The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom

The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom

The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom

The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom


"The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom" explores the complexity of the 30-year guerrilla war of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) against the Turkish Republic, identifying longstanding obstacles to peace and probing the new dynamics that may lead to an end to the conflict. In doing so, the book provides fascinating insights into Turkey's national ethos, its dominant military culture, and civil society's struggle for increased democratization.

"The Militant Kurds" offers an extensive analysis of the precarious position of the Kurdish minority, beginning with the establishment of the modern Turkish republic in 1923. Divided into five sections examining current political realities in Turkey, the book investigates the role of Islam and ethnicity, analyzes the rise of the PKK, discusses Turkish military culture, and explains the international dimensions of the Kurdish conflict. Comparative historical, political, and socioeconomic examples contextualize the long struggle for Kurdish self-determination. Each chapter offers an analysis of the underlying dynamics of the conflict and provides up-to-date explanations.



Growing up in the West-German city of Düsseldorf, I first encountered militant Kurdish protests in the early 1980s. As a teenager, I walked past a Kurdish information stand in the downtown train station and noticed a young man who I assumed was wearing a black and white checkered Palestinian keffiyeh (a traditional headdress made of cotton or wool that is wrapped around the head and neck as protection from sun, sand, and cold temperatures) scarf. Intrigued by what I interpreted as a symbol of solidarity between Kurds and Palestinians, I asked him about the significance of wearing a Palestinian scarf while handing out flyers that demanded improvements in Kurdish human rights. He smiled and explained to me that the scarf was not Palestinian at all, but rather a traditional Kurdish puşi (the Kurdish version of the regional protective headdress). Wearing this scarf symbolized his opposition to Turkey’s repressive policies directed at the Kurdish minority. Then he shared with me how his family suffered under Turkish military occupation in the province of Hakkari, a far southeastern region of Turkey that borders on Iraq and Iran.

The young man showed me appalling photographic images of Kurds who he said had been tortured by members of the Turkish military or the Turkish National Police. I recall one particular photograph of a teenage boy whose discolored and grotesquely deformed face appeared to have swollen from a vicious beating. His cheekbones and jaw seemed broken . . .

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