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The Unwelcome Neighbour

Éditeur : I.B.Tauris Date & Lieu : 2007, New York
Préface : Pages : 170
Traduction : ISBN : 978 1 85043 682 9
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 150x288 mm
Thème : Politique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The Unwelcome Neighbour

The Unwelcome Neighbour: Turkey's Kurdish Policy

The work on this book began within the framework of `Borders, boundaries and transgressions', a multi-disciplinary research project sponsored by the Swedish Research Council's programme on West and Central Asia. In this project Inga Brandell, Emma Jorum, Roberta Micallef, Annika Rabo and Tetz Rooke became not only my colleagues but also my friends. During the years I have benefited greatly from the discussions we have had and I am grateful to all of them for having shared their ideas with me.

Inga Brandell, Annika Rabo and Bo Utas have given moral and practical support throughout the work on this book. They have also read earlier versions of the manuscript and I am extremely grateful to them for their comments, advice and criticism. I am also indebted to Safeen Dizayee, Özden Zeynep Oktav and Elizabeth Picard who have read parts of the manuscript and given very valuable input. Two anonymous readers at I.B.Tauris have also given important comments.


In the early 1990s, a state-like Kurdish entity began to gradually establish itself on Turkey's southeast border. On a delimited territory which was more or less cut off from the rest of country, the Iraqi Kurds set up self-rule and built de facto independent political institutions. An Iraqi journalist visiting the city of Erbil in northern Iraq in 2002, reported: 'This is supposedly [...] Iraqi land but no one utters the name "Iraq". Here they use cellular phones called Kurdistell, they watch a Kurd TV (sic). In officials' bureaus large maps hang on the wall with Kurdistan inscribed in large letters, large enough to arouse the ire of the neighbouring countries': This situation created a dilemma for the Turkish state. On the one hand, Ankara had to interact with the Kurdish entity in order to protect what were considered vital national interests and, most importantly, to make sure that this self-rule did not develop into an independent state. Aborting all potential plans for Kurdish statehood is paramount for Ankara. On the other hand, the formal and regular relations that were established reproduced, maybe even reinforced, a reality that Turkey wanted to avoid more than anything else. An independent Kurdish state on its own border would be a nightmare for Ankara. Turkey's foreign policy towards northern Iraq is an example of how an actor is sometimes forced to participate in spinning a web in which it eventually gets caught itself.

Turkey's amdety about developments in northern Iraq is a reminder of the fact that even when a territorial nation-state is forcefully established, it can still be contested. States are not set in stone. They are created by people and can, at any moment, be challenged. Following WW1 and the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire, governments in the Middle East were faced with the challenge of creating a political community in their newly demarcated national territories. International boundaries were established to separate `the domestic realm from the exterior, the world of (supposed) social solidarity from the world of Leviathan'.2 The successor state of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Republic, founded in 1923, was no exception. The endeavour to replace a multinational, multiethnic empire with a territorial nation-state is still an on-going and open-ended project. The borders of the new state corresponded, more or less, with the positions that the Turkish army had managed to secure through military battle. In this territory, inhabited by people of mixed ethnic backgrounds, a nation was to be created. The newly-founded nation-state had to find a unifying principle which could embrace Turks and Kurds as well as a number of other ethnic groups. The state-building core chose a definition of the nation that was not based on ethnicity but on the territorial principle. Everyone living in the territory of the Turkish Republic, that is, within its borders, was a Turk. The borders were thus crucial both for delimiting the territory and for defining the nation.

Civic nationalism became the official ideology. As early as the 1920s, however, policies and practices began to depart from the official declarations and the nation-building project became increasingly ethnified. The potential for creating a truly civic form of national identity (if there is such a thing) was thus undermined and throughout the history of the Republic, the definition of the Turkish nation has been a highly controversial issue. Any questioning of the official definition of this national identity has been treated as a threat to the survival of the state. Any emphasis of any kind on ethnic identity other than Turkishness has been considered threatening and likely to open a Pandora's box full of dangerous, centrifugal forces: One ethnic group that demands more autonomy will lead to all other groups raising the same demands and the final result will be the disintegration of the state. What would the world look like, asks a Turkish diplomat rhetorically, if we were `to create small mini-states, mosaics, on the basis of ethnicity or language?'.3 A strong fear of disintegration has always permeated the security thinking of the Turkish state and no compromises are made when it comes to the unity of state, nation and territory.

