The lecture, entitled “The Kurds – A People in Search of Their Homeland,” is based on a book of the same name that McKiernan recently published. Tickets are available through Arts & Lectures and are $8 for students and $10 for the general public. McKiernan said the lecture would be a dynamic representation of the subject matter.
“I plan to keep people awake,” McKiernan said. “Everyone knows the name Kurd, but now they are America’s best friend in a war that appears to be lost otherwise. I will show over 100 slides from my 15 years in these Kurdish areas. The drumbeat is beginning that would pull all these diverse Kurds together.”
The Kurds are the world’s largest stateless ethnic group and have garnered recent attention for their role as a U.S. ally in the invasion of Iraq, McKiernan said. Middle Eastern governments have historically repressed their identity, he said, and Saddam Hussein poisoned about 7,000 Kurds using chemical weapons.
The Kurds, who number between 25 and 30 million, will be important to the stability of the Middle East in the next decade, McKiernan said.
“Ten years ago, a Syrian Kurd told me that [they were a key to the stability of the Middle East],” McKiernan said. “I thought he was boasting, and I politely nodded my head and didn’t put much stock in that analysis. But the Kurds have a bloc located in all of these [Middle Eastern] countries, and in some senses they have common interests. They are an outline for stability or great instability in those areas.”
McKiernan began work as a journalist covering armed confrontations between Native Americans and authorities in the 1970s, and said it was this experience that spawned his present outlook on the repression of Kurds.
“I saw a lot of similarities between the Kurds in the ’90s and the Native Americans,” McKiernan said. “They were the prism through which I saw Kurdish experience.”
In 1999, McKiernan was first introduced to the Kurds while a group of them was taking refuge in tent camps in Iran, and has since been astonished by the huge changes they have seen.
“They were a people dying of disease and running away from Saddam’s gunships,” McKiernan said. “They were living in tents with not much clean water. They were fearing for their lives and dying in those camps. [But] today, a Kurd is the president of Iraq – it’s been quite an arc.”
Books by Kevin McKiernan will be available for purchase and signing at the lecture, courtesy of event co-sponsor Borders.