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Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence [Kindle Edition]

Aliza Marcus
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Kurds, who number some 28 million people in the Middle East, have no country they can call their own. Long ignored by the West, Kurds are now highly visible actors on the world's political stage. More than half live in Turkey, where the Kurdish struggle has gained new strength and attention since the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.

Essential to understanding modern-day Kurds—and their continuing demands for an independent state—is understanding the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. A guerilla force that was founded in 1978 by a small group of ex-Turkish university students, the PKK radicalized the Kurdish national movement in Turkey, becoming a tightly organized, well-armed fighting force of some 15,000, with a 50,000-member civilian militia in Turkey and tens of thousands of active backers in Europe. Under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan, the war the PKK waged in Turkey through 1999 left nearly 40,000 people dead and drew in the neighboring states of Iran, Iraq, and Syria, all of whom sought to use the PKK for their own purposes. Since 2004, emboldened by the Iraqi Kurds, who now have established an autonomous Kurdish state in the northernmost reaches of Iraq, the PKK has again turned to violence to meet its objectives.

Blood and Belief combines reportage and scholarship to give the first in-depth account of the PKK. Aliza Marcus, one of the first Western reporters to meet with PKK rebels, wrote about their war for many years for a variety of prominent publications before being put on trial in Turkey for her reporting. Based on her interviews with PKK rebels and their supporters and opponents throughout the world—including the Palestinians who trained them, the intelligence services that tracked them, and the dissidents who tried to break them up—Marcus provides an in-depth account of this influential radical group.

Product Description


" an achievement of Blood and Belief is that despite the bloodletting, Marcus still generates empathy - not for the murderous Ocalan, but for the desperate Kurds who joined the PKK revolution feeling they had nowhere else to turn." The Washington Post Book World "Blood and Belief gives meaning and context to the grinding guerrilla war that claimed tens of thousands of lives..." Boston Globe "Blood and Belief offers unusual insight into the rebels' shadowy universe and, by extension, into Turkey's festering Kurdish problem... [A] scholarly, gripping account." The Economist "Marcus' dispassionate recounting of events is impressive in its factual, documented style and avoidance of partisan shrillness." The Bloomsberry Review "Marcus' dispassionate recounting of events is impressive in its factual, documented style and avoidance of partisan shrillness. While never condoning any of the PKK's excesses, she points out its one achievement: to have 'put the Kurdish problem on the agenda in Turkey and in front of the world.'" Bookforum "This important, timely, and readable book discusses the creation, consolidation and vicissitudes of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the Kurdish acronym by which it is popularly known... Highly recommended." Choice "Marcus delivers an easy to follow, well-written, well-researched and fascinating narrative. While many academic and journalistic treatments of the PKK get lost on the movement's often inconsistent rhetoric, opaque Marxist-Leninist jargon, and contradictory public statements, Blood and Belief maintains its focus on the personalities and issues crucial to really understanding the big picture of the PKK... invaluable to researchers, policy makers, and non-specialists simply interested in learning about this topic." Middle East Journal "As a result of Marcus's detailed historical analysis and authoritative sources, Blood and Belief stands alone as an authoritative source of PKK history from the mouths of those who created it." Richard Saccone, Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa "Marcus has unequalled knowledge of the PKK and her book will be essential reading for all who are interested in the topic. Blood and Belief comes out at an important moment when fate of the Kurds is becoming more and more important to the future of the Middle East." Patrick Cockburn, author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq "Aliza Marcus has written the kind of book that only a journalist who has covered conflict on the ground could write. She has brought her superb eye for detail and her deep knowledge of history of the region to the task of understanding the violent and painful journey of the Kurds. Blood and Belief is necessary reading for anyone who seeks to understand all of the moving parts of the Middle East today." Charles M. Sennott, author of The Body and the Blood: The Middle East's Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace "Marcus carefully chronicles the scarcely believable saga of long repressed, but resurgent Kurdish identity in Turkey and the ongoing quarter century revolt of the PKK inspired by Abdullah Ocalan, one of the Third World's more paranoid contemporary nationalist fountainheads. This is the astounding tale of a ruthless hard scrabble beneficiary of the Turkish Republic's liberal education system who mounted the twentieth century's longest challenge to Ankara's authority and sent tens of thousands of Kurds and Turks to their deaths from the safety of a foreign sanctuary. Marcus dissects fatal Kurdish and Turkish stubbornness which helped perpetuate this sputtering revolt despite Ocalan's manifest errors, his craven repudiation of the PKK objectives once in Turkish captivity and mass desertions by true believers disillusioned by his transparent efforts to save his neck." Jonathan Randal, author of Osama: The Making of a Terrorist "This is a very good, original work that will add greatly to our understanding of the Kurdish national movement and Kurdish politics. It is an important contribution to an understanding of contemporary Kurdish history and of the Kurdish question in general. I know of no book like it." Keith Hitchins, editor, The Journal of Kurdish Studies

