Kurdistan Communities Union
Kurdistan Communities Union
Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK)
President of Legislative Council
Co-Chairperson of Executive Council
Co-Chairperson of Executive Council
The Kurdistan Communities Union or KCK (Kurdish: Koma Civakên Kurdistan) is a Kurdish political organization committed to implementing Abdullah Öcalan's ideology of Democratic Confederalism. The KCK also serves as an umbrella group for all the Democratic Confederalist political parties of Greater Kurdistan, including the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), PYD (Democratic Union Party), PJAK (Kurdistan Free Life Party), and PÇDK (Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party).
Although Abdullah Öcalan is the group's representative leader, due to his imprisonment the organization is led by an assembly called Kurdistan People's Congress (Kongra-Gel), which serves as the group's legislature. The President of the Kongra-Gel is Zübeyir Aydar. The Assembly elects a 31-person Executive Council. The first Chairman of this Executive Council was Murat Karayılan, while Cemil Bayık was the Executive Council's Vice-President. In the General Assembly of the PKK in July 2013, the KCK's executive leadership was restructured. In place of the old position of a single chairperson, a dual co-chair system was implemented, with one position reserved for a man and the other for a woman. Cemil Bayık and Bese Hozat took these new positions, while Karayılan was made commander-in-chief of the People's Defence Forces (HPG), the PKK's official armed wing.
There are five main subdivisions of the KCK: the ideological front, the social front, the political front, the military front, and the women's division. In addition to the PKK, political parties such as the PJAK (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê - The Free Life Party of Kurdistan, in Kurdish) active in Iran and the PYD (Partiya Yekiti a Demokratik - Democratic Union Party, in Kurdish) active in Syria, as well as civil society organizations, and the PKK's armed wing, the HPG (Hêzên Parastina Gel - People's Defense Forces, in Kurdish) and the YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel - People's Protection Units, in Kurdish) are included. In Iraq the party is called the PÇDK (Partiya Çaresera Demokratik Kurdistan - Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, in Kurdish).
As Article 21 of the KCK contract details, provincial-regional assemblies come into being in compliance with the geographical and ethno-cultural characteristics of the countries in which they operate. Within the scope of the KCK formation, Turkey has been divided into four province-regions. These are namely, Çukurova (one of the provinces in the eastern Mediterranean part of Turkey), Amed (in Diyarbakir, one of the provinces in the southeastern Anatolia), Serhat (Erzurum, one of the provinces in the eastern part of Turkey) and the Aegean region. There are also urban assemblies, the formations that report to the People's Assemblies that operate in cities, and organizations of towns and quarters that are the groups that carry out the actions in towns and quarters.
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The philosophy of the KCK is described in the foreword to the agreement (sözleşme) that the Kurdistan People's Congress (Kongra-Gel) accepted on 17 May 2005. It was written by the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan on March 20, 2005. Having described the need for a democratic confederalism, Öcalan went on to say:
The democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a State system, it is the democratic system of a people without a State ... It takes its power from the people and adopts to reach self sufficiency in every field including economy.
The democratic confederalism is the movement of the Kurdish people to found their own democracy and organize their own social system ... The democratic confederalism is the expression of the democratic union of the Kurdish people that have been split into four parts and have spread all over the world ... It develops the (notion of) a democratic nation instead of the nationalist-statist nation based on strict borders.
Some[who?] have called the ideology of the KCK "radical democracy." Murat Karayılan, the head of the KCK after Abdullah Öcalan, explained the principle of democratic confederalism in his book Bir Savaşın Anatomisi (Anatomy of a War):
The alternative is the independent self-declaration of the democratic confederal system. ... The society should be independent, the nation should be independent. Yet, the main purpose should be for independent nations to form a democratic nation community together and based on equality, within a confederal system ... It is a system of partnering, where various cultures live together.
The ideology of democratic confederalism draws heavily on theories of libertarian municipalism, social ecology, and Communalism developed by American anarchist and political philosopher Murray Bookchin, whose works Öcalan read and adapted for the Kurdish movement in the early 2000s while in prison. Öcalan has even described himself as a "student" of Bookchin, and the PKK hailed the American thinker as "one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century" when he died in 2006.
