Kurdish Aspect covers issues related to Kurds and Kurdistan within the larger context of Middle Eastern concerns. The website offers readers a treasure of information as a useful guide to know how others view the Kurds. Kurdish aspect is proud that a significant number of contributors who have a deep understanding and experience in Kurdish history, culture and politics constantly write for the website. Kurdish Aspect also publishes the quarterly Kurdish Aspect Magazine."> Governing the Kurdish Question: Justice for the Kurds


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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution November 13, 2008 Governing the Kurdish Question: Justice for the Kurds 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Karim Hasan 

In my second year of Ph.D. program, in 2006 winter session - my supervisor asked me to write a mini-proposal about what ‘Kurdish Question’. He asked me to tell them “what is the Kurdish Question”. In two weeks time, I responded with the following mini-proposal. He accepted my mini-proposal, and I begun research for my comprehensives examinations. At the end of summer 2006, I defended my first examination entitled “Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question 1800s – 1989 and after”. On May 16, 2007, completed and submitted a draft of my second examinations entitled “Kurdish and Kurdistan Society 1970 - 2003". I added the subtitle “Towards Freedom” recently, which has been published on Kurdish Aspect on November 11, 2008. By the end of summer 2007 I defended and passed my second examination. Out of the mini-proposal and two comprehensive exams, I developed my doctoral proposal entitled “State Formation, Sovereignty and the Kurdish Question/Case”. 

An important note: I planned to visit Iraqi Kurdistan before I write my proposal, but it never materialized. I stayed in Canada throughout this period: 2006-present (November 11, 2008). Although, the university asked me to work on this line of work – once they had enough, I was left alone unemployed and without any support. Although, I am highly educated in Canada, with two Masters’ degrees and Ph.D. near completion, I have been unemployed and have been left without any research funding since end of April 2007. I never received any help for finding employment the university; neither was I allowed to complete my PhD, after spending 14 years in post-secondary education at Carleton University and spending at least $ 200, 000. 00. 

I have checked for minimum wage jobs at Chapter’s Bookstore, it did not offer me a job. I question whether it is the ‘Kurdish Question’, or the University that I have worked in has caused me this long period of disparity. After all, I am a Canadian citizen, who has lived in Canada for last 18.5 years. Depending on the limitations of my knowledge, I would have undertaken a project that could have helped the freedom of a nation, whose historical and present disparities is similar to that of Kurds and Kurdistan. This is the first time I speak of the chronicle of my academic career, thanks to ‘them’, ‘they’, ‘those’...etc. Journal of Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/ does put into perspective the burdens of academic careers, but none of those are like mine! I have published this mini-proposal for its technical competence, which may help other misfortune academics on path of preparing proposals, and to publicize injustice. I am no-longer in Carleton University; I am seeking another University to complete the remainder of my Ph.D. work. I shall remain the course to the end!  

A. Research Problem: Conceptualizing the Kurdish Question The usage Kurdish

Question emerged as a concept to denote a problematic related to the Kurdish position on the new Middle East geopolitical arrangement after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War during the constitution of the modern sovereign states in the Middle East, which left Kurds without a state of their own. The significance of the Kurdish Question remained local and regional until 1988-89. What is the Kurdish Question and how it should be defined? It is a problematic that has been articulated in the Kurdish studies and Middle Eastern scholarships synonymous to the lack of Kurdish cultural, linguistic, political, social, economic and legal rights in the historico-geographic Kurdish regions administered/governed by Turkey, Iran and Syria including Iraq until recent years. 

This problematic constitutes the Kurdish Question as statelessness and the absence of a Kurdish juridico-political administration governing the historico-geographic Kurdistan. This conceptualization of the Kurdish Question needs to work in relation to definitions of nation, nation-state, state, sovereignty, and the emergence of post-sovereignty in the Middle East in our present condition. First, who are the Kurds, and where is Kurdistan? 

Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world. Some researchers consider that the Kurdish population numbers 25-35 million; others put the figure at 40 million. Kurds speak Kurdish, and they have lived in the present-day Kurdistan geographic region, roughly the size of France for more than two millennia. Kurdistan is located at Southeast and Southwest Turkey, Northeast and West Syria, Northeast and Northwest Iraq and Northwest Iran. Kurds are neither recognized as a nation nor accepted as full citizens in Turkey, Iran, Syria and until recently in Iraq.  

