Kurdish-inhabited areas (1992)
|Location||Upper Mesopotamia, and the Zagros Mountains, including parts of Eastern Anatolia Region (Armenian Highlands) and southeastern Anatolia, northern Syria, northern Iraq, and the northwestern Iranian Plateau.|
|Parts||Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) |
Southern Kurdistan (Iraq)
Eastern Kurdistan (Iran)
Western Kurdistan (Syria)
|Area (est.)||190,000–390,000 km²–500,000 km² |
(74,000–151,000 sq. mi)
|Population||36.4 million (2016 estimate)|
|Largest cities||Erbil (Hawler)|
Kurdistan (/ˌkɜːrdɪˈstæn, ˈstɑːn/; Kurdish: کوردستان [ˌkʊɾdɯˈstɑːn] (listen); lit. "region of Kurds") or Greater Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-cultural historical region wherein the Kurdish people form a prominent majority population and Kurdish culture, languages, and national identity have historically been based. Kurdistan roughly encompasses the northwestern Zagros and the eastern Taurus mountain ranges. The territory corresponds to Kurdish irredentist claims.
Contemporary use of the term refers to the following areas: southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and northern Syria (Rojava or Western Kurdistan). Some Kurdish nationalist organizations seek to create an independent nation state consisting of some or all of these areas with a Kurdish majority, while others campaign for greater autonomy within the existing national boundaries.
Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government, and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005. There is a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran; it is not self-ruled. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of northern Syria as government forces, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government, they called for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.
Various groups, among them the Guti, Hurrians, Mannai (Mannaeans), and Armenians, lived in this region in antiquity. The original Mannaean homeland was situated east and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around modern-day Mahabad. The region came under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus the Great and Darius I.
The Kingdom of Corduene, which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384 as vassals of the vying Parthian and Roman Empire. Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. After 66 BC, it passed another 5 times between Rome and Persia. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, that is, to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey.
Some historians have correlated a connection between Corduene with the modern names of Kurds and Kurdistan; T. A. Sinclair dismissed this identification as false, while a common association is asserted in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names:
One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds is found in an Assyrian Christian document of late antiquity, describing the stories of Assyrian saints of the Middle East, such as Abdisho. When the Sasanian Marzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraq-Turkey border, while Hazza is 12 km southwest of modern Erbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of the Khabur River is also identified as land of the Kurds. According to Al-Muqaddasi and Yaqut al-Hamawi, Tamanon was located on the south-western or southern slopes of Mount Judi and south of Cizre. Other geographical references to the Kurds in Syriac sources appear in Zuqnin chronicle, writings of Michael the Syrian and Bar hebraeus. They mention the mountains of Qardu, city of Qardu and country of Qardawaye.
In the tenth and eleventh centuries, several Kurdish principalities emerged in the region: in the north the Shaddadids (951–1174) (in east Transcaucasia between the Kur and Araxes rivers) and the Rawadids (955–1221) (centered on Tabriz and which controlled all of Azarbaijan), in the east the Hasanwayhids (959–1015) (in Zagros between Shahrizor and Khuzistan) and the Annazids (990–1116) (centered in Hulwan) and in the west the Marwanids (990–1096) to the south of Diyarbakır and north of Jazira.
Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was a collection of semi-independent and independent states called emirates. It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the text of Sharafnama, written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in the south; Bakran, Bohtan (or Botan) and Badlis in the north, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in the east.
The earliest medieval attestation of the toponym Kurdistan is found in a 12th-century Armenian historical text by Matteos Urhayeci. He described a battle near Amid and Siverek in 1062 as to have taken place in Kurdistan. The second record occurs in the prayer from the colophon of an Armenian manuscript of the Gospels, written in 1200.
According to Sharafkhan Bitlisi in his Sharafnama, the boundaries of the Kurdish land begin at the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and stretch on an even line to the end of Malatya and Marash. Evliya Çelebi, who traveled in Kurdistan between 1640 and 1655, mentioned different districts of Kurdistan including Erzurum, Van, Hakkari, Cizre, Imaddiya, Mosul, Shahrizor, Harir, Ardalan, Baghdad, Derne, Derteng, until Basra.
