1) In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan, a left-wing activist in a highly nationalist Turkey, founded the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. The party advocated for an independent state for the Kurdish people based on Marxism–Leninist thought. At the time, the PKK presented itself as part of the worldwide communist revolution.
2) In 1984, the PKK launched its struggle against the Turkish state in a bid to gain independence from Turkey and establish a state in the mainly-Kurdish southeast of Turkey, now home to more than 20 million Kurdish people.
3) This was a threat to the Turkish state because the PKK, and its charismatic leader Ocalan, gained the support of most of the Kurdish population in Turkey. Turkey then launched a major crackdown on the PKK and the Kurdish identity as a whole.
4) After his arrest in 1999 by the CIA, which was allegedly helped by Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, Ocalan revisited the Marxist basis of his group and established a new vision for the party. Based on the vision of U.S. radical Murray Bookchin, he refined the ideology so that it would serve the Kurds.
5) Ocalan further modified, rarefied and re-branded Bookchin’s vision as “democratic confederalism,” which he described, “The democratic confederalism of Kurdistan is not a state system, it is the democratic system of a people without a state ... It takes its power from the people and adopts to reach self-sufficiency in every field including the economy.”
6) To a certain extent, the political wing of the PKK, the Turkish-Kurdish party known as the People's Democratic Party, or HDP, adopted Ocalan's new vision and applied it within the party itself. The party describes itself as a democratic-socialist party and anti-capitalist party, which aims to revolutionize Turkey as a whole, not only the Kurdish community.
7) While the PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey and the U.S., most European Union member states and the U.N. do not list the PKK as a terrorist group.
8) In 2012, the Turkish government began talks with Ocalan over a cease-fire and, in March 2013, a cease-fire was announced, which has now ended.
Female PKK fighter carries bread, as other members play with Yazidi children. | Photo: Reuters