Turkish-Kurdish conflict: causes, participating countries, total losses, commanders

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Turkish-Kurdish conflict: causes, participating countries, total losses, commanders
Turkish-Kurdish conflict: causes, participating countries, total losses, commanders

The Turkish-Kurdish conflict is an armed confrontation in which the Turkish government takes part on the one hand, and on the other, the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The latter is fighting for the creation of an independent region within the borders of Turkey. The armed conflict has been developing since 1984. So far, it has not been resolved. In this article we will talk about the reasons for the confrontation, the commanders and the total losses of the parties.


Unresolved Turkish-Kurdish conflict

The situation that led to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict arose due to the fact that the Kurds at the beginning of the 21st century remain the largest people in terms of numbers that do not have their own statehood.

It was assumed that the issue could be resolved after the signing of the Treaty of Sevres, which was concluded in 1920 between the Entente countries and Turkey. In particular, it provided for the creation of an independentKurdistan. But the treaty never entered into force.

In 1923, it was canceled after the conclusion of the Lausanne Treaty. It was adopted following the results of the Lausanne Conference, legally securing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, establishing the modern borders of Turkey.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Kurds made several attempts to rebel against the Turkish authorities. They all ended in failure. Perhaps the most famous went down in history as the Dersim massacre. The Turkish armed forces brutally suppressed the uprising that broke out in 1937, and then proceeded to mass pogroms and purges among the local population. Many experts today assess their actions as genocide. According to various sources, from 13.5 to 70 thousand civilians were killed.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In 2011, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially issued a public apology for the Dersim massacre, calling it one of the most tragic events in Turkish history. At the same time, he tried to lay responsibility for what happened on the Armenians, who at that time lived in Dersim. This statement caused outrage in different parts of the country, primarily in Dersim itself.

Kurdish uprising in Iraq

Another major event that preceded the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was the Kurdish uprising in Iraq in 1961. Intermittently, it continued until 1975.

Essentially, it was a separatist war waged by the Iraqi Kurds under the leadership of their leader of the national liberation movement, Mustafa Barzani. Giventhe uprising became possible after the fall of the monarchy in Iraq in 1958

The Kurds supported the government of Abdel Qassem, but he did not live up to their expectations. He decides to rely on Arab nationalists, so he begins to openly persecute the Kurds.

The Kurds consider the beginning of the uprising on September 11, when the bombing of their territory began. A 25,000-strong army group was introduced. The armed conflict continued with varying degrees of success. In 1969, a peace agreement was even signed between Saddam Hussein and Barzani.

But after 5 years, a new uprising broke out. This time, the fighting turned out to be especially fierce and large-scale. Over the past years, the Iraqi army has significantly strengthened, finally crushing the resistance of the Kurds.

Who are the Kurds?


Kurds are a people who originally lived in the Middle East. Most profess Islam, there are also adherents of Christianity, Yezidism and Judaism.

There are several versions about their origin. According to the most common, their ancestors were the Kurtii - a warlike tribe from the mountainous regions of Atropatena, which is mentioned in many ancient sources.

Understanding how the Turks differ from the Kurds, one can come to the conclusion that there is nothing in common between their languages. Kurdish belongs to the Iranian group, and Turkish - to the Turkic. Moreover, there is no separate Kurdish language at all. Scientists talk about the Kurdish language group, which includes Sorani, Kurmanji, Kulkhuri.

The Kurds have never had their ownstate.

Establishment of the PKK

Causes of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict

In the second half of the 20th century, nationalism among Kurds led to the creation of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). It was not only a political, but also a military organization. Shortly after her appearance, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict began.

Initially, it was a leftist socialist, but after the military coup in Turkey in 1980, almost the entire leadership was arrested. One of the leaders of the party, Abdullah Ocalan, took refuge with his closest supporters in Syria.

Initially, the cause of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was the desire of the PKK to create a sovereign state of the Kurds. In 1993, the course was decided to change. Now the struggle is already underway only for the creation of their own autonomy within Turkey.

It is noted that Turkish Kurds have been persecuted all this time. In Turkey, the use of their language is prohibited, moreover, even the existence of the nationality itself is not recognized. Officially they are called "mountain Turks".

Start of guerrilla war

Initially, the conflict between Turkey and the PKK developed as a guerrilla war that began in 1984. The authorities brought in the regular army to suppress the uprising. In the region where the Turkish Kurds operate, a state of emergency was introduced in 1987.

It should be noted that the main bases of the Kurds were located in Iraq. The two governments entered into a formal agreement signed by Turgut Özal and Saddam Hussein, which allowed the Turkish militaryinvade the territory of a neighboring country, pursuing partisan detachments. During the 1990s, the Turks carried out several major military operations in Iraq.

Arrest of Ocalan

Abdullah Ocalan

Turkey considers the capture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan one of its main successes. The operation was carried out by Israeli and American intelligence services in Kenya in February 1999.

