Saturday, December 3, 2022

Puissant Sovereign

Tonight I was elected and installed as Puissant Sovereign of St. Michael's Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine. I'd like to thank my Knights Companion for the faith they have placed in me to preside over this august body and I have some big shoes to fill. I'd also like to thank G. Arthur Shoemaker, Intendent General of Idaho, for installing me and my officers. Art has played a major part in my Masonic career: I served as Senior Warden while he was Worshipful Master, he knighted me into the Knights Templar, I served as his Grand Orator when he was Most Worshipful Grand Master of Idaho, I helped install him as Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Idaho, and his wife is a second mother to me.

For those who are not members of the Red Cross of Constantine, the Puissant Sovereign is the presiding officer of a Conclave and corresponds to the Worshipful Master of a Blue Lodge. As the Worshipful Master represents King Solomon, the Puissant Sovereign represents the Roman Emperor Constantine.





Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful for my life and for my family who I am spending the day with.  I am thankful for servicemen and women who keep the peace. I am thankful for all of my Brothers whithersoever dispersed around the world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Knights Pilgrimage

Today marks 14 years as a Sir Knight of the Valiant and Magnanimous Order of the Temple or Knights Templar. The symbolic progenitors of our Masonic knighthood protected pilgrims and crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, but today we Knights display our courage and goodwill in a number of ways like the Eye Foundation and the Holy Land Pilgrimage. During the 68th Triennium, the program was expanded to allow non-ministers to go at their own expense in what is called In the Footsteps of Jesus. The first one was in 2019 and due to COVID-19, the second one was not held until this year. I had the pleasure of being one of the Pilgrims to the Holy Land. I've been anticipating this since March 2020 when I first registered, but due to COVID-19, it was postponed until this year. Once the day arrived, I departed my house, went to the SRICF High Council, and stayed the night in NYC before heading to the Holy Land. At JFK Airport I met up with my tour group and we made the 10.5-hour flight over to Tel Aviv. Once on the ground, we got some much-needed sleep.


Day 1 - Via Maris

The first day of touring started with walking around the ancient Port of Joppa (also spelled Jaffa or Yafo) where Peter stopped by the House of Simon the Tanner. At this house, the apostle Peter received a vision from God which led him to promote the message of Christ to non-Jews. After this vision, Peter traveled to Caesarea and baptized a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. While in Joppa we also crossed the Wishing Bridge, which has zodiacal symbols on it and climbed to see the view from Abrasha Park. This park also has an archway on it that is carved to show Jacob's Dream, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the Fall of Jericho. You will notice in several photos that there is a lot of blue. Blue is often used in Middle Eastern cultures to repel evil.

We followed in the steps of Peter to Caesarea Maritima where we were taken to the National Park. It was here we saw the amphitheater and hippodrome as well as the palace ruins where Paul was put on trial. 

My fellow pilgrims and I then traveled to Mt. Carmel, the site where the Prophet Elijah defeated the Priests of the Canaanite god, Baal. Today, the Discalced Carmelite Order runs a monastery on Mt. Carmel which is an impressive building that overlooks the Jezreel Valley or Valley of Megiddo (Greek: Armageddon).

Another bus ride and we arrived at Tel Megiddo, the site of ancient Megiddo. There is archaeological evidence that dates Megiddo back to the Neolithic era. This place held such prominence as it sits along an important trade route that connected Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. After walking around the ruins, we descended the 180 steps (8-9 floors) into the water tunnel that would have fed fresh water to the ancient fortress.

The last place we visited that day was Mt. Tabor which is the site of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The Transfiguration (also called the Metamorphosis) is where we see the divine and mundane meet in Christ in witness of the Apostles Peter, James, and John. On Mt. Tabor is found the Church of the Transfiguration which is run by the Franciscan Order. I received one shock when I saw the Grand Captain General of the Grand Commandery of DC walking by. He was apparently there with a tour sponsored by the Episcopal Church.

We then traveled to Nof Ginosar, a comfortable kibbutz along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.


Day 2 - The Land of His Ministry

After going through the museum about the Ancient Boat of Ginosar, we took a boat ride on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. Once back on land, we traveled to the Mount of the Beatitudes where Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount. Atop this mount, is the Church of the Beatitudes. It was a beautiful area and interesting being on a hill that is still below sea level.

The rest of the day we visited Korazim (one of the villages cursed by Jesus), Magdala (possible birthplace of Mary Magdalene and an important fishing village in Christ's time), and Capernaum (hometown of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John). The day ended with a drive to Yardenit (Little Jordan) where I was baptized in the River Jordan. While not exactly the spot where St. John baptized Christ, it was still one of the highlights of the trip and my life.


