Friday, May 28, 2004


Kemal Burkay

During recent years the Kurdish question has reappeared, more intensely than before, on the international agenda. For years, this question has been of fundamental concern to the countries of the region, and it has led to extensive internal controversies and economic and social crises. In order to further an understanding of the Kurdish question in its present dimensions, a summary of its historical and geographical background is necessary.

Language, Religion, and History

The Kurds are, together with the Arabs, Persians, and Armenians, one of the most ancient peoples of the Near East. The country they inhabit is called Kurdistan. The Kurds have their own language, Kurdish. Kurdish is a member of the Indo-European family of languages; like Persian, Afghan, and Beluchi, it is one of the Iranian languages. Kurdish is unrelated to the Arabic or Turkish languages.

Literary works have been written in the Kurdish language since the tenth century A.D. Kurdish is a lively and rich language that has managed to survive despite all the oppression and bans to which it has been exposed. There are hundreds of poets, writers, and researchers writing in Kurdish. Many dictionaries and grammar books have been written for the Kurdish language. Kurdish folklore also has a very rich tradition.
Over time, various dialects have arisen within the Kurdish language. The most widely disseminated dialect is Kurmanji. It is spoken by about 90% of the Kurds in Turkey, in Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan in the northern areas near the Turkish border, and by the Syrian Kurds - that is, by about 75% of all Kurds.

The Sorani dialect is spoken by about 15% of the Kurds. This dialect is spoken in the middle and southern regions of Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan. Zazaki is a third dialect, which is spoken in certain regions of Turkish Kurdistan. In the southernmost parts of Kurdistan, Gorani and other dialects are spoken.

The great majority of Kurds, about 75%, are Sunni Moslems; about 15% are Alevis. The Alevis are in the majority in the northern and western areas of Turkish Kurdistan and in the Khorasan region of Iran. In Iran and Iraq there exist other religious groups such as Shiite Kurds (Feyli) and the Ehlihak ("the people of God"), who are closely related with the Alevis. In the various parts of Kurdistan, especially in the region where the borders of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq meet and in Armenia, there are Kurdish Yezidi communities. In earlier times, the Yezidi faith was a widely shared religious orientation. Its roots go back to Zoroastrianism. Finally, in the middle regions of Kurdistan there are small groups of Christianity.

Kurds have played a significant role in the history of this region since its early epochs. A great deal of information on this can be found in numerous Greek, Roman, Arab, and Armenian sources. According to them, the Kurds founded several important states during the Islamic epoch between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, such as Shadddiden, Marvaniden, and Ayyubiden - as well as in the distant past. Sultan Salahaddin (Salah al-Din), the founder of the Ayyubid state, which included Egypt, Syria, and Kurdistan, played a particularly significant role in history.

The Turks, whose roots are in Middle Asia, migrated to Anatolia via Iran after the eleventh century and founded the Selchuk and subsequently the Ottoman states. For a long time, Kurdistan was the theater of military clashes between the Ottoman and the Persian empires. During this period, the Kurdish princes sided first with one side, then the other, thus maintaining their autonomy. But in the year 1638, Kurdistan was officially divided between these two states in the Treaty of Kasri Shirin. From that time until the mid-nineteenth century, both states made armed attacks on the Kurdish princedoms in order to destroy them.

The Kurds' struggle against these two great states took on a nationalistic character at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Kurdish princes such as Bedirkhan and Yazdansher, as well as religious leaders such as Sheik Ubeydullah, fought for the unity and independence of Kurdistan, but they were defeated.

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire became past history: new states arose on its former territory. According to the Treaty of Sevres, which was signed on 10 August 1920, the state of Kurdistan was also to be established in the region. But this intention was not subsequently implemented. In the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923, that part of Kurdistan which had been part of the Ottoman Empire was carved up again. Part of it was included in the British and French Mandates, where Syria and Iraq later came into being. The largest part of Kurdistan remained within the state borders of the Republic of Turkey, which had been founded on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman and the Persian Empires, which had divided up Kurdistan between themselves, did not question the existence of the Kurdish people at any time. The Republic of Turkey also initially defined its new borders as the "borders of the Misak-i Milli (National Pact), which include the areas settled by the Turkish and Kurdish majority". About 70 Kurdish Members of Parliament were present at the first session of the Great National Assembly in Ankara; they were officially designated as the "MPs of Kurdistan". The Turkish representative, Ismet Pasha, declared at Lausanne: "The Kurds and the Turks are the essential components of the Republic of Turkey. The Kurds are not a minority but a nation; the government in Ankara is the government of the Turks as well as of the Kurds."

However, after the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, Ankara's policy rapidly changed. The structures of the new state were designed wholly in accordance with Turkish interests. The Kurds' existence was denied. The Kurdish language, the practice of Kurdish culture, even the concepts of "Kurdish" and "Kurdistan" were forbidden. The Kemalist leadership paid not the slightest attention to the multi-cultural structure of Anatolia, which was in fact a mosaic of different ethnic groups. The keystone of their policy became the melting of other languages and cultures into the Turkish language and culture, thus creating "a unified nation". Article 39 of the Treaty of Lausanne, according to which the citizens of Turkey have the right to freely use their respective languages in all areas of life, was trampled upon, and the Kurdish language was totally forbidden in the educational system and the printed media. Speaking about the Kurds and criticizing the oppression of them was held to be a severe crime and was massively punished.

In 1925 the Kurds, led by Sheik Said, rose up against this policy. But this uprising was brutally suppressed; tens of thousands of Kurds were killed and driven into exile. There were more Kurdish uprisings in subsequent years, the major ones taking place in Ararat in 1930 and in Dersim in 1938. The Turkish state waged war in Kurdistan on a permanent basis.

After 1938, there was a relatively peaceful pause that lasted about 20 years. However, it is not surprising that the Kurds - who had no national rights and were being subjected to massive oppression, who were forced into poverty and ignorance, who saw all peaceful and legal avenues of political struggle closed off to them - once again began to arm themselves against the cruel oppression of the Turkish state. Since 1979, Turkey has ruled Kurdistan through military law, a State of Emergency, and a dirty war.
Similar developments unfolded in the other parts of Kurdistan. The Kurds living within the borders of Iraq, or southern Kurdistan, have also been resisting oppression since World War I. They staged uprisings that were led first by Sheik Mahmud Barzenci (1919-1923), then by Sheik Ahmed Barzani and his brother Mustafa Barzani (1933 and later). These uprisings also ended in defeat. But in Iraq, at no point was Kurdish identity denied. Moreover, because of the uprisings the Kurds were granted certain cultural rights. They were given schools, universities, radio broadcasts etc. In this part of Kurdistan, Kurdish culture is relatively well-developed.

The greatest Kurdish uprising in this part of Kurdistan began in 1961 under Mustafa Barzani and lasted until 1970. In 1970, the Kurds reached an agreement with the central government concerning an autonomous region. However, the government in Baghdad stalled the Kurds and ignored the conditions of the agreement. For this reason, the war broke out again in 1975. With several pauses, this struggle lasted until 1991.
The war against the Kurds has been expensive for Iraq. In order to halt Iran's support of the Kurds, the Saddam Hussein regime initially made territorial concessions to Iran. Then, to win back these areas, it started the destructive eight-year war against Iran which devastated Kurdistan. Iraq even used poison gas in its attacks on the Kurds. After this war ended, Iraq moved on to its invasion of Kuwait, with whose subsequent developments the reader is doubtless familiar.

Saddam Hussein suffered a massive defeat in his war against the allies. The Kurds were initially subjected to mass expulsion, but later a United Nations declaration created a security zone for them. The refugees returned to their homeland. In what is now known as "northern Iraq", i.e. southern Kurdistan, the Kurds created a parliament and a national government.

But the Iraqi problem has still not been solved today. The country is being subjected to a UN embargo, and the Iraqi Kurds are in an extremely difficult situation.
The state of Iran has practiced a policy of oppression against the Kurds similar to that of Turkey's Kemalist regime. After World War II, when Iran was occupied in the north by the Soviet Union and in the south by Great Britain, the Kurds were able to pause for breath and they quickly organized themselves. The Democratic Party of Kurdistan was founded and subsequently the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad was proclaimed. But soon thereafter the government in Tehran, with the political support of Great Britain and America, annihilated the Republic of Mahabad.

But the Kurdish people's resistance has not ceased. When the Shah's regime ended in 1978, this part of Kurdistan could once again enjoy freedom. Yet this phase did not last long either. It was soon followed by the attacks of the new regime of the mullahs. The armed resistance to this regime that began in 1979 is still continuing today.

In summary, the Kurdish people have continually resisted the cruel oppression and colonialization of them in these three major parts of Kurdistan, both before and after World War I, up to the present day. They have struggled to keep alive their identity, claim their national rights, and freely determine their own destiny. During this struggle, the Kurds have lost hundreds of thousands of their people and have been the victims of mass expulsions. Tremendous suffering has been inflicted on them. This is in fact a case of genocide. But unfortunately, neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations have lived up to their responsibilities in the face of our people's tragedy. They have merely been onlookers of these events.

Geography and Population

The number of Kurds in the four parts of Kurdistan and within the borders of the four countries that have divided it up between themselves totals about 35 million. This makes the Kurds, after the Arabs, Turks, and Persians, the fourth-largest nation in the Near East.

Kurdistan, which has since time immemorial been inhabited by the Kurds, has a territory of 500,000 square km, which is as large as that of France. In other words, the Kurds are not a minority in their country; they are the majority. The Kurdish question is not the problem of a minority of the population of this or that country; it is the question of a divided country and a nation. Like all other nations, the Kurds too have the right to self-determination.

The borders that divide Kurdistan are neither natural, economic, nor cultural borders. They are artificial borders that have been drawn against the will of the Kurdish people according to the interests of the forces that did the dividing and the balance of power. In many cases these borders have divided villages, towns, even families, and have had divisive and destructive effects on economic, social, and cultural life.

