Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds

Article excerpt

Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds, ed. by Shahrzad Mojab. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, Inc., 2001. xi + 263 pages. Contribs. to p. 266. $24.95 paper. Reviewed by Diane E. King

This volume is a collection of 11 articles by authors representing a variety of disciplines and perspectives. Robert Olson, editor of the Kurdish Studies Series in which this book is the third to appear, opens it with a brief preface. This is followed by an introduction by editor Sharzad Mojab. Both make a case for the importance of this book in light of the Kurds' predicament of being spread across four main states. Each of these states has marginalized them and repressed their nationalist movements, often severely, during the past century. Indeed, the marginalization of Kurds has carried with it the marginalization of Kurdish studies and, in particular, studies of Kurdish women. This volume is the beginning of a remedy; as Mojab points out, it is the first edited book of scholarly articles on Kurdish women in the English language.

The chapters are divided into three topical sections. Each chapter in "Part I: Historical Perspectives" focuses on historical texts. Janet Klein analyzes references to women in late Ottoman texts; Rohat Alakom presents portrayals of women in Constantinople/Istanbul publications at the beginning of the 20th century; and Shahrzad Mojab writes on women's roles in the Kurdish Republic of 1946. In "Part II: Political and Legal Perspectives," Martin van Bruinessen examines the roles of Kurdish women political leaders, most of whom are historical figures, but including a few contemporary women in Turkey. (This is the only article in the volume that has appeared elsewhere.) Heidi Wedel presents data on political participation from her field research among marginalized Kurdish women in Istanbul. This is followed by Susan McDonald's examination of the issue of self-determination as it pertains to Kurdish women, the only legal analysis in the book. "Part III" is entitled "Social, Cultural, and Linguistic Perspectives." The majority of these articles deal with contemporary issues and are based on field research. Maria O'Shea writes about women and medical practitioners in Iran. Christine Allison's article, on women in Kurdish oral tradition in northern Iraq, is the only one in this volume to focus on Yezidi Kurds. Annabelle Bottcher's article is about Sufi women in Damascus. Mirella Galletti examines the portrayal of Kurdish women and their roles by Western historical writers. Amir Hassanpour examines how patriarchy is evident in and perpetuated by the Kurdish language.

Because it fills a niche not occupied by any other book, Women of a Non-State Nation: The Kurds will likely attract attention for years to come. Although its title refers to the Kurds' political conundrum as a nation without its own state, this volume's strength lies in its attention to Kurdish life extending beyond the mere description of political losses (and occasional gains), on which the vast majority of books published on the Kurds focus. Editor Mojab's Introduction contains a caveat that "any writing on the Kurds invites confrontation from a host of conflicting interests" (p. …