Kurdish Conflict Regulation

1.4. Definitions

There's a specialist from your university waiting to help you with that essay.
Tell us what you need to have done now!

order now

As Milton- Edwards says, before examining the specific manifestations of the main subject, it is important to outline some of other important related definitions (2008). To analyze and discuss ‘Kurdish conflict regulation’ in the Republic of Turkey, one needs to define Turkey’s system in relation to the Kurds as an ethnic minority in that country.

Ethnicity and its related issues are important enough for scholars to consider it as one of main forces to shape the world. Brass claims “ethnicity and nationalism, interethnic conflicts, and secessionist movements have been major forces shaping the modern world and the structure and stability of contemporary states” (1991). Zuelow in ‘Nationalism Journals’ like Brass about national identity and its potency says “national identity has been one of the principals force shaping the course of history, certainly since the French Revolution” (1999). In addition, he believes that national identity has played a key role in revolutions, wars and state-formation (Ibid).

When people of different ethnicity are living in one territory and one group generally has the majority rule on other groups in non-democratic ways, it is the starting point of conflict. Bruce Gilley defined “ethnic conflict as sustained and violent conflict by ethnically distinct actors in which the issue is integral to one ethnicity” (2004, 1160). In the same source, he uses other terms such as ‘ethnic violence’ or ‘ethnic war’ for ethnic conflict (Ibid, 1155).

‘Ethnic conflict regulation’ is the other term should be defined here. There are many definitions for ‘ethnic conflict regulation’ in different references. Wolff believes “conflict regulation comprises three elements: prevention, management, and settlement: Conflict prevention aims at channeling conflict into non-violent behavior by providing incentives for peaceful accommodation. Conflict management is the attempt to contain, limit or direct the effects of an ongoing ethnic conflict. Conflict settlement aims at establishing an institutional framework in which the conflicting interests of different ethnic groups can be accommodated to extent the incentives to non-violent and cooperation condition” (2009, 1).

Ilievski & Wolff define “ethnic conflict regulation through institutional design that conflicts can be resolved via an institutional bargain that establishes macro-level structures through which disputes among the conflict parties can be addressed politically and without recourse to violence” (2010, 5-6). McGarry and O’Leary claim, “The term of ‘regulation’ is inclusive and it covers both conflict termination and conflict management. Eight distinct macro-methods of ethnic conflict regulation can be distinguished into two methods for eliminating differences and methods for managing differences” (1993, 4).

The Republic of Turkey was founded on the main principles, or ‘six arrows’, of Kemalism. These principles are republicanism, nationalism, secularism, populism, statism and revolutionism (Los Angeles Times 2014). Kemal Ataturk and his followers have defined Turkey as a pro-Western, modern and democratic country. The two subjects of ethnic minority rights and Islamism, based on two principles of Turkish nationalism and secularism, were taboo for many decades. The Welfare Party in the general election for the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) in 1995 captured the majority of seats. Necmettin Erbakan came to power as the first Islamist Prime Minister in the Republic of Turkey in 1996. Although the age of his Cabinet was just one year, it was enough to break the taboo of the secularism principle as a ban for Islamist political parties. Nonetheless, the years of 1990s and Ozal’s speeches about Kurdish people as an ethnic minority in Turkey, can be looked as a starting point, at least one decade was needed to start to break the one-nation-one- state idea in Turkey.

In respect of Kurdish ethnic regulation in Turkey, the definition of ‘Double Standard’ seems to fit with institutions and constitutional laws in Turkey. “Double standard is a situation in which two people or groups are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them” (merriam-webster dictionary 2014) or “a set of principles that applies differently and usually more rigorously to one group of people or circumstances than to another” (Q&A.com) and (Ibid).

Park, referring to Guney (2006-2007) and Uslu (2008a) says, “a major explanatory factor behind Turkey’s resistance to the adoption of more contrition to the Armenian fate, or a more inclusive embracing of its Kurdish citizens, is the intensity of Turkish nationalism (2012, 23). The ‘Turkish history thesis’ insist that the Turks of central Asia constituted the world’s first civilized people, who had provided the root of all other world civilizations (Park 2012,23). Associated with the history thesis was the ‘Sun language theory’ which claims that “Turks were the originators of language itself and that all other languages were thus derived from or linked to it (Cagaptay 2002; Arkman 2006)” (Park 2012,24).

Security systems, militaristic approaches, economic and human rights conditions in West and Center of the country, or overall for Turks, has been different from non-Turk minorities in Turkey. Kurds, as approximately 20% of Turkey’s population, have been forbidden from the basic rights for about one century. In the meantime, supporting the rights of the Turkish language population as citizens of other countries has been one of the main principles of Turkey’s Foreign Policies. These types of different approaches can be described as forms of a ‘double standard’ policy. Sometimes these dual policies have caused conflict for Turkey and have pushed the country from a zero-problem to a zero-friend situation.

Park, when defining the Republic of Turkey, refers to Yavuz and Eposito (2003:xx1) in that they claim “when Ataturk died in 1938, Kemalism was ‘neither democratic nor liberal but Authoritarian, elitist, and ideological” (2012, 13). However, Urrutia and Villellas look at Turkey as a ‘consolidating democracy’ (2012, 2) in their description of Turkey’s system.

Gulcan Saglam (2012) looks at Turkey under the rule of AKP as a ‘semi-democratic state’ that may be more compatible with the current conditions in Turkey and useful for this study. A semi-democratic state is defined as a state that has democratic principles and an authoritarian rule in practice at the same time, but they are neither entirely authoritarian nor fully democratic. The semi-democratic state, by Akinola (2013) definition, is “a state that supports democracy as an idea, but fails to reach the application of its principles.The principles of freedom speech and association, free and fair election as well as transparency in government constitute essential characters of the democratic state”.

