Iraqi Kurdistan

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Iraqi Kurdistan Region
Hikûmetî Herêmî Kurdistan
حكومه تى هه رێمى كوردستان
إقليم کردستان
Image:Flag of Kurdistan.svg Image:Kurdistan Emblem.jpg
Flag Coat of Arms
Anthem: Ey Reqîb
(English: "Hey Guardian")
Capital Arbil
36°11′N 44°00′E
Largest city Erbil
Official languages Kurdish, Arabic, (Assyrian (Syriac)) and (Iraqi Turkmen) [1]
Government Parliamentary Democracy
 - Prime Minister Nechervan Idris Barzani
 - President Masoud Barzani
Formation of Autonomous Region  
 - Autonomy Accord Agreement is Signed March 11, 1970 
 - Autonomy Accord Collapses March 1974 
 - Gained de facto Independence October 1991 
 - Total 80,000 km² (not ranked)
30,888 sq mi 
 - 2005 estimate 5,500,000 (not ranked)
 - Density 40/km² (not ranked)
15/sq mi
HDI  (As of 2006) n/a (n/a) (not ranked)
Currency Iraqi Dinar (IQD)
Time zone (UTC+3)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC+4)
Internet TLD
Calling code +964
  According to Kurdistan law, all minority languages including Syriac, Turkmeni and Armenian are protected and the first two languages have a local official status in the areas where a majority of the inhabitants speak those languages, alongside Kurdish language.

The Kurdistan Region (Kurdish: حكومه تى هه ريمى كوردستان, Hikûmetî Herêmî Kurdistan, Arabic: إقليم کردستان) is an autonomous, federally recognized political entity located in northern Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north and Syria to the west. Its capital is the city of Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr.


[edit] Etymology

The name Kurdistan comes from the word "Kurd" (from the ancient Kingdom of Corduene) plus the Old Persian word "stan" meaning "Land", together meaning Land of the Kurds.

In the new Iraqi Constitution, it is referred to as the Kurdistan region <ref>[2]</ref>.

The regional government refers to it as Kurdistan-Iraq (or simply Kurdistan region) but avoiding from using Iraqi Kurdistan<ref>[3]</ref>. The full name of the local government is "Kurdistan Regional Government" (abbrev: KRG).

Kurdish nationalists refer to the region as "South Kurdistan" (Southeastern Turkey being "North Kurdistan"). During the Ba'ath regime in the 70's and 80's, the region was called "Kurdish Autonomous Region".

[edit] History

Main article: History of the Kurds

Throughout History the region has been inhabited or ruled by various peoples, such as Hurrians, Mitannis, Assyrians, Medes, Adiabenians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs etc. In medieval ages it was under domination of some semi-independent principalities, such as Soran, Baban, Badinan and Ardalan.

Following World War I and the defeat of Ottoman Empire, Kurds were promised an independent nation-state in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. However 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 remained within Turkey and the southern areas around Mosul were put under direct British rule.

[edit] British Mandate

On December 1, 1918, during a meeting in Sulaimaniya with Colonel Arnold Wilson, the Acting Civil Commissioner for Mesopotamia, Kurdish leaders called for British support for a united and independent Kurdistan under British protection. Between 1919 and 1922, Shaikh Mahmoud Hafid, an influential Kurdish leader based in Sulaimaniya, formed a Kurdish government and led two revolts against the British rule. It took the British authorities two years to put down his uprisings. The first revolt began on May 22, 1919 with the arrest of British officials in Sulaimaniya and it quickly spread to Mosul and Arbil. Then the British exiled Mahmoud to India. In July 1920, 62 tribal leaders of the region, called for independence of Kurdistan under a British mandate. The objection of the British to the Kurdish self-rule was driven by the fear that the success of the Kurdish area will tempt the two Arab areas of Baghdad and Basra to follow suit, hence endangering the direct British control over all Mesopotamia. In 1922, Britain restored Shaikh Mahmoud to power, hoping that he would organize the Kurds to act as a buffer against the Turks, who had territorial claims over Mosul. Shaikh Mahmoud declared a Kurdish Kingdom with himself as the King, though later on he agreed to limited autonomy within the new state of Iraq. In 1930, following the announcement of admission of Iraq to the League of Nations, Shaikh Mahmoud started a third uprising which was suppressed with British air and ground forces <ref>C. Dahlman, The Political Geography of Kurdistan, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Vol.43, No.4, 2002, p.286</ref><ref>Saad Eskander, Britain's Policy in Southern Kurdistan: The Formation and Termination of the First Kurdish Government, 1918-1919, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.27, No.2, 2000 pp.151,152,155,160 </ref>.

