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Turkey’s Kurdish Conflict: Pathways to Progress

This paper discusses the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, within the context of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. What progress has been made since the election of the ruling AK Party and the creation of a Democratic Opening in Turkey? What remains to be done for a long-lasting solution to the conflict to occur? In examining the various factors at play in the conflict, the reasons for the failure to achieve a long-term solution, despite opportunities presenting themselves, are considered. It is argued that the “classic approach” to the conflict that has been consistently applied by successive Turkish administrations has not been successful, and alternative approaches are suggested. While a number of obstacles stand in the way of progress, it is possible to overcome these, if a political solution is applied to this political problem. Addressing the conflict by military means will not lead to a sustainable resolution and non-violent, democratic means of resolution must therefore be found in order to pave the way for long-lasting peace in Turkey.

Turkey s Kurdish Conflict Pathways to Progress
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Leyla Zana on June 30, 2012 in Ankara to discuss the Kurdish issue.
 

The Kurdish conflict in Turkey, what has become known as the “Kurdish Question”, has deep historical and cultural roots which can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire and its demise. Efforts by the Kurds in the broader region, which encompasses the Kurdish populations in Syria, Iran and Iraq, to move towards self-determination, political representation, freedom from discrimination, and recognition of their identity as an ethnic group, have continuously been marred by oppression and violence.1 Undoubtedly, the complex and divergent attitudes towards the Kurds, their demands and their situation have all delayed progress and impeded the achievement of a satisfactory solution. Attempts to meet calls for Kurdish autonomy and self-determination within existing states and political structures have differed and changed over time, further hindering the possibility for any real and sustained positive outcomes.2 

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