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20 Pages

Introduction: Turkey and the Kurds

ByCENGIZ GUNES AND WELAT ZEYDANLIOG˘LU

Almost three decades have passed since conflict and political violence erupted in Turkey’s south-eastern regions, where the majority of the country’s approximately 20 million Kurds live. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) initiated an insurgency in 1984 and the conflict intensified during the 1980s and 1990s, which continues to haunt Turkey to this day. The Kurdish regions in Turkey were under emergency rule throughout this period and the conflict has cost the lives of more than 45,000 people, including soldiers, guerrillas, and civilians. Turkish and international human rights organisations estimate that between 3 and 4 million people have been internally displaced as part of the state’s scorchedearth counter-offensive operations against the PKK, which included the forced evacuation of nearly 4,000 Kurdish rural settlements (Çelik 2005; Ayata and Yükseker 2005; KHRP 2005; Jongerden 2001). The unilateral ceasefires that the PKK has declared since the 1990s have significantly reduced the violence in the past decade, and the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) government, which has governed since 2002, has initiated legal reforms that have granted limited cultural and linguistic rights to the Kurds; however, these have so far failed to result in a satisfactory and lasting solution to the conflict. Consequently, since the end to the PKK’s ceasefire in 2004, Turkey has witnessed an escalation in violence. Therefore, the ‘Kurdish question’ continues to be a central issue in Turkey and the neighbouring Middle Eastern region. Turkey’s success in its bid to become a member of the European Union (EU) is closely linked to its successful institution of a pluralistic democratic framework that offers representation to the Kurds and accommodates their political and cultural demands. The significant decrease in hostilities during the past decade, the existence

of various political actors in Turkey that campaign for a political solution to the conflict, the recent developments in Iraq and the emergence of the Kurdistan Federal Region of Iraq as an actor in the region, the EU-Turkish relations and its likely impact on Turkey’s democratization – all these indicate that the demands for a solution will be intensified. Hence, it is highly likely that the Kurdish question will occupy an even more central position in

the public debate in Turkey in the near future. These developments suggest that a possible solution is on the horizon and that a comprehensive new investigation of the Kurdish question in Turkey is therefore needed at this important juncture. The Kurdish question in Turkey has been attracting ample academic

interest, and in the past numerous books have been published on the subject (Lowe and Stansfield 2010; Ibrahim and Gürbey 2000; Barkey and Fuller 1998; Kiris¸ci and Winrow 1997; Olson 1996). These books remain valuable sources on the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. By utilising new theoretical and conceptual frameworks to assess extensive primary sources, each chapter in this volume aims to make an important contribution to the growing field of Kurdish studies and the study of the Kurdish question. Written by established scholars whose primary specialism is on the Kurds and the Kurdish question in Turkey, each chapter presents an extensive empirical account that supplements and extends the existing analysis.