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Comprising more than 30 million people, they are said to be the world's largest ethnic group without its own state. For over a century, many Kurds have been campaigning (some through violence as well as political means) for the right to their own state, which is often called Kurdistan, meaning "land of the Kurds" or "Kurdish homeland". However, despite their efforts and the assistance of some European countries, all the region's governments are opposed the concept, which would require them to give up parts of their own territories to create a Kurdish homeland.
The exact number of Kurdish people living in Southwest Asia is unknown due to both absence of a recent study on this issue and the fact that some of Kurdish people have mixed with other local ethnic groups.
In the 1990s, it was estimated that there were more than 25 million Kurds in the world.
The estimated number of Kurdish people in the 21st century by country (unofficial):
| Elsewhere in Europe and |
other western countries
| Armenia, Georgia,|
Turkmenistan and other.
Before the Islamic conquerors in the 7th century, most Kurds believed in Zoroastrianism which is believed to be one of the oldest religions in the world. With unofficial estimates, today, 95% of Kurds are Muslims, and 77% are Sunni Muslims. They are the only large Sunni Muslim population in Iran. There are also Shia Muslims (9%) who primarily live in the Kermanshah and Ilam provinces of Iran. Alevi Muslims make up another 9% and are mainly found in Turkish Kurdistan. The remaining 5% are made up from Christians, Jews and Yezidis.
Some sources claim that in Iraq, there are more than 1 million Shia Kurds known as the "Fayli-Kurds". Their Kurdish identity is not as strong as other Kurds.
Yezidism is an ancient Kurdish religion. Their holy place lies in Iraqi Kurdistan in the village of Lalish north of Mosul. Most of the Yazidis live in Iraqi Kurdistan in the vicinity of the cities of Mosul, Sinjar , and Lalish. Large numbers of Yezidis are also found in Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan. According to Yezidi sources, there are 800,000 Yezidis in the world.
Estimated Kurdish religions:
- Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 80%, Shia 20%), Other 5%(Christian,Yezidi,Zoroastrian)
One of the strongest things that makes the Kurds different from other peoples is their language. Although there is no basic language that the Kurds can use as primary language. The Kurdish is set up in dialects which each should be taught in a different way. Doing this should split their dialects into seperate languages. But Kurds themselves see their dialects so close to each other that they regard it as a part of the Kurdish unity.
Kurdish is a language from the Indo-European family of languages distinct from Arabic and Turkish. It's sister language is Persian which is also an Indo-European language. Both Kurdish and Persian are from the Iranian branch of languages which comes from Indo-Iranian origin.
- Indo-European -> Indo-Iranian -> Kurdish
Kurdish has an estimated(unofficial) 30 to 40 million speakers in the world.
The Kurdish is split into 2 major dialects:
- Sorani: Most widely spoken in Iraq and Iran.
Other smaller dialects:
- Zazaki/Dimili/Kurmanjki: Spoken in Turkey.
- Hawrami/Laki/Gurani: Spoken in Iraq and Iran.
Kurdish is written in multiple styles. In Turkey it is written with the Latin alphabet. In the former USSR, the Cyrillic aphabet is used. In Iran, Iraq and Syria, the Arabic script is used.
- Kurmanji 60%
- Sorani 25%
- Zazaki/Dimili/Kurmanjki 10%
- Hawrami/Laki/Gurani 5%
Kurdish people in the past and today
Under the former Iraqi Ba'athist regime, which ruled Iraq from 1968 until 2003, Kurds were initially granted limited autonomy (1970), and after the Barzani revolt in 1961, given some high-level political representation in Baghdad. However, for various reasons, including the siding of some Kurds with Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the regime became opposed to the Kurds and an effective civil war broke out. Iraq was widely condemned, but not seriously punished, by the international community for using chemical weapons against the Kurds, which caused the death of thousands of Kurds.
Kurdish regions during the 1990s had de facto independence, with fully functioning civil administrations, and were protected by the US-enforced Iraqi no-fly zone which stopped Iraqi air raids. During the period of self-governance there were armed clashes between the three main political/military groups in the area, each claiming the title of Kurdistan's government, which undermined the effectiveness of the Kurds in their fighting with the Iraqis.
Following the unseating of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, little is known as to how the 'Kurdistan' issue will be dealt with in the future. The American-sponsored idea of a Federal Republic, with a relatively high level of autonomy for the Kurds, currently appears to be the most popular. Steps towards greater autonomy were encouraged when the Iraqi president that was elected Dr. Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and is one of the longest serving Kurdish Iraqi politicians but has currently distanced himself from the movement for Kurdish independence, pledging to support Iraqi federalism at least for the time being.
Teaching in Kurdish and the publication of both printed and audio-visual media is allowed, although very restricted. Recent reforms promised limited broadcasting in Kurdish. Kurds, when they describe themself as Turks, may take their place in any part of Turkish life including the National Assembly. However, if Kurds describe themselves explicitly as a Kurdish in regard to their nationality, they are not allowed to participate in any legal process. This distinction highlights the de facto and de jure situations of Kurds in Turkey.
