100 books like The Kurdish Nationalist Movements in Turkey, 1980 to 2011

By Robert W Olson,

Here are 100 books that The Kurdish Nationalist Movements in Turkey, 1980 to 2011 fans have personally recommended if you like The Kurdish Nationalist Movements in Turkey, 1980 to 2011. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Formation of Kurdishness in Turkey: Political Violence, Fear and Pain

Ceren Sengül Author Of Customized Forms of Kurdishness in Turkey: State Rhetoric, Locality, and Language Use

From my list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in political and social events around me, and being from Turkey, it was inevitable not to be surrounded by the news of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK that has been going on for decades. However, perhaps due to being a member of the non-Muslim minority community of Turkey myself, I have always been interested in the ‘non-mainstream’ explanations of a state-ethnic group conflict. This interest in alternative explanations led me to study an MSc in Nationalism Studies and to a PhD in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, with the focus of my thesis being Kurdishness in Turkey. 

Ceren's book list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds

Ceren Sengül Why did Ceren love this book?

This book is a brilliant example of how to properly conduct an anthropological ethnography amongst Kurds and to use the ethnographic data whilst presenting your argument.

I read and reviewed this book when it was first published in 2014, one year after I had finished my own ethnographic fieldwork across different cities in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan for my PhD research that I eventually turned it into the book I advertise here.

I could not help but feel impressed and influenced by the meticulous attention to detail in the ethnographic work.

This detailed work, combined with the tragic personal narratives of the interviewees, makes this an intriguing book to get a glimpse into what being a Kurd means in current Turkey. 

By Ramazan Aras,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Formation of Kurdishness in Turkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Formation of Kurdishness in Turkey examines political violence, the politics of fear and the Kurdish experience of pain through an analysis of life stories, personal narratives and testimonies of Kurdish subjects in contemporary Turkey. It traces the physical and psychological impacts of the war between the state security forces and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) guerrillas in the last three decades, in Kurdish populated areas in the south-eastern part of Turkey.

Focusing on the instrumentalization of violence, the ensuing and manufactured culture of fear, gendered experiences of state violence, pain, incarceration, and corporeal punishment, Ramazan Aras argues that these…


Book cover of Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk?

Ceren Sengül Author Of Customized Forms of Kurdishness in Turkey: State Rhetoric, Locality, and Language Use

From my list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in political and social events around me, and being from Turkey, it was inevitable not to be surrounded by the news of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK that has been going on for decades. However, perhaps due to being a member of the non-Muslim minority community of Turkey myself, I have always been interested in the ‘non-mainstream’ explanations of a state-ethnic group conflict. This interest in alternative explanations led me to study an MSc in Nationalism Studies and to a PhD in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, with the focus of my thesis being Kurdishness in Turkey. 

Ceren's book list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds

Ceren Sengül Why did Ceren love this book?

I read this book while I was writing my PhD thesis, and it has had a tremendous impact in shaping the historical chapter of my thesis, i.e. how the Kemalist Turkey of the interwar period viewed its citizens and how ‘the ideal Turk’ was constructed.

I have also cited many of the historical archives that were presented in this book.

If there are scholars and people who have an interest in Turkey with no earlier background in Turkey, this book is a brilliant introduction to understand why Kemalism, the founding ideology of the Turkish Republic, has an obsession with Kurds but also with other non-Turkish citizens. 

By Soner Cagaptay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is commonly believed that during the interwar period, Kemalist secularism successfully eliminated religion from the public sphere in Turkey, leaving Turkish national identity devoid of religious content. However, through its examination of the impact of the Ottoman millet system on Turkish and Balkan nationalisms, this book presents a different view point. Cagaptay demonstrates that the legacy of the Ottomon millet system which divided the Ottoman population into religious compartments called millets, shaped Turkey's understanding of nationalism in the interwar period. Providing a compelling examination of why and how religion shapes national identity in Turkey and the Balkans the book…


Book cover of Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989

Ceren Sengül Author Of Customized Forms of Kurdishness in Turkey: State Rhetoric, Locality, and Language Use

From my list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in political and social events around me, and being from Turkey, it was inevitable not to be surrounded by the news of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK that has been going on for decades. However, perhaps due to being a member of the non-Muslim minority community of Turkey myself, I have always been interested in the ‘non-mainstream’ explanations of a state-ethnic group conflict. This interest in alternative explanations led me to study an MSc in Nationalism Studies and to a PhD in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, with the focus of my thesis being Kurdishness in Turkey. 

