Abstract

Despite being exempt from compulsory military service, women have been indispensable in their roles as mothers of conscripted soldiers in the conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Based on in-depth interviews conducted with twenty women in Istanbul whose sons were deployed to the conflict zone and returned home without any injuries, this article examines how the conflict has impacted the mothers’ perception of national service, of the Kurdish conflict, and of the “East.” I argue that the women start to partly question the obligation to serve once their children are asked to become the potential victims, and perpetrators, of the conflict. But this questioning does not develop into a full-fledged critique of the service and ends up reinforcing the tropes associated with Kurds and the “East” as backward, unruly, and resistant to change. Thus they mostly justify the modernizing mission of the military.

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