The Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic group not to possess a sovereign state.

Kurds are found in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the former Soviet Union (Azerbaijan). The most famous Kurd in history was Salahudin (Saladin) the Sultan who defeated the European Crusaders.

The Kurdish language belongs to the Indo-European family of languages rather than to Arabic. Their culture has some similarity to the Pashtuns' of Afghanistan.

At different times they have been and are persecuted by all the host countries, except perhaps the Soviet Union. (The Kurds inhabit part of Azerbaijan, where they may still be in danger.)

In Turkey the government tries to deny that they exist and forbids the use of their language. In Iraq they have been gassed by Saddam Hussein's army. In Iran they have been attacked by government forces. Thus in all three countries there are continual insurgencies and guerrilla activities.

This problem could only be solved by creating a sovereign Kurdistan, which seems unlikely. The main desire of the host countries is to deny the Kurds a sovereign state, which would take territory from them all, and in the case of Iraq, oil as well.

The most recent fighting has been in Iraq but there has been guerrilla activity in Iran also, and civil disturbance amounting to guerrilla war in Turkey since 1984. Numerous Kurds have fled to Turkey as refugees from Saddam Hussein - and more recently to Iraq from Turkey. Saddam Hussein has used poison gas on the Kurds within Iraq.

The defeat of Iraq in the Kuwait dispute might have led to a Kurdish state as a result of a peace settlement but the allied governments deny this is their intention. The Kurds seized control of their own area for a few days but were defeated by the remaining Iraqi army after having received none of the apparently promised arms from the allies. The result was a huge refugee problem in which several millions of the Kurdish population fled to the mountain borders with Turkey and Iran. Many died in these areas before refugee camps could be set up and food delivered.

After allied troops left the "safe haven" Turkish troops entered the area in hot pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas from the Marxist Kurdish Workers' Party which is fighting for an autonomous Kurdish area within Turkey, or an independent Kurdish state. This strengthens the view that Turkey will not allow any independent Kurdish entity to develop in the area. Reports that the main Kurdish factions are fighting each other.

In March 1995 Turkey invaded the area, probably to distract people from serious internal problems.

In September 1996 Saddam's troops, in alliance with a Kurdish faction, attacked the "capital" Irbil despite missile attacks from the US.

It was predicted that the US campaign against Saddam Hussein might lead to more freedom for the Kurds, but Turkey remains hostile to any more statehood.

In December 2007 Turkey began to attack northern Kurdistan with air strikes, allegedly without US approval. Their excuse was to attack Kurdish Worker Party bases but they seem to have been killing large numbers of civilians.

The Kurds in Iraq have had their own local administration since the Kuwait war, and under the new Iraqi constitution since the US invasion. A war of secession remains a possibility.

Tghe Kurds in Turkey remain un der military control, though their rights may have improved in recent times.

Last revised 15/02/10


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