The Endless Kurdish War for Independence in Turkey

Female PKK Fighter


Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish secession movement since 1980 and the war has no clear end.

Kurdistan is a region in the middle east. The region is inside of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia. The region has its own distinct ethnic group known as the Kurds that have their own distinct culture. After the end of world war one, the British and French failed to give them their own country in the post Ottoman Middle East. The Kurds found themselves inside the borders of new nations that were not the most accepting of them. Iraq is one of the worst considering that Saddam Hussein gassed entire Kurdish villages during the 1991 Kurdish uprisings.

Although Iraq has treated the Kurds the worst Turkey has also not been too queen on the Kurds either. Since Turkey’s independence in 1920 there had been four kurdish uprisings. All were crushed by the Turkish government. Turkey was faced with many problems post World War 2. Funding from the Marshall plan was running out resulting in the Turkish government to turn towards the Soviet Union. The turn towards the Soviet Union resulted in a military coup in 1960 which brought political violence and instability between the left and right. Out of the instability a Marxist-Kurdish group known as the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) began to form in 1978. The PKK wanted more autonomy for the Kurdish in  state in Turkey.

The PKK were a target of an ultra nationalist right wing group known as the Grey Wolves. The Grey Wolves promote extreme Turkish nationalism and want a unified Turkic state. The Grey Wolves targeted Kurds because they are not ethnically Turkic. The Grey Wolves have even massacred Kurdish civilians.  It is believed that the Grey Wolves had connections to the Turkish government which made more Kurds turn towards the PKK. In 1980, another military coup happen as a means to bring control in Turkey. Thousands were arrested by the new military regime and over 500 were sentenced to death. The military regime also banned the Kurdish language. People who spoke the language in public were imprisoned.The move to ban the Kurdish language caused the PKK to ramp up their fight for autonomy.

In 1986, the PKK insurgency starts when the PKK attacked Turkish villages. The fighting has been constant since then. There have been three ceasefire attempts but all have failed. The PKK uses hit and run tactics making it hard for them to be countered. The PKK also has access to anti aircraft weapons. Turkey has lost 8,226 soldiers and police since the war began. Turkey claims that it has killed 34,900 PKK fighters.

Both sides of the conflict have been accused of abuses. The PKK has deliberately bombed civilian areas, used child soldiers, carried out over 700 execution, and have commited over 25 massacres in Turkish villages.  Women, children, and elderly have all been killed during the PKK massacres.

Turkey is has also committed many human rights abuses. The Turkish military has massacred Kurdish villages, burned Kurd villages, used torture, and have killed Kurdish journalists. It is estimated around 18,000 Kurds have been executed, however, this is debatable. Civilian casualties are at 6,741. Turkey has killed around 3,100 and the PKK has killed around 1,000.

There have been over 50,000 deaths since the war began. There is no current attempts at peace as the war enters its 40th year.

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