The Kurdish Question is forever evolving and shifting, involving the different regional countries including Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria who have all historically and brutally suppressed their own Kurdish populations. Also, other regional and international political stakeholders also vie for future influence in the region, such as Russia, the USA, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and France, to name but a few.
‘The Kurdish card game’ as it is sometimes referred to, of shifting alliances, strategic partnerships and support for different parties at any one given time continues unabated, as Kurds themselves generally feel under an increased existential threat despite their historic advances made in the struggle and defeat of Daesh/ISIS and the successful defence and rescue of the Ezidi population around Mount Sinjar in August 2014.
This is all especially poignant at this particular historic moment, post US withdrawal from Afghanistan, plus the 20th anniversary of September 11th, as the US reviews its presence in Iraq and Syria, Turkey flexes it’s expansionist muscles with military invasions into North and East Syria and Northern Iraq, and Iran begins shelling Kurdish fighters inside the borders of Northern Iraq on the very same day as this Podcast was recorded.
To help us understand and untangle some of the geopolitical complexities of these historic developments, we are very pleased to be joined on our Medya News Podcast today by Dr. Arzu Yilmaz of Hamburg University.
Dr. Yilmaz obtained her PhD in International Relations from Ankara University in Turkey, where she wrote her dissertation on Kurdish refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Prior to this, she received her MA in International Relations and MA in Gender Studies, also from Ankara University.
She spent seven years in KRI as a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Duhok and as the Chair of the Department of International Relations at the American University of Kurdistan.
Then she moved to Berlin in 2018 as Istanbul Policy Centre (IPC) – Mercator Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Since October 2019, Dr. Yilmaz has worked as an Alexander von Humboldt scholar at the University of Hamburg.
Dr. Yilmaz is the author of the book ‘From Atrush to Maxmur: Kurdish Refugees and Re-construction Identity,’ published in 2016. Her academic areas of interest are Middle East Politics, Migration and Gender Studies, while she has also published extensively on the Kurdish Question in academic journals as well as in newspapers and online publications.
I began, by suggesting to Dr Yilmaz that this is quite a poignant moment to be discussing these issues as the US pull out of Afghanistan is complete with the Taliban firmly in control in Kabul and just two days before the 20th anniversary of the downing of the twin towers by al Qaeda in New York, with nearly 3,000 deaths. We are all left wondering what was the so called ‘War on Terror’ all about?
And whether, if a similar withdrawal of US troops from Iraq were to happen, would there be a similar rush by radical forces to fill the vacuum of power in Iraq as well?
So I began my interview with Dr Yilmaz by asking her, “After Afghanistan, is the US now planning to pull out of Iraq? And if so, what are the likely outcomes of such a withdrawal?”