Joint Forum ​’Contemporary Turkey in Conflict – The Post-Referendum Challenges’

5 June 2017,

King’s College

Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS) in partnership with King’s College Diplomacy Society held a book launch event with Professor Tahir Abbas, a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and Visiting Senior Fellow at the Department of Government, LSE. The event was chaired by George Dyson of CEFTUS.

In this book launch event, Prof Tahir Abbas, whose new book ‘Contemporary Turkey in Conflict: Ethnicity, Islam and Politics’ was published in December 2016, analysed the current challenges that Turkey faces. He shared his observations from his time in Turkey between 2010 and 2016 and his assessment of the political developments in the country.

Prof Tahir Abbas argued that the Turkey he moved to in 2010 was greatly different from the Turkey he left in 2016 ten days before the 15 July coup attempt. According to Abbas, Turkey had in 2010 achieved a ‘moderate Islam’ approach which adopted western values and had undertaken great economic reforms. He said the country was a successful emerging market and on track with the developed world. Abbas said, however, by 2016, the Turkish government had become much more authoritarian and the country had become isolated in terms of its foreign policy. Strong nationalist narratives have been employed by the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party), he said, which only fueled the sense of isolation, fear and polarisation in this multi-ethnic and multi-denominational country.

Prof Abbas indicated that while power had changed hands in Turkey, the same approach used by the former authoritarian Kemalist who used nationalist rhetoric, is now being used by Erdogan with a few changes. He argued that there has been a shift from Kemalism to soft Islamism, but the methods of governance remain the same.

Abbas added that Turkey over the past decade has made great progress with regards to the Kurdish issue, thanks to the AK Party starting a peace process. He argued that if there is political will Turkey can overcome many challenges. Hence, he said, Turkey is a vast country with great opportunities ahead and there is much hope for Turkey.

Prof Abbas in his book evaluates contemporary Turkey with a deep understanding of the history of the country. He explores dynamics between religious and ethnic minorities, and assesses the vast differences of opinion between different political camps in the country, which have increased in the last decade. He examines the legacy of the Gezi protests and presents his findings from his research from the town of Yuksekova in the east of Turkey, which is one of the poorest areas in the country and where the Kurdish armed group the PKK actively recruits fighters.

Prof Abbas’ presentation was followed by a lively Q&A.


Speaker Biography

Professor Tahir Abbas FRSA is a Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and Visiting Senior Fellow at the Department of Government, LSE. Previously, he was a Professor of Sociology at Fatih University in Istanbul, Reader in Sociology at Birmingham University, and Senior Research Officer at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice in London. Before joining RUSI in mid-2016, he lived and worked in Istanbul for six years, during which time he was a visiting scholar at New York University, Leiden University, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, International Islamic University in Islamabad and the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta. Abbas read Economics at Queen Mary University of London. He has a MSocSc in Economic Development and Policy from the University of Birmingham and a PhD in Ethnic Relations from the University of Warwick. He is Associate Editor of the quarterly journal Critical Muslim, published by Hurst and Oxford University Press. Abbas has published 13 books and 65 peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters and encyclopaedic articles. He is currently working on his next monograph, Beyond Islamophobia, Radicalisation and the Culture of Violence, published by Hurst in 2018.


About The King’s College London Diplomacy Society

The King’s College London Diplomacy Society is the largest university-level foreign affairs society in London with the main aim of providing ambitious students with the chance to better understand contemporary politics the world over and what it takes to be a successful ambassador, diplomat, and statesperson.