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Dr Mehmet Kurt


British Academy Newton Advanced fellow

Room Number: Mile End


Mehmet Kurt is a British Academy Newton Advanced fellow at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London.

He obtained his PhD in Sociology (Selcuk University, Turkey) and spent two years of his PhD research at Yale University Department of Anthropology. He was accepted to the Summer Institute at Columbia University Center for Oral History and co-authored a guidebook for oral historians and social scientists working in conflict and post-conflict settings. He has authored a monograph on Kurdish Hizbullah (Pluto Press, 2017) and several articles on political Islam, radicalization, civil society and human rights.

His main research area is political Islam, social movements, Turkey, the Kurdish issue, civil society and transnational politics in the Middle East. He is interested in research collaborations and projects focusing on Middle East politics and societies.

He has written for Open Democracy and edited thematic article series elaborating on Turkish politics and the Kurds. He is a documentary film maker and photographer documented daily life and human rights conditions in refugee camps and Islamist festivals.


  • 2017 Goldsmiths, University of London - guest lecturer, course: Policy Lab and Placements (MA)
  • 2017 University of Manchester - guest lecturer, course: Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights (Undergraduate)
  • 2016-2017 Queen Mary University of London - guest lecturer, Course: Research Methods (PhD)
  • 2014–2016 Bingöl University (Turkey) - lecturer, Courses: Social Movements (BA), Anthropology of Modern Turkey (BA), Research Design and Methods (MA), Middle East Politics and Society (MA)
  • 2011–2013 Yale University Center for Language Study (USA) - language instructor, Courses: Turkish and Kurdish


Dr Kurt’s Newton Advanced Fellowship project, entitled ‘Islamist Radicalisation, Civil Society and the State in Southeastern Turkey’, is an inquiry into the processes and drivers of Islamist radicalisation in the Kurdish region of Turkey, bordered with Syria and Iraq and the main crossing points for Western jihadists. Employing ethnographic methods and in-depth interviews, the research explores the social, historical and political grounds for Islamism and Salafism in the border areas of Turkey and its transnational effects in Syria and Iraq. The study is concerned with examining the rise of Islamist radicalism in Turkey and its transnational connections. The research not only explores the personal, political and ideological motivations of Islamist radicalisation, but it also contextualises it within Turkey’s ongoing conflict with the Kurdish insurgent movement PKK and the interplay between Islamist civil society, Kurdish nationalism and Turkish state violence.

Dr Kurt’s Newton project proceeds from his PhD research, an ethnography of Kurdish Hizbullah. His thesis explored, for the first time, Kurdish Hizbullah as a social and political movement and argued that Hizbullah can not be understood by focusing solely on the violence perpetrated by the group and that its intersection with civil society and the Turkish state suggests a much more complex organisation in which Hizbullah’s legitimization of violence coexists with a range of more mundane civil practices of daily life. The study dealt with the everyday lives of Hizbullah members, the martyr culture and the embodiment of ethnic, gendered and religious identity in the fundamentalist Hizbullah discourse.

In addition to spending many years living and traveling through various cities in the Eastern regions of Turkey and northern Iraq, he observed the political violence in everyday life and carried extensive fieldwork in these regions, some of which have become the frontline in the recent conflict in the Middle East. He has published several chapters and articles, and presented his work in numerous international conferences and workshops.

Dr Kurt is very much commited to visual knowledge production through ethnographic films and photography. He has produced several documentaries (as a director and assistant director) during –and as a part of - his research and teaching work in refugee camps, at Hizbullah events, and about religious minorities in Iraq and Turkey.

He has served as Secretary of the Human Rights Association (IHD) in Turkey for three years and gained considerable experience in human rights research and activism. He is also the founding member of the Mardin Film Studies Association.

He is multilingual of Kurdish, Turkish, and Arabic, and has advanced skills in reading Classical Arabic and Ottoman Turkish.

Funded research

2015 – 2018, British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship
Project Title: ‘Islamist Radicalisation, Civil Society and State in Southeastern Turkey’,
Place Held: School of Law, Queen Mary University of London,

2011 – 2013, The Council of Higher Education (YÖK) PhD Research Scholarship
Full tuition and living stipend for PhD studies.
Place Held: Yale University, Department of Anthropology

2013, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK)
Funding for participation to the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting in New Orleans, USA.

