Kurdish Nationalism: An Analysis

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Now, how did non-Sunni Kurds approach and feel about Kurdish nationalism during its nascent stages of development? For many non-Sunni Kurds, Kurdish nationalism was just another attempt at reinforcing religious dominance over other religious communities in the area, not much different from its ethnically diverse neighbors. These minorities mostly rejected Kurdish nationalism during this period. By the 1800s many sectarian differences had come to a head after subsequent battles between the great empires in the Middle East and Islamic movements in response to European colonial exposure. The Naqshbandi Order’s popularity in Kurdistan is a testament to these factors. For instance, Shaykh Khalid, the 19th century Kurdish Naqshbandi shaykh responsible …show more content…
Yezidi Kurds in northern Iraq never transcended their religious beliefs or identity in order to partake in Kurdish nationalist movements. Nelida Fuccaro, professor at University of Exeter, in her essay “Ethnicity, State Formation, and Conscription in Postcolonial Iraq” examines the complexities of state attempts to conscript Yezidi Kurds into the Iraqi army in the 1930s. While discussing the tribal identities of Jabal Sinjar, she notes how the relationship between the Yezidi Kurds and Sunni Kurds was “scarce...and somewhat strained” (566). For this particular community of Yezidis in Northern Iraq, not only did physical boundaries separate them but the religious divisions were very poignant at times. Often during the mid-1800s, Sunni Kurdish tribal chiefs raided Yezidi villages and attempted to convert the Yezidi tribes of Jabal Sinjar. For instance, Austin Layard, a British Archeologist, during his adventures across Kurdistan in the 1848 recounts in his book Discoveries among the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon visiting a Kurdish village run by Shaykh Kassim, who was infamous for his “hatred of Yezidis...murdering those who came within his reach” (39). In addition, the Sunni Ottoman Empire often appointed Sunni Kurds to enforce Ottoman hegemony and dominance among Yezidis. Yezidi Kurds were not interested in being swept up into what they viewed as another proselytization effort by Sunnis in the region. Ultimately, in her final remarks, Fuccaro contends that this strong religious foundation of the Yezidis prevented them from joining the Kurdish Nationalist movements in that particular era due to their Sunni dimensions and overtones (575). Clearly in this example, Kurdish nationalism is synonymous with Sunni Islam. The idea of a Kurdish nation became more and more reinforced that the

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