Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Steve Yetiv

Committee Member

Austin Jersild

Committee Member

Robyn Diehl


The main purpose of this study is to explore the underlying factors behind the political and ideological transformation of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) since its foundation. Through the detailed analysis of the role of Turkey's internal versus external factors on the evolution of the PKK over time, this work finds that changing political developments in the Middle East were more influential than Turkey's shifting domestic political environment. Hypothesis testing revealed that the 1991 Gulf War, 2003 Iraq War, changing political dynamics of the Middle East following Syria's Arab Spring, and policy changes worldwide implemented after the 9/11 terrorist attacks played determining role in the PKK's shifting profile over time. Turkey's political sphere regarding the Kurdish issue; however, fell short in providing overarching explanation over the terrorist organization's changing ultimate goal. Findings showed that the terrorist organization's ultimate goal and its concomitant strategies led the Turkish government to adjust its counterterrorism policies rather than vice versa, which indicates the importance of the external factors and the PKK's capability to keep up with the changing regional and international realities