Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-7tp2g Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-09T20:53:34.546Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Civilian Victimization and the Politics of Information in the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2016

Get access


During the 1990s, thousands of Kurdish settlements in Eastern Turkey were forcibly evacuated, resulting in the displacement of more than one million Kurdish villagers. This article examines why some villages survived while the populations of others were forcibly displaced. It also addresses the broader question of why particular groups of civilians become more vulnerable to coercion in the course of armed conflict, and how their vulnerability is shaped by the extent and quality of information that states possess about population groups, particularly minorities deemed dangerous to the regime. The author argues that state practices to categorize the identity of minority groups and to collect information about their behavior and allegiances are integral to the dynamics of violence. Such practices make certain categories of citizens more vulnerable to victimization and often introduce biases into the information gathered. Focusing on Turkey's population census, elections, and the use of informants embedded in communities, the author examines information-gathering practices from the national to the local level. The author uses original data on displacement, Kurdish insurgent violence, and election results, as well as interviews with displaced persons and progovernment militia members, tochallenge the view that civilian victimization in counterinsurgency wars stems primarily from states' inability to distinguish civilians from insurgents.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. State of Exception. Trans. Attell, Kevin. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aktürk, Şener. 2012. Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aşiretler Raporu. 1998. “The Report on Tribes.” [In Turkish]. İstanbul, Turkey: Kaynak Yayınları.Google Scholar
Azam, Jean-Paul, and Hoeffler, Anke. 2002. “Violence against Civilians in Civil Wars: Looting or Terror?Journal of Peace Research 39, no. 4 (July): 461–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balta, Evren. 2004. “Causes and Consequences of the Village Guard System in Turkey.” Unpublished paper. At, accessed December 14, 2009.Google Scholar
Balta-Paker, Evren. 2010. “Dış Tehditten İç Tehdide: Türkiye’de Doksanlarda Ulusal Güvenliğin Yeniden İnşası” [From external threat to domestic threat: The reconstruction of national security during the 1990s]. In Balta-Paker, Evren and Akça, İsmet, eds., Türkiye’de Ordu, Devlet ve Güvenlik Siyaseti [The Military, State, and Politics of Security in Turkey]. İstanbul, Turkey: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları.Google Scholar
Balta-Paker, Evren, and Akça, İsmet, eds. 2010. Türkiye’de Ordu, Devlet ve Güvenlik Siyaseti [The Military, State, and Politics of Security in Turkey]. İstanbul, Turkey: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları.Google Scholar
Beşe, Ertan. 2006. “Geçici Köy Korucuları” [Temporary village guards]. In Cizre, Ümit, ed., Almanak Türkiye 2005: Güvenlik Sektörü ve Demokratik Gözetim [Almanac Turkey 2005: The Security Sector and Democratic Oversight]. İstanbul, Turkey: Türkiye Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etüdler Vakfı (TESEV) Yayınları.Google Scholar
Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Star, Susan Leigh. 1999. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, Mass.: mit Press.Google Scholar
Clayton, Govinda, and Thomson, Andrew. Forthcoming. “Civilianizing Civil Conflict: Civilian Defense Militias and the Logic of Violence in Intra-State Conflict.” International Studies Quarterly.Google Scholar
Doğan, İbrahim. 2011. “Çukurca Saldırısındaki Bomba Malzemeleri Koruculardan” [The matériel for the bomb in the Çukurca attack are from village guards]. Zaman. September 8. At, accessed May 11, 2012.Google Scholar
