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      Syria Jails 400 in Crackdown on PKK

      Syria has reportedly arrested 400 ethnic Kurds in five cities in an attempt to assist Turkey against PKK rebel forces.
      By Avi Yellin
      First Publish: 7/2/2010, 1:29 AM / Last Update: 7/2/2010, 9:37 AM

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      Turkey's state news agency Anatolian reported on Thursday that Syrian security forces have detained 400 people in five cities as part of an extensive operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

      Turkey has sought the support of its neighbors in the region and of the United States in its attempts to suppress Kurdish guerrillas, who have succeeded in killing more than 50 Turkish occupation soldiers in the last two months of escalating resistance. (For US position, click here).

      Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, facing public criticism over his government's inability to stem the rising violence ahead of next year's national elections, has called on allies to cut off funds for the Kurdish freedom fighters and extradite suspected rebels to Turkey.

      The majority of PKK operations have taken place in the area of Turkey populated by indigenous Kurds. The rebel forces, and many Kurds, consider adjacent areas of Syria, Iraq and Iran a part of the intended independent state of Kurdistan. The independence movement is active in those parts of Kurdistan controlled by Syria and by Iran through an offshoot called the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

      The PKK also has bases in parts of northern Iraq, where Turkey and the United States have agreed to share intelligence on the group's activities. Washington and the European Union, like Ankara, consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.

      PKK resistance fighters have stepped up attacks on Turkish occupation forces after calling off their one-year truce on June 1, accusing Erdogan’s government of failing to find a political resolution to the 26-year conflict.

      The PKK first launched their revolt against Turkey in 1984 in a bid to liberate the north of their country from foreign rule. Since then, more than 45,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died in the violence. 

      The Kurds have been attempting to achieve an independent entity for over 80 years. At one point, Israel aided the Iraqi Kurdish rebels, led by the legendary Mala Mustafa Barzani, in their war against the suppressive Iraqi regime of the 1960s. One of Barzani's closest friends was said to be Sagi Chori, a Mossad officer allegedly responsible for planning several Kurdish operations in addition to training Kurdish fighters in Israel. Almost all Jews living in Kurdish areas moved to Israel  during the 1940's and '50's.

      Saddam Hussein's reign in Iraq (1979-2003) was characterized by genocidal attacks on the Kurdish population. American attempts to "democratize" occupied Iraq has appeared to gain Kurdish acceptance for the idea of regional autonomy as part of a larger central Iraqi government. 

      Turkey has attempted, often forcibly, to assimilate its sizable Kurdish population, estimated as approximately 20% of the entire population, since the 1930's.