Where is Cemil Bayık?
|Cemil Bayık, the number two man in the current Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leadership, has been missing for almost two months. Last time he appeared on pro-PKK media he threatened Turkey and stated that if Turkey intervened in Syria militarily, the PKK would fight against the Turkish military in Syria. Since then Bayık has not issued any statements nor has anyone made reference to him.|
|Why is it important to know where Bayık is?
It is important to know where Bayık is because he represents the pro-Iranian wing of the PKK. He has spent most of his life in Iran, organizing PKK activities in that country. It is widely believed that Bayık is affiliated with the Iranian intelligence services and from time to time encouraged the PKK to fight for the interest of Iran.
In fact, the PKK’s recent attacks, which were resumed against the will of Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s founder and imprisoned leader, are believed to be staged by the group of hawks in the PKK led by Bayık. He has long argued that it is no time for peace when the political cards in the Middle East are being reshuffled through revolutions. Bayık further argued that the Kurds should do the same thing and, therefore, resume their struggle.
It is important to know where Bayık is because it gives us clues as to whether or not the hawks have been removed from the power structure of the PKK. Given the fact that Öcalan is a leader who never tolerated alternative views, it is likely that resuming hostilities risked his plans to ease his prison conditions and, if possible, his release. Öcalan would not tolerate a group that puts his plan at risk. Therefore, it is likely that Bayık and the group that he is leading in the PKK have at the very least been silenced.
Yet what is unknown is whether silencing the falcons is a temporary, tactical matter or whether it is an outcome of internal rivalry within the PKK. Examining the recent operations against the PKK groups in Turkey indicates that groups which are particularly close to the hawks are being targeted. Therefore, it seems that the hard-liners within the PKK have been targeted at the leadership level as well as on the foot soldier level.
The third reason why it is important to know where Bayık is is related to the PKK’s ties with Syria. There were reports in the Turkish media in November that the PKK had established a camp in Syria to mobilize the Kurdish groups in that country and that Öcalan himself had asked the PKK militants to redeploy 1,000 militants in Syria. Media reports have indicated that that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad provided new opportunities for pro-PKK parties and groups in Syria to operate and mobilize the Kurds in his country. Hence, related with these activities, it is likely that Bayık would have been sent to Syria to lead the PKK activities in that country. If that is the case, one needs to include the increasing PKK activities into the Syrian equation to understand what kind of game the Syrian leader and the PKK leadership would play.
Fourth, health reasons could explain why Bayık is not on the scene. Given the fact that he is in bad health, he has received extensive medical treatment in Iran.
All in all, the absence of Bayık is a significant development for the PKK and for the region as well, so one needs to wonder where he is.