Day 3 - Iter Hierosolym

Some of our plans from Day 2 were changed because of how busy some of the sites were so we made a quick trip to the Church of the Multiplication before going to Cana to see the Church of the Wedding where Christ turned water to wine, His first miracle. We then made our way over to Nazareth where we walked to the Church of the Synagogue and the Church of the Annunciation. The Synagogue Church was said to have been a synagogue that Christ studied and preached. The Basilica of the Annunciation was built over the ruins of the house of the Virgin Mary and where she received the message from the archangel Gabriel that she would birth the Son of God. This church was amazing and it was amazing seeing the blend of old and new architecture in one structure.

We then traveled down to the ruins of Beit She'an, much of which has only been recently discovered and excavated, before we traveled through the West Bank to Jerusalem. Before checking into the hotel, we visited the Garden Tomb which is an alternate site to where Christ was buried and resurrected; the primary site for this is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


Day 4 - Primum et Ultimum Dierum

We visited the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu first thing in the morning of the fourth day of touring. This church commemorates Peter's three denials of Christ when the latter was arrested. This church is also said to be the site of the house of the High Priest Caiaphas.

On our way to the Cenacle or Upper Room (Room of the Last Supper), we passed the Dormition Abbey. The Upper Room is said to be where Christ held the Last Supper with his apostles and where the apostles gathered after the events following the Last Supper. The Dormition Abbey marks the spot where the Virgin Mary died. Beneath the Upper Room is the Tomb of King David. While it is debated whether or not it is the actual tomb, it was likely selected as Jews were restricted from entering the Old City for a time; for a few years in the 20th century, it was the holiest place for Jews.

At this point, we had to leave our guide behind as he is Israeli and could not enter Bethlehem with us which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Inside Bethlehem, we went to the Fields of the Shepherds and the Church of the Nativity. The Fields were where the angels announced the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds and also where Ruth gleaned grain in the fields of Boaz. While at the Fields of the Shepherds, we also visited the Chapel of the Shepherds' Field (also called the Church of the Angels) where we sang "The First Noel" and "Angels We Have Heard On High."

The Church of the Nativity is actually three different churches operated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church. All three churches have access to the cave or grotto which all three agree is the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

After a short walk and bus ride, we went to the New Bethlehem Store which is run by the Nisan Brothers who specialize in olive wood carvings.


Day 5 - On Our Own

Being Sunday, we started the day with a church service at the Seventh Station of the Cross where a small chapel exists. Station 7 is where Christ left Jerusalem and the remnants of the old gate are where the chapel was built and is today maintained by the Franciscans.

A small group of us made it over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, after a 2-hour wait, we made it into the Shrine that houses the tomb that held Christ's body after his Crucifixion and Death. This, by far, was the highlight of the trip for me. While not as grand in appearance as some cathedrals and churches in Europe, without this holiest of places and events that occurred there, places like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome would not exist.

After lunch, a few of us wandered the Old City of Jerusalem and the four quarters that compose it (Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Armenian Quarter). I was disappointed to hear that Zedekiah's Cave was closed due to construction as this cave was where the stone for the Temple of Solomon was quarried.


Day 6 - Via Dolorosa

This day began with a visit to the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall). This wall is a small remnant of the wall that once surrounded the Jewish Temple. Due to the restrictions placed on the Temple Mount, the wall is the holiest place in Judaism where Jews can still pray. While I was there, it was packed full of Orthodox Jews praying. It is common practice to leave notes with prayers in the cracks of the Western Wall. Twice a year, a Rabbi collects the notes and buries them on the Mount of Olives.

We then made our way to the Temple Mount where Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock now sit where King Solomon's Temple was once. Al Aqsa is said to mark where Muhammed was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night. The Dome of the Rock is said to be the place where Muhammed ascended to heaven. This same rock, the Foundation Stone, is said to be where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, where Jacob had his dream, where the Ark of the Covenant resided in the Holy of Holies in King Solomon's Temple, and the Axis Mundi.

We then proceeded to the Lions Gate and St. Anne's Church. St. Anne's had great acoustics and several groups sang many hymns in their native tongue. This church is built next to the ruins of the Pools of Bethesda (Hebrew for "mercy") and over the ruins of what is believed to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. The church is dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of Mary.

We then started the Way of Sorrow with the Churches of the Condemnation and Flagellation which serve as the First and Second Stations of the Cross. Traveling through the Old City we traveled to each Station of the Cross before ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which holds the last stations within its hallowed walls.


Day 7 - In the Wilderness

This morning we made our south to Masada, the ancient fortress built by Herod the Great (great in that he built great structures, not great in his deeds). While you can walk to the fortress ruins, it is more expedient to take the cable car as you are going from -33 meters to 257 meters. This fortress was also besieged by the Romans in 73 AD and marked the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. Masada today serves as one of the locations for the swearing-in ceremony for the Israeli military.

After a quick lunch, we toured Qumran and learned about the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The day ended with a swim in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is around 34% salt while the ocean is between 3-5% salt. This abundance of salt allows the body to float. It was weird, but fun to be so buoyant. After showering off, a few of us had a beer at the Lowest Bar in the World.


