When shame is a badge of honor: the US State Department's bounties on the PKK

by Dr. Thoreau Redcrow    


On November 6th, 2018, Matthew Palmer—the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs—made an embarrassing announcement from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, that justifiably angered many Kurds throughout the world. While literally in the de-facto capital city of ISIS, Mr. Palmer had the audacity to announce that the U.S. Department of State was offering $12 million USD through their “Rewards for Justice” program for information on the whereabouts of three prominent PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrilla leaders.

The fact that the PKK has been one of the most effective forces defeating Turkish-backed ISIS since 2014, when they saved the lives of over 40,000 Yazidi civilians on Mount Sinjar, seemed to be lost on Mr. Palmer, who with no hint of shame decried them as a “terrorist organization”, before placing bounties of $5 million, $4 million, and $3 million on the heads of PKK leaders Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik, and Duran Kalkan respectively.

As an illustration of how morally devoid this decision was, when you visit the “Rewards for Justice” website, Duran Kalkan’s photo was placed right next to the ISIS recruiter Gulmurod Khalimov, a special operations commander from Tajikistan who has publicly called for the violent murder of Americans. The fact that a leader from the PKK—a group that has defeated ISIS in countless battles over the last four years, and has never killed or even wounded a single American citizen in their entire forty year history—would be placed beside a commander from ISIS, the group that the PKK rescued tens of thousands of civilians from, is so outrageous that it’s hard to conjure up words to describe the injustice.

When you then add in how the PKK shares the same democratic Apoist political philosophy as the YPG & YPJ, who are currently fighting alongside the U.S. in Rojava against ISIS, it becomes even more unconscionable. Apparently the Apoist Kurds of Syria are worthy enough to die fighting ISIS alongside U.S. Special Forces, but their fellow Apoist Kurds from Turkey in the PKK are seen as “terrorists”, only to please the Erdogan Turkish dictatorship who arms ISIS as a proxy force against both predominately Kurdish movements.

But this infuriating hypocrisy by the U.S. Government is nothing new when it comes to the PKK. In fact, the PKK was only listed as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO) in 1997, as part of an agreement to sell massive quantities of military arms to the Turkish Government, including the Cobra helicopters that Turkey used while destroying over 4,000 Kurdish villages.

So to recap, in this corrupt equation, the U.S. Government sells the weapons to Turkey that they use to kill thousands of Kurds, including those missiles that are diabolically used to melt the faces off fleeing Kurdish grandmothers, which directly fuels the guerrilla insurgency of the PKK; however when those same PKK guerrillas then attack Turkish soldiers using the U.S. equipment sold to them, the U.S. Government then labels the PKK as terrorists, in a deal to sell Turkey even more weapons!

Then years go by where the PKK never kills a single American citizen, and the entire world soon sees who the PKK really are when they heroically save 40,000 Yazidis from being slaughtered by ISIS—who was being armed and backed by Turkey—and in exchange, the U.S. then places a 12 million dollar bounty on those same PKK leaders heads, for daring to defy that ISIS-allied Turkish Government. By the way, the same ISIS group that the U.S. is actively bombing in Rojava, alongside the PKK-allied YPG & YPJ, who Turkey also disgracefully accuses of being ‘terrorists’. It’s so malevolently asinine that it’s no wonder most Western observers can’t even keep the situation straight in their head.

But to the original shameful issue of the bounty, as an American Kurdish studies specialist I will tell the U.S. State Department where they can find those three PKK leaders; they reside firmly within the hearts of millions of Kurds throughout the world. Those Kurds who have had their language banned, their cities demolished, their relatives murdered by Turkey’s death squads, and their current leader Abdullah Ocalan jailed on an isolated island for almost twenty years. As for my $12 million check, the U.S. State Department can send it directly to the YPG & YPJ for more weapons, as they will soon need it to defend Rojava against Turkey and their deranged regrouped ISIS killers—real terrorists who have been continually defeated by the PKK.