In order to make a judgement on whether Kurdish independence is a good or bad idea (as opposed to ideas of autonomy), one must gain some knowledge of the history of the region and the grievances of many who bear the collective trauma of this history.
Besides the negative attitude of all the countries of Kurdish residence towards Kurdish independence, the use of the term Kurdistan for the huge swathe of territory claimed by Kurdish separatists is challenged by Armenians and Assyrians, who suffered major genocides by the Turks and Kurds. Kurdish separatists include all geographical regions in the Middle East where Kurdish-speaking peoples historically established prominent populations and continue a process aimed at creating a cultural identity they hope will merge the speakers of the major Kurdish dialects into a nation with a Kurdish majority. ( See the map at https://thekurdishproject.org/kurdistan-map/)
Kurdish Ethnic Groups
The tribes speaking Kurdish dialects include Kurmanji, Sorani, Gorani and Zaza, and they collectively inhabit the Iranian Plateau, Armenian Highlands, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. In some cities in this wide area Kurds are a majority, while in much of the countryside areas they are a minority.
Kurmanji means “Kurds from Mannea”, which is in present day northwestern Iran south of lake Urmia. The Kurmanji, who live mostly in present-day Turkey, are the biggest tribe of Kurds with the biggest Kurd-inhabited area, due to their expansion into the Armenian Highlands and Eastern Anatolia. Besides Mannea in Iran the Kurmanjis original territory included Kortsayk (between Armenia and Persia in the mountainous area south of Lake Van in modern Turkey) and Mardpetakan (a region of Armenia, stretching from the principality of Anjewaci in Corduene south of Lake Van to Siunik, north of Araxes river). Lake Urmia is between the historical Iranian provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, west of the southern portion of the Caspian Sea. Lake Van lies in the far east of Turkey in the provinces of Van and Bitlis. So Kurmanji, along with other Kurdish groups speak an Iranian language and historically inhabited the regions from Iran’s Lake Urmia to the Tigris river in Messopotamia and east to Lake Van in Turkey.
After the Kurmanji converted to Islam, Kurmanji dynasties expanded to the north, northwest and to the west where generally Armenians and Assyrians were the majority until the First World War, when an alliance between the Turks and Kurds ethnically cleansed Armenians and Assyrians in these areas of Kurdish expansion. More than 20 million people speak this northern dialect of Kurdish, and live in the countries of Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and other states of central Asia. There are 15 million Kurmanji in Turkey (2004), 2,800,000 in Iraq (2004), 938,000 Kurmanji in Syria, 350,000 in Iran (1988), 45,000 in Armenia (2002), 40,000 in Georgia (1991).
Sorani are Kurds inhabiting the Iranian Plateau and the land of present Iran. The Kurdish region of Iran has been a part of the country since ancient times. Nearly all of Kurdistan was part of the Iranian Empire until its western part was lost during the wars against the Ottoman Empire. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, at the Paris Conferences in 1919, Tehran demanded various territories including Turkish Kurdistan, Mosul, and even Diyarbakır, but these demands were quickly rejected by Western powers. Instead, the Kurdish area was divided by modern Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Today, the Iranian Kurds inhabit mostly north western Iran known as Iranian Kurdistan but also parts of Khorasan, and constitute approximately 7–10% of Iran’s overall population of 6.5–7.9 million. Half of these 700,000 Iranian Kurds are Sorani and half are Kurmanji.
Unlike in other Kurdish-populated countries, there are strong ethnolinguistical and cultural ties between Kurds, Persians and others as Iranian peoples. Some of modern Iranian dynasties like Safavids and Zands are considered to be partly of Kurdish origin. Kurdish literature in all of its forms (Kurmanji, Sorani and Gorani) has been developed within historical Iranian boundaries under the strong influence of the Persian language. That Kurds share much of their history with the rest of Iran is seen as a reason why Kurdish leaders in Iran do not want a separate Kurdish state.
Gorani (also Gurani) is a group of Northwestern Iranian dialects spoken by groups of Iranian and Iraqi citizens in the southernmost parts of Iranian Kurdistan and the Iraqi Kurdistan region. It is classified as a member of the Zaza–Gorani branch of the Northwestern Iranian languages. Gorani is spoken in the southwestern corner of the Iraqi province of Kurdistan and the northwestern corner of the province of Kermanshah in Iran, and in parts of the Halabja region in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Hawraman mountains between Iran and Iraq. Many Gorani speakers belong to the religious grouping Yarsanism, with a large number of religious documents written in Gorani. The total number of Yarsanis is about 5,000,000, of which an estimated 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 are in Iran. These numbers are vague because many Yarsanis hide their religion due to fears of persecution by the Islamic Republic of Iran of syncretic religions like Yarsani. The followers of Yarsanism perform their rituals and ceremonies in secret, because of minority religions by Islamic governments over the centuries. Gorani was once an important literary language in the parts of Western Iran but has since been replaced by Sorani in both Iran and Iraq. Sorani is the primary language spoken in cities including Kirkuk, Meriwan, and Halabja, which are still considered part of the greater Goran region. Kurdish nationalists consider Gorani as a dialect of the Kurdish group of languages, which diverged off from Kurmanji speakers, Badhini and Sorani alike, at around 100 BCE But the differences between the Zaza–Gorani languages and the Kurdish languages are too many, and are therefore far too great by any standard linguistic criteria to warrant classification as dialects of the same languages. However all are Iranian languages.
