Kurdistan Movement 1979-1995

[ 1979 - 1995 ]

The Kurdish conflict in Turkey... The public security situation also worsened, notably in the Kurdish provinces of the southeast. Following major social changes associated with the commercialization of agriculture since the 1950s, there had been outbreaks of violence in Kurdistan during the 1970s, generally linked with the activities of the revolutionary left. After 1980, however, the disturbances took on a specifically Kurdish character. Several groups emerged, espousing demands ranging from freedom of cultural expression to outright independence; some turned to violence to advance their cause. The most important of these groups was the Kurdish Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan [PKK]) led by Abdullah Öcalan. The PKK, a leftist group founded in 1978 that in 1983 began a terrorist campaign from bases in Iraq, sought an independent Kurdish state, although it offered to accept full autonomy. The PKK, with between 5,000 and 10,000 armed fighters, directed attacks against government property, government officials, Turks living in the Kurdish regions, Kurds accused of collaborating with the government, foreigners, and Turkish diplomatic missions abroad. The PKK received support from Syria and from Kurds living abroad and also acquired money through criminal activities. From 1991 the existence of so-called safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan--established following the Persian Gulf War and protected mainly by U.S. and British forces--provided new bases for PKK operations. Turkish governments sought to deal with the Kurdish problem by granting cultural concessions in 1991 and limited autonomy in 1993. Kurdish political parties, however, remained forbidden. The main government effort remained the military suppression of the uprising; martial law was imposed, and increasing numbers of troops and security forces were committed to the task. By 1993 the total number of security forces involved in the struggle in southeastern Turkey was about 200,000, and the conflict had become the largest civil war in the Middle East. It is estimated that between 1982 and 1995 some 15,000 people were killed, the great majority of whom were Kurdish civilians. Dozens of villages were destroyed and many of the inhabitants driven from their homes. Turkish forces also attacked PKK bases in Iraq, first from the air and then with ground forces; in an operation in late 1992 about 20,000 Turkish troops entered the safe havens, and in 1995 some 35,000 were employed in a similar campaign...

Turkey cooperated with Iraq in suppressing Kurdish disorder, although it supported the UN against Iraq in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, allowing use of U.S. air bases in Turkey. In return, the United States extended the defense agreement that was due to expire in 1990 and increased military and economic aid. International sanctions against Iraq cost Turkey hundreds of millions of dollars a year in oil pipeline revenues. Turkey's relations with Syria were adversely affected by Syria's support for Kurdish rebels...

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The Kurds have manifested an independent spirit throughout modern Iranian history, rebelling against central government efforts to restrict their autonomy during the Safavid, Qajar, and Pahlavi periods. The most recent Kurdish uprising took place in 1979 following the Revolution. Mahabad, which has been a center of Kurdish resistance against Persian authority since the time of the Safavid monarch Shah Abbas (1587-1629), was again at the forefront of the Kurdish autonomy struggle. Intense fighting between government forces and Kurdish guerrillas occurred from 1979 to 1982, but since 1983 the government has asserted its control over most of the Kurdish area...

The Kurdish uprising proved more deep-rooted, serious, and durable. The Kurdish leaders were disappointed that the Revolution had not brought them the local autonomy they had long desired. Scattered fighting began in March 1979 between government and Kurdish forces and continued after a brief cease-fire; attempts at negotiation proved abortive. One faction, led by Ahmad Muftizadeh, the Friday prayer leader in Sanandaj, was ready to accept the limited concessions offered by the government, but the Kurdish Democratic Party, led by Abdol-Rahman Qasemlu, and a more radical group led by Shaykh Ezz ad Din Husaini issued demands that the authorities in Tehran did not feel they could accept. These included the enlargement of the Kordestan region to include all Kurdish-speaking areas in Iran, a specified share of the national revenue for expenditure in the province, and complete autonomy in provincial administration. Kurdish was to be recognized as an official language for local use and for correspondence with the central government. Kurds were to fill all local government posts and to be in charge of local security forces. The central government would remain responsible for national defense, foreign affairs, and central banking functions. Similar autonomy would be granted other ethnic minorities in the country. With the rejection of these demands, serious fighting broke out in August 1979. Khomeini, invoking his powers as commander in chief, used the army against other Iranians for the first time since the Revolution. No settlement was reached with the Kurds during Bazargan's prime ministership...

During this period, the government was also able to consolidate its position in Kordestan. Fighting had resumed between government forces and Kurdish rebels after the failure of talks under Bani Sadr in late 1980. The Kurds held parts of the countryside and were able to enter the major cities at will after dark. With its takeover of Bukan in November 1981, however, the government reasserted control over the major urban centers. Further campaigns in 1983 reduced rebel control over the countryside, and the Kurdish Democratic Party had to move its headquarters to Iraq, from which it made forays into Iran. The Kurdish movement was further weakened when differences between the Kurdish Democratic Party and the more radical Komala (Komala-ye Shureshgari-ye Zahmat Keshan-e Kordestan-e Iran, or Committee of the Revolutionary Toilers of Iranian Kordestan), a Kurdish Marxist guerrilla organization, resulted in open fighting in 1985...

The Kurdish problem also proved intractable. The rebellion continued, and the Kurdish leadership refused to compromise on its demands for local autonomy. Fighting broke out again in April 1980, followed by another cease-fire on April 29. Kurdish leaders and the government negotiated both in Mahabad and in Tehran, but, although Bani Sadr announced he was prepared to accept the Kurdish demands with "modifications," the discussions broke down and fighting resumed.

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The Kurdish minority offered the most persistent and militarily effective security threat of Iraq's modern history. Although the Kurds had traditionally opposed any central governments in both Iran and Iraq, most Kurdish leaders initially saw the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran as a possible vehicle for promoting Kurdish aspirations toward selfgovernment . The Iranian government's antiminority attitude, however, along with Iraq's attempts to support the Iranian Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), dashed all hopes for a unified Kurdish independent state. The Iraqi and Iranian regimes each chose to support a Kurdish faction opposing the other's government, and this intervention divided the Kurds along "national" lines. As a result, during the 1980s Kurds in Iraq tended to hope for an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq War, while a number of Kurds in Iran thought that an Iraqi victory would best promote their own aspirations. Because most Kurds were Sunni Muslims, however, their enthusiasm for a Shia government in either country was somewhat limited.

Following the outbreak of hostilities and the ensuing stalemate in the Iran-Iraq War, Kurdish opponents of the Iraqi regime revived their armed struggle against Baghdad. In response to deportations, executions, and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Baath, the Kurds seemed in the 1980s to have renewed their political consciousness, albeit in a very limited way. Differences between the brothers Masud and Idris Barzani, who led the KDP, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Iraqisupported Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as the Kurdish leadership's periodic shifts into progovernment and antigovernment alliances, benefited Baghdad, which could manipulate opposing factions. What the Iraqi government could not afford, however, was to risk the opening of a second hostile front in Kurdistan as long as it was bogged down in its war with Iran. Throughout the 1980s, therefore, Baghdad tolerated the growing strength of the Kurdish resistance, which, despite shortcomings in its leadership, continued its long struggle for independence.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Iran</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">305000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">43000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">7000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Iraq</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">450000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">12000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">6000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Kurds</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">50000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">300000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">5000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Turkey</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1979</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1987</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">630000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">49000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">5000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts