Should the West be Afraid of the Sleeping Kurdish Giant?

As the 2014 year marks the centenary of the first World War so does it mark the centenary of the division of the Middle East, and so does it mark the centenary of the Kurdish population’s loss of it’s own sovereignty. Since these hundred years have past the Kurdish population has suffered from numerous cruelties by the hands of their given state.

Over the past century the Kurdish people have not let the idea of a sovereign Kurdistan stray far from their thoughts. Because the ethnicity’s population is split by four states (Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria) each country’s population is fighting a different battle in order to join in a unified Kurdistan. The dynamics that involve this assemble of a sovereign Kurdistan is a bit too much for my brain to wrap around. In spite of my misunderstanding of the dynamics involved I will attempt to create a rough sketch of the situation, with a focus on the Kurds of Iraq.

The two articles used for this rough sketch will be 1) The Tower published article “Say it Again. Kurdish Independence Now” by Jonathan Spyer and 2) the Times magazine published article, “Why Kurdish Independence is the Only Solution for the World” by Ayub Nuri.

Spyer, the author of the “Say it Again. Kurdish Independence Now” provides a great deal of reasons as to why Kurdish Independence is an ideal goal to be supported by international state actors. He briefly writes about each Kurdish population in the four states they are divided over, claiming that each population needs independence: however, he spends more time on the Kurdish populations of Syria and Iraq. Spyer focuses on the Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish independence because they live within two failing states that have been a “byword for war, repression, and terrorism for the last fifty years.” He also insists the Kurds’ need independence because they live within the most peaceful regions of their given country, they are building up their economies, and their governments as well as their population are pro-western. In Spyer’s article he lastly admits that in order for the Kurds’ to achieve independence western support is well needed. He fears that independence may not be achievable if the west decides to pull their interest away from the Middle East region.


As Spyer views the western powers presence in the region as a positive for the Kurdish independence movement Author Ayub Nuri of “Why Kurdish Independence is the Only Solution for the World” views the western powers presence as a negative one. Nuri claims that the IS insurgency in the Kurdish region of Iraq and Syria has given reason for the western actors (mainly the U.S.) to have more focus on the region and provide aid the Kurds.’ He declares that the U.S. support has saved millions of Kurds, but in spite of this, the west’s support could also blurr the Kurds’ vision of independence.

Nuri dates back to before the IS militants attacked Iraqi Kurdistan and claims that the failing states had lost notice of the Kurds due to IS’ attacks on Sunni provinces which consequently removed the presence of the Iraqi army from Kurdistan’s borders. As a result, the Kurds began to remove flags from their government institutions and replace them with the Kurdish flag, they had set up a referendum for an electoral commission and had started circulating Kurdish banknotes. Unfortunately, when the IS militants started attacking Kurdish regions in the two states the western powers stepped in and provided aid to the Kurds. Nuri’s fear is held in the belief that because of the U.S. aid the world will see the Kurds as a “spoiled kid that keeps asking for more.” He draws this from the past thirty years of aid the Kurds have received from the U.S. due to multiple conflicts the Kurds have had with the Iraqi government. As a result of the west’s alliance with the Kurds it has caused the Middle Eastern region to resent and mistrust the Kurdish population furthering their oppression.

Despite the two authors’ disagreement on western support, they both believe that the Iraqi-Kurdish relationship is one that is not progressive. As Nuri metaphorically writes that the relationship is “like a couple that starts another fight every time they try to make up.” They both agree that the Kurdish region has passed the test of statehood, has proved that they are a peaceful entity that needs to be released from their chains.

If the U.S. were to support the Iraqi Kurds’ independence, no matter how beneficial it is for the region it may weaken the U.S. alliance with the already well established and internationally recognized state Turkey. The U.S. may also be skeptical of supporting the emergence of a Kurdistan because it may lead to non-democratic state and could also become a haven for the U.S. deemed terrorist organization PKK. Their are many wearies that are attached to the idea of an independent Kurdistan, but their are also many wearies attached to the unstable Iraqi and Kurdish relationship.

