Back to list icon

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)

( AS OF OCTOBER 2022 )


PKK flag
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) flag

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel, is a militant Marxist-Leninist Kurdish separatist group established in 1978 with the goal of creating a unified, independent Kurdistan. The group aims to gain control of Kurdish areas of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey to advance Kurdish rights and recognition. The group’s stated goal is to establish a confederation of semiautonomous Kurdish regions.

The PKK has historically maintained its headquarters in Iraq and largely focused on attacking Turkish targets in the Kurdish-dominant region of southeast Turkey. The PKK and the Turkish Government maintained a cease-fire from 2013 to 2015. Since then, Turkish security forces in southeast Turkey have pushed most of the PKK’s operations into Iraq and Syria.

Primarily in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey; affiliated groups operate in northern Syria, northern Iraq, and western Iran.

At least 4,000 members

The PKK uses a mix of guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics. The group uses IEDs, car bombs, grenades, small arms, mortars, suicide bombings, kidnapping operations, unmanned aerial vehicles, and man-portable air defense systems in attacks primarily against Turkish and Turkish-supported forces in northern Iraq and Syria as well as Turkish personnel and infrastructure in southeastern Turkey. The PKK has also attacked Turkish Government personnel and security forces in Ankara and Istanbul.

The US State Department designated the PKK a foreign terrorist organization in October 1997.


Abdullah Ocalan

Abdullah Ocalan
PKK founder and spiritual leader; captured in a Turkish operation in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison; continues to drive the PKK’s political ideology and strategic direction.

Murat Karayilan

Murat Karayilan
Senior PKK operational commander and chairman of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council, which governs PKK activities

Cemil Bayak

Cemil Bayak
PKK founding member and senior member of the KCK Executive Council


10 December 2016

Istanbul, Turkey

Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) operatives conduct a car bombing and suicide bombing outside Vodafone Park, a soccer stadium, killing 44 people and wounding 155.

13 March 2016

Ankara, Turkey

TAK detonates a car bomb at a bus stop at Güvenpark, killing 37 and wounding 125.

14 July 2011

Silvan, Turkey

The PKK clashes with Turkish forces; 13 soldiers and seven PKK fighters are killed.

25 June 2006

Manavgat, Turkey

TAK detonates a bomb at a tourist site, killing four and wounding 28.

20 June 1987

Pinarcik, Turkey

The Kurdistan People’s Liberation Army—a wing of the PKK—kills 30 people in the village.