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Who are the Kurds? What constitutes their struggle and how has this struggle changed over the years? How did they contribute to the formulation of ideas of modernization since 19th century? How can we make use of the past to understand today's predicament in the Middle East?
Stefano Taglia, Researcher, Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Pelin Ayan Musil, Chair of the Politics Department, AAU
The talk will proceed chronologically and begin with StefanoTagliaproviding a look at the nineteenth century as a useful contextualisationof today's predicament. In an age where borders were fluid and identities carried different weight, Kurds were fully part of the Ottoman world as equal partners in the state and the opposition.
An example of this, was the contribution to the formulation of ideas of modernisation in the political and religious sphere of Kurdish members of the organisation known in Europe as the Young Turk movement, or Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti. Of particular notice is the trajectory of one of the founders of the Young Turk organisation, Abdullah Cevdet, who spent years formulating policies to modernise and reform the Ottoman Empire, in opposition to the rule of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Another interesting example is the Kurdish participation in state institutions, in particular in the Ottoman army, with the creation of the Hamidiyye Regiment, entrusted with the pacification of turbulent pockets in Anatolia. The first part of the talk will conclude with a consideration on today's Turkish political situation from the point of view of the first years of the Republic of Turkey, proclaimed in 1923.
The second part, by Pelin Ayan Musil, will start with describing the position of the Kurdish population in four different states in the Middle East and what constitutes their current struggle. It will then proceed with showing how and when the idea of the establishment of an independent Kurdistan has slowly shifted toward different political demands among the different groups of Kurds in the region. Pointing out the ways the Kurdish movements in four states today diverge from each other, it will then discuss how a strikingly progressive, leftwing identity based on direct democracy and gender equality emerged out of an armed ethnonationalist movement in especially Syria's Rojava and in Turkey's HDP/PKK. The talk will end with a consideration of the role of the Kurdish movements during the escalation of religious fundamentalist violence in the region today.