Middle East

Terror group PKK seeking to exploit Iranian protests for own self-interest, warns expert

Perception of protests as centering on women's rights generates win-win situation for terrorist PKK-affiliated groups in Iran, says Turkish-based analyst

Dilara Hamit  | 26.09.2022 - Update : 26.09.2022
Terror group PKK seeking to exploit Iranian protests for own self-interest, warns expert File Photo


The terrorist group PKK and its Iranian affiliates are trying to take advantage of nine days of protests following the Sept. 16 killing of a young woman in police custody, said a Turkish expert on the ongoing protests.

Cagatay Balci, a PhD from the Ankara-based National Defense University, told Anadolu Agency that although the protests started independently of the armed groups, these groups soon sought to steer this process, and the IKPD, PJAK – an Iranian terror group affiliated with the terrorist PKK – and Komele groups began to get involved in demonstrations concentrated in Kurdish-majority cities.

Referring to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, he said: "Of course, the most important reason for this advantage for Kurdish armed groups is that (Amini) was born in Saqqez, in Iran's Kurdish region, and her death was seen as an attack on Kurdish identity in Iran, or discrimination against Kurdish society, or subconscious discrimination. It triggered the experience of exclusion, and they began to use the very clear expression of this consciousness that evolved in Kurdish armed groups.”

He also stated that this was presented and perceived as a women's liberation movement, particularly abroad, and said armed groups in Iran dominated by Kurds, like the IKPD, tried to mobilize it around Kurdish identity, whereas Komele and the PJAK see themselves as taking part in a women's liberation movement alongside Kurdish identity, adding that seeing the protests as a women's rights movement also generates a favorable environment.

Türkiye, the US, and Iran have all designated the Iranian-based PJAK as a terrorist group.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.

"Furthermore, given the ideology, it got from the (terrorist group) PKK, for many years the PJAK has been presenting its actions as campaigning for women's rights. In reality, many political fronts were founded for this goal, as were women's armed wing organizations. During these rallies, I believe the PJAK was successful in both safeguarding Kurdish identity and combining the themes and arguments of the women's liberation movement," he said.

No major upheaval expected

"I don't believe the protests will escalate into a major rebellion in Iran's Kurdish territories, as happened in 1979 (the year of the country’s revolution overthrowing the shah). Of course, the ultimate goal of these groups is to incite a rebellion and insurgency, but this can’t happen due to Iran's security measures," Balci explained.

He said the security measures will not allow these groups potentially escalate the protests into an uprising, but added that the groups will simply try to deepen the protests as much as possible, intensify them, and make them as massive as possible.

"But we will see how successful this can be within days because Iran has already begun to implement tough measures," he added.

Attack on Iran's Embassy in Athens

Early Sunday, attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Iranian Embassy in Athens, reportedly causing no significant damage. Balci said that looking at Greece's relations with terror groups, the terrorist group PKK might have organized the attack.

"In recent days, the Lavrion camp, in particular, has become increasingly prominent,” said Balci, referring to a camp in Greece that Türkiye has charged became a terrorist headquarters and training ground.

“This camp is home to many terrorist groups, particularly those operating against Türkiye. This brings up the fact that these groups are very active in Greece. This incident may have been carried out by the PKK; sure, this is a normal process; we're talking about a process that every state that protects terrorist groups would face at some point.”

Turkish officials have long warned that any country that harbors or protects terrorist groups will eventually find itself targeted by those same groups.

Protests in Iran erupted on Sept. 17 following the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who died after being detained by the morality police in the capital Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab head covering improperly.

Authorities have sought to pin blame on her death on a heart attack, but her family and many others in Iran have rejected the claim, saying she was the victim of police brutality. Authorities have promised a thorough investigation of Amini's death.

Her death has triggered a wave of angry protests in Iran over the past week, with protesters calling for justice and accountability.

The incident has drawn condemnation from many world leaders and human rights groups, including the US, which has sanctioned Iran's morality police in response to the "abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors."

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