The Turkish independence war led to the birth of the Republic of Turkey. The post-colonial government was expected to be a bastion of freedom and civil liberties. The Ottoman Empire had been defeated in the First World War, and the Sultanate abolished. The Turkish people formed the Turkish National Movement to wage war against the allied nations to grant independence to Turkey. A nationalistic government was formed in 1923 after the Treaty of Lausanne, which led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic. After independence, the government was considered to be despotic in relation to the human rights. The Kurdish people felt that their rights and fundamental freedoms were curtailed. They claimed that they were politically and economically harassed by the nationalistic government.
The Kurdistan Workers party was formed in 1978 with the aim of creating an autonomous and independent Kurdistan, free from Turkey. The Kurdistan state would guarantee amore political freedom for the Kurds in Turkey. The group was considered as a terrorist organization by the United States of America, the European Union and the State of Israel. Full scale war did not begin until 1984 when the Kurdistan Workers Party announced the Kurdish uprising. Under the Leadership of Abdullah Ocalan, the military wing of the Kurdistan People’s Party carried out military offensive against the government. The Turkish government at first sought to negotiate with the rebels. The change in administration adopted new policies for combating the insurgents. The party stationed some of its insurgents in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan where they launched military offensives against the government. The Turkish conflict has been going on since 1984. It has cost the Republic of Turkey between 300 and 450 billion US dollars in the tourism sector.
Turkey has been experiencing insurgency since the onset of the Ottoman Empire. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire led to the abolishment of the Sultanate by Allied Powers. The nationalist waged war to liberate the Ottoman Empire from political control by the Allied powers. The independence war led to the Establishment of the Republic of Turkey. Several Rebellions occurred between 1921 and 1938. Between 1938 and 1984 Turkey experienced a politically stable climate. However, during this time the Kurds were not happy with the affairs of the Turkish government. Successive governments and Administrations adopted policies that reduced the freedoms and liberties of the Kurdish people. The Kurds claimed that they were sidelined from national politics. The Kurdistanian Workers Party (PKK) was formed to champion for the cultural rights of Kurdistanian.
The first Kurdistan Congress happened in 1978. It was held in the City of lice a village called Fis. It was organized by Student organization aimed at evaluating the Civil and political rights of the Kurdistan People. The meeting was attended by one hundred people from Kurdish origin. The meeting was chaired by Abdullah Ocalan, who was the chair of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The Congress resolved to use peaceful means to resolve their conflicts with the government. When Abdullah Ocalan went to Mount Ararat to make the public aware of the Kurdish situation, his group was attacked by members from various leftist organizations. One of the key allies of Mr. Ocalan in the struggle for the liberation of the Kurdistan people was attacked and injured by the armed militia. The key ally passed away hours later, form the gun shots. The attack at Mount Ararat on the Kurdistan convoy resulted into a paradigm shift in the operation of the organization. The Party hired armed militia to protect them from the attacks from landowners and other leftist’s organizations. On 20 September 1980, there was an attempted coup of the Turkish government. The government launched a crackdown on all political organizations in the country.
The second PKK conference was held in 1982. Because of the government crackdown on political organizations it was held in Daraa, Syria. The meeting resolved to use guerrilla warfare to create an independent Kurdistan State. The majority of the PKK leaders were arrested and imprisoned. PKK loyalties continued with the struggle to free Kurdistan people in prison. Some of them burned themselves in protest of the treatment of the Kurds in Turkey. Others went on hunger strikes in prisons to pass the same message to the government.
On 1984, PKK launched its first military offensive against President Turgut Ozal government. PKK insurgent attacked a police station and killed several soldiers and police officers. It was also reported that a few civilian were injured during the offensive. President Ozal government chose to reconcile with the rebels. The National Security council arranged for the peace talks to happen between the rebels and the government. Turkish politicians were also to participate in the talks with the rebels. President Ozal’s sudden death in April 198 jolted the talks into a sudden halt. The proceeding Administration did not give the rebels a chance to negotiate. The government adopted tough military measures to deal with the insurgents. In addition, several politicians supporting the peace talks were assassinated.
The peace talks came into a grinding halt in 1993 when there was an attempted coup on the military. The government adopted counterinsurgency policies in the rebels. The soldiers raided the villages burning down everything on their way. They created a total of two million refugees within the country side. The villages were burned and bombed by the military to drive the insurgents from the villages to the mountains and cities. Several civilians were killed in the conflict. The Turkish government offered salaries to farmers and shepherds who were pro government to join the village guard in guarding the villages from the insurgents.
