Istanbul Policy Center's new reports were revealed to the public


Reports published as part of the "Opportunities on Conflict Resolution and Democracy after July 15" Project conducted by the Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program of the Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center were revealed to the public at press conferences in Ankara and Istanbul. Sabancı University Faculty Member and IPC Director Fuat Keyman, Project Manager Pınar Akpınar and Program Coordinator Bülent Aras presented the outcomes of the research and policy recommendations by IPC. 

The results of the IPC Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program's 7-month project on "Opportunities on Conflict Resolution and Democracy after July 15" spanning a number of one-on-one interviews and workshops with members of bureaucracy, politics, academia, press and civil society in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır were presented. 

Reports issued by IPC Director Fuat Keyman, Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program Coordinator Bülent Aras, Project Manager Pınar Akpınar, Research and Academic Relations Coordinator Senem Aydın Düzgit, IPC Researchers Metin Gürcan, Altay Atlı, Derya Berk, Yıldız Technical University Faculty Member Evren Balta, Sciences Po  Center for International Research (CERI) and CNRS Researcher Cuma Çiçek and Human Development Foundation Researcher Aysen Ataseven on the significant conflicts that challenge the strengthening of Turkish democracy after July 15, and the study of their implications on the cultural, political and social spheres in Turkey were presented together with solution recommendations. The project aims to recommend solutions to increase awareness and improve dialog through conflict identification, analysis and resolution methods. 

Two fault lines of conflict in Turkey: Kurdish issue and polarization

Speakers in the press conference stated that the Kurdish issue and polarization, the two pillars of the project, were among the key causes of conflict and instability in Turkey. 

Project Manager Pınar Akpınar said that the project studied the ethnic and economic aspects of the Kurdish issue to develeop appropriate policy recommendations, explaining that ethnic Kurds felt excluded and under-represented. Akpınar said, "Kurdish citizens of Turkey are adamant that the government must discern and differentiate between the Kurdish populace and Kurdish political movements" and explained the key demands of the Kurdish population as bringing violence to an end, inclusive economic development, and normalization. 

Akpınar said that all government institutions were facing severe capacity challenges as a result of the post-coup attempt investigation process, which required extensive efforts into capacity improvement and coordination between institutions. According to Akpınar, IPC's policy recommendations included merit-based appointment to government institutions and the military. 

Akpınar discussed the ramifications of the attempted coup across the international community, emphasizing the need to avoid polarization which was detrimental to foreign policy. Saying that a solution process could improve Turkey's tarnished international image and repair its relations with international actors, Akpınar concluded: "The government must see the regional presence of Kurds not as an obstruction but as an opportunity." 

“The polarization between the state and society damages confidence”

Sabancı University Faculty Member and IPC Director Fuat Keyman revisited the key issues brought up during project interviews. Keyman said that the creation of dialog platforms that will bring together diverse segments of the society is important to the social future of Turkey. 

Keyman continued that the powerful state remained in rhetoric only and the actual entity was fragile, while the hostility between the state and the society damaged the environment of trust. He noted that all individuals from the military to civil society interviewed during the project considered secularism and meritocracy the building blocks of an inclusive and compassionate state: “The state's preferential treatment of a certain group of people deprives it of inclusiveness, while deviation from secularism and the merit system increases its fragility.” 

Keyman discussed the Kurdish issue as a key component of the project, saying that relations had switched from dialog to hostility in the aftermath of the June 7 elections, and that it was critical to reverse this situation. Keyman continued his words: “Kurdish citizens want normalization in daily life as well as ending the hostilities. They supported the peace process. As everyday life went back to normal, an inclusive process brought economic relief to the region. The people there did not support trenches or urban warfare.

Kurdish citizens were also strongly against the coup attempt. While the overwhelming percentage of negative votes from the region signals a need for parliamentary negotiation, the presence of affirmative votes shows a desire for this issue to be resolved."

Discussing the Yenikapı rally held after the attempted coup, Keyman summarized the thoughts of ethnic Kurds: “Kurds felt excluded because they were kept away from the Yenikapı rally. It did not have to be the HDP, but some representatives of the Kurdish civil society should have been invited to Yenikapı. This was perceived as an act of hostility by the state against its Kurdish citizens. Meanwhile, Kurdish citizens expect the state to be capable of the same differentiation as they are." 

“Reorganization causes insecurity in the bureaucracy”

Speaking after Keyman, IPC Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program Coordinator Bülent Aras gave insight about the perception of the July 15 attempted coup in politics and bureaucracy. "According to politics, July 15 was an assault against the popular will by the bureaucracy. The investigation launched in the aftermath is seen as the final, decisive blow to the threat of a bureaucratic oligarchy.

The bureaucracy's view of July 15, on the other hand, is that of a political crisis." 

Discussing the reorganization in government institutions following July 15, Aras said that the shortage of capacity and institutionalization was evolving into a crisis. Aras said that the new presidential system would lead to the restructuring of many institutions, which would take time. Aras described key points in the process: "There are many relevant questions, such as how bureaucrats will be appointed in the transition to the new system, their collaboration and working relations with politics, and to which institution or person they will report to. These will become clear in time."  Stating that continuity was critical to the state, Aras quoted one of the recommendations that emerged from the project: "Low- and mid-tier bureaucracy must maintain their autonomy and their function to support the continuity of the state. The transition process must be shaped accordingly." 

Aras concluded: “The high ratio of negative votes in the referendum point at the lack of a wide foundation for legitimacy, and the government's path to establishing this runs through touching and involving different segments of the society.” 

About Istanbul Policy Center

Istanbul Policy Center is an independent policy research institute with global outreach. Our mission is to foster academic research in social sciences and its application to policy making. We are firmly committed to providing decision makers, opinion leaders, academics, and the general public with innovative and objective analyses in key domestic and foreign policy issues. IPC has expertise in a wide range of areas, including—but not exhaustive to—Turkey-EU-U.S. relations, education, climate change, current trends of political and social transformation in Turkey, as well as the impact of civil society and local governance on this metamorphosis.

For details about the project:

For the project final report (English):