About the Author

Aliza Marcus is formerly an international correspondent for The Boston Globe. She covered the PKK for more than eight years, first as a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and later as a staff writer for Reuters, receiving a National Press Club Award for her reporting. She is also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for her work.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 984 KB
  • Print Length: 363 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (1 Aug. 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0029VCUTW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #522,045 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is interesting, nicely written and it includes information about PKK in great detail. The author shows her photos with PKK guerillas, conveys their political message to public audiance. It is clearly understood that Aliza Marcus deeply sympathises PKK and dislike Turkish State, although he had permission to enter in Turkey and public officials helped her in many ways while working as a reporter. After publishing this book she was charged for supporting terrorism, than her trial terminated and deported from Turkey.

Does she support PKK terrorism? The reader should decide by herself. It is ironical that she must have known PKK mostly killed his own people in Turkey, heavily involved in Drug trafficing and distribution in Europe, didnt want any investment to its Kurdish People either in Iraq, Turkey and PKK is always seen and used as a pawn to harm Turks&Kurds&Others. Evidences show that PKK is used by Greece, Russia, Syria Intelligence againist Turkey. Marcus dont tell much about these facts and label PKK as freedom fighters. No worries that PKK may kill over 30.000 people but they are still nice fellas!But remember, things are changed after she wrote the book, for instance, PKK is not asking for independence but greater authonomy. So the book is a little outdated but still interesting and worth reading.

If you want to see PKK from a marxist and biased viewpoint, you should definetely read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking!!!! 20 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well written book and it provides a relatively unbiased History of the PKK. Also, it describes a lot of details on the atrocities committed by the Turkish State against the Kurdish People.

In addition to describing the activities of the PKK in promoting Kurdish Issues this book also describes a lot of peaceful political and cultural activities undertaken by Kurdish people and it describes how these have been suppressed by the Turkish State.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in the Kurdish struggle for their existence and identity within Turkey as it covers wider topics than just the PKK.

I am really glad I read it and my heart goes out to the Kurdish People.

It really makes me think on how the so called `International Community' has allowed these atrocities to be committed against the Kurds.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A highly controversial subject has been handled reasonably well by the author. There are not many books written about the subject and almost all the books written about PKK are either from Kurdish point of view, or Turkish. Therefore, the book delivers a rear opportunity to read about this difficult subject from a third party writer's point of view. This might be the most important reason why anyone interested in this subject should read this book. I am a Turkish reader. I apologise from Kurdish friends since my point of view might be less than impartial, however, here is what I thought are the problems about the book;

1- The book is about the PKK, therefore almost all the information it provides comes from interviews with the PKK terrorists. References are made to these interviews, and the information given by these people are published as facts, when they are actually the views of terrorists.
2- The author can not hide her admiration to the self sacrifice done by the PKK members when those people are actually cold blooded killers. She refers to them as if they are some 1968 style student activists.
3- There is a Reuters style avoidance from calling PKK militants as terrorists, when they are recognised as terrorists by US, EU and pretty much everyone else. This is done for the sake of staying impartial, however, due to the first and second items, it doesn't look convincing.
4- There aren't any interviews done with police, government or army members served against PKK.
5- PKK financed newspapers, political parties, journals are all introduced as legitimate, acceptable entities when they were always Ocalan's puppets.

I still think the book was a very good insight about the life of these terrorists and why they did the things they did.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence. 18 Jan. 2008
By Michael Rubin - Published on
Most writers on the Kurdistan Workers' Party, best known by its Kurdish language acronym, the PKK, substitute advocacy for accuracy, so their books about the PKK tend to have limited practical use for policymakers. But Marcus, a former international correspondent for The Boston Globe who spent several years covering the PKK, has done important work in Blood and Belief. While sympathetic to her subject--the substitution of "militant" for "terrorist" grates--she retains professional integrity and does not skip over inconvenient parts of the PKK narrative such as its predilection to target Kurdish and leftist competitors rather than the Turks; the patronage it has received from the Syrian government; and the important role of European states and the Kurdish diaspora in its funding.

