Crucial Images in the Presentation of a Kurdish National Identity: Heroes and Patriots, Traitors and Foes

Crucial Images in the Presentation of a Kurdish National Identity: Heroes and Patriots, Traitors and Foes

Crucial Images in the Presentation of a Kurdish National Identity: Heroes and Patriots, Traitors and Foes

Crucial Images in the Presentation of a Kurdish National Identity: Heroes and Patriots, Traitors and Foes

Synopsis

This book deals with the discourse on Kurdishness and the development of the Kurdish national movement from its inception at the end of the 19th century to the late 1930s. The first part examines the efforts of aspiring Kurdish leaders, mainly through newspapers, to awaken" their fellow Kurds to the necessity and benefits of the Kurdish cause. Part two deals with the rise of a Kurdish movement in exile, mainly in Syria, and analyzes various aspects of cultural nation-building as mirrored in Kurdish publications. Part three focuses on the effort of a prominent Kurdish nationalist to promote Kurdishness in a little-known novel written in German. The book includes an annex with translations from Ottoman and Turkish sources, illustrations, and an index."

Excerpt

A decade ago, while I was working at the Orient-Institut of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft in Istanbul, I came across a small brochure in Ottoman with the title Kürdler Türklerden ne istiyorlar? (“What do the Kurds want from the Turks”?). It was the time following the Gulf War, when the plight of the Kurds in Iraq and their flight into Turkey had aroused world-wide attention, and the Kurdish question was being more openly discussed. I was intrigued by the booklet, actually an open letter, because it seemed to promise a historical reading of the Kurdish question. But I had no clue about the author, Dr. Meḥmed Şükrü. It took me some time to establish that the full name of the author was Dr. Meḥmed Şükrü Sekban and to gather details about his life. A staunch supporter of the Kurdish movement from its inception at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, Sekban withdrew from the movement in the 1930's. He came to be considered a traitor by his former comrades. His bad reputation is probably the reason that his writings have been neglected. In this book I argue that he deserves scholarly attention.

Sekban's writings led me to a study of the wider context of the discourse on Kurdishness. An important source was the nascent Kurdish press. Among the other ethnic groups in the Ottoman Empire, the press was a crucial instrument in generating and maintaining a discourse on the respective nationalisms and the so-called awakenings. The study of the Kurdish press drew my attention to the family which was involved in most Kurdish newspapers between 1898 and 1919: the Bedir Khāns. In particular, three of its scions, Celādet, Kāmurān and Ṯüreyyā, became the most active advocates of the Kurdish movement after the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Driven by a cultural as well as a political mission, motivated by claims to leadership and legitimized by their noble descent, as they saw it, they created a Latin alphabet for Kurmanjì, established journals, wrote open letters to statesmen and supranational organizations, published propaganda brochures, and engaged in academia. Specifically, Kāmurān's literary activities aroused my interest. His novel Der Adler von Kurdistan (“The Eagle of Kurdistan”), ignored by students of the Kurdish national movement, constitutes my third . . .

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