Downes, Alexander B. 2007. “Draining the Sea by Filling the Graves: Investigating the Effectiveness of Indiscriminate Violence as a Counterinsurgency Strategy.” Civil Wars 9, no. 4: 420–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downes, Alexander B.. 2008. Targeting Civilians in War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Fuat, Dündar. 1999. Türkiye Nüfus Sayımlarında Azınlıklar [Minorities in the Population Censuses of Turkey]. Istanbul, Turkey: Doz.Google Scholar
Fuat, Dündar. 2008. Modern Türkiye’nin Şifresi: İttihat ve Terakki’nin Etnisite Mühendisliği (1913–1918) [The Cipher of Modern Turkey: The Union and Progress Party's Engineering of Ethnicity (1913–1918)]. İstanbul, Turkey: İletişim Yayınları.Google Scholar
Fuat, Dündar. 2012. “‘Statisquo’: British Use of Statistics in the Iraqi Kurdish Question (1919–1932).Crown Center for Middle East Studies Crown Paper no. 7. Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University.Google Scholar
Eck, Kristine, and Hultman, Lisa, 2007. “One-Sided Violence Against Civilians in War: Insights from New Fatality Data.” Journal of Peace Research 44, no. 2 (March): 233–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fearon, James D., and Laitin, David D.. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97, no. 1 (February): 7590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gemalmaz, Mehmet Semih. 2009. “OHAL 6 ilde değil, 13 ilde uygulanmaya devam ediyor” [Emergency rule continues not in six, but thirteen provinces]. Mülkiyeliler Birliği Derigisi 22, no. 205: 5759.Google Scholar
Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Human Rights Watch. 1993. Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign against the Kurds. At, accessed June 10, 2014.Google Scholar
HÜNEE (Hacettepe University Population Studies Institute). 2006. “Türkiye Göç ve Yerinden Olmuş Nüfus Araştırması [Survey on Migration and Displaced Population].” At, accessed June 10, 2014.Google Scholar
IHD (İnsan Hakları Derneği [Human Rights Association]). 2009. Ocak 1990– Mart 2000 Döneminde Köy Korucuları Tarafından Gerçekleştirilen İnsan Hakları İhlallerine İlişkin Özel Rapor [Report on Human Rights Violations Committed by Village Guards between January 1990 and March 2000]. At, accessed January 2014.Google Scholar
Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalyvas, Stathis N., and Kocher, Matthew A.. 2007. “How ‘Free’ Is Free Riding in Civil Wars? Violence, Insurgency, and the Collective Action Problem.” World Politics 59, no. 2 (January): 177216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kertzer, David I., and Arel, Dominique, eds. 2002. Census and Identity: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Koçak, Cemil. 2003. Umumi Müfettişlikler (1927–1952) [The General Inspectorates (1927–1952)]. İstanbul, Turkey: İletişim Yayınları.Google Scholar
KONDA Research and Consultancy. 2010. Kürt Meselesini Yeniden Düşünmek [Rethinking the Kurdish Question]. At .php?tb=3, accessed August 2014.Google Scholar
Lacina, Bethany, and Gleditsch, Nils Petter. 2005. “Monitoring Trends in Global Combat: A New Dataset of Battle Deaths.” European Journal of Population 21, no. 2 (June): 145–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyall, Jason. 2009. “Does Indiscriminate Violence Incite Insurgent Attacks? Evidence from Chechnya.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 53, no. 3 (June): 331–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lyall, Jason, and Wilson, Isaiah III. 2009. “Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars.” International Organization 63, no. 1 (January): 67106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Milliyet. 1997. “Bucak’ın Korucularına 1.2 Milyar” [1.2 billion for Bucak's guards]. January 14.Google Scholar
Mutlu, Servet. 1996. “Ethnic Kurds in Turkey: A Demographic Study.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28, no. 4 (November): 517–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nobles, Melissa. 2000. Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Özdağ, Ümit. 2010. Türk Ordusu PKK’yı Nasıl Yendİ Türkiye PKK’ya Nasıl Teslim Oluyor? [How Did the Turkish Military Defeat the PKK? How is Turkey Surrendering to the PKK?]. Ankara, Turkey: Kripto Kitaplar.Google Scholar