The largest part of Kurdistan, which in terms of both its population and its territory makes up about one-half of the total, lies in the north inside the state borders of Turkey. This part amounts to one-third of the total territory of Turkey, and includes more than twenty provinces in the "eastern and north-eastern regions". Other parts, according to their size, are eastern Kurdistan (within the borders of Iran), southern Kurdistan (within the borders of Iraq), and Kurdish areas within the borders of Syria.
In all of these parts a large number of the inhabitants - between 80 and 90% - are Kurdish. A certain proportion of the Kurds have lived since earlier times, or because of the migrations and refugee movements of recent times, in other regions and in the large cities of these countries. If we count these as well, then about 18 to 20 million Kurds live within the borders of Turkey, 8 to 10 million in Iran, 5 million in Iraq, and 1.5 million in Syria.

About one-third of the labour migrants who have left Turkey in the past 20 to 30 years and come to the countries of Europe are Kurds. If we add to this the number of Kurds from Turkey and the other parts of Kurdistan who have fled to Europe in recent years for political and economic reasons, the number of Kurds living in European countries comes to about 1 million. Because of migration and refugee movements, Kurdish communities have also formed in North America and Australia.

Natural Resources and Economic and Social Structures

With regard to its mineral resources, Kurdistan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Most of the zone extending from the Zagros mountain range to the Mediterranean, which has been known as the "Fertile Crescent" since early times, falls within Kurdistan.

Kurdistan is rich in agriculture. The plains between the mountain ranges, especially in the warm south, are well-suited to agriculture because of the composition of their soil and their favourable climatic conditions. The plateaus and mountain slopes have extremely fruitful meadowland. All types of grain, as well as high-quality fruit and vegetables, grow in the soil of Kurdistan. The Harran Plateau and the areas around Cezire and Mosul are grain reservoirs for the entire region.

Differences in temperature and elevation between the north and the south have resulted in the fact that Kurdistan has always been an important country for animal husbandry. Furthermore, Kurdistan is a reservoir of meat, butter, cheese, wool, and animal hides for the Middle East.

With regard to deposits of petroleum and other minerals, Kurdistan is a very wealthy country. A large part of Iraq's oil resources is in Kurdistan, in the regions around Kirkuk and Khanikin. A part of the important oil resources of Iran is also in Kurdistan, in the region around Kirmanshah. Turkey's oil resources are almost exclusively in Kurdistan (in the regions around Batman, Diyarbakir, and Adiyaman). Syria's oil resources are also mainly in Kurdistan, in the region around Cezire. Moreover, our land is rich in mineral resources such as iron, copper, chrome, coal, silver, gold, uranium, and phosphates.

Furthermore, there are rivers in Kurdistan that are at least as important, if not more important, than oil. The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rainfall and in winter a heavy coat of snow, are a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East. This is the source of the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well as numerous other smaller rivers. With their water, the Tigris and the Euphrates give life not only to the Mesopotamian plain and the southern part of Kurdistan but also to Iraq and Syria. These rivers, which flow down from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are also very significant for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria have built numerous dams across these rivers and their tributaries. But the most important ones are a series of dams that were built by Turkey as part of the GAP project (Southeast Anatolia Project). The GAP project is still not complete, but it already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey's electrical-energy needs. When the project is finished, both the production of electricity and agricultural production, through the irrigation of this part of Kurdistan, will increase manifolds.

In antiquity and the middle Ages, Kurdistan lay on the trade route between the Far East and Europe (the Silk and Spice Route). In recent history as well, this significance has continued. Interestingly enough, Kurdistan is today the most suitable region for the petroleum pipelines of Iraq and the Caucasus.

Kurdistan's extraordinary wealth and its strategic location are the most important reasons why our country is still divided and our people still subjected to so much suffering. For the abovementioned reasons, Kurdistan drew the attention of the Western colonizing states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The English, the French, and the Russians struggled for control over our country. Then, after World War I, they once again divided it up according to their own interests.

The Russians pulled out of the region after the October Revolution of 1917. The English and the French left the region as administrators after Syria and Iraq became independent. But their economic relations and their influence continue to exist in the region.

Not only the Republic of Turkey and Iran but also the newly formed national states of Syria and Iraq have done all that was necessary to keep control over those parts of Kurdistan that were granted to them and to assimilate and exterminate the Kurds. They have brutally beaten down Kurdish uprisings. In this regard they have in most cases cooperated and reached agreements among themselves. They have plundered the riches of Kurdistan and prevented it from developing economically, socially, and culturally.
For these reasons, our people must live in poverty in this wealthy country. The colonial conditions, the constant insecurity, and the war have prevented our country from developing its agriculture, trade, or industry. The capital that has been gained in Kurdistan has always flowed out of our country. The society has not been able to modernize, and the feudal social structures of the past have not been dissolved totally. The tribal social structure in the rural areas, the system of large-scale land ownership, the religious sects and the sheikdom associated with it have persisted. Even today, Kurdistan is ruled by a semi-feudal social system. There is no significant bourgeoisie or working class in the modern sense in its social system.
The dirty wars that are being waged by the colonial states in order to beat down the stubborn Kurdish partisan wars and popular rebellions - which have been going on since 1961 in southern Kurdistan (Iraq), since 1979 in eastern Kurdistan (Iran), and since 1984 in northern Kurdistan - have devastated our country. In view of this situation, in which everything is being brutally destroyed and people are fleeing en masse in fear for their lives, it would be senseless to expect any economic or social progress to take place.


Notes on Kurdish Political Naiveté

Prof. Mehrdad R. Izady

It is the level of awareness of the individual citizens that first needs to be elevated. Once achieved, this will inevitably be reflected in enlightened representatives and leaders. For representatives are just that: they represent and reflect their people, politically, intellectually and psychologically. No nation can expect the establishment of priorities and the keeping of commitments by its leaders without first cultivating such virtues in individual citizens.

The head of Egypt's celebrated Sphinx is collapsing. To secure the head to the chest, the- fallen beard must be restored. But the beard--a nondescript slab of rock shaped like a stick of butter--is not in Egypt. It is in the British Museum, spirited off by British colonial authorities who refuse to return it. And so the Sphinx's head is now leaning precariously forward.

The Egyptian government refuses to permit the fitting of a new beard. They believe that to alleviate the urgency of the collapsing head would be to forfeit the case for Britain's returning the beard. In fact, Cairo would rather the Sphinx lose its head than wear a false beard. Colonialist looters must be taught a lesson even if it means the destruction of one of the most celebrated monuments of the Egyptian people. Beyond cutting off the head of to spite his beard--and the British--Cairo managed another ingenious decision that lays bare its confused priorities.
Some of us remember the 1960s by American moon landings, others by the last ditch, Herculean effort of international teams supported with international funds to save precious Egyptian antiquities from drowning under the waters of the Nile's Aswan dam. None of us ever stopped to think back then, or even now, of the callousness of an Egyptian government prepared to drown the country's ancient monuments in the first place. None blamed the Egyptians for cheerfully pressing ahead to destroy in a single stroke more of Egypt's heritage than foreign looters ever carried off to their museums and private collections. We simply assumed that Egyptians need the Aswan dam to feed themselves. Typically we failed to read the fine print that told an other story.

In the articles and television documentaries that appeared at the time, foreign archaeologists, UNESCO architects and civil engineers were seen racing against time as the rising waters of the dam threatened to wash over and wash away their working sites. Near the end of operations protective sheet-metal walls had to be urgently constructed and incoming water pumped out of the work area while dam waters rose above their foreign heads. The metal wall sand pumps kept the monuments from drowning as the foreigners, at great cost, proceeded with their removal to higher grounds. No one cared to ask why these foreigners were racing against time to save Egypt's heritage. The Aswan dam is Egyptian property and the filling of the dam controlled from Cairo. Yet no one thought to ask Cairo why it did not stop or slow the filling of the dam reservoir
…m; who elevated Egypt to the leadership of the Arab world, perhaps even the Third World.

Impressed by President Nasser's fashionable rhetorical pronouncements--as we are now with those of the marginally less presidential Edward Said—when ever found the courage to protest the fact that there was no need whatever to conduct this race against time to save Egypt's heritage. There was no emergency to fill the dam, other than that created by Nasser's impatience to wear the laurel of triumph for having tamed the Nile. And even this was done with Russian money and Russian engineers. Ultimately, what UNESCO and the ex-colonialist scientists and looters did not save, the Egyptians drowned.

Now Nasser is dead. The Egyptian monuments preserved by the labor and money of the same foreigners targeted by Nasser's eloquent vacuities are still hereon new hilltop pedestals. They bear witness to Egyptian genius--and folly. Meanwhile demands for the return of the Sphinx's beard continue to this day. Egyptians still blame ex-colonialists, foreign occupiers, Zionist enemies and the like for their own failures and misplaced priorities. Unusual? Not really. Kurds do this all the time.

Blaming oneself for everything that goes wrong was the hallmark of traditional stoicism, until we learned from Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud that we could blame everything on others. With the withering of old-style capitalism and socialism, it may dawn on some of us that blame and credit rests on both sides--oppressed and oppressor, occupied and occupier. And some of us are even casting aside the victim mentality so that we can demand from ourselves betters days--and get them. The Sphinx's head could be held high if we permitted ourselves to-fit it with a new beard. Of course, it is good not to forget who took the old one.

In most writings, the Kurdish plight and lost opportunities for Kurdish self-determination have been squarely blamed on old empires, semi-modern colonialists, modern nation-states, multinational corporations, multi-channel media and just about everything else. Had we not lived through the past ten years, we might be forgiven for upholding this tradition, for never questioning what really happened at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, what precipitated the treaties of Sevres and Lausanne, or who bears responsibility for 80 years of lost opportunities and misplaced priorities since then.

.... While everybody asked for more, expecting to end up with a fair share, the Kurds asked for less and ended up with nothing.

The latest opportunity for self-determination and independence presented itself to the Iraqi Kurds on a platter in 1991 and 1992. They missed it. And the fault was their own. I write this to leave behind the record so that this latest missed opportunity does not get wrapped in a shroud of lies and presented to the Kurds of the year 2065 as yet another example of colonial treachery. Such is the fable surrounding Sevres, Lausanne and the rest.

