You’ve probably seen images of female Kurdish fighters or read about how the US joined forces with the Kurds to get rid of ISIL. Maybe you’ve heard Turkey refer to them as terrorists. So who are the Kurds? What unites […]
You’ve probably seen images of female Kurdish fighters or read about how the US joined forces with the Kurds to get rid of ISIL. Maybe you’ve heard Turkey refer to them as terrorists. So who are the Kurds?
What unites them? And why is there so much resistance to the idea of a Kurdish nation-state? The Kurds are an entire people with a common identity spread out across five countries. There are about 35 million of them.
They live in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia. The biggest population — 15 million Kurds live in Turkey. So why don’t they have their own state? Well to answer that we need to go back in time. Back a hundred years to the creation of the modern-day Middle East. It was 1920 and World War One had ended.
The Ottoman Empire was on the losing side so some of the victors — France and the UK decided to carve up the Ottoman Empire under the Treaty of Sèvres. In that deal, the Kurds were given a piece of their own the promised land of Kurdistan. But Kurdistan never actually became a reality.
That second deal was called the Treaty of Lausanne. Turkey got to redraw its borders which still exist today and that effectively wiped the proposed Kurdish state off the map, leaving the Kurdish people stateless. Losing their promised land was a blow. And then they had it tough living as an ethnic minority within those borders. But the next 70 years weren’t easy for anyone in the neighbourhood.
For decades, the Middle East witnessed conflicts, wars and revolutions.
And the Kurds often became a target of discrimination and oppression in their host countries. Among many incidents was a horrific massacre of Kurds in a sarin gas attack by Iraqi forces. Over the years, the Kurds pushed back. Some of them formed armed groups. And what’s united many of them is the fight for some kind of independence.
But they haven’t always been on the same page. Sometimes Kurdish groups found themselves on opposite sides of conflicts like in the Iran-Iraq War and the First Gulf War.
Or even having to make unlikely alliances.
As often happens around the world the second a group gets its hand on weapons to defend themselves or further their cause, they make enemies.
It’s the idea that one person’s freedom fighter can be another person’s terrorist. That’s what happened with Kurdish armed groups. Here are the main ones you might want to knoHere are the main ones you might want to know about.w about.
The Peshmerga in northern Iraq. They sprung up in the 1920s to defend Kurdish areas. They’re now an army of around 190,000 soldiers. Over in Turkey there’s the PKK.
They’ve been fighting for an independent Kurdish state. But they became a paramilitary in the 80s and have used force against civilian and military targets to achieve their political goals.
They’re considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and 28 European countries. There’s also the YPG across the border in Syria.
They sprang up in 2011 in the early days of the civil war to protect Syrian Kurdish areas. But the YPG is also part of a bigger umbrella group the Syrian Democratic Forces which includes Kurdish and Arab fighters. And together they played a huge part in the fight in Syria against ISIL — also known as ISIS.
Watch this video for complete picture:
It’s why not every Kurdish person believes that quest for independence is worth it. That’s just what happens when you have a people living apart from each other for generations.
But what they all still want isn’t far from what everyone wants A voice, rights, and for many Kurds – a home of their own.