It is noteworthy that shortly before this, Ocalan called on the Kurds to agree to a truce. After that, the guerrilla war began to decline. In the early 2000s, hostilities in southeastern Turkey almost completely ceased.

Öcalan ended up in Kenya after being forced to leave Syria. President Hafez al-Assad, under pressure from Ankara, asked him to leave. After that, the Kurdish leader sought political asylum, including in Russia, Italy and Greece, but to no avail.

After being captured in Kenya, he was handed over to the Turkish special services. He was sentenced to death, which, under pressure from the world community, was replaced by life imprisonment. Now 69 years old, he is serving a sentence on the island of Imrali, located in the Sea of ​​Marmara.

New leader

Murat Karayilan

Murat Karayilan became the new PKK leader after Ocalan's arrest. He is now 65 years old.

Known as urging Kurds to avoid serving in the Turkish army, not to speak Turkish and not to pay taxes.

In 2009, the US Department of the Treasury accused Karayilan and two other PKK leaders of tradingdrugs.

Activation of separatists

Conflict between Turkey and the PKK

The separatists stepped up again in 2005. They are back in action using their military bases in northern Iraq.

In 2008, the Turkish army carried out a large-scale operation, which was recognized as the largest in a decade.

The Turks launched an active offensive in 2011. True, all the air raids and bombardments of Iraqi Kurdistan did not bring the desired results. Interior Minister Naeem Shahin then even stated the need for the introduction of Turkish troops into Iraqi territory to fight against the Kurds.

The PKK was severely damaged in October. As a result of a pinpoint air strike on one of the military bases, 14 partisans were destroyed, among which were several leaders of the PKK.

A week later, the Kurds struck back in the province of Hakkari. 19 military facilities belonging to the Turkish army were attacked. According to the official statements of the military, 26 soldiers became victims of the attack. In turn, the Firat news agency, which is considered close to the PKK, claimed 87 dead and 60 injured.

From October 21 to October 23, Turkey launched another series of airstrikes on the alleged locations of the Kurdish military units in the Chukurja region. 36 separatists, according to official information, were destroyed. The Kurds, as well as the surviving partisans, claimed that the Turks were using chemical weapons. Official Ankara rejected these statements as unfounded. An investigation was launched involvinginternational experts, which is still ongoing.

Impossible truce

In 2013, Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence, delivered a historic address in which he spoke of the need to end the armed struggle. He urged supporters to turn to political methods.

Then a truce was signed for joint action against the Islamic State.

However, two years after that, the Kurdistan Workers' Party said it did not see the possibility of concluding a truce with Turkey in the future. This decision was made after the bombing of Iraqi territory by the Turkish Air Force. As a result of this air strike, the positions of both terrorists and Kurds were damaged.

Operation in Silopi and Cizre

In December 2015, the Turkish army announced the launch of a full-scale operation against the militants of the PKK in the cities of Silopi and Cizre. It was attended by about 10 thousand police and military, supported by tanks.

Separatists tried to block vehicles from entering Cizre. To do this, they dug ditches and built barricades. Several firing points were equipped in residential buildings, from where attempts to storm the city were repelled.

As a result, the tanks took up positions on the hills, from where they began to fire at the positions of the Kurds, located already in the city. In parallel, 30 armored vehicles rushed to storm one of the districts of Cizre.

On January 19, 2016, the Turkish authorities officially announced the completion of the anti-terrorist operation in Silopi. United Nations High CommissionerNations Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed the concern of the international community about the shelling of the city of Cizre with tanks. According to him, among the victims were civilians who were carrying the bodies of the dead under white flags.

Current situation

The conflict is still ongoing. From time to time there are exacerbations. Neither side has plans to complete it.

In 2018, the Turkish armed forces carried out a new operation. This time in the Syrian city of Afrin. She was codenamed "Olive Branch".

Its goal was to eliminate the rebel groups of Kurds who were stationed in Northern Syria, in close proximity to the southeastern borders of Turkey. Historically, these areas were predominantly inhabited by Kurds.

The Turkish government issued an official statement in which it called the rebel groups stationed in these territories the left-wing offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers' Party. They were accused of conducting subversive and guerrilla activities in this region of the country.

Side Forces

It is worth noting that the unresolved Turkish-Kurdish conflict continues to this day. So far, there are no prerequisites for its completion.

Although the forces of the parties in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict are not equal, it is not possible to win a final victory. On the one hand, the Kurdistan Workers' Party participates in it. Its main enemy is Turkey. From 1987 to 2005, Iraq opposed the PKK. Since 2004, official Iran has been participating on Turkey's side.

Total losses in Turkish-Kurdishmore than 40 thousand people were killed in the conflict.

PKK commanders - Abdullah Ocalan, Makhsum Korkmaz, Bahoz Erdal, Murat Karayilan. On the Turkish side, the leaders of the country - Kenan Evren, Turgut Ozal, Suleyman Demirel, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Yashar Buyukanyt, Abdullah Gul, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, as well as the leaders of Iraq - Hussein and Gazi Mashal Ajil al-Yaver.

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