Internal Orients

Literary Representations of Colonial Modernity and the Kurdish ‘Other’ in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq

by Hawzhen Ahmed (Author)
©2022 Monographs 252 Pages


The author demonstrates sophisticated knowledge and understanding of Kurdish history and of postcolonial, poststructuralist, and related literary theories. This book gives rich contextual detail about Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi nation states, in which Kurds live and where, the author argues, they are systematically oppressed. The central argument in the book is that the Kurds represent an Orient within, and one that has been neglected in literary studies till now. The book places postcolonial theory in dialogue with literary critical depictions of Kemalist, Persian, and Ba’athist nationalisms in modern Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. It is argued that the ‘adaptive modernities’ of these states, constituted by Western modernity in the Middle Eastern context, embody Western colonialism in miniature. It argues that the Kurds are rendered colonial subjects within the borders of these states as portrayed by the texts under study. This book interrogates the polarizing ideology of nationhood which underpins these nation-states’ modernity and explores how the Kurds are inferiorized; it examines the ways in which Kurdish literary characters are oppressed and liquidated by means of the inhumane laws of state sovereignty and the ways in which they are rendered homeless within and beyond these countries; and it explores literary depictions of nationalist patriarchy, which exploits women in general and Kurdish women in particular.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1 Representations of Occidentalist Constructions and Racializing the Other
  • 2 Portraying Modernity’s Ambivalences, Nationalist Dualism, and Ethnic Rejection
  • 3 Illegal Spaces and Lawless Bodies within Nation-States
  • 4 Narrating Homelessness, Assimilations, and Unbelonging
  • 5 Constructions of Femininity in the World of Orientalist and Nationalist Patriarchy
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

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Nations as a natural, God-given way of classifying men, as an inherent though long-delayed political destiny, are a myth; nationalism, which sometimes takes pre-existing cultures and turns them into nations, sometimes invents them, and often obliterates pre-existing cultures: that is a reality, for better or worse, and in general an inescapable one.1

[W]here should the birds fly after the last sky?2



This book interrogates post-World War I Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi Ba’athist nationalist paradigms in several twenty-first–century Anglophone literary works centred on the Kurdish experiences. The works under study include W.C. Scheurer’s novella The Sayings (2003)3; eight poems from Choman Hardi’s collection Life for Us (2004)4; and four novels, namely Laleh Khadivi’s The Age of Orphans (2009)5 and The Walking (2013),6 Oya Baydar’s The Lost Word (2011),7 ←1 | 2→and Sophie Hardach’s The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages (2011).8 The novels, novella, and poems I examine in the present book fictionalize and narrativize Kurdish political and cultural experiences, attempting to articulate silenced Kurdish voices. These often-silenced voices have been frequently denied, especially in the twentieth century, yet a version of them is expressed through literary imaginations. By examining these primary texts, this book explores Kurds’ marginalized status and makes critical interventions into Turkish Kemalist, Persian, and Ba’athist discourses of racial exclusion. In so doing, I define and critique Turkey’s, Iran’s, and Iraq’s notions of ‘adjusted modernities’ and the associated attempts to create homogenous nations. These attempts, I argue, direct both cultural denial and political and actual violence towards the so-called non-Turkish, non-Persian, and non-Arab ‘Others’. These literary narratives are laden with the rhetoric of colonial modernity, which is propagated at the expense of nation-states’ subjects.9 The book provides a postcolonial reading of these texts in which Kurds are depicted as displaced and homeless, and their native Kurdish language, culture, and identity are disavowed. They are always longing for a home(land), especially when they are forced to leave their once-familiar ‘home’. Moreover, I explore literary narratives of the historical and political actualities of ←2 | 3→the postcolonial policy of modern nation-states towards the Kurds. In the texts the exposure of the Kurdish characters to the nation-states’ policies takes different forms in Turkey and Iran compared with Iraq. The modern nation-states of Turkey and Iran appear more like colonial phenomena and entities because both countries were, before their current configurations, imperial powers themselves. The case is different when it comes to Iraq, which is fully a postcolonial constructed state with no previous history of being an imperial power.

