BackgroundAs a result of the military 1971 Turkish military memorandum, coup of 1971, many militants of the revolutionary left were deprived of a public appearance, movements like the People's Liberation Army of Turkey, People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO) or the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist, Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP-ML) were cracked down upon and forbidden. Following, several of the resting political actors of the Turkish left organized away from the public in University dorms or in meetings in shared apartments. In 1972-1973 the organization's core ideological group was made up largely of students led by Abdullah Öcalan ("Apo") in Ankara who made themselves known as the ''Kurdistan Revolutionaries.'' The new group focused on the oppressed Kurdish population of Turkish Kurdistan in a capitalist world. Espousing a Marxism, Marxist ideology, the group engaged in violent conflicts with right-wing Turkish nationalist groups during the Political violence in Turkey (1976–1980), political violence of the 1970s. Following the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. At this time, expressions of Kurdish culture, including the use of the Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names, were banned in Turkey. In an attempt to Denial of Kurds by Turkey, deny their separate existence from Turkish people, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991. The PKK was then formed, as part of a growing discontent over the suppression of Kurds in Turkey, in an effort to establish linguistic, cultural, and political rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority. Following several years of preparation, the Kurdistan Workers Party was established during a foundation congress on 26 and 27 November 1978 in a rural village called Fis in Kurdish and Ziyaret in Turkish. On 27 November 1978, a central committee consisting of seven people was elected, with Abdullah Öcalan as its head. Other members were: Şahin Dönmez, Mazlûm Dogan, Baki Karer, , , Cemil Bayık. Initially the PKK concealed its existence and only announced their existence in a propaganda stunt when they attempted to assassinate a politician of the Justice Party (Turkey), Justice Party, Mehmet Celal Bucak, in July 1979. Bucak was a Kurdish tribal leader accused by the PKK of exploiting peasants and collaborating with the Turkish state to oppress Kurds.
Ideology, aimsThe organization originated in the early 1970s from the radical left and drew its membership from other existing leftist groups, mainly Revolutionary Youth Federation of Turkey, Dev-Genç.Jongerden, Joost.
OrganizationEven though the PKK has several prominent representatives in various countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, and West European countriesFrank C. Urbancic,
Political and popular wingIn 1985, the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan ( ku, Eniye Rizgariye Navata Kurdistan, ERNK) was established by the PKK as its popular front wing, with the role of both creating propaganda for the party, and as an umbrella organization for PKK organizations in different segments of the Kurdish population, such as the peasantry, workers, youth, and women. It was dissolved in 1999, after the Imprisonment of Abdullah Öcalan, capture of Abdullah Öcalan.
Cultural branchIn 1983, the Association of Artists (''Hunerkom'') was established in Germany under the lead of the Music group . Its activities spread over Kurdish community centers in Kurds in France, France, Kurds in Germany, Germany and the Kurds in the Netherlands, Netherlands. In 1994 the Hunerkom was renamed into the 'Kurdish Academy of Culture and Arts'. Koma Berxwedans songs, which often were about the PKK resistance, were forbidden in Turkey and had to be smuggled over the border.
Armed wingThe PKK has an armed wing, originally formed in 1984 as the Kurdistan Freedom Brigades ( kmr, Hêzên Rizgariya Kurdistan, HRK), renamed to the People's Liberation Army of Kurdistan ( kmr, Arteşa Rizgariya Gelî Kurdistan, ARGK) in 1986, and again renamed to the People's Defense Forces ( kmr, Hêzên Parastina Gel, HPG) in 1999.
Women's armed wingThe Free Women's Units of Star ( kmr, Yekîneyên Jinên Azad ên Star, YJA-STAR) was established in 2004 as the women's armed wing of the PKK, emphasizing the issue of women's liberation.
Youth wingThe Civil Protection Units, Civil Protections Units (YPS) is the successor of the YDG-H, Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the youth wing of the PKK. In February 2016 Firat News Agency, ANF reported the establishment of the women's branch of the YPS, the Civil Protection Units#YPS-Jin, YPS-Jin.
Training campsThe first training camps were established in 1982 in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and also in Beqaa Valley with the support of the Syrian government. After the Iran-Iraq war and the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War, Kurdish civil war, the PKK moved all its camps to Northern Iraq in 1998. The PKK had also completely moved to Qandil Mountains from Beqaa Valley, under intensive pressure, after Syria expelled Öcalan and shut down all camps established in the region. At the time, Northern Iraq was experiencing a vacuum of control after the Gulf War-related Operation Provide Comfort. Instead of a single training camp that could be easily destroyed, the organization created many small camps. During this period the organization set up a fully functioning enclave with training camps, storage facilities, and reconnaissance and communications centers. In 2007, the organization was reported to have camps strung out through the mountains that straddle the border between Turkey and Iraq, including in Sinaht, Haftanin, Kanimasi and Zap. The organization developed two types of camps. The mountain camps, located in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, are used as forward bases from which militants carry out attacks against Turkish military bases. The units deployed there are highly mobile and the camps have only minimal infrastructure. The other permanent camps, in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq, have more developed infrastructure—including a field hospital, electricity generators and a large proportion of the PKK's lethal and non-lethal supplies.Jenkins, Gareth., ''Global Terrorism Analysis'', Volume 4, Issue 33 16 October 2007. The organization is also using the Qandil mountain camps for its political activities. It was reported in 2004 that there was another political training camp in Belgium, evidence that the organization had used training camps in Europe for political and ideological training.
