The post-World War I period saw the emergence of the modern Turkish and Persian states out of the ashes of the Ottoman and Safavid empires. It also witnessed the colonial creation of the completely new states of Iraq and Syria. The new state elites of all four countries pursued assimilationist policies towards the Kurds within their new borders.
As the region is undergoing monumental changes, it is becoming clear that the new Middle East will look very different than the Middle East of the twentieth century. The Kurds are one of the largest ethnicities in the Middle East, numbering between 35 to 40 million, comprising roughly 25 percent of the total population in Turkey and Iraq and 10 percent of the total population in Iran and Syria.
As a former US ambassador to Turkey, Morton Abramowitz, stated “The Kurdish issue in Turkey has now become an American problem as well. For the first time, the United States will need a region-wide Kurdish policy.”
Who are the Kurds? Can the often overlooked Kurdish issue constitute a more important fulcrum for change in key states of the region? What are the implications of the rise of Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East? How can the prospect of a future “pro-American” and “pro-Israeli” Kurdish state change the balance of power in the region?
These questions and more will be addressed in this one-time lecture. The lecture aims to provide a coherent understanding of the challenges and opportunities the rise of Kurdish nationalism presents for the rapidly changing Middle East.
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