Ceren's book list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds

Ceren Sengül Why did Ceren love this book?

Another chronological resume of events in the more recent history of Turkey (since the end of the Cold War), this book is essential reading for anyone who is interested in Turkey.

What made me first interested in this book was its title, Angry Nation, which I thought was very apt to describe the Turkish nation.

Even though this book is about the contemporary history of Turkey in general, its sections on the Kurdish war in the 1990s and war and peace in Kurdistan discuss the state’s actions towards Kurds.

After all, the history of contemporary Turkey would not be complete without talking about its Kurdish and other non-Turkish citizens. 

By Kerem Oktem,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Angry Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its re-emergence as nation-state in 1923, Turkey has often looked like an odd appendix to the West situated in the borderlands of Europe and the Middle East, economically backward, inward looking, marred by political violence, yet a staunch NATO ally, it has been eyed with suspicion by both 'East' and 'West'. The momentous changes in the regional and world order after 1989 have catapulted the country back to the world stage. Ever since, Turkey has turned into a major power broker and has developed into one the largest economies in the world. In the process, however, the country has…


Book cover of Kurdish Ethno-Nationalism versus Nation-Building States: Collected Articles

Ceren Sengül Author Of Customized Forms of Kurdishness in Turkey: State Rhetoric, Locality, and Language Use

From my list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in political and social events around me, and being from Turkey, it was inevitable not to be surrounded by the news of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK that has been going on for decades. However, perhaps due to being a member of the non-Muslim minority community of Turkey myself, I have always been interested in the ‘non-mainstream’ explanations of a state-ethnic group conflict. This interest in alternative explanations led me to study an MSc in Nationalism Studies and to a PhD in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, with the focus of my thesis being Kurdishness in Turkey. 

Ceren's book list on the relationship between Turkey and Kurds

Ceren Sengül Why did Ceren love this book?

It is safe to say that this book was like a holy book to me when I was doing my MSc and during my early PhD years.

Martin van Bruinessen is a scholar that everyone who has an interest in Kurdish studies should be familiar with, and this book, which is a collection of his earlier articles, is a good introduction to get acquainted with Kurds and their history.

Even though the articles in this book date back to the 1980s and to the 1990s, it is a classic book for those who want to familiarise themselves with Kurds.

The articles here are not only about Kurds of Turkey but also those of Iran and Iraq. 

By Martin van Bruinessen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kurdish Ethno-Nationalism versus Nation-Building States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of articles by Martin van Bruinessen on Kurds, Kurdish history and identity from the perspective of nationalism and nation-building in the Middle East.


Book cover of Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan

Janet Biehl Author Of Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin

From my list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria).

Why am I passionate about this?

I was the partner and late-life collaborator of the late social ecology theorist Murray Bookchin. Shortly before his death his 2006, the Kurdish freedom movement took up his ideas, as Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s thought leader, had recommended them. Öcalan created a new ideology based in part on social ecology, promoting face-to-face democracy through citizen assemblies and councils; the liberation of women; a cooperative economy; and an ecological orientation. In several northern provinces of Syria, activist Kurds started building liberatory institutions based on these ideas, at first illicitly, under the Assad regime’s brutal persecution. Then a few years later, after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, the northern provinces declined to take sides in the conflict but instead created a revolution, turning the democratic, gender-equal institutions they had been building into the polity of self-governing provinces, known as Rojava (now known as the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria). As a result of my connection with Bookchin, I was privileged to visit three times and witnessed the revolution.

Janet's book list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria)

Janet Biehl Why did Janet love this book?

Originally written in German and published in 2014, this first full-length study of the revolution is based on extensive research there, including interviews with participants in the revolution. It remains a basic text for any study of the revolution.

By Michael Knapp, Anja Flach, Ercan Ayboga

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revolution in Rojava as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new kind of society is being built in Syria, but it's not one you would expect. Surrounded by deadly bands of ISIS and hostile Turkish forces, the people living in Syria's Rojava cantons are carving out one of the most radically progressive societies on the planet today. Western visitors have been astounded by the success of their project, a communally organised democracy which considers women's equality indispensable and rejects reactionary nationalist ideology whilst being fiercely anti-capitalist.

