The kurds and the “others”: Kurdish politics as an inclusive, multi-ethnic vehicle in turkey

William John Holmes Gourlay

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Using ethnographic data gathered in Istanbul and Diyarbakır, this article examines the Kurdish political movement in Turkey and its relationship with other minorities. Turkey, built on a premise of ethno-religious uniformity, long sought to deny underlying multi-ethnic and multi-religious elements and regarded its minorities as suspect. In recent decades, particularly under the government of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP), broader discourses about national identity and the place of minorities opened up. In this expanded space Kurdish political gathered momentum. With time, Kurdish actors adopted a prodemocracy discourse that privileged human rights and multiculturalism over an exclusive focus on Kurdish rights. More recently, the political arena has shrunk again and the electorate has grown more polarised as the AKP government resorts to nationalist rhetoric and resuscitates an imperative of conformity. This article analyses how, within these shifting dynamics, the Kurdish political movement and individual Kurds acknowledge and protect Turkey’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious fabric. It argues that in doing so, Kurds seek to present an alternative, multicultural politics in defiance of the increasingly authoritarian and increasingly Islamic AKP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-492
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Muslim Minority Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • AKP
  • Kurds
  • Minorities
  • Turkey

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