Turkey–Kurdistan Workers' Party conflict
Date August 15, 1984 – present
Location Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan
Result Ongoing

Deep state (allegedly)

Past cooperation against PKK:



Past cooperation against Turkey:

Commanders and leaders
Current Commanders

Turkey Abdullah Gül
Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkey Necdet Özel

Past Commanders
Turkey Pres.: Evren - present
Turkey PM: Özal - present
Turkey MSB: Yavuztürk - present
Turkey GKB: Üruğ - present
Turkey KKK: Saltık - present
Turkey HvKK: Sözer - present
Turkey JGK: Buyruk - present
Turkey Ahmet Başyurt
Turkey Kamil Başar
Turkey Utku Güney
Turkey Osman Pamukoğlu
Turkey Tuncay Kavuncu

Current Commanders

Murat Karayılan
Bahoz Erdal
Cemil Bayık
Mustafa Karasu
Duran Kalkan
Riza Altun
Zübeyir Aydar
Haji Ahmadi[12]
Muhammad Mustafa

Past Commanders
Abdullah Öcalan #[13][note 1]
_Şemdin_Sakık Şemdin Sakık  Surrendered[14]
Osman Öcalan
Mahsum Korkmaz 
Nizamettin Taş
Mazlum Doğan #
Kani Yılmaz
Haki Karer

Hüseyin Velioğlu* 

Military: 514,850[15]

Gendarmerie: 148,700[16]
Police: 225.000
Village Guards: 60,000[17]
Total: 948,550

PKK: 4,000[18]-10,000[19]

TAK: A few dozen[20]
PJAK: 1,000[21]
Total: 7,000-12,000

Casualties and losses
6,653 killed[22]

13,327 wounded[23]
(Turkish Claim)

29,639 killed[22]

14,000 captured[24]
(Turkish Claim)

Civilian Casualties:

5,687 killed (Turkish claim)[22]
18,000 killed (independent estimate)[25]
Additional 20,000 killed by unknown assailants[23]
Additional 18,000 executed (independent estimate)[26] 7,620 wounded (Turkish claim)[23]
17,000 missing[27][28]
3,000,000+ displaced[29]

*Hizbullah is a Kurdish Islamist political group which was fighting against the Turkish government in the early 2000's.[30] They have, however, also fought against the PKK in the 1990's and past links with the Turkish deep-state have been alleged. They have currently halted armed activities in what they see as a "peacefull phase."[3]

The TurkeyKurdistan Workers' Party conflict, also referred to as the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey,[33][34] the Kurdish Conflict,[35][36][37][38] the Kurdish insurgency,[39][40][41][42][43] the Kurdish rebellion[44][45][46][47][48] or PKK-terrorism[49][50][51] and has also been described as the latest Kurdish uprising[52] or as a civil war,[53][54][55][56][57] is an armed conflict between the Republic of Turkey and various Kurdish insurgent groups,[58][59] which have demanded separation from Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan,[20][50] or to have autonomy[60][61] and greater political and cultural rights for Kurds inside the Republic of Turkey.[62] The main rebel group is the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.[59][63] Although insurgents have carried out attacks in Western-Turkey,[64] the insurgency is mainly in South-Eastern Turkey.[65] The PKK's military presence in Iraq's Kurdistan Region, which it uses as launchpad for attacks on Turkey, has resulted in the Turkish military carrying out frequent ground incursions and air and artillery strikes in the region,[66] as the Kurdistan Regional Government claimed they do not have sufficient military forces to prevent the PKK from operating.[67] The conflict has particularly affected Turkey's tourism industry.[68]

Since the PKK was founded on November 27, 1978,[69] it has been involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces. The full-scale insurgency however, did not being until August 15, 1984 when the PKK announced a Kurdish uprising.[18] The first insurgency lasted until September 1, 1999 [50][70] when the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire. The armed conflict was later resumed on June 1, 2004, when the PKK declared an end to its cease-fire.[71][72]

The PKK was estimated to have between 10,000 and 15,000 fighters, 5,000 to 6,000 of which inside Turkey (the rest in neighbouring countries) as well as 60,000 to 70,000 part-time guerillas, as of 1994.[73] In 2004, the Turkish government estimated the amounth of PKK fighters at approximately 4,000 to 5,000, of whom 3,000 to 3,500 were located in northern Iraq.[18] By 2007 the number was said to have increased to more than 7,000.[74] The PKK's leader Murat Karayılan claimed the group had between 7,000 and 8,000 fighters, 30 to 40% were in Iraq, and rest in Turkey where they were backed by an additional 20,000 part-time guerillas.[75] High estimates put the number of active PKK fighters at 10,000.[19]



The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) began in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist organization under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan. In 1978 the organization adapted the name "Kurdistan Workers Party" and waged Urban War between 1978 and 1980. The organization restructured itself and moved the organization structure to Syria between 1980 and 1984 just after the 1980 Turkish coup d'état.

