This is what the conflict between Turkey and the PKK is about

updated

Attack in IstanbulErdogan blames the PKK – that’s behind it

Turkey blames the PKK for the Istanbul terror attack. It would be another dark chapter in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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The PKK, founded by Abdullah Öcalan in 1978, has led an insurgency against Turkish authorities since 1984.

AFP

Turkey suspects the PKK of being behind the November 13 terrorist attack in Istanbul.

Turkey suspects the PKK of being behind the November 13 terrorist attack in Istanbul.

AFP

Tensions have risen under the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Tensions have risen under the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

AFP

It’s about it

  • At least six people were killed in a bomb attack in Istanbul.

  • Turkey blames the PKK for the terrorist attack.

  • The conflict between Turkey and armed Kurdish groups has so far claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people.

of Terrorist attack in Istanbul brings the conflict between Turkey and armed Kurdish groups back into the world’s attention. About 30 million Kurds live in the Middle East, mainly in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They make up almost a fifth of the population there. The PKK, founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan, has been leading an insurgency against the Turkish authorities since 1984, primarily with the aim of creating an independent Kurdish state. The conflict has claimed almost forty thousand victims so far. The US and its allies, which classified the PKK as a terrorist organization in 1997, are increasingly concerned about increased terrorist activities by Kurdish separatists.

Tensions have risen under the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In particular, the PKK, the HDP People’s Democratic Party (a left-wing pro-Kurdish party) and the YPG (the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party PYD with ties to the PKK) have increasingly violently rebelled against the PKK. government and launched numerous attacks on Turkish authorities committed in the southeast.

The ceasefire was lifted in 2015

In July 2015, a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK collapsed after a suicide bombing by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) killed nearly 30 Kurds near the Syrian border. Following an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, Erdogan cracked down on suspected coup plotters and stepped up airstrikes against PKK fighters in southeastern Turkey. He also launched military operations in Syria against the YPG and IS.

Outside Turkey, Syrian Kurdish fighters are fighting ISIS, mostly as part of the SDF – a US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters – and have created a semi-autonomous region in northern Syria. In 2014, PKK leader Öcalan called for “comprehensive resistance” by the Kurds in the fight against IS. That same month, the Kurdish-held city of Kobani was besieged and eventually captured, leading to an exodus of tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to Turkey. Kurdish-led SDF forces regained control of Kobani in January 2015.

The conflict is also ongoing in Syria

After the YPG and SDF consolidated control over areas in northern Syria, Turkey and Turkish Syrian militias, including the Free Syrian Army FSA, attempted to retake the towns and drive out the Kurds. Turkish troops and the FSA launched an assault on the city of Afrin in January 2018, which they finally took in March 2018.

Turkey continues to threaten attacks on other areas in Syria controlled by the Kurds. Although we share a common enemy, many Turkish airstrikes target Kurdish fighters, not IS fighters.

The US supplies weapons to the Peshmerga

The Peshmerga – armed fighters protecting Iraqi Kurdistan – have allied with Iraqi security forces and receive weapons and financial support from the US. If the Kurds were to succeed in creating an independent state in Syria amid the region’s chaos, it could accelerate separatist movements in other Kurdish areas of the Middle East.

U.S.-Turkey relations deteriorated after Erdogan renewed calls for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish political and religious leader in exile in the U.S. who Erdogan accused of being one of the masterminds of the July 2016 coup. Relations also suffered from strained relations US with Kurdish groups. The United States is also concerned about the increasingly close ties between Russia and Turkey.

The Turkish military regularly targets PKK bases in Iraq. In 2018, Erdogan declared that he would launch a formal operation against the Kurds in Iraq. The Iraqi government has filed formal complaints against Turkish encroachments on its sovereign territory.

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