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Masaryk university

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faculty of social studies

Department of European Studies and International Relations

Domain in International Relations

Bachelor Thesis

Lenka Petrželová

Supervisor: Mgr. Martin Chovančík

UČO: 219151

Domain: MV-ES

Year of Imatriculation: 2006 Prague 2010

Bibliographic card

PETRŽELOVÁ, Lenka: The Conflict between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party: Complex Analysis and Possible Future Scenarios. Brno: Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of European Studies and International Relations, 2010.


The thesis explores the dyadic intrastate conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the government of the Turkish republic within the time frame between 1984 to the present. The first part of the thesis presents the complex conflict analysis focusing deeply in understanding all of the relevant factors influencing the conflict in Turkey. The analysis further serves as a basis for the depiction of three different scenarios of possible future development – status quo, escalation and de-escalation – according to the scenario tree which assumes a two-year time frame. The conflict in Turkey is still very topical and is indispensably connected to the broad Kurdish issue which has been gradually, due to the accession process with the EU, Turkey’s fundamental membership in NATO and influential Kurdish Diaspora in Europe, brought to the attention of both domestic and international public. While there has been a significant motion concerning the Kurdish issue recently in Turkish politics, the solution to the conflict seems to remain far in the future.

Key words

Conflict, Kurdish issue, PKK, Turkish Government, EU, KRG.

1. I declare that I have written this bachelor thesis independently only on the basis of listed references.
2. I give my permission to use this thesis for study purposes and place it to the Main Library of Masaryk University.

Prague, April 20, 2010 _____________________

Lenka Petrželová

I would like to thank to the advisor of my thesis, Mgr. Martin Chovančík, for his insightful comments and methodological support throughout my work. I also want to express my thanks to my family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Bibliographic card 2

Abstract 2

Key words 2

1. Introduction 7

1. 1. Objectives and structure of the thesis 8

1. 2. Hypotheses 10

2. Analysis of the Conflict between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) 11

2. 1. Background and context 11

2. 2. Parties 15

2. 3. Incompatibility 19

2. 4. Power relations 21

2. 5. Dynamics 23

2. 6. Internal and external factors 28

2. 7. Solution proposals 32

3. Conflict Scenarios: the Turkish Government vs. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) 36

3. 1. Current situation and starting point 36

3. 2. Scenario tree 40

3. 3. Status quo 41

3. 4. Escalation 43

3. 5. De-escalation 48

4. Conclusion 54

References 58

Hinchcliffe, Peter, and Beverley Milton-Edwards. Conflicts in the Middle East since 1945. London: Routledge, 2007. 59

Kirisci, Kemal, and Gareth M. Winrow. The Kurdish Question and Turkey. An Example of a Trans-state Ethnic Conflict. London: Frank Cass Publishers, 1997. 59

Uslu, Emrullah. “Tackling the PKK: New Directions for Turkey’s Special Forces.” Terrorism Monitor. Vol. 6 Issue 14 (July 2008). 62

Attachments 66

Source: 68

1. Introduction

The Kurdish issue is probably the most important challenge for Turkey today. Since the origins of the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Parti Karkerani Kurdistan, PKK) and the government of the Turkish republic the problem has been gradually rising up on the agenda not only domestically but also internationally. The accession process with the EU as well as significant Kurdish Diaspora in Europe brought the problem to the attention of the international public – it is now general knowledge that Turkey has a problem with Kurds. The situation is, however, very complex and it is thus hard to find an appropriate way on how to approach it. This thesis has chosen one particular aspect – to analyze the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish government – in order to bring closer the comprehensive situation of Kurds in Turkey.

It is a very topical issue that has experienced a lot of motion recently, although origins of the conflict date back to the early 1980s. Considering the peculiar nature of the Turkish political system, it is difficult to obtain reliable information, especially as regards to the latest development1 which is not fully covered in academics texts. For this reason many comments suffer from overmuch bias and subjectivity. The thesis will try to fill this gap and provide as an impartial insight as possible.

The conflict has undergone several changes in both scope and size, however, all the previous opportunities for solution have been lost. Neither party seems to gain from the violent struggle any more. Therefore there has been a rising awareness that the solution cannot be achieved on the battle field, instead other means have been put on the table. The PKK called for a dialogue after of its frequent declaration of ceasefires – this shift in tactics is associated with the imprisonment of the leader Abdullah Ocalan. The most influential and principal moves on the side of the government are connected to the Justice and Development party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) who has the majority in parliament since the elections in 2002 and constitutes a one-color government with a strong mandate from voters. Although during its government the party has shown determination for military measures and the Kurdish policy has been a rather rhetorical project without concrete steps, it launched the so called Kurdish initiative, aiming at the political solution to the conflict in the early summer of 2009. The AKP also strengthened its commitment to deal with poor socioeconomic conditions in the southeast of Turkey, which had created part of the Kurdish problem, by re-launching the Southeastern Anatolia Project (Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi, GAP). The initiative, as an unprecedented phenomenon in Turkish politics concerning the Kurdish minority has had strong international support, especially from the EU. However, there is a wide opposition in the domestic political arena. The hardliners stance that derives from Kematist-nationalist principles is still deeply entrenched in the Turkish politics and continues to have an influence in everyday life.

Thereby the question stands whether the Kurdish ‘opening’, as the initiative is also called, is actually a breakthrough that could eventually lead to the solution of the conflict or it may be only another lost opportunity that will be forgotten by the time the conflict will escalate again. For the time being – in reference to the introduction of the constitutional reform package – there are high expectations about the future development, however, the true solution to the conflict still remains a conundrum.

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