The campaign of armed violence began in 1984.[citation needed] The rural-based insurgency lasted between 1984 and 1992. The PKK shifted its activities to include urban warfare between 1993 and 1995 and 1996 to 1999. The leader of the party was captured in Kenya in early 1999, following an international campaign by US, Israel, Greece, UK and Italy. After a unilaterally declared peace initiative in 1999, PKK was forced to resume the conflict due to Turkish military offensive in 2004.[18] Since 1974, it had been able to evolve, adapt, gone through a metamorphosis,[76] which became the main factor in its survival. It had gradually grown from a handful of political students to a dynamic organization, and became part of the target on the War on Terrorism.

With the aftermath of the failed 1991 uprisings in Iraq against Saddam Hussein the UN established no-fly zones in Kurdish areas of Iraq giving those areas de facto independence.[77] The PKK soon found a safe haven from which they could launch attacks against Turkey, which responded with Operation Steel (1995) and Operation Hammer (1997) in an attempt to crush the PKK.[78]

In 1992, General Kemal Yilmaz, declared that the Special Warfare Department (the seat of the Counter-Guerrilla) was still active in the conflict against the PKK.[79] The U.S. State Department echoed concerns of Counter-Guerrilla involvement in its 1994 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Turkey.[80]

Öcalan was captured by CIA, agents in Kenya on February 15, 1999, who turned him over to the Turkish authorities. After the trial he was sentenced to death, but this sentence was commuted to life-long aggravated imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished in Turkey in August 2002.

With the invasion of Iraq in 2003 much of the arms of the former Iraqi army fell into the hands of the Kurdish Peshmerga militias.[81] The Peshmerga became the de facto army of northern Iraq and Turkish sources claim many of its weapons found their way into the hands of other Kurdish groups such as the PKK and the PJAK (a PKK offshoot which operated against Iran).[82] This has been the pretext for numerous Turkish attacks on the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

As of June 2007, over 3,000 PKK fighters are believed to be in Iraqi Kurdistan, by Turkey.[83]

The conflict

1974–1984: Start of the conflict

In 1973, a small group, under leadership of Abdullah Öcalan, released a declaration about the Kurdish identity in Turkey. The group, which called itself the Revolutionaries of Kurdistan also included Ali Haydar Kaytan, Cemil Bayik, Haki Karer and Kemal Pir.[84] The group decided in 1974[50] to start a campaign for Kurdish rights. Cemil Bayik was sent to Urfa, Kemal Pir was sent to Mus, Hakki Karer to Batman and Ali Haydar Kaytan to Tunceli, they then started student organisations which talked to local workers and farmers about Kurdish rights.[84]

In 1977, an assembly was held to evaluate the political activities. The assembly included 100 people, from different backgrounds and several representatives from other Leftist organisations. In Spring 1977, Abdullah Öcalan travelled through whole Kurdistan on a campaign to make the public aware of the Kurdish issue. During his campaign he travelled to Mount Ararat, Erzurum, Tunceli, Elazig, Antep and other cities. This was followed by a Turkish government crackdown against the organisation. On 18 March 1977, Haki Karer was assassinated in Antep. During this period, the group was also targeted by the MHP's Grey Wolves. They were also targeted by Kurdish landowners who on 18 May 1978, killed Halil Çavgun, which resulted in large Kurdish meetings in Erzurum, Dersim, Elazig and Antep.[84]

The founding Congress of the PKK was held on 27 November 1978 in Fis, a village nearby the city of Lice. During this congress the 25 people, present decided to found the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The Turkish state, rightist groups and Kurdish landowners, continued their attacks on the group, in response the employed armed members to protect itself which got involved in the fighting between leftist and rightist groups in Turkey (1978–1980) at the side of the leftists. In Summer 1979, Öcalan travelled to Syria and Lebanon where he made contacts with Syrian and Palestinian leaders.[84] After 12 September 1980 Turkish coup d'état and a crackdown which was launched on all political organisations,[85] during which half a million people were imprisoned and 51 officially executed,[86] most of the PKK withdrew into Syria and Lebanon. Öcalan himself going to Syria in September 1980, Kemal Pir, Mahsum Korkmaz and Delil Dogan being sent to set up an organisation in Lebanon. PKK fighters took part in the 1982 Lebanon War at the Syrian side.[84]