Day 8 - A Legacy of Agony

This day was a somber day as we went to the Israel Museum where we saw a scale model of Jerusalem during the 2nd Temple and the Shrine of the Book that houses, among other documents, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts of canonical books of the Old Testament, apocryphal texts, and extra-biblical texts, some of which date back to the 2nd century BC. The Aleppo Codex is a 10th-century AD manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.

Next on our tour, was the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. I toured the Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC when I was 16 and this memorial was just as moving. It was sobering to see such evil that was perpetrated by the Nazis and their allies. Both those who committed these atrocities and those who today deny that they happened are some of the purest forms of evil we have in our world.

In the afternoon, we went to the Church of All Nations or Church of the Agony then to the Garden of Gethsemane. The current Church is built on the ruins of two previous Christian churches that were built to commemorate Christ praying in the Garden before his arrest. The Garden of Gethsemane was an ancient orchard of olive trees where Christ underwent agony and then where He was arrested by the Romans. My tour group was able to spend time in a private section of the Garden and have a moment of reflection.


Day 9 - Lehitra’ot Israel

The previous day was cut short because of the long lines of other tourists, so this last morning in Israel, we visited the Ascension Chapel and Pater Noster Church on the Mount of Olives. The church is said to be the place where the Savior ascended to Heaven. The chapel is simple, but holds a stone that contains a footprint marking the spot of His Ascension. The chapel today is under Islamic control, but it is open to tourists and for Christian use. The Pater Noster Church sits on a cave or grotto where Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer. The church sits next to the ruins of the Byzantine Church of Eleona. On the walls of the church are translations of the Lord's Prayer (Pater Noster) in 140 languages. Eusebius wrote this of the cave: “in that cave the Saviour of the Universe initiated the members of his guild in ineffable mysteries”.

To get one last look at the Old City, we went to the Haas Promenade Overlook (due south of the Old City). 

Going to the newer part of Jerusalem, we had lunch at the Machaneh Yehuda Market.

As we were technically on the Pilgrimage an extra day, our hosts took us to the Abu Gosh - Saxum Visitor Center. This center gives visitors the ability to tour through history using timelines, maps, interactive screens, models, recreations, and video mappings.

We then made our way to Tel Aviv where we had a group dinner before going to the airport for home. Once I landed back in Idaho, I made for southern Idaho as the next day Idaho College SRICF was going to meet. By the time I made it home on Saturday evening, I was exhausted.

This trip was truly once in a lifetime and I am so thankful for the opportunity to walk where the Savior walked. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone, whether a Sir Knight, a member of the clergy, or otherwise to go on this Pilgrimage.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Happy Veteran's Day

To all of my Brothers and Sisters of the Armed Forces, past and present, I wish you all a Happy Veteran's Day from the Holy Land. God bless all of you and God bless the United States.



Monday, November 7, 2022

A Small Bite of the Big Apple

After leaving Louisville yesterday, I flew into New York City. Once checked in to my hotel, I walked around the Big Apple. I really have a knack for choosing that day to fly in as it was the New York City Marathon so many roads were blocked off and made it difficult to traverse this urban jungle. I walked through the Museum of Natural History then slowly zigzagged my way to St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Empire State Building, and Time Square before calling it a night.

This morning, I took the subway to the 9/11 Memorial then walked to Trinity Church, Battery Park, the NYSE, Chinatown, and then the Grand Lodge of NY where I got a nice tour.

Now I'm sitting on a plane heading to my next adventure. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

2022 SRICF High Council

This week was one for the books. A few of us flew in on Wednesday and spent Thursday touring the Makers Mark distillery. It is in the middle of nowhere, but it is a beautiful campus. 

Friday morning started with the opening procession of the High Council by Most Worthy Frater Jeffrey Nelson, IX°, KGC. There were several distinguished guests introduced from other Masonic appendant bodies and from other Rosicrucian High Councils from around the world.

After lunch, Right Worthy Frater Piers Vaughn, IX°, KGC, of New Jersey College, gave a presentation called "In Measure, and Number, and Weight." Next, Worthy Frater Matthew McColm, IV°, of California College, gave a presentation called "An In-Depth Look at Astral Projection - Myth or Science?" Then Right Worthy Frater Myron Deputat, VIII°, of New York College led a Practicum Exercise called "The Use of Sound and Light in Meditation." Once the business of the day was concluded, several of us hung out at the Hospitality Suites hosted by Kentucky College; Alabama and Gulf Coast Colleges; and Arizona, Illinois, and Prairie Land Colleges.

Friday night the VIII° and IX° were conferred on those chosen for these honorable distinctions. I had the pleasure of serving as the Celebrant for the VIII° conferral team. I don't have to tell you that I was nervous, but I think it went off without a hitch. I want to thank the Most Worthy Supreme Magus for appointing me to this position and the Frater who gave him my name. I also want to thank Right Worthy Frater Jack Harper, IX°, Chief Adept of Texas and Director of Ceremonies for the High Council, and Right Worthy Frater Jim McGee, IX°, Chief Adept of Alabama and Conductor of Novices for the High Council, who also served on the conferral team. I also need to thank Patrick “Sully” O’Sullivan, VIII°, Planning Director - Logistics who assisted in organizing the candidates before and during the conferral.

