Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Kurdistan

The Unintended Consequences of Turkey’s Quest for Oil

The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state.

The Unintended Consequences of Turkey’s Quest for Oil

Zeynep Oguz 10.13.2020

The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state. Forthcoming in MER issue 296 “Nature and Politics.”

Securitizing Citizenship and Politicizing Security in Iraqi Kurdistan

It was 8 am on a scorching hot summer day. I was sitting inside a public notary office in a Kurdish border town, two kilometers away from the no-fly zone declared by the US-led coalition in 1991, and which separated the Kurdish autonomous zone from the rest of Iraq....

The New Wave of Politics in the Struggle for Self-Determination in Rojhelat

In an attempt to decolonize Kurdistan, at least discursively, Kurds refer to the Kurdish region of Iran as Rojhelat, instead of Iranian Kurdistan. Rojhelat, meaning “the place where the sun rises,” refers to the eastern portion of Kurdistan—the Kurdish homeland that...

The Kurdish Movement’s Relationship with the Palestinian Struggle

The Palestinian and Kurdish struggles for self-determination share several common features. Both are stateless movements fighting against colonial, apartheid regimes in the Middle East and both have tortured histories of oppression and resistance. Despite the...

Liminal Lineages of the “Kurdish Question”

Kurdistan is a liminal space. It has been at the geopolitical interface of both old empires and modern states. The historical dynamics of this geopolitical liminality have been and remain the primary determinant of Kurdish politics and history. Prior to the modern...

Tracing the Conceptual Genealogy of Kurdistan as International Colony

İsmail Beşikci is the first social scientist in modern Turkey to analyze the oppression of Kurds, distributed across four nation states, through the concept of the “international colony.” In recent years, Beşikci has been celebrated among his peers and a younger...

The Elusive Quest for a Kurdish State

Kurdish communities in the Middle East have been struggling for independence, autonomy and civil rights since at least the 1880s. While Kurdish movements across the region have suffered from fragmentation, the more formidable obstacle to fulfilling Kurdish aspirations are regional and global geopolitics. Djene Rhys Bajalan explains the many challenges, both historically and in the present day. This article is in Middle East Report, issue 295, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

Kurdistan, One and Many

A lot of water has flown under a number of bridges since MERIP’s last issue on Kurdish politics in 2008. The emergence and subsequent crushing of Arab uprisings, the beginning and abrupt end of the Kurdish peace process with the entrenchment of authoritarianism in...

The Elusive Quest for a Kurdish State

Kurdish communities in the Middle East have been struggling for independence, autonomy and civil rights since at least the 1880s. While Kurdish movements across the region have suffered from fragmentation, the more formidable obstacle to fulfilling Kurdish aspirations are regional and global geopolitics. Djene Rhys Bajalan explains the many challenges, both historically and in the present day. This article is from the forthcoming issue of Middle East Report, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

A New Normal for Iraqi Kurds?

Denise Natali 07.3.2014

At first glance, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seems to have come out ahead from the takeover of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the flight of the Iraqi security forces from Mosul and its environs, the autonomous Kurdish authority has sent its peshmerga fighters into large swathes of northern Iraq, most notably Kirkuk and its oilfields. These gains have given the KRG new forms of leverage with Baghdad in negotiating Kurdish nationalist demands. They also have triggered expectations of Kurdish statehood among the Kurdish population of Iraq, a long-sought goal that could be bankrolled by large-scale, independent Kurdish oil exports.

Syrian Kurds on the Verge of Crisis

Sirwan Kajjo 01.7.2013

With the civil war in Syria past the point of no return, the country’s economy is undergoing unprecedented shrinkage. Inflation is running rampant. Purchasing power is plummeting as the value of the Syrian pound falls against the US dollar.

Damascus and Aleppo, the main economic hubs, are badly affected, but the country’s eastern and northeastern regions are also in dire straits.

Syrian Kurdish Cards

Denise Natali 03.20.2012

Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) — a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence.

A Kurdish-American in Mosul

Herro Kader Mustafa is a Kurdish-American, originally from Iraq, who has built an impressive portfolio of responsibilities in the course of her career at the State Department and the National Security Council of the United States. She is currently the acting chief of staff for the undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department. Mustafa served as the senior US civilian official responsible for administering the Iraqi province of Ninawa—of which Mosul is the capital—in the aftermath of the 2003 war. She is the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled American Herro. In May 2008, Mustafa spoke to MERIP about her experiences.

When and under what circumstances did you and your family leave Iraq?

The Ceasefire This Time

Evren Balta 08.31.2005

“The aim of the Turkish armed forces is to ensure that the separatist terrorist organization bows down to the law and the mercy of the nation.” Thus did the Turkish chief of staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, brusquely dismiss the one-month ceasefire announced on August 19, 2005 by the Kurdistan People’s Congress (or Kongra-Gel). Kongra-Gel is the name adopted in 2003 by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which had renewed its armed struggle with the Turkish state just over one year before proclaiming its latest truce.

Turkey’s Ecevit

Ertugrul Kurkcu 01.15.2002

When Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit arrives in Washington, DC this week to meet with President George W. Bush he will come bearing a symbolic gift: a replica of a 16th century Koran, beautifully embroidered and written with real gold lettering. The original of this Koran comes from the Topkapi Palace Museum, once the seat of the Ottoman Sultans who ruled the Muslim world for over four centuries.

The Destruction of Iraqi Kurdistan

Less than five years ago, the US-led coalition against Saddam Hussein established a “safe haven” in Iraqi Kurdistan following Iraq’s brutal suppression of an uprising against the regime during March-April 1991. The mood among the majority of Iraqi Kurds was highly optimistic: A certain measure of self-rule had been forced on the central government in Baghdad, a goal for which they had been fighting for almost half a century.

Hidden Death

There may be more landmines deployed per person in Kurdish Iraq (population around 3.5 million) than in any other region in the world. A 1993 State Department report estimates that the Iraqi army laid 3 to 5 million mines there during the Iran-Iraq war and in the months leading up to the 1991 Gulf war. Others estimate that the number may be as high as 10 million, including mines that Iran also laid. Rough estimates of the ratios for the worst-affected countries are one mine per person in Angola and Afghanistan, and one mine for every two persons in Cambodia.

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