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Duration: 02:22:40



Hello everyone and thank you for

attending this virtual event

on The Making and Unmaking of Borders

and State.

My name is Ali Bedhad and I'm the

Director of the Center for Near Eastern

Studies at UCLA and on behalf of my

colleagues both here at UCLA and at USC,

I would like to welcome you

here today.

Before I introduce our panelists, I would

like to take this opportunity to thank

several colleagues who have played

important role in

making today's event possible.

Above all, I wish to thank professor Asli

Bâli for her tireless effort to make

MESA Global Academy such a successful

initiative. Global Academy, as you may

know, has been able to sustain

collaborative research and knowledge

production among MENA focused scholars

from the region and beyond.

As well, we are thankful to Mimi Kirk the

program manager of Global Academy for

all her logistical and organizational


Also, I wish to express my gratitude to

my USC colleagues Laurie Brandt, Sarah [...]

Ramsey [...]

as well as my UCLA colleagues and


Aciksoz and Kevan Harris, Zeynep Korkman

and Sondra Hale for their support.

Finally, I wish to give a shout out to

our program director Johanna Romero and

our program coordinator Christian

Rodriguez for their help with logistical


Thirty years ago, the anthropologist

Roger Rouse observed, "We live in a

confusing world. A world of crisscross

economies, intersecting systems of

meaning and fragmented identities.

Suddenly, the comforting imagery of

nation state and natural languages of

coherent communities and consistent

subjectivities of dominant centers and

distant margins no longer seems adequate."

And yet ironically

we are today far from the post-modern

utopia or else imagine the world

becoming at that moment in global


Indeed, the phenomena of globalization

that he referenced at the time has

produced in recent years uncomfortable

nationalist sentiments and rigid border

walls that have prevented the

realization of an open world marked by

crossing of subjective cultural

geographical and national borders.

Today's conference aims to explore some

of the forces and conditions that have

led to the dystopic moments we're living.

A moment marked by state building,

poverty, and the politic of despair

throughout the MENA region.

We're fortunate today to have three

distinguished speakers who will present

on this topic as well as two of our own

colleagues who will be the discussants.

I'm going to introduce each speaker

before their presentation.

Our first speaker

is Dilan Okcuoglu

who is currently at the American


A political scientist from Turkey,

Doctor Okcuoglu's

research focuses on the

territorial character of ethnopolitical

violence in Turkey.

Her dissertation mapped out the

strategies, form, and mechanism of

territorial control in the Kurdish

border in the borderlands of Turkey,

examining how state policies on


land, and property ownership have

undermined Turkey's democratization

attempts and challenged a two-year peace

process which came to a halt in July

2015. Her research

offers extensive data on the lived

experience of Kurdish people from the

borders as the ethnographic data for her

dissertation stems from year-long field

work carried out in Turkey's Kurdish


Her teaching and research interest

primarily lie in the politics of MENA

conflict and peace studies, comparative

territorial and border politics,

democratization, ethnic politics, and

nationalism as well as state minority

relations in conflict zone.

I am now going to introduce also

our two discussions um and I will do

that only at the beginning, so we will

have time.

Um as I said we are fortunate to have

professors Can Aciksoz

of UCLA and Laurie Brand of USC.


Aciksoz is an assistant professor of

anthropology after receiving his PhD

from the University of Texas at Austin,

he served as a Mellon postdoctoral

fellow at the college of William and

Mary and an assistant professor of

Middle Eastern Studies at the University

of Arizona before he came to UCLA.

His first book, Sacrificial Limbs:

Masculinity, Disability, and Political

Violence in Turkey, which was published

by UC Press in 2019

centers on disabled veterans of Turkish

Kurdish war.

Chronicling veterans post injury lives

and political activism, this important

book examines how veterans experiences

of war and disability are closely linked

to class, gender, and ultimately the

embrace of ultra-nationalist right-wing


Dr. Brand, who received her PhD from

Columbia University is the Robert

Grandford Wright Professor of

International Relations and Middle

Eastern Studies at


She served as the Director of the Center

for international studies from 1997 to

2000 as the director of the school of

international relation from 2006 to 2009

and as the director of the Middle East

studies program and then chair of the

department of Middle Eastern studies.

A past president of Middle East Studies

Association of North America,

she specializes in Middle East

International relations and inter Arab


A Rockefeller Bellagio Center resident

scholar, a Carnegie Scholar and a

four-time Fulbright scholar to the

Middle East and North Africa, she

is the author of numerous books

including Palestine in the Arab World:

Columbia University Press, 1988. Jordan's

Inter-Arab Relations, which is about the

political economy of alliance making,

also by Columbia in 1994.

Women, the State and Political

Liberalization, also by Columbia in 1998.

Citizens Abroad: States and Migration in

the Middle East and North Africa,

Cambridge University Press in 2006.

And Official Stories:

Politics and National Narratives in

Egypt and Algeria

which was published by Stanford

University Press in 2014. So I'm grateful

to both of them to to be here. Now with

regard to the format of the conference

each of the three panelists will give

somewhere between 15 to 20 minute

presentation followed by short responses

from our discussants. And then the

virtual floor will be open for

discussions. And then we will take five

minutes break between each panel, so

please keep your zoom on. You can just

silence, I mean mute and and leave it on.

And I ask the panelists to please keep

their presentation within the allocated


and the audience to please post your

questions on the q & a section of the zoom

below your screen.


Okcuoglu, this the floor is yours.

Thank you very much

Ali for this uh generous introduction.

I'm very happy

uh to have this chance of presenting my


to our

audience today and having this chance

to be part of the community alongside

other very prominent


So today's presentation is titled State

Building in Borderlands: Control of the

Turkish State on an Everyday

Level. And uh these


which will

turn into


is part of my broader research which

relies on

my PhD dissertation

that I finished in Canada in 2019.


in that broader project uh

I uh looked at um,

like I explored the mechanisms of

territorial control in Turkey's Kurdish




particularly focused on people's lived

experiences because in political science,

we usually emphasize the importance of

policies and institutions, but we give

much less emphasis on people's lived

experiences and how those narratives can

contribute to

theory development

but also offer rich empirical insights.


this was the main uh motivation and

objective and I uh

did this kind of research. And of course,

I had personal motivations uh as a

Kurdish woman from Turkey uh and also

from Kurdistan. So uh I have personal

motivations to do this kind of uh

research even if

in certain uh circumstances, having

personal motivations and sharing them

with the academic audience may seem to

undermine the potential of your work, uh

I actually changed myself in the

complete opposite


And I believe that

like gaining

insider outsiders uh

perspectives on the issue have a lot to

contribute. And I will of course be very

happy to talk about that during the q a

uh if

you want to

explore that side of the research as

well because I have a separate section

uh in this draft in the article uh where

I also talk about uh

my experiences uh in the field work as

an insider outsider researcher. It's

more about like reflexivity and

positionality. So I of course also had

academic motivations while conducting

this kind of research uh because I

realized that there's a huge gap in the

literature even if there's a work on

territoriality and there is a

growing literature on border politics. Uh

the number of research on Kurdish

borderlands uh

in political science literature,

particularly comparative politics and

international relations was still pretty

low. So uh my work also aims to fill that

gap within

in the existing literature.

Um so

in December 2011,

Thirty-four uh Kurdish



smugglers– again we can talk about

terminology as well uh

during the q a during the discussion.

Thirty four villagers uh were killed uh in the

Turkish airstrike while they were

crossing the Turkish Iraqi borderlands.


and this happened, this airstrike

happened uh during the so-called Kurdish


which is uh known as

Kurdish friendly uh minority reform

process uh in the literature. And

this was also known as part of broader

democratization package like democratic

initiatives that was taken place in




2009 I would say. This was the latest



and it came to an halt in 2015 summer

and this uh attack occurred in the

middle of that reform process.

So uh of course that that addressed the

kind of paradox uh in the literature as

well because uh in minority reform and

democratization literature,

there are several scholars who argue


minority reforms and

democratization would reduce


A quote unquote would pacify


minority mobilization uh in

conflict-ridden contexts. Uh but it

didn't happen in the case of uh

Turkey and the the

treatment of Kurds in Turkey, like within

the Turkish Kurdish context. That was

quite opposite. So uh this seemed to be a

very good paradox when I started the

research because in poli- sci, as you

well know,

scholars are encouraged to find like

puzzling situations okay. Um

so uh even if it was a kind of starter

for me, I rephrased the question

uh along the path because the more you

read and the more time you spend in

Kurdistan, in Kurdish borderlands, of

course this gives you more insights

about what's going on on the ground and

you go back to your question and where

you started and you tend to uh revise it

uh and then I ended up

with a slightly different question but

it also directly speaks to what I said

at the beginning, Uh so for today's talk

um I would like to focus on that

particular question, which is also the

focus of this paper. How does the

territorial configuration logic

of uh the Turkish state affect the

everyday lives uh

in the Kurdish borderlands? And as I said

because this is a part of the broader

research project, uh

of course, I

tend to explore

uh something more comprehensive for the

book that I would like to

you know publish in the next five six

years. Um


the question for the book for now is why

state building practices contain


and control, in some cases,


increase it in some other cases?


because these mechanisms of territorial

control are also instruments of state



there are scholars who addressed that

state building

uh contains violence

uh but uh it is not, it's the kind of

controversial uh argument uh in the

growing literature and there are also

some scholars who published quite

recently and they challenged that

argument and they showed that it may

have quite opposite impact

in some other situations.

Uh and why is this the case?

And I believe that a Kurdish

example and the Turkish Kurdish context

uh can uh offer rich insights um

to explore uh and to answer uh this kind

of question.

So the argument in this uh paper is that

Turkish authorities uh, of course, as I

said it drove on my interview data

and I had more than 100 interviews. So

Turkish authorities use a combination

formal – is a combination of

formal programs and policies alongside

informal ones. And the letter

is led by the creation of high level of

uncertainty and ambivalence as state

strategies depend heavily on getting

into people's minds and emotional worlds.

So specifically using informal control

maintains administrative and demographic


And the interview data

shows that

informal control makes it easier for the

state to enforce formal control.

So this is the structure of the um

paper and for today's presentation. So


of course, I will share some details of

theoretical framework. But then I will

quickly make it,

make a jump to my findings


and then if you have questions about any

of this,

like methods

or analysis or theoretical framework, I

will be happy to answer them during the

q & a.



of course this research uh contributes



several sets of literature um including

territorial control,

civil wars,

divided societies,


Turkish studies, Kurdish studies as well

as comparative territorial and

border studies.

Uh you can see some of the uh

influential books. Uh of course Can's

book is also um one of the very

prominent bonds uh

and um he got awarded with uh

by several uh institutions. Um


this uh

of course uh,

this article makes contribution uh and

engaged with all these literatures. Uh

but let me just continue with the

specifics of my theoretical framework.

