or Greater Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-cultural region wherein the Kurdish people form a
prominent majority population and Kurdish culture, languages
and national identity have historically been based.
Kurdistan roughly encompasses the northwestern Zagros and the eastern Taurus mountain ranges.
Contemporary use of the term refers to the following areas: southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq,
northwestern Iran and northern Syria. Some Kurdish nationalist organizations seek
to create an independent nation state consisting of some or all of these areas
with a Kurdish majority, while others campaign
for greater autonomy within the existing national boundaries.
Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government,
and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005.
There is a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran; it is not self-ruled.
Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able
to take control of large sections of northern Syria as government forces, loyal
to President Bashar al-Assad, withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government,
they called for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.
Various groups, among them the Guti, Hurrians, Mannai, and Armenians,
lived in this region in antiquity. The original Mannaean homeland was situated east
and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around modern-day Mahabad.
The region came under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus the Great and Darius I.
The Kingdom of Corduene, which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south
and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia
and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384 as vassals of the vying Parthian and Roman Empire.
At its zenith, the Roman Empire ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western
and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East.
Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied
with the Romans until AD 384. After 66 BC, it passed another 5 times between Rome and Persia.
Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, that is, to the east
and south of present-day Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey.
[^] Some historians have correlated a connection between Corduene with the modern names of Kurds
and Kurdistan; T. A. Sinclair dismissed this identification as false,
while a common association is asserted in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan
and their corresponding modern names: [^] One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds
is found in an Assyrian Christian document of late antiquity,
describing the stories of Assyrian saints of the Middle East, such as Abdisho.
When the Sasanian Marzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according
to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria.
However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according
to Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraq-Turkey border,
while Hazza is 12 km southwest of modern Erbil. In another passage in the same document,
the region of the Khabur River is also identified as land of the Kurds. According to Al-Muqaddasi
and Yaqut al-Hamawi,Tamanon was located on the south-western or southern slopes of Mount Judi
and south of Cizre. Other geographical references
to the Kurds in Syriac sources appear in Zuqnin chronicle, writings of Michael the Syrian
and Bar hebraeus. They mention the mountains of Qardu, city of Qardu and country of Qardawaye.
[^] In the tenth and eleventh centuries,
several Kurdish principalities emerged in the region: in the north the Shaddadids
and the Rawadids, in the east the Hasanwayhids and the Annazids
and in the west the Marwanids to the south of Diyarbakır and north of Jazira.
[^] Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was a collection of semi-independent
and independent states called emirates. It was nominally under indirect political
or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states
and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the text of Sharafnama, written
by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan
and Garmiyan in the south; Bakran, Bohtan and Badlis in the north, and Mukriyan
and Ardalan in the east.
The earliest medieval attestation of the toponym Kurdistan is found in a 12th-century Armenian
historical text by Matteos Urhayeci. He described a battle near Amid and Siverek in 1062 as
to have taken place in Kurdistan. The second record occurs in the prayer
from the colophon of an Armenian manuscript of the Gospels, written in 1200.
A later use of the term Kurdistan is found in Empire of Trebizond documents in 1336
and in Nuzhat-al-Qulub, written by Hamdollah Mostowfi in 1340.
[^] [^] According to Sharafkhan Bitlisi in his Sharafnama, the boundaries of the Kurdish land begin
at the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and stretch on an even line to the end of Malatya
and Marash. Evliya Çelebi, who traveled in Kurdistan between 1640 and 1655,
mentioned different districts of Kurdistan including Erzurum, Van, Hakkari, Cizre, Imaddiya, Mosul,
Shahrizor, Harir, Ardalan, Baghdad, Derne, Derteng, until Basra. In the 16th century,
after prolonged wars, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires.
A major division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514,
and was formalized in the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. From then until the aftermath of World War I,
Kurdish areas were generally under Ottoman rule, apart from the century-long,
intermittent Iranian occupation in the early modern to modern period, and the later reconquest
and vast expansion
by the Iranian military leader Nader Shah in the first half of the 18th century.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies contrived
to split Kurdistan among several countries, including Kurdistan, Armenia and others. However,
the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Kemal Atatürk caused the Allies
to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne and the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey,
leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned
to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria.
[^] At the San Francisco Peace Conference of 1945,
the Kurdish delegation proposed consideration of territory claimed by the Kurds,
which encompassed an area extending from the Mediterranean shores near Adana
to the shores of the Persian Gulf near Bushehr,
and included the Lur inhabited areas of southern Zagros. At the end of the First Gulf War,
the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces
from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq
with its own local government and parliament. A 2010 US report,
written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that
"Kurdistan may exist by 2030".
The weakening of the Iraqi state following the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive
by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also presented an opportunity for independence
for Iraqi Kurdistan, augmented
by Turkey's move towards acceptance of such a state although it opposes moves toward Kurdish
autonomy in Turkey and Syria.
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed
by many Kurds,
and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost.
The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions,
including the Koçgiri rebellion of 1920 under the Ottomans,
then successive insurrections under the Turkish state, including the 1924 Sheikh Said rebellion,
the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the 1937 Dersim rebellion. All were forcefully put down
by the authorities. The region was declared a closed military area
from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965. In an attempt to deny their existence,
the Turkish government categorized Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991. The words "Kurds",
"Kurdistan", or "Kurdish" were officially banned by the Turkish government.
Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public
and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s,
political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned. In 1983,
the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response
to the activities of the militant separatist organization the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
A guerrilla war took place through the 1980s
and 1990s in which much of the countryside was evacuated,
thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed by the government,
and numerous summary executions were carried out by both sides. Many villages were set on fire.
Food embargoes were placed on Kurdish villages and towns. More
than 20,000 Kurds were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced
to leave their homes.
Turkey has historically feared that a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would encourage
and support Kurdish separatists in the adjacent Turkish provinces,
and have therefore historically strongly opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq. However,
following the chaos in Iraq after the US invasion, Turkey has increasingly worked
with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
Syrian Civil War
[^] The successful 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,
with the resultant weakening of the ability of the Iraqi state to project power, also presented a
"golden opportunity" for the Kurds to increase their independence
and possibly declare an independent Kurdish state. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,
who took more than 80 Turkish persons captive in Mosul during their offensive,
is an enemy of Turkey, making Kurdistan useful for Turkey as a buffer state. On Hüseyin Çelik,
a spokesman for the ruling AK party, made comments
to the Financial Times indicating Turkey's readiness
to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
Various sources have reported that Al-Nusra has issued a fatwā calling for Kurdish women
and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees
to flee to Iraq's Kurdistan region. As of 2015, Turkey is actively supporting the Al-Nusra,
but as of January 2017, Turkey's foreign ministry has said that Al-Nusra is a terrorist group
and has acted accordingly.
[^] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Kurdistan covers about 190,000 km²,
and its chief towns are Diyarbakır, Bitlis and Van in Turkey, Erbil and Slemani in Iraq,
and Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Ilam and Mahabad in Iran. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam,
Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km² in Turkey, 125,000 km² in Iran, 65,000 km² in Iraq,
and 12,000 km² in Syria, with a total area of approximately 392,000 km².
Iraqi Kurdistan is divided into six governorates,
three of which are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Iranian Kurdistan encompasses Kurdistan Province and the greater parts of West Azerbaijan,
Kermanshah, and Īlām provinces. Syrian Kurdistan is located primarily in northern Syria,
and covers the province of Al Hasakah and northern Raqqa Governorate, northern Aleppo Governorate
and also Jabal al-Akrad region. The major cities in this region are Qamishli and Al Hasakah.
Turkish Kurdistan encompasses a large area of Eastern Anatolia Region
and southeastern Anatolia of Turkey and it is home to an estimated 15 to 20 million Kurds.
Subdivisions (Upper and Lower Kurdistan)
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography, John Miles describes Upper
and Lower Kurdistan as following: The northern, northwestern
and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are referred to as upper Kurdistan, and includes the areas
from west of Amed to lake Urmia. The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan.
The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil.
Much of the region is typified by a continental climate – hot in the summer, cold in the winter.
Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has historically exported grain and livestock.
Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700
and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateau between mountain chains. The climate is dominated
by mountains in the zone along the border with Iran and Turkey, with dry summers, rainy
and sometimes snowy winters, and damp springs, while
to the south it progressively transitions towards semi-arid and desert zones.
The northern mountainous regions along the border with Iran and Turkey receive heavy snowfall
and they are more of an extreme version of the continental climate.
Mountains are important geographical and symbolic features of Kurdish life, as evidenced
by the saying "Kurds have no friends, but the mountains." Mountains are regarded as sacred
by the Kurds. Included in the region are Mount Judi and Ararat, Zagros, Qandil, Shingal,
Mount Abdulaziz, Kurd Mountains, Jabal al-Akrad, Shaho, Gabar, Hamrin, and Nisir.
The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rain and snow fall,
act as a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East, forming the source of the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers, as well as other numerous smaller rivers, such as the Little Khabur, Khabur,
Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil. Among rivers of historical importance
to Kurds are the Murat and Buhtān rivers in Turkey; the Peshkhābur, the Little Zab, the Great Zab,
and the Diyala in Iraq; and the Jaghatu, the Tātā'u, the Zohāb, and the Gāmāsiyāb in Iran.
These rivers, which flow from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level,
are significant both as water sources and for the production of energy. Iraq
and Syria dammed many of these rivers and their tributaries,
and Turkey has an extensive dam system under construction as part of the GAP ; though incomplete,
the GAP already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey's electrical energy needs. Due
to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites.
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east. The region includes Lake Van,
the largest body of water in Turkey; the only lake in the Middle East
with a larger surface is Lake Urmia – though not nearly as deep as Lake Van,
which has a much larger volume. Urmia, Van, as well as Zarivar Lake west of Marivan,
and Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are frequented by tourists.
Petroleum and mineral resources
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 Goilbbl of oil,
making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
Al-Hasakah province, also known as Jazira region, has geopolitical importance of oil
and is suitable for agricultural lands. In November 2011,
Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government's authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts
for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan,
including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field.
This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon's contract in its southern fields,
most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention
to leave the West-Qurna project. As of July 2007,
the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites,
with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five,
to about 1 Moilbbl/d. Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 100 e12cuft.
Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy,
Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper,
gold, iron, limestone, marble, and zinc.
The world's largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Erbil. In July 2012,
Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement
by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil.
Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.
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