PLAYING WITH EXPLOSIVES


“The most industrious and creative producers of land mines are not the Cold War vassal states but the high-tech Western countries who make such a big stink about all those little kids who get blown to bits.”

~ comebackalive.com.

Something weird has been going on in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. There have been a lot of landmine explosions lately. Somehow, I have the feeling that many of the landmine reports are as genuine as the reports of exploding gas cannisters at Manavgat. Somehow, I suspect that the reports of “landmine” explosions have more to do with Turkish propaganda against the PKK’s recent signing of the non-state actors’ equivalent of the Ottawa Treaty, in both Geneva and at Qandîl.

Here’s a little something from the 2005 LandMine Monitor report on Turkey:

The use of antipersonnel mines by Turkish Armed Forces was banned by a directive from the Chief of General Staff on 26 January 1998.[24] In September 2003, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its successor groups[25] ended the 1999 unilateral cease-fire, in favor of a future bilateral cease-fire. In 2004, attacks against government forces increased, including use of mines. The media has reported numerous mine incidents in 2005 as the fighting has intensified.[26] Most of these reports cite the PKK/Kongra-Gel as the party responsible for new mine use in Turkey. Media reports primarily indicate use of antivehicle mines, including command-detonated mines, which has resulted in civilian as well as military casualties.[27]

The Turkish government has reported that from March 2004 to March 2005, 25 military personnel were killed and 123 injured by mines laid by the PKK/Kongra-Gel.[28] In July 2005, General Ilker Basbug, the army second-in-command, said that PKK violence had claimed the lives of 105 soldiers and 37 civilians over the past year, and claimed that the rebels used mostly explosives and landmines in their attacks.[29]

In November 2004, police seized weaponry and explosives including one mine (not specified as antipersonnel) in Baglica village, Sirnak province.[30]

First of all, the PKK did not end its unilateral ceasefire in September, 2003. It ended its unilateral ceasefire on 1 June, 2006. The media, i.e. Turkish media, reported that PKK was using mines, anti-vehicle mines, including “command-detonated mines,” which are remote-controlled mines. These do not fall under the classification of landmines as defined by the Ottawa Treaty and the Deed of Commitment for Non-State Actors.

Nothing here specifically mentions anti-personnel mines (APM).

But let’s think about what it takes to plant a minefield of APM’s. In theory, and general practice, planting an APM is not difficult, but it takes a little time and care. However, it’s generally ineffective and a waste of time and energy to plant only one APM. You have to plant lots of them to be effective and that’s why they invented the idea of a minefield. Minefields are used to block avenues of approach or deny key terrain to the enemy. It takes several people to plant a number of mines over a wide area.

If gerîlas do this, they have to expose themselves for the amount of time it takes to plant the minefield and that isn’t usually an option because it exposes the gerîlas to observation, if not enemy fire. Since the potential risks outweigh the potential advantages for the gerîlas, it’s logical to assume they aren’t planting APM fields.

The TSK has plenty of time and doesn’t have to worry about being observed or coming under gerîlas fire too often. They’ve got plenty of Mehmetciks to provide cover anyway. They can plant mines at their leisure and a minefield can be cost-effective for them; the minefields deny avenues of approach and key terrain.

TSK has one little problem, however. When you plant a minefield, you’re supposed to make a map of the minefield and keep it on file so that everyone knows where the field is and where each mine is in that field. You’re also supposed to mark the field on the ground too, so that everyone knows where it is–even during hostilities and especially if you’re NATO’s second largest army. When you’re finished playing, you’re supposed to pick up your toys before you go home. Your map helps you to pick up your toys with minimal damage to yourself.

TSK doesn’t always observe these little minefield protocols. Check Voices From The Front by Nadire Mater on that (or the original Turkish, if you can find it: Mehmedin Kitabi: Guneydogu’da Savasmis Askerler Anlatiyor). In that book, also pay attention to how other UXO ended up in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, like from drunk TSK officers throwing grenades for the hell of it, and leaving the duds behind for Kurdish children to find.

