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Kurdistan Issues

Kurdistan is both the name of a geographic region and a cultural region in the Middle East named after the Kurds, a large ethnic group living in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria. Most Kurds speak Kurdish Its borders are hard to define. While Iran and Iraq acknowledge Kurdistan as parts of their territories (lraqi Kurdistan region in Iraq and Kurdistan Province in Iran), Turkey and Syria do not recognize Kurdistan as a demographic or geographic region. Kurdistan is generally held to include the regions in northern Middle East with large Kurdish populations. The boundaries of the modern ethnographic region of Kurdistan (i.e. the region populated by Kurds) overlaps with the historical ethnic homelands of the Syriacs and the Armenian people. According to one account, Kurdistan includes 27-28 million people in a 190,000 km2 (74,000 sq. mi) area. Others estimate as many as 40 million Kurds live in Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Province in Iran and the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq are both included in the usual definition of Kurdistan. Kurdish people are found in regions far from their ancestrai homeland. The largest Kurdish enclave outside Kurdistan is the Kurdish region in north Khorasan, in northeastern Iran. Other scattered smaller communities are found in Azarbaijan (Kalbajar and Lachin, to the west of Nagorno Karabakh), the Alburz mountain range in northern Iran, Guilan province in northern Iran and Sistan and Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran.

Kurds were first promised an independent nation-state in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. The Treaty of Sèvres divided the former Ottoman Empire between the United Kingdom, Turkey, and others. Independence was granted to Armenia as well. The national government in Ankara, however, rejected the terms of the treaty and resisted the Greek army’s advance into the area assigned to them in Western Anatolia. Following the Greco-Turkish War (1919- 1922) and the disastrous defeat of the Greek forces, a peace agreement was signed with the Soviet Union. These events forced the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table, and the terms of Sèvres were revised in Turkey’s favour by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Since that time Kurdish nationalists have continued to seek independence in an area approximating that identified at Sèvres. However, the idea of an independent nation-state came to a halt when the surrounding countries joined to reject the independence of Kurdistan.


When the Medes (descended from the Aryans) first arrived in the region around 1000 B.C. the stage was set for a protracted and arduous battle for supremacy against the neighbouring Assyrians and Persians. For centuries, the Medes fought against their would- be occupiers until, around 600 B.C., having already defeated the Persians, they overcame the Assyrians and formed the Median Empire. That Empire covered all of what we today call Kurdistan.

Various tribes living in the region were not forced to renounce their cultures and conform to their new hosts’. Rather their cultures were adopted and national values were formed. In 550 B.C however, the Persians re-emerged as the dominant force and from that time forward the region was rarely without conflict. Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Armenians, Romans and Byzantines have all waged battles in the region, and the local people found themselves driven into the mountains just to afford themselves a better chance of survival. Tribalism became very strong under these conditions and this, in turn, weakened their ability to form any meaningful, army of resistance against determined assailants. When the Arabs took control in the 7th century, Islam was introduced, and national identity irrevocably eroded, making it almost impossible for the people to resist future attempts at occupation.

The Turks first arrived on the scene in the 11th century and have largely remained in control to the present day, only relinquishing part of the territory to the advancing Ottomans in the last century. Existing, established cultures and Islamic ideologies continued. Throughout all of these bloody years, the people encamped in the mountains never fully fell under the control of the occupying forces and were always ready and determined to resist attempts at any kind of assimilation. This stance of resistance is an innate characteristic of the people still today, and from their mountain hideouts they proudly defy outside influence, and continue to fight to protect their existence and freedom.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the Turkish, British and French drew up and signed two treaties - the Treaty of Ankara in 1921 and the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The result of these treaties was the annexation of Kurdistan into its modern day host countries - Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Unfortunately for the Kurdish people, the condition of internal disarray and predominantly feudal, tribal structure precluded Kurdistan from being made its own autonomous state at the time, despite conditions looking otherwise favourable.

Kurd People

The Kurds (in Kurdish: Kurd) are an Iranian people (a classification that is more linguistic than ‘ethnic’ in the case of some Kurds) inhabiting a mountainous area of Southwest Asia that includes parts of Iraq, Turkey, and Iran as well as smaller sections of Syria, Armenia and Lebanon. Kurds speak the mostly mutually intelligible dialects of the Kurdish language, which has Indo-European roots.

Ranging anywhere from 25 to 27 million people, the Kurds comprise one of the largest ethnic groups without their own country in the world. For over a century, many Kurds have campaigned and fought for the right to ‘self-determination’ in an autonomous homeland known as ‘Kurdistan”. The governments of those countries with sizable Kurdish populations are actively opposed to the possibility of a Kurdish state, believing such a development would require them to give up parts of their own national territories.

Historic roots of the Kurdish People

The earliest evidence, thus far, of a unified and distinct culture and peoples inhabiting the Kurdish mountains dates back to the Halaf culture of 8,000-7,400 years ago. This was followed by the Hurrian period which lasted from 6,300 to about 2,600 years ago. The Hurrians spoke a language that was possibly part of the Northeast Caucasian family of languages (or Alarodian), akin to modern Chechen and Lezgian. The Hurrians spread out and eventually dominated significant territories outside their Zagros-Taurus mountainous base. Like their Kurdish descendents, they however did not expand too far from the mountains. The “Hurrian” name survives now most prominently in the dialect and district of Hawraman/Auraman in Kurdistan.

They were divided into many clans and subgroups and settled in city-states, kingdoms and empires with eponymous clan names. These included the Gutis, Kurti, Khaldi, Mards, Mushku, Mannaeans (Mannai), Hatti, Urartu, Lullubi and the Kassites among others. All these tribes were part of the larger group of Hurrians, and together helped to shape the Hurrian phase of Kurdish history. The region of Mahabad was the centre of the Mannaeans, who flourished in the early 1st millennium BC.

Approximately 4,000 years ago, the first groups of lndo-European-speaking peoples started trickling into Kurdistan These groups included the Medes, Mitanni, Scythians and Sagarthians and other Indo-European-speaking Aryans who settled in Kurdistan. Approximately 2,600 years ago, the Medes had already formed an empire that included much of what is today Kurdistan and beyond .

There are numerous historical records that refer to the antecedents of the modern Kurds. The ancient Greek historian Xenophon referred to the Kurds in the Anabasis as “Khardukhi”, a fierce and protective mountain-dwelling people’ who attacked Greek armies in 400 BCE. The Lullubi people inhabited the Sharazor” plain in Iraqi Kurdistan and are known for having fought wars with the Akkadians around 2300-2200 B.C. Today a Kurdish clan is known as Lullu and may be a possible derivation of the ancient Lullabi. Moreover, the name Madai appears in the Book of Genesis as a Japhethic grandson of Noah in the Biblical tradition. Scholars have identified Madai with various nations, from the early Mitanni to the Medes who were contemporaries of the ancient Persians.

The modern Kurds are the descendants of many invaders and migrants who settled the region including the aforementioned Hurrians, Guti, Lullubi, Kurti, Medes, Mards, Carduchi, Gordyene, Adiabene, Mushku, Mannai, Mitanni, Kassites, Zila, and Khaldi. In addition, the lands populated by the Kurds were also invaded by the Assyrians, Akkadians, Armenians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks and these groups also made contributions to the modern Kurds both culturally and/or genetically. As a result of the vast parade of peoples who have come to Kurdistan, it is safe to say that the Kurds are a combination of indigenous peoples who were living in the Zagros Mountains, Aryan tribes, and numerous other invaders and migrants. Recent genetic tests of random Kurdish populations show links to the Caucasus, various Iranian peoples, Europeans, northern Semites, and Anatolia.

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