Kurdistan Freedom Falcons

Kurdistan Freedom Falcons
Teyrêbazên Azadiya Kurdistan
Participant in the Kurdish–Turkish conflict

Flag of the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK)
Active 29 July 2004 (2004-07-29)[1] – present
Ideology Kurdish nationalism,
Headquarters Unknown
Area of operations Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran
Strength A few dozen active members (2006)[2]
Split from PKK (claimed)
Opponents  Turkey
Battles and wars Kurdish–Turkish conflict

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Kurdish: Teyrêbazên Azadiya Kurdistan, TAK, Turkish: Kürdistan Özgürlük Şahinleri) also known as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks and the Kurdistan Liberation Hawks,[3][4] is a Kurdish nationalist militant group in Turkey seeking an independent Kurdish state in eastern and southeastern Turkey. (Not to be confused with the armed units of the Kurdistan Freedom Party, which use a similar name).

The group presents itself as a break-away faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in open dissent with the PKK's readiness to compromise with the Turkish state. Analysts disagree on whether or not the two groups are in reality still linked.[5]

The group first appeared in August 2004, just weeks after the PKK called off the 1999 truce, assuming responsibility for two hotel bombings in Istanbul which claimed two victims.[6] Since then, TAK has followed a strategy of escalation, committing numerous violent bomb attacks throughout Turkey, with a focus on western and central Turkey, including tourist areas in Istanbul, Ankara, and southern Mediterranean resorts.[7] TAK also claimed responsibility for the February 2016 Ankara bombing, which killed at least 28 people[8][9][10] and the March 2016 Ankara bombing in the same city that killed another 37 people.[11]

Founding philosophy

The TAK are seeking an independent Kurdish state that includes eastern and southeastern Turkey.[12] The group has been violently opposed to the Turkish government’s policies towards its Kurdish people.[13][14]

TAK first appeared in 2004. There is substantial debate on the origin, composition, and affiliations of the group. Some Turkish analysts claim that the group is either a small splinter of or an alias for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the most active Kurdish militant group.[15][16][17] Others, however, suggest that the group may be totally independent of the PKK, or only loosely connected to it. PKK leaders deny having any control over the TAK. There are some indications that the TAK was founded by disgruntled or former members of the PKK.[15] Though the TAK has not articulated a specific platform beyond enmity with the Turkish regime, it is likely the group at least supports the PKK's former goal of an independent Kurdistan.[3][17] Also in an official statement made in October 09, 2016 the White House recognized TAK as the PKK's urban terrorist unit.[18]


Little is known about the internal structure of the TAK, and apparently not even the Turkish secret service MİT succeeded in elucidating the organization. An employee of the later banned Kurdish German news agency MHA told Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2005 that representatives of the TAK would always remain anonymous and short-spoken. The Freedom Falcons recruited a new generation of "frustrated young Kurds", raised in the slums of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara, after their parents had to flee their Kurdish villages in the 1990s. Other Kurdish observers saw the Freedom Falcons as a socially disrooted youth, a new urban guerilla born out of despair.[19]

Relationship with the PKK

According to the Jamestown Foundation, TAK has been a rival to the PKK since 2006.[2] From then on, the group's operations have been repeatedly at odds with Murat Karayılan's and other PKK leaders' repeated calls for a ceasefire followed by negotiations.[20] However, Vera Eccarius-Kelly, a scholar of political science, has noted that there are no clear signs that indicate a struggle between the two groups, in contrast to previous murders of threats to the authority of PKK leadership by the PKK. According to her, whilst TAK repeatedly damaged the PKK's efforts to negotiate cease-fires with "unapproved" bombings, in a way that has been compared to the Real IRA in the Northern Ireland conflict, the fact that there is no such struggle may have two explanations: TAK may be operating outside the PKK's command structure, or it may be used by the PKK for "specific missions".[21] TAK's origins however remain controversial. Some Turkish security analysts alleged that Bahoz Erdal may be the leader of TAK.[22] Other analysts believe that the group was initially formed by PKK leaders in 2003, when it engaged in illegal demonstrations, roadblocks and occasional Molotov cocktails. TAK has since claimed to have split from the PKK, accusing it of being "passive". Since then, the PKK claimed none of TAK's actions[23] most recently in December 2015, they criticized the PKK's "humanist character" as inept in the face of "the methods used by the existing Turkish state fascism."[24]

Some experts say that TAK is financed and trained by the PKK; according to France24's correspondent in Turkey, "most" analysts share this view and whilst TAK is affiliated to the PKK, it enjoys some operational autonomy.[25] The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, an academic research centre specialising on terrorism, considers TAK the "special urban terrorism wing" of the PKK.[26] According to the Guardian, "Turkish officials as well as some security analysts say TAK still acts as a militant front of the PKK".[27] Business Insider has reported that "experts who follow Kurdish militants say the groups retain ties".[28] Independent security analyst Metin Gürcan, writing for al-Monitor, described TAK as "a semi-autonomous, armed outfit that carries out attacks under the PKK umbrella", saying that while the PKK ideologically and financially supports TAK, it allows it to decide on the nature and timing of its attacks.[29] Gürcan further wrote that the PKK uses proxies to carry out attacks in western Turkey so that its reputation for fighting ISIS is not tarnished.[23] Aliza Marcus, an expert on the PKK, also expressed her skepticism of the claims of separation by saying "It would be the first time in the history of the PKK that they allow the existence of any other group representing the Kurds than themselves. In the 1990s, the PKK fought with rival Kurdish groups in Europe, it has killed dissidents within its own ranks. I see no reason why they would allow another group on the stage now."[30] Newsweek and Al-Arabiya have also written that the group is linked to PKK.[31][32]

In May 2016, the PKK leader Cemil Bayik claimed that Turkey carries out attacks in the name of TAK.[33]

Designation as a terrorist organisation

U.S. government considers the group a terrorist organization.[34][34][35] as did the United Kingdom.[36] However, the United Nations, China, India and Russia do not list the TAK as a terrorist organization.[37][38][39][40]

Turkey regards the group as part of PKK and doesn't list it separately. The organization is not listed among the 12 active terrorist organizations in Turkey according to Counter-Terrorism and Operations Department of Directorate General for Security (Turkish police).[41]


TAK has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against businesses and government and legal institutions since 2004. Its earliest attacks were small, non-lethal bombings in public places which the group described as "warning actions." These warnings, however, had become deadly by the summer of 2005.


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