The conflict between Turkey and the Kurds has considerably escalated within the past few years, especially in Syria, where Turkey has intervened directly and moved its battles with the Kurds to the Syrian territories for the first time since that conflict started.
But, despite the crossfire, there are signs of a major turn that may change the features of the cause, or remove it from the list of most complicated causes in the Middle East, particularly after the statements of the U.S. President Trump, indicating that the Turkish government and Kurdish militias are ready to sing a deal.
“All of a sudden they start fighting. Fighting, fighting, fighting. And it was vicious, and other countries got involved. Now I say ‘Let’s sign a deal’, they said ‘Okay, let’s sign a deal,” Trump said, referring to a deal between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria.
The Turkish-Kurdish conflict was turned into an armed one after the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan – serving a lifetime prison sentence in Turkey – announced in 1973 to form a small group led by him defending Kurdish ethnic rights. That group was the foundation stone for many other Kurdish nationalist movements, not only in Turkey but also Syria, Iraq and Iran, where Kurdish people live.
Those groups revived the attempts of establishing the Kurdish state, which attempts started for the first time in the Iranian city of Mahabad, and was led by Qadi Muhammed, but were eliminated by the Iranian forces in the forties of last century.
In 1974, Kurdish group led by Ocalan started expanding its activities after contacting many Kurdish figures, amid growing calls to separate from Turkey, accompanied by an armed conflict between Turkey and Kurdish groups.
Between 1974 and 1948, Kurdish organizations launched several attacks against the Turkish state, especially after Ocalan formed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that led a major revolt against the Turkish authorities in 1984, seeking to obtain cultural and political at a broader scale, in addition to a further goal; establishing an independent Kurdish state by uniting south Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq and northwestern Iran.
In the nineties of the last century, the PKK continued its operations against the Turkish government, prompting it to include the party on the terrorist lists, and to launch military operations against the party’s sites in Kandali and the southern regions of Turkey. Moreover, Turkey imposed restrictions on Kurdish parties and figures loyal to Ocalan, which escalated the conflict.
In 2002, when the AKP party came to power, the conflict developed, as Turkey started launching military operations and airstrikes against Kurds out of the Turkish borders, particularly in Iraq, where Kurds gained autonomy, that turned to be a semi-independent state following the fall of Saddam Hussain in 2003, while Turkey responded to that by intensifying its airstrikes against the sites of PKK militias, especially in 2009.
Following the start of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, and arming the Kurdish militias after the emergence of DAESH 2014, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has moved into a new phase, where the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured large swathes along the borders with Turkey.
Turkey responded by launching a military operation in the city of Afrin and many other areas controlled by Kurdish groups in the west of the Euphrates, north Syria.
These operations were followed by another operation in October 2019 against Kurdish militants in the east of the Euphrates.
The conflict between Turkey and Kurds during the past five years was not limited to military action, it also included a Turkish blockade in the province of Kurdistan in 2018, as well as suspension of oil exports and closure of border crossings between Turkey and the province. And this happened due to a referendum organized by the region to separate from Iraq.
The 50-years conflict has resulted in the death of more than 40 thousand from both sides; some of them were killed in the military operations and direct clashes, while the others were killed in the attacks of the PKK in Turkey.