Anatomy of a Civil War

Sociopolitical Impacts of the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey
Mehmet Gurses
Illuminates the sometimes surprising positive and negative outcomes of civil war


Anatomy of a Civil War demonstrates the destructive nature of war, ranging from the physical to the psychosocial, as well as war’s detrimental effects on the environment. Despite such horrific aspects, evidence suggests that civil war is likely to generate multilayered outcomes. To examine the transformative aspects of civil war, Mehmet Gurses draws on an original survey conducted in Turkey, where a Kurdish armed group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been waging an intermittent insurgency for Kurdish self-rule since 1984. Findings from a probability sample of 2,100 individuals randomly selected from three major Kurdish-populated provinces in the eastern part of Turkey, coupled with insights from face-to-face in-depth interviews with dozens of individuals affected by violence, provide evidence for the multifaceted nature of exposure to violence during civil war. Just as the destructive nature of war manifests itself in various forms and shapes, wartime experiences can engender positive attitudes toward women, create a culture of political activism, and develop secular values at the individual level. In addition, wartime experiences seem to robustly predict greater support for political activism. Nonetheless, changes in gender relations and the rise of a secular political culture appear to be primarily shaped by wartime experiences interacting with insurgent ideology.

“This book is a must read for anyone who wishes to understand the Kurdish conundrum in Turkey. Mehmet Gurses approaches the PKK struggle in Turkey from a fresh and intriguing angle. While describing the terrible results of the war he analyzes its more positive side such as strengthening democratization, empowering Kurdish women, and laying foundations for peace.”
—Ofra Bengio, Tel Aviv University
Anatomy of a Civil War is an outstanding contribution in terms of portraying the transformation that the Kurdish society has experienced in the shadow of this war. Guided by theoretical concerns and written by extensive fieldwork and survey material, this book will be one of the reference books in Kurdish studies in the future.”
—Bahar Baser, Coventry University
Anatomy of a Civil War provides an original empirical account of how conflict impacted individuals’ lives and the wider socio-political transformations it has brought about. It is the first quantitative analysis of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey, which enables the author to formulate more concrete conclusions.”
—Cengiz Gunes, The Open University
“In a masterful and objective exploration of civil war in Turkey, professor Gurses takes his readers on a fascinating journey through the complex and transformative effects of conflict. While remaining keenly aware of the destructive and painful effects of civil war, professor Gurses also analyzes other changes that such conflicts engender or make possible. With rich qualitative detail and abundant quantitative evidence, Dr. Gurses’ book offers readers a very clear, accessible means of understanding a fiendishly complex conflict.”
—David Romano, Missouri State University

Mehmet Gurses is Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida Atlantic University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Offers original and innovative scholarship, and a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of Kurdish studies...Recommended."
  • "[Gurses'] book will prove a valuable, imaginative, and readable analysis on how the PKK insurgency in Turkey has been paving 'the way for positive sociopolitical changes.'"
    --The Middle East Journal
  • "Certainly one for those who already know the Kurdish conflict in-depth and who are craving original data and insightful analysis, to better understand the legacy of this civil war for Kurdish society."
    --Ethnic and Racial Studies

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Listen: Mehmet Gurses interview on WarScholar Link | 12/20/2018

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 192pp.
  • 13 tables, 11 charts.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13100-6

Add to Cart
  • $49.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90116-6

Read Online


  • Ethnic civil war; Kurd; women’s rights; secularization; democracy; democratization; political culture; war; war and peace; social change; peacebuilding; insurgent group; ideology; change; nation building; gender; Kurdistan Worker's Party; PKK; gender; violence; civilian; ethnicity