Outlawed PKK’s organizational structure in France exposed

EMRE DEM?R
PARIS

A three-year-long investigation into senior leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in France has revealed the PKK’s organizational structure and financial resources in the country, Today’s Zaman has learned.
The investigation into the PKK was launched in France following complaints of extortion to finance “terrorist activities” in 2007. The trial of 18 senior PKK leaders, including Nedim Seven, the European coordinator for the PKK who handles financing and is known as the “safe” of the organization, R?za Altun and Canan Kurty?lmaz, began on June 20.
The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. The investigation carried out by French prosecutor Thierry Fragnoli has revealed that the PKK operates mainly in four regions in France, which are the Paris-based north, the Strasbourg-based east, the Lyon-based south and the Normandy-based west. According to sources close to the prosecution, there is a PKK official leading each of these regions and coordinating the group’s activities there.
In each of these regions, there is also another PKK official, usually young, having been raised in the PKK’s ideological camps, who is responsible for coordinating the PKK’s activities in cities. The PKK official who is responsible for the group’s activities in France overall is based in Paris. There is a rotation among the low-ranking PKK officials who serve in the cities every year.

In every place categorized as a “city,” there is a committee comprised of the people living there, in addition to the city official. This committee’s members are mostly salesmen who sympathize with the PKK. The committee members are responsible for distributing the pro-PKK dailies, selling tickets for PKK events and collecting extortion money. Regional officials organize these committees. Extortion collection begins in October.

The PKK collects extortion money under the name of “donations” for the organization in October and January every year. The amount of money that needs to be collected is determined at a general meeting attended by PKK officials across Europe. After the targets are set, all four regions hold meetings attended by PKK supporters in each region and set individual targets. While workers are given low targets, those who are involved in commercial activities are given higher targets. At end of the campaign, most of the money collected is sent to Brussels.

The festivals and events organized to collect money for the PKK are also important sources of income for the organization. Salesmen are given tickets to sell for such events. The organization attacks the stores of those who refuse to sell tickets to intimidate people. The PKK also collects a significant amount of money from the sales of pro-PKK newspapers and magazines; however, the financial organization of the PKK in France is not limited to this.

According to the 2011 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) of Europol, the EU’s Police Department based in the Hague, the PKK also earns money from activities such as drug smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering in European Union states.

It is not known exactly how much revenue the PKK makes from these activities; however, according to the indictment prepared by Fragnoli, the drug smuggling activities managed by Seven have a volume of 1 billion euros.

Following the start of the trial of PKK members in France, PKK members developed code words in order to avoid wiretaps. PKK leaders who manage the flow of the organization’s funds started to use the words “kilometer” or “tomato” when they talk about sums of money. Sources close to French prosecutor’s office noted that key PKK figures such as Seven and Kurty?lmaz, whose phones are wiretapped, also use code names to refer to cities and meeting points. In addition, it was revealed that PKK members were communicating through Facebook or MSN instead of the phone, because of security concerns. Opening fake accounts for themselves on Facebook, the PKK members arrange their activities and discuss financial issues over the Internet. In the meantime, the France leg of the PKK, which has thus far transferred money to Kandil, where PKK camps are based, in cash, has developed a donation system through a foundation they created in order to prevent the capture of PKK members carrying large amounts of money.

PKK uses religious discourse to woo youth

In order to win the sympathy of the youth living in France, the PKK has recently been using a religious discourse. The PKK members try to convince families to send their children to PKK activities so the children can avoid bad habits and become decent people. Some pro-PKK mosques in France hold special activities for young people.


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