Ethnic group in the Middle East
Top 10 Kurds related articles
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Language
- 3 Population
- 4 Religion
- 5 History
- 6 Kurdish communities
- 7 Culture
- 8 Gallery
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Sources
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
(The World Factbook, 2015 estimate)
(Kurdish Institute of Paris, 2017 estimate)
||est. 14.3–20 million|
||est. 8.2–12 million|
||est. 5.6–8.5 million|
||est. 2–3.6 million|
In their different varieties: Sorani, Kurmanji, Pehlewani, Laki
|Majority Islam |
(Sunni Muslim, Alevi Islam, Shia Islam)
with minorities of Yazidism, Yarsanism, Zoroastrianism, Agnosticism, Judaism, Christianity
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Iranian peoples|
Kurds (Kurdish: کورد ,Kurd) or Kurdish people are an Iranic ethnic group native to a mountainous region of Western Asia known as Kurdistan, which spans southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. There are exclaves of Kurds in Central Anatolia, Khorasan, and the Caucasus, as well as significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey (in particular Istanbul) and Western Europe (primarily in Germany). The Kurdish population is estimated to be between 30 and 45 million.
After World War I and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, that promise was broken three years later, when the Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no such provision, leaving Kurds with minority status in all of the new countries. Recent history of the Kurds includes numerous genocides and rebellions, along with ongoing armed conflicts in Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds in Iraq and Syria have autonomous regions, while Kurdish movements continue to pursue greater cultural rights, autonomy, and independence throughout Kurdistan.
Kurds Intro articles: 28
The exact origins of the name Kurd are unclear. The underlying toponym is recorded in Assyrian as Qardu and in Middle Bronze Age Sumerian as Kar-da. Assyrian Qardu refers to an area in the upper Tigris basin, and it is presumably reflected in corrupted form in Classical Arabic Ǧūdī, re-adopted in Kurdish as Cûdî. The name would be continued as the first element in the toponym Corduene, mentioned by Xenophon as the tribe who opposed the retreat of the Ten Thousand through the mountains north of Mesopotamia in the 4th century BC.
Regardless of its possible roots in ancient toponymy, the ethnonym Kurd might be derived from a term kwrt- used in Middle Persian as a common noun to refer to "nomads" or "tent-dwellers," which could be applied as an attribute to any Iranian group with such a lifestyle.
The term gained the characteristic of an ethnonym following the Muslim conquest of Persia, as it was adopted into Arabic and gradually became associated with an amalgamation of Iranian and Iranicised tribes and groups in the region.
Sherefxan Bidlisi in the 16th century states that there are four division of "Kurds": Kurmanj, Lur, Kalhor and Guran, each of which speak a different dialect or language variation. Paul (2008) notes that the 16th-century usage of the term Kurd as recorded by Bidlisi, regardless of linguistic grouping, might still reflect an incipient Northwestern Iranian "Kurdish" ethnic identity uniting the Kurmanj, Kalhur, and Guran.
Kurds Etymology articles: 24
Kurdish (Kurdish: Kurdî or کوردی) is a collection of related dialects spoken by the Kurds. It is mainly spoken in those parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey which comprise Kurdistan. Kurdish holds official status in Iraq as a national language alongside Arabic, is recognized in Iran as a regional language, and in Armenia as a minority language.
Many Kurds are either bilingual or multilingual, speaking the language of their respective nation of origin, such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish as a second language alongside their native Kurdish, while those in diaspora communities often speak three or more languages. Turkified and Arabised Kurds often speak little or no Kurdish.
The Kurdish dialects according to Mackenzie are classified as:
- Northern group (the Kurmanji dialect group)
- Central group (part of the Sorani dialect group)
- Southern group (part of the Xwarin dialect group) including Laki
Commenting on the differences between the dialects of Kurdish, Kreyenbroek clarifies that in some ways, Kurmanji and Sorani are as different from each other as is English from German, giving the example that Kurmanji has grammatical gender and case endings, but Sorani does not, and observing that referring to Sorani and Kurmanji as "dialects" of one language is supported only by "their common origin ... and the fact that this usage reflects the sense of ethnic identity and unity of the Kurds."