Uh so in this paper, as I said, I

conceive territorial control as an

instrument, it's a subset of uh

state building. So here uh then the

question is how do you understand state

building, like what are the forms of

state building. So uh of course uh here,


there are two uh basic terms uh which

are slightly different than each other

but they may be used interchangeably

in different um theoretical frameworks

and different theoretical uh

perspectives. So state capacity versus

state presence. Uh so the increased state

presence uh would

lead to reduced violence or increased

state presence would lead to

increased violence depending on the

context. Uh so

that was again one of the starting

points and I'm still working on that

aspect so that I can

improve it and make it more precise

uh when I make this,

when I submit this piece uh

to a journal in my field. So this

theoretical framework uh adopts a


lens and I borrowed this perspective uh

from Annette Idler who um

published a

very insightful book on the borderlands

of Colombia and Venezuela.


borderlands are not treated as



peripheral geographies but instead of

that, they are treated more like

separate political spaces

which have their own internal logic. So

this research is also

an attempt to explore to unpack uh that

kind of specific border logic

and how it operates

in Turkish Kurdish borderlands.

Uh and another important feature of this

perspective is that we have to um

explore the human landscape

because it contributes to this actor

oriented focused um understanding

of the conflict as well, so,

um there is the like human landscape of

multiple actors, uh ranging from

civilians villagers to village guards

and uh Kurdish guerrillas.

So during this research, I had chance to

speak with several

actors including lawyers, village guards,



who lost property couple times,

Kurdish guerrillas,

state officials but

not much of course and I will be happy

to talk about the why.

And also um

judges and prosecutors. So this again

this perspective relies on lived

experiences but

uh emotions and the political agency

constitutes a significant part of it. And

I perceive a bottom-up approach in order


challenge a state-centric top-down

approaches. So here uh

I adopt a micro approach in the study of

conflict by focusing on individuals'

everyday experiences and emotions in

borderlands. So this is the main finding,

which I call typology of territorial

control uh. And again

this is part of the broader uh research.

So uh for this paper I only look at the

second row, uh which is administrative

and demographic control. So

according to this table we can say that

these mechanisms of territorial control

uh leads to these kind of experiences.

For instance, state aims to protect the


or establish sovereignty.

And in some cases these are all

again instruments of state building but

also national building uh and then

states use a control of a movement

across borders uh as one of the

mechanisms of territorial control to

maintain control uh over territory but

also people. And then people

have this different experience than the

policy or practice that's implemented.

That practice can be disruption of

minority space and cultural practices uh

or displacement and loss of property or

militarization as well as uh denial of

cultural practices but also unemployment

and the violation of rights to move.

So um



I would like to focus more on

administrative and demographic control

here in this uh presentation. So

administrative and demographic control

of course, I think define it in the

paper but here in this presentation, let

me just briefly read the description.

Uh administrative and demographic

control refer to a set of state

practices and policies

uh used to administrative administer

people and reshape their territory

um by the use of

quote unquote called official administrative

mechanisms in a that would create a new

maybe geography and topography

which is in accordance with states

official ideology. So here I look at two

primary examples.

One is a central village project uh

which came into place in early 2000s.

And from the perspective of the state,

the goal



offer uh

public goods

uh much easily uh

and uh

to make uh

people's lives uh

more comfortable. Uh so they have this

kind of administrative motivation or

that's what is told to people, that's how

it's justified.

Um and there are some reports and state

documents uh as well as NGO publications

on that um. And one of the very well

known examples is Konalga project from

uh Van. Konalga is the second largest

Kurdish city uh which is right beside

Iran um but this project failed, uh so

the state didn't continue uh to build

center villages uh and towns. So

uh the other example is the registry of

deed and cadastre procedure. Uh and both

of these examples are used to unpack

how administrative and demographic

control were experienced

by people.

Or if

states uh was quote unquote successful

uh in its implementation of this kind of

uh policy.

uh and if it wasn't for administrative

purposes, then what was it for?

Because these interviews

tell us a different story.

So the question is what are the

political implications of the gap

between people's experiences and the

policy attempt.

Um so this is a picture from Konalga, you

see all these

houses are identical. Uh or this is what

I was told that this picture is from

Konalga. I couldn't go to Konalga uh even

if I had a chance to travel in remote

towns and villages. And I also stayed

there like lived in those towns. Uh so

Konalga was actually built uh for more

than three thousand people

and uh

like uh there were like eight scattered

hamlets in the same area uh and

by the establishment of this kind of

center village, uh the states it was

again, bringing all these scattered

helmets together and moving people from

those hamlets to those central towns. Um

and then they built more than 300 houses

uh and the town was located more than

100 kilometers away from the border

itself. Uh so in one of the interviews

for instance, when I uh talk about the

example itself, uh

the interview uh

said the following. And he was a very

experienced journalist uh who was

originally from Hakkâri which is again

another border city uh

which is located in the south

of [...] and right beside Iran and Iraqi

Kurdistan. So here is what he says about

the project.

A significant number of people, almost

everyone, were recruited as village


This project became part of state

security agenda. People lost their lands,

turned into unskilled labor,

and unemployment increased.

The buildings failed to respond people's


They were built in the landslide site.

Um so these people were uh

doing like uh

uh animal farming and uh agriculture, but

uh and they were not

living in this kind of

apartments they all owned houses because

they also needed


uh in order to survive and make a living

earn a living.

Snd they were not, all of them were not

recruited as village guards. But once

they moved, they were moved from those

hamlets to those village,

central village, which is Konalga,


they were all recruited uh as village

guards. So they uh became again

the project itself became part of

state secretization agenda.



I remember in one of the interviews as

well, even if I didn't use it here, uh

that they said that uh

we cannot even

travel easily because uh

uh we are expected to uh defend. We are

expected to act like a soldier in the

fight against the KKK which is uh

corresponds worker workers party, Uh uh

and once we move,


they have asked us the army asked us to

move back uh so uh,

we cannot even uh go to school. We cannot

even uh do whatever we want. Uh so

they were complaining about turning into

unskilled labor.

And another interviewee,

when we talked about the cadastre


told me this because uh he was above 70

years old. He was from

Hakkâri and he had to

leave Hakkâri, especially [...].

He had to leave there um

because of

uh like security concerns. he was– his

life was not safe in the 90s um

and he had to

stay in in Van, a big city uh, for

almost 10 years.

And he says this uh

and again this interview also was quite

insightful. Uh

and it showed uh how a cadastre process,

the procedure uh created this kind of uh

arbitrary uh situations or ambivalences

that could be easily exploited uh by

different actors.

Uh so I was one of the experts in the

cadastre committee. This area is very

steep and mountainous. You register my

share of land but you register my two

meters long trees to the national

treasure. Those trees are also my


District revenue officer says no we

cannot do that. They are so these people

are scared of the state but none of it

is citizens.

The governor also says that he will not

let people waste states money

or grievances

wouldn't last

even if we speak for 10 months.

Again, he was one of the interviewers who

actually sued uh

Turkish ministry of interior


because he owned the land right beside

the borders,

Turkish Iraqi border.


special forces units, they built a


cutting across his land,

so that land is inaccessible

to him. And then he told me that they

don't even use the road. Can you believe


Uh but it's the the my land is also

still inaccessible to me but they have

taken the land from me and they didn't

even pay any compensation for that.

So he decided to go to the court and the

court is still going on.

There was no decision yet.


to conclude um again as I said at the

beginning, I will be happy to go back to

some of the slides during the q & a.


so here, this research

shows us that people's lived experiences


not only for anthropologists or

sociologists but also for political


And we need to

do more research


on that

in order to

see uh how

uh institutions shape and reshape uh

people's uh

lives but also how people's experiences

uh can inform us uh on uh reformulating



or minority-friendly



we want

to have a sustainable peace in the long


Uh so here again, the other

contribution of the research is that uh,

so we shouldn't only focus on formal uh

policies, formal control or

formal practices but also we should be

aware of the existence of informal

institutions and informal networks

and how they can also be used as a form

of state building

in certain contexts.

And again top-down

state-centered policies




violence or to

democratize the country

and to bring

sustainable peace. So uh recently uh I

made a publication on the Kurdish movement

in Turkey uh

and again it focused more on everyday

understanding uh

or everyday perceptions and experiences.

So again, I look at the Kurdish movement

and how it is understood by people


it was published in Oxford Handbook of

Turkish Politics that I published in




very short, I would say

article on informal control of the

Turkish state because I'm trying to

develop that aspect of my theoretical

framework. Uh it's something that I

didn't use in my PhD dissertation,

so that part should be developed,

improved um and

I'm quite happy to share this with you

like which shows my five-year research agenda.


and I'm again hoping to make a

publication on my like on

positionality, ethics, and ethnographic



and another publication on border

control. It will hopefully


be submitted next year.

Um and

this is a

tentative version

from the book project because I'm also

working on the book proposal. So uh thank

you very much for the opportunity and

I'm looking forward to discussion uh

and Q&A session.

Thank you


Um, we, I, we're going to let our

respondents our discussions, discuss very

briefly. We have already a question there

too, so maybe a few minutes left. We may

go slightly above the time

because we kind of started longer but um

please go ahead and Can and Laurie.

Uh thank you, uh thank you, Dr. Okcuoglu uh

for this presentation. Uh as an

anthropologist, uh it was a pleasure for

me to read your paper because it's

a rare thing to find the political

scientists writing with an ethnographic

and anthropological sensitivity.


and um

I especially

appreciated um

how your paper kind of shifted our



a kind of focus on

the state's direct violence

to the kinds of everyday forms of slow


that are exercised through the work of

the ordinary, through much more mundane

and administrative and bureaucratic

practices that seek to control by these

moments, space, and time. Of course,

you know, when we think about the

relationship between the Turkish state

and the Kurdish population who reside in



We see like [...] which you

mentioned in the beginning of your

presentation, we see these kind of

spectacular acts of violence uh, and of

course, you know ,there are other forms of

violence which are


much more ordinary and uh much more



you know, influencing people both in the

short run and in the long term

in many different sorts of ways.

So um

this your expose


resonates both historically and

comparatively in the longer paper that

you shared with us. You talked about some,

you hinted some comparative cases


I thought that the model village project

uh was this this great example for a

comparative understanding of that sort

of slow violence and how it kind of

intersects with the kind of much more

visible forms of physical violence, Uh

you know like you mentioned a lot in the

Latin American cases and of course model

village project

was deployed in

most famously in Guatemala and in other

Latin American countries,

uh as a country insurgency technology

which kind of

juxtaposes the state's promises of

security, welfare, and development


the kinds of

uh military and paramilitary violence

that is unleashed on the dissident




in in your discussion, the, for example

the model village project, but also the


surrounding processes of deed and


are related to


clientless redistribution,


etc. So kind of, they constitute other

side of

the the physical violence which targets

people's homes through the processes of

destruction and evacuation of

settlements force migration etc. So these

kind of work in tandem to to


make the home

a locus of state violence and


But historically, I was also thinking


the the interconnected histories of such

techniques of dispossession

um control and violence. I mean, the

Turkish state making


is predicated on the confiscation of

Armenian and Greek properties for

example right.

And I'm also thinking about the more

recent waves of

this possession,

like the urban renewal programs,

uh forced evocation of the Roma

population in Sulukule, construction of

Quote unquote model villages in the

heart of Istanbul for these displaced

populations and the kind of

ethnopolitics of

this dispossession and regimes of


which you also discuss in your



all these made me think of how this kind

of larger point about how techniques

that are developed in the colonies, in

the borderlands, in the frontier, are

always brought back into the political

center into the metropole, into the

cities, etc. Ao we see these

model villages first constructed in

Kurdistan, but then we see different

iterations of them in, let's say, in

Istanbul, in Central Istanbul. Again, Turkey

is building the model villages, the

central construction agency and then

constructing these kind of

semi-luxury, as they're called,

model villages

in Istanbul.


one question that i have is that


conducted extensive

research in the borderlands

and you conducted interviews with over

100 people,


I'm wondering if there were significant

differences within that group

with respect to their imagination of and

relationship with the state.

