Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Iraq and Rupert Hay's Two Years in Kurdistan

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Iraq and Rupert Hay's Two Years in Kurdistan

Article excerpt

Iraq and Rupert Hay's Two Years in Kurdistan. Edited by Paul Rich. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2008. 260 pp. $26.95.

Between 1918 and 1920, the British Indian government dispatched political officer Capt. Rupert Hay to Iraqi Kurdistan which, with the World War I-occupation of Ottoman Mesopotamia, had suddenly become a British territory. Like many contemporary officers stationed on the frontiers of empire, Hay saw his mission as much an anthropological as a military undertaking. Hence, the first six chapters of Two Years in Kurdistan discuss everything from flora and fauna, to the structure of village life, the roles of women in society, tribes, agriculture, and trade. The next eight chapters are both diary and travelogue, as Hay travels to Altun Kepri, Erbil, Ranya, and Rawanduz, as well as smaller towns and districts.

Hay's mission was to establish a civil administration as the British took control of Iraq from Ottoman authorities. Even though World War I was over, Ottoman authorities remained in control, if only on the local level, until Hay and his column relieved or co-opted them. Hay revitalized government, working to increase the influence of allies and decrease those of adversaries in society. He pensioned families of Turkish soldiers who had perished in the war, subsidized mullahs, appointed district governors, and played tribal politics. What took dozens of U.S. officials to carry out in 2003 and 2004, Hay did largely by himself eighty-five years before, meeting with tribal sheikhs and urban notables, entertaining, negotiating, and when necessary, commanding. …

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