Kurds Language articles: 13
The number of Kurds living in Southwest Asia is estimated at between 30-45 million, with another one or two million living in the Kurdish diaspora. Kurds comprise anywhere from 18 to 25% of the population in Turkey, 15 to 20% in Iraq; 10% in Iran; and 9% in Syria. Kurds form regional majorities in all four of these countries, viz. in Turkish Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan. The Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in West Asia after Arabs, Persians, and Turks.
The total number of Kurds in 1991 was placed at 22.5 million, with 48% of this number living in Turkey, 24% in Iran, 18% in Iraq, and 4% in Syria.
Recent emigration accounts for a population of close to 1.5 million in Western countries, about half of them in Germany.
A special case are the Kurdish populations in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, displaced there mostly in the time of the Russian Empire, who underwent independent developments for more than a century and have developed an ethnic identity in their own right. This groups' population was estimated at close to 0.4 million in 1990.
Kurds Population articles: 8
Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims who adhere to the Shafiʽi school, while a significant minority adhere to the Hanafi school. Moreover, many Shafi'i Kurds adhere to either one of the two Sufi orders Naqshbandi and Qadiriyya.
Yazidism is another syncretic religion practiced among Kurdish communities, founded by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a 12th-century mystic from Lebanon. Their numbers exceed 500,000, with some estimates numbering them at 1.2 million worldwide. Its central religious texts are the Kitêba Cilwe and Meshaf Resh.
According to Yazidi beliefs, God created the world but left it in the care of seven holy beings or angels. The most prominent angel is Melek Taus (Kurdish: Tawûsê Melek), the Peacock Angel, God's representative on earth. Yazidis believe in the periodic reincarnation of the seven holy beings in human form. Yazidis who marry non-Yazidis are automatically considered to be converted to the religion of their spouse and therefore are not permitted to call themselves Yazidis.
The Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism has had a major influence on the Iranian culture, which Kurds are a part of, and has maintained some effect since the demise of the religion in the Middle Ages. The Iranian philosopher Sohrevardi drew heavily from Zoroastrian teachings. Ascribed to the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, the faith's Supreme Being is Ahura Mazda. Leading characteristics, such as messianism, the Golden Rule, heaven and hell, and free will influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam.
In 2016, the first official Zoroastrian fire temple of Iraqi Kurdistan opened in Sulaymaniyah. Attendees celebrated the occasion by lighting a ritual fire and beating the frame drum or 'daf'. Awat Tayib, the chief of followers of Zoroastrianism in the Kurdistan region, claimed that many were returning to Zoroastrianism but some kept it secret out of fear of reprisals from Islamists.
Although historically there have been various accounts of Kurdish Christians, most often these were in the form of individuals, and not as communities. However, in the 19th and 20th century various travel logs tell of Kurdish Christian tribes, as well as Kurdish Muslim tribes who had substantial Christian populations living amongst them. A significant number of these were allegedly originally Armenian or Assyrian, and it has been recorded that a small number of Christian traditions have been preserved. Several Christian prayers in Kurdish have been found from earlier centuries. In recent years some Kurds from Muslim backgrounds have converted to Christianity.
Segments of the Bible were first made available in the Kurdish language in 1856 in the Kurmanji dialect. The Gospels were translated by Stepan, an Armenian employee of the American Bible Society and were published in 1857. Prominent historical Kurdish Christians include the brothers Zakare and Ivane Mkhargrdzeli.
Kurds Religion articles: 41
"The land of Karda" is mentioned on a Sumerian clay tablet dated to the 3rd millennium BC. This land was inhabited by "the people of Su" who dwelt in the southern regions of Lake Van; the philological connection between "Kurd" and "Karda" is uncertain, but the relationship is considered possible. Other Sumerian clay tablets referred to the people, who lived in the land of Karda, as the Qarduchi (Karduchi, Karduchoi) and the Qurti. Karda/Qardu is etymologically related to the Assyrian term Urartu and the Hebrew term Ararat. However, some modern scholars do not believe that the Qarduchi are connected to Kurds.
