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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People without a State inspire an Author with Scholarly Insight
The Kurds and the State is a scholarly book about the development of Kurdish national identity in three states in which the majority of the Kurdish population is located; Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Its main contribution is to the theory of ethnonationalism, taking a middle ground between primordialist and constructive approaches and showing that ethnonational identity is...
Published on December 8, 2006 by Zafer Yörük

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The book is NOT worth reading
As a Kurd who studied Kurdish history for many years and understand both sorany and kurmanji i.e. the major dialects of Kurdish language and spend a considerable time among Kurds of Iran, Iraq and Turkey and met many Kurds from Syrian..and met many Kurdish politicians.

After reading this book. I can confidently say that this book does not tells about the facts...
Published on April 18, 2012 by Deyary


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People without a State inspire an Author with Scholarly Insight, December 8, 2006
This review is from: The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East) (Hardcover)
The Kurds and the State is a scholarly book about the development of Kurdish national identity in three states in which the majority of the Kurdish population is located; Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Its main contribution is to the theory of ethnonationalism, taking a middle ground between primordialist and constructive approaches and showing that ethnonational identity is shaped and reshaped by political processes in different contexts over time. It is a major contribution to the literature on Kurdish politics and society, and the bibliography reveals the author's mastery of the subject matter. It is no surprise therefore, that the Kurds and the State has been recently awarded the 2007 Choice Magazine Award for Outstanding Academic Titles.

It is also not surprising that this book would antagonize. While Natali refuses the typical victimization of the Kurds argument, she argues through comparative histories that policies, particularly the radical and violent ones by the Turkish state, have created violent and reactionary Kurdish nationalism in Turkey.

It is necessary in this context to consider Michael Rubin's critique of Natali's book. Rubin claims that The Kurds and the State ignores the fact many Kurds attained high level posts in the Turkish government and throws in Turkey's second president Ismet Inönü as an example. There are two problems with this issue. First, the claim that Inönü was an ethnic Kurd is a highly controversial one. There are many claims pointing to the opposite direction - that he came from a Balkan family who had been converted to Islam to serve the Ottoman State. Rubin needs to be more careful in consulting his undisclosed sources, which probably are unaware that not everyone born in Malatya (Inönü's hometown) or Bitlis (Inönü's genealogical hometown according to some controversial sources) is a Kurd. Secondly, if it were true that Inönü was an ethnic Kurd, this would not weaken but on the contrary fortify Natali's argument. It has been a systematic policy of the Turkish State to force the Kurds to deny their ethnic identity, not only in attaining high-level posts but even for their survival during most of modern history. If he was an ethnic Kurd, Inönü is a good example of how a Kurd overacts his compulsory role of denial. There is not sufficient space to quote Inönü's rich repertoire of insults with violent implications against the Kurds; however, I have chosen a few among them to give an idea about the man we are talking about here.

Inönü was a passionate advocate of inappropriate violence during the quelling of the Sheikh Said rebellion of 1925. In the aftermath of the rebellion he had following to say: "We must Turkify the inhabitants of our country at any price and we will annihilate those who oppose the Turks or le turquisme". The implication of this statement was not only an immense bloodbath in Kurdistan but it also marked the beginning of the Turkish State's policy of systematic denial and assimilation. Inönü was also the architect of the 1938 Dersim operation. His 1935 `East' report analyses the ethnic composition of each Kurdish province in detail and proposes plans for Turkification, which involve forcible population resettlements. His report argues that these measures were necessary to prevent the formation of `the real, horrific Kurdistan'. The major implication of this report was Turkish Army's 1938 Dersim operation, which resulted in the indiscriminate annihilation of at least 10 per cent of the regional population, sufficient to be called an ethnocide.

It is true, therefore, as Rubin argues, that many Kurds attained high-level posts, but he fails to mention the price they had to pay for this: the denial of their identity and in many cases (like Inönü's if we are to rely on Rubin's sources) to turn violently against their own people. Consequently, Natali's argument remains a sound one: Kurds could not attain high-level posts by revealing their Kurdish ethnic identity. Only by becoming Turkish, or claiming they were Turkish, could a Kurd attain professional success.

Rubin's verdict on Natali's bibliography is simply unfair, since her work is sourced in primary resources from Kurdistan and in five languages. Rubin's objection to Natali's references on the Armenian (Dadrian) and Iranian (Najmabadi) scholars is also rather curious, since firstly, the Kurds and the State's argument does not rely uncritically on these sources and secondly, an Armenian or Farsi scholar never deserves to be discriminated against a Turkish, French, British or American scholar on the basis of her/his ethnic identity (Every scholar is to a certain degree a `polemicist' and certainly has a `political prism').

Contrary to Rubin's claims, Natali specifically addresses the effects of Kemalist secularizing reforms on Kurdish tribes (pp. 79-84), revealing how the trajectory of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey became Islamized. For example, she maintains that the leader of the most important Kurdish uprising, Shaikh Said, did not call just for Kurdish nationalism (Kurdayeti, which Rubin misspells), but an Islamic state of which Kurdish nationalism is a part.

Natali's grasp of history is also accurate, which is the source of another baseless criticism that Rubin challenges her with: Kurdish borders were not determined, as he proclaims, in the sixteenth century but by the 1639 Kasr-i Sirin Treaty. In fact, even this statement can be disputed, knowing that the Turkish-Iranian border has changed several times since that date, the latest amendment being as recent as 1931.

