Communalism and the state in Iraq: The Yazidi Kurds, c.1869-1940

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This article concentrates on Yazidi tribal, religious and ethnic identities as sources of communal mobilization which provided a continuous interaction between the members of the group and the surrounding environment. The development of socio-economic and political solidarities that crossed communal boundaries was an important dimension of a continuous process of exchange and strategic negotiation which occurred between the Iraqi Yazidis and the cultural, socio-economic and political spheres within which they operated. In particular, the complex patterns of socio-economic and political identification which developed among the community in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were closely related to the impact of state power. After the appointment of Midhat Pasha to the governorship of Baghdad in 1869, the application of the Tanzimat reforms to the Mosul province, which was followed by the enforcement of pan-Islamic policies (1876-1909), resulted in intensified attempts on the part of the Ottoman state to impose more pervasive forms of political and social control over Mosul and its rural hinterland. Attempts at administrative centralization, the developments of a more intergrated regional economy that depended increasingly on the world market, and a new emphasis on Muslim solidarities were of particular relevance for developments which affected the Yazidi community in the late Ottoman period. After World War I the foundation of the modern state of Iraq, which coincided with the establishment of British mandatory rule in the areas of Yazidi settlement, ushered in a new era of state control. Although the political developments of the 1920s and 1930s did not change the basis of Yazidi solidarity, the contingencies of nation building enforced new modes of state-society interaction which had a widespread impact on communal and intercommunal relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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