Because especially I'm thinking of how

village guard population, paramilitary

Kurdish villagers, you know, imagine the

state because they are

you know, they are positioned in a very

kind of


thorny place.

Uh on the one hand, they're subjects of

state violence, on the other hand, they're

perpetrators of state violence

uh etc. And more broadly


speaking to a discussion that has been

going on in political science and in

anthropology and in other related

disciplines like sociology since the 70s,

your work made me think about how we

theorize the state.

Uh you know since the seminal essay of

Philip Abrams, uh

you know there has been a discussion

about, you know, how we can

stay away from reification of the state.

You know, how we can think of it as as a

kind of um amalgam of institutions with


institutional logics, different

governmental techniques,

etc. But eventually when we talk about

the state, we kind of think of it as this

kind of unified unitary uh even

transcendent a transcendent agent.


you know, despite all our deconstructive

moves in uh you know in our

theorization of the state,

the state continues to persist as this

kind of haunting presence in the

lives of subjugated groups. And when you

think about it historically for example

when you consider the kind of ongoing

histories of violence that has been

unleashed on the Kurdish population over

the past 100 years, the state very much

looks like a unit reactor. So

I was thinking about you know how what

this could say

about you know, how we theorize a state

in terms of the ruptures and

continuities within the state.

And finally a very quick note,

your research also made me think about

my own research as well and the way uh

the the state emerges in our own writing

and research. I mean obviously academia

is another field where the state exerts

its control through various means and we

know that acutely in Turkey. So how does

our research and writing itself get

embroiled in such mechanisms of violence

and how the state emerges as a force of

control in our own academic practice is

the kind of other question that your

work made me think of. Thank you so much.

Thank you, Laurie, um your your turn.

Yes, first of all, thank you. And this was,

it was wonderful to read. I mean one of

the things that I think all three of

these um papers or the research that

went into them shares is this incredibly

rich field work.

Um it's very impressive on all fronts.

And um it also reminds me of what I used

to love a lot about political science

but which unfortunately becomes more and

more rare um and that is the these kinds

of works where one really gets a sense

of place, a sense of

of the the drama, the tragedy, this

you know, the as you say and you're

working on, the lived experiences. Uh and

I'm afraid there's there's far too

little work in political science these

days that that conveys that. So I want to

thank all three of the people up front

for having provided us um some really

wonderful insights and works that that

draw on that and and uh channel that

kind of work. Okay.

So it's there's there's a lot going on

in this paper. And I think one of the

reasons there's a lot going on the

papers is precisely because this is part of

a larger project. And there's always a

challenge to try in a single paper to

convey everything that you're going to

actually be doing in a book project. So I

don't want my comments to be taken as

too harsh because I understand that this

is part of a bigger project. But I think

that if you want to use this particular

piece as a separate

um article that you're going to submit,

then you really have to think carefully

about what it is you want to be in this


You spend a lot of time

looking at different

theoretical contributions that are

relevant to

the larger set of issues you're

interested. I'm not sure that they can

all be part of a single article.

The other thing and it was fascinating

to read, the section that you have on

your own experience as a researcher and

your positionality, particularly, you know,

as a Kurdish woman. And the way that your

name resonated or when people didn't

know how you were treated differently.

All of that is fascinating. I'm not

sure that that can all be part of this

same paper. I mean, you suggest in your

remarks that you you plan to do a

separate piece dealing with ethics and

research. And I think that is, that's

certainly an area that has drawn a lot

of attention. Um from political

scientists for people particularly for

people who are focusing on field work in

conflict areas. So I think you have some

real contributions to make there. It's

beautifully written. It was. I found it

very moving and uh, but I'm not sure that

it can all be in this particular piece.

Okay, then a couple of other things. Um,

you say you want to focus on sort of

informal forms of state control

but at the same time the two major


forms of state

capacity, if you will, that are that you

focus on in this article are actually

quite formal elements. I mean, the

model village, the cadastre surveys. This

is all part of what states do. There's

nothing particularly informal about that.

Um and so I

guess, I would have wanted upfront a

discussion of what you see as formal

practices versus informal ones and then

how we are going to understand, you know

the differences.

So that was that's one thing that I

think maybe needs to be a little more

clearly um delineated. Another thing

which you mentioned in your uh your

presentation not so much in the article,

is just this trying to understand,

uh when states resort to violence as

part of state building. I think state

building has always been a violent


Um, the the type of violence, perhaps the

degree of violence in different periods,

but it's always violent whether it's

structural violence or whether it's

formal kind of you know cannons and guns

and aerial bombing kind of violence. I

think it's important to keep that in

mind. States are violent entities and

they manifest and practice that violence

in different ways and on different


Uh the other I guess major point that I

had is um

I understand that you want to see this

through a borderlands lens.

It's not always clear to me that the

issues you're taking up are

at least in on theoretical

terms limited to borderlands experiences.

So I think what you need to convince the

reader of is why we should see these

challenges as

particularly severe in border areas or

particular two border areas. It may be

the case in Turkey. It may be in in that

particular case

uh and again, I'm not denying the

rich work, theoretical work that's been

done on borderlands And so on.

That's, it's wonderful work. But I think a

lot of these things

um and it was in part related to what

Can said at the end. I mean, you see

practices that perhaps were initially


introduced experimentally in border

areas and then end up being imported to

the center. But I'm not sure that's

always the case.

Uh so I think you just you need to

be really clear about how far you want

to take this borderlands framework and

theoretical elements that that have

become a part of it and how much of this

is just the way that states

uh deal with um

communities that they have


just by by their own deficit, they have

designed to somehow or they're not fully

part of the state, threatening by groups

that they securitize for particular

reasons. Because I could imagine other

groups that would not be necessarily on

border in border areas but would be

elsewhere that the state might find


uh problematic equally threatening. So

anyway, again thanks very much. I enjoyed

reading it. I look forward to reading

more of your work and I'll stop there.

Thank you very much uh both for uh

comments and uh

feedback a very constructive feedback. I

mean uh, I'm here to actually be

criticized also because

this is a

work in the making. So

I appreciate that and I think both

comments were quite relevant.

Um so let me start with Can's questions

uh and some of the points that he




yes uh,

slow violence. Exactly, that's what I was

trying to um

focus more explore more with this kind

of project. Uh

and uh it's more about ethnopolitics of

regimes of property, maybe from a

comparative lens as well. So window

matters, like i can of course use some of

these interview data uh to go that kind

of direction uh in the medium term. Um

and Latin America was a very good

example. Guatemala and uh other

uh conflict-ridden uh

places like even in Asia, like Nepal and

other borderlands. India, Pakistan, so and

so forth. Um


differences in the group, like uh how

village guards and paramilitaries

imagine the state. That was the first



so, let's um.

This is a good question because the

village cars is itself a very diverse


So we have to classify that group uh. And

I think in order to do that uh, we need a

separate research,

which primarily focuses on village guards

and their experiences because theu are

different groups of and different uh

um honestly um

like groups of village guards who even

have different ideologies, who haven't

done different now. Or if you look at

it from a historical perspective uh

we see that some people were employed as

village guards in the 90s but they decided

to quit a couple years later or or after

a decade.

Various among others


still in active duty.

And there were some other people who

were retired, so

they have

regular income. Now uh or health benefits

uh because

and also uh even same people within the

same group let's say if we talk only

with the retired people.

Okay and those people uh would tell us

different uh reasons why they joined the

village guards.

Some people just made it clear that

they lost everything.

Uh and they became more dependent on the


and state revenue

and they even said

that maybe this was one of the

strategies as well uh for instance, [xxx],

when he writes about control in

Israel-Palestine case,


says that dependency, segregation, these

are all different uh

uh instruments of control. So these

people uh

became more dependent on

this kind of income, but there were some

other people who just said that

they lost uh

property but they still didn't become

village guards.

Uh because there are those kind of

people too

but in few cases I would say uh um


people uh or maybe

I wouldn't say


because I conducted the research some

time ago right and I want to go back to

Kurdistan but I cannot go back nowadays

because of several reasons.

But I need to go back.

If I cannot go back then I will maybe

attempt to pursue digital

ethnography. Uh

so um,

these people, especially if their

children joined KKK,


like their father, their family were

enforced to

uh work for the state. Um

and some of them, first they died so

uh they died when they were in active


I remember one person who died from

heart attack. And the children told me

that they knew that my father was very

sick but they still forced him to become

a village guard uh because they knew

that. Uh his two sons were uh Kurdish

guerillas. So um,

but also one last example about village

guards. It's a very uh interesting

topic to work on because there are

several paradoxes. There are several uh

controversies um and it's changed from


one decade to another. There are several

like these continuous ruptures so

we have to explore uh

that kind of change across time um. So

I remember


one of the

village guards also um

were very uh pro

uh hdp. Uh more pro a Kurdish movement. Uh

and uh he made it very clear he didn't

even hide it. And I think he was quite uh

knowledgeable about


the uh

like about the armed uh group as well. So

um because these people were fighting in

the front lines, uh so uh again,

the position of village guards

can change

easily depending on the dynamics on the

ground. And we need to explore that.

But I appreciate the question.

So the second point was like how we

theorize the state. State is not a

unified body. On the one hand this is


was told in the like uh

uh post-colonial uh


But uh when we look at the history as

you said, uh especially since uh

maybe the end of Ottoman Empire and the

you know uh building of this

unified nation states in the early

century. So uh there is also kind of

consistency in that sense. The states

seem to be

or the state is told to be uh

kind of fragmented in itself


they see this kind of consistent unified

like uh body. Uh maybe the highest

authority in Kurdish borderlands would

be the army.

Uh soldiers like that, that was the way

for me like to understand how do you

understand state. That was one of the

questions that I was asking in the

interviews. Um and of course people

wouldn't say that all states is defined

like this. They wouldn't care about that

but uh they would say uh yeah uh you

know rules change uh from one commander

to another. There was a commander, there

was a high commander couple years ago


he was very easy going and even there

were soldiers coming to us and asking

for cigarettes.


you know,

I must do, I'm sorry I have to ask you

to kind of wrap up because we are

already about 10 minutes behind. Yeah i

will wrap it up just please give me two

more minutes okay. Uh so um but there was

another commander maybe who came to

power after the previous one and they

said oh things change completely. Uh

so people make their own rules and so on

and so forth. Um so uh the last point was

very important uh and I'm quite

interested in knowledge production and

how academia is exploited by those

who are speaking from the position of

power and privilege.

Uh so um yeah I would be very happy uh

to have this kind of exchange with you

on that as well, thank you. So uh if I

quickly jump to

Lori's comments and questions and points,

I appreciate most of your uh

uh actually

insights and I

agree that I have to

discuss and explain how I uh

differentiate informal from formal.

Uh that part is missing uh, I think yes.

State building is always violent, yes, but

I still care





political uh

use of uh

uh control like,

because control is distinct from

violence. Maybe there can be some forms

of control that can coincide, that can

intersect with violence,

uh but


for me uh maybe that's that goes back to

how uh Can said like slow uh violence.

