Conquering the state, subordinating society : a Kurdish perspective on the development of AKP authoritarianism in Turkey

Jongerden, J.P.


The 2016 post-coup attempt measures in Turkey have been evaluated as a process of backsliding on civic rights and freedoms. This contribution takes a slightly different approach. The so-called democratic breakdown, or ‘backsliding’, in rights and freedoms should not be regarded as a (mere) attribute of the post-coup aftermath. The idea that a process of democratization in Turkey derailed or became disrupted after the coup only feeds the myth that there had been such a process of pre-coup democratization. In this article, it is argued that the reforms often held up as a ‘democratization’ were rather instruments opportunistically employed in the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP) struggle to conquer the state, to take it from a Kemalist elite and to roll back and contain a Kurdish movement that made pleas for a pluralistic citizenship and the strengthening of civil rights. These have now morphed into an overt authoritarianism, in which a regime of exceptions, not unknown to the Kurds and the Kurdistan region in Turkey, has become the norm, the particular generalised. This is what is referred to here as an ‘organizational coup’.