Zazas are the Kurds inhabiting present-day Syria (Western Kurdistan). Many observers think that about 25% of this upper-tribal unit are latent Armenians that are the generations of the Genocide survivors. This is the reason why the Zaza dialect is more similar to Armenian. (Source https://acoya.org/language/en/conflicts/the-kurdish-issue-armenia-and-the-world-part-1/?print=print)
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 was followed by an attempt by Sheikh Ubeydullah in 1880–1881 to found an independent Kurd principality under the protection of Turkey. The attempt, at first encouraged by the Porte, as a reply to the projected creation of an Armenian state under the suzerainty of Russia, collapsed after Ubeydullah’s raid into Persia, when various circumstances led the central government to reassert its supreme authority. Until the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829 there had been little hostile feeling between the Kurds and the Armenians, and as late as 1877–1878 the mountaineers of both races had co-existed fairly well together. In 1891 the activity of the Armenian Committees with a dream of founding an Armenian state in eastern Anatolia induced the Porte to strengthen the position of the Kurds by raising a body of Kurdish irregular cavalry, who were well-armed Hamidieh soldiers after the Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II. Minor disturbances constantly occurred, and were soon followed by a massacre and rape of Armenians at Sasun by Kurdish nomads and Ottoman troops and other places, 1894–1896.
The present number of all the Kurds is guessed to be about 30-38 million. Most of them live in the so-called “Greater Kurdistan”: 13-18 million in Turkey, 6.5 million in Iraq, 3.35 million in Iran, 1.7 million in Syria, 37,470 in Armenia.
Greater Kurdistan was first coined by Ottoman Sultan Selim 1 to refer to the region mostly inhabited by Armenians, Selim aimed to divide the regions inhabited by Armenians. After the Armenian Genocide, under the reign of Ataturk, the term Greater Kurdistan completely stopped being used by Turks. By modern definition, the term “Greater Kurdistan” refers to a territory of about 450.000 square kilometers that includes some parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia with a roughly 40-43 million total population, where Kurds are the majority in many of the cities but are a minority in most of the countryside. The Armenian population that formed the majority in all these areas until the end of the 15th century, had mostly been eliminated by the end of the First World War. Kurdish autonomy exists only in Iraqi Kurdistan today. For almost a century, independence or broader autonomy has been the most important aim for the Kurmanji Kurds.
Turkish Kurdistan is the biggest part of Kurdistan having a dense Kurdish population living in its cities. It includes the eastern regions of Turkey, especially the neighborhood of Lake Van and Diyarbakir where the Kurds form the absolute majority in the population. Some researchers state that 20% of the population of Turkey are Kurds belonging to different Kurdish dialect and ethnic groups. In 2010, the population of Turkey was estimated to be 73.7 million with a growth rate of 1.21% per annum (2009 figure). The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) established in 1978, declared war on the Turkish government in 1984. The Turkish government has adopted a policy of continuous repression of the Kurdish population. As a result of this policy, about half a million Kurds have left Kurdistan.
The Northern districts of Syria are compactly inhabited by the Kurds. About 15% of the population of Syria are Kurds and they are the second largest ethnic group after Arabs. Like Iraqi Kurdistan, In the scope of the Arab Spring, the Kurds were the first to actively participate in the riots. As a result of the Syrian civil war, the government troops have left the Kurdish-inhabited regions which contributed to the increase of demands for autonomy. The self-defense forces of Syrian Kurdistan have taken under control almost all territories inhabited by Kurds. Syria is the second autonomous home of the Kurds (the first is in Iraq). The USA finances the Syrian Moderate Opposition and especially the Kurdish movement.
On 12 March 2004, beginning at a stadium in Qamishli (a city in northeastern Syria where many Kurds live alongside Assyrians and Armenians), clashes between Kurds and non-Kurdish Syrians of northeastern Syria broke out and continued over a number of days. At least thirty people were killed and more than 160 injured. The unrest spread to other Kurdish inhabited towns along the northern border with Turkey, and then to Damascus and Aleppo.
Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Arabs at the end of the Ottoman Empire
In 1915, leaders of the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire. Most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. By the early 1920s, when the massacres and deportations finally ended, some 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. Around 750,000 Assyrians died during the genocide, amounting to nearly three quarters of its prewar population. The rest were dispersed elsewhere, mostly in the Middle East. https://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/center-study-genocide-conflict-resolution-and-human-rights/assyrian-genocide-1914-1923-and-1933-pres
According to various sources, several hundred thousand Ottoman Greeks also were killed in what Greeks call the Pontic genocide, which was the systematic genocide of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from its historic homeland in Anatolia during World War I and its aftermath (1914–22).
The Armenian people have been in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. The kingdom of Armenia was an independent entity at the beginning of the 4th century AD, and became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion. During the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire.
Over a long history Armenians and Kurds occupied more or less the same territory. Beside the difference in their langauges, Kurds and Armenians became increasingly distinct, both culturally and politically, as Armenians chose Christianity as their official religion, and Kurds converted to Islam. The Armenians of Vaspurakan (Vasbouragan in Western Armenia) who converted to Islam gradually assimilated into Kurdish culture over time. Located in what is now called southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran, the region is considered to be the cradle of Armenian civilization, and in time became the cradle of development of several Kurdish ethnicities.
Toward the 11th century, the nomadic Turkic tribes from Central Asia moved towards the Middle Eastand Anatolia and further altered the ethnic mix, at the expense of the local populations of Kurds, Armenians and other natives. Kurds found some degree of friendship in these new immigrants from Central Asia. In some areas of Eastern Turkey, the Kurds and Armenians lived together in the same villages and in other parts, they remained separate.
