F.Y.I WHO ARE THE KURDS?
Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. They have historically inhabited the mountainous areas to the South of Lake Van and Lake Urmia, a geographical area collectively referred to as Kurdistan. Most Kurds speak Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji) or Sorani, which both belong to the Kurdish languages. The Kurdish language is written in a range of scripts, including the Perso-Arabic alphabet and the Latin alphabet.
Where do they come from?
The Kurds are one of the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia.
Today, they form a distinctive community, united through race, culture and language, even though they have no standard dialect. They also adhere to many different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims.
Why don't they have a state?
In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland - generally referred to as "Kurdistan". 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. The deal was later rejected by Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and Turkey repressed Kurdish uprisings over the next few decades.
Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed.
In 1946, the Kurds (PDKI), supported by the USSR, established the republic of Mahabad. Later that year, though, Iran crushed the emergent state.
In 1988, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein launched poison-gas attacks on the Kurdish city of Halabja, killing around 5,000 Kurds. In 1991, during the first gulf war, Northern Iraq’s Kurdish area came under international protection.
Sometimes Kurds have come into conflict with each other. The Kurdish civil war (1994-1997), fought in Iraq between the KDP and the Patriot Union of Kurdistan, illustrates some of the potential risks surrounding the establishment of a Kurdish state.
Current History - Daesh
In mid-2013, Daesh turned its sights on three Kurdish enclaves that bordered its territory in northern Syria. It launched repeated attacks that until mid-2014 were repelled by the Popular Protection Units (YPG) - the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD). The turning point was an offensive in Iraq in June 2014 that saw Daesh overrun the northern city of Mosul, routing Iraqi army divisions and seizing weaponry later moved to Syria.
The Daesh advance in Iraq also drew that country's Kurds into the conflict. The government of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region sent its Peshmerga forces to areas abandoned by the army.
For a time, there were only minor clashes between Daesh and the Peshmerga, but in August 2014 the jihadists launched a shock offensive. The Peshmerga withdrew in disarray, allowing several towns inhabited by religious minorities to fall, notably Sinjar, where Daesh militants killed or captured thousands of Yazidis.
Alarmed by the Daesh advance and the threat of genocide against the Yazidis fleeing Sinjar, a US-led multinational coalition launched air strikes in northern Iraq and sent military advisers to help the Peshmerga. The YPG and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), previously active in Turkey, also came to their aid.
Although the IS advance on Kurdish territory in Iraq was eventually halted by the Peshmerga and their allies, it did not stop trying to capture the Kurdish enclaves in Syria. In mid-September 2014, IS launched an assault on the enclave around the northern town of Kobane, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee across the nearby Turkish border.
Despite the proximity of the fighting and the threat posed by Daesh, Turkey refused to attack the Daesh group's positions near the border or allow Turkish Kurds to cross to defend it, triggering Kurdish protests. In October, Ankara partially relented and agreed to allow Peshmerga fighters to join the battle for Kobane, after US-led air strikes helped halt the Daesh advance.
In January 2015, after a battle that left at least 1,600 people dead and more than 3,200 buildings destroyed or damaged, Kurdish forces regained control of Kobane.
Since then, the Kurds have inflicted a series of defeats on Daesh in northern Syria with the help of US-led coalition airpower. They have established control over a 400km (250-mile) stretch of contiguous territory along the Turkish border and advanced to within 50km (30 miles) of the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.
Fighting under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the YPG has emerged as a key ally of the US-led coalition, which considers it one of the few effective partners on the ground in Syria.
There is deep-seated hostility between the Turkish state and the country's Kurds, who constitute 15% to 20% of the population.
Kurds received harsh treatment at the hands of the Turkish authorities for generations. In response to uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s, many Kurds were resettled, Kurdish names and costumes were banned, the use of the Kurdish language was restricted and even the existence of a Kurdish ethnic identity was denied, with people designated "Mountain Turks".
In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK, which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
In the 1990s the PKK rolled back on its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2012, the government and PKK began peace talks and the following year a ceasefire was agreed, although clashes continued.
