Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question 1800s-1989 and After

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution Academic Research Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question 1800s-1989 and After 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Karim Hasan Abdullah 

1. Introduction

   This manuscript is a historico-genealogical epistemology of the present. It is a presentation of a comprehensive knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question by questioning the epistemology through which the Kurds are known. It includes an account of the technologies of governing Kurds and Kurdistan in late Ottoman and Qajar periods; and it will cover three main socio-political historical periods of Kurds and Kurdistan from 1800s to 1989 and after.

   Epistemology is a scholastic field of study in social sciences. It investigates the possibility of knowledge and sets out frameworks by which knowledge of an object–a subject can be attained; depending on one’s interest, specific knowledges can be accepted, tolerated, mobilized or suppressed; different epistemological positions including an approach that claims the death of epistemology have been at the centre of social science questions of methodology (Dancy and Sosa 1998). What makes this historico-genealogical study of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question an epistemological account?

   My epistemological position is that: yes, knowledge is possible, knowledge is the intermediary of subject and object, and knowledge is material. This comprehensive account defends the interest of the Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question by questioning the justifications associated with the production and reproduction of the ‘epistemology by which the Kurds are known’, ‘the epistemologies by which knowledge about the Kurds have been constructed’. These categories of epistemological frameworks have ‘denied’, ‘repressed’, ‘peripheralized’ and ‘exploited’ fields of knowledge about the Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question in three different periods.

   The first is the latter period of the Turko-Ottoman and Qajar-Persian [1]  rules over Kurds and Kurdistan, from mid eighteenth century until 1918. This is the period in which Kurdish ethnic consciousness and the Kurdish Question emerged among the Kurdish elite. It is marked by a shift in the leadership of socio-political organization of Kurdistan: the end of ‘semiautonomous’ regions in Kurdistan (Jwaideh 2006: 54-74) and decline of the power of Kurdish ‘ beglerbeg, beg, emir, pasha, khan, wali [2]  of the Ottomans and of the Kurdish ‘ agha, khan, padsha, shah, sha [3]  of the Qajar. In this period the Kurdish sheikh and  shaikhly [4]  powers rose in leading the emerging Kurdish national movement, social and political organization of Kurdistan (McDowall 2004: 49-86; Natali 2005; Jwaideh 2006: 75-101). 

   The  shaikhly  titles distributed by the Qajar included “shykh al-Islam (shyhol-islam-i), Imam Jum’a, khatib, and pishamz” (Natili 2005:16). Most of shaikhs claim familial lineage links to Arab Saints, Imams or the prophet Muhammad (van Bruinessen 1992). The second period starts at the establishment of modern state-system and the geopolitical rearrangements of the Middle East from 1918 to the end of 1940s. This is the period in which Kurdish ethnic consciousness and organized national movements emerged through political ideology and party politics.

   The last is the period which can be characterized as the organization and solidification of party politics. This period begins in 1940s and extends to the notorious Anfal Campaign [5]  carried out by the Iraqi government which took place towards the end of the Cold War 1987-1989. This is the period of Kurdish self-organization, the sophistication of political ideology which lent to the Kurdish ethnic and national consciousness, internationalization of the Kurdish Question, mass deportation, expulsion and the genocide of the Kurds.

2. Method and Framework

The knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question will be presented through a critical analysis of ‘the epistemology by which Kurds are known’. This epistemological framework is embedded into the writing of this project; it is an observant sense which sees through an epistemology of a historico-genealogical investigative framework probing governmental practices of knowledge production of ‘peripheralization’, ‘denial’, ‘repression’ and ‘exploitation’ of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question by the Turko-Ottoman and Persian-Qajar empires, and the Iraqi, Turkish, Iranian and Syrian policies. 

   The governance of Kurds and Kurdistan through practices of peripheralization and exploitation were common until 1920s. But there were less repressive measures during this period, and the denial of Kurdish identity was not a characteristic of the technologies of governance prior to 1920s. After the First World War, the modern states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria were established. These states begun to deny the existence of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question internationally, repressed the Kurds and Kurdistan internally, they continued to peripherize and exploit them with excessive techniques. These four policies effectively blocked the modernization of Kurdistan’s socio-politico-economic structure, barred the foundation of a Kurdish state in historico-geographic Kurdistan and full Kurdish membership in the international community. These policies also governed the international knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question through discursive practices of labelling to deny; and population census making to deny, to exploit, to peripherize and to repress Kurds. These policies blocked the construction of any knowledge which did not peripheralize, exploit, repress and deny the Kurds the right to statehood.

   These peripheralizing, denying, oppressive and exploitative methods of governing and constituting knowledge of the Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question are reflected in most of the research [6]  about the Kurdish ‘society, culture, language, natural and human resources, and the geography of Kurdistan’ [7] . This epistemological framework will uncover these four forms of politics in the available research about the Kurds and Kurdistan. It intends to free knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question from the shackles of these four modalities of political practises through rearranging academic knowledge about the Kurds and Kurdistan into five broad categories [8]

   It will reveal the ways of the triangle of power in the Middle East. This triangle consists of the Turko-Ottomans, Persian-Iranian and Arab-Islamic powers who explicitly have exercised these four modalities of politics against Kurds and Kurdistan, and towards their other neighbours [9] . It will be attentive to justice [10]  through a valid epistemology which employs archaeologico-genealogical methods of investigation through the application of three epistemic thresholds. These thresholds are the constitutive epistemological criteria which make this re-examination and reconstitution of knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question possible; they fasten and hold this project together.

   The first epistemological threshold is an archaeological study of the ‘socio-political structure’ [11]  of the Kurdish society in relation to the policies and practices of peripheralization, denial, repression and exploitation. This threshold is a socio-anthropological approach that attempts to make the Kurdish society intelligible through ‘loyalties’ in three different models “primordial loyalties” [12]  (van Bruinessen 1992), “ethnic loyalties” (van Bruinessen 1994) and ‘civic loyalties’. It deploys van Bruinessen’s mobilization of ‘primordial loyalties’ as a useful framework for a socio-anthropological reading of the Kurdish society and its organizational structure. How ‘loyalties’ may constitute an epistemological framework which can help explain an understanding of socio-political structure of Kurdistan including Kurdish identity? 

   Individualist societies in neo-liberal sense perceive loyalties burdensome to a type of individual that combines self-interest and loyalty to the civic codes of conduct which are institutionalized in formal procedures of governance to protect rights and the responsibility to maintain these practices (Beck 2002). The conditions of the historical development of these three forms of loyalties are explored through the ways of tribalism and family ties among the Kurdish society were mobilized to govern and to organize its socio-political organization. These techniques were employed by the Ottoman and Qajar imperial powers until 1920s and by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria after the emergence of the modern state-system in 1920s. 

   The ‘primordial loyalties’ are allegiances to tribes[ 13 ], to extended family, to leaders, to organizations; these are a category of ‘primitive’ allegiances in character and practice. In his characterization of the socio-political structure of Kurdistan, van Bruinessen divides these ‘primordial loyalties’ into two major categories “those to the family and tribe to the tribal chieftain or agha. Equally strong are religious loyalties, especially those to sheikhs, the popular mystics or saints who are also leaders of the religious brotherhood (dervish [14]  orders)” (van Bruinessen 1992: 6). 