Blood and Belief has four sections: on PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's life and the PKK's beginnings, the PKK's consolidation of power, the civil war, and the aftermath of Öcalan's 1999 capture.

The Kurds inhabit a region that spans Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, and Marcus does not let national borders constrain her analysis. Events in Iraq--such as the squabbling between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani--influenced Öcalan, who concluded that he should tolerate no dissent. "We believed in socialism, and it was a Stalin-type of socialism we believed in," one early PKK member relates.

Steeped in Kurdish and Turkish history, Marcus provides better context than many of the other journalists who tackled this subject. The PKK took hold, she shows, largely because of the weakness of the Turkish state in the 1970s. Between 1975 and 1980, the Turkish government barely functioned. After the 1980 coup, the Turkish military restored order. But when Barzani offered the PKK shelter in northern Iraq, the group remained beyond reach, allowing it to plan and launch a full-scale guerilla war against Turkey. Marcus concludes that the group's continued survival in Turkey is because, at some level and among some constituents, it remains popular; its support is not all driven by intimidation as some Turkish analysts claim.

Marcus impressively covers the civil war years (1984-99), and her narrative, combining dialogue and context, is rich and accessible. While many journalists and authors satisfy themselves with a single round of interviews, Marcus concentrates not on active PKK members, who she realizes do not enjoy the freedom to speak, but rather on past members, villagers, and family members whose accounts she cross-checks. She also incorporates Turkish language press accounts and interviews with Turkish officials.

It is unfortunate, though, that her coverage of PKK resurgence, between 1999 and 2007, is just thirteen pages long. An exploration of how Öcalan has retained control while in prison and where he and his henchmen might take the PKK has seldom been more relevant. One hopes that this new chapter of PKK history will become the basis for a sequel.

Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2008
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently written and researched 4 Feb. 2009
By Conor Reynolds - Published on
In "Blood and Belief", Marcus provides a thorough overview of the PKK from its origins in the chaos of 1970s Turkey through the capture of Öcalan in 1999. The next 8 years are much less thorough (fitting into one chapter), but the book nonetheless provides an excellent foundation for understanding the PKK and the relationship between Kurds in SE Anatolia and the Turkish state.
The strength of this book is its use of interviews with former PKK members. These interviews do not paint a positive picture of the PKK- in fact, they completely remove any of the romanticism that could be associated with 'freedom fighters' in the minds of some. The brutality of both the Turkish army and the PKK (including the latter group's general disregard for human life, even that of its own members) is portrayed in detail. Marcus does not need to label the PKK as a terrorist group; this is a political designation that creates black and white distinctions, when in reality the situation is far more complicated. By presenting the situation in all its brutality and presenting the facts impartially, Marcus allows the reader to make the moral judgement on the PKK- its origins, methods, and goals.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exemplary account of an urgent topic 23 Sept. 2007
By A. M. Apostolou - Published on
The PKK is a poorly understood group that is currently one of the most sensitive topics in U.S. foreign relations. Based in Turkey and along the border of Iraq's Kurdistan region and Turkey, the PKK is one of the most vexing issues facing the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, in particular its allies in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. How the PKK is dealt with will have a tremendous effect upon U.S. standing in the Middle East, the U.S. campaign in Iraq, the future of the Kurds, and the future of Turkey as a U.S. ally and Turkey's EU candidacy. Most writing on the PKK is tendentious and poorly sourced. Aliza Marcus's book is the opposite, carefully written, patiently researched and impressively sourced. She leads the reader through the twists and turns of PKK history with clarity and confidence. Anybody interested in international relations and the problem of terrorism, ethnic conflict and U.S. foreign policy should read this first class book.

P.S. I later married the author. Not a service available through Amazon.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb review of the PKK 8 Dec. 2007
By Bill - Published on
As somebody who has spent a significant amount of time researching the PKK (and has been in SE Turkey for the past six months), I can say that this book does an outstanding job of outlining the history of the PKK and Turkey's efforts to combat it. This book is for you if you are interested in ethnic terrorism and how states respond to it. As shockingly bloody as the PKK is, you can not help but wonder how different things could be if the state (Turkey) responded with different policies.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 5 July 2014
By Cliff Pinto - Published on
A very detailed and descriptive account of the PKK's struggle against Turkey. Sympathetic, but not uncritical of the struggle. A must read for anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of one of the most oppressed peoples on the planet.
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