March 24, 2020, 5:30pm
The Origins of the Kurdish Question: Sèvres, Lausanne and the Partition of Ottoman Kurdistan
Presenter: Djene Rhys Bajalan
Location: McNeil Center for Early American Studies, Stephanie Grauman Wolf Room | 3355 Woodland Walk, University of Pennsylvania

Historians of the Kurdish question have often presented the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the Great War as a ‘missed opportunity’ for Kurdish nationalists to establish and independent Kurdish homeland. Indeed, the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, signed in the summer of 1920, provided the Ottoman Kurdish community with a pathway to independence. However, just three years later, the Treaty of Lausanne, a treaty that provided no provision on Kurdish statehood, superseded Sèvres leaving the Kurds ‘stateless’. Consequently, the question of why the Kurds failed to acquire a nation-state, at a time when the Middle East was being remade along ‘national’ lines, has both haunted Kurdish nationalists and animated scholarly discussion. This talk will examine the existing historiographical debate pertaining to this issue and call into question some of the underlying assumptions that have framed the debate over the last century. 

Dr. Djene Rhys Bajalan is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Missouri State University. He holds a DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford and has both studied and taught in Great Britain, Turkey, and Iraqi Kurdistan. His research focuses on the Ottoman Kurdish community and the emergence of Kurdish political activism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He is the author of Jön Kürtler: Birinci Dünya Savaşı'ndan Önce Kürt Hareketi 1898-1914 (2010), co-editor of Studies in Kurdish History: Empire, Ethnicity and Identity (2015) as well as the author of a number of scholarly articles. He also serves on the editorial board of the journal Kurdish Studies and has contributed to publications including Open DemocracyJadaliyyaAhval, and Jacobin.

Middle East Center, co-sponsored by: Department of Political Science (PSCI), The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy