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3 F rom the early twentieth to twenty-first centuries, Kurdish activists used many means to try to achieve territorial authority, Kurdish cultural recognition, and democratic reform in Turkey. Official resistance to such efforts resulted in a series of conflicts between the Kurdish national movement and the Turkish state that would ultimately cost tens of thousands of lives, disrupt millions more, undermine the foundational principles of the Turkish national state, and deeply complicate Turkey’s democratization. Many of these moments of conflict were articulated in the 1980s and 1990s as clashes between young Turkish conscripts and Kurdish rebels in the mountains of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. But by the end of the twentieth century, such struggles had also moved into the more mundane settings of local government offices, national parliaments, and intergovernmental courtrooms in citIntroduction Other Routes of Resistance 4 introduction ies across several continents. Men and women who openly advocated greater freedom for Kurdish cultural and political rights led political parties , took seats in the Turkish parliament, and became city mayors. This book is about Kurdish activists’ use of such political institutions between 1990 and 2008 and about the impact of their work. More generally, it is about the possibilities and constraints of resistance within what Timothy Mitchell has referred to (1991, 93) as “the organizational terrain we call the state” and its associated venues. Kurdish challengers’ attempts to commandeer institutions of governance were not particularly unusual; contrary to common perceptions, most repertoires of ethnopolitical contention take the form of conventional political action and nonviolent protest (Gurr 2000, 27; Marshall and Gurr 2005, 21–22). What makes the Kurdish activists’ case so striking is the level of repression and persecution they encountered at the hands of state institutions and the pressure they faced from armed contenders within their own movement. In the 1990s and early 2000s, state authorities detained and tortured pro-Kurdish activists, raided their offices, confiscated their computers and documents, and restricted their freedom to publish, travel, and organize meetings. At least 112 Kurdish party members were murdered in the 1990s. Thousands more were imprisoned, and many were prohibited from any further participation in political life. Simply moving into conventional institutions, in other words, did not ensure “conventional” treatment or routine political outcomes. Given these decidedly difficult circumstances and the less-than-obvious rewards of working within the system, why did Kurdish activists use formal politics to promote their cause? What opportunities did they find, and what constraints? What impact did their incorporation into the mainstream political framework have on the movement, its supporters, the furthering of its goals, and its relations with the Turkish state? Beyond Bullets: Attending to Other Routes of Resistance Surprisingly, existing scholarship is not well equipped to help us answer these questions. This is due to at least two deficiencies in the otherwise extensive literature on ethnopolitical and social movements. First, and introduction 5 quite simply, popular and academic studies of ethnic and nationalist conflict tend to ignore activists’ efforts to work within the formal political system. As Cynthia Irvin notes (1999, 7) in her examination of Irish Republican and Basque nationalist use of electoral strategies, our concern with why movements adopt violence has discouraged us from exploring why, when, and under what conditions they—or at least some of their protagonists —choose not to use it. Indeed, it often suits both armed challengers and states to dismiss “conventional” ethnopolitical activists. Militants may label them as ineffective “window dressing” and/or pawns of the regime, and state officials may label them as militant “fronts” with no autonomy. This tendency to downplay the relevance of activists using formal political channels is particularly acute in cases of noncompetitive or restrictive regimes, where even sympathetic movement observers often view efforts to use formal political channels as a waste of time and resources.1 Studies on Kurdish ethnopolitics reflect this general emphasis on armed contention, with both analysts and movement participants inclined to ignore or dismiss pro-Kurdish politicians and activists. Of the English-language books on the Kurdish conflict in Turkey published since the early 1990s, very few devote more than a few pages to the proKurdish political parties, focusing instead on the Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, or PKK) and its guerrilla challenge to the Turkish state (see, e.g., Romano 2006; White 2000; Gunter 1997).2 Although there is some promising new work being done, there are still only a handful of scholarly articles published on the topic (Barkey 1998...


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