In the 16th century, after prolonged wars, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires. A major division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, and was formalized in the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. From then until the aftermath of World War I, Kurdish areas (including most of Mesopotamia, eastern Anatolia, and traditionally Kurdish northeastern Syria) were generally under Ottoman rule, apart from the century-long, intermittent Iranian occupation in the early modern to modern period, and the later reconquest and vast expansion by the Iranian military leader Nader Shah in the first half of the 18th century. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies contrived to split Kurdistan (as detailed in the ultimately unratified Treaty of Sèvres) among several countries, including Kurdistan, Armenia and others. However, the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Kemal Atatürk (and other pressing issues) caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey, 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.
At the San Francisco Peace Conference of 1945, the Kurdish delegation proposed consideration of territory claimed by the Kurds, which encompassed an area extending from the Mediterranean shores near Adana to the shores of the Persian Gulf near Bushehr, and included the Lur inhabited areas of southern Zagros.
At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament.
A 2010 US report, written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that "Kurdistan may exist by 2030". The weakening of the Iraqi state following the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also presented an opportunity for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, augmented by Turkey's move towards acceptance of such a state although it opposes moves toward Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and Syria.
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions, including the Koçgiri rebellion of 1920 under the Ottomans, then successive insurrections under the Turkish state, including the 1924 Sheikh Said rebellion, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the 1937 Dersim rebellion. All were forcefully put down by the authorities. The region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.
In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991; The words "Kurds", "Kurdistan", or "Kurdish" were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned.
In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separatist organization the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A guerrilla war took place through the 1980s and 1990s in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed by the government, and numerous summary executions were carried out by both sides. Many villages were set on fire. Food embargoes were placed on Kurdish villages and towns. More than 20,000 Kurds were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes.
Turkey has historically feared that a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would encourage and support Kurdish separatists in the adjacent Turkish provinces, and have therefore historically strongly opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq. However, following the chaos in Iraq after the US invasion, Turkey has increasingly worked with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
The successful 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the resultant weakening of the ability of the Iraqi state to project power, also presented a "golden opportunity" for the Kurds to increase their independence and possibly declare an independent Kurdish state. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who took more than 80 Turkish persons captive in Mosul during their offensive, is an enemy of Turkey, making Kurdistan useful for Turkey as a buffer state. On 28 June 2014 Hüseyin Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling AK party, made comments to the Financial Times indicating Turkey's readiness to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Various sources have reported that Al-Nusra has issued a fatwā calling for Kurdish women and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Iraq's Kurdistan region. As of 2015, Turkey is actively supporting the Al-Nusra, but as of January 2017, Turkey's foreign ministry has said that Al-Nusra is a terrorist group and has acted accordingly.
The Kurds are a people of Indo-European origin. They speak an Iranian language known as Kurdish, and comprise the majority of the population of the region – however, included therein are Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Azerbaijani, Jewish, Ossetian, Persian, and Turkish communities. Most inhabitants are Muslim, but adherents to other religions are present as well – including Yarsanism, Yazidis, Alevis, Christians, and in the past, Jews, most of whom immigrated to Israel.
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Kurdistan covers about 190,000 km², and its chief towns are Diyarbakır (Amed), Bitlis (Bedlîs) and Van (Wan) in Turkey, Erbil (Hewlêr) and Slemani in Iraq, and Kermanshah (Kirmanşan), Sanandaj (Sine), Ilam and Mahabad (Mehabad) in Iran. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km² in Turkey, 125,000 km² in Iran, 65,000 km² in Iraq, and 12,000 km² in Syria, with a total area of approximately 392,000 km².
Iraqi Kurdistan is divided into six governorates, three of which (and parts of others) are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Iranian Kurdistan encompasses Kurdistan Province and the greater parts of West Azerbaijan, Kermanshah, and Īlām provinces. Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdish: Rojavayê Kurdistanê) is located primarily in northern Syria, and covers the province of Al Hasakah and northern Raqqa Governorate, northern Aleppo Governorate and also Jabal al-Akrad (Mountain of the Kurds) region. The major cities in this region are Qamishli (Kurdish: Qamişlo) and Al Hasakah (Kurdish: Hasakah).
