WHERE IS KURDISTAN?

Kurdistan is an area inhabited by Kurds and where Kurdish culture, language, and national identity have historically been based.  According to the historians the earliest official use of the toponym Kurdistan dates back to 12th century when Saljukid ruler Sanjar conquered the Kurdish territory and established a province of that name, centred at Bahar, near modern Hamadan in Iran. Kurdistan is currently divided into four parts: eastern and south eastern Turkey (North Kurdistan), northern Iraq (South Kurdistan), north-western Iran (East Kurdistan), northern Syria (little south or western Kurdistan) and also a part of Nagorno Karabagh region (Lachin area), disputed land between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

This division is the result of two historical developments. In the 16th century, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires. Then in the 20th century, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the World War I, the Allies attempted to create several countries within its former boundaries. According to the never-ratified Treaty of Sèvres, Kurdistan was to be among them. However, the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Turkey and the other pressing issues caused the allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which brought into being 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.

Subsequently, the Kurds exercised their desire for nation state. In 1946, the Republic of Mahabad was declared by the Kurdish leader Qazi Mohammed – a Kurdish republic within the Iranian state. Mahabad was short-lived, lasting only until December that year, when Iranian forces took control. Qazi Mohammed was executed on 31st of March 1947.

At present, the only part of Kurdistan to be self governed is South Kurdistan (located in Federal Iraq)  which became semi autonomous in 1991 after the second gulf war when collation forces declared Kurdish areas as no-fly zones for the Iraqi army.  This region has been self- governing since 2005 under the  Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). However, the larger part of the Kurdistan area is still controlled by the central  governments of Turkey, Iran and Syria within whose borders it is situated.

WHO ARE THE KURDS?

The Kurds people, with a population in the region of  40 million, are the biggest ethnic group in the world without a nation state,. communities can also be found in not only in Kurdistan and other areas of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria,  but all over the world including substantial communities in Kurdish Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Russia, Lebanon, some parts of Africa, almost all European countries, North America and Australia. The Kurdish language is an Indo-European language and belongs to the north-western sub-group of the Iranian languages. There are several dialects of the Kurdish language: Kurds in Turkey speaks Kurmanji and Dimilki dialects while Kurds in Iraq speak the  Sorani and Bahdinani forms of Kurmanji and sub dialects of them. Most Kurds are bilingual or polylingual, speaking the languages of the surrounding peoples such as Arabic, Turkish and Persian as a second language. Often these languages were forcibly introduced and in some areas Kurdish languages are still banned. Kurdish Jews and some Kurdish Christians (not be confused with ethnic Assyrians of Kurdistan) usually speak Aramaic as their first language.

The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, belonging to the Shafi school. There are also Kurdish Shia Muslims, primarily living in the Ilam and Kermanshah provinces of Iran, Central and south eastern Iraq (Fayli Kurds), and who are Alevi, who mostly live in Turkey. There are also Yazidi, Ahl-i Haqq Kurds as well as Kurdish Christians and Kurdish Jews.