Kurdish people

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Ahmad KhaniJalal TalabaniŞivan PerwerSaladin
Total population 27 - 37.5 million
Regions with significant populations Inside Kurdistan (Est.)

   Turkey 14-21 million <ref>70,400,000 x 20% to 74,709,000 x 20%. The World Factbook, s.v. "Turkey," (Langley, VA: Central Intelligence Agency, 2006), https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/tu.html#People; World Gazetter, ed. Stefan Helders, s.v. "World" (Leverkusen, Germany: Stefan Helders, 2006). http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php.</ref>
   Iran 4.8 - 6.6 million<ref>Est. based on 68,688,433 x 7%: World Factbook, s.v. "Iran."; Encyclopedia of the Orient, ed. Tore Kjeilen, s.v. "Iran:Religions and Peoples," (N.P.:Lexorient, 2006), http://lexicorient.com/e.o/iran_4.htm.</ref>
   Iraq 4 - 6 million <ref>Est. based on 26,783,383 x 15% 9=4,017,450) - x 20% (=5,357,000): World Factbook, s.v. "Iraq."; Encyclopedia of the Orient, s.v. Iraq: Religions and Peoples." </ref>
   Syria .9 - 2.8 million <ref>Est. based on 18,881,361 x 5%(=944,000) -15% (=2,832,000): s.v. World Factbook "Syria."; Encyclopedia of the Orient, s.v. "Syria: Peoples. Languages. Religions."</ref>

Outside Kurdistan (Est.)
   0.5 - 0.6 million <ref name="kurdorama">"The Kurdish Diaspora," Institut Kurde de Paris (Paris: Institut Kurde de Paris, 2006), http://www.institutkurde.org/en/kurdorama/.</ref>
   200,000<ref name="kurdorama"/>
   150,000<ref name="kurdorama"/>
   100,000 <ref>Lokman I. Meho, "The Kurds and Kurdistan: A General Background." In Kurdish Culture and Society: An Annotated Bibliography. Comp. Lokman I. Meho & Kelly Maglaughlin (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001), 4. http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/meho/meho-bibliography-2001.pdf.</ref>
   80,000<ref name="kurdorama"/>
   60,000<ref>Kurdish Program, Radio Sweden International</ref>
   34,000-60,000.<ref>"Kurds in Georgia" in Eurominority: Portal of European Stateless Nations and Minorities(Quimper, France: Organization for the European Minorities, 2006). http://www.eurominority.org/; "The Kurdish Diaspora."</ref>
   42,139<ref name="kurdorama"/>
   40,000<ref name="kurdorama"/>
</br> United Kingdom
   25,000<ref name="kurdorama"/>

Language Kurdish(Native)

Persian, Turkish, Arabic (Spoken widely as second language(s)
Swedish, German, French and English (Spoken widely as second language(s) among expatriate communities)

Religion Predominantly Sunni Muslim also some Shia Islam, Yazidism, Yarsan, Judaism and Christianity <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th>
<td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Other Iranian peoples (such as Talyshs Baluchs Gilaks Bakhtiaris, Persians)</td>


The Kurds are an ethnic group who consider themselves to be indigenous to a region often referred to as Kurdistan, an area which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Kurdish communities can also be found in Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaijan (Kalbajar and Lachin, to the west of Nagorno Karabakh) and, in recent decades, some European countries and the United States (see Kurdish diaspora). Ethnically related to other Iranian people groups<ref>Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, s.v. "Iran," (by Eric Hooglund), section 3A (accessed 24 July 2006).</ref> they speak Kurdish, an Indo-European language of the Iranian branch.

Historically, the Kurds have continuously sought self-determination, and have fought the Sumerians, Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, European crusaders, and Turks.<ref>Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. "Kurds," (accessed 4 August 2006)</ref> Estimated at about 30 million people, the Kurds comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in the world that do not have a nation-state of their own. In the 20th century, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have put down many Kurdish uprisings.<ref>Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. "Kurds." </ref>



