Turkey blames Istanbul blast on PKK. What is PKK and why are they fighting Ankara?

Mohammad Bilal
Mohammad BilalNov 14, 2022 | 12:50

Turkey blames Istanbul blast on PKK. What is PKK and why are they fighting Ankara?

The Kurdish Workers Party popularly known as the PKK group has been behind several terrorist attacks in turkey since 1974. Cover Image: Seemon

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was rocked by a bomb blast on Sunday evening. The blast left six people dead and injured at least 81 people, according to Turkish authorities. Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Solu has said that the person behind the bomb blast was arrested and claimed that the Kurdish group PKK was behind the blast.

The blast took place at 4.20 pm (6.50 pm IST) on Sunday, November 13. 

"According to our findings, the PKK terrorist organisation is responsible," Soylu said, DW news reported.

The PKK terrorist Group or the Kurdish Workers Party, which the Interior Minister is pointing to, has been a thorn in Turkey's history for decades.

Who are the Kurds? Kurds, or Kurdish people, are an Iranian ethnic group who call Kurdistan their home. Kurdistan is a region in western Asia that spans southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. The Kurdish population at present is about 30-45 million.

After the first World War, in 1920, a provision for a Kurdish state was drawn up in the Treaty of Sevres. This was a promise by the victorious Western allies made after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the first World War.

However, three years after the Treaty of Sevres, the promise was broken and there was nothing for the Kurds. When the borders of modern Turkey were drawn up in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Kurds became a minority, all over again, in all of the new countries.

At present, the Kurds have ongoing armed rebellions in Turkish, Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan. In Iraq and Syria, the Kurds have autonomous regions.

Who are the Kurdish Workers Party? The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan) which has Marxist-Leninist roots, was formed in the late-1970s and it launched an armed struggle against the Turkish government in 1984. The group wanted a separate independent state within the southwestern Turkey.

There have been numerous attacks in Turkey; the collaborators of which have been traced to the PKK group. More than 40,000 people have died since 1970s in the war between PKK group and Turkish authorities. 

Not the first attack by PKK in Turkey: 

1984: PKK launches the first terrorist attacks against Turkey security posts in Eruh, in the eastern province of Siirt, and Semdini in Hakkari bordering Iran.

June 1987: PKK attacks the Pinarcik village in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin, killing 30 civilians, mostly women and children.

August 1987: The PKK group attacks a village called Milan in the Siirt province of Turkey, killing 27 civilians.

May 1993: PKK kills 33 Turkish soldiers on the Elazig-Bingol Highway.

2011: PKK group re-starts terrorist attacks after a brief ceasefire.

2012: The most violent period of the group since 1999, and PKK is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people.

July 2015-March 2016: After a renewed PKK terror campaign, fresh attacks lead to the death of more than 400 Turkish security officials.

August 2016: A car bomb blast in Cizre kills 11 policemen and injures 78 people. Hundreds of people are killed since the renewed terror attacks after the falling of ceasefire.

What does PKK want in Turkey? The group initially wanted a separate Kurdish state within the borders of Turkey, but its leaders have also changed their opinion in the past.

In April, with an interview with the BBC, PKK's military leader Cemil Bayik had said that "we do not want to separate from Turkey and set up a state. We want to live within the borders of Turkey on our own land freely. The struggle will continue until the Kurds' innate rights are accepted."

However, Turkey continues to assert that PKK wants to establish a separate state in Turkey and its terrorist activities inside the country are directed towards this only.

A group of Kurdish march and protest in central London. Photo: Getty Images

What is HDP? The HDP or pro-Kurdish party is a broad coalition of groups, including the liberal and left-wing ethnic Turks. The party also denies Turkey's claim that it is linked to the PKK group.

However, the belief is that the HDP is a pro-PKK party; and its leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were also arrested in 2016 because of their links with the PKK group.

The US and EU recognise PKK as a terrorist group. The US in 1997 had designated PKK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Last updated: November 14, 2022 | 14:14
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