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Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)  (2)


Other PKK Symbols:
  Description: This is the group's former symbol. A small, yellow hammer and sickle are at the center of inside the yellow outline of a star. The group's name and date of founding circle the star.The star, outlined in yellow design is set against a red background. The group's name and date of founding circumscribe the star.

Explanation: The hammer and sickle evokes Soviet-style communism and underscores the group's communist ideology. The star represents unity. The torch is a symbol of enlightenment and self-determination.

| Name Variations | Overview | Focus of Operations | Major Attacks | Leaders | Ideology | Goals | Methods | Sponsors | U.S.- Related Activities |

Name Variations
Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (PKK)
Kongreya Azadi Demokrasiya Kurdistan, or KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress)
Kongra-Gel (KGK)

Founded in 1978 by Kurdish political science student Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) aimed to integrate Marxist-Leninism with Kurdish national aspirations in an effort to create an independent state for the Kurdish minority in southeastern Turkey. From 1984 to 1998 the PKK led a guerilla war against Turkish forces, and their supposed Kurdish supporters, in which 30,000 people died. At the height of its strength, the PKK numbered about 15,000 uniformed activists (many trained in Syria and Lebanon) spread across neighboring countries and thousands of underground operatives inside Turkey. It also ran an extensive support network in Europe.

In the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and with the rise of Islamism, Ocalan began to incorporate Islamic elements into his propaganda to increase the group's appeal among rural laborers, from whom PKK traditionally drew much of its support.

In 1999, Turkish authorities captured Ocalan in Kenya, prompting the PKK to declare a ceasefire. Five years later, although weakened by Ocalan's imprisonment, the group - under the new name Kongra-Gel - resumed its offensive, bombing two hotels in Istanbul and a pop concert in which a total of two people were killed and two dozen injured, according to Turkish authorities (the Kongra-Gel denied involvement). The organization maintains bases in northern Iraq, where it has an estimated force of 5,000 fighters.

Focus of Operations
Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia. The PKK also has extensive fundraising and propaganda operations throughout Europe, and often relies on violent crime for funding.

Major Attacks
  • November 27, 1998: Turkish authorities suspected the PKK in a bus bombing in Kirikkale. 4 killed, 17 wounded.
  • June 1, 1998: Shooting attack on Turkish police. 10 killed.
  • January 21, 1997: Kidnapped approximately 1500 male Turkish refugees in Iraq.
Abdullah Ocalan (imprisoned in Turkey)

Formerly communist but primarily secular and nationalist since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Establishment of a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.

Kidnappings, hijackings, assassinations, paramilitary operations against civilian and military targets.

In the past, PKK has received support from the Soviet Union, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Greece.

U.S.-Related Activities
  • The Turkish government has pressured U.S. military forces in Iraq to assault PKK forces in northern Iraq.
  • Designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.


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