Once the grades were conferred, the election of High Council officers was held:

Supreme Magus: Jeffrey N Nelson, IX°, KGC

Senior Deputy Supreme Magus: D. Craig McFarland, IX°, KGC

Junior Deputy Supreme Magus: W. Bruce Renner, IX°, KGC - Piers Vaughn

Treasurer General: Ara Maloyan, IX°, KGC

Secretary General: Gary E Brinley, IX°, KGC

Saturday morning started with some quick business, After his allocution, the Most Worthy Supreme Magus installed several new Chief Adepts. The High Council also approved several new Colleges

A break was held to transition to more presentations. Right Worthy Frater Thomas D. Worrel, VIII, of Golden State College, gave a presentation called "The Noble Knights of the Golden Cord: A Lost American Rite of Esoteric Freemasonry." Very Worthy Frater Tim Brinkmeyer, VII°, of Indiana College, gave a presentation called "A Narrative of the Royal Arch: Its Important Connection in ancient and modern Craft Masonry." 

After lunch, I had the pleasure of being the presenter. I gave my presentation "The Mysteries of Mithras". I thought it was well received and had a great Q&A following my presentation. Following me was Worthy Frater Thomas Harper, IV°, of Kentucky College who gave a presentation called "Portal: An Ophthmalmologist's Esoteric Perspective on the Eye."

The meeting ended with announcements and remarks from the visiting Supreme Magi. The night was filled with the Gala Banquet and socializing in the hospitality suites. Now I'm on a plane to NY so I can catch my flight to my next adventure. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Commissioned Templar Chaplain Program

While Freemasonry is not a religion nor a substitute for one, our members are religious and we are charged to pay that respect and reverence to the Great Architect of the Universe as due from creature to its Creator. In nearly every Masonic body, there is an officer known as the Chaplain, Prelate, or Primate who has the duty to preside over the prayers and other important duties delegated to them by law, ritual, or dictates of the presiding officer. The Chaplain (or by whatever name they are known) is, in my opinion, an underutilized officer and there is so much potential for that officer's involvement in the affairs of the Lodge and not just during the meetings. Having served in the U.S. Army, I learned that while our Chaplains Corps provided spiritual support to the soldiers, they also provided counseling to those in need, and were often the morale officer of their unit. Chaplains in Masonry can serve a similar mission, but this also requires training and study.

During the Northwest Department Conference, the Grand Encampment announced the creation of the Commissioned Templar Chaplain Program to train Chaplains and Prelates for leadership and service within their respective Masonic bodies. In their own words, "A chaplain who is secure in his or her own faith, and who has the skills to listen and comfort, is the person who will help lead us to greater glory in service and humility." 

The program is composed of 12 units that are all online and self-paced. The course will include reading, video lectures, quizzes, and projects that will help develop your skills and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a Chaplain. The course is open to all Sir Knights as well as to all members of the Masonic family (including Masonic youth groups). The cost of enrollment is $75 plus the cost of the book "On Being a Masonic Chaplain" by Sir Knight Robert Elsner, Associate Grand Prelate of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA. It is important to note that this program is not a substitution for ordination nor a course in evangelism. As the Knights Templar is a military order, this program is a commission by the Grand Encampment only; ordination falls under the authority of a church. This program can be found at the Templar Education Portal. NOTE: Enrollment will not be open until December 1, 2022.

Upon completion of the 12-courses, a certificate and a breast jewel are issued.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

2022 Northwest York Rite Conference

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

This was a great weekend for York Rite Masonry. As Deputy General Grand High Priest for the Northwest, I, along with the Deputy General Grand Master for the Northwest and the Northwest Department Commander coordinate and run the Northwest York Rite Conference which is composed of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. 

I kicked off the conference with the Royal Arch Masons session on Friday morning. I gave some presentations on the Royal Arch Research Assistance, the primary charity of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International. I then allowed the Grand Chapters to talk about their plans, struggles, and activities going on over the next year. While I think there is merit in more lecture-driven presentations, I prefer group discussions to foster an environment of learning and cooperation (we're all in this together). The General Grand Scribe gave a great presentation on Irregular and Clandestine Freemasonry. The General Grand King gave some remarks to the Companions and I think it was all well received.

I had to miss the afternoon session with the Cryptic Masons, but one's cable tow is only so long. I had to run to work and then spent most of the late afternoon talking with officers of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar USA.

Saturday was occupied by the Knights Templar, led by the Grand Encampment. The day was filled with presentations/discussions with the Membership Committee, Social Order of the Beauceant, Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Office of the Grand Recorder, Knights Templar Education Foundation, Holy Land Pilgrimage, and Templar Protocol. They also announced a new program called the Commissioned Templar Chaplain Program which will provide training that I will talk more about later when more information is given. For clarification, I will say that this program is not an ordination. Saturday ended with dinner, drinks, and dessert with friends and my fellow Sir Knights.