Uh but when we say control we do not try

to uh

make it uh less impactful. I think. What

actually the motivation is quite

opposite uh. I believe that

uh control is something

more invisible and I think uh state

authorities uh pursued to keep it hidden,


that's why

it was one of the main

reasons why I adopt uh control as the

main theoretical um

you know framework or it's one of the uh

like describing features of the

framework, Uh so borderland lenses, I

appreciate that. I have to focus more on

that too and I have to see how far

I want to take uh

take off that in my work. Thank you so

much for that great presentation. So I'm

going to um introduce our second speaker



and then uh

we'll have the Q&A and again I would

like to encourage everyone to to stay

within the time limit. Then we'll take a

break after uh um after our next uh

presenters uh today. So our um second

speaker is um

Dr. Ahmad Mohammadpour who is currently

at the University of Massachusetts

Amherst. An Iranian anthropologist, Dr.

Mohammadpour's um

research draws on post-colonial theory,

nationalism studies, critical race theory,

theories of indigeneity and critical

political economy to consider the

intersection of the nation states

religious governance, sovereignty,

racialization, internal colonization, and

development in the Middle East.

Through an empirically grounded study of

the Kurds in Iran, his research

re-theorizes the relationship between

the production and Racialization of

minorities, theocratic

hierarchization, shia islamic nationalism,

and Persian colonialism. He also explores

how the Kurds

subalternize both religiously and

ethnically resist colonial subjugation

through labor, gender, and

environmentalist struggles. His phd

dissertation investigated the precarious

life of Kolbars and state violence

against them in the context of Iran. I

should add that Kolberi is a Kurdish

word. It refers to a form of cross-border

labor and the word Kolber is used for

people, men, women, and children who carry

goods on their back across the border of

Iran, Iraq and Turkey. And I know there's

great movies

about that as as well. So I'm going to

stop here and let Dr. Mohammadpour speak for

about 20 minutes and then we'll have the

questions answered.

Hello everyone. Thank you very much Dr.

Bedhad. Thank you for your introduction and

thank you all for uh

all those who helped organize this uh

very wonderful, great


meeting here. Uh Dr. Bedhad, I will try

to make up

and to be very brief

and [...] and short.

So uh

and leave more space for uh for

questions and answers. So my

presentation is on Poverty in the Land

of Plenty:

Kurdish Cross-border Workers or Kolbers,

in Kurdish, Racialized

Labor and State Violence in Iran.


project basically was part of my PhD

dissertation as well as a joint

project with professor Kamal Soleimani

that we started in 2017

out of which we produced

around less than a dozen articles in

international uh peer-reviewed uh journals.

I will be very brief here, I just wanted

to to acknowledge him and his

scholarship and his contribution

in this joint project.

Okay, so I will start with the very

simple idea

because you are talking about Iran,

My very simple question is

where and what is Iran. So in the

scholarship on the MENA region and the

Iranian studies and the Kurdish studies,

they treat Iran basically as if

it is inhabited by the Persian and Shia

people. Basically when it comes to Iran,

it's always–

there is an idea that

Iran is a land of Persian in which all

people speak Persian and they are

basically Shia.

So this kind of scholarship

this kind of knowledge production has

been uh and in many ways supported

uh and has been aligned with the status

perspective in which

uh the idea of the national identity

which is

uh perceived and formulated and imposed

based on the metrics of Persian language

and Shia religion is kind of


advanced. So basically the scholarship on

the MENA studies– most of the scholarship–

not all of the discussion of course


encouraging or endorsing in a way a kind

of methodological nationalism.

While the Iran is a multinational,

multilingual, and multicultural entity in

which more than a dozen ethnic and

religious communities basically co exist

for centuries, for millennia.

But this kind of like

ethnic configuration of Iran as a

multinational polity

has always been dismissed,

not only by the Ministry of Social

Science but also by the Iranians

scholars in North America, in the Europe,

as well as by many Kurdish scholars

working in the region.

In the second slide is about the Iranian

national discourse. So the question is

that we have this kind of national

identity or perception of Iran as a

singular identity immersed, of course,

everybody knows, and I'm sure, I'm not

going to say the obvious, because all

scholars here, they are basically

familiar with the literature and the

Iranian studies and literature of the

MENA studies. There is an idea

basically that

the modern state in Iran

was established in 1925 and from 1925 we

have been dealing with the idea of the

nation building forced and imposed

nation building under the slogan of one

country, one language and one



uh basically, the first uh you know,

during the Pahlavi regime, during the

Pahlavi dynasty, we had

it basically it advanced the kind of

secular nationalism that was premised

based on the racial theory of Aryanism.

And it promoted the Persian and Persian

language as the lingua franca of

all non-Persian people while according

to the information and still, according

to current information,

uh more than 50 percent of the Iran's

population are not Persian and do not speak

Persian. So after the

1979 revolution,


second metric of national identity which


Shi'a islam was promoted and became a

second pillar of the

Persian or Iranian nationalist discourse.

Okay, so with this

in mind, let's go

at and talk about the Eastern Kurds. My

question is basically here I'm going to


give you a very short


uh summary of the

uh Eastern Kurds.

The Eastern Kurds or Eastern Kurdistan

or Russia lattice. The Eastern Kurds,

they inhabit in four provinces


western Azerbaijan,

Kurdistan province. Because we have

Iranian Kurds and also we have Kurdistan


Kermanshah province/

Uh Elon province as well as part of the

north east in Horasan. We have around two

million Kurds and of course I have to

say that we don't have any valid


about the population of the Eastern

Kurds due to the

because the question of


uh is not addressed in the state

consensus, basically in the state

official data.

So all those informations are

approximate. I am not pretending that I

have all information here for you.

So in terms of the population, it is

estimated that eastern Kurds, they make

up around 10 million


Which is around 10%

of the Iran's total population if you

assume that Iran's total population is

around 80 million or 75 million. So the

Iranian Kurds, the east syrian Kurds


they constitute 10 percent of the Iran's total

population, which is big chunk of


In terms of the language, they speak

Kurdish. Central Kurdish or Sorani

as well as Badini in

in the northern part.

And in terms of the religion, most of the

eastern Kurds are sunni Muslim while we

have some Shia Muslims in Kermanshah. And also

we have other faiths

in the different parts of

east Syrian Kurdistan. But

with all this in mind,

I was going to bring you to this point

that when you look at the state

constitution that was drafted and

imposed since 1979,

the Iran's national identity is defined

officially based on the language and

religion. According to the constitution,

the Persian is the official language of

all Iranians. But remember, we do not have

the term Iranian. The very term iranian,

the very term Iran was, is

is a modern concept that was introduced


If we don't assume that Iran as a nation

had existed for thousand years

because it's impossible to make such a



I, again, according to state


the Shia religions, also they Shia

Islam, is also the official religion. So

if you look at the Iran's political

structure, you will soon realize that

well, the

non-muslim the non-shia and and and


have the least share of political power

and economic development.

Again I go back to the state


very quickly.

In my scholarship and in the papers

that we published, Professor [xxx]

over the last five years, we talked about

the sovereignty, the idea of sovereignty

and how the sovereignty of Iran is defined.

And how the term peoplehood is flawed

in the

Iranian studies scholarship because they

define basically the peoplehood based on

the idea of the national identity is

very easy– you can simply look at the

hundreds of books written by the Iranian


in the North America and Europe and in

which you can find,

you can't find

uh two or three words

about about Kurds. They simply put all

Kurds, [...], Arabs, and [...].

They lump them together in the footnote.

They never acknowledge them. They never

talk about them.

So basically uh we

even in the MENA studies, in the

Iranian Studies, we see this kind of

epistemic violence uh in terms of the

knowledge production and knowledge

circulation about the

uh Kurds and other uh non-Persian

minorities in Iran.

Again, the definition of sovereignty

based on the Persian language and Shia

religion has divided the people or the

people the demos in the democracy. The

demos into

actual citizen and potential citizens. So

actual citizens are those

who are affiliated or belong to

the national identity definition in a

way and the others are just potential

that they should be assimilated. They

should be

regulated. Their identity should be in a



So um

again the political power is not very,

it's not very hard to understand that.

When you look at 40 years of the Islamic

revolution, you see that the Kurds and [...]

and Arabs, they have the least of

political power and means of economic

production as well as the cultural



so where is the Rojhelat. I just tried to

provide this very

cursory knowledge about Iran as a

multinational, multilingual, multicultural

entity which is against the received

knowledge and Iran in the

MENA studies and in the mainstream

social science at large.

But where is the Rojhelat, the land of

plenty. Why I called Rojhelat is the land

of plenty? What is going on there?

Rojhelat, eastern Kurdistan, in terms of

the national resources, is second

in terms of the forest and rain. It is

second after the north Iran, after [...]

was called

or North Iran.

It is the second region in terms of


natural resources.

In terms of the water supply, eastern


after [...] has the biggest

water supplies. The only river in the

Central Iran is the [...] in

Isfahan, which is dry for the most of


However, we can see

tens of pyramid rivers

flowing in the eastern Kurdistan.

Kurdistan also in terms of the

agricultural products,

it is ranked between first to third in

terms of the agriculture: wheat, barley, or

other agricultural products.

In terms of minerals, some of the

the regions in in some of the cities in

in [...] such as Ilan,

it hosts

the biggest


uh bitumen

deposit not only in the area, but also in

the Middle East. I can just at least–

give you a list of those minerals all

ranked first or third at the countrywide

and the country level and at the level

of the region.

Just I want to to give you that

information to tell you that how

rich is

Eastern Kurdistan in terms of

the mineral. Also in terms of animal

husbandry, Kurdistan also is ranked

between the first to third. So with

that in

with that in mind, when you look at

another face of

eastern Kurdistan, the state policies of

uh basically infrastructure of the

development and impoverishment of the

region specifically after the 1979

revolution, you see that despite all

those richness,

the shade of industry in employment

basically, in employing the Kurdish, the

eastern Kurds is only two percent.

The mining,

more than more than around two or three

hundred people in entire Ilam province

are engaged in mining industry while as

I said, it hosts hundreds of mines that

are extracted by the system by the

regime and the minerals and the products

are relocated and transferred to the

non-Kurdish regions and the region

continue to remain even in the official


They call for example, they call Ilam as

as a Africa. I don't like the term,

but you know, I just, I want to give

you an example how it is uh called in

the very interstate official rhetoric.

In terms of resource transfer, again, the

water supplies in eastern Kurdistan

is allocated to Tabriz, to um to part of

the Turkish region.

Also, Turkish in basic Turkish inhabited


Also some of the water supplies are

transferred from Kurdistan province to

Hamadan and the agriculture remain

Rain fed.

And technologically, very

traditional there is no uh

advanced irrigation in the region.

In terms of the resource depletion,

basically this has been one of the

states specifically since 2009. The state

has been has been trying to deplete

the resources

and in terms of the deforestation,

uh just to give you an example,

uh only in 2010 in [...] city, we had


incident of


that were reportedly most of them were

said by the state authorities, by the

soldiers, by the IRGC. so basically, we are

kind now we are we are dealing with a

sort of environmental disaster

in the east syrian kurdistan. finally the

unemployment rate

which is beyond

35 percent, according to the official

records. we don't have any official

record but sometimes those officials

they contradict themselves. They say hey,

well it's not 35 it's 45,

it's 51. So basically,

the average is around 35 percent of

the workforce in eastern Kurdistan are


Okay, so Kurds under the Iranian states


from 1979 after the declaration of the

holy war or jihad against the Kurds by

Ayatollah Khomeini in August 1979

has been subject to

a number of

uh the developmental policies in Rojhelat.

