Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Cheryl Duckworth

Second Advisor

Dustin Berna

Third Advisor

Jason Campbell


Guerrilla, Kurdish, Kurdistan, Kurdistan Workers' Party, Kurds, PKK


What leads a person to become an armed guerrilla? This qualitative case study utilizes select elements of a hermeneutic and existential phenomenology—through a lens of Freirean critical theory and transformative research—to investigate the commonalities in the material, psychological, artistic, and spiritual motivations behind Kurdish guerrillas in the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Other key elements are the search for an incipient turning point in their early pre-guerrilla lives that placed them on the road to rebellion, and the grounded theory that there exists an ‘Guevarian Archetype’ (derived from Che Guevara) personified by those who are driven to join the PKK. Through an in-depth dissection of Turkey’s historical oppression of Kurds in occupied Northern Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey), and extensive use of direct quotations by those affected, the author hopes to provide practitioners in the discipline of conflict analysis a new holistic template with which to analyze the metastasizing components behind other armed insurgencies. This prism includes comparison of the testament dataset acquired through in-depth focused interviews with 20 veteran PKK guerrillas, against corresponding testimony of their opposition in the Turkish Army, an anecdotal narrative of episodic vignettes, and a literary exegesis of several metaphysical concepts with their own original definitions. Drawing on the ideas of diverse theorists, philosophers, and past revolutionaries, the author hopes to provide a revelatory milieu for exploring the PKK’s governing ideology of democratic confederalism as espoused by imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, and the emancipatory avant-garde impulses that counterintuitively lead compassionate guerrillas to defensively kill out of universal love.

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