Kurdistan Workers' Party

Kurdistan Workers' Party
Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, (PKK)
The current PKK flag used since 2005
Dates of operation 27 November 1978–present.
Leader Murat Karayilan(current leader).
Abdullah Öcalan (also known as "Apo") was one of the founders.[1][2][3]
Motives Cultural and political rights for the Kurdish population in Turkey.[4]
Active region(s) Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria
Ideology Socialism
Left-wing nationalism
Kurdish nationalism
Status Designated as Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department[5][6]
Designated as Proscribed Group by the UK Home Office
Designated as terrorist group by EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.[7]
Size 7,000-10,000 active fighters (claimed)[8]
Annual revenue

500 million Euros[9]

donations (50-60m)[9]

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan or پارتی کار که‌رانی کوردستان Parti Karkerani Kurdistan), commonly known as PKK, also known as KGK and formerly known as KADEK (Freedom and Democracy Congress of Kurdistan) or KONGRA-GEL (Kurdistan People's Congress),[6] is a Kurdish organization which has since 1984 been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistan and greater cultural and political rights for the Kurds in Turkey.[1] The group was founded on 27 November 1978 and was led by Abdullah Öcalan. The PKK's ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism - although since his imprisonment, Ocalan has abandoned orthodox Marxism.[10]

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by a number of states and organizations, including the United States and the European Union.[6][11] Turkey labeled the organization as an ethnic secessionist organization that uses terrorism and the threat of force against both civilian[12][13] and military targets for the purpose of achieving its political goal.



In the early 1970s, the organization's core group was made up largely of students led by Abdullah Öcalan ("Apo") in Ankara. The group soon moved its focus to the large Kurdish population in south-east Turkey. On November 27, 1978, the group adopted the name "Kurdistan Workers Party". Espousing a radical Far Left Marxist ideology, the group took part in violent conflicts with right-wing entities as a part of the political chaos in Turkey at the time. In 1979, as a propaganda of the deed, the group attempted to assassinate Kurdish tribal leader Mehmet Celal Bucak who they claimed exploited the peasants, and collaborated with Turkey. This marked a period of intense urban warfare between other radical political elements. The 1980 Turkish coup d'état pushed the organization to another stage with the members doing jail time, being subject to capital punishment, or fleeing to Syria. On November 10, 1980, the Turkish Consulate in Strasbourg, France was bombed in a joint operation with the Armenian radical group ASALA, which they claimed as the beginning of a "fruitful collaboration."[14]

Starting in 1984, the organization transformed itself into a paramilitary group, using training camps located in France, and launched attacks and bombings against governmental installations, the military, and various "institutions of the state" - some of which were connected to the Southeastern Anatolia Project. The organization moved to a less centralized form, taking up operations in a variety of European and Middle Eastern countries, especially Germany and France. The PKK has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, such as Turkey, France, Belgium and Iraq.[15][16][17]

Beginning with the mid 1990s, the organization lost the upper hand in its operations as a consequence of a change of tactics by Turkey and Syria's steady abandonment of its support for the group. In the mid 1990s, it also began a series of suicide bombing attacks. 15 such attacks were performed, 11 of which were carried out by females. In the late 1990s, Turkey increased the pressure and the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria ended open Syrian support.[18] In 1999, Öcalan was captured, prosecuted and sentenced to death, but later commuted to life imprisonment as part of European Union membership.[19] With downgraded security concerns, the Turkish parliament began a controlled process of dismantling the legal control, using the term "normalization" or "rapprochement" depending on the sides of the issue. The bans on broadcasting and publishing in the Kurdish language were partially relaxed - although significant barriers remained.[20] At the same time, the organization was blacklisted in many countries. On April 2, 2004, the Council of the European Union added the organization to its list of terrorist organizations. Later that year, the US Treasury moved to freeze assets of branches of the organization. The organization went through a series of changes, and the unilateral truce that was declared when Ocalan was captured, ended in 2003.[21]