Until the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29, there had not been hostile feeling between the Kurds and the Armenians, and as late as 1877–1878, both ethnic groups had lived fairly well together.[Hertslet, Edward, Sir. The Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. 4. London: Butterworths, 1891, p. 2686]
In 1891, the activity of the Armenian Committees induced the Ottoman Porte to strengthen the position of the Kurds by raising a body of irregular cavalry, which was well-armed and called Hamidieh, after the Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Some Kurdish tribal leaders were given high positions. The system of double taxation sparked new found enmity between Turkish chieftains (aga) and the Armenians and Kurds agrarian community who perceived Kurdish taxation as exploitation. When Armenian spokesmen confronted the Turkish aga, it brought about enmity between both populations during which the events at Sason and Moush 1893 occurred.
In 1893, some three to four thousand nomadic Kurds from the Diyarbakır plains entered Sason region. This incursion of nomads, who customarily used the mountain meadows of the area in summer for their herds, was harmful to the sedentary Armenians. Some Kurdish tribes were responsible for bringing economic ruin to the agrarian community of the Armenian villagers: they would steal livestock and demand that the Armenians should pay a second tax (that is, a separate tax in addition to the one Armenians paid to the Ottoman government). When the Armenians decided to challenge extortion, a fight ensued and a Kurd was killed. Using the Kurd’s death as a pretext by describing that a revolt had taken place, Turkish officials endorsed a Kurdish revenge attack against the Armenians of Sason.[Peter Balakian, The Burning Tigris, “Killing fields”, pp. 54-55]
The Kurds, however, were successfully driven off by the armed Armenian villagers, but that success was then seen as a possible threat by the Ottoman authorities. In 1894, the villagers refused to pay taxes unless the Ottoman authorities adequately protected them against renewed Kurdish raids as well as extortion. Instead, the government sent a force of about 3,000 soldiers and Kurdish irregulars to disarm the villagers, an event which ended in a general massacre of between 900 to 3,000 men, women and children. The “Sasun affair” was widely publicised and was investigated by representatives from the European Powers, resulting in demands that Ottoman Turkey initiate reforms in the six “Armenian vilayets”. Abdul Hamid II’s response to those demands culminated in the anti-Armenian pogroms of 1895 and 1896. [Hewsen, Robert H. Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-226-33228-4, p. 231. ]
As part of the Hamidian massacres, McDowall estimates at least 1,000 Armenian villagers were slain in the Sason atrocity,[White, Paul J. Primitive Rebels Or Revolutionary Modernisers?, p.60-61. Zed Books, 2000. ISBN 1-85649-822-0 ] all of which was instigated by the buildup of Ottoman troops in early 1894. Officials and military officers involved in the Sason massacres were decorated and rewarded.[Kaiser, Hilmar. Imperialism, Racism, and Development Theories, p.6. Gomidas Institute, 1997. ISBN 1-884630-02-2]
At the turn of the 20th century, most Armenians were peasants, who were exploited and oppressed by their Turkish feudal beys. According to the Russian vice-consul Tumanskii, Armenian peasants were treated as serfsattached to some Turkish chief. They were sold as property, and if Kurd killed a serf, the latter’s master took revenge by killing a serf belonging to the murderer.[Astourian, Stephan (1990). “The Armenian Genocide: An Interpretation”. The History Teacher. 23 (2): 111–160 [p. 122]. JSTOR 494919]
Armenians tended to be better educated and wealthier than their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors, who in turn tended to resent their success. This resentment was compounded by suspicions that the Christian Armenians would be more loyal to Christian governments (that of the Russians, for example, who shared an unstable border with Turkey) than they were to the Ottoman caliphate.
These suspicions grew more acute as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. At the end of the 19th century, the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II–obsessed with loyalty above all, and infuriated by the nascent Armenian campaign to win basic civil rights–declared that he would solve the “Armenian question” once and for all. “I will soon settle those Armenians,” he told a reporter in 1890. “I will give them a box on the ear which will make them…relinquish their revolutionary ambitions.” Between 1894 and 1896, this “box on the ear” took the form of a state-sanctioned pogrom. In response to large scale protests by Armenians, Turkish military officials, soldiers and ordinary men sacked Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.
In 1896 the Kurdish chieftain of Zelian, with his army of 3000 to 4000 Kurds, launched an attack on the Armenian villages. The Ottoman governor reported to the Sultan that the Sheikh of Zeilan was being attacked by the Armenians. Minor disturbances constantly occurred, and were soon followed by the massacre of Armenians at other places in 1894–1896, and Kurds took an active part. They led to the devastation of five Armenian villages and the region of Talori (Dalvorikh). The events at Sason were the beginning of a long series of Armenian demonstrations and their suppression by the Kurds.
In June 1896, the Defense of Van in the province of Van was organised while “Hamidieh” regiments were about to attack the city. All ablebodied Armenian men of Van rose with weapons and protected the civilians from attack and subsequent massacre. [Ministère des affaires étrangères, op. cit., no. 212. M. P. Cambon, Ambassadeur de la Republique française à Constantinople, ŕ M. Hanotaux, Ministre des affaires étrangères, p. 239; et no. 215 p. 240 Some Kurdish political figures sheltered Armenians from the Hamadiye (Kurdish)corps and Turkish soldiers such as the Kurdish mayor of Khnus.
In 1897 the Khanasor Expedition was undertaken by Armenian militias against the Kurdish Mazrik tribe on July 25, 1897. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation had decided to retaliate, after the Ottoman-hired Mazrik tribe had ambushed and slaughtered a squad of Armenian defenders during the 1896 Defense of Van.
