CfP: Narratives of Struggle: Maintaining and Preserving Kurdish Cultural Heritage

TVP_141120_5154The Kurdish Studies Association (KSA) announces a call for papers for the November 2017 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) meeting to be held in Washington DC, November 18-21, 2017.

Narratives of Struggle: Maintaining and Preserving Kurdish Cultural Heritage

Deadline for submission: February 9, 2017
Organizer and Chair: Christian Sinclair

This organized panel seeks to explore the narratives and politics of cultural maintenance and preservation in the face of repression and conflict. Culture, as defined by UNESCO, is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.” Cultural heritage can be tangible or intangible. According to Bouchenaki (2003), “[c]ultural heritage is a synchronized relationship involving society, norms, and values” and the “intangible heritage should be regarded as the larger framework within which tangible heritage takes on shape and significance.”

The overt struggles faced by the Kurds across the Middle East are well known and have a rich literature. What is less researched, and hence the theme of this panel, are the behind-the-scenes efforts to maintain, preserve, and document Kurdish cultural heritage in the face of these decades-long struggles in the region and beyond. How does culture survive decades of oppression? How is it preserved and documented when challenged by the state or even from within?

There is no singular Kurdish culture, but rather a multitude of sub-cultures that together form Kurdish cultural heritage, writ large. Questions this panel hopes to answer include: Who defines these Kurdish culture(s)? For whom is the culture maintained and/or preserved, and why? Are there competing narratives of a singular cultural element? What risks and challenges are inherent in preserving Kurdish culture in the region? What are the relationships between tangible and intangible Kurdish culture?

Points of consideration may include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of institutions such as libraries, archives and museums
  • Patrimony, ownership and possession
  • Hegemony and representation
  • Gendered perspectives on cultural heritage
  • Language and ethno-linguistics
  • Religion and religious institutions  

DEADLINE: By February 9, 2017, please send abstracts of 300-400 words for the panel. Include a brief 50-75 word bio. Those selected for the panel will be asked to submit their abstracts to MESA via their online submission system by February 15, 2017. Abstracts for this KSA-sponsored panel should be sent to: KSA Executive Secretary, William Kopycki at w.kopycki@gmail.com.

NOTE: All selected panelists must be members of MESA at the time of paper submissions to MESA. Student membership to MESA is $65. Professional membership rates vary according to income. Please do not submit an abstract to us if you are not prepared to join MESA once your abstract has been accepted. For more information about the MESA meeting, go to: http://mesana.org/annual-meeting/

 

CfP: Kurdish Artistic Expression, Resistance, and the State

The Kurdish Studies Association (KSA) announces a call for papers for the November 2016 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) meeting to be held in Boston, November 17-20, 2016.

Kurdish Artistic Expression, Resistance, and the State
Deadline for submission: February 9, 2016
Organizer and Chair: Christian Sinclair


 

This organized panel seeks to explore the relationships between artistic expression, resistance, and the state. Artistic expression is the manifestation of creative imagination through music, song, literature, film, dance, theatre, and many other venues. While many societies consider artistic expression freedom of speech, this is not the case with Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and to some extent Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdish artistic expression has routinely been suppressed; Kurdish artists have been jailed or forced into exile. Kurdish cultural production is viewed as resistance to state policies and frequently labeled as a terrorist activity, particularly in Turkey.

For this special panel we are seeking papers that explore this volatile relationship between Kurdish artistic expression, resistance, and state politics. Some questions that come to mind are: How does the state view Kurdish artistic expression? How is it received by that state? In light of state censorship, how do Kurds use artistic production to promote Kurdish identity? To what extent do Kurds self-censor when creating their art? How has globalization affected cultural production and expression in these states? What creative spaces have been carved out for production and dissemination of Kurdish artistic expression? Given the nature of the relationship between the state and Kurdish expression of identity, some of those artistic spaces are found in the diaspora. Therefore, another question to consider might be: What is the role of Kurdish artists in the diaspora in expressing resistance to state policies?

