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Image from the storyExplore the Motivations of Kurdish Nationalists

Target Grade Levels:
Grades 7-12

Conflict, Tyranny and Renewal, Separatist Movements, U.S. Influence Abroad

• The Activity
• Relevant National Standards
• Ties to Literature

The Activity

President George W. Bush has said that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq until the country is able to effectively govern itself. A significant challenge facing Iraq's new government is the desire of many Kurds to have an independent state in the oil-rich northern section of the country. Culturally, the Kurds are much different from the rest of Iraq. They are Sunni Muslims, and also have their own language, culture and a strong sense of national identity. Historically, it has also been difficult to live in peace with Arabs and others who live in the surrounding region, so some Kurds have wondered how they will fare in the new Iraq.

To help students better understand the perspective of Kurdish nationalists and the challenges that they could pose to the new Iraqi government, show the 16-minute FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut video, "Return to Kirkuk".
Focus student viewing by having them take notes on why many Kurds want their own country instead of having a state that's part of Iraq.

Following the video, discuss student notes, and then ask them to expand their lists as you review the FRONTLINE/World "Kurds At The Crossroads" timeline of Kurdish history.
(Note: The last two sections of this timeline contain graphic images.)

How do Kurdish experiences and culture influence the desire for many Kurds to separate from Iraq and have their own country? What impact might an independent Kurdistan have on the Kurdish people and the surrounding region?

Explain that while many may dream of an independent Kurdistan, in the meantime, the Kurds have asserted themselves politically in the new Iraq. In the 2005 elections that students saw taking place in the video, Kurds won more than a quarter of the seats in Iraq's National Assembly, and that Assembly later elected a Kurd to be the president of Iraq. Ask students what advantages and disadvantages there might be for Kurds if they remain part of Iraq. Similarly, what advantages and disadvantages are there for Iraq if Kurdistan remains part of the country? How might timing influence the potential success or failure of Kurdish nationalists?

Conclude this activity by having student groups role play a meeting where Kurdish nationalists seek to convince members of Iraq's National Assembly that there should be an independent Kurdistan.

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Relevant National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at

Civics, Standard 23: Understands the impact of significant political and nonpolitical developments on the United States and other nations

Level IV, Benchmark 4
Understands why transnational loyalties such as those to ethnic, religious, tribal, or linguistic groups sometimes supersede allegiance to a nation-state

Geography, Standard 4: Understands the physical and human characteristics of place
Geography, Standard 6: Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Level III, Benchmark 1
Understands why places and regions are important to individual human identity and as symbols for unifying or fragmenting society
Geography, Standard 10: Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
Level IV, Benchmark 4
Knows the role culture plays in incidents of cooperation and conflict in the present-day world Geography, Standard 13: Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface

World History, Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world

Level III, Benchmark 9
Understands the motivations, moral imperatives, and goals of specific separatist movements around the globe and the potential impact on the affected populations
Level IV, Benchmark 5
Understands the role of political ideology, religion, and ethnicity in shaping modern governments

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