The ceasefire collapsed in July 2015, days after a suicide bombing blamed on IS killed 33 young activists in the mainly Kurdish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border. The PKK responded by attacking Turkish soldiers and police, and the Turkish government launched what it called a "synchronised war on terror" against the PKK and IS. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed in clashes in south-eastern Turkey and in air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq. Hundreds of Turkish security personnel, PKK fighters and civilians have been killed since July.
The Turkish authorities also blamed the YPG for a suicide bomb attack in Ankara in February 2016 that left dozens of people dead and Turkish troops shelled YPG positions in north-western Syria to prevent it capturing the rebel-held town of Aziz.
Turkey's government says the YPG and the PYD are affiliates of the PKK, share its goal of secession through armed struggle, and are all terrorist organizations.
What do Syria's Kurds want?
The Democratic Unity Party (PYD) is the dominant force in Syria's Kurdish regions as Kurds make up between 7% and 10% of Syria's population. Before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011 most lived in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, the north-western town of Afrin, and the north-eastern city of Qamishli.
Syria's Kurds have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. Some 300,000 have been denied citizenship since the 1960s, and Kurdish land has been confiscated and redistributed to Arabs to "Arabize" Kurdish regions. The state has also sought to limit Kurdish demands for greater autonomy by cracking down on protests and arresting political leaders.
The Kurdish enclaves were relatively unscathed by the first two years of the Syrian conflict. The main Kurdish parties publicly avoided taking sides. In mid-2012, government forces withdrew to concentrate on fighting the rebels elsewhere, after which Kurdish groups took control.
YPG fighters have clashed with Syrian rebels, but are currently focused on battling Daesh.
The Democratic Unity Party (PYD) quickly established itself as the dominant force, straining relations with smaller parties who formed the Kurdistan National Council (KNC). In January 2014, they united to declare the creation of a democratic autonomous government, with branches based in the three Kurdish enclaves. The parties stressed that they were not seeking independence from Syria but "local democratic administration" within a federal framework.
PYD leader Salih Muslim has insisted that any political settlement to end the conflict in Syria will have to include legal guarantees for Kurdish rights and recognition of Kurdish autonomy. Salih Muslim has also denied that his party is allied to the Syrian government, even though the YPG has fought against some rebel groups and avoided conflict with the army, stressing that President Assad cannot remain in power after any transitional period.
Will Iraq's Kurds gain independence?
A peace deal agreed by the KDP and Iraq's government in 1970 collapsed four years later. Kurds make up an estimated 15% to 20% of Iraq's population. They have historically enjoyed more national rights than Kurds living in neighboring states, but also faced brutal repression.
Kurds in the north of Iraq revolted against British rule during the mandate era, but were crushed. In 1946, Mustafa Barzani formed the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to fight for autonomy in Iraq. After the 1958 revolution, a new constitution recognized Kurdish nationality. But Barzani's plan for self-rule was rejected by the Arab-led central government and the KDP launched an armed struggle in 1961.
In 1970, the government offered a deal to end the fighting that gave the Kurds a de facto autonomous region. But it ultimately collapsed and fighting resumed in 1974. A year later, divisions within the KDP saw Jalal Talabani leave and form the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Some 1.5 million Iraqi Kurds fled into Iran and Turkey after the 1991 rebellion was crushed.
In the late 1970s, the government began settling Arabs in areas with Kurdish majorities, particularly around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and forcibly relocating Kurds. The policy was accelerated in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the Kurds backed the Islamic republic. In 1988, Saddam Hussein unleashed a campaign of vengeance on the Kurds that included the poison-gas attack on Halabja.
When Iraq was defeated in the 1991 Gulf War Barzani's son, Massoud, led a Kurdish rebellion. Its violent suppression prompted the US and its allies to impose a no-fly zone in the north that allowed Kurds to enjoy self-rule. The KDP and PUK agreed to share power, but tensions rose and a four-year internal conflict erupted in 1994.