Allow me first to tell the tale of the beard of the Kurdish Sphinx as it played out to the world of 1919-1922 before we proceed to the latest folly. At the Paris Peace Conference there appeared representatives of all who were or wished to be nations: ethnic groups, tribes and the like. It was the mart of all hopes. Woodrow Wilson was marketing "self-determination" as the commodity of choice. As the head of a young super state armed with its own tenets of "manifest destiny" to sanctify its own expansion into the Americas, he had not much to lose by promoting the political rights of the disenfranchised in European colonial empires from Morocco to Mandalay. (In Manila, however, Wilson viewed Filipino aspirations for the same self-determination as a sacrilege against American manifest destiny, (divinely prophesied by John O'Sullivan of New York). The fact that the Europeans also thought of their imperial expansion as destiny manifest was of no interest to Wilson. The empire of the Americans excluded, those of all others were put up for examination and everyone everywhere asked to deposit their claims and representatives at the Paris Peace Conference. And they did. Kurds, too.

Kurds quickly assumed stardom, if not super stardom, at that Conference as the only group asking for less than what the colonial powers thought they deserved! Thus while everybody asked for more, expecting to end up with a fair share, the Kurds asked for less and ended up with nothing.

Let me explain. European ethnic maps of the northern Middle East and including Kurdistan had taken on an impressive accuracy by the turn of the 20th century. A large, mufti-color sheet map drawn by the British Royal Geographic Society and published in 1906 depicted Kurdish majority areas with such accuracy that even today--93 years later--it remains virtually peerless. This map became one of the main working maps for that region at the Paris Conference.

Naturally putting first the interests of their own people before those of otters, the Armenian delegation to the conference fully ignored this map and presented one of their own for the boundaries of an independent Armenia. The Armenian delegation's map included all of present Kurdistan of Turkey, chunks of Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan, and large areas populated by Turks, Turcomans and Arabs thrown in for good measure. This territory stretched from Adana and the Mediterranean Sea to the coast of the Black Sea and the middle of Azerbaijan. Were the Armenians serious? Yes and no. But that is what diplomacy and the art of negotiation are all about. Here, I am not criticizing the Armenian delegation. On the contrary, I am commending them for thinking first and foremost of the interests of their own people. Would that the Kurdish delegation had done the same.

Of course, the Armenian delegation knew that they were not going to get that vast territory they demanded in those preliminary stages of the Conference, nor could they have desired it. Armenians would have ended up as a small minority behind Kurds, Turks and Tarcomans had they got all they asked for. They eventually boiled down their demands to those seen in the provisions of the Treaty of Sevres of 1921: an Armenia that included the Armenian Plateau, or ancient Armenia Major. The fact that even in that "boiled down" version of Armenia Kurds still outnumbered Armenians was of no concern. This Kurdish majority was at a manageable level; and moreover, a few mass expulsions of Kurds could have tipped the balance to a more desirable ratio. The Armenian demands were standard. Ask for a lot; get more than your fair share; immediately go to work to make it fair by remedying the ethnic facts on the ground.

Not so the Kurds. The Kurdish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference certainly used the British ethnic map; the Kurdish map of "Kurdistan" contains elements that could only have come about by utilizing the British map. But Kurdish territorial demands, reflected on the map they submitted to the conference, excluded all of north Kurdistan--from Van to Ardahan, from Mush to Maku. The Kurds had carefully excluded all the territories which Armenians in their "boiled down" version had claimed and gotten approved at Sevres. Only meekly does the Kurdish map transgress Armenian demands by including the city of Bitlis--the birthplace of the renowned Kurd, Sharaf Din Bitlisi, author of the first Kurdish history.

Here was a Kurdish delegation at the preliminary stages of the Paris Peace Conference, consciously and deliberately presenting for consideration a truncated piece of their homeland that excluded all of northern Kurdistan, all Kurds west of the Euphrates river, all Kurds of Iran (except for a narrow strip near the borders), most Kurds of Syria, and all Kurds in the Caucasus. Mind you, this during the preliminary stages of the conference when the Poles demanded Berlin, reasoning that the land was theirs 1200 years earlier, and where the Armenians asked for Antioch because Tigran the Great held that town for 8 years--some 2100 years ago!

If not base ignorance--the British ethnic map was available and was indeed used by the Kurdish delegation--what prompted this Kurdish magnanimity? Misplaced priorities, no doubt. Dispatched to defend interests, this Kurdish delegation somehow deemed it out of character with the proverbial masculine generosity of their race to deny to friends and neighbors morsels of the Kurdish homeland. Never mind that the generosity of these Pahlawans ("champs") was achieved at the expense of their own miserable people.

Kurdish leaders would rather damn the Kurds than damage their misguided magnanimity.

This propensity for misplacing priorities and generosity continues today. Documents of the first session of the recently established Kurdish Parliament in Exile (first held in 1995 in The Hague) included a curious passage, which vividly brought to mind the Paris Peace Conference. Ratified in 1995--a good 76 years after Paris--Article I of the Declaration of the Founding of the Kurdish Parliament in Exile entitled "The Peoples of Kurdistan and Religious Congregations," reads:

"In addition to the Kurds, there are the Assyrians and the Armenians living in Kurdistan. They too have suffered at the hands of the invading forces. Subjected to the policies of divide and rule, the people of Kurdistan have, at times, fought one another and forced one another to migrate from the common homeland. These factors have kept the population of Assyrians and Armenian slow. Today, in Kurdistan, they constitute a figure of some 10% of the total population. The people who live in Kurdistan have different faiths and various religions. A vast majority of believers are Muslims. This diversity of beliefs has enabled the occupiers of Kurdistan to pit one group of believers against the other, to their mutual detriment..."

Ten percent of Kurdistan's population is Armenian and Assyrian? Say, how many would that be? In the same document the Parliament declared that 40millionKurds are living today. This pronouncement translates into 4 million Armenians and Assyrians living in Kurdistan--today. Someone should inform the Armenians and the Assyrians of the good news! By the prudent decision of the Kurdish Parliament there are more Armenians and Assyrians living in Kurdistan than in the Republic of Armenia (and in a yet-to-be-created Assyria).

Even were we to deflate the Parliament's figure of 40 million Kurds to a more conservative 25 million, still we end up with 2.5 million Armenians and Assyrians now living in Kurdistan. Armenian statistics indicate 75,000 Armenians in Syria, 10,000 in Iraq, 150,000 in Iran and 75,000 in Turkey (Bournoutian, 1994,183-86). This makes a total of 310,000 Armenians living in all of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Even if all of them lived on territories of Kurdistan - and most certainly they do not they would constitute about 1.2% of the total population. In reality there are less than 10,000 Armenians in Kurdistan, while Assyrians number some 250,000. Together, Armenians and Assyrians constitute about 1% of the Kurdish total and their numbers are dropping fast, thanks to the explosive growth of the Kurdish population and Assyrian emigration to the West. Where in the world did the Parliament find either evidence or justification for its ten-fold increase of these two minorities in Kurdistan at the expense of the Kurds they are supposed to represent?

But there is more. Kurdish parliamentarians go even further. They believe that even their figure of 4 million for Kurdistan's Armenians and Assyrians is too low. Read Article I again. It emphasizes that "These factors [strife and emigration] have kept the population of Assyrians and Armenians low." Then what is the- right figure, ladies and gentlemen MPs? 20%, 40%? Perhaps the reverse. Why not 90% Armenians and Assyrians and 10% Kurds? You see, it is not just the Egyptian leaders that would sacrifice Egypt's heritage to save their own faces. Kurdish leaders would rather damn the Kurds than damage their misguided magnanimity.

The damage does not stop at numbers. Take a closer look at Article I where in the Kurdish parliament pronounces that ". The peoples of Kurdistan have, at times, fought one another and forced one another to migrate from the common Homeland." By implication, since Kurds are still where they were prior to the fights that forced others "to migrate," it was Kurds who forced every one else out.

Even the Armenians and Assyrians admit it was the Ottoman army and Talat Pasha's brutality that forced them to leave or die. Kurdish parliamentarians must be the only representatives in the world who attach guilt to their people where there is little or none. This is in a world, mind you, where all other national leaders whitewash their constituents of all sins, old and new, big and small.

Without doubt, Armenians and Assyrians have their own able leaders and vociferous organizations around the world to fend for their rights. Should not Kurdish leaders and parliamentarians fend for Kurdish rights? Or have they never heard the old maxim, "If I am not for me, who will be for me?" Instead of worrying about the rights of "4 million" imaginary Armenian and Assyrian citizens, should not the Constitution of the first Kurdish Parliament in Exile concentrate on the tens of millions of real citizens of Kurdistan--the Kurds?

Where in the constitution of the Republic of Armenia are Kurds mentioned byname? From 1991 to 1994 Armenia expelled nearly all of its Kurdish inhabitants. In the same period, the republic helped Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh to thoroughly annihilate historic Red Kurdistan in the Caucasus. These actions created 200,000 Kurdish refugees and caused an untold number of deaths, injuries and misery. But one finds not a word of remorse, not an expression of regret, nor even an acknowledgment from Armenian sources of these abuses of Kurds over the last 8 years. Kurdish parliamentarians went to great lengths to express sorrow and to apologize to Armenians for bloody events which occurred 80 years ago and left 400,000 to 600,000 dead Kurds. Armenians, Assyrians, Russians and Turks have yet to apologize for these Kurdish victims.

Exiled Kurdish parliamentarians, you are indeed worthy descendants of the Kurdish delegates to the Paris Peace Conference. But you need not look backward to 1919 and Paris. You have equally worthy count arts today among local Kurdish sheiks, aghas and political party leaders.

Mr. Talabani said the Kurdish opposition parties no longer regarded Kirkuk as an integral part of Kurdistan.

New York Times, May 3,1991

In 1992 a Declaration of Self-Determination was issued from Ankara by a league of Kurdish sheiks and aghas calling itself the "Mosul Vilayet Council." That these Kurdish sheiks and aghas chose to resurrect the long obsolete Ottoman Turkish designator, the "Mosul Vilayet," is a sure sign that they were more eager to resurrect the claims of the Turkish government than the claims of the Kurds. Furthermore, these Kurdish sheiks and aghas are ready to gift Kurdish petroleum resources in Kirkuk to "Turcoman families" and 'Turkish citizens" of Iraq. Their declaration reads: "Noting the Iraqi Government's devious attempt to regain the initiative and to save its most treasured booty, i.e., the Kirkuk oil fields it exploited at the expense of Kurdish tribes, some Turcoman families and some Turkish citizens as the sole apparent legal owners of these natural resources..." They subsequently proposed allocating some 30% of oil revenues to these "Turkish citizens" of Kirkuk.