   Ethnic loyalties, on the other hand, are less considerate of other ethnic groups, which may deny the recognition of other groups if they do not operate on civic principles. Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria have promoted rules of civic loyalties for the protection and development of the dominant, governing ethnic Turks, Persians and Arabs but deny ethnic Kurds association on the principles of civic loyalties. Ethnic loyalties are characteristics of ethnic nationalism, but competing localities and dialects within the Kurdish society have been serious enough to fracture the emergence of cohesive Kurdish ethnic identity. van Bruinessen describes his contention concerning ethnic loyalties that:

Intra-Kurdish divisions (which have become so serious that some of the people concerned would object to the term “intra-Kurdish”) are not the remnant of the past that may gradually wither away if the wider political context allows the Kurdish nationalist movement to continue developing. To some extent the narrower identities of the region, language and religious community have been strengthened by the same factors that stimulated the awareness of Kurdish identity. And at least some of the divisions mentioned have become sharper precisely because of and in reaction to the growth of the Kurdish movement (1994: 1-2). 

   Civic loyalties are procedurally secular based on modern formalized citizen rights, responsibilities and meritocracy. They are protected and implemented by government and institutions of civil society. The civic loyalties may also be characteristics of civic nationalism. The sense of loyalty to these civic codes means a responsibility to sustain civic practises, and the protection which these civic codes provide to individuals. Civic loyalties also are characteristics of ‘responsible active’ citizenship. In this sense ‘loyalty’ to a civic socio-political structure is a feature of individual citizen identity. In civic societies there are loyalties to institutions, to corporations, localities to the state, and so forth. These loyalties are seminal of individual, ethnic and civic identity of the socio-political structure of any given society. Civic loyalties are yet to emerge in Kurdish society.

   The second threshold is an archaeological study of ‘discursive practices’, ‘discursive formation’ and ‘discursive mobilization’ in the research and academic engagement about Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. Three categories of academic works have thematically-strategically practised political programs of ‘peripheralization’, ‘denial’, ‘repression’ and ‘exploitation’ of Kurds and Kurdistan which are developed and practised by the three regional powers: the Turko-Ottomans, the Persian-Iranian, and Arab-Islamic funded research programs. The other two are the Oriental research and more recent Kurdish academic works. The last two categories–the Oriental and Kurdish academic research–also have been influenced by the political programs of the regional powers. 

   Depending on the country in which the research has been conducted, and the Middle Eastern language they have used for the research. More recently, the Oriental, the Kurdish academics and researchers have attempted to distance [15]  themselves from the monopolized–politicized views of the Kurds and Kurdistan that has dominated Kurdish studies. While both have contributed to the presentation of less distorted, more objective knowledge of Kurds and Kurdistan since 1970s, there remains a need for a clearer understanding of the politics of research produced under the auspices of the regional political programs which are interested in the Kurds and Kurdistan through a method of ‘discursive practice’: discourse formation and discourse mobilization.

   Rather than focusing on linguistic semantic analysis, my approach focuses on the analysis of strategic functions of the academic discourses which have contributed to the knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. How have these academic discourses presented Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question? I take this approach to avoid the claims supported by simplistic readings which make the assertion that any textual engagement is ‘discourse analyses’. It rejects studies of bibliographical references, unless it is considered ‘discourse analyses’. This understanding of discourse may wish to deprive people of all forms of expression: writing, speaking, body language, music because it argues that all forms of expression is a form of language, and any form of study of a subject-matter which is expressed through a form of language would be the study of the discourse of that subject-matter. 

   My approach bypasses this model by focusing on practices of ‘analysis of discourse’ not discourse analyses. This is a “nonlinguistic level of the analysis of discourse”, which centres on “the level of strategic intelligibility” (Davidson 2003: xx). Davidson identifies that this type of analysis of discourse was initiated by J.L. Austin and developed further by Foucault. The Austinian model “argued that the description of a statement was not complete when one had defined the linguistic structure of the statement, that the analysis of discourse could not be reduced to the combination of elements according to linguistic rules, that therefore discourse is something that necessarily extends beyond language” (2003: xix). 

   Davidson notes that “Foucault describes this level of analysis as the political analysis of discourse in which ‘it is a matter of exhibiting discourse as a strategic field’. Here discourse is characterized as a battle, a struggle, a place and an instrument of confrontation, a weapon of power, of control, of subjection, of qualification and of disqualification” (2003: xx). This type of analysis of discourse is a useful approach to uncover the ways the ‘triangle of power’ have used a “strategic model of intelligibility” (Davidson 2003: xx) in the production of peripheralized, denied, oppressed and exploited knowledge of Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. This epistemological threshold uncovers the hidden strategic discourse on Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question beyond nominalism and labelling. 

   The third is the threshold of episteme–a genealogical study of the Kurdish origin and identity which follows the Foucaultian notion of ‘historical ontology’ (1983). This threshold attempts to make Kurdish and Kurdistan’s identity knowable in different periods by referencing that Kurds have lived in Kurdistan proper for more than three millennia (Izady 1992). Less attention will be paid to the origin of the Kurds in antiquity, because pointing to a few classical encounters would help the understanding that the ancestors of the modern Kurds were inhabiting present-day Kurdistan contemporary to the Sumerians (Izady 1992; McDowall 2004), and later acknowledged by Xenophon in third century B.C. during Alexander’s invasion and expansion into the Asia Minor and further eastward (Izady 1992) [16] .

   My main focus is on the emergence of Kurdish ethnic consciousness–from the mid-eighteenth century onwards–and on the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangement after the First World War which led to the creation of modern Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. What consequences did it have for the constitution of specific knowledges of Kurds, Kurdistan and emergence of the Kurdish Question? Thus, the focus on Kurdish identity and the geopolitics of Kurdistan will involve noting the existence of Kurdish language, culture, religion and ethnic identity–not the question of origin in the classical antiquity. 

   Through these epistemological thresholds this paper uncovers knowledge of the Kurds and Kurdistan and re-conceptualizes the research on Kurds and Kurdistan. With an acute awareness of these four forms of political practices this paper attempt these questions. Who are the Kurds? What is Kurdistan? Where is Kurdistan? How have Kurds and Kurdistan come to be known? Considering the Middle Eastern geopolitical arrangements prior to, and after, the fall of the Ottoman and Qajar empires, the emergence of sovereign state-system, what was the Kurdish Question, how has its formulation changed in three different periods, after the First, the Second World Wars and following the end of the Cold War in the Middle Eastern and Kurdish studies scholarships? What techniques of governance/rule–institutional arrangements–did the Turko-Ottoman and the Qajar-Persian empires use to manage the Kurdish Question in relation to the emerging Middle East geopolitics prior to, and after, First World War and the practices of four policies? 

3. Kurds

Who are the Kurds? In search of answers, one may find slightly different information on the origin of the Kurds and the historical period in which they were documented. The lineage and origin of Kurds as an identifiable ethnic group may be traced to antiquity and their existence has been continuous in the modern Kurdistan for more than two thousand years (McDowall 2004). They have lived in the present-day Kurdistan–geographic-region–roughly the size of France for more than two millennia. The pitfall is that Kurdish identity has been acknowledged by the Kurds, themselves, later than their Arab, Turkish and Persian neighbours acknowledged their identities. For example, probably, Ahmad-i Xani, the Kurdish poet in the seventeenth century was one of the first Kurds who “thought in terms of a whole Kurdish people until the later years of the nineteenth century” (McDowall 2004: 1). 

   Another important text is Sharafname written “in the final decades of the sixteenth century by the former [Kurdish] ruler of emirate of Bitlis, who had abdicated in favour of his son. It is a history of the Kurdish emirates, or rather of the ruling [Kurdish] families” (van Bruinessen 1992: 8). In nineteenth centuries Haji Qadir Koye, a Kurdish poet acknowledged a clear sense of his Kurdish identity and called upon every Kurd to do so proudly. This late expression and practice of Kurdish identity self-consciousness, McDowall relates that while “There is no doubt that a Kurdish people had existed as an identifiable group for possibly more than two thousand years, but it was only in the early years of the twentieth century that they acquired a sense of community” (2004: 2). 