Since Post-invasion Iraq, 2003–present, Turkey alleges that Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the US-led coalition forces, have not done enough to combat with the organization and dislodge it from its base in the Iraqi mountains.[22][23] In an interview during April 2010 the leader of the armed wing of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, admitted to his organization having attacked a group of approaching American soldiers in 2004 in North Iraq and killing at least one of them.[24]


Former flag of the Kurdistan Workers' Party displaying the soviet hammer and sickle (1978-1995)
Second flag of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (1995-2002)
Flag used by the KADEK (2002-2003)
Flag used by the KONGRA-GEL (2003-2005)

The organization originated in the 1970s from the radical left and drew its leaders, members from other existing leftist groups, mainly Dev-Genç.[25]:127 The organization initially presented itself as part of the worldwide communist revolution. The organization's aims and objectives have evolved over time towards the goal of national autonomy, and what Ocalan dubs "Democratic Confederalism".[10]

During 1980s the movement included and cooperated with other ethnic groups, including ethnic Turks, who were following the radical left.[25]:127 The organization initially aimed to establish a fully independent Kurdistan covering land in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.[25]:129

In 1999, following the capture of Ocalan, the organization announced a "peace initiative," and spoke more often about cultural or linguistic rights.[6] However, the group renounced its self-imposed cease-fire in 2004.[6] Besides the activities directed towards Turkey, on 17 July 2005, one of the chief executives Hasan Özen was murdered in Austria. Hasan Özen wanted to leave the organization, and the PKK is widely thought to be responsible. In Diyarbakir, on 6 July 2005, Hikmet Fidan, the former founder of the legal branch the People’s Democratic Party (HADEP), was also murdered. Hikmet Fidan had tried to form an alternative, non-violent Kurdish political party called the Patriotic Democratic Party (PWD) with Osman Ocalan, the brother of Abullah Ocalan. At least 3 other persons involved with the PWD were also killed. The PKK is widely thought to be responsible for these killings also.[26]


The PKK has multiple heads in various West European countries.[27] However, Abdullah Öcalan was unchallenged leader of the organization. After the capture of Öcalan, authorities induced him to publicly plead for a ceasefire.[28] Though serving life imprisonment, Öcalan is still considered the honorary leader and figure-head of the organization.[29]

Murat Karayilan has the control of the organization in practice, although undergone numerous conflicts between Cemil Bayik. Cemil Bayik beside Abdullah Öcalan, Kesire Yildirim Ocalan, and Hakki Karaer was one of the core leaders. Cemil Bayik’s military skills and leadership were criticized by Abdullah Ocalan during his 1999 trial. The organization appointed "Doctor Bahoz," the nom de guerre of Fehman Huseyin, a Syrian Kurd, in charge of the movement's military operations signifying the long-standing solidarity among Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan.[30]

Training camps

PKK members in 2008.

The first training camp was established in 1982 in Bekaa Valley (which was then under Syrian control), with the support of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Syria.[31][32] This main camp moved to north Iraq in 1998, under intensive pressure, after Syria expelled Ocalan and shut down all camps established in the region.[32] The organization moved its training camps to North Iraq where there was a vacuum of control after Operation Provide Comfort. Instead of one big training camp which could be easily destroyed, the organization established 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 believed to have a number of camps strung out through the mountains that straddle the border between Turkey and Iraq, including in Sinaht, Haftanin, Kanimasi and Zap.[33] The organization has two types of camps, the border camps that were used as forward bases from which militants infiltrate into Turkey. The units deployed there are highly mobile and the camps have only the minimum infrastructure.[33] The camps in the Qandil Mountains have a more developed infrastructure—including a field hospital, electricity generators and a large proportion of the PKK's lethal and non-lethal supplies.[33]

There are also training camps in other countries, the organization's training camp which was deep in the woods and indiscernible was dismantled near Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The following raids resulted in arrests and seize of materials in The Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Capelle aan den IJssel.[34] There was another training camp in Belgium, which is evidence the organization uses training camps in Europe for political and ideological training.[35]

