How Safe Is the Safe Haven?

by Ralf Backer , Ronald Ofteringer
published in MER187

More than 10 million landmines have been scattered in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1975. Fifty percent of these were made in Italy. During the Iran-Iraq war, vast areas like Haj Omran and Penjwin were mined by both sides. After the Anfal campaign in 1988, Iraqi troops heavily mined the remnants of destroyed villages and booby-trapped them to prevent access by villagers and Kurdish fighters. The last round of mining started during the Gulf crisis in 1990 when Iraqi troops laid hundreds of thousands of mines near the Turkish border to hinder a possible allied attack from Turkish territory.

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A Republic of Statelessness

Three Years of Humanitarian Intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan

by Ralf Backer , Ronald Ofteringer
published in MER187

For nearly three years, Iraqi Kurdistan has been in a state of de facto self-rule. At first glance, it appears that the international engagement in Iraq on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 688 (Operation Provide Comfort) provided this opportunity.

Clinton, Ankara and Kurdish Human Rights

by Maryam Elahi
published in MER189

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Kurdish Broadcasting in Iraq

by Ann Zimmerman
published in MER189

In the transition from exile to autonomy, Iraqi Kurdish parties have set up the first Kurdish-controlled television channels in the Middle East. Their broadcasts now reach more than half of the estimated 3 to 4 million people in “Free Kurdistan.” [1]

City in the War Zone

by Aliza Marcus
published in MER189

Saki Işikçi sits in a coffeeshop below a picture of the founder of the Turkish republic -- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk -- and ticks off the problems he faces as the deputy mayor of Cizre: bad roads, poor schools, not enough water, no jobs. The city’s monthly budget barely covers municipal salaries, and emigrants from outlying villages are straining social services.

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Mad Dreams of Independence

The Kurds of Turkey and the PKK

by Chris Kutschera
published in MER189

Politics has always been a difficult and risky business for Kurdish nationalists in Turkey. The hegemony today of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with its history of dogmatic Marxism-Leninism and its attachment to armed struggle, is very much a reflection of the refusal of successive Turkish nationalist regimes to accommodate Kurdish aspirations for cultural and political autonomy.

The stirrings of progressive Kurdish nationalist politics in Turkey date to the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Kurdish intellectuals in Istanbul and Ankara formed cultural clubs and organizations. The summer of 1967 saw mass student demonstrations in 19 Kurdish cities and towns, including 10,000 marchers in Silvan and 25,000 in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır.

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The Remains of Anfal

by Andrew Whitley
published in MER189

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The Kurdish Experience

by Amir Hassanpour
published in MER189

Numbering over 22 million, the Kurds are one of the largest non-state nations in the world. Their homeland, Kurdistan, has been forcibly divided and lies mostly within the present-day borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, with smaller parts in Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The greatest number of Kurds today still live in Kurdistan, though a large Kurdish diaspora has developed in this century, especially in the main cities of Turkey and Iran and more recently in Europe as well. Between 10 and 12 million Kurds live in Turkey, where they comprise about 20 percent of the population. Between 5 and 6 million live in Iran, accounting for close to 10 percent of the population. Kurds in Iraq number more than 4 million, and comprise about 23 percent of the population.

From the Editors

published in MER189

For many decades now, those states whose borders include and divide Kurdistan have alternatively tried to ignore, deny, manipulate and suppress widespread Kurdish demands for political rights. In this, the rulers have enjoyed the unstinting support of their great power patrons, the broad support of the majority communities, and often enough support as well among different Kurdish communities and social strata. These policies comprise a disastrous record that has exacted a horrible price in blood, treasure and democratic rights -- of Arabs, Iranians and Turks as well as of Kurds themselves. These policies have failed miserably in their repressive goals, and yet they continue as the order of the day.

The Iraqi Question from the Inside

by Pierre-Jean Luizard
published in MER193

To affirm the existence of an “Iraqi question” has certain implications. People usually speak, referring to the Shi‘a and the Kurds, of minorities and of the necessity of protecting them as such. But this misses the point concerning what is unique about Iraq.