Political representationThe PKK could count on support from protests and Demonstration (protest), demonstrations often directed against policies of the Turkish government. The PKK also fought a turf war against other radical Islamist Kurdish and Turkish organizations in Turkey. Turkish newspapers said that the PKK effectively used the prison force to gain appeal among the population which PKK has denied.Immigration Appeals: 2nd – 3rd Quarter (2004), by Great Britain Immigration Appeal Tribunal
Alleged political presentationThe organization had sympathizer parties in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey since the beginning of the early 1990s. The existence of direct links between the parties and the PKK have several times been a question in Turkish politics but also in Turkish and European courts. In sequence People's Labor Party, HEP/Democracy Party (Turkey), DEP/People's Democracy Party, HADEP/Democratic People's Party (Turkey), DEHAP/Democratic Society Party, DTP and the Peace and Democracy Party (Turkey), BDP, which later changed its name to Democratic Regions Party (DBP) on 11 July 2014, as well as the Peoples' Democratic Party (Turkey), HDP have been criticized of sympathizing with the PKK, since they have refused to brand it as a terrorist group. Political organizations established in Turkey are banned from propagating or supporting separatism. Several political parties supporting Kurdish rights have been reportedly banned on this pretext. The constitutional court stated to find direct links between the People's Labor Party, HEP/Democracy Party (Turkey), DEP/People's Democracy Party, HADEP and the PKK. In 2007 against the Democratic Society Party closure case, DTP was initiated a closure case before the Constitutional Court of Turkey, constitutional court which resulted in its closure on 11 December 2009. In 2021, against the 2021 Peoples' Democratic Party closure case, HDP was also initiated a closure case during which the HDP is accused of being linked to the PKK. It is reported that Turkey has used the PKK as an excuse to close Kurdish political parties. Senior DTP leaders maintained that they support a unified Turkey within a democratic framework. In May 2007, the co-president of DTP Aysel Tuğluk, published an article in ''Radikal'' in support of this policy. Several parliamentarians and other elected representatives have been jailed for speaking in Kurdish, carrying Kurdish colors or otherwise allegedly "promoting separatism", most famous among them being Leyla Zana. European Court of Human Rights, The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for arresting and executing Kurdish writers, journalists and politicians in numerous occasions. Between 1990 and 2006 Turkey was condemned to pay 33 million euros in damages in 567 cases. The majority of the cases were related to events that took place in southeastern Anatolia In Iraq the political party Tevgera Azadî is said to have close to the PKK.
Reported links with Turkish intelligenceDuring the controversial Ergenekon trials in Turkey, allegations have been made that the PKK is linked to elements of the Turkish intelligence community. Şamil Tayyar, author and member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Turkey), AK Party, said that Öcalan was released in 1972 after just three months' detention on the initiative of the National Intelligence Organization (Turkey), National Intelligence Organization (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT), and that his 1979 escape to Syria was aided by elements in MİT. Öcalan has admitted making use of money given by the MIT to the PKK, which he says was provided as part of MIT efforts to control him. Former police special forces member Ayhan Çarkın said that the state, using the clandestine Ergenekon (allegation), Ergenekon network, colluded with militant groups such as the PKK, Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, Dev-Sol and Turkish Hezbollah, with the goal of profiting from the war. A witness to the trials testified that General Levent Ersöz, former head of Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization, JITEM, had frequent contact with PKK commander Cemîl Bayik. According to official figures, it was stated that nearly 2000 PKK members became ''itirafçı'' ("confessors") after their arrest. Some were persuaded or coerced to play an active role in the conflict, particularly under the direction of the Gendarmerie General Command, Turkish Gendarmerie's unofficial Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization, JİTEM unit.
Status in TurkeyIn Turkey, anything which could be perceived as a support of the PKK is deemed unsuitable to be shown to the public. Also demanding education in the Kurdish language is often viewed as supporting terrorist activities by the PKK. The fact that both the HDP and the PKK support education in Kurdish language was included in the indictment in the 2021 Peoples' Democratic Party closure case, Peoples Democratic closure case. In January 2016, the Academics for Peace who signed a declaration in support of peace in the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (2015–present), Kurdish Turkish conflict were labelled and prosecuted for "spreading terrorist propaganda" on behalf of the PKK. In November 2020, a playground for children in Istanbul was dismantled after the municipality decided its design too closely resembled the symbol of the PKK. Politicians of pro-Kurdish like the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) or the HDP were often prosecuted and sentenced to prison term for their alleged support of the PKK. The possession of Devran, a book authored by the political prisoner Selahattin Demirtaş, was viewed as an evidence for a membership in a terrorist organization in 2019 because according to the prosecution it described events involving the PKK.
TacticsThe organization said that its violent actions against the government forces were used by "the need to defend Kurds in the context of what it calls as the massive cultural suppression of Kurdish identity (including the 1983 Turkish Language Act Ban) and cultural rights carried out by other governments of the region". The areas in which the group operates are generally mountainous rural areas and dense urban areas. The mountainous terrain offers an advantage to members of the PKK by allowing them to hide in a network of caves.