What is a nation and how is it different from a nation-state and a state? Although, these three are not compatible, they have been characterized to denote a sovereign state at many instances. The state is a defined geographic area, territory that is inhabited by a population. It is represented through a primary juridico-political administrative authority recognized under the international law and in international relations. This recognition grants direct international subjectivity. The concept of the state does not denote that there is the presence of more than one nation within its borders automatically. Rather it emphasizes an administrative-structure that grants a historico geographic-people subjectivity and presents itself as a unanimous indivisible entity. Some nations have a state, status; others like the Kurds are stateless. 

A legally recognized nation is a people who live on/in historico-geographic area within the borders of a state, governed by its local juridico-political administration, which could take a federal, a self-governing autonomous administrative structure; and its subjectivity under the international law and in international relation is arranged through a primary authority, the state. This international subjectivity provides for creation of a nation-state, which represents peoples who inhabit a recognized historico-geographic entity governed by their juridico-political administration. A state that is inhabited by more than one nation would be more proper to be characterized as a state of nations, a recognized nation to be characterized as a nation-state, and the state as a juridico-political administrative apparatus that governs populations, nations, peoples inhabiting their respective historico-geographic areas. Through this apparatus an international status is ascertained. 

For example, the recent constitutional debate in Spain on the status of the Catalans as a nation, and the recognition of Catalonia within the Spanish state, set the precedent for that historico geographic Catalonia and the Catalan people are recognized as a nation with a defined boundary. Unlike Catalans, Kurds do not have a juridico-political administration in historico-geographic Kurdistan 

Many anthropological, sociological, natural and human-geography research findings recognize historico-geographic Kurdistan. The lack of official recognition of historicogeographic Kurdistan, the recognition of Kurds as a nation, and a juridico-political administration show that they are not a recognized nation and renders Kurds stateless, thus they are not international subjects directly nor indirectly. The Catalan case is a progressive precedent. Though, unlike the Catalans who live within the borders of the Spanish state, the Kurds are divided among four different states and their number is much lager than the Catalan people, this situation makes the Kurdish case more complex. These differences require us to consider context because Kurds live under Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty in comparison to the Catalans under the Spanish sovereignty. 

What is sovereignty? Sovereignty is a Westphalian conceptualization of juridico-politicosocial autonomous administrative structure founded on non-intervention principle. Any empirical and, or, imagined engagement with sovereignty needs to be realized in the context of its domain time, space and its people, subjects citizens. Time and space history and geography-territory are critical for the realization of sovereignty; they are indication of its epoch, province and are linked to its subjects. This domain of sovereignty is governed through political economy apparatuses of security communication technology. 

Sovereignty presumes the sanctity of sovereigny right and rule over its domain istoricogeographic-people. The body, domain and sovereigny governing techniques have been contentious, as disputation over its territory, treatment of its subjects, citizens and methods of governance do not conclude. This Westphalian conception of sovereignty emerged in the Middle East after the end of First World War during the constitution of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria; however, the domain of these states reveal that these states sovereignties have been contested from within since their formation up to the emergence of post-sovereignty in the Middle East. 

The passage of Westphalian sovereignty in the Middle East begun, after the end of the Cold War, when practices of post-sovereignty in the Middle East emerged. Post-sovereignty is a global governance model. It is synonymous to post-colonialism, cosmopolitics and diaspora. It is an approach and a practice concurrent with the emergence of globalization, and global governance of the fragile and failed states through defence, diplomacy, prevention of terrorism, prevention of refugee exodus, humanitarian intervention in conflict areas, and development through aid. I will provide working definitions of the fragile and failed states in the next stages of my proposal. 

For example, the 1991 safe-haven created by the United Nations and supported by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to prevent further atrocities against the Iraqi Kurds in the aftermath of the war with Iraq was a humanitarian intervention. The recent invasion of Iraq is an example of intervention into a failed state. Thus, post-sovereignty is a practice beyond Westphalian sovereignty. My proposition is that Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq are fragile states. They are unable to provide safety and security for their populations, specifically the unrecognized Kurdish nation. Failing to provide for the safety and security of Kurds and minorities has been the case since the creation of these states after the end of the First World War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. 

What is the international status of the Kurdish Question? It is not constituted in international law and international relations, as there is neither an international law that acknowledges the Kurdish Question nor there is a clear Kurdish policy among the five prominent members of the United Nations. 

After the end of the Cold War, 1988-89, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing led by the United States debate concerning a solution to the Kurdish Question emerged among Middle Eastern and Kurdish studies scholars. This debate/discussion can be organized into two broad frameworks. All types of Kurdish ovements and academic inquiries into the Kurdish Question work within either, or, a mixture of the two frameworks. 

