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Transnationalism and Unofficial Law: The Case of Kurds in Turkey and Germany

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TRANSNATIONALaw (Transnationalism and Unofficial Law: The Case of Kurds in Turkey and Germany)

Période du rapport: 2019-01-01 au 2019-12-31

TRANSNATIONALaw project has revolved around the argument that alternative justice, meaning the creation of alternative political systems as well as alternative institutions of justice, are essential to alternative sovereignty and parallel state making processes. During times of increased upheaval and conflict in the Middle East, the Kurdish political movement aims to create a utopian society in Northern Syria and South Eastern Turkey. This research has critically engaged with these claims by exploring how Kurdish communities in Turkey and in the diaspora (Berlin) challenge power and control of existing nation states. While the project focused on the Kurdish political movement as a case study, the research has wider implications for contemporary debates on community cohesion, social and cultural integration of immigrant communities, as well as multiculturalism and pluralism in the Middle East and Europe. The emphasis on gender-based equality and justice has been relevant beyond the Middle East.

The following research questions have been investigated:
1) When, why and how do Kurdish communities living in Berlin and Diyarbakir choose to follow alternative dispute resolution mechanisms rather than official state court procedures?
2) How do Kurdish unofficial, transnational legal institutions and practices deal with family matters, and how are women in particular affected by the use of non-state alternative dispute resolution?
3) Do diaspora and homeland non-state judicial processes influence each other? If so, in what ways, and how do they deal with disputes involving litigants living in different nation states?
This research project took an interdisciplinary, intersectional and multi-sited ethnographic perspective across the Middle East and Europe, specifically in Turkey and Germany. The project’s first aim was to investigate when, why and how individuals use non-state courts. Secondly, the research focused especially on how alternative politics and legal practices influence gender relations or vice versa. Thirdly, the research explored transnational links and the creation of trans-border political and judicial practices.
Ethnographic research was carried out in Turkey and Germany and in total 165 interviews have been analysed for the purpose of discovering and analysing the alternative political and legal practices. From the new empirical data, the project highlighted four scientific objectives:
First, In contexts of authoritarian regimes, in the case of Turkey for this research, the aspirations of ethnic and religious minorities frequently conflict with the prevailing identities and forms of governmentality within existing nation states.
Second, alternative justice, meaning the creation of alternative political systems as well as alternative institutions of justice, are essential to alternative sovereignty and parallel state making processes.
Third, justice and power is simultaneously localised and transnational.
Fourth, alternative governmentality, and its institutions exists independently or in parallel with the existent state.

The researcher has published several short pieces in collaboration with different institutions, including Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, Open Democracy which has addressed the following topics: 1) authoritarianism and nationalism; 2) women’s movements and gender equality; 3) authoritarianism, justice and alternative governmentality; 4) Kurdish and Turkish conflict in the Middle East; 5) authoritarian governmentality and Covid-19; and 6) Alternative justice and gender equality. The researcher was invited to be a member at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton for year 2019/2020 for his unique and ethnographic research. The researcher has taken part of conferences and workshops in different countries and continents and has shared the research findings and has also established international collaboration for further research.

Summary of publications, dissemination and result:
1). The final progress and technical report was submitted.
2). 5 peer-reviewed articles published and 3 additional peer-reviewed articles are in process for the publication.
3). A book manuscript contract is secured, the full manuscript is finalised, very positive comments of the book have been received from the reviewers, and the book will be published at the end of 2021.
4). A special issue contract is secured with the HAU Ethnographic Theory and will be published in 2021.
5). A peer-reviewed book chapter is published and a book chapter is in process for publication.
6). 5 short op-ed articles have been published, and new ones will be submitted in 2021.
7). An expert report submitted and 3 expert contribution were made.
This research has appealed to a wide audience of political scientists, sociologists, socio-legal practitioners and scholars with area-study expertise in Europe and the Middle East. The arguments in this research provide nuance and new layers to several current relevant debates within the fields of international relations and politics, legal anthropology, migration and diaspora studies, gender studies and Middle East Studies within the UK, Europe, North America and the Middle East. The original empirical material and innovative theoretical contributions of the research outcome have made it attractive for academics developing reading lists for undergraduate and postgraduate courses as well as for their own scholarship in these areas.

Conclusions of the action (a short summary).

To conclude, TRANSNATIONALaw research and dissemination has aimed to help in establishing a more inclusive, less conflicted, and advanced political and judiciary system in the Middle East and Europe. This research revealed that over half of cases in the research cities (especially in Diyarbakir) are resolved outside of the state’s courts, and without the state’s knowledge. In Turkey and also in Germany, the community must hide all its activities related to the informal courts. Sometimes this is due to underlying conflicts between communities and the state. In Turkey, for example, there is increasing division between Kurdish society and the state, which is leading to more widespread use of non-state court systems. My own research finding shows that dysfunctional and heavily politically influenced Turkish legal system, widespread corruption for economic and legal implications has created a distrust of the state’s institutions. Some people also choose to use non-state systems due to the cost or complications of official judicial system.

This research revealed that many non-state judicial practices can be largely secular, and that gender participation and equality can be put at the forefront. This was the case among many stateless Kurds in Turkey, for example. According to the Kurdish practice of democratic autonomy, there is an election for every position and these are co-chaired by one woman and one man. Under this structure, an autonomous women’s alternative justice system is also created. These ‘autonomous’ levels and organisations are linked to each other and follow pyramid style interconnections.
Moving forward, this project has only raised more new questions and has confirmed that there is scope for further research to be conducted. Alternative welfare, the relationships between different informal activities, including informal economy, informal justice and their transnational networks needs a further study.