As I said in a couple of in in a few

papers we try to document some of those

policies including militarization of the


of eastern Kurds, recruitment of

hundreds of thousands of Kurds

into paramilitary forces, specifically

during Iran Iraq war,

securitization of Kurdish space,


institutionalization and turning Kurdish

community between the community of


in a way that

they built uh tens of the charities

security foundations to help Kurds

while they

at the same time refuse to invest in the


Ecological destruction and the

development are among some of the key

Iranian state policies in Rojhelat a lot.


so since 2010 in Kurdistan we have been

facing with the

human disaster which is called Kolberi,

cross-border working,

specifically after Ahmadinejad


For a few years he opened the border

between Iraq and Iraq


developed some fleeting markets to

elevate the sanctions and for other

reasons basically.

So since 2009, we have been

dealing with an increase in the



let's say uh what's called interstate

rhetoric's smugglingg. Well, those people

they don't call it smuggling because

they don't have any job.

The only factor in the entire Eastern

Kurdistan in the

specifically in the western Azerbaijan

was built in 1968 10 years before the

Islamic revolution.

Ao these people, how do how are you how

are they going to make their own living?

So since 2015,

the daily killing of Kurdish cross

border workers, sorry I wrote Borkers, I

have to, I have to, I should have written

workers. It has become a sort of daily

practice and sport

for the for the state patrol at the

Iran-Iraq border. And those information

those reports or incidents has always

been unnoticed, has always been dismissed

specifically until 2020, not only by the

state authorities but also by the

Iranian intellectuals in the west.

There were times for example in 2020 the

number of people who were killed

at Iran Iraq border because of cutting

some cigarettes on their back

We were

way higher than those Palestinians

killed by the Israeli state.

So I'm just going to give you a heads up.

What is

the state of violence in the Iraq border

that is dismissed not only by the

politicians but by the Iranian elites


Okay so let's go to Kolberi very quickly.

What is Kolber? Kolber means shoulder or


Plus Ber means carrying in Kurdish and

in Kurdish, Kolberi refers to carrying

goods on one's back or shoulder.

It is exclusive

to Eastern Kurdistan, we have

cross-border working in Vietnam, in


in Eurasia, in Latin America, in even in

part of the

the Vietnam basically, but

the level of the violence, the level of

the state violence is uncomparable. We

don't have such a slaughtering

uh in in all those fields uh in all

those uh those cases.

Uh here you see the the the [...]

Kolberi has become pandemic

in Eastern Kurdistan is the only job

let's say

that is practiced in all in four seasons.

Specifically in the winters when the

borders are hard to control by the by

the state.

Here you see a Kolber, He's handicapped.

He doesn't have legs. The other one uh

you know the the the photos are quite

clear. I don't need to to make any

comment on them.

Okay so the question is that what are

the reasons for call Kolberi? Very


these people for more than a century,

both under the Pahlavi regime and Islamic

Republic of Iran have been marginalized

economically and politically because of

their language and religion and

other ethnoreligious


The age of Kolberi is getting younger.

The minimum each is 10.

The maximum age is 74. I mean the 74 was

a callback that I interviewed with him

but there might be older, older Kolbers.

Anyways and the average of Kolberis is 29

years old. There are Kolbers that they

they hold credentials. They are

masters, they are PhD students and they

got their PhDs, but still they doing


The gender is

is a prevalent job uh for men and

women and also children.

The people engaged according to this to

the state to the state records around

200 000 Kolbers are currently

practicing Kolberi. So if you assume

a family size of five,

it's not hard to guess that around

a million Kurds, 10 percent of the East Iran


are their lives,

their living is dependent on on this

precarious, cumbersome


So yeah here you see you see a woman

that is carrying a goods among men

at the border.

Okay so in a paper, that it's basically,

the first, the only paper in English

uh on Kolberi that was written by

Professor Souhlemani and me in which we

tried to to gather some information

based on the ethnographic research as

well as some existing data. As you can

see here, we have listed

the uh

the typology of Kolberi incident.

Uh the first incident, the first uh cause

of Kolberi's death is the direct

shooting by the state forces.

Around 725,


between 2015 and 2020 were

killed by the state– by the

state forces.

The second one is land mine

because the entire Kurdish

Kurdistan border with Iraq

is dotted with land mines.

Around 16 million landmines were left

unclear since Iran Iraq war and after that,

the state continued to plant new

landmines as a part of its security


So you can see the 60

million mile mine. I'm sorry, is each, you

know, for each Kurd, we have around two

landmine to explode. So the second,

the third reason is missing. Kolberi is a

job, a winter's job. They go missing in

winter sometimes

and they get

they die or they get free, they

froze to death.

Falling from a mountain.


as Dilan mentioned, Kurdistan is a highly

mountainous region.


Kolbers, they simply fell from the

mountains while escaping

the state forces or sometimes

they go missing in the middle of night

and they fall from from mountains.

The sixth reason, drowning in the


Heart attack under heavy loads

because most of them are over age.

Basically they are

highly, basically old.

And other factors that contribute to the

casualties in the borderland. But the

main reason is the state violence. So

between 2015 to 2020, around 1100 Kolbers

were died,

injured, or disabled blinded or paralyzed

as a result of direct shooting by the

state forces at Iran-Iraq border. Here I

brought you some more information.

Uh the information that we gathered in

this paper and also in my PhD

dissertation were brought from the

Kurdish human rights network, KHRN.

Uh also my interviews with people at

their in the region as well as their

oral histories of

the job.

And my last slide,

what does the case of Kolberi tells us

about the

uh about the racialized labor in Iran,

about the sovereignty about


Well the Iranian

scholarship tends to see

the colonialism is always associated

with the rest and specifically with the

United States of America. I am

with them in this,

but at the same time, they are not


in discussing the

internal colonialism or the colonialism

in the Muslim world or colonialism in

Iran. For them, the colonialism is always

outside of the Iran's border.

That's one of the

main intellectual and methodological

flaw in the mainstream scholarship and

the region.

So the Kolberi tells us about the uni

ethnic religious policies of development,

how development and social sense and


can be driven, can be determined, can be

restricted by the eternal religious


So Kolberi is an example of the

production of racialized labor. It tells

us about the how race ethnicity and

religion in the case of Iran is


They are intersected, basically how

racialization is practiced

through language and religion despite

the North America that the racialization

is practiced through color in the

context of inner, the racialization and

exclusion, is practiced through the

language and religion.

It also tells us about this security

subject. How Kurds

Are security subject and how this kind

of securitization

is supported and sanctioned

by the state official

constitution and also recognized

by the Iranian scholarship or

scholarship and the mid and the Middle

East and MENA region. So

a broader implication of my research

here is a call

for reconceptualization of coloniality

in global south. I am not interested in

basically in

putting the global south versus the

the global north because I believe that

there are other

dynamics, other

discriminations and internal colonial

basically dynamics in the global south

that needs,

they need our intellectual


So this is a very short summary of my

project on Kolberi. It is a project that

is going on now, I am sorry that I wasn't

able to to provide

the full paper,

but hopefully uh you know the matter

that I presented it should be enough to

to have a discussion here. Thank you very

much, Dr. Bedhad.

Thank you Dr. Mohammadpour for

that wonderful presentation which I

think actually is wonderful because it

also connected well with the violence

that we heard in the first paper. Perhaps

even more violent in that way. So without

further ado, I'm going to let our

two wonderful discussants briefly

respond and then please post your

questions on the q & a and I will make

sure it's presented to them and so

go ahead

Can and Laura,

Okay, so Can and I decided I'll go

first on this one. Uh first of all, thanks

for this, for this presentation. Um as um

as Ahmed said, there wasn't a paper along

with it although he was kind enough to

send along to me a uh an earlier paper

that he and his his co-author had

published. So I had a somewhat uh broader

idea of the kind of work that um that

they're doing or that he's doing on

this project.

So let me just um,

let me just throw out a few uh a few

questions raised primarily by your your

presentation um today.

Uh at the beginning you focused uh on

this notion of national identity

building and the importance of that to

the state and how this is and actually

throughout the presentation obviously

how much this is focused on a particular

uh on Persian identity which is uh

which is also Shi'ite. Um

and that therefore those groups

uh in Iran that have other

religious and or ethnic sorts of

backgrounds don't fit into this uh this

idea of what the state should be or what

Iranians um uh who they are.

Um and so

it raises a number of questions one has

to do with it, sort of changes over time

um and if you plan to explore

the bases, I mean I'm aware of some of

the differences in terms of how Iranian

identity was um

constructed and the the various means by

which the Shah uh tried to um

create an Iranian identity. How

different is that, particularly the

kinds of things that are relevant to the

the arguments that you're making, having

to do with what you call development. Um

I think also in the paper use the term

apartheid, I'm not quite sure whether

that's the best term to use, but in any

case the kinds of um discrimination, a

lack of investment, the marginalizations

of these communities, uh are these things

which one can see over time? Um are there

significant changes you allude to, the

fact or you say that this Kolberi

phenomenon um seems to have emerged with

the presidency or after the beginning

the president's presidency of

Ahmadinejad. I'm just wondering exactly

you didn't specify what the factors were

that led to that and so I'm wondering if

you could be a little bit,

um I mean obviously, I assume you'll do

that in the project but I think that's

that's very important to try and

understand, because if you, if you're

putting this in the context of a larger


of state

marginalization of groups,

then understanding what might trigger

the emergence of this particular kind of

labor in one area uh you seem to suggest

this doesn't exist in other areas so

how do we how do we explain that?

Another question I had to do with um

so that the possibility or the

suggestion that assimilation is the goal

of the central state.


I mean it's it seemed perhaps more from

the evidence that you had in your other



assimilation is really an illusion. I

mean that there are some policies which

attempt to impose this central uh


on these marginal or borderland groups

but yet you also gave examples of where

people still were blocked in terms of

trying to get into university and so on.

So I'm wondering what's going on here. Is

this really a politics of um of

assimilation or not and if not, then


practical sort of state building or

security reinforcing purpose do these

kinds of policies


Um and perhaps it's not that coherent,

perhaps it also has to do with lack of

state capacity in certain certain cases,

I don't know. Um I think also trying to

understand perhaps what the relationship

is between


uh and the the border state, how much

does that explain what we see in terms

of the porosity of borders, the

porousness of borders, uh and as well as

the kind of

cross-border uh whether it's formal or

informal uh legal or illegal

that uh that kind of movement, what

what's allowed, what is what's

criminalized, um what's sort of allowed

informally and then um what is actually

in what case is do we have actually

formal requirements and more sort of uh

standardized forms of border uh

movement or cross movement.

Uh let me see a couple of other things.

Yeah I mean I guess the last thing that

I would mention it seems to be very

interesting in terms of epistemological


the issue that you raise about how

a great deal of Iranian studies and I'm

assuming that you mean not just within

Iran but also scholars of Iran outside,

the way that they are producing or

reproducing what seems to be a hegemonic

state discourse about who are Iranians,

That to me is really fascinating um and

I was thinking because I don't I don't

claim to know Iran very well, but just

thinking about the Arab world and the

degree to which people who've been

involved in Arab studies. Um how they

have either treated or been unwilling to

treat or uninterested in treating

uh minorities of various sorts and kind

of the politics behind that whether

related to state-level politics or

related to broader politics in the

discipline. So that also seems to need a

really interesting question that you

could perhaps explore more and I anyway,

I think I'll stop there, thanks.

Thank you. Um Can do you wanna? Oh yeah

sure, I'll try to keep it short uh.

Thank you so much Dr Mohammadpour.

I haven't read the paper and I regret

not having the chance to read the paper

because it's so striking and it

speaks so much

to my own work on

political violence and disability.

But I definitely look forward to reading

more of your work.


first of all I have to say that I really

appreciate your invitation to decolonize

uh the the Persian Iranian studies and

more broadly

um the Middle East studies and the

the the global south studies

and especially

you know those of us who are

uh academically and politically

interested in the Kurdish question


you know would would appreciate that

fully because you know like

in all the four countries where Kurds


generally, they they remain as a footnote

to national historiography or

or mainstream social science.


and um so they rarely find their place

in these kind of macro

level narratives

about economy and history and politics

so I really

appreciate your invitation to go

beyond that sort of understanding.

Having said that my main

questions and comments uh

revolve around the question of


I was struck by the charts that you

showed about the causes of death

uh which is extremely striking, I mean,

it's very violent

uh and it clearly shows us– I first want

to invite you to say a little bit more

about how you came up with this data. Uh

you know, like your research


methodology and the kinds of

broader findings that you that you

sought to collect through that research.

So when I was looking at this chart and

I was thinking about the kind of

racialized labor practices that


what means to be a Kolberi in

contemporary Iran today,

I was thinking about the comparative

cases and I particularly had in mind

uh anthropologists Seth Holmes's


And Seth Holmes uh who is now at USC by

the way, Laurie,

works on agricultural


migrant labor force, who is mainly coming

from Mexico but also from

Central America and working in the farms

of California

and um

and of course,

it's it's a form of racialized labor and

just like

other forms of racialized labor, it

produces a lot of bodily harm and


and these bodily harms and disabilities

in return contribute further to the


of this disadvantage group. So for

example one discourse that Seth Holmes


uh analyzes in his book


"they love to be they love to work bent


01:35:40,719 --> 01:35:47,520

over. So you know constantly collecting"

berries etc on the farms and the kind of

impact that this has

on their spinal cords and on their backs

in the long term and half this kind of

further fuels a racialized imaginary

that looks at bodily differences among

groups of people and ties it to biology


and to the racial character etc. So

looking at the kind of pictures that you

have shown, of course, these pictures were

kind of familiar with those of us who

are working in the context of the middle

east studies. Uh we are familiar with

these pictures of Kolberi but you know

when I saw them one after another, I was

thinking what kind of impact not

necessarily injury but what kind of

bodily impact,

and what kind of disabilities does that

kind of work produce.


does this kind of play into the

racialized imaginaries around the

Kolberi especially given that this is

one of the major sources of income of

the broader Kurdish population.

And you also had a slide on


and that

maybe think about about the importance

of disability as one of those


these intersectional categories and the

kind of co-production

of race and disability.

And enough of course also class and

nationality in this kind of

story that you have told us about the

Kolbers. So I'll stop here, so basically I

want to hear more about your research

but also you want to invite you to think

more seriously about disability in the

production of class and race and

racialized imaginaries within the nation,

thank you so much. Thank you, thank you

for those things. So I would like to

request that you

respond to these in five minutes.

Thank you Dr. Brand, Dr Can for your

questions. I am surrounded by all those

fantastic questions, I will try to be

very very short. And in response to Dr.

Brand I have to tell you that you know

uh the the field of [...] studies

or Iranian Kurdish studies let's say is

very nascent.

We are dealing with the lack of

enough scholars of Eastern Kurdistan in


North America. We are all only three

people in the entire North America.

So we can simply we can't cover

basically, we can basically talk about

basically everything

uh given that

that we don't have we don't have enough

intellectual let's say uh you know

context in a way. But the Iranian

policies against Kurds, it has, as you

mentioned correctly very correctly, you

mentioned that it has

experienced continuity and change over

the last 40 years. For instance, in the

first decade of the Islamic revolution,

the state devised the policy of


in which the Kurdish farms were turned

into garrisons and military bases. They

simply destroyed

the agriculture and the animal husbandry

because of the constant airstrike,

constant bombardment.

The second decade we uh

we and I and Dr. Suleiman and me,

basically in our papers, we tried to to

get to to categorize the second decade

as the decade of the secretization in

which the Kurdistan and the Kurdish

space became a subject of security not

just a military.

The third decade is going to be

marked by the idea of the economic

marginalization and the four decade by

the deforestation and the

ecological distraction. The Kolberi did


before 2009,

but we never had such a level of

violence in the region in the at the


And after 2009 with a kind of increase

in the

economic prosperity in Iraq in Iraq


after the establishment of the Kurdish

uh regional government in 2003, we had

this surge in the economic prosperity

in Iraq. And it just paved a way, paved

a way to

to the to fair the rise of the Kolberi

But from 2010, we have this daily

killing and daily slaughter of Kolbers.

It's my very, I would love to share with

you more. I can share with you papers and

articles just to save your time here and

others, but in response to the doctor

Can, uh you know I really like the idea

of disability. I have, we have

a paper on the Kolberi as a site of


body politics. It's going to come out very


We talked about the Kolberi as a site

of as,

body of Kolbero as a site of

racialization, ethnicization

and securitization.

But again, the idea of

disability is very important. The data

mostly came from the

human right Kurdish human rights network.

They are a group of people in

Kurdistan. They record the information

day by day. It's accurate. We cross check

the the information so I just try to

let's say


to classify the information and find

some of the commonalities in terms of

the those who were killed directly by

the state, those who were injured, those

who were

you know

drowned in the

rivers. Some of the information came from

my interview because I have been working

on Kolberi from 2015 and also before

2015, I moved to United States in 2014.

That means that I was already in Iran

working on the, on the same subject

before 2014.

So and also I'm from the region, some of

my relatives are Kolber. And they are

doing Kolberi even now. It was easy for

me to make those connections and find

those oral histories and document those

oral histories.

And also in terms of the

bodily injuries that you just that you

currently mentioned, Kolbers, they get

blind. They get death, they lose their

legs. And there are two things here, just

very quickly. The first one is that the

Kolbers, they lack any sort of medical

insurance. Even worse, they can't go to

doctors, because if they are found out

Kolbers, that they have been Kolber,

but they have been doing Kolberi, they

they become

persecuted. They go to jail.

So basically literally we are dealing

with a humanitarian crisis at the region.

Right now, those who lost their legs even

one of the Kolbers,

he was basically you know, when

a landmine exploded under his feet,

he was

charged 11 million Toman

because he damaged

the public asset,

which was a landmine.

I know that this

very much looks like a fiction,

but really we are dealing with this kind

of disaster in the region.

So in some days like you know there is

not a single day

at the borderland that we don't have

Kurdish Kolbers getting injured or

died. There are some days that we have

more than 13 to 14 to 15 Kolbers

getting shot dead in groups.

So this is my very quick uh answer uh

doctor. I tried to be very short. I'm

sorry. You were great. Thank you so much.

So our third speaker

is Dr. Basileus Zeno who is

currently at the Amherst College.

A Syrian political scientist, Dr. Zeno

explores questions of institutional and

legal violence, power, identity, and

displacement and nationalism and racism.

His scholarship is concerned with how

meaning making practices inherently

relate to broader questions of power

among access of social difference and



the possibilities of agency within a

specific structural conditions and

extremely violent settings.

His current research project

looks at the

consequence of a politics of naming and

how the inconsistency

and selectivity in the invocation and

application of responsibility to protect

in the Libyan case influenced outcomes

in the Syrian case as well as a

discursive re-articulation

of the sectarian narratives in the

context of the


uprising. So please join me in welcoming


Dr. Zeno to the virtual podium.

Uh hi, everyone thank you so much for

organizing such a wonderful

and thought-provoking uh

panel. I also appreciate like my

colleagues uh informative presentation

and uh Lauri,

uh Dilan, Ali, Can and everyone else

actually in giving such a thorough

feedback. So I'm learning also from this


So my uh

take on the issue of border and

sovereignty is

is coming through the examination of the

impact and the effect of responsible to

protect as a discourse and also as a


that was implemented or at least invoked

during the first two years of the Syrian

and Libyan uprising.

Uh specifically just to give you a

little bit of context here uh


on March

17 2011, uh the U.N security council

adopted resolution 1973 which justified

the implementation


which was interpreted by different

scholars as invocation of r2p language

to protect civilians from a [...]

functioning state.

A few days before that day, so that's the

everything was happening in that week

was March 15,

March 18 protests in syria where Syrians

revolted against the Syrian regime.

However, the

effect of the protests and how the uh

basically the ethos of the Arab spring

started to disseminate in the early

years of early months of 2011 is

happening through waves of solidarity.

So one of them was in February 22nd, so

before the scene uprising uh a group of

uh intellectual activists uh organized

solidarity with Libyan protest uh

protesters in front of their

Libyan embassy inDdamascus. And they

chanted for the first time [...]

a betrayal

is the basically the leader who's

killing his own people

which will become a song in the context

of the Syrian uprising.

So a day before that the peninsula

shield forces intervene in Bahrain with

the leadership of Saudi Arabia and

Moscow the state which oppressed a

peaceful protest organized by



So the significance of the r2p or the

invocation or the discussion around this

issue, it was the first time a military

intervention to be conducted by a third

party which is the nato against a

functioning de jure state to prevent

imminent mass atrocities against its


The second significance regionally

speaking was that the Arab League for

the first time since its foundation 1945

invited NATO to intervene militarily

against an Arab state that was

unprecedented up until that


However with the r2p there are three

main issues that became clear early on

and there is a really great literature

on the debate between the Syrian Libyan

case but one of them is the obvious

selectivity in terms of the invocation

application of international law. the

second factor is the lack of consensus

surrounding pillar three which justify

the use of force to protect civilians in

a country. so basically you have all the

uh p5 uh v2 player uh having uh

like either abstain or vote for an


The third issue that became clear is

that both China and Russia argued and

that can be traced like in the record

actual report that they had in the

debate that the r2p or the humanitarian

intervention that took place was misused

by the NATO to justify regime change in

Libya, that's their argument.

However how by September, uh to show how

determined where both Russia and China

in blocking any any even condemnation

of atrocities not

without any political effect on the

ground, uh both countries had jointly

vetoed 10 draft of United Nations

security council resolutions and Russia

alone vetoed the total of 16 council

resolution on Syria.

So my research questions focus on

what are what were the consequences of

the politics of inconsistency and

selectivity in the invocation

application of r2p in the Syrian Libyan


At the level of the local politics the

grassroots what were the effects of

international norms like r2p and the U.N

sanctioned intervention Libya on the

somiotic practices of Syrian activists

between 2011 and 2012?

So the literature is largely dominated

by state-centric theories of

international relations which argue

whether it's centered around sovereignty,

international law, humanitarian

intervention, extension, or departure from

the humanitarian division of 1990s and


how to basically uh reconcile between

two inconsistencies

and the structure of the

United Nations security council itself.


little has been done towards examining

the impact of humanitarian discourse on

the dynamics of the Syrian uprising

where state sovereignty was suspended or

at least questioned by large segments of

the population and how that shaped the

uprising's language, sloganeering, and

meaning making practices.

The aim of this

paper is to historicize the emergence of

politics of despair as a reactive form

of politics, but we should be understood

like dialectically with politics of hope.

So in many cases like depending on the


uh locality of the protest sometimes you

have sloganeering

that capture the sense of hope in

addition to a sense of despair. So the

aim, the second aim is to bridge macro

politics and state-level discourses and

actions with micro politics and

grassroots level in the context of the

Syrian and the Arab uprisings.

So methodologically, I'm not going to

discuss, but I will be more than happy

to answer any questions. Uh my I follow

interpretive methodology with center

uh meaning making processes at the

center of uh my approach to understand


and how actors themselves actually

responded to the messiness of what seems

like coherent discourse.

I've conducted like thousands of hours

political ethnographic observations

including my direct experience of the

Syrian uprising up until august 2012.

But once I came to the arrived in the

U.S., I conducted 27 in the

semi-structured interview with um

prominent Syrian activists who were

amongst the early movers, which means

they were amongst the early

protesters in 2011 2012.

So my analysis, I will shift like I

engage with the literature a lot, but

then I examine the vicious consequences

in detail of their diplomatic deadlock.

At the state level,

we see uh what I call macro politics–

brutal and indiscriminate violence

against civilians it was increasing,

including the use of chemical weapons in

multiple events not just in [...] in


2012 is a significant to see how that

increased, like in terms of brutality. One

of them is bombardment of Al--Khadiyeh and Baba Amr in Homs

which was in February 2012. And then the

Houla massacre 2012, Darayya massacre 2012.

And at the grassroots levels, we see

semiotic practices around meaning making

processes being shared by this discourse.

For instance, the dominance of politics

of despair before the uprising

shifted in the middles of the Arab

Spring towards like politics of hope

and that was very visible during

February between February and August


starting from September with

increase of violence, the formation of

the Syria [...] army started to see

hybrid discourse that has a combination

of politics of hope and politics of



it's not really easy to distinguish like

oh is this a call for intervention out

of hope or out of despair,

but this lasted like an exacerbated

between September 2011 and February 2012.

And then we see politics of despair

starting in February 2012 for specific

reason. So in the writings of Syrian

activists, the scholars, books,

manuscripts, around that time, they

started to call their revolution early

on the orphanage of the trade revolution.

Again why February 2012 was significant

in addition to the massacres that I

already mentioned here which basically

showed that there is a pattern

without accountability. There was a veto,

that was a turning point in February 4

which many Syrians after that

who opposed the Syrian regime of course

felt a sense of betrayal, victimhood,

revenge, religiosity trauma and did many

Syrian activists and regional patrons to

fully embrace armed insurgency and to

append on the hope in diplomatic options.

That was the time also the gulf state

started to financially and military

support different fragments of the


armed groups.

Furthermore at the level of the

political organization we started to see

fragmentation of the opposition. So now

it's not

a group against the regime but also

whether you are supporting peaceful

diplomatic process or you are supporting

arming the opposition. I say, so it became

like movement within movement and

starting in mid 2012 up to 2013, we will

see the rise of Islamist movement later

on which basically will consume and

we'll add another layer of discourse.

So following this veto um, I witnessed

this like first hand when I was in Syria.

So the regime uh organized several

protests called [...] shukran russia [...]

thank you Russia thank you


So many employees basically were asked

to join these uh protests and they were

protesting like to thank and this is

lafrov's visit to Syria to the left in

February 7th and he was praised as a

hero. And this is following the veto.

If you trace the slogans and how they

evolve you see like from July 2011 and

like there's a graduate almost every one

week or two weeks there's a variations

of your silence is getting killing us.

International Protection. No fly zone. The

buffer zone is our demand. The Arab

league is killing us. Uh protocol of

death and and counting. So we see like an

exacerbation of demands that rely on uh

the perception that a

possibility of a Libyan outcome could

could happen.

So uh I call that deus ex machina which


in many sense like you see like many uh

protests started to embrace like even in

English and Arabic bilingual sometimes

in English and the one in the middle is

basically a

satirical goal. [...]

If the Libyans couldn't pay

oil for you we will sell our houses to

uh cover the cost. So they are making fun

they were hilarious like in that context.

But this is from like November 2011.

The point behind this slide is basically

to make the connection with the lead

bankers. So basically protesters on the

ground were seeing the outcome in Libya

and and relating to to that question. So

more crimes were committed arguably in

Syria and comparison with Libya around

that time. Nevertheless there wasn't any

even condemnation at the level of


How that afflicted also the

revolutionary uh

organization so two uh what I call

revolutionary outbreak. two main

component political organization emerged.

Once called the [...]

national coordination body which was

organized in 2011 in june. And then

syrian national council which was

founded in istanbul 2011

in august. So both initially adopted and


the three No's, which is no foreign

military intervention, no religious and

sectarian investigation and no violence

by any party.

However increasingly with the increasing


violence by the mainly by the senior

regime but also there are promises by

many syrian activists and diaspora that

there is there are surprises. Anyone who

has during that period you will see like

on al jazeera they will host like

members of the syrian national council

for instance, they will promise that we

met obama administrations and they

promise us there are surprises. so you

won't find that in english but you'll

find that in arabic. like many of these

promises shaped many of the expectation

at least.

So for instance to that extent, there was

an uh a protest that was organized

against the national uh coordination

body and in addition to calling for a

freezing syria's membership in the Arab

league which

took effect.

And then we see the collapse of a

promising uh unification between Syrian

national council and national

coordination body in December 30 2011.

we see protests actually having panels

here saying that the Syrian national

coordination body doesn't represent us,

it's only the Syrian national council so

it's claiming legitimacy based on

protests that happening on the ground.


the most important factor here is to

contextualize the humanitarian discourse

and the r2p discourse, state level

discourses with semiotic practices,

which means we we have to contextualize

that within the larger context of the arab

spring. To analyze as Lisa Wedeen taught

us, what language and samples do and how

they are inscribed in concrete actions

and how they operate to produce

observable political effects. Even when

the actual direct military intervention

fails to materialize.

Another effect on on the semiotic

practices, we see that in the uh

practices of documentation of violations

for instance,

i interviewed a doctor who arrived to

baba amro and al-khadiyah after the

massacre by the syrian regime and he was

shocked at the time that the numbers of

uh death toll and people who were killed

wasn't 400, wasn't 700 ,but was basically

So he was uh dismayed by misinformation

and which was exacerbated by al-jazeera

and al-arabiya, circulation of the

information. That there is the biggest

massacre that took place, why you aren't


So he thought that

and many other there was a tendency to

exaggerate the number of victims which

you don't need because the massacre did

take place

and thought that by increasing the

number that will actually provoke more

attention to the calamity of the syrian


So i have more details but i want to be

uh adhering to the uh uh

committed to the time frame. So uh in

conclusion, like i go through details

like uh uh on how the effect of uh

politics on the ground, the semiotic

practices between the two organizations,

the slogans how they change the changing

of the syrian flag from the one with two

stars to one to three stars that has

another process as well. The rule of

social media pan-arab media also in in

exacerbating this uh this this

image of the necessity of r2p and the

inevitability of intervention.


so with conclusion i emphasize that

the political strategy of legitimizing

syrian opposition is demand by means of

an invocation of the r2p and

humanitarian intervention discourses

wasn't only hamstrung by the actions

taking in the lybian case

which the Russian and Chinese emphasis

clearly said that we they aren't going

to allow that to take place again after

they're abstained.

Uh but that it has been productive of

politic of despair. Now there is

over reliance on deux ex machina as some

magical solution that will happen like

from afar and will suspend and stop

everything at the expense of building a

coherent political organization across

class, sect, and and political movement

that affected uh actors semaiotic

practices and the way is how they

produce perceived and interacted with

the meanings of the revolutionary

conflicts of 2011 2012. In other words

we have to examine the relation between

Asians practices and system of

signification on the one hand and the

interaction between macro politics and

micro politics on the other rather than

just relying on what is the discourse of

r2p how it was examined by different

literature, why the intervention happened

in x country but not Y country, or even

the over reliance on diaspora politics

because they are more accessible field

work was near impossible to be contacted

in Syria which led many uh scholars to

inevitably to rely on uh

the discourse and the narrative that was

disseminated by by syrian terrorist

forum. So finally by inferring from the

libyan experience, syrian activists uh

centered the this deus ex machina in protest

slogans and political samples using it

to inform decision making around the

construction of alliance networks and

making it primary issue in terms of

how it did define the political uh

different strengths of the syrian

opposition define themselves and relate

to each other even when the actual

direct military interventions failed to

materialize. Thank you so much,

thank you thank you also for the

wonderful presentation and really

thoughtful and thought-provoking. Um so

I'm going to let our um

discussants um to to respond um.

Thank you Dr Zeno uh that was

uh really i mean i i read the full paper

so i had an even uh better grasp of the

the full story that you were telling. But

i guess i think that you made

a um as possible as good summary of the

of the

arguments that you make in the in the

larger paper.

So i really appreciated how you


the effective dimension of politics and

tied it to the broader

contestations that take place in the

international geopolitical



this is


something that I commonly see. I mean you


beyond these different uh

layers and levels

and tie everyday meaning making, the


uh the relations among different local

and international actors

and the media

and the international and transnational

institutions and discourses

and practices of military


So uh

it may be too ambitious

because there are so many actors

involved in this story but at the same

time it gives one a great sense of

the the kind of interconnections

and the kind of dynamism that takes


you know in the interstices of all these


uh levels and layers.


and you know it was a really um for me

it was a really interesting story to

read, i mean.

Obviously there's such a


such a disjuncture

between the kind of mainstream

academic debates and

media representations of

the Syrian revolution civil war and

proxy wars

and the kind of knowledge that people

who are embedded in Syrian context


in relation to the diversity of actors

and the kind of you know the

changing relations among them

and etc. So i really appreciated that.

So um

one of the questions that I have



you know your points regarding how

political effects are produced circle uh

circulated and mobilized.

And I want you to ask you how these

effects are unevenly distributed across

different populations who were mobilized

in different ways during the course of

the events that unfolded after 2011. And

I'm talking about the rural and urban

population, i'm talking about [...]

and Christians. I'm talking about

merchants, workers


arabs, turkmens, and and kurds and

especially where are the Kurds in this

story given that

you know there has been so much

discussion within Syria and in

international circles and in academic

work about

you know uh the the third path about the [...]

experience about whether they

betrayed the revolution or whether they

started the real revolution etc. So I

really want to invite you to reflect on

that and iIknow that you are focusing on

the early years


of all this. Uh but still i think it's

it's relevant.

Finally uh

I really liked uh how you

how you

stress on the dialectics between the

politics of hope and politics of despair.

So these are not necessarily opposed to

one another but I still want to hear

more about how you conceptualize

politics of hope and politics of despair

and more broadly how you conceptualize

hope and despair.

