Blood and Belief by Aliza Marcus

Charountaki, Marianna (2008) Blood and Belief by Aliza Marcus. Political Studies Review Journal . ISSN 978 0 8147 5711 6

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“Blood and Belief: the PKK and the Kurdish fight for independence”, authored by the American journalist Aliza Marcus, focuses on the struggle by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) for independence from Turkey (p.29). Inspired by “Ocalan’s capture (1999) and the split in the movement by his call for disarmament (1997)”, it attributes the Kurdish Problem in Turkey both to Turkey’s reluctance to recognize the ethnic identity of its Kurdish population and to “its exploitation by neighboring countries seeking to either weaken Turkey or the Kurdish movement in all” (p.1).

The book is based extensively on interviews with former PKK members presented through a narrative, informative and often literary discourse. Aliza’s journalistic approach deprives the book of an academic or political analysis, presenting facts as perceived by PKK members and leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. The presentation of her empirical work and her knowledge of the PKK in an easily comprehensible language renders the book attractive to a wide audience, including non-experts. Thus, the use of primary sources about the role of the PKK in the Kurdish struggle, a subject rarely dealt within the current literature, provides readers with original insights into the matter. Aliza’s assertion of Kurdish trans-regional cooperation probes the Kurd’s status as ‘non-state’ actors. However, her constant use of the term “Turkish Kurds” is questionable as it stands contrary to the PKK’s nationalist claims for independence as a distinctive ethnicity.

The four parts of the book tackle the PKK’s formation- stigmatized by Ocalan’s authoritarian rule- its declaration of armed struggle against Turkey since 1984, and its aim from 1990s onwards to control the South in order to force “Turkey into political negotiations over Kurdish demands” (p. 151). Yet in the aftermath of Ocalan’s arrest and the PKK’s decline the question of “what does the Kurdish problem in Turkey mean now” still remains unanswered (p.299).

The author’s success in expounding the PKK’s activities in connection with those of other Kurds and regional developments would have been enriched and balanced if she had included interviews with other non-PKK Kurds or Turkish officials. Still, she presents Kurdish claims for independence via a study of the PKK which “forced Turkey to at least admit that it has a problem” (p. 276). The author argues that “the PKK is key to understand the challenges the US faces in formulating stable polities in the Middle East” since “the 28 million Kurds … will long remain a source of instability for the governments that rule them and the Western powers that try to influence events there” (p. 3).

Keywords:book review
Subjects:L Social studies > L200 Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:36976
Deposited On:11 Sep 2019 09:59

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