As I attempted to wrap my head around this complex conflict it became clear to me that the Kurd’s independence in both Iraq and Syria and eventually in Turkey and Iran, is necessary for the Middle East’s stability. If the Kurd’s are able to become an autonomous nation recognized to the world, the oppression of the ethnicity by the region will lessen its presence. If Kurdistan is able to build up their capacity the west will not have to provide aid when the Kurds are faced with adversity. And if a Kurdistan is created then the violence in the region may not be a prevalent due to the the Kurds separation and freedom from their opposition. Furthermore, an independent Kurdistan will allow the rise of prosperity and stability to blossom in the Middle East.




When shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Turkey considers itself to be a democratic and secularist state. Turkey has also been recognized as safe haven for Middle Eastern minorities during times of political crisis. Turkey has hosted international peace conferences as well as Islamic Cooperation Organization (ICO) conferences. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan even supports the Palestine’s Hamas and sympathizes with the Palestinian’s fight for freedom. In spite of Turkey’s good-will to oppressed minorities in the region the country tends to act the opposite when it comes to the Kurdish minority.

I read two articles for this blog entry, both articles withhold similar contentions about Turkey’s relationship with the Kurdish people.

The first article titled, “Turkey’s Double Standard Policy Towards the Kurds” declares that Turkey oppresses the Kurds, ignores Kurdish political rights,  and violates Iraq’s sovereignty by implementing airstrikes on suggested PKK territories (these attacks mostly yield civilian fatalities). The article even goes as far to claim that Turkey supports radical islamist groups, such as IS, when they reap havoc on Kurds in Northern Syria. The author, Shawkhawan Shorash, provides evidence for his claims. One of his examples was the IS led attack against the Ezidi ethnic group on April  3, 2014 in the Shengal Mountains that borders Turkey. Despite an international plea to provide aid to the Ezidi’s who had just suffered an ethnic cleansing attack Turkey simply left the plea unanswered. Shorash also uses Turkey’s actions during the IS caused Kobani crisis as evidence of Turkey’s maltreatment of the Kurds. During the Kobani crisis Turkey blocked aid from getting to the city of Kobani while it was under siege. Ironically, Turkey allowed international Islamists, intending to fight besides IS, cross the border without an issue. Turkey’s Western allies developed growing anxiety during the siege; however, Turkey ignored the West’s worries and the city until the very last moment, almost like it was waiting for the city’s fall. According to Shorash, Turkey would rather have IS reign over northern Syria then see the Kurds or in Turkey’s eyes the PKK have gains in the region.


Turkey taking the side of IS. It is an interesting thing to wonder about. Reading this article had me recall the chapter titled The Islamist Resurgence in The Battle of the Arab Spring, on page 276 the author mentions that conservative Salafists are leaning towards a more Turkish – style system of governing. Maybe this is what’s alluring Erdogan to the dark side? Everyone loves inspiring others…. even if its an irrational Islamist group claiming to have the caliphate. It’d be one interesting and dangerous conflict if the Erdogan guy joins the jihadist bandwagon.

To further my little conspiracy theory my next article is “Erdogan will try to pull off a balancing act at NATO summit.” This article is about the last NATO member get-together in Wales. The article describes Erdogan as an abrasive leader who enjoys using anti-western rhetoric in his speeches; fortunately, according to the article this is merely a tactic to gather domestic support for his campaign. The article then goes on to mention the contents of the NATO meet – up. The western states agreed that they wanted to rally up there tuff-tootin’ militaries and get rid of those IS bastards; however, Turkey didn’t want much to do with this military plan of action. For one, Turkey didn’t want western aid to be given to the Kurdish militia Peshmerga, two they don’t want to back the western allies because, according to the article Turkey has 48 Turkish civilians kept as hostages by IS. Lastly, Turkey wants to have nothing to do with empowering the the Kurdish population. Towards the end, the article focused on a Kurdish man, Faud Hussein, who snuck over the border of Turkey to ask for arms to fight against IS, he was refused. When Turkey was asked by a Turkish TV channel for justification to their refusal to arm Turkey said that they don’t want the 48 Turkish hostages to be harmed. Oh, the article also mentions that IS soliders flow freely through the borders of Turkey and that Turks have sentiment for the IS group…. I mean IS soilders look kinda friendly and seem to have the people’s best interest at heart.. so the sentiment held by the Turks sounds reasonable (I’m being sarcastic).

