Wednesday, April 15, 2009


By Amnesty International

14 April 2009

Security forces in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region operate outside the rule of law and regularly abuse their authority, according to a new Amnesty International report.
During a fact-finding mission to the Kurdistan Region in 2008, Amnesty International researchers found many cases of people arrested and arbitrarily detained by Asayish (security) officials, including some who were tortured and others who were forcibly disappeared and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
Torture methods include electric shocks to different parts of the body; beatings with fists, cables and metal or wooden batons; suspension by the wrists or ankles; beating on the soles of the feet (falaqa); sleep deprivation and kicking.
Amnesty International has called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account.
"The Kurdistan Region has been spared the bloodletting and violence that continues to wrack the rest of Iraq and the KRG has made some important human rights advances," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. "Yet real problems - arbitrary detention and torture, attacks on journalists and freedom of expression, and violence against women - remain and need urgently to be addressed by the government."

Hundreds of detainees who were held without charge or trial for several years have now been released but the authorities have failed to significantly curb the powers of the Asayish. They have also failed to rein in the Parastin and the Dezgay Zanyari, the security arms of the two main Kurdish political parties - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - which jointly comprise the KRG.

"The KRG must take concrete steps to rein in these forces and make them fully accountable under the law if recent human rights gains are to prove effective," said Malcolm Smart. "The authorities must do more to uphold media freedom and redouble their efforts to overcome discrimination and violence against women, and end the vicious cycle of so-called honour killings and other attacks on women by men who wish to subordinate them."

Amnesty International's report cites several cases of women who were murdered by male relatives in 2008. These include Cilan Muhammad Amin, 23, who was strangled to death, apparently by her brother, because of her suspected relationship with another man.
Another woman, Kowan Yunis Qadir, aged 17, was shot dead after she sought a divorce from her husband.
In other cases, women and girls are reported to have committed suicide because of violence, or the threat of it, from their male relatives, including 13-year-old Rojan, who burnt herself to death in March 2008 to escape forcible marriage to an adult man.
"Such cases show how much more still needs to be done by the KRG authorities to give women and girls effective protection against violence from those who wish to control their behaviour or force them into marriages against their will," said Malcolm Smart. "No effort should be spared to prosecute and imprison those who commit violence against women, and to make clear that those who perpetrate these crimes cannot escape justice.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Preventing Conflict Over Kurdistan

By Henri Barkey ( Carnegie Report, February 2009 )

The invasion of Iraq has surfaced long-suppressed nationalist aspirations among the Kurds, most notably the emergence of the federal Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). If ignored or mishandled, Kurdish aspirations have the potential to ignite violence and instability in Iraq, as well as the region, at a particularly delicate time, a new report by the Carnegie Endowment concludes. Henri Barkey calls for renewed attention to the Kurdish issue to prevent conflict and prescribes a fresh U.S. approach. The United States must move quickly—as American forces withdraw from Iraq, U.S. influence in the region will wane.


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by Ezster Spat

Little is known about these ancient enigmatic Kurdish mountain people, considered one of the oldest ethnicities in the Middle East, and often unjustly derided as 'devil-worshippers'. Since 2002, and despite the political upheavals in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the Yezidis largely reside, Eszter Spat has made repeated visits to the region to live in their midst, observing and recording their ways of life. The result is amongst the first detailed surveys of Yezidi culture to appear in English. Distinct from the majority Sunni Muslim Kurds, the Yezidis' religion evolved through a curious fusion of Sufism with earlier religious beliefs indigenous to the region, including Zoroastrian, Jewish, Gnostic and Christian motifs. They are monotheists, but attribute a prominent place to their protector, the Peacock Angel, traditionally identified with Satan by Muslims. In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Yezidis' resolutely traditional culture endured radical changes including forced resettlement, geographical isolation and the political fallout from two Gulf wars. More recently, Spat shows, the pervasive influence of modern media culture is having possibly further-reaching effects. Proud to be known as 'the original Kurds', the Yezidis have also long supported the creation of an independent Kurdistan. The author has been privileged with very rare access to some of Yezidi culture's holiest sites and rituals. Together with an insightful analysis of Yezidi practices and beliefs, Spat documents the increasing demands of modernisation on one of the oldest ethnic minorities of the Middle East, which continues to endure despite many attempts at eradication over the centuries.