   On a united single ancestry, McDowall notes that “It is extremely doubtful that the Kurds form an ethnically coherent whole in the sense that they have a common ancestry” (2004: 8). The general hypothesis is that, this type of educated doubt on the origin of nations and ethnic identity is not only characteristic of Kurdish historical origin, but it is also found for example in Foucault’s account on the origin of Franks and the French nation (Foucault 2003:115-140). Foucault provides a detailed account of the ways that several myths have been constructed on the origin of Franks relating them to the Greek Trojans, the early Romans and the Gallic which were rather constructed by some historians. The lesson that Foucault teaches is the need for consideration of the context and the historical period in which these sets of raison d’etat called for the formation and mobilization of these discourses on the origin of the Franks. This can provide insightful formation about the emergence of nations and the question of knowledge the origin of ethnic groups. 

   In the case of Kurdish origin and the historical periods they have come to be known, the Foucaultian educated doubt could be justified by two main factors and a general hypothesis. First, Kurdistan has been a migratory route for the Indo-European tribes from South East Asia up to the emergence and Islamic conquest in the seventh century A.D., and later Kurdistan became a region for new Turkic migratory groups from central Asia after the Islamic expansion (Izady 1992). However, the Kurds were first clearly documented as an identifiable group in the second century BCE as “Crytii” (McDowall 2004: 9; van Bruinessen 2000) [17] , “Kurtii” or “Qutil” (Izady 1992). van Bruinessen points out that “It is not clear when precisely a distinct Kurdish identity emerged. The ethnic label ‘Kurd’ is first encountered in Arabic sources from the first centuries of the Islamic era; it seemed to refer to a specific variety of pastoral nomadism, and possibly to a set of political units, rather than to a linguistic group” (2000: 16). Similarly McDowall (2004) notes ‘Kurd’ was a ‘socio-economic’ rather than an ethnic identity term. By 900 A.D. the term ‘Kurd’ referred to a nomadic group whose socio-economic base was pastoral and resided in present-day Kurdistan (van Bruinessen 2000). 

   The connotation of ‘Kurd’ as a socio-economic term is questionable for me for two reasons. First, how does a socio-economic term become language, culture, an ethnic identity of a group? By the way of comparison and analogies this is not possible. A socio-economic status informs of the social and economic statues of a group, it does not inform the ethnicity of the group but it informs the social and political class of the group. Second, since the early part of the twentieth century the modern states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria have characterized the Kurdish Question as a socio-economic problem, which means that the Kurds are poor and poverty ignites the Kurdish movement. This is the same policy of peripheralization, denial, repression and exploitation of the Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. This policy has intended to delve deep into Kurdish history and reformulate it in accordance with its objectives. 

   Izady disagrees with van Bruinessen and McDowall’s hypotheses by arguing that present-day Kurdistan has been continuously inhibited by Kurds for more than 3000 years and their ancestors have founded many dynasties and kingdoms. Those kingdoms and dynasties had preferred to be called by their tribal names rather than adopting the label of their language as an ethnic identity (1992). Izady also includes Laks as Kurds, but he notes that Lakstan is in the process of becoming a lost territory of Kurdistan, like the Southern Zagros groups: Lurs, Gelos and Mamasanis (Izady 1992:6)

   The second factor is record keeping and archiving. Kurds have neither kept nor recorded their history meticulously because Kurdistan has been subject to the power of Ottoman-Turks, Persian-Iranians and Arab-Islamic imperial powers. These imperial powers created conditions for various fabricated truth claims through manipulation of historical records regarding the origin and the existence of the Kurdish people. The Kurds have not participated in recording their own history, which includes record keeping of Kurdistan’s geography, natural resources, population and ethnicity; the regional imperial powers created the data and the information on the Kurds recorded at the expense of Kurds. While McDowall and van Bruinessen have valued Evila Celebi’s travel works more reliable, in Kurdistan on the assumption that Evila recorded the geography, population and other relevant issue about Kurdistan. Foucaultian theory of power would bring Evila’s work into question since he was an ethnic Turk and employed by the Ottomans. Thus, Evila’s work contain elements that have contributed to the fabrication of truth claims, the same task was undertaken by a Kurd for example, Sharafname. It was written in sixteenth century by Sharaf Khan, a Kurdish Emir. It includes more geographical areas in his map of Kurdistan; it considers Kurds to have more tribes than that of Evlia’s work. I think Sharaf Khan’s work deserves the similar attention as that of the Evila’s work on Kurdistan, but many scholars have accepted Evila’s work far more in face value than that of Sharaf Khan who was also contemporary to Evila.

   More current examples would be, in the 1980s Kurdish refugees who had fled from the genocide carried out by the Iraqi government–Anfal Campaign–registered themselves as Turkmens, Arabs; and the Kurdish refugees from Iran who had fled the Mula’s rule registered as Turkic, Persians with the Turkish police, while most of these refugees did not speak Turkish. The Turkish police was aware of the reality that these refugees were Kurds, but their goal was the fabrication of evidence by asking them to sign forms declaring that they were not Kurds. 

   The United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Ankara instructed the Kurdish refugees to deny their identity by claiming a different ethnic identity than Kurdish for reasons of security, because they knew that the Turkish government would have deported all the Kurds into the hands of the Iraqi regime. While the United Nation’s records identified them as Kurds the Turkish government registered them as Turks, Arabs, Persians and Azeris. Legally these refugees lived under intense ‘duress’, no documentation in the case of ‘duress’ can be accepted [18]

   This practice also was used by the Turkish government in Hewlir, Kirkuk and other parts of southern Kurdistan after the 1991 Gulf War when the Turkish sphere of influence increased there to govern Kurdish identity through direct denial and oppression by which Kurds are peripheralized and exploited. In numerous occasions Turkish officials have argued that the Turkmen population in Iraq is as high as four million, which would add up to about 20% of Iraq’s total population. Last year, this truth claim fell apart after the Iraqi election because the Turkmen were only able to obtain about 93 thousand votes in Iraq including Kurdistan region, this gave them only about 2% of Iraq’s total votes, after providing much incentive to buy votes.

   McDowall notes that tribes and groups have migrated to Kurdistan and became Kurds within a two hundred year period, “For example, the Arab Rawadid tribe, which moved into Kurdistan at the beginning of the Abbasid era (750CE), was considered to be Kurdish within 200 years” (2004: 8). McDowall elaborates that many Kurdish groups and families become Arabs, Turks or Persians in similar ways as they migrated to Arab, Turkish and Persian regions.

   If we apply a general hypothesis of power (Foucault 2000, 2003) to this case, one might accept the proposition that Kurds have become Arabs, Turkic or Persian groups under oppression, peripheralization, denial and exploitation–or may be they have willingly changed their identity for incentives and rewards–but it would be extremely difficult to accept the hypothesis that tribes, groups, individuals have integrated into Kurdish life from the ruling ethnic Arabs, Turks and Kurds. Another interesting hypothesis is present in predominant anthropological and historical studies (McDowall 2004; van Bruinessen 1992) that most of the Kurdish middle class, professionals, and educators are from the ruling ethnic groups by origin. This proposition is clearly influenced by the epistemology of power (Foucault 2000:111-133) which points to the fact that power shapes knowledge, and knowledge forms power.

   These hypotheses claim that any people of the upper class, higher educational class among the Kurdish social, political and economic strata have been labelled both having familial relations with Arabs, Turks and Persian; or religious and familial relations with Jews, Christians and so forth. If this hypothesis is accepted only ‘peasantry’ and ‘pastoral’ categories will remain for the Kurds to identify themselves with; thus the hypothesis that ‘Kurd’ was first used as a socio-economic rather than ethnic identity term will become valid. 

