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Martyrs, Traitors and Patriots: Kurdistan after the Gulf War

Auteur : Sheri Laizer
Éditeur : Zed Books Date & Lieu : 1996, London & New Jersey
Préface : Michael Ignatieff Pages : 224
Traduction : ISBN : 1 85649 396 2
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 135x215 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Eng. Lai. Mar. N°2921Thème : Général

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Martyrs, Traitors and Patriots: Kurdistan after the Gulf War

Martyrs, Traitors and Patriots: Kurdistan after the Gulf War

Sheri Laizer

Zed Books

What has happened to the Kurds since their great uprising against Saddam and the tragic exodus to the safe havens? What factors condition the course of the continuing guerrilla war in Kurdistan? What policies have Turkey, Iraq and Iran pursued to deal with the Kurdish people, the largest ethnic group devoid of nationhood in the world? Can the Kurds establish their own distinct political identity, on a par with their cultural distinctiveness, or are they condemned to endless internecine conflict and tribal rivalries?
These questions are answered in depth in Sheri Laizer’s new book.

Informed by frequent recent visits to the front line areas, she provides the reader with a clear analysis of Kurdish realpolitik. She focuses on the political practices of the PKK and the other major Kurdish groups, as well as the issues facing the Turkish parliament and army, the long-term strategies pursued by Iran and Iraq, and the evolution of Kurdish democratic institutions.

Sheri Laizer is one of the most knowledgeable of contemporary writers about the Kurds. The passion and commitment she displays for their cause shines through this absorbing and rich book. Anyone wanting to understand why the Kurds continue to fight for their legitimate rights need read no further.



Sheri Laizer is one of Kurdistan’s best and most long-suffering friends. She is not of Kurdish origin herself, but she has chosen to ally herself with the Kurdish cause: writing books about Kurdish history, editing Kurdish poetry, leading fellow journalists in and out of the war-zones of the Kurdish struggle. That is how I met her, in 1993, when making a film on Kurdistan that formed part of Blood and Belonging, the BBC television series on nationalist struggles around the world after the end of the Cold War. For three weeks, we travelled throughout the Kurdish homeland in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. Sheri seemed to be on first-name terms with all the major Kurdish figures and was trusted by freedom fighters who no longer trusted each other. She had earned their trust, for, as she recounts in this book, she was in Kurdistan during the unforgettable days of March 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s tanks and helicopter gunships re-took the territory won in the Kurdish uprising after the Gulf war. She was on the terrible march into the mountains on the Turkish border; she saw the Turkish troops turning the Kurdish people back to face Saddam’s troops.

It is never easy being the friend of revolution; it is never obvious how to hold on to an independent position of your own in the midst of a struggle which is riven by division, in-fighting and factional intrigue. But Sheri Laizer has managed the difficult feat of maintaining solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, while retaining a degree of critical distance towards its failings and weaknesses. Sheri shows the price Kurds have paid for their divisions, and she is honest about the moral dilemmas that arise when a movement of national liberation feels itself obliged to risk innocent lives for the attainment of a just cause. As a woman, she is also able to cast a sharp and dispassionate eye over the cost to women of the cult of the fighter. Women have to struggle to be included in the national movement on their own terms, and this struggle is by no means over.

Through Sheri Laizer’s work, and through my own travels in Kurdistan, I learned to see just how important the Kurdish struggle is, both to the politics of the Middle east and to the understanding of modern nationalism. The Kurdish homeland lies across four national frontiers: Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. The failure of the post-First World War mandates to grant the Kurds autonomy or statehood has brought instability to the region for 80 years. Now that the Palestine question is beginning to move towards a resolution, the Kurdish question becomes the next major item on the agenda of the region. Hut the obstacles to a settlement of Kurdish claims are formidable. The Kurds arc opposed by four of the most virulent nationalisms in the world: the Kemalism of Turkey, the Islamic fundamentalist nationalism of Iran, and the Ba'athist nationalism of Iraq and Syria. Each of these nationalisms requires an enemy to mobilise against. If the Kurds did not exist, those regimes would have had to invent them to justify the rigid centralization of power on which their survival depends. In repressing Kurdish claims, these states have been able to count on the implicit and explicit support of the major powers who, preferring the devil they know to the devil they don’t know, have chosen to prop up the state order of the region at all costs, rather than explore the possibility of a Kurdish homeland.

Squeezed between four nationalisms, patronized or ignored by the major powers, the Kurdish movement struggles for just recognition. It is hardly surprising that it is divided. There are those who think limited autonomy within other states is the best that can be achieved; others believe that armed struggle will bring them a sovereign homeland of their own. These differences of principle are systematically exploited by their enemies.

For the moment, a precarious kind of Kurdistan does exist: a UN protection zone in the territory of northern Iraq, patrolled by Allied aircraft based in Turkey. The protection zone has accorded the Kurds precious little protection; both Iranian and Turkish forces have been able to enter the region at will. Still this experiment in protecting civilians from the attacks of their own state is unique in international affairs: if it works it may provide a model for UN attempts to protect civilians elsewhere who find themselves at the mercy of cannibalistic states. It may also provide the nucleus for a future Kurdish state, carved out of a post-Saddam Iraq. This is the most tantalising hope of all - but it may yet be dashed if Kurdish divisions overcome the common yearning for a home, and if the Allies, out of a desire to placate the Turks, or a desire to reingratiate themselves with oil-rich Iraq, decide to withdraw the air cover. Sheri Laizer has provided the best guide to a region and a struggle which should occupy everyone’s attention.

Michael Ignatieff

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