The Struggle for Syria's Regions

by Kheder Khaddour , Kevin Mazur
published in MER269

In August 2013, as the United States was preparing to attack Syria over the use of chemical weapons, a chant echoed through ‘Alawi areas of Homs: “Strike, strike, buddy, we want to loot Tel Aviv” (idrab idrab ya habib, bidna n’affish Tall Abib). The couplet draws on a familiar position in Baathist discourse -- resistance to the American-Zionist project for the region -- but the means of resistance it espouses departs from the standard of national sacrifice in favor of something far more local. The term for looting, ‘afsh, is slang that comes from a word for furniture.

Major Kurdish Organizations in Iran

by Martin Van Bruinessen
published in MER141

Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI)

The Kurds Between Iran and Iraq

by Martin Van Bruinessen
published in MER141

The news from Kurdistan is sad and grim. On both sides of the Iran-Iraq border, the central governments have been carrying out violent campaigns to bring the Kurdish districts under control and to wipe out the peshmergas (guerrilla fighters) of the various Kurdish organizations. This entails direct military clashes as well as reprisals against the civilian population. Numerous villages have been destroyed, either by their own government’s forces or in bombings by the neighboring country’s air force or artillery. Summary executions are commonplace.

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In Search of the Building Blocks of Opposition in Turkey

by Joseph Logan | published June 10, 2013

In early May, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- flush with a decade of electoral triumphs and a track record of economic growth dwarfing that of the European Union he once vowed to join -- had the luxury of being magnanimous.

Democracy and the Kurds

by Ömer Karasapan
published in MER153

The Kurdish issue has become a daily staple of the Turkish press. At first focused on PKK atrocities, coverage now allows many people to get a clearer view of the conditions facing the country’s Kurdish citizens. Articles and interviews with tribal leaders, pro-government militia, local party leaders and state officials provide an understanding often at odds with official myths. For liberal and left-leaning journalists, this new opening has come as a welcome release from years of indirect reporting on the subject. Mehmet Ali Birand forcefully stated in July 1987 that the time for cryptic references was over. Columnist Mümtaz Soysal, also the country’s foremost constitutional scholar, discussed the futility of continuing the ban on the Kurdish language.

State Ideology and the Kurds

by
published in MER153

Turkish sociologist Ismail Beşikçi, the country’s foremost authority on Kurds, was born in Çorum in 1939. He recounts meeting Kurds for the first time as a student at Ankara University’s Faculty of Political Science. Later he spent time in Turkey’s eastern provinces as a student and during his military service. Out of these extended stays came his doctoral dissertation on the region’s social structure. Published as a book in 1968, it remains the best study of its kind. His publications eventually cost him his post at Atatürk University in Erzurum.

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Between Guerrilla Warfare and Political Murder

The Workers' Party of Kurdistan

by Martin Van Bruinessen
published in MER153

The most spectacular development of the past several years in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces has been the resumption, in the late summer of 1984, of guerrilla activity. The attacks consist mainly of hit-and-run actions against military personnel and against Kurdish civilians considered “traitors” or “collaborators.”

Behind the Kurdish Hunger Strike in Turkey

by Jake Hess | published November 8, 2012

To hear Mazlum Tekdağ’s story is enough to understand why 700 Kurdish political prisoners have gone on hunger strike in Turkey. His father was murdered by the state in front of his Diyarbakır pastry shop in 1993, when Mazlum was just nine years old. His uncle Ali was kidnapped by an army-backed death squad known as JİTEM (the acronym for the Turkish phrase translating, roughly, as Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terror Unit) two years later. Mazlum never saw his uncle again, but a former JİTEM agent later claimed they tortured him for six months before killing him and burning his body by the side of a road in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır.

Gulf War Refugees in Turkey

by Ömer Karasapan
published in MER156

A largely ignored byproduct of the Iranian revolution and the Gulf war has been the large influx of refugees into Turkey. The economic benefits of Turkish neutrality during the Gulf war led Ankara to downplay the problem, but the recent arrival of Kurdish refugees has strained regional ties and clouded Turkish hopes for lucrative post-war reconstruction deals. The large Iranian refugee population of a million or more is also causing worries, as struggles among Iranian political groups spill over into Turkey.

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