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Who are the Kurds?





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Cross-posted on Reuters, The Huffington Post


A year ago, a friend who'd heard that I'd spent time with the Kurds asked me, 'who are they?' That query led to this post.

After reading Bill Clinton's statement regarding the need for troops in the Kurdish north because Turkey doesn't "like the fact that the PKK guerrillas sometimes come across into northern Iraq" and the news that Turkey crossed to border to take on the PKK, it seemed time to revisit the question.

Kurdish Chieftain c. 1885

Who are the Kurds? Who are these Middle Eastern people that have both men and women in their army? These mountain warriors that many refer to as the best fighters in the Middle East; these ancient people whom claim descent from the Biblical Medes and count among their number: Saladin, the Muslim leader who defeated Richard the Lionheart and, more recently (through her mother), the late Benazir Bhutto.

Kurds were once a mostly nomadic people living around the mountainous regions of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Mostly Sunni (there are Kurdish Shi'a, Alevi, Yazidi, Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, etc), they are known to hold their Islam with a light touch. Promised an autonomous Kurdistan under the terms of the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, they saw it rescinded under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.


The resultant division of their historical homeland between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria left between 25 and 40 million Kurds as the world's largest stateless minority. This has led to an an alphabet soup of alliances as the Kurds struggle to survive in a world of shifting allegiances...


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