The impact of changing civil-military relations on Turkey’s approach to the Kurdish question
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This study considers the relationship between democratization and conflict resolution by examining the effect that changing civil-military relations have had on the Kurdish question in Turkey. In addressing democratization, this paper focuses on demilitarization, or the transition of political power from military to civilian control. A significant change in Turkish civil-military relations occurred after 2007, as the civil government averted military threats of intervention in the “e-memorandum.” Demilitarization has potential ramifications for Turkey’s approach to the Kurdish question, exemplified by Peace Process negotiations commenced in 2012 between the Turkish government and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The Peace Process signals a major shift from counterterrorism to negotiation as the primary tool of conflict resolution. This thesis aims to understand the effects that demilitarization has had on the attitudes and perceptions of military leaders with respect to the Kurdish question. This thesis utilizes a mixed methods research approach that combines qualitative data collected through discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews with quantitative data from content analysis. This thesis highlights the role of changing civil-military relations in approaches to conflict resolution and counterterrorism by examining the construction of democracy and terrorism in National Security Council (MGK) and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) press releases from 2007-2012 and from interviews with retired military officials. The findings of this thesis suggest that institutional changes to the political structure of the state contributed to a shift in civil-military relations that facilitated the introduction of accommodative approaches to counterterrorism, which was accepted by military leaders due to normative change in the military’s perception of its role in politics, despite a lack of normative change on issues of counterterrorism strategy.