The PKK began launching attacks on pro-government villages in the country side. The PKK leader who had been exiled in Syria was subjected to political pressure and military threat and forced to leave his asylum. He travelled to Italy, Russia, Greece and Finally Kenya. While travelling to the Greece Embassy in Kenya, he was arrested by a joint operation with the MIT and the CIA. The arrest led to worldwide protest from the Kurds. His arrest led to the cease-fire of a third of the insurgency fighting. PKK declared the end of the ceasefire on September 1st 1999. The arrest of Abdullah Ocalan discouraged the Insurgents operation in the country. PKK rebels withdrew their bases from turkey and set up new one in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq. The government forces had won, and peace reigned in the Republic of Turkey for five years. Mr. Abdullah Ocalan was arraigned in court. Ocalan was convicted and sentenced to death. He was to be executed, but the Supreme Court of Turkey declared the death penalty unconstitutional.
In 2002 PKK changed its name to Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEC). The party claimed that its activities were from then political. It dissolved and a new political party was formed. The new organization was formed to address the issues of the Kurds in Turkey. The political organization was named as the Kurdistan people’s congress (KONGRA-GEL). The party attempted to negotiate with the government, but the government openly ignored the attempt to negotiate with the party. KONGRA-GEL continued to carry attack on the government when their negotiations attempts were ignored. The attacks were carried out on small scale as compared to before the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan.
The former PKK members argued that they only defended themselves from the government troops. This period between 1999 and 2005 was relatively stable. Several Kurdish riots, however, were reported across the country occasionally. The government launched attacks on the military bases on Iraq. During this period, only 145 people were killed between the government clashes and the PKK insurgents. A new political party came into power. The AK party lifted the restriction that had been placed on the Kurdish culture and language. The Kurdish people enjoyed more political freedom under the new administration that under the previous governments. The new Kurdistan inclined political organization formed a reformist wing that wanted insurgency activities to resume and a reformist wing that wanted all the rebels to be disarmed. The reformist wing won and expelled the reformist from the party. During this time the former PKK began to rearm. They took advantage of the United States of America’s invasion of Iraq. The weapons owned by the vanquished Iraq army fell into the hands of the rebels.
The members who were dissatisfied with the cease fire formed the Kurdistan freedom falcons (TAK) to fight the government forces. The government began a major crackdown on the Kurdish people who were affiliated to the rebels. Over three thousand Kurds were arrested and detained during the crackdown. The Peoples Democracy Party was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Turkey, Consequently, it was banned and its operations declared to be illegal. The leader of the Peoples party was also imprisoned. KONGRA-GEL reverted back to PKK. The former elements of PKK came together and formed the New PKK. KONGRA-GEL became the legislative assembly for the to be formed Kurdistan Republic. Zübeyir Aydar became the president of the legislative assembly.
The Turkish government claimed that the 2000 PKK militias entered turkey from Iraq. The organization resumed military offensive regardless of the calls for peace by the government. The PKK snubbed the calla for peace by the government and continued with the attacks on the government. The new insurgent’s activities were different form before 1999. The PKK rebels fought the rebels using the guerrilla warfare techniques. Unlike the conflict between 1984 and 1999 the rebels avoided direct combat with the security forces. They attacked the forces directly at night and in small groups. The groups of militia me consisted of eight men as opposed to 20 men before 1999.The rebels did not attempt to control any political control on conquered areas. Even in the night they did not attempt to control any areas. They were responsible for several bombing in the western Turkey although the PKK vehemently denied any connection with the bombings. TAK fighters vowed to turn Turkey to hell by launching extensive bombing campaigns. Major fighting broke out in the Diyarbakır Airport region. The airport was closed and the surrounding schools were shut down. PKK targeted bombing in the schools and the tourist industry. The PKK condemned the bombing of the Kurdish people and affiliated organization and announced cease fire for the fifth time. Counter Insurgency actions by the Turkish government reduced the insurgency activities and there was reduced violence in the western regions of Turkey. PKK resulted to eliminating the members who were carrying out internal sabotage. The program saw the assassination of a former PKK commander.
Counter accusations occurred between the government and the PKK rebels. There were reported bombings in Ankara and Tunceli that left a total of 20 people dead and over 200 injured. In 2007 the rebels attacked a government post manned by a fifty soldier battalion. They attacked and killed 12 Turkish soldiers and wounded 17 of the soldiers stationed at the post. After the attack of the post, the militants retracted into Kurdistan Iraq. The Turkish forces reacted by bombing PKK military bases and crossed the border to Iraq to pursue the militants. The Government adopted Operation Sun to quell the rebels. Operation Sun involved military cross border military offenses by the Turkish military. In December the same year the Turkish military embarked on aerial attacks on the PKK camps in Northern Iraq. Between 10,000 and 30,000 Turkish forces took part in the military offensive. The government reported that a total of 291 PKK rebels were killed and only 27 Turkish forces lost their lives in the combat. PKK disputed those claims saying that 125 governments were killed and the PKK forces killed were less than one hundred. Violent clashes continued between the government and the rebels. The PKK accused the government for the double bombing on Istanbul that left over 125 Kurds dead. In 2009 the first Kurdish television station was opened. The Democratic Society party won the election and the PKK called for cease fire. Abdullah Ocalan called the suspension of all the military operations. The Social Democratic Party began the Kurdish initiative; the initiative involved giving new names to the Kurdish villages that were given Turkish names and granting partial amnesty to the PKK freedom fighters. Plans for reconciliation were hampered when the DTP issued a ban on the Turkish Constitutional Court. PKK rebels and supporters indulged in the armed warfare with the Turkish forces. Nationwide demonstrations were reported after the government attempted to try PKK leaders for terrorism. Abdullah Ocalan on May 31 2010 announced that he had given up all the efforts of negotiation leaving the situation to the PKK commanders. PKK continued with the attacks on the Turkish government and in a span of two weeks killed a total of 34 soldiers. Turkish armed forces launched a total of 80 military operations against the PKK militants despite of the proclamation to cease fire during the Turkish General Elections. Human rights activist from Germany accused the Turkish government of employing Chemical weapons against the PKK militants. The claims were examined and found to be true. Photos of the scenes hit by the chemical weapons and found to authentic. The Syrian Uprising breathed new force into the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The Turkish Armed forces engaged rebels from both Turkey and the ceded region in Syria. PKK engaged the Turkish army via rocket launchers. Most of the launchers were topped midair by the Turkish armed forces. The high death tolls on the two sides of the conflict made the government recognize the need to end violence and start the process of negotiations.
On 2013 the government began negotiation with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. They are negotiating for the political amnesty the jailed political leaders. Attempts of violence during this period have been condemned for attempting to halt the peace process. In March 2013 Abdullah Ocalan wrote a letter that was read before the National television declaring that the PKK forces would be withdrawn from the Turkish Territory. They would be retreat back to the Qandil Mountains of Iraq.
Over the time the lead to deaths of thousands of people, some of them have died directly as a result of violence and others as a result of the protests that were aimed to a hurt government activities. Several Pioneers of PKK died in prison as a result of hunger strike or burning themselves alive in protest of the inhumane activities of the government. Political assassinations have taken place leading to deaths of eminent politicians. Over twenty eight thousand PKK fighters have lost their lives as a result of the armed struggle between the government and the Kurdistan Workers Party. The government is estimated to have lost over 6000 soldiers in the war.
Thousands of people have been imprisoned in relation to the violence accruing from the political disharmony between the Turkish forces and the government. Violence has also affected the position of the Republic of Turkey in the European Union. The government has been accused of using excessive force against PKK fighters. Similarly, the government has also been accused of gross human rights violation and using chemical weapons against its own populations. The PKK fighters have also been accused of violating the ethical principles of warfare and contravening international regulations on armed conflict. Violence that plagued the cities and villages all over turkey has led to severe economic consequences. The operation hammer and the counter insurgency tactics employed by the Turkish military led to the disruption of the social order and the economic activities of the Kurdish people. Most people have resulted to joining either of the opposing sides in the warfare instead of concentrating on beneficial economic activities.
A government that suppresses its citizens and denies the citizen individual right and freedoms can only be branded a draconian government. In the eyes of a librettist, the actions by the government of Turkey to name Kurdish villages using Turkish names are a denial of the right to identity by the government. The Kurdish community has suffered under the Turkish government. They should be given the right to self-determination if the government did not them the freedom of expression.
The Turkish Kurdish conflict cannot be justified for the number of lives it has claimed. The PKK fighters and leaders as well should give negotiation a chance in the political discourse. The jailed leaders of PKK should be released from prison to negotiate freely with the government. The world should recognize the need for a solution in the Turkish crisis.
Checkel, Jeffery. Transnational Dynamics of Civil War. London: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Barkey, Henri. Turkey's Kurdish Question. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
Gunter, Michael. The Kurds and the Future of Turkey. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
Yildiz, Kereim and Suzan Breau. The Kurdish Conflict: International Humanitarian Law and Post-Conflict Mechanisms. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2010.