Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Turkey’s Gordian Knot: the Kurds

 Abdullah Öcalan turkey and the kurds
A man waves two flags, one with the portray of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and another one with the symbol of the outlawed PKK party, during Newroz celebration, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, 21 March 2017. Photo SIPA Press

Since its birth in 1923, the Turkish republic has had a troubled relationship with its minorities, none more so than the Kurds. Since 1984, Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east has played host to conflict between Ankara’s armed forces and Kurdish militants demanding, at least, greater rights and recognition, and at most, full secession and independence. Peace talks and ceasefires have come and gone, with a five-year peace ending in 2004. Since then, violence has crept back into Turkish society, buoyed by the war in Syria, and an increasingly ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

This conflict has by no means been limited to the battlefield, outside of which activists have struggled for greater cultural, linguistic and political rights. However, it is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the most prominent Kurdish armed group and one widely branded as a terrorist organization by foreign governments for its attacks across Turkey, which has defined the conflict.

In this article: Turkey | History - Kurds - Politics - Population