Working Group Europe and Turkey

Working Group Members



About the Working Group Europe and Turkey Relations

Turkish democracy stands once again at a “cross-roads” in 2015, having undergone a rapid reversal from its path of slow and inconsistent but promising democratic transition to a reemergence of authoritarian leadership. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), notwithstanding its name, is promoting a notion of democracy in Turkey which does not entail justice and undermines substantive aspects of democracy. Turkey’s society is furthermore undergoing processes of deep societal transformation and polarisation, furthered by socio-economic inequality and exclusion. With the struggle over rule of law and the lack of a strong opposition in Turkey, the use of platforms beyond political representation – online and on the street – are increasingly gaining significance and setting the tone on critical debates. But this strain on justice in Turkey can also be observed in the state’s inability and resistance to facing and accounting for its past atrocities, such as the Armenian genocide and the gross and systematic violations during the Kurdish conflict.

At the center of the Working Group ‚Europe and Turkey‘ stands the tension ‘Is democracy possible without justice?’ Pertinent sub-questions for the research to be carried out by this working group include:

1. Procedural Justice: Is democracy possible in a system which does not provide equal and fair political representation and which is not founded on the rule of law? This area of research will critically analyse issues such as majoritarianism versus substantive democracy and the controversy over a presidential system in Turkey. We will further discuss the drift towards autocracy in other regions in Europe (both inside and outside the EU) and in how far this is a threat to the ideal of liberal Democracy.

2. Socio-economic Justice: Can an economic and political system which entails labour exploitation, high income inequality, poverty and social exclusion be considered a democracy? We wish to discuss these issues in light of Turkey’s neoliberal restructuring whilst drawing comparisons to developments in other regions of Europe.

3. Justice with regards to past atrocities: Can a true democracy be built upon a history of state violence and crime which remains unacknowledged and non-remedied? In this focal area we will investigate aspects of democracy in light of the recent and not-so-recent past by discussing the Kurdish issue and the Armenian genocide. These questions will be tackled by comparing Kurdish and Chechen conflicts from the lens of the European Court of Human Rights and the tackling of memory and justice by Germany and Turkey in their dealings with the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.


Dilek Kurban, Chair
Dilek Kurban is Marie Curie Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and a member of the European Commission’s Network of Independent Experts in the non-discrimination field as the Turkey expert. Prior to joining the Hertie School in October 2014, she spent eighteen months at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in Berlin as the Mercator-IPC Research Fellow. Kurban received her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Columbia Law School. Prior to her relocation to Berlin, Kurban was a staff member of the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV).

Esra Özyürek, Chair
Dr. Esra Özyürek is an Associate Professor and Chair for Contemporary Turkish Studies at the European Institute, London School of Economics. Before joining the LSE she taught at the Anthropology Department of University of California, San Diego. Dr. Özyürek is a political anthropologist who seeks to understand how Islam, Christianity, secularism, and nationalism are dynamically positioned in relation to each other in Turkey and in Europe.

Lisa Haferlach, Research Associate
Lisa Haferlach has been Dahrendorf Research Associate to Dilek Kurban and Esra Özyürek for Working Group 2: Europe and Turkey. Before joining the Hertie School, she worked as Project Manager at the Istanbul Policy Center on projects concerning German-Turkish bilateral relations. She gained further experience as Development Director of a Social Enterprise in Eastern Turkey fostering sustainable economic development in the South-Caucasus region. She holds an MA degree from Sabanci University, Istanbul and a BA in social anthropology from Cambridge University, UK. Her assessment of Turkey’s corruption risk for Transparency International’s Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index 2015 is to be published this year.

Fuat Keyman, Member
Fuat Keyman is Director of Istanbul Policy Center and Professor of International Relations at Sabancı University. Keyman is a leading Turkish political scientist and an expert on democratization, globalization, international relations, Turkey – EU relations, Turkish foreign policy, and civil society development. He is a member of the Science Academy. He has worked as a member on the Council of Wise People as part of the Peace Process to the Kurdish issue. He also serves on advisory and editorial boards for a number of respected international and national organizations as well as for academic journals.

Günter Seufert, Member
Günter Seufert is a Senior Researcher with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, where he focuses on political developments in Turkey and the Cyprus conflict. At the same time, he is IPC-Mercator Senior Fellow. For several years he was based in Istanbul working as a correspondent for German, Swiss and Austrian newspapers (2001-2004 and 2007-2010). He also taught as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department for Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia (2004-2007). Prior to this he was Researcher and Managing Director of the Istanbul branch of the Beirut based Institute of the German Oriental Society (1996-2001). In 1996, Seufert, who holds a PhD in Sociology, was a post-doc researcher at the University of Lausanne.

Silvia von Steinsdorff, Member
Prof. Dr. Silvia von Steinsdorff is Professor for Comparative Studies of Democracy and the Political Systems of Eastern Europe at the Institute for Social Sciences at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. She holds a PhD and the postdoctoral Habilitation in Political Science from LMU München.

Berna Turam, Visiting Fellow
Berna Turam is Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Northeastern University. She has an abiding interest in conducting ethnography on state-society interaction, government and the city, urban space and democracy, political Islam and ordinary Muslim people, religion and politics, secularisms, and politics of gender Middle East. She is the author of Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford University Press, 2007), and Gaining Freedoms: Claiming Space in Istanbul and Berlin (Stanford University Press, 2015) and the editor of Secular State and Religious Society: Two Forces at Play in Turkey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Berna Turam received her PhD from McGill University, department of sociology.