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quickfacts header

Date Formed:
Greater than 1,000 members
Nationalist/Separatist, Communist/Socialist
Last Attack:
Sept. 23, 2006
Financial Sources:
The PKK's largest funding sources are drug smuggling and extortion. The group also receives funding through charities, commercial establishments, and remittances from Europe. Syria, Iran, and Iraq have provided some aid to the PKK

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Bayik, Cemil
Kalkan, Duran
Ocalan, Abdullah
Ocalan, Osman
Pir, Kemal
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Apo's Revenge Hawks • Supported Cause
Apo's Youth Revenge Brigades • Supported Cause
DHKP/C • Supported Cause
Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front • Ally
Kurdish Democratic Party • Rival
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PKK - Old Logo
PKK Fighter
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1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
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US Terrorist Exclusion List Designee: No
UK Proscribed Group: Yes
Australia Specified Group: Yes
Canada Specified Group: Yes
EU Specified Group: Yes
Russia Specified Group: No
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The US State Department has designated groups into three different classifications. Click on one of the following to learn more about each group and to access their group profiles.

Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)

Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL)

Other Terrorist Organizations (OTO)

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image Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)

Mothertongue Name:
Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan (PKK)

Aliases: KADEK, KHK, Kongra-Gel (KGK), Kongreya Azadi u Demokrasiya Kurdistan, Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress, Kurdistan People's Conference, The People’s Congress of Kurdistan

Base of Operation: Turkey

Founding Philosophy: The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a leftist Kurdish nationalist organization. The PKK was founded in 1974 by a group of Turkish students of ethnic Kurdish descent who were active in communist circles within Turkey. The group, led by Abdullah Ocalan, operated informally until 1978, when it formalized its agenda. Influenced heavily by Maoist doctrine, the PKK's goal was to incite a revolution that would free the Kurdish people and establish an independent Kurdish state. When it was founded, the group was violently opposed to the Turkish government, believing that a Kurdish state could only be established if the oppressive and colonialist Turkish government was defeated.

During the early 1980s, the group focused its attention on consolidating its resources and powerbase. In 1980, prior to the military coup in Turkey, the PKK fled Turkey and established training camps in the Bekaa valley, part of Syrian-controlled Lebanon. By 1984, the PKK had initiated its first armed attacks in the Anatolia regions of Turkey. The PKK targeted Turkish government facilities and personnel in Anatolia and frequently attacked Kurdish civilians who "collaborated" with the Turkish government. Some reports claim that the PKK killed over 30,000 civilians within Turkey during the mid-80s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, in an effort to win increased support from the Kurdish peasantry, the PKK altered its leftist secular ideology to better accommodate and accept Islamic beliefs. The group also abandoned its previous strategy of attacking Kurdish civilians, focusing instead on government and tourist targets.

Current Goals: During the early 1990s, the PKK continued its strategy of actively attacking Turkish government and tourist assets in an effort to destroy the Turkish regime. The group has also targeted Turkish interests in Western Europe. In 1999, the PKK's leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was arrested in Kenya and extradited to Turkey where he faced the death penalty on terrorism charges. (Though convicted, Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002, and his sentence was changed to life imprisonment.) The arrest of Ocalan seriously weakened the PKK. Following his arrest, Ocalan declared a unilateral cease-fire and announced his desire to establish a "peace initiative" with Turkey on Kurdish issues. The PKK affirmed Ocalan's wishes, purportedly disavowing its violent history.

In 2002, the PKK changed its name to the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), supposedly committing itself to non-violent activities. In 2003, KADEK announced a three-stage "road map" for peacefully resolving the issue of Kurdish autonomy. Despite the cease fire, the group continued its military training and planning and continues to threaten violence. In 2003, KADEK announced that it was dissolving itself and creating a new pan-Kurdish organization called the Kurdistan People's Conference (KHK) that would seek Kurdish rights through negotiations with Turkey. Turkish officials have dismissed these moves as public relations tactics. It remains unclear what the outcome of this reorganization will be. In late 2003, the KADEK sought to engineer another political face-lift, renaming the group Kongra-Gel (KGK) (Kurdistan People's Congress) and brandishing its "peaceful" intentions, while continuing to commit attacks and refuse disarmament.

The cease-fire with the Turkish government ended in the spring of 2004 and violence continued. In April 2005 the group officially decided to revert to its original name. In August 2005, the group announced a one-month ceasefire and said that they would hold indirect peace talks with the Turkish government.

Talks between the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Turkish government, however, have failed to progress; violence linked to the PKK continues across Turkey, particularly in the southeast. The group claimed responsibility for three ambushes of Turkish forces in early March 2006, alleged to be retaliation for the deaths of seven PKK members in February. The group is also suspected in several small bombings in early 2006, including a bombing in Ankara on March 8th that killed three people and injured eighteen.

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Further Reference
"How Many Groups Has the Kurdish Movement Been Divided Into?," Hasan Cemal, 07/22/2005, Milliyet, (Istanbul)
"Turkey’s rebel Kurds go back to old name: PKK," 04/04/2005, AFP, (Istanbul, Turkey)
"Who is Abdullah Ocalan ?," Beat Witschi, 01/01/1999, CNN Interactive
"Turkey Expects Iraq To Bar PKK Parties from Elections; Return Osman Ocalan," 01/12/2005, NTV Internet Edition (Translated from Turkish), (Istanbul, Turkey)
"Brother of Turkey's Convicted Kurd Rebel Leader Sets Up his Own Party," 08/14/2004, AFP


Related Categories
Knowledge Base Directory > Groups > Ideology > Communist/Socialist
Knowledge Base Directory > Groups > Ideology > Nationalist/Separatist
Knowledge Base Directory > Groups > Location > Middle East / Persian Gulf > Turkey

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TKB Data Status
Incident data: Last updated on Nov. 28, 2007
Indictment data: Last updated on July 1, 2007

  Data is subject to revision as events and additional information warrant.
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1968 - Present
Incidents Injuries Fatalities
111 297 53
Government 5%
Tourists 10%
Military < 1%
Unknown 17%
Airports & Airlines 3%
Utilities 6%
Business 18%
Diplomatic 6%
Journalists & Media < 1%
Police 16%
Religious Figures/Institutions < 1%
Transportation 1%
Private Citizens & Property 1%
Other 9%
Data for 1968-1997 covers only international incidents.
Data for 1998-Present covers both domestic and international incidents.

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked Police target (Sept. 23, 2006, Turkey)

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked Business target (Sept. 3, 2006, Turkey)

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked Utilities target (Aug. 19, 2006, Turkey)

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked Government target (Aug. 18, 2006, Turkey)

Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked Business target (Aug. 16, 2006, Turkey)




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