Kurd Protest: People who seek their own nation

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The Independent Online
Who are the Kurds?

The lands of the Kurds straddle Turkey, Iran and Iraq, an area of about 200,000 square miles. More than half of the 25 million population live in Turkey. Over 6 million live in Iran and 4.2 million in northern Iraq.

What is their claim to a state?

They are the only big nation denied its own state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.

So what are there chances of getting one?

Very slim. The one thing Iran, Iraq and Turkey agree on is that the Kurds must never win independence. Their best chance seemed to be in Iraq after the Gulf War, when the Western allies set up a "safe haven" in the north. But internal splits wrecked this and enabled Saddam Hussein to regain control.

So who are the PKK?

These are the militants among the Turkish-based Kurds, as opposed to the two Iraqi-based Kurdish parties, led by Jalal Talabani and Massoud Brazan.

What do they stand for?

PKK is short for Kurdish Workers' Party. They are led by Marxist Leninist commanders, but are basically nationalists who feel excluded by the Turkish state. They want independence in the south-east corner of Turkey.

When did they start fighting in Turkey?

In the mid-Eighties. In the early 1990s they took control of a lot of territory. More recently the Turks have rolled in more troops and bolstered their position. As a result, the PKK has become more desperate.

How have the Turks behaved towards the Kurds?

Abominably, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Turkish military rules the Kurdish areas with an iron fist, razing entire villages and deporting people en masse.

Where has Mr Ocalan been all this time?

Mostly directing affairs from abroad. After founding the PKK in 1978 he fled Turkey in 1980 and lived mainly in Syria. After being kicked out last year he went to Italy, but it wouldn't grant him asylum.

Is he going to get a fair trial?

Turkey will be under enormous international pressure to allow one. But he faces a long list of charges for practising terrorism, which carry the death penalty.

So is PLO-style terrorism about to engulf Europe?

Possibly. With no hope of winning the war against Turkey and its leader facing execution, the PKK may resort to desperate measures. There are tens of thousands of disaffected Kurds in Europe who may now turn to the PKK.