The first approach studies the viability of a Kurdish state as a permanent solution. While the Kurdish political leaders claim establishing a Kurdish state is their strategic goal, at present this approach is not very popular among political leaders due to the pragmatic nature of Kurdish politics, which has been shaped by geopolitical realities. Yet, it is widely supported among the Kurdish public in Kurdistan and among the Kurds in diaspora, they argue that only an independent Kurdish state will bring a lasting solution to the Kurdish Question. This approach is less debated/discussed among the Middle Eastern and Kurdish affairs scholars. 

The second is a solution to the Kurdish Question within the existing borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. This approach is more predominant than the first one; it is expressed in a number of ways by Kurdish movements and academic scholarship: demand for cultural and linguistic rights; struggle for political, social and economic rights; and demand for more defined administrative structures such as autonomy, self-government and recently federalism. Up to date no permanent guaranteed progress has been made under this approach, the exception is Iraqi Kurdistan which has attained a federal status. This status might be promising, however too early to forecast its success since the referendum on Kirkuk to join Iraqi Kurdistan region is pending and recently Iraq’s new Constitution has been challenged. 

These two frameworks are primary methods of inquiry into the Kurdish Question and they are entrenched into the strategies of the Kurdish movement, conflict, for tackling a solution. Since 1988, studying the Kurdish question has gained momentum in the Middle Eastern studies and Kurdish scholarship, and the Kurdish movement has made progress. What is the Kurdish movement? 

A genealogical study reveals that the Kurdish movement is a nexus of ethnic, civic and, or cultural, and lately diasporic nationalism. A number of Kurdish political parties and intellectuals have mixed nationalism with leftist political ideologies. 

Kurdish nationalism is not an organized defined political philosophy; rather it is shaped by discursive practices of freedom and rights orientation and a minimalist nationalism. A practice is called Kurdiatee, means Kurdishness and being Kurdish, has been the functional goal of Kurdish nationalism. In comparison with Turkish, Persian and Arab nationalisms, which have been aggressive, expansionists, offensive and assimilating; Kurdish nationalism has been a weak non-expansionist, defensive, pro-diversity, freedom and justice oriented and a local movement; with the exception of the PKK method that is the reflection of the Turkish government’s offensive approach. 

Claims and Hypotheses 

This articulation of the Kurdish Question will allow me to examine socio-juridico-political subjectivity under the international law and international relations. The Kurdish Question has a local, regional and an international dimension. It is the problematic of a people who number 2535 million with a defined historico-geographic region. The two frameworks used in the articulation of the Kurdish Question along with civic, cultural, ethnic and diasporic nationalism are questions of sovereignty, state formation, globalization, international law, international relations, criminal justice, ethnic studies, migration and diversity. 

My hypothesis is an international framework is necessary to tackle the Kurdish Question. This has to focus on creating the conditions for the Kurds to govern themselves in Kurdistan by becoming subjects under international law and in international relations. I perceive three viable ways of subjectivity are possible: through federal governance, Kurdish confederation or a Kurdish state. 

Key Concepts: 

Governance; nation; state; sovereignty; post-sovereignty world order; globalization; global governance; socio-political structure of Kurdistan; historico-geographic Kurdistan; Kurdish juridico-political administration; subjectivity in international law; subjectivity in international relations; nation within a nation-state; Kurdish nationalism; Turkish, Persian, and Arab nationalisms; Federalism in Iraq; Kurdish confederation. 

B. Research, Subsidiary Questions/ Research Plan 

Taking this genealogical reading of the Kurdish Question into consideration, to articulate the Kurdish Question in the present condition, post-sovereignty world order, I will pose one main and two subsidiary questions, which will attempt focusing on a thematic inquiry into the two main approaches of the Kurdish Question. My main research and the subsidiary questions will allow me to articulate the Kurdish Question in our present condition: post-sovereignty world order, globalization and global governance. 

My research plan, engagement with the research and subsidiary questions, will entail four stages: My doctoral proposal step, the two comprehensives, and the last stage will be writing my doctoral thesis. I will engage with the presentation of my hypothesis findings from my proposal and the two comprehensives. The order of these stages is subject to my supervisory approval. 

The followings present my research and subsidiary questions and a brief plan for researching the questions. The main research question will be tackled in my thesis proposal. The first subsidiary question will be researched in my first comprehensive and the second will be attempted in my second comprehensive. My doctoral thesis will focus on the research hypothesis. 

