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Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East

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The American invasion of Iraq has been a success - for the Kurds. Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and be The American invasion of Iraq has been a success - for the Kurds. Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and betrayal, surviving only through stubborn compromise with greater powers. They have always desired their own state, and now, accidentally, the United States may have helped them take a huge step toward that goal. As Quil Lawrence relates in his fascinating and timely study of the Iraqi Kurds, while their ambition and determination grow apace, their future will be largely dependent on whether America values a budding democracy in the region, or decides to yet again sacrifice the Kurds in the name of political expediency. Either way, the Kurdish north may well prove to be the defining battleground in Iraq, as the country struggles to hold itself together. At this extraordinary moment in the saga of Kurdistan, informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Lawrence's intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.


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The American invasion of Iraq has been a success - for the Kurds. Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and be The American invasion of Iraq has been a success - for the Kurds. Kurdistan is an invisible nation, and the Kurds the largest ethnic group on Earth without a homeland, comprising some 25 million moderate Sunni Muslims living in the area around the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Through a history dating back to biblical times, they have endured persecution and betrayal, surviving only through stubborn compromise with greater powers. They have always desired their own state, and now, accidentally, the United States may have helped them take a huge step toward that goal. As Quil Lawrence relates in his fascinating and timely study of the Iraqi Kurds, while their ambition and determination grow apace, their future will be largely dependent on whether America values a budding democracy in the region, or decides to yet again sacrifice the Kurds in the name of political expediency. Either way, the Kurdish north may well prove to be the defining battleground in Iraq, as the country struggles to hold itself together. At this extraordinary moment in the saga of Kurdistan, informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Lawrence's intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.

30 review for Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I read this book while deployed to the Kurdish region of Iraq and this book was not only invaluable in my dealing with and understanding of these complex and wonderful people, but the book ended up being a door opener for me on many occasions. As part of a Military Transition Team, I came across many instances while in the region where I needed and ice breaker to open doors and provide a connection with people I met on the battlefield. Too many times to count I reflected back on the history I le I read this book while deployed to the Kurdish region of Iraq and this book was not only invaluable in my dealing with and understanding of these complex and wonderful people, but the book ended up being a door opener for me on many occasions. As part of a Military Transition Team, I came across many instances while in the region where I needed and ice breaker to open doors and provide a connection with people I met on the battlefield. Too many times to count I reflected back on the history I learned from this book to provide me with additional knowledge and insight. This should be on the reading list for anyone traveling to the region.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I read this book while I was still living in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. It was fascinating to read about places I knew and events that I was familiar with. More than that, though, this book is a fairly thorough and even-handed study of the modern history of the Kurds in Iraq. It's also very well-written and I found it great fun to read. Lawrence's human subjects are treated with respect and he tells their stories as they might tell them himself; he's a great story teller. I recommend this book I read this book while I was still living in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. It was fascinating to read about places I knew and events that I was familiar with. More than that, though, this book is a fairly thorough and even-handed study of the modern history of the Kurds in Iraq. It's also very well-written and I found it great fun to read. Lawrence's human subjects are treated with respect and he tells their stories as they might tell them himself; he's a great story teller. I recommend this book to anyone who'll listen to me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A really interesting look on the history of the Kurds, their place in Iraq, and potential for the future, as well as underscoring the difficulties of establishing a legitimate state of Kurdistan given the regional issues. After reading Galbraith's End of Iraq with his three state solution that heavily favored the Kurds (he practically wrote it just for them), it was good to get more background on northern Iraq/the Kurds. Also after seening Paul Bremer at Bowdoin, the assessment of him by the autho A really interesting look on the history of the Kurds, their place in Iraq, and potential for the future, as well as underscoring the difficulties of establishing a legitimate state of Kurdistan given the regional issues. After reading Galbraith's End of Iraq with his three state solution that heavily favored the Kurds (he practically wrote it just for them), it was good to get more background on northern Iraq/the Kurds. Also after seening Paul Bremer at Bowdoin, the assessment of him by the author and Kurds interviewed made a lot of sense...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Just picked up a bootleg copy of this in the Citadel here in Erbil... it looks like this version, and the paper is good, but the cover is badly cut, printed and glued, and the internal pictures are very dark and squint. This and a few other interesting versions of recent works were stacked up in the back of the antique/junk/souvenir shop. I'm pleased to have found it all as bookshops are eluding me (but then this is a very confusing city) and thus far I hadn't seen anything in any language I can Just picked up a bootleg copy of this in the Citadel here in Erbil... it looks like this version, and the paper is good, but the cover is badly cut, printed and glued, and the internal pictures are very dark and squint. This and a few other interesting versions of recent works were stacked up in the back of the antique/junk/souvenir shop. I'm pleased to have found it all as bookshops are eluding me (but then this is a very confusing city) and thus far I hadn't seen anything in any language I can read, on Kurdistan or any other subject.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Give the Kurds a nation of their own!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Travis Lupick

    This review was originally published in the Georgia Straight newspaper. The origins of the Kurdish people are not entirely clear. Popular myth draws on stories of a lost tribe driven into the mountains, while most historians trace the ancient roots of the Kurds back to an Indo-European people of the sixth century BC. Erbil, the capital of autonomous Kurdish Iraq, has been inhabited for as long as 8,000 years and rivals Damascus as one of the world’s oldest continually populated cities. The larger u This review was originally published in the Georgia Straight newspaper. The origins of the Kurdish people are not entirely clear. Popular myth draws on stories of a lost tribe driven into the mountains, while most historians trace the ancient roots of the Kurds back to an Indo-European people of the sixth century BC. Erbil, the capital of autonomous Kurdish Iraq, has been inhabited for as long as 8,000 years and rivals Damascus as one of the world’s oldest continually populated cities. The larger urban centres of Kurdish Iraq have shopping malls and relatively modern universities. Sulaymaniyah, a cultural and industrial centre of the region, has a small collection of skyscrapers, a petting zoo, even a Ferris wheel and boardwalk. Throughout Invisible Nation, BBC correspondent Quil Lawrence draws on personal experience, having spent much of the last seven years in the region. Surrounded by rolling green hills and mountains, he writes, the area is more like Ireland than the war-torn deserts that encircle Baghdad—though Kurdish Iraq has also been battered by war. In 1988, Iraq’s Kurds suffered a genocide called al-Anfal when Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid organized the mass murder of at least 100,000 noncombatants. Twenty years later, the soil of the campaign’s worst-hit cities remains poisoned by mustard gas. The Kurds of Iraq also have their own army, a force known as the peshmerga, who since 2003 have fought alongside U.S. forces. And yet if Iraq’s Kurds were ever to declare independence, Lawrence reasons, Turkey, Iran, and Syria—each with its own sizable Kurdish population—would immediately declare war. All that the Kurds of Iraq have accomplished would be lost. And so some 25 million people—the largest ethnic group on Earth without a country—live in limbo, forever straddling the borders of four hostile states. In Invisible Nation, Lawrence gives firsthand accounts of heroic battles of the peshmerga, provides poignant analyses of the Kurds’ political achievements, and delivers scathing criticism of the United States’ numerous betrayals. It’s a solid piece of work, and Lawrence’s only significant mistake is failing to devote more space to the Kurdish populations that live outside of Iraq. The Kurds can so easily capture the imagination that it is a shame to limit the majority of their history to an American war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Published in 2008, Invisible Nation is an old book considering everything that has happened since then. Still, this is an important work and still relevant in order to understand the politics behind this small but resourceful and formidable people and how the U.S. has an obligation to protect them. Paired with recent events of the Kurds putting boots on the ground in order to wipe out Daesh in both Iraq and Syria and to rescue and provide sanctuary to the Yezidi, it is in our interests to amplif Published in 2008, Invisible Nation is an old book considering everything that has happened since then. Still, this is an important work and still relevant in order to understand the politics behind this small but resourceful and formidable people and how the U.S. has an obligation to protect them. Paired with recent events of the Kurds putting boots on the ground in order to wipe out Daesh in both Iraq and Syria and to rescue and provide sanctuary to the Yezidi, it is in our interests to amplify and support this oil-rich democracy, which acknowledges in an unusual-for-the-region stance a tolerance for Israel. The Kurds have consistently proven themselves to be allies of the West, and the West continually treats the Kurds as political pawns. Quill Lawrence shows us their resilience despite our ultimate neglect.

  8. 4 out of 5

    my name is corey irl

    found this kurdbook in a palestinian apartment building. its a real bad photocopy an so i guess jalal talabani prolly doesnt look sudanese irl (or maybe in the post-ba'athist melting pot that is modern iraq he does??). lawrence's accounts of the northern buildup to 2003 and the clashes with ansar al-islam are real cool. but anfal and saddam's one-time alliance with the kdp are sorta skimmed over even though theyre probably more interesting than pages and pages about chalabi. also the pkk dont ge found this kurdbook in a palestinian apartment building. its a real bad photocopy an so i guess jalal talabani prolly doesnt look sudanese irl (or maybe in the post-ba'athist melting pot that is modern iraq he does??). lawrence's accounts of the northern buildup to 2003 and the clashes with ansar al-islam are real cool. but anfal and saddam's one-time alliance with the kdp are sorta skimmed over even though theyre probably more interesting than pages and pages about chalabi. also the pkk dont get any real treatment even though by other accounts they got up to some cool mischief in the region?? but ataturk's wicked burn against all of kurdom is quoted ("mountain turks who forgot their language"). damn imagine being equated with the lowly turk.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mubeen Irfan

    Kurds are long considered to be the only large group of people who do not have a separate homeland. They were cheated out of their country after the first world war when the European countries carved the middle East like a knife on butter. Their pesh merga forces have been in news lately on account of defending their territory against ISIS and being the only group of people doing it effectively. Although Kurds live in the north of Iraq, west of Iran, South of Turkey and in some parts of Syria, t Kurds are long considered to be the only large group of people who do not have a separate homeland. They were cheated out of their country after the first world war when the European countries carved the middle East like a knife on butter. Their pesh merga forces have been in news lately on account of defending their territory against ISIS and being the only group of people doing it effectively. Although Kurds live in the north of Iraq, west of Iran, South of Turkey and in some parts of Syria, this book is primarily on the Iraqi Kurds (who make the biggest portion of Kurds in this region) and their struggle towards autonomy and greater independence. The writer gives a brief account of Kurd struggle pre first Gulf war and then a detailed horrifying narrative on Saddam's revenge on Kurds. What follows is a civil war between the two factions of Kurds and later the second gulf war. Relationships with the Kurds of neighboring countries have also been touched upon here and unsurprisingly this relationship is marred with individual interests. Iraqi Kurdistan is still not independent. Turkey, Iran & Syria wouldn't like one group of Kurds to be independent else it gives ideas to their native Kurds. It's a heavy narrative, not academic but still full with information a casual reader can do away with. I read it keenly because it serves a good reference point for understanding this bit of history and struggle.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    This book was published in 2008. That is such a long time ago in Iraq. But it is a fascinating view of the northern Iraq area that is dominated by the Kurds. There are Kurdish population centers in turkey and Syria and Iran. Kurds would love to have their own independent country but they know they would be attacked by many of the countries that surround them who would fear Kurdish expansionism. The politics in this area are so complicated. The United States has been so immersed in Iraq for so man This book was published in 2008. That is such a long time ago in Iraq. But it is a fascinating view of the northern Iraq area that is dominated by the Kurds. There are Kurdish population centers in turkey and Syria and Iran. Kurds would love to have their own independent country but they know they would be attacked by many of the countries that surround them who would fear Kurdish expansionism. The politics in this area are so complicated. The United States has been so immersed in Iraq for so many years now. Much of the content in this book is old news that we have heard before. But we have not always heard about what has been going on with the Kurds. This book talks about how they have been fairly successful in running their own little independent part of Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cyrus Samii

    Outstanding account of the events leading to the establishment of the current Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. What make the book stand out are both Lawrence’s narrative flair and the insider accounts, replete with plenty of illuminating quotes, from the central players inside Iraq, US capital, and beyond who were involved in the key moments of the Kurdish uprising in the early 1990s through to the post 2003 US-invasion negotiations.

  12. 5 out of 5

    モーリー

    This book wasn't really what I wanted, but it is well researched and written nonetheless. It has much more to do with contemporary politics and the Bush administration than with history. If that's what you're interested in, you'll be more into it than I was. This book wasn't really what I wanted, but it is well researched and written nonetheless. It has much more to do with contemporary politics and the Bush administration than with history. If that's what you're interested in, you'll be more into it than I was.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Fantastic exploration of Iraqi Kurdistan over the decades, through 2008. Really well written, wholly absorbing, and an excellent resource.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Photovy

    Fascinating book that includes how boundaries where drawn in the Middle East, what is a Kurd?, and how they a national identity that spans 4 countries.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Pike

    A thorough account of modern Kurdish history from the Treaty of Sevres to the beginning of Barack Obama's administration in 2009. The most notable account is that of Saddam Hussein's al-Anfal campaign; genocide against the Kurds, often using chemical weapons. This book is crucial for students of Kurdish history. A thorough account of modern Kurdish history from the Treaty of Sevres to the beginning of Barack Obama's administration in 2009. The most notable account is that of Saddam Hussein's al-Anfal campaign; genocide against the Kurds, often using chemical weapons. This book is crucial for students of Kurdish history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    This book was informative, but it wasn't really what I had been looking for. Largely, it is an account of the Kurds as they relate to U.S. foreign policy and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I'd hoped for something broader and that touched more on the Kurds as a whole, including the history of the populations in Iran and Turkey. This book was informative, but it wasn't really what I had been looking for. Largely, it is an account of the Kurds as they relate to U.S. foreign policy and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I'd hoped for something broader and that touched more on the Kurds as a whole, including the history of the populations in Iran and Turkey.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarialp7

    I cant say that i liked this book. There are lots of inaccurate and third party stories. Some parts of the book is more fiction than nonfiction. Anyway, its ok but i wouldnt recommend it for anyone to waste their time. There are other resources to read to get an idea about the region and Kurds.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    A very readable history on a topic not yet widely written about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Garland

    Very informative book about a part of the world that my work takes me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Answer

    A biased book, but a good one regardless - especially if one wishes to refine his/her view opposing American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Engaging narrative and very informative. Lots of interesting anecdotes and interview excerpts. The footnotes are entertaining and an added bonus.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sara Sharick

    If you want a good rendering, from the Kurdish angle, of how the United States got from point A to point B in Iraq, through about mid 2008, read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bayad Ali

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris Wilkins

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rawand Askary

  26. 4 out of 5

    Melkor von Moltke

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gale Ebie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lj

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tony

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