A Democratic Opening? The AKP and the Kurdish Left


Cavanaugh, Kathleen and Hughes, E. 2015. A Democratic Opening? The AKP and the Kurdish Left. Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. 12 (1), pp. 53-74.
AuthorsCavanaugh, Kathleen and Hughes, E.

Since its foundation, militant democratic arguments have underpinned an enforced secularism in Turkey. The 2002 election of the AKP, described as a “moderate Islamist party”, has challenged Turkey’s secular identity. In the more than twelve years since the AKP has been in power, Turkey’s political landscape has experienced significant changes, with periods of extensive democratic reforms
punctuated by regression in certain areas, notably freedom of expression and the right to protest. State repressive measures coupled with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s
reluctance to exit the political stage have been the focus of much commentary and analysis. This article argues, however, that under AKP rule the Kurdish issue –
critical to ensuring the normalization of politics and democratization in Turkey – has been brought in from the political cold and assesses the creation and role of
the HDP (Halkların Demokratik Partisi), a Kurdish political party that is endeavoring to situate itself in the mainstream of Turkey’s political landscape. We posit
that the HDP can be viewed as the offspring of this “democratic opening,” a project that was meant to ensure a radical transformation of the Kurdish issue in
Turkey. Through analysing the historical trajectory of both AKP and HDP and the militant democratic arguments that led to their predecessors’ exclusion from
the public sphere, this article engages with the key question of the extent to which the AKP’s treatment of the Kurdish issue has provided a vehicle for broader
democratisation and facilitated a reconsideration of the Kurdish question in Turkey.

JournalMuslim World Journal of Human Rights
Journal citation12 (1), pp. 53-74
PublisherDe Gruyter
Publisher's version
Web address (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/mwjhr-2015-0005
Publication dates
Print13 Aug 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Oct 2015
Accepted13 Aug 2015
FunderBritish Academy
Leverhulme Trust
Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust
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