Pii: s0030-4387(00)00056-9

InNovember1998,Turkey'sKurdishquestionreturnedtothetopofthe international agenda with the seizure in Italy of Abdullah O of the rebellious Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan- throughout Europe and served as a reminder of the war between the PKK andthe Turkish state that has claimed over 30,000 lives since 1984. A monthbefore his seizure, O ¨ calan had been expelled from Damascus, his base for the last nineteen years, after Turkey had threatened Syria with war unless itceased to provide a safe haven for the PKK. Having failed to find asylum inRussia, Belgium, or the Netherlands, O tation from Italian leftists- believed he could find refuge in Italy. After heavyTurkish and American pressure, O ¨ calan was nevertheless forced to leave Italy and seek asylum elsewhere, but was eventually apprehended by Turkishsecurity forces on February 16, 1999, in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Kurdish question is arguably the most serious internal problem in the Turkish republic's seventy-seven-year history and certainly the mainobstacle to its aspirations to full integration with European institutions. MostWesterners define the problem simply as a matter of oppression and denialof rights by a majority group (the Turks) of an ethnic minority (the Kurds).
The civil war in southeastern Turkey that raged between 1984 and 1999 isaccordingly viewed as a national liberation movement and enjoys wide-spread sympathy both in the West and in the Third World. The Turkishpolitical elite, for its part, promotes an entirely different view of the problem,which is often misunderstood and ridiculed in the West. In official Turkishdiscourse, there is no Kurdish problem, but rather a socioeconomic problemin the southeastern region and a problem of terrorism that is dependent on Svante E. Cornell is a lecturer at the departments of Peace and Conflict Research and East European Studies at
Uppsala University, Sweden.
2001 Foreign Policy Research Institute. Published by Elsevier Science Limited.
external support from foreign states aiming at weakening Turkey. In reality,neither the official Turkish view nor the dominant Western perception holdsup to close scrutiny. A deeper study of the problem reveals its extremecomplexity, with a number of facets and dimensions that tend to obscure theessentials of the conflict.
One observation that should be made at the outset is that the Kurdish issue in Turkey differs in many respects from such recent ethnic conflicts asthose in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Liberia, Nagorno-Karabakh, andRwanda. Despite almost two decades of armed conflict and thousands ofcasualties, open tensions in society between Turks and Kurds remain, underthe circumstances, minimal. Foreigners are startled by the discovery that asignificant portion of Turkey's political and business elite is of Kurdish origin,including three of the country's nine presidents-something unthinkable forKosovars or Chechens-and that Kurds' representation in the country's par-liament is larger than their proportion of the population.1 At the same time,it is difficult to refute the assertion that there is an ethnic dimension of theconflict, in the sense that a portion of the country's population holds on to anidentity distinct from that of the majority and feels discriminated against onthe basis of that identity, resulting in at least a limited ethnic mobilization. Inaddition to the irrefutable ethnic aspect, the Kurdish problem contains oft-neglected social, economic, political, ideological, and international dimen-sions that have carried different weight at different times.
Several points need to be understood with regard to the origins and future prospects of the Kurdish problem in Turkey. A thorough grasp of theproblem requires, first, an understanding of the national conception under-lying the Turkish state and society. Secondly, it must take into account thesocial (and not only ethnic) distinctiveness of the Kurds and their relationshipwith the republic's leadership. Thirdly, the Kurdish problem in Turkey mustbe understood as distinct from the problem of PKK terrorism. Finally, theKurdish question must be understood within the analysis of the generalprocess of democratization in Turkey.
The National Conception of the Turkish Republic
The Turkish republic is the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, which dissolved during the First World War after more than a century ofdecay. However, the republic is a dramatically different construct from itspredecessor. The Ottoman Empire was an authoritarian monarchy with areligious foundation derived from the sultan's claim that he was also thecaliph, the spiritual head of all Muslims of the world. The empire recognizedminorities and accorded them extensive self-rule, but it defined minorities in 1 Based on estimates, given that the ethnicity of members of parliament is not published, and that census data religious terms. Hence, no Muslim people was ever accorded minority rights,while Jews and Christian Armenians, Serbs, Greeks, and others were. Beforethe twentieth century, this approach posed few problems, especially giventhat the Muslim peoples in the empire developed national identities consid-erably later than the empire's Christian subjects in the Balkans, and did so atleast partly as a result of the latter's emerging national awareness. Collectiveidentities were based primarily on religion-Islam at the broadest level andvarious religious orders and sects at the local level-and regional or clan-based units.
The Turkish republic, by contrast, was modeled upon the nation- states of Western Europe, particularly France. It was guided by six "arrows"or principles enunciated by its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatu ism, nationalism, secularism, populism, e'tatism, and reformism. Amongthese, the first three principles form the foundations of the republic. AlthoughTurkey was no democracy in Atatu ¨rk's lifetime, the principles of republican- ism and populism suggest the goal of popular rule, that is, a democraticpolitical system.2 In the speeches and writings of Atatu unmistakably meant a break with the monarchy of the past.3 The secondpillar, secularism, entailed a break with the Islamic character of the state.