My argument centres on a critique of nationalism and the politics of nation-statehood. Terms like nation, state, nationalism, and nation-state are so contentious that it is difficult to settle on clear-cut definitions for them in a general sense. Many scholars have dealt with the concept of nation—the idea of nation is among the most unsettled terms when discussing notions of nationalism/state/nation-state. Anshuman Mondal divides these scholars into two major groups: ‘culturalists’, who argue that ‘the nation is primarily a cultural category’, and ‘statists’, who contend that it is mainly ‘a political category’. By discussing Anthony D. Smith and John Hutchinson’s arguments, Mondal notes that the nation is a ‘cultural community’ for these culturalists, ‘exist[ing] above and beyond any political organization of it into a state’, and that cultural and ‘historical meanings’ play a major role in gathering individuals under the umbrella of a given nation. Mondal then explains that the nation, for statists such as Ernest Gellner and John Breuilly, cannot exist outside the nationalist formation of the ‘modern state’. Moreover, both groups, as Mondal further notes, define nationalism from their culturalist and statist approaches. He says: ‘For the statists the [nationalist] doctrine is an invention of nationalist politicians, who thus invent the nation’, while culturalists believe that ‘the doctrine is […] not an invention but an expression of the “core” values of the nation: an expression of “national sentiment” which is not nationalist but rather national, deriving from the objective pre-existence of a proto-national cultural community’.10

Specific contexts, however, require unique approaches. While one approach may apply to one situation—for example, the Scots and the Kurds perceive themselves as nations without having a state of their own, while the concept of a French nation, a Turkish nation, or an Iranian nation has been developed since the establishment of the modern state—other contexts require a combination of approaches. Scholars, thus, have to adopt an agile tactic to suit particular ←3 | 4→historical and cultural circumstances. The idea of nation in Turkey and Iran is different from that in Iraq, since Turkish Kemalist and Pahlavi Persian nationalisms, as depicted by Oya Baydar, Sophie Hardach, and Laleh Khadivi, closely link nation and state, and politically use the cultural elements of Turkishness and Persianness to establish Turkey and Iran. Nationalism, then, puts Turkish and Iranian states in the service of Turkishness and Persianness upon the establishment of the state. Yet, Ba’athism reflects on the Arab nation without returning to the state in the first place. Its nationalist ideology of Arabness treats all Iraqi citizens—as portrayed by Choman Hardi’s “The Spoils, 1988” in Life for Us—based on the notions of pan-Arabism. In this work, I treat the concept of ‘nation’ as a discursive construct, one conceived by Kemalist, Persian, and Ba’athist nationalisms—as represented by the culture, language, history, collective myths, and ‘traditional practices’ of Turks, Persians, and Arabs, respectively—that marginalizes and denies the existence of non-Turks, non-Persians, and non-Arabs—mainly the Kurds.

In addition, by means of using the concept of state, I reference the political and governmental structure that has sovereignty over a geographical territory in which these nationalisms believe Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi nations live, and it also imposes the ideals of Turkishness, Persianness, and Arabness. I problematize the notion of the nation-state for being a nationalist formation, exploiting—and inventing—the cultural and linguistic elements of ‘Turkish and Persian nations’ to establish the ‘state’ and using state sovereignty to serve the narrow definitions of Turkishness and Persianness in my chosen texts. In Iraq, however, the Ba’athist nationalism (1968–2003), which was preceded by a number of governments since Iraq’s formation in 1921, was not the first to establish the Iraqi nation-state, unlike the Kemalist and Pahlavi nationalisms that established Turkey and Iran. Driven by its foundational origins and myths, the Ba’ath party exploited the state apparatus in such a way that the superiority of Arabic culture, language, collective myths, and history were considered a prerequisite for Iraqi society. In this work I treat Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi nation-states as producing and exploiting the concepts of nation and state against the Kurds.

The use of the term ‘Kurdistan’ also appears to be nationalistic in the sense of referring to a land that belongs only to Kurds; however, the employment of the term and the discourse around ‘Kurdistan’ in my book are not a form of nationalism. I treat the term ‘Kurdistan’ as representing a cultural home embracing Kurdish literary characters in this exclusionary world and supposedly protecting them from the denials and exclusions they experience on different levels, in different geographic locations, and from different state policies. The term’s occasional ←4 | 5→use by Choman Hardi, Laleh Khadivi, and other chosen writers as representing a geopolitical terrain acknowledges a home that Kurdish literary characters and speakers long for in the wake of exclusionary discourses against them. However, Kurdish nationalist worldviews as depicted by the explored narratives often fall into the traps of exclusion and violence. This Kurdish nationalistic exclusionary discourse is examined throughout this book, and my criticism of this discourse, which is focused on nationalist patriarchal worldviews, is mainly presented in the final chapter.

Colonial and Postcolonial Discourse(s)

Postcolonial nationalism, through its exclusions and inclusions, is colonialism’s heir. I claim that nationalism in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq (as in many other countries) is dualist and its route convoluted. It appears nativist, and yet it is inspired by Western interpretations of statehood, even though the enactment of Western colonial tools in Turkey differs from that in Iran, and it also varies between Iran and Iraq. The relationship between Western colonialism and modern Turkey and Iran is direct, inspired by full ‘modernization’ of social and cultural beliefs—enriched simultaneously by Turkish and Persian ethnic and historical dominant values. As far as Iraq is concerned, the exposure to Western colonial values is indirect, and it has to do with how Ba’athism—as a ruling ideology from 1968 to 2003—mainly derives its original ideology from the West.11 The Ba’athist interpretations and praxis of nation-state nationalism are mainly a discourse derivative of Western colonialism. Even though Turkey and Iran were not European colonies prior to the establishment of Middle Eastern nation-states, their political doctrines are depicted in the chosen texts as having adopted Orientalist discourses when referring to the Kurds. In his book The Colonial Present, Derek Gregory discusses the term ‘colonial present’, arguing that it maintains the structure of ‘the verb “to colonize”’, which he identifies as ‘the constellations of power, knowledge, and geography that […] continue to colonize lives all over the world’.12 In my book, nation-states are criticized for politicizing their dominant ethnicities.13 ←5 | 6→Establishing modern nations leads to colonial Arab, Persian, and Turkish dominance over other social categories.

Buttressed by politically defined borders and boundaries, these modern states colonize Kurds’ geography, culture, and language. The authors portray modern Iran, Turkey, and Iraq in their literary works as being heavily influenced by identity politics, colonial formations, and discursive subjectivizations.14 Thus, the narratives of colonialism take on new temporal and spatial shapes outside Western history and territory. The nation, in my chosen works, acts as a colonial agent, continually creating ‘differences’ between ‘us’ and ‘them’ within state borders.

Narrating Postcolonial Nation-State Constructions

Literary works on Kurdistan and the Kurds have been produced by both Kurdish and non-Kurdish writers and examine themes relating to the Kurdish postcolonial experiences following World War I. The majority of Kurdish novels have been produced in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region—which Kurds call Southern Kurdistan or the south of Kurdistan—since 1991, which marked Kurdish semi-independence from the Iraqi Ba’ath regime. Kurdish writers’ freedom to depict Kurdish political and cultural experiences has especially played a significant role in the growth of Kurdish novel writing.

Anglophone literature portraying the Kurds’ lives comes from international and transnational worldviews voicing criticism of the ongoing colonial policies towards the Kurds in the Middle East. To date there have been a limited ←6 | 7→number of anglophone literary works featuring the Kurds, but since the turn of the twenty-first century more English-language literature about Kurdistan and the Kurds has emerged, and I hope that my book will encourage future research on postcolonial Kurdistan - and other similar colonial cases - in the anglophone literary world.

By contrast, literature written in the Kurdish language mainly portrays Kurdish plights, rights, and struggles within the nation-states’ borders. Kurdish poets and novelists primarily focus on the bitter history Kurds have experienced in the wake of nation-states’ policies. The Kurdish poetry and novels of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries record Kurdish characters’ encounters with state oppression, exclusions, Kurdish national endeavours, and states’ mass killings, as well as Kurds’ lack of freedom and their homelessness.

Apart from the translation of a number of texts into international languages, literary works in the Kurdish language are mainly written for a Kurdish audience and have been unable to find an international readership. This is probably because of the weak role Kurdish language—like many other world languages—plays amongst other internationally spoken languages in terms of global communications. Meanwhile, Kurdish writers have rarely produced works in international languages. Choman Hardi, educated in the United Kingdom and one of the writers examined in this book, has written poetry in Kurdish; however, her decision to write in English, as with her Life for Us (2004), stems from the goal of telling an international readership about the political and cultural experiences of Kurds. However, Laleh Khadivi, another writer under study, is from Iranian Kurdistan—or, as Kurds call it, the east of Kurdistan or Eastern Kurdistan—but she was raised in the West and has no record of writing in Kurdish.

Literary works offer an intimate perspective that political and sociological commentaries cannot. They promote—possibly like no other form of writing—affective identification, solidarity, and empathy with the Kurdish plight. The texts chosen for the present book represent a form of reflexivity by the writers, such as in their portrayals of the status of women, especially Kurdish ones, and they also provide a form of counter-discourse, expressing sympathy with the Kurdish calamities in the postcolonial Middle East and criticism of states’ nationalist policies. Although a portion of Kurdistan is also located in (the northeast part of) Syria and the Kurds have also been subjected to Syrian-Arab colonial policy, I have been unable to find any English-language literary texts on this part of Kurdistan. This remains unstudied and constitutes a topic for future research about emergent anglophone literary texts depicting Kurdish life in postcolonial Syria.

