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“The Nation and its Fragments” Moderating & Resisting State-sponsored Nation-Building in Turkey “Türkiye’de 71½ millet var/In Turkey there are 71½ nations.” -Turkish proverb A Kurdish man in southeast Turkey, 2004. Photo: N.F. Watts
The New Turkish Nation (in sum): what were its key characteristics? • Modern • Western • National (Turks=nation) • Secular • Scientific, rational Turkish businessmen walk across the street and past the subway station in Levent, one of Istanbul's most famous living and financial areas. EPA PHOTO / KERIM OKTEN
The New Turkish nation: Who & what didn’t belong? • “Traditionals” • Customary ways of life • Religious figures • Islam • Kurds, Arabs • Christians, Jews • Folk lore/superstition
Fragments of the nation: Those who didn’t belong Kurdish leader Seit Riza, 1930
Many Kurds, especially in the southeast Rebellions (1925, 1938-39, 1984-1999) Ballot box, political activism (1960s onward) Muslim leaders Many ordinary people Challenging edict through practice and time call to prayer in Arabic Through the ballot box Consistent support for more populist, less reformist parties Continued pressure for popular participation, respect for the popular will State-sponsored nationalism: Who resisted, and how? Former Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, elected in Turkey’s first multi-party elections in 1950, and later executed.
Response: Kurdish peripheral nationalism • Early uprisings • Rise of a new counter-elite and the re-creation of Kurdish identity, 1960s • PKK guerrilla activism, 1984-1999
Modes of Conflict • Guerrilla war • Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) • Conventional politics • Pro-Kurdish political parties • Civil contention and protest • Kurdish newspapers, cultural organizations • Human rights organizations
KurdsI can't talk because I don't know my languageI'd like to tell you about my self but I don't know my historyI have no education because there are no schoolsI don't have a brother, he was a politician, he got killedNo I'm sorry, no friends either, they are all in prisonI don't have a village because it's burned downI don't have a house because tanks destroyed itI couldn't stay in my land because mines cover itI have no sister, she was a journalist, she just disappearedNo I'm sorry, no relatives either, they fled from the warI don't know any songs, they are bannedI can't dance, it's forbiddenI can't tell you any stories because no one ever told me anyI don't have parents, they were hangedNo, I'm sorry, no country either, it has been stolenS.W.Z
PKK guerrillas, early 1990s. Boys at a Kurdish New Year celebration in the early 1990s. Photo: Kevin McKiernan.
Who is involved? • Turkish Armed Forces • Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) • Pro-Kurdish politicians in various political parties • Liberal Turkish media and civil society organizations • Kurdish diaspora community and other transnational actors • Ordinary people
Effects of the conflict • 35,000 dead • New attention to status of Kurds in Turkey on domestic and international agenda • Some political gains • Human rights abuses Pro-Kurdish newspapers such as this one are often closed down for expressing support for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Current status: stalemate? • 1999 capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan; PKK guerrillas lay down arms • Reformation of PKK? • Emergency law lifted in the southeastern provinces • 2002 “Mini-democratization” • PKK guerrillas in northern Iraqi mountains PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured by Turkish special forces in Kenya in Feb. 1999 and flown, drugged and tied up, back to Turkey for trial.