The Kurdish Question and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party

M. Hakan Yavuz & Nihat Ali Özcan

Journal of Middle East Policy, Spring 2006
Re-published in Dusunce Kahvesi with the permission of Journal of Middle East Policy
Dr. Yavuz is an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah. His most recent book is titled: The Emergence of a New Turkey: Democracy and the AK Parti (University of Utah Press, 2006-in press). Dr. Ozcan is the author of dozens of articles and scholarly works including The Origins and Policies of the PKK (Ankara: Asam, 1999). He has also co-authored an article in Foreign Affairs (January-February 2005) on the role of the Turkish military.
After the defeat and consequent breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, the European powers divided Turkey into several pieces. They also agreed, at the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, to establish an independent Kurdistan–a sort of homeland for the ethnic Kurds of the Middle East–in what now is southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Although this treaty was never put into force, it shaped the perceptions of the founding fathers of the Turkish Republic regarding the largest non-Turkic ethnic population in its territory. Given that the Kurds, despite their aspirations, have never been granted a homeland and that this issue has caused a great deal of violence in the ensuing years, the “Kurdish question” has occupied both the domestic and foreign policy of Turkey to varying degrees for over eight decades. Turkey has the largest Kurdish population in the world. The Kurds of Turkey have demands ranging from full secession to federalism, and the recognition of individual rights as Turkish citizens within the framework of the process of Turkey’s entry into the European Union (EU). (2) Undoubtedly, the worst symptom of the Kurdish ethno-nationalism in contemporary history has been the terrorist activities led by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against the Turkish state and moderate Kurds, and the Turkish armed forces’ equally violent backlash against Kurdish terrorists and innocent Kurdish civilians. Turkish soldiers have battled the PKK in the southeast since 1984, a conflict that has resulted in an estimated 37,000 fatalities.

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  1. >Turks are not an etnic group in Turkiye. They are people of the country which has takenn ıt’s own name from. Turkiye means country of Turks.

  2. >Turkish Republic is an indivisible whole with its territory and nation. Tolerence to minorities has been a Turkish tradition for ages. Yet, backstabbing the unitary character of the Turkish state cannot be tolerated.

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