Kurdistan map


Kurds comprise the largest stateless nation in the world. Nearly 40 million Kurds are spread over Turkey, Iraq, Iran, & Syria, (known informally as KURDISTAN), plus the Caucasus, Russia, and adjacent regions. The diaspora of 1.5 million, are mostly in Western Europe.

For centuries Kurds existed nearly autonomously within the Ottoman Empire, in part because the Ottomans were not very concerned about drawing borders within their territory. Instead, subjects were categorized according to religion, and religious leaders were responsible for civil law and collecting and forwarding taxes to the central authorities.

The Kurds, being Muslim, enjoyed a privileged status in Anatolia, seen as a bulwark against the Persians to the East & Russians to the north. Kurds were also an aid in quelling Christian (Greek, Assyrian, & Armenian) dissent.

The Ottoman Empire had been crumbling for hundreds of years before it disintegrated during the WW1. In the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, European Powers took 2/3 of Empire territory from the Turks and created several states, some of which were ethnic enclaves like Armenia & Kurdistan, others of which were European “zones of influence” like Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc.

The Turks’ outrage at this dismemberment led to the overthrow of the government and eventual ascendency of Mustapha Kemal, a.k.a. Ataturk, father of modern Turkey. Against all odds, he managed to regain control of territory that comprises Turkey today, in the process obliterating Armenia & Kurdistan.

Other newly created states, Iraq, Iran, & Syria, each preferred to suppress their Kurdish minorities in order to cement a strong central government. So you have today’s situation where the Kurds, with more people than either Syria or Iraq, have no land due to lines arbitrarily drawn by Europeans for their own interests.

Oil wealth and military prowess are contributing to a condition of semi-autonomy in northern Iraq.  Iran is currently tolerating their Kurds – this Newroz (New Year) YouTube celebration is from the Iranian Kurdish village of Pālangān.

Turkey, which has long suppressed Kurdish culture, seemed to be easing restrictions, but have lately reintroduced them.

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