Main article: Origins of the Kurds

Although Kurds have inhabited their highlands for several millennia BC, their prehistory is not very well known.<ref>Encyclopedia Britannica Online, s.v. "Kurd," (accessed 4 August 2006); "Kurds in Iraq," in Eurolegal Services,http://www.eurolegal.org/neoconwars/kurdsiraq.htm.</ref>. Originally there were Hurrians who inhabited Kurdish regions (in Mesopotamia and Zagros-Taurus mountains) from 6,300 to about 2,600 years ago. The Hurrians spoke a language which was possibly part of the Northeast Caucasian (or the proposed Alarodian) family of languages, akin to modern Chechen and Lezgian. The Hurrians spread out and eventually dominated significant territories outside their Zagros-Taurus mountainous base. However, like the Kurds, they did not expand very far from the mountains. As they settled, the Hurrians divided into a number of clans and subgroups, founding city-states, kingdoms and empires with eponymous clan names. These included the Gutis, Kurti, Khaldi, Nairi, Mushku, Mannaeans (Mannai), Mitanni, Urartu, Lullubi and the Kassites among others. All these tribes were part of the larger group of Hurrians (Khurrites), and together helped to shape the Hurrian phase of Kurdish history.<ref>The Encyclopedia of Kurdistan, s.v. "Origin," (by Mehrdad A. Izady), (accessed 4 August 2006).</ref> These groups, except the Mitanni leadership, are thought to have been non-Indo-Europeans.

Among important Indo-European tribes who settled in Kurdish mountains are Medes, Scythians and Sagarthians whose names are still preserved in some place names throughout Kurdistan.

As a general and common designation, there are numerous historical records referring to the above mentioned peoples as a whole. One of the first mentions in historical records, appears in cuneiform writings from the Sumerians 3,000 BC, who referred to the "land of the Karda"<ref>"Iraqi Kurds — Their History And Culture," in Cultural Orientation Website, Refugee Factsheet no. 13 (Washington, DC: Cultural Orientation Project, Center for Applied Linguistics, 2004. http://www.culturalorientation.net/kurds/khist.html</ref> in Taurus-Zagros mountains of the northern and northeastern parts of Mesopotamia, The area was referred to as the land of the "Karda" or "Qarduchi" and the land of the "Guti" or "Gutium". These are described as being the same people only differing in tribal name. The Babylonians called these people "Gardu" and "Qarda". In neighbouring area of Assyria, they were "Qurti" or "Guti". When the Greeks entered the territory, they referred to these people as either "Kardukh", "Carduchi", "Gordukh", Kyrti(oi), Romans as Cyrti. The Armenians called the Kurds "Gortukh" or "Gortai-kh" and the Persians knew them as "Gord" or "Kord". In the Syriac, Hebrew and Chaldean languages they were, respectively, "Qardu", "Kurdaye" and "Qurdaye". In Aramaic and Nestorian they were "Qadu".<ref>Hennerbichler 2004: "Die Kurden," by Ferdinand Hennerbichler, ISBN 963-214-575-5, pubd by the author, Dr. Ferdinand Hennerbichler, Edition fhe, Albert es Hennerbichler Bt., H-9200 Mosonmagyarovar, Slovakia, 2004;</ref>

It is assumed that this people's original language was influenced and/or gradually replaced by the northwest Iranic, with the arrival of the Medes to Kurdistan.<ref>A. Arnaiz-Villena, J. Martiez-Lasoa and J. Alonso-Garcia, "The correlation Between Languages and Genes: The Usko-Mediterranean Peoples," Human Immunology 62 (2001) No. 9:1057.</ref>

These groups, except the Mitanni leadership, are thought to have been non-Indo-Europeans. Kurds consider themselves Indo-European as well as descendants of the groups mentioned above. According to the Encyclopaedia Kurdistanica, Kurds are the descendants of all those who have historically settled in Kurdistan, not of any one particular group. A people such as the Guti (Kurti), Mede(Mard), Carduchi(Gordyene), Adiabene, Zila and Khaldi signify not the ancestor of the Kurds but only one ancestor <ref>[1]</ref>.


Main article: History of the Kurds

Ancient period

The present-day home of the Kurds, the high mountain region south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia, was in the possession of Kurds before the time of the ancient Greek historian Xenophon, and was known as the country of the Carduchi, Cardyene or Cordyene. Xenophon referred to the Kurds in the Anabasis as "Kardukhi...a fierce and protective mountain-dwelling people" who attacked Greek armies in 400 BCE.<ref>[2]</ref> A Kurdish kingdom named Corduene, situated to the east of Tigranocerta<ref>[3]</ref> (east and south of present-day Diyarbakir, Turkey) became a province of the Roman Empire in 66 BCE and was under Roman control for four centuries until 384 CE.<ref>[4]</ref>

The Roman historian Pliny, has considered Cordueni (inhabitants of Corduene) as descendants of Carduchis. He has stated, Joining on to Adiabene are the people formerly called the Carduchi and now the Cordueni, past whom flows the river Tigris....<ref>[5]</ref>

Other small Kurdish kingdoms were Kavosids during Sassanid era.