CriticismThe PKK has faced condemnation by some countries and human rights organizations for the killing of teachers and civil servants, using Suicide attack, suicide bombers, and recruiting child soldiers. According to the TEPAV, an Ankara-based think tank, a survey conducted using data from 1,362 PKK fighters who lost their lives between 2001 and 2011 estimated that 42% of the militants were recruited under 18, with roughly 9% under 15 at the time of recruitment. The PKK claims that it has complied with Geneva Conventions since 1995 and stated in 2013 that it would end recruitment of children under 16 as well as keep 16-18 year olds away from combat. However, Human Rights Watch stated they have documented 29 cases of children being recruited into the HPG (the PKK's armed wing) and the Sinjar Resistance Units, YBŞ since 2013. Some children were recruited under the age of 15, constituting a war crime according to international law.
RecruitmentSince its foundation, the PKK has recruited new fighters mainly from Turkey, but also from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Western countries using various recruitment methods, such as using nationalist propaganda and its gender equality ideology. At its establishment, it included a small number of female fighters but over time the number increased significantly and by the early 1990s, 30 percent of its 17,000 armed fighting forces were women.Ali Özcan, Nihat, ''Global Terrorism Analysis'', Jamestown Foundation, Volume 4, Issue 28, 11 September 2007. By 2020, 40% of the fighting force were women. In much of rural Turkey, where male-dominated tribal structures, and conservative Muslim norms were commonplace, the organization increased its number of members through the recruitment of women from different social structures and environments, also from families that migrated to several European countries after Foreign worker, 1960 as guest workers. It was reported by a Turkish university that 88% of the subjects initially reported that equality was a key objective, and that they joined the organization based on this statement. In 2007, approximately 1,100 of 4,500–5,000 total members were women. According to the Jamestown Foundation, the PKK shall have recruited young women by abducting them. While in 1989 the PKKs armed wing issued a so-called "Compulsory Military Service Law", the PKK had to temporarily suspend recruitment several times since the early 1990s, as the PKK had difficulties to provide training to the large number of volunteers, which wanted to join their ranks.
WeaponsIn July 2007, the weapons captured between 1984 and 2007 from the PKK operatives and their origins published by the Turkish General Staff indicates that the operatives erased some of the serial numbers from their weapons. The total number of weapons and the origins for traceable ones were: Turkish authorities stated that four members of the organization, who handed themselves over to authorities after escaping from camps in northern Iraq, said they had seen two U.S. armored vehicles deliver weapons, which was widely reported and further stoked suspicions about U.S. policy in Iraq. The US envoy denied these statements. The arms were said to be part of the Academi, Blackwater Worldwide arms smuggling reports. The probe of organization's weapons and the investigation of Blackwater employees were connected.Blackwater admits employees illegally sold weapons
FundingParties and concerts are organized by branch groups. According to the EUROPOL, European Police Office (EUROPOL), the organization collects money from its members, using labels like ‘donations’ and ‘membership fees’ which are seen as a fact extortion and illegal taxation by the authorities. There are also indications that the organization is actively involving in money laundering, illicit drugs and human trafficking, as well as illegal immigration inside and outside the EU for funding and running its activities.
Involvement in drug traffickingPKK's involvement in drug trafficking has been documented since the 1990s. A report by Interpol published in 1992 states that the PKK, along with nearly 178 Kurdish organizations were suspected of illegal drug trade involvement. The British National Criminal Intelligence Service determined that the PKK obtained $75 million from drug smuggling in Europe in 1993 alone. Members of the PKK have been designated narcotics traffickers by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic security agency, echoed this report in its 2011 Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution, stating that despite the U.S Department of Treasury designation, there was "no evidence that the organizational structures of the PKK are directly involved in drug trafficking". On 14 October 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted the senior leadership of the PKK, designating Murat Karayılan, the head of the PKK, and high-ranking members Ali Riza Altun and Zübeyir Aydar as foreign narcotics traffickers at the request of Turkey. On 20 April 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of PKK founders Cemîl Bayik and Duran Kalkan and other high-ranking members as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). Pursuant to the Kingpin Act, the designation freezes any assets the designees may have under Federal jurisdiction (United States), U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these individuals. On 1 January 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the designation of Moldovan-based individuals Zeyneddin Geleri, Cerkez Akbulut, and Omer Boztepe as specially designated narcotics traffickers for Illegal drug trade, drug trafficking on behalf of the PKK in Europe. According to the OFAC, Zeynedding Geleri was identified as a high-ranking member of the PKK while two others were activists. The OFAC stated that the drug trafficking is still one of the organization's criminal activities it uses to obtain weapons and materials. According to research conducted by journalist Aliza Marcus, the PKK accepted the support of smugglers in the region. Aliza Marcus stated that some of those Kurdish smugglers who were involved in the drug trade, either because they truly believed in the PKK—or because they thought it a good business practice (avoid conflicts)—frequently donated money to the PKK rebels. However, according to Aliza Marcus, it does not seem that the PKK, as an organization, directly produced or traded in narcotics. The EUROPOL which has monitored the organization's activities inside the EU has also claimed the organization's involvement in the trafficking of drugs.
