Monthly Archives: October 2014

Kurdish Fighters in Kobani and the History of Turkey and the PKK



This week, I’ve decided to focus on the history of the conflict between Turkey and the PKK, and how that history is now affected Turkey’s involvement in the anti-ISIS coalition. Right now, Kurdish and ISIS forces are fighting for control of the Syrian city of Kobani, located close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Above is a photo of the town of Kobani immediately after an airstrike.  My first Diigo post is an article by Al Jazeera detailing the history of Turkey’s conflict with the PKK from 1920 to 2013. I chose this article because while I felt like I had learned a lot about the conflict up until the Gulf War, I still needed some background information to fully understand how Turkish and Kurdish relations currently affect the conflict with ISIS. I did not know that the conflict was still active in 2013, with a ceasefire only being called by Ocalan (the PKK’s founder) on March 21 of that year. My second Diigo post was a news report in International Business Times. It covers quite a bit of information, as a lot has happened during the past week in regards the conflict with ISIS. The US has declared support for the PKK and other Kurdish forces, because they are fighting against ISIS. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Ergodan, has condemned the US for supporting the PKK, as the US and Turkey are long-standing allies, and the PKK and Turkey have been embroiled in a decades-long conflict. Kurdish fighters are currently battling ISIS forces in the Syrian town of Kobani, and Turkey is opposing giving the fighters any weapons, and equating them with the PKK. Both sources appear to be neutral, but they both tend to speak of the Kurdish people as a united state, rather than just a network of people, so the authors might have a more political realist than cosmopolitan perspective. Turkey’s president Ergodan is extremely concerned with maintaining a strong Turkish presence in southern Turkey, and not letting the current war with ISIS allow Kurdish groups in the area gain autonomy. His goal of protecting interests by maintaining a strong state and his unilateral approach leads me to think he is a political realist.

The PKK and Turkey Don’t Get Along. This is Bad.

ISIS-PKK-Turkey Conflict Map as of October 4

This week, my two Diigo posts were about the relationship between the PKK and the Turkish government and how that relationship affected Turkey’s response to the ISIS conflict. Turkey and the PKK have a decades long history of conflict that has continued to this day: recently, the PKK torched Turkish schools because the Turkish government failed to provide Kurdish-language classes in Kurdish schools and forcibly shut down any private Kurdish language lessons even after an agreed upon treaty that would allow them. While this conflict has lead to plenty of problems on its own, it has greatly complicated Turkey’s response to ISIS.  

My first Diigo post is an opinion piece written by Cegniz Aktar, Senior Scholar at the Istanbul Policy Center, a director at the UN, and one of the leading advocates of Turkey’s integration into the EU. In this piece, Aktar argues that Turkish politician “fearing the birth of a Kurdish nation-state more than anything but eager on the other hand to assert their regional supremacy, are ending up by alienating all three Kurdish communities” in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. He is referring specifically to President Ankara making a speech comparing the PKK to ISIL, a few days after stating that the PKK should be fighting ISIL rather than Turkey. Even though the Turkish government has been an economic partner of the Iraqi Kurds, they have offered them no military support, and have also preventing Turkish Kurds from joining the fight against ISIL. The Turkish government’s fear of a sovereign Kurdish state is leading to extremely poor diplomatic outcomes, and making it much easier for ISIS to take military action.  The map above depicts the regions in which various groups have control, as of October 4, 2014.

My other post is This is a news report by The Economist about the Turkish government’s reaction to ISIL’s assault on Kobane, a Kurdish town in Syria on the border of Turkey. This town is one of three enclaves that are governed by the Kurds. Turkey ceded the area to PKK control, but PKK leaders claim that by not assisting in the fight, the Turkish government is indirectly supporting ISIS. Even though Turkey is a member of the coalition to fight ISIS, its unwillingness to treat the PKK as a legitmate governing body or offer them any assistance is allowing ISIS to gain ground. 

History and Global Perspectives about the PKK

PKK emblem


I’ve figured out what the focus of my social bookmarking project will be: the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known by its Kurdish initialism, the PKK. The PKK is really interesting to me because its perception and portrayal by Western media has changed very radically in the last few years. Though the United States still lists the PKK as a terrorist group (in response to Turkish political pressure), the American military has provided air support to aid the PKK in its conflict with ISIS. My first article this week was a report published  in 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations about the PKK. The report appears unbiased, but discusses the group’s guerilla tactics and terrorist acts, as well as the history of institutionalized discrimination against the Kurds in both Turkey and Iraq. My other Diigo post was much more recent. It is a news report by Hurriyet News, an online newspaper based in Istanbul. In it, the President of Turkey talks about how, to the Turkish government, ISIS and the PKK are equivalent terrorist organizations. It is interesting how the Western viewpoint on the PKK has become much more positive with their involvement in the Iraqi war and the current ISIS conflict, while Turkey, with a history of decades of conflict with Kurdish separatists, has not altered its stance.