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.

Political concerns among Kurds and Turkmens in Iraq may impede the country’s census, set to be held by late 2020, especially in the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Iraq’s last population census in 1997 put the country’s population at 16 million, excluding Iraqi Kurdistan. It was estimated there were 3 million Kurds. Those figures are now out of date, and the real population unknown.

U.S. President Donald Trump has given Turkish President Erodgan the greenlight to begin a military operation in northern Syria and create a safe zone” in the area by withdrawing U.S. troops from the area, in a statement released on twitter. The area is currently controlled by the Kurdish forces and their allies, and is home to the ethnic Kurdish population.

Turkey’s army has launched an offensive in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday, as part of an operation to move US-backed Kurdish forces away from its border.

The Syrian army has begun deploying its troops to northern Syria battlefronts to “confront a Turkish aggression” on Syrian territory, after the Kurds asked the Syrian government in Damascus for support.

The United States is poised to withdraw some 1,000 troops from northern Syria, its defense secretary said on Sunday, after learning that Turkey planned to extend its military incursion against Kurdish militia further south than originally planned.

Turkish forces approached a key Kurdish-held town in northern Syria on Sunday, setting off clashes that allowed hundreds of ISIS supporters to escape from a camp for displaced people near a U.S.-led coalition base.

Germany and France said Saturday they would not export any more weapons to Turkey that could be deployed in the country’s military operation in Syria.

Washington and Ankara have agreed on a five-day ceasefire in Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria. The U.S. said Ankara would pause its offensive, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, for 120 hours in order to allow the Kurdish Protection Units (YPG) to pull 30km back from the Turkey-Syria border.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official has said his forces will pull back from a border area in accordance with a US-brokered deal after Turkey allows the evacuation of its remaining fighters and civilians from a besieged town in northeast Syria.

Russia has warned Kurdish forces to quickly withdraw from the Turkey-Syria border – after a deal between Moscow and Ankara – or be crushed by the Turkish army, adding that the United States had “betrayed and abandoned” the Syrian fighters.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have not fully withdrawn from the Syria-Turkey border territory as agreed in a Russia-brokered accord, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, as Turkey prepares to discuss its next steps with Russia.

One-hundred-and-fifty delegates representing Syria’s government, opposition and various sectors of civil society are meeting in Geneva to try to draft a new constitution. The UN says the talks will be “Syrian-owned and Syrian-led”, and could pave the way for reforms and elections. It suggests they might, eventually, lead to peace negotiations.

Russia and Turkey on Friday began jointly patrolling north-eastern Syria after a deal that stopped Turkey’s military offensive in the region and forced the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

At least 13 people were killed by a car bomb in the northern Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, Turkish authorities said.

United States Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Iraq on an unannounced visit to US troops at the al-Asad airbase in Anbar province in the western part of the country rocked by weeks of anti-government protests.

Pence, on his first visit to Iraq, on Saturday also spoke on the phone with the embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and met the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Nerchirvan Barzani, in Erbil. According to a source at the premier’s office, the phone call involved a discussion around ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the US and Iraq, and possible solutions to the current crisis in the oil-rich country.

Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has reached an agreement with Baghdad on the budget and oil, which includes providing Baghdad 250,000 barrels of oil per day for the first time since 2014, said the region’s finance minister on Thursday in a conference.

Mazloum Kobani, commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has expressed the group’s readiness for dialogue with Turkey.

Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi is set to announce his new government, but he has not consulted major Kurdish and Sunni parties about the formation of his cabinet. Kurdish and Sunni leaders met to call for an Iraqi government which is representative of Iraq’s culturally diverse population.

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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