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Turkey PKK Fighters








Vision start


Title:  Foreign Correspondent







Series music
















































































Pigeon, man with baby pigeon and pigeons

George:  Oh, a baby one. Isn't that beautiful. (laughter)






George:  The simple pleasure of a man whose boyhood was spent in a poor Kurdish village in Turkey.  Today Abdullah Ocalan is in exile - he is Turkey's most wanted terrorist.






Apo:  These are my doves of peace.






George:  But one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, so Ocalan is also known to millions of Kurds as simply, 'the leader'.





Mountain landscapes, George to camera




The mountains the Kurds have called home for 6000 years are today controlled by four countries that no on would wish for as neighbours.  In that direction Iran, over there Iraq that way is Syria and very close to where we are now, in that direction is Turkey. 






And it is Turkey, western in its outlook, a member of the NATO military alliance and a would be member of the European union that today commits the worst excesses of savagery against the Kurdish people.





Map of Middle East, boat on river, George trekking with pack on back, boat ride

To tell the story of the PKK's battle against Turkish repression, you first have to find your way into their land-locked territory.






With such neighbours, it's no easy task.






George:  Will you take me across the river?






George:  We pose as tourists to pass through Syria, crossing the Euphrates and Tigris rivers into northern Iraq.





Man giving






riding on truck, soldiers and machine guns

George:  The Kurdish group that greets us says Turkish troops are bombarding villages in the mountains in a push against PKK guerillas.  They agree to take us as close to the frontline as they dare - but say its too dangerous to go right up to the border.  They are as concerned for their own safety than for ours.





Old woman interview

Woman:  The Turks bombed us, they brought our houses down on our heads, they killed people, they cut off hands.  They cut off parts of people's bodies.  We just ran away.  God saved us.





George walking with men in

George:  What's the name of this place?


village, baby



women with baby, man standing, woman sitting

George:  It's a taste of how the Turks conduct their war against the Kurds - attacking villages just across their border in northern Iraq that might give sanctuary to the PKK, forcing thousands of peasants to flee just as they're about to gather in their harvest.






A baby girl is so malnourished it barely has the strength to cry.






Interpreter:  Sometimes she throws up.  She as little milk for him.






George:  This at harvest time, a time of plenty.  Turkey has never accepted a separate Kurdish identity - instead labelling Kurdish as 'mountain Turks' and forbidding them to use their own language, their own songs, their own identity.





Women carrying wood and grass, men and women running

In its efforts to crush Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, the army has razed to the ground some 3,000 villages - displaced perhaps two million Kurds from their homes.





Zeki interview

Zeki:  The main reason for our struggle is so that we can live on our own soil and win the right to live as human beings.






George:  This man is known as 'Fingerless Zeki', a legendary PKK guerilla commander, a dozen years in the mountains, a hand mutilated in battle.






Zeki:  It's not to dominate someone else's land or to take away their rights or the fruit of their labour.  We don't covet anyone else's land.  That's why we believe we have right on our side.





Soldiers walking through bush

George:  In the mountains between five and ten thousand PKK fighters have conducted a 12 year hit and run war - tying down a Turkey army many times its size that is equipped with the latest NATO technology.






But the PKK's ambitions go well beyond this war for national rights - it wants to bring about a revolution in Kurdish society itself.  A starting point - to give women equal status - one that includes their right to fight alongside their male comrades in arms.





Interview with man

Sipan:  Women in the world, in the middle east and especially in Kurdistan have little influence.  They are the oppressed gender.  So these things are very important to us:  the liberation of women; their right to express themselves; and their need to play a role in the general development of society.





Apo entering, shaking hands, walks along, talks to group of soldiers

George:  It is this combination of nationalism and idealism that makes the PKK such a potent force - and its focus is this man - the one everyone calls Apo - Abdullah Ocalan - the peasant boy who started the Kurdish revolution.






Apo:  Tis is the statue of our friend Agit.  It's a shame that he became a martyr so early in the struggle.  he was one of my best friends.






George:  At his secret headquarters far from the fighting in a country whose name we've agreed not to reveal, Apo's word is law as it is throughout the PKK.