By 1927, Barzani clan had become vocal supporters of Kurdish rights in Iraq. In 1929, the Barzanis demanded the formation of a Kurdish province in northern Iraq. Emboldened by these demands, in 1931 Kurdish notables petitioned the League of Nations to set up an independent Kurdish government. Under the pressure from the Iraqi government and the British, the most influential leader of the clan, Mustafa Barzani was forced into exile in Iran in 1945. Later he moved to the Soviet Union after the collapse of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946 <ref>G.S. Harris, Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, p.118, 1977 </ref>.

[edit] Barzani Revolts 1960-1975 and their Aftermath

After the military coup by Abdul Karim Qasim in 1958, Barzani was able to return from exile and to set up his own political party, Kurdistan Democratic Party, which was granted legal status in 1960. But soon afterwards, Qasim tried to incite Baradost and Zebari tribes against Barzani. In June 1961, Barzani led his first revolt against the Iraqi government with the aim of securing Kurdish autonomy. Due to the disarray in the Iraqi Army after the 1958 coup, Qasim's government was not able to subdue the insurrection. This stalemate irritated powerful factions within the military and is said to be one of the main reasons behind the Baathist coup against Qasim in February 1963. Abdul Salam Arif declared a ceasefire in February 1964 which provoked a split among Kurdish urban radicals on one hand and traditional forces led by Barzani on the other. Barzani agreed to the ceasefire and fired the radicals from the party. Despite this, Baghdad government tried once more to defeat Barzani's movement by the use of force. However this campaign failed in 1966, when Barzani forces defeated the Iraqi Army near Rawanduz. After this, Arif regime announced a 12-point peace program in June 1966, which was not implemented due to the overthrow of Arif in 1967 in a coup by the Baath Party. The Baath regime started a campaign to end the Kurdish insurrection, however the campaign was stalled in 1969. This can be partly attributed to the internal power struggle in Baghdad and also tensions with Iran. Moreover, the Soviets pressured the Iraqis to come to terms with Barzani. Hence a peace plan was announced in March 1970 which provided for a broader autonomy than before. The plan also gave Kurds representation in government bodies and it 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>. Despite this, the iraqi government embarked on a Arabization program in the oil rich regions of Kirkuk and Khanaqin in the same period <ref>[4]</ref>. In the following years, Baghdad government overcame its internal divisions and concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in April 1972 and ended its isolation within the Arab world. On the other hand, Kurds remained dependent on the Iranian military support and could do little to strengthen their forces.

[edit] The Algiers Agreement

In 1974, Iraqi government began a new offensive against the Kurds and pushed them close to the border with Iran. Moreover, Iraq informed Tehran that it was willing to satisfy other Iranian demands in return for an end to its aid to the Kurds. With the mediation of the Algerian President Houari Boumédiènne, Iran and Iraq reached a comprehensive settlement in March 1975 known as Algiers Pact. The agreement left the Kurds helpless and Tehran cut supplies to the Kurdish movement. Barzani fled to Iran with many of his supporters. Others surrendered en masse and the rebellion was finished in a few days. As a result Iraqi government extended its control over northern region after 15 years and in order to secure its influence, started an Arabization program 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>. The repressive measures carried out by the iraqi regime against Kurds after the Algiers agreement, led to renewed clashes between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish guerrillas in 1977. As a result in 1978 and 1979, 600 Kurdish villages were burned down and around 200,000 Kurds were deported to the other parts of the country <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>.

[edit] Iran-Iraq War and Anfal Campaign

During the Iran-Iraq War, 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, including the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, which resulted in thousands of deaths. (See Halabja poison gas attack.)

