New Book Out: Narratives of the History of the Ottoman-Kurdish Bedirhani Family in Imperial and Post-Imperial Contexts – Continuities and Changes

4 06 2018

Henning, Barbara

University of Bamberg Press, 2018

ISBN: 978-3-86309-551-2

This dissertation is concerned with the Ottoman-Kurdish Bedirhani family and its history in Ottoman imperial and post-imperial times. Tracing various members of the extended Bedirhani family over the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it looks at the family’s history as a case-study to inquire about dynamics of post-imperial identity formation over a crucial period of time: A particular focus lies on the Bedirhani family’s history immediately before and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire – that is, at a decisive moment in the formation of the current geopolitical structure of the Middle East, marked by the rise of nationalisms and nationalist historiographies. The work inquires about the strategies family members used to negotiate the shift from empire to post-imperial contexts. To get a better understanding of how family members coped with and tried to make sense of this transition, it looks at the stories they told about themselves and their family’s history and also investigates the network structures they operated in. It is argued that with the end of the Ottoman Empire, imperial structures of solidarity and frameworks of identification did not just vanish overnight, to be replaced by nationalist identities and loyalties. Rather, identity formation is understood as a long-term process with many options aside from Kurdish nationalism and post-Ottoman identity is read as a multi-layered phenomenon.

Looking at individual trajectories of Bedirhani family members between imperial and post-imperial contexts, different strategies and coping mechanisms can be observed. Departing from similar starting points in terms of resources like social standing, education, networks and economic wealth at their disposal, members of the Bedirhani family ended up in very different places after the First World War and the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. As a counterbalance to existing research on the Bedirhani family, which has focused on a few politically very active family members, this study points to alternative trajectories of family members who did not engage with Kurdish nationalist politics. Their lesser known but equally interesting life stories serve a double purpose in the analysis: On the one hand, their stories sketch out opportunity structures, potentials and ‘roads not taken’ of relevance for all family members. On the other hand, they shed light on the manifold modifications the stories of their more prominent relatives underwent to fit the larger narrative of Kurdish nationalist historiography in the 20th century.

For details click here.

New Book Out: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Turkey – The New PKK

4 06 2018

Plakoudas, Spyridon

Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

ISBN 978-3-319-75659-2

This book seeks to answer the “why” and “how” questions about the insurgency of the PKK, a militant left-wing group of Turkey’s Kurds, in Turkey. The PKK has been inter-locked in an intermittent war against Turkey since 1984 in the name of Kurdish nationalism. The author combines  insights of Strategy and IR – from strategy and tactics in irregular warfare to peace negotiations between state authorities and insurgents, with data from qualitative research, to achieve two inter-related objectives: first, assess the current state of affairs and predict the future course of the conflict and, secondly, draw general conclusions on how protracted conflicts can end and how.

For details click here.

New Issue of Kurdish Studies Out

1 06 2018

Kurdish Studies, Volume 6, Issue 1, May 2018 

Special Issue: Women and War in Kurdistan (open access)

Edited by Nazand Begikhani, Wendy Hamelink, Nerina Weiss

Martin van Bruinessen


Theorising women and war in Kurdistan: A feminist and critical perspective
Nazand Begikhani, Wendelmoet Hamelink, Nerina Weiss

The representation of post-conflict gender violence in Iraqi Kurdish novelistic discourse in Bahdinan
Lolav M. Hassan Alhamid

Reading and feeling gender in perpetrator graffiti and photography in Turkey
Beja Protner

Saving the survivors: Yezidi women, Islamic State and the German Admissions Programme
Thomas McGee

Building brand Kurdistan: Helly Luv, the gender of nationhood, and the War on Terror
Nick Glastonbury

Mother-activism before the European Court of Human Rights: Gender sensitivity towards Kurdish mothers and wives in enforced disappearance cases
Maja Davidovic

Book Reviews

Khanna Omarkhali, The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017.

— Reviewed by Martin van Bruinessen

Parvin Mahmoudveysi, Denise Bailey, Ludwig Paul, and Geoffrey Haig, The Gorani Language of Gawraǰū, a Village of West Iran: Texts, Grammar, and Lexicon, 2012, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012.


Mahmoudveysi, Parvin, and Denise Bailey. The Gorani Language of Zarda, a Village of West Iran: Texts, Grammar, and Lexicon, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013.

— Reviewed by Michiel Leezenberg

David Gaunt, Naures Atto, and Soner O. Barthoma, Let Them Not Return: Sayfo – The Genocide against the Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians in the Ottoman Empire, New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017.

— Reviewed by Heleen Murre-van den Berg

Ahmed Fawaz, Opportunity, Identity, and Resources in Ethnic Mobilization: The Iraqi Kurds and the Abkhaz of Georgia, Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2017.

— Reviewed by Jacob A. Crusinberry

Michael M. Gunter (ed.), Kurdish Issues: Essays in Honor of Robert Olson, Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishing, 2016.

— Reviewed by Michiel Leezenberg

New Book Out: Alevism as an Ethno-Religious Identity – Contested Boundaries

29 04 2018

Jenkins, Celia; Aydin, Suavi; Cetin, Umit (eds)

Routledge, 2018

ISBN: 9781138096318

Until recently the importance of religion in the modern world has often been underestimated in Western societies, whereas its significance is absolutely crucial in the Middle East. Religion is critical to a sense of belonging for communities and nations, and can be a force for unity or division. This is the case for the Alevis, an ethnic and religious community that constitutes approximately 20% of the Turkish population – its second largest religious group. In the current crisis in the Middle East, the heightened religious tensions between Sunnis, Shias and Alawites raise questions about who the Alevis are and where they stand in this conflict. With an ambiguous relationship to Islam, historically Alevis have been treated as a ‘suspect community’ in Turkey and recently, whilst distinct from Alawites, have sympathised with the Assad regime’s secular orientation. The chapters in this book analyse different aspects of Alevi identity in relation to religion, politics, culture, education and national identity, drawing on specialist research in the field. The approach is interdisciplinary and contributes to wider debates concerning ethnicity, religion, migration and trans/national identity within and across ethno-religious boundaries.

