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Kurdish Forced Migration in Turkey

Kurdish Forced Migration in Turkey (Running time: 50 minutes)

This podcast was recorded in May 2008 and presents an overview of Kurdish forced migration in Turkey with a particular focus on forced migration in the 1990s. The work also covers the issue of Kurdish identity in the Turkish state. The podcast includes comments from Prof Joost Jongerden, Dr David Cuthell and Mustafa Gündoğdu as well as displaced Kurds in Diyarbakir and Istanbul.


For anyone who is internally displaced or who is forced to leave his/her place of settlement, a new life is an “obligation.” It is clear that large-scale historical and geographical changes frequently push people to the brink of such decisions as leaving one’s place of settlement for a new life. However, if this “obligation” means the impossibility to pursue the previous way of life for political reasons, rather than the need to start a new life, then the “obligation” stems from the society’s lack of prudence.

In fact, the hundreds of thousands of people who, having lost their property and leaving behind their cultural roots, migrated from Eastern Turkey and Southeastern Turkey to the western provinces, point to something more than the existence of a “Kurdish issue;” they hint at the ideological stagnation underlying this problem. The ways of existence that are not embraced by the official definition of citizenship – which is framed within a narrow and pro-state nationalism – result in stagnant state politics that only produce problems, and project their responsibility unto societal heterogeneity. This has also been the case for Turkey.

The Turkish society, who has not condemned and, for decades, overlooked this discriminatory approach, who has interpreted the armed conflict that has emerged out of the Kurdish question as a threat to its comfort rather than trying to understand the issue; bears a large responsibility in what has happened. It is necessary to understand that internal displacement is not an unexpected natural disaster but a discrediting societal failure to which we, the civil society, have contributed.

Today, we are faced with a different civic responsibility which can and should be fulfilled. It is our responsibility to establish an environment of trust which will allow internally displaced persons to embark on a life that they desire in a place of their own choosing. This will, to an extent, compensate the difficulties the state has willingly and unwillingly caused for its citizens and will enable a moral link between different identity groups in Turkey.

Extract from Coming to Terms with Forced Migration: Post Displacement Restitution of Citizenship Rights in Turkey, Foreword to the Turkish Edition, Etyen Mahçupyan, Director of the democratisation Program, TESEV

Reproduced with permission

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Alternative Formats



  • S L James



  • Fatma Kayhan
  • Melike Keles

Recorded: May 2008

Filed under: ,
creative commons logo (CC) BY-NC-ND This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Kurdish children in Diyarbakir, south eastern Turkey, May 2008. Photo: S L James.

Kurdish children in Diyarbakir, south eastern Turkey, May 2008.

Photo: S L James

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Last updated Sep 09, 2011