A colleague told me that a few months ago. ‘Kurds just ain’t sexy’, she said. As I knew she couldn’t possibly be talking about the attractiveness of Kurds, I figured she must be meaning it in a journalistic sense. Sexy being sellable. That when you propose a story about Kurds to any media, they immediately jump on you. Kurds! Yes, we want a story about Kurds!
I can see where she is coming from. She is talking about five, ten, fifteen years ago. The news about Kurds in Turkey was dominated by the war between the state and the PKK. It was dragging on. Foreign media would only want a story about it if there was something actually changing in the conflict (read an earlier post about that here), if more than maybe twenty people died in one attack, or when it affected tourism.
Headlines when PKK leader Öcalan was arrested. Headlines when violence flared up. Headlines about a bomb on the beach. And occasionally a story about human rights abuses, but since they happen everywhere in the world, they have to be exceptional to get more than a few lines.
Some 40 million world-wide
The same counts for the Kurds in Iraq. They were interesting mostly when related to the Gulf wars and the American presence in Iraq. The Kurds in Iraqi perspective, just as the Kurds in Turkey were mostly written about in a Turkish context. Despite being a people, a nation of some 40 million world-wide, the stories about Kurds were always put in the perspective of the countries the Kurdish lands are divided over.
And those in Iran and Syria? Oh, there are Kurds there too?
I understand my colleague, but I don’t agree with her. The Kurds are becoming more sexy every day. Developments in every country in the region where Kurds live contribute to that, but I prefer to see it from a Kurdish perspective. Don’t see the Kurds only as citizens of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, but as a nation in their own right, with their own political, social and economic dynamics. Who are no longer subject to whatever happens in their countries, but increasingly help define the present and future of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and even the wider region.
They help define the course Turkey is taking, now that their thirty year old struggle has lead to peace negotiations between their most important leader, Öcalan, and the government. Not that the process is going anywhere, but the Kurdish issue is talked about more openly than ever, the Kurds are confident and really don’t need an armed struggle anymore to demand and take their rights.
The Kurds in Iraq have had autonomy for years now and have managed to keep their lands very peaceful compared to the rest of the country. The economic boom in Iraqi Kurdistan is redefining the Iraqi economy as a whole, and reshaping foreign relations from both the Kurdish capital Hewler and the national capital Baghdad.
The Syrian Kurds have decided not to take sides in the civil war in Syria, but instead carve out autonomy for themselves. With a regional administration, a swearing in ceremony in the three languages that are spoken in Syrian Kurdistan and elections to be planned before the summer, they set a democratic example for the Middle East.
The developments together are more than just the product of its component parts. They accumulate into a dynamic that will make the Kurds stronger, more influential and confident. Intriguing in itself, and who knows how this will affect the Kurds in Iran, for now the most invisible group?
Can it get any sexier? And lucky me: I am going to report it, now that I have finished my book about the Kurdish issue in Turkey, which I explain by a thorough investigation into the Uludere/Roboski massacre of 28 December 2011. (It will be published in the Netherlands around 20 February, and you can pre order it here. I am working on English and Turkish and possibly Kurdish translations and will keep you posted on that.)
Once a week
As the only foreign correspondent based in the unofficial capital of the Kurds, Diyarbakir, I have started to interest media worldwide in stories about the Kurds, and convincing them how sexy they are.
First, I got the opportunity to report with my own page on the American journalism site Beaconreader. I will publish a story about Kurds and (the whole of!) Kurdistan at least once a week, and you can subscribe to that for only $5 per month. The first story is an interview with the famous Turkish sociologist and expert on Kurds Ismail Besikci, which I link to the Syria conference that started this week in Geneva, to which the Kurds were not invited.
Currently I am working on my first story about the Kurdish issue in Turkey for an English language paper – I will publish it on this site too, stay tuned. I have plans to write for more international media, and am expanding my network to that end now. It looks promising! And starting next week, I will publish a weekly column on the new Turkish website Diken (Thorn), and also report for them from the Kurdish regions of Turkey.
The Kurds ain’t sexy? We’ll see about that!