Kurdistan in Retrospect

The Arab world’s Kurdish population has always sparked my interest. Before I knew much about the ethnicity I always thought them to be mysteriously reclusive. I did know, however, that they did suffer violent acts against the nations in which the population lived within, although I do not believe I knew the exact nations the ethnicity lived in. When searching for my blog’s topic I stumbled upon a mini-documentary created by Vice News. Vice’s mini-documentary that ignited my interest and became the deciding factor for the topic of my blog is titled “Female Fighters of Kurdistan.” Even though the documentary focused on the guerrilla group Free Life for Kurdistan Party (PJAK) the beginning of the documentary gave an excellent over cap of the whole Kurdish ethnicity’s existence. As Vice news said it, “The Kurds are mountain folk who live in the overlap between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, but don’t really belong to any of them. The Kurdish goal for the last century or so has been to carve up a homeland for themselves, a greater Kurdistan. Which they’ve gone about the traditional way by forming guerrilla armies, blowing up a bunch of carp, and generally making trouble for the countries territory they consider their own.” The Vice quote best summarizes my semester long study in whole. Through my final blog entry use the five political perspectives to analyze the Kurdish ethnicity’s beliefs, their history (starting from about a century ago when they were divided between four nations), the Kurd’s past and present relationships with the nations they live within and the international state actors who play a role in their existence. I will end my retrospective over this semester’s blog with what I have learned and my opinion on the Kurdish question of statehood.

Through the accumulation of information I extracted from articles about the Kurdish ethnicity I found that the Kurd’s are not a religion, but rather an ethnicity. They allow their ethnicity’s individuals to be any religion they please to be. The Kurdish population is approximately 30 million people and tends to be claimed as the largest ethnic group in the world lacking an autonomous state. A majority of the Kurdish ethnicity, primarily the guerilla groups PKK and PJAK, follow the Maoism-inspired ideology created by Apo, called Apoism. The Apoism ideology promotes gender equality and guerrilla warfare. As one could see when studying the Kurdish ethnicity, their movements, and their organizations many uphold Apoism to varying degrees. In comparison to the rest of the Middle East their ideologies, especially gender equality, is extremely unusual.

Kurdistan was divided between four nations (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey) preceding the end of World War I when the western allies carved up the Arab world and deemed it the Middle East. This division of the Arab world, infamously known to be caused by the allies’ Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which duped Arab leaders into giving the Western nations colonies in the Arab world to where they could develop and extract resources. This caused a theme of radicalism to be placed within the mindset of Arabs and other ethnicities within the Arab world. However, the Kurdish population, even though they were divided between four nations due to the West’s imperialist efforts, tends to be more pro-Western, which is also extremely unusual for the Middle East.

Kurdistan’s territory is mountainous and contains a great deal of oil throughout the region. Developing the Kurd’s oil holds a great point of contention between the Kurds and the nation that they with within. Because of the potential boost in economy the Kurd’s oil could provide to the given nation, these nations are reluctant to let the Kurd’s gain statehood. Due to the Kurdish oil, the population’s rights and freedoms are restricted in many of the countries they inhabit. The Kurd’s have even endured genocidal attempts, such as the Iraqi Kurds did under Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s. However, Saddam Hussein’s massive onslaught of Iraqi Kurds could have been due to the Iraqi Kurd’s then alliance with Iraq’s enemy Iran. Whatever the underlying cause may have been, whether if it is the former, the latter, or both the Kurdish population, no matter what nation they have lived with in has suffered from violence, and oppression. State leadership, military intervention, and the economy, the motifs of a political realist perspective, seems to be the overall trend between the Kurdish and the relationships they have with the varying nations they inhabit. However, depending on the nation, the divided Kurdish populations all fight a different battle.