The Second PKK Party Congress was then held in Daraa, Syria from 20 August to 25 August 1982. Here it was decided that the organisation would return to Turkey to start an armed guerilla war there for the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Meanwhile they prepared guerilla forces in Syria and Lebanon to go to war. Many PKK leaders however were arrested in Turkey and sent to Diyarbakir Prison. The prison became the site of much political protest.[84]

In Diyarbakır Prison the PKK member Mazlum Doğan burned himself to death on 21 March 1982 in protest at the treatment in prison. Ferhat Kurtay, Necmi Önen, Mahmut Zengin and Eşref Anyık followed his example on 17 May 1982. On 14 July 1982 the PKK members Kemal Pir, M. Hayri Durmuş, Ali Çiçek and Akif Yılmaz started a hunger strike in Diyarbakır Prison.[87] Kemal Pir died on 7 September 1982, M. Hayri Durmuş on 12 September 1982, Akif Yılmaz on 15 September 1982 and Ali Çiçek on 17 September 1982. On 13 April 1984 a 75-day hunger-strike started in Istanbul. As a result four prisoners – Abdullah Meral, Haydar Başbağ, Fatih Ökütülmüş and Hasan Telci – died.[88]

1984–1999: First insurgency

OHAL region in red with neighbouring provinces in orange, 1987–2002

The PKK launched its armed insurgency on 15 August 1984[84][89] with armed attacks on Eruh and Semdinli. During these attacks 1 gendarmerie soldier was killed, 7 soldiers, 2 policemen and 3 civilians were injured. It was followed by a PKK raid on a police station in Siirt, two days later.[90] At first, Turkish authorities did not take the attacks seriously, however within the next two months the group was responsible for an attack that killed 3 of General Kenan Evren's Preidential Guards in Yüksekova and an ambush which killed 8 Turkish soldiers in Çukurca.[91] During the next 5 years some 2,500 people would be killed in the conflict.[92]

The Turkish state responded by deploying 350,000 soldiers and gendarmes and 35,000 police to the region, while setting up pro-government Kurdish militia named the Village Guards with a strength of 70,000 men, to combat the PKK.[93] On 19 July 1987 they created a region of emergency rule called the OHAL region. This included the provinces of Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Hakkari, Mardin, Siirt, Tunceli and Van with Adıyaman, Bitlis and Muş as neighbouring provinces. They later added the newly created Batman and Şırnak Provinces. Starting in 1994 the region was slowly narrowed down until it was disbanded on 30 November 2002.[94]

In the 1990s the campaign intensified, with major protests called Serhildan breaking out in 1990 in Nusaybin and spreading to most Kurdish cities.[95] The PKK also stepped up its attacks resulting in the confirmed deaths of at least 15,000 people between 1991 and 1995, which is 6x as much as in the preceding 5 years.[92] The Özal government had started an anti-PKK offensive in 1992, this was however halted after the PPK's September 1992 Tasdelen attack which killed 20 Turkish soldiers.[84][96] The PKK had established bases in Northern Iraq after the 1991 uprisings in Iraq had resulted in Kurdish control of the area and expulsion of Saddam's Army. In response Turkey launched Operation Northern Iraq from 5 October 1992 to 15 November 1992, which they claim resulted in the death of 1,551 and capture of 1,232 PKK militants as well as the death of 28 killed and injury of 125 security forces, but was proved to be false.[97]

In 1993, the two sides came closest to reconciliation as Turkish President Turgut Özal wanted to establish dialogue with the PKK’s leaders and said that he would be prepared to allow the broadcasting of Kurdish language and would even be prepared to discuss a federal system in Turkey to solve the problem. The PKK responded by announcing a cease-fire on March 20, 1993. However, Özal's death on April 17, 1993 brought a halt to such efforts from the Turkish government. The PKK responded by breaking the cease-fire with an ambush that killed 33 Turkish soldiers on a road between the eastern provinces of Elazığ and Bingöl. After the Turkish government started a new crackdown which included the banning of Turkey's only Kurdish party the People's Work Party, on June 16, 1994 and the arrest and imprisonment of several of their members. Part of the crackdown was also the evacuation of thousands of Kurdish villages.[98] The PKK launched attacks on Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities in many Western European cities in 1993 and repeated these attacks in spring 1995.[50] A second, one-sided cease-fire was declared by the PKK on December 15, 1995 but this was ended on May 6, 1996 after talks between Turkey and Israel declared Öcalan a terrorist.[70]