The people of Rojava call their new system democratic confederalism. An implementation of the recent ideology of the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan,…


Book cover of Memed, My Hawk

Christiane Bird Author Of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan

From my list on classics about the world of the Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in the Kurds during a 1998 journey I took to Iran to work on my first book about the Middle East, Neither East nor West. While there, I traveled to Sanandaj, Iran’s unofficial Kurdish capital, where I was immediately struck by how different the area seemed from the rest of the Islamic Republic—heartbreaking in its lonesome beauty, and defiant. Despite a large number of Revolutionary Guards on the streets, the men swaggered and women strode. These people are not cowed, I thought—no wonder they make the Islamic government nervous. I had to find out more.

Christiane's book list on classics about the world of the Kurds

Christiane Bird Why did Christiane love this book?

A Kurd born in Turkey in 1923, Kemal was a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature for years, and this book is the real deal, a classic novel of adventure and heroism that has been compared to works by Faulkner. It’s not overtly about the Kurds—the ethnicity of its main character, Memed, is not mentioned—and yet it is, as Memed is a rebel who refuses to submit to authoritarian rule and risks everything for freedom. Fast-paced and gripping, yet also lyrical and meditative, the book is set in southeastern Turkey—i.e., Kurdistan—and its descriptions of the land are unforgettable. 

By Yashar Kemal, Edouard Roditi (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memed, My Hawk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Memed grows up a serf to a vicious overlord on the thistle-clad plains of Turkey's Taurus region. When his plan to escape is dashed, and the young woman he loves murdered, Memed makes for the mountains to become an outlaw. Before long he has transformed from a young rebel to an infamous bandit, the scourge of corrupt oppressors and hero to the poor. With vividness and simplicity, Kemal's classic novel evokes the fierce beauty of his country and the struggles of its oppressed people.


Book cover of Dervish: Travels in Modern Turkey

Lisa Morrow Author Of Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries

From my list on the heart & soul of Turkey and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Sydney, Australia born sociologist and writer and back in 1990 I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. After three months in the country I was hooked. I now live in Istanbul and write about the people, culture, and history. Using my less than perfect Turkish language skills I uncover the everyday extraordinary of life in modern Istanbul and throughout the country, even though it means I’ve accidentally asked a random stranger to give me a hug and left a butcher convinced I think Turkish sheep are born with their heads on upside down.

Lisa's book list on the heart & soul of Turkey and its people

Lisa Morrow Why did Lisa love this book?

Dervish was published more than twenty years ago, but the Turks about whom Kelsey writes, archaeologists (and others) in search of the Ark, human rights activists, famous pop stars both straight and transsexual, Kurdish insurgents, desperately poor villagers and aspiring politicians, are still in existence today. Kelsey captures the contradictions inherent to life in modern Turkey, revealing a people as diverse as its varied geographical regions.

By Tim Kelsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dervish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unlike most writers, who give a European eye-view of a Turkey that mourns all that is lost, and consider it in the light of a holiday resort, this book explores a Turkey which is seeking out its own identity and which is beginning to realise it s not simply a bridge between East and West. The lowlife of tranvestite nightclubs, the problems of heritage, the theatre, the clash between Eastern and Western Turkey, tribes and the current civil war between Turkish military and Kurdish separatists, the booming heroin trade and cultural intolerance all form part of the book, bringing to…


Book cover of Kiss the Dust

Berlie W. Doherty Author Of The Girl Who Saw Lions

From my list on children’s books about refugees and asylum seekers.

Why am I passionate about this?

My maternal great-grandparents were Irish immigrants. My paternal grandfather left Liverpool in the late 19th century to go to Australia. I’d love to know their children’s stories! Some of the families I visited as a social worker (mid-1960s) were immigrants, struggling to make sense of a new language and a new culture. I met a child who had come here alone as an illegal immigrant and had been a house slave until the social services settled her with a foster family. I met author Hanna Jansen and her many adopted children from war-torn countries. Fiction gives us many powerful stories about children forced to flee from their homes because of war, tyranny, hunger, poverty, natural disasters.

Berlie's book list on children’s books about refugees and asylum seekers

Berlie W. Doherty Why did Berlie love this book?

13 year old Tara is a Kurd living in Iraq. Overnight her world is turned upside down as her people are under bombardment from the government of Saddam Hussein and she has to flee for her life. It is 1970. Tara and her mother and little sister Hero and brother make a difficult, dangerous overnight journey across the mountains into Iran, but even there their lives are in danger. They have no idea what has happened to Tara’s father and brother, or if they will ever see them again.

