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The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)

Klaas Glenewinkel
NIQASH (Berlin), 22 October 2007 -- Abdullah Ocalan (serving a life sentence in Turkey's Imrali Prison), leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan - PKK) is calling upon Turkey to give Kurds…
22.10.2007

After founding the PKK in the late 1970s in southeast Turkey, Ocalan declared an armed rebellion against Turkey and was soon forced to escape to Syria, thus evading Turkish security forces. At that time, because of its tense relationship with Turkey, Syria supported Ocalan's party.

The political and security vacuum in northern Iraq during the 1991-2003 period helped the party to deploy its armed guerillas across the Syrian-Turkish and Syrian-Iraqi borders in the Kurdistan region. These areas were used as bases for attacks on Turkish troops and to conduct assassination campaigns against officials in the Turkish hinterland. Soon enough, the party found itself in the middle of a Kurdish-Kurdish war when the two Iraqi Kurdish parties, Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, both sharing the administration of the Kurdish region before the 1994 hostilities, declared their war against the PKK which had been able to gain increasing influence and whose popularity started to threaten the two leading parties. This led to attacks on the party's hideouts in Zakho, Dahouk, and Arbil and in arresting the party's leaders in these areas.

Following this episode, in late 1998 Turkey threatened to invade northern Syria to pursue PKK militants and to punish Syria for providing shelter to Abdullah Ocalan and allowing the creation of military training camps for the party's guerillas. As a result, Syria pressured Ocalan to leave, and the PKK leader left, first to Greece, then Italy, and finally Kenya, where he was in a secret operation carried out by Turkish and American intelligence in February 1999.

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