During the Armenian patriotic movement of the late 19th century, the Ottoman Muslims of Eastern Asia Minor, who happened to be mostly Kurdish and Turkish, were the main enemies of the Armenian patriots. The formation of the Armenian patriotic movement began roughly around the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1878 and intensified with the introduction of Article 166 of the Ottoman Penal Code and the raid of Erzerum Cathedral. Article 166 was meant to control the possession of arms, but was used to target Armenians by restricting their possession of arms. Some local Kurdish tribes were armed and ordered to attack the Armenians. However, it should also be noted that not all Kurds took part in the killings of Armenians, and many helped Armenians flee the Ottoman Empire.[“They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 322, at Google Books ] Many Kurdish political figures sheltered Armenians from the Hamadiye corps and Turkish soldiers such as the Kurdish mayor of Khnus.
In the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Entente Powers proposed to divide up its Anatolian lands in the Treaty of Sèvres. Among other things, the full application of the treaty would have led to the expansion of the Democratic Republic of Armenia to include regions such as Bitlis, Van, Erzurum and Trabzon while granting local autonomy to the Kurdish inhabited areas east of the Euphrates river and to the south of Armenia. Sharif Pasha, the Kurdish representative in the Paris Peace Conference, reached an agreement with the Armenian representatives on December 20, 1919, and both parties made joint declarations to the conference.
However, Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk rejected the treaty as “unacceptable” and fought for total control of all of Anatolia in the Turkish War of Independence. The Sèvres treaty was then succeeded and replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne which established, roughly, the present-day borders of the Republic of Turkey (except Hatay).
The Lausanne treaty not only dashed any hope of an independent Kurdish state but also did not confer upon the Kurdish people the minority status (and its entailed rights) given to Greeks, Armenians and Jews.
Kurds and Turks were united in the aftermath of World War I against the non-Muslims victors and local Armenian Christians, and Islam was the unifying factor.[Martin van Bruinessen, Religion in Kurdistan” http://www.hum.uu.nl/medewerkers/m.vanbruinessen/publications/Bruinessen_Religion_in_Kurdistan.pdf%5D
When due to Atatürk reforms Islam became disentangled from the state, Atatürk undermined the foundations of Turkish-Kurdish unity.[Martin van Bruinessen, Religion in Kurdistan” http://www.hum.uu.nl/medewerkers/m.vanbruinessen/publications/Bruinessen_Religion_in_Kurdistan.pdf%5D
Turkey suppressed Kurdist revolts in 1925, 1930, and 1937–1938, while Iran did the same in the 1920s to Simko Shikak at Lake Urmia and Jaafar Sultan of Hewraman region who controlled the region between Marivan and north of Halabja. A short-lived Soviet-sponsored Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iran did not survive for long after World War II.
From 1922 to 1924 in Iraq, a Kingdom of Kurdistan existed. When Ba’athist administrators thwarted Kurdish nationalist ambitions in Iraq, war broke out in the 1960s. In 1970 the Kurds rejected limited territorial self-rule within Iraq, demanding larger areas where Kurds were a minority ncluding the oil-rich Kirkuk region.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the area of Turkish Kurdistan was put under martial law and many Kurds were displaced. Government also encouraged resettlement of Albanians from Kosovo and Assyrians in the region to change the population makeup. These events and measures led to a long-lasting mutual distrust between Ankara and the Kurds.
A series of Kurdish rebellions against Turkey throughout the 1920s culminated in the temporary establishment of the Republic of Ararat in 1927, located in the province of Ağrı, near the border of Soviet Armenia. Without recognition or foreign backing, however, the state ended up being defeated by the Turkish government who resumed control over the region. The Ararat movement was led by Xoybûn, a Kurdish political party which held its founding congress in August 1927 in Bihamdun, Lebanon. An Armenian Dashnak leader, Vahan Papazyan, attended the meeting “as a symbol of the alliance between Armenians and Kurds.” [G. Chaliand, A.R. Ghassemlou, M. Pallis, A People Without A Country, 256 pp., Zed Books, 1992, ISBN 1-85649-194-3, p.54]
More Kurdish rebellions would occur throughout the region. The most violent were those by the Kurdistan Workers Party (or the PKK) that was founded in 1978. The war between the PKK and the Turkish government, which spanned the 1980s through the 1990s, caused numerous deaths and internally displaced persons on the Kurdish side.
During the Turkey-PKK war, a photograph showing PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan with M. Yohanna, the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, was used by two Turkish newspapers Tercüman and Sabah in 1994 to try to prove that Turkey’s Armenian community and church were openly supporting and collaborating with the PKK. In May 1994, the newspaper Özgür Ülke (Free Country; the successor of the pro-Kurdish publication Özgür Gündem) released the correct information regarding the photograph and stated that it was taken during an open March 1993 meeting between Yohanna and the PKK, which was covered by the Kurdish news agency Kurdha and the magazine Özgür Halk (Free People). They said that it was found by Turkish security forces during a search in the rooms of the agency Özgür Gündem. The Turkish media also claimed that Armenia was hosting PKK training camps, but the allegations were proven to be untrue. [Tessa Hofmann.Armenians in Turkey Today]
Some Kurds in a struggle against Turkey began to identify themselves with the Armenians, the very people whom they were encouraged by the Ottoman government to oppress. Today, Turks of Armenian and Kurdish ethnicity coexist in peace. The PKK leadership has recognized the Armenian Genocide and apologized for Kurdish involvement.[Recognition of Armenian Genocide by Kurdistan] There have also been seminars held by Armenian and Kurdish groups to discuss both the genocide and Turkey.[Kurdish and Armenian Genocides Focus of London Seminar, Armenian Forum. ]
Kurdish culture flourished in Soviet Armenia between the 1930s and 1980s, and Kurds enjoyed substantial state-sponsored cultural support. There was a Kurdish radio broadcast from Yerevan. The pioneers of modern Kurdish literature and culture were mainly Yazidis who were immigrants from Turkey. The famous Kurdish writers in this period include Casimê Celîl, Emînê Evdal, Kurdoev, Arab Shamilov and Jalile Jalil. The renowned Kurdish newspaper Riya Teze, published in Yerevan, is among the oldest Kurdish newspapers. It is the organ of the Kurdish section of the Communist Party of Armenia. Many Armenian literary works were translated into Kurdish by translators such as C. Celîl, H. Cindî, E. Evdal, Q. Murad, N. Esed and T. Murad. The first Kurdish novel was written by Shamilov in 1935. [“Kurds”, E.J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, p. 1133, By M. Th Houtsma Published by BRILL, ISBN 90-04-08265-4, ISBN 978-90-04-08265-6 ]
During the period of Stalinist ethnic cleansing in 1937, the Kurds of Armenia became victims of forced migrations. [David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, page 492.]