Additionally, there’s this from the Landmine Monitor report:

There are no reports of any formal survey or assessment of mined areas being carried out or planned, with regard to either known or suspected mined areas. However, Turkey stated in 2005 that, “Activities to identify areas mined by the PKK/KONGRE-GEL terrorist organisation have been continuing.”[47]

Turkey has not revealed how information on mined areas is collected, stored and updated. It is not known if there is an information management system for mine action planning.

It sounds like it corroborates the fact that there was no required and enforced mapping system on the part of the TSK. So if you don’t have a map, or you’re stupid and feckless and simply leave shit lying around, then the day will come when you will pay the price for stupidity and fecklessness. When that day comes, don’t cry about the big, bad PKK.

So much for APM’s.

With anti-vehicle mines, however, the gerîla gets a bigger bang for the buck. . . and the time. When you employ the mine as a remote-controlled bomb, as HPG does, you get the added bonus of knowing you’ve hit a target because you had to set the mine off yourself. In other words, you waited until the right number of vehicles passed over your mine(s), and then you detonated. This is cost effectiveness for gerîlas in terms of the time you exposed yourself to potential observation or enemy fire, and in terms of the kill.

Although the types of roads on which these attacks take place are not usually specified by the media, my suspicion is that most of them happen on dirt roads or paths. If you plant a remote-controlled mine on a paved road or highway, you have to dig through the paving. Since I’ve never noticed unusual reports of abandoned jackhammers littering the countryside of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, I’m betting that jackhammers aren’t standard issue for gerîlas. Besides, jackhammers need electricity and they weigh a lot. If you’re going to use one, you’ve got to hump it in and hump it out, something that I would not want to do.

As part of its obligations under the Ottawa Agreement, the Ankara regime has already begun clearing mines from its border with Syria. But there are a lot of other places where TSK planted mines, too. The regime claims it’s already started mine-clearing operations in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan, but it would appear the regime isn’t as sincere as it leads everyone to believe:

The locations of clearance operations were not included in the Article 7 report for 2004. In February 2004, Turkey reported that clearance activities initiated in 1998 have taken place in the east and southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Batman, Mardin, Bitlis, Bingöl, Tunceli and Göle.[55] However, local people interviewed in Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces stated that no clearance operations have taken place in these areas.[56]

If local people in Amed and Mêrdîn have not seen any clearance activity, what is the activity really like in the other areas, areas where there has been a lot of HPG activity since the end of the PKK’s 5-year unilateral ceasefire? “Doubtful” is the word that comes to mind.

According to the Ottawa Treaty, signatories are required to commit resources not only to mine clearance, but also to survivor assistance. Here’s a little nod to that requirement from those fun-loving guys and wannabe humanitarians at the Turkish General Staff (Note: if you’re dying for the URL, email me and I’ll send it to you, otherwise we don’t really need a link, do we?):

Moreover, being a country attaching great importance to ongoing humanitarian mine clearance activities on different parts of the world, Turkey offers mine clearance courses in the context of Peace for Partnership (PfP)/bilateral agreements, and provides personnel and equipment besides the financial contributions to de-mining activities in various countries as well.

Sure, they attach great importance to clearing mines from every other patch of earth on the planet, except that patch which they occupy.

The Turkish regime seems to be attempting to comply with requirements for survivor assistance, with some notable exceptions, as the Landmine Monitor reports:

In June 2004, representatives of the Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey visited mine/UXO survivors and their families in the cities of Diyarbakır and Mardin. Interviews indicated that the rehabilitation needs of civilian mine survivors are not being adequately addressed, and that survivors may not be aware that they could receive medical and rehabilitation assistance through military facilitates.[80]

No one should be surprised by the double standard; it’s what passes for normal when you’re an occupied people. The fascists in Ankara have no reason to clear mines from Kurdish lands or to provide assistance to Kurdish survivors. The whole point of all this, along with everything else, is to get rid of Kurds.

The Ankara regime, for all its show of signing the Ottawa Treaty and posting humanitarian concerns on the Turkish General Staff website, is not in compliance.

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