Medieval period

Image:Kurdish Cavalry.jpg
Kurdish Cavalry in the passes of the Caucasus mountains; from: The New York Times (New York), January 24, 1915

In the 7th century the Arabs possessed castles and fortifications of the Kurds. The conquest of the cities of 'Zoor' and 'Aradbaz' took place in the year 644 AC.

In 846 AC, one of the leaders of the Kurds in Mosul city revolted against the Caliph Al Mo'tasam who sent the famous commander 'Aitakh' to combat against him. In this war Aitakh proved victorious and killed many of the Kurds. In 903 AC, during the period of Almoqtadar, the Kurds revolted again. Eventually Arabs conquered the Kurdish regions and converted the majority of Kurds to Islam.

In the second half of the 10th century, the Kurdish area was shared amongst four big Kurdish principalities. In the North were the Shaddadid (951-1174) in parts of present-day Armenia and Arran, and the Rawadid (955-1221) in Tabriz and Maragheh. In the East were the Hasanwayhids (959-1015) and the Annazid (990-1117) in Kermanshah, Dinawar and Khanaqin. In the West were the Marwanid (990-1096) of Diyarbakir. After these, the Ayyubid (1171-1250) of Syria and the Ardalan dynasty (14th century-1867) were established in present-day Khanaqin, Kirkuk and Sinne. The Kurdish areas were ruled by several Kurdish principalities up to the last century.


Main article: Kurdish language

The Kurdish language belongs to the north-western sub-group of the Iranian languages, which in turn belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. Kurdish may have borrowed heavily from Caucasian and Aramaic languages given certain peculiarities which make it distinct from other Iranian languages. Most of the ancestors of the Kurds spoke various languages of the Indo-European family.

The original language of the Kurds was Hurrian, a non Indo-European language belonging to the Caucasian family. This older language was replaced by the Indo-European around 850 BCE, with the arrival of the Medes to Kurdistan.<ref>The correlation Between Languages and Genes: The Usko-Mediterranean Peoples, Human Immunology, vol. 62, p.1057, 2001 </ref> Nevertheless, Hurrian influence on Kurdish is still evident in its ergative grammatical structure and toponyms.<ref>A. Arnaiz-Villena, E,Gomez-Casado, J.Martinez-Laso, Population genetic relationships between Mediterranean populations determined by HLA distribution and a historic perspective, Tissue Antigens, vol.60, issue 2, p. 117, 2002</ref>

Most Kurds are bilingual or polylingual, speaking the languages of the surrounding peoples such as Arabic, Turkish and Persian as a second language. Kurdish Jews and some Kurdish Christians (not be confused with ethnic Assyrians of Kurdistan) usually speak Aramaic (for example: Lishana Deni) as a first language. Aramaic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic rather than Kurdish.

The Kurdish language is comprised of two major dialects and several sub-dialects:<ref>[6]</ref><ref>[7]</ref>

Commenting on the differences between the "dialects" of Kurdish, Kreyenbroek clarifies that in some ways, Kurmanji and Sorani are as different from each other as English and German, giving the example that Kurmanji has grammatical gender and case-endings, but Sorani does not, and observing that referring to Sorani and Kurmanji as "dialects" of one language is supported only by "their common origin...and the fact that this usage reflects the sense of ethnic identity and unity of the Kurds"<ref name= "krey">Kreyenbroek, Philip (1992). "On the Kurdish Language." In The Kurds: a contemporary overview, eds. Philip Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl (p. 69)</ref>

Genetic and ethnic origins

According to a recent genetic study, the ancestors of the " Kurds, Armenians, Iranians, Jews, and other (Eastern and Western) Mediterranean groups seem to share a common ancestry" and were from an old Mediterranean substratum, i.e. Hurrian and Hittite groups and that these peoples have no connection with an Aryan invasion which was supposed to have happened about 1200 BC. "It is concluded that this invasion, if occurred, had a relatively few invaders in comparison to the already settled populations, i.e. Anatolian Hittite and Hurrian groups (older than 2000 B.C.). These may have given rise to present-day Kurdish, Armenian and Turkish populations.".<ref>[8]</ref>