For details click here.


Call for Papers: Serbest Kurdish Studies Conference*

11 03 2018

Buffett Institute for Global Studies, Northwestern University, June 1 and 2, 2018

Buffett Institute for Global Studies invites paper proposals for its 2018 Kurdish Studies Conference. The Kurdish Studies Conference Series aims to support the production and dissemination of knowledge and to strengthen the network of scholars in Kurdish Studies. The conference convenes annually to discuss the experiences and struggles of Kurds, and the historical and comparative study of Kurdish politics, society, and culture.

Call for Papers

This year’s conference will focus on three themes:

  • The development of Kurdish Studies as a field
  • The idea of Kurdistan and its transformation in relation to political and cultural change in the region and diaspora
  • The possibilities and dilemmas of Kurdish politics across the Middle East region

In this framework, we ask participants to contribute to the discussion of at least one of these topics based on their research.

We have funds to support air travel (up to $300 for domestic and up to $600 for overseas) and hotel accommodation (up to 3 nights).

To apply, please send a detailed summary of your proposal (~ 750 words) and your current CV to Please name your files NameSurname_Summary and NameSurname_CV. The deadline for submissions isMarch 30, 2018. Participants will be notified by mid April.

*This conference is made possible by the generous support of Northwestern Alumnus Metin Serbest, Esq. (Law’05).

For details click here.

New Book Out: Multiculturalism in Turkey – The Kurds and the State

1 03 2018

Kuzu, Durukan

Cambridge University Press, 2018

ISBN: 9781108278461

Over the past couple of decades, there have been many efforts to seek a solution to the often violent situation in which Kurdish citizens of Turkey find themselves. These efforts have included a gradual programme of political recognition and multiculturalism. Here, Durukan Kuzu examines the case of Kurdish citizens in Turkey through the lens of the global debate on multiculturalism, exploring the limitations of these policies. He thereby challenges the conventional thinking about national minorities and their autonomy, and offers a scientifically grounded comparative framework for the study of multiculturalism. Through comparison of the situation of Kurds in Turkey with that of other national minorities – such as the Flemish in Belgium, Québécois in Canada, Corsicans in France, and Muslims in Greece – the reader is invited to question in what forms multiculturalism can work for different national minorities. A bottom-up approach is used to offer a fresh insight into the Kurdish community and to highlight conflicting views about which form the politics of recognition could take.

For details click here.

New Book Out: Sara – My Whole Life Was A Struggle

20 02 2018

Cansiz, Sakine

Pluto Press, 2018

ISBN: 9780745338019

The bitter struggle of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, against the Turkish state has delivered inspirational but often tragic stories. This memoir by Kurdish revolutionary Sakine Cansiz is one of them. Sakine, whose code name was ‘Sara’, co-founded the PKK in 1974 and dedicated her life to its cause. On the 9 January 2013 she was assassinated in Paris in circumstances that remain officially unresolved.

This is the first chapter of her iconic life, leading up to her arrest in 1979, penned as dramatic events unfolded against the backdrop of the Turkish revolutionary left. She writes about the excitement of entering the movement as a young woman, discovering she would have to challenge traditional gender roles as she rose amongst its ranks. She was one of the first to demand the recruitment and education of female revolutionaries, and demanded total gender equality within the PKK, which is now one of its central tenets.

Today, ‘Sara’ is an inspiration to women fighting for liberation across the world. This is her story in her own words, and is in turns shocking, violent and path-breaking.

For details click here.

Call for Papers: Everyday Resistance of Kurds And Palestinians – Countering Domination via Nonviolent Means

20 02 2018
2-23 June, 2018 (9am – 5pm)

Coventry University, Coventry, UK

Organiser: Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Research Group, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR)

Resistance informs us about power and, in particular, asymmetric power relations. Everyday resistance is an action taken by people who resist the multiple and multi-layered power relations that manifest themselves in the interactions in our daily life.

Understanding everyday resistance can help us to understand these power dynamics and relations in context. Unlike visible forms of resistance such as rebellions, mass protests, riots, revolutions, and demonstrations, everyday resistance can be less visible and informal. Scott (1989) studied disguised–or seemingly invisible resistance–and argued that the form such resistance will take depends on the kind of power ranged against it, but is generally hidden below the surface and not formally organised.  More precisely, everyday resistance can be “interpreted as an activity in a dynamic interaction with opposition power”, which in Foucault’s reading is something ordinary people practice daily. Everyday resistance can also be presented as a continuum from public confrontation to hidden subversion. Bayat (2000) describes it as “quiet encroachment” and “advancement of the ordinary” which enables us to survive and protect ourselves. He went further to say that “these ordinary and often quiet practices by the ordinary and often silent people engender significant social changes” (Bayat 1997).

This conference will explore the power of everyday resistance among Kurds and Palestinians and the different shapes and forms this takes locally and transnationally. People of Kurdistan and Palestine have a long history of resistance and they have shown many examples of what James Scott called “weapons of the weak”.  In all three contexts, it is possible to find examples of nonviolent collective and individual actions which have deep symbolic and ideological underpinnings. Often everyday resistance practices intersect with organised political collectives that are much more visible than the typically subtle repertoires of everyday resistance.

Specifically, this conference will ask the following questions: How do these oppressed groups use nonviolent forms of resistance to counter repression? What are the similarities and differences between the everyday resistance across these communities? What are the resistance practices that are central to daily life? What are the creative actions that make everyday resistance even more successful? An important theme of the conference will explore whether these communities can learn from each other’s nonviolent resistance practices.

We seek paper and panel proposals that engage with the questions mentioned above.  Both academic and non-academic (journalists, activists etc) participants will be welcomed.

