National Self-Determination versus the Global ‘Counter-Terror’ Regime:
CAMPACC research and public outreach project
Workshop on Kurds 21 February 2015, SOAS, London.
Peacebuilding as counter-insurgency: what does it mean for Kurdish self-determination?
Dr Vicki Sentas
The Kurdish movement are well acquainted with the effects of the global listing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation. In many ways the listing regime is an extension of Turkey’s counter-insurgency approach to the armed conflict. That is, listing is a form of warfare collectively targeted to the Kurdish people. The intended aim of listing is to delegitimise the PKK in order to suppress its political support from the population. The criminalisation of Kurds in the diaspora and the mass repressions of the Kurdish movement in Turkey, are deliberate strategies to contain self-determination, not collateral effects. Critically, the ban on the PKK is widely understood as a barrier to any sustainable peace process.
This presentation draws on some of the findings of the forthcoming report, Building peace in permanent war: terrorist listing and conflict transformation (by Boon-Kuo, Hayes, Sentas and Sullivan). The report examines the impacts of terrorist listing on peacebuilding in Somalia, Palestine and Turkey. I will firstly overview how listing of the PKK impedes political resolution of the conflict, and the particular implications for the concept and practice of self-determination. My focus is with the diverse approaches of international NGOs to the resolution of the conflict and to Kurdish self-determination. NGOs who work in conflict resolution and mediation have raised concerns about how their work is potentially criminalised by terrorist listing when interacting with listed groups or the movements connected to them. Whilst the Kurdish movement has long called for the PKK to be listed, very few if any peacebuilding NGOs have taken up this call, with some instead advocating for ‘exemptions’ for peace builders from terrorism laws. I argue that NGOs largely sustain the power of terrorist listing through a counter-insurgency approach to conflict management. Of course, NGOs can, and some do, disrupt the hegemony of listing. I discuss some of these approaches and outline resources within emancipatory peace building and anti-colonial traditions that might strengthen solidarity with Kurdish self-determination.
Dr Vicki Sentas is a lecturer in law at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her interest is with the reproduction of state and racial power through practices of law and policing. Her work has focused on the effects of counter-terrorism practices, migration controls and multiculturalism policies on criminal justice. She has a particular interest in the criminalisation of armed conflicts and self-determination. Her recent book Traces of Terror: Counter-Terrorism Law, Policing and Race (Oxford University Press 2014) examines the effects of counter-terrorism law and policing on ethnic minority and Muslim communities in Australia.