Saqi Books

Kurdistan During the First World War

by Kamalmadhar Ahmad

In spite of the promises made by the Allied powers in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, the Kurds have so far failed to secure their national independence - a goal achieved by the Arabs and other nations in the region. This book shows how, before and during World War I, the "political manoeuvring" of the Allied powers, particularly Britain, concentrated on securing easy access to the region's oilfields and thus ignored the rights of the Kurds. The role and involvement of Germany and Russia are also discussed in detail. Of major importance are the chapters examining the role of the Kurds in the Armenian massacres. In his dispassionate analysis of this sensitive issue, the author sheds new light on the involvement of the Kurds in the tragedy of the Armenian people under Ottoman rule.

Saqi Books

Monday, April 6, 2009

Kurdish Culture and Society: An Annotated Bibliography

by Lokman I. Meho, Kelly L. Maglaughlin

“It will be an indispensable resource for all scholars and people interested not just in Kurdish affairs, but in the history, societies, and cultures of the Middle East. Recommended for university, college, and major urban libraries.”–Choice

“[A] welcome addition to the scholarly apparatus of Kurdish studies.”–Journal of Near Eastern Studies

“Kurdish Culture and Society will be a valuable tool for researchers and students of Kurdish culture.”–MESA Bulletin

“This annotated bibliography on Kurdish culture and society is the first of its kind, both in terms of the language of the sources and the subjects it covers....this bibliography will fill a gap in many libraries, both becuase very few major universities treat Kurdish studies as an independent academic subject and because a great part of the sources are contributions made in non-Kurdish contexts.”–Middle East Journal


Turkey's Kurdish Question

by Barkey, Henri J.; Fuller, Graham E.

The Kurds, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Middle East, are reasserting their identity--politically and through violence. Divided mainly among Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, the Kurds have posed increasingly sharp challenges to all of these states in their quest for greater autonomy if not outright independence. Turkey's essentially democratic structure and civil society-ideal tools for coping with and incorporating minority challenge-have so far been suspended on this issue, which the government is treating almost exclusively as a security problem to be dealt with by force. For the West the situation in Turkey is particularly significant because of the country's importance in the region and because of the economic, political, and diplomatic damage that the conflict has caused. If Turkey fails to find a peaceful solution within its current borders, then the outlook is grim for ethnic and separatist challenges elsewhere in the region. This study explores the roots, dimensions, character, and evolution of the problem, offers a range of approaches to a resolution of the conflict, and draws broader parallels between the Kurdish question and other separatist movements worldwide.



Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

By Margaret Macmillan and Richard Holbrooke (foreword)

A joke circulating in Paris early in 1919 held that the peacemaking Council of Four, representing Britain, France, the U.S. and Italy, was busy preparing a "just and lasting war." Six months of parleying concluded on June 28 with Germany's coerced agreement to a treaty no Allied statesman had fully read, according to MacMillan, a history professor at the University of Toronto, in this vivid account. Although President Wilson had insisted on a League of Nations, even his own Senate would vote the league down and refuse the treaty. As a rush to make expedient settlements replaced initial negotiating inertia, appeals by many nationalities for Wilsonian self-determination would be overwhelmed by rhetoric justifying national avarice. The Italians, who hadn't won a battle, and the French, who'd been saved from catastrophe, were the greediest, says MacMillan; the Japanese plucked Pacific islands that had been German and a colony in China known for German beer. The austere and unlikable Wilson got nothing; returning home, he suffered a debilitating stroke. The council's other members horse-traded for spoils, as did Greece, Poland and the new Yugoslavia. There was, Wilson declared, "disgust with the old order of things," but in most decisions the old order in fact prevailed, and corrosive problems, like Bolshevism, were shelved. Hitler would blame Versailles for more ills than it created, but the signatories often could not enforce their writ. MacMillan's lucid prose brings her participants to colorful and quotable life, and the grand sweep of her narrative encompasses all the continents the peacemakers vainly carved up. 16 pages of photos, maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.



Jewish Subjects and Their Tribal Chieftains in Kurdistan

By Mordechai Zaken

This volume deals with the experience and the position of non-tribal Jewish subjects and their relationships with their tribal chieftains (aghas) in urban centers and villages in Kurdistan. It is based on new oral sources, diligently collected and carefully analyzed.



