Ankara’s Kurdophobia

August 7, 2015 OPINION/NEWS




Zeravan Barwary

The Turkish foreign policy towards Kurds has developed under the AKP, due to the new approaches that reflected the constructivist understanding of said policy.

The international, regional and political elites’ perception has influenced the direction of Turkish foreign policy towards Kurds. Furthermore, the main framework of that policy is based on Ahmet Davutoglu’s doctrine of strategic depth [1] and the practices of the ‘Zero Problems’ with its neighbours’ policy. It is noteworthy that Ankara achieved remarkable changes as a result of that policy, improving peace and stability with its complex border, particularly with Iraq and Syria, hence there has been an understanding that Turkey has passed the Kurd phobia in its domestic and regional policies.

However, Ankara’s recent attacks on the PKK’s basements in Kurdistan, north of Iraq, have raised the traditional fear of Ankara regarding Kurd phobia and its impacts on the core principles of the Turkish state in terms of national integrity and security. It is significant therefore to analyse the internal and external factors behind the new Turkish aggressive in the region.


Internally, the Turkish policy makers finally realised that Ankara’s domestic stability is vulnerable to the regional disorder, the existence of ISIS and the Kurdish semi-independent administration in north-eastern Syria, all a crucial threat to Turkish strategic interests. However, Ankara has not yet involved itself in the war against ISIS and had previously miscalculated the Kurdish regional role in the Middle East following the Kurdish collaboration with the international community in the war against ISIS.

The AK party has two aims for its domestic politics in relation to military operations against ISIS and the PKK in Syria and northern Iraq. First, covering its failure to form the party government as a result of the last general elections held in June, 2015, there is a demand for a new mobilising process to sway the Turkish public opinion to the same side as the AK, requiring an emergency atmosphere to facilitate an early election, which may actually help the AKP with a simple majority, in turn reformulating the party government on its own.

In addition to this the military operation aims to reduce Kurdish influence in Turkish politics since the HDP [2] gained about 80 seats in the new Turkish parliament, resulting in a strong opposition against the AK party plan both in domestic and foreign policies.


Externally, Ankara has two goals regarding its recent military operation. First, recovering the power vacuum with Iran through reaching an international agreement to declare a no-fly zone region in north Syria. This will enable the Syrian opposition to reach a victory against the Syrian regime, consequently putting an end to Iranian power over Syria, at the same time destroying PKK military and political capabilities in Iraq and Syria to enforce PKK leaders to accept Turkish conditions on any upcoming peace process with its Kurds in south-eastern Turkey.

Secondly, Ankara aims to involve NATO in its conflict with the PKK as a condition for an active Turkish role in the war against ISIS, this providing Turkey with international legitimacy in its conflict with the Kurdish armed parties in the region.


The internal and external factors become the key features in current Turkish foreign policy, this illustrated by Ankara’s return to the realist approach in the nation’s foreign policy through the use of hard power, increasing the self-help tradition realism in Ankara’s policy in the Middle East.

The Kurdophobia will not serve the open democracy project and peace process in Turkey and might threaten the region’s security, because the more Kurds become vulnerable, the more ISIS increase its power in the region. If Kurdish nationalism is considered a security dilemma for Turkey, then expansion of ISIS is a security dilemma for the whole region.



[1] Strategic Depth is the title of a book published by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. In this book he focuses on Turkish geopolitics and the Turkish position in world politics. This doctrine has several principles such as zero problems with neighbours and the use of soft power in Turkish foreign policy.


[2] HDP is a left-wing and pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey. It has participated in the 7 June election and gained 80 seats in the current Turkish parliament.






Zeravan Barwary

Zeravan Barwary is a Kurdish Political analyst and specialist in Turkish policy towards Kurds. He has also published a book on the Turkish policy towards Iraqi Kurds-2003-2008 and is currently a PhD Researcher at the University of Surrey.


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