Timeline of modern Kurdish history
1922 to 1958: The Iraqi Kurds live under the Iraqi Kingdom.
1958: Abdel Kareem Qasem becomes President of Iraq; Iraq's new constitution declares 2 major ethnic groups in Iraq: Arabs and Kurds. The President invites Mustafa Barzani from the Soviet Union to Iraq for discussions about Kurds.
1961: Failed negotiations between the government and Kurds ignites the September 11 revolt of Barzani . Fighting continues until 1970.
1974: Relations break up again about economic issues. Fighting erupts again. Governments bombs Kurdish towns such as Qela Dize where over 250 people die, half of which are children.
1975 to 1980: The son of [Mustafa; Masoud Barzani encourages a new uprising against the government.
1979: The Islamic Revolution in Iran gives the Kurds an opportunity to receive some autonomy. They failed.
1979: The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) is created as a result of decades of discrimination of the Kurdish culture and language.
1980: PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan flees to Syria and trains his armed supportes in several places including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and possibly Iran.
1980: The Iran-Iraq war affects Kurds in both countries. Support to either government by Kurds could cause repercussions for Kurds in the other country. Both governments send Kurds to the frontlines. More than 1 million die on both sides.
1984: PKK guerillas launch their first attacks on Turkish targets in Turkey and abroad.
1988: The genocidal Anfal -campaign is being carried out by the Iraqi government to "decrease" the Kurds. Some 4500 villages are completely destroyed and 182,000 Kurds are relocated to unknown destinations in this year alone.
1990's: The massive PKK uprising propelles Turkey into a state of civil war. Attacking the KDP in Iraq in order to control another part of Kurdistan. Turkey reppels PKK guerillas and pursues them in Iraq.
1991: A popular uprising by the Kurds ignites after the Iraqi defeat of the Persian Gulf war. The uprising is initially successful, but government forces crack down, causing more than 2 million Kurds to flee to Turkey and Iran. Thousands die of starvation, cold and hunger.
1991: The Kurdish language is no more prohibited in Turkey after more than 70 years of discrimination.
1992: After the setup of the no-fly zones in the North and South to protect the civil Iraqi population, the Allied forces make a security zone in the north of Iraq so that the refugees could return back. After that, the Kurds seize their area, set up an own government, start their own elections and draw autonomy borders.
1992 to 2003: The Kurds enjoy self-rule but heavy fighting erupts between the two main Kurdish factions. The KDP and the PUK almost commit political suicide in fightings in 1994, 1996 and 1997. In 1999 the two parties agree to a cease-fire.
1998: PKK leader flees from Syria to Russia after threats from Turkey against Syria.
2002: PKK changes its name to KADEK in an effort to remove the terrorist connotations of the name PKK.
- The 2003 Invasion of Iraq removes the Baath-regime from power. Kurds celebrate.
- March 12: The European Court of Human Rights rules that the Turkish trial of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the terrorist organisation PKK, was not fair.
- January 4: Invasion of Iraq commences.
- February 25: Both major parties of Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Northern Iraq, vow to fight Turkish troops if they enter Kurdistan to capture Mosul or interfere in Kurdish self-rule. Between them the two parties can mobilize up to 80,000 guerillas - most likely no match for the modern Turkish army, but complicate relations between U.S. allies on the Northern front expected in the U.S. plan to invade Iraq.
- March 21: The arrest of Ansar al-Islam is ordered by Ĝkokrim, a Norwegian law enforcement agency, to ensure he does not leave Norway while accusations that he had threatened terrorist attacks were investigated.
- April 6: In a friendly fire incident, U.S. warplanes struck a convoy of allied Kurdish fighters and U.S. Special Forces during a battle in northern Iraq. At least 18 people are killed and more than 45 wounded, including senior Kurdish commanders.
- April 10: U.S. Green Berets and Kurdish fighters enter the city of Kirkuk in Iraq with little resistance. Turkey and U.S., in separate statements, say they will not allow the Kurds to occupy the city. , 
- June 12: In Dokan , Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leaders set up a six-member committee to map out a plan for unification.
2004: In Syrian-Kurdistan, violence broke out between Arab supporters and Kurds at a soccer match. Syria accused of killing as much as 40 Kurds causing the Kurdish population in Syria to rise up in the days of aftermath. Thousands are arrested and some are beaten to death in prisons.
2004: KADEK changes its to KONGRA-GEL.
- See also: History of the Kurds
- Hak ve Özgürlükler Partisi (HAK-PAR, Rights and Freedoms Party) (Operates primarily in Soulth-Eastern Turkey)
- Halkin Demokrasi Partisi (HADEP, Peoples' Democracy Party) (Operates primarily in Soulth-Eastern Turkey)
- Kurdistan Democratic Party (runs an elected government in Northern Iraq)
- Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (runs an elected government in Northern Iraq)
Militant and has been involved in terrorist actions
- Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, dissolved to KADEK)
- Congress for Freedom and Democracy Kurdistan (KADEK, dissolved to Kongra-Gel)
- People's Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra-Gel)
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