   Farideh Koohi-Kamali characterizes Kurdish nationalism “pastoral nationalism” (2003). Even though, it is well informed research in many ways, her labelling follows the logic of identifying Kurds as a ‘socio-economic’ category. It seems that she is following the fashionable trend of characterizing Kurds in the light of a ‘socio-economic’ category, a categorization that has been common among the early Muslim Arab scholars that has been extended to the present-day identifications of the Kurds. These hypothesis would claim that those who identify themselves as Kurds are peasants, pastors but the successful groups among them are not Kurds by origin. These claims are constituted by aspects of policies of denial, exploitation, peripheralization and oppression of the Kurdish identity, culture, language, economy and human resources (van Bruinessen 2000: 13-23). 

3.1. Language 

In 1990s when the ban on Kurdish identity was lifted in Turkey another propagation came into effect according to van Bruinessen “the denial of the existence of Kurds as a people distinct from Turks, Arabs and Persians was in 1990s replaced by the propagation of the view that there are so many Kurdish dialects that there is no single Kurdish language” (2000:10). The Kurdish language consists of two main dialects (van Bruinessen 1992; Hassanpour 1994; McDowall 2004), Northern Kurmanji which includes Zaza dialects; and Southern Kurmanji (Sorani), which includes which includes Gurani dialects. Without exception all speakers of the major and sub-dialects of Kurdish consider themselves Kurds (van Bruinessen 2000A). 

   But at points these two major Kurdish dialects have been considered two languages and the analogy for differentiation has been used as those differences between English and German in rules of grammar similar to the differences between Kurmanji and Sorani Kurdish dialects (McDowall 2004: 9). While van Bruinessen acknowledges the difference between the two major Kurdish dialects, he points out that with relative ease and exposure to Sorani dialect a Kurmanji speaker can understand and speak Sorani and vice versa (van Bruinessen 1992, 1994).

   It has been claimed that the roots of Kurdish language and the familial language to which it belongs (all of its dialects) belong to the family of Iranian–Arian languages (van Bruinessen 1992; Hassanpour 1994; McDowall 2004). An important distinction is necessary between Iran as a geopolitical entity, state, and Iran as the land where some Arians whose people speak Arian languages. Iranian rulers and research on the Kurds have always used this linguistic factor to claim that Kurds are Iranian. It is an attempt at the assimilation of Kurds into the geopolitics of the Iranian state, in which language is used as the determining criteria. It is this strategic attempt to assimilate Kurds into the Iranian geopolitics that the Kurds under the Iranian administration have resisted by trying to draw a distinction between the Persian language which is the official language of the state of Iran and Kurdish which is the language of the ethnic Kurds (Natali 2005:117-139). 

   This complexity has led most Kurdish scholars under the Iranian administration, and those who are from Eastern Kurdistan (Iranian Kurdistan) who have chosen to work on the Kurdish society, politics, culture and religion start by focusing on the linguistic fields searching for clues that might help them establish distinctions between Kurds and Persians through linguistic studies. The end game, I find is that they get caught up in linguistic games of nominalism and discourse analysis, not discourse as “the strategic model of intelligibility”, “formation of discourses” and “mobilization of discourses”. The point is not that discourse analysis at the level of nominalism and etymology are not useful fields of study, but it is my contention that they rather become less fruitful in the endless games of distinctions and differentiations between Kurdish and Persian languages, since the intention is to claim that Kurds are not Persians by virtue of linguistic differences.

   My thesis is that language is similar to culture and they are both relational. Languages are living symbolic systems (Bourdieu 1991) which operate on discursive level of strategic model of intelligibility (Davidson 2003; Foucault 2003). The Kurdish and Persian languages share similarities in rules of grammar and structure like German and Dutch or even English; but German, Dutch and English are languages of different ethnic groups and there has been no claim from either of these ethnic groups to claim that the others are a sub-dialect of the one or a corrupt version of the other. Early in the twentieth century, during Iranian nation-state building, the Pahlawi government of Iran claimed that Kurdish was a sub-dialect of Persian (Natali 2005: 117-139) these claims are still popular among the Persian nationalist circles. 

   These reasons are not sufficient to claim that linguistic relations of rules of grammar and syntax between Kurdish and Persian are determining criteria by which a conclusion could be drawn that Kurdish is a sub-dialect of Persian, or as hindering factor on Kurdish ethnic identity. Kurdish language may have grammatical, syntactic, or nominal relations with Persian. This relationship cannot be a determining criterion to disregard Kurdish as an independent language, and to regard its dialects as separate languages.

   Probably one of the earliest literary works written in Kurdish was Admadi Khani’s Mem u Zin was written in sixteenth century but this is not a hindering problem either; for example, late in the eighteenth century about half of the Franks spoke French and only between 15-17 percent spoke French “correctly” (van Bruinessen 1994). This example puts into perspective that French which is powerful philosophical, technological, cultural and scientific language has been in the process of formation and standardization since the eighteenth century–in this age of technology and communication–it would be highly likely that Kurdish language will be standardized before the end of the next two decades, taken the current Kurdish situation into consideration–if a Kurdish political authority, a Kurdish state directs this standardization process. 

3.2. Population

Population censuses and categorization offer quantitative and qualitative knowledge about the population that is counted. Accurate population censuses and classifications are important for administrative, health and a variety of other reasons including state-formation (Urla 1993). The attention is on quantitative knowledge of the Kurdish population, which may contribute to Kurdish state-formation. van Bruinessen puts the views on Kurdish population into perspective with an interesting phrase to express that there is not reliable population census on the Kurds, he uses “countless Kurds” (2000: 23). The idea of “countless Kurds” offers two possible interpretations about Kurdish population. The first possible interpretation is that the Kurds exaggerate their population numerically and the geographical distribution of Kurds. The second interpretation is that the governments which have administered Kurdistan provide no reliable Kurdish population census. 

   Various Kurdish population reports will be reviewed in this short section, which is devoted to the numerical knowledge of the Kurdish population. It is not a statistical analysis of class, age, gender groupings; rather it is a general demographic description of the Kurdish population. Kurds are probably the largest ‘stateless people’ in the world and “Many people are now aware that the Kurds are the largest nation in the world without a state. There are well over twenty-five million Kurds, whose lands are divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and republics of the former Soviet Union” (Kreyenbroek and Allison 1996). The Kurdish population has been variously reported. Presently the Kurdish population stands at between 25-35 million, by 2020, an estimated Kurdish population might reach 60 million (Buckley 1994, Izady 1992). Based on population estimates for 1975 van Bruinessen writes: 7.5 millions a total of 19% of Turkey’s population were Kurds. Iraq had 2 to 2.5 million, 23% of total Kurdish population. In Iran Kurds form 3.5 million of the total of 10% of Iran’s population, and in Syria 0.5 million a total of 8%. USSR 0.1. Total Kurdish population in 1975 were 13.5 to 15 million (van Bruinessen 1992).

   O’Ballance (1996:xxi) reports the total Kurdish population based on IISS [19]  were by 1996 Turkey 12-14 million; Iran 6.5 million; Iraq 3.5 million; Syria 800,000; Armenia 30,000; Lebanon 60,000; Germany 330,000; elsewhere in the diaspora 20,000, and this totals 23, 530, 000. There are no reliable sources confirming Kurdish diaspora populations, the number may well be over a million; (Buckley 1994) reports that there are 1.5 million Kurds outside Kurdistan proper, in Germany alone Kurds number 400,000 (van Bruinessen 1999). (McDowall (2004:3) reports that the Kurdish population totals 24-27 million living in the Middle East: in Turkey about 13 million, compare to 1975 when they were 19% of the total Turkish population, 20 years later they were 23%. McDowall points out that probably the Kurdish reproductive rate is double the size of the Turkish reproductive rate (2004:3). He does not back up this conjecture; I assume that in 1975 there was less willingness and openness by Kurds to count themselves as Kurds, so their population estimate might have been under reported. Based on van Bruinessen’s figure 23% figure reported in 1975, McDowall calculates Kurdish population in Iraq 4.5 millions, in Iran 10% 5.7 million and “more than 2 million Kurds live elsewhere” including over a million in Syria (McDowall 2004:3).

