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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

13 - Why Autonomy Hasn’t Been Possible for Kurds in Turkey

from Part III - Domestic Political Developments and the Kurds in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries


The chapter examines the antagonism of the Turkish political elite towards Kurdish autonomy claims in a broader historical and ideological context with a view to understanding how that antagonism has been codified into law and jurisprudence in Turkey. It explores answers to the question why autonomy has not been a viable political project for Kurds in today’s Turkey and one that can be realized through democratic and legal means. The chapter also explains how the enduring trajectory has led the country into an unprecedented centralist system and authoritarian rule in recent years and the repression of Kurdish claims for autonomy. In so doing, it concentrates on three main reasons behind the impossibility of Kurdish autonomy in the current political and legal status quo. First, a dominant anachronistic reading of the centralist state legacy overlooks the Ottoman legacy for organizational diversity and the Kurdish conventional self-rule. Second, a dexterously designed legal system has made unlawful autonomy as a political project, while presenting the unitary state model as the only one conceivable and fundamental to political and legal order. Third, the mainstream political elites’ ideologically driven response to the Kurds’ claim for autonomy and failure to comprehending or to deal with Kurdish nationalist sentiments and aspirations attached to it.