23 08 2015

886px-Frankfurter_Allgemeine_logo.svgOn 12th August 2015 the leading German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) featured an article on the Kurdish Studies Network (KSN). In his article Joseph Croitoru provides an introduction to the interdisciplinary research network which brings together scholars from across the world, followed by its activities such as the peer-reviewed journal, Kurdish Studies, and its unique bibliography. The writer also reviews a recently published article in the latest issue of the Kurdish Studies.

The Awakening of Kurdology – The Early Years of the PKK

Joseph Croitoru, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 12th August 2015

Kurds’ geographical dispersion and internal political disputes have left an impact on the study of Kurdish culture, yet the Internet has brought Kurdologists together again. As of 2009 Turkish-Kurdish historian Welat Zeydanlioglu brought the Kurdish Studies Network (KSN) at a conference at the University of Exeter into being, where an institute for Kurdish Studies had been established three years earlier. The research network, consisting of around one thousand researchers, journalists, and activists informs on its website about the different areas of this research field and lists continuously, starting from the nineteenth century, the most important publications in the field.

Since 2013, the KSN also publishes the interdisciplinary scientific online journal Kurdish Studies. The free-access publication shall be spared the fate of earlier Kurdology periodicals that had appeared in print. The Kurdische Studien of Berlin and the Journal of Kurdish Studies, published in the Belgian Leuven, ceased in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

In the preface to the first edition of the Kurdish Studies, Dutch expert on Kurds Martin van Bruinessen raised the merits of this research initiative. Unlike the mentioned Kurdish Studies Institute in Exeter, supported by the Iraqi Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and also unlike the relatively new Kurdology lectureship at the American University Washington, named after the founding father of the rival Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), Mustafa Barzani, the research network is distinguished by its political independence. It has quickly become a “virtual Institute of Kurdish Studies”, partially compensating the lack of relevant research institutions in Western universities.

The recent about a dozen articles of the journal mostly deal with the settlement areas of the Kurds, which was subject of earlier research concentration: Turkey and Iraq. The Kurdish minority in Syria and in Iran are dealt with rather marginally. Ground-breaking are the considerations of the Kurdish Question from a regional and global perspective, as well as the comparative approach of some essays. This includes the demonstration of similarities between the Kurdish case and the ethno-national movement of Berbers in North Africa, and analysis of the relations between these two ethnic groups to their respective diaspora communities.

The article in the latest issue (Number 3, 2015) “The Palestinian Dream in the Kurdish Context” by Ahmet Hamdi Akkaya, conflict researcher originating from Turkey, has been published in this context. Akkaya, who researches in Ghent on the history of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), examines the links between leftist Turkish and Turkish-Kurdish activists, mainly from the ranks of the PKK, with the Palestinian liberation movement in the seventies and eighties. This relationship was commonly known to have existed, yet little was known about its exact structure. Already in the late sixties several members of the Workers’ Party of Turkey, the first socialist party entering into the Turkish Parliament, travelled to the training camps of the Palestinian Fedayeen fighters in Jordan. In addition to the anti-imperialist left impetus, it was also adventurousness that played a central role, which brings to mind the motives of today’s foreign jihadists of Syria or Iraq.

By far, more ideologically motivated were those travel waves of leftist Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries to Palestinians training camps in Lebanon, triggered by the military coups of Turkey in 1971 and 1980. In those days the PKK members mainly received military training by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan contacted in 1979 during his escape to Syria. By 1982 their numbers grew to around three hundred. Some of them fought together with the Palestinians against the Israeli army, which had invaded Southern Lebanon.

As Akayya describes, the Israeli invasion indirectly helped the PKK to gain new strength. Although their fighters had already previously received wages from the Fedayeen, these in turn were passed on to Öcalan’s organization, consolidating them financially. As such they easily gained possession of hundreds of kalashnikovs from Palestinians and South Lebanese hiding underground, who wanted to get rid of them due fears of the Israeli occupying forces. The former Syrian President Hafez readily left the PKK smuggling these weapons into Turkey, causing in the long term a destabilization of the region. The latest development shows that he had backed the wrong horse. The Northern Syrian Kurdish areas have now withdrawn from the reign of his son Bashar and are now controlled by PKK offshoots.

(Translated from German by Ethem Coban. For the German version click here).



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