Ignored and repressed for almost all the 20th Century, Kurds in the Middle East have made some significant political and social gains. Always viewed as minorities in within the boundaries of the four states, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, Kurds have not only asserted their separate identities challenging the states but have also succeeded in achieving international recognition. In Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government that came into existence following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime is a distinct federal entity within that state that has its own diplomatic representations abroad. Similarly, the Arab Spring has provided an opportunity for Syrian Kurds to organize and align themselves with the U.S. In Turkey and Iran, ongoing domestic strife, political and military, has consumed resources and attention of the central governments. What do all these developments portend for the geopolitics of the Middle East?
Henri J. Barkey is the Bernard L. Bertha F. Cohen Chair in International Relations at Lehigh University and an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously he was the Director of the Middle East Center at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (2015-2017). Mr. Barkey served as chair of the Department of International Relations at Lehigh University for thirteen years. He served on the State Department Policy Planning Staff (1998-2000) working on the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and intelligence-related issues. He was a non-resident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2008-2011). Currently he also serves as the chair of the Academic Committee on the Board of Trustees of the American University in Iraq, Sulaimani. He has written extensively on Turkey, the Kurds and other Middle East issues.
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