   Ahmad and Gunter report that the total population of Kurds are over 28 millions now (2005). Based on the demographic distribution in the four main countries, there are now 15.4 million in Turkey, 6.8 million in Iran, 4.3 million in Iraq and 1.3 million in Syria (2005:xvii, xviii). This totals Kurdish population to 28.2 million and close to another 1.5 million in Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaijan and elsewhere in diaspora. It is important to note that the Kurdish Ulama in diaspora have had a significant influence on the Indonesian Sufi and religious orders (Bruinessen 1998). O’Shea (2004) reports an estimate of 26 million Kurds based on McDowall (1996), while she acknowledges that most of the states which administer Kurdistan “may attempt to deny the presence of Kurd or other ethnic or religious minorities within their borders, such as Turkey, or they are more likely to try to reduce the figures” (O’Shea 2004: 42).

   A far more pertinent and interesting report on the Kurdish population is found in Understanding Global Issues 1993/4, special issue, The Kurds: Caught Between Nations, which has included a probability for further Kurdish population increase. It reports, in 1993 there were 14 million Kurds in Turkey, 7 in Iran, 4 in Iraq, 1.5 in Syria and 1.5 in the rest of the World. This estimate totals 28 million, but what is striking is that the Kurdish population would increase to about 60 million by 2020, and to 90 million by 2050 (Izady 1992). 

   Thus, policies of oppression, peripheralization, denial and exploitation have made it very difficult to verify these population estimates; because these estimates are based on the Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian population reports.

3.3. Education

A study of the education system of Kurdistan provides an important insight into the socio-political structure of the Kurdish society, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question. It is through education that social, natural, and political world is made intelligible. A secular and scientific education provides a kind of training and a world view which is less acceptable to religious education. Different education systems produce and reproduce different world views, thereby different social, political, economic, cultural structures, discourses and practices. What sets of social, political, economic and cultural conditions produce and reproduce the education system in Kurdistan, which in turn reproduces its socio-political-economic structure including cultural conditions? Bourdieu (1990), (Micheal and Micheal 2004) provide important theoretical reading into the role of education in the production and the reproduction of a socio-politico-economic and culture in any society; I intend to mobilize his approach, by which the education system in Kurdistan will be analysed.

   There is very little work has been done about education in the Kurdish society. The available work on education in the Kurdish society has focused on some important issues, such as the right and access to education, the right to education in Kurdish language and the level of literacy. While these focus areas are very important aspects of studying education in the Kurdish society, it is equally important to study the quality of education in Kurdish society, whether the Kurds are given secular, scientific or religious education. What value systems are thought there in the Kurdish society? Under what conditions religious or secular educations have been given? How have the policies and practices of peripheralization, denial, repression and exploitation influenced the quality and quantity of education in Kurdistan? There has not been research on the question of education in the Kurdish society except for minor book sections and minor articles (Izady 1992:179-180); (Hassanpour et al 1996) [20]  and (Hassanpour 1993).

3.4. Class

The social structure of any society cannot be studied properly without a study of its divisions of labour and social class (Durkheim 1993; Bourdieu 1967, 2005). A treatise explaining and analyzing the division of labour and social class among the Kurdish society would help further understand the social structure of Kurdistan in relation to power, to economic resource distribution, and to the division of labour. Who gets what, where, how and why in Kurdistan? What economic system of production has been governing Kurdish society? Can social class be known through the analyses of the discourse it employs in everyday-life? 

   An analysis of the social class in the Kurdish society can be divided along the development of its society, the modes of production and forms of politics. This development can be periodized into three main periods since the 1800s: an imperial period Turko-Ottoman and Qajar-Persian period, the second is the state-system period 1920s-1960s; and the last is 1960-1980s. There are not direct relevant references available on class in Kurdish society; a section in my thesis will be devoted to the emergence and development of social class in the Kurdish society.

4. Kurdistan

Kurdistan, land of the Kurds is a geographic area. Kurdistan is not a state but located “At the edge of empires and the crossroads of civilization line regions of Kurdistan ‘land of the Kurds,’ a generally mountainous expanse of some 200,000 square miles straddling the present state boundaries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan” (Dahlman 2002: 1). The number of square miles may not be accurate, but I like the rest of this description of Kurdistan. Kurdistan was divided among Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria and a tiny portion in Armenia and Azerbaijan after World War I. Two major wars and four Treaties are important for understanding the current geopolitics of Kurdistan. 

4.1. Political Geography

The Battle of Chaldiran between the Ottomans led by Sultan Selim and the Safawids led by Sha Ismail in 1514 near the present-day city of Chaldiran in Northern Kurdistan (Kurdistan under the Turkish administration) divided Kurdistan into east and west. While both were of Turkic origins, the Ottoman Sultan was of the Sunni sect of Islam and the Safawi Sha Ismail from the Shiite sect of Islam. This Battle led to the division of Kurdistan between east and west or between the Ottoman Turks and the Turko-Persian empires of present Iran. This border division became solidified under the “Treaty of Zuhab in 1639” by which Kurdish lands were divided between the Safawids and the Ottomans; however each empire allowed the formation and sustaining of Kurdish local emirate and principalities up to mid nineteenth century (Bruinessen 1992: 133-204; McDowall 2004: 25-31; Dahlman 2002). The division of Kurdish lands into two spheres of influence and administration remained in effect until World War I. 

   The Ottomans along with their allies lost the war and the Kurdish lands previously under the Ottoman and the Qajar control were recognized along new geopolitical lines of the present states of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan (McDowall 2004; Bruinessen 1992). The plan to divide Kurdistan was originally implemented under the Skyes-Picot Agreement in 1916 between the British, the French and the Russians “that called for the division of Kurdistan into Russian, French, and British spheres of influence” (Dahlman 2002: 278). In the transition period to implement this new geopolitical policy the idea of establishing a Kurdish and an Armenian state was promoted under the principles of self-determination by the American president Woodrow Wilson under the Treaty of Sevres in 1920 and rejected under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1922 (Dahlman 2002). Present day geopolitical map of Kurdistan has been shaped by these wars and treaties. 

   The portion of Kurdistan which is administered by Iraq has been an autonomous region since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi Kurdistan continued self-rule on the principles of federalism after the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003. Iraq’s new constitution has ratified principles of federalism, though there are some problems with respect to the Kirkuk issue, article 58 of the Iraqi Transnational Administrative Law and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution for transitional period have laid the ground for Kirkuk to rejoin the Kurdistan region. The other parts of Kurdistan have not had any degree of autonomy or self-rule since the end of the latter part of nineteenth century when the Kurdish emirate administrative system ended under Ottoman and Qajar centralization policies.

   This qualitative account explains and describes Kurdistan’s geopolitics [21] , its natural resources and its geostrategic location in the Middle East. The Southern Kurdistan holds an “estimate of 45 billion barrels in crude oil reserve, sixth largest reserve in the world” [22]  (Izady 1992). There are some smaller oil production facilities in Northern-Turkish Kurdistan and in Syrian Kurdish and Eastern Iranian Kurdish areas. The two main rivers of Tigris and Euphrates originate in Northern Kurdistan. These two rivers provide for much of the agricultural irrigation in Syria and Iraq. All the four parts of Kurdistan have some of the richest agricultural lands in the Middle East and a Mediterranean climate with the four full seasons. 

