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Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814795873
ISBN-10: 0814795870
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Marcus’ dispassionate recounting of events is impressive in its factual, documented style and avoidance of partisan shrillness. While never condoning any of the PKK’s excesses, she points out its one achievement: to have put the Kurdish problem on the agenda in Turkey and in front of the world.”
-Bookforum



Blood and Belief offers unusual insight into the rebels' shadowy universe and, by extension, into Turkey's festering Kurdish problem. . . . [A] scholarly, gripping account.”
-The Economist



Blood and Belief gives meaning and context to the grinding guerrilla war that claimed tens of thousands of lives.”
-Boston Globe



“It’s an achievement of Blood and Belief that despite the bloodletting, Marcus still generates empathy—not for the murderous Ocalan, but for the desperate Kurds who joined the PKK revolution feeling they had nowhere else to turn.”
-The Washington Post Book World



“;Marcus’ dispassionate recounting of events is impressive in its factual, documented style and avoidance of partisan shrillness.”
-The Bloomsberry Review

About the Author

Aliza Marcus is formerly an international correspondent for The Boston Globe and lives in Washington, D.C. She covered the PKK for more than eight years, first as a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor and later as a staff writer for Reuters, receiving a National Press Club Award for her reporting. She is also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for her work.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 363 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814795870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814795873
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In "Blood and Belief", Marcus provides a thorough overview of the PKK from its origins in the chaos of 1970s Turkey through the capture of Öcalan in 1999. The next 8 years are much less thorough (fitting into one chapter), but the book nonetheless provides an excellent foundation for understanding the PKK and the relationship between Kurds in SE Anatolia and the Turkish state.
The strength of this book is its use of interviews with former PKK members. These interviews do not paint a positive picture of the PKK- in fact, they completely remove any of the romanticism that could be associated with 'freedom fighters' in the minds of some. The brutality of both the Turkish army and the PKK (including the latter group's general disregard for human life, even that of its own members) is portrayed in detail. Marcus does not need to label the PKK as a terrorist group; this is a political designation that creates black and white distinctions, when in reality the situation is far more complicated. By presenting the situation in all its brutality and presenting the facts impartially, Marcus allows the reader to make the moral judgement on the PKK- its origins, methods, and goals.
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Format: Hardcover
Most writers on the Kurdistan Workers' Party, best known by its Kurdish language acronym, the PKK, substitute advocacy for accuracy, so their books about the PKK tend to have limited practical use for policymakers. But Marcus, a former international correspondent for The Boston Globe who spent several years covering the PKK, has done important work in Blood and Belief. While sympathetic to her subject--the substitution of "militant" for "terrorist" grates--she retains professional integrity and does not skip over inconvenient parts of the PKK narrative such as its predilection to target Kurdish and leftist competitors rather than the Turks; the patronage it has received from the Syrian government; and the important role of European states and the Kurdish diaspora in its funding.

Blood and Belief has four sections: on PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's life and the PKK's beginnings, the PKK's consolidation of power, the civil war, and the aftermath of Öcalan's 1999 capture.

The Kurds inhabit a region that spans Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, and Marcus does not let national borders constrain her analysis. Events in Iraq--such as the squabbling between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani--influenced Öcalan, who concluded that he should tolerate no dissent. "We believed in socialism, and it was a Stalin-type of socialism we believed in," one early PKK member relates.

Steeped in Kurdish and Turkish history, Marcus provides better context than many of the other journalists who tackled this subject. The PKK took hold, she shows, largely because of the weakness of the Turkish state in the 1970s. Between 1975 and 1980, the Turkish government barely functioned.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a good book. Having spent some time in Kurdistan (Iraq) I found it quite interesting. While there I did not get a clear picture of the fact that the Turks were fighting the PKK and the occasionally crossing into Iraq. It was hard enough to figure out why Barzani and Talabani were fighting at one time and then finally decided to stop and divide the spoils. I worked a bit with the peshmerga and the special police. They were indeed a motivated group.

It was an especially timely book for me to read as now Erdogan is especially concerned about the Syrian Kurds. My Iraqi friends told me about a year ago how Turkey was letting the IS fighters into Syria. Now Erdogan is concerned about the Kurds displacing the Arabs and Turkomans. This book put a lot of the situation in historic perspective.
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Format: Hardcover
The PKK is a poorly understood group that is currently one of the most sensitive topics in U.S. foreign relations. Based in Turkey and along the border of Iraq's Kurdistan region and Turkey, the PKK is one of the most vexing issues facing the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, in particular its allies in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. How the PKK is dealt with will have a tremendous effect upon U.S. standing in the Middle East, the U.S. campaign in Iraq, the future of the Kurds, and the future of Turkey as a U.S. ally and Turkey's EU candidacy. Most writing on the PKK is tendentious and poorly sourced. Aliza Marcus's book is the opposite, carefully written, patiently researched and impressively sourced. She leads the reader through the twists and turns of PKK history with clarity and confidence. Anybody interested in international relations and the problem of terrorism, ethnic conflict and U.S. foreign policy should read this first class book.

P.S. I later married the author. Not a service available through Amazon.
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Format: Paperback
A very detailed and descriptive account of the PKK's struggle against Turkey. Sympathetic, but not uncritical of the struggle. A must read for anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of one of the most oppressed peoples on the planet.
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Format: Hardcover
As somebody who has spent a significant amount of time researching the PKK (and has been in SE Turkey for the past six months), I can say that this book does an outstanding job of outlining the history of the PKK and Turkey's efforts to combat it. This book is for you if you are interested in ethnic terrorism and how states respond to it. As shockingly bloody as the PKK is, you can not help but wonder how different things could be if the state (Turkey) responded with different policies.
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