This panel should be of particular interest to those involved in resistance studies, cultural studies, ethnomusicology, human rights, and minority rights.


 

ksa_logo copyDEADLINE: By February 9, 2016, please send abstracts of 300-400 words for the panel. Include a brief 50-75 word bio. Those selected for the panel will be asked to submit their abstracts to MESA via their online submission system by February 16, 2016. Abstracts for this KSA-sponsored panel should be sent to: KSA Secretary, William Kopycki at w.kopycki@gmail.com.

NOTE: All selected panelists must be members of MESA at the time of paper submissions to MESA. Student membership to MESA is $65. Professional membership rates vary according to income. Please do not submit an abstract to us if you are not prepared to join MESA once your abstract has been accepted. For more information about the MESA meeting, go to: http://mesana.org/annual-meeting/

In conjunction with the panel, KSA would like to arrange a Kurdish art exhibition or musical performance at MESA. If you have suggestions, please contact William Kopycki at the above email address.

CfP: Mapping Kurdish Media and Cultural Production between the National and the Transnational

28725Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Special issue: “Mapping Kurdish Media and Cultural Production between the National and the Transnational”
Edited by Kevin Smets and Ali Fuat Şengül

Ongoing resistance against, and attacks on, Islamic State militias by Kurdish armed fighters in northern Iraq and Syria have brought international public and media attention to the Kurds’ continuing struggle for statehood. The fighting between the IS and Kurdish militias has brought unprecedented media attention to the Kurds and their struggle for territory, human rights and identity. Although it is too early to predict what direction the geo-political and national struggles will take, it is important to address mediated representations and production by and of Kurds and the role that the media play in new and multiple geographies and experiences of Kurdishness in changing contexts.

The volume and the geographical reach of Kurdish media are expanding exponentially, contributing to a shifting Middle Eastern mediascape. A number of studies already exist on some aspects of Kurdish media production, Kurdish identity and transnational connections and implications. However, these studies have either found home in the field of Kurdish studies or in transnational media studies without contributing, to a certain extent, to dialogues and connections between these fields which would certainly improve understandings of what has come to be known as the Kurdish question.

This special issue seeks to make a contribution to bridging the gap. We therefore invite submissions devoted to empirically grounded, historically-contextualized studies on Kurdish media and cultural productions and their multiple geographies. We welcome papers from a wide range of disciplinary and methodological approaches that focus on media broadly defined and on questions of media and cultural production while relating these issues to relevant socio-political contexts.

Contributions may address, but should not be limited to, the following questions:
– How is the question of Kurdishness articulated, represented and experienced in different geographies?
– How is Kurdish media and cultural production influenced by political economic contexts in different geographies?
– How are questions of gender, class and ethnicity articulated and negotiated?
– What role do Kurdish media and cultural products play in the relation between politics and everyday life?

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 15 March 2015. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and should provide a clear outline of its proposed theoretical framework and empirical data, as well as its contribution to the themes of the special issue.

Notification of acceptance of abstracts: 20 May 2015.

Deadline for submission of complete manuscripts: 15 October 2015. Contributions should be between 6000 and 7000 words and include an abstract of 150 words, at least 5 keywords and the author’s affiliation and email address.

Please send abstracts by 15 March 2015 to Kevin Smets (kevin.smets@uantwerpen.be) and Ali Fuat Şengül (afsengul@gmail.com).

37 Kurdish studies papers to be presented at MESA

MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION MEETING14-DC logo color
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC
22-25 November 2014

A full listing of Kurdish panels, papers, and events.

An amazing 37 Kurdish studies papers will be presented in 4 days!