Al-Anfal campaign constituted a systematic genocide of the Kurdish people in Iraq. From March 29, 1987 until April 23, 1989, Iraqi army under the command of Ali Hassan al-Majid carried out a genocidal campaign against Kurds, characterized by the following human rights violations: The widespread use of chemical weapons, the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages, and slaughter of around 50,000 rural Kurds, by the most conservative estimates. The large Kurdish town of Qala Dizeh (population 70,000) was completely destroyed by the Iraqi army. The campaign also included Arabization of Kirkuk, a program to drive Kurds out of the oil-rich city and replace them with Arab settlers from central and southern Iraq <ref>Human Rights Watch Report About Anfal Campaign, 1993. </ref>. Kurdish sources report the number of dead to be greater than 182,000 <ref>[5]</ref>.

[edit] After the Gulf War

The Kurdistan Region was originally established in 1970 as the Kurdish Autonomous Region following the agreement of an Autonomy Accord between the government of Iraq and leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish community. A Legislative Assembly was established in the city of Arbil with theoretical authority over the Kurdish-populated governorates of Arbil, Dahuk and As Sulaymaniyah. In practice, however, the assembly created in 1970 was under the control of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein until the 1991 uprising against his rule following the end of the Persian Gulf War. Concerns for Safety of Kurdish refugees was reflected in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 which gave birth to a safe haven, in which allied air power protected a Kurdish zone inside Iraq<ref>L. Fawcett, Down but not out? The Kurds in International Politics, Reviews of International Studies, Vol.27, 2001 p.117 </ref>. While the no-fly zone covered Dohuk and Irbil, it left out Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk. Then following several bloody clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops, an uneasy and shaky balance of power was reached, and the Iraqi regime withdrew its military and other personnel from the region in October 1991. At the same time, Iraq imposed an economic blockade over the region, reducing its oil and food supplies <ref>M. Leezenberg, Iraqi Kurdistan: contours of a post-civil war society, Third World Quarterly, Vol.26, No.4-5, June 2005, p.636 </ref>. The region thus gained de facto independence, being ruled by the two principal Kurdish parties – the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – outside the control of Baghdad. The region has its own flag and National Anthem.

Elections held in June of 1992 produced an inconclusive outcome, with the assembly divided almost equally between the two main parties and their allies. During this period, the Kurds were subjected to a double embargo: one imposed by the United Nations on Iraq and one imposed by Saddam Hussein on their region. The severe economic hardships caused by the embargoes, fueled tensions between the two dominant political parties: KDP and PUK over control of trade routes and resources <ref>H.J. Barkey, E. Laipson, Iraqi Kurds And Iraq's Future, Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No.4, Winter 2005, pp.67 </ref>. This led to internecine and intra-Kurdish conflict and warfare between 1994 and 1996. After 1996, 13% of the Iraqi oil sales were allocated for Iraqi Kurdistan and this led to a relative prosperity in the region<ref>M. M. Gunter, M. H. Yavuz, The continuing Crisis In Iraqi Kurdistan, Middle East Policy, Vol.XII, No.1, Spring 2005, pp.123-124 </ref>. Direct United States mediation, led the two parties to a formal ceasefire in Washington Agreement in September 1998. It is also argued that the Oil for Food Program from 1997 onward had an important effect on cessation of hostilities <ref>M. Leezenberg, Iraqi Kurdistan: contours of a post-civil war society, Third World Quarterly, Vol.26, No.4-5, June 2005, p.639</ref>. Kurdish parties joined forces against the Iraqi regime in the Operation Iraqi Freedom in Spring 2003. The Kurdish military forces known as peshmerga played a key role in the overthrow of the former Iraqi regime <ref>[6]</ref>.

KDP and PUK have united to form an alliance with several smaller parties, and the Kurdish alliance has 53 deputies in the new Baghdad parliament, while the Kurdish islamic Union has 5. PUK-leader Jalal Talibani has been elected President of the new Iraqi administration, while KDP leader Massoud Barzani is President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

[edit] Politics

President George W. Bush talks to reporters as he welcomes Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, to the Oval Office at the White House.