Although religion was to be kept out of political life, however, this is not toimply that Kemalist Turkey was in any way atheistic. Indeed, as Dogu Ergilhas noted, Atatu ¨rk's highest goal in the religious field was the translation of the Quran into Turkish. In fact, the aim of the new regime was twofold: todissociate the state from religious principles, and to "teach religion in Turkishto a people who had been practicing Islam without understanding it forcenturies."4 The regime's policies, most blatantly the abolition of the caliph-ate, nevertheless enraged the more religious parts of the population. Thisincluded the Kurds, who have been described as being at that time "a feudalpeople. of extreme religious beliefs."5 Indeed, the Kurdish population wasruled by local hereditary chieftains whose power often stemmed from thebacking of the Naqshbandi or Qadiri religious orders.
The founding principle most relevant to the Kurdish question, how- ever, is nationalism. The new state was based on Turkish nationalism, but theterritory comprising the republic was a highly multiethnic area even beforethe large migrations that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies.6 As the Ottoman Empire was retreating from the Balkans, large 2 Populism (halkc¸ilik) carries the meaning of a "government for the people" rather than the present-day meaning of the term, used to define political opportunism.
3 For Atatu¨rk's ideas, see e.g. Mustafa Kemal Atatu¨rk, Nutuk (Ankara: Ku¨ltu¨r Bakanligi Yayinlari, 1980). Nutuk is the Great Six-Day Speech held by Atatu 4 Dogu Ergil, Secularism in Turkey: Past and Present (Ankara: Foreign Policy Institute, 1988), p. 61.
5 Patrick Kinross, Atatu¨rk: The Rebirth of a Nation (London: Weidenfeld, 1964), p. 397.
6 Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922 (Princeton, N.J.: numbers of Muslims, predominantly Slavic by ethnicity, fled to the heartlandof the empire, the present-day Turkish republic. In addition, the Russiansuppression of Muslim highlanders' resistance in the North Caucasus in the1850s forced additional hundreds of thousands of people to migrate toAnatolia. As a result, when the Turkish republic was created in 1923, a largeproportion of its population consisted of recent immigrants of Slavic, Alba-nian, Greek, Circassian, Abkhaz, and Chechen origin, whereas people thatcould claim descent from the Turkic tribes that had come from Central Asiawere certainly a minority of Anatolia's population. It was in this complexsetting that Atatu ¨rk and his associates aimed to create a modern nation-state, an integrated, unitary polity of the French type. For that reason, the model ofthe nation that Atatu ¨rk and his associates adopted was civic, as expressed by the maxim that lies at the basis of Turkish identity: "Ne mutlu Tu diyene," best translated as "Happy is whoever says 'I am a Turk'"-notwhoever is a Turk. To be a Turk meant to live within the boundaries of therepublic and thereby be its citizen. The very use of the word Turk, moreover,was a breakthrough, since it had been a derogatory term during Ottomantimes, referring to the peasants of the Anatolian countryside. Thus, the wordTurk defined a new national community into which individuals, irrespectiveof ethnicity, would be able to integrate. Language reform and the introduc-tion of the Latin alphabet added to the novel character of the nation. It isagainst this background that every person living within the borders of therepublic and accepting its basic principles was welcome to be its citizen.
Immigrants to Anatolia of Caucasian or Slavic origin and indigenous popu-lations of Kurdish, Laz, or Arabic origin all became Turks in their own right,whereas ethnically Turkish minorities outside the boundaries of the republic,in the Middle East or the Balkans, were disqualified from membership in thenational community. But whereas the Turkish national conception was be-nign compared with the fascist ones triumphing in Europe in the 1920s and1930s, becoming a Turk entailed the suppression of an individual's ownethnic identity. In other words, Atatu everyone who desired to do so to become a Turkish citizen, but it did notprovide a solution for those who were not prepared to abandon theirprevious identities in favor of the new national idea. This, in a nutshell, wasthe problem of a significant portion of the Kurdish population, which differedfrom the rest of the population not only because of language, but alsobecause of its clan-based feudal social structure.
¨rk's nation-building project appears to have been largely successful. Out of the melting pot of the 1920s has emerged a societyin which an overwhelming majority of individuals feel a strong and primaryallegiance to a Turkish identity. The only group that has escaped this processseems to have been the Kurds, though by no means all of them. In fact, agreat number of Kurds, especially those that willingly or forcibly migrated towestern Turkey, integrated successfully into Turkish society and adopted the language, values, and social organization of the republic. Kurds today areactive in all spheres of social and political life, and are even present in theranks of the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetc¸i Hareket Partisi-MHP),which is often characterized in the West as fascist and anti-Kurdish. Thisremarkable level of assimilation can be attributed in part to the policies of thestate, but clearly the ethno-linguistic heterogeneity of the Kurdish populationwas an additional factor.
