Political Violence in Turkey

Political Violence in Turkey

Intensified political violence in Turkey between various Kurdish groups and Turkish security forces exacerbated by spillover from the Syrian civil war


Peace talks between Turkey’s government and the militant Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) have stalled since a ceasefire began in March 2013. PKK members have been refusing to withdraw from Turkey to Kurdish Iraq, and their primary objective is to establish an autonomous Kurdish state.

This has been exacerbated by the spillover from Syria’s civil war into Turkey and other neighboring countries. Syria’s Kurds—under the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG)—have ties to the PKK and have secured control of the Kurdish area of northern Syria. In September 2014, the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobane came under siege, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city, and the violence has resulted in over 1,200 deaths. Turkey has encountered significant spillover, absorbing over 300,000 Syrian refugees from the border-town.

The alliance between Kurdish fighters has converged in Iraq, where ISIS has advanced toward the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The peshmerga—armed fighters who protect Iraqi Kurdistan—have joined with Iraqi security forces and receive arms and financial assistance from the United States. The PKK’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has called for mass mobilization among Kurds to start an “all-out resistance” in the fight against ISIS.

If the Kurds succeed in establishing an autonomous state amid the chaos gripping the region, this could accelerate secessionist movements in other Kurdish areas of the Middle East. Heightened terrorist activity by Kurdish separatists is also a growing concern for the United States, which has designated the PKK a foreign terrorist organization.

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