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thumb_gunter_timesThe current epic demonstrations in Egypt, and what they will ultimately result in, once again illustrate how important the Middle East is to America and its foreign policy. TTU Professor Michael Gunter's new book reminds us that the Kurdish issue continues to play a role in the developing Middle Eastern crisis.

The Iraqi Kurds are now again in the news as Iraq starts exporting crude oil from a Kurdish region oilfield. Gunter has just released updated information on the Kurds, who are the largest nation in the world without its own independent state.

Gunter's second edition of "Historical Dictionary of the Kurds" (Scarecrow Publishing) greatly expands on the first edition through an updated chronology, an introductory essay, an expanded bibliography, maps, photos, and more than 300 cross-referenced dictionary entries on significant persons, places, events, institutions, and aspects of culture, society, economy, and politics.

"It is a modest encyclopedia with more than 300 articles from A to Z on the Kurds which I wrote," said Gunter, who has worked directly with top Kurdish and other Middle Eastern political leaders.

Straddling the mountainous borders where Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria converge in the Middle East, 25-30 million Kurds living there have become increasingly important in Middle Eastern and even international politics for two fundamental reasons.

First, the wars against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003 resulted in the creation of a virtually independent Kurdistan Regional Government in a federal Iraq. This KRG has inspired the Kurds elsewhere to seek cultural, social, and even political autonomy, if not independence. Second, Turkey's application for admission into the European Union also has brought the Kurdish issue to the attention of Europe.

In recent headlines, disputes between Iraq's majority Arabs and minority Kurds have eased as crude exports, which flowed for a short time in 2009, have resumed from a Kurdish oilfield without incident.

One of the world's leading experts about the Kurds, Gunter has written numerous books on the subject, including two that were among the first analyses in English of the Kurdish unrest in the Middle East.

He was the 1998 co-recipient of the Kurdish Human Rights Watch's Service to the Kurds Award and has been called on to give seminars about Middle East issues to the U.S. State Department. Gunter also has been teaching during the summers since 2002 at The International University in Vienna, Austria.