“We reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas speak.”
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is a Kurdish militant organization which fought from 1984-2013 against Turkey during its unsuccessful struggle for independence and quest to create Kurdistan, a state which would unite the thirty or so million Kurds throughout Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Iraq who make up the world’s largest stateless population. This bloody struggle which has killed over 40,000 people “ended” on March 21 2013, when Öcalan, the captured leader of the Kurds, declared a ceasefire and with it a new goal for the Kurds: a peaceful fight for some sort of autonomy within Turkey instead of its own state (Kurdistan). “We reached the point where weapons should go silent and ideas speak,” Öcalan exclaimed, beginning a ceasefire that lasted until just last week when Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish PKK rebels near the Iraqi border. The Kurds, who have faced unimaginable oppression and maltreatment throughout recent history are currently extremely angry at Turkey for not helping to save Kobane, not arming them against IS, and not allowing them to fight alongside their Kurdish brothers just across the border in Syria and Iraq. The brutal history between the Kurds and Turkey has created a rough road which they must now navigate together as they struggle to unite against IS.
A Bit of History
Though Kurdish rebellions against the Ottoman Empire have been common for over two centuries, this modern day conflict stems from the Turkish War of Independence since the Turkish state which came about then has since repressed the human rights of the Kurds in Turkey. Before World War I, the Kurdish lifestyle was traditionally nomadic and therefore revolved around sheep and goat herding in the highlands of Turkey and Iran. After the formation of Turkey, the Kurds could no long roam as they once did and therefore abandoned their nomadic ways of life. The Turkish government then outlawed their language, forbade them from wearing their traditional clothing, and tried to crush them by depriving them of their identity. Still today Turkey does not officially recognize them as a minority group even though there are around 14 million Kurds in Turkey (15-20 percent of its total population).
I’m not a historian, nor did I know anything about the PKK before doing some research, so I would suggest doing some of your own research as well if you are still interested in the region. Here are a few articles to get you on your way. Plus, I wrote this a few weeks ago so by the time it posts, there may very well be some changes in the current situation.
-The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization in a few countries, here is why.
-The first major air-raid since March 2013 due to the increasingly difficult situation between Turkey and the Kurds concerning IS.
I have recently met several cyclists who have been through eastern Turkey where the Kurds reside, all of whom declared that it was their favorite region of Turkey. From what we have heard, and now seen for ourselves, the Kurdish people are friendly and kind despite their history of war, and though many people may now be frightened of the area because of past bloodshed and the current unstable situation, it’s important to note that the people there aren’t necessarily inherently violent or mean.
–The BBC last week: “Turkey is to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in Kobane, in what is being seen as a policy reversal.”