Instrumentalism of values and beliefs for ethno-nationalist militant movements: the case of PKK

University essay from Lunds universitet/Centrum för Mellanösternstudier

Abstract: Myths, religious beliefs, and symbols are crucial components of ethnicity. PKK as a nationalist separatist armed organization- intensively uses them to construct a Kurdish identity which is compatible with its ideology as well as its objectives to mobilize Kurds and to galvanize their support. This thesis seeks to describe how PKK –as a militant organization- has instrumentalised Islamic related themes which is one of the basic ethnic characters of Kurdishness. It also raises a question about how PKK interprets and utilizes, rituals, myths, and symbolic characters. To answer these questions, this study employs a qualitative approach. Data collection relies on expert interviews and analysis of primary and secondary sources of the organization and its leaders. By adopting interpretive analysis methods, it focuses on PKK’s political messages delivered via leaders’ speeches and published materials. Theoretically, this thesis relies on studies addressing ethnonational identity formations with a particular focus on ethnosymbolism. Findings show that PKK leadership has moderated its anti-religion discourse and has drawn more analogies with the history of Islam and of PKK since the mid-1990s unlike its previous anti-religious and Marxist discourse. Meanwhile, PKK-linked organizations have carried out religious activities in the civic life in order to increase movements’ legitimacy in the eyes of the Kurdish society and garner the support of Kurdish youth. Moreover, they have sought ways in which myths, symbols, religious themes harmonize with its militant ideology. All these strategies created an ambiguous ideological and performative space for PKK to extend its support base among the Kurdish society in Turkey.

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