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Notes on Data Collection:

Often times, figuring out what data “actually speak for” is less than straightforward. The literatures on collective mobilization and political violence suggest why this might be the case: first, sources come with their own biases. They provide a skewed picture of violent events, reflecting their own preferences (which seems obvious in the case of government documents). Second, aggregate accounts typically mask actors, methods and nature of violence. The end result is that sources and the information they present can effectively constrain what can reasonably be argued with data at hand. A multi-source approach and a disaggregation effort have been offered to expand these possibilities. In this page, I discuss briefly several examples from my own work to demonstrate the usefulness of this approach to answer questions related to violence.



Zones of Rebellion: Kurdish Insurgents and the Turkish State (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015).

In this book, we consulted government documents, insurgent publications and national newspapers to compile datasets on insurgency, counterinsurgency and protest. A multi-source approach that included cross-checking events from alternative sources and recognizing their distinct reporting biases led to more reliable and extensive information. Furthermore, a disaggregation effort that involved identifying targets, repertoires and intensity of violence across space and time revealed an interesting feature of violence: when viewed from a long-term perspective violence is sticky and it is hard to export it elsewhere in the same form and intensity. Please read the Appendix of the book for an extensive discussion and check out box 2 to get a sense of rebel methods in the Turkish case.




“Killing the Movement: How Islam Became a Rival of Ethnic Movement in Turkey, 1991-2002”, Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change 41(2017): 33-67.

This article discusses the impact of non-state actor violence on electoral success of an ethnic party. A multi-source approach was instrumental for identifying perpetrators and victims since most killings remained legally unsolved. The key was figuring out the specific language used in each source base for reporting this particular set of events, as these killings were taking place in a larger context of violence. An insurgent publication, reports by human rights organizations, national newspapers and legal claims by relatives of victims were carefully surveyed to understand who did what to whom. At the end, the distribution of killings strongly showed that violence concentrated in spots where ethnic politics initially enjoyed strongest support and violence eventually backfired at the ballot box. See Figure 1 for some of the properties of these killings and victim demographics.




“The Political Consequences of Emergency Zones: Evidence from Turkey”, (Under Review).

In this manuscript, the major benefit of a disaggregation effort was identifying the mechanism through which emergency zone practices translated into electoral support for a pro-insurgent, ethnic party. By distinguishing military encounters from detentions and further unpacking detentions based on accusations leveled against detainees, the manuscript shows that civilian detentions (situations where civilians were accused of having rebel sympathies with no organizational ties to insurgency) brought fresh support to the ethnic platform (Map 2). A similar political impact did not materialize with military encounters or incidents involving other types of detentions.




“What Explains Violent Events: Grievance, Opportunity and Signaling (Draft).”

This manuscript examines violence employed against civilians in early phases of an insurgency by consulting the main rebel publication and several national newspapers. It seeks to answer which villages were targeted by insurgents in order to test major theoretical frameworks for understanding violent events. The disaggregation effort that included data on roughly 5000 villages demonstrated that opportunity and grievance are not necessarily competing explanations but complementary mechanisms that foster violence in different ways. Insurgents attacked villages which were difficult to reach by security forces, close to rebel camps/border but also had a political history of siding with political parties that voiced their grievances. The manuscript also reveals another mechanism at play: signaling. Violence was used as an instrument to sanction future behavior of in-group members.




“A New Episode in Turkish Civil War”, Washington Post (Monkey Cage) (August 21, 2015).

The return of insurgent violence to Turkey during mid-2015 puzzled many. While pundits were busy discussing why it happened, the common wisdom in the media was that the insurgent group was stronger than ever simply because it was able to strike everywhere. Disaggregation of insurgent attacks across time and space revealed another story. The article showed that insurgent control remains almost fixed in the long-history of war, concentrating in 30 districts that we previously named Zone 1, the heartland of insurgent activity (Figure 1).

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“How Violence Helped Both Erdogan and his Kurdish Opponents in Turkey’s Elections”, Washington Post (Monkey Cage) (June 3, 2016).

This article demonstrated the varied impact of violence on electoral outcomes. A disaggregation effort that located violence into districts and unpacked it according to its intensity and targets illustrated interesting facts. First, it demonstrated how the intensity of violence affected the incumbent (AKP) and pro-insurgent ethnic party (HDP) differently. Second, it showed that the ethnic party fared best when insurgent violence targeted security forces in urban areas, underscoring the importance of identity of targets and urban/rural divide in the translation of violence into electoral politics (Figures 1A-1B).




“Politics of Confinement: Curfews and Civilian Control in Turkish Counterinsurgency”, Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) 22 Contemporary Turkish Politics (2016, pp. 63-66).

This article shows that the incumbent used a counterinsurgency campaign to secure electoral outcomes. Specifically, the government imposed curfews to suppress the turnout in ethnic party strongholds and turned a blind eye to insurgent violence where it had high electoral expectations. Once again, a two-way disaggregation effort that sliced the region into districts based on electoral support for the ethnic party and the number of voters in the prior election were instrumental to find out whether a curfew was imposed in a particular district. We found that the government was careful not to alienate voters in vote-rich districts by imposing curfews whereas the opposite was true in ethnic party strongholds (Map 1).