The two parties co-operated with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein and have participated in all national governments formed since then. They have also governed in coalition in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), created in 2005 to administer the three provinces of Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaimaniya, and sought to maximize Kurdish autonomy by building a pipeline to Turkey and exporting oil independently.
Massoud Barzani's KDP and Jalal Talabani's PUK share power in Iraqi Kurdistan
After IS captured large parts of northern Iraq in 2014, the KRG sent the Peshmerga into disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the central government, and then asked the Kurdish parliament to plan a referendum on independence.
In February 2016, Massoud Barzani - who became President of Kurdistan in 2005 - reiterated the call for a referendum. However, he stressed that it would be non-binding and would simply allow Kurdish leaders to "execute the will of the people at the appropriate time and conditions".
Historic Ethnicities of Kurdistan
The contiguous Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria sit in the north central area of the Middle East. Over the millennia, numerous ethnicities have migrated, settled or natively inhabited the area including Turks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Chechens, Azeris and others.
From the beginning of recorded history until the present day, these ethnic groups have strived politically and violently both offensively and defensively for a secure homeland. As one of the crossroads of the Middle East, Kurdistan has been home to both ethnic battlegrounds, as well as peaceful ethnic coexistence.
Brushing over a depiction of 25 centuries of history in half an hour is obviously a tough task. That means about one minute per century! In this quick skimming through 1 can limit myself to merely pointing out a few major landmarks and mentioning facts likely to help in the understanding of the present situation of the Kurds. 1 hope the specialists present here won't hold this approach of reducing and simplifying against me and, in response to questions raised during the discussion, I'd be happy to consider any aspect, which seems to you to have been insufficiently covered, in more depth.
The first question which comes to mind is that of the origins of the Kurds. Who are they? Where do they come from? Historians generally agree to consider them as belonging to the Iranian branch of the large family of Indo-European races. In prehistoric times, kingdoms called Mitanni, Kassites and Hourites reigned these mountainous areas, situated between the Iranian plateau and the Euphrates. In VII BC, the Medes, the Kurds' equivalent of the Gauls for the French, founded an empire which, in 612 BC, conquered the powerful Assyria and spread its domination through the whole of Iran as well as central Anatolia. The date 612, is moreover, considered by Kurdish nationalists as the beginning of the 1st Kurdish year; for them we are at present in 2629 in 2017!
The political reign of the Medes was to end towards the end of 6 BC, but their religion and civilization were to dominate Iran until the time of Alexander the Great. From this date, right until the advent of Islam, the fate of the Kurds, who geographers and Greek historians call Karduchoi, was to remain linked to that of the other populations of the empires which succeeded one another on the Iranian scene: Seljuks, Parthes and Sassanids.
Having put up fierce resistance to the Arabo-Muslim invasions, the Kurds ended up joining Islam, without, as a result, becoming Arabized. This resistance continued for about a century. The Kurdish tribes resisted the Arab tribes for social rather than religious reasons. All methods were used to coax the Kurds and convert them to Islam, even, for example, the matrimonial strategy, the mother of the last Omayyad caliph, Marwan Hakim, was Kurdish.
Due to the weakening of the caliphs' power, the Kurds, who already had a key role in the arts, history and philosophy fields, begin to assert, from the middle of the IXth century onwards, their own political power. In 837, a Kurdish lord, of the name Rozeguite, founds the town of Akhlat on the banks of Lake Van and makes it the capital of his principality, theoretically vassal of the caliph, but in actual fact virtually independent. In the second half of the Xth century Kurdistan is shared amongst 4 big Kurdish principalities.
In the North, the Shaddadids, (951-1174), in the East, the Hasanwayhids (959-1015) and the Banu Annaz (990-1116) and in the West the Marwanids (990-1096) of Diyarbakir. One of these dynasties would have been able, during the decades, to impose its supremacy on the others and build a state incorporating the whole Kurdish country if the course of history hadn't been disrupted by the massive invasions of tribes surging out of the steppes of Central Asia. Having conquered Iran and imposed their yoke on the caliph of Baghdad, the Seljuk Turks annexed the Kurdish principalities one by one.