Sunday morning, Intermountain Chapel No.27 of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon met and initiated two new Knights. After the Chapel closed, the Northwest Province convened. It was a short, but productive meeting and we had the pleasure of hosting the Most Eminent Grand Prior of the Order. He talked about the new Chapels being consecrated: one in Arizona was consecrated yesterday and one will be done next month in Texas.

I do want to apologize for the lack of articles this last month, but my obligations have been keeping me busy. I promise some good ones are on the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)

Today was one of those days when I was going through my computer when I found this paper that I wrote for a International Relations Seminar on Civil War and Terrorism that I took in 2014. I chose to focus on a group related to the Kurds as I was deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2004-2005 and my unit interacted with the Kurdish people.

Introduction

Considered the world’s largest population without a state, the Kurds are a people who reside in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. After WWI, they were promised an autonomous region, but were cheated out of such independence. Their culture has been attacked by the Turkish government and forced into assimilation; the Turks seeing Kurdish nationalism as a threat to the security and order of the state (Bruno 2007). They have been brutally attacked by despots of the region. Out of such a harsh lifestyle the Kurdish Worker’s Party, or Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan (PKK), emerged in the 1970s as a movement to fight for Kurdish independence and free itself from “imperialistic powers” it sees as a threat to its goals. This group has evolved over the years and has gone through a few name changes. The PKK has also been referred to as Kurdish Kongreya Azadi u Demokrasiya Kurdistan (KADEK), Kurdish Kongra Gele Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel), Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan, and Halu Mesru Savunma Kuvveti (HSK) (Amini 2010).

This paper will cover the pre-history and events leading to the establishment of the PKK, their grievances, their methods of attacks or tactics, methods of recruitment and mobilization, motivations, government responses to their actions, their successes and failures, interventions, and prospects for either peace or further violence in the future. The PKK is an interesting case to study as it shines a light on a unique situation of a people without a state. This group is a key to stability in the region. They have affected relations between the United States and Turkey, the United States and Iraq, Turkey and Syria, Turkey, and the European Union. Without an end to the fighting, the Kurdish people will only be further oppressed and alienated which only embolden the PKK to commit further acts of violence in response. Neither side trusts each other and this case may require a neutral, independent 3rd party to intervene and bring both parties to concessions, and ensure that both parties stick to the agreements, punishing those who attempt to break the peace and cause further conflict.

When the Ottoman Empire was defeated by the Allied powers during WWI, its dominion was shattered and turned into several sovereign states. One such zone, which never came into fruition, was the zone designated as an autonomous region for the Kurdish people. The Turkish government since the fall of the Ottomans has endeavored to remove from existence the Kurds by forcing them to assimilate to include the banning of their language, culture, and their names for geographical areas. Their justification is that Kurds are not real and that they are really just “Mountain Turks” (Gunter 2000). These oppressive acts continued until the late 1970s when Abdullah Öcalan established the PKK who didn’t start using violence until the mid-80s, but that information is contested. The 1980s was a violent time in Turkey, going through a military coup which only further brutalized the Kurdish people. The PKK began to use violence as a tool to coerce the government to accommodate their demands for independence.

The PKK has been a force of instability in the region has caused around 30,000 to 40,000 deaths, many of whom were civilians not military targets (Bruno 2007). The PKK is also not recognized by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) or the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) who are seen as two legitimate political entities that are also striving for Kurdish independence (Kutschera 1994). The actions of the PKK are viewed as counterproductive and injure the legitimacy of the cause. The PKK see themselves as protectors of the Kurdish people, but have used indiscriminate attacks that have left many innocent lives ravaged and discriminate attacks that have targeted Kurdish persons. This also has a toll of the economy of Turkey as it spends around 20% of its national budget on defense which pays for a well-armed Turkish Army, half of whom are stated in and around Kurdistan (Menon 1995).

The Kurdish region, often called “Kurdistan” lies upon the southeast part of Turkey, northeast corner of Syria, northern Iraq, and northwestern Iran. This region was originally supposed to be given to the people after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but the Treaty of Sevres was never ratified and that promise was never fulfilled to the Kurdish people (Zalman 2007). Had the treaty been enforced it would have taken away 2.5-million square kilometers of land from Turkey. Kurdistan is extremely rich in oil as about 10% of the total oil resources of the Middle East are here (Menon 1995). The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group found in the Middle East with their own language, but most of them are Sunni Muslims. In Turkey, the Kurds make up around 15-20% of the population; in Iraq, 23% of the total population (Zalman 2007); in Iran, around 13% of the population; and around 12.7% of the population in Syria (Menon 1995).