In 1969, The Armenian Academy of Sciences founded a Kurdish Studies Department to document and to research all aspects of Kurdish culture but also to study Armenian and Kurdish relations.[Kurdish studies department in Armenia ] One of the first Kurdish newspapers was actually established and published in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. The newspaper was called Riya Teze (Kurdish: The new road). Later on, another Kurdish newspaper was founded called Botan that was published once every two weeks. [Leonidas Themistocles Chrysanthopoulos, , Gomidas Institute.]
According to the 2001 Census, there are about 40,620 Yazidis in Armenia.[National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia – 2001 Armenian National Census] According to a 2007 U.S. Department of State human rights report, “As in previous years, Yezidi leaders did not complain that police and local authorities subjected their community to discrimination”. [Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Armenia] A high percentage of Yezidi children do not attend school, both due to poverty and a lack of teachers who speak their native language. However, the first ever Yezidi school opened in Armenia in 1920. Due to the ethnic tension created by the war with Azerbaijan, the Yazidi community has renounced its ties with the mostly Muslim Kurds that fled the country and tried to establish itself as a distinct ethnic group. The Yezidis showed great patriotism fighting with Armenians during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, when many died in service.
Genocides Against the Assyrian Nation
http://www.aina.org/martyr.html is a website of Syrian Assyrians that was originally meant to commemorate the massacres of Assyrians in Iraq in 1933. “Gradually, we Assyrians have realized that there have been many instances in our history of massacres and persecutions which equaled or surpassed Simel in importance.” Among the years cited in which massacres of Assyrians have occurred those in the past 175 years were in 1842, 1850, 1860, 1895, 1915, 1933, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1962, 1969, 1985, and 1992. In October 1914 Turkish troops and Kurdish tribesmen invaded and plundered the villages of Urmia.
Organized as the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the “Young Turks” staged a successful coup in 1913, thereby establishing a military dictatorship on the eve of World War I. They initiated a national project of “Turkey for the Turks,” whereby they sought to forge a homogenous nation state through the deliberate removal of all minorities. Soon after the Ottoman Empire entered World War I in November 1914, the CUP ruthlessly began its genocidal project. Waging more or less simultaneous genocides against Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks, the CUP essentially followed the same pattern of group destruction. Massacres, rapes, plundering, cultural desecrations, and forced deportations were all endemic.
In January 1915 an alliance of Turks and Kurds invaded seventy of Urmia’s villages, massacring an unknown number of casualties. “At midnight 25,000 men, women, and children, Assyrians and Armenians together, left cattle in the stables, all their household hoods and all the supply of food for winter, and hurried, panic-stricken, on a long and painful journey to the Russian border, enduring the intense privations of a foot journey in the snow and mud, without any kind of preparation…It was a dreadful sight,…many of the old people and children died along the way.” (Yohannan, Abraham; The Death of a Nation; New York, 1916, pp. 119-120) German missionaries reported “that four thousand Assyrians and one hundred Armenians have died of disease alone, at the mission, within the last five months. All villages in the surrounding district with two or three exceptions have been plundered and burnt; twenty thousand Christians have been slaughtered in Armenia and its environs. In Haftewan, a village of Salmas, 750 corpses without heads have been recovered from the wells and cisterns alone. Why? Because the commanding officer had put a price on every Christian head…. In Dilman crowds of Christians were thrown into prison and driven to accept Islam.” (Yohannan, Abraham; The Death of a Nation; New York, 1916, pp. 126-127) The Ottoman army, under the leadership of two German officers and armed with heavy artillery, attacked and destroyed the fort at Qalaa and slughtered its Assyrian and Armenian inhabitants.
