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Greater Kurdistan: a peaceful solution in a region that has never known peace?

Reader comment on item: The Case for a Unified Kurdistan

Submitted by Livingston Merchant (Netherlands), Sep 18, 2014 at 04:32

It is Dr. Pipes' belief that the Kurdish territories in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey can eventually be united in a single nation and that this can be done peacefully.

My own experience with Turks and Kurds makes me skeptical, though the optimism of this article is refreshing. As I have written in various articles in my blog "Turks, Greeks, and Kurds", www.philhellene1.blogspot.com, the situation defies any simple analysis.

When I became headmaster of Robert College in Istanbul in 2001, I visited the staff room of the Turkish language and history teachers. It was a friendly visit until I used the word "Kurdistan" - quite innocently believing that this was where the Kurds lived as Baluchistan is where the Baluchis lived. The roof fell on my head. Angry remarks from my new staff not only soured the visit, but it was a long time before relations with some of the more patriotic teachers were mended.

Naturally, I became interested - pretty much for the first time - in the Kurds. We always become interested when topics are forbidden. My doctorates in Soviet affairs and Chinese history both somehow missed out on the peoples between these two great empires, so before I came to Turkey, my knowledge was limited to the talks of a friend of mine in Brussels, a carpet dealer who had made several visits to the Kurdish region in Eastern Turkey.

Then in 2005 I moved to teach at Bilkent University in Ankara for five years. Here I first encountered "Please, sir. I am a Kurd, but please do not tell anyone." My Alewi students were equally shy. By 2009 I had a number of Kurds and Turkmens under my tutelage, and two years later I went to work in Ranya, Iraqi Kurdistan, at Raparin University.

The reality of Kurdistan is complex. Most Kurds I met were religiously conservative and fiercely patriotic. And I never met anyone who spoke an unfavorable word about Ocalan, the PKK leader - though admittedly I was in PUK territory, governed by the somewhat more left-leaning party of the Kurdish Region.

I have come to the belief that Kurdistan should be united - gradually and peacefully, as Dr. Pipes suggests, but I am not as sanguine as he is. Perhaps it is because I am married to a Turk - a mathematician - who has suffered from the strong religious prejudices of Turkish society. I maintain the blog on Turks and Kurds (and Greeks), and the general response of my Turkish friends and readers is not encouraging. Turks are considerably more nervous about changing borders than the Scots and the English.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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