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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 12:04 GMT
Europe's well-connected Kurds
Kurds protest in the Netherlands
Huge numbers have shown support for Ocalan
By Regional Analyst Pam O'Toole

It is estimated that there are at least 700,000 Kurds in Europe.

Exact figures are difficult to come by, largely because European countries tend to list them under their nationality - Turkish, Iraqi or Iranian - rather than their ethnic background.

But the relaxation of European land border controls and the rise of illegal smuggling organisations - many of them run by Kurds - mean that thousands more may be living illegally in European countries.

While some apply for political asylum, others have fled their home region for purely economic reasons.

A well-organised diaspora

Many of these exiles and their children have links with Kurdish associations which have mushroomed in Europe over recent years.

Outside the gates of Luxembourg European Conference
While some are purely social or cultural, others are more political and are regarded as front organisations for the PKK, which has been declared illegal in a number of European countries.

Activists in Europe have been accused of setting up fictitious businesses as a cover for recruiting and training PKK guerrillas.

Some European Kurds voluntarily donate money to the PKK, but the organisation has also been accused of drug dealing and operating extortion rackets in European cities to fund its violent campaign against the Turkish state.

Surprising passion

The depth of Kurdish support for former PKK leader Abduallah Ocalan became clear during protests across Europe at his arrest and subsequent trial. Many Kurds set themselves alight in protest.

Even children show their support
Some analysts suggest that Kurds may have been mobilised by broadcasts on MED TV, the London-based Kurdish satellite channel which Turkey maintains is the mouthpiece of the PKK.

Others say the PKK's organic links with Kurdish organisations across Europe and its relationship with exiled Kurds make co-ordinated protests relatively easy to organise.

The romantic view held by many exiles about their homeland may also play a part and help to unite different Kurdish communities who may be at odds back in their homelands.

News and background on Abdullah Ocalan

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