In 2001, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists discovered that among the various Jewish communities, the Ashkenazi Jews showed a closer relationship to the Muslim Kurds than to the Semitic-speaking population further south in the Arabian peninsula, while the Jewish Kurds and Sephardic Jews seemed to be closely related to each other. Most of the 95 Kurdish Muslim test subjects came from northern Iraq. Moreover, according to another study, the CMH (Cohen modal haplotype) is a genetic marker from the northern Middle East which is not unique to Jews.<ref>[9]</ref> In another study, Kurdish Jews were found to be close to Muslim Kurds, but so were Ashkenazim and Sephardim, suggesting that much if not most of the genetic similarity between Jewish and Muslim Kurds descends from ancient times.<ref>[10]</ref>

Genetic distance comparisons in another study have revealed that the Turkic and Turkmen speaking peoples in the Caspian area cluster with the Kurds, Greeks and Iranis (Ossetians). In this study, the Persian speakers are genetically remote from these populations, they are, however, close to the Parsis who migrated from Iran to India at the end of the 7th Century A.D.<ref>[11]</ref>

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Persians, Kurds, and speakers of other Indo-European languages in Iran are descendants of the Aryan tribes that began migrating from Central Asia into what is now Iran in the 2nd millennium BC."<ref>[12]</ref> According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Kurds, as well as other migrant ethnic groups of the region, are of the "least mixed descent of the original Iranians."<ref>[13]</ref>

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, classification of Kurds as Aryan, is mainly based on linguistic and historical data and does not prejudice the fact there is a complexity of ethnical elements incorporated in them.<ref>[14]</ref>


Image:Kurdish lands 92 cropped.jpg
Kurdish speaking areas

The exact number of Kurdish people living in the Middle East is unknown, due to both an absence of recent census analysis and the reluctance of the various governments in Kurdish-inhabited regions to give accurate figures.

According to the CIA Factbook, Kurds comprise 20% of the population in Turkey, 15-20% in Iraq, perhaps 8% in Syria,<ref>The CIA Factbook reports all non-Arabs make up 9.7% of the Syrian population, and does not break out the Kurdish figure separately. Since Syria contains a large Armenian population, 8% may be a reasonable percentage.</ref> 7% in Iran and 1.3% in Armenia. In all of these countries except Iran, Kurds form the second largest ethnic group. In other words roughly 55% of the world's Kurds live in Turkey, about 20% each in Iran and Iraq, and a bit over 5% in Syria.<ref>[15]</ref>

There are other sources which report a higher population for Kurds than mentioned above. Furthermore it is estimated that Kurds especially in Turkey have a birth rate still higher than their main neighboring ethnic groups whose birth rate is slowly decreasing.<ref>[16]</ref><ref>MacQuarrie 2004, pp 19,24</ref>

Modern history

Kurds in Iraq

Kurds led by Mustafa Barzani were engaged in heavy fighting against successive Iraqi regimes from 1960 to 1975. In March 1970, Iraq announced a peace plan providing for Kurdish autonomy. The plan was to be implemented in four years.<ref>G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, pp.118-120, 1977 </ref> However, at the same time, the Iraqi regime started an Arabization program in the oil rich regions of Kirkuk and Khanaqin.<ref>[17]</ref> The peace agreement did not last long, and in 1974, Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds. Moreover in March 1975, Iraq and Iran signed Algiers Pact according to which Iran cut supplies to Iraqi Kurds. Iraq started another wave of Arabization by moving Arabs to the oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly the ones around Kirkuk.<ref>G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, p.121, 1977 </ref> Between 1975 and 1978, 200,000 Kurds were deported to other parts of Iraq.<ref>M. Farouk-Sluglett, P. Sluglett, J. Stork, Not Quite Armageddon: Impact of the War on Iraq, MERIP Reports, July-September 1984, p.24 </ref> During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the regime implemented anti-Kurdish policies and a de facto civil war broke out. Iraq was widely-condemned by the international community, but was never seriously punished for oppressive measures, such as mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, wholesale destruction of thousands of villages and deportation of thousands of Kurds to southern and central Iraq. The campaign of Iraqi government against Kurds in 1988 was called Anfal (Spoils of War). The Anfal attacks led to destruction of 2,000 villages and death of 300,000 Kurds.<ref>[18]</ref>

Image:Jalal Talabani Rumsfeld Rice Khalilzad.jpg
Jalal Talabani elected as president of Iraq meeting with U.S. officials in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 26, 2006.