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Meetings: Saturday, November 22 2-3pm

ksa_logo copyKurdish Studies Association meeting (Coolidge Room)

Guest speakers:

Mehmet Yüksel, HDP representative in Washington
Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Washington-based journalist will provide update on Kobanê

Kurdish Studies Association Reception to follow
3.30-5pm (location to be announced at meeting)

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Saturday, November 22
4-5pm

Undergraduate Research Poster Session

Three of the 16 poster presentations are focused on the Kurds:

Jennie Barker, Tulane U–The Kurds In Turkey: Prospects for Peace Under the AKP
Julie Duerst, Lewis & Clark Col–The Roots of Unrest in Turkey
Kevin Miller, Loyola U–From Sheikhs to Statesmen: The Gradual Shift from Regional Rebellions to Nationalist Movements in Southern Kurdistan Since WWI

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Kurdish-themed panels and papers (marked with *):

Saturday, November 22 5.30-7.30pm

The Kurds and the Changing Middle East Political Map

Organized by Michael M. Gunter
Supported by Ahmed Foundation for Kurdish Studies
Chair: Robert W. Olson, U Kentucky
Discussant: Tozun Bahcheli, King’s Col London

Panelists:

*Mohammed M.A. Ahmed, Ahmed Foundation for Kurdish Studies–Are the Kurds Missing the Boat?
*Michael M. Gunter, Tennessee Technological U–The Syrian Kurds & the Changing Middle East Political Map
*Diane E. King, U Kentucky–The Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Changing Middle East Political Map
*Nader Entessar, U South Alabama–Securitization of Kurdish Demands in Iran
*Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Siena Col–Kurdish Identity and Diaspora Politics: Re-Positioning Dissent

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Sunday, November 23 8.30-10.30am

Failing to Imagine Cartographic and Discursive Borders

Organized by Emine Rezzan Karaman
Discussant: Sabri Ates, Southern Methodist U

Panelists:

*Emine Rezzan Karaman, UCLA–Neither Persian nor Kurdish: Imposition of Osmanlilik in the Kurdish Frontier and Making of the Ottoman-Persian Border
*Seda Altug, Bogaziçi U–State, People and Violence in the Making of the Turco-Syrian Frontier
*Dilan Okcuoglu, Queen’s U–Control and Resilience in Kurdish Geography: Case Studies of Van and Hakkari

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ksa_logo copySunday, November 23 11am to 1pm

Conflict, Displacement and the Transformation of Kurdish Identity in Turkey: Negotiating Linguistic and Religious Identity(ies)

Organized by Mehmet Kurt
Sponsored by Kurdish Studies Association (KSA)
Chair: Christian Sinclair, U Arizona

Panelists:

*Gulay Turkmen, Yale U–United in Religion, Divided by Ethnicity: The Failure of Islam as a Supranational Identity in the Kurdish-Turkish Conflict in Turkey
*Mehmet Kurt, Selcuk U–Between Radical Islam and Kurdishness: An Ethnography of Kurdish Hizbullah in Turkey
*Yeşim Mutlu, Middle East Technical U–Negotiating Kurdishness Through Language: The Case of Internally Displaced Kurdish Youngsters within the Education System in Turkey
*Birgul Yilmaz, SOAS, U London– Language, Identity and Conflict in Turkey: Language Rights and Activism as a Catalyst of Democratization, Political Negotiation and Resistance

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Sunday, November 23 11am – 1pm

Nature and Society: Environmental Roots of State Formation in the Modern Middle East, 18th-20th Century

Organized by Yaron Ayalon
Discussant: Alan Mikhail, Yale U

Panelists:

Zoe Griffith, Brown U–A Fine-Grained History: Socio-Politics of Rice Cultivation in 18th-Century Ottoman Egypt
Andrew Robarts, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)–Nowhere to Run To, Nowhere to Hide: State, Society, and Epidemic Disease in the Ottoman Balkans
Ranin Kazemi, Kansas State U–The Environmental Causes of the Tobacco Protest in Nineteenth-Century Iran
Yaron Ayalon, Ball State U–Natural Disasters and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire
*Joseph D. Lombardo, The New School– Eppur Si Muove: Italian Capital, the Environment, and the Kurdish Struggle

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Sunday, November 23 2-4pm

ksa_logo copyIdentity, Language, Media, and Memory: Kurds in the US Diaspora

Organized by Christian Sinclair
Sponsored by Kurdish Studies Association (KSA)

