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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Kurdistan

As a boy I once read the fascinating novel "Through Wild Kurdistan" (1892) by Karl May (1842 - 1912). I have taken an interest in the Kurds ever since. Recent events have reinvoked my interest. Today's events can however only be understood when looking at the vast history of the Kurds.

For thousands of years, Kurds have been nomadic warriors. The exact origins of the name Kurd are unclear. The ethnonym Kurd might be derived from a term kwrt - used in Middle Persian as a common noun to refer to "nomads" or "tent-dwellers" (Wikipedia). A similarity with the Mongols or Roma gypsies comes to my mind. Nowadays, the Kurds have the most diverse religious background one can imagine: from Kurdish Jews to Kurdish Muslims and a lot in between. Often Islam religion was forced upon the Kurds to integrate and assimilate in the territory where they then lived.

The Kurds possess a rich tradition of folklore, which, until recent times, was largely transmitted by speech or song, from one generation to the next. Kurdish men and women participate in mixed-gender dancing during feasts, weddings and other social celebrations. This is unusual among Islamic people and [..] pointed out that in this respect Kurdish culture is more akin to that of eastern Europe than to their West Asian counterparts. (Wikipedia)

The Kurdish languages belong to the northwestern sub‑group of the Iranian languages, which in turn belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. (Wikipedia) That Kurds share much of their history with the rest of Iran is seen as a reason why Kurdish leaders in Iran do not want a separate Kurdish state. (Wikipedia)

The Kurdish region of Iran has been a part of the country since ancient times. Nearly all of Kurdistan was part of the Iranian Empire until its Western part was lost during wars against the Ottoman Empire. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, at Paris Conferences of 1919, Tehran has demanded all lost territories including Turkish Kurdistan, Mosul, and even Diyarbakır, but demands were quickly rejected by Western powers. This area has been divided by modern Turkey, Syria and Iraq. (Wikipedia)

Especially since the ending of WW1, the Kurds have been used by several regional powers in their struggle against other regional powers: Iran, Iraq, Russia/Soviet Union, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds always suffered heavy losses as a result. The weakening of these regional powers for the last decades, has allowed the Kurds to finally build on their dream: an independent Kurdistan

Kurds are often regarded as "the largest ethnic group without a state", although larger stateless nations exist. Such periphrasis is rejected by leading Kurdologists like Martin van Bruinessen and other scholars who agree that claim obscures Kurdish cultural, social, political and ideological heterogeneity. Michael Radu argues such meaningless claims mostly come from Western human rights militants, leftists and Kurdish nationalists in Europe. (Wikipedia)

Given all of the above, it is rather easy to see why nomadic warriors without a clear religious background did - and still do - not fit in the established regional societies. There is even a regional prejudice, stating: Compared to the unbeliever, the Kurd is a Muslim. For many centuries and until today, the Kurds have had few friends and many enemies.