In sum, The Kurds and the State, through its analytic and informative richness, refreshes and improves our knowledge and understanding of the Kurdish question, a major Middle Eastern and global concern of our time.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A close scrutiny of the evolution of Kurdish nationalism, February 7, 2006
This review is from: The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East) (Hardcover)
The Kurds And The State: Evolving National Identity In Iraq, Turkey And Iran is a close scrutiny of the evolution of Kurdish nationalism, particularly with regard to how the development of nation-states has affected it. Written by a professor and research team member with thirteen years of experience studying Kurdish politics and identity inside and beyond Iraq, The Kurds And The State examines Iraq's transitions first to a colonial state, then to an independent republican state; Turkey's transitions first to an independent republican state then to a quasi-democracy; and Iran's transition first to a constitutional monarchy then to an Islamic republic. The Kurds And The State approach modern history not only in scholarly and philosophical terms, but also hard and fast practical terms, drawing upon both case histories and political science principles to reveal what is required for successful conflict-resolution strategies, particularly in volatile circumstances. A balanced, serious-minded, realistically grounded study and an absolute must-read for anyone seeking to understand Kurdish community, national identity, and possible nonviolent pathways to future conflict resolution.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The book is NOT worth reading, April 18, 2012
This review is from: The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East) (Hardcover)
As a Kurd who studied Kurdish history for many years and understand both sorany and kurmanji i.e. the major dialects of Kurdish language and spend a considerable time among Kurds of Iran, Iraq and Turkey and met many Kurds from Syrian..and met many Kurdish politicians.

After reading this book. I can confidently say that this book does not tells about the facts on the ground but presents Denise Natali's pre-concluded ideas and uses sources written by occupiers of Kurdistan (turks, arabs, persian or those who used these sources) to justify her predefined conclusion. Denise Natali is analysing Kurdish issue in the eyes of the occupiers of Kurdistan. so this book is a weak piece of work not worth reading.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Kurds and the State, November 26, 2006
This review is from: The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran (Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East) (Hardcover)
In The Kurds and the State, derived from her University of Pennsylvania doctoral dissertation, political scientist Natali explores how Kurdish nationalism developed in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. She does this with the opacity and jargon of an academic: "This book explains why Kudayetî, or Kurdish national identity, becomes ethnicized and the similarities and variations in its manifestation across space and time."

Beyond style, her comparative approach has value. The Kurds are not monolithic, linguistically or politically, though too many works treat them as such; to this, The Kurds and the State is an important exception. Natali avoids contemporary Kurdish narratives of victimization. Kurdish complaints that European powers divided Kurdistan do not hold up to historical fact: the border between what is now Turkey and Iran, for example, dates from the sixteenth century. Nor does she make the mistake of many contemporary authors and instant experts, retroactively extending Kurdish nationalism. She explains how Kurdish nationalism grew in early twentieth century Anatolia with the coming of European consuls and intra-communal tensions. In contrast, Kurdish nationalism took longer to develop in polyglot Iran, perhaps because there Sunni versus Shi`ite sectarian practice rather than ethnicity determined the degree to which Kurds could integrate.

Natali's overviews and comparisons are thought-provoking. She juxtaposes the growth of Kurdish participation in the political process in Turkey with an increasingly stilted process in Iraq and notes how Ankara's embrace of the Kurds and their socioeconomic and political diversification undermined any unitary sense of Kurdish identity in Turkey. Her examination of Turkish strategies to undercut Kurdistan Workers Party (Partiya Karkeręn Kurdistan, PKK) terrorism in the 1980s is also useful even if she remains critical of Ankara's refusal to "de-ethnicize the notion of Turkish citizenship." In these ways, The Kurds and the State advances the staid and often simplified historiography that marks Kurdish studies.

But Natali's work is weakened by several problems, starting with her unsure grasp of history. She amplifies, for example, the efficiency of Ottoman state control and discounts the efficiency of Iranian bureaucracy. While inefficient and weak by Western standards, nineteenth century Iran was organized enough to defeat incursions by Ottoman Kurdish tribal chiefs along its periphery. Natali appears unaware that published collections of Iranian diplomatic correspondence are replete with reports and discussions telegraphed from the front. She is also prone to exaggeration. If "early republican Turkey removed all opportunities for the Kurds," how did İsmet İnönü, an ethnic Kurd, succeed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey's founding father?

More serious is the incompleteness of Natali's discussion of the Atatürk religious reforms. She fails to address head-on the impact of his abolishment of the caliphate, the source of a great deal of tension among Turkey's Kurdish tribes for whom religious traditionalism trumped nationalism as the impetus for struggle with the nascent Turkish republic. Her bibliographical judgment is questionable, citing, for example, Armenian polemicist Vahakn Dadrian (whose name she misspells).

Discussion of the Kurds of modern Iran falls short and that of Syria is nonexistent. Natali parses secondary sources, many out-of-date, for mention of Kurds and appears unaware that some authors upon whose work she relies, including Afsaneh Najmabadi (whose name she also misspells), approach Iranian historiography through a political prism that ends up skewing her narrative. It is unfortunate that The Kurds and the State falls short, for a more careful and complete comparative examination of Kurdish society would contribute much.

Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2007
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