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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

3 - The End of Kurdish Autonomy

from Part I - Historical Legacies


This chapter argues that one of the longest-surviving forms of local, indirect administration that actually predated the Ottomans were the Kurdish emirates. In most parts of the empire, the Ottomans, like the European governments, for example, relied on a system of indirect rule whereby the local magnates recognized the ruler’s suzerainty. The rise of the modern state and the expansion of its institutions diminished the need for what might be called a symbiotic relationship between the imperial centre and the peripheral power-holders like the Kurdish aristocracy. This practice of ending local autonomies, whereby central states abandoned their ‘confederal organization’ during widespread civil wars, allowed them to replace decentralized structures of politics with administratively and territorially cohesive regimes (Maier, 2006: 43). In Ottoman Kurdistan, the process of centralization and replacing the indirect rule of the Kurdish aristocracy with the direct rule of the government appointees was made possible by a parallel development: the making of the Ottoman-Iranian boundaries and the permanent division of Kurdistan that has been evolving for quite some time. The elimination of Kurdish dynasts, who hitherto held power at the borderland, facilitated the making of the boundary even as the making of the boundary facilitated their elimination.