Understanding Insurgency

Popular Support for the PKK in Turkey

No insurgent movement can survive in the medium to long term without some degree of popular support, but what does it mean to support an armed group? How can the relationship between armed groups and their supporters be conceptually understood? How does this relationship vary spatially? What role does violence have in the relationship? Using the case of the first three decades of the PKK’s insurgency in Turkey, this book addresses these questions.

Drawing on Civil War, Social Movements and Rebel Governance literatures, this book empirically outlines how the PKK survived a military coup in 1980 and slowly won popular support through incipient forms of rebel governance, the targeted use of violence and a nuanced projection of its ideology and objectives. It spatially disaggregates the PKK’s support base by looking at different environments where it obtained mass support, in the Kurdish countryside and urban centres, and the cities of Western Turkey.


“Francis O’Connor's clearly argued and deeply grounded book provides a comprehensive overview of the PKK and its support networks, merging a meticulous empirical overview of the Kurdish awakening and struggle with theoretical frameworks drawn from social movements and political violence literature. His work offers an original and informative source for understanding the mobilisation dynamics of an armed group and the urban and rural dynamics of an enduring conflict from a socio-spatial perspective. An analytically acute, beautifully written and timely book.”

Bahar Baser
University of Coventry

“O’Connor has made a significant contribution to the study of insurgency. His thoroughly researched book explains the multi-layered practices and interactions through which an insurgent movement establishes and maintains its rural and urban constituency. While taking the Kurdistan Worker Party PKK as case study, the author does not lose sight of the wider theoretical implications of his work.”

Joost Jongerden
Associate Professor - Rural Sociology Group,
Wageningen University

“…O’Connor has made a valuable and insightful contribution to our understanding of the Kurdish movement”

Martin Van Bruinessen
Utrecht University

“This eminently readable book will richly reward scholars, government practitioners, and interested members of the intelligent lay public.”

Michael G. Gunter
Tennessee Technological University

Previous Works

Exploring the Neoliberal Era, Economic Crisis and Direct Democracy
Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents in the Economic Crisis

Comparing Social Movements in the European Periphery

Social Movements and Referendums from Below

Direct Democracy in the Neoliberal Crisis