   The largest map [23]  of Kurdistan has a crescent shape, from the far north starting at South West of Armenian, to the South West of present-day Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea, to the South covering parts of North Syria into Iraq covering Kirkuk and Badra, Southward to the Persian Gulf. Its Northeastern borders starting from present-day North West Iran–Southward including Kirmashan and south to the Persian Gulf. 

4.2. Human Geography

Kurdistan is not inhibited by the Sunni Shafi’Muslim Kurds alone, but the Assyrians, Kurdish Armenians, Kaldani Christians, Yazidis and scattered small number of Jewish families. Most of these non-Muslim Kurds, like most of the Muslim Kurds are heterodox in terms of religious practices. van Bruinessen identifies three main Christian ethnic-religious groups living in Kurdistan “The Suryani, speaking Aramaic or Arabic dialects, belonged to the Syrian orthodox, or Jacobite, church and lived mainly in the Tor Abdin and the Jazira and many of the towns of northwestern Kurdistan” (1992:24). While most of them speak perfect Kurdish they have their own language and are part of the socio-political structure of Kurdistan, “The Ashuri (Assyrians) also spoke Aramaic dialects but belonged to the Nestorian church, almost the other extreme of the spectrum of oriental Christendom. They lived in central Kurdistan (Badinan and Hakkari) and in the plains around Orumiyeh” (1992:24) [24]

   The majority of the Kurds follow Sunni Islam, Shafi’i branch, which is different from Turkish and Arab Hanafi, Persian Shiite orders of Islam. Less than a quarter of the Kurdish population follow a variety of Shitte Islam and heterodox religions such as Ahli-Haqq, who are also called Kakei. The Yazidis and Alevis are two other groups. McDowall points out that “The vast majority of Kurds, approximately 75 per cent, follow Sunni Islam. But the religious particularism of the remaining Kurds may point to the longlasting difference of origin” (2004: 10). Thus, in Kurdistan there is religious diversity among the Kurds themselves: Kakai, Yazidi who practice a heterodox religious version of Islam, which is different from the main Shiite or Sunni sects (Bruinessen 1992, McDowall 2004). Jewish communities have also lived in Kurdistan but most of them migrated to Israel in the 1950s and the following decades. Some individual Kurdish Jewish families have remained in Kurdistan; they practice a form of heterodox Islam which is very much influenced by Judaism. These are seculars and atheists non-religious individual families and groups.

4.3. Neighbours

The ethnic neighbours of the Kurds are Arabs, Persian, Turkic, Armenian and Israeli peoples of the Middle East; among them, only the Kurds do not have a state of their own. They all have their independent states. Two ethno-religious groups of the Middle East, the Christian Armenians and Israeli Jews share with the Kurds a similar historical experience of oppression, denial, peripheralization and exploitation by their powerful neighbours – the circle of three, but only the Kurds among the largest Middle Eastern ethnic groups do not have a state. The three powerful neighbours of the Kurds are Arab, Turkic and Persian peoples who have ruled the modern Middle East for more than a millennium. 

   Arabs are the largest ethno-religious group of the Middle East. The Arabs have founded Islam and expanded it through wars, invasions, negotiations and repression of other ethno-religious groups. The expansion of Islam in the Middle East and north Africa along with the presence of large energy reserves have given them significant power and control over the Middle East, and a decisive role in international politics. During the Ottoman period, Arabs were the only millet/qewmyet who ruled in the administration of the Empire along with the Turks. Islam has always been a beneficial force for Arab culture and language. There has never been an Arab state or an Arab ruler who has supported the Kurdish right to self-determination, they have rejected the Kurdish right to exist as a political or even a cultural entity. To the south and southwest of Kurdistan, Muslim Arabs reside. There is clear distinction between Kurds and Arabs, no claims have been made to assimilate Kurdish identity into Arabs by regarding Kurdish as a dialect of Arabic.

   The Turkic neighbours are Turkic peoples who are the second largest ethnic groups of the Middle East and Asia Minor. They have migrated into Asia Minor and Anatolia from central Asia. Turks reside to the North East and North West of Kurdistan. They established the Ottoman Empire, and along with Muslim Arabs they ruled most of the Middle East, including the Balkans, and Eastern Europe for almost 500 years up to the end of First World War. Islam was a decisive factor in the success of their governing techniques. During the Ottoman Empire, Kurds, the middle millet, were not part of the ruling elite but they were army officers, middle administrators, the keepers of the eastern gates of the empire, because Kurdistan is located to the east and southeast of present state of Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire and after the creation of the modern state of Turkey the Kurds and Kurdistan have been oppressed, peripheralized, denied and exploited by Turkish rules. Various attempts were made to assimilate Kurds into the Turkish identity since after the foundation of the Turkish state in 1920s, but due to clear significant ethnic differences between Kurds and Turks, their attempt was unsuccessful. 

   The Persian neighbours are Muslim Shiites who are the third largest ethnic group in the Middle East and they reside to the East and South East of Kurdistan. Prior to the formation of modern state-system in the Middle East, the Persians governed present day Iran including eastern Kurdistan through Safawid and Qajar Empires from the fifteenth century onwards up to the fall of Qajar Empire early in the twentieth century. Both of these empires were founded on Islamic religious principles of Shiitism. As in the Ottoman Empire Islam played an important role, in the administration of Safawid and Qajar Empires Islam was the foundation of their rule. Close linguistic and cultural relationship between the Persians and Kurds distinctions between them burdened the formation of Kurdish ethnic identity. Due to this close cultural relationship, the most threatening attempt to Kurdish identity has come from the Persian state of Iran, which in the beginning of the twentieth century was claiming that Kurdish was a sub-dialect of Persian. Kurds and Kurdistan were the western gate keepers of the Empire and remained a periphery to the centre. 

   Kurdistan was a war zone between the Ottoman and the consecutive Iranian empires: the Safawids and the Qajar empires. Its strategic location allowed Kurdistan under Ottoman rule to obtain semi-independent status under emirate administrative structures, which allowed for further peripheralization and exploitation of Kurdistan.

   The Israeli Jews and Christian Armenians have been the neglected isolated neighbours due to their religious differences. Kurds and Israeli Jews have had good relationships; however, under rigorous Ottoman policies at many instance Kurds were mobilized against Christians of Kurdistan. Even though most Kurds are Sunni Shafi’i Muslims, these two groups share similar historical experience, regardless of religious difference, with Kurds. They are all considered ‘other’ in the Middle East by the triangle of power. The Armenian genocide and ethnic cleansing took place under the Ottomans in later part of the nineteen and early twenty century (Dadrian 1995). Israel like Kurdistan has been peripheralized, oppressed, denied and exploited by the circle of three. Their right to exist in the Middle East as political entity has been under attack since 1948. The neighbouring states have denied them neighbourly relationship; this has peripheralized them in the Middle East. It is imperative that Kurdistan, Israel and Armenia to be accepted by their neighbours in favour of a pluralist and a stable Middle East.

5. Governance

How the Kurds and Kurdistan were governed by the Ottoman Turks and Qajar Persian Empires? What categories of rule and institutional arrangements they used to control and to govern the Kurds and Kurdistan? How categories of governance changed in the period of the establishment of the state-system between 1920-1940s and later 1940-1980s? Natali points to that “During the imperial period (Ottoman Empire) it was religion, not ethnicity, that defined group identity. Based on the ?aria code of Sunni Islam the Ottoman Empire was ruled by the sultan-caliph, who served as the spiritual leader of the empire’s Muslim communities” (Natali 2005:1). Along these religious lines the “Ottoman authorities used the millet system to organize the various ethnic, linguistic, religious, and tribal populations into a single political community” (Natali 2005:1). 