The idea of the KCK was proposed at the 5th Congress of the Kongra-Gel (Kongra Gelê Kurdistan – Kurdistan People's Congress) held in Qandil in May 2007, and it replaced the KKK, which had been in existence since 2005. The KKK, standing for Koma Komalên Kurdistan, was established at the Kongra-Gel's 3rd Congress in Qandil with 236 delegates in May 2005, in accordance with Öcalan's concept of democratic confederalism. At the 3rd Congress of Kongra-Gel, at which the KKK was established, the organizational chart identified a Kongra-Gel Presidency Council of five individuals, eleven Permanent Commissions, a Court of Justice of seven individuals, and a KKK Executive Council Presidency of seven individuals. In this 3rd Congress, Zübeyir Aydar was made the Kongra-Gel President, and Murat Karayılan was appointed as President of the KKK Executive Council.
In May 2007, at the 5th Congress in Qandil attended by 213 members representing the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq and abroad, the KKK's name was changed to the KCK. The KCK was envisaged as an umbrella organization covering the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, as opposed to the Turkey-focused organization of the KKK.
Detentions and court cases of alleged members
Between April 2009 and October 2010 some 1,800 people were detained by Turkey on charges of being members of KCK/TM. Most of them were politicians active in the then closed down Democratic Society Party (DTP) or the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Trade unionists and human rights defenders have also been among the detainees.
At the beginning of October 2011, there had been 7,748 detentions since April 2009, of whom 3,895 suspects were placed in pre-trial detention. 4,148 detentions had been reported in just the past six months, resulting in 1,548 arrest warrants. In an answer to the progress report of the European Union of 12 October 2011, The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on 14 October 2011 that a total of 605 people suspected of membership of KCK remained in pre-trial detention. By July 2012, the Democratic Turkey Forum had identified 54 trials against alleged members of KCK, involving 1,818 defendants, some 800 of them in pre-trial detention. A different count on detentions and arrests lead to an estimate of 4,250 detentions and 2,400 arrests in three years.
Most suspects have been charged with membership of an illegal organization under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code. Special heavy penal courts in various cities such as Izmir, Adana, Erzurum and Diyarbakir are conducting trials against groups from different towns.
The main trial in Diyarbakir
On 18 October 2010, the main trial started at Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court No. 6. It involved 151 defendants, 103 of them in pre-trial detention. The 7578-page indictment was prepared in 15 months. The detainees requested that they be allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish during the trial. The court rejected the request.
After 14 hearings Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court No. 6 adjourned the case on 11 November 2010 to 13 January 2011. It did not allow the defendants to testify in Kurdish pointing at a decision of Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court No. 4 of 10 November 2010 stating that the defendants should not be allowed to speak Kurdish since they had testified to the police and the arresting judge in Turkish. The trial continued in 2011 and 2012. On 19 June 2012 another hearing was held, while the number of defendants still was 152 (99 of them pre-trial detention) and 19 "on the run".
The trials in Istanbul
At the end of 2011 waves of detentions of alleged KCK member were reported from Istanbul and related areas. It took quite some time to prepare the relevant indictments. In March 2012 the 2400-page indictment against 193 people -147 of the pre-trial detainees- was sent to Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 15. Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 16 accepted indictment against 50 defendants (almost all of them lawyers) on 18 April 2012. In the case of the journalists Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 15 accepted indictment on 11 May 2012 and scheduled the first hearing for 10 September 2012.
When the main trial in Istanbul started the number of defendants had increased to 205, 140 of them in pre-trial detention. On the second day a speaker from the national TV and radio stations TRT started to read a 133-page summary of the indictment. After the 8th session Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 15 decided on a lengthy break until 1 November 2012 and ordered the release of 16 defendants, including Prof. Dr. Büşra Ersanlı. In April 2012 15 defendants including the publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu had been released.