After the Kurdish uprising in 1991 (Kurdish:Raperîn, led by the PUK and KDP), Iraqi troops recaptured the Kurdish areas, hundreds of thousand of Kurds fled to the borders. To alleviate the situation a "safe haven" was established by the Security Council. The autonomous Kurdish area was mainly controlled by the rival parties KDP and PUK. The Kurdish population welcomed the American-led invasion in 2003 by dancing in the streets.[citation needed] The area controlled by peshmerga was expanded, and Kurds now have effective control in Kirkuk and parts of Mosul. By the beginning of 2006 the two Kurdish areas were merged into one unified region. A series of referenda are scheduled to be held in 2007, to determine the final borders of the kurdish region.

Kurds in Turkey

About half of all Kurds live in Turkey, and they account for between 15%<ref>[19]</ref> to 30%<ref>[20]</ref> of the total population of Turkey (numbering between 12 to 23 million). They are predominantly distributed in the southeastern corner of the country.

From 1915 to 1918, Kurds struggled to end Ottoman rule over their region. They were encouraged by the Woodrow Wilson's support for non-Turkish nationalities of the empire and submitted their claim for independence to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Treaty of Sèvres stipulated creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in 1920, but the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 failed to mention Kurds. In 1925 and 1930 Kurdish revolts were forcibly suppressed. In 1937 and 1938, the Turkish state used aerial bombardment, poison gas and artillery to reduce Kurdish strongholds.<ref>Kurds, The Columbia Encyclopaedia.</ref>

Following these events, the existence of distinct ethnic groups like Kurds in Turkey was officially denied and any expression by the Kurds of their ethnic identity was harshly repressed. Until 1991, the use of the Kurdish language — although widespread — was illegal. As a result of reforms inspired by the EU, music, radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish are now allowed albeit with severe time restrictions (for example, radio broadcasts can be no longer than sixty minutes per day nor constitute more than five hours per week while television broadcasts are subject to even greater restrictions). Additionally, education in Kurdish is now permitted though only in private institutions.

Nevertheless, as late as 1994, Leyla Zana, the first female Kurdish representative in the Turkey's Parliament, was charged for separatist speech and sentenced to 15 years in prison. At her inauguration as an MP, she reportedly identified herself as a Kurd. Amnesty International reported "She took the oath of loyalty in Turkish, as required by law, then added in Kurdish, 'I shall struggle so that the Kurdish and Turkish peoples may live together in a democratic framework.' Parliament erupted with shouts of 'Separatist', 'Terrorist', and 'Arrest her'".<ref>[21]</ref>

The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK), also known as KADEK and Kongra-Gel, is considered (by the US, EU and UK) a terrorist organization, dedicated to creating an independent Kurdish state in a territory (traditionally referred to as Kurdistan) that consists of parts of southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran. It is an ethnic secessionist organization using force and threat of force against both civilian and military targets for the purpose of achieving its political goal.

Between 1984 and 1999 the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state's military operations.<ref>Radu, Michael. (2001). "The Rise and Fall of the PKK." Orbis. 45(1):47-64. </ref> Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly evacuated villages, destroying houses and equipment to prevent the return of the inhabitants. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped from the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people.<ref>[22]</ref><ref>[23]</ref><ref>[24]</ref><ref>Also see Report D612, October, 1994, "Forced Displacement of Ethnic Kurds" (A Human Rights Watch Publication)</ref>

Kurds in Iran

The Kurds constitute approximately 7% of Iran's overall population. Some Iranian Kurds have resisted the Iranian government's efforts, both before and after the revolution of 1979, to assimilate them into the mainstream of national life and, along with their fellow Kurds in adjacent regions of Iraq and Turkey, have sought either regional autonomy or the outright establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region.<ref>[25]</ref>

In the 17th century, a large number of Kurds were deported by Shah Abbas I to Khorasan in Eastern Iran. The Kurds of Khorasan, still use Kurmanji Kurdish and number around 700,0000<ref>[26]</ref>. During 19th and 20th centuries, successive Iranian governments have crushed Kurdish revolts led by Kurdish notables such as Shaikh Ubaidullah against Qajars in 1880 and Simko against Pahlavis in 1920s.<ref>[27]</ref> The Republic of Mahabad was established in Iranian Kurdistan in 1946 and lasted for a brief period of 11 months.

