When Democratization Radicalizes? The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Turkey

34 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 17 Nov 2014

Date Written: September 18, 2009


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.

Suggested Citation

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

Gunes Murat Tezcur (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

4297 Andromeda Loop N
Howard Phillips Hall, 302
Orlando, FL 32816
United States

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