APPG Report: 'Terrorist' definition of PKK should be reviewed

The UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan in Syria and Turkey published a report called “Kurdish Political Representation and Equality in Turkey”.

The UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan in Syria and Turkey published a report called “Kurdish Political Representation and Equality in Turkey”.

The treatment of the Kurdish population and of elected representatives is one of the greatest threats to democracy in Turkey and the wider region, said the report in its introduction adding that “repression of elected representatives from the pro-Kurdish HDP party includes actions such as removal from office, bringing charges of terrorism-based offences, and imprisonment and torture has now started to expand to CHP (the centre-left party that founded modern Turkey).”

The APPG also said that the British government should review the definition of "terrorist" given to the PKK in the light of the Belgian court decision, and added that Turkey's rights violations should be condemned.

Here is a summary of the report:

“Kurdish political representation

-The APPG finds that the human rights of municipal leaders are being violated while they are detained pending trial or sentenced to prison.

-The APPG finds that the DTK closure violates the principles of a democratic society.

Further, the APPG considers these actions to undermine the possibility of negotiations

on a peaceful settlement to the ongoing Kurdish conflict within Turkey.

-The APPG finds that there is systematic repression of Kurdish political youth groups

and of those linked to the HDP.

-The APPG calls on the UK government to raise these issues with the Turkish

government, to put pressure on upholding the rule of law and commitment

to democracy.

-The APPG recommends that Parliamentary representatives in the PACE continue

to raise these issues within the Council of Europe to ensure that ECtHR ruling and

Council of Europe Resolutions are upheld.

-The APPG urges the Government to actively voice their support for the European

Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) December 2020 ruling to demand the release of

former HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş from prison.

-The APPG calls on the UK Government to press the Turkish government to uphold

the rule of law and democratic principles at the local level in Turkey.

-The APPG recommends this issue should be raised within the Congress of Local and

Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

-The APPG supports the ongoing call for greater transparency in the process in

which the Turkish government's approach to replacement of elected mayors.

-The APPG urges the UK government to condemn the closure of the DTK and remind

the Turkish government of its previous commitment to finding a peaceful solution

to the ongoing conflict.

-The APPG recommends that the UK government and the Congress of Local and

Regional Authorities reinforce the importance of all members fulfilling the

ambitions in the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People

in Local and Regional Life for young people in Turkey.

Repression and violence targeting civil society


-As the repression of democratically elected representatives has increased in severity,

the violence directed at Kurdish civil society has also become more pronounced.

-Kurdish cultural and linguistic organisations have been closed down by the Turkish


-Curfews have been imposed in many cities in the Kurdish region. Cities have been

attacked by military and police forces; these attacks specifically targeted civilians.

-The APPG heard about how post-2015, the criminalisation of Kurdish culture and language

increased to new levels.

Turkey has refused to sign and ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority

Languages28 and the APPG received evidence that this has greatly affected the education

of Kurdish children.

Gender-based oppression

Turkey consistently ranks low on indices of gender equality. Violence against women

has been increasing at alarming rates for several years.

-Turkey recently withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a decision seen as expressing

a lack of commitment to fighting gender-based violence and oppression.

-Kurdish women experience a doubled risk of violence and repression, on the basis of

gender as well as ethnicity.

-The HDP’s commitment to women’s political representation has led to the singling out

of women politicians as targets of systemic, state-promoted misogyny.

The APPG finds that Kurdish women in Turkey face particular challenges both in their

professional political roles and in their personal lives, and notes that this is in the

backdrop of a hostile environment for women's rights in Turkey more generally.

-The APPG finds that the distinctive values of Kurdish communities, and the policies of

the HDP, promote gender equality in democratic processes.

-The APPG finds that the closure of women's organisations significantly prevents

freedom of speech in Turkey and the progression towards gender equality.

-The APPG finds that the closure of women’s organisations in Turkey is particularly

concerning as it prevents the opportunity for women experiencing violence to seek

refuge from NGOs and other aid organisations.

-The APPG finds that gender-based violence is on the rise in Turkey, impacting not

only Kurdish women and girls, but women and girls in the general population.

-The APPG finds that women have been arrested for speaking up in support of the

Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe instrument to preventing and combating

violence against women and girls.

-The APPG urges the UK government to actively encourage political systems which

seek to end femicide and promote women's rights both in the Turkish population

and in political life.

-The APPG recommends that the UK government recognise policies implemented

by the HDP, which aim to support gender equality, as a key component to political

representation and democracy.

- The APPG recommends the UK government support international organisations

aiding women in vulnerable situations.

Freedom of the press

-The freedom of the press and freedom of speech are under constant attack by the

Turkish government.

-One third of the world’s jailed journalists were imprisoned in Turkey in 2016.

-State censorship particularly targets Kurdish media outlets or those seen as

sympathetic to Kurdish rights.

-The APPG finds that democratic institutions and the democratic culture of Turkey has

significantly weakened in recent years, and that freedom of expression has notably


-The APPG finds that the restrictions placed on journalists and media outlets greatly

affect the ability of journalists to fulfil their professional roles, as well as the ability

for the Turkish population to trust media sources.

-The APPG urges the Government to condemn the destruction of freedom of speech

via the suppression of a free media. The APPG considers the arrests of journalists to

physically prevent the freedom for individuals to express criticism of the government

or the atrocities occurring in Turkey. This significantly inhibits the ability for the

international community to be made aware of actions taken against the Kurdish

communities and for governments globally to gain a better understanding of how

best to support them.

- The APPG finds the number of journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey to be of

grave concern.

-The APPG asks the UK government to support organisations aiming to support

imprisoned journalists and those aiming to support the expression of Kurdish


-The APPG urges the Government to condemn the measures to restrict freedom of

speech implemented in Turkey, and to remind the Turkish government that criticism

of government is a fundamental aspect of the public's rights.

-The APPG urges the UK government to raise the effect of imprisoning journalists

on freedom of speech in Turkey.

-The APPG urges the UK government to strongly condemn the torture and

intimidation of journalists.

International classification of Kurdish organisations

The Turkish government views any organisation or individual who shares aims or

ideology with the PKK as ‘terrorist’. Further, Turkey views many Kurdish political

organisations as structurally linked to the PKK, even when these organisations work

with Turkey’s NATO allies such as the United States.

-Turkey’s repression of political organisations on this basis has been condemned by

many governments and international political arms, such as the Council of Europe

and the European Union.

-The legal basis for proscribing the PKK as a terrorist organisation has been proven

questionable in a Belgian Supreme Court case in 2020.

-The APPG urges the UK government to make clear that the application of the

label of ‘terrorism’ can not be applied to a broad range of Kurdish political and

cultural organisations just because they are Kurdish or support Kurdish


- The APPG urges the UK government to consider the reliability of the Turkish

government’s rhetoric in HDP prosecutions, and in regard to the PKK itself.

-The APPG recommends that the UK government unreservedly diverge from

Turkey on its definition of the PYD-YPG as terrorist organizations in line with its

current practice to not list them and to work with them on the ground.

-The APPG urges the government to use experiences in Northern Ireland to

support a process in which the PKK and Turkish government are able to come to

a peace agreement.