Since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been based in Erbil. The KRG has a parliament, elected by popular vote, called the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly, and a cabinet composed of the KDP, the PUK and their allies (Iraqi Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Kurdistan etc.). Nechervan Idris Barzani has been prime minister of the KRG since 1999.

After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq Kurdish politicians were represented in the Iraqi governing council. On January 30, 2005 three elections were held in the region: 1) for Transitional National Assembly of Iraq 2) for Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly and 3) for provincial councils <ref>H. Walker, T. Clark, Election in Iraq - 30 January 2005:An Assessment, Journal of Asian Affairs, Vol.36, No.2, July 2005, p.182</ref>. The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period recognized the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government during the interim between "full sovereignty" and the adoption of a permanent constitution.

The Kurdistan Regional Government currently has constitutionally recognised authority over the provinces of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniya, as well as de facto authority over parts of Diyala and Ninawa and Kirkuk (at-Ta'mim) provinces.

[edit] Economy

The Kurdistan region's economy is dominated by the oil sector, agriculture and tourism. Due to relative peace in the region it has a more developed economy in comparison to other parts of Iraq.

Prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdistan Regional Government received approximately 13% of the revenues from Iraq's Oil-for-Food Program. By the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the program had disbursed $8.35 billion to the KRG. Iraqi Kurdistan's food security allowed for substantially more of the funds to be spent on development projects than in the rest of Iraq. By the program's end in 2003 $4 billion of the KRG's oil-for-food funds remained unspent.

Following the removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent violence, the three provinces fully under the Kurdistan Regional Government's control were the only three in Iraq to be ranked "secure" by the US military. The relative security and stability of the region has allowed the KRG to sign a number of investment contracts with foreign companies. In 2006 the first new oil well since the invasion of Iraq was drilled in the Kurdistan region by the Norwegian energy company DNO. Initial indications are that the oil field contains at least 100 million barrels of oil and will be pumping 5,000 bpd by early 2007. The KRG has signed exploration agreements with two other oil companies, Canada's Western Oil Sands and the UK's Sterling Energy.

The stability of the Kurdistan region has allowed it to achieve a higher level of development than other regions in Iraq. In 2004 the per capita income was 25% higher than in the rest of Iraq. The two chief cities of the region, Arbil and Sulaymaniyah, both have international airports serving destinations through the Middle East and parts of Europe. The government continues to receive a portion of the revenue from Iraq's oil exports, and the government will soon implement a unified foreign investment law. The KRG also has plans to build a media city in Arbil and free trade zones near the borders of Turkey and Iran.

Since 2003, the stronger economy of Kurdistan has attracted around 20,000 Arab workers from the rest of Iraq to seek jobs in Iraqi Kurdistan <ref>H.J. Barkey, E. Laipson, Iraqi Kurds And Iraq's Future, Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No.4, Winter 2005, p.68</ref>. According to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, since 2003 the number of millionaires in Kurdish city of Silêmani has increased from 12 to 2000 refering to financial and economic growth of the region. (The letter of Jalal Talabani to people of America, 2006)

[edit] Geography

A popular waterfall, around capital Erbil

The Iraqi Kurdistan is largely mountainous, with the highest point being a 3,611 m (11,847 ft) point known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). There are many rivers flowing and running through mountains of the region making it distinguished by its fertile lands, plentiful water, picturesque nature.

The mountainous nature of Kurdistan, the difference of temperatures in its various parts, and its wealth of waters, make Kurdistan a land of agriculture and tourism. In addition to various minerals, oil in particular, which for a long time was being extracted via pipeline only in Kurdistan through Iraq.

The largest lake in the region is Lake Dukan.

It is worthy to note that the term "Northern Iraq" is a bit of a geographical ambiguity in usage. "North" typically refers to the Kurdistan Region. "Center" and "South" or "Center-South" when individually referring to the other areas of Iraq or the rest of the country that is not the Kurdistan Region. Most media sources continually refer to "North" and "Northern Iraq" as anywhere north of Baghdad.

