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When Democratization Radicalizes? The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Turkey


Gunes Murat Tezcur


Loyola University Chicago

September 18, 2009

Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47, pp. 775-789, November 2010

Abstract:     
This article addresses a historical puzzle: Why did the insurgent PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan), which was militarily defeated, which renounced the goal of secession, and whose leader was under the custody of the Turkish state, remobilize its armed forces in a time when opportunities for the peaceful solution of the Kurdish question were unprecedented in Turkey? The PKK’s radicalization at a period of EU-induced democratization in Turkey counters the conventional argument that fostering democracy would reduce the problems of ethnic conflict. Explanations based on resource mobilization, political opportunity structures, and cognitive framing fail to provide a satisfactory answer. The article argues that democratization will not necessarily facilitate the end of violent conflict as long as it introduces competition that challenges the political hegemony of the insurgent organization over its ethnic constituency. Under the dynamics of competition, the survival of the organization necessitates radicalization rather than moderation. As long as the insurgent organization successfully recruits new militants, democratization is not a panacea to violent conflict. The findings indicate that research on the micro-level dynamics of insurgency recruitment will contribute to a better understanding of ethnic conflict management. The data comes from multiple sources including ethnographic fieldwork, statistical analyses of quantitative data (i.e., spatial autocorrelation and ecological inference), and systematic reading of original documents.

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Date posted: August 13, 2009 ; Last revised: December 25, 2010

Suggested Citation

Tezcur, Gunes Murat, When Democratization Radicalizes? The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Turkey (September 18, 2009). Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47, pp. 775-789, November 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1451562

Contact Information

Gunes Murat Tezcur (Contact Author)
Loyola University Chicago ( email )
25 East Pearson Street
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
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