Young Kurdish woman. Photo: Kurdistan KURD.
Kurds are also living in central cities of all these countries, as well as in European countries. Estimates on the number of Kurds vary much, due to unwillingness to accept Kurdish nationality, in countries like Turkey and Iraq. Estimates run between 15 and 25 million, where the majority is living in Turkey.
Kurds speak Kurdish, a language of the western Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. The clear majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but a small group of less than 100,000 living in Iraq (small communities scattered in Turkey, Iran, and Syria, too) are Yazidis, the so-called “devil worshipers”.
Kurds living in Kurdistan, are predominantly living in rural districts, and among Kurds, there are some that keep up nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyles. But a clear majority are living in villages and cities. Agriculture and sheep holding is central in the rural Kurdish economy.
Kurds have been living under foreign rulers for centuries, and have never up through history formed larger states or dynasties. In this century, there have been several serious attempts on creating a Kurdistan. Kurds were promised their own state by the Allied forces after World War 1.
This Kurdistan was promised to be established on Turkish territory. But this promise was never kept.
Iraqi Kurds were fighting against the Iraqi governments, with funds from Iran, from 1962 to 1970, and 1974 to 1975. The Kurds were promised autonomy in 1970, and they had to give up fighting after normalization of relations between Iran and Iraq in 1975.
A Kurdish rebellion in Turkey started in 1984, and this still persists even if nothing has been gained, and casts dark shadows on the image that the international society has of Turkey.
A Kurdish rebellion in Iraq started on the eve of the Gulf war in 1991, but was quickly suppressed by the Iraqi army, forcing 1 million Kurds to flee to Turkey. From 1992 to 1996 a zone in northern Iraq was controlled by the UN, and this area was as close as Kurds ever have been to their own state. The region came back under Iraqi control after that some Kurdish chiefs allied with Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq.
The explanation of the international society’s reluctance to support the establishment of a Kurdistan must be seen on the background of the existing regional instability, the importance of the area, and the fact that it would affect too many states.
If Kurdistan was established in one country, neighboring countries would regard this as a hostile act. In 1991, the international society could have taken the necessary steps to form a Kurdistan in northern Iraq, but actions of this kind would never have been accepted by NATO allied Turkey.