[edit] The Kirkuk question

Image:Iraqi Kurdistan.jpg
Areas with Kurdish majority according to International Crisis Group.
Area controlled by Kurds before 2003 marked by green line.

One particularly difficult issue yet to be resolved is the future boundaries of the region. Many Kurds wish it to be expanded to include the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, but this is complicated by the Assyrian, Turkmen and Arab populations of both cities and the opposition of Turkey, which is concerned about the region's potential to break away from Iraq (with possible consequences for its own Kurdish minority).<ref>"Arabs and Turkmen fear Kurdish control of Kirkuk.", AFP.</ref> The Kirkuk region has seen considerable friction on ethnic lines, including reported "extra-judicial detentions" of Arab and Turkmen men by Kurdish security forces.<ref>"Kurdish Officials Sanction Abductions in Kirkuk". Washington Post, June 15, 2005.</ref> The final boundaries of the autonomous region are set to be decided through a number of referendums before the end of 2007; the referendum on Kirkuk will be held on 15 November 2007.

[edit] Governorates

Iraqi Kurdistan is divided among 6 governorates of which currently three are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. These governorates are called in Kurdish parêzge. Particularly in Iraqi government documents the term governorate is preferred:

  • The governorates wholly under the Kurdistan Regional Government are:
1. As Sulaymaniyah (Slêmanî)
2. Erbil (Hewlêr)
3. Duhok (Duhok)
  • The governorates claimed totally or in part by the Kurdistan Regional Government are:
4. Diyala
5. Kirkuk (Kerkûk)
6. Ninawa

There will be a referendum to determine whether these governorates will be included in the Kurdish Regional Government sometime between now and December 2007, while Kurds are insisting that the referendum be held as soon as possible.

[edit] Demographics

The population is about 5-6 million. The majority of these are Sunni Muslims. There are also significant numbers of Yazidis and Christians. Kurds comprise the ethnic majority in the region while the Turkmen and Assyrian, Armenian and Arabs who particularly reside in the western part of the area make up the rest.

[edit] Culture

Main article: Kurdish culture
An old Kurdish woman makes bread in traditional Kurdish way of baking, Photo 1991

Kurdish culture is a group of distinctive cultural traits practiced by Kurdish people. The Kurdish culture is a legacy from the various ancient peoples who shaped modern Kurds and their society, but primarily of two layers of indigenious (Hurrian),and of the ancient Iranic (Medes).

Kurds have always been among the more liberal Muslims and as a result Kurdish women have faced less restrictions in wearing hijab or holding jobs outside home than other muslim women. The Kurdish culture is close to Iranian culture among their neighbours. For example they celebrate Newroz as the new year day, which is celebrated on March 21. It is the first day of the month of Xakelêwe in Kurdish calendar and the first day of spring. <ref>[7]</ref>

[edit] Music

Main articles: Kurdish music and Assyrian music

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 are epic in nature, such as the popular lawiks 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.

[edit] Military

Main article: Peshmerga
Kurdish Peshmerga look back at a car bomb explosion that targeted their convoy near Mosul.

Peshmerga is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters, they have been labelled by some as freedom fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" (pêş front + merg death e is) the peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been around since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area known today as Kurdistan.

Peshmerga forces also played a significant role with coalition troops in liberation of northern Iraq from the Ba'ath regime.

[edit] Education

Kurdistan’s official universities are listed below, followed by their English acronym (if commonly used), internet domain, establishment date and latest data about the number of students.

Institute Internet Domain Est. Date Students
Salahaddin University (SU) 196818,000 (2006)
University of Sulaimani (US) 1968 (?) (2006)
University of Dohuk 1992 4,629 (2006)
University of Kurdistan 2006 400 (2006)
University of Koya (KU) 2004 (?) (2006)

[edit] Views of Kurdistan

[edit] Historical and touristic attractions

[edit] Footnotes


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Governorates of Iraqi Kurdistan
Image:Flag of Kurdistan.svg

Arbil (Hewlêr) | Dahuk (Dihok) | As Sulaymaniyah (Slêmanî)

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