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Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East [Hardcover]

by Quil Lawrence
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 2008 0802716113 978-0802716118 First Edition

The American invasion of Iraq has been a success - for the Kurds.  Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.  Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and betrayal, surviving only through stubborn compromise with greater powers. They have always desired their own state, and now, accidentally, the United States may have helped them take a huge step toward that goal.

As Quil Lawrence relates in his fascinating and timely study of the Iraqi Kurds, while their ambition and determination grow apace, their future will be largely dependent on whether America values a budding democracy in the region, or decides to yet again sacrifice the Kurds in the name of political expediency. Either way, the Kurdish north may well prove to be the defining battleground in Iraq, as the country struggles to hold itself together. At this extraordinary moment in the saga of Kurdistan, informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Lawrence’s intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Numbering 25 million, the Kurds remain the largest ethnic group in the world without its own nation. This is not for want of trying, as British reporter Lawrence writes in this lucid, eye-opening account of the long, brutal struggle that continues despite opposition from Mideastern nations and the U.S. After centuries of oppression under the Turks, the Kurds had a chance at statehood when the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918. The Middle East was remapped, with the Kurds divided among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Decades of bloody rebellion were ignored until Saddam Hussein's defeat in the First Gulf War. The Kurds rose again, anticipating U.S. assistance. Only media horror at Hussein's genocidal suppression of their revolt galvanized Western nations into action. When the no-fly zone was established in northern Iraq, Baghdad lost its capacity for governing the Kurds. Still fearful of Hussein, the Kurds cooperated eagerly as the U.S. planned a second Iraq invasion, but the Kurds' vision of statehood remains unfulfilled. Readers will close this engrossing but disturbing history with respect for a people that has struggled for millennia and whose difficulties continue to generate headlines. 30 b&w photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A fine journalistic account of the personalities that animate the northern third of the country. They are all canny operators. Lawrence tells the story of Gen. Jay Garner's meeting with Jalal Talabani in 1991, when the latter (now president of the Republic of Iraq) was a guerilla scampering through the mountains to avoid Saddam. Shocked by Talabani's awareness of the war in areas well beyond his redoubt, Garner asked him his intelligence sources. Talabani showed Garner a room of electronics, as fancy as the general's own, and said he talked with John Major twice a day. This is the enigma of the Kurdish leadership in miniature: they are hardier than mountain goats and slicker than lobbyists. Lawrence's book captures both registers, as well as many in between."— Graeme Wood , The Atlantic

"Extensively researched and footnoted, yet readable and often engaging, "Invisible Nation" guides the reader through the "luckless history" of the Kurds."—Matthew B. Stannard, San Francisco Chronicle

“Stimulating history of the single Iraqi ethnic group that doesn’t want American troops to leave Iraq...A disturbing account that prompts new admiration for a people whose age-old toil for a homeland will continue after the United States withdraws from the region.”Kirkus

“Lucid, eye-opening account…Readers will close this engrossing but disturbing history with respect for a people that has struggled for millennia and whose difficulties continue to generate headlines.”—Publishers Weekly

“In lively and jargon-free language, with insights gained through experience, he explains the constellation of forces among the 25 million Kurds, the Kurds' relations to the other groups in contemporary Iraq, and their quest for independence. This is a timely and informative book that should be read by all interested in gaining a better understanding of today's Kurdish political developments.”—Library Journal

“Interviewing people from all walks of life, from hitchhikers to Kurds now leading the Iraqi government, such as President Jalal Talabani, Lawrence touches on their concerns, very long and bitter memories, and hopes for the future.”—Booklist

“Quil Lawrence has written an engaging, revelatory book about America's accidental success in Iraq—the development of a stable, secure and reasonably democratic Kurdish region in the country's north. Drawing on his intimate, on-the-ground knowledge of Kurdistan, Lawrence exposes us to the little-known history of the Kurdish people, their epic struggle for survival and self-governance, and their crucial role in the new Iraq. A fascinating and compelling tale, it's a valuable addition to the bookself for anyone who cares about what's happening in Iraq.”—Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone

“The quest for Kurdish statehood is, in part, a story of unintended consequences, a sweeping narrative that Quil Lawrence masterfully charts with insight, authority and, perhaps most important, compassion. His book is a story not only of Kurdistan, but of Iraq, of the Middle East and of the future. To understand any of those, this book is essential. Invisible Nation stands as one of the most important works to emerge from a war that, five years in, remains as unpredictable as when it first started, a point that Lawrence makes abundantly clear.”—Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War

“In this dramatic narrative, Quil Lawrence has untwined one of the most tangled histories of the Middle East and made it comprehensible. Invisible Nation is a riveting account of Iraq's Kurds and their essential role in the reshaping of modern Iraq.  For anyone wishing to understand how the Kurds' quest for nationhood plays into the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq, this book is a must-read.”—Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716118
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #781,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern history of Iraqi Kurds December 21, 2008
This book does two specific things:
1. Provides modern history of the Kurds, mainly the Kurds inside Iraq. This is not an all-encompassing Kurdish history book, although it does touch on some collective Kurdish events.
2. Provides needed perspective on U.S. operations in Iraq: post-1991 and the 2003- invasion. It shows the Kurdish opinion of U.S. intervention.

If you're looking for this scope of information, this is an excellent read. If you are looking for a complete history of all Kurds everywhere, this is not the book.

Having said this, Quil's writing style engages the reader and jumps to related events when necessary to help bring clarity. This is not a read that stiffly follows a chronological time line.

