by J. George Waardenburg
It is by no means obvious to préparé a publication on "The Importance of Cultural Eléments in the Struggle of the Kurdish People”. Similarly, it is not obvious that a Research Institute of Oppressed Peoples" (RIOP) exists in the Netherlands. Therefore, if such an institute publishes the papers of its congress under the chairmanship of Fuad Hussein in the fall of 1983 at Amsterdam on that subject, a preface may not be inappropriate in order to draw briefly attention to some peculiar characteristics of both the institute and the subject and of their combination.
The RIOP’s focus is on the situation and perspectives of oppressed peoples, to which the incompatibilities of world history hâve left no state to be recognized as their own one. It functions mainly in three, interconnected ways:
1) carrying out and stimulating research
2) providing information and éducation, and
3) creating a forum or meeting ground for different approaches and views, on selected issues of importance within its focus.
The first characteristic in pursuing these three ways is to seek a central contribution to the efforts from persons out of the peoples concerned themselves often living in the Netherlands, and hâve their contributions supported by interested other persons, often Dutch university people. Thus, while facts and views of the people directly involved are taken seriously, these are critically clarified and deepened by research and by dialogue among themselves and with Dutch people concerned. Both kinds of people, as well as public and private policy makers and the public at large can be served in this way while new perspectives on problems and possible approaches for thesis solutions can be developed. Ail this sounds to me as a sensible and rather new, though not simple, strategy.
Among the first issues to be dealt with by the RIOP the struggle of the Kurdish people was selected, in my opinion a very clear and, given RIOP’s focus, appropriate choice, though challenging in its discouraging complexity.
In dealing with this issue a second characteristic of RIOP’s approach came to light. The issues selected are not only regionally defined but thematically as well. Thus an effort is made to develop a deeper understanding of the particular régional issues by adding thematic dimensions and looking at similarities, interconnections and generalizations. In the case of the Kurdisch struggle the question of the importance of culture was proposed as such a spécial thematic dimension and it certainly pushed présentations and discussions beyond mere facts and opinions, by both limiting and deepening them, while also giving a perspective for further studies and for generalizations. The Introduction and Houtart’s paper illustrate this extra dimension most clearly.
In recalling the congress the deepest memories, however, remain with the presence of some of the finest and most eminent minds of the Kurdish people, be it from the calmth of the study or from the heat of the politico-military battlefield. Their presence made it into a genuine meeting of the Kurdish people and a true dialogue between them and the non-Kurdish.
The papers of the congress, presented here, are but half a représentation of its dynantie character, but in my view the RIOP can be congratulated with bringing them together. It is a good idea to publish them straight away like they were presented, without further élaboration as yet. While the congress was the strongest in its meeting ground function, it clearly based itself on research and was both informative and educational as well. But now, once published, these papers could serve not only as information but as a basis and encouragement for further research leading to further insights worth being spread around. As the Introduction says, it should be only a beginning.
Thus these papers are no mere introduction about the situation of the Kurdish people. For an introduction there are also other, good publications. These papers are a starting point for a next step, thinking seriously in order to understand the Kurdish problem, attempting to gain a perspective and a wider view on it which gives access to a more general insight into the awful predicament of oppressed peoples in our world today. In this sense they should prove very useful not only to those interested in the Kurdish people, but also to those not satisfied with the bitter situation of so many in this world and to those attempting to work on that problem, as students and scholars, in action groups, or as policy makers in the government or in private organisations.
E.g. Anneke v.d. Loos, Koerden, een vergeten volk, Vereniging Vluchtelingenwerk, Amsterdam, 1983; or: G. Chailland (ed.), People without a country. The Kurds and Kurdistan (tr.). London, Zed press, 1980.
‘It is only a beginning’
By Peter Idenburg
In (Jctooer 1983 in Amsterdam a congress was organised on the theme ‘The Importance of Cultural Eléments in the Struggle of the Kurdish People' by the newly started Research Institute of Oppressed Peoples (RIOP).
In this introduction we will say something about the background the RIOP and its motives for organising this congress, followed by some general lines drawn from the congresspapers. We will conclude this introduction by submitting to the reader some perspectives for further research resulting from the discussions during and after the congress.
We hope that this will provoke response, positive or négative, because this congress, like RIOP itself, should be seen as 'only a beginning’, as our friends from Cultural Survival remarked wisely and hopefully.
Those of you, who are acquainted with the Kurdish Movement will notice that the names of the authors of the papers stand for a qualitatively high level of participation both in respect of scientific standards and political redevance. François Houtart made a contribution on a more theoretical level, a field in wnich he has quite a réputation.
The reader may wonder why and how an organisation, which just started, managed to raise such a participation. In my opinion, the explanation of this could be found to a large extent in what is expresse! by the little préposition ’of’ in its name: Research Institute ‘of’ Oppressed Peoples.
And this is taken seriously.
Right from the start RIOP has used the following three criteria tor its activities: a) general scientific standards as being applicd to research institues connected olth universitles, in …