Turkey is home to the largest Kurdish population of any country in the world — the CIA World Factbook estimates between 10 and 20 million Kurds to be living in Turkey.
What is Turkish Kurdistan?
The idea of a Turkish Kurdistan dates back to the 16th century Ottoman Empire. By the mid-17th century many Kurdish principalities had come under control of the Ottomans. As the Ottoman Empire declined in power in the early 19th century, the question of Kurdish autonomy arose. However, the division of the Ottoman Empire and establishment of new “influence zones” by the French and British left the Kurdish population divided along the borders of several new states.
The Sykes-Picot agreement was only the beginning of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey in the 20th century. Forced village clearances and rapid urbanization has resulted in very poor economic conditions for the Turkish Kurds, a people who were traditionally nomadic livestock farmers.
PKK and Abdullah Öcalan
Today, the main Kurdish political group in Turkish Kuristan is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The PKK has been internationally labeled a terrorist group. The PKK’s founder and leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been held in Turkish prison since 1999.
A controversial figure, Abdullah Öcalan, or “Apo” has written many letters and documents from prison, most notably encouraging a ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish government saying, “a new door is being opened from the process of armed conflict to democratization and democratic politics.”
- The World Factbook
- The Kurdish Experience
- Economic marginalization of Turkey’s Kurds: The failed promise of modernization and reform
- Left Out in the Cold: Economic Discrimination of Turkey’s Kurdish Minority
- Growing Kurdish Unity Helps West, Worries Turkey
- Full Text of Öcalan’s Newroz Statement
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