By "Turkish citizens" these esteemed Kurdish sheiks and aghas are of course referring to the Turcomans of Iraq. And just how many Turcomans are in Iraq to deserve 30% Of oil revenues from Kirkuk's fields? The number of Turcomans living in all of Iraq is some 360,000. This figure is arrived at by quadrupling their numbers since 1947, when an official Iraqi state census supervised by the British put the Turcoman population of the country at 92,000 (H. Batatu, 1978, 40). Of the current number perhaps half live in Kurdish territories. This makes for 180,000 Turcomans in all of Iraqi Kurdistan as of 1990. There were about 3.9 million Iraqi Kurds living in that state or as refugees outside in 1990. Therefore, Turcomans comprise about 4.6% of the population of Iraqi Kurdistan. The mental vacuity that moved these Kurdish sheiks and aghas to decide that this Turcoman population deserves 30% of Kurdish oil wealth mirrors that which moved the Kurdish parliamentarians in exile to conclude that their own invented figure of "4 million" Armenians and Assyrians in Kurdistan is actually "too low."

While Kurdish clan leaders and sheiks were busy in Ankara giving away 30% of their nation's wealth in 1991, the Kurdish political leaders have been even more generous in toying with the notion that they can give away Kirkuk oil and throw in the city for good measure. This remarkable gesture of Kurdish generosity was made by none other than Kurdish political leader, Mr.Jalal Talabani--himself a native of Kirkuk. This declaration of intent came in the New York Times of May 3rd 1991: "Mr. Talabani said the Kurdish opposition parties no longer regarded Kirkuk as an integral part of Kurdistan."

Kirkuk not integrally Kurdish, Mr. Talabani? Should it matter that the city was built and named Arrap'he over 3,800 years ago by the Hurrian ancestors of the Kurds? Should it matter that the family archives of many merchants of Arrap'he have been unearthed, translated and published, all indicating that the city was a Hurrian metropolis, and not Semitic (as were Assyrians and Babylonians, and as Arabs are today). And the Turcomans, of course, do not appear in the area for another 3,000 years. Should you consider, as a modern?

…Reza Talabani, and the Talabani clan itself, is thus declared by Jalal Talabani to be not an integral part of Kurdistan. Preserved among the 3,500 year old archives of ancient Arrap'he is the family clan name of "Tella"(Grosz, 1988; Dosch, 1981). Does this name sound familiar, Mr.Talabani? Try Tella-wand > Talawan > Talaban. Yes, your own family name and clan, Sir!

Now, why is it that 3,800 years of the Kurdish history of Kirkuk, based on habitation, doesn't impress this Kurdish leader, but the claim of the Turkish Government, based purely on conquest that ended 81 years, does? It is true that the Turks did occupy Kirkuk intermittently from 1563 to 1917. But for more than half of that time, Kirkuk was outside their control and ruled by the Persians or local Kurdish princes. From the 1750s to the 1830s, Ottoman authority over Iraq was virtually nonexistent. Georgian Mamluks (mercenary soldiers) exerted hereditary rule from Baghdad, with the Kurdish principality of Baban dominating Kirkuk and other neighboring cities in central Kurdistan. (Longrigg, 1925, chaps. 7-11).

If prior conquest is to substantiate territorial claim, Turks have a much firmer claim to Athens, Belgrade, Sophia and Jerusalem, which they held solidly for 500 years--Athens until 1829, Belgrade and Sophia until 1878 and Jerusalem until 1917. Turks held Kirkuk for less than half that number of years. Neither Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian nor Israeli leaders are scrambling to return their homelands to Turkish rule. Only Kurdish leaders. If ail to fathom why.

I recall the appearance in America of Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani in August 1992. Following the requisite tour of Washington and meetings on and off Capitol Hill they arrived in New York for a press conference at the head quarters of Human Rights Watch. It was a time when dozens of new independent countries had just come into being across Europe and Asia. The Yugoslav mess had not yet begun. A new era of national self-determination had been ushered in a time of liberation, of independence for both oppressed and not-so-oppressed ethnic groups. On the borders of Kurdistan, three new republics were declared: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, whose constituent ethnic groups also, lived as minorities in both Iran and Turkey. In fact there were and are more Azeris in Iran than in the newly independent Republic of Azerbaijan.

Also in August of 1992, George Bush was running for re-election. With the faltering U.S. economy his crowning achievement to justify his ambition for a second term was his "bloodless" victory over Iraq. The memory of over a million Kurds plowing through snowfields to flee Saddam's wrath was still very fresh in the minds of impressionable Americans. Thanks to American public sympathy, the U.S. had just set up a "safe area" for the Kurds in northern Iraq, and the Kurds' own forces had secured over half of Iraqi Kurdistan. Mr. Bush often reminded voters how well he had pummeled Saddam and pampered the Kurds. A molested Iraqi Kurdistan was not some thing George Bush would permit in August of 1992--a few months before elections.

Against this perfect backdrop, I found myself in August of 1992 among the select audience in the company of Barzani, Talabani & Co. Following their customary heaping of abuses on the head of Saddam Hussein, they called for more money for Iraqi Kurds--even those not present in the room. They spoke, and the gathering was opened for questions. As it was August of 1992, I asked what seemed to me the most obvious question: "Why aren't you two declaring independence? Don't you see this is the time; this is the window of opportunity that Kurds have waited for since they missed the last one in 1919." Said Talabani, "It is not politically realistic." Barzani, looking around to Western friends, said, "Ask them." My composure unraveling, I said, "There are new countries declaring their independence every day. There are three right on your own borders. George Bush cannot afford to let the Kurds be slaughtered. And if he did, what could anyone do to Iraqi Kurds that hasn't already been done in the past five years alone. Don't you see that declaring independence will give you international standing, Will give you a voice in the UN, will qualify you for international aid, will render an attack on you a violation of international law? Autonomy has no legal or international protection. Don't you see, there are countries that would immediately recognize you, from Scandinavia to the Caucasus, from Greece to Cyprus to Yugoslavia and the world ... Hurry, you are missing this once in several lifetimes' chance for your people. There is not much time left. Hurry, hurry..."

But the Kurdish leaders were in no hurry to declare anything like independence for their stricken people. Instead they hurried to avoid offending foreign friends. Then as now this mattered more than answering the call for freedom, a yearning transmitted to every Kurd through mother's milk. What ever they are to their own people, to their friends in Ankara, Baghdad, Damascus, Erivan, Teheran, Tel Aviv and Washington, these two Kurds are chums. The nature and direction of these friendships are historically documented and need no elaboration.

By December 1992 George Bush had lost the election, war in the former Yugoslavia had begun, international enthusiasm for ethnic self-determination had evaporated, and academic pundits like Amitai Etzioni had begun to generate manifestos entitled, "The Evils of Self-Determination" (Foreign Policy, 89,Winter 1992-93). Kurds had managed once more to misplaced priorities, but this time big time.

Should the people be blamed? One might ask. Was it not the Egyptian government of President Nasser that planned the drowning and took pleasure in harassing the saviors of the historic heritage of the Egyptians? The governments of Saddat and Mubarak conjured up the controversy surrounding the Sphinx's beard. And is it not Kurdish leaders who misdirect the Kurds? Wouldn't better leadership have avoided repeating the historical mistakes of 1919 again in 1991?

In recent years, many Kurds have come to appreciate the better-organized, systematist leadership of Kurds in Turkey. Might things have been different in 1991 and 1992 had this leadership been mirrored in Iraq? Iranians have a practical answer to this question. In 1972 the Shah was asked bluntly by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci why he did not treat the Iranians as decently as the king of Sweden his citizens. His response was equally blunt: "I'll treat them like Swedes when they behave like Swedes." Iranians bitterly condemned his statement. Convinced that they deserved better, they proceeded to bring upon themselves the Islamic Republic. They are now being treated, as they deserve.

Benefiting from the Shah's adage, we can be sure that switching leadership results in more of the same. Governments and leaders mirror the ethos, the level of awareness, and the unity or disunity of their constituencies. The whole is the sum of its parts. Why would a leader, a parliament or a peace delegation be better, or worse, than those they represent? The misplaced priorities of the Kurds are reflected and magnified -in the misplaced priorities of their leadership. Since 1992 less than a handful of Kurds even bothered to learn about or saw fit to protest the on-going abuse of their Kurdish kin by Armenians in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nor have Iraqi Kurdish intellectuals in any numbers exposed or condemned their own Kurdish administration for their abuses since 1992.

Recently I was asked by a young Kurdish activist to participate in a program of solidarity with an Armenian group protesting an array of historical misdeeds against Kurds and Armenians at the hands of others--from Turks to Azeris, from Genghiz Khan to Attila the Hun. I raised the issue of the current ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Armenia and Red Kurdistan and asked that he first demand from the Armenian group a statement of admission and condemnation from their government. This, I said, must occur before a joint any thing could take place. "Yes, but will you be able to attend?" he still asked!

Perhaps the Kurds--first the citizens and only then the leaders--should try the novelty of placing their own nation's priorities ahead of those of other peoples. It is the level of awareness of Kurdish individuals that first needs to be elevated. Once achieved, this will inevitably be reflected in enlightened representatives and leaders. For representatives are just that: they represent and reflect their people, politically, intellectually and psychologically. No nation can expect the establishment of priorities and the keeping of commitments by its leaders without first cultivating such virtues in individual citizens. Change dictated from above translates to dictator; and we know too well that dictators limit, not expand social horizons. To this effect, in 1820 Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a whole some discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

References: H. Batatu, The Old Social Classes of Iraq (Princeton, 1978); G. Bournoutian, A History of Armenian Nation (Costa Mesa, 1994, vol. 2); D. Dosch, "Die Familie Kizzuk Sieben Kassitengenerationen," SCCNH 1 (1981); K. Grosz, The Archive of the Wullu Family (Copenhagen, 1988); S. Longrigg, Four Centuries of Modern Iraq (London, 1925)

Sharafnama; The Paramount Historical Document of the Kurdish Nation

Sharafnama; The Paramount Historical Document of the Kurdish Nation

Prof. Mehrad R. Izady

Although primarily a dynastic history, there is little doubt that the Sharafnama stands as the single most important work on the Kurdish nation and its history. It was completed by Prince Sharafaddin Bitlisi on 14 August 1597.

