In 2022, the PKK/YPG continued to represent a significant terrorist threat both within and beyond Turkish borders. This threat was characterized by targeted violence against both civilians and security forces. While the number of attacks conducted by the PKK/YPG has diminished in Turkey between 2015 and 2022, there has been an upward trend of attacks in Syria and Northern Iraq. Nonetheless, in 2022, there was a slight uptick in the number of attacks carried out by the PKK/YPG, as compared to 2021.

According to the Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP) database, the PKK/YPG launched a total of 246 terror attacks across Turkey, Syria, and Iraq in 2022, as compared to 221 attacks in the previous year. Although the data suggests no significant shift in the group's preferred targets since the previous year, with attacks mostly focused on tactical/operational military and police units, there were still notable instances of attacks on civilians within Turkey.

The PKK/YPG's continued operation in Syria and Northern Iraq, coupled with the group's ongoing attacks in Turkey, highlight the persistent threat that the group poses to regional security. This threat is further compounded by the PKK/YPG's strong ties to other terrorist groups, which complicates counterterrorism efforts and underscores the need for continued cooperation among international partners.

Assessment and Analysis


Despite experiencing fewer terrorist attacks compared to the previous year, Turkey still faced significant incidents in Mersin, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and Diyarbakir, where civilians and Turkish security forces were targeted. Data gathered from open sources shows that there were 23 terror attacks in Turkey between January and December 2022, down from 26 during the same period in 2021. However, the PKK/YPG conducted deadly terrorist attacks on Turkish soil, resulting in a number of civilian deaths and injuries.

On September 26, two women affiliated with the PKK/YPG opened fire with long-barreled weapons on police officers stationed in front of a police station in Mersin's Mezitli district. The attack wounded two police officers and three civilians. Sedat Gezer, one of the injured police officers, died on the day of the attack.

On November 13, a deadly terrorist attack took place on Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue, killing six people, including two children, and injuring 81 others. Initial investigations suggested that the PKK/YPG was behind the attack. On December 16, a PKK-designated bomb exploded near an armored police van on the Diyarbakir-Mardin road, injuring nine people, including eight police officers and a civilian.

Additionally, on November 21, the PKK/YPG launched rocket and mortar attacks from Syria on the Karkamis district in Gaziantep province. The attack resulted in the deaths of three people, including a child and a teacher, and six injuries.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack target type between the January-December 2022

Analysis of the distribution of attacks in Turkey by target type shows that tactical and operational police units were the primary focus of the PKK/YPG in 2022, with seven attacks. The second target group of the PKK/YPG was civilian and social spheres, with four attacks. Tactical and operational military units and military facilities were each the subject of three attacks. While there is no information available about the target type of two attacks, the remaining four attacks targeted tactical and operational village guard units, police facilities, security forces (under civilian clothing), and educational institutions.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack type between the January-December 2022

According to the TAP database, there is a diversity of attack types by the PKK/YPG in Turkey. In 2022, the highest number of attacks were armed reactions against the Turkish security forces. The TAP database recorded six armed clashes between January and December 2022. The second type was recorded as rocket launchers with five attacks, while mortar and IED attacks shared the same number of four attacks each. The remaining types of attacks were distributed between VBIED, SVEST, bomb, and gang attacks. It is important to note that the diversity of attack types may suggest that the PKK did not discriminate between security forces or civilians, as most of the rocket, mortar, and bomb attacks targeted civilians and social spheres in Turkey. Considering the loss of the ability to conduct terror attacks in Turkey, the PKK/YPG plotted its attacks outside Turkey, particularly in Syria, as evidenced by the attacks in Mersin and Istanbul.

After the attacks, law enforcement and security forces investigations found that the terrorist figures who committed attacks on civilians and police units entered Turkey illegally by infiltrating the border through mountainous areas. As a result, on November 19, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) conducted an array of simultaneous air operations, also known as Operation Claw-Sword, in Northern Syria and Iraq, demonstrating its determination to fight terrorism and protect its citizens and borders from the threat of the PKK/YPG. With this operation, several points used by the PKK/YPG to attack Turkish citizens and security forces were destroyed.


