks are right there on the border and could easily cross over into Kobane and help rout the Islamic State. Yet, they do not move. This should hardly be surprising. The Turks do not want to empower the PKK a group they battled with for ages. Nor do they want to provoke the Islamic State to launch reprisal attacks into Turkish territory. Not only that but the Kurds have more or less an undeclared truce with Assad. They are interested in the security and development of the territory they occupy and in which they are the majority. They are not particularly interested in overthrowing Assad. This view is anathema both to Turkey and other Syrian rebels. Ironically, the Kurds also do not want Turkey to intervene. What they want is help in the way of arms. They protest because Turkey is preventing Kurds from crossing into Syria to help their compatriots. The last thing they want is to have their territory invaded by the Turkish military.