Importance of the Sharafnama: As the Kurdish nation nears the successful completion of its arduous journey to regain control of its destiny and revive its past glory through independence, the Sharafnama is gaining the status of a national document and the locus classicus of Kurdish authenticity. In the pages of the Sharafnama are present the Kurdish nation, already unified 400 years ago within a common culture, national ethos, a defined homeland and an integrated history stretching into antiquity. In the text of the Sharafnama , the empires of the Kurds parallel those of the Arabs, Persians and Turks, some, according to Bitlisi, reaching back over 4,000 years. And,
As the Kurdish nation nears the realization of its inherent and natural right of self-determination, Kurds are meeting exponential increase in physical and academic attacks on every vestige of this national and historical existence. They range from drowning behind dams of the historic cities mentioned in the Sharafnama to denigrating “histories” produced by self-styled Western Kurdologists. The Sharafnama holds the key to all of this deliberate avalanche of falsehoods. It contains within solid lines the long and proud history of a major nation. It preserves for posterity the belief of the Kurds of 400 years ago in belonging to a distinct, coherent and historical nation as much as any other has ever been. It securely enumerates all of the diversities existing among the Kurds, and yet firmly pronounces all of them to be of one nation. Beyond doubt, this is the primary document of Kurdish national authenticity and an invaluable asset to their national striving to regain their freedom, equality and past glory.

The Author: Sharafaddin Bitlisi was a scion of the Rojaki Kurdish dynasty which had ruled intermittently as an independent emirate or a vassal from their capital of Bitlis since at least the 9th century. Therefore, Sharafaddin never took up the common tribal title of “khan,” preferring instead the royal title of emir or mir, “prince.” He was most commonly known, therefore, as Mir Sharaf, “Prince Sharaf.” The book’s name, “Sharaf-nama,” meanwhile, can be interpreted both as “Sharaf’s Book” and the “Book of Nobility”; a double meaning doubtlessly intended by the author.
The author’s native city of Bitlis is in northwestern Kurdistan, about 15 miles southwest of Lake Van. He was born, however, in 1542 at the town of Karahrud (formerly, Karajrud) near modern Arâk in western Iran. There, his family and his father, Prince Shamsaddin, lived in exile in Safavid Persia. They had been temporarily unseated by the Ottomans, who later invited the author to return and reestablish Rojaki rule at Bitlis in 1589.

Bitlisi asserts that his dynasty ultimately connects with two other medieval Kurdish dynasties: the Marwânids of Silvân and Diyarbakir and the Bâdhids of Akhlât. He thus pushes back the founding of the dynasty to circa AD 836. The earliest Islamic sources such as Balâdhuri, however, state that when the Muslim armies arrived at Bitlis in the 7th century, they found a native dynasty already in power. It concluded a peace treaty with the Muslim empire on its own behalf and that of the city-state of Akhlât. Miraculously, the Rojakis survived at Bitlis until 1847 and the Ottoman takeover. They—a single, but typical Kurdish dynasty—had lasted for over a thousand years!
Content: The Sharafnama divides into a prologue and five books of greatly differing sizes. The Prologue is a fascinating study of Kurdish roots, mythology, linguistic subdivisions, religious composition, and social- and political psychology. Book One covers those Kurdish dynasties that ruled in full independence throughout their history. Book Two is on the princes and rulers of Kurdistan who did not maintain a continuous independence, even though they occasionally issued their own coins and announced themselves as sovereigns in the Muslim ritual of khutbâ at the Friday prayers. Book Three relates to the minor houses of emirs and major tribal khans and chieftains. Book Four is on the author’s own Rojaki dynasty, in which a detailed history of the principality and the city is provided. The last chapter of Book Four is an autobiography of the author. Book Five, the longest in the Sharafnama, treats the history of Middle East and Central Asia in strict chronological order beginning with the Mongol invasion of the area in 1220.

In refreshing contrast to the literary and historiographical fashion of the time, the Sharafnama reads easily, and its organization is straight to the point. The Kurdish events are presented clearly and in chronological order for each dynasty. These are placed in the context of the Middle Eastern history when Book Five provides a history of the entire region and highlights the Kurdish role in its formation.

Bibliology: The Sharafnama is written in classical Persian, which at the time served as the language of belles letters, polite society and courts from Delhi to Istanbul. For its composition, however, the author used textual resources in many languages, as well as oral history and many living informants. He is careful in evaluating the trustworthiness and knowledge of his informants. When unsure, he simply informs the readers of the lack of suitable informants, and declines to provide conjectural information on an event or a dynasty. It is these sources and their solidity that render the Sharafnama the paramount historic document of the Kurdish nation, unmatched by any other source or writing.

There exist conflicting claims by various libraries around the world for the privilege of possessing the oldest copies of the Sharafnama, from Oxford to St. Petersburg, from Istanbul to Teheran. They all, however, contain elements that point to a single flawed source, distinct from the as-of-yet-undiscovered Bitlisi original. The original text was probably looted by Ottoman raiders in 1656 from the celebrated library of Prince Abdâl (a nephew of the author), and might now be awaiting discovery in Istanbul.

One fascinating point has been the great prestige of the Sharafnama among the Kurdish literati and rulers, resulting in much recopying. The honor of being mentioned in the Sharafnama enticed at least one later Kurdish dynasty—the Galbâghis—to shuffle their own history into the pages of the book long after Bitlisi’s death in 1603.

Befittingly, the first-known translation of the Sharafnama was the one done into Kurdish in 1858-59 by the Kurdish scholar, Mahmud Bâyazidi. The translation was into an eastern variety of North Kurmanji—the dialect most probably native to Bitlisi himself. Bâyazidi called his translation of the Sharafnama “The Olden Histories of Kurdistan.” This valuable translation, however, remained unpublished until a two-volume photostat appeared in Moscow in 1986.

The first printing of the original Persian text took place in two volumes, accompanied by extensive Russian critique and commentary by Vladimir Vel’yaminov-Zernov (St. Petersburg, 1860-62), soon to be followed by a two-volume, four-tome French translation and thorough commentary by François Bernard Charmoy (entitled Chèref-nameh ou Fastes de la nation kourde (St. Petersburg, 1868-75, reprinted by Gregg International Publishers, Westmead, England, 1969).

The first Kurdish attempt at printing the original text followed soon in Cairo in 1886. This was at the celebrated Matbi’a al-Kurdi (the first “Kurdish Press”) by the Bâhâ’i Kurdish philanthropist, Farajullah Zaki al-Kurdi. An introduction and useful commentaries were provided for the second Persian edition of the Cairo press by the renowned Zaza Kurdish scholar, Muhammad Ali Awni. Awni was a scion in a long line of authors and literati native to Severek, western Kurdistan.

From this, Awni later prepared a much-used Arabic translation of the Sharafnama that was published, after Awni’s death, in 1958-62. This Arabic translation later served the Kurdish literati Mehmet Emin Bozarslan for his modern Turkish translation in 1971. The Kurdish folklorist and linguist, Abdul-Rahmân Sharafkandi Hazhâr has, meanwhile, produced a valuable Sorani Kurdish translation (already in its second edition, Teheran, 1981).

In addition to Charmoy’s complete French translation, some partial German translations have also been attempted.

The first English translation of the Sharafnama is presently nearing completion by myself. The extensive commentaries, maps and genealogical trees are expected to result in a six-volume set. To mark this historic anniversary, the English translation will be made available worldwide in its entirety on the internet.



