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Kurds & Kurdistan

Kurdistan (literally meaning "the land of Kurds") is the name of a geographic and cultural region in the Middle East, inhabited traditionally predominantly by the Kurds. It is not an independent state.
As a traditional ethnographic region, Kurdistan is generally held to include the contiguous regions in northern and northeastern Mesopotamia with large Kurdish populations. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, Kurdistan is a mountainous region of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, inhabited predominantly by Kurds including 27-28 million people in a 190,000 km² (74,000 sq. mi) area, while according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, it includes a 390,000 km² area. Others estimate as many as 40 million Kurds live in Kurdistan, which covers an area as big as France.
Larger parts of Kurdistan became a province of the Ottoman Empire. Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Kurds were promised an independent nation-state in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. Turkish nationalists, however, rejected the terms of the treaty, and following the defeat of the Greek forces in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923 in Turkey's favor. The larger area known as Turkish Kurdistan or Northern Kurdistan was given to Turkey and the rest was accepted as part of the British Empire (except for the Iranian Kurdistan, which at that time was part of Persia). Since that time Kurdish nationalists have continued to seek independence in an area including the region 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.
Iraqi Kurdistan region and Kurdistan Province in Iran are officially acknowledged parts of Kurdistan. Turkish and Syrian governments do not recognize their controlled parts of Kurdistan as a demographic or geographic region.


The region was known with various cognates of the word Kurd (meaning land of Kurds) during the ancient history of the Mesopotamia. The ancient Sumerians referred to it as Kur-a, Gutium, or Land of Karda, the Elamites as Kurdasu, the Akkadians as Kurtei, the Assyrians as Kurti, the Babylonians as Qardu, the Greeks and the Romans as Corduene. One of the first records of using the term 'Kurdistan' is by Sultan Sanjar the Seljuk King in the 12th century. He formed a province named Kurdistan centered at Bahar situated to the northeast of Hamadan. This province was located between Azerbaijan and Luristan. It included the regions of Hamadan, Dinawar, Kermanshah and Senna, to the east of the Zagros and to the west of Sharazur (Kirkuk) and Khuftiyan, on the river Zab.


Ancient period

The very first mention of the Kurds in history was about 3,000 BC, under the name Gutium, as they fought the Summerians (Spieser). Later around 800 BC, the Indo-European Median tribes settled in the Zagros mountain region and coalesced with the Gutiums, and thus the modern Kurds speak an Aryan language (Morris). The Kurds are mentioned by Xenophon, a Greek mercenary, as he retreated from Persia with ten thousand men in 401 BC, he says of the Kurds, "These people, lived in the mountains and were very war-like and not subject to the Persian king. Indeed once a royal army of 120,000 thousand had once invaded their country, and not a man of them came back..(Morris)." (Jensen 1996)

The tract to this day known as Kurdistan, the high mountain region south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia, was in the possession of Kurds from before the time of Xenophon, and was known as the country of the Carduchi (Greek:Καρδούχοι) , as Cardyene or Cordyene.[3]

60 B.C Kurdish Kingdoms of Corduene-Sophene (Kurdistan)

Kurds claim descent from various ancient groups; among them the Guti, Mannai (Mannaeans), Hurrian and Medes.[4] The original Mannaean homeland was situated east and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around modern-day Mahabad.[5] The Medes came under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus the Great and Darius. Centuries later, Kurdish-inhabited areas in the Middle East witnessed the clash of the two competing super powers of those times, namely the Sassanid Empire and the Roman Empire. At their peak, the Romans ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Kurdish Kingdoms like Corduene and Commagene were vassal states of the Roman Empire.

From 189 BC to 384 AD, the ancient kingdom of Corduene ruled northern Mesopotamia. It was situated to the east of Tigranocerta (i.e., to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey). It became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC. It remained allied with the Romans until 384 AD.