Panelists:

*Aynur de Rouen, Binghamton U SUNY– Coming to America: Kurdish Diaspora in the United States
*Stan Thangaraj, City Col of New York– Navigating Empire(s) Through Religion and Culture: Muslim Kurdish American Women and Challenging Power(s)
*Christian Sinclair, U Arizona–Infusing Media Rhythms into the Diasporic Space: Kurds and Media Production in the US
*Amir Sharifi, CSU Long Beach– The Role of Heritage Language in Identity Construction Among Diasporic Kurds in the United States

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Sunday, November 23 4.30-6.30pm

Kurdish Imaginations – Imaginations of Kurdishness

Organized by Marlene Schafers and Susan Benson-Sokmen
Chair: Sophie Richter-Devroe, U Exeter
Discussant: Hisyar Ozsoy, U of Michigan Flint

Panelists:

*Marlene Schafers, U Cambridge–In Pursuit of Permanent Traces: Constituting Authorship Through Inscription
*Susan Benson-Sokmen, U Toronto–Imagining the Non-State: Historical Production in Turkey’s “Fourth Most-Kurdish City”
*Elif Ege-Tatar, U at Buffalo–A Feminist Account of Kurdishness: Everyday Lives of Young Kurdish Women in Istanbul
*Veronica Buffon, U Exeter–Imagining and Sense of Belonging in Diyarbakır: When ‘Health’ and Kurdishness Encounter Political Conflict and Biomedical Domain
*Anoush Tamar Suni, UCLA–An Armenian Past in a Kurdish Present: The Politics of Remembering and Forgetting

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Monday, November 24 2.30-4.30pm

Kurdishness, Identity, and Memory in Turkey

Chair: Dilan Okcuoglu, Queen’s U

Panelists:

*Muna Guvenc, UC Berkeley–Making Claims of Kurdishness: ‘Alternative’ Urban Projects in Diyarbakir, Turkey
*Gozde Ege, U Washington–The Kurdish Movement and the Politics of Memory: Remembering Armenians in Van, Turkey
*Mucahit Bilici, John Jay Col CUNY–Kurdishness at Peace with Islam: Indigenization and the Kurdistani Approach to Post-Conflict Articulations of Kurdish Identity in Turkey
*Lydia Shanklin Roll, U Kentucky–“Here We Live Our Culture”: Claiming Kurdishness in Urban Turkey

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Monday, November 24 5-7pm

Dressing and Undressing for the Nation in the Post-World War I Middle East

Organized by Ahmet Serdar Akturk
Chair: Joel Gordon, U Arkansas
Discussant: Sarah D. Shields, UNC Chapel Hill

Panelists:

*Sevgi Adak, Leiden U–Clothing and the Debate on Secular National Identity in Turkey: The Dress Law of 1934
*Ahmet Serdar Akturk, Georgia Southern U–Kurdish Nationalism and Clothing Reform in the Post-Ottoman Era
Sivan Balslev, Tel Aviv U–Dressing and Impressing Hegemony: Dress Reform and Hegemonic Masculinity in Interwar Iran
Hilary Kalmbach, U Sussex–From Turban to Tarboush: Dress and the Construction of Egyptian National Identity in the Interwar Period

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Tuesday, November 25 8.30-10.30am

Anthropology of Everyday Contradictions and Mediations in Turkey’s Kurdistan

Organized by Firat Bozcali, Omer Ozcan, Dilan Yildirim, and Cagri Yoltar
Discussant: Narges Erami, Yale U

Panelists:

*Firat Bozcali, Stanford U–Materials and Moralities of Smuggling: Moral Economy of the Kurdish Border-Trade across Turkey and Iran
*Cagri Yoltar, Duke U–A Tale of Two Strikes: Moralities of Kurdish Struggle and Municipal Labor Politics in Turkey’s Kurdistan
*Omer Ozcan, U Texas Austin–Smuggling at “Peace”: The Peace Process and “Smuggling” in a Border Town of Turkey’s Kurdistan
*Dilan Yildirim, Harvard U–Disobedient Mountains and Rivers of Revolt: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency by the Other Means in Turkish Kurdistan

