The Politics of Youth Activism in the Kurdish Movement

Project: PostDoc

Project Details


The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa that started in 2009 and continued in the early 2010s have brought the issue of youth in the region to the forefront of social and political analyses. From the Green Movement in Tehran to the Arab Spring in Cairo and other urban centers in the Arab world to the Gezi Park Resistance in Istanbul, young people took the streets against authoritarian regimes and demanded fundamental changes in the social and political systems of their countries (Alnasseri 2016; Cassel et al. 2013; Bayat 2013, 2015; Dabashi 2011; Prashad 2012; Yildirim and Navaro-Yashin 2013). Scholars of youth studies point out how the repressive and volatile political environment and deteriorating socioeconomic conditions have turned the growing youth groups, or so called “youth bulge” (Cincotta 2009; Urdal 2004), into a significant challenge for the region both “as a threat” and as “threatened” population (Alhassen and Shihab-Eldin 2012; Carpenter and Mojab 2017; Catusse and Destremau 2017; Khalaf and Khalaf 2011; Ritchie and Mojab 2019; Sukarieh and Tannock 2014). In the Kurdish region of Turkey, the issue of youth and youth movements became particularly visible after the 2015-2016 urban armed clashes that led to a massive wave of state violence against the Kurds and destruction of cities, death of hundreds, and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people (HRW 2016; OHCHR 2017). This shifted the geography of the struggle from rural areas to cities. My proposed research will explore how the terrain of civil society has been developed in the Kurdish region under the influence of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey, and what are the main actors in shaping this terrain. I will examine dynamics and contradictions in the Kurdish movement between two cultures of resistance, one based on legal and civic activism under the strong influence of the European Union’s (EU) reform politics in Turkey (Olson 2007, Öktem 2008) and the other one based on street protest where the Kurdish youth in impoverished neighborhoods are on the forefront.
Effective start/end date1/10/201/10/22