Political representation

The organization had sympathizer parties in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey beginning in early 1990s. The establishment of direct links to the organization has been a question. In sequence HEP/DEP/HADEP/DEHAP/DTP and the latest Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have been accused of sympathizing with the PKK, since they have refused to brand it as a terrorist group. As of June 2007 report by the European Union Institute for Security Studies stated that "It is an obvious secret that DTP is connected to PKK in a way and PKK is a terrorist group."[36]

Political organizations established in Turkey are banned from propagating or supporting separatism. Several political parties supporting Kurdish rights have been banned on this pretext. The constitutional court claimed to find direct links between the HEP/DEP/HADEP and the PKK. IN 2008 the DTP-party was prosecuted by the constitutional court.

Kurdish politician Abdülmelik Fırat claims that Democratic Society Party (DTP) was founded by PKK, and that 80 percent of Kurds do not vote for this party.[37] However, senior DTP leaders maintain that they support a unified Turkey within a democratic framework. Aysel Tuğluk published an article in Radikal in May 2007 as the co-president of DTP, to prove that claim.[38]

Several parliamentarians and other elected representatives have been jailed for speaking in Kurdish, carrying Kurdish colors or otherwise "promoting separatism", most famous among them being Leyla Zana.[39]

Drug trafficking

The PKK was designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for its more than two decades-long participation in drug trafficking. The drug trade is one of the PKK's most lucrative criminal activities. Nearly 300 individuals connected to the PKK were arrested on drug trafficking charges from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, more than half of them in Germany. Such activity continues to this day. Turkish law enforcement seized a number of drug shipments and drug labs that belonged to the PKK. The PKK has also relied extensively on taxing drug shipments that move through its territory. PKK has units on the borders of areas it controls to collect money from drug traffickers and a number of Turkish drug smugglers are reported to have given money to the organization.

On October 14, 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted the senior leadership of the PKK, designating as significant foreign narcotics traffickers, Murat Karayilan, the head of the PKK, and high-ranking members Ali Riza Altun and Zubayir Aydar.[40] On April 20, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of PKK founders Cemil 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 U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these individuals.[41]


Activities of the Kurdistan Workers Party by Region[42][43]
Target Activity Category Turkey Northern
Government Demonstrations/Protests[42] Yes Yes Yes
Riots[42] Yes Yes
Kidnapping[42] Yes Yes
Assassination[42] Yes Yes
Sabotage[42] Yes
Chemical warfare[notes 1] Yes
Post/Train/Power Yes
Police Yes
Outposts Yes
Military Yes Yes
Police Yes
Village Guards Yes
Civilian Kidnapping[42][44] Yes
Assassination[42] Yes
Hijacking [45] [46] Yes
Villages[42] Yes
Touristic Facilities[42] Yes
Commercial Units[42] Yes
Organized Crime Extortion[47] Yes Yes
Drug Trafficking[48] Transit Transit Destination

During its establishment in the mid 1970s, amid violent clashes in the whole of Turkey, the organization used classic terrorism methods, such as the failed assassination of Mehmet Celal Bucak as a propaganda-of-the-deed.[25] After the 1980 military coup, the organization developed into a paramilitary organization using resources it acquired in Bekaa valley in part of ex-Syrian-controlled Lebanon. After 1984, PKK began to use Maoist theory of people's war.[49][50] There are three phases in this theory. The militant base during the initial years was coming from different sources, so the first two phases were diffused to each other.


In the first phase (1978–1984), the PKK tried to gain the support of the Kurdish population. It attacked the machinery of government and distributed propaganda in the region. PKK tactics were based on ambush, sabotage, riots, protests, and demonstrations against the Turkish government. PKK has also been accused of violent attacks on individual civilians or residential areas (Kurds and non-Kurds alike), who refused to co-operate with the PKK or were suspected of collaborating with the Turkish authorities. During these years, the PKK fought a turf war against other predominantly Kurdish organisations in Turkey. The PKK effectively used the prison force to gain appeal among the population.[51][52] In the whole Turkey, this period was characterized by violent clashes which culminated in the 1980 military coup.