It remains a fact, however, that the Kurds are the one ethnic group that to a large degree has retained a distinct identity. There are several reasonsfor this, of which a major one is demography. The Kurds are by far the largestnon-Turkish-speaking group in the country. A second reason is geography:the Kurds were settled in a single area of the country that is distant from theadministrative center and inaccessible because of its topography. Thirdly, theKurds differed from other large groups such as Slavs or Caucasians in thatthey were an indigenous group and not comparatively recent migrants.
Uprooted immigrant populations that have suffered severe upheavals andhardships are significantly more likely to embrace a new national identitythan are indigenous groups. Fourthly, the Kurds, unlike other populations,were organized according to a tribal and feudal social structure, a factor thatremains crucial to this day. Paradoxically, the Turkish nation-building project(with its one major exception) has been so successful that it is doubtful thatstate policies can still be described as seeking integration rather than assim-ilation. As the Turkish identity has strengthened and previous identitiesvanished or receded, Turkish identity itself has become more homogeneous;as such it carries the risk of growing less civic and more ethnic in nature.
The Distinctiveness of Kurdish Society
The Kurds are not a homogeneous ethnic group and evince differ- ences in religion, language, and ways of life. In Turkey, the clear majority ofthe perhaps 12 million people that are referred to as Kurds are Sunni Muslimsand speak Kurmandji. Nevertheless, some Kurdish groups speak Zaza, whichis not mutually intelligible with Kurmandji, or adhere to the Alevi faith, aheterodox branch of Islam with strong non-Islamic features. Moreover, thesegroups overlap, especially in the Tunceli and Bingo most Kurds are both Zaza-speaking and Alevi. Hence there are importantdivisions among Kurds, a fact emphasized by most analysts as an importantreason for their lack of political unity.7 Even among Sunni Kurds, adherenceto different religious orders (tariqat) has been a divisive factor. A moreimportant element of the problem is Kurdish social organization, which has 7 For a useful introduction, see David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London: I. B. Tauris, 1996), traditionally been, and essentially remains, tribal and feudal. The tribes,usually referred to as ashiret in Turkey, are "fluid, mutable, territoriallyoriented and at least quasi-kinship groups" that range in size between tribalconfederacies of thousands of members to small units of several dozenindividuals.8 At the head of a tribe is an agha, the leader of a ruling family,who seeks to-and often does- command absolute loyalty from the mem-bers of the tribe. Tribes are often, but not always, held together by kinshipideology: an underlying myth of common ancestry, at times going back to adescendant of the Prophet Muhammad, has been a strong source of legiti-macy keeping the tribe together. Numerous shaykhs, or leaders of thereligious orders, have also been tribal aghas, thereby exercising dual author-ity over their followers. Practically speaking, some tribes have neverthelessbeen no more than what McDowall calls "a ruling family that has attracted avery large number of clients."9 During Ottoman times, the state used triballeaders as a means to exert territorial control over Kurdish areas. Those thatsided with the Ottomans in their wars with Persia were rewarded with therecognition of their autonomous rule over essentially semi-independent prin-cipalities, in return for which they paid an annual levy and pledged militarysupport for the empire in times of war. A number of tribal leaders receivedthe title of emir through such agreements.10 But whereas tribal leaders wereco-opted by the state, shaykhs and aghas also led rebellions against the state.
However, the very fact of these rebellions' tribal rather than national natureled to a lack of cohesion vis-a`-vis the state. When one tribal leader revolted,for example, others saw it fit to collaborate with the state to quell therebellion. As Ge'rard Chaliand notes, perpetual competition was the hallmarkof relations between tribes: "Allegiances can. fluctuate, but division itself. remains a constant."11 Moreover, the relationship between a tribal society and the state is by no means easy. As displayed not only in Kurdish-populated areas but also inplaces such as Afghanistan and Chechnya, there is a fundamental incompat-ibility between the tribal hierarchy and the modern nation-state. Tribal lead-ers "act as arbitrators of disputes and allocators of resources, benefits andduties. [and] jealously guard [their] monopoly of all relations with theoutside world."12 A centralized state is a direct threat to tribal leaders'authority because by definition it seeks to exercise direct control over allcitizens. There are two basic ways for a state to exercise control overpredominantly tribal areas: either to break down the tribal structures andintegrate the population into the social structures of the state, or to co-opt 8 See, for example, Jack David Eller, From Culture to Ethnicity to Conflict (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan 9 McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, pp. 15-16.
