Kurdish Fight for Independence


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.


Kurdistan (crossing borders of Turkey, Iran , Iraq, Syria, Armenia)

Population: 36.4 million

Deaths: 500,000

Displaced Peoples: 40,000

Key Actors

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. 

Primary Kurdish rebel group that have carried out numerous acts in Turkey. Is listed as a terrorist group by the US and EU.

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.

Strongly oppose the PKK, labelling them as a terrorist organisation. The US sent troops to repel the PKK during the second insurgency.

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.

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 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. 

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.

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.

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 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.  



The HEP is banned by the constitutional court of Turkey, limiting Kurdish representation. The court claimed that the HEP conducted actions that was against the Turkish constitution.

Turkey and Iran sign an agreement in order to tighten border control and prevent Kurdish rebels from illegally roaming across borders.

Turkey was largely violence free for 5 years. Pro-Kurdish party, HADEP, is able to win a sizeable amount of seats in the Turkish government.

Two Kurdish political parties, the Democratic Union Party and the Kurdish National Council form the YPG in order to protect Kurds in Syria

YPG defend Syrian Kurdistan from Al-Qaeda

YPG joins forces with the Free Syrian Army in order to battle ISIS

YPG engaged in further offensive attacks on ISIS with the monetary and military support of the United States

Turkey will carry out an operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, in an area controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Tehran said it would internationally recognize three border crossings between the Kurdistan Region and Iran for trade and tourism.

Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria say their forces have started to withdraw from outposts along the Turkish border after the United States and Turkey reached a deal to establish a “safe zone” there earlier this month.

Turkey will launch its own operation to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria if talks with the United States fail to give Turkish troops control of the area “within a few weeks”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

The President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, has called on his party deputies in the Iraqi Parliament to defend the interests of the people of Kurdistan. Barzani on Sunday received a delegation from the Iraqi Council of Representatives which consisted of KDP members in the Iraqi government.

How can you 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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