Though recognized as terror group, PKK openly maintains dangerous foothold in Europe
PKK listed as terrorist organization by Türkiye, European Union, US, and is responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, infants
With demonstrations by a known terrorist group taking place openly in major European cities, the Turkish government is sounding the alarm over a group that has killed tens of thousands and supported human trafficking, drugs, and organized crime being free to walk the streets.
On Wednesday, a group of terrorist organization PKK protestors held a march in central London shouting anti-Turkish slogans, marching from Highbury and Islington station to Leicester Square under police cordon.
The group of around 50 men and women carried pictures of Abdullah Ocalan, the terror group’s convicted ringleader, and various PKK symbols and flags. Police were seen walking alongside the marchers, who also disrupted the normal flow of traffic.
After supporters of the PKK terror group also recently held demonstrations in France and Germany – both members of the European Union – the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the envoys of both countries to lodge a protest, Türkiye’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
“We have summoned both ambassadors to the ministry ... Our missions in those countries (France and Germany) have also made contacts," said Mevlut Cavusoglu, adding that the envoys were given a diplomatic note stressing that no more such demonstrations should be allowed.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the European Union, and the US, and is responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG – which also has a presence in Europe, openly sanctioned by several governments – is the terrorist PKK’s Syrian branch.
The EU’s law enforcement agency Europol classified the PKK as an “ethno-nationalist” and “separatist” terrorist group, saying in its 2020 and 2021 reports that the group still uses European countries for propaganda, recruitment, and fundraising activities, even though in most it is officially banned.
“The group maintained an apparatus that provided logistical and financial support to its operatives in Turkey and neighbouring countries and promoted its political objectives. This apparatus mainly operated under the guise of legally recognised entities, such as Kurdish associations,” said Europol’s EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report.
According to the report, PKK recruitment networks within Europe also played a part in EU citizens or residents joining conflicts in the Middle East such as in Syria and Iraq.
The PKK also “continued to use Europe for fundraising by legal and illegal means. These included fundraising campaigns and donations as well as extortion and other organised criminal activities,” said Europol.
The report said that one individual was arrested in Germany in 2020 for being in charge of PKK structures in a number of federal states. Another was convicted “of charges relating to his role in the Mainz area (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) as a full-time PKK cadre as of early May 2018,” as he was in charge of organizing and supervising fundraising campaigns and events, the report said.
The terrorist fundraiser sent some €223,000 ($238,460) to the PKK while receiving a monthly salary of €250 as financial support, in addition to reimbursement of travel and other expenses, it added.
Similarly, Europol stated in its 2020 report: "Members and sympathizers of the PKK continued to be involved in legal and illegal activities to raise funds in order to support the group and its affiliates."
Several European countries told Europol that the group was also involved in serious and organized criminal activities, according to the report.
PKK sympathizers vandalized mosques and shops belonging to the Turkish community in Germany. Such incidents were also reported in Belgium and Switzerland, Europol said in a 2020 report.
This May, at a children’s festival in Basel, Switzerland, a group of 30 PKK supporters verbally attacked Turkish families taking part in the festival. Then they threw iron barriers meant to mark off the celebration area at them, leaving at least six people wounded and needing medical treatment.
The Turkish government denounced the attack.
The terrorist group PKK plays an active role in continent-wide drug trafficking, the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) and Europol also reported.
A report by the agency and Europol decried growing gang violence and drug-related homicide in Europe, and cited the terrorist PKK’s role in this.
“The PKK … has been reported to be involved in organized crime,” said the 260-page 2019 EU Drug Market Report, citing “examples of its engagement in the drug trade in the EU.”
The document explains the drug market’s links to wider criminal activities, human trafficking, and terrorism.
“Organized crime may feed terrorism through a variety of channels, including supplying weapons, financing terrorist activities through drug distribution and infiltrating financial markets,” it warned.
Turkish officials have stressed the PKK’s pivotal role in European drug trafficking and organized crime.
In 2018, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the terrorist PKK controls the vast majority of drug trafficking in Europe, earning billions in the process.
“Especially in Europe, the PKK controls 80% of the drug trade, and it is estimated that the terrorist group earns around $1.5 billion a year,” said Soylu, adding that it uses its profits from illegal drugs to buy weapons for attacks.
Violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism ‘never completely disappeared’
Individuals who joined the YPG/PKK out of "left-wing extremist ideological convictions," acquire or strengthen combat skills that could "be used in terrorist activities in Europe," said an internal EU discussion paper by Gilles de Kerchove, coordinator of the office of EU Counter-Terrorism, released last year by non-profit monitoring group Statewatch.
The document, titled “EU action to counter left-wing and anarchist violent extremism and terrorism,” said that though the main terror threat in Europe comes from "jihadist terrorists," violent left-wing and anarchist extremism and terrorism have "never completely disappeared."
It added that for many left-wing violent extremists in Europe, solidarity with left-leaning militias in northern Syria, such as YPG/PKK terrorists, carries "great importance"
The document said that despite this, European authorities do not prosecute "volunteers" who join the YPG as armed fighters, because the bloc does not recognize the group, which is the PKK's offshoot in Syria, as a terrorist group.
"The fact that many of them deny any participation in actual combat further complicates the possibility of prosecuting them," added the document.
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