Grievances

During the days of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were left relatively alone and given autonomy, but after WWI the Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, refused to allow the Kurds to have independence and implemented policies that attempted to quell their culture, language, and any notion of self-determination by banning anything that was Kurdish (Pike 2013). When the people protested they were treated with further oppression, massacres, destruction of entire villages, deportation, forced assimilation, torture, imprisonment, police and military intimidation, and Turkish “colonization” of Kurdish lands (Menon 1995). At present, it is legal to speak Kurdish in Turkey, but celebrations and expressions of Kurdish culture are still restricted by the Turkish government (Bruno 2007). Turkey was able to secure an agreement with Iraq and Iran for them not to recognize Kurdish independence. The struggle for independence was squashed for a time (Washington Post 1999), but this forced assimilation only planted the seeds for the emergence of a Kurdish nationalistic movement in the region (Zalman 2007).

The political environment combined with the repressive acts of the government created a unique situation for the creation of the PKK. Turkey, being a Democracy, acted in a brutal manner towards an ethnic group who was better off under an autocratic government (the Ottomans). The Kurds were alienated from their own culture and forced into a life they didn’t want. Those Kurds who attended a university were exposed to other ideologies. Seeing Turkey’s form of government as failing to protect and represent the people’s desires many saw other ideologies are more desirable. It is no surprise then to see the followers of the PKK follow Marxist doctrine. In the 1970s communism was starting to decline, but was still working in China and was also starting to spread to some of the smaller countries where insurgent groups were adopting it as their ideology (an example being the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or the MLR in Finland).


Pre-Formation and Early History

The Kurds trace their origins back to the Medes, an ancient people who lived in western Iran and southeast Turkey, who founded an empire after they defeated the Assyrians in the 7th century BC (Menon 1995). They themselves were defeated by the Persian Empire and never rose again. The Kurds themselves exercised independence under the authority of the Ottoman Empire, but after they were defeated and partitioned, the Kurdish region was split among multiple states. The brutality of the Turkish government kept the Kurds at bay for decades, but in the 1950s and 1960s, Kurds started forming clubs as well as establishing a political party known as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Turkey, or KDPT (Kutschera 1994). The response was a massacre of students and the imprisonment, assassination, or exile of the leaders of KDPT. The Workers' Party of Turkey, or TIP, emerged and started distributing a journal that was in the Kurdish language. The Turkish government implemented assimilation camps where Kurds were forced to send their children. With the 1970s only came further oppression and instability in the state as there was a military coup in March of 1971. The government proceeded to use the prisons and schools as indoctrination centers, propagating anti-Kurdish and pro-Turkish material.

More clubs continued to emerge through the 1970s; one of them was started by students led by Abdullah Öcalan. This one was not solely about Kurdish grievances, but was also about supporting Marxist ideals (Amini 2010). This group wasn’t formalized until 1978, when the agenda was set and which was influenced by the writings of Mao as well (Zalman 2007). Öcalan wished to cause a revolution that would free the Kurdish people and establish a Kurdish state (START 2014). Öcalan was the son of a poor peasant and studied political science at Ankara University where he was introduced to communist ideals (Menon 1995). The group was composed of two different wings, a political wing, and an armed wing, with smaller branches or cells below. This group would not start its campaign of violence until 1984 (Amini 2010). The early 1980s marked another time of political upheaval as yet another military coup occurred in September of 1980 (Kutschera 1994). Once it started using violence it was primarily located in rural areas and often against military targets, but by the 1990s they started employing terrorist tactics and had moved into more urban areas where a greater population could be effected (Pike 2013).

The PKK was dealt a harsh blow in 1999 when the leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was captured and is now currently serving a life sentence (Australian National Security 2013). Originally he was sentenced to death, but there was enough commotion from the international community that the Turkish government commuted it to life in prison. In his absence, a council was formed to run the operations of the group. In his absence, there seems to be a power struggle between the leaders of the Executive Council and those in the armed or military wing of the group.


Goals

The goal of the PKK is to establish an “independent, communist, ethnically pure Kurdish state” by taking land from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria (Onay 2008). Some of the other objectives changed as the political environment in Turkey changed (Australian National Security 2013): such as the Turkish government giving Kurds voting rights. The leaders who took over after Öcalan was arrested have added his release as to their objectives (PKK 2011). Since his capture though, Öcalan has called for peaceful change and has asked the PKK to abandon violent and terrorist tactics, and seek concessions through political means, but this was most likely coerced by the Turkish government. In January 2000, the group did make attempts to move towards achieving their goals through political means (Pike 2004). This would change in 2004 when the PKK abandoned a ceasefire and returned to using violence rather than peaceful means. In 2010 concessions were attempted in Oslo between Turkey and the PKK, but failed and conflict between the two groups resumed. This led to 2-years of large scale violence (Pike 2013). In March of 2013, Öcalan again pleaded for his followers to use peaceful methods and to withdraw from Turkey (BBC 2013).