   The millet system was a technique to organize populations under the Ottoman rule by “religious affiliation” and in this system of classification “ethnicity mattered” under which distinctions were made between “Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Albanian or speakers of Balkan-Caucasian languages” (Natali 2005:2). But “Muslim rulers were identified as either Ottoman Turks or Arabs” (2005:2). The millet system was an ethno-religious category of population organization under the Ottoman rule, organized into the governed millet, non-Muslims, and the governing millet, Sunni Turks and Arab Muslims. While a degree of autonomy was granted to the non-Muslim millets, they were discriminated against. For example, “Jews were labelled as dhull and had to wear a yellow badge publicly to distinguish themselves”, Kurds were labelled as “boz millet (grey nation)” (Natali 2005:2). 

   While the millet was a system of organization – the Kurdish millet and Kurdistan under the Ottoman rule was loosely organized under Kurdish emirate forms of administrations from the battle of Chaldiran in 1514 between the Safauids and the Ottomans onwards until mid 1800s (McDowall 2004). In the 1800s the Ottomans slowly lost control of many of their European millets. It was becoming difficult for them to rule through religious groupings with local administrations, they moved to centralize their control by appointing government administrators to rule the millets. This was intended to reduce or eliminate the local and regional autonomous emirates in Kurdistan under Ottoman rule. 

   The breakdown of the millet system based on religious grouping made way for the ethnic and national consciousness among the millets under Ottomans rule; this breakdown did not get rid of group categorization by religion completely. Most of the Kurdish Christians and Armenians were caught up in this system and gradually, from late 1800s to early 1900s, were eliminated from Anatolia and Kurdistan, by the notorious Armenian genocide under Sultan Abdulhamid (Dadrian 1995; McDowall 2004). 

   It was precisely during this period that claims to Kurdish ethnicity and nationalism emerged. But the Kurdish society was largely organized into tribal and religious orders, which endorsed “primordial loyalties”. Kurds could not gain autonomy even though they were granted a Kurdish state under the Treaty of Severs. The Treaty was rejected by Kamal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in 1923 and the Treaty of Lausanne came into effect which divided the Kurds under the Ottoman rule among present-states of Turkey, Iraq and Syria. By the end of the 1920s the Kurdish language was banned in Turkey, and their existence was denied, even though numerous Kurdish uprisings occurred in the following decades.

   Similarly under the Qajar-Persian empire group identification “was based on Islam, which elevated Muslims in the socio-political structure. The traditional social order and agrarian economy were also prevalent in Persia, favouring Kurdish landowners, tribesmen, and warriors” (Natali 2005:14). After the battle of Chaldiran in 1514, Kurdistan under the Safauids was organized into local administrations emirates: Ardelan, Mukryan and their overlapping border with the Soran, Baban, Hakari and Butan emirates were in close contact with the Qajar in many instances. While “there was an overlapping and changing relationship among the Persian language, nationality, and Islam, it was religion, not ethnicity, that defined Iranian identity” (Natali 2005:14). 

   These overlapping relationships created different types of relation between Kurdistan under the Ottomans and Qajar rulers. The decisive discrepancy was that while most Kurds were Sunni Shafi Muslim, the centre ruled through Shiite Islam, but connecting factors between Kurdish and Persian were language, cultural practices resulted in a closer relationship between the Qajar and Kurdish emirates. Natali points out that “One can argue that Kurdayeti was weaker in Qajar Persia because in contrast to the Ottoman Empire, whereby Turks and Arabs composed nearly 80 percent of the population by the early twentieth century, the population in Persia was more proportional on the ethnic basis” (Natali 2005:22). Then “ethno-heterogeneity” provided balance and the Kurdish ethnic consciousness did not emerge. 

   Not until the turn of the first decade of the twentieth century noticeable local Kurdish resistance emerged. For example, a Kurdish nobility like Simko of Shikak “after 1909 the Kurdish tribal shaikhly establishment turned to Sufi orders to mobilize Kurdish communities; Kurdish Sufi brotherhood in Persia did not have the governmental support or local networks to organize on a national or religious level” (Natali 2005:23). In Qajar Persia there was no sense of Kurdish organization neither along ethnic nor religious lines to object to the central government even though Kurds were largely Sunni and the Qajar Empire was ruled by a dynasty of Turkic and Persian Shiites families. As Natali points out “In Persia, there were no nationalist [25]  writers like Koyi or grand urban notable families such as Bedir Khans to represent Kurdayeti in Isfahan, Tabriz, or Tehran” (2005:23).

   Thus governing Kurds and Kurdistan both under Turko-Ottoman and Persian-Qajar were organized around local administrative styles: emirates and local governance. Prior to the twentieth century there was little sense of ethnic consciousness in Qajar Kurdistan, but there were local disputes with the centre, and outside interference in Qajar, created the conditions for the emergence of sense of ethnic consciousness which ultimately became the basis for local political organization, then party politics pressing for Kurdish demands. In Kurdistan under Turko-Ottomans, Kurdish emirs’ dissatisfaction with the Ottoman centralization policy push emerged in the early 1800s and continued into the early 1900s. Opposing the centralization policy along with the rising sense of Kurdish ethnic consciousness in the late 1800s were the genesis of the Kurdish Question which ultimately became more clearly articulated after the fall of the Ottoman Empire when the Kurds pressed for an independent Kurdish state. So, the genealogy of the Kurdish Question in the sense of clearly articulated set of goals which demanded a juridico-political administration in Kurdistan was presented by Kurdish representatives to the Treaty of Sevres Council, but it did not include the entire historico-geographic Kurdistan. Sharaf Khan in Sharafnama provides the most accurate geographical description of Kurdistan, which is close to the map provided by Iraqi Kurdish Rizgari party (see footnote 21). 

Page 1 of next  End Notes:

1 McDowall on the emergence and origin of Qajar dynasties, a mixed Persian and Turkic group, states “After almost 60 years of political uncertainty and turmoil, [after the fall of the Safavid dynasty in 1735] the Qajar dynasty established itself in 1794. The Qajar were, by origin, a tribal group. They cherished the memory of their tribal origin, but sought to emulate the requirements of absolute monarchy” (2004:66-67), Qajar Empire 1794-1925.

2 Beglerbeg, beg, emir and pasha were titles given to powerful local Kurdish nobility by the Sultan Selim of the Ottoman Empire after the fragmentation of Kurdistan between the Ottomans and the Safawids spheres of influence in the sixteenth century. Each title was allocated specific tasks in the administration and management of the local Kurdish communities and tribes who were in contact with the central Ottoman authorities. These were non religious titles, but nobility.

3 Agha and Khan were titles given to Kurdish nobility by the Safawid rule, under Sha Ismail, who controlled most part of Kurdistan in early sixteenth century until the battle of Chalidran in 1514 between the Ottomans and the Sefewids (van Bruinessen 1992: 139). This tradition continued under the Qajar rule. The agha order is still predominant in eastern and some parts of southern Kurdistan. 

4 The shaihkly powers are largely drawn from religious orders of Kurdistan which can be categorized into two different orders: the Naqshbandi and the Qadri orders. Does this mean the rise of Islamic religiosity in the Kurdish society? No, the Shaikhly powers have been mobilized along the lines of Kurdish nationalism rather than religization of the Kurdish society until 1980s. In 1980s waves of methodical Islamic fundamentalist and extremist movements emerged. 

