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BTC Pipeline: Turkey

Politics

The most pressing problem for the BTC pipeline in Turkey can be found in the country's predominantly Kurdish southeast. The Kurds, a distinct ethnic group traditionally known as nomadic herders and devout Sunni Muslims, are spread out across parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. As many as 12 million Kurds live in the southwest of Turkey, and they represent approximately 20 percent of the country's population. The Kurds are considered to be the largest ethnic group in the world without their own nation.

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Conflict remains a risk for some along the BTC Pipeline route.
The Kurds have long struggled for greater independence and autonomy from the Eurasian countries in which they reside. But the roots of the current conflict in Turkey can be linked back to the formation of the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) during the mid 1970s. Built upon a Marxist-Leninist platform, the PKK soon began to call for a militaristic struggle for Kurdish rights. A bloody civil war between PKK and Turkish military forces began in 1984. Atrocities were committed on both sides of the protracted conflict, with Turkish forces cracking down on Kurdish populations and the PKK targeting Turkish civilians as well as the military. In February, 1999 the PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured and a ceasefire was declared later in the year. By the end of the hostilities, an estimated 30,000 people had been killed and upwards of one million Kurds displaced.

Despite the formal ending of hostilities, the Kurdish areas of Turkey remain poor, underdeveloped, and fraught with tension. In June, 2004 disillusioned PKK forces, now under the name of the Kongra-Gel (Kurdistan People's Congress), retracted the 1999 ceasefire agreement. In their desperate war for independence, PKK militias have been known to attack other oil pipelines located in Turkey. The BTC pipeline will skirt the edge of Turkey's Kurdish southwest along its route to Ceyhan.

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