SHERI LAIZER : FIVE PREVIOUS PKK CEASEFIRES SINCE 1993 / Better prospects for the sixth ceasefire of Newroz 2013? 

The 1993 ceasefire : PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, announces a (unilateral) televised ceasefire for 25 days on 17 March 1993 (in the presence of Jalal Talabani (then PUK leader/current Iraqi President) saying if there are no attacks against members of the PKK by Turkish forces the ceasefire would hold. This ended on 24 May 1993 with the killing of 33 unarmed Turkish soldiers blamed on former PKK Commander, Semdin Sakik. No PKK commander would dare to act without the knowledge/consent of the leader. There is now a formal military monument to the 33 sehit in Turkey.

The second ceasefire (December 1995- 16 August 1996)

On 10 December 1995 the PKK announces a ceasefire with the KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan and a unilateral ceasefire with Turkey aimed at finding a “solution within the existing borders of Turkey”. This ceasefire ended on 16 August 1996.

The third ceasefire (September 1998-June 2004)

A five-year unilateral ceasefire commenced on 1 September 1998 but Abdullah Öcalan was expelled from his safe house in Damascus, Syria, in October 1998 and began his exodus in quest of asylum with a stay of 105 days in Rome before being captured in Kenya on 15 February 1999. The PKK Presidential Council thereafter called for a violent response to the leader’s capture until this was called to a halt by Öcalan from captivity on Imrali Island, prison, Turkey, culminating in a restoration of the ceasefire in August 1999. A withdrawal of all the PKK’s armed forces from Turkey was set for by 1 September 1999 – the PKK – then renamed KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom & Democracy Congress) threatened to end the ceasefire in 2002 [1] in reaction to the rejected “repentance law” (so-called ”Win back to society law” announced by the Turkish government) in September 2003 and the ceasefire was finally formally ended by the PKK (renamed Kongra Gel in 2003) on 1 June 2004.

The fourth ceasefire (April-May 2005)

A one-month long ceasefire was announced by the “new PKK’ (renamed thus as of April 2005) commencing on 19 August 2005 to “suspend attacks on Turkish security forces until 20 September”. This was then extended to 3 October 2005, the day Turkey commenced accession talks with the EU on the basis that this was “now a problem for the EU and not just for Turkey. “ [2]

The fifth ceasefire (October 1996)

Kongra Gel/PKK announced a new unilateral ceasefire commencing on 1 October 2006, practically, if not formally ended, by Turkish cross border attacks on PKK bases in Iraq and clashes in south east Turkey in late 2007.

Note: Confusion arises concerning the observance of these unilateral ceasefires in practice owing to their being announced in the varying names of the PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel/New PKK’s HPG (People’s Defence Forces) going on to launch attacks using the justification of “self defence”.

The sixth ceasefire (March 2013)

Abdullah Öcalan announces a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) ceasefire from prison on Imrali Island, Turkey on 20 March 2013. He claims: “The statement I am preparing will be a historical call,” Ocalan said. He also pleaded for the support of the Turkish government: “We want to rapidly solve the arms problem without losing time or another life…” [3] The estimated 3,500 guerrillas based in Turkey were to withdraw entirely from Turkey by August. In return Turkey was expected to undertake constitutional and judicial reforms securing Kurdish cultural rights and more power in local administration. According to the Turkish media, Sabri Ok, an executive member of the Union of Kurdish Communities, said in an interview. The PKK has “already taken every agreed step,” Ok said…Ocalan had said if Ankara did not take action to fulfill its side of the settlement agreement by Oct. 15 “the cease-fire will be broken,” Ok said. The PKK said it has withdrawn its armed groups in the first step of the agreement. The second step involves constitutional amendments and legal changes. The third and final step calls for the PKK to disarm.” [4]

Clashes occurred on 4 July between PKK militants and the Turkish military in the Diyarbakir region breaking the ceasefire in practice but not formally ending the peace process.

The question remains: does PM Erdogan have the full support of the Turkish military and the PKK the patience to remain on the road to peace? Both sides are faced by forces that benefit from instability, no less the deepening Sunni-Shi’a conflict in the wider region, the religio-politico goals of Islamic Jihad and the Iran-Hezbollah-Shi’a Iraqi axis to achieve a Shi’a super state. Will the gains of the Kurds in Syria represent a threat to nationalists in Turkey that still fear an expanded geo-political Kurdish entity along – and, indeed, within – their present borders?

France, 27 July 2013

1. In 2002, the PKK changed its name to the Kurdish Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK). In 2003, KADEK announced a three-stage road map for peacefully resolving the issue of Kurdish autonomy within Turkey. However, despite the ceasefire, the group continued to threaten violence and did not abandon its terrorist activities. KADEK’s military arm, the People’s Defense Force, refused to disarm for reasons of self-defense. In 2003, KADEK announced that it would dissolve itself and create a pan-Kurdish organization called the Kurdistan People’s Congress (KPC) that would seek Kurdish rights through negotiations with Turkey. Turkish officials dismissed these overtures a public relations ploy and KADEK continued to resist disarmament. (Source:

2. In 2004, KADEK ended its ceasefire with the Turkish government because of the military’s continued attacks against its assets. In April 2005, the group reverted back to its original name, the PKK. In August 2005, the group announced a one-month ceasefire and said it would be willing to hold indirect peace talks with the Turkish government. Source:

The rebels said in a statement that the ceasefire had come to an end, demanding that as Ankara had now opened talks with Europe, it was now a problem for the EU, not only for Turkey. (Source: Hurriyet newspaper, 7 October 2005