What Is the Conflict Between PKK Insurgents and the Republic of Turkey?


Quick Answer

The conflict between PKK insurgents and the Republic of Turkey revolve around the ethnic Kurd minority in Turkey which originally sought independence from the Turkish government as an independent state. Since the 1990s, the PKK has softened its original demands, instead seeking greater autonomy and self-rule within the Turkish state.

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What Is the Conflict Between PKK Insurgents and the Republic of Turkey?
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Full Answer

Kurds comprise about 30 million people living throughout Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia, with about 12 million living in Turkey. They are a distinct ethnic group with their own language and customs. This stateless group of people have been seeking, to various degrees, levels of autonomy within the countries they live in.

In Turkey, Kurds are represented by the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party. Originally a militant, guerrilla group, the PKK has been active since 1974 engaging Turkish forces in asymmetrical warfare and terrorist-style attacks in an effort to gain independence. In more modern times, the PKK has attempted to negotiate with the Turkish state and take part in the political process in an attempt to find a peaceful solution that grants more autonomy to Kurdish regions of Turkey.

Ethnic Kurds make up approximately 20 percent of the Turkish population and are viewed by the Turkish government as a threat to their territorial borders which were formalized at the end of World War I. The issue is particularly sensitive to Turkey as ethnic Kurds within the Turkish state were promised autonomy of governance in the 1920 Peace Treaty of Sevres which defined the Turkish state that was formerly the Ottoman Empire.

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