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Tuesday, November 25 11am-1pm

Kurdistan(s) in Conflict

Chair: Suheir Abu Oksa Daoud, Costal Carolina U

Panelists:

*Daniel Meier, CNRS-PACTE–Disputed Territories in KRG: A National Identity Issue
*Zeki Sarigil, Bilkent U–Inter-ethnic Tolerance in Turkey: Turks vs. Kurds
*Kawa Morad, U Exeter–(Dis)Placing Bodies: Syrian Kurdish Refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan
*Thomas Schmidinger, U Vienna– Rojava (Syrian-Kurdistan) as a Borderland in Civil War

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Tuesday, November 25 1.30-3.30pm

Transnational Cultural Production

Chair: Zeynep Seviner, U Washington

Panelists:

*Suncem Kocer, Kadir Has U–Kurdish Cinema as a Transnational Homeland
Mohammed Hirchi, Colorado State U–Tangiers and the Dynamics of the Borderland in the Era of Globalization
Anders Ackfeldt, Lund U–Staging Islam in Music Videos: The Case of “Paid in Full”
Isra Ali, Rutgers, State U of New Jersey–Adaptation: Cultural Alliances and Television Production in Israel and the United States
Robert Lang, U Hartford–Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir: Whose Trauma?

Kurdish Studies Association at MESA

14-DC logo colorThe Middle East Studies Association meeting is around the corner. It will take place in Washington, DC from November 22 to 25. The Kurdish Studies Association will host the following events:

Saturday, November 22
Annual meeting
2-3pm in Coolidge (M) at the conference hotel

Special guest speakers:

>Mehmet Yüksel, US representative from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)
>Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Washington-based journalist will provide update on Kobanê

Kurdish Studies Association reception to follow, 3.30-5pm. Location to be announced at meeting.

Sunday, November 23
11am to 1pm
Conflict, Displacement and the Transformation of Kurdish Identity in Turkey: Negotiating Linguistic and Religious Identity(ies)

Organized by Mehmet Kurt

Sponsored by Kurdish Studies Association (KSA)

Chair: Christian Sinclair, U Arizona

Panelists:

Gulay Turkmen, Yale U–United in Religion, Divided by Ethnicity: The Failure of Islam as a Supranational Identity in the Kurdish-Turkish Conflict in Turkey

Mehmet Kurt, Selcuk U–Between Radical Islam and Kurdishness: An Ethnography of Kurdish Hizbullah in Turkey

Yeşim Mutlu, Middle East Technical U–Negotiating Kurdishness Through Language: The Case of Internally Displaced Kurdish Youngsters within the Education System in Turkey

Birgul Yilmaz, SOAS, U London– Language, Identity and Conflict in Turkey: Language Rights and Activism as a Catalyst of Democratization, Political Negotiation and Resistance

Sunday, November 23
2-4pm
Identity, Language, Media, and Memory: Kurds in the US Diaspora

Organized by Christian Sinclair

Sponsored by Kurdish Studies Association (KSA)

Panelists:

Aynur de Rouen, Binghamton U SUNY– Coming to America: Kurdish Diaspora in the United States

Stan Thangaraj, City Col of New York– Navigating Empire(s) Through Religion and Culture: Muslim Kurdish American Women and Challenging Power(s)

Christian Sinclair, U Arizona–Infusing Media Rhythms into the Diasporic Space: Kurds and Media Production in the US

Amir Sharifi, CSU Long Beach– The Role of Heritage Language in Identity Construction Among Diasporic Kurds in the United States

For more information about the MESA meeting in DC, go to: mesa.arizona.edu

Membership registration

Dear Kurdish Studies Association members,

The Kurdish Studies Association (KSA) will be holding officer elections in May. Prior to elections we are formalizing our membership roster. If you consider yourself a member of KSA, or are considering becoming a member, please complete the following 3-question survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/29BLJ9K.