During this time, the organization argued that its violent actions were explained by the need to defend Kurds in the context of what it considered 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.[citation needed]


In the second phase (1984–1999), 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 destabilise Turkish authority through a long, low-intensity confrontation. In addition to skirmishing with Turkish military and police forces and local village guards, the PKK has conducted suicide bombing on government and police installations, as well as at local tourist sites.[53] Kidnapping and assassination against government 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. PKK performed kidnapping western tourists, primarily in Istanbul but also at different resorts. Its actions have taken place mainly in Turkey and against Turkish targets in other countries, although it has on occasions co-operated with other Kurdish nationalist paramilitary groups in neighboring states, such as Iraq and Iran.[54] PKK has also attacked Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities across Western Europe. 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 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 who is of partial Kurdish descent.

PKK members in Sweden came into conflict with the Swedish government, and in 1986 PKK became the first main suspect for the assassination of Olof Palme. The illegal investigation of these suspicion led to the Ebbe Carlsson affair.

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 civilians, focusing instead on government and tourist targets.[55] In its campaign, the organization has been accused 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. Actions of the Turkish state in the past have also been criticised by these same groups.

On October 29, 1998, Turkish Airlines Flight 487 on a Boeing 737 named Ayvalık en route from Adana to Istanbul was hijacked by a PKK militant on the Republic Day. The hijacker, armed with a pistol and a hand grenade demanded to fly to Zurich, Switzerland via Sofia in Bulgaria.

All in all, this low intensity conflict which has lasted more than thirty years has had a number of effects in the Turkish territory.


In the third phase (1999–current), after capture of Öcalan, according to Maoist theory of people's war claims that the conventional fighting should be established to seize cities, overthrow the government and take control of the country. This stage has never been achieved. In effect, after the capture of Öcalan, activities of the organization never reached previous levels. At the same time, the PKK continued to heavily recruit new members and sustain its fighting force. It decided to remobilize its armed forces in 2004 as its control over its ethnic constituency is threatened by the rising appeal of the AKP among the Kurds of Turkey.[56] While the fight against the Turkish security forces between 2004 and 2010 failed to achieve any significant military progress, the PKK and its ancillary organizations have continued to enjoy substantial support among the Kurds of Turkey. On October 21, 2011 Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced Iran would co-operate with Turkey in some military operations against the PKK. [57]


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 and making military air operations, especially helicopter use, hazardous for the Turkish Armed Forces. While in urban areas, PKK members are often able to blend in with the local population.[citation needed]


The PKK's Marxist ideology claims to support equality of gender. At its establishment, it included a small number of female militants. Over time, however, this number has increased significantly and by the early 1990s, 30 percent of its 17,000 armed militants were women.[58] In much of rural Turkey, male-dominated tribal structures, and conservative Muslim norms are commonplace. The organization increased its number of members through the recruitment of women from different social structures and environments, such as women from families that migrated to several European countries after 1960 as guest workers (German: Gastarbeiter).[58] It was reported that 88% of the subjects claimed that equality was a key objective, there was no equality within the organization.[59] In 2007, approximately 1,100 of 4,500-5,000 total members were women.[58]

The organization used children within its militant force.[60] 86% percent of who had joined the organization was to bolster their families incomes following offers that it would provide for their families in return.[59] All of the new recruits reported that these offers were not fulfilled.[59] 80% of those surveyed also reported that they had actively stopped other family members—usually younger brothers—from joining the organization too.[59] 60% of those surveyed had an education level below high school level.[59]

When asked why they stayed in the organization, two thirds stated that they were afraid of facing reprisals. They also feared for the safety of their families, who would be at risk as well.[59] Five percent said that they feared punishment by the Republic of Turkey.[59]


In July 2007, the weapons captured between 1984-2007 from the PKK operatives and their origins published by the Turkish General Staff indicates that the operatives delete some of the serial numbers from their weapons. The total number of weapons and the origins for traceable ones were:[61]

