Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan (PKK)
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
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.
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.