Turkey on Kurds in Iraq (1991)  

Suggested Citation: Neophytos G. Loizides, Greek-Turkish Negotiations and Crises 1983-2003 Dataset , Queen's University Belfast (available online at http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentrefortheStudyofEthnicConflict/TeachingResearch/Datasets/Greek-TurkishNegotiationsandCrises1983-2003/#d.en.173636 )  

Case Summary:

This case study examines Turkey’s response to the flow of Kurdish refugees into the country from neighboring Iraq. By April 1991, almost 400,000 refugees need emergency humanitarian aid, and some of these attempt to enter Turkey.[i] Lexis/Nexis provides 196 results for the terms “Turkey,” “Kurds,” “crisis” for the period 4/1/1991 to 5/1/1991 (full text search under European News Sources).

Case Study Features

Effectiveness of Offensive Policies: 1

Turkey gains tremendous positive support after the war, due to the humanitarian crisis.[ii] This crisis also offers Turkey a unique chance to consider controlling some important strategic areas in Iraq (areas needed to prevent the infiltration of PKK guerillas from Iraq). Turkey has to act now, and the use of military threat is the only way to prevent conflict in Iraq and to stem the flow of refugees.

Offensive vs. Defensive Signals Indistinguishable: 1

The flow of Kurdish refugees is the result of the war in Iraq. However, Turkey feels that the refugee camps will provide shelter for PKK guerillas. Turkey is criticized for its treatment of Kurdish refugees. At the same time, foreign diplomats acknowledge that the Turkish fear of the consequences of accepting the refugees is legitimate and should be respected[iii]  while others criticized Turkey’s humanitarian motives in the international press.[iv]

Enduring Ethnic Rivalries: 1

Enduring rivalries result from PKK activities in the region since the mid-1980s.

Domestic Challenges: 1

New elections are expected in October 1991,[v] and the Yildirim Akbulut government is facing its lowest support ever.[vi] There is a growing internal competition in ANAP between incumbent Akbulut and his former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mesut Yilmaz.

Confrontational Policies (dependent variable): 1

Turkey threatens to intervene militarily in Iraq to prevent the flow of Kurdish refugees.[vii] Threats to use military power are coded as confrontational, here confirming both the security dilemma and the diversionary theory of war.


[i]Adam Sage, “Conspiracy of neglect that damned the Kurds; The West's safe havens are too late to save thousands of Kurds perishing in the mountains.” The Independent, April 21, 1991, p17. 

[ii] John Pearson, Juliette Rossant, Amy Borrus, “Turkey’s Gulf War Gamble may be paying off”, Business Week, April 22, 1991, p.47.

[iii] Blaine Harden, “Turkish Accord Sought on Drive to Aid Kurds,” The Washington Post, April 12, 1991, p.29.

[iv] Glenn Frankel, “Turkey Calls Criticism over Refugees Unfair; Ankara ‘Left Holding the Bag’ on Kurds”, Washington Post, April 21, 1991, p.21.

[v] “First lady elected branch head of Turkey's ruling party General Overseas”, Xinhua, News Service,” April 28, 1991.

[vi] John Murray Brown, “Leadership contested in Turkey”, Financial Times, June 15, 1991. p.3; The Independent, “Turkey's PM is sacked by party”, June 16, 1991, p.16. 

[vii] , “Turkey threatens retaliation over Iraqi attacks on Kurds,” The Toronto Star April 6, 1991, p.9.