The group, which has Marxist-Leninist roots, was formed in the late 1970s and launched an armed struggle against the Turkish government in 1984, calling for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.
Since then, more than 40,000 people have died. During the conflict, which reached a peak in the mid-1990s, thousands of villages were destroyed in the largely Kurdish south-east and east of Turkey, and hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled to cities in other parts of the country.
In the 1990s, the organisation rolled back on its demands for an independent Kurdish state, calling instead for more autonomy for the Kurds.
In 1999, it suffered a major blow when its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was arrested and jailed for treason.
Shortly afterwards, it introduced a five-year unilateral ceasefire and took a number of steps to try to change its image and widen its appeal, changing its name several times before deciding it again wanted to be known as the PKK.
It also further watered down its demands, calling on Ankara to involve it in the country’s political process, allow more cultural rights for the country’s estimated 15 million Kurds and release imprisoned PKK members.
There were reports of splits within the organisation.
Hundreds of Kurdish activists were prosecuted under the country’s anti-terror laws (and continue to be prosecuted to this day), and many were imprisoned.
Many of the activists jailed belong to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a Kurdish umbrella organisation which consists of both political and armed groups within the Kurdish movement, including the PKK.
There are currently more than 50 ongoing court cases in Turkey.
Those trials has been widely criticised by the Council of Europe and human rights groups including Amnesty International. They point to the vague definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terror Law used to make the arrests, extended pre-trial detention periods ranging from six months to a few years, and lack of credible evidence for the arrests.
Between 2009 and 2011, high-level secret talks took place between the PKK and the Turkish government in Oslo, Norway, but they collapsed after a clash between Turkish soldiers and the PKK in June 2011, in which 14 Turkish soldiers were killed.
After the talks failed, the conflict escalated rapidly, with some of the heaviest fighting seen in three decades. The PKK took its campaign to a new level by launching major attacks in urban areas of south-eastern Turkey as well as setting up checkpoints on roads.
Hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike in October 2012 demanding better conditions for Mr Ocalan and the right to use the Kurdish language in the justice and education system.
The hunger strike which lasted for 68 days ended after Mr Ocalan urged them to stop, which showed he remained the most influential actor in the Kurdish movement.
On 31 December 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced peace negotiations were taking place with Mr Ocalan in Imrali prison, where he is being held. The details of the talks have not yet been made public.