Prof. Mehrdad R. Izady

In the mid 1960s the Royal Ontario Museum of Toronto, under the supervision of archaeologist E.J.Keall, carried out excavations on the site of Qaleh-i Yazdigird and found a vast and artistic landmark complex of palaces abandoned by the end of the Parthian era (AD 226). Qaleh-i Yazdigird is situated on a superbly formed high tableland at the edge of the Zagros Mountains north of the town of Sarpuli Zohab in southern Kurdistan. From these heights it commands the famous Silk Road. The wealth of plaster decoration and statuary on the site has always been used by local peasants as a ready source of gypsum for construction. Unfortunately, this practice has destroyed untold numbers of cultural and historical treasures of the Kurdish past.
Keall’s excavations unearthed a fortress town with palaces, fortifications, temples and the like, all richly decorated. The highly sophisticated artwork at Qaleh-i Yazdigird depicts a wealth of themes representing artistic traditions of the East (stylized animal and floral designs) and West (life-like humans and animals). Among these voluminous decorations was found the earliest evidence for theatrical plays in Kurdistan, as preserved in scenes of acting men, women and pans, some wearing face masks. The finds are so impressive as to belie the traditionally held view of the late Parthian era as a time of deterioration.
Qaleh-i Yazdigird also held coins of a ruler described by numismatists, who examined specimens of his coinage, as the “unknown king”. He issued coins used exclusively and extensively in the Kurdish highlands around the middle of the 2nd century AD. Keall states: “Whether the ‘unknown king’ was the one who built and ruled from the magnificent palaces of Qaleh-i Zazdigird, the independent minting of coins reflects the autonomy claimed by a powerful lord.” (Keall, 1983:44). Yet, despite these achievements, Keall consistently refers to the king as the “robber baron.”
In fact, it is not at all difficult to tentatively identify Keall’s “robber baron” and the numismatists’ “unknown king” in history. He could well have been the father or grandfather of the mighty ruler Haftan Bukht of the sacred and powerful Kurdish kingdom of Kirm (or Kram) that covered southern Kurdistan, the area of modern Kirmanshah and Awraman. According to historical accounts, Haftan-Bukht’s twoyear defense of his domain and his Kurdish allied kingdoms nearly cost the invading Ardashir I, founder of the Sasanian Persian cultural treasure empire, his life. Haftan-Bukht installed viceroys, many of them his own sons, to rule the myriad of mountain provinces and carry his writ, presumably continuing the same administrative structure of the “unknown king” whose coinage carried the economy of the Kurdish mountains. Surviving statuary may well provide an image of this as yet nameless Kurdish king. In addition to his profile which appears on his coinage, a naturalistic frontal depiction is often repeated in the wall decorations at Qaleh-i Yazdigird.
There is no exact date for the sack and abandonment of the Qaleh-i Zazdigird complex. But it is not unreasonable to assume that it too fell victim to Ardashir’s wrath. In his battle chronicle, the Karnamak, Ardashir boasts of the death and destruction he wrought on the Kurds, their cities and their sacred places of worship in the course of AD 224-226 (Karnamak-i Artakhsher-i Papakan, v-xi) It is fascinating that in his Karnamak chronicle the first reference to the ethnic term “Kurd” appears in a preIslamic Persian source. In fact, the term ‘Kurd’ is used repeatedly to identify the inhabitants of the Zagros, including Mada (Media, ie, region of Hamadan), Sanak (region of Sahna), Shahrazor (region of Sulaymania), Barchan (region of Barzan), Hakar (region of Hakkari), Mukran (region of Mahabad) and most importantly Kram, the region of Kirmanshah and therefore Qaleh-i Yazdigird. (These are actual place names which appear in the text.)
Ethnic Kurds are thus identified as the inhabitants of the region of Qaleh-i Yazdigird at the time of its destruction in this chronicle of the man who was in all likelihood its destroyer. Consequently, there is no doubt that it is the artistic heritage of these same ethnic Kurds that has been unearthed at Qaleh-i Yazdigird. Interestingly a representation of a peculiar pointed hat (apparently made of felt) is indentical in its configuration to a modern Yezidi felt hat now on display in the Kurdish Museum in New York.
The artistic repertoire of Qaleh-i Yazdigird is crucial for the new light it sheds on the origins of some of the most famous Persian Sasanian motifs. For example, a senmurv griffin appearing on its plaster wall decorations is almost identical to that executed at the grottos of Taq Bustan near Kirmanshah four centuries later by order of Chosroes II Aperves, a descendant of Ardasher. Yet the griffin motif has been considered a hallmark of Persian Sasanian art. The Keall excavation of Oaleh-i Yazdigird reveals that this motif was in fact borrowed from the Kurdish artistic repertoire, possibly a representation of ancient Anzu (predecessor of the Yezidi bird-angel, Anzal). Furthermore, the square-shaped column capitals at this Kurdish site also anticipate those of the Sasanians, which came later. Despite this formidable evidence of highly sophisticated art and culture, an organized state apparatus issuing currencies for its integrated economy within the folds of the Zagros - much of which is paradoxically revealed thanks to Keall’s own excavations - Keall deliberately and consistently refers to the illustrious Kurdish statesman and ruler of Qaleh-i Yazdigird as a “robber baron”. Take this statement, for example: “This stronghold may well have been the luxurious mountain retreat of a robber baron bent on plundering or exacting booty from caravans travelling the Silk Road.” Yet he never offers a single shred of archaeological or historical evidence to prove that his unknown monarch was a bandit. In fact, the complexity and sophistication of his own findings is the best evidence to refute the archaeologist’s characterization. It is tempting to conclude that this defamatory label for the king may well derive from Keall’s assumption that the lord of Qaleh-i Yazdigird was a Kurd and therefore, as a Kurd, must have been a robber or a predator. This is not a farfetched hypothesis considering that as recently as 15 years ago ‘Kurd’ was defined by the Oxford Standard Dictionary of the English Language as “one of a tall, pastoral and predatory people” until it was revised thanks to the efforts of the founder of the Kurdish Library in New York.
When in history has a highway robber leading a band of brigands had the time and the talent to gather sophisticated town planners, skilled architects and artists to create a entire city (in which local and Greek theatrical plays were performed), establish an integrated administration over a vast region for which his own treasury minted coins as the primary currency? Were not such “robber barons” called kings and emperors in the past? Why then is this ancient Kurd, this lover of art, this able administrator, this master builder and town planner defamed and diminished?
Unfortunately, Keall’s facile conclusion simply follows the long trail of researchers who continue to obscure and to derogate highly original contributions of the now stateless Kurds. This must be criticized as an insufferable affront to the cultural heritage of this ancient nation.
Months ago, writing in this same journal, on the topic of the discoveries at Godin Tapa (130 miles east of Yaleh-i Yazdigird), I made reference to the chronic tendency of archaeologists to ascribe the source of any and all things of importance that are found in the Zagros to outside cultures, even when none were available. The character and contribution of the patron-builder of Qaleh-i Yazdigird is simply one more example of this inexcusable ignorance of scholars and scientists who know virtually nothing of the people from whose earth they excavate
these archaeological treasures. Consequently, the Kurds to this day are non-people, even a race of ancient criminals, to those who excavate the rich archaeological sites of Kurdistan. Ironically, it is these digs that will provide irrefutable proof that in Kurdistan originated many of the achievements for which ancient, traditionally recognised cultures outside the mountains have been given, or have taken credit.
Casual characterizations might be amusing were they not trivializing the artistic heritage and thus the history of the Kurdish nation. They are more disconcerting coming from the archaeologist responsible for unearthing ground-breaking evidence indicating that the arts of early Kurds significantly influenced the later and much heralded Sasanian Persian school of art.
Oaleh-i Yazdigird remains a masterpiece of classical Kurdish urban planning and monumental architecture, a treasure trove of art, a history book waiting to be read properly, courtesy of the cultured ancestors of the Kurds, the “robber barons”.

E. J. Keall ‘A Persian castle on the silk roads’ in Silk roads, China ships, J Vollmer and E J Keall et al, Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, 1983

Problems in Kurdish Historiography

Problems in Kurdish Historiography

Prof. Mehrdad R. Izady

Compilation and organization of Kurdish history is a time consuming task. Happily, the cause is the sheer volume of available primary sources of information, and not the dearth. Located as they have been in the geographical heartland of the greater Middle East, and commanding vast natural and human resources, the ancestors of Kurds have been inevitably and amply recorded in man's earliest experimentations with writing. After all, Kurds do share their past with all the other Middle Eastern peoples who constitute the oldest literate societies on this planet.

Even if the Kurds had meticulously rejected the idea of recording their own history, they could not have escaped being recorded by all the myriad literate peoples in Mesopotamia and beyond with whom they were in sustained contact and interaction. Luckily, Kurds have neither abstained from writing history themselves, nor have they been ignored by the historians and chroniclers of the neighboring cultures. It is simply the lack of research not research material that lies at the root of the current undeveloped state of Kurdish historiography. The business and military records of these inter- regional transactions on clay tablets richly supplement the wealth of surviving classical and medieval histories and chronicles to assist the compilation of Kurdish history. In these sources, Kurdish history is already recorded in detail and already can be found in place in almost every major university and public library in the world. One might properly ask, why then is the Kurdish history in need of compilation and writing if it is already there?

In all of these pre-modern sources, Kurdish history is recorded and written inasmuch as it has constituted a part of the greater human experience of the Middle East. In those earliest civilized parts of the world, history was only rarely compartmentalized and apportioned to bolster or demean various ethno-linguistic groups. Only when a new group of people emerged from obscurity to dominate the Middle Eastern scene, (as the Arabs in the 7th century or the Mongols in the 13th), did an exception to this trend emerge, and then for a short time. It is foolhardy, therefore, to apply the contemporary sociopolitical connotations attached to ethnicity to the pre-modern societies of the Middle East. For those earlier peoples religious persuasion followed by economic life-style surpassed other factors in forming their group feelings. The element of language, which mattered more to the Europeans (from the ancient Greeks to the modern French) often seemed irrelevant to the pre-modern Middle Easterners. And paradoxically, it is on this single factor that modern, European-devised and internationally accepted definitions of ethnicity dwell.

To extract from these sources that portion of the Middle Eastern history and human legacy which belongs specifically to the speakers of Kurdish (both of the current Indo-European and earlier Hurrian type), is a Herculean task indeed? It is a task more suitable to an entire state-sponsored apparatus than the undertaking of an individual or single group. State-sponsored endeavor is precisely how other ethno-linguistic groups who possess an independent state in the region have compiled and written their own ethnic history. By founding and funding state-sponsored academies and grants to universities' liberal arts departments committed to the task, ethnic-oriented compartments of history have been established and popularized.

By the advent of "nation-states" in the 19th-century Europe-a notion fully dedicated to the altar of language based ethnicity-ethnic histories began to be written to bolster the legitimacy of the linguistically demarcated nation-states. They became the sine quo non among the priorities of the new ' national ' governments both to legitimize their ethnic authenticity and legalize their claim to the territory they called their ethnic home. Old general histories were combed for information on a specific ethno-linguistic group, and what was missing was filled in by interpolation, extrapolation or simple fabrication. Bernard Lewis provides eye-opening examples of how Middle Eastern "nation-" states achieved this in his work aptly titled, History: Remembered, Recovered, Invented.

Lacking the power of state apparatus and funding, or from an organized non-governmental philanthropic class, the "ethnic" history of the stateless Kurd is yet to be compiled from the mass of disparate sources. The world is no longer satisfied with the account of general, collective achievements of peoples. It desires and values the specificity of compartmentalized history and the division of human achievements among its contributors: those who cannot delineate their specific share, are declared historically marginal, their culture primitive, and even their claim to their homeland tenuous. Thus ranked inferior, the heritage of any such people is exhibited in natural history museums not art or archaeology museums. Their history and human experience becomes subject of study by anthropologists, but not sociologists or historians. They will occupy the gray areas separating raw nature from civilization, one that is currently labeled as "primitive cultures," and exhibited at natural history museums alongside minerals, plants and animals. Their claim to self governance is similarly discounted in favor of the "enlightening" patronage of an imperial sovereign or annexation to an existing "orderly" modern state as hedge against "instability." Rank-speculation born to ignorance of the speculator has condemned many illustrious culture of past to marginality, not just that of the Kurds. The brilliant civilization of Meso-America is still struggling to shed its image of "primitiveness." The Mayans and Inkas, like the Kurds lack well-paid academic lobbyists and advocates to fend for their rich cultural legacy.

