Dr Mustafa Demir

Associate Fellow


Research interests


DEMIR, M. (2019) The Geopolitics of Turkey–Kurdistan Relations: Cooperation, Security Dilemmas, and Economies. New York: Lexington Book, Rowman & Littlefield.

The main objective of this book is to understand the extent and the motives behind the shift in Turkey’s foreign policy towards the Kurdistan Regional Government (hereafter the KRG) from an alternative globalist perspective, and to do so it examines a ten-year period of Turkey’s foreign policy on the KRG, from 2003 to 2013. Despite the shadows casting by its history, Turkey has developed relations with the Kurdish government to the level of a strategic partnership within the last decade, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

The book identifies and analyses the factors that determine Turkey’s foreign policy towards the KRG by providing a historical account of Turkey’s approach towards a Kurdish polity, illuminating the extent of the shift in Turkey’s foreign policy by looking at some dislocatory moves, and identifying and analyzing regional and global motives behind the Turkey–KRG rapprochement that led Turkey to abandon its traditional policy temporally towards the Kurdish Region of Iraq within the period this work is focused on. 

The book brings the global dimension to the discussion and suggests that developments at the global level play a significant role in shaping the regional and internal contexts in which the partnership between Turkey and the KRG was established. And in conclusion it argues that Turkish foreign policy towards the KRG shifted between 2007 and 2013 due to the intersection of regional and global fault lines and competition between global power blocks, the United States, Russia and China over energy resources and strategic trade and transit energy routes.

YILMAZ, I. & DEMIR, M. (2022) Manufacturing the Ummah; Turkey’s Civilizational Populism in Transnational Diasporic Space, Third World Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436597.2022.2146578

Inspired by the concept of ‘transnational populism’ this paper investigates the efforts of a religious populist regime to narratively construct ‘the transnational people’ and ‘the transnational leader’ in diasporic spaces that Sunni Muslim minorities occupy. The paper aims to show how Turkey’s ruling party is constructing an Islamist civilisational populist narrative fortified with emotions and how it is disseminating it. We show that Turkey’s current regime has expanded its definition of ‘the people’ in domestic politics to include the whole global Sunni Muslim community (the Ummah), presenting itself as the representative, protector and saviour of the Ummah that has been victimised by the Crusader West. It also expanded its definition of diaspora to include non-Turkish Sunni Muslims/Islamic communities who did not originate from Turkey. Then, similar to its propagation of this narrative and emotional rhetoric at home, it has attempted to transnationalise this Islamist civilisational populist narrative and thes emotions to the Sunni Muslim diaspora communities through state and non-state apparatuses. As a novel contribution, this paper builds a bridge between diaspora studies, religion and populism to capture this transnational aspect of populism.

YILMAZ, I. & DEMIR, M. (2022) Emotions in a diaspora’s interpretation of political developments in their place of origin: the case of Australian Armenians from Turkey, Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, DOI: 10.1080/14683857.2022.2067405.

This paper aims to investigate how emotions guide and shape diasporic communities’ interpretation/perception of socio-political developments in their place of origin. Based on our study of members of the Armenian diaspora who are originally from Turkey and who now live in Melbourne, Australia, we argue that these Armenians have formed their views on political issues under the influence of their emotional experiences, stemming from direct or indirect victimhood. The paper finds that several key emotions – fear, hate (and lack of hate), anticipation, and pessimism, inform and shape the Australian Armenian diaspora’s making sense of political developments in their place of origin, Turkey. The paper’s contribution to the relevant scholarship is twofold. First, it contributes to the studies on emotions in diasporas by examining how emotions shape individual members of a diaspora make sense of political developments in their place of origin. Second, it contributes to the literature on modern Turkey by studying Armenians from Turkey and their emotions on socio-political phenomena.

YILMAZ, I., DEMIR, M. & E.SHIPOLI (2021) Securitisation via functional actors and authoritarian resilience: collapse of the Kurdish peace process in Turkey, Australian Journal of Political Science, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10361146.2021.2007848

By combining two separate strands of research, the comparative authoritarianism literature and securitisation theory, this article examines the question of why the Kurdish peace process in Turkey failed. By analysing the Turkish government’s treatment of the pro-Kurdish opposition, the article argues for a novel conceptual proposition on a securitisation mechanism of authoritarian resilience in electoral politics. It argues that the incumbents attempted to use the peace process (de-securitisation of the Kurdish issue) not for democratisation but for authoritarianism (by co-opting the pro-Kurdish opposition) and when that failed, they re-securitised the Kurdish issue, repressed the opposition and established an authoritarian regime thanks to justification of securitisation. The article contributes to both securitisation and authoritarian stability theories by showing that for authoritarian stability, depending on its needs and context, a government can successfully securitise, de-securitise and re-securitise the same issue with the use of the same functional actor in each stage.

