Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Rise and Fall of the PKK

The Rise and Fall of the PKK

In 1992 Turkey was in the midst of a war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan—PKK), whose forces were credibly estimated to be 10,000 strong. In 1996 the journalist Franz Schurmann called the PKK “the biggest guerrilla insurgency in the world,” and wrote of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, that “he alone among Kurdish leaders understands that a social revolution is going on in Kurdish society everywhere….Ocalan will go down in the history books as the Saladin of the late 20th century.” By the summer of 1999, however, senior officers of the Turkish military and Jandarma (militarized police) estimated the PKK’s total strength inside the country at 1,500 and declining rapidly. In May 2000 the Turkish Daily News reported that “PKK armed militants have largely left Turkish territory after the PKK executive council called on them to cease armed struggle and leave Turkey.”

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