Despite the government's claim that it is reaching out to Turkish Kurds and the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has-- violent clashes and incidents in southeastern Turkey related to the government's war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgency have increased since 2009. The incidents include the use of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It is believed that the number of detained Kurdish political activists increased in 2010. There are rumors of unmarked mass graves with the buried bodies of PKK militants. The big story here is that it appears the AKP's political outreach program has stalled.
January 30, 2011: The Turkish government estimates that the PKK has 2,000 fighters engaged in active operations. This is a decrease of around 1,000 from the consensus estimates made in late 2009. Analysts have also reviewed PKK operations and tactics during 2010. Most of the combat incidents occurred in Turkey's predominantly southeastern region. However, several PKK attacks took place in northeastern Turkey and in Istanbul. PKK rebels also hit a naval base in Iskenderun (Alexandretta). The big news in 2010 was PKK strikes on Turkish oil and gas pipelines. In July 2010 PKK rebels hit the key oil pipeline connecting Kirkuk (Iraq) to Turkey's port of Ceyhan. Later in the Summer the PKK hit a natural gas pipeline (Tabriz-Ankara line) carrying Iranian natural gas into Turkey. Turkey makes good money from oil and gas transmission fees. Moreover, the Turkish government has been encouraging the development of new pipelines. The pipeline attacks send a political and economic message to the Turkish government, and a warning to Turkey's oil and gas trading partners.
January 25, 2011: Imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah (Apo) Öcalan claimed that a group within the Turkish government asked the PKK to murder former Turkish prime minister Tansu Ciller in 1996. Ocalan said he turned down the request.
January 20, 2011: Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a gathering of provincial governors that he believes the PKK will step up attacks throughout Turkey in the run up to June 2011's national elections. The prime minister said governors must take precautions to guard key infrastructure like hospitals, highways, and schools. Erdogan's warning comes less than a week after his government said that it would try to revive its Kurdish peace initiative.
January 12, 2011: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that the threat the PKK poses to Turkey must be resolved soon. Mullen thanked Turkey for participating in the anti-Taliban campaign in Turkey.
January 10, 2011: The Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is demanding that the government grant Turkish Kurds what it calls democratic autonomy. The term has been tossed around in the media and has appeared in a Peace and Democracy Party manifesto. What it means, however, is not quite clear. The Turkish government says that it has no problem with Turkish Kurds running their local governments and taking care of immediate local business. However, Turkish nationalists claim that democratic autonomy is a code term for stealth separatism.
January 3, 2011: PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan issued a statement from his prison cell that criticized the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK) for demanding that Turkey create an autonomous Kurd region. Ocalan called the demand premature and had inflamed Turkish nationalists just as the AKP-led government was in the process of reviving its political outreach program to Turkish Kurds. The DTK demand was also tied to an appeal by several DTK and BDP leaders for Turkey to practice bilingualism (ie, the use of Turkish and Kurdish). Turkish nationalists accused the DTK and BDP of seeking to divide and fragment Turkey.
January 1, 2011: Iraqi Kurds continue to respond positively to Turkish political, cultural and economic policies aimed at strengthening bilateral relationship. PKK leaders in northern Iraq, however, say that Turkey's exercise in soft power is designed to undermine the PKK. And they are right.