The Kurdish People

A people without a homeland

The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group in the world without a country of their own.

Approximately 25 million Kurds live in an area called Kurdistan, a mountainous area covering 200,000 miles from southeast Turkey, northeast Syria, north Iraq and west Iran. Many have fled oppression and poverty to Europe, North America, Australia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Some of the ties that bind Kurds are their common culture and history, expressed in Kurdish folklore and songs exalting heroism and self-sacrifice. Kurds are believed to be descendants of the Medes, mentioned throughout the Old Testament and in Acts.

Peshmerga - The Kurds have no friends

"The Kurds have no friends," is a Kurdish proverb stemming from centuries of oppression which continues to this day.

Kurdish guerrillas call themselves peshmerga, "those who face death," and many have died in attempts to establish an independent homeland.

Long-standing divisions fragment Kurdish people

Tribalism is still a factor among Kurds, promoting many different factions which weaken the possibility of an independent homeland. A fighting people, the Kurds in Iraq have hurt their own cause by infighting between the two primary parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Even the Kurdish language is fragmented with numerous dialects which are mutually unintelligible.

  Population: Estimated 25-29 million
Religion: Majority Sunni Muslim; folk religions; cults
Language: No one unified language; Two main dialects: Sorani and Kurmanji
Geographical location/s: Primarily in area known as Kurdistan, which is spread out between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan

Profile: One Kurdish Woman's Fight for Survival

Fatima and her five children live in a small cluster of stone huts and tents in a beautiful but remote mountainous area of northern Iraq. An AK-47 assault rifle stands ready for use inside the blanket-draped door of her hut. It stands as a reminder of her past, as well as the need for protection in the present.

Fatima's husband was one of 5,000 men rounded up from their village in 1988 by Saddam Hussein. All were killed and buried in a mass grave. She and her children survived by scratching the mountain clay for roots and herbs, while constantly on the run.

Fatima joined many other women in the Kurdish uprising following the Gulf War. She escaped to Iran, returning to her homeland when the United Nations opened a protected area of northern Iraq.

Returning to her ancestral home, she discovered others had claimed it for their own, and told her to move on. She moved, but not far. She and her children built her small settlement out of stones from her father's ruined house—raiding it when the men who had taken it over were asleep or away.

After four years, she has erected three stone houses with dirt roofs. The settlement includes chickens, rabbits, a turkey and an old donkey.

Fatima was recently asked by visitors: "What do you need most?" She replied, "You have eyes, you can look around here as well as I can. You decide what you want to do for us. We will be blessed with anything you shall give."

Resource Note:
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