Village Guards as “In Between” in the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict: Re-Examining Identity and Position in Intergroup Conflict
Yasemin Gülsüm Acar
School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom
The current paper utilizes new approaches in intergroup conflict studies to examine the village guard system and its role in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in Turkey. Recent work suggests that a two-group paradigm in researching intergroup conflict leaves out important contextual factors that influence trajectories and outcomes of conflict. The current paper is based on a project examining the views of 63 active and retired village guards in five provinces in eastern Turkey. Participants were asked how they became village guards, their experiences while holding the position and after they’ve retired, their relationship with neighbors and neighboring villages, as well as their views on the peace process and whether they believe a lasting peace is possible. Results indicate that village guards became guards either because their tribe took arms as a whole, they felt economically there were few other options, or were pressured by the state. Participants also reported feeling otherized by both non-village guard neighbors as well as state actors, and were generally positive about a peaceful outcome to the conflict but were concerned about the sincerity of the government.