Turkish Kurdistan encompasses a large area of Eastern Anatolia Region and southeastern Anatolia of Turkey and it is home to an estimated 6 to 8 million Kurds. There are another 9 to 12 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent in predominantly Turkish regions of Turkey as the majority of Turkish Kurds no longer live in Southeastern Anatolia.
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:
Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia.
The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are referred to as upper Kurdistan, and includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia.
The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil.
Much of the region is typified by a continental climate – hot in the summer, cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has historically exported grain and livestock. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateau between mountain chains. The mountainous zone along the borders with Iran and Turkey experiences dry summers, rainy and sometimes snowy winters, and damp springs, while to the south the climate progressively transitions toward semi-arid and desert zones.
Kurdistan is one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a cold climate receiving annual precipitation adequate to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains harbor pastures and forested valleys, totaling approximately 16 million hectares (160,000 km²), including firs and countryside is mostly oaks, conifers, platanus, willow, poplar and, to the west of Kurdistan, olive trees. The region north of the mountainous region on the border with Iran and Turkey features meadow grasses and such wild trees as poplar, willow and oak, hawthorn, cherry plum, rose hips, mountain apple, pear, mountain ash, and olive. The steppe and desert in the south, by contrast, have such species as palm trees and date palm.
Animals found in the region include the Syrian brown bear, wild boar, gray wolf, the golden jackal, Indian crested porcupine, the red fox, goitered gazelle, Eurasian otter, striped hyena, Persian fallow deer, long-eared hedgehog, onager, mangar and the Euphrates softshell turtle. Birds include, the hooded crow, common starling, Eurasian magpie, European robin, water pipit, spotted flycatcher, namaqua dove, saker falcon, griffon vulture, little crake and collared pratincole, among others.
Mountains are important geographical and symbolic features of Kurdish life, as evidenced by the saying "Kurds have no friends but the mountains." Mountains are regarded as sacred by the Kurds. Included in the region are Mount Judi and Ararat (both prominent in Kurdish folklore), Zagros, Qandil, Shingal, Mount Abdulaziz, Kurd Mountains, Jabal al-Akrad, Shaho, Gabar, Hamrin, and Nisir.
The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rain and snow fall, act as a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East, forming the source of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as other numerous smaller rivers, such as the Little Khabur, Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil. Among rivers of historical importance to Kurds are the Murat (Arasān) and Buhtān rivers in Turkey; the Peshkhābur, the Little Zab, the Great Zab, and the Diyala in Iraq; and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tātā'u (Siminarud), the Zohāb (Zahāb), and the Gāmāsiyāb in Iran.
These rivers, which flow from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are significant both as water sources and for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria dammed many of these rivers and their tributaries, and Turkey has an extensive dam system under construction as part of the GAP (Southeast Anatolia Project); though incomplete, the GAP already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey's electrical energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites.
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; the only lake in the Middle East with a larger surface is Lake Urmia – though not nearly as deep as Lake Van, which has a much larger volume. Urmia, Van, as well as Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, and Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are frequented by tourists.
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of oil, making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government's authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field. This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon's contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following five years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d). Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 2,800 km3 (100×1012 cu ft). Notable companies active in Kurdistan include ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, and zinc. The world's largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewlêr).
In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.
Kurdistan was never a sovereign state, though the area with an ethnic and linguistic majority of Kurdish population is defined as Kurdistan.
