With President Obama's focus on Turkey, the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and the threat of increased instability in the region, the question has again become pertinent. 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.
A friend who'd heard that I'd spent time with the Kurds once asked me, 'who are they?' That query led to this post.
Kurdish Chieftain c. 1885
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 Promised an autonomous Kurdistan under the terms of the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, they saw it rescinded under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.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 somewhere 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... Continued...