Mapping The Northern Kurdish Identity Under Turkish Occupation Through Tourism and Culture During War and Conflict.

Backed by Amy Collette
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About This Project

This research is an ethnographic study on the identity of Bakuri Kurds and their perceptions of tourism under occupation and war. Tourism can become a powerful or dangerous tool in such circumstances. This often-ignored industry has grown so big that over a billion people take part in it annually. It can drive socio-economic development on the other hand, it relies heavily on culture and heritage which could become a vulnerable target during an armed conflict.

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What is the context of this research?

War's effect on tourism and the power of tourism in preventing war are not common subjects of study. Tourism has a limited ability to prevail during war, heritage does have the power, as small as it may be, to be a great tool in developing intercultural dialogue particularly in Kurdish cities that are often visited by Turks. Management of heritage and cultural resources goes beyond that, it even creates a balance within the different classes of the same community as it enhances social inclusion and cohesion paving the way for economic, social and intellectual development. Culture’s power and potential to stimulate development makes it an asset, a resource, and a form of capital for its people to use in improving their lives. At the same time, culture could be targeted during war.

What is the significance of this project?

Cultural and heritage tourism can be a threat, a political statement, and a raison d'etre for a minority group in an ongoing war. The aim is not to study the possibility of tourism becoming a major sector in North Kurdistan, but rather to show how cultural tourism can be used to diversify an economy and reinforce a group's identity. It also aims to highlight the threats and dangers it could cause to the locals. The research seeks a decolonised approach where the locals are co-producing the knowledge by providing the questions and answers. North Kurdistan needs sustainable development but it is important not to confuse using tourism to enhance sustainable development with development of sustainable tourism as a standalone on its own.

What are the goals of the project?

This research aims to find answers and opinions to the following questions:

1. How important are cultural resources in formulating the Bakuri Kurdish identity?

2. Have Bakuri Kurds lost some of their cultural wealth as a result of the on-going war?

3. Do the local people feel that their heritage was targeted and that the damage was deliberate?

4. How important are physical evidence of their culture and tourist activity?

5. Do they see reparation of heritage sites and tourism as part of their city’s future?


The research will begin with a series of informal discussions with locals regarding their situation, their perception of cultural assets and tourism in general. After this, semi-structured surveys will be administered based on initial feedback.

Budget

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I will travel to Amed (Diyarbakir), the capital of North Kurdistan, my original home country, for 3 weeks where I will conduct my research in a decolonised approach (independent of standardised Euro-centric techniques and methods) by meeting locals from different parts of the city and the province in informal settings: On streets, in tea houses, in stadiums and at dinner to encourage people to trust in the research and express their thoughts freely without fear of being silenced.

The major costs associated with the research are concerned with travelling to the destination and staying there during the period of the research. As this is an independent research, there is no private or public funding behind it. The findings of the research will be published under an 'open access' policy, available to the public free of charge.

Endorsed by

I had the pleasure of meeting Sari at IMI University Centre, Lucerne, Switzerland. His intellectual acumen, deep knowledge and incurable desire for learning make him a great researcher. His talent was demonstrated at the World Tourism Forum Lucerne. Thanks to his infinite passion for research, his love for tourism and his unique way of looking at issues, I am confident that Sari will greatly contribute to the academia and his studies will be of great value to all of us. I am excited to read this project. You have my full support.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Once funding is secured, literature review and secondary data collection will take place at the start of 2018 while the planned travel and field research will take place as of mid-March and should be finished by early April. Following that, the audio files will be transcripted into text, reviewed and analysed along with other infield observations.

The research should be published mid-year 2018 with open access to the public.

Oct 23, 2017

Project Launched

Mar 15, 2018

Travel to Diyarbakir (Amed)

Apr 04, 2018

Finalise interviews and observations

May 09, 2018

Audio transcription

Jun 02, 2018

Reviewing Data

Meet the Team

Sari Aquismaia Arab
Sari Aquismaia Arab
Independent Researcher

Sari Aquismaia Arab

I am a Kurdo-Lebanese aspiring tourism sociologist. I graduated with two BA degrees from IMI University Centre in Lucerne (Switzerland) and Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) in 2016 and my focus is on tourism development and impacts. In the future, I aspire to earn a PhD in tourism economics or sustainable urban tourism development and planning.

I worked in small, medium and big travel, tourism, leisure and hospitality companies across Greece, Lebanon, Spain, Switzerland and currently I am based in Thailand. I aim to pursue further education in the near future in hopes of a career in epistemological decolonisation of social impact assessments, ethnography and research in tourism studies. I believe coupling industry experience with empirical research will aide me in achieving relevant and contemporary results that could challenge traditional methodologies and paradigms which at times have been an obstacle in the face of tourism sustainability and development.


My Previous research was focused around perceived social impacts of tourism in Morocco and was awarded the following:

2016 Tom Maher Award for best overall dissertation.

Named as one of nine winning 'Young Talents' at the 2017 World Tourism Forum Lucerne.

Lab Notes

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Additional Information

North Kurdistan has been under Turkish occupation for decades, its people struggle to be recognised by the Turkish government as 'Kurds'. The state's denial of the Kurdish identity, language and culture made people lose their identity while others became more attached to it. Cultural tourism which relies on tangible and intangible historical elements becomes a tool for the locals to preserve their unique identity during occupation but how can there be tourism during times of war and conflict?


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