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Where is Kurdistan? Who are the Kurds?

7 min read
Where is Kurdistan

Image by Masoud Zada from Pixabay

The Kurds are one in every of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and therefore the highlands in what’s now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran, and south-western Armenia.

Today, they form a selected community, united through race, culture, and language, albeit they have no standard dialect. Though they need lived as a minority, there are about 25 to 30 million Kurds within the area, all united by a singular race, culture, and language. There are 18 million Kurds in Turkey, 8 million in Iran, and a couple of million in Syria.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, a semi-autonomous region in Iraq, claims 5.3 million inhabitants, but Baghdad says there are only 4.3 million.

The largest Kurdish diaspora community is in Europe. According to the Paris Kurdish Institute, there are between 1.5 and a couple of million Kurds in Western Europe, including 800,000 in Germany. Some 80% of the Kurds living in Western Europe originally come from Turkey.

In the aspect of faith, the overwhelming majority of Kurds, between 70% and 90%, are Sunni Muslims. But there’s also a minority of Kurds who are Shiite Muslims in Iran and southern Iraq, where an estimated 20,000 returned after the fall of Husayn. In Turkey, there are Kurds who are Alevis, which is taken into consideration a branch of Shiite Islam with elements of Sufism.

Other religions practiced among Kurdish communities include Christianity, Judaism, additionally as Yazidism in Iraq. Before the primary warfare, traditional Kurds lived a nomadic lifestyle until the breakup of the empire, which stripped them of their freedom and divided them into new nation-states.

Kurds have struggled to keep up their identity, often being mentioned as ‘Mountain Turks’ in Turkey, where they were forbidden to wear traditional Kurdish outfits or speak their language. They still face discrimination and policies of persecution.

Although Kurds are the most important ethnos in Turkey, making up roughly 20% of the population, they are not recognized as a minority group in Turkey.

At the top of the primary warfare, the Treaty of Sevres was drafted to accommodate the dissolution and partition of the empire.

The treaty bolstered Kurdish national aspirations by providing for a referendum to create a choice the issue of the Kurdish homeland.

The Treaty of Sevres was rejected by the new Turkish Republic, and also the Treaty of Lausanne was negotiated and signed in 1923.

This new treaty gave control of the complete Anatolian peninsula, or Asia Minor, to the new Turkish Republic, including the Kurdish homeland in Turkey.

There was no provision within the new treaty for a referendum for Kurdish independence or autonomy. Kurdish hopes for an autonomous region and independent state were dashed for subsequent few decades.

From the highest of war I to the Gulf War in 1990, the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria fought separate campaigns to realize autonomy.

In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland – generally mentioned as “Kurdistan”. Kurdistan, which suggests “Country of the Kurds”, often appears as a country on world maps employed by Kurdish militants. However, there’s no such state recognized by jurisprudence.

The closest thing Kurds must an independent state is that the Kurdistan Regional Government, which administers semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. The founding father of this government, Massoud Barzani, is the commander-in-chief of the Peshmerga soldiers, which number some 190,000 fighters.

Iraqi Kurdistan is a model for the Syrian Kurds, who hope to determine an identical autonomous province of “Rojava” that might include the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin, Kobane, and Qamishli.

The Kurds have not lived under centralized Kurdish state control and there are dozens of political factions divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Syria alone, there are 17 Kurdish parties.

The main one is that the Democratic Union Party, which may be a branch of the PKK FTO in Turkey. Founded by Abdullah Ocalan in 1978, the PKK took up arms against Ankara in 1984 to demand an independent state and has had an uneasy relationship with Turkey ever since. The group is characterized by its Marxist ideology and has been listed as a terrorist organization by both the US and thus the ecu Union .

PKK remains Ankara’s arch-nemesis despite a ceasefire established in March 2013. The AKP government of Tayyip Erdogan provided opportunities to PKK members and collaborated with the pinnacle of Kurdish groups. But the ceasefire collapsed in July 2015, after a bombing of the Islamic State killed 33 young activists within the mainly Kurdish town of Suruch, near the Syrian border.

The PKK accused the authorities of complicity and attacked Turkish soldiers and police. The Turkish government subsequently launched what it called a “synchronized war on terror” against the PKK and therefore the Islamic State.

Consequently, a PKK insurgency against the Turkish state began in 1984, and fighting between the 2 sides has continued intermittently ever since, in the midst of heavy-handed Turkish repression in Kurdish areas resulting in the deaths of more than 40,000 people. 

