Official Debates on the Contemporary Kurdish Question in Turkey

By Nazli Sila Cesur.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review

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This paper aims to discuss the discourses of the key actors who have the power and desire to bring about an official political solution for the “Kurdish question” in Turkey. It attempts to answer several questions. How has the Kurdish question been discursively constructed by the European Union (EU), Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP, the Justice and Development Party), and the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (DTP, the Democratic Society Party)? How have the discourses regarding the Kurdish question challenged the traditional discourse of the Turkish state? Can we talk about change or continuity in the Turkish state discourse? The Turkish state discourse perceived the Kurdish movement in Turkey as a threat to the indivisibility of state nation. As such, the expression of “Kurdishness” has been systematically prevented by the state. The use of the Kurdish language was restricted, pro-Kurdish political parties were closed, and any discussion of Kurdish rights was suppressed. In the 1990s, the Kurdish movement pressured the state to recognize Kurdish identity. Then, after Turkey became an official candidate for EU membership in 1999, the EU requested that Turkey grant the Kurdish rights. Finally, when the AKP came to power in 2002, the party initially pursued a different, discursive strategy. Associating the Kurdish question with democratization of Turkey, the AKP recognized the Kurdish identity under a common Muslim unity between Kurds and Turks. In late 2009, it became clear that the AKP’s discourse on the Kurdish question demonstrated its own limits with regard to the recognition of Kurdish identity and Kurdish rights. This paper seeks to offer insights into how close an official solution for the Kurdish question, which satisfies the Kurdish demands raised by the pro-Kurdish parties is to being reached.

Keywords: The Kurdish Question, Islamism, Turkey, Democratic Opening, The Democratic Society Party, The European Union

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp.13-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 497.019KB).

Dr. Nazli Sila Cesur

PhD Student, Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester, Essex, UK

Nazli Sila Cesur completed her BA from the University of Istanbul in Turkey in 2005. She completed her Master degree in political theory from the University of Essex in the UK. She recently finished her PhD student at the University of Essex. Her thesis title is “Change and Continuity in Turkish State Discourse: Official Debates on the Contemporary Kurdish Question.” Her research areas are political theory, post-structuralist discourse analysis, post-Marxism, theories of democracy, pluralism (political theory), Turkish politics, and the Kurdish question of Turkey.