The choice & origin of the traceable weapons (July 2007)[61]
Type Quantity Sources
AK-47 Kalashnikovs 4,500 71.6% from the USSR, 14.7% from China, 3.6% from Hungary, 3.6% from Bulgaria
Rifles[notes 2] 5,713 of (959 traceable) 45.2% from Russia, 13.2% from United Kingdom, and 9.4% from United States.
Rocket launchers 1,610 (313 traceable) 85% from Russia, 5.4% from Iraq, and 2.5% from China in origin.
Pistols 2,885 (2,208 traceable) 21.9% from Czechoslovakia, 20.2% from Spain, 19.8% from Italy
Grenades 3,490 (136 traceable) 72% from Russia, 19.8% from United States, 8% from Germany,
Land mines 11,568 (8,015 traceable) 60.8% from Italy, 28.3% from Russia, 6.2% from Germany

Four members of the organization, who handed themselves over to authorities after escaping from camps in northern Iraq, claimed they had seen two U.S. armored vehicles deliver weapons, which was widely reported and further stoked suspicions about U.S. policy in Iraq.[62] US envoy denied these claims.[63] The arms were claimed to be part of Blackwater Worldwide arms smuggling allegations. The probe of organization's weapons and the investigation of Blackwater employees were connected.[64]

The organization has been using mines.[65] Use of these mines has led to civilian deaths, in part due to accidental triggering by civilian trucks and buses rather than the intended military armoured vehicles.[65]

Chemical weapons

German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.[66] [67] [68] The report was denied by Turkish Officials.[69]



The organization's annual budget has been estimated at 500 million Euros. The PKK receives its funding in the form of private donations, from both organisations and individuals from around the world.[citation needed] Some of these supporters are Kurdish businessmen in south-eastern Turkey, sympathisers in Syria and Iran, and Europe.[citation needed] Parties and concerts are organized by branch groups.[70] Additionally, it is believed that the PKK earns money through the sale of various publications, as well as receiving revenues from legitimate businesses owned by the organization.[71] Besides affiliate organizations, there are sympathizer organizations such as the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Europe (KON-KURD, headquartered in Brussels) and the International Kurdish Businessmen Union (KAR-SAZ, in Rotterdam) which constantly exchanges information and perform legitimate or semi-legitimate commercial activities and donations.

A report by INTERPOL published in 1992 states that the PKK, along with nearly 178 Kurdish organizations were suspected of illegal drug trade involvement. Also INTERPOL's chief narcotics officer Iqbal Hussain Rizvi stated that the PKK was also heavily evolved in drug trafficking as a means to support the Kurdish revolt in Turkey.[72] Members of the PKK have been designated narcotics traffickers by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.[40]


During its highest point in the early 1990s the militant membership was around 17,000. After the capture of Öcalan this number drastically decreased. The membership increased from 3,000 to more than 7,000 since 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 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.[73]

A study carried out by the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Department of Directorate General for Security over a sample of files about people convicted of being a militant under Turkish laws including 262 militants from the organization has found that 54% of the members are aged 14 to 25, 34% 26 to 37 and 12% 38 to 58. University graduates make up 11% of the members, high school graduates 16%, secondary school graduates 13%, primary school graduates 39%, literate non-graduates 12% and illiterates 9%.[74]


At the height of its campaign, the organization received support from many countries. The level of support given has changed throughout this period.