Lacking ready-to-use textbooks on their heritage, these cannot even convince their own young of the value of their heritage, let alone jaded outside professionals. Like the Kurds, the Inka, Maya and Aztec cultures are still displayed at natural history museums and defined by anthropologists.

Similar rank-speculation has been at work in regard to the ancient Hurrian ancestors of the Kurds. Writing of the Hurrians, G. Wilhelm notes this illogic and tries to pinpoint its source.

"The Hurrians were one of the most important ancient"
Eastern civilizations, and yet we have far less information, linguistic as well as historical and cultural, about them than we do about the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Hittites, or [even] the Canaanites." He then laments "the very contradiction between the obvious importance of the Hurrians' role in the ancient Eastern world and the fragmentary evidence about it has given rise to a variety of assessments and even to rank speculation."

Oddly, this is exactly what should be said of the state of the scholarly endeavor dedicated to the study of the historical role and cultural contribution of the descendents of the Hurrians: the Kurds. In fact the odious "rank speculation" vis-à-vis the Kurds is also fully operational. The image of Kurds as "simple tribal nomads" (if not mention predator, bandit or barbarian) lurking by the wayside of history and cultural currents, is espoused even by those who profess Kurdology as their scholarly focus.

In 1965 Thomas Bois, the contributor of the entry "Kurd" in the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam wrote a well known general book on the Kurds, which he named, Connasissance des Kurdes ("Knowing the Kurds"). It was translated into English the following year, and titled The Kurds. In the introduction to his book, Bois repeats Vladimir Minorsky's account of the archaic existence of the Kurds and their heavy interaction with Mesopotamia-an account originally published in the first edition of the Encyclopedia in 1913. Having repeated, but hardly grasped Minorsky's pioneering work, one would be hard pressed to find any more demeaning and disparaging adjectives than those chosen by Bois to describe the society and civilization in Kurdistan with which he intends to acquaint the reader.

"While [the Assyrian king] Sennacherib was engaged in organizing the provinces of Babylon," Bois informs his readers, "the Medes, the highlanders of Zagros, who up to that time had been only one of many barbarous mountain tribes leading a nomadic life or settling in miserable villages…" Of course the reader is never informed by Bois of the source or sources that led him to determine the "barbarous" nature of the mountain tribes of Kurdistan or the "miserable" state of their villages. And this, by the way, is from a friend of the Kurds and a putative "Kurdologist."

It is nothing new that by nature man ranks lowest in importance what he knows the least about. He is most resistant to relinquish the comfort of what is known for the uncertainty and effort of learning the unknown, even if the known is manifestly wrong. I have written at length for the Kurdish public on the manifestations of this dismissive attitude by scrutinizing the conclusions drawn from the archaeological excavations at the ancient mound of Godin east of Dinawar in southeastern Kurdistan, Iran. There, the archaeologists have now found the earliest physical proofs for existence of grape wine and barley beer. Who were the inventors?

Overlooking the fact that grapes and barely are natives of the Zagros-Taurus Mountains and first domesticated there; that grapes don't grow in the hot marshlands and saline soils of the southern Mesopotamian plains in Iraq, the archaeologists involved in the excavation at Godin bypassed the indigenous cultures of the Kurdish mountains and squarely attributed the invention of both commodities to-the Sumerians of southern Iraq! At Godin the beer vats were found in a room also stocked with what appeared to be clay balls for use by military slingers. Classical Graeco-Roman historians have consistently ascribed this form of warfare to the peoples of the Zagros, and particularly those whom they call the Kurti, i.e., the Kurds. What can sling balls do to change the historical convention when even the irrefutable facts of geography and botany cannot? How can the Hurrian ancestors of the Kurds claim credit for what is dug up from their ancient home towns for the first time anywhere in world, without upsetting what G. Wilhelm properly calls the current "rank-speculation"? In a paper read to American Anthropological Association in December 1994, Dr. Virginia Badler of the University of Toronto, who now heads the ongoing excavations at Godin, struggles to maintain the status quo by explaining away the physical evidence that refutes it. Thus she explains the existence of the sling balls as "evidence" that the Sumerians were the inventors of beer and wine. To amplify this manifest subterfuge, she states that "at that time, clay sling balls were weapons of war everywhere." We, of course, are never informed of the provenance of these "some" reports, and how they compare to ubiquitous reports in the ancient and classical sources that slings were the weapon of choice of the Kurds.

To the delight of common sense-and Kurds-in the past four years, other archaeological mounds in Kurdistan like Haji Firuz, northwest of Mahabad and Titris, southwest of Adiyaman [Semsur] have provided further evidence for invention of grape wine in Kurdistan, pre-dating Godin by 2500 years. One wonders how the evidence from Haji Firuz and Titris are going to be explained away by the dogmatist such as V. Badler.

The resistance among the scholars of ancient history to give credit to the Hurrians for their fundamental role in evolution and enrichment of the Middle Eastern-Mediterranean civilization is precisely that which denies the development and reconstruction of the rest of Kurdish history, from the time of the Hurrians to the opening of the 20th century. In neither case has the dearth of source-material been the problem. What has been is the apprehension against the opening of the proverbial Pandora's Box. This could, as it has now begun in the case of the Hurrian history, call for a major revision of our current standard texts and curricula on historical and cultural evolution of the Middle East and the Mediterranean world, requiring a re-ranking of its traditional contributors.

Setting aside the limitations deriving from the established rank-speculations, one might properly ask: "but have the Kurds contributed anything worth recovering or reporting?" Let us use cold logic one more time. By virtue of their geographical centrality in the greater Middle East-home of the oldest continuous civilizations on earth-Kurds should have inevitably contributed to its formation and transmission in some appreciable level. Then how is one to explain at the face of this logic the fact that no archaeology museum in the world at present exhibits an artifact identified as Kurdish? The answer lies both in deliberate and in faulty misidentification; and it does not stop at artifacts. Allow me to give an example.

This year marks the 1,100th anniversary of one the greatest minds in the history of the Kurds and the Islamic civilization, Abu-Hanifa Ahmad Dinawari. In the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam in 1913, Abu-Hanifa is identified by C. Brockelmann as "Arabic philologist and scientist." Now, "Arabic" in the academic circles is held to mean one who writes his works in Arabic languages, and thus belongs to the Arabic language tradition. This is as misleading as identifying all those people who today write their works in English as "British," and then expecting the readers not to draw the wrong ethnic and national connection from the term. In reality, however, the confusion between the two was hoped for rather than feared, as can presently be seen.
At the beginning of the 20th century, various ethnic histories had begun to be written, and ethnic groups were clamoring to appropriate for their own respective history and heritage whatever could be appropriated. The Encyclopedia was just helping along with the process. But if there was tongue-in cheek double talk in identifying Abu-Hanifa as "Arabic," in 1913, it was eliminated when the second edition of the Encyclopedia was issued in 1968. B. Lewin in this new edition begins the biography of Abu-Hanifa by straightforwardly calling him an "Arab scholar of the 3rd/9th century." This unmistakable pronouncement by Lewin of Abu- Hanifa 's ethnic affiliation is made despite the fact he then proceeds to relate all of the traditions regarding the strong Iranic personality and sentiments manifest in the works of Abu-Hanifa - feelings which brought him into disfavored in Arab circles at the time.

Lewin relates the fact that Abu-Hanifa had no Arab blood in his ancestry, that his grandfather Wanand was still a non-Muslim, that Abu-Hanifa was born and died in Dinawar in southeastern Kurdistan, that… And despite knowing and relating all these, he finds it not strange to begin his piece by unabashedly calling Abu-Hanifa the "Arab scholar of the 3rd/9th century"! Such blatant misidentification as this is not rejected by the editors of the Encyclopedia of Islam, simply because to them all Muslims are Arabs until proven otherwise. One would naturally expect from the editors of a work published in Holland to completely leave out the question of the nationality of the personages they include in the Encyclopedia, a question that should be immaterial to the station of a great scholar. But if the question of nationality is not deemed trivial by the editors, they are bound to accuracy and impartiality in making it. The fact that not a single scholar is ever identified as Kurdish in the thousands of pages of that encyclopedia, while myriad of manifestly non-Arab scholars like Abu-Hanifa are called straightforwardly "Arab," is evidence that: 1) the question of nationality is not immaterial to the editors of the Encyclopedia of Islam, and 2) Arabs are their ethnic group of choice. Childish? Yes. But also true.

But it is not just the Arabs and their advocates who take from Kurds. Here is how the entry on Abu-Hanifa begins in the new Encyclopedia Iranica: "Abu-Hanifa Dinawari, grammarian, lexicographer, astronomer, mathematician, and Islamic traditionalist of Persian origin…" Kurds have not yet thought of claiming the legacy of their own prestigious native son, and Arabs and Persians are clamoring over his appropriation. This open theft is certainly an inadvertent tribute to the high scientific station of Abu-Hanifa that so many alien peoples go through so much trouble to claim him for their own heritage.

Since there is no clear share yet cut out from the common Middle Eastern historical and cultural heritage for the Kurdish nation, the editors of the Encyclopedia of Islam and Encyclopedia Iranica, like most modern authors, are loathe to give to a people-the Kurds-what that people have not yet claimed themselves. Why rock the safe boat of the status quo, if the only injured party still has his head in the sand? At a time when even the living Kurds have to "prove" they are Kurds, how can a 1,100-year-old first rate scientist and historian be identified as a Kurd? Abu-Hanifa wrote in Arabic and was a Muslim; he must have been an Arab-an ethnic Arab, in the infinite wisdom of the editors of the Encyclopedia of Islam, the New Edition. Likewise, because Dinawar is within the political borders of modern Iran, Abu-Hanifa can only be a Persian in the minds the editors of the Encyclopedia Iranica. Let us contrast the importance and yet obscurity of Abu-Hanifa with the unimportance and yet fame of the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi, to perhaps understand the mechanism involved in fostering pride in a national history and culture.