YILMAZ, I., SHIPOLI, E. & DEMIR, M. (2021) . “Authoritarian resilience through securitization: an Islamist populist party’s co-optation of a secularist far-right party. Democratization. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2021.1891412

This article tackles the puzzle of how Turkey’s ruling Islamist populist Justice and Development Party (AKP) was able to co-opt the secularist far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and to ensure the MHP’s support in creating an authoritarian regime, despite their previous antagonistic relations and ideological opposition. We investigate this puzzle through the combination of authoritarian resilience/stability theory and securitization theory. The article develops an empirically grounded account of how co-optation has happened in Turkey. In a novel way, it shows that the ruling party’s successful securitization of the MHP’s antagonists (pro-Kurdish opposition) has facilitated the co-optation of the MHP by the ruling party. This article contributes to the authoritarian stability theory by introducing securitization theory to this literature. It also contributes to the co-optation literature by showing a novel phenomenon: a powerful incumbent party’s ideological move towards the smaller to be co-opted party. The article also contributes to the securitization theory debates about the role of securitizing actors and their audiences, as well as the “right” of functional actors in securitizing an issue, despite their initial non-decisive authority.

YILMAZ, I. DEMIR, M. MORIESON, N. (2021) Religion in Creating Populist Appeal: Islamist Populism and Civilizationism in the Friday Sermons of Turkey’s Diyanet." Religions, 12, no. 5: 359. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050359

Drawing on the extant literature on populism, we aim to flesh out how populists in power utilize religion and related state resources in setting up aggressive, multidimensional religious populist “us” versus “them” binaries. We focus on Turkey as our case and argue that by instrumentalizing the Diyanet (Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs), the authoritarian Islamists in power have been able to consolidate manufactured populist dichotomies via the Diyanet’s weekly Friday sermons. Populists’ control and use of a state institution to propagate populist civilizationist narratives and construct antagonistic binaries are underexamined in the literature. Therefore, by examining Turkish populists’ use of the Diyanet, this paper will make a general contribution to the extant literature on religion and populism. Furthermore, by analyzing the Diyanet’s weekly Friday sermons from the last ten years we demonstrate how different aspects of populism—its horizontal, vertical, and civilizational dimensions—have become embedded in the Diyanet’s Friday sermons. Equally, this paper shows how these sermons have been tailored to facilitate the populist appeal of Erdoğan’s Islamist regime. Through the Friday sermons, the majority—Sunni Muslim Turks are presented with statements that evoke negative emotions and play on their specific fears, their sense of victimhood and through which their anxieties—real and imagined—are revived and used to construct populist binaries to construct and mobilize the people in support of an authoritarian Islamist regime purported to be fighting a “civilizational enemy” on behalf of “the people”. Finally, drawing on insights from the Turkish case, we illustrate how the “hosting” function of the civilizational aspect plays a vital role in tailoring internal (vertical and horizontal) religious populist binaries.


populism; religion; Turkey; Erdoğan; Islamist populism; Islamist civilizationism; Diyanet; Friday sermons

Yilmaz, I. Morieson, N. Demir, M. (2021) "Exploring Religions in Relation to Populism: A Tour around the World." Religions, 12 (5): 301. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050301

This paper explores the emerging scholarship investigating the relationship between religion(s) and populism. It systematically reviews the various aspects of the phenomenon going beyond the Western world and discusses how religion and populism interact in various contexts around the globe. It looks at Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity and how in different regions and cultural contexts, they merge with populism and surface as the bases of populist appeals in the 21st century. In doing so, this paper contends that there is a scarcity of literature on this topic particularly in the non-Western and Judeo-Christian context. The paper concludes with recommendations on various gaps in the field of study of religious populism.


populism; religion; religious populism; global populism

Demir, M.; D. Dunn, D.; Keyes, S.; Linden, I.; Ramsbotham, O.; Shener, O.; Weller, P. (2019) Critical Dialogues: Dialogue and Conflict Resolution (Special Issue), Journal of Dialogue Studies

In this special issue, The Journal of Dialogue Studies addresses dialogue as a means of conflict resolution under the title of “Critical Dialogues: Dialogue and Conflict Resolution”.

As a tool of conflict resolution, dialogue can take on many different shapes and can be moulded to respond to each conflict. Contributors to the special issue were invited to consider questions such as the following: in applying the theory in question how can success and failure be evaluated? What has succeeded and what has not yet succeeded in a selected case or cases? Why was this? Can the theory or method be adapted or supplemented accordingly to deal with these difficult cases? Or may it be necessary to combine the theory with other theories and construct tailored ‘hybrid’ frames for these conflicts at various levels?

In this special issue of the Journal of Dialogue Studies, the authors have aimed to critically engage with the existing theories and methods utilised to peacefully end conflicts at various levels.