On 16 July 2012 Istanbul Heavy Penal Court 16 started to hear the case of 50 defendants, 46 of them lawyers and 36 of them in pre-trial detention. The 892 page indictment accuses the defendants to have formed a "committee of the leadership" (tr: Önderlik Komitesi) and asked for sentences between 7.5 and 22.5 years' imprisonment. After the third session the court released nine defendants and adjourned the hearing to 6 November 2012.
As of July 2012, at least 13 trials have resulted in verdicts. One of them referred to 31 trade unionists of the Confederation of Public Workers' Unions (KESK). Most of them belonged to the teachers' union Eğitim-Sen. They had been detained in and around Izmir in May 2010, but released pending trial. On 28 November 2011, Izmir Heavy Penal Court passed its verdict and sentenced 25 defendants to 6 years, 3 months' imprisonment. Five defendants were acquitted. Until July 2012, 155 defendants had been convicted to sentences varying between 1 year, 6 months' and life imprisonment. In some cases the Court of Cassation has upheld verdict of the lower courts. The 9th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation stated in its verdict that the KCK is acting with the aim of turning the PKK terrorist organization into a separate state structure. The verdict stated that the KCK is regarded as the political branch of the PKK.
Criticism of the judicial procedures
The trials raised a series of fair trial concerns common to cases involving terrorism charges, including prolonged pre-trial detention and limitations on access by defendants and their lawyers to the evidence against them. Frequent use of arrests instead of judicial supervision, limited access to files, failure to give detailed grounds for detention decisions and revisions of such decisions highlight the need to bring the Turkish criminal justice system into line with international standards and to amend the anti-terror legislation. The detention of elected representatives is a challenge to local government and hampers dialogue on the Kurdish issue. The evidence against the defendants is largely based on wiretaps, surveillance of an office some of the accused frequented, intercepted email correspondence, and testimony from secret witnesses. However, there is scant evidence to suggest the defendants engaged in any acts that could be defined as terrorism as it is understood in international law. Prosecutions brought under anti-terrorism legislation have frequently been based on secret witness testimony that cannot be examined by defense lawyers. On 15 April 2011 the Joint Platform for Human Rights (formed by the Human Rights Association (HRA), the Association of Helsinki Citizens and the Turkish section of Amnesty International) issued a report on the trial in Diyarbakir. It concluded that the defense of human rights is under threat of criminal investigations, that the accused could not use their native language. and that the privacy of communication was under threat.
- First indictment against the KCK in Turkish, accessed on 21 October 2010. It carries the date of 25 May 2009 and was directed against just one defendant, Serdar ZİRİĞ, who now is defendant 154 in the main trial against KCK members in Diyarbakır that started on 18 October 2010.
- Indictment of the main trial in Istanbul (the indictment as PDF file or as word (DOCX) file
- Democratic Turkey Forum (DTF): Backgrounder on the Group of Communities in Kurdistan, KCK
- Öcalan, Abdullah,Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan Archived 2016-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, 20-03-2005, (English)
- Aydar roept op tot eenheid KKK, PUK, KDP, Article in Dutch, dated 13 April 2007, accessed on 21 July 2012
- Zübeyir Aydar: 'Military operations are going to begin'; Interview in English dated 29 April 2010. In this interview Zübeyir Aydar stated: "KCK has an assembly. This assembly is Kongra-Gel. Furthermore, within Kongra-Gel there's an elected executive council... The PKK is a limited segment within the movement which is given the name KCK. Abdullah Öcalan takes the highest position. After that there's the Assembly, and following that the Executive Council. The chairman of the 31-member Executive Council is Murat Karayılan."
- Can, Eyüp (14 July 2013). "PKK Changes Leadership". (trans. Timur Göksel). Al-Monitor. Retrieved 5 February 2014. Originally published as Karayılan'ı kim niye gönderdi? in Radikal, 11 July 2013.