He has a charisma that captures the hearts of his fighting men and women - an iron will that brooks no disagreement amongst the PKK leadership (at least publicly) and a sense of mission of biblical proportions.





Apo interview

Apo:  Prophets have always been leaders in the middle east.  They are called messengers and it's very hard to lead people without understanding the role of prophets.  To mobilise these people, you have to use the prophets' methods.  You shouldn't get me wrong, I don't call myself a prophet, but I pay attention to their methods as well.  It's necessary for success.





Soldiers doing exercises, Milan exercising, interview with Milan, Apo looks on

George:  Apo's message attracts Kurdish disciples from all over the world.  Among them this young Australian Kurd.  As a teenager, Milan abandoned life in Melbourne six years ago.  She travelled half way around the world to take up arms against the Turks and fell under Apo's spell.






Milan:  He's not a normal leader, he's different.






George:  What makes him different?






Milan:  I believe he's a little bit yourself, not a different person, like yourself, and also he's human and everything is nice and warm.






George:  Can you love a leader like this?






Milan:  Of course, I love him.






George:  She says she loves you.  (laughter)






Apo:  I find it very interesting.  Is this what they've been talking about to you?





Woman bringing tea to table, Apo speaking to Peter George and Milan

George:  For his fighting forces and especially towards the women, Apo displays all the attributes of a stern but loving father.  Caring, but critical.






Apo:  We take notice of Milan.  She's got some positive attributes, but she's so emotional.  She gets upset when I tell her the Kurdish struggle is particularly hard for her.  Kurdistan is a very wild place and she can't cope with the Kurdish nature.  It's difficult for her to adapt.






George:  But Milan is determined to adapt.





Milan interview

Milan:  I believe I became more serious for life.  Before I was living but never I feel the life, I was just living, life taking me, not I was taking life.  I can explain in Turkey better.  Especially after joining the struggle, I became more serious towards life because people are being oppressed massacred.  You have to be responsible.






George:  So you're also a 24 year old woman, it's hard to kill people I suppose?  Do you have qualms about that?






Milan:  It's not easy to kill human beings.  I wish Kurdish people didn't have to kill anyone.  Kurds are forced to kill and fight in this way.  None of us joined this struggle just to kill people, but we're forced to.





Soldiers, photograph being passed along, soldiers eating

Apo:  More than 500 very young girls like Milan have been killed.  They were all heroes.  We want women to stand on their own feet.  They should discard the traditional notion of the dependent woman, of women being empty-headed.  At the moment my biggest project is to help women grow without relying on men.






George:  Like many revolutionary movements the twin goals of social reform and political freedom are natural bedfellows - the one meaningless without the other.






The austere life they lead as revolutionaries reflects the simple notion of their cause - a matter of natural justice - that the millions of Kurds who make up about a fifty of Turkey's population have the right to determine their own political, and social development in the region of Turkey that is their traditional homeland.






Apo:  They say we're a Turkish movement, but it's a nationalist and democratic struggle.





Apo interview

George:  Do you accept the fact that the PKK is responsible for at least a share of the human rites abuses in this war?






Apo:  Amnesty International is behaving unfairly.  If there are some individual cases against civilians that are out of our control, it shouldn't be seen as a general thing.  But the Turkey State uses terror as a policy against a whole nation.






George:  Then do you condemn any infringement of the rule of law or of human rights abuses like the killing of civilians or the taking of civilian hostages.






Apo:  In previous years (Amnesty) drew up a big list (against us), but last year there were only four or five complaints.  I hope this year they don't have anything on their list.  We're already trying to stop it.  We abide by the Geneva Convention.





Soldiers cleaning guns

George:  Turkey refuses to talk to the PKK, labelling it as nothing but a Turkish organisation - much as the Israelis did with the PLO until recent years.






The truth of the matter is that Turkey's hands are far bloodier than the PKK's.





Interview with woman whith child on lap

Woman:  There were no men there.  The Turks took my husband.  I just run away with these two children.






George:  The testimony of a woman who two weeks ago watched the Turks burn her village to the ground - she saved two children, but her baby was burned to death.