←7 |

In the turn of the twenty-first century, several literary texts have been produced on Kurds in English language, and several literary works have also been translated from Kurdish into English. However, there is not an organized catalogue to list those works. Apart from the examined works in this book, the following are literary works written in, and also translated into, English. Those written originally in English are: Bells of Speech (2006) by Nazand Begikhani; Choman Hardi’s Considering the Women (2015); Jalal Barzanji’s Trying Again to Stop Time (2015); Alesa Lightbourne’s The Kurdish Bike (2016); No Friend but the Mountain (2018) by Behrouz Boochani; Echos from The Other Land (2010) and Daughters of Smoke and Fire (2020) by Ava Homa; and Gian Sardar’s Take What You Can Carry (2021). Meanwhile, those works translated from Kurdish into English include Kazhal Ahmed’s Translations of Poems (2008); Bakhtyar Ali’s I Stared at the Night of the City (2016); Kajal Ahmed’s Handful of Salt (2016); Hiva Panahi’s Secrets of the Snow: Kurdish Poetry (2016); Serko Bekas’ Butterfly Valley (2018); The Smell of Wet Bricks (2018) by Chiya Parvizpur; Dictionary of Midnight (2019) by Abdullah Pashew; Come Take a Gentle Stab (2021) by Salim Barakat; and Women’s Voices from Kurdistan: A Selection of Kurdish Poetry (2021) edited by Clémence Scalbert Yücel, Farangis Ghaderi, and Yaser Hassan Ali. The rationale behind the selection of the works under examination—apart from these mentioned works—in this book is thematic focused. The chosen works are closest respondents to the arguments—and their literary depictions fully portray the examined notional views—discussed in this book. Moreover, the investigated texts are written in highly artistic skills and the questions raised in this book are established in the light of their depictive images.

Resistance Literature

The literary texts under discussion are part of resistance literature; the writers’ aims and objectives revolve around the notion of resistance to nation-statehood repressions and denials. However, the resistance literature I am referring to takes on a different shape, or a broader scope, compared with that outlined by Barbara Harlow in her book Resistance Literature (1987). According to Harlow, resistance literature is ‘a particular category of literature that emerged significantly as part of the organized national liberation struggles and resistance movements in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East’. She also defines this type of literature as parallel to armed struggles for liberation15 and describes national ←8 | 9→language as playing an influential role in writing resistance literature.16 In my book, the notion of resistance enjoys more freedom and a broader understanding; the texts have been written by Kurdish and non-Kurdish writers and still act as a tool for resistance in the face of the states’ colonial policies. Moreover, they are not written in the Kurdish language but in English,17 thereby stepping beyond the idea that nations and peoples should only use their native languages to resist the systems of domination through their creative writings.18 The approach taken by the chosen writers is humanistic, reiterating Paulo de Medeiros’ remark, that ‘literary representation’ and ‘the poetic voice’ stand in the face of sovereignty as a means of ‘denounc[ing] the abuses of power that constantly threaten to engulf human societies’.19 Confining Harlow’s definition of resistance literature to works produced only during ‘organized resistance movements and national liberation struggles’ for being ‘a very site and history specific literature’20 seems to harm the pervasive impact of resistance itself. As Medeiros puts it, ‘resistance’ cannot be treated as an isolated constituent; it loses its meaning when Harlow’s explanation is applied: ‘Clearly, all poetry, all literature, is site and history specific.’21

I employ the notions of resistance literature for the selected literary texts of this book. The works are imaginative vehicles whereby modern Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi nation-building is expressed, national narratives interrogated, and nation-state politics reimagined. But the writers chosen for this book go beyond nationalism’s idealistic formation of the nation; their texts are postnational, they critique the fixed ideals of nation, and some of them think beyond their own nationalities. The chosen works, however, do not fight just one method ←9 | 10→of oppression and are distinct from national projects of nation-making. For Cornelia Grabner and David Wood, the ‘work of art’ is an ‘act of resistance’ by the writer as a means of establishing a network of resistance through others’ readings of his/her works; ‘author and reader’ can thus give birth to a powerful tool of resistance.22 The examined writers correspondingly perform an act of resistance by means of witnessing and documenting the histories and methods of modern nation-state oppressions in the Middle Eastern countries under exploration.

