Who Are The Kurds?
The Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic group in the World, numbering around 45 million. Composed of a diversity of religions, dialects, and ideologies, Kurds share a common history and home in Greater Kurdistan.
Greater Kurdistan or simply Kurdistan refers to the following four geographical regions: Northern Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey), Southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq), Western Kurdistan (northern Syria), and Eastern Kurdistan (northwestern Iran). As a result of their directional names in Kurdish, the regions are also commonly referred to by their abbreviated names of Bakur (north), Bashur (south), Rojava (west), and Rojhilat (east).
The Kurds have been persecuted and oppressed under all four nation-states that claim the land under their feet for generations. As a result, Kurds have been subjected to genocide and brutal repression, denied autonomy, and even the freedom to be Kurdish, speak their language, or practice Kurdish culture.
The Ottoman Empire dissolved in the early 20th century, on the losing side of the war alongside Germany in World War I, and was occupied and partitioned by the Allied powers after the war, which ultimately created the nation-states of Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, among others. The map of the region was completely redrawn and borders and states continued to change after World War II, all excluding a Kurdish government.
Present day Kurdistan chiefly has two Kurdish governments, with two different approaches to Kurdish autonomy. Bashur has the Kurdistan Regional Government, a semi-autonomous parliamentary government that’s part of Iraq. In addition, the government in Rojava is the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), a democratic confederalist system of autonomous communities, with a pluralist social contract that includes the ethnic groups of Kurds, alongside Arabs, Syriacs, Arameans, Turkmen, Armenians, and Chechens.
Kurds in Rojava and Bashur have suffered greatly from the rise and occupation by ISIS, also known as Daesh, since 2014 and have been the key fighters liberating cities and towns against their inhumane terror. Enjoying support primarily from the U.S. against ISIS, Kurds have enjoyed increasingly warm relations with Western and coalition forces. However, the same can’t be said for Kurds in Bakur, whose struggle for autonomy against the oppressive Turkish state has complicated relations with the U.S. and their NATO allies.
Northern Kurdistan or Bakur (Kurdish: Bakurê Kurdistanê) refers to portions of southeastern Turkey where Kurds form the majority ethnic group. There are an estimated 20 million Kurds residing in Turkey, which includes Bakur and western coastal cities such as Istanbul and Izmir. Of note, most of the Kurds residing in western Turkey were forced to relocate there after the Turkish Army destroyed over 4,000 Kurdish villages during the 1990s. Kurds from Bakur mostly speak the Kurdish dialects of Kurmanji and Zazaki. Bakur is also home to the de-facto capital of Greater Kurdistan, Amed (referred to as Diyarbakir by Turkey). Politically, the primary parties representing the Kurds of Bakur are the armed guerrillas of the PKK and the civil society of the HDP.
Southern Kurdistan or Bashur (Kurdish: Başûrê Kurdistanê) is an autonomous region located in northern Iraq. Officially the area is named the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by the Iraqi Constitution, however the Kurds of Bashur voted overwhelmingly for independence from Iraq in a 2017 referendum. There are an estimated 7 million Kurds residing in Bashur. Kurds from Bashur mostly speak the Kurdish dialects of Sorani or Kurmanji. The four primary cities in Bashur are Hewler (Erbil), Slemani, Duhok, and Kirkuk (which was invaded and captured in 2017 by Iraqi militias). Politically, the primary parties of Bashur are split between the KDP, PUK, and Gorran.
Western Kurdistan or Rojava (Kurdish: Rojavayê Kurdistanê) commonly called Rojava, but officially named the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), is an area spanning northern Syria’s border with Turkey and includes most of Syria east of the Euphrates River. There are an estimated 3 million Kurds residing in Rojava, and they have gained international recognition based on the bravery of their PYD fighting units, the YPG (men) and YPJ (women) who have valiantly defeated ISIS since 2014. The most famous city in Rojava is Kobane, which valiantly held off an ISIS invasion in 2014, gaining the respect of the entire world. Kurds from Rojava mostly speak the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish. Politically, the dominant party in Rojava is the PYD.
Eastern Kurdistan or Rojhilat (Kurdish: Rojhilatê Kurdistanê) refers to portions of northwestern Iran, where Kurds form a majority of the population. There are an estimated 10 million Kurds in Rojhilat and they mostly speak the Kurdish dialect of Sorani. Rojhilat was home to the first modern Kurdish state, the Republic of Mahabad established in 1946 under the leadership of Qazi Muhammad, who was tragically overthrown by Iranian forces and executed. The largest city in Rojhilat is Kirmashan. Politically, the primary parties in Rojhilat are the PDKI, Komalah, and PJAK.
On February 24, Syrian Kurdish political leader Salih Muslim, a TEV-DEM diplomatic official and former PYD co-chair, was arrested in Prague on Turkish orders. Turkey has since requested his extradition—though he is a Kurdish Syrian citizen acting in a legal diplomatic capacity in Europe.Read More
Afrin, part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, is being attacked by jihadists & the Turkish state, with the aim of genocide. NAKA is currently contacting all legislators in the US House and Senate. We are asking if they support the measures outlined in this release by Newroz, March 21, 2018.Read More
The Life & Death of a Revolutionary Hero in Syria
By Lucas Chapman, NAKA Board Member & YPG Veteran
Washington D.C., Oct. 17, 2017–Early Sunday morning, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite militias, began their assault on Kirkûk, in an unprovoked attack on Kurdistan.Read More