Due to the PKK's claim to be the only true spokesman for Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, a violent conflict also erupted with rival Kurdish group Hezbollah (a Kurdish group with an Islamist character), between 1992 and 1995, in which an estimated 500 PKK and 200 Hezbollah militants were killed. During this period, clashes between factions of Hezbollah led by Hüseyin Velioğlu and Fidan Güngör also took place, in which the Veliğlu faction emerged victorious. These clashed took part without interference of Turkish security forces. Links between the Kurdish Hezbollah and Turkish security forces during this period have been alleged.[99]

During the mid-1990s the conflict reached its peak in violence,[98] in 1994 the PKK had between 10,000 and 15,000 full-time and 60,000 to 75,000 part-time guerrillas, which is the highest it has ever been.[100] To counter the growing force of the PKK the Turkish military started new counter insurgency strategies between 1992 and 1995. To deprive the rebels of a logistical base of operations the military carried out de-forestation of the country-side and destroyed over 3,000 Kurdish villages, causing at least 2 million refugees. Most of these villages were evacuated, however other villages were burned, bombed, or shelled by government forces and several entire villages were obliterated from the air. While some villages were destroyed or evacuated, many villages were brought to the side of the Turkish government, which offered salaries to local farmers and shepherds to join the Village Guards which would prevent the PKK from operating in these villages, while villages which refused were evacuated by the military. These tactics managed to drive the rebels from the cities and villages into the mountains, although they still often launched reprisals on pro-government villages, which included attacks on civilians.[101]

However, the turning point in the conflict[98] came in 1998, when, after political pressure and military threats[102] from Turkey, the PKK's leader: Abdullah Öcalan was forced to leave Syria, where he had been in exile since September 1980. He first went to Russia, then to Italy and Greece. He was eventually brought to the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was arrested on February 15, 1999 at the airport in a joint MİT-CIA operation and brought to Turkey,[103] which resulted in major protests by Kurds world-wide.[102] Three Kurdish protestors were shot dead when trying to enter the Israeli consulate in Berlin to protest alleged Israeli involvement in the capture of Abdullah Öcalan.[104] Although the capture of Öcalan ended a third cease-fire which Öcalan had declared on August 1, 1998, on September 1, 1999[70] the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire which would last until 2004.[50]

1999–2004: Ceasefire

KADEK flag

After the unilateral cease-fire the PKK declared in September 1999, their forces fully withdrew from the Republic of Turkey and set up new bases in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq[90] and in February 2000 they declared the formal end of the war.[102] After this, the PKK said it would switch its strategy to using peaceful methods to achieve their objectives. In April 2002 the PKK changed its name to KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress), claiming the PKK had fulfilled its mission and would now move on as purely political organisation.[72] In October 2003 the KADEK announced its dissolution and declared the cration of a new organisation: KONGRA-GEL (Kurdistan Peoples Congress).[105]

PKK offers for negotiations were ignored by the Turkish government,[72] which claimed, the KONGRA-GEL continued to carry out armed attacks in the 1999–2004 period, although not on the same scale as before September 1999. They also blame the KONGRA-GEL for Kurdish riots which happened during the period.[90] The PKK argues that they only defended themselfes as they claim the Turkish military launched some 700 raids against their bases militants, including in Northern Iraq.[89] Also, despite the KONGRA-GEL cease-fire, other groups continued their armed activities, the PŞK for instance, tried to use the cease-fire to attract PKK fighters to join their organisation.[106] The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) were formed during this period by radical KONGRA-GEL commanders, dissatisfied with the cease-fire.[107] The period after the capture of Öcalan was used by the Turkish government to launch major crackdown operations against the Kurdish Hizbullah, arresting 3,300 Hizbullah members in 2000, compared to 130 in 1998, and killing the group's leader Hüseyin Velioğlu on January 13, 2000.[108][109][110] During this phase of the war at least 145 people were killed during fighting between the PKK and security forces.[111]

After AK Party came to power in 2002, the Turkish state started to ease restrictions on the Kurdish language and culture.[112]

From 2003 to 2004 there was a power struggle inside the KONGRA-GEL between a reformist wing which wanted the organisation to disarm completely and a traditionalist wing which wanted the organisation to resume its armed insurgency once again.[90][113] The conservative wing of the organisation won this power struggle[90] forcing reformist leaders such as Kani Yilmaz, Nizamettin Tas and Abdullah Öcalan's younger brother Osman Öcalan to leave the organisation.[113] The three major traditionalist leaders, Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Fehman Huseyin formed the new leadership committee of the organisation.[114] The new administration decided to re-start the insurgency, because they claimed that without guerillas the PKK's political activities would remain unsuccessful.[72][90] This came as the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP) was banned by the Turkish Supreme Court om March 13, 2003[115] and its leader Murat Bolzak was imprisoned.[116]