Registration must be completed by May 5, 2013. Only those who register via this survey will be eligible to vote in next month’s elections.

Thank you for your participation in, and support of, the Kurdish Studies Association.

regards,

Shayee Khanaka
KSA President

CfP: Kurdish Geographies of Space, Place, and Power

Call for Papers:
Kurdish Geographies of Space, Place, and Power

Association of American Geographers
April 9-13, 2013
Los Angeles, CA

Events unfolding across the Middle East over the past two years are lessons in geography; reminders that the ostensibly smooth cartographic renderings of the nation-state space little reflect grounded practice, desire, and identity. As boundaries shift, governments collapse, and the flow of goods, people, and ideas expand, alliances emerge that challenge our assumptions about the seamlessness of political power. Into the 21st century, no one group has more challenged the popular global imaginary than the Kurds, yet to date work on the Kurds remains sparse. Spread across several countries, the Kurds constitute perhaps the largest stateless nation in the world. Popular geopolitical narratives about the Kurds pivot around the collective experience with war, displacement, and imbalances of power. In reality, the Kurdish experience is anything but collective – defined by a range of national affiliations as well as linguistic, gendered, and ethnic identities.

To this end, this session seeks papers that can contribute to the still small but growing body of work on the Kurds and Kurdayetî (“Kurdishness”) in a way that sheds light on the diverse Kurdish geographies of space, place, and power. A lack of institutional support in the US for Kurdish Studies has limited the number and size of forums for exchange among North American geographers (and scholars in general) about these issues. This panel session is a response to this void and hopes to initiate a fruitful dialogue on a people and place(s) often excluded from regional studies on the Middle East.

Papers may address but are not limited to issues of: movement and mobility, conflict, nationalism, stateness, gender, language, and human rights.

Please send an abstract of up to 250 words by October 5th, 2012 to the session organizers:

Also include your name, institutional affiliation, and position.

If your abstract is accepted for submission, you will be required to become a member of AAG and register for the conference by October 24, 2012. Note that there are reduced registration fees for students and underemployed members. Details can be found here: http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting.

>>Download .pdf of call for papers here.

KSA sponsored panel at MESA

Kurds in Syria: Past, Present, and Future
Kurdish Studies Association sponsored panel
Middle East Studies Association annual meeting
Denver, CO

Sunday, 18 November 2012 at 2pm (see MESA program for location details)

Christian Sinclair, University of Arizona, Organizer
Shayee Khanaka, University of California – Berkeley, Chair

This panel brings together scholars from various disciplines to shed light on the situation of the Kurds in Syria–the largest minority in the country, yet the smallest population of Kurds of the major Middle Eastern states with Kurdish minorities–by examining the past, discussing the present, and pondering the future.

Since March of 2011 Syria has been embroiled in a bloody conflict that will see, at some point, significant changes for the Kurdish minority in that country. Should the revolution succeed, Kurds may have an opportunity to become equal partners in a post-Ba’ath, post-Assad Syria. Equality for Kurdish citizens of Syria has long been debated in many arenas, including cultural, political, linguistic, and economic. The push for equality and rights has been the cornerstone of the Kurdish struggle in Syria. In that context, this panel will explore questions pertaining to the relationship Kurds have had with the state beginning in the late Ottoman period, continuing through the French Mandate, independence, and the Ba‟ath party era. By examining Kurdish demands over these periods, we will try to envision a Syria in which Kurds are not forced to conform to Arab cultural and linguistic norms.

Kurds themselves are a disparate group in Syria – ideologically, culturally, and geographically – but do share the common goal of creating the space in which to express their Kurdish identity. This includes groups that may be considered to be on the fringes of Kurdish society, such as the Yezidis.
Some questions that come to mind for this panel are: How have Kurds maintained their cultural identity under Ba’ath rule? What were some of the assimilationist policies propagated in the post-UAR period? How effective have Kurdish political parties in Syria been at representing Kurdish aspirations? What type of role may Kurds play in a new Syria? Will Kurdish political parties be legalized and have the ability to represent Kurds in a new government? What might a new Kurdish-Arab relationship look like given past animosities?

