Foreword by Martin van Bruinessen
Where should one locate the beginnings of Kurdish nationalism as a modern mass
movement, with well-organized political parties, explicit programs, and the mobilization
of mass support transcending narrow tribal or regional boundaries? A number of
dates and major events may be indicated, but there is considerable justification for considering
the year 1961 the major breaking point. This was the year when the Kurdish
guerrilla war against Iraq’s central government began, which would result in the Iraqi
Kurds gaining-on paper, at least-significant cultural rights, regional autonomy, and a
share in the central government. The highly visible movement in Iraqi Kurdistan of the
1960s not only strengthened the awareness of common Kurdish identity among the
Kurds oflraq, but also galvanized the Kurds in neighboring countries.
In Turkey, moreover, 1961 saw the establishment of the first legal socialist party, the
Workers’ Party of Turkey (WPT), which for the first time publicly placed the Kurdish
question on the political agenda and within which a left-inspired Kurdish discourse developed
to which all later Kurdish parties and organizations in Turkey were to remain
indebted. Unlike earlier Kurdish uprisings, the political and military movement led by
Mull a Mustafa Barzani in Iraq and the Kurdish left of Turkey were sustained movements
that did not dissipate after the first reverses, but kept growing and broadening their constituencies.
There is a clear continuity from the 1960s to the present day.
So if 1961 is such an important breaking point, what could be the relevance of a
study of Kurdish nationalism that was completed two years earlier? Wadie Jwaideh’s history
of the emergence and development of the Kurdish nationalist movement, which is
finally being published now, was originally written as a Ph.D. dissertation and submitted
to Syracuse University in early 1960. Most of the research for the thesis had been car·
ried out in the mid-l 950s, although Jwaideh makes some important observations on
developments in Iraq in the wake of the 1958 coup that set the stage for large-scale Kurdish
mobilization and the outbreak of guerrilla war.
The thesis was never published during Jwaideh’s lifetime, owing at least in part to
his own perfectionism and to the sheer size of the work.
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