Motivations

The PKK is primarily voted by nationalistic ideals and the drive to be allowed to be an independent state. They motivate their members by using community support, particularly as they call for martyrdom. On the PKK website, it states, “We commemorate all the martyrs of the revolution with respect and gratitude and promise that we are going to crown the freedom struggle with victory in their memory.” (Pike 2004) The repressive actions of the Turkish government have, for the most part, unified the Kurdish people, although not all agree on the means on how to accomplish their independence. The PKK demonizes the governments, particularly the Turkish, and their collaborators in the brutal treatment of the Kurdish people which justifies any means necessary to defeat them. The group exploits emotional, communal, religious, and secular sentiments to gain popularity and gain new recruits (Australian National Security 2013). Although we see this isn’t fully working as the PKK is said to be down to around 5,000 members, falling from around 50,000 members at its height (Bruno 2007).


Operations and Mobilization Strategies

The PKK operates primarily in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Europe (Amini 2010). Most of its targets reside in Turkey, but is known to attack targets in Iraq. The PKK would use the states surrounding Turkey as a safe haven and spots for mobilization before crossing the Turkish border. The No-Fly Zones established by the United States and Turkey provided protection from the Iraqi military during the days of the Saddam regime (Cagaptay and Unver 2007). The PKK recruits most of its members from southeast Turkey where Kurds are most oppressed by the Turkish government, but gains members from Kurds found in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and the Kurdish diaspora in Europe (Australian National Security 2013).


Support

The PKK receives support from a large Kurdish diaspora present in Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Austria, etc) (Amini 2010). It also gains funding from criminal activity such as drug trafficking, human smuggling, extortion, money laundering, prostitution, and “voluntary” tax collection (Australian National Security 2013). The PKK is also said to receive support from a network of local news agencies, television stations, radio stations, newspaper companies, and publishing companies found throughout Europe (Onay 2008). For a time it also received support, usually just political, from Syria, but in the late 1990s this changed and Syria was coerced into withdrawing support from them (Zalman 2007). When the PKK was able to operate within Syria they used it as places for training camps as they faced less danger training in Syria than attempting the same in Turkey or even Iraq.


Tactics of the PKK

The PKK did not start using violence until 1984, but since then have used guerilla and terrorist tactics, inspired by the writings of Mao, in an attempt to achieve their goals (Zalman 2007). Some of their activities have included kidnappings, bombings of tourist sites like hotels, suicide bombings, placing of landmines, arson, vandalism, sabotage, and ambushes against military targets in Iraq and Turkey, often striking over the border then retreating back to the other country for safe haven (Australian National Security 2013). They have also been known to attack local officials and villagers who are opposed to their operations (Amini 2010). They may also attack the family of officials and village leaders to coerce them to comply and support the PKK (Onay 2008). Looking at the database compiled by the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, 11 suicide attacks have been carried out by the PKK and in 6 of the attacks the gender was known and we find that the PKK was just as likely to use women as men, although this analysis is skewed by the fact that gender information on the other 5 cases is missing which could either accept or reject this speculation (Pape 2014). Some do speculate though that most of the suicide bombings were employed by women, but no corroborating data is provided (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2011).

While some of the PKK’s attacks have caused collateral damage and may have been indiscriminate, most of their attacks are targeted at specific individuals or groups whom they see as a threat, enemy, or collaborator (Zalman 2007). Many of these attacks seem to do a few things: 1) cause as much damage on the populace that the government feels pressured into giving in to the PKK’s demands, 2) provoke military repression against the populace that the community loses its faith in the legitimacy of the government and military, and 3) to intimidate and coerce the populace, particularly the Kurds, into supporting its cause and the means to achieve it.


Success and Failures

The PKK has been fighting the Turkish government for 30-years and has employed a vast array of tactics to coerce the government to accommodate them, but little concessions have been given by Turkey. In 2009, reforms were emplaced aimed at giving the Kurdish people more rights in Turkey (Amini 2010). This wasn’t done because of the actions of the PKK, but most likely originated from pressures put on by the international community, particularly the European Union. Since 1987 Turkey has attempted to join the European Union, but has been denied membership some reasons have been Turkey’s glaring human rights abuses, particularly against the Kurdish people (BBC 2013). Membership has dropped dramatically; roughly 90%. The motivational and mobilization policies have not kept a steady stream of new recruits. The PKK attempted to reinvent itself, by adopting softer policies and changing its name, but is still considered by most states to be a terrorist organization (Bruno 2007). The final point in all of this is that no Kurdistan exists, either as an independent state or a recognized autonomous region.


Government Responses

As noted above, the Turkish government has given some political and economic concessions to the Kurdish people such as the National Unity Project (Amini 2010), but in response to the actions of the PKK, the Turkish government has employed oppressive acts against the PKK and the Kurdish people in general. The Turkish government eventually grew tired of the cross border attacks and started crossing into Iraq to attack the PKK. Iraq, to include Kurdish leaders of the PUK and KDP, have disavowed the PKK and refused to give them safe haven or support (Amini 2010). European states have arrested and punished criminal elements tied with the PKK and have also listed the PKK as a terrorist organization. The PKK is also listed by the United States and NATO as a terrorist organization. The United States has had a long relationship with Turkey and, with the Iraqi conflict, has strong ties with the government of Iraq. The United States has also been supportive of the Kurdish people, but has opposed the terrorist activity of the PKK.

