Kurd Extremists Train in Lebanon
Guerrilla leader scorns negotiations, in favor of armed raids and 'political lessons'. KURDISH AUTONOMY BID
| BEKAA VALLEY, LEBANON
NESTLED in the rocks on the far side of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian frontier, is a training camp for guerrillas of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party.Here the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas are taught to be true believers in a separate Marxist-Kurdish state, in the evil of the Turkish government, and in terror tactics. In late July, for instance, 10 civilians died in southeast Turkey when their minibus hit a mine thought to be laid by the PKK. More than 2,000 people have been killed since 1984 in guerrilla fighting since the PKK started armed attacks. Turkish government forces have recently launched a series of attacks, including air strikes, on guerrilla positions along the border with Iraq. (See story, page 5.)
Against the government "These are lies - it is the psychology of war and the Turkish press who say this" about civilian deaths, says Abdullah Ocalan, the thick-set founder of the PKK, who looks surprisingly like Saddam Hussein. "Our war is against the Turkish government, not the people of Turkey. Today there are 1,500 PKK guerrillas inside Turkish prisons, and they do everything to them; some die," Mr. Ocalan says, squinting through heavy black eyebrows. An estimated 5,000 PKK guerrillas are at work inside Turkey, fighting for an independent Kurdish state. The United States State Department branded the PKK a "terrorist" organization last year, and they are by far the most extreme and militant Kurdish group. In the view of the PKK chief, Iraqi Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani, who are negotiating with Saddam Hussein for an autonomous region in northern Iraq, betray all Kurds by talking instead of fighting. "They are both weak, so they talk," says Ocalan, whose nom de guerre is Apo, or Leader. "We refuse this agreement. They negotiate with Turks also, and Turkey is our enemy. Early this year they came to this camp. Their words are good, but they speak too much. They are tribal leaders and work only for themselves." Apo's vision for the PKK is different, and it is evident everywhere in this barren camp, created with the blessing of the nearby Syrians, who have been backing them as a political trump card against Turkey. At the entrance is a checkpoint for another camp - also on Lebanese soil - of the Damascus-based radical Palestinian faction of Nayef Hawatmeh. Lebanese Army men are nowhere around - all roads to these camps are controlled by plainclothes Syrian intelligence men with pistols stuck in their belts.
Individual salutes "The guerrillas are more a political force, not a military force," says Apo, his white Adidas basketball shoes contrasting sharply with his plain dark uniform. The mural on the front of his small building shows him waving, his feet lost in a thick carpet of flowers and grass. "We do raids on villages - 50 so far this year - and spread our ideas." The 300 trainees at the camp, mostly from Turkey, are saluted individually each morning by Apo. The youngest seem no more than 14 years old. They hear three or four hours of "political lessons," where they learn how to incite the Kurdish population of Turkey to revolt, and then win them over with the PKK's stock Marxist-Leninist ideology. "Marx and Lenin yes, but also democratic and humanist," Apo says about PKK thinking. "We are not relating to the socialism of the Soviet Union. We will have the right socialism." No country today, Apo adds, serves as a model for his PKK-run Kurdistan. The training camp is well-inscribed with the paraphernalia of revolution, similar to that of armed rebel groups from southern Africa to southeast Asia. A pristine portrait of Lenin stares down on the proceedings of a small clinic, and the Soviet hammer and sickle and Kalashnikov assault rifles appear on some flags. The main meeting chamber, decked out in red and gold, lionizes members of the PKK Central Committee. Guerrillas heed Soviet-exported devotion to martyrs and dates. "The Day of Honor to remember two PKK Central Committee members who died in a 1982 hunger strike in a Turkish prison - is celebrated with a long political discourse by Apo, and flying banners asking for his longevity. A whistle blows and men and women in unmarked green uniforms and gleaming running shoes run to the marching ground and line up, a little haphazardly, near a freshly-painted but battered World War I artillery piece. They train with Kalashnikovs and larger machine guns, but nothing they can't carry in the rugged hills of Turkish Kurdistan. The PKK work easily along Turkey's border from Syria to the Soviet Union. "The Turkish Army is afraid," says Apo, though with good reason. According to a PKK statement released last month, 399 Turkish soldiers have been killed, as well as 32 officers, and a handful of "police officers, special team members, village protectors and informers." Only 57 guerrillas were "martyred," it said.
No smoking The aspiring guerrillas also are cautioned against smoking - a pet peeve of Apo, born of his experience in high-altitude Turkish Kurdistan. "He hates smoking," says one PKK member in the camp. "Once he challenged some guerrillas to race up a hill, but they could not go beyond halfway and he told them, standing on top: 'For this you would be killed. If the Turkish soldiers don't kill you in those hills, smoking will. As bursts of gunfire continue to ricochet through the mountains, Apo explains: "Now we are married to the war, to the revolution. Our war is for humanism."