Paradigm Shift between Turkey and the Kurds: From ‘Clash of the Titans’ to ‘Game of Thrones’
Özpek, Burak Bilgehan
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Throughout the history of the Turkish Republic, its military and political elites in Ankara have regarded the Kurdish question as a security issue. Therefore, initiating the ‘peace process’ with the PKK and developing intimate relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have been regarded as deviations from the Turkish state’s traditional policy toward the Kurdish question. However, the optimism that the peace process generated gradually has disappeared as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan Regional Government have resorted to increasingly authoritarian policies. The declining democratization performance of the AKP and the KDP has deepened the internal divisions in both societies and bilateral relations between Turkey and the KRG have transformed into inter-governmental solidarity rather than institutional peace. Since the end of the ‘peace process’ following the June 7 national elections in 2015, the AKP has refused to deal with its country’s Kurdish actors, which, it says, are linked to the PKK and its ideology. Meanwhile, the AKP’s increasingly authoritarian policies have excluded non-AKP voters’ views from the policy-making process. Therefore, the cooperation between Turkey and the KRG has excluded half of the Turks and the Kurds at best. Consequently, the traditional ethnicity-based confrontation between the Turks and Kurds has been replaced, on the one hand, by an alignment among the AKP, the conservative Kurds of Turkey, the KDP and its allies in Northern Syria, and on the other hand, are the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and some sections of the secular, middle class and Turks discontented with the AKP regime.