Qarti or Qartas, who were originally settled on the mountains north of Mesopotamia, are considered as a probable ancestor of the Kurds. The Akkadians were attacked by nomads coming through Qartas territory at the end of 3rd millennium BC and distinguished them as the Guti, speakers of a pre-Iranic language isolate. They conquered Mesopotamia in 2150 BC and ruled with 21 kings until defeated by the Sumerian king Utu-hengal.
Many Kurds consider themselves descended from the Medes, an ancient Iranian people, and even use a calendar dating from 612 BC, when the Assyrian capital of Nineveh was conquered by the Medes. The claimed Median descent is reflected in the words of the Kurdish national anthem: "We are the children of the Medes and Kai Khosrow." However, MacKenzie and Asatrian challenge the relation of the Median language to Kurdish. The Kurdish languages, on the other hand, form a subgroup of the Northwestern Iranian languages like Median. Some researchers consider the independent Kardouchoi as the ancestors of the Kurds, while others prefer Cyrtians. The term Kurd, however, is first encountered in Arabic sources of the seventh century. Books from the early Islamic era, including those containing legends such as the Shahnameh and the Middle Persian Kar-Namag i Ardashir i Pabagan, and other early Islamic sources provide early attestation of the name Kurd. The Kurds have ethnically diverse origins.
During the Sassanid era, in Kar-Namag i Ardashir i Pabagan, a short prose work written in Middle Persian, Ardashir I is depicted as having battled the Kurds and their leader, Madig. After initially sustaining a heavy defeat, Ardashir I was successful in subjugating the Kurds. In a letter Ardashir I received from his foe, Ardavan V, which is also featured in the same work, he is referred to as being a Kurd himself.
You've bitten off more than you can chew
and you have brought death to yourself.
O son of a Kurd, raised in the tents of the Kurds,
who gave you permission to put a crown on your head?
Similarly, in AD 360, the Sassanid king Shapur II marched into the Roman province Zabdicene, to conquer its chief city, Bezabde, present-day Cizre. He found it heavily fortified, and guarded by three legions and a large body of Kurdish archers. After a long and hard-fought siege, Shapur II breached the walls, conquered the city and massacred all its defenders. Thereafter he had the strategically located city repaired, provisioned and garrisoned with his best troops.
Qadishaye, settled by Kavad in Singara, were probably Kurds and worshiped the martyr Abd al-Masih. They revolted against the Sassanids and were raiding the whole Persian territory. Later they, along with Arabs and Armenians, joined the Sassanids in their war against the Byzantines.
There is also a 7th-century text by an unidentified author, written about the legendary Christian martyr Mar Qardagh. He lived in the 4th century, during the reign of Shapur II, and during his travels is said to have encountered Mar Abdisho, a deacon and martyr, who, after having been questioned of his origins by Mar Qardagh and his Marzobans, stated that his parents were originally from an Assyrian village called Hazza, but were driven out and subsequently settled in Tamanon, a village in the land of the Kurds, identified as being in the region of Mount Judi.
Early Syriac sources use the terms Hurdanaye, Kurdanaye, Kurdaye to refer to the Kurds. According to Michael the Syrian, Hurdanaye separated from Tayaye Arabs and sought refuge with the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus. He also mentions the Persian troops who fought against Musa chief of Hurdanaye in the region of Qardu in 841. According to Barhebreaus, a king appeared to the Kurdanaye and they rebelled against the Arabs in 829. Michael the Syrian considered them as pagan, followers of mahdi and adepts of Magianism. Their mahdi called himself Christ and the Holy Ghost.