- Study of TESEV (Türkiye Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etüdler Vakfı, Turkish Foundation of Economic and Social Studies) written by Cengiz Çandar under the title "Leaving the mountain": How may the PKK lay down arms? Archived 2013-01-20 at the Wayback Machine and the subtitle: "Freeing the Kurdish Question from violence". The publication has the ISBN 978-605-5832-02-5 and was published in March 2012. Accessed on 18 July 2012
- The Structure and Activities of the Terrorist Organization Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), Article by Assoc. Prof. Atilla SANDIKLI, dated 14 October 2011; accessed on 21 July 2012
- Backgrounder on the KCK, Article by the German group "Democratic Turkey Forum", July 2012, accessed on 21 July 2012
- An unofficial translation of the Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan Archived 2016-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
- See Aziz Istegün: Is the KCK a party, an organization or an alternative state structure? Archived 2011-11-10 at the Wayback Machine in Sunday's Zaman of 6 November 2011: "The goals of this structure are defined as such: 'To create a society in Kurdistan based on the principles of radical democracy, that lives according to the essential elements of democratic societal co-federalism, and which is organized democratically, based on equality of the genders and ecological awareness. To fight against every kind of backwardness in Kurdish society, and to both create and advance individual and societal spiritual and financial development."
- Nihat Kaya, Şevin Bingöl, Nalin Penaber, Sinan Cudi, Baki Gül,PKK'den KKK'ya yeni bir sistem -3- Archived 2010-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, Özgür Gündem Archived 2009-06-21 at Archive.today, 08/10/2006, (Turkish)
- Biehl, Janet (16 February 2012). "Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy". New Compass. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- The Milliyet of 19 October 2010; accessed on 24 October 2010
- See a special report of the Democratic Turkey Form of October 2010; accessed on 24 October 2010
- See special report of the Democratic Turkey Forum (DTF) of June 2009; accessed on 24 October 2010 and special report of the DTF in March 2010; accessed on 24 October 2010
- The article in Bianet of 6 October 2011; accessed on 7 October 2011 presented a report of the Peace and Freedom Party (BDP) as the source
- The complete report is available as pdf-file, accessed on 19 October 2011
- See the article in Radikal of 14 October 2011; accessed on 19 October 2011
- See an article in Hürriyet Daily News of 19 October 2010; accessed on 24 October 2010
- See the daily Milliyet of 11 November 2010
- Also see a special report of the Democratic Turkey Forum on the use of the Kurdish language in court
- At the beginning of October 2011 146 people were detained (98 of them were placed in pre-trial detention) and at the end of October 2011 another 50 people were detained (43 arrested). See the German report of the DTF Verfahren gegen die KCK. At the end of November 2011 43 people (mostly lawyers) were detained and 33 were taken in pre-trial detention, on or around 24 December 2011 48 people were detained (mostly journalists) and 36 were put in prison. See Backgrounder on the KCK
- See the daily report of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey HRFT for 17–20 March 2012], accessed on 21 July 2012
- See the daily report for 19 April 2012 of the HRFT; accessed on 21 July 2012
- See the daily report of the HRFT for 12-14 May 2012; accessed on 21 July 2012
- See Bianet of 2 July 2012, accessed on 20 July 2012
- See Bianet of 3 July 2012, accessed on 21 July 2012
- See the daily Radikal of 13 July 2012; accessed on 21 July 2012
- See Bianet of 16 July 2012 accessed on 21 July 2012
- See the daily Radikal of 19 July 2012; accessed on 21 July 2012
- See the daily report of the HRFT for 29 November 2011
- See Today's Zaman of 28 February 2012: Appeals court calls KCK a terrorist organization again, accessed on 21 July 2012
- A report of Human Rights Watch of 18 April 2011 entitled Turkey: Kurdish Party Members’ Trial Violates Rights, Prolonged Detention, Prosecution of Elected Mayors Highlight Terrorism Law Misuse. Accessed on 21 July 2012
- The progress report of the European Union (EU) dated 12 October 2011, accessed on 21 July 2012
- HRW in a report of 1 November 2011 entitled Turkey: Arrests Expose Flawed Justice System, accessed on 21 July 2012
- Amnesty International in a report of 10 November 2011 entitled Turkey : KCK a rrests deepen freedom of expression concerns, accessed on 21 July 2012
- The Diyarbakir trial against the KCK, accessed on 21 July 2012