Sabancı University, Political Science program PhD candidate Osman Şahin attended 74th Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference between 7-10 April 2016 and presented his paper entitled "Effects of Gender, Ethnicity, and Religion on People’s Perception of Democracy in Turkey".
The existing literature on democracy mostly focuses on idealized and abstract features of the term such as freedom of expression, freedom to organize, and free, fair, and regular elections. However, research on people’s understanding of democracy is still limited. This research investigates the ways in which different ethnic, religious, and gender groups in Turkey define democracy. To do so, this research benefits from 60 face-to-face interviews and a nationwide survey with 1,804 people. Analysis demonstrate that people in Turkey concretize their perceptions on and conceptualizations of democracy by referring to their real life problems, which are very much related to their ethnic, gender, and sectarian identities. This research therefore shows that people do not hold a uniform definition of democracy. This paper also discusses that research on democracy should abstain from abstract conceptualizations, which could overlook the importance of people’s understanding of the term. We conclude that there is a need to reestablish the link between historical and political context and people’s understanding of democracy.
Sabancı University, Political Science program PhD student Yasin Duman participated in SeSaMO XIII Annual Conference that was entitled Migrants: Communities, Borders, Memories, and Conflicts and held in Catania (Italy) on March 17-19, 2016. The event was organized by the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies. Yasin was selected as a participant through highly competitive application process and received full funding to attend the event.
PEACE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE MIDST OF A WAR:
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN ROJAVA DEMOCRATIC AUTONOMY
Discussions on political autonomies have been centered on two main arguments: (a) political autonomy as an effective conflict resolution mechanism especially in the settings where social, political, and economic conflicts are common and the autonomy seekers want a political and administrative resolution, and (b) political autonomy as a conflict escalating tool, particularly, if an ethnic group has a strong motivation for independence and state-building. This study investigates the nature of the Rojava Democratic Autonomy (RDA) declared in January 2014 in the midst of a civil war in Syria. In-depth interviews were conducted with the heads and deputies of official bodies and civil society organizations in Cezîre (Jazeera) Canton of RDA to investigate how they perceive both the past and ongoing socio-political and ethnoreligious conflicts in Syria and Rojava, and what strategies and policies they implement to resolve them. The study evaluates the resolution practices based on RDA’s relation with the Syrian government (national), regional and international powers (international) and with its civil society organizations (domestic). Besides presenting these practices, the thesis also discusses the already-existing problems as stated by the participants of this study.
Keywords: Rojava Democratic Autonomy, Syrian Civil War, de-centralization, self-management, power-sharing, conflict resolution and peace