In April 2005, KONGRA-GEL reverted its name back to PKK.[105] Because not all of the KONGRA-GEL's elements reverted back, the organisation has also been referred to as the New PKK.[117] The KONGRA-GEL has since become the Legislative Assembly of the Koma Civakên Kurdistan, an umbrella organisation which includes the PKK and is used as the group's urban and political wing. Ex-DEP member Zübeyir Aydar is the President of the KONGRA-GEL.[118]

2004–present: Renewed insurgency

Kurdistan Workers Party supporters in London, April 2003
A demonstration against the PKK in Kadıköy, İstanbul on October 22, 2007

On June 1, 2004, the PKK resumed its armed activities because they claimed Turkish government was ignoring their calls for negotiations and was still attacking their forces.[72][90] The government claimed that in that same month some 2,000 Kurdish guerrillas entered Turkey via Iraqi Kurdistan.[50] The PKK, lacking a state sponsor or the kind of manpower they had in the 90s, was however forced to take up new tactics. As result, the PKK reduced the size of its field units from 15–20 militants to 6–8 militants. It also avoided direct confrontations and relied more on the use of mines, snipers and small ambushes, using hit and run tactics.[119] Another change in PKK-tactics was that the organisation no longer attempted to control any territory, not even after dark.[120] Nonetheless, violence increased throughout both 2004 and 2005[50] during which the PKK was said to be responsible for dozens of bombings in Western Turkey throughout 2005.[18] Most notably the 2005 Kuşadası minibus bombing, which killed 5 and injured 14 people,[121] although the PKK denied responsibility.[122]

In March 2006 heavy fighting broke out around Diyarbakir between the PKK and Turkish security forces, as well as large riots by PKK supporters, as result the army had to temporary close the roads to Diyarbakır Airport and many schools and businesses had to be shut down.[50] In August, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), which vowed to "turn Turkey into hell,"[123] launched a major bombing campaign. On August 25 two coordinated low-level blasts targeted a bank in Adana, on August 27 a school in Istanbul was targeted by a bombing, on August 28 there were three coordinated attacks in Marmaris and one in Antalya targeting the tourist industry[50] and on August 30 there was a TAK bombing in Mersin.[124] These bomnings were condemned by the PKK,[20] which declared its fifth cease-fire on October 1, 2006,[70] which slowed down the intensity of the conflict. Minor clashes, however, continued in the South East due to Turkish counter-insurgency operations. In total, the conflict claimed over 500 lives in 2006.[50] 2006 also saw the PKK assassinate one of their former commanders, Kani Yilmaz, in February, in Iraq.[90]

In May 2007, there was a bombing in Ankara that killed 6[125][126][127][128] and injured 121 people.[125] The Turkish government alleged the PKK was responsible for the bombing.[129] On June 4, a PKK suicide bombing in Tunceli killed seven soldiers and wounded six at a military base.[130] Tensions across the Iraqi border also started playing up as Turkish forces entered Iraq several times in pursuit of PKK fighting and In June, as 4 soldiers were killed by landmines, large areas of Iraqi Kurdistan were shelled which damaged 9 villages and forced residents to flee.[131] On October 7, 2007, 40–50 PKK fighters[119] ambushed a 18-man Turkish commando unit in the Gabar mountains, killing 15 commandos and injuring three,[132] which made it the deadliest PKK attack since the 1990s.[119] In response a law was passed allowing the Turkish military to take action inside Iraqi territory.[133] Than on October 21, 2007, 150–200 militants attacked an outpost, in Dağlıca, Yüksekova, manned by a 50-strong infantry battalion. The outpost was overrun and the PKK killed 12, wounded 17 and captured 8 Turkish soldiers. They then withdrew into Iraqi Kurdistan, taking the 8 captive soldiers with them. The Turkish military claimed to have killed 32 PKK fighters in hot pursuit operations, after the attack, however this was denied by the PKK and no corpses of PKK militants were produced by the Turkish military.[119] The Turkish military responded by bombing PKK bases on October 24[134] and started preparing for a major cross-border military operation.[132]