The Iranian Kurds, are known to be subject to imprisonment if found to be involved with in a Kurdish organization or Kurdish political party. Iran over the course of the relationship has gone back and forth on this restriction depending on the state of the Iranian-Kurd relationship at the given time. In my blog I featured a cosmopolitan controversy that occurred between the local Iranian government and the Kurdish city of Marivan in April 2014. The controversy began when the local Iranian government subjected a criminal to a punishment that forced him to be escorted around the city parading a Kurdish woman’s attire. The cosmopolitan political perspective suggests that networks, including social media, bring rise to new political actors, that being social network users. The cosmopolitan perspective was seen at work in this controversy. After the criminal was paraded around the city, there was an outcry within the city’s population against the punishment. Men began to post pictures online of themselves dressed in Kurdish women clothing and holding signs with gender equality rhetoric as protest. Even though the Iranian government still issued the punishment thereafter, international spectators had knowledge of the controversy and the unusual and offensive cruelties the Iranian government placed on the Kurds.

Further, Syrian Kurds are unable to obtain Syrian citizenship.  Conversely, since the Syrian civil war broke out, the Assad regime has been willing to grant citizenship to their Kurdish population if and only if they support the Assad regime. Due to Assad’s communication, attempt to network and his reliance on the Kurds, a non-state actor, to support his regime, one could conclude that this is a cosmopolitan political controversy.

Turkey, has also subjected the Kurdish population to oppressive measures, similar to those of Iran and Syria’s. However, Turkey, unlike Iran and Syria, has greater ties with international actors, including the west. Turkey’s strong ties with the west have influenced the international perspective to be akin with theirs when concerning Kurdish militias. The Kurds have been in conflict with Turkey for the past 30 years due to the Kurdish guerrilla group, PKK. The PKK promotes violence, especially against the Turkish government. Because of the conflicting relationship Turkey tends to categorize all Kurdish militias under the terrorist umbrella. Recently, Kurdish militias, not involved with the PKK, suffered great losses during the IS insurgency in the Kurdish territories of Northern Iraq and Syria. During IS’ siege of the Syrian city Kobane, Turkey halted the US-aided Iraqi Kurdish group, Peshmerga, from delivering aid to the city. This is due to Turkey’s skepticism over Syria’s Kurdish militia YPG. Despite IS’ success in Kobane, the US would not provide aid to any other Kurdish militia because of Turkey skepticism. This controversy is one of political liberalism due to nations’ skepticism over intervening and providing aid to the Kurdish militias. The controversy could also be argued to be one of a political realist perspective, because of the influence Turkey and the US have on each other and the control they have over each other’s activities.

Lastly, Iraqi Kurds, under Saddam Hussein’s regime has endured genocide as I previously stated. On the contrary, Iraqi Kurds have also had the most success in formulating its own sovereign state, thanks to help from the United States. During the 1980s and during George W. Bush’s war against terror the Kurdish militia, Peshmerga, provided the US with intelligence and the US provide the Kurds with protection, aid and a semi-autonomous state.  One could consider the Iraqi Kurds‘ formation of a political identity through the aid of the US from a political liberalist’s perspective on globalization due to its multilateral dynamics.

As I studied the dynamics of the Kurdish population and their variety of relationships I began to speculate on whether statehood is within the view. Because there are so many different adversaries against the Kurdish population it maybe difficult for them to become a single and unified Kurdistan all at the same time. Rather the formation of a unified Kurdistan will formulate through a matter of steps. I believe that the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds have the most chance at becoming an autonomous state due to their nation’s failures. Unfortunately, I believe the Kurds of Iran and Turkey will face stronger forces against their pursuit for autonomy due to their nations’ strong leadership.



The Ostracized Beauty

For tenth blog I wanted to take it easy and cover Kurdistan’s natural world. It was difficult to find substantial articles with information on Kurdistan’s ecosystem but I managed to find a few good ones!

The first article I enjoyed was actually a blog from someone that visited Kurdistan, its title is “Iraqi Kurdistan: Impressive Landscape, and Stunning Nature.” The author of the blog commented on how peaceful and lonely the landscape was (lonely meaning that it wasn’t filled with buildings and cars and humans). All she claimed to hear was the sound of bugs, birds, cowbells, whistling wind, and far off rumbling thunder. She described the land as “beautiful rough nature” I believe she was referring to how mountainous and rocky the region is. She ended the blog with a focus on Kurdistan’s sunrises and sunsets, claiming that the sun quickly rose and quickly set.

