According to a report received by the Sabah newspaper's intelligence department, following the failure of the PKK's operations in Turkey, which restarted in July 2015, dissent within the organization has deepened due to differing ideas on the necessity of focusing on the Syrian civil war.
One of the three men on the PKK Executive Committee, Bahoz Erdal, has defended the idea that the PKK has to focus on the Syrian civil war while senior PKK members at their headquarters in Northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains, headed by Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan do not want to evacuate Turkey to transfer their forces to Syria, as it would give the impression that the organization has been defeated.
"The Syrian wing [Democratic Union Party, or PYD] thinks that Karayılan, Bayık and Kalkan are hurting the organization's cause due to their advancing age and obstinate behavior. That is why the PKK is asked to draw its forces back from Turkey in the meetings with the U.S. and PYD, and to focus in Syria, in addition to turning the PYD into a local actor in Syrian politics," the report says, adding that Karayılan, Bayık and Kalkan rejected the demand in order not to make it look as though the PKK has been defeated, while the PYD administration and the PKK authorities in Syria, Bahoz Erdal, Sofi Nurettin and Şahin Cilo, reportedly support the offer due to the influence of the U.S. "In the upcoming period, the division within the PKK is liable to become apparent not only in Qandil, but also between Qandil and Syria," the report adds.
The report says one of the main other reasons causing divisions is that PKK members in Anatolia were left alone due to the interruption of the logistic support provided to them. Another primary reason given is the insufficient support provided by the PKK to the PYD and the U.S. in their war against DAESH.
The report also says that a further argument between Karayılan, the leader of the PKK's armed People's Defense Forces (HPG), and the pro-trench tactic Bayık and Kalkan has also been brewing due to the crises of both Syria and the ditches. " HPG leader Karayılan is having difficulties controlling HPG groups under the command of Bayık and Kalkan. Bayık and Kalkan, who are in favor of intensifying operations, are giving instructions to groups close to them in Turkey to undertake sensational operations," the report says.
Stressing that the forces controlled by Karayılan hold a position in the southeastern province of Şırnak and that there has been a significant decrease in the amount and severity of their operations, the report also says that the groups following Bayık and Kalkan's orders deployed in remote areas had lost many members recently. Karayılan is quoted in the report as saying: "It all could be easily dissolved without the need for the trench wars," in a dig at Bıyık and Kalkan.
Sabah had recently reported on the conflict between Karayılan, Bayık and Kalkan on June 16, giving the differences between the chairmanship council members Bıyık, Kalkan, Karasu and Karayılan, who had been defending that the trench and barricade strategies. While the strategies were agreed to in November 2014, criticism of them was voiced after the failure of the method, with support from Karayılan. Another report published by Sabah on May 8 said that the PKK was getting ready to withdraw from Nusaybin. This was followed by an official statement from the PKK of their withdrawal from the region.
In June, the PKK and Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) – an umbrella network that includes the PKK – reportedly decided to move from the Qandil Mountains, which has been the organization's headquarters for many years, as a result of the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) continuous counterterrorism operations. Turkish media reported that the PKK has formed an alliance with the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces militia to move to the Sulaymaniyah-Halabja line.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and European Union, resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.
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