10 See Martin van Bruinessen, Agha, Shaikh and State (Utrecht: Rijswijk, 1978).
11 Ge'rard Chaliand, The Kurdish Tragedy, trans. Philip Black (London: Zed Books, 1994).
12 McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, p. 15.
tribal leaders and use them as instruments of power in the tribal areas. Moststates facing this dilemma have employed a mixture of these two strategies,often playing tribal leaders against one another. Needless to say, the strategyof breaking down tribal structures risks provoking armed resistance on thepart of the tribal leaders, and so the Turkish republic, much like the OttomanEmpire before it, adopted a strategy of co-optation. Among the numerousmembers of parliament from the predominantly Kurdish southeast, many ifnot most belong to families of feudal lords or are endorsed by them. This isespecially the case for the rightist parties with an origin in the now-defunctDemocratic Party (Demokrat Partisi-DP).13 In the southeast, where it is notuncommon to find up to 80 percent electoral support for a given politicalparty in one province and equally strong backing for a different party in aneighboring province, such curious parliamentary election results should beinterpreted with that history in mind.14 A tribal leader's endorsement of oneparty is likely to ensure the votes of an overwhelming majority of tribalmembers. It is small wonder, then, that the political leaders in Ankara haveresorted to the policy of co-optation, which not only is much safer than tryingforcibly to break down tribal structures, but also carries the distinct advantageof winning large numbers of votes without significant campaigning. Turkishgovernments until the 1990s therefore had little incentive to integrate south-eastern Anatolia socially with the rest of the country.15 Whereas this strategy has been beneficial both for Ankara and the tribal leaders, it has been less so for the Kurdish population as a whole. TheKurdish areas have consistently lagged behind the rest of Turkey in terms ofeconomic development, due largely to the preservation of the tribal structuresand the neglect of the central government. Tribal leaders, of course, have aninterest in preventing rapid modernization, which would inevitably weakenthe traditional social structures that perpetuate their power. As a result, theyhave in all likelihood encouraged a certain lack of attention to their region onthe part of central authorities. This is not to say that the rapid development ofTurkish society has wholly bypassed the Kurds. Although the governmentmay have neglected the area, considerable development has taken place,especially through the introduction of nationally standardized educationalnorms and compulsory military service, and through the spread of massmedia, which have all brought dramatic changes to the perceptual environ-ment of a generation of Kurds. In addition, as noted above, numerous Kurdshave migrated to urban areas in western Turkey. Some of them left the 13 The present-day center-right True Path Party (Dogru Yol Partisi-DYP), Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi-ANAP), Welfare Party (Refah Partisi-RP), Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi-FP), and Nationalist MovementParty all originate from the DP, which existed from 1950 to 1960.
14 For the 1995 elections, see Harald Schu¨ler, "Parlamentswahlen in der Tu¨rkei" (Parliamentary elections in Turkey), Orient, vol. 37, no. 2 (1996).
15 See Erik Cornell, Turkey in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges, Opportunities, Threats (Richmond, U.K.: southeast in search of better economic conditions and others were relocatedby the state in an effort to integrate Kurds into society, but in both cases theresult was to expose thousands of young Kurds to previously alien ways ofliving and thinking. In this context, leftist ideologies have had a specificattraction to many of the Kurds who have studied in Turkish universities sincethe 1960s.
The Militant PKK
Kurdish rebellions before World War II had a strong tribal and religious character that often overshadowed the national component, but inthe postwar period this pattern underwent significant change. Turkey held itsfirst multiparty election in 1950, resulting in the electoral defeat of Atatu Republican People's Party and a transfer of power to the center-right DP. Thenew government allowed exiled shaykhs and aghas to return, co-opting theminto the system as outlined above.16 The strengthened position of triballeaders gave further impetus to the migration of Kurds to the urban areas ofwestern Turkey, where a number of them benefited from the increasinglymarket-oriented economic policies of the government. Within a short time, amovement called "Eastism" (Doguculuk) emerged, advocating economic de-velopment efforts in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. After the militarycoup of 1960, a new and more liberal constitution was adopted that includedsubstantial protections for democracy, freedom of expression, and humanrights. Indeed, the 1961 constitution (which was superseded in 1982) was themost liberal that Turkey has ever had. These freedoms led to a mushroomingof leftist activity among Kurds and others in Turkey. Although more-radicalgroups with various Marxist-Leninist affiliations emerged, the most prominentwas the Workers' Party, whose public statements calling attention to anoppressed Kurdish minority eventually led to its closure.17 Meanwhile, theincreasing stature of Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his Kurdish DemocraticParty (KDP) in northern Iraq and the rise of Kurdish nationalism there had aprofound effect on more right-wing Kurdish activities in Turkey. From the1960s onward, therefore, one can speak of a clear ideological division amongpolitically active Kurds. A Marxist wing cooperated with ideological brethrenof Turkish origin and often formed parts of Turkish-dominated groups, whilea more traditionally nationalistic wing identified closely with Barzani's KDP.
A main item on the agenda of the leftist Kurds was the socioeconomicrestructuring of the southeast into a more equitable society through thedismantling of tribal institutions and, in its more extreme versions, thecreation of a socialist system. This agenda was naturally anathema to the 16 McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, pp. 396 - 400.
17 See Nader Entessar, Kurdish Ethnonationalism (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1992), p. 90. The Workers' right-wing groups, which were closely linked to the tribal hierarchy. Theright-wing Kurdish nationalists nevertheless failed to prevail for two mainreasons: internal tribal divisions among them weakened their strength andappeal, and both their main leaders were forced into exile after the 1971military intervention and eventually assassinated in northern Iraq. During the1970s, leftist radicalization intensified as migration to urban areas of westernTurkey continued and enrollment in higher education increased. These par-allel processes heightened awareness of economic and political disparitiesbetween the southeast and the rest of the country, and Kurds were socio-economically predisposed to be absorbed into the leftist climate predominantamong the student body in Turkish universities. Gradually, however, Kurdishleftists became alienated from their Turkish colleagues and formed separatepolitical movements.
