The Saladin Days 2016
The Kurds. A People Without a Land?
The Kurds are fighting ISIS in Kobane and controlling a de facto autonomous region in the northern parts of a civil war-ravaged Syria. In Turkey, the Kurdish coalition party HDP surpassed the 10% election threshold in June 2015, ensuring president Erdogan’s party AKP’s first loss of parliamentary majority since they came to power in 2002. Erdogan responded by calling off the peace talks with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and saw the country plunged into a civil war-like state. In Northern Iraq, one no longer talks about Northern Iraq but of Kurdistan, where president Masoud Barzani controls a region with a high degree of autonomy, an economy (until recently) on the rise, with both the will and the strength to act as a regional player.
In a few years, the Kurds have gone from a marginal existence as the world’s largest nation without a state to playing a key role in a Middle East creaking at the seams. Where does the road go from here? Many are saying that the borders in the region will have to be redrawn, and with the growing number of assaults on civilians taking place, more and more people are asking how the rights and the safety of the region’s many minorities might be ensured. What part will the Kurds play in this situation? Is it possible to envision a new peace process in Turkey? And what will be the outcome for the Kurds of the Syrian civil war?
This political development forms the backdrop for the International Saladin Days 2016, where writers, intellectuals, artists and activists gather to discuss the history, literature, language and outlook of the Kurdish people.
Seda AltuĞ is Assistant Professor at the the Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History at Boğaziçi University.
Mustafa Can is a writer and journalist. His first novel, Tätt intill dagarna: berättelsen om min mor (t: Close to the days: the story of my mother), was published in 2006. For the last few years, he has reported from the war in Syria and the fight for Kobane. This work is the basis for his play, rigen har et kvinnelig ansikt (t: The War Has a Female Face)
Selahatting Demirtas is chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and a member of Turkey’s Parliament.
Dilar Dirik is an activist and a sociology PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, having studied, among other things, feminism and the Kurdish liberation movement.
Barzoo Eliassi is Associate Professor at Linnaeus University in Sweden. His most recent book is Contesting Kurdish Identities in Sweden: Quest for Belonging among Middle Eastern Youth.
Choman Hardi is a poet and translator from Suleimaniya, the Kurdish part of Iraq, where she lives and works at the American University of Iraq. Her last poetry collection, Considering the Women (2015), is based on her research among women surviving the 1988 al-Anfal campaign against the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
Kawa Nemir is a Kurdish poet, short story writer, translator and editor. He studied Greek and Latin in Istanbul, but was expelled from his studies due to his interest in Kurdish language and literature. Nemir is a central figure in the current Kurdish literary golden age in Turkey. He also translates classical texts from the world’s literary canon into Kurdish. Since 2002, he has worked on a translation of Ulysses into Kurdish, which will be published by one of the largest publishing housed in Turkey the following autumn.
Gareth Standfield is a Professor at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is The Kurdish Question Revisited (2016).
Abbas Vali is a Professor of sociology at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul and the author of books such as Kurdish Nationalism in Iran: The Forgotten Years (1947-1979) and Modernity and the Stateless: The Kurdish Question in Iran (2012).
Ferhat Tunc is a leading Kurdish singer and musician. Among his many albums are two put out by the Norwegian record label Kirkelig Kulturverksted, Suvare Krimanciye (2012), in which he described the 1938 genocide on the Kurds, and Kobani (2016), on which Norwegian artists Knut Reiersrud and Mari Boine are among the contributors.