Human resourcesIn 2008, according to information provided by the Intelligence Resource Program of the Federation of American Scientists the strength of the organization in terms of human resources consists of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 militants of whom 3,000 to 3,500 are located in northern Iraq. With the new wave of fighting from 2015 onwards, observers said that active support for the PKK had become a "mass phenomenon" in majority ethnic Kurdish cities in the Southeast of the Republic of Turkey, with large numbers of local youth joining PKK-affiliated local militant groups.
International supportAt the height of its campaign, it is alleged that the organization received support from a range of countries. According to Turkey, those countries the PKK previously or currently received support from include: Greece, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Russia and Syria. The level of support given has changed throughout this period. Between the PKK and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) a cooperation has been agreed on in April 1980 in Sidon, Lebanon. ;Greece: According to Ali Külebi, president of an Ankara-based nationalist think tank TUSAM, "It is obvious that the PKK is supported by Greece, considering the PKK's historical development with major support from Greece." Külebi said in 2007 that PKK militants received training at a base in Laurium, Lavrion, near Athens. Retired Greek L.T. General Dimitris Matafias and retired Greek Navy Admiral Antonis Naxakis had visited the organization's Mahsun Korkmaz base camp in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley in October 1988 along with parliamentarians from the center-left PASOK. At the time it was reported that the general had assumed responsibility for training. Greeks also dispatched arms through the Republic of Cyprus.Gunter, Michael M. ''The Kurds and the Future of Turkey'', page 110 During his trial, Öcalan admitted, as quoted in ''Hürriyet'', that "Greece has for years supported the PKK movement. They even gave us arms and rockets. Greek officers gave guerrilla training and explosives training to our militants" at a camp in Lavrion, Greece. ;Republic of Cyprus: Republic of Cyprus administration has been instrumental in helping Greece supply arms to the PKK. Further suspicion of support was stated when Abdullah Öcalan was caught with a diplomatic Cypriot passport issued under the name of Mavros Lazaros, a nationalist reporter. ;Syria: From early 1979 to 1999, Syria had provided valuable safe havens to PKK in the region of Beqaa Valley. However, after History of the Kurdistan Workers' Party#The undeclared war, the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria, Syria placed restrictions on PKK activity on its soil such as not allowing the PKK to establish camps and other facilities for training and shelter or to have commercial activities on its territory. Syria recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization in 1998. Turkey was expecting positive developments in its cooperation with Syria in the long term, but even during the course of 2005, there were PKK operatives of Syrian nationality operating in Turkey. ;Libya: In the 1990s Abdullah Öcalan appreciated the support for the "Kurdish Cause" by Muammar Gaddafi. ;Soviet Union and Russia: Former KGB-Federal Security Service, FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko said that PKK's leader Abdullah Öcalan was trained by KGB-Federal Security Service (Russia), FSB. As of 2008, Russia is still not among the states that list PKK as a terrorist group despite intense Turkish pressure. ;Support of various European states: The Dutch police reportedly raided the 'PKK paramilitary camp' in the Dutch village of Liempde and arrested 29 people in November 2004, but all were soon released. :Various PKK leaders, including Hidir Yalcin, Riza Altun, Zubeyir Aydar, and Ali Haydar Kaytan all lived in Europe and moved freely. The free movement was achieved by strong ties with influential persons. Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the former President of France François Mitterrand, had active connections during the 1990s with elements of the organization's leadership that forced a downgrade in relationships between the two states. After harboring Ali Riza Altun for some time, Austria arranged a flight to Iraq for him, a suspected key figure with an Interpol arrest warrant on his name. Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gül summoned the Austrian ambassador and condemned Austria's action. On 30 September 1995, while Öcalan was in Syria, Damascus initiated contact with high-ranking German Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU MP Heinrich Lummer and German intelligence officials. :Sedat Laçiner, of the Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization, ISRO, says that US support of the PKK undermines the US War on Terror. Seymour Hersh said that the U.S. and Israel supported Kurdistan Free Life Party, PJAK, the Iranian branch of the PKK. The head of the PKK's militant arm, Murat Karayılan, said that Iran attempted to recruit the PKK to attack coalition forces, adding that Kurdish guerrillas had launched a clandestine war in Iranian Kurdistan, north-western Iran, ambushing Islamic Republic of Iran Army, Iranian troops.