Having its origins in an informal grouping around Abdullah O dating back to 1973, the PKK was formally established as a Marxist-LeninistKurdish political party in 1978 and advocated the creation of a MarxistKurdish state. From the outset, the PKK defined Kurdish tribal society as amain target of the revolutionary struggle. It described Kurdistan as an areaunder colonial rule, where tribal leaders and a comprador bourgeoisie col-luded to help the state exploit the lower classes. In particular, it advocated arevolution to "clear away the contradictions in society left over from theMiddle Ages," including feudalism, tribalism, and religious sectarianism.18 Itshould be noted that in the 1990s the PKK toned down its Marxist rhetoric andinstead emphasized Kurdish nationalism in the hopes of attracting a largerfollowing among Turkish Kurds. Marxism-Leninism found little resonanceamong the population in agricultural, rural southeastern Turkey.
The PKK suffered heavily from the 1980 military coup, and O and some associates fled Turkey for Syria and the Beka'a Valley of northernLebanon. But the repression of other leftist and Kurdish movements allowedthe PKK to emerge as the sole credible Kurdish challenger to the state, andwith the start of military operations in 1984, the PKK left Turkish Kurds withfew choices. Unless they decided to stay out of politics completely, Kurdswere forced either to side with the state, thereby expanding their opportu-nities as Turkish citizens at the price of suppressing their ethnic identity, orelse join the PKK and fight the state. Any option ranging between these twoextremes became highly dangerous, since any form of peaceful advocacy ofKurdish rights would attract the wrath of both the state and the PKK. TheTurkish state painted itself into a corner by equating virtually all expressionsof Kurdish identity with PKK terrorism. The PKK, in turn, suffered fromseveral drawbacks that would ultimately precipitate its demise. Most signifi- 18 See Michael M. Gunter, The Kurds in Turkey: A Political Dilemma (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990), p. 60. For details on the PKK's ideology and tactics, see Michael Radu's article, "The Rise and Fall of the PKK,"in this issue of Orbis.
cantly, its violence against the very population it claimed to represent disil-lusioned many Kurds, who saw little difference between the repressiveTurkish state organs and a repressive PKK. To this should be added themegalomania that has been attributed to O ¨ calan developed a true personality cult around himself, leading other Kurdish leaders to abandon him as a madman. Jalal Talabani,the leader of the northern Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), stated that"O ¨ calan is possessed by a folie de grandeur . he is a madman, like a dog looking for a piece of meat." The other Iraqi Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzaniof the KDP, compared him to the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.19 Thirdly, thePKK's Marxist-Leninist ideology, which never really commanded much en-thusiasm in Kurdish society at the outset, became a liability after the collapseof communism worldwide. Fourthly, despite its ideological zeal, the PKKfailed to stay out of the tribal politics it aimed to destroy. In light of theauthority commanded by tribal leaders, the PKK was forced to negotiate withthe aghas, since winning over a tribal leader meant winning the support ofthe whole tribe, an advantage the PKK could not afford to forgo. As a result,the PKK had a stake in preserving tribal structures.20 A fifth source ofweakness derived from the westward migrations that were partly a result of the war. By the mid-1990s only a minority of Turkey's Kurds Most Kurds do
actually lived in the southeast. The sixth and final flaw wasthat the prospect of a separate Kurdish state did not enjoy the not desire a
support of a majority of Kurds. The failure of the Kurdish separate
"Federated State" in northern Iraq in the early 1990s, which Kurdish state.
culminated in economic misery and factional infighting,heightened the appeal of remaining within Turkey, especially as Turkish attempts to gain membership in the European Union were likelyto bring increased democratization and economic development.
The longevity and intensity of the PKK rebellion are partly explained by the party's organizational skills and the support it managed to muster as aresult of dissatisfaction among Kurds in Turkey. Of equal or greater impor-tance, however, has been the PKK's mobilization of international resources,which can be divided into three basic categories: support from Kurds in exile,primarily in Western Europe; financial resources stemming from the narcoticstrade; and indirect and direct support from states with an interest in weak-ening Turkey. Reliable PKK support has come from the Kurdish communitiesin Western Europe, especially Germany and, to a lesser degree, Sweden,where it has commanded the loyalty of a majority of exiled Kurds. This is notsurprising, given that Kurds in exile include large numbers of politicallymotivated migrants, and given that the political mobilization of Kurds in 19 See Nicole and Hugh Pope, Turkey Unveiled (New York: Overlook Press, 1998), p. 261.
