Geopolitical Shifts and Ethnic Conflicts: The Transnational Kurdish Conflict in the Contemporary Middle East
Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität Berlin
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow at Asia-Africa Institute, University of Hamburg
Research shows that geopolitical settings and circumstances significantly affect the evolution of ethnic conflicts. This also applies to the historically rooted, cross-border Kurdish conflict in the Middle East. This conflict principally affects Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, where the main Kurdish populations are located. The historical background lies in developments following World War I, when the regions of Kurdish settlement in Ottoman Empire were integrated into the new nation states. The Kurds’ striving for independence and autonomy continues to this day, while the constituent states consider the conflict a security issue of national concern.
The Kurds recently become more visible and prominent in world and regional politics due to their fight against the Islamic State in the Syrian civil war. The prospects for conflict resolution have not automatically increased. But the ongoing global geopolitical shifts and political upheavals in the Middle East have radically transformed the Kurdish conflict on all levels.
Despite these obvious new developments, however, conventional approaches that perceive the Kurdish question as an internal matter for the respective states remain predominant. The only tangible action has been political and military efforts to suppress the “Kurdish awakening”, which have led to escalation and another cycle of violence. Ending this long and violent conflict will require an understanding of the status quo and its history, and a comprehensive perspective accommodating the changing dynamics of both the Kurdish Conflict and the broader geopolitics of the Middle East.
We invite submissions for an International Journal of Conflict and Violence Focus Section on “Geopolitical Shifts and Ethnic Conflicts: The Transnational Kurdish Conflict in the Contemporary Middle East”. Papers for this Focus Section should