This major cross-border offensive, dubbed Operation Sun, started on February 21, 2008[135] and was preceded by an aerial offensive against PKK camps in northern Iraq, which began on December 16, 2007.[136][137] Between 3,000 and 10,000 Turkish forces took part in the offensive.[135] According to the Turkish military around 230 PKK fighters were killed in the ground offensive, while 27 Turkish forces were killed. According to the PKK, over 125 Turkish forces were killed, while PKK casualties were in the tens.[138] Smaller scale Turkish operations against PKK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan continued afterwards.[139] On July 27, 2008, Turkey blamed the PKK for an Istanbul double-bombing which killed 17 and injured 154 people. The PKK however denied any involvement.[140] On October 4, the most violent clashes since the October 2007 clashes in Hakkari erupted as the PKK attacked the Aktutun border post in Şemdinli in the Hakkâri Province, at night. 15 Turkish soldiers were killed and 20 were injured, meanwhile 23 PKK fighters were said to be killed during the fighting.[96]

At the start of 2009 Turkey opened its first Kurdish language TV-channel: TRT 6.[141] and on March 19, 2009, local elections were held in Turkey in which the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) won majority of the vote in the South East. Soon after on April 13, 2009, the PKK declared its 6th ceasefire, after Abdullah Öcalan called on them to end military operations and prepare for peace.[70] In September Turkey's Erdoğan-government launched the Kurdish initiative which included plans to re-name Kurdish villages which had been given Turkish names, expand scope of freedom of expression, restore Turkish citizenship to Kurdish refugees, strengthening of local governments and a partial amnesty for PK fighters.[142] The plans for the Kurdish initiative where however heavily hurt after the DTP was banned by the Turkish constitutional court[143] on 11 December 2009 and its leaders were subsequently trialed for terrorism.[144] A total of 1,400 DTP members were arrested and 900 detained in the government crackdown against the party.[145] The move sparked major riots by Kurds all over Turkey and resulted in violent clashes between pro-Kurdish and security forces as well as pro-Turkish demonstrators, which resulted in several injuries and fatalities.[143] On December 7, the PKK launched an ambush in Reşadiye which killed 7 and injured 3 Turkish soldiers, which became the deadliest PKK attack in that region since the 90s.[146][147]

By May 1, 2010, the PKK declared an end to its cease-fire,[148] launching an attack in Tunceli that killed 4 and injured 7 soldiers.[149] On May 31, Abdullah Öcalan declared an end to his attempts at re-approachment and establishing dialogue with the Turkish government, leaving PKK top commanders in charge of the conflict. The PKK then stepped up its armed activities,[150] starting with a missile attack on a navy base in İskenderun, killing 7 and wounding 6 soldiers.[151] On June 18 and 19, heavy fighting broke out that resulted in the death of 12 PKK fighters, 12 Turkish soldiers and injury of 17 Turkish soldiers, as the PKK launched three separate attacks in Hakkari and Elazig provinces.[152][152][153] Another major attack in Hakkari occurred on July 20, killing 6 and wounding 17 Turkish soldiers, with 1 PKK fighter being killed.[154] The next day, PKK leader Murat Karayilan announced that the PKK would lay down its arms if the Kurdish issue would be resolved through dialogue and threatened to declare independence if this demand was not met.[155][156] Turkish authorities claimed they had killed 187 and captured 160 PKK fighters by July 14.[157] By July 27, Turkish news sources reported the deaths of over 100 security forces, which exceeded the entire 2009 toll.[158] On August 12 however, a ramadan cease-fire was declared by the PKK. In November the cease-fire was extended until Turkey's June 12, 2011 elections, despite alleging that that Turkey had launched over 80 military operations against them during this period.[70] Despite the truce, the PKK responded to these military operations by launching retaliatory attacks in Siirt and Hakkari provinces, killing 12 Turkish soldiers.[159]

The cease-fire was however revoked early, on February 28, 2011.[160] Soon afterwards 3 PKK fighters were killed while trying to infiltrate into Turkey, via Northern Iraq.[161] In May, counter-insurgency operations left 12 PKK fighters and 5 soldiers dead. This then resulted in major Kurdish protests across Turkey as part of a civil disobedience campaign launched by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP),[162] during these protests 2 people were killed, 308 injured and 2,506 arrested by Turkish authorities.[163]

The June 12 elections saw a historical performance for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which won 36 seats in the South-East, which was more than the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won only 30 seats in Kurdish areas.[164] However, six of the 36 elected BDP deputies remain in Turkish jails as of June 2011.[165] One of the six jailed deputies, Hatip Dicle, was was then stripped of his elected position by the constitutional court, after which the 30 free MPs declared a boycott of Turkish parliament.[166] The PKK intensified its campaign again, in July killing 20 Turkish soldiers in two weeks, during which at least 10 PKK fighters were killed.[167]