Around 1150, the sultan Sandjar, the last of the great Seljuk monarchs, created a province from Kurdistan.
Up until then the Kurds' lands were cal - led the Media by Greek geographers, the "Djibal", which means the mountain for the Arabs. It's thus a Turkish sultan who, in homage to the distinctive personality of the Kurdish country, gives it the name Kurdistan. The province of Kurdistan, formed by Sandjar, had as its capital the village Bahâr (which means spring), near ancient Ecbatane, capital of the Medes. It included the vilayets of Sindjar and Shahrazur to the west of the Zagros massif and those of Hamadan, Dinaver and Kermanshah to the east of this range. Thus, as a whole this designation only recovered a southern part of ethnic Kurdistan. A brilliant autochthonous civilization developed around the town of Divaver-today ruined - 75km North-East of Kermanshah, whose radiance was than partially replaced by that of Senna, 90km further North.
Only about twelve years after the disappearance of the last great Seijuk, a Kurdish dynasty, that of the Ayyubids (1169-1250), founded by the famous Saladin emerges and takes over the leadership of the Muslim world for about a century, until the Turko-Mongolian invasions of the XIIIth century. The high-ranking figure of Saladin and his exploits against the crusaders are sufficiently well-known in Europe. His empire incorporated, as well as almost the whole of Kurdistan, all Syria, Egypt and Yemen. It was a bit like the Germanic Roman Empire claiming to reassemble peoples, kingdoms and principalities of Catholic Europe.
Conquerors in the Kurdish Region
The Kurdish region has seen a long list of invaders and conquerors: Ancient Persians from the east, Alexander the Great from the west, Muslim Arabs in the 7th Century from the south, Seljuk Turks in the 11th Century from the east, the Mongols in the 13th Century from the east, medieval Persians from the east and the Ottoman Turks from the north in the 16th Century and most recently, the United States in its 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“No Friends but The Mountains”
Fortunately for the Kurds, they have been able to retreat into the mountains for sanctuary. This protection is what saved the Kurds from destruction and allowed them to survive as a distinct ethnic group. Their traditional nomadic lifestyle and the inhospitable mountain homeland provide a natural means to evade marauding armies that would subject indigenous people to rape, murder and genocide.
Because the Kurds have remained a separate ethnic group, they’ve always sought autonomy and independence. These aspirations have resulted in almost continuous conflict and a history of repression, resiliency and reinvention in the face of existential threats by the Turks, Arabs and Iranians and their forebears.
SALADIN was a Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity lived from (1137 – 4 March 1193), was the first sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. Saladin led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz, Yemen and other parts of North Africa.
Saladin led Islamic forces during the Crusades. Saladin’s greatest triumph over the European Crusaders came at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, which paved the way for Islamic re-conquest of Jerusalem and other Holy Land cities in the Near East. During the subsequent Third Crusade, Saladin was unable to defeat the armies led by England’s King Richard I (the Lionheart), resulting in the loss of much of this conquered territory. However, he could negotiate a truce with Richard I (Richard the Lion Heart) that allowed for continued Muslim control of Jerusalem.
On July 4, 1187, the Muslim forces of Saladin (Salah al-Din) decisively defeated the crusader army south of the Horns of Hattin in Palestine, capturing Guy, king of Jerusalem; Reginald of Châtillon, Saladin’s enemy whom he personally killed; over two hundred Knights Hospitaller (where the word Hospitality comes from) and Templar Knightly Orders whom he ordered to be killed; and many crusaders whom he ransomed. The remaining captured Christians were sold on the local slave markets.
