The Kandil myth has collapsed


Kurtuluş Tayiz


The Turkish original of this article was published as Kandil efsanesi çöktü  on 10th October 2015.



In the struggle against the PKK, Kandil carries great symbolic importance. The organization has its general headquarters on Mount Kandil. PYD as the PKK’s Syrian branch, PJAK as its Iranian branch, and PÇDK as its extension in Iraq all use Kandil jointly. Their names may be different, but their leaders and command structures are the same. Situated at the junction of Turkey, Iraq and Syria, Kandil had a limited function until the capture of Abdullah Öcalan. It was from here that attacks against Turkey were being run. But after 1999, it also became the PKK’s political centre and therefore much more important than before. With the closing of the Bekaa camp in Lebanon, PKK activities all over the world came to be coordinated from Kandil.  


Hence, too, Kandil came to be surrounded by myths and legends. In time, it assumed the dimensions of an untouchable, unreachable fairy tale mountain. In fact, however, this legend owed its magic to the power vacuum in Iraq, the support of some countries in the region, and to some extent American patronage. The fact that it was part of a massive mountain range also provided the PKK with a large degree of protection. But it was this myth of invincibility that was actually its best defence. 


When, in the wake of the 7th June elections, the PKK terminated the de facto ceasefire to re-start the armed conflict, it was to Mount Kandil that all eyes turned. When the state launched a series of operations against various PKK camps spread over a large geographical area, there were questions about whether they would be effective or not. According to some Turkish media circles, the air attacks on Kandil were nothing more than randomly “bombing the countryside.” Others went so far as to ridicule Prime Minister Davutoğlu when he said that the PKK’s “back had been broken.”  


But when Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdestan Regional Government in Iraq last week paid a rather quiet visit to Ankara, his observations turned out to be very different. “The most decisive operations that I have witnessed over the last thirt years,” Barzani said of the air raid on Kandil. As a result, it has become impossible for PKK leaders to remain on Kandil. Some have had to flee to the PYD-controlled area in Syria. Others have had to cross over to Iran. Among other things, these moves indicate that the Kandil leadership has found refuge in a region of Syria under the supervision of the US. It would not be wrong to say that Kandil has been taken under protection to prevent it from flying completely apart.   


This, indeed, is what all statements by the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces], the intelligence services and the government have all along emphasized — that the military operations undertaken against the PKK after 7th June have been causing it huge casualties.  In effect, they have caused the Kandil myth to collapse. Nevertheless, some pro-PKK media and commentators are reluctant to accept this reality. They are doing everything they can to prove that Kandil has not been affected by TSK operations. The reality is, however, that the hard security measures adopted by the state over the last few months have put the PKK in dire straits. While the PKK has arrived at a crossroads, sadly, the HDP has kept leaning so heavily on Kandil that it somehow cannot bring itself to admit this truth.