My general impression has been yours, i.e., PKK fighters accepted some “rebranding” to make their image palatable to the west in their fight for survival against Islamic State. However, here is what the web turned up in related (swift) research:
The PKK launched with Soviet guidance and support in the late 1970s. Wikipedia nailed it in these two sentences: “The PKK was founded in 1978 in the village of Fis (near Lice) by a group of Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan and in 1979 it made its existence known to the public.The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent Communist state in the region, which was to be known as Kurdistan.”
The political tone of the community has been in the direction of “democratic confederalism” — inclusion and input have been part of what nascent “Kurdistan” promoted when it played up the Rojava Experiment.
From the New Internationalist —
“There is no doubt that theirs is a shared ideology, one that has been formulated by their joint leader, Abdullah Öcalan, now in his 21st year of incarceration in a Turkish prison. But the PYD’s organizing principle is democratic confederalism: a system of direct democracy, ecological sustainability and ethnic inclusivity, where women have veto powers on new legislation and share all institutional positions with men.”
Within the short time since forming Rojava’s democratic experiment, child marriage, forced marriage, dowry and polygamy were banned; honour killings, violence and discrimination against women were criminalized. It is the only part of Syria where sharia councils have been abolished and religion has been consigned to the private sphere.”https://newint.org/features/2019/10/11/assault-rojava
American moderates and progressives would recognize the development of a social democracy — not unlike what we in fact of evolved into, i.e., a modern place with modern laws and cares. That would seem what the Trump Administration has chosen to abandon with a few teary-eyed remarks about America’s soldiery and his (narcissistic paranoid) bent toward American isolationism (after the United States leading the development and defense of democracy in the world since the end of WWII).
Opposed by the PKK and part of the character of Kurdish political incoherence: the Kurdish Democratic Party —
“The KDP has been described as a tribal, feudalistic, and aristocratic party which is controlled by the Barzani tribe.”
Has North America and Europe the wish to return to systems in which feudal authority commits crimes and invents policy beyond the questioning of the ordinary citizen?
By leaving the field to Putin and Erdogan and being himself autocratic in character, President Trump has suggested an answer to that question.
Note: The author edits and improves on the first off-the-cuff remarks in related threaded conversation on the way to posting the same or very similar on this blog.