I found this last bit, concerning Faud Hussein, to be most interesting. Especially Turkey’s justification for a refusal.. mostly because it seems like most of the countries concerned with the IS crisis have hostages as well. For the most part the hostage situation seems to be adding fuel to the military-intervention-fire, they don’t seem to be negotiating and obeying the IS “terrorist” group or whatever the politically correct term is.

Either Turkey’s Erdogan is a pansy or he’s having some issues breaking it to the west that he’s evil and doesn’t want to attend anymore NATO pow-wows.


Ehhhh I feel a bit uncomfortable calling Erdogan evil, I don’t want to give the west to much credit and deem them as the good guys. Being introduced to all these political messes during my time in school has allowed me to realize that all politics build their beds with the lives of others. In this case however, I’m going to have to side with the West. I think the Kurds have a lot going for them and I’d like to see them become more and more empowered… Miles more then I’d like to see IS empowered thats for sure.



The Kurd’s Double Edged Sword

In today’s blog I will step away from societal issues and focus in on the military/political spectrums within the Middle East.

I have always had a fascination with the art of guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare has been a form of war for centuries past. However, it only got its name in the 18th century. Guerrilla warfare is considered to be a series of ambushes or small attacks against the opposition, after the attack the fighters retreat sorta like a hit-and-run. This type of warfare is primarily used by a small militias against a much bigger agent. The tactic, in theory, yields minimal causalities to the smaller agent and yields devastating results against the larger unit.

I assume the Middle East and North African region has been using guerrilla warfare for centuries. However, it gained traction in the region during World War I. Recalling what I read in Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia T.E. Lawrence, the infamously known Brit for his involvement in the Middle East during WWI, taught these tactics to Semitic tribes. Lawrence, taught guerrilla warfare in order to destroy the Ottoman Empire and Axis’ railway system, which, was being used to transport weapons and men. Historically, in the Arab world, this rebellion is considered to be the Arab Revolt. Lawrence and the Semitic tribe’s use guerrilla warfare eventually destroyed the railway system and relieved the Arab’s from the Ottoman Empire’s autonomy over the region. The Ottoman Empire’s loss of the Arab world signaled the end of the Aging Relic’s empire.

Even though the Ottoman Empire’s presence left the region, Lawrence’s teachings of guerrilla warfare maintained a stronghold. Guerrilla warfare is used in some weight by many small militias, even some large militias throughout the region.

Kuridish militias use guerrilla warfare tactics predominately due to their small size and that their use of force is against much larger armies. One Kurdish militia that actively and consistently uses guerrilla warfare is Turkey Kurd’s Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK).

In the article “Between Guerrilla Warfare and Political Murder” the history of the PKK and the consequences it has given way to are discussed below.

The PKK was formed in 1978 by young college activist, the leader being a man named Abdullah Ocalan. Since the PKK conception the group their foundation has been based on violence, usually in the form of guerrilla warfare. PKK commits acts of violence against states, primarily Turkey, and also rival Kurdish organizations. The PKK has operations throughout Europe, Turkey and Northern Iraq, and none of their locations in these regions are distinct.

The PKK’s use of guerrilla warfare causes many issues for the Kurdish population, both civilian wise and for other Kurdish organizations. Firstly, Turkey has tended to use the PKK’s violence as a justification for implementing strict laws on Kurd’s practice of their culture. In turn this has caused a force assimilation for Kurds living in Turkey and also allowed Turkey to justify their incidents of human right offenses. Secondly, this has given other Kurdish organizations a bad reputation internationally. This can be seen by the United States’ present hesitation of giving military aid to Kurdish organizations, not associated with the PKK, in the recent ISIS crisis plaguing Syria and Iraq.  Thirdly, it has allowed the Kurdish struggle, civilian wise, to be largely ignored by international organizations. For example, Turkey and Iraq has previously implemented airstrikes on Kurdish villages in hopes of killing PKK members, many of the attacks have been largely ignored by international spectators.  And Fourthly, the PKK is always blamed by Turkey and European nations for unsolved crimes, such as the assassination of Sweden’s prime minister, Olaf Palme, in which the Swedish government lacks significant evidence and reasoning to the accusation.