On August 17, 2011, the Turkish Armed Forces launched multiple raids against Kurdish rebels, striking 132 targets.[168] Turkish military bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq in six days of air raids, according to General Staff, where 90-100 PKK Soldiers were killed, and at least 80 injured. [169] On October 19, 26 Turkish soldiers were killed[170] and 18 injured[171] in 8 simultaneous PKK attacks in Cukurca and Yuksekova, in Hakkari province. This marked the deadliest day for the Turkish military since May 24, 1993 when the PKK killed 33 unarmed troops in an ambush.[170]


According to official figures released by the Turkish military for the 1984–2008 period, the conflict has resulted in the capture of 14,000 PKK members, and the death of 32,000 PKK members, 6,482 soldiers, and 5,560 civilians,[24] among which 157 teachers.[172] From August 1984 to June 2007, the Turkish government put the total casualties at 37,979. The Turkish military was said to be responsible for the deaths of 26,128 PKK fighters and the PKK was said to be responsible for the other 11,851 people deaths. A total of 13,327 soldiers and 7,620 civilians are said to have been wounded and an additional 20,000 civilians killed by unknown assailants.[23] Only 2,500 people were said to have been killed between 1984 and 1991, while over 17,500 were killed between 1991 and 1995.[92] The number of murders committed by Village Guards from 1985–1996 is put at 296 by official estimates.[173] The Turkish government claims that the total casualties from 2003 to 2009 is around 2,300, which includes 172 civilians, 556 security forces and 1380 rebels.[174] In June 2010 new casualty figures were released in which the Turkish government claimed a total of 6,653 security forces including 4,015 soldiers, 217 police officers and 1,335 village guards had been killed. They claimed to have killed 29,704 PKK fighters as of 2009. According to these figures the amounth of casualties since the second insurgency in 2004 started is 2,462.[22]

According to human rights organisations since the beginning of the uprising 4,000 villages have been destroyed,[27] in which between 380,000 and 1,000,000 Kurdish villagers have been forcibly evacuated from their homes.[175] Some 5,000 Turks and 35,000 Kurds,[27] including 18,000 civilians[25] have been killed, 17,000 Kurds have disappeared and 119,000 Kurds have been imprisoned by Turkish authorities.[26][27] According to the Humanitarian Law Project, 2,400 Kurdish villages were destroyed and 18,000 Kurds were executed, by the Turkish government.[175] Other estimates have put the number of destroyed Kurdish villages at over 4,000.[67] In total up to 3,000,000 people (mainly Kurds) have been displaced by the conflict,[29] an estimated 1,000,000 of which are still internally dispalced as of 2009.[176]

According to pro-PKK sources, the real casualties from August 1984 to August 1994, were that 11,750 Turkish security, 6,443 PKK fighters and 3,330 civilians had been killed.[177] Sebahat Tuncel, an elected MP from the BDP put the PKK's casualties at 18,000 as of July 2011.[178]

According to the International Crisis Group, the conflict's confirmed casualties for the last 3 years of the conflict were as following:[179]

The conflict's casualties between 1984 and March 2009 according to the General Staff of the Republic of Turkey, Turkish Gendarmerie, General Directorate of Security and since then until June 2010 according to Milliyet's analysis of the data of the General Staff of the Republic of Turkey and Turkish Gendarmerie were as following: [22]

Human rights abuses

Both Turkey and the PKK have committed numerous human rights abuses during the conflict. Former French ambassador to Turkey Eric Rouleau states:[180]

According to the Turkish Ministry of Justice, along with the 30,000 people killed in military campaigns, 22,500 Turkish Politicians were assassinated between 1984, when the conflict began, and 1998. An additional 1,000 people were reportedly assassinated in the first nine months of 1999.

