Remembering 15th August 1984 as a landmark date in modern Kurdish history 

The fifteenth of August 1984 is a momentous date in the history of the Kurdish movement and the popular resistance to state orchestrated oppression inside Turkey. This date represents the start of the resurgence of the Kurdish struggle and the present strength of the Kurdish national movement has its roots in this date thirty-nine years ago.

The historical context is crucial for an understanding of the Kurdish decision to launch the organised resistance. The Kurds felt compelled to conclude that there was no other option available to them.  Just four years earlier, on 12 September 1980, Turkey had experienced a military coup which led to the suspension of the democratic constitution and savage restrictions on all civil rights. The Turkish armed forces stepped up their brutal attacks on the Kurdish community in an effort to crush their organisations.

Kurds already believed that the Turkish state policy of assimilation was tantamount to annihilation. It meant the elimination of the Kurdish identity as expressed in the language, culture and heritage. Even the apparently quite innocuous aspects of Kurdish identity such as their use of traditional Kurdish names for newborn children, playing Kurdish music and wearing traditional dress, were to be eradicated because Turkey decreed that this all posed a direct threat to Turkish unity and the state’s “one nation, one flag, one people” dogma.

The active resistance of the Kurds in 1984 began just six years after the founding of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which continues to inspire and lead the people’s struggle. Fifteenth August 1984 thus represented a new trajectory for the Kurdish resistance which continues to this day but takes on different forms.

As we mark this anniversary in 2023, it seems pertinent to reflect for a moment on the lasting impact and enduring transformative influence of the PKK and the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan on the Kurdish movement inside Turkey and far beyond its borders. The new dynamic created by the PKK and Ocalan have been, and remain, absolutely critical to the growing confidence of the people and strength of the Kurds as a social force in contemporary history.

The PKK created a new dynamic in the political struggle of the Kurds inside Turkey and further beyond even Kurdistan. The ideas and vision that originated with Abdullah Ocalan and have been further developed by his supporters within Kurdish political organisations have transformed the fortunes and politics of the Kurdish people. Ocalan’s ideas have been taken up and developed in many different parts of the world and in various social movements seeking out an alternative to the impasse in traditional politics.

The party provided great dynamism and acted as a vital catalyst for mass organisation of the Kurds at a critical period when they were at a low ebb.  The campaigns waged by the Kurdish movement for democratic, social, political and cultural rights, for a new understanding of the meaning of self-determination and for equality between men and women, among other issues, all owe their inspiration to the PKK and the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan. The Kurdish movement has reached out to groups and social forces outside its own community to build alliances with other non-Kurdish communities and minorities who have faced the same oppression from the Turkish state and equally from other existing states in the Kurdish region.

The PKK has encouraged the Kurds to study and research their own history and to draw inspiration from their own past long denied to them by Turkey which has sought to impose an exclusively Turkish identity on the Kurds through a narrow nationalistic education system where teaching the Kurdish language, history and culture was for long completely forbidden. By its actions, the PKK has initiated a modern Kurdish cultural renaissance.

Generations of Kurds have learned about their own heritage from participation in the Kurdish struggle. Above all, and most importantly, the existence of the PKK and its presence as a force within Kurdish society brought about an awakening of the Kurdish social and political consciousness that can never now be extinguished. This new awareness of Kurdish identity provides a confidence and understanding that there exists a political solution to the challenges that the people are confronted with. They have learned the lesson that they can achieve change through their own actions and through solidarity.

The PKK has kept hope alive for Kurds living in their traditional homelands and for the many millions displaced over the decades. The diaspora community of Kurds share the same dream with their compatriots of one day living in a free Kurdistan. For many the social model has been offered by Rojava and the self-governing communities that sprung up under the direct influence of the political vision set out by Ocalan in his various writings and speeches. It is thanks to the PKK and its political education among the people that Kurds cherish the dream of a possible future transformed by their combined efforts and that one day even those displaced for decades will be able to return home.

On the anniversary of 15th August 1984, Peace in Kurdistan stands in solidarity with the Kurdish people and reiterates the list of demands whose fulfilment remains the goal of the Kurdish movement and our campaign.

We demand the unbanning of the PKK; we demand freedom for all political prisoners, including the recognised political leader of the Kurds, Abdullah Ocalan; we call for the opening up of a process of dialogue that will enable a just and lasting peace between Turkey and the Kurds.

The Kurds draw inspiration from their history of struggle and perhaps no date is more significant in this regard than 15th August 1984. While the people’s struggle is of course far from over the resources that the Kurds have created by their own efforts are formidable and the achievements gained over these decades of struggle can only provide the conditions for renewing their struggle.

15th August 2023


Peace in Kurdistan

Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question


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Patrons: John Austin; Mike Arnott, President STUC; Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT; Prof Bill Bowring; Mickey Brady, MP for Mid Ulster; Julie Christie; Noam Chomsky; Jeremy Corbyn MP;  Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis; Lord Dholakia; Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director;  Dr Radha D’Souza, writer;  Desmond Fernandes; Lindsey German, Convenor STWC; Melanie Gingell; Christopher Gingell; Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Rahila Gupta author, journalist; Chris Hazzard Sinn Fein MP; Nick Hildyard, policy advisor;  Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru; George Katsiaficas, Greek-American historian and author; James Kelman, novelist; Baroness Helena Kennedy KC;  Jean Lambert, former MEP; Dr Les Levidow, Open University; Gawain Little, GFTU General Secretary; Elfyn Llwyd; John McDonnell MP; Mike Mansfield KC; David Morgan, journalist; Conor Murphy, Sinn Fein MLA; Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley; Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey; Kate Osamor MP; Margaret Owen OBE; Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce; Dr Felix Padel, anthropologist;  Maxine Peake, actor; Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University; Father Joe Ryan; Dr Thomas Schmidt, ELDH Europe; Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser; Roza Salih, Scottish politician; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation; Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer; Jonathan Steele, journalist; Chris Stephens SNP MP; Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal; Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakefor; Dr Derek Wall; Julie Ward, former MEP; Frances Webber, former Vice-Chair of IRR and barrister; Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.