Guerrilla warfare can be a useful tactic when trying to defeat a large military agent, however, it can also be self-defeating if their is no staunch political agenda behind it, as in the PKK’s case.  One could even go as far to conclude that the PKK has been a leading cause to the ISIS militants stronghold in the Kurdish region. Evidence to this conclusion could be the overall ignorance of Kurdistan, and the lack of alliances any Kurdish organization has obtained. One could retort that the United States gives support and aid to Iraqi Kurdish organizations, but that’s only due to their help in the defeat of Sadam Hussein. One could also say that by aiding one Kurdish militia, the US aids all (excluding the PKK because the PKK attacks rival Kurdish militias). This may be true but because Turkey tends to associate all Kurdish militias with the PKK they haven’t allowed Iraqi Kurds to cross their border to give Syrian Kurd’s the military support.

Hence, guerrilla warfare is a double edged sword. However, I believe that if guerrilla warfare is used by Kurdish organizations with the same political agenda and if they are able to unite, the Kurds could really accomplish their political goals.



Do Lions Get Upset When They Hear a House Cat Roar?

If I was the house cat, and Randa Jarrar was the lion then the answer would be a yes.

If you are reading this and are off beat let me explain myself. In an article titled “Why I Can’t Stand White Belly Dancers” the author, Randa Jarrar, chauvinistically states that white women are stealing her and other Arab women’s form of art, that form of art being, Raqs Sharqi/Belly Dancing/Dance of the Orient/Eastern Dance/Etc.

She tells her reader that the white women she’s unfortunately witnessed belly dancing are “incredibly thin,” and didn’t remind her of her super favorite belly dancer Fifi Abdo. Well, after reading Jarrar’s article thank god the belly dancer didn’t remind Jarrar of Fifi or Jarrar would of had to tear the white belly dancer a new one for “appropriating” Fifi’s style. I’m also not sure why Jarrar found it appropriate to discredit the belly dancer’s body. I found it be somewhat dehumanizing and shocking that a pro-claimed feminist would pick at another woman’s body because she didn’t think of it as suitable to be participating in belly dancing. Jarrar later ponders to herself on why these women have never thought that their appropriation of the art form caused others harm… she answers her pondering by stating that these white women are just blindly racist.

Now, I know I wasn’t being completely fair with my last jab at Jarrar… I understand the woman in some respects. I’ll give her that. Before she claims these white women to be racist son-of-a-guns she mentions a white belly dancer having a pseudonym sounding similar to a Middle Eastern name. Eh, I can see how that’s a bit offensive, but for Jarrar to claim ALL white women belly dancers to be racist just because they learned to shake their hips a certain way, may dress up in sparkly bra and put on some airy pants, is a little bit more than offensive. Jarrar is attacking ones moral character because 1) they are white, and 2) they are belly dancing. 

Just to clarify the definition of racism, its definition is as follows, “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

To be honest with you Jarrar I don’t see a difference between you and the white woman that made her stage name Middle Eastern sounding… you are bashful against these women just based on the mere fact that the color of their skin is white.

Would Jarrar sleep better at night if I had yellow or red or black skin and decided to take up the art of belly dancing? Would you accept me if I was more exotic looking? And not covered in my domestic pasty, pink skin?


After reading the fascinatingly, chauvinistic article I wondered what were the true origins of belly dancing.  I read a webpage on the dance titled, “The Condensed History of Raqs Sharqi.” The webpage professed that it did not know the true origin but it suggested, due to ancient historical artifacts, that the dance did originate in the regions known today as North Africa and the Middle East. The dance was originally practiced by midwives and other women who would dance around a woman in labor. The dance gave the woman in labor support from the women around her. They website also suggested that the dance was performed at weddings to promote fertility in a newly-wed couple. The webpage also suggested that the dance’s origins did not come from Islamic background but was created by ancient pagan ancestors that inhabited the region before the emergence of Islam.

