Senior PKK figure Cemil Bayık called on the Kurdish community to take up arms for self-defense and mobilize against the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and "imperialist forces" during his speech to a PKK-leaning TV channel.
His call for Kurds' armament came shortly after the co-chairs of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said the PKK should abandon arms as part of the reconciliation process the government and the HDP are pursuing to end the decades-long conflict with the PKK. However, HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said it was not up to the HDP to make it happen unless the PKK intends to lay down arms on its own. Demirtaş's statement, which was highly anticipated by Ankara, especially after it entered Parliament by passing the election threshold, was hailed by many circles including government officials. However, Ankara, questioned the HDP's efficiency in conducting the process, believing it should be able to coax the PKK into leaving arms if they are to resume the stalled reconciliation process.
Despite Demirtaş's call, however, the PKK continues using rhetoric that props up the armed struggle of the Kurdish community. "Our people should improve self-defense consciousness and organization, Bayık said. This should not be solely on the basis of expanding military power; the community should improve its self-defense [abilities]. Our entire community should take up arms, educate itself on this ground and get organized." He also blatantly called on civilians to get armed against the system. "Tunnels, a system of infrastructure and an emplacement system should be developed in villages, neighborhoods and cities against the forces of ISIS and colonists. No one should abandon villages and cities; if there will be death or life, let them be in their homelands. Defending Rojova is defending Kurdistan. Everyone should support the Rojova revolution," Bayık added.
The conflict between the government and the PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey as well as the U.S. and the EU, has been ongoing since 1984, and has resulted in some 40,000 to 100,000 casualties as well as major economic losses for Turkey. The PKK, which aimed to establish an independent Kurdistan in southeastern Turkey, has been headquartered in northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains since withdrawing from Turkey in 2013.