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2018 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

5. Statehood, Autonomy, or Unitary Coexistence? A Comparative Analysis of How Kurdish Groups Approach the Idea of Self-Determination



Self-determination still remains a vague and controversial term in both international legal scholarship and the political science literature. Attributed either a fairly negative or positive connotation, the concept, for this reason, suffers from analytical inadequacy in the academic discussions. Proponents, from either a moralistic or legalistic perspective, often tend to view it as an absolute and inherent right that particularly ethnic minorities can and should exercise. Opponents, on the other hand, are of the opinion that the notion, in fact, refers to a very ambiguous legal and political framework that it cannot serve as a basis for any nationalist or ethnic aspirations for full or partial independence, autonomy, or further recognition as a separate entity within a certain political sphere of authority. These two extreme approaches have so far been raised in both popular and academic debates in the case of the political rights of the Kurds, including the right to self-determination. A denialist rhetoric (which sometimes even amounts to the level of assimilationism) suggests that the Kurds may not become eligible, under international law, to have a separate state of their own, or that they should not be recognized certain political rights as a separate political group. A pro-Kurdish view, however, underlines that the Kurds, for the sake of being a political group (either minority, people or even a nation), have the inherent indispensable right regardless of the political hurdles emanating from the intricacy of the interstate relations or regional affairs. This study seeks to investigate how the notion of self-determination has been used or framed by pro-Kurdish groups in their political discourses. As part of a comparative analysis, the paper is focused on how three major Kurdish groups or political movements have employed a discourse of self-determination to achieve their political goals, and tries to identify the conditions under which different political claims have been made. I, for this purpose, analyze how pro-Barzani groups and entities (including himself, and the Kurdistan Regional Government in general), the pro-Öcalan groups (including the PKK, HDP and YPG), and the Kurdish Islamist groups view the idea of self-determination to shed light on their political vision. A pro-Kurdish agenda may be attentive to the attainment of one of the three political outcomes: an independent state, political autonomy as either a minority or a constituent of the state, or greater recognition of group rights. The study investigates which group exercised a discourse of self-determination for which political outcome and under what conditions.
Statehood, Autonomy, or Unitary Coexistence? A Comparative Analysis of How Kurdish Groups Approach the Idea of Self-Determination
Cenap Çakmak
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