Since the definition of the Turkish nation is contested, the territory has taken on a special meaning and security has become closely linked to foreign policy and the protection of territorial integrity. As in so many other cases, nation building has been a violent process which is not yet completed. Only by looking closely at the Turkish nation-building project is it possible to understand why the mere idea of a Kurdish state is such a nightmare for Ankara, even though it is not a matter of giving up part of its own territory, but only about the possible establishment of a Kurdish state outside of Turkey's border, on the territory of another state. A crucial factor in this context is that neither the Turkish nor the Iraqi territory is unchallenged. People living on either side of the border may or may not identify with existing territorial demarcations and with the states to which they are connected by citizenship. `The absolute principle of respect for territorial and political sovereignty, as claimed by the Turkish state' does not necessarily correspond with the conditions on the ground.' The Republic was founded on a territory that is, in part, included in Kurdish national aspirations. Thus, fragility was built into the Turkish-Iraqi border from the very beginning Today, this fragility is a reminder of the artificiality of the distinction between domestic and foreign. What is happening in northern Iraq is not an external issue for Ankara. It is closely connected with domestic politics. References to the so-called 'domino effect', meaning that events in one state automatically spread to surrounding states, reflect the fact that borders, territories and states are man-made. World maps present us with an image of a world carved up into distinct and mutually exclusive entities. In reality, nations do not come to an abrupt stop at the border. On every ordinary world map it would be possible to add layers of alternative and overlapping maps. The mere existence of a different map may, however, constitute an implicit questioning of a border or a territory. Such a seemingly innocent thing as a map can be perceived as a threat, simply by presenting a different way of imagining a certain piece of land. That is why a map depicting an entity called Kurdistan is bound to trigger a strong reaction from defenders of the Turkish state. A map is a powerful tool for making a population identify with a certain territorial space and because of that it demands a monopoly. `Only maps are able to communicate a precise image of the limits of the state and the territorial shapes of states as presented on maps remain strongly imprinted upon the mental images of states in our spatial imaginations.i5 In the battle over the population's national identification, the state does not tolerate competitors. While the Turkish-Iraqi border divides Turkey and Iraq from each other, it also runs right through a population that has only been partly assimilated into the Turkish or the Iraqi nations. As long as ambiguity persists concerning peoples' identification, the Turkish and Iraqi nation-state projects will remain uncompleted.

Foreign policy and nation-building are the subjects of this book. It aims to describe how Turkey's foreign policy towards Kurdish self-rule in northern Iraq is an extension of domestic politics and of the continuously ongoing endeavour to build and consolidate a Turkish nation. The next chapter will outline the theoretical framework, which is based on the interconnectedness of nation-building, foreign policy and national security. The argument is that foreign policy practice and discourse as well as danger, are instrumental in the building and reproduction of nations and states. Chapter 3 describes how the Turkish state has defined the ideological foundations of the Turkish nation, Turkish foreign policy and perceptions of threat to the nation. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the Kurdish question and the securitization of Kurdish identity. Chapter 5 is a study of Turkish foreign policy discourse, aiming at showing how, in this kind of discourse, an important element is to reproduce the state by affirming its identity and the domestic-foreign dichotomy. Chapter 6 describes Ankara's relations with northern Iraq during the twelve years of Kurdish self-rule prior to the fall of the Ba'ath regime. It shows how Turkey felt compelled to maintain a military presence in northern Iraq and to establish relations with the leaders of the de facto Kurdish state and how this created a dilemma since, at the same time, Ankara was highly concerned about the territorial integrity and political sovereignty of Iraq. Ankara painted itself into a corner, whereby it was simultaneously violating and defending Iraqi sovereignty. The situation which had prevailed in Iraq for 12 years came to an end with the US-led invasion in March 2003.

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