Mohammed M.A. Ahmed / Michael M. Gunter

The Kurdish Spring – Geopolitical Changes and the Kurds

Forthcoming Title – Bibliotheca Iranica: Kurdish Studies Series #12 – $40.00 / 2013: xiv+330,6 x 9,maps,notes,bibl.. – ISBN:1-56859-272-8; ISBN 13:978-1568592725(softcover).   Description :

In the midst of all the changes the Arab Spring has brought in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, among others, the intelligent lay, media, and policy worlds have paid much less attention to what might be called the Kurdish Spring: Demands for meaningful democracy along with cultural, social, and political rights and their immediate implementation. Or as Ofra Bengio recently described it: “The Kurdish movement is now crystallized in almost all parts of Kurdistan. The weakening of the relevant states, alongside the tectonic sociopolitical changes taking place in the region as a whole, may end up changing the strategic map of the Middle East. Forged by the Great Powers after World War I, the borders separating the Kurds of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran no longer appear as sacred or secure as they once did.”

However, before surveying this new climate, it also should be noted that the Kurdish version of the Arab Spring did not just begin in 2011, but in some ways has been going on for decades: In Turkey (at least since the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) formally began its insurgency in August 1984), as well as in Iraq since the days of Mulla Mustafa Barzani beginning in the early 1960s, but especially since the end of the two U.S. wars against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and even more in 2003. These two wars led to the creation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, the most successful attempt at Kurdish statehood in modern times.

On a lesser scale Iran too has long been going through its own off again/on again Kurdish Spring, the Mahabad Republic in 1946 being the most famous example. Until recently, the Iranian Kurds were bitterly divided into several competing parties, constant protests, and, in the case of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) ensconced in the Iraqi Kandil Mountains just across the border from Iran, even armed struggle against the Iranian regime. In the past year, however, a more-or-less cease-fire has fallen over the Iranian Kurds and little has been heard from them. Some speculate that this might simply be the prelude to the next explosion in the Kurdish world.

Finally, in Syria, where the Kurdish population is much smaller and not as geographically united as it is in the other three states, the Kurds—in part inspired by the rise of the KRG—have broken out of their muted and divided existence to partially join the anti-Assad movement: First in protest against the assassination on October 7, 2011 of Mishaal Tammo, one of their most promising leaders, and subsequently as part of the much larger revolt against the Assad regime. Although the Syrian Kurds have taken a much less active role against Assad than other Syrian dissidents, since July 2012, they have enjoyed de facto autonomy due to Assad’s strategic withdrawal from the Kurdish northeast of the country. The purpose of this edited book is to survey the Kurdish Spring in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that began in late 2010 and early 2011. Approximately 13 articles written by scholarly experts on the Kurds will analyze the overall Kurdish Spring as well as individual aspects of the Kurdish Spring in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and the Diaspora.

Table of Contents



Part I. Overview

Chapter 1

Canvassing the Kurdish Spring

Michael M. Gunter

Chapter 2

The Kurdish Spring and Its Impact on the Middle East

Ofra Bengio

Chapter 3

Central State Weakness and Kurdish Opportunities

David Romano

Chapter 4

The Kurdish Spring and the Changing Geopolitics of the Middle East

Michael B. Bishku

PART II. The Kurds of Iraq

Chapter 5

Kurdish Spring, Iraqi Kurdistan

Mohammed M.A. Ahmed

PART III. The Kurds of Turkey

Chapter 6

Turkey’s Kurdish Movement and the AKP’s Kurdish Opening:

A Kurdish Spring or Fall?

Marlies Casier, Joost Jongerden, and Nick Walker

Chapter 7

Springtime: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Quest for

Radical Democracy

Joost Jongerden and Ahmet Hamdi Akkaya

PART IV. The Kurds of Syria

Chapter 8

The Syrian Kurds in “Transition to Somewhere”

Eva Savelsberg and Jordi Tejel

Chapter 9

The Kurdish Autonomy Bid in Syria: Challenges and Reactions

Harriet Allsopp

PART V. The Kurds of Iran

Chapter 10

The Kurdish Spring: The Aftermath in Iran

Nader Entessar

Part IV. The Kurdish Diaspora

Chapter 11

Producing Knowledge and Controlling the Narrative:

Transnational Dimensions of “Kurdish Spring”

Vera Eccarius-Kelly

Chapter 12

Kurdish Spring in Diaspora? Austria and Its Kurds

Thomas Schmidinger


Ahmet Hamdi Akkaya, PhD candidate in Political Science, and works as a doctoral researcher affiliated to the Middle East & North Africa Research Group (MENARG), at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, University of Ghent, Belgium. His thesis examines the emergence and development of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). His main research interests are identity and nationalism, insurgency, and social movements. He coauthored several articles and book chapters on the PKK and they have recently appeared in a book in Turkish language (PKK Üzerine Yazilar, Vate Yayinlari, 2013).