20 Ismet G. Imset, PKK: Ayrilikc¸i Siddetin 20 Yili (The PKK: Twenty years of separatist terror) (Ankara: TDN, Europe, including the (sometimes forced) levy of "taxes," is considerablyeasier than in Turkey, where state restrictions are far more stringent.21 Asconcerns the drug trade, significant circumstantial evidence suggests that thePKK derives a large part of its financing from the production, refining, andsmuggling of illicit narcotics to Europe, although the importance of the drugfactor in the PKK rebellion should not be overestimated.22 Unquestionably, the most important factor in the PKK's survival has been the support of several foreign countries. During the 1980s the PKK wasfunded mainly by its ideological brethren in the Soviet Union. Evidence thatother states supported or tolerated its operations on their soil has alsosurfaced, notably Greece, Iran, and Greek Cyprus. The PKK's most crucialand stable ally, however, has been Syria, which hosted O years and provided training facilities in the Beka'a Valley of Syrian-controllednorthern Lebanon. Syria's reasons for opposing Turkey are manifold.23 Mostfundamental is a border dispute over the Hatay province, which is claimed bySyria but was ceded to Turkey by France (Syria's League of Nations manda-tory) in 1939. Furthermore, Turkey's economic development program forsoutheastern Anatolia, which was inaugurated in the 1980s, planned to usewater from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers to irrigate large tracts of the aridregion. Syria, fearing this would jeopardize its own access to water from theEuphrates, increased its support not only for the PKK, but also for Armenianterrorist organizations targeting Turkey.24 Syria's role as the PKK's mainpatron became increasingly evident as the Soviet Union dissolved. AlthoughRussia has utilized the PKK as a lever against Turkey, especially to deterpossible Turkish support for Chechen insurgents, Russian support in no wayapproaches that which the Soviet Union provided in the 1980s.25 It is doubtfulwhether the PKK could have attained anything close to the position it didwithout foreign support.
Whereas the end of the Cold War entailed a series of problems for the PKK, the Persian Gulf War was highly beneficial. The coalition against Iraqand Operation Provide Comfort for all practical purposes removed northernIraq from Baghdad's jurisdiction, and a U.S.-backed Kurdish "Federated State"was created there. At the heart of this new entity was a power-sharingagreement between Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK, an arrangementachieved partly through the efforts of the Turkish government, which stepped 21 Henri J. Barkey and Graham E. Fuller, Turkey's Kurdish Question (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 22 Nimet Beriker-Atiyas, "The Kurdish Conflict in Turkey: Issues, Parties, Prospects," Security Dialogue, vol.
28, no. 4 (1997), p. 440; Nur Bilge Criss, "The Nature of PKK Terrorism in Turkey," Studies in Conflict andTerrorism, vol. 18, no. 1 (1995), pp. 17-38.
23 See Su¨ha Bo¨lu¨kbasi, "Ankara, Damascus, Baghdad, and the Regionalization of Turkey's Kurdish Secession- ism," Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Summer 1991, pp. 15-36.
24 See Philip Robins, Turkey and the Middle East (London: Pinter/RIIA, 1991), p. 50.
25 Robert Olson, "The Kurdish Question and Chechnya: Turkish and Russian Foreign Policies since the Gulf War," Middle East Policy, vol. 3, no. 4 (1996), pp. 106 -18.
in as a patron of the deal in order to keep the PKK out of the area. However,conflicts between the KDP and PUK prevented the scheme from beingimplemented, and northern Iraq became a power vacuum, which coincidednicely with the aims of the PKK. O operations there, and by 1994 it had managed to deny the Turkish stateeffective control of large tracts of its southeastern territory.26 At the same time,the Turkish army's demonstrable lack of preparation for mountain and guer-rilla warfare undermined discipline in the ranks. As soldiers continually failedto differentiate between civilians and rebels, the PKK enjoyed increasingpopular support.
But the situation began to change in the mid-1990s. The Turkish army, having apparently realized the importance of not alienating the civilianpopulation, emphasized discipline within the ranks and initiated a public-relations campaign that included the introduction of health and educationalfacilities for the population of the southeast. Meanwhile, the Turkish militaryeventually adapted successfully to guerrilla warfare (in stark contrast to thedisastrous performance of the Russian army in Chechnya at roughly the sametime) and gathered enough strength to strike the problem at its roots innorthern Iraq. Since 1995, regular and massive troop incursions (some in-volving up to 35,000 troops) and the establishment of a security zone remi-niscent of the Israeli zone in southern Lebanon have caused the PKK'sposition in northern Iraq to wither away. By 1998 the PKK's only lifeline wasSyria. Spurred by its alliance with Israel, the Turkish government felt strongenough to threaten Syria with war unless it expelled O bases in the Beka'a Valley. Unable to rule out the prospect of Israel's joininga Turkish punitive expedition, Damascus complied and expelled O October 1998. After the PKK's forces relocated to northern Iraq, a subsequentTurkish incursion dealt a severe blow to their military capabilities. SinceO ¨ calan's capture, his unreserved submission to Turkish authorities seems to have damaged the PKK so seriously that it is doubtful that it will ever againbecome a credible actor.
In sum, the PKK's intrinsic weaknesses that shrank its base of popular support, the Turkish military's change of policy toward the civilian popula-tion, and especially Turkey's growing ability to crush the insurgents andstamp out its sources of foreign support combined to defeat the insurgency.
