Kurds in Turkey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia During the 1970s, the separatist movement coalesced into the Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). From 1984 to 1999, the Turkish military was embroiled in a conflict with the PKK. The village guard system was set up and armed by the Turkish state around 1984 to combat the PKK. The militia comprises local Kurds and it has around 58,000 members. Some of the village guards are fiercely loyal to the Turkish state, leading to infighting among Kurdish militants. Much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state's military operations. Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly evacuated villages, destroying houses and equipment to prevent the return of the inhabitants. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped from the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people. The apotheosis of this conflict was during the 1990s, when the National Security Council sanctioned a covert war using the special forces, village guards, mafia, and contract killers. With such an unsavory cast of characters, the conflict soon wheeled out of control, resulting in the Susurluk scandal. The conflict tapered off after the capturing of the PKK's leader, Abdullah Öcalan.