In the early Middle Ages, the Kurds sporadically appear in Arabic sources, though the term was still not being used for a specific people; instead it referred to an amalgam of nomadic western Iranian tribes, who were distinct from Persians. However, in the High Middle Ages, the Kurdish ethnic identity gradually materialized, as one can find clear evidence of the Kurdish ethnic identity and solidarity in texts of the 12th and 13th centuries, though, the term was also still being used in the social sense. Since 10th century, Arabic texts including al-Masudi's works, have referred to Kurds as a distinct linguistic group. From 11th century onward, the term Kurd is explicitly defined as an ethnonym and this does not suggest synonymity with the ethnographic category nomad. Al-Tabari wrote that in 639, Hormuzan, a Sasanian general originating from a noble family, battled against the Islamic invaders in Khuzestan, and called upon the Kurds to aid him in battle. However, they were defeated and brought under Islamic rule.
In 838, a Kurdish leader based in Mosul, named Mir Jafar, revolted against the Caliph Al-Mu'tasim who sent the commander Itakh to combat him. Itakh won this war and executed many of the Kurds. Eventually, Arabs conquered the Kurdish regions and gradually converted the majority of Kurds to Islam, often incorporating them into the military, such as the Hamdanids whose dynastic family members also frequently intermarried with Kurds.
In 934, the Daylamite Buyid dynasty was founded, and subsequently conquered most of present-day Iran and Iraq. During the time of rule of this dynasty, Kurdish chief and ruler, Badr ibn Hasanwaih, established himself as one of the most important emirs of the time.
In the 10th-12th centuries, a number of Kurdish principalities and dynasties were founded, ruling Kurdistan and neighbouring areas:
- The Shaddadids (951–1174) ruled parts of present-day Armenia and Arran.
- The Rawadid (955–1221) ruled Azerbaijan.
- The Hasanwayhids (959–1015) ruled western Iran and upper Mesopotamia.
- The Marwanids (990–1096) ruled eastern Anatolia.
- The Annazids (990–1117) ruled western Iran and upper Mesopotamia (succeeded the Hasanwayhids).
- The Hazaraspids (1148–1424) ruled southwestern Iran.
- The Ayyubids (1171–1341) ruled Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia and parts of southeastern Anatolia and the Arabian Peninsula.
Due to the Turkic invasion of Anatolia, the 11th-century Kurdish dynasties crumbled and became incorporated into the Seljuk Dynasty. Kurds would hereafter be used in great numbers in the armies of the Zengids. Succeeding the Zengids, the Kurdish Ayyubids established themselves in 1171, first under the leadership of Saladin. Saladin led the Muslims to recapture the city of Jerusalem from the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin; also frequently clashing with the Assassins. The Ayyubid dynasty lasted until 1341 when the Ayyubid sultanate fell to Mongolian invasions.
The Safavid Dynasty, established in 1501, also established its rule over Kurdish-inhabited territories. The paternal line of this family actually had Kurdish roots, tracing back to Firuz-Shah Zarrin-Kolah, a dignitary who moved from Kurdistan to Ardabil in the 11th century. The Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 that culminated in what is nowadays Iran's West Azerbaijan Province, marked the start of the Ottoman-Persian Wars between the Iranian Safavids (and successive Iranian dynasties) and the Ottomans. For the next 300 years, many of the Kurds found themselves living in territories that frequently changed hands between Ottoman Turkey and Iran during the protracted series of Ottoman-Persian Wars.
The Safavid king Ismail I (r. 1501–1524) put down a Yezidi rebellion which went on from 1506 to 1510. A century later, the year-long Battle of Dimdim took place, wherein the Safavid king Abbas I (r. 1588–1629) succeeded in putting down the rebellion led by the Kurdish ruler Amir Khan Lepzerin. Thereafter, many Kurds were deported to Khorasan, not only to weaken the Kurds, but also to protect the eastern border from invading Afghan and Turkmen tribes. Other forced movements and deportations of other groups were also implemented by Abbas I and his successors, most notably of the Armenians, the Georgians, and the Circassians, who were moved en masse to and from other districts within the Persian empire.
