The Kurds (Kurdish: کورد / Kurd) are an Ethnic-Iranian ethnolinguistic group mostly inhabiting Republic of Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Substantial Kurdish communities also exist in the cities of western Turkey, and they can also be found in Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Russia, Lebanon and, in recent decades, some European countries and the United States (see Kurdish diaspora). Most speak Kurdish, an Indo-European language of the Iranian branch. The Kurds are classified as an Iranian people.
The Kurds were originally pastoralists who led a nomadic life in the mountainous region that is today known as Kurdistan. Saladin, the military leader who defeated the Crusaders was a Kurd as is the current President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani.
The Kurds have been described by some as a people without a nation. Scattered over many countries, the history of the Kurds is one of subjugation and resistance. Historically, the Kurds have been identified with the Karduchi, an ancient mountainous people. In the 7th century the Kurds were conquered by the Arabs which resulted in the adoption of Sunni Islam. Later, the Kurds would be under the sway of the Seljuk Turks, the Mongols and finally under the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Before World War I, traditional Kurdish life was nomadic, revolving around sheep and goat herding throughout the Mesopotamian plains and highlands of Turkey and Iran. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the war created a number of new nation-states, but not a separate Kurdistan. Kurds, no longer free to roam, were forced to abandon their seasonal migrations and traditional ways.
During the early 20th century, Kurds began to consider the concept of nationalism, a notion introduced by the British amid the division of traditional Kurdistan among neighboring countries. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which created the modern states of Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, was to have included the possibility of a Kurdish state in the region. However, it was never implemented. After the overthrow of the Turkish monarchy by Kemal Ataturk, Turkey, Iran and Iraq each agreed not to recognize an independent Kurdish state.
The Kurds received especially harsh treatment at the hands of the Turkish government, which tried to deprive them of Kurdish identity by designating them "Mountain Turks," outlawing their language and forbidding them to wear traditional Kurdish costumes in the cities. The government also encouraged the migration of Kurds to the cities to dilute the population in the uplands. Turkey continues its policy of not recognizing the Kurds as a minority group.
In Iraq, Kurds have faced similar repression. After the Kurds supported Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein retaliated, razing villages and attacking peasants with chemical weapons. The Kurds rebelled again after the Persian Gulf War only to be crushed again by Iraqi troops. About 2 million fled to Iran; 5 million currently live in Iraq. The United States has tried to create a safe haven for the Kurds within Iraq by imposing a "no-fly" zone north of the 36th parallel.
Despite a common goal of independent statehood, the 20 million or so Kurds in the various countries are hardly unified. From 1994-98, two Iraqi Kurd factions – the Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Jalal Talabani – fought a bloody war for power over northern Iraq. In September 1998, the two sides agreed to a power-sharing arrangement.
Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, currently waging a guerrilla insurgency in southeastern Turkey, has rejected the Iraqi Kurds' decision to seek local self-government within a federal Iraq. The PKK believes any independent Kurdish state should be a homeland for all Kurds.
Over the years, tensions have flared between the PKK, led by Abdullah Ocalan, and Barzani's KDP faction, which controls the Turkey-Iraq border. Barzani has criticized the PKK for establishing military bases inside Iraqi-Kurd territory to launch attacks into Turkey.
Ocalan's recent capture by Turkish agents touched off heated and sometimes violent protests by thousands of Kurds living in Western Europe. It's impact on the Kurdish people and their quest for independence is yet to be seen.
According to a report by the Council of Europe, approximately 1.3 million Kurds live in Western Europe. The earliest immigrants were Kurds from Turkey, who settled in Germany, Austria, the Benelux countries, Great Britain, Switzerland and France during the 1960s. Successive periods of political and social turmoil in the Middle East during 1980s and 1990s brought new waves of Kurdish refugees, mostly from Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, came to Europe. In recent years, many Kurdish asylum seekers from both Iran and Iraq have settled in the United Kingdom (especially in the town of Dewsbury and in some northern areas of London), which has sometimes caused media controversy over their right to remain. There have been tensions between Kurds and the established Muslim community in Dewsbury, which is home to very traditional mosques such as the Markazi.
There was substantial immigration of Kurds into North America, who are mainly political refugees and immigrants seeking economic opportunity. An estimated 100,000 Kurds are known to live in the United States, with 50,000 in Canada and less than 15,000 in Australia.
Today, the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslim, belonging to the Shafi school. Mystical practices and participation in Sufi orders are also widespread among Kurds.There is also a minority of Kurds who are Shia Muslims, primarily living in the Ilam and Kermanshah provinces of Iran, Central and south eastern Iraq (Fayli Kurds), and who are Alevi, who mostly live in Turkey.
The Alevis (usually considered adharents of a branch of Shia Islam) are another religious minority among the Kurds. They are mainly living in Tunceli, Erzincan, eastern Sivas, northern and southern Malatya, eastern and northwestern Kahramanmaraş, northern Adana, western Kayseri, central and western Adıyaman, northeastern Gaziantep, northern Elazığ, southwestern Erzurum, northern Bingöl, northwestern Muş and various other areas in Anatolia. The American missionary Trowbridge, working at Aintab (present Gaziantep) reported that his Alevi acquaintances considered as their highest spiritual leaders an Ahl-i Haqq sayyid family in the Guran district.
Ahl-i Haqq (Yarsan)Edit
Ahl-i Haqq's basic pillars are summarized this verse of Gurani:
"Yāri Chār Chivan Bāvari Vajā- Pāki o Rāsti o Nisti o Redā"
which translates roughly to:
The Yarsan should strive for these four qualities
purity, rectitude, self-effacement and self-abnegation.
Among its belief include the principle of successive lives of human souls where each soul is allotted a time of 50 thousand years to reach its perfection (the stage of Death within God). If that soul does not reach its perfection, then it is judged by its deed after its 50 thousand years. Another belief of the Yarsan is the and repeated manifestation of the light of the divine essence, the archangels and a class of saviours (Haftwan, Haft Sardar-i Din, Chehel Tan, Haftad o Do Pir..) in human form.
The founder of the religion, Sultan Sahak appeared among the Guran in mid or late 15th century, and is considered by them as the last great manifestation of the divine essence. Yarsan followers also recognize Ali as one of their divine incarnations, although he is surpassed in importance by Sultan Sahak. The Sultan Sahak is accompanied by seven companions who are the manifestation of the seven primordial archangels (haft tan or heptad).
Binyamin (the pir or spiritual master) is the manifestation of the light Gabriel, while Dawud (the Dalil or Guide) is the manifestation of Mikail or Raphael.
There are strong similarities between religious practices and myths of Ahl-i Haqq and Alevi. According to one Ahl-i Haqq legend, after Sultan Sahak had completed his teachings among the Guran, he reappeared in Anatolia in the form of Haji Bektash. Moreover, the Ahl-i Haqq consider the Bektashi and Alevi as kindred communities.
Yazidi is a minority religion practiced among Kurdish communities of northern Iraq, Armenia, Georgia and Russia. According to Yazidi beliefs, although God created the world but left it in the care of a heptad of seven holy beings or angels. The most prominent angel is Tawûsê Melek (Malak Taus) or the Peacock Angel. One of their holy texts Kiteba Jelwa(Book of Illumination) is considered to be the words of Malak Taus. Yazidi accounts of creation have much in common with those of the Ahl-e Haqq. Yazidis believe in the periodic reincarnation of the seven holy beings in human form. Their holiest shrine and the tomb of faith's founder (Shaikh Adi bin Mosafer), is located in Lalish (36 miles northeast of Mosul) in northern Iraq.