Exploring the Kurdish Self-Determination Conflict

About the Project

We are pleased that this project was acquired by our former guest researcher Naif Bezwan with the support of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (LBI-GRM). It is based at the Institute for Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Vienna and is supervised by our scientific director, Michael Lysander Fremuth.

Project Topic & Roadmap

For over a century, there have been recurrent conflicts between various Kurdish national movements and the governments of Turkey, Iran, Iran and Syria. At the heart of this conflict, the project argues, lies the Kurdish movements’ striving for self-government and the denial of it by the states involved. The research project “Exploring the Kurdish Conflict of Self-Determination”, led by Naif Bezwan, aims to shed more light on this from September 2022 to August 2026.

Focus Areas

The project focuses on three strictly interrelated key issues:

  • the dynamic relations between the Kurds and the States involved
  • the interaction among the Kurdish actors
  • the role of third powers with significant impact on emergence and /or resolution of the conflict.

While identifying the Kurdish question as a long-established self-determination conflict, the project locates the conflict in a system of asymmetrical power relations between the Kurdish movements, the governments of the four states (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) and third powers (e.g. the United States, Russia or the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France).

Therefore, the main question of the research project is:

What explains the emergence, recurrence and duration of the conflict over Kurdish aspirations for self-determination?

To answer this question, the research pursues two closely related objectives:

  • identifying the underlying mechanisms, political paradigms and practices that have triggered and continue to trigger the conflict(s)
  • critically examining the ways in which the conflict can be democratically addressed and politically managed


The project is designed as a historically and ethnographically informed qualitative study. It aims to provide a relational and intersectional conceptual approach to the Kurdish case of the self-determination conflict with a focus on all sub-state regions in the four states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The ethnographic study will be conducted through field research in the countries of origin, with a focus on the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq as well as Kurdish diaspora communities across Europe. The background conditions of the conflict are explored through historical process tracing based on primary and secondary sources in several languages.

Project Data


Michael Lysander Fremuth

Scientific Director

+43 1 4277-27420 zvpunry-ylfnaqre.serzhgu@havivr.np.ng