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Identity building among Yezidis from Syria: Discourses of history, homeland, and exile
Sebastian Maisel, Grand Valley State University

This paper reviews the analytical concept of identity and community building among the Yezidis of Syria over the past 100 years. The paper argues that a historical context of space and territory is crucial to understand how Yezidi identity evolved as a distinct minority tradition and unique set of social and cultural practices which has allowed the evolution, development and survival of this ethno-religious community on the fringes of Kurdish society. Since the late 19th century the changing political configuration of the region brought about new ideas of religious diversity, ethnic identity and political community. These ideas had far reaching repercussions on the construction of Yezidi identity, on the interaction with the states which ruled the Yezidi peoples and on the relationship with other minority groups. Of particular interest is the contested relationship between the Yezidis, Sunni Kurds and Western Christians during the late Ottoman Empire. Its legacy is crucial to understand the position of the community in the political sphere of emerging nation states such as Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The French mandate system encouraged the process of identity building among minority groups. Thus the paper analyzes how the two separated Syrian Yezidi communities were affected by this process. It shows that the dynamics of the community‟s self-definition and representation has changed within this short amount of time and led to the embracing of new political concepts of “us” versus the “others”. They also shaped new ideas of space and territory, which are widely discussed and resulted in new definitions for imaginative concepts such as “homeland”, “patriotism” and “exile” during the Ba‟thist rule over Syria. Sources evaluated for this study include interviews with Yezidis from different social and religious groups, educational levels, and regional backgrounds. In addition to the oral narratives, official Syrian, German, and Yezidi documents were analyzed to supplement the empirical data.

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Kurdish-State relations in Syria: A precarious balance
Matthew Flannes, US Department of State

With uprisings engulfing much of Syria beginning in the spring of 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad reverted back to numerous longstanding justifications for its rule. One such rationalization was the protection and advancement of minority rights in the ethnically and religiously divided country, a claim that was supposedly demonstrated by the decision in April to grant statehood to thousands of stateless Kurds in the northeast. Yet Kurdish-state (and Kurdish-Arab) relations have been anything but cordial in the past decade, with the al Qamishli massacre in 2004 and the recent death of Kurdish leader Mashaal Tammo bringing the relationship to its lowest historical point.

In order to understand the history and trajectory of Kurdish-state relations in Syria, I will analyze how the social, political and economic status of the Syrian Kurds has been altered by the rule of Bashar al-Assad, beginning with the nadir of the 2004 Kurdish uprisings. I will argue that the regime has traditionally been caught between espousing religious and ethnic pluralism as a mechanism for justifying minority Alawite rule, and suppressing Kurdish political rights in order to keep rivals at bay. Indeed, this tension came to a breaking point with the 2011 uprisings and the presence of mass protests in the Al-Hasakah Governorate.

I will then analyze the current Kurdish-Arab relationship in Syria, focusing particularly on the minority’s rapport with the Sunni Arab majority and its Shi’a counterparts. In doing so, I will argue that the traditionally tense relationship between Kurdish and the Sunni Arab population has been drastically altered by their mutual opposition to the Assad government. It will also be necessary to briefly examine Syria‟s regional alliances, particularly with Turkey and Iraq, in order to understand how both the state and the Syrian Kurdish population have used cross-border alliances and resources to strengthen their respective positions. In total, this paper will analyze the Kurdish component of the 2011 Syrian uprising in detail in order to determine how the regime‟s policies regarding ethnic and religious minorities may guide its response to the ongoing protest movement calling for its overthrow.