Support of Syria[70][75]
From early 1979 to 1999 Syria had provided valuable safe havens to PKK in the region of Beqaa Valley. After the undeclared war between Turkey and Syria, Syria placed restrictions on PKK activity on its soil. Turkey is 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.
Support of Iran[76][page needed]
Iran listed PKK as a terrorist organization after Iran's supply of resources to the PKK began to be used on its own soil. Iran provided PKK with supplies in the form of weapons and funds.
Support of Greece
retired Greek L.T. General Dimitris Matafias and retired Greek Navy Admiral Antonis Neksasis had visited organization's Mahsun Korkmaz base camp in Bakaa valley in October 1988 along with parliamentarians from the panhellenic Socialist movement (PASOK).[77] At the time it was reported that the general has assumed responsibility for training. Greeks also dispatched arms through the Republic of Cyprus.[77] In December 1993, Greek European affairs minister Theodoros Pangalos was quoted as saying "we must be supportive of the Kurdish people to be free".[78] Greece declined to join Germany and France and the eleven other members at the EU to ban the organization.[78] During the 1990s, Greece supplied the rebels.[79]
Support of the Republic of Cyprus
was alleged when Abdullah Öcalan was caught with a Cypriot passport to the name of Mavros Lazaros, a nationalist reporter.
Support of the Soviet Union and Russia
[80] According to the former KGB-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in 2006, PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan was trained by KGB-FSB.[81] As of 2008, Russia is still not among the states that list PKK as a terrorist group despite intense Turkish pressures.
United Kingdom
MED TV broadcast for five years in the UK, until its license was revoked by the regulators the Independent Television Commission (ITC) in 1999. The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organisation since 2001. In 2008 the United Kingdom detained members of the PKK and seized the assets of the PKK's representative in Britain, Selman Bozkur, alias “Dr. Hüseyin”. His assets remain frozen.[82]
Support of various Europe states
Despite Brussels' designation of the group as a terrorist organization, the EU continues to permit the broadcasting of the organization's networks on the Hot Bird 3 satellite owned by the French company Eutelsat. MEDYA TV started transmissions from studios in Belgium via a satellite uplink from France. MEDYA TV's license was revoked by the French authorities. A few weeks later Roj TV began transmissions from Denmark. It has also been argued that the Netherlands and Belgium have supported the PKK by allowing its training camps to function in their respective territories. On November 22, 1998, Hanover's criminal police reported that three children had been trained by the PKK for guerrilla warfare in camps in the Netherlands and Belgium.[83] After the death of Theo van Gogh, with increasing attention on domestic security concerns, the Dutch police raided the 'PKK paramilitary camp' in the Dutch town of Liempde and arrested 29 people in November 2004.[84] Denmark allows Kurdish satellite television stations (such as ROJ-TV), which Turkey claims has links with the PKK, to operate in Denmark and broadcast into Turkey.[85]

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 archived by the strong ties with influential persons. Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the former President of France, had active connections during the 90s with elements of the organization's leadership that forced a downgrade in relationships between the two states.[86] Ali Rıza Altun, a suspected key figure with an Interpol arrest warrant on his name, after harboring him for some time Austria arranged a flight to Iraq.. Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gül summoned the Austrian ambassador and condemned Austria's action.[87] On September 30, 1995, While Öcalan was in Syria, Damascus initiated contact with high ranking German CDU MP Heinrich Lummer and German intelligence officials.

The Chief of the Turkish General Staff during 2007, General Yaşar Büyükanıt, stated that even though the international struggle had been discussed on every platform and even though organizations such as the UN, NATO, EU make statements of serious commitment, to this day the necessary measures had not been taken.[88] According to Büyükanıt; "this conduct on one side has encouraged the terrorists, on the other side it assisted in widening their [the terrorists] activities. The most distressful part of it is that many of the European countries being a member of NATO, an organization that had announced that terrorism was the greatest threat to itself.[88]" Sedat Laçiner, of the Turkish think tank ISRO, says that US support of the PKK undermines the US War on Terrorism.[89] Seymour Hersh claimed that the U.S. supported PEJAK, the Iranian branch of the PKK.[90] The head of the PKK's militant arm, Murat Karayilan, claimed that Iran attempted to recruit the PKK to attack coalition forces, adding that Kurdish guerrillas had launched a clandestine war in north-western Iran, ambushing Iranian troops.[91]


