The Kurds: “A History of Deliberate and Reactive Statelessness”

Hanifi Baris

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper argues that the fact that the Kurds have no nation-state of their own cannot be explained by sheer failure on the part of the Kurdish nobility, but the element of deliberate choice to avoid and evade the state is also involved. Although this is not a mainstream understanding of freedom and independence in the era of nationalism, it is clearly a no less valuable line of thought in Kurdistan. The rationale is that once one bows to a higher authority it does not matter if this authority is foreign or familiar; it is still domination and subordination. The paper highlights a number of historical moments in order to demonstrate that the Kurds did not only resist incorporation in state-structures when they were pressured to do so, but they also prevented “states from
springing up among them (Scott 2099; X).” for most parts of their history from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. The paper emphasises that although the Kurds built alliances with stronger political powers, they refrained from alienating their political will to them; they remained loyal to local/regional authorities and small-scale political communities in Kurdistan; they took refuge in the mountains to keep the State away, and they crossed borders of (nation-)states with little regard for their legitimacy, all of which indicate that statelessness for the Kurds involves choice as well.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConflict, insecurity and mobility
EditorsIbrahim Sirkeci, Jeffrey H. Cohen, Pinar Yazgan
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTransnational Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781910781098 , 1910781096
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Nation-state
  • statelessness
  • autonomy
  • state evasion
  • freedom
  • nationalism
  • choice


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