Abdullah Öcalan ( OH-jə-lahn; Turkish: [œdʒaɫan]; born about 1947), also known as Apo (short for both Abdullah and "uncle" in Kurdish), is a Kurdish leader and one of the founding members of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).Öcalan was arrested in 1999 by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) with the support of the CIA in Nairobi and taken to Turkey, where he was sentenced to death under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code, which concerns the formation of armed organisations. The sentence was commuted to aggravated life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penalty in support of its bid to be admitted to membership in the European Union. From 1999 until 2009, he was the sole prisoner on İmralı island, in the Sea of Marmara. Öcalan now argues that the period of armed warfare is past and a political solution to the Kurdish question should be developed. The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has resulted in over 40,000 deaths, including PKK members, the Turkish military, and civilians, both Kurdish and Turkish.From prison, Öcalan has published several books, the most recent in 2015. Jineology, also known as the science of women, is a form of feminism advocated by Öcalan and subsequently a fundamental tenet of Kurdish nationalism.Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or since September 2018, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), is a de facto autonomous region in northeastern Syria. It consists of self-governing sub-regions in the areas of Afrin, Jazira, Euphrates, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij and Deir Ez-Zor. The region gained its de facto autonomy in 2012 as part of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War. While entertaining some foreign relations, the region is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria or any international state or organization. Northeastern Syria is polyethnic and home to sizeable ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian populations; with smaller communities of ethnic Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens.The supporters of the region argue that it is an officially secular polity with direct democratic ambitions based on a libertarian socialist ideology promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity, and that these values are mirrored in its constitution, society, and politics, claiming it to be a model for a federalized Syria as a whole, rather than outright independence. Some of the criticism against the region has included claims of authoritarianism, kurdification, forced recruitment, the imprisonment and harassment of dissidents and journalists, the promotion of a radical anti-capitalist ideology, and influence from the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party.Dohuk Governorate
Dohuk Governorate (Kurdish: پارێزگای دھۆک, Syriac: ܗܘܦܲܪܟܝܵܐ ܕܕܸܗܘܟ , Arabic: محافظة دهوك Muḥāfaẓat Dahūk) is a governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan. Its capital is the city of Dohuk. It includes Zakho, the city that meets Ibrahim Khalil border between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. It borders the Al-Hasakah Governorate of Syria.Prior to 1976 it was part of Nineveh Governorate, which was called Mosul Governorate. Dohuk Governorate is mainly inhabited by Kurds and Assyrians, with a small number of Yazidis and Armenians. The estimated population in 2017 was 1,011,585.Erbil
Erbil, also spelt Arbil (Kurdish: ھەولێر / Hewlêr), locally called Hawler by the Kurds, is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan and the most populated city in the Kurdish inhabited areas. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and north of Iraq. It has about 850,000 inhabitants, and Erbil governorate has a permanent population of 2,009,367 as of 2015.Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5th millennium BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Erbil. The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Third Dynasty of Ur of Sumer, when King Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum. The city was later conquered by the Assyrians.Erbil became an integral part of the kingdom of Assyria by at least the 21st century BC through to the end of the seventh century BC, after it was captured by the Gutians, and it was known in Assyrian annals variously as Urbilim, Arbela and Arba-ilu. After this it was part of the geopolitical province of Assyria under several empires in turn, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Achaemenid Assyria), Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Empire (Asōristān), as well as being the capital of the tributary state of Adiabene between the mid-second century BC and early second century AD.
Following the Muslim conquest of Persia, it no longer remained a unitary region, and during the Middle Ages, the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman empires.Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artefacts, particularly the art of Mesopotamia, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area. The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, the Citadel of Arbil was inscribed as a World Heritage site.
The city has an ethnically diverse population of Kurds (the majority ethnic group), Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandaeans. It is equally religiously diverse, with believers of Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christianity (mainly followed by Assyrians and Armenians), Yezidism, Yarsanism, Shabakism and Mandaeism extant in and around Erbil.Iranian Kurdistan
Iranian Kurdistan, or Eastern Kurdistan (Kurdish: Rojhilatê Kurdistanê, ڕۆژھەڵاتی کوردستان), is an unofficial name for the parts of northwestern Iran inhabited by Kurds which borders Iraq and Turkey. It includes the West Azerbaijan Province, Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province, Ilam Province and Hamadan Province. There is also a significant Kurdish population in the North Khorasan Province.Kurds generally consider Iranian Kurdistan (Eastern Kurdistan) to be one of the four parts of a proposed Kurdistan state, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) and northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan).According to the last census conducted in 2006, the four Kurdish-inhabited provinces in Iran – West Azerbaijan, Kermanshah Province, Kurdistan Province and Ilam Province – have a total population of 6,730,000. Pockets of Lurs inhabit the southern areas of Ilam Province.
