Turkey's Erdogan tells Trump that Black Lives Matter protesters 'working with PKK'

Turkey's Erdogan tells Trump that Black Lives Matter protesters 'working with PKK'
Ankara has attempted to link the Kurdish militant group to the Black Lives Matter protests.
3 min read
09 June, 2020
Turkey views the PKK and YPG as terrorist organisations [Getty]
Individuals working with Kurdish militant groups are behind "violence and looting" during anti-racist protests in the US, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his American counterpart on Monday.

Erdogan "conveyed his concern to President Trump over the cooperation between the elements, who are behind the incidents of violence and looting in the US, and the PKK/PYD-YPG terrorist organisation that operates in the north of Syria" during a phone call on Monday, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Anti-racist protests have engulfed the US since the killing of George Floyd on 25 May, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer held his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The largely peaceful demonstrations have witnessed incidents of looting and property damage, and have been countered with a fierce police response and the threat of a military crackdown. 

Ankara has attempted to link the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and affiliated Kurdish militant groups to the protests over the past week. 

Turkey has been fighting a prolonged on-off civil war with the PKK since the early 1980s.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), are considered by Ankara as Syrian off-shoots of the PKK.

While the PKK is widely designated as a terrorist organisation, the YPG is not and played a key role in the US-backed fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Last week, President Donald Trump announced that the US would designate as a terrorist organisation Antifa - a shorthand that loosely links left-wing anti-fascist activists across the world.

Turkish officials have since looked to link Antifa, which Trump has accused of instigating "domestic terrorism" through the protests, to the Kurdish militant groups.

Some of the foreign fighters who joined the YPG and its female wing, the YPJ, in the fight against the IS have been broadly affiliated with the Antifa movement.

A graphic published last week by Turkey's Directorate of Communications illustrated the alleged ties between Antifa and the Kurdish militant organisations.

Citing "news reports in the international press", the graphic stated that Antifa was "trained by terrorist organisations in northern Syria", namely the PKK and YPG.

"Although its full name is Anti-Fascist movement, some Antifa members trained by the PKK/YPG terrorist organisation do not hesitate to carry out acts with an entirely fascist mentality," the official graphic claimed.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also called on Washington crack down on "Antifa in Syria" in response to the US protests.

"The US must show the same sensitivity in Syria when Antifa draws its weapons on Turkish soldiers, or when they attack us after joining the PKK," he said in a televised interview last week.

"Is it only a terror group when they touch you? And nothing needed to be done when it is Turkey?"

Ankara has repeatedly attempted to pressure Washington over the YPG, which has received support from the US as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which led the fight against IS.

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