After reading “The Condensed History of Raqs Sharqi” it seems to me that belly dancing should not be deemed a cultural or traditional Middle Eastern art form but should symbolize and be practiced with an appreciation of womanhood.

What I believe to be Jarrar’s most devastating hit to the white women or to any woman who reads this, or practices belly dancing was her article’s last paragraph:

“But, here’s the thing. Arab women are not vessels for white women to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not bangles or eyeliner or tiny bells on hips. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesn’t profit from her performance doesn’t mean she’s not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab women’s backs?”


But, here’s the thing. Caucasian women, just like Arab women, just like African women, just like Indian women need a vessel to pour themselves and lose themselves in; we are not just white women dressed in silly bangles or silly eyeliner or silly tiny bells. We are human beings. This dance form is originally ALL women’s, it does not exist so that an Arab women can claim it as only theirs. It exists so women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because it came from the “cradle of civilization” and not from New Jersey, USA doesn’t mean the only women that can benefit from the dance should of Middle Eastern culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why can’t a white woman’s sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, happen on a Middle Eastern woman’s back? Are y’all not strong enough?

But to be honest, I don’t think the strength of a woman is color coated. We are women, we are not suppose to be bound and separated by our borders, we are suppose to be connected through our unique and miraculous gift to bear life. If we want to dance because we feel disconnected in whatever way, then let us fucking dance no matter if we are black, white, red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, or whatever. Let us dance because we want to be set free from the oppression of the world, even if it’s just for the moment. Let us dance because we want to feel sexy, let us dance because we want to feel like sisters, just let us dance. A dance should not be bound by borders because people are afraid it will be disrespected or misrepresented. A dance will forever mean something special to whoever is preforming it and no one can deny that. Not even the exotic lion that is Randa Jarrar. Let my little domesticated house cat-self roar with the lions, let me feel as free as you do when you dance along with Fifi, and do not antagonize my race because we are white and want to dance.


Are the Kurds Feeling the Power of Drag?

The Iranian city of Marivan is located near the border of Iran’s favorite neighbor Iraq. From the articles I read mentioning this city it seems to be clear that Marivan’s population is infamously known to be disobedient. Marivan is not the only city located in this area of Iran that has been known to have a disobedient population, the other is Mehran.  These two cities demographic is mainly comprised of Kurds, this makes sense because the two cities are located in Iran’s province Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Tribune’s article “Kurdish Men for Gender Equality” and the Global Post’s article “Kurd Men Dress in Drag to Support Equality” discuss the controversial happenings that resulted from a Marivan criminal being punished by the Iranian local court this year on April 15th. The male criminal was given the punishment of having to dress as a Kurdish woman and to be escorted around town by local officials in the attire. The articles state that two more men are awaiting the same punishment.

Besides the majority of the population being extremely offended by this unusual, insulting, and  humiliating punishment the population did not only rise up in street protests but many men decided to either post pictures of themselves wearing Kurdish women clothing or go out into public in their cross-dressing attire.

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The communities of Marivan and Mehran are protesting for gender equality and are using their slogan in protest as “Being a woman is not a way for humiliation or punishment.” The protests for gender equality met violent police forces attempting to settle the uproar.

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A quote given by Masoud Fathi in reaction and his personal experience with the controversial punishment resonated with a lot of my recent thoughts on gender equality… it’s a very femmy so beware…. Masoud states,

When I wore that dress, I suddenly realized how much evil the chauvinist thinking of men, male-dominated religions, ideologies, and systems have caused. I understood that masculine culture has destroyed the world”.

In my last blog entry I mentioned that I believe culture does not oppress women but it is the force behind the culture… before reading this quote I never thought of masculinity nor femininity as a culture. So I still believe that regional cultures do not oppress women but maybe there is an underlying masculine culture within all cultures that are causing this inequality…? I hope I am making some kind of sense to whoever is reading this… please give me your thoughts I’d love to have more clarity on this issue.