The Kurdistan Workers Party is an organization that is considered a terrorist group by both the UN and USA. The party began in 1974 under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan. Initially, it was referred to as the Marxist Leninist Organization. Four years later, the party changed its name to the Kurdistan Workers Party. After waging a number of wars between 1978 and 1980, the organization restructured itself and participated in Turkish coup d’etat in 1980-84. This culminated in armed violence and resulted in the party shifting their focus to urban terrorism in 1993-99. The organization has been changing their names as a survival tactics (Nachmani, 2003). For example, the group has a series names, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (the KWP), the PKK, the KADEK, the KGK (the KONGRA-GEL) and the HPG (the People's Forces of Defense). Thus, the transformation of their operations and identities has played a great role in maintaining the group.
The history of the PKK dates back to 1974 when it was made up of students led by Abdulla Ocalan in the region of Ankara. It later shifted its focus and targeted the large Kurdish population. The group participated in the right wing conflict which was part of political chaos in Turkey. PKK was involved in intense urban warfare in 1979 as they tried to assassinate Kurdish tribal leader Mehmet Celal. Turkish coup d’etat had a significant effect on the party in that most of its members were killed, taken to jail or subjected to capital punishment (Marcus, 2007). The organization transformed itself into a paramilitary group in 1984. It trained its members in France. This made it possible to launch various attacks and bombings against military and government installations, as well as vital institutions. It later decentralized its operations taking different forms in Europe and Middle Eastern countries, such as Germany and France (Zurcher, 1994). The main targets of PKK are civilians and the military.
The 1990s marked another change in the organization’s operation tactics. The change was fostered by Syria and Turkey which abandoned their support of the organization. They shifted their focus from regular attacks to suicide bombings (Nachmani, 2003). About 15 of such attacks were successfully carried out, most of them having been committed by female suicide bombers. That was a sign that the organization had lost the upper hand in its operations.
The organization was dealt another blow after the Turkish government decided to extend its control and dismantle the group completely. On the other hand, the United States froze all of its assets in most countries. This has made the organization go through a series of changes due to lack of enough support. Following the capture of Ocalan in 2003, the group has moved their operations elsewhere (Marcus, 2007). Currently, most of their bases and training camps are located in the IraqMountains. Despite the intense efforts by the United States and Turkey to combat the group, it still remains intact (Barnhart, 2002). The organization is illegal in many countries and declared as a terrorist group.
Description of the group
The group was initially formed by 16 members under the leadership of Ocalan. It was a secret organization originally based in Ankara. However, the group grew and extended its operations to most of European countries. Ocalan’s initial aim was to influence tribal systems in the region to join the group (Barnhart, 2002). This triggered a conflict between tribal groups that had co-existed peacefully before. As a result, the growth of the organization was stimulated. The group began to engage in violent activities, something that made it participate in Turkish political internal conflicts (Hussein. 2007). The initial aim of its founders was to carry out criminal activities, and therefore the group can be described as a terrorist group. They have been associated with a number of terrorist activities, including bombings, violent attacks and suicide bombings among others.
Turkey decided to put an end to the PKK’s operations by waging a major campaign aimed at garnering international support and dislodging the organization. The group has gone international and is currently recognized by the European Union as a major terrorist group (Nachmani, 2003). The operations of the group target any country in the world. The organization has been changing their names as a survival tactics. Moreover, this has enabled them to avoid being put on a list of illegal organizations. For example, the group changed its name from the PKK to the KADEK (Anthony, 1999). This move forced several nations to keep updating its status as they lacked specific identity.
Group’s major sources of financial and non-financial support
The PKK has gone through a number of changes in their financial structure. These included the state support by the Syrian government that intended to make the Turkish government’s operations weak (Hussein. 2007). Notably, most of the party’s financial support originate from Kurdish Diaspora, especially in Europe. Most of their finances are derived from drug trafficking. For instance, in 2007, the PKK controlled nearly 40 percent of all heroin that entered Europe from the Middle East. Some countries, such as Russia, refused to declare the PKK a terrorist group. Moreover, some European countries, such as Germany and France, allowed the group to train in their country, thus giving them non-financial support.
How the group uses the media
The media portray the Kurdistan Workers Party as a terrorist group. Previously, Kurdish was popularly used in broadcasting and publishing. As a way of wiping the operations of the group, the Turkish government banned the use of the Kurdish language in broadcasting and publishing. Initially, the group used the media to execute their attacks. On the other hand, the media keep nations all over the world updated on the latest changes, such as a change of names to conceal their identity.