Here are a few pictures that she took…

Iraqi KurdistanIraqi Kurdistan

My last article, was off of liveleak (lol, sorry) its title is, “Kurdistan Nature – The Switzerland of the Middle East.” The article briefly speaks about Kurdistan’s blessing of not only its breathtaking land but also its blessing of natural resources. The article argues that Kurdistan land’s resources is a reason to why the Kurdish people have been suppressed by the nations its divided between.

And here are a couple photos from this article..


I found this to be most interesting because before I started this blog and studying the region in depth I had always thought that their resources was the primary reason why its nations were so adamantly unwilling to give them autonomy. With all the articles I read over the duration of this semester I did not read one article that gave Kurdistan’s resources as the main stake reason to why they were not autonomous. Now that I think about it I don’t remember reading anything that gave reasons to why the nations wouldn’t grant the Kurds autonomy.

What I also found interesting was how both articles referred to Kurdistan as lonely. In the first article she mentioned how quiet and lonely the land was and in the second article called Kurdistan the “Switzerland of the Middle East.” Although he was just referring to the beauty of the landscape, Switzerland is kinda like the black sheep of Europe (even though that’s the way they like it) as is Kurdistan to the Middle East.

The picture below is the Kurdish Citadel of Erbil located in Iraqi Kurdistan, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world..


I thought this picture of Erbil captured the main motif of my study – which is that the Kurdish people are alone, have no friends, no allies – as famously said “The Kurds have no friends but the Mountains.”


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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 4.07.17 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 4.08.13 AM

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.



There is No Difference Between a Lion and a Lioness

The name Peshmerga is frequently recognized as the armed forces of Kurdistan Regional Government, in the semiautonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. These fearless Kurds began with the end of the old aging relic, the Ottoman Empire, after its dissemination during World War I. The armed forces  have fought wars against the state of Iraq for the Iraqi governments treatment of the Iraqi Kurdish population. Peshmerga fought against Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war and also helped the United States capture, Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein.

The People’s Protection Unit, commonly referred to as the YPG is the army of the Syrian Kurds. Founded in 2004 the YPG has only recently joined up in arms as the Syrian Civil War developed enough to cause a threat of violence within Kurdish territory.

These two Kurdish militias are extremely similar when comparing their demographic.

Both militias allow any one of any ethnicity to join the armed force and will provide anyone wanting security no matter the ethnicity or if they are able to join the army.

As most unusual in recognition of the Islamic world’s history, the two militias have combatant regiments composed of women. With the help of Al-Monitor’s article, “Meet the Female Peshmerga Forces Fighting IS” and VICE US’ short documentary, “Meet the YPG, The Kurdish Militia that Doesn’t Want Help from Anyone” I was able to grab up a bit of background on the two Kurdish militia’s female forces….

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Peshmerga, the army of Iraqi Kurdistan, has had women led forces officially since 1996 but has allowed women to join the militia for many years past.

The People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the army of Syrian Kurds, has had women led forces since 2012, the women led force given the title YPJ.

Both of these women led forces of Peshmerga and of the YPG joined the fight against ISIS on the same given reason. That reason being ISIS infamous maltreatment of women. ISIS has been known to engage in genital mutilation, forcing women against their will into marriage and into sexual jihad….. which is where a woman of Sunni background offers herself as a sexual comfort to Islamic jihadists.

The culture of ISIS is very unusual with respects to the Kurdish culture and the devastating threat the ISIS militia has posed on Kurdish territory has caused these women to join their given military and give these radical jihadist hell!

From the western mind’s point of view the Middle East is seen to have a massive gender inequality problem. As many have discovered stereotypes do not hold true in every case. This is one of the many cases where a culture in the Middle East does not have women oppressed by their male counterparts. Having written this past sentence I feel somewhat strange about stating that a culture oppresses women. Thinking about this a bit deeper I feel a bit silly accusing culture of oppressing women, no offense to culture but I don’t think culture has the capability to oppress a woman. What should be blamed for the oppression of a woman or anyone for that matter are the people behind running the show.