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Old borders, new concepts: Some remarks on how to respect Kurdish national rights in a unified Syria
Eva Savelsberg, Europäisches Zentrum für Kurdische Studien (EZKS)

In November 2011, the Syrian National Council issued a draft of a political program. The paragraph concerning the Kurdish question reads as follows: The constitution guarantees national rights for the Kurdish people and a resolution to the Kurdish question in a democratic and fair manner within the framework of the unity of Syrian territory and people, as well as the exercise of rights and responsibilities of equal citizenship among all citizens.
I will, first of all, present an overview about the positions of the Syrian-Kurdish political parties concerning the future of the Syrian Kurds – positions currently ranging from “cultural autonomy” to “self government.” At the same time, all Syrian-Kurdish parties lack a clear concept of how national Kurdish rights should be implemented in a future Syria.

Secondly, I will argue that Kurdish national rights and Syrian unity do not necessarily contradict each other. For many decades, it was common to suppose that self-determination can only be fulfilled through separatism, secession and independent statehood. Thus, the right of the Kurds to self-determination was believed to be in direct conflict with the political unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. However, today it becomes increasingly clear that secession and separatism are not the only ways to fulfill the right of a people to self-determination. Many democracies across the world have developed legal and constitutional arrangements that respect and safeguard the autonomy of more than one national or linguistic group. This was a response to the fact that often state-borders do not overlap with national and linguistic border. I will discuss this approach, known as intra-state self-determination, as a way to fulfill the national rights of Syria’s Kurds within a unified Syria.

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Assimilation and Arabization: Language and linguistic identity amongst Kurds in Syria
Christian Sinclair, University of Arizona

The exclusion of non-Arab identities in Syria was institutionalized with the creation of the Syrian Arab Republic. Syrian independence from France was won in the context of Arab nationalist discourse. The Kurds, while not the only non-Arab minority in Syria, make up the largest non-Arab minority at 10% of the population, and are perceived as the gravest threat to the state given the history in Turkey and Iraq. Beginning in 1956 a succession of Arab nationalist regimes came to power in Damascus and began suppressing the Kurdish minority. The current revolution in Syria may provide a turning point for Kurdish identity. Until now, Kurds have been an excluded group in all social, economic, and political aspects of life. They have had to give up Kurdish in favor of Arabic and accept Arab cultural and political values and goals. In a post-Assad Syria, Kurds may gain acceptance as an official minority group.

Anti-Kurdish repression grew harsher after the demise of the UAR in 1961. The following year, the government carried out a special census in Jazirah and revoked the citizenship of some 120,000 Kurds who could not prove that they had been resident in the country since 1945. A media campaign was launched against the Kurds with slogans such as “Save Arabism in Jazira!” and “Fight the Kurdish threat!” Kurdish land was seized, the government began replacing Kurdish place names with Arabic names, and they resettled thousands of Arabs into Kurdish areas bordering Turkey and Iraq. The situation worsened after a 1963 coup brought to power the Ba‟ath Party, which had been militantly anti-Kurdish since its inception in Syria in the mid-1940s. Ba‟athist ideology is based on socialism, nationalism, and pan-Arabism and offers no space for a strong, non-Arab minority group. Consequently the party put into effect draconian Arabization policies, which including harsh penalties for using the Kurdish language. Today, the language is still officially banned, though one Kurdish-language school has now opened in Aleppo.

In a new Syria, will Arabization and assimilationist policies end and allow Kurds the official space to be Kurdish? This paper explores the past policies affecting Kurdish linguistic identity and offers insights on Kurdish aspirations in a new Syria, one that is not built on a forced conformity of Arab identity.

Conference: On the Way to a New Constitution

This conference in Istanbul aims to bring together various experiences from around the region with a comparative civic/human rights perspective. It intends to focus on the question of what it means to be “free” after the revolution, and try to understand the current dynamics that shape the very basis of a social contract in respective countries. This is an important task, given that for the first time since the modern state-building experiences people of the region now have the chance to develop a common vision on issues pertaining to democratic citizenship, based on their will and internal dynamics in a mutually learning environment. The program offers one speaker on each country/region to discuss these constitutional issues.

For a livestream of the conference proceedings, click here the day of the conference.

Download the conference program here.

Download the conference concept paper here.

3rd Kurdish Youth Festival

…begins tomorrow in Washington, DC! Click image below for more information.