Facts About the Struggle

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

  • The Kurdish population stands at about 20-25 million. It is concentrated in the parts of eastern Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq that make up the region known as Kurdistan. About 12 million Kurds live in the southeast region of Turkey alone.
  • Twenty percent of Turkey's population is Kurdish. Iraq is 15-20% Kurdish; Syria, less than 10%; and Iran, 7%;
  • The majority of Kurds are devout Sunni Muslims.
  • Abdullah Ocalan is 50 years old and was born in a Turkish village on the border of Syria. He is separated from his wife and has no children.
  • At least 134 teachers have been murdered under Ocalan's orders. One of Ocalan's aims is to protect Kurds from being forced to learn the Turkish language and abandon the Kurdish culture.
  • The Turkish army is responsible for burning almost 3,000 Kurdish settlements and displacing two million people.
  • Ocalan, who has a tyrannical reputation, has been at the helm of the PKK, commanding its rebels, since its inception. He has never fought in a battle.
  • More than 35,000 people have died in the Kurdish conflict since the PKK turned to terrorism in 1984.
  • Human Rights organizations are concerned about Turkey's treatment of Ocalan, in prison and otherwise. Not only does he face a possible death penalty, but he was not permitted to meet with his lawyers after his capture. Turkey refuses to try Ocalan in front of an international tribunal, but has promised that his trial will be fair.

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