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Thursday, February 26, 2015

PKK elects new leadership as Iran steps up border presence

Murat Karayilan steps down as acting PKK leader; Tehran increases presence along Kurdistan border
Female members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are pictured in the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk on May 13, 2013, as the group was preparing for the return of their comrades stationed in Turkey. (AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party (PKK) elected two new leaders at a conference held in Mount Qandil last week. The recent change of leadership comes under a scheme adopted by the majority of Turkish-based Kurdish parties where power is jointly assumed by two leaders, a man and a woman.
Replacing acting PKK leader Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Bese Howat were elected as joint acting leaders for the PKK at the end of the conference.
A senior PKK source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the PKK’s executive council, held a conference from June 30 to July 5 to discuss the party’s political and organizational system on both the local and regional levels.
The conference also agreed to bring the proportion of the party’s female members up to 40 percent.
“The conference also elected Abdullah Öcalan as president and commander of the organization [KCK].”
The KCK was established following the arrest of Öcalan in 1999 to take over the leadership of the PKK, with Karayilan elected as its acting head. It is considered the highest executive body in PKK and the movements and bodies affiliated with it.
Cemil Bayik and Bese Howat are both reported to be co-founders of the PKK. Initial reports claimed that Karayilan will now retire; however, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper on Wednesday reported that the former acting leader will head up an armed unit within the PKK called the People’s Defense Forces (HPG). Abdullah Öcalan remains overall head of the Kurdish movement.
In separate news, a senior source in the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Iran has deployed large military reinforcements, including heavy armor and military vehicle, along the borders with the Kurdistan region in a bid to target the PKK, as well as construct military installations along the border.
“This means that the Iranian army wants to settle in the area by establishing permanent military bases,” the PJAK source said.
The source added: “PJAK’s leadership has declared a truce with the Iranian side since 2012 following the failure of the largest military operation launched by the Iranian army against our bureaus in Mount Qandil.”
“If Iran breaks the truce by targeting our bureaus, we will defend ourselves and even point our weapons toward the Iranian interior,” the source emphasized.