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Turkey faces myriad internal and external challenges, including an escalating conflict with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, a crisis over three million Syrian refugees, threats posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), and growing social and political polarisation exacerbated by a July 2016 coup attempt. Crisis Group maintains a unique tracker of the death toll in the PKK conflict and conducts field research to prevent, mitigate or end deadly violence and its consequences. Our ten-year-old presence in Turkey puts us in a unique position to engage the government and all parties not just on domestic crises but also to help Turkey stabilise its exceptionally turbulent neighbourhood.

CrisisWatch Turkey

Unchanged Situation

Security forces continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency in SE; 23 members of security forces killed in clashes in eastern provinces, however clashes generally remain at low intensity. Pressure continued on Kurdish movement with new arrests and detentions. Authorities 9 May stripped Democratic People’s Party (HDP)’s Nursel Aydoğan of her MP status. HDP extraordinary congress 20 May elected Serpil Kemalbay as party co-chair to replace imprisoned Figen Yüksekdağ, stripped of her parliamentary seat in Feb. Security forces 11 May arrested at least seventeen alleged members of PKK’s youth wing in eight provinces. Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) elected President Erdoğan new party chairman at extraordinary congress 21 May. Govt continued crackdown on alleged members of state-christened FETÖ/PDY it blames for July 2016 coup attempt. Rhetoric on EU resumed positive tone: Erdoğan 9 May announced EU membership remained strategic goal for Turkey, wished to pursue accession process in “mutual respect”. Relations with Berlin remained strained; Turkey 15 May barred German MPs from visiting German troops stationed at Incirlik air base in south; Chancellor Merkel said Germany would seek alternatives to Incirlik air base such as Jordan. President Erdoğan met with EU officials 25 May during NATO summit in bid to revive strategic relations and accession negotiations. Ankara criticised U.S. announcement 9 May that it will arm Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG)-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ahead of offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, warned PKK would benefit from deal. Deputy PM Veysi Kaynak 13 May announced Turkey would set up bases near Syrian town al-Bab to train and equip local forces (see Syria). Erdoğan and President Trump in Washington 16 May discussed strategy in Syria, fight against PKK, ISIS and extradition of Fethullah Gülen, alleged leader of state-christened FETÖ/PDY. Violence targeting Syrian refugee communities increased with incidents of mob violence reported in SE and western cities in April and May, highlighting social cohesion challenges. This follows April crackdown on several international NGOs working with refugees.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

17 Apr 2017
Regardless of their actual views on the constitutional changes, Erdoğan's supporters feel the need to support him after the coup. Vox

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey
7 Apr 2017
There is no durable military solution to Turkey's PKK conflict. Peace talks between Ankara and the PKK are the only way forward for a durable solution. Reuters

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey
11 Mar 2017
Turkey has always set the Euphrates as a red line [for Kurdish forces in Syria]. The problem is it will be a huge gamble to really do that with US, Russia and YPG, who are a proficient fighting force. AP

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
12 Dec 2016
Both because of the Syria theater and domestic politics, it doesn’t look like either [Turkey or Kurdish militants] are going to be willing to seek an alternative route in the foreseeable future. TIME

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey
27 Jul 2016
President Erdoğan has long seen himself as a natural ally of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East. Any action against the Muslim Brotherhood he saw as a threat to himself. NPR

Hugh Pope

Director of Communications & Outreach
21 Jul 2016
The fighting in the southeast, which reignited in July 2015, has killed 1,761 people, according to new figures released by the International Crisis Group. Middle East Eye

— Direnç Balık


Latest Updates

The US joins the Turkey-PKK fight in northern Syria

Directly arming one mainly Kurdish faction in Syria makes U.S. partly responsible for the fate of Syria’s Kurds. Given Ankara’s bitter opposition to the group, Washington should push its Kurdish partner to focus on regional autonomy in Syria, not its insurgency in Turkey.

Originally published in Middle East Eye

The PKK’s Fateful Choice in Northern Syria

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates face a stark choice: risk their gains in northern Syria through continued prioritisation of the PKK's fight against Turkey, or pursue local self-rule in the area they have carved out of the chaos of the Syrian war.

Also available in العربية, Türkçe

The PKK Conflict in the Context of EU-Turkey Relations

On top of major challenges, including the spillover from the war in Syria, Islamic State terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed governance, Turkey's conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also reignited last year. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to increase efforts toward two related objectives: improving relations with Ankara and finding a political end to the PKK conflict.

Speech / Europe & Central Asia

Turkey and a Region in Crisis

The journey from the best to the worst of days in recent Turkish geopolitics was partly determined by a deteriorating diplomatic context. Our Director of Communications & Outreach Hugh Pope looks back on two decades of change in a keynote speech for the Dutch Peace Research Foundation’s annual prizes for best new MA theses on peace.

Our People

Alçay Akay

Office Manager, Turkey

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey