The College Issue and a Discussion on Student Debt

Welcome to Dissent‘s new website! On it, you’ll find our fall issue, with a special section on higher education. Right now, non-subscribers can read Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal’s “From Master Plan to No Plan: The Slow Death of Public Higher Education,” on the creation and decline of the California public university system.

We’ll be rolling out more great articles from the issue in the coming weeks, but to read it all and to read it now, subscribe to Dissent for an introductory rate of just $20 a year. Your subscriptions help support projects like the redesign of this site. And whether you’re a subscriber already or not, you can support us with your donations.


To mark the launch of the College Issue, we’re co-hosting an event this Thursday on how to confront the student debt crisis. (Click here for the event’s Facebook page.) The event will feature Sarah Jaffe, the former labor editor at AlterNet and a journalist whose work has been published in the Nation, the American Prospect, and Dissent, among other publications; Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, author of The University Against Itself: The NYU Strike and the Future of the Academic Workplace and a recent Dissent web exclusive “Universities and the Urban Growth Machine,” and a member of the Occupy Wall Street Strike Debt Assembly; and Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy & Research at Demos and the author of Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead.

The event is at 7 p.m. this Thursday, in Room 5414 at the CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets, New York, NY). It’s co-sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America/Young Democratic Socialists and the CUNY Graduate Center General Assembly. We hope to see our New York readers there.



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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.

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