For over thirty years, Turkey has confronted violence by a militant terrorist group known as the Kurdistan Workers Party, or “PKK.” During this time period, more than forty thousand lives have been lost in Turkey as a result of this violence. Since July 11, 2015 PKK attacks have once again flared up, as the PKK announced the end of a cease-fire that had existed for two and a half years.
Some are attempting to mischaracterize recent events as Turkish hostility towards all Kurds. This interpretation is far from accurate. Ethnic Kurdish citizens of Turkey are an integral part of the nation, and Turkey enjoys strong relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Consider:
Turkish Loan to the KRG: In February, 2015, Turkey loaned $500 million to the Kurdish Regional Government to help meet the budgetary needs of the government.
Turkish Support for Kurdish Peshmerga Forces: Turkey has so far trained and equipped over 2,300 Peshmerga forces and facilitated the transfer of the Peshmerga from northern Iraq, through Turkey, and into Syria to fight against ISIL/DAESH.
“We allowed Peshmerga to go through Turkey to Kobane in order to help Kobane to be freed. If [the] U.S. wants to arm Kurdish fighters on the ground against ISIL, we are ready. But not Kurdish terrorists of PKK. If they want to arm and help [KRG Prime Minister] Barzani or Peshmerga groups in Iraq, and help them to go to Syria to fight against ISIL, we are ready to help. But everybody must understand – today PKK is attacking Turkish citizens, civilians, soldiers. And they are attacking our cities, they are attacking our villages, they are attacking our civilians. We cannot and we will not tolerate any help to any PKK-related groups in Syria or in Iraq.”
-- Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, November 9, 2015
Origins of the PKK: The PKK was formed in 1984 as a militant separatist movement seeking an independent, Marxist-Leninist state. It proclaimed support for the worldwide communist movement.
International views on the PKK: The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization internationally, including by the United States, Canada, Australia, the European Union, Japan, and NATO. The U.S. designation has been in place since 1997.
Recent Violence: From July 20, 2015 through January 11, 2016, in Turkey;
-- 221 Turkish security personnel and 89 civilians have been killed by the PKK
-- 1,170 security personnel and 477 civilians have been wounded by the PKK
-- 14 security personnel and 110 civilians have been kidnapped by the PKK
PKK’s recent terrorist attacks in Turkish cities: On August 13, 2015, the PKK announced the unlawful creation of “autonomous administrations” in four Turkish cities and has set up trenches, planted mines or other explosives near barricades, and converted houses into ammunition depots near the barricades. Among the materials seized by Turkish authorities are 11,087 kilograms of plastic and chemical explosives, 9,459 improvised explosive devices, 1,600 firearms, 787 heavy weapons, and 212,261 bullets.
PKK and Drug Trafficking: The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has identified several PKK leaders as “specially designated” narcotics traffickers (including PKK leaders Murat Karayılan, Ali Riza Altun, Zübeyir Aydar, and founders Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan).
Future Progress: In recent years, several Kurdish language television and radio stations have been established in Turkey, courses teaching the Kurdish language and dialects have been created, and Turkish Kurds have significant representation in the Parliament and elsewhere in the government. Presently, there are more than 120 parliamentarians of Kurdish origin in the Turkish parliament from various political parties. Most Turkish Kurds do not support the PKK. Nonetheless, the PKK abandoned the “solution process” by declaring on July 11, 2015 that the “cease-fire” was over. None of this potential for future progress can continue until the PKK denounces violence and lays down its arms.