Wall Street Journal Distorting Facts Again about Kurds and PKK

By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D:

On August 20, 2014, The Wall Street Journal carried a photo of the outlawed (in Turkey) Kurdistan flag atop Mosul Dam which was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS or ISIS). The WSJ has been reporting on a near daily basis on Kurds and Kurdistan in Iraq, more frequently in a supportive pro-Kurd light.

The color photo of the red, green, and yellow Kurdistan flag was indeed encouraging, especially since photos of the Kurdistan flag and Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), are banned in Turkish media and blocked in Turkey on the internet along with any reference to PKK activists. Both FaceBook and Twitter also enforce the same censorship guidelines against the Kurds.


At least one western mainstream media paper seemed to be retreating from the standard trend to villainize Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) with the tired label of “terrorists”. The photo of the flag on the WSJ front page came on the heels of PKK fighters defending northern Iraqi towns against the violent onslaught of the Islamic State (ISIS). Suddenly, it looked like the PKK would no longer be labeled as terrorists but as democracy-loving freedom fighters. Countries are lining up to send arms to the Kurdish fighters (i.e. PKK and Peshmerga) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.

Many members of the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee are now calling for a free and independent Kurdistan. The European Parliament is debating a resolution to remove the PKK from the EU’s terror list. On April 24, it changed its terminology for describing PKK militants to “activists.”

So it is with disappointment that on the same day the Wall Street Journal courageously ran the photo of the Kurdistan flag, it slipped back into its trap of demonizing the PKK and distorting the facts with this headline:


The PKK has a history of retaliating when the Turkish state kills a Kurdish citizen, especially an innocent civilian shot in the head.  The WSJ’s headline would have its readers believe that the PKK started the conflict again.  Unless one is a paid subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, this little snippet is all one gets to read.  This is a provocative distortion of the facts that only serves to intentionally undermine the peace efforts within Turkey by stirring up nationalistic hatred of Kurds.  There they go again . . .

Telling only half the story and omitting critical facts is tantamount to intentional lying.  Let’s examine what led up to the Turkish soldier being killed and the WSJ irresponsibly blaming the recent violence on the PKK.

On August 15, 2014, Kurds throughout Turkey celebrated thirty years since the PKK began its armed conflict with Turkey to seek constitutional rights to express their Kurdish ethnic identity and speak the Kurdish language which was outlawed for decades.  In towns and cities throughout eastern Turkey (north Kurdistan), the night skies were lit with firework displays in honor of the PKK and its 30-year struggle for Kurdish rights.  There was music, dancing, speeches, and BBQs.

In Yolçatı village in the Lice district of Amed (Diyarbakir) province, a statue of Mahsun Korkmaz was erected in the martyrs cemetery on August 15. Mahsun Korkmaz, also known as Agit, was the first commander of the PKK’s military forces. He led the August 15, 1984 PKK attacks which was the start of the PKK’s armed rebellion for Kurdish independence. He was killed on March 28, 1986, by Turkish forces.



Throughout eastern Turkey every town has a martyrs’ cemetery where Kurds who have died in this 30-year conflict are buried.

The boiler-plate statement used tens of thousands of times when reporting on this conflict is that The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and European Union, launched its separatist insurgency in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed.”  This overused and abused simplification of a 30-year conflict omits the fact that most of the deaths have been of innocent Kurds, killed by Turkish government forces.  They are buried in martyrs cemeteries throughout Turkey.

If the AKP government was sincere in its rhetoric to pursue peace, it would not have reacted to the erection of Mahsun Korkmaz’s statue.

In the United States, after its unsuccessful Civil War ended in 1865, statues of the defeated rebellious leader Jefferson Davis were erected in cities across the southern United States.  Although the south was defeated and the Union was not divided, statues of Jefferson Davis, who fought to uphold and expand the immoral practice of slavery, remain standing 150 years later in dozens of cities.   The Federal government chose to ignore the erection of these statues rather than incite continuing conflict by demolishing them.

Unlike the U.S. practice of ignoring statues of Jefferson Davis, a local Turkish court ruled on August 18, that the statue of Mahsun Korkmaz had to be demolished since he had been in the outlawed PKK.  This ruling came after a provocative statement from Turkey’s ultra-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman, Oktay Vural, calling for removal of the statue and prosecution of those who erected it.

On August 19, Turkey sent 3,000 Turkish soldiers to implement the decision.  Preparations began on August 18 when the Amed-Bingöl road was closed.   Security forces attacked with helicopters, armored vehicles and gunfire. It was fully understood by the government that demolition of this symbolic martyr’s statue would be a provocation that would lead to demonstrations.  Why else would 3,000 soldiers and attack helicopters be required to remove one statue?

As in hundreds of previous demonstrations, the military and Jandarma would use this demonstration, provoked by its own actions, to justify tear gassing and shooting live bullets into the crowd.  The people of Lice are weary and angry.  Only two months ago, on June 8, the peace process was broken when soldiers shot and killed two civilian Kurds in Lice who were protesting the building of yet another army base.  Ramazan Baran, age 26, and Baki Akdemir, age 50, were shot to death.

On August 19, a Turkish soldier shot into the Lice crowd and killed 24-year-old Mehdi Taşkın who was protesting the demolition of the statue of Mahsun Korkmaz.  He died of a gunshot wound to the head.  One of the two people injured was hit by four bullets.  He was sent to the hospital for surgery, according to Raci Bilici of the Human Rights Association (İHD).

Silent moment for 24-year-old Mehdi Taşkın killed in Lice, Aug. 19, 2014 photo posted on Twitter by @agitaksoyy

Silent moment for 24-year-old Mehdi Taşkın killed in Lice, Aug. 19, 2014
photo posted on Twitter by @agitaksoyy

Turkey would rather its citizens and the world do not read about this.  In standard press censorship, the link to this story run by Firat News is blocked:  “Police open fire on people protesting the attack in Lice“.

On August 20, in angry protest, a bust of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s first leader who banned the Kurdish language 90 years ago, was burned, knocked down, and dragged through the streets of Hakkari.  On that same night crowds gathered in towns and cities throughout southeastern Turkey as is customary when the State kills an innocent Kurd, especially an unarmed youth. They were met with police and Jandarma tear gas and tanks.

(This writer has now been tear gassed three times in one month in SE Turkey: Silopi, Cizre, and Sirnak. On not one incidence was there a crowd gathered.)

This is the background to what led up to a Turkish soldier being killed in Van on August 21.  Would someone please tell the Wall Street Journal?

Amy L. Beam promotes tourism to eastern Turkey at Mount Ararat Trek (http://www.mountararattrek.com) and writes occasionally on Kurdish issues. Follow her on twitter  @amybeam

One Response to Wall Street Journal Distorting Facts Again about Kurds and PKK
  1. Thomas
    August 25, 2014 | 08:55

    The US must lift PKK from the terror list. They are freedom fighter not terrorist. And about time to recognize infependent Kurdistan.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/wall-street-journal-distorting-facts-again-about-kurds-pkk/trackback/