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2018 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

4. Kurdish Nationalist Organizations, Neighboring States, and “Ideological Distance”



Especially since 2014, the relations between Kurdish populations with other Kurdish cross-border populations and neighboring states have never received more public attention. Strategic decisions made by the elites of these communities have often confounded analysts approaching the developments in Kurdish-populated areas with latent assumptions of primordial identities or at least with the assumption that peoples with shared ethnic identities will have monolithic aims and agendas. Using the rich existing theory on nationalist identity development and nationalist projects, this chapter argues that Kurdish identities, like all national identities, are political and thus, while often constructed from pre-existing elements like language, shared traditions, etc., these elements are selected or constructed contextually within a nationalist package that is glued together implicitly or explicitly by a politically and ideologically framed image of an ideal nation. With this in mind, the chapter will explore how these elite-led nationalist endeavors intersect with how these nationalist communities interact with other Kurdish nationalist communities and neighboring states. Using Mark Haas’s “ideological distance” hypothesis and its three posited causal mechanisms—demonstration effects, social identity theory, and the communications mechanism—we will discuss Kurdish cross-communal and extra-communal relations. In general, “ideological distance” seems to be a good fit in explaining the interaction between Kurdish nationalist political groups in the twenty-first century, and it also helps to explain why the current Turkish government seems to have real preferences among the various Kurdish political organizations—i.e., it appears to explain why Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appear to have distinguished between “good Kurds” and “bad Kurds.”
Kurdish Nationalist Organizations, Neighboring States, and “Ideological Distance”
F. Michael Wuthrich
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