Born into a Kurdish, Sunni, military family, Saladin rose rapidly within Muslim society as a subordinate to the Syrian-northern Mesopotamian military leader
Nur al-Din. Participating in three campaigns into Egypt (which was governed by the Shi`ite Fatimid dynasty), Saladin became head of the military expeditionary forces in 1169. After he was appointed wazir (adviser) to the Shi`ite caliph in Cairo, he consolidated his position by eliminating the Fatimid’s sub-Saharan infantry slave forces. Finally, in 1171 the Shi`ite Fatimid caliphate was ended by Saladin with the recognition of the Sunni caliphate in Baghdad. In the meantime, Nur al-Din kept pressuring Saladin to send him money, supplies, and troops, but Saladin tended to stall. An open clash between the two was avoided by the death of Nur al-Din in 1174.
Although Egypt was the primary source for his financial support, Saladin spent almost no time in the Nile Valley after 1174. According to one of his admiring contemporaries, Saladin used the wealth of Egypt for the conquest of Syria, that of Syria for the conquest of northern Mesopotamia, and that of northern Mesopotamia for the conquest of the crusader states along the Levant coast.
This oversimplification aside, the bulk of Saladin’s activities from 1174 until 1187 involved fighting other Muslims and eventually bringing Aleppo, Damascus, Mosul, and other cities under his control. He tended to appoint members of his family to many of the governorships, establishing a dynasty known as the Ayyubids in Egypt, Syria, and even Yemen. At the same time, he was willing to make truces with the crusaders to free his forces to fight Muslims. Reginald of Châtillon violated these arrangements, to Saladin’s annoyance.
Modern historians debate Saladin’s motivation, but for those contemporaries close to him, there were no questions: Saladin had embarked on a holy war to eliminate Latin political and military control in the Middle East, particularly Christian control over Jerusalem. After the Battle of Hattin, Saladin, following the predominant military theory of the time, moved rapidly against as many of the weak Christian centers as possible, offering generous terms if they would surrender, while at the same time avoiding long sieges. This policy had the benefit of leading to the rapid conquest of almost every crusader site, including the peaceful Muslim liberation of Jerusalem in October 1187. The negative was that his policy permitted the crusaders time to regroup and refortify two cities south of Tripoli to Tyre and Ashkelon.
From Tyre, Christian forces, reinforced by the soldiers of the Third Crusade (1189–1191), encircled Muslims in Acre, destroyed the bulk of the Egyptian navy, and, under the leadership of Richard the Lion-Heart, captured the city and slaughtered its Muslim defenders. Saladin, by avoiding a direct battle with the new crusader forces, could preserve Muslim control over Jerusalem and most of Syria and Palestine.
Saladin’s reputation for generosity, religiosity, and commitment to the higher principles of a holy war have been idealized by Muslim sources and by man westerners including Dante, who placed him in the company of Hector, Aeneas, and Caesar.
With the emergence of Kurdistan as a recognized geographical entity, the supremacy of a Kurdish dynasty on the Muslim world and the blossoming of an important written literature in the Kurdish language, the 12th century is assuredly a rich period in the events of Kurdish history. It's also during this century that the Nestorian church with its metropolitan center in Kurdistan, develops with extraordinary rapidity, its missions spreading across the whole of Asia, as far as Tibet, Sin Kiang, Mongolia and Sumatra.
The most spectacular success of these missions was the conversion of the great Mongolian Khan Guyuk in 1248. Also in 1253, Saint Louis sent Guillaume de Rubrouck, who played an important role in what was called the "Mongolian crusade" to him in Baghdad. In 1258, when the Mongolian Hulagu, influenced by these missions, takes Baghdad, he puts the caliph to death but sees to it that the palace is given to the Nestorian Catholics. At the end of the 13th century, Islam gains the upper hand over the Mongolians and the Nestorians are massacred. The center of their patriarchate moves during the centuries but remains in Kurdistan.
In the second half of the 15th century the Kurdish country ends up by recovering from the effects of the Turko-Mongolian invasions and by taking the form of an autonomous entity, united by its language, culture and civilization, but politically split up into a series of principalities. However, at least amongst the well-read, there's a keen awareness of belonging to a single country. A 16th century poet, Melaye Djaziri, from the principality of Bohtan, considered as the Kurdish Ronsard introduces himself in these terms:
"I am the rose of Eden of Bohtan.