The Kurds of Khorasan, numbering around 700,000, still use the Kurmanji Kurdish dialect. Several Kurdish noblemen served the Safavids and rose to prominence, such as Shaykh Ali Khan Zanganeh, who served as the grand vizier of the Safavid shah Suleiman I (r. 1666–1694) from 1669 to 1689. Due to his efforts in reforming the declining Iranian economy, he has been called the "Safavid Amir Kabir" in modern historiography. His son, Shahqoli Khan Zanganeh, also served as a grand vizier from 1707 to 1716. Another Kurdish statesman, Ganj Ali Khan, was close friends with Abbas I, and served as governor in various provinces and was known for his loyal service.
After the fall of the Safavids, Iran fell under the control of the Afsharid Empire ruled by Nader Shah at its peak. After Nader's death, Iran fell into civil war, with multiple leaders trying to gain control over the country. Ultimately, it was Karim Khan, a Laki general of the Zand tribe who would come to power. The country would flourish during Karim Khan's reign; a strong resurgence of the arts would take place, and international ties were strengthened. Karim Khan was portrayed as being a ruler who truly cared about his subjects, thereby gaining the title Vakil e-Ra'aayaa (meaning Representative of the People in Persian). Though not as powerful in its geo-political and military reach as the preceding Safavids and Afsharids or even the early Qajars, he managed to reassert Iranian hegemony over its integral territories in the Caucasus, and presided over an era of relative peace, prosperity, and tranquility. In Ottoman Iraq, following the Ottoman–Persian War (1775–76), Karim Khan managed to seize Basra for several years.
After Karim Khan's death, the dynasty would decline in favour of the rival Qajars due to infighting between the Khan's incompetent offspring. It was not until Lotf Ali Khan, 10 years later, that the dynasty would once again be led by an adept ruler. By this time however, the Qajars had already progressed greatly, having taken a number of Zand territories. Lotf Ali Khan made multiple successes before ultimately succumbing to the rivaling faction. Iran and all its Kurdish territories would hereby be incorporated in the Qajar dynasty.
When Sultan Selim I, after defeating Shah Ismail I in 1514, annexed Western Armenia and Kurdistan, he entrusted the organisation of the conquered territories to Idris, the historian, who was a Kurd of Bitlis. He divided the territory into sanjaks or districts, and, making no attempt to interfere with the principle of heredity, installed the local chiefs as governors. He also resettled the rich pastoral country between Erzerum and Erivan, which had lain in waste since the passage of Timur, with Kurds from the Hakkari and Bohtan districts. For the next centuries, from the Peace of Amasya until the first half of the 19th century, several regions of the wide Kurdish homelands would be contested as well between the Ottomans and the neighbouring rival successive Iranian dynasties (Safavids, Afsharids, Qajars) in the frequent Ottoman-Persian Wars.
The Ottoman centralist policies in the beginning of the 19th century aimed to remove power from the principalities and localities, which directly affected the Kurdish emirs. Bedirhan Bey was the last emir of the Cizre Bohtan Emirate after initiating an uprising in 1847 against the Ottomans to protect the current structures of the Kurdish principalities. Although his uprising is not classified as a nationalist one, his children played significant roles in the emergence and the development of Kurdish nationalism through the next century.
The first modern Kurdish nationalist movement emerged in 1880 with an uprising led by a Kurdish landowner and head of the powerful Shemdinan family, Sheik Ubeydullah, who demanded political autonomy or outright independence for Kurds as well as the recognition of a Kurdistan state without interference from Turkish or Persian authorities. The uprising against Qajar Persia and the Ottoman Empire was ultimately suppressed by the Ottomans and Ubeydullah, along with other notables, were exiled to Istanbul.
Kurdish nationalism of the 20th century
Kurdish nationalism emerged after World War I with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, which had historically successfully integrated (but not assimilated) the Kurds, through use of forced repression of Kurdish movements to gain independence. Revolts did occur sporadically but only in 1880 with the uprising led by Sheik Ubeydullah did the Kurds as an ethnic group or nation make demands. Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II (r. 1876–1909) responded with a campaign of integration by co-opting prominent Kurdish opponents to strengthen Ottoman power with offers of prestigious positions in his government. This strategy appears to have been successful, given the loyalty displayed by the Kurdish Hamidiye regiments during World War I.
