Analysis of Kurdish Geopolitics Past and Present
Who are the Kurds? Most of us have heard about them but
don’t know who they are. Are they a race, a religion, a
country? As we see from the following example, even
Europeans who are much closer to the Kurds still do not have
a complete understanding of the Kurds or the middle east in
general:
In the West, the left and liberal minded
people in general, especially in the Scandinavian
and Anglo-Saxon countries, have usually supported
or at least expressed some sympathy with the
struggles against both European colonialism and
U.S. policies in Vietnam. But as soon as the
problem shifted to Biafra, Southern Sudan,
Kurdistan or Eritrea – in short, whenever the
national question was raised within a third
world country – this section of the public opinion
has tended to remain silent and confuesed.1
This lack of knowledge about the Kurds and Middle East in
general is a major wall between resolution of the many
problems that exist in the Middle East. I would like to
give you a better understanding of what it is to be Kurdish
by describing to you the past and present condition of
Kurdistan, the state or territory that the Kurdish people
populate. A brief understanding of the history of the
Kurdish people is all that is needed to successfully
accretion just why we should be more involved and educated
about the current political activities surrounding Kurdistan
and the countries that infringe upon it.

The Kurdish people have the unfortunate distinction of
being the only community of over 15 million in population
that has not achieved some form of national statehood.2
This is the problem that needs addressing, people without a
country. There Kurds territory, would be country, consists
of the mountainous regions of central and northern Zargos,
the eastern one-third of the Taurus and Pontus, and the
northern half of the Amanus ranges (see F1).4 The Kurdish
are an ancient people who about 4,000 thousand years ago
started to trickle into Kurdistan in limited numbers to
settle there.3 By the classical era in 300 b.c. the Kurds
were already experiencing massive population movements that
resulted in settlement and domination of many surrounding
regions.5 Although they did at times rule over the land
outside the mountains, for the most part, the Kurds home
ended where the mountains ended. The Kurds as a distinct
people have only survived in the mountains.6 The
relationship between the Kurds and the mountains is so
strong that they have become synomonis.7 These mountains
are also the axis for five major countries, which include
Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the former Soviet Union.

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Since the end of World War I, Kurdistan has been divided
into these five sovereign states, in which a significant
population of Kurds inhabit (see below).


8
Notice that the total number of Kurds in all countries is
larger than that of Iraq but smaller than Iran. Barring a
catastrophe, Kurds will become the third most populous
ethnic group in the Middle East by the year 2000,
furthermore, if present demographics trends hold, the Kurds
will replace the Turks as the majority ethnic group in
Turkey itself.9 The Kurds remain the only ethnic group in
the world with indigenous representatives in three world
geographic blocs: the Arab World (in Iraq and Syria), NATO
(in Turkey), the South Asian – Central Asian bloc (in Iran
an Turkmenistan), and until recently the Soviet bloc (in the
Caucasus, now Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia).10
The most important features of Kurdistan society since
the end of medieval times has been it’s strong tribal
organization, with independence or autonomy being the
political status of the land. Kurdish society was well
underway of developing a political culture but this was
disbanded by the redistribution of their county at the end
of the first World War. But strong Tribal confederacies
still remained as a form of social organization and
authority in which people put their allegiance.11
Kurdish lands, rich in natural resources, have always
sustained and promoted a large population. While
registering modest grains since the late 19th century, but
particularly in the first decade of the 20th, Kurds lost
demographic ground relative to neighboring ethnic groups.

this was due as much to their less developed economy and
healthcare as it was to direct massacres, deportations, and
famines. The total number of Kurds actually decreased in
this period, while every other major ethnic group in the
area boomed.12 Since the mid 60’s this negative demographic
trend has reversed, and the Kurds are steadily making a
comeback. There is now one Kurdish city with a population
of nearly a million(Kirminshah), two with over half a
million (Diyarbekir, Kikuk), five between a quarter and a
half million (Antep, Abril, Hamadan, Malatya,Sulaymania),
and 13 cities with a quarter of a million (Adiyamamn,
Dersim, Dohuk, Elazig, Haymana, Khanaqin, Mardin, Qamishli,
Qochan, Sanandja, Shahabad, Siirt and Urfa).13 The Kurds as
well as demonstrating a more than substantial population
also have their own language. The Kurds are speakers of
Kurdish. Kurdish is related to the northwestern subdivision
of the Indo-European family of languages. It is completely
separate of Semitic Arabic and Altic Turkish.14 This
evidence of substantial population and a language different
than those of the regions around them, show that Kurdistan
and the Kurds are a separate entity from the overlaying
countries of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the former Soviet
Union, and should be treated as such. This leads us into
the problem at hand, the Kurds are not receiving the respect
that an automous society deserves. The blame for this
problem lies mostly in the fact that the surrounding
countries don’t recognize Kurdistan as an automous society
and there for do not have to respect there wish to be a free
state. Kurdistan in the state that is now, is just a region
of the middle east, which overlays several other countries
that the majority of the Kurdish people inhabit. The
Kurdish are only recognized as minorities and unwanted
people and can only hope to be granted the right to live in
peace, alone without ever having an official country. The
Kurds have, in some countries, been so bold as to even
demand equality and citizenship.

