Location The Kurds formerly settled in the Mediterannean Plain along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Kurdish kingdom (AKA “Corduene”) spread across regions encompassing modern Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Armenia. Today most Kurds live in the mountains of Eastern Turkey (Taurus Mountains) and Northwestern Iran (Zagros Mountains). Many reside in Iraq, Syria, and Armenia as well.
Population As of the late 1990’s, it was estimated that about 20 million Kurds remain today. More recent numbers indicate the following: Turkey=15 million Iran=6 million Iraq=6 million Syria=2 million Armenia=50,000 Half of the Kurds alive today reside in Turkey. Others make up 10% of Iran’s population and 23% of Iraq’s population.
Geography/Topography The Kurdish land is typically mountainous and referred to by many as “ uninhabitable.” The Kurds have become settled agrarian peoples by forced assimilation into modern countries—they were previously nomadic farmers. Adaptations to farming techniques and lifestyles have been made to accommodate expectations to remain isolated. The Kurds have successfully adapted to mountain life and this isolation has in turn provided a cultural preservation.
Climate <ul><li>The climate of Kurdistan is characterized by extreme conditions, with large temperature differences between day and night and between winter and summer. </li></ul><ul><li>The climate of Kurdistan has two patterns; semiarid and summer-dry. The temperature in winter drops below -35 ºC whereas in summer rises as high as 45 ºC. </li></ul><ul><li>Variations in elevation create vast differences in climate in the land known as Kurdistan. </li></ul>
Ethnicity Ethnic roots and physical characteristics are similar to those of the Persians.
Traditions/Culture *Cultural traditions have been preserved due to geographic isolation in the mountain regions of the Middle East. *Social organization remains traditional—the Kurds have a patriarchal society. Only males can lawfully inherit property under Kurdish law, though Kurdish women do enjoy more freedoms than their traditional Muslim neighbors. *Oral tradition remains vital to cultural preservation within Kurdish communities. It also explains how religious beliefs continue to be passed from generation to generation in modern times. Islam has been the widely accepted religion of the Kurds, but Christianity has recently had a notable influence on many Kurdish villages.
Cuisine Kurdish Cuisine is comparable with Persian, Turkish, and Arab foods. The Kurds are actually known for their cheeses and yogurts which are famous in the region.
Clothing/Traditional Dress Women: Wearing of a veil is optional Bright floral skirt Embroidered jacket Turban or scarf on head Men: Loose fitting pants Short-waisted jacket Sash around waist Turban similar to women’s
*Religion The vast majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims. Some are Yazidi . A growing number of Kurds are converting to Christianity . There is a small but notable Kurdish- Jewish population.
Language The language of the Kurds is Kurdish , but was originally Aramaic . Most Modern Kurds learn Arabic as a second language in order to easily interact with neighboring groups. Depending upon the country in which they reside, Turkish and Farsi are also frequently spoken among Kurds. Education Whether or not a Kurdish child goes to school, and for how long, is very much up to the family. Even if education is compulsory, the law cannot always be enforced in rural areas, and families frequently decide that a child's time—especially a girl's—is more usefully spent at home.
History *Notable Kurdish dynasties date back to 66 BCE, however the Kurds have rarely experienced self-rule. *One famous Kurd was the Crusader Saladin. *The Kurds were conquered by the Arabs in the 7 th century, the Turks in the 11 th century, Mongols in the 13 th , and the Ottoman Empire in the 15 th . *There is no modern “Kurdistan,” though the Kurds themselves refer to their land by this name (meaning literally “Land of the Kurds”) and even have a flag for their people.
Government/Politics *Today the Kurds have remained reasonably autonomous within the Zagros and Taurus Mountain ranges throughout the countries of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Armenia. *The Kurds, though experiencing rare self-governance, have undoubtedly had a lasting impact on SW Asia. *Throughout the past century, the Kurds have faced much persecution and oppression within their respective countries. *Following WWI, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson encouraged the Kurds to seek self- rule, but this did not happen. *Kurd revolts in Turkey in the 1920’s and 1930’s resulted in a mass genocide. *Kurds were persecuted by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and are just beginning to establish their voice in the new government. *Persecution in Iran in the 1980’s and 1990’s was actually aided by the Iranian Constitution’s clause allowing different treatment of ethnic minorities. *Protection for the Kurds from the U.N. came following the Persian Gulf War. *In 1988 alone, 200,000 known murders of Kurds occurred throughout the Middle East. *A Kurdish proverb states, “The only friends of the Kurds are the mountains.”
Modern Politics The People’s Democratic Party has now been established as the legal and official voice of the Kurds. It is also known as the Kurdish Nationalist Party (PKK). One of the party’s major platforms is the advancement of Kurdish involvement and representation in local governments along with the eventual creation of a Kurdish homeland.
Economy Life for the Kurds has been semi-nomadic and agrarian even in recent years, so the economy has been at the subsistence level for many. In modern times, many Kurdish boys and men are beginning to travel and move into nearby cities to find higher-paying work. In the newly established democracy of Iraq, Kurds are finding new freedoms and opportunities to build businesses and trade in previously “off-limits” areas.
Sights to See Mountains—a nature lover’s paradise preserved culture Currently constructing a new infrastructure to bring in tourism from the South in both Turkey and Iraq Bexal Waterfall Salahaddin Resort
Holidays/Festivals Religious holidays and festivals are the most important. Since most Kurds are Muslim, Ramadan is the most important Islamic holiday. Some Kurdish Christians also observe Christmas and Easter. A celebration that is uniquely Kurdish is that of the Nowruz or New Year’s Festival. Similar to the Persian New Year, life and new beginnings are celebrated, but the Kurds also ritually mourn their dead during this time.
Current Events/Issues -Threat of losing cultural traditions via forced assimilation into other countries -Role of Kurds in the reconstruction of Iraq -Nationalist movement similar to that of the Palestinians -Recent Christian missionary movements may change culture -Restructuring of Kurdish Educational Systems in Iraq and Turkey
Will the new Iraq help or hurt the Kurds’ ability to “take the wheel?” You decide…