In February 1915 more than sixty Assyrian notables were taken from the French mission and shot by Turkish troops. Among these was Mar Dinkha, a bishop of the Assyrian Church. “Here, then, in the ancient city of Tebarma, the scene of many previous martyrdoms, an Assyrian bishop is being led to be executed. He was not alone. He had a large company of his Christian brethren with him. What Mar Shimun Bar Sabaee, the first Assyrian Patriarch had done, during the persecution of Shapur the Magi, in the fourth century, was now to be gloriously repeated by another bishop of his church in the twentieth century. The Moslems had established a rule in asking of their victims to deny Christ and embrace Islam in order to save their lives. But weaker men and women than this body of prisoners had already chosen to be burned alive, and to be cut to pieces with aces, then deny their Redeemer! (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 1916, pp.49-51.) Turkish and Kurdish troops attacked the village of Gulpashan, one of the most prosperous villages of Urmia. Almost all of the men ware shot, and most of the women were violated. March 5, 1915 About 800 Assyrians who remained in Salamas, most of whom were old people, with some of the poorer and younger women, were gathered together and killed. April, 1915 Massacre in Gawar and other districts in Turkey. The number of martyrs is unknown. At Tel Mozlit Turks attacked 600 Assyrian homes in cooperation with neighboring Kurdish tribes. After capturing the city, they took all the men they found between the ages of 12 and 70, a total of 475, and imprisoned them. The next morning, the prisoners were taken out in rows of four and shot. After some arguments between the Kurds and the Turkish officials on what to do with the young boys and girls left behind, the army decided to slay them as well. Approximately 1,500 children, among them Reverend Gabrial (the red-bearded priest), were murdered. Agha Ayoob Hamzah personally butchered the Priest. (Gorgis, Deacon Asman Alkass, Jirah Fi Tarikh Al-syrian, Trans. Subhi Younan. 1980. pp. 24). “The French mission buildings were sheltering more than six thousand Assyrian refugees. The murderers, led by Arshad el Hemayoon, entered with every conceivable weapon, from a long sword to a wooden mallet. They commenced with little children and infants. The latter were held by their tiny feet and their heads dashed against the walls and the stone pavements. The older ones were held up by the hair of the head, hanging, while their bodies were severed by one stroke of the sword. The little girls were publicly assaulted and then cut in twain. Women had their breasts first cut off, and then pierced by daggers. Others were taken to the roofs of the buildings, and from there dashed to their death into the streets below. Others had their hands and their limbs amputated by sickles and axes, and then had their skulls crushed by wooden mallets.The spacious courtyard became impassable from the still bleeding fragments of the victims’ mutilated bodies while blood literally leaked from the floor of each building to the one below. Of the entire number of the Assyrians, estimated at more than six thousand, in the French mission buildings alone, not more than sixty souls remained who escaped in a miraculous way; and all the rest were put to death in less than forty-eight hours, the official time for the application of the mandate of the Jehad.” (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 1916. , pp. 184)
In March 2015 Turkish and Kurdish troops attacked the village of Gulpashan, one of the most prosperous villages of Urmia. Almost all of the men were shot, and most of the women were violated.
The entire history of the Turkish-Kurdish genocide of Assyrians, Greeks and Armenians that officially began on April 24 is recorded at http://www.aina.org/genocide100.html
Soon after Turkey’s simultaneous genocides of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks during and immediately after World War I, the Armenians of northern Iraq were brutally massacred by the newly established Iraqi state. Persecution continued during the reign of the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein, and sectarian violence unleashed during the second Iraq War left Assyrians vulnerable in their historic homeland. As a result of these successive tragedies, an Assyrian diaspora stretches across the world.
In 1918 Assyrians were massacred by Kurds at Khoi in Persia: ” In order to accommodate the Assyrian refugees, who had fled into Persia from massacres by Turks and Kurds, the Assyrian leader of the refugees Mar Shimon Benyamin had arranged for some thirty five hundred Assyrians to reside in the district of Khoi in Persia These Assyrians were attacked and massacred by Kurds. Here is a description of this Moslem barbarism given by the Rev John Eshoo: `Here had migrated a part of our people, and one-fourth of our refugees were stationed in Sardavar (Khoi).
These Assyrians were assembled into one caravansary, and all shot to death by guns and revolvers. The place was too small to hold all the living victims for the work of execution. They were brought in groups, and each new group compelled to stand up over the heap of the still bleeding bodies, and was shot to death in the same manner
The fearful place became literally a human slaughter house, receiving its speechless victims, in groups of ten and twenty at a time, for execution. At the same time, the Assyrians, who were residing in the suburb of the city, were brought together and driven into the spacious courtyard of a house. . .
The Assyrian refugees were kept under guard for eight days, without anything to eat except a handful of popcorn served daily to each individual…. At last they were removed from their place of confinement and taken to a spot prepared for their brutal killing. These helpless Assyrians marched like lambs to their slaughter, and they opened not their mouth, save by sayings “Lord, into thy hands we commit our spirits”.
The procession of the victims was led by two green turbaned Sayids (the highest religious order in Islam), one with an open book in his hand, reading from it aloud the passages pertaining to holy war, and the other carrying a large bladed knife, the emblem of execution When the procession arrived at the place appointed, the executioners began by cutting first the fingers of their victims, join by joint, till the two hands were entirely amputated. Then they were stretched on the ground, after the manner of the animals that are slain in the Moslem Fast, but these with their faces turned upward, and their heads resting upon the stones or blocks of wood Then their throats were half cut, so as to prolong their torture of dying, and while struggling in the agony of death, the victims were kicked and clubbed by heavy poles the murderers carried.
Many of them, while still laboring under the pain of death, were thrown into ditches and buried before their souls had expired. The young men and the able-bodied men were separated from among the very young and the old They were taken some distance from the city and used as targets by the shooters. They all fell, a few not mortally wounded. One of the leaders went close to the heaps of the fallen and shouted aloud, swearing by the names of Islam’s prophets that those who had not received mortal wounds should rise and depart, as they would not be harmed any more.
A few, thus deceived, stood up, but only to fall this time dead by another volley from the guns of the murderers. Some of the younger and goodly looking women, together with a few little girls of attractive appearance, who pleaded to be killed, against their will were forced into lslam’s harems. Others were subjected to such fiendish insults that I cannot possibly describe. Death. however, came to their rescue. and saved them from the vile passions of the demons.’
The Assyrian victims of this massacre totalled twenty-seven hundred and seventy men, women and children,” (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 1916, pp. 156-58) “The sufferings of the Assyrians throughout the long, tedious and hazardous journey from Urmia to Hamadan, are simply indescribable. In their haste for flight, many of these people failed to take provisions with them for the journey.