Crossing National Boundaries

Elleke Boehmer notes Benedict Anderson’s argument that ‘the modern novel is a key site where the nation is articulated’.23 Although the novels and novella analysed in this book are not written only by Kurdish writers, these texts’ depictions of modern nation-statehood affirm the validity of Anderson’s declaration. W.C. Scheurer is American himself. Yet, his The Sayings questions past US policy towards the Kurds—and attempts to lay the groundwork for an alternative US polity instead—and steps beyond his own background in order to become a transnational humanitarian voice. This falls within the boundaries of resistance to the past policies towards the Kurds. Scheurer, as an American, refuses to accept the political reality and proposes an alternative policy through his act of writing. He has also witnessed the inequalities the Kurds have experienced, and his The Sayings proposes that the United States should further consider the rights of Kurds.

Although Sophie Hardach, a German Jewish woman, says that if a Kurd had written her novel The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages it would probably look different,24 it is yet another example of transnational solidarity with people from other backgrounds. Hardach’s Jewish background, which relates to a history of migration and displacement, is mirrored in the life of the Kurdish protagonist, Selim, in her novel. The title of the novel, meanwhile, is a curious one for presenting the perceived forced marriage of a Kurdish couple in France and the Kurds’ migration experience in the West. It shows how difficult ←10 | 11→it is to understand Kurdish cultural codes and women’s burdens in carrying on traditions in the diaspora. Moreover, being narrated by a non-Kurdish writer, the incidents in Selim’s life in the diaspora are depicted from the perspective of a transnational authorship that makes the Kurdish experience visible from different angles, rather than presenting the world from a Kurdish standpoint.

Oya Baydar is Turkish, and her novel The Lost Word, originally published in Turkish as Kayıp Söz (2008), speaks from an intellectual perspective. She tries to fight against the binaries created by Turkey and Turkish elites towards the Kurds. Having such a Turkish voice in this book is important, since it introduces some friendliness and solidarity between Turks and Kurds, with the novel resisting all of the asymmetrical relationships and hostile polarities that have been created between these two ethnicities for many decades by the Turkish state.

The other chosen writers in the present book, Laleh Khadivi and Choman Hardi, are Kurdish, and they are directly influenced by the history and political lives of Kurds, albeit in different ways, which they narrate in their works. Khadivi, who has no direct personal experience of Kurdish political events and has been living in the United States from an early age, has been influenced by her Kurdish parents’ lives in depicting the Kurds’ predicaments and displacement in her The Age of Orphans and The Walking.

Hardi, however, is different from the others in that she herself has lived the terrible history of the Kurds and directly experienced the displacement she portrays in her Life for Us. Her poetry is mostly narrated in the first person, as if to reveal a closer insight into the poet’s and other Kurds’ lives. In a BBC interview, Hardi describes how she uses poetry as a vehicle for storytelling,25 and the simple language of her poetry is highly effective in telling the story of the Kurds. I chose to analyse eight poems from Hardi’s collection to ensure a sustained, in-depth focus on those poems that are most relevant to the examined themes of my book.

One of the aims of choosing texts from writers of different backgrounds is to move beyond the fixed boundaries of nation-statehood and ‘national’ language. The choice of texts is a way of supporting the idea that identity—in this multicultural world—can be changeable, shifting, and fluid, although not in the way of creating unbalanced power relations whereby superiorities and inferiorities are born. The legacy of colonial modernities is questioned by non-fictional works critical of nationalism, on the one hand, and literary texts, on the other. ←11 | 12→Moreover, the texts I have chosen feed into the theories adopted and incorporated into this book. I have tried to interweave text and theory throughout.

Orientalism and Occidentalism

Scholars like Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit discuss the term ‘Occidentalism’ as meaning behaviours that go against Western values, modes of life, and modernity in response to Western Orientalism, by employing binaristic worldviews while imagining the West.26 Meltem Ahıska also notes that for some non-Westerners, Occidentalism has also been a crucial means of resisting ‘the colonizing West’. However, as Ahıska adds, scholars who preceded Buruma and Margalit argued that Occidentalism has a connotation that is the opposite of anti-Westernism; it refers to Westernism.27 In this book, I mainly interpret the terms ‘Occidentalism’ and ‘Occidentalist’ in the chosen literary works as referring to Eastern subjects constructing themselves in accordance with Western images. Occidentalism in the selected texts pertains to the process of Easterners’ self-westernization. In light of this, I employ Couze Venn’s remark that ‘Occidentalism’ embodies the trajectory of ‘modernity’, a combination of ‘capitalism’ and ‘European colonialism’. For Venn, ‘Occidentalism’ is a way of presenting oneself as ‘the becoming-modern of the world’ and ‘the becoming-West of Europe’ by means of adopting ‘Western modernity’ as being the most favourable structure for life.28 Thus, I use the terms ‘Occidentalism’ and ‘occidentalization’ as mediums whereby colonial modernity is reproduced in non-Western spaces—in cultural terms—such as Turkey (or Pahlavi Iran).

