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The insurgency of the Kurdish PKK and its armed wing HPG (Hêzên Parastina Gel, People’s Defence Force, in Turkey) has intensified throughout 2016 in southeastern Turkey, causing a tightening of the Turkish government’s military and administrative repression. They regained control of cities like Cizre, Nusaybin, Sirnak or Diyarbakir at the price of major destruction. Many mountainous and rural areas, however, are under de facto control of the insurgency.
Another Kurdish separatist group, the TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons), with unconventional methods of action (suicide attacks, car bombs), intensified their actions and committed several attacks against the Turkish security forces, including December 10 bombing in Istanbul, which left 45 dead (it is worth noting that neither the PKK, nor the TAK target civilians).
In Iraq, Turkey has good relations with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is dominated by the PDK (Kurdistan Democratic Party) that is opposed to the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which supports the PKK). Turkey has set up several military bases to intervene more effectively against the PKK’s bases in the mountains of northern Iraqi Kurdistan (MDZ). More recently, the Turks obtained from the KRG the departure of PKK-linked YBS (a Yazidi militia) from the city of Sinjar (although they still control the region).
In Syria, the YPG are controlling a large area in northern Syria together with the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), considered by Turkey as an extension of the PKK (which is indeed the case).
The Turks regularly bombard YPG positions along the border. Since the summer of 2016, Turkey has supported a military operation (“Euphrates Shield”) in the Aleppo governorate of Syria, whose objective is to expel “terrorists” from this area.
This has led Turkey not only to attack the Islamic state, but also the SDF present in the region of Manbij, with the aim of preventing the territorial unification of the three Syrian Kurdish cantons, thereby keeping Afrin, which is the most eastwards of the cantons, isolated from the rest of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).