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Kurdistan Workers’ Party
Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress
Kurdistan People’s Congress
Freedom and Democracy Congress of Kurdistan
The Kongra-Gel was founded by Abdullah Ocalan in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist separatist organization and formally named the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in 1978. The group, composed primarily of Turkish Kurds, began its campaign of armed violence in 1984, which has resulted in some 30,000 casualties. The PKK’s goal has been to establish an independent, democratic Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and parts of Iran and Syria. In the early 1990s, the PKK moved beyond rural-based insurgent activities to include urban terrorism. Turkish authorities captured Ocalan in Kenya in early 1999, and the Turkish State Security Court subsequently sentenced him to death. In August 1999, Ocalan announced a "peace initiative," ordering members to refrain from violence and requesting dialogue with Ankara on Kurdish issues. At a PKK Congress in January 2000, members supported Ocalan’s initiative and claimed the group now would use only political means to achieve its public goal of improved rights for Kurds in Turkey. In April 2002 at its 8th Party Congress, the PKK changed its name to the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK) and proclaimed a commitment to non-violent activities in support of Kurdish rights. In late 2003, the group sought to engineer another political face-lift, renaming itself Kongra-Gel (KGK) and promoting its "peaceful" intentions while continuing to conduct attacks in "self-defense" and to refuse disarmament. After five years, the group’s hard-line militant wing, the People’s Defense Force (HPG), renounced its self-imposed cease-fire on June 1, 2004. Over the course of the cease-fire, the group had divided into two factions -- politically-minded reformists, and hardliners who advocated a return to violence. The hardliners took control of the group in February 2004.
Primary targets have been Turkish Government security forces, local Turkish officials, and villagers who oppose the organization in Turkey. It conducted attacks on Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities in dozens of West European cities in 1993 and again in spring 1995. In an attempt to damage Turkey’s tourist industry, the then-PKK bombed tourist sites and hotels and kidnapped foreign tourists in the early-to-mid-1990s. While most of the group’s violence in 2004 was directed toward Turkish security forces, KGK was likely responsible for an unsuccessful July car bomb attack against the governor of Van Province, although it publicly denied responsibility, and may have played a role in the August bombings of two Istanbul hotels and a gas complex in which two people died.
Approximately 4,000 to 5,000, 3,000 to 3,500 of whom currently are located in northern Iraq. The group has thousands of sympathizers in Turkey and Europe. In November, Dutch police raided a suspected KGK training camp in The Netherlands, arresting roughly 30 suspected members. .
Location/Area of Operation
Operates primarily in Turkey, Iraq, Europe, and the Middle East.
Has received safe haven and modest aid from Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Syria and Iran appear to cooperate with Turkey against KGK in a limited fashion when it serves their immediate interests. KGK uses Europe for fundraising and conducting political propaganda.
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