5 Anfal Campaign was an Iraqi military and security operation that took place in 1987-89. It was designed to achieve a specific policy focused on three main goals: first, mass-execution of Kurds residing in specific geographical areas. The second was the evacuation of specific Kurdish geopolitical areas bordering Turkey and Iran which were adjacent to the Kurdish areas under the Turkish and Iranian administration. The third was a mass-deportation of the remaining women, children and the elderly to southern Arab regions of Iraq, or relocation of entire township and countryside populations in ghettos away from the Turkish and Iranian borders. It is known as Kurdish ethnic cleansing and genocide. In carrying out this policy of mass-execution, evacuation and deportation of Kurds, the Iraqi government used chemical weapons in attacks on the town of Halabja, and the regions of Jafeti, Balisan, Badinan, Germian, Chemi Rezan and other regions, see Kurdistan in the Times of Saddam Hussein: A Staff Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate (1991); see Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (1993). The Anfal Genocide killed hundreds of thousands; injured, and permanently disabled tens of thousands of Kurds, the correct number of human casualties, socio-economic and the ecological damage it caused is yet to be documented. As part of the Anfal Campaign, in spring 1989 my own home town Qelladzi (Qala Dze) centre to the district of Pshder, which was inhibited by approximately 100, 000 people, in the province of Sulaimaniya–Iraq was demolished and its people were forcibly relocated into ghettos around the city of Erbil and in other regions of Sulaimaniya province. A similar campaign was carried out by the Turkish government from 1991-1999. The campaign focused on specific regional evacuation and mass deportation of Kurds from the rural areas bordering Iraq, Iran and Syria’s Kurdistan. It resulted in the destruction of thousands of villages and townships. An important point to note is Kurds under the Turkish administration are still treated as ‘other Kurds’. After nearly a century of brutality against the Kurds within the administrative borders of Turkey, the Turkish government successfully continues practices of policies of repression, denial, exploitation and peripheralization of Kurds internally. On the international level, the Turkish prime minister Rajab Tayyeb Erdogan, during a visit to the United States pointed out that Turkey will work against any Kurdish entity established anywhere, not only next to, or, within its borders. For example, in the last two decades Kurdish resistance in Iraq, Iran and Syria have been declassified; but Kurdish resistance within the administrative border of Turkey is still classified ‘destabilizing’. The logic for different classification of the Kurds within the administrative borders of Turkey is not clear.

6 The available research about the Kurds, Kurdistan and the Kurdish Question can be divided into five main categories, and three main periods: the period before World War I, the period between 1920s and 1940s and the period from 1940s to 1989. The five categories of research are: Turko-Ottomans, Iranian-Persian, and Arab-Islamic research; and the Oriental and more recently Kurdish scholarships which also to some extent have been influenced by the three dominant traditional categories. 

7 It is my observation that this series does not include Kurdish religion-Islam, because most Kurds are Muslims and Islam is the religion which was imposed on the Kurds by the triangle of power. There has never been a Kurdish religious rebellion against the triangle of power; rather Kurdish political movements mostly have focused on demanding rights of civil society and autonomy. So the news of Kurdish Islamic-religiosity will be a pleasure to ears of the circle of three, it would not be suppressed; it will be welcomed by the triangle of power. However, the non-Muslim Kurds (Christians, Jews, Alavis, Yazidis, Kakiyes, Haqas and Yarasans) have been prosecuted and oppressed for religious difference, i.e., the Armenian genocide, which was also a Kurdish genocide in late nineteenth and twentieth century. 

8 An example of the category of research which has been influenced by the triangle of power is Robert Olson’s The Goat and the Butcher (2005). His framework for dealing with the Kurdish Question falls within the categorization that van Bruinessen has pointed out that Kurds are caught up between two competing approaches: one is supported by the Western Europe and the United States which includes human rights, social and economic development of the Kurdish society. This framework is not hostile to capitalism, and nation-building. The second approach traditionally has been led by the Soviet block. It has been hostile to capitalism, nation-building and ethnic consciousness and it accuses capitalism and free-market economy being the ‘butcher’ not allowing the creation of a Kurdish state after the fall of Iraq regime in 2003. Olson’s hypothesis is an indirect approach which diverts attention from nation-building to encourage the creation of a counter approach against Kurdish state formation, because it undermines the power of capital in the development of state formation. In his account “capitalism is the butcher and Kurdish nationalism is the goat”. 

9 The other neighbours of the Kurds are Armenian-Christians and Israeli-Jews; they share similar historico-genealogical experience with Kurds: periphery, repression, denial and exploitation. Turko-Ottomans, Persian-Iranian, and Arab-Islamic powers of the Middle East have treated the three groups as ‘the others’ of the Middle East. While there is much literature on practices of otherness in Western Europe, North America; otherness in the Middle East deserves to be studied.

10 Is justice a question of advocacy alone? No, justice is fundamentally the question of knowledge and education. 

11 My study of the socio-political structure of Kurdistan is not a structuralist account in a strict sense that societies can be understood through their fixed structures rather it uses structure as a constitutive framework makes the Kurdish society understandable. I find van Bruinessen’s characterization of his study “the social and political structure of Kurdistan” through loyalties is not a rigid structuralist sociological framework, it provides a framework of intelligibility for reading the Kurdish society. 

12 van Bruinessen’s mobilization and application of primordial loyalties to the study of Kurdish society is borrowed from Hamza Alavi’s study “Peasant Classes and Primordial Loyalties” (1973); (van Bruinessen 1992: 6). Alavi’s work “outlines an approach which seeks to extend the framework of class analysis” in peasant societies (21). van Bruinessen’s study of the Kurdish society through loyalties to Shiakhs and to Aghas, who have led Kurdish nationalism, as primordial is expressed in a structuralist framework internal to Kurdish society, and in external, relation to the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi states. His study of the Kurdish society through primordial loyalties offers us an important insight into the historical development of the socio-political structure of Kurdistan.

13 Socio-political associations of post-modern times have been called tribal cult type in the postmodern literature–due to the resistance it offers to the civic loyalties on the account that civic loyalties are not reflective of vast array of the social groups.

14 This spelling of ‘dervish’ is Persian. In Kurdish it is spelled with ‘w’ or ‘u’, which would be ‘derwish’ or ‘deruish’. Even within the Northern Kirmanji dialect, which has more ‘v’ sounds, it is not pronounced with ‘v’ rather a more silent or shorter version of a ‘w’ or a ‘u’. Turkey had a ban on letter ‘w’ since the establishment of Turkish republic, any word with ‘w’ was replaced with ‘v’. Recently Turkey lifted the ban on the use of letter ‘w’.

15 See Carole A. O’Leary “Are the Kurds a Source of Instability in the Middle East?” (2005).

16 Meherdad M. Izady The Kurds: A Concise Handbook (1992) a very important reference, it is a must read work. He does a great job on the classical and modern anthropology and history of Kurds and Kurdistan.

17 McDowall and van Bruinessen use Minorsky (1940) and Mackenzie (1961). 

18 I have spoken to some Kurds who were refugees under the care of United Nations in Turkey in late 1980s, they acknowledged that they would be more than willing to go forward with a lawsuit against the Turkey for forcing those Kurdish refugees to sign on different ethnic identity and for any other forms which have been signed in their name.

19 IISS, Kurdish Life, Kurdish Times, The Middle East, see O’Ballance 1996.

20 This article focuses on the right to education in Kurdistan; it lays the blame partly on the ‘west’ as ‘accomplices’ to the Kurdish cultural and linguistic genocide. 

21 See the maps 1, 2 and 3.

22  http://www.kurdistancorporation.com/aboutKurdistan.htm  (accessed, 18/05/2006).

23 This map presented by representatives of the Iraqi Kurdish Rizgari party to the American legation in Baghdad and the United Nation in 1945, see Dense Natali (2001). 

24 An important linguistic issue to note is that van Bruinessen uses the Kurdish phrase “filehen men” (1992: 24) which according to him is used by the Kurdish landlords to mean “my Christians” (1992: 24). This is not a correct translation24 of “filehen men”; “filehen men” means ‘my peasants’, the phrase has no-religious connotation, makes no reference to any religious or ethnic group. It simply means ‘my peasants’ regardless of religion or ethnicity.

25 These nationalists are advocators of a Kurdish homeland, a Kurdish State.

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