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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Kurd rebels change their name
European spokesmen for KADEK Adem Uzun (left) and Riza Erdogan (right)
The movement hopes to become a political force
Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has formally announced a change of name and strategy, saying it wants to campaign peacefully for greater Kurdish rights.

The PKK has accomplished its mission and ceased all its activities

Spokesman Riza Erdogan
The group, which launched an armed campaign in 1984 for a Kurdish homeland, will now be known as the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan (KADEK).

The change of name, adopted by a recent party congress, comes two years after the PKK announced it was ending its armed struggle.

However, Tuesday's move was immediately denounced as cosmetic by the Ankara government.

Kurdish women in Turkey
There are 12 million Kurds in Turkey
Correspondents say the name change is widely seen as an attempt by the PKK to distance itself from its violent past in an effort to circumvent the ban on its activities and be accepted as a legal party inside Turkey.

The PKK has been outlawed in Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, and branded as "terrorist" by Ankara and Washington.

'Democracy and Freedom'

"The PKK has accomplished its mission and ceased all its activities," spokesman Riza Erdogan told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

I do not give much consideration to the question of how terrorist organisations might change

Foreign Minister Ismail Cem

The new group's aim, he said, was: "Democracy for Turkey and freedom for the Kurds. Federalism for Iraq and freedom for the Kurds. Democracy for Iran and freedom for the Kurds."

A statement from KADEK leaders also denounced terrorism.

But the move was rejected by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

"We don't believe a change of name brings about a change of nature or essence," he said.

Asked what it would have to do to acquire political legitimacy, he replied: "I do not give much consideration to the question of how terrorist organisations might change."
Abdullah Ocalan
Ocalan, who heads the new group, was arrested in Kenya in 1999

The new group will be led by the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

He was condemned to death for treason in June 1999, but the Turkish Government suspended execution pending a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

Following his arrest and appeals for peace, the PKK announced in September 1999 it was ending its armed struggle for self-rule in south-eastern Turkey.

Heavy fighting in the region has significantly diminished since then. However Turkey, which has downplayed the peace efforts, continues to hunt down activists.

The European Union has demanded that Ankara grant its 12 million strong Kurdish minority more rights if Turkey is to become a member state.

See also:

22 Mar 02 | Europe
Kurds celebrate in Turkey
21 Mar 02 | Europe
Kurds clash with Turkish police
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Turkey: Angry man of Europe
21 Nov 00 | Europe
A people divided by borders
09 Feb 00 | Europe
PKK ends war with Turkey
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