Unlike most other terrorist organizations, the PKK usually enjoys the utmost favor of the Western media, despite being recognized as a terrorist group in many Western countries, including the EU and the U.S. Especially when it comes to the women of the organization, the Western media does not hesitate to twist the image of the terrorists and present them as if they are the "heroines." However, recent reports and the testimonies of female terrorists who managed to escape from the PKK reveal the true nature of the organization over the matter, and sheds light on how it exploits women by using their femininity to whitewash its image and drive them to notorious actions such as suicide bombing.
"They are using us as sex slaves, complained Hülya Eroğlu, who is the leader of the female wing of the PKK, the YJA-STAR [Free Women's Units]; but she, in turn, told me that 'we have all went through that experience,'" Sara Kanireş, one of 150 women who managed to escape from the PKK, told Turkish intelligence units during her testimony, according to media reports in November.
This is just one of the abundant examples of how women are exploited in the camps of the terrorist organization. The PKK has not only been physically exploiting women's identity in its campaigns, but it also sees them as a tool to validate its Marxist-Leninist ideological framework by creating the perception of equality in the terrorist organization.
"Girls, whose ages range from 12-16 are mostly recruited by the terrorist organization with various methods and motivations," Nur Özkan Erbay, Daily Sabah's Ankara representative, said.
The organizations' woman branches, such as the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) are often functioning to romanticize their violent activities in the world media and to create a heroic narrative about their "struggle against oppressors."
The report, published by the Interior Ministry last year titled "Exploitation of Children and Women by PKK/KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union)," cites several abuse and persecution cases which women were exposed to in PKK camps.
The same report also suggested the PKK/KCK regards the family as a feudal and oppressive institution while its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, expressed that women should not be doomed to life with a single male.
"I had escaped from stepmother violence and joined the PKK. In five years, I have witnessed the suicide of 11 women along with the execution of eight others, who raised their voices against rape," Gabar Rojbin, a former female member of the PKK terrorist organization told security forces during her testimony.
"Once you join, it is not easy to leave the organization since the organization hinders escape. Therefore, they cut off ways of escape by either harming the women's reputations or threatening their families," professor Hamit Emrah Beriş, an academic at Gazi University's Political Science Department told Daily Sabah, adding that the PKK deceives women in the name of emancipation.
Western media's misperception of terrorist women
Rather than revealing the true face of the terrorist organization, many media outlets glorify the PKK and other organizations linked to it. The portrayal of female terrorists as freedom fighters and pointing to the high number of female militants to highlight how the terrorist organization gives importance to gender equality are the main themes encountered when mentioning the PKK in Western media.
Emel Topçu, an academic at Hasan Kalyoncu University's Political Science and International Relations Department, told Daily Sabah that the PKK is manipulating the notion of femininity as a propaganda tool and visual communication technique, adding that these women are presented to Western media as strong characters who are trained in the mountains and equal with men in their environment.
"Western media portrays these women as individuals who enjoy sexual and opinion freedom without experiencing any torture and oppression," Erbay underscored.
Sex slaves as well as suicide bombers
Along with using their femininity as a means to create a positive perception of the terror group, the PKK has also been driving women to commit suicide bombings against the Turkish army and civilians in cities.
Özbay said the PKK uses women as weapons in terms of their tactical advantage due to the "non-violent female" stereotype, and their media attraction which led to a large number of recruits and has great psychological repercussions.
According the Turkish intelligence units' report, 79 percent of the women joining the PKK terrorist organization are in the 15-22 age group, while 55 percent of these women were taken to the mountains by being deceived or kidnapped were 15-18 years old.
Nonetheless, 90 percent of the women who have been deceived or abducted by the organization are raped within the first 30 days regardless of their age.
Referring the pictures of a current senior figure Duran Kalkan with young terrorist women hugging him and holding hands, Topçu added that the sole thing that can be taken to be understood from these pictures is "beautiful, young, eye-pleasing amazon women who fight for their country."
The PKK, the popular acronym for the Kurdistan Worker's Party is an armed terrorist organization listed as such by Turkey, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. The group, which has Marxist-Leninist roots, was founded in 1974 and afterward launched a paramilitary campaign against the Turkish government, calling for an independent state in southeastern Turkey.
The nearly 30-year terror campaign against Turkey has led to 40,000 deaths, including women and children.