Potential themes of the conference include but are not limited to:

·        Hidden and unhidden forms of everyday resistance

·        Creative ways of resisting oppression

·        Resistance, elections and political participation

·        Culture, art, education and tradition in everyday resistance

·        Gendered aspects of everyday resistance

·        The role of youth in everyday resistance

·        Overcoming political control and criminalisation

·        Overcoming colonial legacy, partition and statelessness

·        Towards a transnational civil resistance?

Refreshments and lunch will be provided during the duration of the conference. We regret that we are not able to offer travel grants or other forms of financial assistance for the participants of the conference.

Please email paper abstracts of no more than 300 words to by 1 March 2018.

Acceptance and rejections notices will be sent in mid-March 2018. A selection of conference papers will be chosen for inclusion in a proposed edited volume, and/or a special journal issue.

3rd Kurdish Studies Summer School

14 02 2018

Kurdish Studies Summer School:  3-6 September 2018

Kurdish Politics and Society: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

Please join us at this intensive summer school at the Kurdish Institute, Paris, focusing on Kurdish politics and society. The school is designed to engage postgraduate students (Master and PhD level) in the field of Kurdish Studies and the politics, society and culture of Kurds.


Dates: 3-6 September 2018

Place: Kurdish Institute, Paris

Registration Fees: 125 Euros (until 25 April 2018)

Registration fees cover tuition and venue costs.

Students will arrange and pay for their own accommodation and travel.

The school is subsidized by the Kurdish Institute and there are no additional funds or scholarships.


Keynote lecturers and panellists include:

  1. Dr Salih Akin (University of Rouen, France)
  2. Professor Hamit Bozarslan (EHESS, Paris, France)
  3. Dr Ipek Demir (University of Leicester, UK)
  4. Dr Cengiz Gunes (Open University, UK)
  5. Dr Choman Hardi (American University of Iraq)
  6. Dr Nilay Ozok Gundogan (Florida State, US)
  7. Dr Clémence Scalbert-Yucel (University of Exeter, UK)

The lectures and workshops will be organized in line with the lecturers’ area of expertise. They will be delivered in English, and broadly in these areas:

Area 1: Kurdish Language and the Politics of Kurdish Language

Area 2: Kurdish Studies & Middle Eastern Studies: Methodological Issues

Area 3: Kurdish Diaspora and Transnationalism

Area 4: Kurdish Political Movement and Discourse

Area 5: Gender and Kurdish Studies

Area 6: History of Kurds and of Kurdistan

Area 7: Kurdish Literature and Culture


The format of each day is as follows:

1)   Plenary/keynote lectures, outlining the main approaches and methods employed in their specific field (e.g. history).

2)   15 minute presentations by students which are then followed by feedback from at least one keynote speaker. Group discussion and feedback.

3)   Closing session with two student rapporteurs summing up key insights from the day and closing statements.



Please fill in the attached application form.

You are welcome to apply as one of the following:

(a) as a presenter of a paper

(b) as an attendee

You will be able to indicate this on the application form.


Those wishing to present a paper, please include a long abstract (500-600 words) in the application form. Please note that both the word limit and the deadline are strict.

Send the application form to

Deadline: 12 March 2018, 12noon UK time.

Shortlisting will be finalised and communicated by 23 March 2018



Registration (for those who have been accepted) will open on 5 April 2018

Early Registration Deadline: 25 April 2018

Early Registration Fee: 125 Euros

Registration Fees after 25 April 2018200 Euros

Please note that this is not a conference but a teaching and learning event involving teaching sessions from senior scholars of Kurdish Studies. It is a unique opportunity and places are strictly limited.

In the event of the summer school being oversubscribed, participants may be selected according to the likely coherence of the sessions – this is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of work submitted.

Priority will be given to students who have not attended, but previous attendees are welcome to submit applications.

Please note that the Kurdish Institute in Paris unfortunately has no wheelchair access.

For the application form click below


New Book Out: The Kurdish Women of Turkey – Building a Nation, Struggling for Gender Parity

11 01 2018

Basch-Harod, Heidi

Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 2017

ISBN: 978-965-224-108-5

Actively engaged in an ethno-nationalist struggle since the 1980s, the story of the Kurdish women of Turkey is one current example of women’s involvement in shaping the history of the region. This book focuses upon Kurdish women of Turkey and the ongoing evolution of their role in defining and mobilizing the Kurdish quest for recognition as a people within and against the Republic of Turkey.

For details click here.

New Book Out: The Alphabetic Variations of Kurdish Scripts – Why and How?

10 01 2018

Khurshid, Ali Ghazi

Script and Vision, 2017

ISBN: 9198434403

The Kurdish language consists of a continuum of related spoken varieties without having a standardized linguistic entity, and is mainly spoken in those area of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria which comprise Kurdistan. Kurdish is without a unified writing system, as well. The Kurds have been obliged to modify orthographies according to the type of script in use in those countries that Kurdistan is annexed to.The author describes the historical development and importance of writing; and the reason behind adaptation of a specific writing system. He also describes the historical development of the Kurdish writing, the reason of having different kinds of alphabet and related problems and solutions.

For details click here.

Seminar: The Dream of the Nation-State in a Globalized World

12 10 2017

The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) invites you to a seminar addressing the question of national self-determination in different parts of the world.

Political claims to national independence and self-determination have in recent years gained prominence in many parts of the world. Not that long ago the process of globalization, economic interdependence and an increasing number of global challenges (e.g. terrorism and climate change) were thought to diminish the appeal of independence for non-sovereign regions in Europe, some parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. However, this does not seem to have happened. Instead the dream of the nation-state seems to enjoy an enduring appeal.

Why do Catalans seek national independence and what implications do the current political crisis in Spain have for the EU? How is it that, despite international law, Palestinans’ right to self-determination has not transformed into a national statehood that respects their rights? After the Iraqi-Kurdish referendum, what are the prospects for an independent Kurdish state in the Middle East?

Richard Gillespie, Professor of Politics and founder of the Europe and the World Centre at the University of Liverpool.

