Kurdish Fight for Independence


This problem is not one that can be solved purely by security measures. It requires all political parties, NGOs and all sections of society to act responsibly together in harmony.
– Cemil Cicek, Speaker of the Parliament of Turkey





          Kurdistan (which crosses the borders                of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and                              Armenia)


          36.4 million



      Displaced People:






The Kurds are a group of stateless people, united by race, living in the Middle East between numerous countries, with most of the population residing in Turkey. Kurdistan, the proposed Kurdish state, inhabited by the Kurdish people, runs across the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia. Kurdistan has long been a nationless state, united ethnically but disjointed by international borders. Numerous Kurds in Turkey have been demanding autonomy and political and cultural recognition. The vision of the Kurds is to have an independent state to legitimize their identity as a nation. The Kurds demand for autonomy presents itself as a threat to the Turkish government, causing a rise of Kurdish insurgent groups as well as the growth of the Turkish armed forces to defend themselves. The Kurds enjoy autonomy in Iraq but seek autonomy within the entire region through the proposed independent state of Kurdistan.

                 Key Actors:

  • Turkey hosts the largest Kurdish population of all the middle eastern countries with 25% of the population being Kurdish (estimated at 14 to 20million). Turkey in 1934 tried to rid its population of Kurds.  Ever since, Kurds have been marginalized and the PKK was formed in opposition of the populations marginalization. Turkey has conducted numerous military operations, with the help of the US and the EU in order to defeat the PKK. 
  • Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – Primary Kurdish rebel group that have carried out numerous acts in Turkey. Is listed as a terrorist group by the US and EU.
  • People’s Protection Units (YPG) – Primarily Kurdish Militia based in Syria that was formed to defend parts of Kurdistan that lie in Syria. YPG fought against al-Qaeda and ISIS along with the Free Syrian Army to keep Syrian Kurds safe.
  • The European Union and The United States strongly oppose the PKK, labelling them as a terrorist organisation. The US sent troops to repel the PKK during the second insurgency.
  • Iraq – Northern Iraq was where most of the PKK moved in 2006-2007 to flee from the threat of Turkish forces. In northern Iraq the PKK grew. In 2016, the Iraqi government pledged to help Turkey through cracking down on the PKK and PKK affiliated groups.
  • Iran – Despite Iran and Turkey’s adversarial relationship, they have collaborated in tightening borders as well as halting the violent actions of Kurdish insurgent groups, especially the PKK.
  • Syria – Syria has shown monetary and military support for the YPG. Turkey and Syria have a complicated relationship, in which Turkey has funded rebels in the past to fight Syrian forces. Syria also hosts numerous PKK members in city of Deraa. 
  • Israel – PKK had fought Israel in the past in the first Lebanon war. Israel vehemently opposes the PKK and considers it a terrorist organization. However, Netanyahu supposedly is for a Kurdish state.
  • Palestine – The PKK has always supported Palestine in their conflict with Israel. Palestine and the PKK joined forces in the 80’s to fight against Israel.
  • ISIS A common threat to both Turkey and Kurdish rebels. Decided to work together in 2014-2015 to end the threat of ISIS. This effort was unsuccessful and led to a third insurgency.
  • Armenia – Armenia was also a host to numerous Kurds. In 1980, the Armenian Secret army collaborated with the PKK in order to bomb a Turkish embassy in Paris.  



                                        How You Can Help:

Due to the plethora of displaced Kurds, organizations like the Centre for Kurdish Progress and the Kurdish Human Rights watch have been cardinal in helping provide resources to Kurdish refugees. The former helps advocate for Kurds in various countries, helping legitimize their struggles, while the latter assists in providing economic assistance to displaced Kurds.

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