The Kurdish ethno-nationalist movement that emerged following World War I and the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 largely represented a reaction to the changes taking place in mainstream Turkey, primarily to the radical secularization, the centralization of authority, and to the rampant Turkish nationalism in the new Turkish Republic.
Jakob Künzler, head of a missionary hospital in Urfa, documented the large-scale ethnic cleansing of both Armenians and Kurds by the Young Turks. He has given a detailed account of the deportation of Kurds from Erzurum and Bitlis in the winter of 1916. The Kurds were perceived to be subversive elements who would take the Russian side in the war. In order to eliminate this threat, Young Turks embarked on a large-scale deportation of Kurds from the regions of Djabachdjur, Palu, Musch, Erzurum and Bitlis. Around 300,000 Kurds were forced to move southwards to Urfa and then westwards to Aintab and Marasch. In the summer of 1917 Kurds were moved to Konya in central Anatolia. Through these measures, the Young Turk leaders aimed at weakening the political influence of the Kurds by deporting them from their ancestral lands and by dispersing them in small pockets of exiled communities. By the end of World War I, up to 700,000 Kurds had been forcibly deported and almost half of the displaced perished.
Some of the Kurdish groups sought self-determination and the confirmation of Kurdish autonomy in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, but in the aftermath of World War I, Kemal Atatürk prevented such a result. Kurds backed by the United Kingdom declared independence in 1927 and established the Republic of Ararat. Turkey suppressed Kurdist revolts in 1925, 1930, and 1937–1938, while Iran in the 1920s suppressed Simko Shikak at Lake Urmia and Jaafar Sultan of the Hewraman region, who controlled the region between Marivan and north of Halabja. A short-lived Soviet-sponsored Kurdish Republic of Mahabad (January to December 1946) existed in an area of present-day Iran.
From 1922–1924 in Iraq a Kingdom of Kurdistan existed. When Ba'athist administrators thwarted Kurdish nationalist ambitions in Iraq, war broke out in the 1960s. In 1970 the Kurds rejected limited territorial self-rule within Iraq, demanding larger areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region.
During the 1920s and 1930s, several large-scale Kurdish revolts took place in Kurdistan. Following these rebellions, the area of Turkish Kurdistan was put under martial law and many of the Kurds were displaced. The Turkish government also encouraged resettlement of Albanians from Kosovo and Assyrians in the region to change the make-up of the population. These events and measures led to long-lasting mutual distrust between Ankara and the Kurds.
Kurdish officers from the Iraqi army [...] were said to have approached Soviet army authorities soon after their arrival in Iran in 1941 and offered to form a Kurdish volunteer force to fight alongside the Red Army. This offer was declined.
During the relatively open government of the 1950s in Turkey, Kurds gained political office and started working within the framework of the Turkish Republic to further their interests, but this move towards integration was halted with the 1960 Turkish coup d'état. The 1970s saw an evolution in Kurdish nationalism as Marxist political thought influenced some in the new generation of Kurdish nationalists opposed to the local feudal authorities who had been a traditional source of opposition to authority; in 1978 Kurdish students would form the militant separatist organization PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party in English. The Kurdistan Workers' Party later abandoned Marxism-Leninism.
Kurds are often regarded as "the largest ethnic group without a state", Some researchers, such as Martin van Bruinessen, who seem to agree with the official Turkish position, argue that while some level of Kurdish cultural, social, political and ideological heterogeneity may exist, the Kurdish community has long thrived over the centuries as a generally peaceful and well-integrated part of Turkish society, with hostilities erupting only in recent years. Michael Radu, who worked for the United States' Pennsylvania Foreign Policy Research Institute, notes that demands for a Kurdish state comes primarily from Kurdish nationalists, Western human-rights activists, and European leftists.