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BOOK REVIEWS 147 come of them? But somehow we are assured that the women will be fine, that they, like Nafisi, will learn to chart their way. A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan Christiane Bird. New York: Ballantine, 2004, xxii + 405 pp Nina Laven, University ofMichigan Most recent ethnographic studies of Kurdish populations have, out of necessity, focused on the dynamics of Kurdish diasporic identities in Turkey, Germany, Sweden, Georgia, and other countries outside ofthe region known as Kurdistan (Mingle 2003; Saatci 2002; Houston 2001; Lyon 2001). This region, which stretches over a vast area from western Iran to eastern Iraq, dipping into the northern tip ofSyria and across southeast Turkey, is not an internationally recognized territory and is home to about 24-27 million Kurds, although reliable census data is difficult to find. Recent American military campaigns in Iraq and the regional repercussions ofthose campaigns have made a once-difficult area in which to conduct research almost impossible to penetrate. Research involving Kurdish populations is particularly difficult to pursue given the contentious status of Kurdish groups in all four ofthese countries. Christiane Bird, with considerable effort, managed to conduct research in the region for five months in 2002, less than a year before the war in Iraq. She entered Kurdistan through Syria and traveled directly to Iraq, where she spent three months, and returned to Iran and Turkey for two months on a second trip. The plight of Kurdish minorities in these four countries was overlooked for years and only recently has begun to receive attention in the United States as information about Saddam Hussein's brutal treatment of them continues to emerge. We are now familiar with stories of the suppression of Kurds in Iraq, but Kurdish groups have also been the subject of state violence and repression in Syria, Turkey, and Iran. In Syria, after independence in 1946, Arab-Muslim national homogenization programs implemented under successive dictators alienated 148 JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES Kurdish as well as Armenian and Assyrian groups. Kurdish publications were outlawed in 1958, a year after the formation ofthe Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria. When the Ba'ath regime came to power in 1963, the leaders initiated a campaign to violently contain Kurdish minorities in the northern Syrian Jazira region, issuing the slogan "Save the Jazira from becoming a second Israel."1 Kurds were deported to Turkey, displaced from fertile land, replaced by Arab Bedouins, and stripped oftheir citizenship, as well as lampooned by brutal propaganda campaigns. Kurds in Syria today number about 1.5 million out of a total population of 18 million. These numbers are often underrepresented because about one-sixth of the Syrian Kurdish population—200,000—are undocumented illegal immigrants under Syrian citizenship laws. Many ofthem are the children and grandchildren ofKurds who immigrated to Syria from Turkey after the brutal repression ofKurdish rebel movements starting in 1925. As in many countries, these "illegals" are unable to vote, be admitted to public hospitals, or register marriages. Furthermore, suspected Kurdish political activists have been dismissed routinely from state jobs or universities.2 In addition, Syrian Kurds are prohibited from publishing , studying, or teaching in Kurdish, although possession of Kurdish -language materials is permitted. While significant communities of Kurds in Damascus and Aleppo—600,000 altogether—now speak Arabic , Kurds in the mountainous region of Kurd Dagh and in plain towns in northeast and northwest Syria primarily speak Kirmanji, a Kurdish language. During her stay in Syria, Bird visits Qamishli, an oil town on the border between Syria and Iraq that is a mix ofArabs, Kurds, Turks, Assyrians , Armenians, and Syrian Orthodox. She stays with a Kurdish family that clearly has been assimilated into the ethos of mutual suspicion characterizing many Kurd-Arab relations there. The family is acutely aware of how decades of economic repression have limited their relative prosperity. Bird writes: We passed by one village after another, all looking much alike: flat, poor, nondescript places built ofcement and clay brick, with dropping electricity lines. Yet my hosts could tell them apart. "Arab, Arab, Arab," they said as the apparently newer and better-laid-out villages flashed by (250). BOOK REVIEWS œ 149 In...


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