I knew little about the Kurds until I read this book. Laird’s sympathetic and well-researched novel took me into the heart of these people who have no homeland, this family, and this teenaged war refugee.

By Elizabeth Laird,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kiss the Dust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Tara is an ordinary teenager. Although her country, Kurdistan, is caught up in a war, the fighting seems far away. It hasn't really touched her. Until now. The secret police are closing in. Tara and her family must flee to the mountains with only the few things they can carry. It is a hard and dangerous journey - but their struggles have only just begun. Will anywhere feel like home again?


Book cover of The Kurds of Northern Syria: Governance, Diversity and Conflicts

Janet Biehl Author Of Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin

From my list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria).

Why am I passionate about this?

I was the partner and late-life collaborator of the late social ecology theorist Murray Bookchin. Shortly before his death his 2006, the Kurdish freedom movement took up his ideas, as Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s thought leader, had recommended them. Öcalan created a new ideology based in part on social ecology, promoting face-to-face democracy through citizen assemblies and councils; the liberation of women; a cooperative economy; and an ecological orientation. In several northern provinces of Syria, activist Kurds started building liberatory institutions based on these ideas, at first illicitly, under the Assad regime’s brutal persecution. Then a few years later, after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, the northern provinces declined to take sides in the conflict but instead created a revolution, turning the democratic, gender-equal institutions they had been building into the polity of self-governing provinces, known as Rojava (now known as the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria). As a result of my connection with Bookchin, I was privileged to visit three times and witnessed the revolution.

Janet's book list on Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria)

Janet Biehl Why did Janet love this book?

This analysis traces the momentous social and political transformation of northeastern Syria brought about by the Rojava Revolution. It is grounded in a thorough knowledge of the literature on Kurdish politics and the Syrian war. At the same time one of the co-authors, a journalist based in Erbil, had unprecedented access to officials in the self-administration as well as civilians on the ground. The first-hand research and interviews are a pillar of the book, which explores the prospects for Kurdish autonomy with realism and nuance.

By Harriet Allsopp, Wladimir van Wilgenburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kurds of Northern Syria as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on unprecedented access to Kurdish-governed areas of Syria, including exclusive interviews with administration officials and civilian surveys, this book sheds light on the socio-political landscape of this minority group and the various political factions vying to speak for them.
The first English-language book to capture the momentous transformations that have occurred since 2011, the authors move beyond idealized images of Rojava and the Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) to provide a nuanced assessment of the Kurdish autonomous experience and the prospects for self-rule in Syria. The book draws on unparalleled field research, as well as analysis of the literature…


Book cover of Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History

Christiane Bird Author Of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan

From my list on classics about the world of the Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in the Kurds during a 1998 journey I took to Iran to work on my first book about the Middle East, Neither East nor West. While there, I traveled to Sanandaj, Iran’s unofficial Kurdish capital, where I was immediately struck by how different the area seemed from the rest of the Islamic Republic—heartbreaking in its lonesome beauty, and defiant. Despite a large number of Revolutionary Guards on the streets, the men swaggered and women strode. These people are not cowed, I thought—no wonder they make the Islamic government nervous. I had to find out more.

Christiane's book list on classics about the world of the Kurds

Christiane Bird Why did Christiane love this book?

This enormous repository of Kurdish history and culture is jam-packed with everything from photographs and maps, to excerpts from memoirs and letters, to clips from newspapers and government documents. Covering the period from the 1870s to the early 2000s, it includes accounts from both the Kurds themselves and outsiders. I poured over the book both before and after my travels, and each time I did, I discovered a powerful new narrative or image I hadn’t noticed before.

By Susan Meiselas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kurdistan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kurdistan was erased from world maps after World War I, when the victorious powers carved up the Middle East, leaving the Kurds without a homeland. Today the Kurds, who live on land that straddles the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, are by far the largest ethnic group in the world without a state.Renowned photographer Susan Meiselas entered northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to record the effects of Saddam Hussein's campaigns against Iraq's Kurdish population. She joined Human Rights Watch in documenting the destruction of Kurdish villages (some of which Hussein had attacked with chemical weapons in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Kurds, Turkey, and nationalism?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Kurds, Turkey, and nationalism.

The Kurds 22 books
Turkey 93 books
Nationalism 67 books