Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?: My Encounters with Kurdistan by Jonathan Randal

Synopsis: Throughout the Kurd’s history, world powers have promised to help them achieve autonomy, and each time the Kurds have been betrayed. But they are also maters of betrayal. In this book, Jonathan Randal takes us behind the headlines to the inner story of power politics in the Middle East. His sympathetic knowledge of Kurdish history and his unparalleled access to Kurdish leaders and to diplomats, ministers, intelligence agents, warriors, and journalists make him the only writer able to get this story for us and uncover the truth. (from the back of the book)

Review: After reading A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the IslamicState by Meredith Tax, I wanted to continue my acquisition of knowledge on the Kurds. I’ve had Randal’s book in my library for at least a decade. No idea why but I’m glad I kept it through all the purges.
Randal actually traveled to Kurdistan, at great peril, several times, during the 90s. As a seasoned journalist for both the New York Times and the Washington Post, he undertook this adventure with a practiced eye for detail. It shows. His ability to get close to key players in the events of the 90s (including the Gulf War) make this story part-history, part-adventure story. Randal gives the reader a simple but thorough history of the Kurdish people, and includes, in no uncertain terms, the constant conflict, betrayals, and lost chances for autonomy. He doesn’t take sides. All players are equally to blame. The Kurds themselves are often both victim and perpetrator.  Randal is a clear, concise, and thorough writer, excellent for both the academic and the amateur.
My only regret is that this book was published in 1999 – and I’m interested in Randal’s thoughts on the current situations, nearly 20 years later. But, given he was in his 40s and 50s during this book, it is unlikely he would undertake the same journey  in his 70s. This is unfortunate, as his practice eye and experiences would bring to light stories we aren’t going to hear otherwise. While it doesn’t include current events, those events are directly related to what Randal describes in the book. And to understand the present condition of the Kurdish people, one must look to their past.
Recommended for anyone interested in some of the roots of the current condition in the Middle East, particularly those that pertain to the Kurdish situation, and the war in Syria. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8133-3580-9
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 10-5-2016
Pages: 356

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