I am the torch of the nights of Kurdistan."
At the beginning of the 16th century the Kurdish country becomes the main stake of the rivalries between the Ottoman and Persian empires. The new shah of Persia, who has imposed Shfisme as the state religion, tries to spread it across the neighboring countries. The Ottomans, from their side, want to put a stop to the shah's expansionist aims and to assure their Iranian border in order to be able to embark on the conquest of the Arab countries. Caught in the pincer movement of the two giant powers, the Kurds, politically split, had no chance of surviving as an independent entity.
In 1514, the Turkish sultan inflicted a bitter defeat on the shah of Persia. Fearing that his victory, would be short-lived, he looked for ways of assuring this difficult Iranian border permanently. At this point one of his most valued advisors, the Kurdish scholar, Idrissi Bitlissi, came up with the idea of recognizing all the former rights and privileges of the Kurdish princes in exchange for a commitment from the latter to guard this border themselves and to fight at the side of the Ottomans in the case of a Persian-Ottoman conflict. The Turkish sultan Selim the 1st gives his support to the plan of his Kurdish advisor, who went to see the Kurdish princes and lords one by one to convince them that it was in the interest of the Kurds and the Ottomans to conclude this alliance.
Confronted with the choice of being annexed at some point by Persia or formally accepting the supremacy of the Ottoman sultan in exchange for a very wide autonomy, the Kurdish leaders opted for this second solution and thus Kurdistan, or more exactly its countless fiefs and principalities entered the Ottoman bosom by the path of diplomacy. Idrissi Bidlissi's mission was facilitated by the fact that he was a well-known and respected scholar and, above all, by the immense prestige of his father, the Sheikh Hussameddin who was a very influential Sufi spiritual chief. Bidlissi is also the author of the first treaty of the General History of the Ottoman Empire.
This status was to assure Kurdistan about three centuries of peace. The Ottomans controlled some strategic garrisons on the Kurdish territory, but the rest of the country was governed by the Kurdish lords and princes. As well as a string of modest hereditary seigniories, Kurdistan totaled 17 principalities of hukumets possessing a wide autonomy.
Some of them for example those of; Ardalan, Hisn Kaif' Bohtan, and Rowanduz were endowed with attributes of independence. Despite interferences from time to time from the central power, this status, to the satisfaction of the Kurds and the Ottomans, functioned without any major hitch until the beginning of the 19th century. The Ottomans, protected by the powerful Kurdish barrier against Iran, could concentrate their forces on other fronts. As for the Kurds, they were virtually independent in the management of their affairs.
They lived in seclusion of course and their country was split amongst a series of principalities, but in this same era Germany totaled some 350 autonomous states and Italy was much more broken up than Kurdistan. Every Kurdish court was the center of an important literary and artistic life and despite the political division, this period in fact constitutes the golden age of Kurdish literary, musical, historical and philosophical creation. In 1596, prince Sheref Khan finishes his monumental "Sherefnamch or splendors of the Kurdish nation". The theological schools of Chre and Zakho are renowned in the entire Muslim world, the town of Akhlat endowed with an observatory is known for its teaching of natural sciences, masters of Sufism like are revered even in Istanbul for their spiritual teaching and their musical genius. Certain ambitious Kurds such as the poets Nabi, Nefi, write in Turkish to win the favor of the sultan.
Except for some visionary spirits like the great 17th century Kurdish poet, Ehmede Khani, the well-read Kurds and Kurdish princes seem to believe that their status is going to last eternally and feel no need to change it. In 1675, more than a century before the French Revolution, which spreads the idea of the nation and the state-nation in the West, the poet Khani, in his epic in verse "Mem-o-Zin", calls the Kurds to unite and create their own unified state. He'll scarcely be listened to by either the aristocracy or the population. On Islamic ground, like elsewhere at the same epoch of Christianity, the religious conscience generally prevails over the national conscience.