The Kurds as religion goes are three fifths Sunni
Muslims of Shafiite rite. There are also some followers of
mainstream Shiitem Islam. The overwhelming majority of the
Muslim Kurds are followers of one of several mystic Sufi
orders. The rest of the Kurds are followers of there own
unique religion that is only found in Kurdistan. Three of
these ancient, indigenous faiths that still exist today are
Yezidism, Yarsanism or Ahl-i Haqq, and Alevism or Kizil
Nash.15 As we see from this testimony of the Kurds separate
language, uses of original and regional religions, and large
concentrated population, they no undoubtedly qualify as a
entity that deserves recognition as a automous state. So we
now must address the problem, and what it is that keeps this
idea of automous recognition from happening.

In each of the new post war countries, the Kurds found
they were treated with suspicion and pressured to conform to
the ways of the majority. Their old independence and
traditional pastoralist way of life was significantly
interrupted. They were expected to learn the language of
the new state in which they found themselves, Turkish,
Persian, or Arabic, and to abandon their Kurdish identify
and accept Turkish, Iranian, or Arab nationalism. “As a
tribal and traditionally minded society the Kurds wanted to
be left at peace, but few then were nationalists”.15 Some
tribes tried to resist the encroachment onto their culture
but were unsuccessful against the organized governments of
the infiltrating states.

“In Turkey more than 10 million Kurds are forbidden to
use their own language or to describe themselves as
Kurds”.16 In the 1920’s and 30’s Kurds rebelled against
this discrimination and the government reacted with more
suppression and even deported thousands from their homeland.

These imprisoned and condemned Kurds were officially called
“Mountain Turks”.17 The continued suppression of over 10
million people has resulted in the rise of Marxist
guerrilla groups.18
In Iran The Kurds were similarly brought under control
in the 1920’s. In 1946 the Kurds of Mahabad succeeded in
declaring an independent republic, but it only lasted a few
months, and the authorities hanged the ring leaders. Tribal
chiefs were allowed to register tribal lands and personal
possessions and were welcomed into the Iranian ruling elite,
in return for making sure their tribes obeyed the
government. After the shia revolution the Kurdistan
Democratic Party o Iran rebelled after the demands for
autonomy were refused by Tehran.19
In Iraq there were a number of revolts against Bagdad,
mainly by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the famous leader of the
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq. From 1964 until 1975
Barzani was strong enough to maintain an intermittent state
of war and peace negotiations. In 1974 the governing Ba’th
party offered Kurds autonomy, but the Kurds believed it
lacked substance and they reverted to war strongly supported
and encouraged by Iran. But in 1975 the Shah of Iran, who
had supported Barzani, signed the agreement of Algiers with
the Iraqi and abandon the Kurds to their fate; as a result
the Kurdish resistance collapsed. The success of the Iraqi
Kurds in the field of language and education have, however,
enabled them to create impressive literature and a fully
adequate written language, and have produced a generation of
Kurds whose primary and secondary level of education have
been in Kurdish. Such achievements will undoubtedly help
the Kurds of Iraq in their future efforts to preserve their
cultural and ethnic Idenity.20
Will the Kurds be able to hold onto their ethnic
identify with out outside help? Will the already suppressed
Kurds be able to uphold their language and religion? I
thing that is for sure is that as long as the Iranian and
Iraqi’s oppress the Kurds their will always be someone who
is willing support or at least pretend to support the Kurds
even if only for political reason or because it is to their
advantage too. Sadly enough this method of support is used
a lot by western countries to manipulate or maintain a
strategic advantage over surrounding Middle Eastern nations.

For example “at the end of World War I, the British
introduced the idea of Kurdish nationalism, and the Treaty
of Sevres (August 1920), whereby Britain and Turkey first
tried to conclude their hostilities after the war, contained
two articles related to the autonomy of the Kurds.”21 But
this Treaty was never fully realized because soon the
British changed their minds and shifted their attention
toward Iraq in order to exploit oil, the Kurds were left out
to dry. Some observers of the U.S. policy in the Persian
Gulf are increasingly puzzled over our failure to exploit
the Kurds as a potential strong card against the Iraqi’s.

Supporting the openness of the Iraq and Haddam Hussein,
particularly the leaders of the oppressed Kurdish minority,
would be a useful political and strategically move for the
U.S.. A spokes person for the Kurdish Democratic Party says
the “U.S. should look more closely at the international
situation in Iraq. And this can only be done by talking to
the opposition.”22 So we see two occasions where help was
indeed needed but not given. In one instance we have a
country using the Kurds to get their hands on some oil, and
on the other we see the U.S. not offering help even though
they would gain a significant advantage over countries in
the Middle East, even when the Kurds acknowledge that the
U.S. help would be just a ploy to get an advantage on Iraq.

Some believe that the U.S. is the Key to the Kurdish
question in the Middle East. This is a very optimistic idea
because of the complexity of the problem, “unless the
Americans succeed in developing a coherent and consistent
Middle East policy, one should not expect consistency or
predictability from the Middle East and the Kurds.”23