Author

Samuel Dolbee

Samuel Dolbee

Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center

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After ISIS: Development and Demography in the Jazira

Jazira

Samuel Dolbee
Middle East Brief 121, August 2018

Summary

The Jazira—the lands at the foot of the Anatolian Plateau between the Tigris and the Euphrates—was at the center of the territory held by ISIS. Discussion on the future of this region now focuses on efforts to promote economic development, facilitate the return of refugees, and include ethnic and religious minorities in rebuilding efforts. In this Brief, Samuel Dolbee offers a historical perspective on similar endeavors in the Jazira, arguing that two kinds of engineering—agricultural and ethnic—have a long history of being commingled there in ways that made the region ripe for unrest. Ethnicity and agriculture have intersected as various states mobilized minorities as well as majorities to populate and develop this land, transforming it from a realm of limited state control and limited cultivation to some of the most productive—albeit still marginal—regions of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. These state projects entangled ethnic identity with agrarian development schemes and border-making, suggesting that the solution to instability in the Jazira is not simply a matter of getting borders "right." Thinking about what may happen in this land after ISIS requires accounting for the various borders that have emerged in concert with one another, including those of states, environments, and ethnicities.


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