World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


PEACE IN TURKEY? - 3/4: The PKK, the AKP and New Approaches towards the Kurdish Issue (133) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Manchester University (UK)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Tim Jacoby

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Since the arrest and detention of PKK’ leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, the coming to power of the AKP in 2002 and the opening of the accession negotiations with the European Union, the approaches of the main political actors in Turkey’s decades old armed conflict appear to have undergone profound changes. That is why an assessment of the possibilities for conflict resolution – in particular given the political opening that was called upon by the AKP as well as the PKK during the summer of 2009 – has made indispensable a more in-depth reading of the ideological and strategic changes of some of the principal parties involved. This panel aims to enhance our understanding of the ideological standpoints, interests and practices of the AKP and the PKK in relation to the Kurdish issue. Moreover it will devote attention to the European Union, as the platform where indirect negotiations over the resolution of the Kurdish issue take place.

Chair: Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, Exeter University

Discussant: Ferhat Kentel (Istanbul Sehir University)

Paper presenter: Joost Jongerden (Wageningen University) ‘Kurdish Nationalists, Turkey’s Left and Kurdistan Revolutionaries: A Comparative Approach to Studying the PKK and Dissident Politics in Turkey’.
Authors: Joost Jongerden & Ahmet Akkaya
This paper aims to develop the literature on the PKK, employing a comparative approach to discuss the emergence of the party against the background of dissident politics in Turkey during the 1970s. Distinguishing between two political groupings, referred to as ‘Kurdish nationalist’ and (Turkey’s) ‘revolutionary left’, We will argue that rather than originating from the Kurdish nationalists (as might be assumed), the PKK actually developed from the revolutionary left, to which it continues to remain close

Paper presenter:Ahmet Akkaya (Ghent University) ‘Radical Democracy: The new political project of the PKK’.
Authors: Ahmet Akkaya & Joost Jongerden
This article will discuss the transformation of the PKK after the capture of its leader Abdullah Öcalan on February 16, 1999 and explore the meaning of these changes for a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish question. As such, this contribution will discuss the profound changes from the perspective of PKK’s reinvention of the democracy concept and three interrelated political projects of democratic republic, democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism. It will be argued that these changes inside the PKK create new possibilities for a political solution of the Kurdish issue.

Paper presenter: Menderes Çınar (Başkent University) ‘Turkey’s present ancient regime and the Justice and Development Party’.
This study unravels the motivations, positions and policies of the secular establishment and pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP) government vis a vis each other in the post-2002 Turkish politics. Both the reactionary nature of the secular opposition and the “negative” power orientation of the AKP government has resulted in a shift of attention away from the establishment of liberal democratic mechanisms and in the division of the Turkish society into two mutually exclusive and equally power-oriented parallel sectors.

Paper presenter: Marlies Casier (Ghent University) ‘Tackling the Kurdish issue through Europe. Kurdish diplomacy under AKP reign’
This paper will discuss lobby activities of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in European Parliament. Specific attention will also be drawn to how militants of the PKK, even though officially considered a ‘terrorist’ organization by the USA and the EU, have been actively engaged with lobbying European politicians. It will be argued that many efforts have more in particular aimed at the creation of a political space for the PKK. Thus whereas different actors within ‘the Kurdish movement’ are being politically isolated inside Turkey, they have nonetheless been able to effect the EU-Turkey relations.

Paper presenter: Mesut Yeğen (Associate Professor of Sociology at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey), “The Kurdish Question in Turkey: Denial to Recognition”
The Turkish Republic has, since its establishment in the early 1920’s, wrestled with the Kurdish question, which has assumed many forms in this time, including armed resistance, massive political discontent, lack of cultural integration, and acute poverty. In due course, the state has employed a rich vocabulary of rhetoric and varying policies of citizenship in dealing with this enduring and multifaceted question. While it has perceived the question, at turns, as one of ‘the resistance of the past’, ‘banditry’, ‘regional backwardness’, ‘foreign incitement’, and ‘disloyalty’, it has utilized recognition, oppression, assimilation and discrimination in its attempts to cope with the question. My paper aims at documenting the Turkish state’s varying perceptions of the Kurdish question and the citizenship policies that have accompanied these perceptions. My overall argument is that there have been several important ruptures both in the perception of and preoccupation with the Kurdish question.
I will split my examination of this issue into three major periods: pre-denial, denial, and post-denial. I will show that in the few years preceding the foundation of the Turkish Republic, state officials declared they would recognize Kurds as an ethnic group with cultural and political rights. Accordingly, the Kurdish question was tackled with by means of a politics of recognition toward the aim of group rights. Between the mid-1920’s and the 1990’s, however, the state continually denied not only Kurds’ cultural and political rights, but even the ethnic aspect of the Kurdish question. In due course, the state basically represented the Kurdish question as one of social backwardness. This perception was escorted by a combination of the politics of oppression and assimilation. In the early 1990’s, after 60 years of denial, the Turkish state finally acknowledged Kurds as a distinct ethnic group, but this did not result in the cessation of the politics of oppression and assimilation. To the contrary, this recognition came at the cost of suspicions of disloyalty to the Republic, paving the way for a politics of discrimination.