Harriet Allsopp holds an MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies (University of Oxford) and a PhD in Politics (Birkbeck College, University of London). Her PhD thesis examined Kurdish political parties in Syria. She is the author of “The Kurds of Syria: Political Parties and Identity in the Middle East” (I. B. Tauris, forthcoming 2013) and of “The Kurds of Syria: an Existence Denied” (European Center for Kurdish Studies, Berlin, 2005). She is a freelance expert on Syria and the Kurdish question there and in this capacity she is consulted by numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions.

Ofra Bengio is Professor Emeritus of Middle East History and a Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University. Her fields of specialization are contemporary Middle Eastern history, the modern and contemporary politics of Iraq and the Arabic language. She is the author of “The Kurdish Revolt in Iraq” (1989, in Hebrew), “Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis, A Collection of Documents” (1991); “Political Discourse and the Language of Power” (1996, Hebrew); “Saddam’s Word” (1998); “The Turkish-Israeli Relationship: Changing Ties of Middle Eastern Outsiders” (2004); in Hebrew); “Türkiye Israil: Hayalet Ittifaktan Stratejik Isbirligine” (2009, in Turkish); “The Kurds of Iraq: Building a State within a State” (2012).Editor (with Gabriel Ben-Dor) “Minorities and the State in the Arab World” (1999); “Women in the Middle East: Between Tradition and Change” (1999, in Hebrew); (with Meir Litvak) “The Sunna and Shi’a in History: Division and Ecumenism in the Muslim Middle East” (2012); Translator, “The Love and Wine Poems of Abu Nuwas” (1999), in Hebrew); (with Shmuel Regolant), “Mahmoud Darwish: Like Almond Flowers or Further” (2008; “Nazim Hikmet: Blue-eyed Giant” (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 2009).

Dr. Michael B. Bishku is a Professor of History at Georgia Regents University in Augusta. He received his Ph.D. from New York University and teaches classes on the Middle East, Africa and British Imperialism. Dr. Bishku is a former President of both the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies and the Association of Third World Studies and an advisory editor for Oxford Bibliographies Online for Islamic Studies. He has published numerous academic articles on the history and politics of the Islamic World and on connections between the Middle East and other regions of the world. Dr. Bishku is currently working on a general history of the South Caucasus.

Marlies Casier is Visiting Professor at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Ghent University, Belgium, where she is affiliated with the Conflict Research Group. She obtained her PhD in Political Sciences at the Ghent University in 2011 with her dissertation on “The Kurdish nationalist movement (in) between Turkey and Europe. Transnational political activism and transformation of home through the EU,” for which she was awarded the 2012 price for the best dissertation in political sciences by the Dutch Political Science Association. Her work has been published in the Sociological Review, Ethnicities, Mediterranean Politics, Journal of Balkan and Near East Studies, New Perspectives on Turkey, European Journal of Turkish Studies, Social Identities, and MERIP. In 2011 she published the co-edited volume “Nationalisms and politics in Turkey” in the Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Politics series, with Joost Jongerden.

Vera Eccarius-Kelly is Professor of Comparative Politics at Siena College in Loudonville, NY. She received her Ph.D. (2002) and her MALD (1996) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, MA. Eccarius-Kelly grew up in Germany and lived extended periods of time in Latin America. Her research interests focus on Kurdish political activism in Europe and Turkey, and on Latin American revolutionary movements. Among her more recent publications are “Surreptitious Lifelines: A Structural Analysis of the FARC and the PKK,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 24, issue 2 (2012): 235-258, and a monograph entitled “The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom” (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2011). She also contributed an analysis essay titled “Kurdistan and Genocide: Responsibility of the International Community,” to Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO) 2013.

Nader Entessar is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama. He was previously professor of political science at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama and served as a senior research fellow at the Institute for International Political and Economic Studies in Tehran, Iran. Dr. Entessar is the author or editor of several books, including “Kurdish Ethnonationalism” (Lynne Rienner Publishers), and most recently, “Kurdish Politics in the Middle East” (Lexington Books). He has authored more than seventy articles and book chapters in scholarly publications in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Joost Jongerden is a rural sociologist by training and obtained his PhD in social sciences in 2006. He is working as Assistant Professor at the Sociology and Anthropology of Development section of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. His research interests are socio-spatial and socio-political analysis, with a strong focus on rural development and the creative construction of autonomy in acts of refusal and resistance, from peasant struggles to insurgencies. He teaches courses in sociological theory and the sociology of place. Key-publications are: ‘Ideological Productions and Transformations: the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the left’, European Journal of Turkish Studies, Issue 14 2012, together with Marlies Casier (eds.), and “Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1915,” Leiden and Boston, Brill Academic Publishers, 2012, together with Jelle Verheij (eds).