The main goal of its activities was to alienate the people from the state by pushing security forces into more and more overt and repressive counter-measures. The Political-Justice section extends the results of this ideology and methods of the democratic processes and the justice system in Turkey. In a democratic system, an ideology that questions the state's legitimacy, will of its population and its security apparatus was difficult to be accepted as a political view, which was shaped under HEP/DEP/HADEP story. Turkish government authorities did not negotiate with the organization, so regional NGOs there were no communication channels between the sides. The ill-formed language ban of 1983 and Terrorism Act of 1991 were significant events. Also, amnesties were interesting events during the conflict time, as each amnesty gave more human resources to the organization. The prison as a rehabilitation concept was a failure. The people who were jailed for non-violent activities were becoming militants during their jail time. Government's military operations against the prisons were the highest point in this failure.[citation needed]

As a revolutionary left-wing organization, the PKK perceived Turkish society as one that was deformed by capitalism and imperialism. The PKK unleashed its aggression on enemies spanning all classes (farmers, business, etc.) and those that it considered puppets of the state. The cost of the PKK's actions are significant. PKK had drastic effects on regional economy, as targeted infrastructure of the region. Regions' inability to join the economical activities were associated with the work force, costs (insurance premiums, facility costs, loss of trained personnel etc.), and productivity (loss of work time, travel restrictions, inability to move rapidly etc.). The region has had a very high historical tourism potential and it has been dormant because of the terrorism threat for many years.[citation needed]

The integration into social and economical activities are developed within the education system. Educational activities were targeted by the PKK. Because the majority of the people are very resilient to the effects of political violence, young people form a high risk group because of their undeveloped personalities. The effects of political violence on the newer generations is an important issue because, at the moment, the new generation in areas affected by the conflict have no experience living under what would be considered normal conditions.[citation needed]

This conflict became part with the negotiations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) about its eventual integration to the EU.[citation needed]


More than 37,000 people have died since the beginning of the PKK's armed struggle in 1984.[92] According to Denise Natali, the Turkish Armed Forces have destroyed some 8000 Kurdish communities and created 3 to 4 million refugees in the process.[93]

According to Chief of the Turkish General Staff, until September 2008:[94]

  • 32,000 PKK members have been killed and 14,000 have been captured alive.
  • 6,482 Turkish soldiers and security officials have been killed.
  • 5,560 civilians have been killed.

According to Kendal Nezan's article published in July 1998 in Le Monde diplomatique, the conflict has weighed heavily on the Turkish state's budget.[95] In 1993, a sum of $70m was allocated from the prime minister’s secret funds. According to government inspector Kutlu Savaş, this sum was used mainly for procuring weapons and anti-terrorist equipment from Israel and for external operations. Irregular units in the conflictual zones have had to find ways to finance themselves, including racketeering and secret funding. The details of state-sanctioned criminal activities were revealed in the wake of the Susurluk scandal. Sedat Bucak has been alleged by Kendal Nezan to have 20,000 men under his command, while the village guards, pro-government Kurdish militias created in the mid-1980s, are estimated to number some 64,000.[95]

Recognition as a terrorist group

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by NATO, European Union[96][97] and the following states:[98][99]

The PKK leader claimed on an interview that the only reason they have been put on the 'Terrorist organization' list is due to political pressure from Turkey, who he accuses of falsifying accounts and unfairly demonizing the organization.[116]


  1. ^ Two decoded cases: 1) August 27, 1996 mustard/sarin 2) (50 mg/l) of cyanide to three water tanks used by the Air Force.
  2. ^ Kannas, PKC automatic rifle, Dragunov Sniper Rifle, Arbiki, Heckler & Koch G3, M16 rifle, Heckler & Koch PSG1 (G-1), Mauser


  1. ^ a b Tahiri, Hussein. The Structure of Kurdish Society and the Struggle for a Kurdish State. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publications 2007. pp 232 ff
  2. ^ Bila, Fikret (2007-11-07). "Kenan Evren: 'Kürtçeye ağır yasak koyduk ama hataydı'" (in Turkish). Milliyet. http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2007/11/07/siyaset/siy01.html. Retrieved 2008-07-30. "Şimdi İmralı'dan PKK'yı yönetiyor. Cezaevinden avukatları kanalıyla." 
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