Research Question: 

Explanations and a brief research plan will follow the following research question.  What would be the conditions for creation of a Kurdish juridico-political administration in the historico-geographic-Kurdistan? 

Explanation: This question investigates the ways in which subjects are made in international relations and international law; how this political rationality is used in the formation of subjects in international relations. It seeks an analysis of the possibilities of the formation of new international juridico-political subjects in the Middle East, and local, regional and international rewards it may ascertain. How is the Kurdish Question constituted in international relations and international law in our present condition? Does the Kurdish socio-political structure support a juridico-political administration in historico-geographic Kurdistan? What is a subject under international law and international relations? Who is a subject under international law and in international relations? 

Research Plan: My plan to engage with my main research question will be divided into two stages. First, I will put together a working bibliography that tackles the Kurdish Question as a transnational question among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, historico-geographic Kurdistan, socio-political structure of the Kurdish society, the conditions and the way a nation’s subjectivity under the international law and in international relations is constituted through a juridicopolitical administration. This working bibliography will also include cases, which have allowed a nation’s subjectivity under the international law and in international relations; for example, Catalonia as a nation within the Spanish state, its similarities with, and differences from, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. This working bibliography will be selected in consultation with my supervisor. 

The second stage will be a field research. If my own personal situation, finance, and the conditions of the Kurdistan region in Iraq permit, I will visit the Kurdish region to conduct a field research on the socio-political structure of the Kurdish society. I will also conduct a number of interviews with prominent Kurdish leaders, academics, and the ordinary public on the Kurdish Question. Kurdish diaspora will also be considered; though, at this time, I am not sure in what way I will include Kurdish Diaspora. 

The knowledge I accumulate through reading the working bibliography and the field research will allow me to present my research proposal, which will focus on: What would be the conditions for creation of a Kurdish juridico-political administration in the historico-geographic Kurdistan? 

Subsidiary Questions: 

Each subsidiary question will be tackled in a comprehensive examination. Explanations and a brief research plan will follow each subsidiary question. 

First Subsidiary Question: 

Considering the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangements after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of sovereign state-system what was the Kurdish Question and how its formulation has changed in three different periods, after the First and the Second World Wars and following the end of the Cold War in the Middle Eastern and Kurdish studies scholarships? 

Explanation: This question is a historico-genealogical. It pays attention to the political rationality of the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangements, the formulation of the Kurdish Question under relevant political epistemic conditions and their constitution in the Middle Eastern and Kurdish studies scholarships. How is the Kurdish Question different since 1988-89? 

Research Plan: This question will require a bibliography that puts into perspective, context, the political rationality of the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangements, the evolving constitution of the Kurdish Question in relation to the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangement after the First World War, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Second World War and the Cold War, specifically since 1988-89. My focus will be on the literature engaged in Middle Eastern and Kurdish studies scholarship. This will allow me to state historico-genealogical development of the Kurdish Question. 

Second Subsidiary Question: 

Taking into account the problematics of post-sovereignty, post-Cold War and the geopolitics of Kurdistan, what implications the recent invasion of Iraq that led to its juridical, political and social rearrangement have for the reformulation of the Kurdish Question in the United States and the European Union=s foreign policies; how the Middle Eastern states may view this reformulation? 

Explanation: This question tackles an investigation of the present problematics of new world order and that of the geopolitics of Kurdistan, the implications of Iraq’s recent juridical, political and social rearrangement for the reformulation of the Kurdish Question in the United States and European Union’s foreign policies, and the ways the Middle Eastern states may view this reformulation. Are there international Kurdish Question policies? 

Research Plan: My plan for researching this question will focus on globalization, global governance and post-sovereignty literature and the Kurdish Question since 1988-89. This question will unpack new world order, post-sovereignty, geopolitics of Kurdistan, globalization, global governance in relation to a new model of governing the Kurdish Question through the recent reformulation of Iraq, in the European Union’s and the United States foreign policies; and the Middle Eastern states attitude towards it. This will allow me to state the status of the Kurdish Question in the present condition the arrival of post-sovereignty and global governance in Middle East. 

C. Thesis Hypothesis: 

Three possible ways of governing the Kurdish Question through subjectivity are viable: Federalism as governance; Kurdish confederation, in either of the two models Kurds have to be recognized as a nation; or, a Kurdish state. 

Provisional Mini-proposal  It was prepared for (Department of Sociology/Anthropology  Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)

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