Israel/Middle East (News & Politics)/Kurds
QUESTION: Hi David,
I am doing a research paper on Kurds, can you tell me what we today call "Kurds identity" and it's background. I know they live in Turkey, Iraq and Syria and even Iran, do they all have and share a common historical identity as a group? If yes, How did they use the Kurdistan Identity to mobalize their community in pursuit of kurds State? Have they been successful in achieving anything thus far?
This is complex question if you can unpackage for me I appreicate it.
ANSWER: Hi Abdi,
Generally speaking, the forming of a nation is a long process that takes many centuries. According to some scholars and historians, the Kurds are descended from the ancient Medes who, at one time, formed the Medean Empire, covering the territory in and around what is today, Kurdistan. But many centuries before the Medean Empire came into being, there were the Sumerians who called the name of that land, "Karda". Later, the Assyrians called it, "Kardu". These were the terms that probably evolved into the name "Kurdistan". Shortly after the Empire collapsed, the Persians formed an empire of their own on the lands of the Medean Empire. Owing to the Medes' lifestyle, the Persians gave them the name, "Kwrt" meaning "tent dwelling nomads". This term probably evolved into the name "Kurd".
As with all peoples who live in separate countries, whether in a Diaspora and/or in a politically divided homeland, different cultural traits will emerge. But there are also core beliefs and cultural traits that are common to everyone of that nation or ethnicity regardless of where they live, making them one people. The Kurds are no exception. But for any such people, is having a common historical identity possible? The answer is "yes". Even though, historically, the Kurds had lived either under foreign rule or were, themselves, divided into many chiefdoms, there are certain past events that are seared into the national consciousness. For example, the 7th century Arab invasion of Kurdish territory after the death of Mohammed; the 16th century literary work Mem-U-Zin, which is a sort of Kurdish Romeo and Juliet, can be seen as a metaphor for centuries of Kurdish suffering and betrayal at the hands of the Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Europeans; the 17th century Battle of Dimdim which is seen by Kurdish historians as a war of liberation. Considering all of the above, it was only natural that by the 20th century, the Kurds would pursue a single, unified, Kurdish state in their historic homeland.
As the situation is today, the territory of Kurdistan is divided among the states you mentioned in your question, including that conflict-infected cesspool known as Iraq. However, in northern Iraq, the Kurds have their own autonomous territory with a strong, robust and democratic, government, and a strong and robust economy, as a result of the First Gulf War and an American-imposed no-fly zone over northern Iraq. Technically though, it is still part of Iraq, but as far as standard of living goes, and their fight against Daesh/ISIS and Turkish forces notwithstanding, it is worlds apart from the rest of Iraq.
For a more detailed understanding of the Kurds, I have written a booklet on the subject. Actually, it doesn't deal exclusively with the Kurds, but there is one section that does focus on Kurdish history and focuses on the period from the Arab invasion until today. If you're interested, I recommend it because I think I did a good job if I do say so myself. It is posted on Amazon. Here is the Amazon website where you can find it: http://www.amazon.com/Occupied-Territories-David-Marc/dp/1515076768/ref=sr_1_2?i
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Indeed very well answer and it shed light to my project, i now know how to proceed. I will also get a copy of you "occupied territories" from amazon.
Just to follow up, can you tell me the manner in which the Kurdish people have mobilized around their group identity, in both in a single nation state and across international boundaries? what have been the most important factors in the success that Kurdish mobilization have had up until this point in history?
Thank you in advance as well
Hello again Abdi, I'm not sure if I understand your question but I'll do my best to answer it according to what I think you're asking me.
As with all nations, it is usually outside factors combined with historical experience that mobilize a people around their group identity. Regarding this subject, the Kurds have an old saying, "We have no friends but the mountains". That comes from their perception of being internationally friendless, so it's a sort of "we got to stick together" concept that they've developed over the years. This was especially so in recent history going back to World War I. The Turkish Ottoman Empire, which was fighting against the allies, promised the Kurds the moon and the stars if they helped them in the Armenian Genocide. Afterwards, the Kurds were not only betrayed by the Turks, but even suffered their own massacre. After the war when the allies were victorious and occupied and dismembered the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were promised an independent state, but in the end, they were completely ignored. The result being the borders we see today with a severely partitioned Kurdistan. In the years since, the Kurds had to continually fight Turks, Arabs in Iraq, and Iranians/Persians to regain independence for a unified homeland, or at least, some sort of autonomy. Briefly, there actually was an independent Kurdish state located in what is now Iran. After World War II, part of Iran was occupied by the Soviet Union which backed the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. A year after the war ended, the Soviets pulled out of Iran, thus abandoning the Kurds to the Iranians who completely crushed this state. Even today, the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq is forced to fight ISIS. This, combined with the still-partitioned territory of historic Kurdistan, is not hard to understand how Kurds would be defiant and mobilize around their group identity as one unified people.
Regarding the important factors in the success that Kurdish mobilization has had, one would find that, in the Kurdish Autonomous Region. I've given you a link to a 3 minute video clip which, I think, explains this better than I could. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0fCX7HAoyU.