Medieval period

In the 7th century A.D., Arabs conquered most of the Middle East, and Kurds became subjects of Arab Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. In the second half of the 10th century, Kurdistan was shared amongst five big Kurdish principalities. In the North the Shaddadid (951-1174) (in parts of Armenia and Arran) and the Rawadid (955-1221) (in Tabriz and Maragheh) ,in the East the Hasanwayhid (959-1015) and the Annazid (990-1116) (in Hulwan, Kermanshah and Khanaqin) and in the West the Marwanid (990-1096) of Diyarbakir.

Kurds in the Middle Ages were living in several semi-independent states called "emirates". A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the famous textbook of "Sharafnama" written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597.The most famous Kurdish Emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in present-day Iraq; Bakran, Botan (or Bokhtan) and Badlis in Turkey, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in Iran. In 17th century, Ahmad Khani (Ehmedê Xanî) wrote "Mem û Zîn", the Kurdish national epic, and he was seen by some as an early advocate of Kurdish nationalism.



Map of western Kurdistan and Ottoman Empire in 1801

In the 16th century A.D., the Kurdish inhabited areas were split between Safavid Iran and the Ottoman Empire after long wars. Before World War I, most Kurds lived within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire in the province of Kurdistan. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies created several countries within its former boundaries. Originally, Kurdistan along with Armenia was to be one of them, according to the never-ratified Treaty of Sèvres. However, the reconquest of these areas by Kemal Atatürk and other pressing issues caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne, giving this territory to Turkey and leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria under both treaties.

Since WWI, Kurdistan has been divided between several states, in all of which Kurds are minorities. Many Kurds have campaigned for independence or autonomy, often through force of arms. There has been no support by any of the regional governments, however, and little by outside powers, for changes in regional boundaries. A sizable Kurdish diaspora exists in Western Europe that participates in agitation for Kurdish issues, but most of the governments in the Middle East have historically banned open Kurdish activism.

In Iraq, Kurdish guerrilla groups, known in the Kurdish culture as 'Peshmerga', have fought for a Kurdish state. In Iraqi Kurdistan, Peshmerga fought against the (former) Iraqi government before and during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and now comprise significant parts of Iraqi army forces such as police especially in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as some neighboring regions.

Another militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has fought an armed campaign in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran for over thirty years. In Turkey, more than 30,000 Turkish and Kurdish people have died as a result of the war between the state and the PKK, with alleged atrocities being committed by both sides.

The Kurdish flag flown in Iraqi Kurdistan but unofficially flown by Kurds in Armenia. The flag is banned in Iran , Syria and Turkey where flying it is a criminal offence

In Iranian Kurdistan, frequent unrest and occasional military crackdown have happened throughout the 1990s and even to the present [8]. Iranian Kurdistan is one of the most heavily militarized areas of Iran since World War II and the military is present in every village (see Ethnic Cleavage as a Component of Global Military Expenditures, Journal of Peace Research, p.24, 1987). In Iran, Kurds twice had their own controlled free area without government control: The Republic of Mahabad in Iran which was the second independent Kurdish state of the 20th century, after the Republic of Ararat in modern Turkey; and second time after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

There have also been casualties in Syrian Kurdistan such as the 2004 incident [9].

All these political crises and conflicts in Kurdistan, lead to make it to one of the most militarized regions on earth; all of those countries which have Kurdistan within their political borders have focused military operations in the region


In addition to Kurds who comprise the majority of the population of the region there are also communities of Assyrian, Armenian, Ossetian, Jewish, Arab, and Azeri people traditionally scattered throughout the region alongside Kurds.

Most of its inhabitants being Muslim there are also significant numbers of various other religious sects such as Yazidi, Yarsan, Alevi, Christian, Judaism, Sarayi, Bajwan and Haqqa etc.

Although Kurdistan is regarded as a region rich in oil and other minerals, in comparison to the central parts of respective governments, it is largely undeveloped, with the exception of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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