David Romano holds the Thomas G. Strong Chair in Middle East Politics at Missouri State University. He received his B.A. and M.A. from McGill University and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. His work has appeared in journals such as International Affairs, The Oxford Journal of Refugee Studies, Third World Quarterly and Ethnopolitics. He is also the author of “The Kurdish Nationalist Movement” (Cambridge University Press, 2006 — an updated 2010 translation is also available via Vate Publishing, Kürt Dirilisi: Olanak, Mobilizasyon ve Kimlik). Dr. Romano writes a weekly political column for Rudaw, an Iraqi Kurdish newspaper, and has spent several years living and/or conducting field research in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Israel/Palestine.

Eva Savelsberg holds an MA in Philosophy, Sociology and German Literature. She is co-founder, president, researcher and project-coordinator at the European Center for Kurdish Studies (ECKS) in Berlin. Since 2009, she has worked as a web journalist for the Center’s website, which documents the Kurds’ situation in Syria. Since 2005, she has been responsible for the implementation of civil society and democracy projects of the ECKS inside Syria. Since 2000, Eva Savelsberg has served as an official expert for courts concerning the human-rights situation in Iraq and Syria. She is co-editor of the book series Kurdologie and the periodical Kurdische Studien and published numerous articles on the Kurdish question focusing on Syria and Iraq.

Jordi Tejel, PhD in History (Fribourg University) and Sociology (école des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris). Dr Tejel is currently a Research Professor affiliated to the International History and Politics unit of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva) where he leads a research project on “minority” conflicts in the Middle East (1948-2003). His most recent books include “Le mouvement kurde de Turquie en exil. Continuités et discontinuités du nationalisme kurde sous le mandat français en Syrie et au Liban” (1925-1946) (Peter Lang, 2007), “Syria’s Kurds. History, Politics and Society” (Routledge, 2009), and “Writing the History of Iraq: Historiographical and Political Challenges” (edited with Peter Sluglett, Riccardo Bocco, and Hamit Bozarslan, World Scientific Press, 2012).

Nick Walker is an independent researcher based in the UK, who previously published in New Perspectives on Turkey.

About the Editors Mohammed M.A. Ahmed

Dr. Mohammed M. A. Ahmed is the Executive Director and founder of the Ahmed Foundation for Kurdish Studies, a non-profit and non-partisan organization. He has published numerous articles, co-edited four books with Professor Michael Gunter, and authored two books: “The Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Arabs Compete for Supremacy” in Iraq and the “Iraqi Kurds and Nation-Building.” Dr. Ahmed has lectured at the University of Baghdad and worked for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, U.N. Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut and the U.N. Department for Technical Cooperation in New York. He holds M.S. and PhD in Agricultural Economics.

Michael M. Gunter is a professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee and teaches during the summers at the Megatrend International University Vienna in Austria. He also teaches for the U.S. government area studies program in Washington, D.C. He is the author of numerous critically praised scholarly books on the Kurdish question, the most recent being Kurdish Historical Dictionary, 2nd ed., 2011; “The Kurds Ascending: The Evolving Solution to the Kurdish Problem in Iraq and Turkey,” 2nd ed., 2011; “The Kurdish Predicament in Iraq: A Political Analysis,” 1999; and “The Kurds and the Future of Turkey,” 1997. In addition, he is the co-editor (with Mohammed M. A. Ahmed) of “The Kurdish Question and the 2003 Iraqi War”, (Mazda Publishers) 2005; and “The Evolution of Kurdish Nationalism,” (Mazda Publishers) 2007. He has also published several other scholarly books and more than 150 scholarly articles on the Kurds, Turkey, Armenians, numerous other topics dealing with the Middle East, United Nations, and other topics in such leading periodicals as the Middle East Journal, Middle East Quarterly, Middle East Policy, Current History, Middle East Critique,, Third World Quarterly, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Orient, Insight Turkey, Worth (Robb Report), American Journal of International Law, World Affairs, Orbis, and International Organization, among others. In addition, he was a Senior Fulbright Lecturer in International Relations in Turkey. He also has held Fulbright awards for China and Israel. Currently he is the secretary-general of the EU Turkey Civic Commission, an NGO working within the European Union Parliament to promote further democratization in Turkey to facilitate its accession to the EU. He has been interviewed about the Kurdish question and the Middle East on numerous occasions by the international and national press.