Kurdistan. The Largest ‘Nation’ in the World without its own Independent State

Essay, 2013

7 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. History of the Conflict

3. Analysis of the Conflict

4. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations

5. Annotated Bibliography

1. Introduction

In a continually globalizing world, the question of identity becomes more and more prevalent among societies. What is identity? How do we define it? Across the world individuals are seeking to belong to something that can define them and give them something to set them apart from the other seven billion people in residency on the planet. However, also as these questions become increasingly important, conflicts can arise between different ethnic, cultural, or societal groups. Presently, one of the more notable examples of this is that of the Kurds and their continued struggle for a state of their own. The Kurds make up “the largest nation in the world without its own independent state” (Gunter 2004: 197). Spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and even small parts of Armenia (cf. Yavuz 1998: 9), the Kurds are a scattered people across various state borders. With this in mind, can one speak legitimately of a Kurdish ‘nation’ and if so would creating an independent Kurdish state truly benefit the Kurdish people?

2. History of the Conflict

The greatest change in Kurdish history came with the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Within the empire some of the Kurds lived a nomadic lifestyle, just one among many. When the Ottoman Empire was partitioned after World War I among colonial powers such as France and Great Britain, the idea of the “nation-state” came into being (cf. Hiltermann 2012: 17). The nation state ideology found a large degree of attraction among the Kurdish population. An independent Kurdish state, however never blossomed into being. Instead, the nations of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey were born and the Kurds became a people divided by the boundaries of the states they found themselves consigned to. All of a sudden, a nation of around thirty million people found themselves scattered across four separate countries, as a minority population that was little represented and often oppressed.

3. Analysis of the Conflict

Today, the Kurdish identity is made up of diverse linguistic, historical, and geographical components (cf. Gunter 2004: 198, Yavuz 1998: 9). Ernest Renan stresses the importance of shared suffering and sorrows for a nation (cf. Renan 1882: 18), which is essential for Kurdish identity. It is based on three pillars: same origin, the shared experience of oppression, and the struggle of its people for its own independent state (cf. Weinstock 2011) and would therefore fit into Smith’s category of ethnic nationalism (cf. Smith 1991: 180). Thomas Eriksen defines a nationalist ideology as “an ethnic ideology which demands a state on behalf of the ethnic group” and discusses the here accurate complexity of an ethnic group across state borders (cf. Eriksen 2002: 146f.). The modern day region of Kurdistan is still composed of the same countries their ancestors were forced into, with the addition of Syria in which the Kurdish population naturally occupied (cf. Neriah 2012).

Several abstract concepts contribute to the identity of a group: a shared ancestry, a common ideology, and a widely accepted historical narrative. The first two apply, for the most part, universally across the entire Kurdish population. However, it is the latter aspect that is most vital to the Kurdistan debate. As a nation that has spent such a large amount of time not only separated, but subjugated to the acts and events of their respective “home states”, each Kurdish group in each state has come to establish an identity slightly different and unique from that of their fellows. An “imagined community” as described by Anderson might be then the resort to hold up the idea of a nation (cf. Anderson 1983: 49). In Turkey, the Kurds have felt the harsh hand of oppression over the course of the last several decades. In Iraq, the Kurds have faced violence on the part of their own government in the form of chemical weapons (cf. Gunter 2004: 199-203). These are just two examples, but they highlight a very key point: If shared experiences and history contribute heavily to an identity, then the fact that each Kurdish population has developed under different circumstances and events these past decades implies that any Kurdistan that takes shape in the future would be a nation of nations, so to speak. The Kurds have begun to fracture in their uniformity, and as they do different identities and different versions of the nation start to emerge (cf. Weinstock 2011). Uniformity is necessary for a workable nation-state to function and function well, and with each year the uniformity of the Kurds becomes more and more distant (cf. Yavuz 2001: 3). It could be very possible that even if the Kurds manage to gain a separate state, they will be unable to keep it. Another thing to consider in this debate is the global lack of encouragement for the Kurdish population to unite under its own independent nation-state. Turkey and Iran are hefty adversaries in the fight for Kurdish independence, and even the United States has garnered little enthusiasm for the concept of a future Kurdistan (cf. Gunter 2004: 204). In Iraq the Kurds have had better luck gaining some level of autonomy, and it may be possible to consider a smaller independent Kurdish nation within northern Iraq, although not in the near future (cf. Hiltermann 2012: 22, Neriah 2012).


Excerpt out of 7 pages


Kurdistan. The Largest ‘Nation’ in the World without its own Independent State
Indiana University  (Department of International Studies)
Nations, States and Boundaries
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Kurdistan, Nation, Nationalism
Quote paper
Christopher King (Author), 2013, Kurdistan. The Largest ‘Nation’ in the World without its own Independent State, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/262777


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