Event Summary


Dr. İlter Turan, Professor of Political Science at Bilgi University, provided insight on key issues related to Turkish domestic and foreign politics. The Center for Turkish Studies’ Executive Director. Dr. Gonul Tol, posed a series of questions to Dr. Turan, which primarily addressed two key topics – the impact of the Kurdish issue on AKP policies and the implications of Turkey’s increased economic cooperation with Iran.


In discussing the Kurdish issue, Dr. Turan affirmed the AKP’s dedication to continuing its so-called ‘Democratic Initiative,’ formerly known as the ‘Kurdish Initiative,’ in order to increasepluralism in Turkish society and improve the rights of its Kurdish citizens. When asked about barriers placed on the Initiative by harsh criticism from opposition parties, as well as skepticism from the Turkish public, Dr. Turan asserted that such challenges would not deter the AKP from pursuing its democratic goals in the long run. He explained that, while there are many actors who reap social and/or economic benefits from continued conflict in the Kurdish regions – PKK militants, drug and arms brokers, and Turkish military entities – the AKP’s own significant investment in the Democratic Initiative will prevent the government from being swayed by these actors. Additionally, when asked whether issues related to Kurdish identity are more important than economic issues in determining political success and public approval, Dr. Turan asserted that the two issues are interlinked and, therefore, must be addressed with a multi-faceted approach. As Dr. Turan explained, economic deprivation often exasperates feelings among Kurds that they are facing discrimination due to their ethnic identity. Thus, in effect, the Kurdish issue is also an economic issue.

In regard to Turkey’s increased economic cooperation with Iran, Dr. Turan concurred with Dr. Tol’s suggestion that the imposition of increased sanctions on Iran by the U.S. will certainly limit the potential of this proposed cooperation. However, Dr. Turan also asserted that the imposition of sanctions is not the only factor that could undermine the $10 billion trade contracts Turkey has signed with Iran. He stated that Iran has traditionally been an unreliable business partner and urged listeners not to read too far into the signing of recent trade agreements. According to Dr. Turan, many similar agreements have been signed in the past to little effect, and the underlying competition between Iran and Turkey for regional dominance will inevitably shape Turkish-Iranian relations and limit the potential for economic cooperation between these two emerging nations. 




Prof. Dr. İlter Turan is a professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University, where he has also acted as president. Prior to his current position, Dr. Turan served professorships at Koç University and Istanbul University. Dr. Turan is past president of the Turkish Political Science Association and has been a member of the executive committee and a vice president of the International Political Science Association. Recently, Dr. Turan was Program Chair of the 21st World Congress of Political Science.

Dr. Turan is widely published in both English and Turkish on the subjects of comparative politics, Turkish politics, and foreign policy. His most recent writings have been on the domestic and international politics of water, the Turkish parliament and its members, and Turkish political parties. He is a frequent television and newspaper commentator on Turkish politics.