Iraqi Kurds: The dream of nation state

October 26, 2020

MSU Sociology PhD student Jihan Mohammed has published research on why the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum failed.

"Iraqi Kurds: The dream of nation state" was published October 21, 2020 in the Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES) with Abdullah F. Alrebh, Assstant Professor of Sociology at Grand Valley State University.

 "The purpose of this article is to analyze why the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum failed. We aim to do that by analyzing the multilevel factors that we argue worked dialectically to block Iraqi Kurds’ state‐building project.

"On the Kurdish level, we argue that the Kurdish political and economic spheres are built on partisan bonds and loyalties at the expense of collective and national interest, thus, Iraqi Kurds lack a unified vision, ideology, and central leadership for how to achieve independence. Politically, Kurdish parties disagreed on the timing and the legality of the referendum. Economically, the Kurdish leadership has been unsuccessful in establishing a sustainable political economy able to endure the sanctions imposed on the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) as a reaction to the 2017 referendum. On the regional level, we argue that the Middle Eastern states are prone to ally with the Kurds and build economic and political relations with them as far as the Kurds remain a minority within Iraq.

"We discuss how Iraq, Turkey, and Iran took immediate and serious measures against the 2017 referendum, thus, shacking the status quo of IKR. Finally, on the international level, we argue that the international community have historically resisted the secession of the Kurds from Iraq. Thus, in 2017 they sustained, yet again, that the territorial integrity of Iraq should be preserved."

Jihan Mohammed's research areas are race and ethnicity, political sociology, social psychology. She is particularly interested in using qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate national and ethno-sectarian identities in the Middle East. Much of her research focuses on social distance and sectarian discrimination in Iraq and Lebanon. For her dissertation, she is looking at how sectarian identities are constructed and deconstructed in conflict areas like Iraq. Specifically, she is investigating how the sectarian narrative impacts on Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Shiites’ discriminatory attitudes.

She was born and raised in Iraqi Kurdistan Region and, prior to attending Michigan State University, worked as an instructor at the University of Dohuk/Iraq for three years. At the age of 19 she was granted the UNESCO Co-Sponsored Fellowships Program to study in Italy. She has a BA in letters and philosophy and an MA in education earned from the University of Foggia/Italy. She also has an MA in sociology earned from Michigan State University.

Dr. Alrebh is Assistant Professor of Sociology of Religion and Sociological Theory at Grand Valley State University. He is an academic and author with research interests in Middle East, Arabic literature and Islam. He earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, East Lansing in 2014, in addition to a Master of Sociology from MSU, and a Master of Arabic literature from King Saud University. He has published a number of academic articles and book chapters focusing on religion, Middle East, social movements, and education. The major interest of Dr. Alrebh is Saudi Arabia and Islamic mobilization in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Prior to joining Grand Valley, Dr. Alrebh worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Michigan State University and as adjunct faculty at Saginaw Valley State University.