Every prince is preoccupied by the interests of his dynasty, and family, clan or dynastic dynamics often count more than any other consideration. It wasn't rare to see the Kurdish dynasties reign over the non-Kurdish populations. In the 11th century, for example, Farsistan, a Persian province par excellence, was governed by a Kurdish dynasty; from 1242 to 1378 Khorassan an Iranian province in the North-East also had a Kurdish dynasty, and from 1747 to 1859 this was the case for distant Baluchistan, which is to day part of Pakistan. So, the fact that a certain proportion of the Kurdish territory is governed by foreign dynasties oughtn't seem unacceptable to contemporary people.
The idea of the nation-state and of nationalism is an avatar of the French Revolution. It quickly found a particularly prosperous ground in two divided countries and partly subjugated Germany and Italy. It's German thinkers such as Goerres, Brentano and Grimm who laid down the postulate in accordance with which the political, geographical and linguistic borders were to coincide. They dreamt of a Germany reassembling in one state the string of its small autonomous states. Pan-Germanism in turn inspired other nationalist movements such as pan Slavism and pan-Turkism. These ideas were to find success rather later, towards 1830, in Kurdistan where the Prince of Rowanduz, Mir Mohammed, was to fight from 1830 to 1839 in the name of his ideas for the creation of a unified Kurdistan.
In fact, up until then, since they hadn't been threatened in their privileges, the Kurdish princes contented themselves with administrating their domain, whilst, at the same time paying homage to the distant sultan-caliph of Constantinople. As a rule, they weren't to rise up and attempt to create a unified Kurdistan until, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire interfered in their affairs and tried to bring an end to their autonomy.
Wars for the unification and independence of Kurdistan mark the first part of the 19th century. In 1847, the last independent Kurdish principality, that of Bohtan, collapses. Sign of the times, the Ottoman forces, are advised and helped by European powers, in their fight against the Kurds. We notice, for example, the presence of Helmut von Moltke, at the time young captain and military advisor.
From 1847 to 1881, we observe new uprisings, under the leadership of the traditional chiefs, often religious, for the creation of a Kurdish state. This will be followed, up until the First World War, by a whole series of sporadic and regional revolts against the central government, all of which will be harshly quelled.
The causes of the failure of these movements are multiple: breaking up of authority, feudal dispersal quarrels of supremacy between the princes and the feudal Kurds and interference of the major powers at the Ottoman's side.
Having annexed the Kurdish principalities one by one, the Turkish government applied itself to integrating the Kurdish aristocracy by distributing posts and payments generously and by setting up so-called tribal schools, intended to instill in the children of Kurdish lords the principal of faithfulness to the sultan. This attempt to integrate à la Louis XIV (French King), was to an extent crowned with success. But it also furthered the emergence of elite Kurdish modernists. Under their leadership a modern phase in the political movement became apparent in Constantinople whilst charitable and patriotic associations and societies multiplied, trying to introduce the notion of organization and to set up a structured movement in the Kurdish population.
It's important to specify that at the end of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was prey to severe nationalist convulsions, each people aspired to the creation of its own nation state. Having tried in vain to keep this conglomeration alive by the ideology of pan-Ottomanism, then of pan-Islamism, the Turkish elite themselves became pan-Turkish and militated in favor of the creation of a Turkish empire going from the Balkans to Central Asia.
Kurdish society approached the First World War divided, decapitated, without a collective plan for its future. In 1915, the Franco-British agreements known as the Sykes-Picot forecast the dismemberment of their country. However, the Kurds were in conflict over the destiny of their country. Some, very open to the "pan-Islamist ideology of the sultan-caliph, saw the salvation of the Kurdish people in a status of cultural and administrative autonomy within the frame of the Ottoman Empire. Others, claiming to take inspiration from the principle of nationalities, from the ideas of the French Revolution and from President Wilson from the United States, fought for the total independence of Kurdistan.