Iranian Kurds number around 12 million. One side of sources mention that majority of Iranian Kurds are Shia, while another side mentions that Iranian Kurds are predominantly Sunni. Shia Kurds are called Feyli. They inhabit Kermanshah and areas around Kheneghin, except for those parts inhabited by the Kurdish Jaff tribe, and Ilam Province as well as some parts of the Kurdistan and Hamadan provinces. The Kurds of Khorasan Province in northeastern Iran are also adherents of Shia Islam. During the Iranian Revolution, the major Kurdish political parties were unsuccessful in absorbing Shia Kurds, who at that period had no interest in autonomy. However, since the 1990s Kurdish nationalism has seeped into a small minority of the Shia Kurdish area, partly due to outrage against government's violent suppression of Kurds farther north.Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan, officially called the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Kurdish: ههرێمی کوردستان, translit. Herêmî Kurdistan) by the Iraqi constitution, is an autonomous region located in northern Iraq. It is also referred to as Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish: باشووری کوردستان, translit. Başûrê Kurdistanê), as Kurds generally consider it to be one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Syria (Rojava or Western Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).The region is officially governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with the capital being Erbil. Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with its own regional Parliament that consists of 111 seats. Masoud Barzani, who was initially elected as president in 2005, was re-elected in 2009. In August 2013 the parliament extended his presidency for another two years. His presidency concluded on 19 August 2015 after the political parties failed to reach an agreement over extending his term.
The new Constitution of Iraq defines the Kurdistan Region as a federal entity of Iraq, and establishes Kurdish and Arabic as Iraq's joint official languages. The four governorates of Duhok, Erbil, Silemani, and Halabja comprise around 46,861 square kilometres (18,093 sq mi) and have a population of 5.8 million (2017 estimate). In 2014, during the 2014 Iraq Crisis, Iraqi Kurdistan's forces also took over much of the disputed territories of Northern Iraq; the total area under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government contains some 8 million inhabitants.
The establishment of the Kurdistan Region dates back to the March 1970 autonomy agreement between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government after years of heavy fighting. However, that agreement failed to be implemented and by 1974 Northern Iraq plunged into the Second Iraqi–Kurdish War, another part of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict between the Kurds and the Arab-dominated government of Iraq. Further, the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq War, especially the Iraqi Army's Al-Anfal Campaign, devastated the population and environment of Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the 1991 uprising of Kurds in the north and Shia Arabs in the south against Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurdistan's military forces, the Peshmerga, succeeded in pushing out the main Iraqi forces from the north.
Despite significant casualties and the crisis of Kurdish refugees in bordering regions of Iran and Turkey, the Peshmerga success and the Western establishment of the northern Iraqi no-fly zone following the First Gulf War in 1991 created the basis for Kurdish self-rule and facilitated the return of refugees. As Kurds continued to fight government troops, Iraqi forces finally left Kurdistan in October 1991, leaving the region with de facto autonomy. In 1992, the major political parties in the region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, established the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent political changes led to the ratification of a new constitution in 2005.Kurdish languages
Kurdish (Kurdî, کوردی; pronounced [ˈkuɾdiː]) is a continuum of Northwestern Iranian languages spoken by the Kurds in Western Asia. Kurdish forms three dialect groups known as Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji), Central Kurdish (Sorani), and Southern Kurdish (Palewani). A separate group of non-Kurdish Northwestern Iranian languages, the Zaza–Gorani languages, are also spoken by several million Kurds. Studies as of 2009 estimate between 8 and 20 million native Kurdish speakers in Turkey. The majority of the Kurds speak Northern Kurdish ("Kurmanji").The literary output in Kurdish was mostly confined to poetry until the early 20th century, when more general literature began to be developed. Today, there are two principal written Kurdish dialects, namely Northern Kurdish in the northern parts of the geographical region of Kurdistan and Central Kurdish further east and south. Central Kurdish is, along with Arabic, one of the two official languages of Iraq and is in political documents simply referred to as "Kurdish".Kurdish–Turkish conflict (1978–present)
