PKK fighters in warning to Turkish government

In exclusive report, armed group tells Al Jazeera they will be back to fight if Ankara reneges on peace agreement.

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters have been withdrawing from Turkey under a peace process between their jailed leader and the government.

The fighters began leaving their positions in southeast Turkey on May 8 after a ceasefire declared by Abdullah Ocalan in March to end a conflict that has killed an estimated 40,000 people.

The PKK has not however given up their weapons, and they have also warned that they will be back to fight, if Ankara reneges on its agreement.

The group would like constitutional reforms to grant Kurds more rights in Turkey and is also calling for the release of Ocalan.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Al Saleh travelled to the Turkish-Iraq border where he spoke to PKK fighters on their way to a mountain hideout.

Umut Erdal, the group’s field commander, told Al Jazeera that if their demands are not met, his fighters would return to Turkey.

“Over the last 30 years, the Turkish military did its utmost to prevent our fighters from going in and out of Turkey,” he said.

“Even if they put the Great Wall of China, it will not stop us because these mountains are rugged and no one can control it.”

‘Mistrust towards Turkey’

The PKK has been fighting the Turkish military for 30 years and it is estimated that the process of withdrawing the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 fighters left in Turkey, could take months to complete.

The group has been regrouping in secret locations in Sirna, northern Iraq.

While the group remains loyal to its leader and his demands, they have raised concerns about Turkey’s commitment to the agreement.

Saleh said: “The main point they raised was that have a mistrust towards Turkey, although they say they are obeying cause of the jailed leader Ocalan, they don’t really trust the Turkish prime minister.”

“They made a clear warning to the military: If your military targets us, if your drones continue to monitor our movement and if we are attacked, we are ready to respond to the fire.”

Yusuf Kanli, a columnist with the Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey, told Al Jazeera the peace process remains fragile with mistrust towards the Turkish government.

“The only positive thing in this peace process over the past five months is the absence of violence, which has made us hopeful that perhaps we can achieve peace this time,” he said.

“If on average 30 people were dying every week, five months means hundreds of lives were saved.”

Source: Al Jazeera