Book Review: The Kurds: State And Minority In Turkey, Iraq, And Iran

The Kurds:  State And Minority In Turkey, Iraq, And Iran, by James Ciment

It is somewhat noteworthy that this particular book is substantially out of date, and worth mentioning how so at the outset.  Seeking to focus on the relationship between the Kurds and their states in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, the book barely mentions the relationship between Kurds and the state in Syria, which is rather intriguing because since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 [1], the Kurds have had a large measure of self-rule in Northern Syria in a way that has increased tensions with Turkey to the north.  This book, which was published in 1996, does not cover any of this.  For that matter, the book does not discuss the influence of the rise of moderate Islamism in Turkey and the growth of pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey or the fallout of the US-led invasion of Iraq in the Second Gulf War.  In short, it may be said that this book is obsolete as far as current conditions, although worthwhile as a history and as a defense of the rights of Kurds for self-determination and an explanation of why that has yet to happen even though the Kurds are the fourth most populous nationality in the Middle East and the only larger three—Turks, Arabs, and Persians, all have their own states, and have a resource-filled and geographically compact territory that would be seemingly ideal for statehood [2].

The contents of this book are written in order to explain the internal state of the Kurds and its historical context and its troubled relationships with its imperial overlords, particularly Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.  The book takes a bit more than 200 well-researched but rather typo-filled pages (most of which were corrected in the volume I read) to cover six chapters of material, beginning with a preface on conflict and crisis in the post-cold war world, the subject matter of the series of which this book is a part, an introductory chapter on the state of the Kurds in the mid 1990’s when the book was written and published as well as the issues, participants, war tactics, and negotiations between them.  After this the author gives a brief history of Kurdistan up to World War I and then after that in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, before discussing some issues concerning Kurdistan and the Kurds, amely the topography (mountaneous, mostly) and climate, demography, Kurdish identity, tribes and tribal confederations, and new affiliations and identities.  The last three chapters discuss the nation states involved in the dispute:  Turkey , Iraq, Iran, and other states in the Middle East and further abroad, as well as the issues, tactics, and negotiations the Kurds and the nation states they are in have, and an update on Kurdistan since the First Gulf War in Iraq and Turkey and a melancholy statement of the area’s continued backwardness, external oppression, and internal division.

This book is admittedly one of the more depressing books that one could read, since it gives plenty of reasons why a nation with an ironclad case for statehood has not ruled over itself for centuries.  Backwardness and tardiness in developing a national identity, and the fact that one of the few things that Turkey, Iran, and Iraq (as well as Armenia and Syria) can agree on is their lack of interest in granting autonomy or independence to the Kurds if at all possible.  The lack of a natural ally for the Kurds, their own tribal jealous and rivalries, and the absence of strong international support from someone willing to make themselves an enemy of all of the states that dominate them have meant that Kurdistan remains oppressed, and with very limited ways forward given the problems in all the states that rule over parts of the Kurdish homeland.  The end result is a book that makes it clear that Kurdistan is getting a historical raw deal, but that its internal divisions and the sad geopolitics of the region make it difficult to imagine a better future unless Iraq and Syria completely fall apart, which would likely lead to continued warfare in the region and more suffering for the Kurdish people.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/syria-joins-the-club/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/bang-bang-my-neighbor-shot-me-down/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/i-will-remember-them-no-more/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/this-is-why-we-dont-have-any-nice-things-in-kurdistan/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/kurds-and-whey/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/statehood-and-nationhood/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-not-necessarily-my-friend/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/new-country-watch-list/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/from-one-hill-tribe-to-another/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Book Review: The Kurds: State And Minority In Turkey, Iraq, And Iran

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