Why Ethnic Minorities Support for a Rebel Group: The PKK case in Turkey

By Ekrem Karakoc
Submitted to Session P5018 (Rebels and Insurgents: Recruitment, Effectiveness, and Support, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Kurdish Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This study investigates why some individuals pledge political support to ethnic rebel groups while others do not. This question especially becomes important in the light of resurrected civil war between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish government. Urban fighting across many Kurdish dominated cities in last summer and the reactions to this fight displayed deep divide across Kurdish communities. To what extent Kurds view the PKK as their freedom fighters and support its causes. And to what extent they use similar language with the state toward it. And more importantly, what factors are crucial in increasing support for the PKK. This study utilizes three original public opinion surveys conducted in Turkey in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The surveys are unique, covering the periods before, during and after the ceasefire and failed peace negotiations between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state. We focus on and test two dimensions of the grievances Kurds hold: perceptions of political discrimination and socioeconomic inequality. We also offer hypotheses on two overlooked factors in the civil war literature: ideology and religious commitment. The findings suggest that perception of political and economic grievances alike drive people to support the PKK, but the impact of socioeconomic inequality is higher. We also find that contrary to the expectations dominant in the literature, religiosity does not hinder – and may even increase – support for the PKK among Kurds.