Previous Session: Turkey and ‘the Kurds’

On February 17th a bloody car bombing rocked the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing 28 and wounding over 60 more. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly accused the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) of launching the attack, while the lesser-known Kurdish Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility. In the wake of the violence, heightened domestic tensions have led to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) pushing a bill through parliament that will strip politicians of their immunity from prosecution, a move that the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) claims is aimed at removing them from parliament. Across the border, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its allies have declared an autonomous federated region in the Kurdish controlled areas of northern Syria, better known as Rojava. Meanwhile, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG), Masoud Barzani, continues to threaten the Iraqi Central Government with a referendum on independence for the northern enclave. As the domestic tensions in Turkey simmer, and the rhetoric of the multifarious Kurdish groups across the region grows bolder, we ask:

  • How has the rise of Islamic State shaped the aspirations of the Kurdish movements across the region? What does the future hold for them?
  • Is the breakdown in Turkish-Kurdish relations a by-product of the Syrian civil war? Or is this the likely trajectory of a decades old conflict?
  • How coordinated are the Kurdish groups? Who is responsible for what in Turkey’s recent domestic uprisings?
  • TAK, PKK, HDP, PYD, YPG, KNC, PUK, KDP, KDP-I, PJAK: Who are all these Kurdish parties? What do they stand for?

Joining us for the discussion is Dr Mustafa Murat Yurtbilir, an Associate Lecturer in the Turkish Program of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, ANU. He has two Master degrees: one in International Relations from Istanbul University, and one in Development Studies from Uppsala University, Sweden. He completed his PhD in the International Relations Department of METU. Dr. Yurtbilir taught at the Kyrenia American University, Cyprus, and he has also been a visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales, Canberra. His research focuses on Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy, nationalism and ethnicity studies, and international relations.

Session will be held on Friday, 24 June at 11am in the Lecture Theatre of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) at the ANU.

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