The Perception between the Pro-Islamic and Pro-Kurdish Political Streams in Turkey, 1980-2011
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Official state ideology (Kemalism) whose core principles are Turkish nationalism and secularism excluded Kurds and Islamists from the newly formed social and political structure of modern Turkey. By insisting on a Kemalist modernization project in which assimilation of Kurdish ethnic identity within Turkish nationalism, and a top down imposition of secular policies on public and state affairs, Turkey has had to deal with two profound issues—the Kurdish question, and political Islam. As these social and political rivals of official state ideology present an alternative way of modernization projects, the Kemalist state apparatus has until recently considered their existence and development within Turkish society as a menace to their core existence. That is why the nearly century-long Kurdish question and Islamism (reactionism-gericilik) have occupied the agenda. The striking point of this reality of Turkey is that while Kurdish nationalist and Islamist social and political groups, whether they are legal or illegal, have sought to supersede the official state ideology with their understandings, they have never united or operated joint activities against their, roughly speaking, enemy. The research, because of this focuses on the reasons why these two social and political groups in Turkey did not work together to eliminate their common rival. Regarding pro-Kurdish and pro-Islamic groups, ideological distinctiveness and rigidity led them to consider each other as a part of or as an extension of official state ideology which tries to eliminate its rivals. Despite the fact that they both ideologically and practically confirmed the existence of repression towards Kurds and religious people, the leftist-oriented pro-Kurdish political stream considered religion as a component of denial and assimilationist policy of official state ideology, so that they did not differentiate between Islamist groups and the established state structure, whereas the pro-Islamic political stream refused to co-operate with any member of the leftist-oriented pro-Kurdish stream because of its secular characteristic. The reaction of these groups towards assimilation of Kurdish ethnic origin, and repression over religion, initially embodied itself in several uprisings and revolts in the Kurdish populated eastern areas of Turkey, and religiously sensitive cities, respectively. Thanks to the multi-party system, these groups have found a way in which they can express themselves through political parties, labour unions, associations and foundations so that they have become social movements forcing the Kemalism dominated state to meet their demands. As long as these demands are not met, the interaction between these two social movements and the official state ideology has been hostile. Within this process, the hostile approach to their common enemy reflected in each other’s activities and understandings as they see each other as a part of official state ideology. In the next phase in which their transformation from social movements to a legal political stream competed, the inherited ideological rigidity between pro-Kurdish and pro-Islamic political streams preserved itself. Overall, the research will indicate that since the mid-20th century, ideological barriers between pro-Kurdish and pro-Islamic streams have become the fundamental determinant of how they perceive each other.
PhD in Middle East Politics