The only friend of the Kurd is the Mountain

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With the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire the secular-nationalistic ethnic group known as Kurds living within in the Arab region believed they would receive their own autonomous Kurdish state. Even though the ethnic group’s population densely inhabits a large section of the northern Arab region a Kurdish state was not created. The British government, who created the present day borders of the Middle East divided the Arab region in such a way that it split the Kurdish population between four states, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.  The division of the Kurdish population among these four states has caused a variety of devastating conflicts between each state and their Kurdish population.

Below is a brief synopsis I gathered from listening to the National Public Radio’s discussion on the varying conflicts, violence, and oppression the Kurdish people have faced by the states they must call home, the discussion is titled “Understanding the Kurds’ Different Roles in Different Conflicts”…

Iran, has been infamously known to arrest and jail any civilian involved in Kurdish organization or organizations.


Turkey has had a thirty-year ongoing conflict with the Kurdish people, especially the Kurdish organizations PKK (based in Turkey) and YPG (based in Syria). These two militant organizations are known to take up arms in pursuit for Kurdish autonomy and are labeled as terrorist groups by Turkey. The Turk-Kurd conflict has resulted in approximately 40,000 dead.

Iraq, under Sadam Hussain’s regime has used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds killing thousands in an attempt to exterminate Iraq’s Kurdish population. The Kurdish population joined forces with the United States and fought against Sadam resulting in a Kurdish semi-autonomous region within Iraq’s border.

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad and his father, the former president Hafez al-Assad, will not grant their secular ethnicity Syrian citizenship. Assad recently granted citizenship to Kurds only in an attempt to persuade the Kurdish population to support his regime during Syria’s ongoing civil war.


Besides the Kurdish population’s conflicts with the four states where they reside, Kurds are presently fighting against the threatening, unestablished, Sunni state, known as the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS, etc.) who is exponentially gaining control of cities in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State, just for clarity, is trying to establish an Islamic Sunni-based caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The self-claimed state has origins in the Ottoman Empire and post-WWI diplomacy and has established long-term institutions in their captured territory. The Islamic State’s violent caliphate has uprooted over a 100,000 and caused Iraqi and Syrian Kurds to flee across borders just within the past month.


The Kurdish, as it seems, live in a world with no allies, and as famously said, “have no friends but the mountains.” Recently the truth of this statement is becoming less and less apparent as the Islamic State gains more and more control of Syria and Iraq. One friend the Kurdish population has gained has been the United States. Which is more of a fair-weathered friend  to the Kurdish population than a staunch ally…

The information below was gathered from yet another National Public Radio discussion titled “Why does the US like Iraqi Kurds but Not Syria’s?”

The United States, not until recently, has had a somewhat arbitrary relationship with the Kurdish people. The US’ relationship with the Kurdish people has historically depended on if the US supports the government in which the Kurds are ruled under. Turkey, the United States ally, does not support their Kurds and has proclaimed Turkish Kurd organizations, such as the PKK and Syria’s YPG, as terrorist organizations. The US has also declared the PKK as a terrorist organization and has not declared Syria’s YPG has terrorist but keeps a close eye on them. On the other hand, the United States supports and has given military aid and training to Iraqi Kurds, who have fought for Kurdish autonomy just as the PKK and the YPG has.


The Kurds’ battle against the Islamic State’s insurrection in Iraq and Syria has caused Turkey and the United States to alter their positions on the Kurdish people. However, the two states’ have only recently altered their positions with changes made in the past month.

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Turkey, who was blocking Iraqi Kurdish militants from crossing their border in order to give aid to Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State. Turkey just in the past couple weeks granted them access to cross. Turkey, who is also in strong opposition to the Islamic State’s presence did not give the Iraqi Kurds access to cross the border because of their conflict with Syria’s YPG.

The United States has been giving aid to Iraqi Kurdish forces but not until last week giving aid to the Syrian Kurdish forces due to Turkey’s position on Syria’s YPG, even though the Syrian Kurds had been in desperate need of the aid in order to fight off the Islamic State’s presence in Kobani.