And those who managed to do so, took only a supply that would last them a day or two, or possible three, the longest, as they fully expected that they would meet some where on the road, and not very far from Urmia, the returning Assyrian general (the late Agha Petros) and his men, together with the British expediationary force. The county through which the caravan of the refugees passed was exclusively Moslem in population. The entire land had already become more than once a regular camp ground for the heterogeneous forces of Turkey, who had left it almost desolate and barren.
There was, therefore, very little, if any, left to have been commandeered by the Assyrian forces. Consequently, when the small rations were exhausted, and the journey continued to become longer, the refugees tried to subsist on vegetation only. Diseases broke out among the multitude, and was followed by the ravages of cholera. And as the fleeing Assyrians were now being pursued by the enemy they had no time to bury their dead. or to carry with them those who were held in the agonies of the dreaded contagion. It was perhaps a merciful sword, even though applied with the vengeance of demons, that came in time to shorten the fearful sufferings of the dying.
Before Hamadan was reached, more than fifteen thousand bodies had been left behind unburied, and their bones have since transformed the narrow valley, in which they tell or were killed, into one of these melancholy scenes beheld by Ezekial the Prophet. Naturally the progress of the refugees with the aged and the little children was very slow. The Moslems of Urmia headed by a Persian general, by the name of Majidel- Saftana, had started on the pursuit.
During the night, as the Assyrians were resting near Sayen Kala, and as they fell asleep from fatigue and exhaustion, the pursuers stationed themselves over the hills that commanded the narrow road that followed the course of the river which runs zigzag through the valley. As the morning broke, and the weary pilgrims began to rub their eyes, a most murderous fire was opened into the dense crowd. Before Azaria Khan could scale the hills with a body of his men to drive the enemy away, some five thousand more Assyrians had fallen dead! The crowds were so dense that the victims fell like leafs as from autumn trees. The Persian General, after this heartless slaughter of women and children, sent a telegram to his superiors, in Tabriz; the telegram Read: `I have sent a few more thousand dogs into hell.'” (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 1916, pp. 176-77)
Back in Turkey in 1918 Assyrian militias, within the space of six weeks, fought fourteen initially victorious battles with the Turks and Kurds. The number of these eventual martyrs is unknown. (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 191, pp. 165) “Assyrians took a chance by sending a boat with one hundred and sixty men to attempt the bringing of the much-needed ammunition that was left n the port. The captain of the boat was a Russian who betrayed them. They arrived at the port.
It was observed by the Turks and the Moslems of Tabriz The Assyrians landed. As they began to move toward the storehouse they saw the enemy coming. They fought their way back to reach the boat, but the boat was gone! It was driven farther out into the lake by the Bolshevik Russian captain. The Assyrians were captured and their bodies were literally mutilated. The fragments of their bones and skulls were later gathered [and]. . . were buried in the Christian cemetery.” (Warda, Joel; The Flickering Light of Asia; New York, 191, pp. 16).
In 1923, after the Turkish-Kurdish alliance ended, the Kurdish chieftan Shaikh Saeed and his armed soldiers attacked many Turkish and Assyrian villages. After conducting a country-wide search for the criminal, the Turkish government received a fake letter stating that he had sought refuge in the monastery of Dair Al-Salib. The government immediately sent a large army and demolished the monastery, massacring the innocent inhabitants and other visiting Assyrian villagers. (Gorgis, Deacon Asman Alkass, Jirah Fi Tarikh Al-syrian, Trans. Subhi Younan. 1980. pp. 111).
In August 1923 Assyrian women who had gone shopping in Kirkuk in northern Iraq were suddenly attacked by Arak Turkmen butchers with their knives. Several women and men were wounded in addition two Assyrian children who were killed. (Stafford, R.S.; The Tragedy of the Assyrians; London, 1935, p. 166).
In August 1933 the Iraqi army was returning to Mosul and on its way began a systematic massacre of Christians. At the same time the Qaimaqam of Zakho, Ahmed al-Dibuni tortured 46 Assyrians to death (Anonymous; The Assyrian Tragedy; 1934, pp. 52) “The Assyrian population of the village of Simel was indiscriminately massacred; men women, and children alike. In one room alone, 81 Assyrians from Baz were barbarously massacred. Priests were tortured and their bodies mutilated. Girls were raped and women violated and made to march naked before the Arab army commanders. Holy books were used as fuel for burning girls. Children were run over by military cars. Pregnant women were bayonetted. Children were flung in the air and pierced on to the points of bayonets. In Dohuk 600 Assyrians were killed.” (Anonymous; The Assyrian Tragedy; 1934 pp. 53-54)
“Suddenly and without the least warning the troops opened fire upon the defenseless Assyrians. Many fell, including women and children, and the rest ran into the houses to take cover… A coId blooded and methodical massacre of all the men in the village followed… This took some time. Not that there was any hurry, for the troops had the whole day ahead of them. Their opponents were helpless and there was no chance of any interference from any quarter whatsoever. Machine gunners set up their guns outside the windows of the houses in which the Assyrians had taken refuge, and having trained them on the terror- stricken wretches in the crowded rooms, fired among them until not a man was left standing in the shambles. In some other instances the blood lust of the troops took a slightly more active form and men were dragged out and shot or bludgeoned to death and their bodies thrown on a pile of dead. (Stafford, R.S.; The Tragedy of the Assyrians; London, 193, pp. 172)
It is estimated that 3000 Assyrians were massacred during august of 1933 however, the following lists only give the names of the Assyrian martyrs that could be accounted for and verified (Malek, Yusuf; The British Betrayal of the Assyrian; Chicago, 1935.).