Saglam says “in semi-democratic political settings with strong authoritarian actors, political parties that build broad coalitions consisting of various power centers in the society via group specific policy promises will be more likely to shift the balance of power in favor of themselves than actors that lack such connections” (2012, 37-8). He believes “The AKP is the first Islamist political party in Turkey that pursued this strategy, and it was these group-specific policy promises that eventually helped the Party to repel the Kemalist state structure and shift the balance of power in favor of itself” (Ibid).

1.5. The Problem and Rationale

Ethnic identity and ethnic conflict have been the most complicated issues among societies and have remained as double bind ties in domestic, regional and international levels, especially in developing countries. Ethnic conflict has a connection and interrelation with other themes such as “gender, political economy and democratization in different aspects” (Milton-Edwards 2008, 1). Beavis asserts that “ethnic conflict studies can be seen as a source for understanding international relations but single book; concept or theory is not able to explain such a complex phenomenon in its entirety” (1999-2012). Ethnic conflict is often considered as a local or intra-state issue, but indeed, it has had effect on both intra-state and inter-state relations.

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) answers the question ‘How many conflicts were there in the world in 2011?’ (UCDP 2011) and clarifies the number and rank of ‘intrastate conflicts’ in comparison to other kinds of conflict in that year, claiming that “in 2011, UCDP recorded 37 active armed conflicts”(Ibid). Based on the same source, from thirty-seven armed conflicts in 2011 that took place in 30 different parts of the world, 27 of them were intrastate, nine intrastate with foreign involvement. Cambodia-Thailand (common border) was the only case among them registered as interstate conflict. Turkey was among five Middle Eastern countries having intrastate Kurdish conflict; that it did not introduce to a level of war until 2011.

The above chart from UCDP (2013) shows the type and number of armed conflicts from 1946-2012. It shows the extra state conflict just until 1974, interstate conflicts have decreased and internationalized conflicts have had slow increase since 2004. However, the numbers of intrastate conflicts have had significant increase especially from the 1960’s.

In comparison with international wars from 1950s, Civil Wars have been more frequent and more durable. Ethnic wars have been main part of civil wars. For instance, 55% in 1970 and 72% in 1991 of civil wars have been ethnic wars. During the 1990s, more than 200 ethnic minorities or subordinate majorities in the world have struggled to achieve their political rights ( Johnson 2008).

Caselli and Coleman refer to Fearon and Laitin (2003) in that from 1945 to 1999, the numbers of ethnic civil wars have been 58, equal to 51% of all civil wars in that period; and they believe that more silent and worth noting are the non-violent conflicts (2011). In some countries, ethnic groups compete through overtly ethnic parties, and compete for power, but in others, a dominant group discriminates against and exploits the others (Ibid). “Esman (1994, 229) believes when an ethnic group gains control of the state, important economic assets are soon transferred to the members of that community” (Ibid 2011, 2).

Gilley disagrees with some definitions of the concept of ethnic conflict and looks at it as a critic, but, he accepts the importance and widespread of this conflict in reality. He looks the rise amount of researches and academic studies in this field as a ‘major growth industry’ and he has made reference to the number of published books and online articles in specific periods in comparison with previous periods. He claims that the ethnic conflict issue is a more attractive subject to be studied by new journals and research centers. He announces that the numbers of published books and online articles in the English language under the title of ‘ethnic conflict’ have been 43 books since 1990 in comparison to 17 before that and 249 online academic English-language articles with the title of ‘ethnic conflict’, but just 23 articles under the ‘class conflict’ title for the same years (2004).

McGarry and O’Leary refer to deep geo-political changes in different parts of the world, especially in Africa; for instance in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe and finally in South Africa by extinction of Apartheid regime in the last decades of 20th century. All of them show the power of ethnicity to mobilize populations and create mass movements to redefine the borders. They say, “The renewed instability of state frontiers is merely one symptom of the global political power of ethnic consciousness and conflict” (1993, 2), and they say, “a reason why ethnic questions are potentially explosive, and raise the possibility that some people(s) will be tempted to exercise self-determination through secession is simple. Ethnic questions raise relatively non-tradable issues. It is obvious nationality, language; territorial homelands and culture are not bargain-able products (Ibid 1993). Previous explanations and definitions show the importance and role of ethnicity, nationalism and ethnic conflicts and its rank in academic research.

Kurdish ethnic conflict is one of the most complex issues in the Middle East. Kurds have struggled for more than one century for freedom and to achieve self-determination in Kurdish regions. The states that have controlled parts of Kurdistan have denied, suppressed and assimilated Kurds. It has brought unfavorable consequences for all sides. Turkey as having approximately 20% of its population as Kurdish minority, basing its state on Kemalism ideology and Turkish nationalism, has been one of the most atrocious regimes against Kurdish political movements. The bloody violence from 1984 between PKK and Turkey’s military has taken place. The consequences of that war have been more than 40,000 deaths, more disabled people, imprisonment and millions forced to be immigrants and refugees.

In the past few years, Turkey with PKK and its in jailed leader, Abdulla O¦calan, has entered into peace negotiations. This subject is a new opening in Turkish nationalism. The first sign of change was in the speeches of statesmen about the Kurdish ethnic conflict regulation, back in the 1990’s and O¦zal; who believed in a multicultural society for Turkey. The most behavioral and practical changes have been attributable to Erdogan and the AKP administration from 2002 to 2014. This current issue and its effect on the Kurdish political condition in Turkey and other countries and the democratization process in local and regional realms, has become worthy enough for academic research study.