In an interview with Hürriyet Daily News, Cem Emrence says that decisions taken by both the Turkish state and the PKK years ago have exacerbated the conflict and limited the options of both sides, leading to long-term stalemate produced by “path dependence.”
The basic idea is that both actors – the government and the insurgency – insisted on the same policies throughout the conflict. That’s what we call path dependence. Once you make a choice in anything, as time goes by it becomes harder to reverse. This is what happened in the Kurdish conflict.
Specifically, we identified two sets of policies for both sides that sustained this path dependent relationship. On the government side, the state tried to contain the ethnic threat by creating special administrative regions while also recruiting local allies such as village guards and connecting to various religious orders. On the PKK side, one of the most important issues is what we can call the leadership cult. In the long run, the central position of Abdullah Öcalan in the PKK hampered its territorial expansion. It became very difficult to manage an organization that was trying to expand territorially through the control of just one man. The other thing was that the PKK came up with a nominal ideology about Kurdish identity that ignored or suppressed intra-group differences. In particular, the Alevi identity, the Zaza identity, and the religious Sunni Kurdish identity all became subsidiary as the PKK insisted on a single, monolithic Kurdish identity.
The outcome was that at the end of the Kurdish conflict neither independence nor integration materialized. The Turkish government hoped for integration, the PKK hoped for independence, but neither scenario ended up happening. The outcome has been a stalemate, where a strong state faces a resilient insurgency and ultimately neither can truly consolidate the Kurdish territory. [Continue reading…]