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Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 00:00 GMT 01:00 UK
Kurds show coded support for PKK
By Clive Myrie
BBC News, south-eastern Turkey

Amine Yigit, Kurdish woman in south-eastern Turkey
Amine Yigit lost a son, a PKK fighter, killed by the Turkish army
Amine Yigit is in her late 60s and sat in front of me surrounded by some of her extended family spanning four generations.

She boasts three sons, four daughters and as many as 15 grandchildren (she does not know the exact number).

But as we sat drinking tea on a baking hot afternoon in her home in south-eastern Turkey, she was not thinking about the family members surrounding her, but about a son she last saw 15 years ago.

On the little wooden table in front of us was a photograph of Sincan Yigit.

He was wearing makeshift army fatigues with a rifle slung across his back.

He was smiling, he looked happy.

The photo was taken shortly after Sincan left his village, family and old life behind, to start a new life as a guerrilla fighting for the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

"I didn't cry," she told me "when I heard he'd been killed in fighting with Turkish troops. I'm proud of him, he is a martyr."

"He died honourably. He was fighting for Kurdish freedom, for Kurdish rights."

Widespread support

In this part of Turkey Amine Yigit is not alone in losing a loved one to the PKK.

The south-eastern flank of the country is a Kurdish heartland where most of the nation's 20 million Kurds live.

Kurdish political leaders will tell you (in private) that at least 80% of their people support the rebels and are proud if a family member is "living in the mountains."

PKK fighter
While I might not wholeheartedly agree with their methods, the PKK is fighting for us and that IS something to be proud of
Metin Bayik, Kurdish villager

But for Turkey and much of the rest of the world, the PKK are terrorists pure and simple.

A ragtag bag of killers who use violence to serve their political ends.

Such thoughts are never in the minds of most Kurds living in Turkey.

I spoke with Metin Bayik in a remote location high in the foothills of the Judi Mountains which form part of the border with northern Iraq.

"The Turkish Army is watching everyone," he told me, "we can't talk out in the open, it's too dangerous."

He spoke about his brother Abdullah who joined the PKK in March 1984 and - as far as he is aware - is still alive and fighting the Turks.

He is now well into his 50s. I asked Metin if he condoned the tactics of the PKK in using violence.

"I condemn the violence of all sides in this struggle," he told me diplomatically.

"I'm neither proud, nor ashamed of my brother. We Kurds are an oppressed people and while I might not wholeheartedly agree with their methods, the PKK is fighting for us and that IS something to be proud of.

'Oppressed minority'

The PKK is fighting for a separate homeland in south-eastern Turkey for the Kurds.

Turkish troops in the Kurdish region
Turkish troops are seen as the oppressor by many Kurds

Living under the Turkish flag they say means living like second class citizens.

And this is not a new phenomenon. They will tell you they have been an oppressed minority for centuries going way back to the rule of the Ottoman Turks.

Nowadays, the Kurdish language is not allowed to be taught in schools.

Kurdish children must learn only Turkish while Kurdish programming on TV is restricted to one hour a week.

It is these kinds of assaults they say on Kurdish culture and heritage that the PKK despises - an attempt, the guerrillas and their supporters believe, to deny who they are.

To make everyone who lives within Turkey's borders, Turkish.

The government in Ankara is now contemplating a full ground offensive into northern Iraq to flush out the PKK.

The Kurds I spoke to say they do not want a war, that enough blood has been spilled, what they want are their rights as Kurds.

It is very unlikely Turkey will any time soon agree to their demands, so it seems more mothers like Amine Yigit are destined to lose their sons to the mountains.

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