Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Kurds in the Way, Part 2

An article from earlier this year, entitled 823 kg of PKK heroin seized in Kapikule and Istanbul, Monday, 12 February 2007:

Over 823 kilograms of heroin were discovered hidden in pizza boxes when a semi-trailer truck bearing the registration numbers 14 BB 557 and 15 BE 746 was searched, run through an x-ray machine and seized while crossing into Bulgaria at the Turkish Kapikule customs gate.

Over 1100 packets of heroin were found. 14 people, including I.B., the driver, were detained in connection with the crime, which police followed up with an additional bust in Istanbul.

The heroin was destined for the Netherlands. It is argued that the real owner of the drug was the PKK. The PKK is a terrorist organisation in Turkey, EU and the US laws.

In Wikipedia, an expression such as "It is argued", without any source, would be categorized as "weasel words", would it not? After all, that is just a way of putting some information out there that cannot be verified, and so may or may not be accurate.

The source for this article is Turkish Weekly; it could be suggested that it may have a pro-Turkish, and possibly anti-PKK, bias.

(Notice the weasel-like manner in which I suggest that this news source is not a straight-shooter.)

For some background on this, we will go to an undated article provided by the Federation of American Scientists, V. The PKK'S Role in International Drug Trafficking. The article has a few typos that I have corrected, especially the inappropriate capitalization of the letter "i" at the beginning of words (maybe a computer went off the deep-end editing this or something).

Drug trafficking is one of the major avenues used by terrorist organizations to raise funds for weapons systems and to launder money for so-called legitimate businesses. The PKK is no exception. Since its establishment, the PKK has been using drug profits to fund its campaign of terror. After the military coup of 1980 in Turkey, many terrorists, including members of the PKK, began to immigrate to Europe. This gradually created a supply of human capital for the PKK to use in the continent.

Turkey has historically remained a key transshipment point for drug trafficking because of its desirable geographic location connecting Europe to Asia. In 1994, European narcotics specialists contended that 60-70% of Europe's heroin was passing through Istanbul. In addition, Tuncay Yilmaz, leader of the anti-narcotics unit of the Turkish National Police in Ankara, maintains that the PKK plays the dominant role In Turkey's narcotics smuggling industry. Most of the heroin coming from Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan pass through Turkey and head toward Western Europe. Several sources maintain that smuggling operations were partly controlled by Iranian nationals who escaped to Turkey after the 1979 revolution in Iran. Finally, police In Italy, Holland, Germany, and Scandinavia have been investigating and uncovering the PKK's Involvement In drug and arms smuggling In those nations since 1993.

Trends in police seizures of heroin and other drugs within Turkey illustrate the significance of the drug trafficking problem. For example, heroin seizures in Turkey increased from 1,894 lb. in 1990 to 1.6 tons in 1994. Other areas of drug trafficking have been marked by similar gains. During 1993-1994, an average of 21 tons of hashish were seized annually in addition to 2.7 tons of morphine. These figures are significant in light of the PKK's use of narcotics for supporting its campaign of terror.

Many weasel words in this passage, although I have the impression that FAS makes an effort to do scholarly work. Plus, the claims made here, while not sourced, do not seem terribly out of place, so I let them go. :)

Let me point out that despite the extensive accusations of corruption against Turkish authorities (the known existence of the Turkish Deep State) there are still many Turkish officials (police, military, and so on) who are not corrupt, and who are honestly battling narcotics-trafficking and terrorism.

Again, the unsourced assumption is that the PKK is involved in drug-trafficking to fund its military-political (=terrorist?) campaign.

Turkish officials allude to a possible connection between drug smuggling and the PKK as another component of the illegal drug network, a theory disregarded by those who would prefer to rule out the possibility of an ideological motive. Some European intelligence officers blame Turkey for attempting to associate drug smuggling with the PKK in order to support a negative image of the group. In addition, others claim that there is no evidence to prove that the PKK or any other Turkish organization has been funded by drug smuggling.

I wish we had sources for this. The story certainly seems plausible.

What seems the most plausible is that some PKK elements are involved with smuggling drugs (they would likely have to be involved with smuggling arms to wage their guerrilla campaign against Turkey, and smuggling guns often goes together with smuggling other contraband, like drugs) and Turkish authorities make the most of those connections to discredit the PKK. Similarly, we know some corrupt elements with the Turkish government are similarly involved with smuggling drugs.

If so, that would be adequate to make control over the heroin trade one factor in the Turkey/PKK battle.

However, there is evidence linking the PKK to drug smuggling in Europe that is strong enough to force these officials to reconsider their position concerning the group's connection to illegal drugs. First, a report prepared by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) in 1992 linked the PKK to drugs and concluded that nearly 178 Kurdish organizations were suspected of illegal drug trade involvement. Second, INTERPOL's chief narcotics officer Iqbal Hussain Rizvi stated that the PKK was also heavily evolved in drug trafficking as a means to support the Kurdish revolt in Turkey. Rizvi further specified the routes for the illegal drugs confirming that Kurdish areas were sites for heroin refining factories. Third, in 1994 Germany's Chief Prosecutor maintained that 80% of the drugs seized in Europe were linked to the PKK and that money acquired through illegal drug trafficking was used to purchase arms. Furthermore, the Italian police also acknowledged the existence of a PKK team conducting transportation of heroin to Italy and arms to Turkey. Fourth, admissions by some of the individuals arrested for drug dealing confirm the PKK role in this illicit money-producing business. For example, a Kurdish smuggler caught in 1991 admitted to transporting 300 kilograms of heroin for the PKK over a three-year period during the late 1980s.

It makes sense.

Previously opiates were moved from Afghanistan to Turkey for refining into heroin, but increasingly the refining has been occurring within Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion in pursuit of Al Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks.

These incidents strongly indicate the PKK's Involvement in illegal drug trafficking and link the group to drug trading as early as 1984 (the same year the PKK officially started its separatist terrorism). Not only Is the PKK involved in the transportation of illegal drugs, but over the years, it has also extended its role into production and marketing as well. In short, the PKK has grown into a full-service business coordinating the production, use, and transportation of Illegal drugs, particularly in Western Europe.

According to a report by the British National Service of Criminal Intelligence, the PKK acquired about $75 million from drug smuggling In Europe In 1993. Further, in 1994 PKK members were arrested by Turkish authorities while attempting to smuggle 1.5 tons of hashish into Turkey from one of Turkey's neighboring countries.

Due to its extensive drug smuggling operations, the PKK has remained well-armed. In 1994 alone, Turkish security forces seized from the PKK a total of 3,075 weapons and various instruments including 767,000'rounds of ammunition; 399 rocket launchers; 3,419 rockets; 4,415 hand grenades; 31 mortars; 1,964 mortar bombs; and 131 radios.

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