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Framing the Past through Suffering and Victimhood

This paper arises out of a monograph that Christine Allison is writing on how the Kurds talk about the past. The ideas of Kurdish suffering and Kurdish victimhood are fundamental to the way Kurdish identity is constructed, both in the Kurdish homelands and the diaspora. This is also the case for Kurdish collective memory (which is intimately linked to Kurdish identity). Clearly Kurds have indeed suffered many violent events over the past century, but this is not at issue – what Christine Allison examine here is how events of the past have been mediated into discourse. Kurdish narratives of the past tend to emphasise Kurdish suffering and victimhood, rather than Kurdish victories and achievements, and in this paper Christine Allison will outline how this discourse of memory is formed, who is forming it, and why – what social and political purposes does it serve to frame the past in this way?