Almost 5,000 killed in Turkey-PKK conflict since 2015 – report

At least 4,825 people have been killed in clashes or terror attacks since July 20, 2015, when a peace process broke down in the conflict between Turkey and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a report by the International Crisis Group found.

The number includes 489 civilians and 226 people, who could not be confirmed to be civilians or combatants, cited throughout the report as individuals of unknown affiliation.

The highest number of civilian fatalities occurred in January 2016, when 44 people were killed.

In February 2016, 17 civilians and 56 individuals of unknown affiliation were killed in the southeastern Şırnak province alone.

A total of 1,229 Turkish security forces were killed in the same timeframe, as well as 2,859 PKK militants.

During a peace process between Turkey and the PKK, from March 2013 to July 2015, a total of 25 members of the Turkish security forces, 25 PKK members and 66 civilians were killed, according to the report, which did not specify by whom the killings were committed.

The four-decades-long conflict between Turkey and the outlawed PKK began in 1984, when the PKK carried out its first action in its bid for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey. The organisation, whic is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, also has supporters and bases in Iraq and Syria.

An overwhelming portion of fatalities in the two years of talks occurred in Oct. 2014, when deaths related to widespread protests against an Islamic State (ISIS) siege of the northeast Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani increased the month’s total to 42 civilians, 11 members of Turkish security forces and 10 PKK militants, the report said.

Turkey considers the PKK to have solid ties with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main Syrian-Kurdish organisation that controlled an enclave in northeast Syria from 2011 to late 2019, until Turkey launched a military incursion into the area.

The fatality rate peaked in the winter following the collapse of the peace process, and clashes continued into 2016 in majority-Kurdish southeastern provinces where PKK-linked youth militias briefly took over before security forces re-established control in June, the report said.

The power balance in the conflict has since shifted significantly in favour of Turkey, the report suggested, as indicated by the almost four-fold increase in the “rate of PKK militants killed per one state security force member.”

In Hakkari, one of the provinces where the conflict has historically been the harshest, fatalities of both PKK militants and Turkish security forces were found to show the highest diversity of hometowns, with PKK militants coming from almost all majority-Kurdish provinces, some Turkish-majority metropolitan cities, and Kurdish-populated areas of neighbouring Iraq, Iran and Syria. Turkish security forces, it said, came from more than 60 provinces throughout Turkey, including some Kurdish-majority ones.

Some 99 percent of Turkish security forces killed in the conflict were male, with 66 percent of them low- and mid-ranking soldiers of the Turkish army, which has compulsory service only for men.

The fatalities of the PKK, on the other hand, were 23 percent female. The majority of female militants were members of the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the armed wing of the PKK, which operates in both rural and urban areas. There were considerably fewer female militants, five percent of fatalities, among members of the younger-leaning Civil Protection Units (YPS), who were involved only in urban conflict.

Since the conclusion of 2016’s urban conflicts, fighting has shifted back to rural areas, where it had been focused throughout four decades.

There have been no urban fatalities since November 2018, according to the report, which included only deaths that could be identified and confirmed via public channels, such as news reports and funeral records.

© Ahval English