The 17th-century Evliya Celebi, whose lifetime achievement was restricted to keeping a very good diary, is now hailed as a world champion of knowledge. This is as much from Ankara as from America and Holland. He has been fawned upon as a supremely keen mind; every bit of his travel diary made subject of doctoral dissertations, translations and intense commentaries, and published in fancy editions, all out of proportions to the merit of his "I came, I saw, I wrote" diary. As if this is insufficient, a foundation has now been dedicated to Evliya Celebi at a major university in United States. All lovers of knowledge should delight in works of this magnitude lavished on a mere traveler and hope that even more will be lavished on men of the scope and substance of Abu-Hanifa.

But this is not likely to occur. The reason? These accolades and honors have little to do with the achievements of Evliya Celebi. It is the Turkish people and history that is being celebrated and ranked-a first-rate Evliya Celebi for the first-rate Turkish culture. By contrast, the Kurd, Abu-Hanifa Ahmad Dinawari, one of the stars of Islamic and world civilization, languishes in obscurity on his 1,100th anniversary, because his tutelary nation, the Kurds, is rank-speculated as lowly and second-rate.

The low esteem currently ascribed to the historical role of the Kurds is also pervasive among the modern Kurds themselves. This is true or they would have strived to alter it. There is of course a reason for this, and that is lack of education of Kurds in Kurdish history. Kurds grow up studying highly politicized and historically doctored texts prepared by local state education ministries, and aimed at nothing remotely conducive to learning of Kurdish past or present. They grow up boasting of the grandeur of the Persian Cyrus, the Ottoman Suleiman and the Arab Gamal Abdul Nasser, more or less with the same zeal as a Persian, Turk or Arab. The Kurd is subjected to the same indoctrination as these others; they read the same texts; they listen to the same broadcasts; they see the same propaganda billboards. Why not the same zeal? And when the prestigious Encyclopedia of Islam unreservedly pronounces Abu- Hanifa an Arab, while Encyclopedia Iranica calls him a Persian, how would a Kurds identify with him, let alone celebrating his anniversary? There is no "Encyclopedia of Kurds" to come to his rescue-yet.

Barred from studying their own history and heritage in their schools as students, Kurds naturally find only a few political figures around whose prestige to converge and strengthen their threatened patriotism. Consequently, the modern Kurdish intellectuals end up exulting dead and dubious political figures and tribal chiefs like Simko and Yezdanshir, instead of taking immense pride, which they can rightly take, in the likes of Abu-Hanifa Dinawari. Were the Kurds able to treat Abu-Hanifa as the Turks treat Evliya Celebi, a befitting, world-class Kurdish national hero would be born.

And Abu-Hanifa would not be alone. Every year marks some anniversary of the lives and achievements of Kurdish intellectuals and luminaries of the past. Last year marked the 300th anniversary of Ahmad Khani's writing of the national epic of Mem o Zin; this year the 1,100 anniversary of Abu-Hanifa; 1997 ushers in the 400th anniversary of the writing of the Sharafnama-the first-known pan-Kurdish history by Sharafiddin Bitlisi. And 1998 is the 1800th anniversary of Lucian, one of the greatest epistemologists, rhetoricians and satirists of the Graeco-Roman world.

Lucian, one of the stars of classical Greek literature, a Kurd? Born an raised in Samsat, southeast of Adiyaman [Semsur], Lucian in his writings takes pride in being able to speak and compose in various Greek dialects, so well, he reports, that in Antioch he passed as an Ionian; in Athens as an Antiochian. Lucian is amused that none suspected that Greek was not his native language, and that he was in fact a Kurd. He learned Greek when hired as a boy to do household chores for a local Roman administrator in whose household Greek served as the lingua franca. Like a true Kurd, Lucian often writes of his preference for his mountainous homeland of Kurdistan over the bountiful plains of the others.

Hopefully there will be greater Kurdish enthusiasm in 1998 to mark the 1800th anniversary of Lucian than that exhibited in 1990 when his beloved and oft-serenaded home town of Samsat and its archaeological heritage was drowned beneath the Ataturk Dam reservoir.

The list of anniversaries commemorating the legacy of Kurdish culture and history continues; the richness of that legacy is no accident. If a nation possesses a long and illustrious history, it should be able to produce anniversaries of this magnitude annually. The fact that the Kurds can rightly celebrate several such events every year is a good yardstick by which to measure the richness of their heritage.

All individuals or organizations attempting at remedying this undervaluation and deliberate degradation of Kurdish heritage can in the interim count on facing a hostile world, as hostile in the halls of academe as in the political arena. This is only to be expected, since any new claim to a portion of the human heritage must come at the expense of some other group's claim. Abu-Hanifa Dinawari is already claimed by the Arabs (because he wrote in Arabic) and Persians (because Dinawar is in Iran/Persia). A Kurdish claim to its native son must detach and retrieve him from the Persian and Arabian pantheons. And this loss no one would permit without a struggle. Any pioneering effort, therefore, to collect and organize in one place the history of the Kurds is bound to raise hostility and to generate controversy, regardless of the meticulousness of the research or the charity of intention.

But why have national histories become so contentious? Why are people fighting-literarily-over its apportionment, sale or otherwise appropriation? And why are they stilling luminaries from one another?

Buying history is the most economic way of buying international acceptance, legitimacy of rule and claim to a land, no matter how outlandish the claim. No other branch of the social sciences and humanities has been consequently more intertwined with politics, questions of legitimacy and claim to land than history. Only now are Kurds discovering the optimum importance of history to any claim they may make to their homeland. And this is not a moment too soon. Need one mention how Israel's claim to Zion was buttressed by land allocation ascribed to the Bible? It matters not if the Bible contains such; the fact that history was used as the deed to the land by that state, is precisely what has prompted all states and aspirants to statehood to employ an army of historians.

Writing of national histories requires considerable and continuing public and private support. Such a feat doubtlessly requires the facilities of an academy of dedicated, ethical-and native-Kurdologists, of whom there are still precious few. They face the challenge of altering a status quo that belittles the Kurdish national heritage to one of a marginal nomadic culture not too far removed from the "barbarous mountain tribes and miserable villagers" which the "Kurdologist" Thomas Bois called the ancestors of the Kurds, with which the modern Western guru of Kurdology, Martin van Bruinessen would heartily concurs. This denigration has done much to demoralize the Kurds, both lay and intellectual, in the past 70 years. Much of this belittling is not accidental or even a by-product of the bazaar mentality of area-study scholars who grab for their own discipline what is there to grab. The biased treatment of the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Encyclopedia Iranica of the question of the nationality of the scholars they describe has already been reviewed; no "accidents" were found to be responsible for their respectively pro-Arab and pro-Persian falsification of history. And this occurs in a West that boasts "impartiality.”

In the not-so-impartial Middle East, the organs of states are understandably dismissive of the Kurdish heritage, and work to undercut the Kurds' attachment to their national uniqueness and pride in their identity. Even upon leaving the Middle East for the West to study, the Kurd finds in conversation with Western scholars that he is being required to "prove" that there is a Kurdish nation or even an ethnic group. Yet no other group hailing from the Middle East or anywhere else in the world is required to "prove" their identity. Both the Kurd and those who would study him are customarily dispatched to write something on "Kurdish nationalism," a topic on which every college and university library holds a few well-worn titles to offer students of political science-and the curious Kurd. As a good "tribal" person, he might even be delegated to write his college papers or graduate thesis on which Kurdish tribal chief and inter- tribal feud, a petty political dispute or who marries whom in a Kurdish tribe. Never history, least of which, ancient, classical or medieval Kurdish history.

Confused and resentful and beleaguered by their current desperate economic and cultural conditions, many Kurds become the unconscious instrument of their own denigration. W. R .Hay accordingly observed in 1921:

"The Kurd has a curious habit of disparaging himself and his brethren-probably inculcated by the Turks, who were bent on Ottomanising him, and stamping out all racial feeling. He will continually refer to himself as "zahirbin," one who sees the exterior only, "tamakar" or avaricious, and "wahshi" (barbarian)."

Summary & Conclusion
The primary sources of information on Kurdish history-from antiquity to present time-are plentiful and readily available in all major libraries around the world. What has been preventing the compilation of Kurdish history is dearth of research not research material. Development of Kurdish historiography has suffered as much from the state-sponsored discouragement as by Kurds' own lack of endeavor. The absence of Kurdish schools and academic bodies, dedicated to research and compilation of their national history has compounded the current bewilderment over the nation's share of human history and civilization.

It is encouraging to find Kurds discovering the paramount importance of historical education at home and outside in order to replace the present demoralizing atmosphere that denigrate the Kurds and Kurdish share of Middle Eastern and human civilization. They are awakening to the need to retrieve their own past and preserve their own culture without seeking or caring about the approval of the outsiders. The editors of the Encyclopedia of Islam or Encyclopedia Iranica, for example, are unlikely to approve of this development because such is bound to result in their having to rewrite large portions of their defective product to make room for the Kurdish share of Middle Eastern history.

Kurdish history must be written first by the Kurds' own historians, if they hope to ever gain parity with their neighbors on historiographycal grounds. Western authors have so far proven themselves neither capable nor interested in treating Kurdish history with dedication, impartiality or fairness. Further, due to lack of financial reward, Kurdish historiography has attracted only second- or third-rate Western historians and non-historians (like anthropologists or political scientist) to produce superficial, often biased accounts of Kurdish past.

Once Kurdish history is written, it would need to also be popularized. All nations must connect to their past by popular celebrations and the pride that attends them. National heroes and proud histories emerge with depiction and description to a larger public. It does not matter how important are individual Kurdish luminaries like Abu-Hanifa Ahmad Dinawari, and how well they are described in dusty encyclopedias. It does matter how they are related to the Kurds' national heritage and perceived by the man in the street. National historical heroes literally must be trumpeted as such on the streets. Without trumpets there are no heroes. This is patently evident in the example of Evliya Celebi in Turkey reviewed above.

The Kurds are fortunate that the writing of their national history and the study of their specific achievements requires no fabrication or outlandish claims. They need not buy a history. Their job is to strive to resurrect and to popularize their past and their contributions. The overwhelming body of primary historical documents and archaeological evidence necessitate only time and not speculation to do so. Once a Kurdish historian has overcome his fear of upsetting the status quo and survived the inevitable dismissal, if not hostility, of the traditionalist historians and advocates of neighboring ethnic groups, the history and human legacy of the Kurds will be properly understood-and ranked