are one of the largest ethnic
groups not to have a country of their own. The area known as Kurdistan
is a geographical entity, but is spread over Syria
, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. This, the traditional home of the Kurds, contains many mountainous areas. Smaller communities live in the former Soviet Union
and Lebanon. Turkey
has the largest community. The total Kurdish population is estimated to be between 25 and 40 million - larger than all the countries of the Arab League
except Egypt, and as large as Sudan and Algeria
. The majority of Kurds speak Kurdish
and most are Muslim
Since World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the largest concentration of Kurds can be found in Turkey. The King-Crane Commission, set up by the United States of America to find out what the former Ottoman subjects wanted, reported back that an independent Kurdish state should be established. The Treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920 at the end of the peace negotiations, promised a limited Kurdish state.
The Kurds never received the promised autonomous state. They have been rebelling in northern Iraq and in Turkey ever since. Their treatment under Saddam Hussein in Iraq has been widely reported, including Hussein's use of chemical weapons against them. But the Kurds have been gassed before, the British tried to subdue them in the 1920's and 30's through the use of mustard gas.
When Mustafa Kemal, the Atatürk, ruled Turkey, the Kurds were initially his allies -- but soon found they had no friend in Kemal. Beginning in 1924, the Kurdish language was banned. Then came the laws which enabled the authorities to give Turkish names to everything that had a Kurdish name. All at once, Kurdish cities, town, villages, and hamlets acquired new Turkish names. In recent decades, as a result of their rebellious uprisings, 2,665 Kurdish villages have been destroyed. The uprooted villagers, their numbers now in the millions, have moved to the cities where they live in shantytowns.
While the Kurds have gained much sympathy in the west, a closer look at their history during and after World War I causes one to blush on their behalf. Rather than finding a noble people fighting a liberation war, we find a militant group who enthusiastically participated in the Armenian genocide. It's difficult to feel sympathy for the Kurds when you read of the way they treated the Armenians. Of course this still doesn't justify the human rights abuses of our NATO partner Turkey perpetrated against the Kurds.