Last modified: 2008-01-19 by ian macdonald
Keywords: kurdistan | turkey | iran | iraq |
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The Kurds are the largest national group without a nation state. Since the First World War, they have enjoyed three brief periods of geographically-limited near-nationhood, but their own disunity has often hindered progress. More importantly the existing regional powers have found Kurdish nationhood threatening, and major powers like the United States have shared that perspective.
Most of Kurdistan is now divided between Turkey, Iran and Iraq, and all three countries have experienced numerous Kurdish insurgencies since 1920. Smaller pockets lie in Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are major communities of refugees throughout western Europe and the United States. Kurdistan divides into two general socio-linguistic regions at the Greater Zab River near the Iraqi-Turkish border :
(1) Northern Kurdistan is the Kurmanji-speaking region which mostly lies in Turkey (most of eastern Anatolia). Since the 1980s, one of the PKK-related flags has emerged as the principal flag representing Kurmanji Kurdistan.
(2) Southern Kurdistan is mostly Sorani-speaking and lies principally in Iraq (north) and Iran (northwest). Also since the 1980s another flag seems to have emerged as the most widely used for that region.
There is no central authority to legislate flags for Kurdistan, and until very recently most Kurds did not seem interested in any precision about flags. I have some friends who were very close to government officials of the former Mahabad Republic, and they insisted 15 years ago that there was no Kurdish flag. They were surprised when I presented historical evidence to the contrary.
T. F. Mills, 27 September 1997
Similarly, there are two entities which claim to officially represent the Kurds: