Kurdish Studies in the United States

By Michael M. Gunter, Mohammed M.A. Ahmed,
Submitted to Session P4716 (Kurdish Studies: A 50-Year Retrospective, 2016 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
North America;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Although the United States is about as far away from Kurdistan as is geographically possible, it has a well-established tradition of Kurdish Studies. Indeed, as long ago as April 1928, Sureya Bedirkhan—one of the three famous grandsons of the legendary mir of the emirate of Botan, Bedir Khan Beg (1800c.- 1868)—journeyed to Detroit, Michigan to mobilize the Kurdish community in that famous automobile capital in support of Khoybun’s Ararat Revolt against Turkey. Little known to even Kurdish scholars, William O. Douglas—the famous and longest-serving Associate Justice of United States Supreme Court from 1939 until his retirement in 1975—visited Kurdistan in the summers of 1949 and 1950 as part of a much larger trip to the Middle East. He shared his impressions of the Kurds and concluded that “Independence Is Preferred,” the title of one of the chapters in a book that recorded his over-all trip. Dana Adams Schmidt, for many years a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, spent 46 days with the Iraqi Kurds in 1962, concluding that the Kurds were “the fightingest people in the Middle East.” Margaret Kahn, whose Ph.D. dissertation in 1976 at the University of Michigan dealt with Kurdish linguistics, wrote an entire book about her trip to Kurdistan in 1974. All three of these American descriptions of the Kurds were early preludes to a veritable sea of later studies. One of the most celebrated American devotees of Kurdish studies was Dr. Vera Beaudin Saeedpour (1930-2010). After her Kurdish husband’s premature death from leukemia, Saeedpour founded the Kurdish Heritage Foundation of America with a Kurdish library in her Prospect Heights, Brooklyn brownstone. Her Kurdish library came to contain more than 2,000 texts in Kurdish and other languages, while her museum opened in 1988 possessed Kurdish artifacts, art, costumes, and maps. In addition to these earlier scholars, this paper will also examine the contribution to Kurdish Studies in the United States made by more than 20 other more recent American scholars or those who lived for many years in that country. The International Journal of Kurdish Studies, Kurdish National Congress of North America, Washington Kurdish Institute, and Kurdish Studies Association, among others, will also be discussed. The method of analysis for writing