The PKK, for its part, has focused its attacks on the Turkish military over the years, but it has also hit civilian targets. PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan is named “baby killer” because of his terrorist acts against innocent people. On the other side, Kurds in both Iraq and Syria were involved in the fight against Islamic State.

Thousands of Kurds were killed in battles. Their role in helping to eliminate the Islamic State caliphate earned them a global reputation as one of the most effective ground forces against the terror group.

In September 2014, Islamic State launched an assault on the enclave around the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, forcing tens of thousands of individuals to escape across the nearby Turkish border. In January 2015, after a battle that left at least 1,600 people dead, Kurdish forces regained control of Kobani. The Kurds — fighting under the name of the Syrian Democratic Forces alongside several local Arab militias, and helped by U.S.-led coalition airpower — drove Islamic State out of an outsized swath of territory in Syria and established control over a large area along the border with Turkey.

In Syria, Kurds make up between 7% and 10% of Syria’s population. Before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011 most lived within the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, Afrin, and the northeastern city of Qamishli. Syria’s Kurds have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. 

Some 300,000 have been denied citizenship since the 1960s, and Kurdish land has been confiscated and redistributed to Arabs in an attempt to “Arabize” Kurdish regions. When the uprising evolved into a civil war, the main Kurdish parties publicly avoided taking sides. In mid-2012, government forces withdrew to concentrate on fighting the rebels elsewhere, and Kurdish groups took control in their wake.

In January 2014, Kurdish parties – including the dominant Democratic Union Party – declared the creation of “autonomous administrations” in the three “cantons” of Afrin, Kobane, and Jazira. 

In March 2016, they announced the establishment of a “federal system” that included mainly Arab and Turkmen areas captured from the Islamic State. The declaration was rejected by the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, Turkey, and the US.

The Kurdish party says it is not seeking independence but insists that any political settlement to end the conflict in Syria must include legal guarantees for Kurdish rights and recognition of Kurdish autonomy. President Assad has vowed to retake “every inch” of Syrian territory, whether by negotiations or military unit . 

His government has also rejected Kurdish demands for autonomy, saying that “nobody in Syria accepts talk about independent entities or federalism”. In Iraq, Kurds make up an estimated 15% to 20% of Iraq’s population.

They have historically enjoyed more national rights than Kurds living in neighboring states, but also faced brutal repression. In 1946, Mustafa Barzani formed the Kurdistan Democratic Party to fight for autonomy in Iraq. But it had been not until 1961 that he launched a full armed struggle.

In the late 1970s, the government began settling Arabs in areas with Kurdish majorities, particularly around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and forcibly relocating Kurds. The policy was accelerated in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the Kurds backed the Iran. In 1988, Saddam Hussein unleashed a campaign of vengeance on the Kurds that included the chemical attack on Halabja. 

When Iraq was defeated within the 1991 Gulf War, Barzani’s son Massoud and Jalal Talabani of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led a Kurdish rebellion. Its violent suppression prompted the US and its allies to impose a no-fly zone within the north that allowed Kurds to enjoy self-rule. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan agreed to share power, but tensions rose and a four-year war erupted between them in 1994.

The parties co-operated with the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam and governed in coalition in the Kurdistan Regional Government, created two years later to administer Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaimaniya provinces. Massoud Barzani was appointed the region’s president, while Jalal Talabani became Iraq’s first non-Arab head of state. 

In September 2017, an independence referendum was held in both the Kurdistan Region and the disputed areas seized by the Peshmerga in 2014, including Kirkuk. The vote was opposed by the Iraqi central government, which insisted it was illegal. More than 90% of the 3.3 million people voted and supported secession.

Kurdistan regional officials said the result gave them the mandate to start negotiations with Baghdad, but then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded that it be annulled. The following month Iraqi pro-government forces retook the disputed territory held by the Kurds. 

The loss of Kirkuk and its oil revenue was a major blow to Kurdish aspirations for their state. After his gamble backfired, Barzani stepped down as the Kurdistan Region’s president. But disagreements between the main parties meant the post remained vacant until June 2019, when he was succeeded by his nephew Nechirvan Barzani. Consequently, the Kurdish people couldn’t establish their state since they pursued various political and militant ways in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria.

In Turkey, the terrorist organization prevented all improvements of Kurds while the Arab Spring and the emergence of the Islamic State created troubles for them in Syria. In Iraq, Kurdish political groups had their internal disagreements as well as with the central government of Baghdad. Political and ideological harmonization with the regional countries seems the best solution.

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