Pamukoğlu, Osman. 2003. Unutulanlar Dışında Yeni Bir şey Yok: Hakkari ve Kuzey Irak Dağlarında Askerler [Nothing New Save for What Has Been Forgotten: Soldiers in Hakkari and the Mountains of Northern Iraq]. Istanbul, Turkey: Harmoni.Google Scholar
Peic, Goran. 2014. “Civilian Defense Forces, State Capacity, and Government Victory in Counterinsurgency Wars.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 37, no. 2: 162–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Posner, Daniel N. 2003. “The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Cleavages: The Case of Linguistic Divisions in Zambia.” Comparative Politics 35, no. 2 (January): 127–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Serxwebûn. 1986. “Direniş Eylemlerimiz Gelişerek Sürüyor” [Our resistance actions expand and continue]. December, no. 60.Google Scholar
Somer, Murat. 2005. “Resurgence and Remaking of Identity: Civil Beliefs, Domestic and External Dynamics, and the Turkish Mainstream Discourse on Kurds.” Comparative Political Studies 38, no. 6: 591622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steele, Abbey. 2009. “Seeking Safety: Avoiding Displacement and Choosing Destinations in Civil War.” Journal of Peace Research 46, no. 3 (May): 419–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steele, Abbey. 2011. “Electing Displacement: Political Cleansing in Apartadó, Colombia.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 55, no. 3 (June): 423–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
TBMM (Tükiye Büyük Millet Meclisi). 1995. Faili Meçhul Cinayetler Araştırma Komisyonu Raporu (Taslak) [Draft Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission on Murders by Unidentified Perpetrators]. Istanbul, Turkey: Birleşik Sosyalist Parti, İstanbul İl Örgütü Yayınları.Google Scholar
TBMM (Tükiye Büyük Millet Meclisi). 1998. Doğu ve Güneydoğu Anadolu’da Bosaltılan Yerleşim Birimleri Nedeniyle Göç Eden Yurttaşlarımızın Sorunlarının Araştırılarak Alınması Gereken Tedbirlerin Tespit Edilmesi Amacıyla Kurulan Meclis Araştırma Komisyonu Raporu, 10/25. [Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission for Researching the Problems of Citizens who Migrated Due to Evacuated Settlements in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia and Identifying the Measures to be Taken, 10/25].” T.B.M.M. Tutanak Dergisi 53, Legislative year 2, period 20, debated in the Assembly on June 2, 1998, Session 96.Google Scholar
TBMM (Tükiye Büyük Millet Meclisi). 2013. Terör ve Şiddet Olayları Kapsamında Yaşam Hakkı İhlallerini İnceleme Raporu [Report of the Parliamentary Human Rights Inquiry Commission on Violations of the Right to Life in the Context of Terror and Violence Incidents]. Ankara, Turkey: Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi.Google Scholar
Tezcür, Güneş Murat. 2015. “Violence and Nationalist Mobilization: The Onset of the Kurdish Insurgency in Turkey.” Nationalities Papers 43, no. 2: 248–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Torpey, John C. 2000. The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Türkiye İstatistik Kurumu (Turkish Statistics Institute). n.d. “Ulusal Hesaplar, İstatistiksel Tablolar, Bölgesel Gayri Safi Katma Değer.” [National Accounts, Statistical Tables, Regional Value Added.] At, accessed November 27, 2015.Google Scholar
Üngör, Uğur Ümit. 2011. The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913–1950. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Üstel, Füsun. 2004. Zorunlu İç Göç Sonrası Köye Dönüş: Ön Rapor [Returning to Villages after Forced Displacement: Preliminary Report]. Istanbul, Turkey: Türkiye Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etüdler Vakfı.Google Scholar
Valentino, Benjamin A. 2000. “Final Solutions: The Causes of Mass Killing and Genocide.” Security Studies 9, no. 3 (Spring): 159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valentino, Benjamin A.. 2004. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Watts, Nicole F. 2010. Activists in Office: Kurdish Politics and Protest in Turkey. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
Yeni Şafak. 2002. “Olağanüstü Hal 30 Kasım’da Bitiyor [sic].” [Emergency rule ends on November 30]. At, accessed May 11, 2012.Google Scholar