After the military coup in 1953, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became more autocratic and suppressed most opposition including ethnic minorities such as Kurds. He also prohibited any Kurdish language instruction.<ref>[28]</ref> In recent years, intense fighting occurred between Kurds and the Iranian state between 1979 and 1982. In August 1979, Khomeini declared holy war against the Kurds.<ref>[29]</ref> The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps fought to reestablish government control in the Kurdish regions. As a result around 10,000 Kurds were killed.<ref>[30]</ref> Since 1983 the Iranian government has had control over the area which the Kurds inhabit.<ref>[31]</ref> Frequent unrest and occasional military crackdown have also happened throughout the 1990s and even to the present.<ref>[32]</ref>

In Iran, Kurds express their cultural identity freely, but are denied the right of self-government or administration. Similar to other parts of Iran, membership of any non-governmental political party in Kurdistan could be punishable by persecution, imprisonment and even death. Kurdish human rights activists in Iran have been threatened by Iranian authorities in connection with their work.<ref>[33]</ref><ref>[34]</ref> On July 9 2005, after the killing of a Kurdish opposition activist, Shivan Qaderi and two other Kurdish men by Iranian security forces in Mahabad, for six weeks, riots and protests erupted in Kurdish towns and villages throughout Eastern Kurdistan, with scores killed and injured, and an untold number arrested without charge. The Iranian authorities also shut down several major Kurdish newspapers arresting reporters and editors. Among those was Roya Toloui, a woman's right activist and head of the Rasan (Rising) Newspaper in Sine, who was tortured for two months for her alleged affiliations with the organizing of peaceful protests throughout Kurdistan.<ref>[35]</ref> According to the International Crisis Group, Kurds, who live in the least developed part of Iran pose the most serious internal problem for Iran to resolve. It is argued that the success of the self-rule among Iraqi Kurds is affecting Iranian Kurds to demand for autonomy.<ref>Iran's Waning Human Rights, New York Times</ref> However, the afore mentioned are not restricted to Kurds alone, but to all ethnic groups of Iran, including Persians, as the Iranian government is a theocratic dictatorship.

Kurds in Syria

Main article: Kurds in Syria
A statue of Saladin at the Damascus citadel.

Kurds account for 10% of the population in Syria or about 1.9 million people<ref>[36]</ref> making them the largest ethnic minority in the country. Kurds often speak Kurdish in public, unless all those present do not. Kurdish human rights activists are mistreated and persecuted.<ref>[37]</ref> No political parties are allowed for any group, Kurdish or otherwise.

Techniques used to suppress the ethnic identity of Kurds in Syria include various bans on the use of the Kurdish language, refusal to register children with Kurdish names, replacement of Kurdish place names with new names in Arabic, prohibition of businesses that do not have Arabic names, not permitting Kurdish private schools, and the prohibition of books and other materials written in Kurdish.<ref>[38]</ref><ref>[39]</ref> About 300,000 Kurds have been deprived of any social rights due to having been arbitrarily denied the right to Syrian nationality in violation of international law.<ref>[40]</ref><ref>[41]</ref> These Kurds, who have no claim to a nationality other than Syrian, are literally trapped in Syria.<ref>[42]</ref>

But according to some sources Syria is recently (February 2006) planning to grant citizenship to those 300,000 Kurds deprived citizenship living in the country.<ref>[43]</ref>

On March 12, 2004, in days of clashes began at a stadium in Qamishli, a largely Kurdish city in northeastern Syria, at least 30 people were killed and more than 160 were injured. The unrest spread to other Kurdish towns along the northern border with Turkey, and then to Damascus and Aleppo.<ref>[44]</ref><ref>[45]</ref>

Kurds in Armenia

See also: Kurdish-Armenian relations

As part of the Soviet Union from the 1930's to the 1980's, Kurds in Armenia had the status of a protected minority under Soviet Law. They had their own state-sponsored newspaper, a radio broadcast and were allowed to hold cultural events. During the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, many non-Yazidi Kurds were forced to leave their homes. Upon the disintegration of Soviet Union, Kurds in Armenia were stripped of their cultural privileges, and most of them fled to Russia or Western Europe<ref>[46]</ref> (p.22).