Through the relationships the Kurdish have with other actors has not been historically nor presently supportive or productive. The exponentially increasing territorial gains the Islamic State has encountered in the recent months is a direct consequence of the international system’s treatment, aid, and representation of their Kurdish population. The international system has been in a frenzy over the Islamic States’ increasing territorial expansion but the only actor fighting back has been Kurdistan. Due to the international system deeming the majority of Kurds affected by the Islamic State as terrorist organizations has disallowed the Kurdish militants from receiving aid which has allowed the Islamic State to expand and create a stronghold in the region. The international system and it’s actors have also inconsiderately divided the Kurdish nation which has caused the Kurdish militants to join forces and fight off the Islamic State with more potency. The international system has turned a blind eye to the Kurdish population and as a consequence the Kurdish people and the international system and it’s actors must fight against an insurrection of devastating effects which could have been avoided to a significant extent.

As a side note, the terrorist question I posed in my previous blog is brought to question once more in this blog featuring the Kurd’s multitude of conflict relationships. Maybe terrorism is simply an arbitrary label and lacks a true meaning. This thought is very upsetting to me and could cause the innocent and the just to be penalized due to the meaningless label that is terrorism.




What is terrorism?

The Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization and listed on the Terrorist Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) website. According to TRAC PJAK was declared a terrorist organization by the Obama administration in 2012.

I was a bit surprised that this universally feared title, terrorist organization, had been given to a group that, from my understanding and knowledge, promotes and fights for complete equality for all.  After I discovered PJAK’s label I became curious to know if I even knew the true definition of a terrorist/terrorist organization. So, I looked it up. The first definition I found and many I discovered afterwards all had a similar pretense. The definitions I found all loosely state that terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Now, from my understanding of the world and its political realm, this sounded to me like almost every major country I can think of has committed some sort of terrorist action. So why are the only internationally identified terrorist organizations ones without an internationally recognized state? Why is Iran not recognized as a terrorist state? Or easier than that, North Korea? Is the international system just too afraid to break it to them? I mean even the United States falls under the definition, but that could be considered a bit blasphemous.

PJAK states on their European website that they fight against the “ethnocide” that constitutes many of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s objectives. I believe that the ethnocide the Kurdish people have faced over the centuries is universally known. I’m not sure I understand why their social resistance against a state who opposes and acts in violence against their opposition should be considered a terrorist group.

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After these thoughts I was afraid I was being one sided on the matter. So I looked more into Iran’s side of the relationship. From what I read off of the oh-so reliable wikipedia was that Iran allows the Kurds to live within the region and have had Iranian government accepted political parties in the past. However, Kurds have currently lost the ability to have a political party. Moreover, they do lack rights that other Iranian’s possess. They have also suffered many losses to their population due to uprisings and rebellions against the Iranian state. Many critics of the PJAK have mentioned that Turkey and Iraq have shown more violent opposition to Kurds than Iran has committed. Which makes me question why the PJAK has put all of its energy towards Iranian resistance? Iraq has given Kurds a semi-autonomous state and I believe that Iran does not want Kurds to even ask for that freedom.

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At the end of it all I am left to even more confusion and frustration. Questions I still seek answers for after this week of research include…. 1) What is a terrorist group? 2) Why hasn’t anyone created a more direct definition of a terrorist group? … and 3) Why is PJAK only picking on Iran?

Now what I have figured out is that one should ask who is a terrorist organization rather than what is a terrorist organization.



EDIT: As I was re-visiting my old diigo posts I came across the Vice video on PJAK I featured in my first blog entry. I watched the first of the three videos on PJAK and the video brought up one of the questions I was puzzled by at the end of this blog entry… The question that may have possibly been answered was question 3) Why is PJAK only picking on Iran? The Vice video mentioned that PJAK is a militia formed in 2004, the militia lacks allies and is commonly associated with the PKK, a kurdish group that fights against Turkey, a US ally. Peshmerga the Iraqi Kurdish militia has previously fought against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, a US enemy. Peshmerga is the only Kurdish militia that receives aid and funding from the US. The Vice video inferences that the PJAK may only fight against Iran because they are trying to create an ally out of the US. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s working out well for PJAK due to the US deeming them as a terrorist organization in 2012…. but keep trekking PJAK the world is forever changing!

If PJAK’s underlying mission is to get US aid it’s interesting…. and a bit nauseating to see how hegemonic the present day world really is.