According to the Terrorism Analysis Platform Database (TAP), the PKK has perpetrated 57 terrorist attacks in Iraq, predominantly in the Metina, Zap, and Avaşin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq, where Operation Claw-Lock is currently underway. The area is a crucial central hub for the PKK, as it is home to numerous camps, headquarters, and terrorist leaders. Additionally, the terrorists use several underground tunnels to hide and plan attacks on Turkish security forces and infiltrate Turkey through the region's borders. Due to the difficulties of the mountainous terrain in northern Iraq, the majority of the casualties sustained by the Turkish Armed Forces have been in those areas. However, according to a statement released by the Ministry of National Defense, Operation Claw-Lock has resulted in the neutralization of 506 terrorists since it commenced on April 17, 2022.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack target type between the January-December 2022

Contrary to Turkey, in Iraq, the targeted attacks were mainly directed towards tactical/operational military units, with 44 out of 57 attacks committed against them in 2022. As Iraq is the only country where Turkish military units confront PKK members in cross-border areas outside Turkey, the statistics are reasonable for Iraq. The second target group consisted of tactical/operational military facilities and civilians/social spheres, with four attacks each, followed by three attacks against tactical/operational village guard units and two attacks on the Peshmerga.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack type between the January-December 2022

Regarding attack types, the PKK mainly relied on harassing fires (21 attacks), improvised explosive devices (15 attacks), and armed reactions (13 attacks), which is consistent with the targeted attack types since most of them were aimed at security forces in mountainous areas of Iraq. Four attacks were executed using rocket launchers, while the remaining five attacks included mortar attacks, kidnappings, arsons, and unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) attacks by the PKK.

Meanwhile, as armed clashes continued in the area where Operation Claw-Lock was taking place, the PKK utilized propaganda and perception management techniques to influence the international media, as the organization began losing control of areas in northern Iraq. For this purpose, the PKK released fabricated videos claiming that the Turkish Armed Forces used illegal chemical weapons to neutralize its members in the tunnels where they sought refuge.


As of 2022, Syria has experienced the highest number of terrorist attacks in comparison to Iraq and Turkey, with a recorded 166 attacks. Analysis of the TAP database reveals that the PKK/YPG has employed a wide range of tactics to carry out these attacks, categorizable under 14 types. Of these types, the most frequently utilized three were harassing fires (71 attacks), rocket launchers (29 attacks), and rocket attacks (17 attacks). Notably, most of these attacks were committed from PKK/YPG controlled areas or those controlled by the Syrian regime, utilizing rocket launchers and mortars.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack type between the January-December 2022

The TAP database indicates that the PKK/YPG has chiefly targeted tactical and operational facilities of Turkish security forces in Syria, with 87 recorded attacks in 2022. Civilians and social spheres were the second most targeted group, experiencing 47 attacks. While information is unavailable regarding the targets of 16 attacks, tactical and operational military units of Turkish forces were targeted 13 times in Syria.

Figure: Number of attacks by attack target type between the January-December 2022

It is crucial to highlight that the terrorist organization has carried out extensive kidnapping activities, particularly concerning children, most of whom are underage. To manipulate the socio-economic challenges in Syria, the PKK/YPG has employed cultural and sports activities to hide their ideological purpose and manipulate children. The organization has kidnapped many children, forcing them to join their armed wing and undergo ideological education, even though they are below the age of majority.

Moreover, the PKK/YPG has systematically targeted civilian and social spheres, especially Kuwait Al-Rahma camp, which housed displaced civilians as a result of the Syrian armed conflict. Due to the continued attacks on the camp, many displaced civilians have fled the area and moved to the Turkish border to protect themselves from the rocket and mortar attacks launched by the PKK/YPG and regime-controlled areas.

The TAP database records a total of 517 casualties, including fatalities, injuries, and kidnapped individuals resulting from the PKK/YPG's terrorist attacks in Syria, Turkey, and Iraq between January and December 2022. In 2022 alone, the numbers indicate that there were 151 casualties, including 21 fatalities and 130 injured civilians and security forces in Turkey. Iraq recorded 84 fatalities, 20 injuries, and 1 kidnapping during the same period. Lastly, in Syria, the death toll for both civilians and security forces was 58, while 151 people were wounded, and 52 - mostly children - were kidnapped.

Map: Number of casualties due to the attacks that occurred in 2022 (Claret Red: Martyr, Red: Wounded, Green:Kidnapped)

Finally, analysis of the data indicates that the number of PKK/YPG attacks decreases following Turkish Armed Forces' operations against the organization. After each operation, the organization enters a recovery period, and its area controlling abilities continue to deteriorate.

Figure: Number of casualties by attacks between the January-December 2022

*The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of Terrorism Analysis Platform.

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