Cherine Hussein, Research Fellow, UI

Welat Zeydanlıoğlu, Editor of the journal Kurdish Studies and the coordinator of the Kurdish Studies Network (KSN).

Niklas Bremberg, Research Fellow, UI.


Date: Thursday 19 October, 2017
Time: 13.00-14.30. Registration from 12.30
Location: The Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Drottning Kristinas väg 37, Stockholm
Seminar fee: Free of charge
Language: English

For details click here.

New Book Out: The Kurdish Question Revisited

6 09 2017

Stansfield, Gareth & Shareef, Mohammed (eds)

Hurst, 2017

ISBN: 9781849045919

The Kurds, once marginal in the study of the Middle East and secondary in its international relations, have moved to centre stage in recent years. In Turkey, where the Kurdish question is an issue of national significance, and in Iraq, where the gains made by the Kurdistan Regional Government have allowed it to impose its authority, moves are afoot to solve ‘the Kurdish Question’ once and for all. In Syria, where the Kurds have borne the brunt of the Islamic State’s onslaught as they defended their three self-declared cantons of Afrin, Kobane, and Cezire, and in Iran, where they struggle to express their cultural distinctiveness and suffer disproportionately at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s security and intelligence services, the picture is less positive. Yet the situations in both countries remain in flux, affected by developments in Iraq and Turkey in a manner that suggests we may have to revise the notion of the Kurds being forever divided by the boundaries of the Middle East and subsumed into the state projects of other nations. The contributors to The Kurdish Question Revisited offer insights into how this once seemingly intractable, immutable phenomenon is being transformed amid the new political realities of the Middle East.

For details click here.

Call for Papers: Kurdish Culture, Identity and Geopolitics – Towards Decolonization

17 08 2017

Zanj: The Journal of Critical Global South Studies is a space for a broad range of conversations of and by the Global South, now published by Pluto Journals in the UK. In this special volume, global scholars critically approach the past, present and future of Kurdish identity, geography, nationalism, and socio-political movements for change. Focusing on contemporary Kurdish regions and their indigenous constituents, Kurdish cities and broader Kurdish geopolitics, this volume intends to initiate dialogue about the modes and methods of decolonization, cultural survival, creative definition, reinvention and transformation.

Kurds have often been the victim of modern empires, power-politics, and their attendant conceptual categories. When the ‘Scramble for the Middle East’ occurred 100 years ago, Kurds were left bereft of the critical political unit since the nineteenth century: the nation-state. Hence, Kurds continue to exist at and/or beyond the boundaries of communal categorization, including national, regional, ethnic, and cultural configurations of identification, a vantage point that provides unique and important lessons worthy of analysis.

Kurdish regions, cities, parties and communities are increasingly emergent actors in an expanding global circle of individuals, groups, communities, institutions and governments, even as some of the most violent atrocities in recent history have been and are still being experienced in the Kurdish regions. This collection aims to: (1) develop a solid understanding of the crucial historical timeline which led to Kurdish statelessness and subsequent deterritorialization / reterritorialization and other developments in the Kurdish political status-quo, (2) present substantial and representative snapshots of the contemporary Kurdish zeitgeist, how communities and individuals are forming identities in this context, and/or (3) discuss the future of Kurds, Kurdish towns, cities, regions and communities.

Limited to the realm of paradiplomacy, in the extremely complex “quadri-regional” dynamics of the Kurdish status quo, the Kurdish case represents a deadly quagmire in which some of the most dystopian of dreams have already come true, leaving destroyed lives in its wake. This collection is therefore also a modest attempt by global scholars to push a progressive agenda, seeking ways and means to overcome the heavy weight of the past and present, and to contribute to the utopian imaginary of Kurdish futures.

As an interdisciplinary space for global scholars with critical engagements on the Global South, this volume seeks innovative and critical work on Kurds and Kurdish issues related (but not limited) to the following areas of research:

  • History, political history and historical analysis of Kurdish communities, parties, institutions, regions and colonialism, decolonization
  • Identity, difference, diversity, intersectionality, multiculturalism, transregional identifications, intersectional modes of alliance building, indigenous epistemology
  • State, nation, nation-state, nationalism, state formation, state capacity building, diplomacy and statecraft, comparative politics, regionalism/federalism, electoral systems, parties, democracy, self-ruling and self-determination
  • Critical theory, world systems theory, power theory, feminist theory, ecology
  • Politics of contention, identity, ethnicity, gender, religion
  • Conflict, security, intelligence, military, crime, violence, displacement, political repression
  • Political Economy, International Development, Global Health, Education, Infrastructure and Urban Development, Trade, Self-sufficiency, Human Development/Security, Resilience

Publication Timeline:

  • August 25th: Deadline for Abstracts (150-200 words)
  • August 30th: Response to Abstracts.
  • November 15th: Deadline for final articles
  • December 30th: Reviewers Feedback
  • January 15th 2018: Final revisions, proofs

Please send abstracts and inquiries to:

Please Note: Zanj was formerly called South: Critical Global South Studies and we are still in transition to the new name.

Editor: Dr. Jesse Benjamin

Co-Editors: Dr. Djene Bajalan and Dr. Haluk Baran Bingöl


To simplify the initial submission process, please follow the basic formatting guideline below:

  • Times New Roman size 12, double-spaced,
  • End of article reference page with full citations in Chicago Style
  • BOOK: Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. London: Bogle-L’Ouverture, 1972.
  • CHAPTER IN BOOK: Lorde, Audre. “Coal.” In New Black Voices: An Anthology of Contemporary Afro-American Literature, edited by Abraham Chapman, 291-292. New York: NAL/Penguin, 1972.
  • ARTICLE IN PRINT JOURNAL: Crowder, Ralph L. “The Historical Context and Political Significance of Harlem’s Street Scholar Community.” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 34(1) (2010): 34-71.
  • Footnotes (at bottom of page), not endnotes; with brief relevant text and/or citation of Author’s last name and year of publication only,
  • No in-text citations,
  • You may submit your document either as a .pdf or .doc,
  • Include a short (100-200 word) abstract to supplement your piece,
  • Please provide 5-10 keywords for your article,
  • Length of article: We place no boundaries on the length of your work, as long as the content is sufficiently guided and relevant throughout,
  • Do not include a cover page or your name on document itself.

