Erdogan Launches Largest Anti-PKK Operation

Kurds clash with Turkish police as they protest against the recent curfews imposed on Kurdish towns in Diyarbakir. (File Photo)Kurds clash with Turkish police as they protest against the recent curfews imposed on Kurdish towns in Diyarbakir. (File Photo)

Ankara has dismissed thousands of Kurdish teachers for alleged links to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also announced a massive operation to cull the militants.

Some 11,500 teachers were suspected of activities “in support of the separatist terrorist organization and its affiliates”, the state-run Anadolu Agency news service reported on Thursday. Turkey has around 850,000 educators.

“The individuals in question are temporarily suspended—placed on leave—pending formal investigation,” an official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

On a visit to the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had announced that around 14,000 teachers would be suspended for having ties with the PKK.

Turkish officials also took over two southeastern councils run by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP). These included the Sur and the Silvan districts, both in Diyarbakir province.

However, the local governor of the area denied the takeover, according to the Anadolu Agency and the private news agency Dogan.

“Reports of the taking over of two mayors’ offices in Diyarbakir do not reflect the truth. There has not been such an appointment at this stage. If there is an appointment, a statement will be made,” the official said in a statement.

Erdogan has dubbed DBP an extension of the PKK. The party is the regional partner of the national Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

The PKK has been waging a war against Ankara since 1984, when it took up arms to fight for an independent Kurdish state in Turkey’s southeast. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Ankara has listed the organization as a terror group, with Erdogan announcing the largest operation in the country’s history to finish the militants.

On Thursday, he said the removal of civil servants with links to the terror group was a key element in purging the terrorists. He also said Turkey would continue its offensive in northern Syria, where Kurdish militants have gained a stronghold, having fended off the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

“We have run and are currently running the largest operations against the PKK terrorist organization in its history, both within and across our borders,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s latest move comes shortly after nearly 40,000 academics, businessmen, journalists and teachers were arrested in Turkey for alleged links with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric suspected of masterminding the failed coup in July.