Especially on the point of hope so many

political thinkers have written

some of them recently and I'm thinking

about all this legacy of cultural

marxism from Ernst Law to [...]

and i thought that [...] work

is especially relevant for the argument

that you're making

um because he talks about how hope is

different from optimism uh because

you know hope


always kind of involves this kind of

realistic calculation and in a way it

always includes despair within it


And then that's what he calls the tragic

hope. The hope that remains after

in the aftermath of

devastating loss. So i also want to hear

in relation to that,

where is hope

in Syria now. What kinds of hopes

are still there what kind of tragic

hopes or what kind of

hopes in despair


you know animate

people's activism or lack of activism or

or just everyday

you know hanging in there

etc kind of attitude towards the regime

and towards the kind of

larger political structures that inform

their lives. So I'll stop here. Thank you


Thank you Can. Laurie.

You're on. Okay thanks. Uh Basileus it's

really nice to see you again uh Basileus

usc how many years until now was it when

he was i think first working on his

dissertation maybe.

Anyway congratulations on how far you've

come and and and on

this current work.

um so

so I think um

sort of in line with some of the things

that that Can has already said there is

a lot that's going on in this paper and

i think it also is because this is part

of a book project right. I mean so this

fits it's going to fit into

a larger set of questions and it's

difficult to get everything in one in

one piece.


so i felt

i mean obviously if one wants to talk

about comparison between the syrian

libyan cases, the r2p is a central part

of that. Um i

i wonder i mean i don't know whether

it's possible in a shorter version in a

short version of of your larger uh

research, but you know r2p is such a

controversial concept. I mean it's


you sort of the negative politics of it

i think also need to be

at least in some way discussed and they

and they aren't here and I understand

that to a point, but i think that um the

degree to which it's been critiqued by

security studies scholars and others um

is is really important to to highlight.

um particular ones talking about this

politics of inconsistency and

selectivity. I mean that's kind of the

way international politics works.

it's rare that one has either a state or

you know a government of any sort at any

level that's always consistent um on a

particular policy of course then you get

people get charged with hypocrisy and so

on. But but i think there are larger

issues involved in this r2p which which

maybe you want to um go into a little

bit more whether in this paper or in

I assume you would in a larger uh longer


Then on this this question of politics

of hope and politics of despair, i mean i

had a i have a similar question to

Can's. I have a somewhat different

reaction to it i guess.


I also feel like you need to define

what these things are, what they look

like. It's it's very, i think it's very i

don't want to say it's facile, but it's

easy when one one thinks you know these

people are despairing because of what's

happening and now there's a possibility

there's gonna be interventions so

there's hope, okay.

but um if if if you want to do something

more with that theoretically it has to

travel. So we need to understand what

would a politics of hope or politics of

despair look like

elsewhere. And if you can do that. if you

can you know if you have some some

reasonable criteria uh for so that

somebody from the outside could look at

the Syrian case and say oh we're

definitely you know this this

this demonstration this particular

period represents this as opposed to

something else, as opposed to you know

hope versus despair, i think that's um

that's really important.

It seems like from your at least the

evidence that you've given here

that your primary um I mean it seems

like the primary evidence for

determining that has to do with the

slogans that people were using.

Um so i that's that's fine. I'm just

wondering if there's other evidence uh

you also you talk about the use of the

flag. the different flags. I wasn't quite

sure how that

reflected hope or despair so maybe in

going back through this, you can make

that a little bit clearer. I do think

your presentation today to us was

really spot on. I mean in some ways it

was it was it was clearer more direct or

more carefully kind of um channeled than

than at some points in the the actual uh

written presentation but anyway.


related to this politics of of hope and

despair um

I wasn't good. I didn't want to go into

individual page things. but there's a

quote from Hamid Dabashi that i find

really offensive.

Um and I'll tell you why um he talks

about habitual politics of despair

in the arab world. Now again i realize

you haven't given his criteria for

determining what politics of despair


but it seems to me that that suggests

that over decades which is what he says,

over you know many decades, there's

somehow or other


you know Arabs have sat there and

despaired all the time and then suddenly

the air the quote-unquote Arab spring

came and then you know they woke up and

um and that simply is historically


And it does

no justice to the hundreds of I mean the

thousands of people who have suffered

and died and protested whether people

saw them or not, whether they died in

some god forsaken prison.

Um and I really i just i was



moved in it but very sort of upset

by that. I mean the algerian revolution,

the palestinian [...], Hezbollah and

defending southern lebanon. The algerian

uprising in october of 88. Jordan, i mean

there are all sorts of things. So I

really think he's just wrong and I

wouldn't use him. I wouldn't use that

quote by any means because I don't think

that what we've seen in the region is

decades-long politics of despair. Anyway

so that's my i'll get off my soapbox now.

um and uh just make a couple of more

comments. I think um this this dichotomy

between uh insiders and outsider,s i

think is really interesting and i

realized the difficulty that people had

in accessing insiders during all of this.

So I appreciate that when it comes to

the constraints of field work. I do think

you might be able to make more of it

um and I'm wondering if you can't um it

just seems to me that you know they're

that they're obviously they're

responding to different conditions on

the ground. They're responding to

different kinds of pressures. They're

responding to different kinds of funding

there are all sorts of things that are


um the the ground level politics and the

diaspora politics and of course there's

a lot of work on diaspora activists

anyway and you know the kinds of

positions they tend to take in these

kinds of issues. So i think you may be

able to make more of that either in this

paper or in a in a larger project


and then

oh yeah just finally uh it because it

also connects the insider outsider and

then also the the kind of sloganeering

the semiotics. And that is the role of

media in general you you focus on al

jazeera i think rightly so. I think al

jazeera's role in all of this is

anyway distressing and and really marks

the the decline of what i think had been

an extremely important media outlet for

a lot of us uh in trying to understand

what was happening in the region. But at

one point you said that that the people

on the ground were adopting slogans from

the media either from al jazeera or uh

el [...[ or whatever it was.

That i think it needs some sort of

further reflection. I mean if if the

slogan airing is coming largely as a

result of tapping into or focusing on

uh grabbing slogans that are being

created by media instruments that are

related to important you know outside

funders of

what ends up being you know the highly

militarized uh civil war. Then that's

maybe also something to

i don't know again just to reflect on a

little bit more but anyway thank you so

much for this this was great and i look

forward to seeing more of your work.

Thank you thanks thanks for those great

comments. um uh Doctor Zeno. will let


speak if you have any questions you can

obviously post it we don't have a lot of

time left and they may answer it

via email and and so on professors in. I

want to give you a chance to to respond.

So thank you so much for uh such, this is

what i'm looking for like the way i

submitted the whole paper because i

i know some of the area that needed uh

elaboration definitely uh but uh i would

start with Can's uh uh emphasis that

definitely yeah there's the

divide between uh rural versus urban,

let's not forget that uh.

Aleppo was very late to join the uh the

uprising and even they were uh

slogans calling like aleppo

basically to instigate Aleppo to join

the uprising. uh Lisa Wedden of course

did the uh great job in analyzing the

new liberal ideology and how its

function uh around that time. And then

also like we see slogans in english and

arabic. So let's not forget that to have

the capacity to write and communicate

something in english that requires not

just a level of education but who is

your audience. So to have this air that

doesn't mean like we'll see what we see

or what have been circulated and i think

that's one of the

challenges that scholars who just rely

over rely on basically media content

analysis because what we see is what

have been allowed to be shown but that

doesn't mean like there weren't other

protests other slogans that existed but

they were in the in the shadow.

uh so uh

because at the same time you will find

uh uh protest was like national slogans

but at the same time like co-exist with

the uh sectarian slogan, slogan were

edited out. well you won't see this in in

but later after many years we started to

see footages about something that is

complete. so there is a risk of over

reliance definitely on on on

on content from afar. But to emphasize


syrian conflict and the uprising was

asymmetrical at many levels. For instance

in june uh 2011, like the one of the

biggest massacre on massacre was [...]

in 2011. The overwhelming majority of

protests across all syria didn't

basically pick up a gun. Over one

majority were basically peaceful so to

generalize from that uh

and apply that to every single contest

uh to understand why [...] in particular

became enmeshed in turkish politics and

in the interest of of uh early on and

arming the syrian army and uh

so it should be locally contextualized

because uh even these demands depends on

what they have been experiencing uh

around that time. So there is the larger

slogans of

friday but then

like in in during summer 2011 or worse

we started to see protests on Tuesday on

wednesday and these had their own slogan

as well.

The ones about Friday which i focus on


the ones who were circulated in media

light largely. And as Laurie said like uh

definitely al jazeera played a major

role in amplifying certain messages

so for instance a message around the

inevitability of intervention the how

over emphasis on the libyan context and

how that relates to–. who was giving the

platform to who was hosted on al jazeera

frequently and who was basically uh uh

was pushed to the shadow or just to be

represented in the Syrian regime as if

you have one voice of the syrian

opposition versus one voice of the

syrian regime and not in between like

many various transfers between.

Around the Kurds, definitely I focus on

2011 and 2012 differently uh. the Kurds

were protesting consistently in [...]

and [...] one of


good local kurdish leader was

assassinated early on


the organization like before, the [...]

before all this take place

within these institutions. So some joined

the Syrian national council, some joined

the uh

the Syrian national body the higher


as goods who are supporting basically

gradualist uh approach and course who

joined the syrian national council [...]

for instance who became the


of the [...]. He was Kurdish,

but he represents one once one political

view that is in on

in contrast with the muslims who was a

member of the syrian democratic party so

there is local kurdish

uh politics that is enmeshed in these

dynamics that i already mentioned here.

uh uh

so hope and despair definitely this is

the part that i not just felt i

already know that it requires like

extensive elaboration

to make it make it clear how that

theoretically uh would be significant

and to shed

a light into these dynamics because it

really in many cases it's you can't

easily tell is this coming from a

position of despair or opposition of

hope. So more theoretical sophistication

is required here there is no question of


uh one final thing

uh yeah i had difficult time already

with Dabishi's quote.

The part that I agreed with is that

the early

months of the e40 of the arab spring and [...]

but that doesn't really do justice to

the many many many many movements that

took place there many syrians actually

who ended up in the prison under half as

lesser than half.

uh so exactly. So

yeah so there were many micro politics

and um like to agree with [...]

here like [...] like the

tendency to focus on big massive

protests social movement

doesn't do justice to many micro

politics here and there, like in terms of

gravity, in terms of writing, tv shows

that communicated certain messages,

cartoon caricature like uh

private meetings between uh

like uh artists and and and the young

people like me when we were in college.

So we had many hopes definitely we were

acting based on hope. Joining the arab

uprising was based on hope rather than

based on on display. So definitely i have

to engage more critically with this if

not actually taking it out


thank you very much for those very

helpful comments. Um i would like to

take this opportunity to thank

both our speakers and discussants for

this incredibly insightful and

stimulating conversation and I hope we

all stay in touch. And that there is more

collaboration across um

you know the fields and also

without all these wonderful colleagues

working together perhaps even

creating joint

scholarship in some ways. It seems to me

there's a lot of relations between at

least some of the papers that I heard

so thank you

all for joining us.

I hope

we can continue the conversation

in the future and best wishes in your