The Kurdish Conundrum of the Middle East (The Case of Iraq)

518
DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-5-76-87

V. Naumkin (director@ivran.ru),
Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 12, Rozhdestvenka Str., Moscow 107031, Russia
n Federation 

Acknowledgements. The study was supported by a grant of the Russian Science Foundation for 2017–2019, project no. 17-18-01614 “Problems and prospects of international political transformation of Middle East in the context of regional and global threats”. 


Abstract. The centuries-old history of Kurds, who inhabit an intersection straddling the territory of the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia, is replete with tragic events that have been laid down in the collective memory of the Kurdish people. Kurds have remained to be a divided ethnic group residing in the cross-border regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Kurds entered into complicated relationships with the titular nations of these states, which sometimes grew into fierce conflicts, including even Iraq where Kurds succeeded in gaining broader powers of autonomy. This factor has caused an increasingly tangible impact on the policies of the Middle Eastern states, as well as on global affairs. The underlying disunity is a salient feature of the Kurds’ relations with external actors, but it is also an inherent element of the relationships among themselves. Wide-ranging differences in the ethno-confessional structure, language, culture, customs and traditions, self-identification and interests of the elites provide a substantiation to refer the communities with Kurdish residents to the “deeply divided” category. That is why the theory of deeply divided societies is the most efficient mechanism for conducting research into the Kurdish communities, alongside the theories of symbolic politics and social movement. The article reviews the problem of Kirkuk considered as a contentious and disputed hybrid territory: the topic has recently been enthusiastically tackled in a highly relevant discourse among researchers. The development of the situation in the region, including the growing sense of the Kurds’ national identity, allows us to assume that the Kurdish problem is not likely to lose its political poignancy in the foreseeable future, remaining a factor capable of generating a conflict within the states of Kurdish settlements. 

Keywords: Kurds, deeply divided societies, symbolic politics, Iraq, self-determination, disputed territories, polyconfessionalism, Yazidis, tribes, Kirkuk 


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For citation:
Naumkin V. The Kurdish Conundrum of the Middle East (The Case of Iraq) . World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, No 5, pp. 76-87. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-5-76-87



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