Designation as a terrorist groupThe PKK has been placed on Turkey's terrorist list, as well as a number of allied governments and organizations. It is often referred as "Separatist terrorist organization" ( tr, Bölücü terör örgütü) by the Turkish authorities. In the 1980s, the PKK was labeled as a terror organization by the Government of Sweden, Swedish government of Olof Palme. After Palme was murdered in 1986, the PKK was considered a potential suspect - however, in September 2020, the Swedish Government announced it believed that the murderer was Stig Engström (suspected murderer), Stig Engström, an employee of the nearby Skandia company; one of the first witnesses in the investigation on the murder. In 1994, Germany prohibited the activities of the PKK. The PKK has been designated as a United States State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Department of State, US State Department since 1997. In 2016, US Vice-President Joe Biden called the PKK a terrorist group "plain and simple" and compared it to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State. In 2018, the United States also offered a $12 million reward for information on three PKK leaders. First designated as a terror organization by the European Union in 2002, the PKK was ordered to be removed from the EU terror list on 3 April 2008 by the General Court (European Union), European Court of First Instance on the grounds that the EU had failed to give a proper justification for listing it in the first place. However, EU officials dismissed the ruling, stating that the PKK would remain on the list regardless of the legal decision. The EU in 2011 renewed its official listing of the PKK as group or entity subject to "specific [EU] measures to combat terrorism" under its Common Foreign and Security Policy. In 2018, Prakken d'Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers reported that the PKK won another case against its listing as a terror organization by the EU, but the EU kept the PKK on the list as the ruling only concerned the years from 2014 until 2017. The PKK is also a Proscribed Organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000; the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Theresa May used the phrase "Kurdish terrorism" in 2018, in a certain context."UK's May uses phrase 'Kurdish terrorism' during Erdogan visit as Kurds protest in London"
Refusal to designate PKK as a terrorist groupRussia has long ignored Turkish pressure to ban the PKK. The Federal Council (Switzerland), government of Switzerland has also rejected Turkish demands to blacklist the PKK. Switzerland does not have a list of terrorist organizations, but it has taken its own measures to monitor and restrict the group's activities on Swiss soil, including banning the collection of funds for the group in November 2008. In 2020, the supreme court of Belgium ruled that the PKK was not a terrorist organization, instead labeling the group as an actor in an internal armed conflict. Following this, the Belgian Government announced that the ruling would not affect the current designation of the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Flags of wings
1970sDuring the 1970s, the PKK was involved in History of the Kurdistan Workers' Party#Urban War (1978–1980), urban warfare. PKK tactics were based on ambush, sabotage, riots, protests, and Demonstration (protest), demonstrations against the Turkish government. During these years, the PKK also fought a turf war against Kurdish and Turkish radical Islamist organisations in Turkey. Turkish newspapers said that the PKK effectively used the prison force to appeal to the general population, which the PKK has denied. In Turkey, this period was characterized by violent clashes that culminated in the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, 1980 military coup.
1980sThe 1980 Turkish coup d'état brought a difficult environment for the PKK, with members being executed, doing jail time, or fleeing to Syria, where they were allowed to establish bases by Hafez al-Assad. On 10 November 1980, the PKK bombed the Turkish consulate in Strasbourg, France, in a joint operation with the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, which they described as the beginning of a "fruitful collaboration" in a statement claiming responsibility. Besides, Öcalan managed to compel Qais Abd al-Karim, Qais Abd al Karim, the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to support the military training of PKK militants in Lebanon. In the early 1980s, some 300 PKK militants were provided with education in Guerrilla warfare, guerilla warfare.Marcus, Aliza (2012). p.57 With time, similar agreements were met with the Fatah of Yasser Arafat, Yassir Arafat or the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) of Samir Ghawshah. An alliance was also reached with Masoud Barzani's KDP, who permitted the PKK to operate in the valleys of the Lolan region in Iraqi Kurdistan close to the borders to Iran and Turkey. In a second phase, which followed the return of civilian rule in 1983, escalating attacks were made on the government's military and vital institutions all over the country. The objective was to destabilize the Turkish authority through a long, low-intensity confrontation. The establishment of the Kurdistan Liberation Force (''Hêzên Rizgariya Kurdistan'' - HRK) was announced on 15 August 1984. From 1984, the PKK became a paramilitary group with training at camps in Turkish Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon and France. The PKK received significant support from the Syrian government, which allowed it to maintain headquarters in Damascus, as well as some support from the governments of Iran, Iraq, and Libya. It began to launch attacks and bombings against Turkish governmental installations, the military, and various institutions of the state. The organization focused on attacks against Turkish military targets, although civilian targets were also hit. In addition to skirmishing with Turkish military, police forces and local Village guard system, village guards, the PKK has conducted bomb attacks on government and police installations. Kidnapping and assassination against government and military officials and Kurdish tribal leaders who were named as puppets of the state were performed as well. Widespread sabotages were continued from the first stage. Turkish sources had also stated that the PKK carried out kidnappings of tourists, primarily in Istanbul, but also at different resorts. However, the PKK had in its history arrested 4 tourists and released them all after warning them to not enter the war zone. The vast majority of PKK's actions have taken place mainly in Turkey against the Turkish military, although it has on occasions co-operated with other Kurdish nationalist paramilitary groups in neighboring states, such as Iraq and Iran. The PKK has also attacked Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities across Western Europe in the late 1980s. In effect, the Turkish state has led a series of counter-insurgency operations against the PKK, accompanied by political measures, starting with an explicit denunciation of separatism in the Constitution of Turkey, 1982 Constitution, and including proclamation of the state of emergency in various PKK-controlled territories starting in 1983 (when the military relinquished political control to the civilians). This series of administrative reforms against terrorism included in 1985 the creation of village guard system by the then prime minister Turgut Özal. At the Third Party Congress in October 1986, the Peoples Liberation Army of Kurdistan (''Artêşa Rizgariye Gelê Kurdistan'' -ARGK) was founded and succeeded the HRK.