The Kurdish–Turkish conflict[note] is an armed conflict between the Republic of Turkey and various Kurdish insurgent groups, which have demanded separation from Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan, or to have autonomy and greater political and cultural rights for Kurds inside the Republic of Turkey. The main rebel group is the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan). Although insurgents have carried out attacks in many regions of Turkey, the insurgency is mainly in southeastern Turkey. The PKK's presence in Iraq's Kurdistan Region, from which it has also launched attacks, has resulted in the Turkish military carrying out frequent ground incursions and air and artillery strikes in the region. The conflict has cost the economy of Turkey an estimated US$300 to 450 billion, mostly military costs. It has also affected tourism in Turkey.The group was founded in 1978 in the village of Fis (near Lice) by a group of Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan. The initial reason given by the PKK for this was the oppression of Kurds in Turkey. By then, the use of Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names were banned in Kurdish-inhabited areas. In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991. The words "Kurds", "Kurdistan", or "Kurdish" were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. The PKK was then formed, as part of a growing discontent over the suppression of Turkey's ethnic Kurds, in an effort to establish linguistic, cultural, and political rights for Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority.The full-scale insurgency, however, did not begin until 15 August 1984, when the PKK announced a Kurdish uprising. Since the conflict began, more than 40,000 have died, most of whom were Kurdish civilians. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for thousands of human rights abuses. Many judgments are related to systematic executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements, destroyed villages, arbitrary arrests, murdered and disappeared Kurdish journalists, activists and politicians.The first insurgency lasted until 1 September 1999, when the PKK declared a unilateral ceasefire. The armed conflict was later resumed on 1 June 2004, when the PKK declared an end to its ceasefire. Since summer 2011, the conflict has become increasingly violent with resumption of large-scale hostilities. In 2013 the Turkish Government and the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan started talks. On 21 March 2013, Öcalan announced the "end of armed struggle" and a ceasefire with peace talks. On July 25, 2015, the PKK finally cancelled their 2013 ceasefire after a year of tension due to various events, including the Turks bombing PKK positions in Iraq, in the midst of the Kurds' battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. With the resumption of violence, hundreds of ethnic Kurdish civilians have been killed and numerous human rights violations have occurred including torture, rape and widespread destruction of property. Turkish authorities have destroyed substantial parts of many Kurdish inhabited cities including Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Mardin, Cizre, Nusaybin, and Yüksekova. Following mainly secret negotiations, a largely successful ceasefire was put in place by AKP and PKK. The ceasefire broke in summer 2015 due to political tensions.Kurdistan Democratic Party
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (Kurdish: پارتی دیموکراتی کوردستان, translit. Partiya Demokrat a Kurdistanê), usually abbreviated as KDP or PDK, is one of the main Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was founded in 1946 in Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan. The party claims it exists to combine "democratic values and social justice to form a system whereby everyone in Kurdistan can live on an equal basis with great emphasis given to rights of individuals and freedom of expression."
The KDP has been described as a tribal, feudalistic, and aristocratic party which is controlled by the Barzani tribe. The party since 1946 has been led by the Barzani Family.Kurdistan Free Life Party
The Kurdistan Free Life Party, or PJAK (Kurdish: Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê), is a militant leftist-nationalist, anti-Iranian government group. It has waged an intermittent armed struggle since 2004 against the Iranian government for self-determination for Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan.The PJAK is widely described as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).In 2009, the US Treasury named the PJAK a terrorist group and a front for the PKK. Both groups are members of the Kurdistan Communities Union, or KCK, an umbrella group of Kurdish political and insurgent groups in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq.Its armed wing, the Eastern Kurdistan Units, or YRK, is estimated to have 3,000 members, who are from Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and the Kurdish diaspora. The group is considered a terrorist organisation by Iran, Turkey, and the United States.Kurdistan Province