Some takeaways from this book:
1. Iraqi Kurds are independent as a nation already within "Kurdistan," probably since 1991, and we simply have not "officially" recognized them within an international venue (such as UN).
2. The coming choice for the international community will be to either ignore this, or take a leap and recognize the nation of Kurdistan, even if its borders are only within the confines of Iraq.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beacon of democracy April 17, 2008
As a producer/director for British and American TV I have made numerous films in and about Iraq over the last five years, but Invisible Nation is a revelation to me. Like most people covering the tragedy, I have been distracted by the carnage in the south and Lawrence's book fills a gaping hole. He has been a regular visitor there since shortly before the US invasion and, as well as providing a potted history of Iraqi Kurdistan, he paints a vivid picture of the country, its people and its leaders. There is a wonderful breezy energy to his prose and by the end we feel not only informed but also emotionally involved in what happens there.

Lawrence was an eye-witness to many of the key events he describes and he talks us through the strange parallel history that has unfolded. As Sunni and Shia Iraq have descended into anarchy, the Kurds, largely un-noticed, have established the prosperous, peaceful, functioning democracy (rough and ready though it may be) that was supposed to be the goal all along. The paradox is that it is only the weakness of their southern neighbours that has enabled them to do so and, should the US succeed in restoring stability in the rest of Iraq, Baghdad will almost certainly try and re-establish its traditional control. The Sunnis can look for support to Saudi Arabia, the Shias to Iran. The Kurds have no-one to shake a stick on their behalf other than us, and we have always betrayed them in the past. The truly unforgivable final act in this tragedy, as we scuttle away from the disaster we have inflicted, would be to do so again as the price of peace.

Richard Sanders
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To understand Iraq, past and future, read this book. April 29, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lawrence's insightful look at this little understood nation will open your eyes to events that led to America's invasion of Iraq. His first hand knowledge and in-depth research will introduce you to a cast of characters that underlay America's invasion and continue to influence events in the region. This eminently readable book will be referred to by historians for decades to come as America's misadventure is studied.
Lawrence's travels have clearly given him a great fondness for the region. In vivid language, Lawrence gives you a feel for the landscape and people of Iraqi Kurdistan. Several times while reading Invisible Nation I found myself thinking that I wanted to travel there. No other person has made me want to visit Iraq.
Buy this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book was very helpful to me during my 1 year tour in northern Iraq working with the Kurds. I had the good fortune to meet a few of the individuals written about in the book. With rare exception I found the information in the book to be spot on. One glaring exception was the depiction of Karim Sinjari. I worked with him on many occasions and found him to be intelligent, well informed, deeply devoted to his people and not at all aloof or arrogant. Strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of the situation there, particular if you are going to travel or work there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invisible Nation May 31, 2008
A Kid's Review
This book was well written.
It was given as gift and was throughly enjoyed by the reader.
Hope to see more books written by the author in the future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Informative January 5, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mr. Lawrence's book is a very thoughtful, well-written and seemingly thoroughly researched look into the forgotten people of the Middle East. It seems safe to say that most Americans know very little about the Kurds and the role they have played in the shaping of post-war Iraq. Lawrence does a commendable job of presenting the reader with a firm grasp of the realities of the Kurds precarious existence, sandwiched between nations that have little use for their unique and independent culture and their history of struggle for self-determination.

Although written mostly from a Kurdish perspective, Lawrence does well to include the views and narratives of Arabs and Turks who have their own interests and ideas concerning Kurdish sovereignty. In a region of the world where anti-Americanism seems to be the prevailing ideology, the Kurds are presented as a refreshingly pro-American ally in Iraq and the region at large, with complicated geo-politics seemingly getting in the way of the formation of a deeper and lasting friendship.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not blood-Kurd-ling
Good journalistic insights to this troubled area. Absolutely recommend and a must read for anyone following Kurd developments. Index would be good for reference purposes...
Published 13 months ago by S. Barrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes - There is a Kurdistan
After taking an assignment to photograph the Kurdish refugees coming out of Syria, I needed a briefing on the Kurds. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Douglas A. Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Begs a few questions
Quill Lawrence is developing into one of the best journalists of his generation, and his deep probe into Iraqi Kurdistan demonstrates why. Read more
Published 17 months ago by R. L. Huff
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive
Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East

I'll be going to Erbil, Kurdistan, for work. Read more
Published on April 11, 2012 by OnTheBeat
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but
Very good book, but I could not in good conscience give it 5 stars as the Kindle version is riddled with typos and extraneous characters. Read more
Published on January 17, 2012 by A. Webb
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating History of our Northern Iraqi Friends
The tale is fascinating, but it is a difficult read- only because of the "foreign" names of people, places and events. Read more
Published on January 2, 2012 by Ben A. Freeman
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging history of a stateless people
This book presents a modern history of the Kurdish people, with most of the text focusing on the affairs of this people in the 20th century, especially under the regime of Saddam... Read more
Published on December 16, 2011 by Newton Ooi
4.0 out of 5 stars Primer on Iraqi Kurds Geopolitics
This is a good introduction to the politics of Iraqi Kurds. As always, consider this a single source no matter how well the references are and realize the author is close to the... Read more
Published on September 11, 2009 by Stephen
5.0 out of 5 stars Invisible Nation -How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood is shaping Iraq...
This book does a good job describing Kurdish history from the point of the Kurds! It also describes how America did the right things for all the wrong reasons!
Published on March 21, 2009 by Deedee Baumgarner
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