New Book Out: The Political Economy of the Kurds of Turkey – From the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic

14 08 2017

Yadirgi, Veli

Cambridge University Press, 2017

ISBN: 9781316848579

In recent years, the persecution of the Kurds in the Middle East under ISIS in Iraq and Syria has drawn increasing attention from the international media. In this book, Veli Yadirgi analyses the socioeconomic and political structures and transformations of the Kurdish people from the Ottoman era through to the modern Turkish Republic, arguing that there is a symbiotic relationship between the Kurdish question and the de-development of the predominantly Kurdish domains, making an ideal read for historians of the region and those studying the socio-political and economic evolution of the Kurds. First outlining theoretical perspectives on Kurdish identity, socioeconomic development and the Kurdish question, Yadirgi then explores the social, economic and political origins of Ottoman Kurdistan following its annexation by the Ottomans in 1514. Finally, he deals with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the subsequent foundation and evolution of the Kurdish question in the new Turkish Republic.

For details click here.

Review of Kurdish Studies Summer School

2 07 2017


by Sevin Marie Gallo±


This review essay offers analysis of the proceedings of the first ever Kurdish Studies Summer School held in June of 2016 and hosted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester. The review discusses the organisation and structure of the conference, but primarily focuses on the significant themes presented and the different ways student-participants engaged in learning over the three-day program. This review contextualises the conference within the current state-affairs of Kurdish studies as an academic discipline.

Keywords: Area studies; Kurdish studies; program review; pedagogy.


Kurdish studies is a growing field. The success of this journal and the membership and participation in the Kurdish Studies Network (KSN) virtual community and other social media forums attest to the expansion of the discipline and increased scholarly opportunities. However, focus on the Kurds remains somewhat limited and/or tangential in most Middle East Studies centers and across the departments at universities (See Hirschler, 2001; Scalbert-Yücel and Ray, 2006; Klein, 2010; van Bruinessen, 2014). Most academics, outside of the Kurdistan Region, engaged in research that centres on Kurds and Kurdistan, can only dream of what it would be like to study in a program where students take courses in Kurdish languages, and multiple courses on Kurdish history, politics, society, economics, culture, and literature (the University of Exeter and Erfurt University being the obvious exceptions). Working toward filling this void and to serve the demand created by the current boom in Kurdish Studies, Dr. Ipek Demir, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Leicester, created a summer school to allow participants a taste of the benefits of joining a cohort of similarly focused learners to study with and under some of the most experienced scholars and researchers working in Kurdish studies.

At a time when area studies has come under criticism,[1] Kurdish studies continues to carve out space in academia and make the case for increased scholarly focus on the Kurds and Kurdistan as a unique interdisciplinary global project. Kurdish studies has the potential to simultaneously amend the international scholarly record that has neglected the Kurds while contributing to an understanding of the historical and contemporary processes that have systematically curtailed and oppressed Kurds.. On June 27-30, 2016, the University of Leicester’s Department of Sociology hosted the first international Kurdish Studies Summer School titled “Kurdish Politics and Society: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives.” Dr. Ipek Demir, a scholar of Kurdish and Turkish diasporic communities, organised this intensive three-day academic program that brought together renowned scholars, graduate and post-graduate students, activists, journalists, and independent scholars to share and discuss major trends in Kurdish studies.

The school was organised into six thematic focuses taught by leading scholars in their respective subsections of Kurdish studies: “Kurdish Language, Literature, Popular Culture and Folklore in Kurdistan”, “Coercion and Violence in Kurdistan and in the Middle East”, “Kurdish Diaspora”, “The Contemporary Kurdish Movement: Key Questions and Developments”, “Ethics and Challenges of Doing Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Shadow of the Kurdish Question”, and “Gender and Kurdish Studies”.  The days were balanced into sessions taught by the invited lecturers, student research presentations and discussions, and student rapporteurs, who led wrap-up sessions. All aspects of the summer school centred on teaching and learning, setting it apart from a traditional research conference. Even when the day turned to the student research panels that undoubtedly resembled a conference presentation, the experience retained the learning focus of the school. Presenters engaged in a helpful discussion of their work with experienced Kurdish studies professors and an interdisciplinary peer group that summarily reminded me of the very best graduate seminars, with the added benefit of multiple engaged professors offering specialist insights and essential questions. Keeping with the ultimate graduate seminar-like experience, Demir circulated suggested readings assigned by the featured lecturers one month before the summer school. Based on the level of lively, informed participation, students seized this opportunity to come to the table with insight into important debates in the multiple areas discussed over the three-day school.

Professor Christine Allison, Ibrahim Ahmed Chair of Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, led the first lecture session dedicated to “Kurdish Language, Literature, Popular Culture and Folklore in Kurdistan”. Expressing an understanding of the diverse scholarly backgrounds of the participants, Allison provided an overview of the history and politics of folklore studies in the Kurdish home-states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, as well as the diverging experience of Kurdish studies in the former Soviet Union, where researching folklore was not policed as an act of nationalist resistance. Then, she discussed how the various representatives of the Kurdish nationalist project have used, perceived, and represented folklore. After spending some time discussing the theory and methods of folkloristic textual analysis, Professor Allison divided the students into two groups tasked to put their new or revived knowledge into practice by examining a text that Allison had recorded in Qosh Teppe, Northern Iraq-Kurdistan. Splitting the students into small groups with a stated task so early on in the program allowed the participants to learn more about one another’s interests and strengths and work together with the common goal of applying folkloristic analysis to Allison’s chosen text, “A Barzani Woman Laments.” Students read the text in Kurmanci and English and focused on the context, the themes and events described in the text, as well as the politics and activism associated with lamenting for/to an audience. Several students were able to draw comparisons between the Barzani woman’s lament and the context and subject of Kurdish dengbêj singers.  Christine Allison’s opening lecture and applied learning activity set the tone for the supportive, collaborative, and challenging learning environment that Demir planned, and indeed continued herself in a lecture and discussion concerning the Kurdish diaspora.