The ideas of European modernity have been adopted by Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi nation-states, both directly and indirectly, and this type of modernity is the founding fiction whereby nationalist Iranians and Turkish Westernists, and to a lesser degree the Ba’athists,29 define as modern everything which they oppose ←12 | 13→against ‘backward’, ‘traditional’, and ‘a-modern’ elements of society. But Venn suggests that modernity has been ‘unable to reconcile the diversity of cultures, for it could not separate its avowed goal of universal emancipation and liberation from its own history of subjugation’.30 Piyel Haldar argues that constructing ‘Occidental legality and subjectivity’ is maintained when ‘the East’ is perceived to ‘perform […] a transgressive function’.31 The colonial ideals of ‘civilizing unruly’ people go hand in hand with mythmaking projections in order to present the idea of racial superiority.32 The construction of such racial prejudice through ‘reason’ and ‘knowledge’33 is an active apparatus whereby the discrimination against the Kurds is justified. My argument in the present work is that these literary works illustrate the same structural relationship between West and non-West inside Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Orientalism (1978), Edward Said explores the way Europe has imagined ‘the Orient’ through its various texts and modes of representation. For Said, Orientalism as a hegemonic notion is founded on the illusion of ‘an ontological and epistemological distinction’ ‘between “the Orient” and […] “the Occident”’.34 European colonial representations of India, China, and the Middle East took this ‘distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, “mind”, destiny, and so on’.35

Although Said did not often write about the Kurds, and postcolonial scholarship has mostly turned away from the topic, Turkish and Persian (and Ba’athist) nationalists feed on Orientalist constructions of ‘the East’. When I use the term ‘Orientalism’ in this book, I refer not only to the body of texts written by Western Orientalists in the past centuries but also to those established constructions that have been treated as facts by Orientalist ideas. I use the term in the way nation-states where Kurds have been living draw on the vestiges of ←13 | 14→Orientalism’s ideological status. Edmund Burke III notes that Kemalist nationalism used Leon Cahun’s Orientalist writings in constructing the modern nation. The Iranian Pahlavi state, meanwhile, took inspiration from the writings of the French Orientalist Gobineau, who promoted the idea of ‘the Persian origins of the ancient Aryans’.36 James Carrier observes that for many scholars ‘Occidentalisms and Orientalisms’ act ‘not just to draw a line between societies, but also to draw a line within them’. Carrier contends that this process ‘is likely to be particularly pronounced in societies that self-consciously stand on the border between occident and orient’.37 It is in this last respect that my book examines the literary representations of how social and political policies have contributed to an internal colonization of Kurds. Post-war Turkish and Iranian nation-states were caught up in twentieth-century political pressures to westernize, and secular democracy was presented as an essential prerequisite for their modernization. The West’s modernity has inferiorized many ‘pre-modern’ and ‘undeveloped’ non-Western regions. Although the Iraqi Ba’ath regime always defined itself as promoting anti-Western models of governance, it was nonetheless a colonial remnant and a postcolonial phenomenon.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (July)
Internal Orients: Literary Representations of Colonial Modernity and the Kurdish ‘Other’ in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq Hawzhen Rashadaddin Ahmed Anglophone Literature Kurdish women Kurds Modernity Displacement Nationalism Colonial discourse Orientalism Occidentalism
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. VIII, 252 pp.

Biographical notes

Hawzhen Ahmed (Author)

Hawzhen Rashadaddin Ahmed has a PhD in Postcolonial Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. He is currently the head of the academic committee of undergraduate and postgraduate studies and a lecturer of literary theory, critical theory, and postcolonial literature in the Department of English at Soran University, in Iraqi Kurdistan Region. He has so far published articles on language policy in the KRI, postmodern alienation, feminist theatre, ecocrticism and comparative literary studies. He has also participated in many international conferences in the United Kingdom and inside the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.


Title: Internal Orients