In late 1999 the PKK declared its withdrawal from Turkish territory and inearly 2000 publicly laid down its arms, apparently emulating the PLO bytrying to gain recognition as a political movement instead.
26 See Kemal Kirisc¸i and Gareth Winrow, The Kurdish Question and Turkey (London: Frank Cass, 1997), pp.
The Kurdish Question and Turkey's Democratization
Having defeated the PKK, Turkey has still not resolved its Kurdish question, since the PKK never represented the opinions of a majority ofTurkey's Kurds. Although few reliable sources are available on Kurdishattitudes, there is conclusive evidence that only a minority of Kurds see thePKK as their main representative organ and that the majority desires to remainwithin the Turkish state. In the PKK's heyday in 1992, a poll conducted in thesoutheast showed that only 29 percent of the population viewed the PKK asthe best representative of the Kurdish people.27 Moreover, a great part of theKurdish population has taken on Turkish identity in whole or in part. Indeed,Kurds in Turkey have three options: to reject Turkish identity altogether, toaccept it in its civic version while retaining their Kurdish ethnic identity(which amounts to integration), or to accept Turkish identity in both its civicand ethnic forms (which amounts to assimilation). A 1993 poll showed thatover 13 percent of Istanbul's population claimed Kurdish roots, while 3.9percent considered themselves Kurds, and 3.7 percent identified themselvesas "Turks with Kurdish parents." Apparently, the remainder considered them-selves simply "Turks." Even accounting for the less-than-ideal polling condi-tions at the height of the conflict (including state restrictions on expressionsof Kurdish identity), this outcome clearly shows that a significant number ofKurdish people have integrated into Turkish society.
That said, these figures should not be taken as evidence corroborating the view that Turkey does not have a Kurdish problem. Clearly, a largeportion of the Kurdish population feels a significant frustration at the state-imposed restrictions on cultural and other rights. However, these figures doshow that any solutions based on autonomy or federalism, which have oftenbeen advocated by outsiders, are obsolete. Since a majority of Kurds live inwestern parts of Turkey or are otherwise integrated into Turkish society,autonomy and federalism are impractical alternatives. Moreover, despite thebitterness of the armed conflict, tensions on the grassroots level betweenTurks and Kurds remain low. Any solution that would institutionalize ethnicdistinctiveness would therefore risk fueling ethnic antagonism.28 The solution to the Kurdish question, pragmatically speaking, de- pends on several factors. First, the Turkish state needs to act in accord withits own rhetoric stipulating that the Kurdish issue is distinct from PKKterrorism. With the PKK militarily vanquished and O time has come for Turkey to accelerate its democratization, including the 27 See Milliyet, Sept. 6, 1992, for the results of the poll; and Hugh Poulton, Top Hat, Grey Wolf and Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic (London: C. Hurst, 1997), pp. 245- 48.
28 On the perils of autonomy, see Svante E. Cornell, "Autonomy: A Catalyst of Conflict in the Caucasus?" paper presented at the Fifth Annual Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, New York, Apr. 2000(http://www.geocities.com/svantec/ASNCornell.pdf). Also see Henry J. Steiner, "Ideals and Counter-Ideals in theStruggle over Autonomy Regimes for Minorities," Notre Dame Law Review, vol. 66 (1991), pp. 1539 - 60.
removal of restrictions on cultural rights. Turkey has long opposed any easingof its strict legislation governing terrorism, freedom of expression, and cul-tural rights, and justifies its position with the argument that reform wouldimply concessions to terrorists.29 Now that the specter of PKK terrorism has significantly diminished, a window of opportunity hasemerged for the country to press forward with reforms on human rights and democratization. In so doing, Turkey could behind bars,
take significant steps to prevent separatist organizations from Turkey needs to
receiving popular support, and it could do so with little riskof harming its own interests. Some activists claim that Turkey accelerate its
should permit school instruction in Kurdish and other minor- democratization. ity languages, but such provisions may be counterproductive.
Lack of command of the state language has proven to be a major socioeco-nomic impediment in countries where similar policies have been in effect,such as the Soviet Union. While retaining its unitary state structure andpreserving Turkish as the sole official language of the state and the mediumof education in schools, the liberalization of language laws to allow privateand supplementary school instruction in minority languages would enableKurds (and others) to retain their identity while integrating with society.
Television broadcasts in Kurdish would serve a similar purpose and deal asignificant blow to the PKK-aligned channel MED-TV, which (via satellitefrom Europe) has had a virtual monopoly on Kurdish-language program-ming. If the Turkish government allowed private or state-controlled Kurdishmedia to exist, its ability to influence the local population would increasesignificantly, as some high Turkish officials have acknowledged. Such mea-sures would also improve Turkey's image in the West. In its relations with theEuropean Union and international human rights bodies, Turkey's very defeatof the PKK rebellion makes it increasingly difficult to justify restrictions oncultural rights. An even more important step, however, would be to lift thestate of emergency in the southeast. Until that happens, the country iseffectively split into two juridically, with a significantly stricter legal systemapplied in one part of the country.