Dr Demir’s presentation on the Kurdish diaspora focused on methods for analysing identity formation in the diaspora, including insights from studies of transnationalism and translation. Demir drew from her research focused on the Kurdish and Turkish diaspora in London. She explained two of her key contributions to diaspora studies, the “diaspora battlespace,” an alternative space where Kurds can create and articulate a narrative of the Kurdish question that is different than the hegemonic Turkish narrative, and “de-Turkification”, the processes of shedding imposed identities brought from home in diaspora. Demir’s explanation of the process and intent of translating Kurdish identity and culture by Kurdish “brokers”, to both British audiences and second-generation Kurds, led to important discussions concerning translation as not only a site of discovery and perhaps understanding, but also of re-writing. Several participants had a visceral experience with identity formation in the diaspora, and the groups spent some time discussing personal and political experiences of the diasporic self. Although the expertise and focus of students and lecturers at the summer school spanned many disciplines and varied between Kurdish languages and regions, the hegemony of scholarship concerning Kurds became a key aspect of analysis among the students throughout the next two days.

Professor Hamit Bozarslan, Director of the Center of Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, lectured on the history of “Violence and Coercion in Kurdistan and the Middle East” on day two. Bozarslan weaved a discussion on historiography and theory concerning violence as a tool for change into the narrative of Kurdish relationships with hegemonic states and imperialism from the late-Ottoman period to the present. The session ended with a lively discussion concerning the authoritarian extremism of ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL or IS) compared to the pluralism of Rojava/Syrian Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. This discussion centred on the relationship and tension between consensus and dissent in democracy and nationalist resistance movements, an intense topic that the group returned to throughout the rest of the conference.

Dr. Ulrike Flader, member of the University of Manchester Sociology Department, presented a survey of the state of the field concerning “The Contemporary Kurdish Movement” that gave students the opportunity to learn and discuss the diverse approaches to examining the spectrum of Kurdish movements. Even the most informed student undoubtedly learned something new or surprising from Flader’s comprehensive lecture that featured key authors and arguments concerning the Kurdish movement in policy studies, historical approaches, cultural politics, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK), women and gender studies, individual or everyday resistance and identity, youth, political parties, and more. Flader followed this survey of the field with a candid discussion of the trials and best practices of fieldwork. To help create a comfortable, empathetic group discussion, Flader requested that the students leave their desks and join her in a circle in the centre of the classroom. The standard, formal classroom setting morphed even further into a supportive, mentoring experience. Flader shared her experiences of doing research in the Kurdish regions of Turkey while studying everyday resistance. She encouraged participants who had completed their field work to tell their stories, too. The discussion and questions focused on the ethics and precautions that are particular to scholars doing fieldwork in the many sites of resistance and conflict associated with Kurdish studies. Participants who were formulating their research plans asked questions concerning access to the field, safety of their informants, how to gain the trust and confidence of their subjects, and how to deal with their own positionality. Participants remarked how meaningful these conversations were. All the participants welcomed this opportunity to discuss these issues with a cohort of students who share these concerns and understand the importance of trying to navigate and situate the Kurdish human rights struggle within their own projects.

On the final day of summer school, Dr. Necla Acik, Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, presented her lecture titled: “Gender and Kurdish studies.” After discussing the politics of representation and the image of the Kurdish woman within nation-building processes, Acik explained how the Kurdish women’s movement in Turkey has undergone major changes from grassroots mobilisation to formal representation in local municipalities and in the national parliament. She started by giving a survey of the existing literature on gender and the Kurds and discussed the activities of the International Kurdish Women’s Studies Network in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as Kurdish women’s rights groups in Turkey/North Kurdistan. Instead of simply telling the group about the major concerns and focus of the Kurdish women’s movement, Acik directed a primary source examination of a variety of Kurdish women’s magazines and journals printed in Kurdish, Turkish, English, and German that represented more than three decades of Kurdish feminist activism. She asked students to consider context, language, and change over time, which led to an energetic, evidence-based discussion on transnational feminism, the discourse of the “native informant”, and the relationship between the Kurdish women’s movement and the Kurdish nationalist movement since the 1980s. This discussion flowed neatly into the final sessions of student presenters who similarly focused on women and gender as well as in the school’s concluding session when participants discussed issues of canonisation in Kurdish studies. Demir asked students to reflect on the consequences of the dominance of Kurdish studies scholars from Turkey in this field, as well as the gendered aspects of citation and canonisation in the field of Kurdish studies.

Throughout the duration of the summer school, student presenters, postgraduate students, independent scholars, and journalists, travelling from Mexico, Belgium, Germany, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Italy, and within the U.K., had the opportunity to share their research projects in a panel presentation format that complemented the lecturers’ themes. The friendly and informed audience provided insights from across the disciplines on research topics focused on identity in the diaspora and in diasporic communities in Kurdish home-states, representation of the Kurds by dominant cultures, the impact of the Kurdish women’s rights movement on other hegemonic movements around the world, urban planning in Kurdistan, regional security studies, and the politics of “official languages” in Kurdistan. Most presenters had some conference experience, but remarked on the differences between a conference presentation and a summer school research presentation. Most participants were thrilled to finally be in a group of students, regardless of their various phases of research, who shared a common focus on the Kurds and Kurdistan. They were eager to discuss their work and receive feedback from an informed and understanding peer group, as well as from the experts in the field who were participating in a teacher/mentor role. The community-building aspect of the school was very successful and participants were delighted to carry on these work-related discussions at dinner or in the pub each evening following class.