The split became accentuated in the days following the Ottoman defeat by the Allied Powers, in 1918. The independents formed a hurried delegation at the Conference of Versailles to present "the claims of the Kurdish nation".
Their action contributed to the taking into account by the International Community, of the Kurdish national question. The International Treaty of Sèvres, between the Allies: France, Great Britain and the United States, and the Ottoman Empire, concluded on the 10th of August 1920, recommended, in section 111 (the creation of a Kurdish state on part of the territory of Kurdistan. This treaty was to go unheeded, however, the balance of power on the terrain preventing its application.
For its part, the traditional wing of the Kurdish movement, which was well established in Kurdish society and which was mainly dominated by religious leaders, tried to "avoid Christian peril in the East and West" and to create "a state of Turks and Kurds" in the Muslim territories liberated from foreign occupation. The idea was generous and fraternal. An alliance was concluded with the Turkish nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal, who came to Kurdistan to seek the help of the Kurdish leaders to liberate occupied Anatolia and the sultan-caliph, who was a virtual prisoner of the Christians. The first forces of Turkey's war of independence were in fact recruited from the Kurdish provinces.
Up until his definitive victory over the Greeks in 1922, Mustafa Kemal continued to promise the creation of a Muslim state of Turks and Kurds. He was openly supported by the Soviets, and more discreetly by the French and Italians, displeased with the excessive appetites of British colonialism in the region. After the victory, the Turkish delegates were to affirm, at the peace conference at Lausanne, that they spoke in the name of the Kurdish and Turkish sister nations.
On 24th July 1923, a new treaty was signed in this context between the Kemalist government of Ankara and the allied powers. It invalidated the Treaty of Sèvres and, without giving any guarantee, about the respect of the Kurds' rights, gave the annexation of the major part of Kurdistan over to the new Turkish state.
Beforehand, in accordance with the Franco-Turkish agreement of October 20, 1921, France had annexed the Kurdish provinces of Jazira and Kurd-Dagh to Syria, which were placed under its mandate. Iranian Kurdistan, a large part of which was controlled by the Kurdish leader Simko, lived in a state of near dissidence with regard to the Persian central government.
The fate of the Kurdish province of Mossul, very rich in petrol remained undecided. The Turks and the British claimed it, whilst its population, during a consultation organized by the Society of Nations, reached a decision, in a proportion of 718, in favor of an independent Kurdish state. Protesting that the Iraqi state wouldn't be able to survive without the agricultural and petroleum wealth of this province, Great Britain ended up obtaining the annexation of these Kurdish territories with Iraq placed under its mandate, from the League of Nations Council on December 16th, 1925. It nevertheless promised the setting up of an autonomous Kurdish government, a promise kept neither by the British, nor the Iraqi regime, which succeeded the British administration in 1932.
Thus, at the end of 1925, the country of the Kurds, known since the 12th century by the name "Kurdistan", found itself divided between four states: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. And for the first time in its long history, it was even to be deprived of its cultural autonomy.
The former conquerors and empires contented themselves with certain economic, political and military advantages and privileges. None of them set about preventing the population from expressing its cultural identity or hindering the free practice of its spiritual life. None of them devised a plan to destroy the Kurdish personality or to depersonalize an entire race by cutting it off from its ancient cultural roots.
This was the project of the Turkish nationalists, who wanted to make Turkey, an eminently multicultural, multiracial and multinational society, into a uniform nation; this was later taken up again by Iraq and Iran. We can join Nehru in his surprise "that a defensive nationalism turns into an aggressive nationalism and that a struggle for freedom becomes a struggle to dominate others". Indeed, since these lines were written by Nehru from the depths of prison, the nationalist or messianic ideologies have caused other ravages under other skies, often in the name of progress, modernity, mission of civilization, even freedom. Victim of its geography, of history and, undoubtedly of its own leader’s lack of clear-farsightedness, the Kurdish people have undoubtedly been the population who have paid the heaviest tribute and who have suffered the most from the remodeling of the Near-Eastern map.
This F.Y.I of Kurdistan
Short form was put together by,
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