Abuses by the PKK

Human Rights Watch has stated the following about the tactics of the PKK::

  • Consequently, all economic, political, military, social and cultural organizations, institutions, formations—and those who serve in them—have become targets. The entire country has become a battlefield.
  • The PKK also promised to "liquidate" or "eliminate" political parties, "imperialist" cultural and educational institutions, legislative and representative bodies, and "all local collaborators and agents working for the Republic of Turkey."[181]
  • Many who died were unarmed civilians, caught in the middle between the PKK and security forces, targeted for attacks by inevitably, PKK suicide bombers.[182]

According to Amnesty International, the PKK killed and tortured Kurdish peasants and its own members in the 1980s. A number of Kurds have been abducted and killed because they were suspected of being "collaborators" or "informers" and it was a common practice for the PKK to kill their whole families.[183]

According to a 1996 report by Amnesty International, "in January 1996 the [Turkish] government announced that the PKK had massacred 11 men near the remote village of Güçlükonak. Seven of the victims were members of the local village guard force".[184]

Abuses by the Turkish side

In response to the activities of the PKK, the Turkish government placed Southeastern Anatolia, where citizens of Kurdish descent are in the majority, under military rule. The Turkish Army and the Kurdish village guards loyal to it have abused Kurdish civilians, resulting in mass migrations to cities.[52] However martial law and military rule was lifted in the last provinces in 2002.

In 2006 it was stated by the former ambassador Rouleau that the continuing human rights abuses of ethnic Kurds is one of the main obstacles to Turkish membership of the E.U.[185]

Human Rights Watch notes that:

  • As Human Rights Watch has often reported and condemned, Turkish government forces have, during the conflict with the PKK, also committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and indiscriminate fire. We continue to demand that the Turkish government investigate and hold accountable those members of its security forces responsible for these violations. Nonetheless, under international law, the government abuses cannot under any circumstances be seen to justify or excuse those committed by Ocalan's PKK.[181]
  • The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a separatist group that espouses the use of violence for political ends, continues to wage guerrilla warfare in the southeast, frequently in violation of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. Instead of attempting to capture, question and indict people suspected of illegal activity, Turkish security forces killed suspects in house raids, thus acting as investigator, judge, jury and executioner. Police routinely asserted that such deaths occurred in shoot-outs between police and "terrorists." In many cases, eyewitnesses reported that no firing came from the attacked house or apartment. Reliable reports indicated that while the occupants of raided premises were shot and killed, no police were killed or wounded during the raids. This discrepancy suggests that the killings were summary, extrajudicial executions, in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.[182]

According to an article printed in the November 2002 issue of the International Socialist, monthly paper of the International Socialists, during the conflict (and still [as of 2002]), the Turkish army killed and “disappeared” members of the PKK.[186]

In 1997, Amnesty International (AI) reported that, "'Disappearances' and extrajudicial executions have emerged as new and disturbing patterns of human rights violations ..." by the Turkish state.[187]

Turkish-Kurdish human right activists in Germany accused Turkey of Using Chemical Weapons against PKK. Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries investigated the authenticity of the photos and claimed that the photos were authentic. A forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the allegations. Claudia Roth from Germany's Green Party demanded an explanation from the Turkish government.[188] The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selçuk Ünal commented on the issue. He said that he did not need to emphasize that the accusations were groundless. He added that Turkey signed to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, and Turkey did not possess chemical weapons.[189] Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction since 1997, and has passed all inspections required by such convention.[190]

See also


  1. ^ PKK commanders are considered criminals by Turkish courts; although the PKK claims they are prisoners of war.


  1. ^ a b Iraq – Kurds (1961 – first combat deaths), January 2005
  2. ^ a b Turkey (1984–2002), March 2003
  3. ^ a b c The Evolving Threat from Jihadist Terrorism in Turkey, 16 February 2009
  4. ^ Confirmed by former Minister Fikri Sağlar, Cited in the Human Rights Watch report relying on the book of Faik Bulut and Mehmet Farac: Kod Adı: Hizbullah (Code Name: Hizbullah), Ozan Publishing House, March 1999.
  5. ^ Akkoç v. Turkey, Application Nos. 22947/93, 22948/93, Judgement of 10 October 2000, European Court of Human Rights judgment concerning Akkoç v. Turkey case, section II, C (English)
  6. ^ http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=release-of-turkish-hizbullah-members-sparks-controversy-over-its-future-strategy-2011-01-09
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  8. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=HJcrebb1AhgC&pg=PA51&dq=%22Turkish+Hezbollah+and+the+PKK+signed+a+cooperation+protocol+in+March+1993.+In+this+agreement,+both+agreed+to+end+attacks+against+each+other+so+that+they+could+better+attack+the+Turkish+state.%22&hl=en&ei=0hQTvj9Esbl4QTc1KygAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Turkish%20Hezbollah%20and%20the%20PKK%20signed%20a%20cooperation%20protocol%20in%20March%201993.%20In%20this%20agreement%2C%20both%20agreed%20to%20end%20attacks%20against%20each%20other%20so%20that%20they%20could%20better%20attack%20the%20Turkish%20state.%22&f=false
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