Kurdistan: The Last Colony

The Kurdish national question is the case of Kurdish demand for sovereignty, which emerges in a modern form after the World War, during the formation of a modern state system in the Middle East.


This historical question is Kurdish demand for statehood in historic-geographic Kurdistan, which is a “trans-state” in scope. The trans-state nature of the Kurdish national case is indication that it is the concern of all Kurds equally in all parts of Kurdistan to form a sovereign Kurdish state.


The Kurdish national question has been described and defined in different ways–depending on the type and the motive of the academic research. For example, the governments, which have ruled Kurdistan, in their most positive characterization, have described the question as problems of economic development, poverty, and institutional and cultural modernization.


One of the most negative characterizations of the Kurdish question is that it is a problematic that has been designed specifically to destabilize the region.


Most academic research have articulated the Kurdish case synonymous to a lack of Kurdish cultural, linguistic, political, social, economic and legal rights in the ‘historic-geographic’ Kurdish regions administered governed by Turkey, Iran and Syria including Iraq until recent years.


More clearly, it is the question of statelessness. Kurds want a state of their own, they have the right to form the state of their own, and only a state will do for the Kurds.


The Kurdish national question can be divided into four main periods.


The first is pre-political organization– party-politics period in the 19 century among Kurdish elites, whose ethnic consciousness was solidified between mid 1800s and the fall of the Ottoman and Qajar Empires.


The second is the articulation of the Kurdish national case as a demand of the Kurds organized in party politics for the purpose of establishing a Kurdish state until the end of II World War when the British and American influence on Kurdish politics largely diminished with the rise of Soviet influence on Kurdish politics during and at the end of the II World War. An example is the foundation of the ‘Mahabad Republic’ in Eastern Kurdistan.


The third period started in late 1940s and ended in 1988. This is the period of the internationalisation of the Kurdish question specifically in the early 1970s when a peace agreement for autonomy between Kurdish movement and Iraqi regime is signed, solidification of the party-politics in Kurdistan and Kurdish genocide: chemical attacks on Halabja, the Anfal Campaign, mass execution, deportation and expulsion of the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Turkey.


The last period starts in 1989 to the present. Here the Kurdish question is defined as a social, political, economic, legal rights problem; as a question against capitalist exploitation of Kurds and Kurdistan; as a question against tribalism and religious mystic orders; as purely a question of identity and cultural recognition; as a question of ethnic nationalism; as a question of tribal–religious resistance to centralization and modernization.


A precise account of the Kurdish national case may include elements of all of the above but subsidiary to one main articulation: the formation of independent Kurdish state, which can only be understood properly by accepting Kurdish right to self-governance, self-determination, self-legislation to statehood.


Kurds who have participated in the formulation of Kurdish national liberation project call for an international recognition of the Kurdish in historic-geographic Kurdistan. It is clearly a question of Kurdish national self-legislation, self-government and Kurdish statehood.


Kurds call for the ‘international subjectivity’ of the Kurdish peoples–a type of subjectivity that provides the Kurds with freedom and welcomes them into the family of nations with full rights to representation in the United Nations, governance of their own affairs, participation and contribution to the international community the way other nations have been given the right to do so as an entity.


In comparison with Turkish, Persian and Arab nationalisms, which have been ‘aggressive’, ‘offensive’, ‘expansionist’ and ‘assimilating’; Kurdish nationalism has been a weak ‘non-expansionist’, ‘defensive’, ‘pro-diversity’, ‘freedom and justice oriented’ and a ‘local’ movement until recent years.


The politics of denial, oppression and exploitation of Kurds and Kurdistan have blocked clear understandings of the reality of Kurdish right to self-determination by distorting the Kurdish national case


Turkey, Iran and Syria are failed states in relation to their treatment and government of Kurds and Kurdistan. They are unable to provide safety and security for their populations, specifically the unrecognised 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. 

Thanks to Karim Hasan


Tenth Annual Essex Critical Political Theory Conference

University of Essex


Working paper series: # 1

Kurdish National Case/Question



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