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

29 - A History of Kurdish Theatre

from Part VI - Art, Culture and Literature


Modern Kurdish theatre emerged and developed differently in countries in which the Kurds live. This chapter traces these divergent histories in Soviet Armenia and Georgia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and within the diaspora. These histories, particularly in the Middle East, are mired in persecution, repression and violence. In defiance of decades of assimilationist policies, ethnocide and genocide, grassroots efforts were made to build the foundations of a modern Kurdish theatre. Kurdish intelligentsia used theatre as a nation-building institution and a vehicle for safeguarding their language, literature and culture. While in Soviet Armenia these efforts were supported by the state, an outright ban on the Kurdish language and years of political repression and turmoil stifled the growth of Kurdish theatre in the Middle East. Although Kurds are still a marginalized group struggling to achieve basic human rights, the resilience of their theatre artists has resulted in ground-breaking productions, such as that of Hamlet in 2012–13, demonstrating to all that no amount of political repression can eliminate Kurdish identity. It is of utmost importance to document this remarkable history to understand modern Kurdish society and to not allow these events to be forgotten to time.