Turkey’s Kurds A theoretical analysis of the PKK and Abdullah Öcalan

By Ali Kemal Özcan

The Kurdish Worker's Party, or PKK, is examined here in this text on Kurdish nationalism. Incorporating recent field-based research results and newly translated material on Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK's long-time leader; it explores the ideational nature and the organizational working of the party, from its growth in the late 1970s to its recent shrinkage. A variety of issues are addressed including:

* The views and philosophy of Abdullah Ocalan
* The successes and failures of the PKK in bringing about the Kurdish opposition in Turkey
* The role of PKK's philosophy of recruitment, organizational diligence, use of arms and other contextual factors in Kurdish resistance
* Factors involved in the development of the nationalism of the Kurds in Turkey.

The text also reappraises the Kurdish movement in Turkey and presents insights into the nature of Kurdish social structure and thinking, and the particularities of the Kurdish ethnic distinctness.



The Political Development of the Kurds in Iran

By Farideh Koohi-Kamali

"Farideh Koohi-Kamali shows with great clarity the economic and social changes which enabled a transition from tribal to national identity among the Kurds of Iran during the twentieth century. It greatly increases our understanding of how and why the question of ethnicity has become so important in the region. Her fine book deserves to be very widely read indeed."--David McDowall, author of A Modern History of the Kurds
"This is first-rate, up-to-date analysis of an increasingly important topic. Its insights into the Kurdish problem in Iran will provide valuable information to both scholars and practitioners."--Michael Gunter, Professor of Political Science, Tennessee Technological University, and author of The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis



The Struggle for Kirkuk: The Rise of Hussein, Oil, and the Death of Tolerance in Iraq

By Henry D. Astarjian

“Among the plethora of recent books on Iraq, this is unique because it offers a provocative view into Iraq's tumultuous past through the eyes of an Iraqi American physician. This is a historical memoir about the struggle over Kirkuk's great oil fields and the crises besetting Iraqi society before the Baath party takeover and rise of Saddam Hussein. Astarjian, the son of Armenian genocide survivors, chronicles Kirkuk's ethnosectarian diversity as Jews, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians, and Arabs lived together in peace, despite the power plays over the oil fields involving British officials, Soviet agents, and others representing national or ethnic interests. Included are fascinating accounts of the overthrow of the Royal Hashemite regime in 1958, the author's incarceration and torture at the hands of his childhood friend (who had become a communist), and his imprisonment in a Baghdad military prison with Baath party leaders....[t]his is a compelling story about the formative years of modern Iraq, intended to enlighten Americans about the immense challenges and perils facing them in a tragic land. Sadly, it may be too late to make it a must read for US policy makers. Recommended. General readers, lower-division undergraduates through practitioners.”–Choice

“Iraqi-American Astarjian combines memoir with history in describing the oil politics of Kirkuk in Northern Iraq from the 1940s through to the mid 1960s, when he left for America shortly after Saddam Hussein's assassination attempt on Prime Minister Abd-al-Karim Qasim. His description of the political life of Kirkuk during this era gives a small window into the complex forces at work Kurdish versus Arab, Arab versus Turkomen, Communist versus Baathist, etc. and Astarjian is not shy about letting his own anti-communist, anti-Baathist, and other views out into the open.”–Reference & Research Book News



The Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921

By Gary Sick, Reeva Spector Simon, Eleanor H. Tejirian

With the U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom, we are reminded that almost one hundred years ago, Great Britain undertook a similar process of regime change and territorial reorganization in the same region of the world. In the thick of world conflict, with its strategic interests in the balance, the British had to begin planning for the aftermath of the World War that permitted the redrawing of borders and the creation of new political entities. One year after the beginning of World War I, preparations for a new strategic order in the Middle East were already underway. For the Allies -- Britain, France, and Russia -- the task was different from that of the United States today. Yet unlike the Coalition forces that in 2003 proclaimed the territorial integrity of Iraq, the British began from scratch: until 1921, the country of Iraq did not exist. How did this actually come about? And what were the reactions of the peoples living in that contested territory?



Thursday, April 2, 2009

A lion is a lion, whether a male or female.

Photos by Rob

A lion is a lion, whether a male or female. ( Kurdish Proverb).

Rob Leutheuser has been taking photographs for 35 years. He embarked on his first extended free-form overseas travel in South America and the Caribbean with camera in hand shortly after graduating from the University of Michigan. In the late-seventies, courtesy of the Peace Corps, Rob lived in the Central African Empire/Republic for 3 years. Upon returning to the States he began a successful professional career working in Western US water management. Overseas travels and photo adventures, though less extensive during this period, continued to feed the beast. At the turn of the millennium Rob concluded his civil service career and since has concentrated his energies on life, photography, and travel.

Rob website

Rob project on Kurdish Proverb