On the final day, students were quick to ask Demir if she planned to organise another summer school, underscoring the significant value of the project for students and early-career scholars. The students built contacts and friendships that they planned to foster in future research adventures. They shared dissertation chapters and contacts at research centres and in the field. Students from around the world made plans to travel together to the Kurdish Cultural Centre and Kurdish Community Centre while in the U.K., and immediately formed their own Google group to maintain the important conversations and relationships sparked at the first-ever Kurdish Studies Summer School.

Programs like Demir’s summer school will ensure that the field continues to grow in rewarding ways, even in the current environment where access to the field is often a considerable challenge. The field of Kurdish studies has grown exponentially in the last decade, particularly in relation to the existence of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. The KRG has supported Kurdish studies inside the region and supplied financial support for international programs like The University of Exeter’s Center for Kurdish Studies, the World Kurdish Congress, and The University of Erfurt’s Mustafa Barzani Research Center for Kurdish Studies. However, with persistent economic and military crisis in the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria, continued funds for these programs from the KRG are not secured.

The earlier success of the KRG coincided with the seemingly brief experiment in the democratisation of education in Turkey. However, steeply rising authoritarianism in recent years has impeded the work of Kurdish studies scholars in Turkey. Despite many obstacles from Turkish nationalists and the state, Kurdish studies in Turkey had been growing since the late 1990s, and as recently as 2014 academic publications and journalism concerning Kurds, appeared to be on pace to match or possibly even outnumber those coming from Europe, the dominant centre of Kurdish studies over the last century (van Bruinessen, 2014). However, this tacit optimism proved to be very short lived. The devastating academic purges and the state takeover of much of the independent press has, once again, made researching and publishing anything that runs counter to the dominant state narrative concerning the Kurds nearly impossible inside Turkey (Akkoyunlu, 2017). Geopolitics in all regions of Kurdistan has continued to underscore the critical need for alternative spaces for academic freedom and scholarly association.

The success of the journal Kurdish Studies, in addition to the growing social media networks, and established Kurdish institutes and libraries, created a common space for a rather far-flung scholarly community, and helped develop the demand for an arena for young scholars across the disciplines to broaden their knowledge of the Kurdish past and present. The Sociology Department at the University of Leicester provided the structure and dedicated space for these early-career scholars to form an active learning community. The participants benefitted from the experience and teaching of multiple senior lecturers in this intensive, accelerated forum that was ultimately a resounding success.

Fortunately, Demir is organising another summer school in July 2017 at the Kurdish Institute in Paris. More information on the 2017 Kurdish Studies Summer School can be found at: 01/25/kurdish-studies-summer-school-2/.



Akkoyunlu, K. (2017, March 17). As Turkey’s Academia Faces Desolation, A Call for Solidarity for Imperiled Scholars. Huffington Post, URL: http://www.

Hirschler, K. (2001).  Defining the Nation: Kurdish Historiography in Turkey in the 1990s. Middle Eastern Studies, 37(3), 145–166.

Jayasuriya, K. (2015). Beyond the culturalist problematic: Towards a global social science in the Asian Century? In Johnson C., Mackie V., & Morris-Suzuki T. (Eds.), The Social Sciences in the Asian Century. Canberra, ANU Press. 81-96.

Klein, J. (2010). Minorities, Statelessness, and Kurdish Studies Today: Prospects and Dilemmas for scholars. Journal of Ottoman Studies/Osmanlı Araştırmaları Dergisi, special issue in honor of Rifa’at Abou-el-Haj, 225-237.

Scalbert-Yücel, C. and Le Ray, M. (2006). Knowledge, Ideology and Power: Deconstructing Kurdish Studies. European Journal of Turkish Studies, 5, URL:

Swantzon, D. (2004). The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines. Los Angeles and Berkley: University of California Press.

University of Leicester Department of Sociology (2016).  Kurdish Studies Summer School, 27-29 June 2016, URL: sociology/ research/conferences-and-workshops/kurdish-studies-summer-school.

Van Bruinessen. M. (2014). Kurdish Studies in Western and Central Europe. Weiner Jarbruch für Kurdische Studien, 2, 18-96.

Zürcher E.-J. (2007). Region or discipline? The debate about area studies. Groen A. in ‘t, Jonge H.J. de, Klasen E., Papma H., Slooten P. van (Eds.) Knowledge in Ferment. Dilemmas in Science, Scholarship and Society. Leiden, Leiden University Press. 243-256.



± Dr Sevin M. Gallo, Assistant Professor of World History and Global Studies Degree Coordinator at Northwest Arkansas Community College, 1 College Dr, Bentonville, AR 72712, USA. E-mail:

[1] See Kanishka Jayasuriya (2015) “Beyond the culturalist problematic: Towards a global social science in the Asian Century?” in The Social Sciences in the Asian Century for a discussion of the multiple critiques of traditional area studies programs. Jayasuriya offers insights into the ways in which advocates for area studies have responded to criticism and continue to assert their relevance when many cultural definitions of place or territoriality seem increasingly problematic in a globalized world.  See also Erik Zürcher’s (2007) “Region or discipline? The debate about area studies” and David Szanton’s (2004) The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines.

New Book Out: Comparative Kurdish Politics in the Middle East

21 06 2017

Tugdar, Emil Elif & Al, Serhun (eds)

Palgrave Macmillan, 2017

ISBN: 978-3-319-53714-6

This edited volume introduces the political, social and economic intra-Kurdish dynamics in the Middle East by comparatively analyzing the main actors, their ideas, and political interests. As an ethnic group and a nation in the making, Kurds are not homogeneous and united but rather the Kurdish Middle East is home to various competing political groups, leaderships, ideologies, and interests. Although many existing studies focus on the Kurds and their relations with the nation-states that they populate, few studies analyze the Kurdish Middle East within its own debates, conflicts and interests from a comparative perspective across Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. This book analyzes the intra-Kurdish dynamics with historically-grounded, theoretically-informed, and conceptually-relevant scholarship that prioritizes comparative politics over international relations.

For details click here.

New Book Out: The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written

19 06 2017

Omarkhali, Khanna

Harrossowitz Verlag, 2017 

ISBN: 978-3-447-10856-0


Public and academic interest in the Yezidis, their religion and culture, has increased greatly in recent years. The study of Yezidism has also made considerable progress in recent decades. Still, several lacunae in our knowledge remain, notably concerning many concrete aspects of the textual tradition. These gaps are due in part to the fact that many elements of religious knowledge are generally not revealed to non-Yezidis. Khanna Omarkhali, a highly qualified academic who also stems from a respected Yezidi family of religious leaders (Pir), has had unique opportunities to investigate such aspects of the Yezidi tradition.
This book is a comprehensive study of the Yezidi religious textual tradition, containing descriptions of many hitherto unknown aspects of the oral transmission of Yezidi religious knowledge. It presents a detailed account of the ‘mechanisms’ underlying various aspects of the tradition. It shows how the religious textual tradition functioned – and to a certain degree still does – in its pre-modern way, and also describes the transformations it is currently undergoing, including the issues and processes involved in the increasing trend to commit religious knowledge to writing, and indeed to create a written canon.
The work contains several hitherto unpublished texts and the most comprehensive survey to date of the extant Yezidi sacred texts. It includes four maps, a glossary of terms and a list of Yezidi lineages, and is accompanied by a CD with an extensive collection of recordings of texts (208 minutes).


For details click here.

Call for Abstracts: Special Issue on Women and War

4 06 2017

Kurdish Studies invites academics, policy makers, activists, and students to submit high quality academic papers on the topic Women and War. Over the last years Kurdish women have become highly visible in international media coverage through different types of images. Images of female guerrilla fighters, of women in leading positions, of women in captivity of the Islamic State, of women as victims of state and communal violence, escaping war and arriving as refugees in Europe and elsewhere, have circulated widely.

Gendered analyses of war show that women are often differently affected by war, violence, and displacement than men. Studies also show that war can be seen as a time in which existing social structures are turned upside down and may be (temporarily) replaced by others. Consequently, traditional gender-relations, existing ties and social norms are challenged. This may make women vulnerable to further violence and discrimination, or, alternatively, it may open up new spaces of opportunities to women.

What is more, in the current developments in Kurdistan, most notably in Rojava (Kurdistan- Syria) and in Bakur (Kurdistan-Turkey), women are actively involved both in warfare as well as in the political process. But even if many women take up such roles, there may be many others who do not have such endeavours.

The Kurdish Studies Journal wishes to contribute to critical and empirical based analyses of the present realities of Kurdish women in all parts of Kurdistan, along with their representation as well as images that circulate about them in the international media.

Kurdish Studies invites contributions from all disciplines of the Humanities and Social Sciences that relate to women and war in Kurdistan. Submissions can be in the form of research papers, theoretical or conceptual papers, commentaries, review articles and book reviews. As a general guide, full research papers should be around 8,000-9,000 words and book reviews around 800-1,000 words. Please feel free to circulate this call for papers.

Deadlines: please submit a 250-500 word abstract before July 10, 2017. We will invite the authors of the most promising abstracts to contribute. The article deadline will be October 31, 2017.

Guest editors for this special issue are: Nazand Begikhani (University of Bristol), Nerina Weiss (Fafo Oslo), Wendy Hamelink (University of Oslo).

Please submit through where you will also see author guidelines and can register. For the content of previous issues please see: Kurdish Studies journal is published twice a year in May and October. The publication of the special issue about Women and War is planned for May 2018.

Kurdish Studies is an interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing high quality research and scholarship in the field of Kurdish Studies. Launched in 2013, the Kurdish Studies journal aims to contribute to and revitalise research, scholarship, and debates in this field in a multidisciplinary fashion. The journal embraces a wide range of topics including but not limited to politics, history, society, gender, minorities, health, law, environment, economics, language, media, culture, arts, and education.

Cfa women and war KSJ (.pdf)

New Issue of Kurdish Studies Out

28 05 2017

Kurdish Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, May 2017 



On the frontiers of empire: Culture and power in early modern “Iranian” Kurdistan
Djene Rhys Bajalan


What’s old is new again: A study of sources in the Šarafnāma of Šaraf Xān Bidlīsī (1005-7/1596-99)
Sacha Alsancakli

The literary legacy of the Ardalans
Farangis Ghaderi

History of Ardalānids (1590-1810) by Sharaf al-Dīn bin Shams al-Dīn
Sara Zandi Karimi

Review: Islam and politics in Iranian Kurdistan at a time of revolution: the life of Ahmad Moftizadeh
Martin van Bruinessen

Book Reviews 
Eve Hepburn (ed.), New Challenges for Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties, London: Routledge, 2011.
Reviewed by Ebubekir Isik
Paul White, The PKK: Coming Down From the Mountains, London: Zed Books, 2015.
Reviewed by Cengiz Gunes
Ibrahim Sirkeci, Jeffrey H Cohen & Pinar Yazgan (eds.), Conflict, Insecurity and Mobility, Transnational Press London, London, 2016.
Reviewed by Liza Mugge
Janroj Yilmaz Keles, Media, Diaspora and Conflict: Nationalism and Identity Amongst Turkish and Kurdish Migrants in Europe, London: I.B. Tauris, 2015.
Reviewed by Kevin Smets
Abdullah Öcalan, The Political Thought of Abdullah Öcalan, Kurdistan, Woman’s Revolution, and Democratic Confederalism, London: Pluto Press, 2017.
Reviewed by Joost Jongerden
Mustafa Aydogan, Rêbera Rastnivîsînê, Istanbul: Rûpel, 2012.
Reviewed by Ergin Opengin



Welat Zeydanlioglu

Managing Editor

Kurdish Studies is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

ISSN: 2051-4883 e-ISNN: 2051-4891

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