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Lebanese Kurds and Rojava : a transnational perpective

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Title: Lebanese Kurds and Rojava : a transnational perpective
Author(s): Huovila, Miriam
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
Specialisation: African and Middle Eastern Studies Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
Abstract:
This thesis provides a transnational perspective to Lebanese Kurds, particularly regarding their activism and networks related to Rojava, the Kurdish areas in northern Syria. After Armenians, Kurds form the second-largest non-Arab ethnic group in Lebanon. By estimate, around 100,000-150,000 Kurds reside in Lebanon, most of them holding Lebanese citizenship. Since 2011, the war in Syria has led around 20,000 Syrian Kurds to seek shelter in neighboring Lebanon. In January 2018, Turkey launched an attack against the Kurdish forces in Afrin in northern Syria, which resulted in demonstrations in Kurdish communities worldwide, including Lebanon. The objective of the study was to find out whether, and by which means, Kurds in Lebanon try to influence the Rojava issue and whether they are part of some transnational networks related to Rojava. The primary material of the study is based on five semi-structured interviews conducted with the presidents of four Lebanese Kurdish associations and one unaffiliated Syrian Kurd in Beirut in July 2019. The material was transcribed, and thematic content analysis was used as the method to examine the textual data. The theoretical framework of the research is based on the study of transnational activism, transnational networks, and processes of transnational contention. Furthermore, characteristics of transnational practices of ethnic diasporas, transnational impacts on domestic activism, and transnationalism among the Kurds are presented. The substance of the study is also contextualized by an overview of the history of the Kurds in Lebanon, the recent political developments in northern Syria, the Kurdish women’s movement in Rojava, and media coverage regarding the Kurds in Lebanon. The research found out that the limited political opportunities of the Kurds in Lebanon have weakened their chances to influence the Rojava issue. The community is divided along the borderlines of the Kurdish party political, which affects the attitudes of the Kurds towards Rojava. The transnational networks and processes between Lebanese Kurds and Rojava center on the sympathizers of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Furthermore, transnational women’s organization networks form the most significant transnational links between Lebanese Kurds and Rojava. Two of the Lebanese Kurdish associations have relations with the women’s umbrella organization Congress Star in northern Syria, and their local activism is largely influenced by the women’s movement in the area. Thus, it is argued that the relationship between the Lebanese Kurds and Rojava is reciprocal.
Keyword(s): Transational activism transnational networks transnational contention diffusion Kurds Lebanon Rojava


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