The Kurdish Nationalist Movement

Resident Scholar Michael Rubin
Resident Scholar Michael Rubin
Michael Rubin reviews David Romano's The Kurdish Nationalist Movement.

Romano, a young Canadian researcher, spent a year teaching and researching in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey and his book, the product of his doctoral research, explores the resurgence of Kurdish nationalism.

While sympathetic to the Kurdish case, Romano seeks to be objective and generally succeeds. He begins his study with an overview of early Kurdish uprisings in Turkey and the later development of a more organized Kurdish movement. Further chapters explore the rise and strategy of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which conducted a 15-year terrorist campaign against Turkey, and Kurdish nationalist challenges to both Iraq and Iran.

Romano relies on English-language publications for historical background. Unfortunately, these can overemphasize the nationalist component of early Kurdish rebellions and underestimate the religious factor; most Kurds were conservative and objected to Atatürk's secularizing reforms. Romano is on firmer ground in later years, as he describes how Turkish leftist and Kurdish movements intersected briefly before splitting again in the 1970s.

He traces resurgent Kurdish nationalism to the aftermath of the 1980 military coup in Turkey and argues that Kurdish nationalism grew in proportion to military repression, aided by shelter and assistance provided by neighbors such as Syria. While many scholars of Kurdish nationalism are prone to demonize the Turks, Romano shows a good grasp of Turkish politics. He credits Turgut Özal (prime minister, 1983-89; president, 1989-93) for his efforts to end sectarian strife and laments that, after his sudden death, his successors had neither the stature nor leadership to cement reforms and promote reintegration. A wide range of interviews conducted in Iraq and Turkey add detail and precision to discussions.

Undercutting Romano's study is the argument that the character of Kurdish nationalism has been shaped by the countries in which it emerged. Closed or repressive systems sparked Kurdish nationalist rebellions. At the same time, relying too much on the leadership of traditional Kurdish elites--tribal elders, for example--has cursed Kurdish nationalism with tribal schism. While Kurdish nationalism will not dissipate, he argues that when given the opportunity, Kurds will work peacefully within a political system. He suggests that with real autonomy, they may cast aside dreams of a separate state.

Unfortunately, Romano submerges his knowledge and research in academic theory and jargon making his study inaccessible to all but a handful of political scientists. The Kurdish National Movement reads like a dissertation. Had Romano written to project knowledge rather than obfuscate it, his book could have contributed far more.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.