Kurds in Azerbaijan

Main article: Kurdistan Autonomous Oblast

In 1920, two Kurdish inhabited areas of Jewanshir (capital:Kalbajar) and eastern Zangazur (capital:Lachin) were combined to form the Kurdistan Okrug or Red Kurdistan. The period of existence of Kurdish administrative unit was brief and did not last after 1929. During the Stalin period up to late 1950s, Kurds faced many repressive measures including deportations. Since 1988, many Kurdish areas have been destroyed and more than 150,000 Kurds have been deported as a result of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (,<ref>[47]</ref> p.22).


Main articles: Yazdanism, Yazidism, Yarsan, Alevi, Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Christians
Image:Great Mosque Diyabakir.jpg
The Great Mosque of Diyarbakir is the oldest and one of the most significant mosques in Anatolia. Following the Muslim conversion of Diyarbakir (Amed) in 639, the St Thomas Church (built in 629) was used in part as a mosque. The church was eventually fully converted to a mosque; repaired 1092

Yazdanism refers to a group of native monotheistic religions practiced among the Kurds: Alevism, Yarsan and Yazidism. The main element in Yazdani faiths, is the belief in seven angelic entities that protect the world, therefore these traditions are named as Cult of Angels<ref>Yazdanism, Encyclopaedia of the Orient.</ref> The original religion of the Kurds was Yazidism, a religion greatly influenced by Zoroastrianism, and many Kurds were also Zoroastrian<ref>[48]</ref>. However there are main differences between Yazdanism and Zoroasterianism, such as the belief in re-incarnation.

Most Yazidis live in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the vicinity of Mosul and Sinjar<ref>[49]</ref>. The Yarsan, (or Ahl-e Haqq) religion is practised in western Iran, primarily around Kermanshah. Christianity and Judaism both are still practised in very small numbers.<ref>[50]</ref> Rabbi Asenath Barzani, who lived in Mosul from 1590 to 1670 was among the very first Jewish women to become a Rabbi.

Today the majority of Kurds are officially Muslim, belonging to the Shafi school, and to a much lesser degree, the Hanafi school, both of Sunni Islam. There is also a significant minority of Kurds that are Shia Muslims, primarily living in the Ilam and Kermanshah provinces of Iran, Central Iraq ("Al-Fayliah" Kurds) and Azerbaijan. The Alevis are another religious minority among the Kurds, mainly found in Turkey.

Kurds have always been among the more moderate Muslims and as a result Kurdish women have enjoyed more freedoms than Arab and Iranian women. For instance they do not cover their faces and are less restricted in terms of hijab and do not wear all covering garments such as Iranian chador or Arabic Abaya<ref>[51]</ref> <ref>[52]</ref>.


Image:Turtles Can Fly movie.jpg
Turtles Can Fly movie poster
<ref>[53]</ref> Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society, but primarily of three layers of indigenous (Hurrian), ancient Iranian (Medes) and Islamic roots.

The Kurdish culture is close to that of other groups of the Iranian peoples; e.g. celebrating Newroz as the new year day, which is on March 21.<ref>[54]</ref>

Kurdish films mainly evoke poverty and the lack of rights of Kurdish people in the region. Yilmaz Guney (Yol)<ref>[55]</ref> and Bahman Qubadi (A Time for Drunken Horses and Turtles Can Fly) are among the better known Kurdish directors.


Main article: Kurdish music
Image:Sivan Perwer.jpeg
Şivan Perwer, giving concert in Sweden, 2005

Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish Classical performers - storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs and are epic in nature, such as the popular Lawik's which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular.

See also

Modern Kurdish governments


  • Barth, F. 1953. Principles of Social Organization in Southern Kurdistan. Bulletin of the University Ethnographic Museum 7. Oslo.
  • Hansen, H.H. 1961. The Kurdish Woman's Life. Copenhagen. Ethnographic Museum Record 7:1-213.
  • Leach, E.R. 1938. Social and Economic Organization of the Rowanduz Kurds. London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology 3:1-74.
  • Longrigg, S.H. 1953. Iraq, 1900-1950. London.
  • Masters, W.M. 1953. Rowanduz. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan.



External links

The Kurdish Issue in Turkey

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Kurdish people

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