Washington Post: Professor Watts on Redefining the Kurdish Nation

Monday, March 02, 2015
Photo of Halabja in Iraq by Chris DeBuryn

WASHINGTON POST -- Political Science Professor Nicole F. Watts writes a long-form opinion piece on the Kurdish parliament’s decision to designate Halabja as the fourth official province in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

“The decision to make Halabja a province is striking for many reasons,” Watts writes. “First, it is a symbol of survival and reconstruction in the face of brutal repression. Additionally, it expands the administrative scope of Kurdish rule relative to the rest of Iraq. Further, dis-attaching this symbolically crucial geography from the Sulaimani province of which it has been part can be seen as further evidence of the changing balance of power between the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party and the once influential Patriotic Union of Kurdistan that until recently controlled the northeastern part of autonomous Kurdistan.

“But Halabja-as-province is also significant as a story of ordinary Kurds’ pushback against the tight hold of both these parties over political and economic life in the Kurdistan region. Designating Halabja a province was among demonstrators’ key demands in the 2006 protest that destroyed the Halabja Monument of Martyrs, and politicians visiting the city had found themselves remonstrated again and again by local people demanding not just better services and infrastructure but a decentralization of power that would grant Halabja more say over its own affairs and how its symbolic legacy of suffering would be used.”

Photo: Security on the perimeter of Halabja, Iraq. Photo by Chris DeBruyn.