1990sFrom the mid-1990s, the organization began to lose History of the Kurdistan Workers' Party#Paramilitary II (1993–1995), the upper hand in its operations as a consequence of a change of tactics by Turkey and Syria's steady abandonment of support for the group. The group also had lost its support from Saddam Hussein. As during the international operation Poised Hammer the collaboration between Barzani and Turkey embittered, the situation for the PKK became even more difficult, with Barzani condemning terrorist attacks by the PKK during a Newroz festival. At the same time, the Turkish government started to use more violent methods to counter Kurdish militants. From 1996 to 1999, the organization began to use suicide bombers, VBIED, and ambush attacks against military and police bases. The role of suicide bombers, especially female ones were encouraged and mythologised by giving them the status of a "goddess of freedom", and shown as role models for other women after their death. On 30 July 1996, Zeynep Kınacı, a female PKK fighter, carried out the organization's first suicide attack, killing 8 soldiers and injuring 29 others. The attacks against the civilians, especially the Kurdish citizens who refused to cooperate with them were also reported at the same years. On 20 January 1999, a report published by Human Rights Watch, HRW, stated that the PKK was reported to have been responsible for more than 768 executions. The organization had also reportedly committed 25 massacres, killing more than 300 people. More than a hundred victims were children and women. In March 1993 Öcalan, in presence of PUK leader Jalal Talabani declared a 1993 Kurdistan Workers' Party ceasefire, unilateral ceasefire for a month in order to facilitate peace negotiations with Turkey. At an other press conference which took place on 16 April 1993 in Barelias, Bar Elias, Lebanon, the ceasefire was prolonged indefinitely. To this event, the Kurdish politicians Jamal Talabani, Ahmet Türk from the People's Labor Party (HEP) and also Kemal Burkay also attended and declared their support for the ceasefire. The ceasefire ended after the Turkish army killed 13 PKK members in Kulp, Turkey, Kulp, Diyarbakır Province, Diyarbakir province in May 1993. The fighting and violence augmented significantly following the 1993 Turkish presidential election, presidential elections of June 1993 after which Tansu Çiller was elected prime minister.Gunes, Cengiz (2013), p.134 In December 1995 the PKK announced another unilateral ceasefire to give a new Government an opportunity to articulate a more peaceful approach towards the conflict. The government elected in December 1995 did not initiate negotiations and kept on evacuating Kurdish populated villages. Despite the violent approach of the Government to the ceasefire, it was upheld by the PKK until August 1996. Turkey was involved in serious human rights violations during the 1990s. The ECHR has condemned Turkey for executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements and massive arrests. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, in an effort to win increased support from the Kurdish peasantry, the PKK altered its leftist secular ideology to better accommodate and accept Islamic beliefs. The group also abandoned its previous strategy of attacking Kurdish and Turkish civilians who were against them, focusing instead on government and military targets. In its campaign, the organization has been criticized of carrying out atrocities against both Turkish and Kurdish civilians and its actions have been criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Similar actions of the Turkish state have also been criticized by these same groups. In 1998 Turkey increased the pressure on Syria and ended its support for the PKK. The leader of the organization, Abdullah Öcalan, was captured, Trial of Abdullah Öcalan, prosecuted and sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to life imprisonment as part of the government's seeking Accession of Turkey to the European Union, European Union membership.
2000sThe European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for human rights abuses during the conflict. Some judgements are related to executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements, destroyed villages, Arbitrary arrest and detention, arbitrary arrests, murdered and disappeared Kurdish journalists, activists and politicians. As a result of increasing Kurdish population and activism, the Turkish parliament began a controlled process of dismantling some anti-Kurdish legislation, using the term "normalization" or "rapprochement," depending on the sides of the issue. It partially relaxed the bans on broadcasting and publishing in the Kurdish languages, Kurdish language, although significant barriers remain. At the same time, the PKK was blacklisted in many countries. On 2 April 2004, the Council of the European Union added the PKK to its list of terrorist organizations. Later that year, the United States Department of the Treasury, US Treasury moved to freeze assets of branches of the organization. The PKK went through a series of changes, and in 2003 it ended the unilateral truce declared when Öcalan was captured.
Cease fire 1999–2004The third phase (1999–2012), after the capture of Öcalan, PKK reorganized itself and new leaders were chosen by its members. The organization made radical changes to survive, such as changing its ideology and setting new goals. During the 7th Party congress in January 2000, the former military wing the Peoples Liberation Army of Kurdistan (''Artêşa Rizgariya Gelê Kurdistan'' -ARGK) was succeeded by the People's Defense Forces (''People's Defence Forces, Hêzên Parastina Gel -'' HPG) and also declared that it wanted to aim for a democratic solution for the conflict. At the same time, the PKK continued to recruit new members and sustain its fighting force. According to Paul White, in April 2002, the PKK changed its name to the ''Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK)'' and proclaimed a commitment to nonviolent activities. A PKK/KADEK spokesman stated that its armed wing, the HPG, would not disband or surrender its weapons for reasons of self-defense. This statement by the PKK/KADEK avowing it would not lay down its arms underscores that the organization maintained its capability to carry out armed operations. PKK/KADEK established a new ruling council in April, its membership virtually identical to the PKK's Presidential Council. The PKK/KADEK did not conduct an armed attack in 2002; however, the group periodically issued veiled threats that it will resume violence if the conditions of its imprisoned leader are not improved and its forces are attacked by Turkish military, and it continued its military training like before. In November 2003, another congress was held which lead to renaming itself as the ''People's Congress of Kurdistan'' or ''Kongra-Gel (KGK)''. The stated purpose of the organizational change was to leave behind nationalistic and state-building goals, in favor of creating a political structure to work within the existing nation-states. Through further internal conflict during this period, it is reported that 1500 militants left the organization, along with many of the leading reformists, including Nizamettin Taş and Abdullah Öcalan's younger brother Osman Öcalan.
