Stockholm’s national interests are taken hostage by the whims and the parochial agenda of PKK and its conduits.
Moscow’s assault on Ukraine has caused geopolitical anxieties, particularly in two non-NATO countries that share borders with Russia: Finland and Sweden. They are now trying to ensure their national security by joining the transatlantic alliance. Since each member country in NATO holds equal veto power over decisions, Türkiye brought both countries’ NATO bids into question.
While Türkiye doesn’t categorically object to the expansion of NATO or the ascension of either country into the transatlantic alliance, Ankara has put forth requests that both countries cut their links with the PKK — categorised as a terror organisation by Türkiye, EU and the US — and its affiliates, which actively undermine Ankara’s national security.
Although Finland has become embroiled in this discussion on par with Sweden due to their simultaneous NATO membership bids, when it comes to the scale of condoning, harbouring, and even colluding with the PKK, it appears that Sweden far surpasses Finland.
Amid these debates surrounding Sweden and Finland, the name of a single MP – Amineh Kakabaveh – has come up, as she is a key figure upholding the robustness of these ties.
Kakabaveh has served as an independent member of the Riksdag, Sweden’s national legislature, since her expulsion from the Left Party in 2019, due to “seriously” harming confidence of the party through her anti-Muslim views and acts.
But Kakabahveh has been a parliamentarian since 2008, and has a track record of working to influence Swedish policymaking for a much more favourable attitude towards PKK.
Through a parliamentary question in 2016, she urged policymakers to work towards removing PKK — which has claimed nearly 40,000 lives — from the EU’s list of terrorist organisations.
Earlier this year, Kakabaveh urged the Swedish Foreign Ministry to raise the issue of Türkiye’s cross-border military operations against YPG/PKK in northern Syria and northern Iraq, with the EU and the UN. She also urged the Ministry to work to ensure Türkiye’s withdrawal from the areas it cleared of the YPG/PKK in northern Syria.
However, the most high-profile act in this regard has been her laying down Sweden’s support to PKK/YPG as the condition of endorsing the government-formation under the premiership of Magdalena Andersson.
In other words, her pro-YPG/PKK line — she has enjoyed a seat in the Riksdag thanks to the unwavering votes of the pro-PKK network in Sweden — granted her the coveted ‘kingmaker’ role in the latest government formation process in Sweden.
With this, Kakabaveh obtained an opportunity to go beyond her marginal political outlook and became influential in determining Sweden’s national and foreign policy.
Given how far Kakabaveh’s pro-PKK credentials got her in her political career, she has good reason to support the organisation. The same cannot be said for Sweden, however.
A long history of ties
If Kakabaveh was the only force creating a sympathetic political atmosphere in the country towards PKK, Sweden could have taken certain measures to limit her influence, given the delicate situation with NATO.
But Sweden’s untenable relations with PKK are rather systemic, going beyond and preceding both Kakabaveh and her tenure in the Riksdag.
Kakabaveh entered the country as a refugee in 1991 and secured a place in the Riksdag in 2008. However, Sweden’s highly tolerant policy towards the PKK has a long history.
Since the 1986 assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who listed the PKK as a terrorist organisation and sought to end its activities in the country, the PKK has increased its activities and organisational capacity incrementally and steadily thanks to an overly permissive environment in the country.
Today, as fundraising, recruitment, widespread propaganda, and a considerable constituency, PKK is a formidable force to be reckoned with in Stockholm. Even mainstream politics is incapable of weaning itself off paying tribute to PKK. The Social Democratic Party was the very political force conditioning the premiership of Andersson on Sweden’s support for YPG/PKK due to its deal with Kakabaveh.
Leaders of the Social Democratic Party made a joint public statement with Kakabaveh in which they expressed how much they shared a common vision with YPG/PKK on Syria and vowed to deepen Sweden’s relations with YPG/PKK.
When the PKK’s agenda influences a country’s government, premiership, and foreign policy to this extent, it would be unrealistic to expect a firm stance against it, or pro-PKK politicians.
As things stand, Sweden’s relations with the PKK are a textbook case of self-entrapment. Stockholm’s leniency towards PKK over the years has granted the latter sway over Swedish national politics.
Now, Stockholm’s national interests are taken hostage by the whims and the parochial agenda of PKK and its conduits such as Amineh Kakabaveh.
The source of Stockholm’s complacency for years was that it was Türkiye’s problem; it did not directly pose a terrorist threat against Sweden. This attitude proved to be short-sighted and imprudent as Stockholm is running the risk of putting its national security in jeopardy by risking its NATO membership.
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