2012, Columbia University Center for Oral History Summer Institute
Full tuition and living stipend for the summer institute



  • 2017 Kurdish Hizbullah in Turkey: Islamism, Violence and the State. London: Pluto Press
  • 2015 Din, Şiddet ve Aidiyet Türkiye’de Hizbullah (Hizbullah in Turkey: Religion, Violence and Belonging). İletişim Yayınları, İstanbul
  • 2013 Documenting and Interpreting Conflict Through Oral History: A Working Guide. Co-Authored with R. Aras, D. Boyd, M. Clark, S. Muhaqqeq, C. Gonzalez Perez and L. Taminian, Columbia University Libraries.

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • 2018 (forthcoming in May, 2018), “‘My Muslim Kurdish Brother’: Colonial Rule and Islamist Governmentality in the Kurdish Region of Turkey”, The Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies
  • 2018 (forthcoming in June, 2018), “The Challenges of Politics of Human Rights Activism and Scholarship in Turkey”, The International Journal of Human Rights.
  • 2017 “In Search of the Holy Light: Survival and Resistance Among Yazidi People After the ISIS Invasion of Mosul Area”, Queen Mary Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 3/1.
  • 2017 “Secular Without a State, Muslim Without an Ummah: The Ordeal of the Kurds with Religion and the State (article in Turkish)”, Birikim Journal, Vol: 333/334, pp. 93-104, Istanbul.
  • 2016 “The Limits of Panislamism in Nation-States: A Case Study of Turkish Islamism and the Kurdish Question (book chapter in Turkish)”, in Other Conservatism, Edited by A. Çağlar Deniz, pp. 351-384, Istanbul: Phoneix Publications.
  • 2012 “Possibility of Multiculturalism Policies in Turkey (book chapter in Turkish)”, Culture and Politics in the Changing Middle East, Edited by Y. Aktay, P.  El-Sharkawy, A. Uysal, pp. 469-80, Ankara: SDE Publications.

Articles in Progress

  • ‘What Went Wrong?’: Moderate Islam, Muslim Democracies and the Turkish Model in the Neoliberal Age (working title)
  • Gender, Discourse and Agency among Islamist Women in Turkey (working title)

PhD Supervision

  • Saniye Karakas (Advisor)
    PhD Title: ‘State Crime and the Mechanics of Impunity’

Public Engagement

Selected Media and Interviews

  • 2017 (guest editor), New Turkey and Old Troubles, Open Democracy thematic series on Turkey
  • 2017 (guest editor), Independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and its consequences on regional politics, Open Democracy thematic series on the Kurds
  • 2017 (opinion piece), The ‘Success’ of Political Islam in the Kurdish Context, Open Democracy
  • 2016 (media interview), Islamist radicalisation and Security in Turkey, BBC Wales
  • 2015 (opinion piece), with P. Green, Death of a Peace Process: Martial Law Returns to Turkey, Open Democracy
  • 2015 (media interview), Rival Brothers: The Kurds Who Join the Islamic State, Middle East Eye
  • 2015 (media interview), Kurdish Youths in Turkey Targeted by Jihad Group Recruiters, The Irish Times
  • 2015 (media interview), Kurds Joining Islamic State? ISIS Finds Unlikely Supporters Among Turkey’s Disgruntled Kurds, International Business Times
  • 2015 (media interview), Turquie: retour aux urnes entre deuil et colère - Guerre contre le PKK : l’impossible réconciliation, France Culture
  • 2015 (media interview), Bingöl’ün Derdi IŞİD’e Götürdü,  Al Jazeera
  • 2014 (opinion piece), From Oriental Nightingales to Peace Pigeons, Jadaliyya


  • 2018, (director), The Twisted Seven, (post production stage, forthcoming)
    Plot: In search of an alternative educational model
  • 2018, (assistant director), The Bazaar of Mystiques, (completed, forthcoming in TRT Belgesel TV)
    Plot: Life and rituals of Yazidis in Northern Iraq
  • 2017, (director), The Lovers of the Prophet, (post production stage, forthcoming
    Plot: an Islamist festival to celebrate Muhammad’s birthday
  • 2016,(assistant director), I Miss my Country, broadcasted on TRT Belgesel documentary channel
    Plot: Story of refugee children in Turkish-Syrian Border
  • 2015, (assistant director), Tandoor House, broadcasted on TRT Belgesel documentary channel
    Plot: story of women bakers in a Turkish city

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