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KURDISTAN WORKERS’ PARTY
aka the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress; the Freedom and Democracy Congress of Kurdistan; KADEK; Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan; the People’s Defense Force; Halu Mesru Savunma Kuvveti; Kurdistan People’s Congress; People’s Congress of Kurdistan; KONGRA-GEL
Description: Founded by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist separatist organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The group, composed primarily of Turkish Kurds, launched a campaign of violence in 1984. The PKK’s original goal was to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey, but in recent years it has spoken more often about autonomy within a Turkish state that guarantees Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights.
Activities: In the early 1990s, the PKK moved beyond rural-based insurgent activities to include urban terrorism. In the 1990s, southeastern Anatolia was the scene of significant violence; some estimates placed casualties at some 30,000 persons. Following his capture in 1999, Ocalan announced a “peace initiative,” ordering members to refrain from violence and requesting dialogue with Ankara on Kurdish issues. Ocalan’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment; he remains the symbolic leader of the group. The group foreswore violence until June 2004, when the group’s hard-line militant wing took control and renounced the self-imposed cease-fire of the previous five years. Striking over the border from bases within Iraq, the PKK has engaged in terrorist attacks in eastern and western Turkey. In 2009 the Turkish government and the PKK resumed peace negotiations. However, talks broke down after a PKK initiated attack on July 14, 2011, that left 13 Turkish soldiers dead. Violence in 2011 and 2012 has marked one of the most deadly time periods in the almost 30 year conflict. Widely publicized peace talks between Ocalan and the Turkish government to resolve the conflict began at the end of 2012.
Primary targets have been Turkish government security forces, local Turkish officials, and villagers who oppose the organization in Turkey. The PKK remained active in 2012: on August 20, a car bomb in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep killed nine people, including four children, and wounded in excess of 70. Similar car bombings occurred in both Hakkari province in January, killing one and injuring 28, and Kayseri province in May, injuring 18.
Strength: Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 members; 3,000 to 3,500 are located in northern Iraq.
Location/Area of Operation: The PKK operate primarily in Turkey, Iraq, and Europe.
Funding and External Aid: The PKK receives financial support from the large Kurdish diaspora in Europe and from criminal activity.