Is the PKK [still] a terrorist group?



I am wondering if the designation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as a terrorist group might be outdated.

Are there any instances of the PKK targeting civilians during the insurgency of 2015-present? Do these constitute a pattern, or do the PKK claim some such attacks, or is there some other reason to think some such attacks are sanctioned at a reasonably high level in the organization?

Affirmative answers to these questions would seem to be necessary to sustain the view that the PKK is currently a terrorist organization.


Posted 2019-05-15T05:35:23.033

Reputation: 4 376

Do you distinguish PKK from the TAK (Teyrêbazên Azadiya Kurdistan = Kurdistan Freedom Falcons) "splinter group"? – Fizz – 2019-05-15T08:55:59.517

@Fizz I'm not sure whether I should. Would it change the answer one way or the other to include the TAK as part of the PKK? – Colin – 2019-05-15T09:22:14.900

@Colin: TAK claimed responsibility for a stadium bombing as recently as December 2016, so it affects the answer to the first question at least.

– Michael Seifert – 2019-05-15T19:09:48.357

There are lots of different definitions of "terrorist". Do you have a specific one in mind? Or are you thinking in terms of official designations, for instance by the US state department? – divibisan – 2019-05-15T22:23:06.490

@MichaelSeifert that attack mostly killed police, not civilians. it appears to be a targeted military attack, not terrorism. – Colin – 2019-05-16T01:27:05.563

Maybe targeted is the wrong word there, but a wartime military attack. – Colin – 2019-05-16T01:35:08.407

@divibisan what more concretely i am wondering about is expressed in the question body. – Colin – 2019-05-16T14:07:33.007



Are there any instances of the PKK targeting civilians during the insurgency of 2015-present?

Mostly no, not by themselves. On the other hand, there's a big debate whether the newly sprung TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons), which has engaged in bombing of civilians in Turkey at large, is really unconnected to the PKK. The PKK says so, but (e.g.) the Obama administration thought otherwise, e.g. in a 2016 press statement they said:

We also condemn the senseless motorcycle bomb attack near a police station in Istanbul on Thursday that was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, the PKK's urban terrorist unit.

Regarding PKK itself, I can think of the 2016 Dürümlü bombing. The PKK has defended this attack as a legitimate/non-civilian target:

‘Who got killed there? They say they were civilians, right?’ Bayik grabs his own guerrilla uniform firmly, and says: ‘If I change these clothes for civilian clothes, would that make me a civilian? No it would not.’ He means to say the people who died in the explosion in Dürümlü were in fact so-called village guards, Kurds paid and armed by the state to help in the war against the PKK.

Officially the PKK/Bayik condemns attacks against civilians.


Posted 2019-05-15T05:35:23.033

Reputation: 76 605

The TAK attacked a civilian airport in Istanbul in 2015, saying "we as TAK will not be responsible for the security of the international airlines to travel to Turkey and the foreign tourists not a citizen of the Turkish state." So this seems fairly clear that they targeted civilians and their intent was to terrorize civilian travelers. So I'm on board with TAK being a terrorist org. – Colin – 2019-05-16T01:52:23.830

The Durumlu bombing appears to have been a botched attack on a military target, tho. Maybe the question does hinge on whether the TAK is considered part of the PKK. – Colin – 2019-05-16T01:54:01.797


Back in March, the US State Department announced that they still recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization and that the United States is going to support Turkey in their fight against them.


Posted 2019-05-15T05:35:23.033

Reputation: 7

I think this question was not about the official designation. – Fizz – 2019-05-15T22:52:57.040

2Welcome to Unfortunately, this doesn't answer my question. I am hoping to construct an informed opinion about whether they are a terrorist organization based on public information. The US government designation is not very helpful with that. – Colin – 2019-05-16T01:29:46.883

@Colin I do know that the United Nations does recognize them as a terrorist group, is that a sufficient source? I believe that if that many countries would recognize them as a terrorist group then that probably would be the case. – jacobhobart – 2019-05-17T02:04:21.693

@jacobhobart I do not think that's directly the case. International politics has one golden rule: The biggest one is always right. If for example the US takes a position on a subject, and there is not another powerfull country (e.g. an UNSC permanent member) that holds a different opinion AND has something to gain for going against the US, the vision of US will be the official vision of the UN. Therefore: just because there is recognition by the UN does not give it any credibility. For example Another kurdic organisation related to the PKK serve as ground troops in syria for the coalition. – Lovapa – 2019-05-17T17:00:10.867