Second insurgency 2004–2006Kongra-Gel called off the cease-fire at the start of June 2004, saying Turkish security forces had refused to respect the truce. Turkish security forces were increasingly involved in clashes with Kurdish separatist fighters. Ankara stated that about 2,000 Kurdish fighters had crossed into Turkey from hideouts in mountainous northern Iraq in early June 2004. While the fight against the Turkish security forces between 2004 and 2010 continued, the PKK and its ancillary organizations continued to enjoy substantial support among the Kurds of Turkey. In 2005, the original name of the organization ''PKK'' was restored, while the Kongra-Gel became the legislature of the Kurdistan Communities Union, ''Koma Komalên Kurdistan''. Turkey's struggle against the Kongra-Gel/PKK was marked by increased clashes across Turkey in 2005. In the Southeast, Turkish security forces were active in the struggle against the Kongra-Gel/PKK. There were bombings and attempted bombings in resort areas in western Turkey and Istanbul, some of which resulted in civilian casualties. A radical Kurdish separatist group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, Kurdish Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for many of these attacks. The TAK is a rival to PKK that since 2006 repeatedly damaged the PKK's efforts to negotiate cease-fires and unlike the PKK, is seeking to establish independent Kurdistan. In 2006 alone, the PKK claimed over 500 victims. On 1 October 2006, the PKK reportedly declared a unilateral cease-fire that slowed the intensity and pace of its attacks, but attacks continued in response to Turkish security forces significant counterinsurgency operations, especially in the southeast.
Cease-fire and renewed conflictOn 13 April 2009, the 2009–2010 Kurdistan Workers' Party ceasefire, PKK declared a cease fire after the DTP won 99 municipalities and negotiations were spoken about. The AKP first spoke of the Democratic initiative#Kurdish initiative, "Kurdish Opening", then it was renamed in the "Democratic Opening" to appease nationalist interests and then the "National Unity Project." On 21 October 2011 Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced Iran would co-operate with Turkey in some military operations against the PKK. 2012 was the most violent year in the armed conflict between the Turkish State and PKK since 1999. At least 541 individuals lost their lives as a result of the clashes including 316 militants and 282 soldiers. In contrast, 152 individuals lost their lives in 2009 until the Turkish government initiated negotiations with the PKK leadership. The failure of this negotiations contributed to violence that were particularly intensified in 2012. The PKK encouraged by the rising power of the Syrian Kurds increased its attacks in the same year. During the Syrian Civil War, the Kurds in Syria have established control over their own region with the help of the PKK as well as with support from the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil, under President Masoud Barzani.
2013–2015 peace processIn late 2012, the Turkish government began secret talks with Öcalan for a ceasefire. To facilitate talks, government officials transmitted letters between Öcalan in jail to PKK leaders in northern Iraq. On 21 March 2013, a ceasefire was announced. On 25 April, it was announced that the PKK would leave Turkey. Commander Murat Karayılan remarked "As part of ongoing preparations, the withdrawal will begin on May 8, 2013. Our forces will use their right to retaliate in the event of an attack, operation or bombing against our withdrawing guerrilla forces and the withdrawal will immediately stop." The semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq welcomed the idea of refugees from its northern neighbor. The BDP held meetings across the region to state the pending withdrawal to concerned citizens. "The 8th of May is a day we both anticipate and fear," said party leader Pinar Yilmaz. "We don't trust the government at all. Many people here are afraid that once the guerrillas are gone, the Turkish military will crack down on us again." The withdrawal began as planned with groups of fighters crossing the border from southeastern Turkey to northern Iraq. Iraqi leadership in Baghdad, however, declared that it would not accept armed groups into its territory. "The Iraqi government welcomes any political and peaceful settlement", read an official statement. "[But] it does not accept the entry of armed groups to its territories that can be used to harm Iraq's security and stability." The prospect of armed Kurdish forces in northern Iraq threatens to increase tensions between the region and Baghdad who are already at odds over certain oil producing territory. PKK spokesman Ahmet Deniz sought to ease concerns stating the plan would boost democracy. "The [peace] process is not aimed against anyone," he said "and there is no need for concerns that the struggle will take on another format and pose a threat to others." It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 PKK fighters resided in Turkey at the time. The withdrawal process was expected to take several months even if Iraq does not intervene to try to stop it. On 14 May 2013, the first groups of 13 male and female fighters entered Iraq's Heror area near the Metina mountain after leaving Turkey. They carried with them Kalashnikov assault rifles, light machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers before a welcoming ceremony. On 29 July 2013, the PKK issued an ultimatum in saying that the peace deal would fail if reforms were not begun to be implemented within a month. In October, Cemil Bayik warned that unless Turkey resumed the peace process, the PKK would resume operations to defend itself against it. He also criticized Turkey of waging a proxy war against Kurds during the Syrian Civil War by supporting other extremist rebels who were Rojava conflict, fighting them. Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani backed the initiative saying, alongside Erdogan: "This is a historic visit for me ... We all know it would have been impossible to speak here 15 or 20 years ago. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has taken a very brave step towards peace. I want my Kurdish and Turkish brothers to support the peace process."
2014 action against Islamic State and renewed tensions in TurkeyThe PKK engaged the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces in Syria in mid-July 2014 as part of the Syrian Civil War. In August the PKK engaged IS in Northern Iraq and pressured the Government of Turkey to take a stand against IS. PKK forces helped tens of thousands of Yazidis escape an encircled Sinjar Mountains, Mount Sinjar. In September 2014, during the Siege of Kobanî, some PKK fighters engaged with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Islamic State forces in Syria who were attacking Kurdish city Kobane, which resulted in conflicts with Turks on the border and an end to a cease-fire that had been in place over a year. The PKK said Turkey was supporting ISIS. The PKK participated in many offensives against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A number of Turkish Kurds rallied in large-scale street protests, demanding that the government in Ankara take more forceful action to combat IS and to enable Kurdish militants already engaged against IS to more freely move and resupply. These protests included a PKK call for its supporters to turn out. Clashes between police and protesters killed at least 31 people. The Turkish government continued to restrict PKK-associated fighters' movement across its borders, arresting 260 People's Protection Units fighters who were moving back into Turkey. On 14 October, Turkish Air Force fighter-bombers attacked PKK positions in the vicinity of Daglica, Hakkari Province. Turkish military statements stated that the bombings were in response to PKK attacks on a Turkish military outpost in the area. The Firat news agency, which Al Jazeera describes as "close to the PKK", stated that Turkish forces had been shelling the PKK positions for days beforehand and that the PKK action had itself been retaliation for those artillery strikes. The PKK had already reported several Turkish attacks against their troops months before Turkish bombing started.
July 2015–present: Third insurgencyIn the months before the parliamentary election of 2015, as the "Kurdish-focused" HDP's likelihood of crossing the 10% threshold for entry into the government seemed more likely, Erdogan gave speeches and made comments that repudiated the settlement process and the existence of a Kurdish problem and refusing to recognize the HDP as having any role to play despite their long participation as intermediaries. These announcements increased distrust of the government's good faith among Kurdish leaders. In July 2015, Turkey finally became involved in the war against ISIL. While they were doing so, they decided to bomb PKK targets in Iraq. The bombings came a few days after PKK was suspected of assassinating two Turkish police officers in Ceylanpınar, Urfa, Şanlıurfa, criticized by the PKK of having links with ISIS after the 2015 Suruç bombing. The PKK has blamed Turkey for breaking the truce by bombing the PKK in 2014 and 2015 continuously. In August 2015, the PKK announced that they would accept another ceasefire with Turkey only under United States, US guarantees. PKK announced a one-sided ceasefire in October 2015 near election time, but the government refused. The leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan has condemned the Turkish airstrikes in its autonomous region in the north of Iraq. The number of casualties since 23 July was stated by Turkish government to be 150 Turkish officers and over 2,000 Kurdish rebels killed (by September). In December 2015, Turkish military operation in southeastern Turkey has killed hundreds of civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands and caused massive destruction in residential areas. In March 2016, the PKK helped to launch the Peoples' United Revolutionary Movement with nine other Kurdish and Turkish revolutionary leftist, socialist and communist groups (including the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist, TKP/ML, Marxist–Leninist Armed Propaganda Unit, THKP-C/MLSPB, Maoist Communist Party (Turkey), MKP, Communist Labour Party of Turkey/Leninist, TKEP/L, , Revolutionary Communard Party, DKP, Devrimci Karargâh, DK and Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (Turkey), MLKP) with the aim of overthrowing the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
See also*Peshmerga *List of armed groups in the Syrian Civil War *People's Defence Forces *Free Women's Units
Related and/or associated organizations*Civil Protection Units, Turkey *Communist Labour Party of Turkey/Leninist *Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist *Dawronoye - secular, leftist, nationalist movement among the Assyrian people *Democratic Union Party (Syria), Democratic Union Party, Syria *Devrimci Karargâh, former far-left organization in Turkey *Êzîdxan Protection Force, Yazidi militia in Syria *Êzîdxan Women's Units, Yazidi women's militia in Syria *International Freedom Battalion *Kurdistan Communities Union *Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party *Kurdistan Free Life Party *Kurdistan Freedom Hawks *Maoist Communist Party (Turkey), Maoist Communist Party *Marxist–Leninist Armed Propaganda Unit *Marxist–Leninist Communist Party (Turkey), Marxist–Leninist Communist Party *Marxist–Leninist Party (Communist Reconstruction) *People's Protection Units *Peoples' United Revolutionary Movement *Revolutionary Party of Kurdistan *Revolutionary People's Party (Turkey, illegal), Revolutionary People's Party *Sinjar Alliance *Sinjar Resistance Units *United Freedom Forces *Women's Protection Units *YDG-H *YPG International