Observation About Colonial Borders Splitting Tribes

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Observation About Colonial Borders Splitting Tribes

Post by Pat »

Our author makes the very familiar observation that borders drawn by European colonial masters almost invariably split tribes.

The most notorious border because of the number of people involved was the splitting of the Kurds between Turkey (15 million per http://www.CIA.gov/factbook), Iraq (5-6 million) and Iran (5-6 million).

[Though technically, the failure to give the Kurds their own country was not due to "colonial masters" but to the lines drawn by the League of Nations in parceling out "Protectorates" carved from the old Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.]

Our author describes the tragedies experienced by the tribes on "the periphery" (that is, in the mountains or the desert).

However, it is easy to nod in agreement that the colonial masters were terrible human beings without focusing on why they drew the borders where they did, that they wound up splitting tribes in the most inaccessible areas precisely because the areas in which they lived were so inaccessible and, therefore, from the viewpoint of the "centers" as our author terms them, those areas comprised buffers or borders.

In this regard, it is interesting to note that the very first assignment Sir Winston Churchill had upon graduating from Sandhurst (England's West Point) was with the Malakand Field Force in (if memory serves) 1898 when it was virtually annihilated in the Malakand area of Pakistan's tribal areas (please see the map on p. 47 of our text for the Malakand area). [Churchill's book on his experiences with the Malakand Field Force were contained in a book by that title which was his first-ever publication.]

With respect to the Kurds, there are two important things to note = (1) the Kurds are the world's largest nationality NOT to have their own country which would, if it existed, rank about the 47th largest among the world's 242 countries, and (2) although the Kurds of Turkey and Iran are repressed by their host governments, the Kurds of northern Iraq were protected from Saddam Hussein by a U.S./U.K. "no fly zone" imposed following Gulf War I (which also protected the majority Shiites in the south against the ruling Sunnis in the west); in the wake of the Iraq War, the Kurds of Iraq have continued to enjoy autonomy.

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