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Kurdistan in History and Today

Written by Ezgi Cakirgoz

Today, Kurdistan is defined as a geo-cultural region in the Middle East. In this region, Kurds are the majority. In addition; historically, Kurdish states have been located here.


The reason why the Kurds established small principalities instead of a united state governed from a single center was that they were predominantly made up of tribes and tribes. That's why they were weak in the face of powerful attacks against them. Despite this, they are resisting tirelessly to defend their freedom even today.

Kurdistan was divided into two in the Byzantine-Sassanid wars in the 600s and was used as the place of the war. As a result of these wars, Kurdistan and the Kurdish people have suffered great damage in every respect. Seeing that the regions were weak after these wars, the Muslims conquered these regions and tried to spread Islam.

The Kurds have an important place in the history of civilization. The Christian attacks on Rojava, called the Crusades in the Middle East, aiming to seize the trade routes, were stopped thanks to the struggle and resistance of the Kurdish principalities and Kurdish commanders such as Saladin Ayyubi. The resistance of the Kurds in this period prevented the occupation of the Middle East.

In 1514, a war broke out between the Ottoman and Iranian empires to colonize Kurdistan. In this war, Iran was defeated, and Kurdistan came under Ottoman rule. With the Treaty of Zuhab made in 1639, Kurdistan was once again divided between two empires, Ottoman and Iran. After this date, all the wars between these two invaders took place in the territory of Kurdistan, and therefore, no matter which side won in these wars, it was the Kurdish people who lost. (1)

Turkish Kurdistan

It is part of Kurdistan under Turkish rule. Northern Kurdistan (Turkish Kurdistan) is the largest part of Kurdistan, both in terms of geography and the number of Kurds. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, many people objected to the incorporation of Kurdish-inhabited regions in Eastern Anatolia into Turkey. The region has seen many Kurdish rebellions, such as the Koçgiri rebellion (1920), Sheikh Said rebellion (1924), the Republic of Ararat (1927), the Dersim rebellion(1937), and the Turkey-PKK conflict (1984-...). The Turkish government denied the existence of the Kurds and referred to the Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991. The words Kurd and Kurdistan were banned. Later on, the Kurdish language was banned, and people speaking this language were arrested. In addition, political parties representing Kurdish interests were banned. Still, the word 'Kurdistan' can lead to arrests in Turkey, and anyone who is a citizen of the country is defined as Turkish in the constitution. (2)

(Dersim rebellion (1937)

Iraqi Kurdistan

Kurdistan region is an autonomous region in Iraq. An autonomous region is an administrative division of a country with freedom from an external authority. The capital of the regional government is Erbil. Its official language is Kurdish. The population of the region is 7,250,000, according to the 2018 census. The Kurds in Iraq made many movements for autonomy or independence. As a result of the agreement made between Mullah Mustafa Barzani and Saddam Hussein in 1970, the autonomous administration was established. In 1974, the autonomy was abolished by Saddam Hussein, and the Kurds revolted. Whereupon autonomy was declared again. (3)

Syrian Kurdistan

Syrian Kurdistan is commonly known as Rojava. Not only Kurds but also Arabs, Circassians, Assyrians, and Turkmen live in the region. Northern and Eastern Syria Autonomous Administration was declared in the region but not recognized by the Syrian government or other countries. It has representations in Switzerland and many European countries. (4)

  1. Kürdistan Tarihi, MS Lazarev-Ş.X. Mihoyan, Avesta Yayınları

  2. Aslan, Senem (2014). Nation Building in Turkey and Morocco. Cambridge University Press.

  3. UNPO: Kurdistan: Constitution of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. (2004). UNPO : Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

  4. Syrian Kurds declare a new Federation in bid for recognition. (2016). Middle East Eye.


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