DEMIR, M. (2022) “Creating the Desired Citizen: Ideology, State and Islam in Turkey by Ihsan Yilmaz.” Journal of Populism Studies. https://doi.org/10.55271/br0008

Ihsan Yılmaz’s new book presents a detailed analysis of Turkey’s political and sociological evolution, from the country’s anxious birth as a “fearful nation,” preoccupied and weighed down by historical traumas to the present. Yılmaz’s study provides a detailed account of the polity’s “never-ending” nation-building process and offers keen insights into why this process is intransient. His book highlights the political nature of defining citizens as either “desired,” “tolerated,” or “undesired” and the way this definitional process functions as a tool in hegemonic rivalries between “political tribes” in polities such as Turkey. 

DEMIR, M. (2021) “What Went Wrong in Turkey?” ECPS Book Reviews. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). April 6, 2021. https://doi.org/10.55271/br0001

The volume titled Islamism, Populism, and Turkish Foreign Policy, edited by Burak Bilgehan Ozpek and Bill Park (Routledge, 2019), reveals that Islamism and populism have long united forces in Turkey to mobilize the masses from the periphery to the center to capture the state “by” the support of the people, but neither “for” nor “with” them.

DEMIR, M. (2020) “The Geopolitics of Energy.” Chapter 4 in The Domestic and International Dynamic of Turkish Politics. Ed. Gurkan Celik. Ed. Ronald Linden. Lynne Rienner Publisher.

Demir, in Chapter 4, analyzes the internal and external factors determining Turkey’s role in energy geopolitics and reviews Turkey’s energy strategy in light of the changing dynamics of global energy supply and distribution.

DEMIR, M. (2021) Populists International (I) — Populists Hand in Hand: Farage and Trump

The last decade has seen a rise in cooperation between xenophobic right-wing populists, both in Europe and internationally. Elsewhere, we’ve seen the rise of anti-Western populists from majority Muslim countries and left-wing Latin American populist leaders. My hope with this commentary series is to begin a fruitful discussion about this cooperation. I will start by examining the stunning cooperation between British right-wing populist Nigel Farage and former US President Donald Trump, the populist held power in a country long viewed as the beacon of democracy. 

DEMIR, M. (2021) Country Profile: United Kingdom

As one of the world’s first representative democracies, the United Kingdom and its “Westminster model” have been emulated around the world. However, the populist zeitgeist is challenging the country’s established mainstream politics. Populism reared its head in the form of Brexit, which shook British politics to its core. “Brexiters” ran a populist campaign against the country’s “corrupt elite” and “political establishment.” The “Leave” campaign was a “moral barricade” against “foreign” or “outside” influences.

SHENER, O. and DEMIR, M. (2021) Eivor the Trickster: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and the popularization of tricksters, anti-fascist neo-paganism, and Scandinavian mythology

In the latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, developer Ubisoft brings its acclaimed series to Viking-era England and casts Eivor as the protagonist. She is a fierce Viking whose saga is shaped by the player’s choices throughout the game. In this commentary, we argue that by choosing to focus on Scandinavian mythology, emphasizing the trickster aspects of Odin and Loki, and giving Eivor similar trickster qualities as the main character in Valhalla, Ubisoft popularizes a type of anti-fascist neo-paganism while also popularizing traditional trickster characters (such as Loki) in the person of Eivor, called a “trickster spirit” in one of the game’s arcs.

DEMIR, M. and SHENER, O. (2021) Populist International (II) – Geert Wilders, an Agent of Anti-Islam Populist International Alliance

Geert Wilders’ populism is based on Islamophobia. His appeal is directly linked to the strong demand by Islamophobic groups for high-profile individuals who utilize populist, Islamophobic rhetoric. Whether in the US, the Netherlands, or Australia, Wilders uses populist discourse to further his Islamophobic, anti-Islamic agenda. 

YILMAZ, I., DEMIR, M. and Morieson, N. (2021) The Islamist Populism, Anti-Westernism and Civilizationism of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs

In Turkey under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Friday sermons of Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) frequently employ vertical populist antagonistic binaries to legitimize the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) fight against the secular Kemalist “elite,” who are charged with being insufficiently Islamic. At the same time, horizontal binaries are employed in sermons to justify Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule and his harsh measures against dissidents, who are branded enemies of Islam and “the people.”

SHENER, O. & DEMIR, M. (2021) From Populism to Racism: The Chinese American Trickster Tradition from Sun Wu Kong to Wittman Ah Sing.” ECPS Working Papers.  July 1, 2021. https://doi.org/10.55271/wp0002

This article discusses the Chinese American trickster tradition focusing specifically on archetypes and several key themes, such as racism, populism, and essentialism. We argue that the figure of the Monkey King is central to Chinese American literature, particularly in Chinese American women’s writing, and the concepts of populism and racism are made relevant through the cultural appropriation of this folk figure in the writings of Chinese American authors. Furthermore, the article discusses tricksterism in relation to politics and cultural production, particularly the Monkey King. In this regard, the article makes an original contribution to the literature on tricksterism and cultural populism by analyzing the Chinese American trickster tradition from these fresh perspectives.