Thanks to effective counterterrorism operations as well as the ongoing activities of Turkish security forces, 635 PKK terrorists have been convinced to surrender since 2016, including the 13 terrorists who turned their backs on the terrorist group in the first few weeks of 2020.
Although various simultaneous counterterrorism operations are targeting the terrorist group both within and outside the country, security forces have started to give priority to convincing terrorist members to surrender in recent years by reaching out to their families. Using the families as mediators in communication with the terrorists, a method that has proved its efficiency, security forces have managed to convince hundreds of terrorists to leave the PKK.
As a result, in 2016, 79 terrorists surrendered to security forces, the number increasing in every subsequent year. In 2017, the number reached 105 while in 2018, it was 165. In 2019, however, the process gained remarkable momentum by almost doubling the number of the previous year as 273 terrorists were convinced to surrender. 2020 has also had a promising start as 13 terrorists already surrendered in the first two weeks of the year.
In a Nov. 26 statement, the interior ministry said that the dissolution of the PKK has been accelerated due to Turkey's successful counterterrorism operations and strategies both at home and abroad. The statement said a significant number of terrorists have fled the PKK and surrendered. Once the terrorists surrender, they are provided with many opportunities, including the right to education and the freedom to live without fear and oppression. They are not ill-treated, can contact their families freely and are provided with essential judicial assistance. The Turkish state offers a variety of services to ensure their social reintegration. According to some former terrorists, the PKK ringleaders risk the lives of others to save their own and threaten those planning to surrender with torture.
However, persuasion is not the only method that encourages terrorists to surrender. The terrorists who managed to escape the PKK during Turkish military operations and the ones who had nowhere else to flee to also tend to surrender to the security forces. The number of terrorists who have surrendered in this way since 2016 is 556, meaning that the overall number of surrendered terrorists in the last four years is 1,193.
In addition to the surrenders, the demand to join the PKK also had a remarkable fall over the years, even to the point that there is little to no interest in being apart of the terrorist group anymore. According to statistics, while the number of people who joined the PKK was 703 in 2016, this number fell to 161 in 2017 and 136 in 2018. In 2019, the number fell to 108.
Still, despite all these encouraging developments signaling the overall decline of the PKK, the wounds that were caused by the terrorist group in past years still linger in people's memories as the pain of losing their loved ones never goes away.
A family in southeastern Hatay province's Reyhanlı district is one of the hundreds of families who have lost a relative to a PKK/YPG attack and still struggle to overcome the pain.
Ahmed Şanverdi, 68, was killed exactly two years ago today, on Jan. 20, 2018, by a missile attack of the PKK/YPG, targeting Reyhanlı from Syria's Afrin province as a response to then recently launched Operation Olive Branch.
Although Afrin and the neighboring provinces have been liberated from terrorist elements since then, the memories of the day are still alive for Şanverdi's family, including his seven children.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), one of Şanverdi's sons, Abdusalem, said that their sorrow is as fresh as if the incident had just taken place.
"The past two years after we lost him were quite troublesome," he said, adding that they are still happy to see that northern Syria is now clear from the terrorists and it is no longer as likely to face such an incident.
Because of the missile attacks of the PKK/YPG terrorists on the Reyhanlı district during Operation Olive Branch, four civilians lost their lives and 86 others were injured.
Over the course of its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is the Syrian wing of the PKK.