Kurdish War: August 28, 1999


: Six Kurdish rebels and three Turkish government security men were killed in clashes near the village of Gucluikonak. The fights occurred despite the PKK's vow to withdraw its forces from southeastern Turkey by September 1.

August 27; A member of the Maoist Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army (TIKKO) launched a suicide bomb attack near a police check point in the city of Tunceli. The attacker was the only person killed in the attack.

August 26; Turkey's major Kurdish rebel group, The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), announced it had begun withdrawal of its forces from Turkish territory.

Background: For centuries the Kurds, a large Caucasian tribe living in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and north-western Iran, have desired their own state. A large, multi-sided war has simmered for decades.

Who's Involved: Turkey -- Government in Ankara and "Euro-Turks" of western Turkey. Kurds account for around 20 percent of Turkey's population (approximately 12 million Kurds in Turkey's total population of 63 million). Turkish Army -- Kemalist, secular, and militarily capable. Kurds -- Once labeled by Ankara as "mountain Turks"; unique ethnic group (related to Iranians, although a separate group for over two thousand years). Some Kurds believe they are the descendants of the ancient Assyrians; others say they are the Carduchi, the tribesmen who harassed Xenophon and the Ten Thousand as they retreated from Persia. Iran and Syria -- Nations with Significant Kurd minorities. Iran has 5 million, Syria several hundred thousand. Iraq--- Iraq has around 4 million Kurds, some loyal to the Iraqi Baath regime, some influenced by the Turks, some at odds with all non-Kurd regimes.

Geography: Roughly, the "Kurd region" of Turkey is the south-eastern quarter of the nation, from Lake Van east to Iran and and south to Iraq. Diyarbakir is an important Turkish Kurd city. Kurds dominate the region in Iraq from the city of Mosul north and east. Kirkuk is a Kurd city. In Iran, Kurds are found across the border from Kirkuk and in the Turkish border area.

History: The Treaty of Sevres (August 1920) carved up post-Ottoman Turkey. It also promised an autonomous (and potentially independent) Kurdistan would be organized in eastern Turkey. Subsequent events (especially the Greco-Turk War of 1921 and 1922) halted the implementation of the Treaty of Sevres. The Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923) which resulted in the forced emigration of Greeks from Asia Minot and of Turks from most of the Aegean islands, made no provision for the creation of an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds rebelled in 1925, protesting Kemalist Turkey's disestablishment of the Islamic caliphate. In 1930 another Kurdish insurgency erupted in the Lake van and Ararat region. In 1937, Kurds and Turks clashed in the Tunceli area. Turkey began pursuing many anti-Kurd policies, referring to the Kurds as "mountain Turks." Many of the Kurdish-dominated eastern provinces of Turkey came under permanent martial law. Kurdish nationalists were deeply involved in the leftist agitation of the 1970s. In 1984 the Kurds began a new series of attacks inside Turkey. The Kurds had been involved in guerrilla activities inside Iran and Iraq. In 1989 and 1990 the Turkish Army and Kurdish guerrillas regularly clashed in the southeastern mountains. In 1992 a new series of Kurd attacks (from bases in northern Iraq) led to reprisal raids by the Turkish Army into Iraq. In 1998 Turkey threatened Syria with attack unless Syria sent the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan (see Politics) to Turkey. Ocalan sought asylum in several countries but was eventually captured by Turkish intelligence agents. He was tried for murder and terrorist activities in 1999, and convicted. Since his conviction Ocalan has appealed to his followers to end the conflict.

Politics: The People's Democracy party is the main Kurdish nationalist party in Turkey. The Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK, for Parti-ye Karkaran-i Kurdistan) has been the chief armed resistance group. It was organized by Abdullah Ocalan (Nomme de guerre "Apo"). Up until Ocalan's capture by Turkey and trial in 1999, the PKK received significant financial and military support from Syria. There are two main Kurdish groups inside Iraq, the Kurdish Democratic party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Several splinter factions also exist.


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