Turkey confronts Kurdish separatists
Turkey confronts Kurdish separatistsTurkey continues to call for an end to Kurdish separatist movements as it contemplates further action against PKK targets.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently paid a visit to Diyarbakir, the capital of Turkey’s southeast region and home to its Kurdish minority, where he addressed a local party conference to urge unity against “terrorism” in the country. He called on Kurds to denounce violence and encouraged action to ensure that Turkey “grows a little freer, more democratic, richer and happier every day.”
Erdogan was referring to “terrorism” carried out by some of the political parties and paramilitary groups associated with the Kurdish separatist movement, including the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
The Kurdish separatist movement calls for countries to establish and recognise an independent state of Kurdistan. Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria all host significant number of ethnic Kurds. According to the CIA World Factbook, an estimated 35 million Kurds live in these countries, in addition to the diaspora of two or three million.
Violence between Kurdish fighters, Turkish soldiers and police has been increasing since the beginning of the year. Across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran’s Kurdish region, Kurds have faced airstrikes by the Turkish military and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the UN. An unknown number have reportedly been killed and hundreds displaced. And last week, the Turkish interior minister said ground attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan could be launched soon. Meanwhile in Turkey, fighters associated with Kurdish separatist militias have killed Turkish soldiers in a series of attacks in the country’s semi-autonomous southeast region.
The PKK has fought the Turkish state since 1984 and is currently labelled a terrorist group by Turkey, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, among other countries. Another group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, has claimed responsibility for several bombings in Diyarbakir this year, including a large fire at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) has vowed to avenge the deaths of some of its members, which it blames on Iranian and Turkish military operations.
Since the PKK-led Kurdish insurgency began almost 30 years ago, as many as 40,000 people have been killed on both sides of the conflict, according to estimates.
The Stream has previously covered ongoing ethnic tensions between Kurds and ethnic Turks.
On today’s episode, we’ll speak to Turkish writer Ziya Meral and Kani Xulam, director of the American Kurdish Information Network.
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