PJAK / PEJAK
Party for Free Life in Kurdistan
Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan
Free Life Party of Kurdistan
Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK, though somewhat more commmonly PEJAK) is based in the Kurdish region of Iraq, a few miles from the Iranian border. The snow-capped Qandil mountains run along Iraq's Kurdistan border with both Turkey and Iran. Operating under the PKK's security umbrella, PJAK adopted many of the political ideas and military strategies of thed PKK. PEJAK ideology is leftist, and includes equality of the sexes, which is unusual in the region. Though the precise relationship is obscure, as of 2006 they shared many of the same facilities and resources in the Qandil / Kandil Mountains.
According to an April 3, 2006 article in the Washington Times, it had staged attacks across the border in Iran since 2004 on behalf of Iranian Kurdish interests. According to the Iranian government in 2005 PJAK killed at least 120 Iranian soldiers in Iran, and in 2006 PJAK equalled this total. PEJAK claimed to kill twenty-four Iranian soldiers in three raids against army bases in March 2006. Iran's official news agency also reported that three Republican Guard soldiers were killed in a gun battle near the Iraqi border in late March 2006.
Iran has denounced PEJAK as a terrorist group and has accused the US of funding PEJAK. According to an 15 April 2006 article in the Economist, Iranians and Turks both believed that the US was supporting PEJAK. There are also reports that the Israeli government is supporting the PJAK militia. Seymour Hersh's April 10, 2006 article in the New Yorker reported that US troops were establishing contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups in Iran. According to Hersh, a government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon said American combat troops operating in Iran were "working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast." The consultant further says, "The troops are studying the terrain and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds."
In October 2006, the English-language Iran Daily, published by Iran's official news agency, said Iran had accused PEJAK of killing dozens of its armed forces in insurgent attacks.
In November 2006 Seymour Hersh wrote "In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as `part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.` (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime`s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group `equipment and training.` The group has also been given `a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S."
In an February 5, 2007 interview with Tulin Daloglu of TRT, Assistant Secretary Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs was asked "Ambassador, there has been news about U.S. cooperation with PEJAK. Let me ask you directly. Does the United States provide directly or indirectly any support of PEJAK which is an outlet of PKK in Iraq?" Fried responded "We don't support any terrorist group or any affiliates of a terrorist group, whether it's the PKK or any of the various names that it uses. We don't support that."
The chief of PJAK, Rahman Haj-Ahmadi traveled to Washington in the summer of 2007, seeking seeking financial and military support for his militia. At that time he was living in Berlin, Germany, under surveillance or protection of the Bundesnachrichtendienst(BND) [German foreign intelligence service] and theVerfassungsschutz [domestic intelligence service]. In an interview in April 2007 he said that the PJAK was recruiting fighters in Germany for war in Kurdistan against Iran.
In late August 2007 it was reported that Iran's army had crossed the border into neighboring Iraq and shelled the Kandil Mountain located in northern Iraq, where PEJAK had camps. Iranian troops were reported to hav penetrated five kilometers into Iraqi territory, causing massive material damage. Iraqi Kurdish Web sites quoted local officials in the region as saying Iran had launched a "full-scale war." On 04 February 2009 the US Department of the Treasury designated the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), a Kurdish group operating in the border region between Iraq and Iran, under Executive Order 13224 for being controlled by the terrorist group Kongra-Gel (KGK, aka the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK). "With today's action, we are exposing PJAK's terrorist ties to the KGK and supporting Turkey's efforts to protect its citizens from attack," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Designated in December 2002 under E.O. 13224, PKK/KGK has been involved for more than 20 years in targeting Turkish government security forces, local Turkish officials, and villagers who oppose the KGK in Turkey. Turkish authorities have confirmed or suspect that KGK was also responsible for dozens of bombings since 2004 in western Turkey.
The PKK/KGK leadership authorized certain Iranian-Kurdish PKK/KGK members to create a KGK splinter group that would portray itself as independent from but allied with PKK/KGK. PJAK was created to appeal to Iranian Kurds. KGK formally institutionalized PJAK in 2004 and selected five PKK/KGK members to serve as PJAK leaders, including Hajji Ahmadi, a KGK affiliate who became PJAK's General Secretary. PKK/KGK leaders also selected the members of PJAK's 40-person central committee. Although certain PJAK members objected to the KGK selecting their leaders, the KGK advised that PJAK had no choice.
As of April 2008, PKK/KGK leadership controlled PJAK and allocated personnel to the group. Separately, PJAK members have carried out their activities in accordance with orders received from PKK/KGK senior leaders. In one instance, PJAK's armed wing, the East Kurdistan Defense Forces, had been acting independently in Iran. KGK senior leaders immediately intervened, however, and recalled the responsible PJAK officials to northern Iraq.
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