Kurdistan Province (Kurdish:پارێزگای کوردستان , Persian: استان کردستان, Ostān-e Kordestān) is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. The province of Kurdistan is 28,817 km² in area which encompasses just one-fourth of the areas in Iran inhabited by Kurds. It is located in the west of Iran, in Region 3, and bound by Iraq on the west, the province of West Azerbaijan to its north, Zanjan to the northeast, Hamedan to the east and Kermanshah to the south. The capital of Kurdistan Province is the city of Sanandaj (Kurdish: Sinne). Other counties with their major cities are Marivan, Baneh, Saqqez, Qorveh, Piranshahr, Bijar, Kamyaran, Dehgolan, Diwandarreh and Sarvabad.Kurdistan Regional Government
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) (Kurdish: حکوومەتی هەرێمی کوردستان, Hikûmetî Herêmî Kurdistan; Arabic: حكومة اقليم كردستان, Ḥukūmat ʾIqlīm Kurdistān) is the official ruling body of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
The cabinet is selected by the majority party or list who also select the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The president is directly elected by the electorate of the region and is the head of the cabinet and chief of state who delegates executive powers to the cabinet. The prime minister is traditionally the head of the legislative body but also shares executive powers with the president. The president of Iraqi Kurdistan is also the commander-in-chief of the Peshmerga Armed Forces. Parliament creates and passes laws by a majority vote, and the president has the power to veto any bill.Kurdistan Workers' Party
The Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) is a Kurdish far-left militant and political organization based in Turkey and Iraq. Since 1984 the PKK has been involved in an armed conflict with the Turkish state (with a two-year cease-fire during 2013–2015), with the initial aim of achieving an independent Kurdish state, later changing it to a demand for equal rights and Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.The group was founded in 1978 in the village of Fis (near Lice) by a group of Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan. The PKK's ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent Communist state in the region, which was to be known as Kurdistan. The initial reasons given by the PKK for this were the oppression of Kurds in Turkey and Capitalism. By then, the use of Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names were banned in Kurdish-inhabited areas. The words "Kurds", "Kurdistan", or "Kurdish" were officially banned by the Turkish government temporarily. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. The PKK was then formed, as part of a growing discontent over the suppression of Turkey's ethnic Kurds, in an effort to establish linguistic, cultural, and political rights for Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority.Since the PKK's foundation, it has been involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces. The full-scale insurgency, however, did not begin until 15 August 1984, when the PKK announced a Kurdish uprising. Since the conflict began, more than 40,000 have died, most of whom were Turkish Kurdish civilians.Since PKK leader Öcalan's capture and imprisonment in 1999, he has moved on from Marxism–Leninism, leading the party to adopt his new political platform of democratic confederalism while ceasing its official calls for the establishment of a fully independent country. In May 2007, former members of the PKK helped form the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organisation of Kurds from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In 2013, the PKK declared a ceasefire agreement and began slowly withdrawing its fighters to the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq as part of the solution process between the Turkish state and the Kurdish minority. In July 2015, the PKK announced that a ceasefire was over and said that Ankara had welched on its promises regarding the Kurdish issue. In August 2015, the PKK announced that they would accept another ceasefire with Turkey only under US guarantees.The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the European Union. However, the United Nations and countries such as Switzerland, China, India, Russia and Egypt, have not designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.Kurds
Kurds (Kurdish: کورد, Kurd) or the Kurdish people (Kurdish: گەلی کورد, Gelî kurd) are an Iranian ethnic group of the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a contiguous area known as Kurdistan. Geographically, those four adjacent and often-mountainous areas include southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. There are also exclaves of Kurds in central Anatolia and Khorasan. Additionally, there are significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey, in particular Istanbul, while a Kurdish diaspora has developed in Western Europe, primarily in Germany. Numerically, the Kurds are estimated to number anywhere from a low of 30 million, to possibly as high as 45 million.Kurds speak the Kurdish language, with several varied dialects such as Kurmanji, Sorani, and Zazaki; they are culturally and linguistically classified as belonging to the Iranian peoples. Religiously, although the majority of Kurds belong to the Shafi‘i school of Sunni Islam, there also are prominent numbers of Kurds who practice Shia Islam and Alevism. Minority of the Kurdish people are adherents to Yarsanism (Ahl-i Haqq), Yazidism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity.