Woman:  I saved their lives - but had to leave my other child in the flames.





People making shelter with leaves, interview with woman

George:  Human rights groups like Amnesty International regularly report such outrages, just as constantly, the Turks deny responsibility and lay the blame at the PKK's door.






Woman:  The PKK's good.  Whenever the Turks come to our houses and kill someone, they say the PKK did it.  But they didn't do it.  When the children were killed, they said the PKK did it.  The PKK doesn't cause us any trouble.





Interview with Apo

George:  What would be the most basic requirements for the PKK to put down its arms?






Apo:  All they have to do is sit down with us for a dialogue.  If they sit down to talk the battle would finish.






George:  What would be the point of the dialogue, what would you wish to achieve from a Kurdish point of view?






Apo:  We would like to solve the Kurdish problem in a unified Turkey with democratic methods.  They don't want it.





Apo playing ball with others

George:  Ocalan may pursue democratic goals, but questions linger about some of his methods. 






For instance, while he seeks to portray a clean and healthy image for the PKK, Turkey and some western police forces have accused it of paying for its war by running drugs into Europe.





Apo interview

Apo:  It's a big slander.  If we're in that drug business, why couldn't they catch any member of the PKK doing that.  European security forces have lots of information, so if its not a slander, why couldn't they catch anyone? 






I'm asking that question.  For us even to use one gram of marijuana is a crime. 





Apo with wounded soldiers

George:  It remains a war fought in the shadows - vicious, dirty, hit and run - with a toll of dead and mutilated that continues to mount:  and it cannot be won on the battlefield and everyone knows it.






Yet rather than confront it, western powers prefer to ignore it in the interests of NATO unity and good relations with Turkey.






Apo:  A mine.  A mine caused this injury.






George:  Why so many mine injuries?






Apo talking to George

Apo:  Kurdistan is full of mines.  There are hundreds of thousands of mines in Kurdistan.  It's a very big problem.  Actually the world just doesn't know about it.  Hundreds of thousands of mines is a big crime.






Mobs of people, soldiers bashing into them

News Reporter:  The Kurds of the camp of Jacusa?? less than 10 kilometres from the Iranian border are starving.






George:  A few years ago, the superpowers did take some notice of the Kurds - but that was only in the wake of the Gulf war against Saddam Hussein when Iraqi Kurds were encouraged to rise against him.  It was a total disaster.






Man:  Our children are suffering from hunger and starvation so we've got to make first something to help us.






Man:  We know that, you need food, clothing, tents, you need everything.





Interior aircraft, tracking shots of snowy mountains, George in field walking along

George:  The allies eventually declared a safe-haven from Saddam to Iraqi Kurds - they didn't bother to give the same protection to the Turkish Kurds from the Turkish shells.






So today, there is deafening diplomatic silence when Turkish troops invade the so called safe-haven to devastate villages which might support the PKK's goals.





Rocky landscape, George walking, talking to camera

George:  This is what a Kurdish village looks like after Turkish bombs, shells and troops have finished with it.  Eight villagers died here, the rest ran away. 







What irony then that the Turks are not demanding that they take control of the five year old operation poised hammer in which American planes fly over this region to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein.






To give the Turks that job would be like putting a fox in charge of a chicken coop.





Soldiers walking along, mountain landscape, soldiers singing and dancing

George:  Lightly equipped, mobile and hidden amongst mountains that are natural defensive positions, the PKK could continue indefinitely to confront and harass the Turks.












The mountains are both sanctuary and prison - surrounded as they are by four nations that covet the rich mineral deposits, fertile land and plentiful water supplies of the region.






And despite the cultural ties that bind them and the enemies that surround them, the Kurds are cursed by historic tribal infighting that is exploited by their enemy and undermines their common cause.





Zeki interview, night time, singing and sitting in front

Zeki:  We don't want too much or too little.  We want what all the other nations in the world have.


of fire




George:  They vow to fight on and they will.  But without strong friends to back them, the PKK is stalemated - the cause cannot be won, yet the war is destined to continue.





George Negus

Negus:  Peter George and what looks like a pretty futile struggle by the Turkish Kurds for recognition and statehood. 






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