Recent Outbreak of Violence by Kurdish Gang in US Should be a Wake Up Call!

BY : Ara Alan


A recent shooting during October 17, 2006 in Nashville, Tennessee that resulted in three individuals being shot and two others injured should serve as a quick wake up call not just for the US Kurdish community but to all Kurdish communities abroad.

 Kurdish Pride Gangsters, better known as the KPG, were involved in a violent shoot out with rivaling black gang members in the southern Nashville area. The KPG represents its members of Kurdish teens and students at the local high schools and communities of that area. The gang's members are derived from all corners of Kurdistan, hence discrimmination is not based upon one another's territorial origin. They have rap songs praising KPG and their Kurdish heritage. Their lyrics glorify their strength because their fathers were tough and because they came out of the harsh life and rugged mountains of Kurdistan. Unfortunately, these appraisals are carried out in a distorted fashion. Grafities and yellow colors are used as their gang symbol to distinguish themselves, their cars and their territories from rival gangs'.

 Until this recent shooting, there haven’t been any major fights that involved KPG. But this incident will stir up their relationship with the other local gangs in a negative manner. We should very cautiously look to the future of Kurdish teens in areas with gangs as retaliation can be expected from their rivals, hence putting the youth population in jeopardy. 

Quite some time has passed since I was first shocked by learning of the existence of Kurdish gangs such as the Kurdish bulldogs in London and the KPG in Tennessee. This subject has been dismissed many times in the past when it was brought up in discussions within the communities. It was disregarded because of a sense of shame that Kurds can be in a situation where their teens are in gangs. It was always brushed off as insolent and minute news or even being rejected as false news and labeled just as a bunch of lost kids trying to fit in, not a real gang.  To an extent there was some truth in the reasons of dismissal because back then the gang's news wasn’t out as much and their membership was consistent of only a handful of teens. However, today we are faced with a new disturbing reality.

Kurdish gangs are making the six o’clock news more frequently than we would hope and their membership has increased dramatically in the present. They are giving us the disturbing coverage that serves as any Kurdish nationalist’s nightmare.  In a foreign country that we desperately need to lobby for our cause, news of misbehaving Kurds can be a major hindrance toward our efforts.

Whether we accept these gangsters into our communities or we try to exclude them, they are still Kurdish youth and they are our brothers and sisters. Their actions are inseparable from our cause and they influence us directly. This problem must receive the appropriate attention it deserves. As members of Kurdish communities in the Diaspora, we have to take up responsibility toward the other members of our community. The failure of these teens also serves as our failure; it will reflect negatively on us, especially in our future. This problem has escalated because of our neglect and improper disposal of the warning signs. Lets use this major recent occurrence as a wake up call to recognize this ensuing problem before it gets any worse.  

It is easy to jump to conclusions that these teens are in gangs because they are bad kids and they deserve what they get whether it be jail, injury, or exclusion from the community. But having a point of view such as that will not help us reverse the misactions of the past nor help prevent them in the future. I had the opportunity to meet a few of these teens, including the member that has just been arrested as a result of this recent shoot out. Through my encounters I discovered that they are like any regular Kurdish kid but unfortunate in the environment they are raised in. These kids are influenced by their surroundings much more than other teenagers; they are the victims of neglected and poor neighborhoods in America.

Gang membership is usually affiliated with these ignored corners of the US. They include project homes for the poor and the minorities of America. Gangs aren’t a new phenomena in the US. It has existed among the immigrant communities ever since they first migrated. In the 20’s the Irish and Italian gangs butchered each other in the streets of New York and Chicago.  Later in the 80’s gang wars were at full force; almost all the races were involved, especially in the inner cities such as Los Angeles. What had started out as neighborhood fights between Mexicans and Blacks spread to all other nationalities in their region, including the Cambodian, Laotian, Asian, White, Haitian…etc gangs.

With Clinton’s strict policies in the 90’s the effect of gangs on teens across the US has shrunk and the gang wars have almost diminished. However, there are still pockets of gangs existent in various locations and they are still affecting the lives of those within their territories, such as Tennessee. Some of Nashville’s popular gangs are Bloods, Crips, Asian Pride, Brown Pride and MS-13 which have been around for the past 20 years. Formation of the KPG is a reaction to this lifestyle that encompasses the youth. We must understand that these teens didn’t enroll in KPG out of boredom but it was a desperate act for their protection. 

Gangs are groups of individuals that work together for an overall goal, which most of the time starts off as protection from others. Once they realize their strength, such gangs tend to raise their goals to the offensive and start attacking other groups, individuals, or even the authorities (whether it be in their own community or the reigning government).  They start to develop pride in their gangs and at this point, the real trouble breeds. Currently the KPG is at this state of development. There is a sense of pride that is forming amongst its members and this identity will escalate to more havoc if not stopped.

We as the Kurdish community must act united and act fast to stop such development. We can do that not simply by condemning the KPG and disowning them, but we have to pay close attention to the reasons of its development. We must find an alternative for the KPG that can respond to the needs of its youth in a more positive way than involvement in gangs.

One alternate solution is the step that we have taken in forming the Kurdish Youth Club in Atlanta, Georgia and expanding it by opening a branch in Nashville, Tennessee. Existence of a youth organization for the teens in Tennessee can at the very least act as an avenue for teens to communicate their problems directly or indirectly to the Kurdish community.  It will also be an organization that the youth can identify with. KYC alone cannot stop the youth from gang involvement, but it is an effort that must be taken with the full support of the Nashville Kurdish communities as well as all Kurds in Diaspora. By all means possible, we must find ways to make our teens feel safe without participating in gangs. This might even require close cooperation with the police and school administrations of those particular areas.  

Kurdish Youth Club held a seminar on Higher Education on October 14, 2006 at the high school where KPG derives most support from. As of that date a new branch of KYC has been established there. The teens present at the seminar were eager to be involved in the KYC and it seems that they will. We have taken the initiative to stop and help find a solution for this growing problem, but success cannot be achieved merely by our action; support of the community is a must! The KYC’s attempt may not be the only solution for this problem but the major emphasis must be placed on a community-wide corporation. Please feel free to be involved whether you’re a youth or just a concerned Kurd in Nashville or anywhere else.


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