Historically, after World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, that promise was nullified three years later, when the Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no provision for a Kurdish state, leaving Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. This fact has led to numerous genocides and rebellions, along with the current ongoing armed guerrilla conflicts in Turkey, Iran, and Syria / Rojava. Although Kurds are the majority population in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, because of their statelessness, Kurdish nationalist movements continue to pursue greater cultural rights, autonomy, and independence throughout Greater Kurdistan.Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK; Sorani Kurdish: یەکێتیی نیشتمانیی کوردستان, translit. Yekêtiy Niştîmaniy Kurdistan; Kurmanji Kurdish: یهکیتیا نیشتمانی یا کوردستانێ, translit. Yekîtiya Nîştimanî ya Kurdistanê) is a Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The PUK describes its goals as self-determination, human rights, and democracy and peace for the Kurdish people of Kurdistan and Iraq. The current Secretary General is Kosrat Rasul Ali. Fuad Masum, co-founder of the PUK, was the President of Iraq from 2014 to 2018. It was founded on 22 May 1975 in Iraqi Kurdistan by Adel Murad, Nawshirwan Mustafa, Ali Askari, Fuad Masum, Jalal Talabani and Abdul Razaq Feyli.Peshmerga
Peshmerga (Sorani Kurdish: پێشمەرگە, translit. Pêşmerge, lit. 'Before death', or 'Those who face death' IPA: [peːʃmɛɾˈɡɛ]) are the military forces of the federal region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Because the Iraqi Army is forbidden by Iraqi law to enter Iraqi Kurdistan, the Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of the regions in Iraqi Kurdistan. These subsidiaries include Asayish (intelligence agency), Parastin u Zanyarî (assisting intelligence agency) and the Zeravani (military police). It has been argued that peshmerge itself predates Iraq, starting out as a strictly tribal pseudo-military border guard under the Ottomans and Safavids to a well-trained, disciplined guerrilla force in the 19th century.Formally the peshmerga are under the command of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. In reality the peshmerga force itself is largely divided and controlled separately by the two regional political parties: Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Unifying and integrating the peshmerga has been on the public agenda since 1992 but the forces remain divided due to factionalism which has proved to be a major stumbling block.In 2003, during the Iraq War, peshmerga were said to have played a key role in the mission to capture Saddam Hussein. In 2004, they captured key al Qaeda figure Hassan Ghul, who revealed the identity of Osama Bin Laden's messenger, which eventually led to Operation Neptune Spear and the death of Osama Bin Laden.Rojava conflict
The Rojava conflict, also known as the Rojava revolution, is a political upheaval and military conflict taking place in Northern Syria, known among Kurdish nationalists as Western Kurdistan or Rojava. During the Syrian Civil War that began in 2012, a Kurdish-dominated coalition led by the Democratic Union Party as well as some other Kurdish, Arab, Syriac-Assyrian and Turkmen groups have sought to establish a new constitution for the de facto autonomous region, while military wings and allied militias have fought to maintain control of the region. This led to the establishment of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) in 2016. The supporters of the DFNS argue that the events constitute a social revolution with a prominent role played by women both on the battlefield and within the newly formed political system, as well as the implementation of democratic confederalism, a form of libertarian socialism that emphasizes decentralization, gender equality and the need for local governance through semi-direct democracy.Turkish Kurdistan
Turkish Kurdistan or Northern Kurdistan (Kurdish: Bakurê Kurdistanê) is the portion of Turkey, located in the Eastern Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia regions, where Kurds form the predominant ethnic group.
The Kurdish Institute of Paris estimates that there are 20 million Kurds living in Turkey.Kurds consider southeastern Turkey to be one of the four parts of a Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of northern Syria (Rojava, or Western Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan) and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan).The region has no administrative identity and the Turkish state rejects the use of the term "Kurdistan" to describe it.
The term Turkish Kurdistan is often associated and used in the context of Kurdish nationalism, which makes it a controversial term in Turkey. Because of this, there is ambiguity, and the term has different meaning depending on context. The term has been used in scientific papers and news media to refer to areas in southeastern Turkey with a significant Kurdish population.Zagros Mountains
The Zagros Mountains (Persian: کوههای زاگرس; Kurdish: چیاکانی زاگرۆس; Lurish: کۆیَل زاگروس) are a long mountain range in Iran, Iraq and southeastern Turkey. This mountain range has a total length of 1,600 km (990 mi). The Zagros mountain range begins in northwestern Iran and roughly follows Iran's western border, while covering much of southeastern Turkey and northeastern Iraq. From this border region, the range roughly follows Iran's coast on the Persian Gulf. It spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau, ending at the Strait of Hormuz. The highest point is Mount Zardkuh, at 4,548 metres (14,921 ft).