Problems and Prospects for the Kurdish Struggle for Self-Determination After the End of the Gulf and Cold Wars

At a dinner in Istanbul with Kurdish journalists and academicians in early 1992, a young sociologist told the author that he had just finished a survey of Kurdish attitudes toward different solutions to the Kurdish problem. His principal finding was that Kurds living in the Middle East were generally in favor of modest solutions within the boundaries of existing States, while Kurds living in exile were overwhelmingly in support of the establishment of a single sovereign State, to be called Kurdistan, that would provide a homeland for all Kurdish people. Whether or not the study would satisfy social science standards of rigor, it did seem to correspond with my own impressions, and to identify important conceptual issues: what is the authoritative way to express the overriding Kurdish demand for self-determination? Who, if anyone, is empowered at this stage to speak on behalf of the Kurdish people as a whole? Or alternatively, should Kurdish self-determination be understood in pluralist terms, as having several distinct embodiments paralleling the separated existence of the Kurdish people over the course of the last seventy years?