Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK)
What – The TAK, a Kurdish militant group based in Turkey, has claimed responsibility for a bombing near Vodafone Arena, a soccer stadium in Istanbul. The twin bombings, which were apparently meant to target police officers, killed 38 people and wounded 155. TAK has claimed responsibility for multiple other deadly bombings in Turkey this year. 13 people have been arrested so far in connection with the attack.
When – December 10, 2016
How – TAK used a car bomb in front of the arena targeting riot police overseeing the football match, which had ended approximately an hour and a half beforehand. The second was a suicide bomb which occurred in a nearby park after the carrier was ordered to stop by police and detonated the explosives.
Why – TAK claims the attack was in retaliation for Turkish military operations in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeastern region. It should be noted that some Kurds have been fighting against the Turkish government since 1984 and desire a country of their own.
General Background – The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, known by its Kurdish acronym TAK, is a militant offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), both of which operate in the southeastern region of Turkey. Though both groups desire an independent Kurdish state and oppose the Turkish government, the TAK broke off from the PKK in 2004 due to the PKK’s willingness to compromise with the Turkish state. Whether TAK and PKK still cooperate or are at all related is still widely debated. It has gone against the wishes of PKK leaders and has hampered peace talks throughout its existence; however, some suspect it could be given specific missions by PKK leaders. Many officials consider them to be at least tangentially related, though both groups deny any affiliation.
History of the PKK – The PKK was established in 1978 following decades of Turkish governmental oppression against the ethnic Kurdish population of Turkey. It’s initial goal was to establish equal rights for Kurds living in Turkey, but escalated into violence in 1984. Since then, thousands have been killed and Turkey has been accused of multiple human rights violations against Kurdish civilians, including torture, execution, and abducting journalists. Working with groups such as the PKK has become a point of contention lately, with the United States supporting Kurdish militas with weapons to fight both Assad and ISIS and the Turkish government and Assad’s supporters attacking Kurdish militas despite all groups involved claiming to be fighting against ISIS. Turkey views the US’s support of Kurdish groups as a threat against Turkish interests and some theorize that the Kurdish groups are taking land to later transform into an independent Kurdish state.