All states use repression and in this case, we have seen negative and positive effects. While the indiscriminate violence created the landscape for the emergence of the PKK. Its oppressive nature of the Kurdish people has only solidified the people in their desires for an independent state free from the grip of the Turkish regime. It has made some notable positive steps by making political and economic reforms in an attempt to distinguish the fire that has enabled the PKK.

Until 1999, Syria had given support to the PKK, but gave it up under the pressure of the Turkish government. Turkey and Syria had been at odds with each other for decades which stemmed from border and water rights disputes. It is over this friction between the two that most likely influenced Syria to give aid to the PKK.


Current State of Affairs

As of today the PKK still exists, but in March of 2013, the imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, asked for the PKK to cease operations and withdraw from Turkey. Little can be found on the organization for events occurring in later 2013 and in 2014. According to CNN, PKK leaders have threatened to resume operation in Turkey as they feel Turkey is using the entities in Syria to conduct a proxy war against Kurds in that state (Coles 2013). From the press releases on the PKK websites, they continue to condemn Turkey for a variety of reasons, but have not openly committed any attacks in 2014. Öcalan remains in jail, but many are moving that he be given better facilities and treatment. As it sits right now, the PKK is holding to its promise of a cease-fire, but with the current conflict in Syria and Iraq, instability could cause a reemergence of the PKK in Turkey.


Prospects for the Future

The PKK seems to be looking for reasons to resume fighting has lost much of its support. Turkey has given some concessions, but in the event that they make any strong repressive moves against the Kurdish people, it may give the PKK the needed support and justifications to resume fighting in Turkey.

While Abdullah Öcalan is considered the de facto leader of the PKK, there appears to be a conflict between the two branches, political and armed/military. It was the leaders of the Executive Council, who took over after Öcalan’s arrest, that made attempts with peace, but it was the hardliners and leaders of the military wing who reinstated the use of violence in 2004. If the Turkish government wants to end or at least cripple the PKK, they need to accommodate the Kurdish people more by giving them more rights and freedoms, particularly with cultural expressions. Doing so would remove or limit further support of the PKK as it would remove the grievances and give legitimacy to the governance of the Republic of Turkey, at least over that of what is offered by the PKK. The Turkish government can also use Öcalan as propaganda and give him better accommodations in prison which would also give his messages of peace further legitimacy which may keep in check most of his followers in the PKK. There must also be multilateral operations to stem the criminal activity in Europe that funds much of the PKK.

It is likely the PKK will again try to turn into a political party, but this may be rejected by the Turkish government which could cause some escalation of violence. They may also try to become a political party in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and seek to compete with the PUK and KDP, which could cause instability in that area of Iraq. Though they banned them in the past, the Turkish governments could win over the Kurdish populace by allowing the KDP and/or the PUK to be allowed as legitimate political parties within Turkey. This would give the Kurdish people hope for political change in their favor and address any current or future grievances that may arise.


Conclusion

For 30-years the Turkish-PKK conflict has caused the deaths of 30,000-40,000 people, instability in the region, and which has resulted in Turkey’s reputation being tarnished in the eyes of the international community and losing legitimacy among a large portion of its population. Both sides have committed human rights violations in an attempt to accomplish their goals. In its conflict with the PKK, the Turkish government has also harmed its economy by putting so much of the budget to the military to quell this terrorist organization (Gunter 2000). The Kurds number in the millions and are “people without a home”. Their promised land was taken from them and in return, they were brutalized for decades. Their culture, heritage, language, and identity were treated as a crime. The PKK appears as an extreme example of the nationalistic mentality that has emerged as a result of the repressive behavior of the Turkish government. Since his capture, the symbolic leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has called for peace between the two, but not lasting peace has occurred. Even now there is a ceasefire in place, but this is no indication of future events. Recent events in Syria could cause the reemergence of conflict between the PKK and Turkey, and in general, the instability caused by this conflict is the biggest challenge facing Turkey and its future.

Regardless, neither side trusts each other and this case will require a neutral, independent 3rd party to intervene and bring both parties to concessions and ensure that both parties stick to the agreements, punishing those who attempt to break the peace and cause further conflict. The PKK was strong enough to inflict serious damage on Turkey, but hasn’t been strong enough to win the concessions it strived to at its birth. Stephen Gent (2008) and Patrick Regan (2009) both point out that a state will only intervene when outcomes will be favorable and when the non-state actor is strong enough or evenly matched in their capabilities with the government. Regan does state in his book that diplomacy and mediation are a type of intervention that is more effective than military intervention. An organization like the United Nations would be an appropriate mediator and arbiter for the necessary accords to end this bloody conflict. Without such intervention, the PKK-Turkish conflict may be static now, but there is no certainty for lasting peace and further conflict could easily be stirred up again.

References

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