In this context, the role of Kurdish political parties deserves mention.
Most Kurdish-oriented parties in the 1990s have been closed by the Consti-tutional Court due to alleged links to the PKK. Presently the People's De-mocracy Party (Halkin Demokrasi Partisi-HADEP) is under the same threat.
However, the results of the 1999 general elections indicate the wide popu-larity of HADEP in the southeast. Although the party received only 4.7percent of the total votes in the parliamentary election, this poor showing islargely related to the 10 percent threshold for representation in the parlia-ment. With little chance of attaining that level nationwide, many voters 29 On human rights problems and legislation in Turkey, see Dilnewaz Begum, International Protection of Human Rights: The Case of Turkey, report no. 43 (Uppsala, Sweden: Department of East European Studies, 1998).
concluded that a vote for HADEP was wasted. Results in the simultaneousmunicipal elections suggested a different picture. In many towns in thesoutheast, including the large cities of Van and Diyarbakir, HADEP candi-dates won landslide victories with up to 70 percent of the vote. This is a clearsign that large parts of the population of the southeast strongly favor ademocratic representative of Kurdish rights. State attempts to destroy HADEP,either by closing down the party through legal measures or through theharassment or arrest of its leaders, are thus likely to be counterproductive.
Removing the possibility of a democratic outlet for Kurdish sentiment willonly fuel new illegal movements or enable the PKK to regain some strength.
Despite its sometimes warranted suspicions, the state needs to tolerate and,if possible, engage HADEP and other democratic Kurdish movements insteadof suppressing them.
Secondly, the economic measures consistently touted by the Turkish state must be realized. After the capture of O launch yet another large-scale investment program for the southeast, and asa result there is now a distinct possibility to attract foreign investments to theregion. However, the government must take measures to ensure that devel-opment benefits the entire population and not just the tribal leaders who ownmost of the land and industry. Development efforts that enrich only aghasand their client networks but not the Kurdish population as a whole couldprovide a spark for a social explosion. The educational system, which suf-fered greatly from the war, also needs to be reestablished so that the Kurdishregion's population can compete on equal terms in the increasingly compet-itive Turkish society.
Finally, the crucial issue for both democratization and economic development is the proper implementation of existing legislation. Previously,Turkey's main problem stemmed not from the legislation itself, but from astate bureaucracy that was often unable or unwilling to implement reforms.
There is, however, reason to hope that this problem may be somewhatalleviated in the future. Civil associations in Turkey are growing in strengthand exerting increasingly effective pressure on the government. At the sametime, the end of large-scale hostilities should increase the transparency ofstate organs. The election of Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a prominent democrat fromthe judicial establishment, to the country's presidency could also have apositive effect in this context.
The multifaceted Kurdish question is central to Turkey's future, in- cluding its relations with the European Union. Its international ramifications,moreover, make it an issue of utmost importance in the regional politics ofthe Middle East. However, the issue is often understood or depicted insimplistic ways. A deeper understanding of the matter must take into accountthe tribal character of Kurdish society, the dynamics of the PKK rebellion'srise and fall, and the larger context of Turkey's ongoing democratization. It isnoteworthy that the current Turkish government is dominated by parties generally branded as "nationalist." Besides the MHP, the Democratic LeftParty of Bu ¨lent Ecevit is a center-left party with strong nationalist tendencies.
However, the electoral victory of these two parties in the 1999 generalelections should not be dismissed as "a nationalist wind" sweeping throughthe country after the capture of Abdullah O of these two parties and the infighting of the center-right played at least asimportant a role as the seizure of O ¨ calan. Nevertheless, the dominant political forces in Turkey today subscribe to a definition of the Kurdish problem thatdenies its ethnic dimension. Although the current government promoteseconomic development programs in the southeast, it seems unwilling, closeto two years after O ¨ calan's capture, to release the pressure on Kurdish- oriented political parties or to consider the easing of cultural restrictions.
Without broadening its understanding of the Kurdish question and the mea-sures needed to address it, the government is unlikely to resolve this prob-lem. The Turkish state must therefore take advantage of the opportunitycreated by its victory over the PKK, because conditions have never beenbetter to address the Kurdish question constructively and bring an end tothe political instability and economic backwardness of south-eastern Turkey. Having won the war, Turkey now needs to winthe peace.
30 For a development of this argument, see Svante E. Cornell, "Turkey: Return to Stability?" Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 35, no. 4 (1999), pp. 209 -34.

Source: http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/publications/TURKEY_KURDS.pdf


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Selección bibliográfica para bibliotecas de Centros de Personas Adultas Margarita Bartolomé Plan Provincial de Bibliotecas Escolares y Plan Provincial de Bibliotecas Escolares y Promoción de la Lectura y la Escritura. Huesca Selección Bibliográfica para Bibliotecas de Centros de Educación de Personas Adultas. Mayo, 2007 0. Obras Generales 1. Filosofía. Psicología

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