Thousands of Assyrians suffered after the massacre through poverty and famine, and if only the booty was recovered and refunded to its rightful owners, hundreds of babies and old men and women would not have perished under the British eyes as they were. Assyrian militias totaling less than 1500 soldiers defended Habbaniyah from 14,000 Iraqi regular troops and over 50,000 Arab tribesmen. They fought valiantly, but the losses of the Assyrian defenders were also considerable. (Dadesho, Sargon; The Assyrian National Question; Modesto, 1987, pp. 153).
In 1945 and 1946 there were massacres of hundreds of innocent and peaceful Assyrians in Iranian Azerbaijan province and other northern regions of Iran, and many were deported and imprisoned by the Iranian military. According to the petition sent by the late Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII on behalf of the Assyrians in Iran to the Secretary General of the United Nations, 24 villages were wholly or partially looted and burned. “In the town Of Adda, both of the arms of one Assyrian, named Charles, were cut publicly; he was then burned to death by means of kerosene. In the town of Mushawa, Eramyah’s eyes were dug out while alive, and he was then tortured to death. In town of Khananisha, Abrahams’s fingers (both hands) were cut off and he was then forced to eat them in the presence of his parents. In the town of Salamas, Father Giwargis was cut to pieces in the church (Mart Maryam). In the same Church, many women and little girls were raped and numerous men tortured to death. In the city of Rezaieh, a parade of nude Assyrian women and little girls put to shame even the ruthless Moslem criminals.” (Petition in Behalf of the Assyrians in Iran, pp.2)
In 1962 in Barwar in Iraq thirty-three Assyrians were killed by the forces of the Kurdish chief Mustafa Barazani. (History of Mar Youalaha of Barwar, pp. 42-43).
In 1969 Margaret Giwargis “The Assyrian Lioness” was killed by Kurds in Aqare Sorya.
During the Lebanese civil war (1975-1981 ), Assyrians fought on the side of their Syriac Maronite brethren against fundamentalist moslem forces. Many gave their life in combat or as victims to civilian bombing. (Al-harb fi Lebannon, By Esho Mandu Barkhu 1989, pp. 21).
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1980 between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Iran, the Iraqi regime exiled thousands of Iraqi citizens to Iran on the charges that they were of Persian ancestry. Many Assyrians and Kurds were included in this illegal and barbarous act. During this bloody war, it is estimated that up to 10,000 Assyrian men from Iraq were killed. The most disturbing aspect of this tragedy is that many of these Assyrians, who were fighting for a regime that has continuously persecuted them, were killed in cold blood by their own Arab countrymen, just for being Assyrians. Many eyewitnesses to this betrayal have confirmed this fact. The Assyrians also suffered from the fact that the war caused there to be thousands of Assyrian prisoners of war in Iran and this marked a further exile of Assyrians to Iran where thousands of Assyrian non-combatants were housed in refugee camps. The number of civilian Assyrian casualties in the cities and villages of Iran and Iraq from the period of the war (1980 to 1988) remains unknown.
On 2 March 1985 three Assyrians were executed by the Ba’ath fascist regime of Iraq for distributing literature against the Arabization policies of the government. The martyrs were Yousip Zaibari, Youbert Shlemon, and Youkhanna Jajjo. The Ba’ath regime of Iraq had days before killed an Assyrian family of the city of Ein- Kawa. The names of this unfortunate family were; Polous Aziz Sheba (Father), Meska Wardina Sheba (Mother), Hamama Polous (Daughter), Sabiha Polous (Daughter). An Assyrian man, Hirmiz Nicola of Kirkuk (born in 1964), upon his return to Iraq from Greece, was promptly arrested and brutally executed. (Ashur International, July 1989, pp. 2).
On 24 September 1988 during the Anfal genocide campaign, barely two weeks after the arrival of the first deportees at Baharka, the official loud speakers announced that some of the camp’s inmates should present themselves at the police station without delay. Those singled out were either Assyrian and Chaldean Christians or members of the Yezidi sect. What happened to these two groups remains unexplained as a brutal sideshow to the event coined in the Western press as the Kurdish genocide. A few days later, a single khaki-colored military bus arrived, accompanied by an army officer and nine or ten Iraqi soldiers, to pick up twenty-six people from the Assyrian Christian village of Gund Kosa. … None of those who was bussed from the camps ever reached their homes, and none was ever seen in the camps of Mansuriya (Masirik) and Khaneq, that were set aside for relocated Christians and Yeszidis. The inescapable conclusion is that they were all murdered. An Assyrian priest interviewed by HRW-Middle East said that he had assembled a list of 250 Christians who disappeared during the Anfal and its immediate aftermath. (Iraq’s Crime of Genocide, 1995, Human rights watch, pp. 209)
In January 1993 five Assyrians were shot and butchered by Kurdish Turks in the village of Mzezakh. (Furkono Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 3, October 1997, pp. 43) Francis Shabo (a member of the Northern Iraqi Parliament and a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement) was assassinated in Dohuk. Many believe that the assassination was caused by his activism in promoting unity among the various Assyrian religious groups (eg. Chaldean, Nestorean, and Syriac) as well as his active participation in the Investigative committee on resolving Assyrian land and village expropriation.
In July 1993 Ninos Samir was murdered in Zakho by Kurds. In 1994 Zaya Yonadam was murdered in Arbel by Kurds.
In March 1995 Edward Khoshaba of Aqla was tending his sheep when he came across 3 Kurds who had killed and butchered some of his livestock. When confronted, the Kurds attempted to kill Mr. Khoshaba. Mr. Khoshaba was able to kill two of the attackers before the third fled to his home village. Reportedly, when one of the Kurds returned to his home village, a celebration had ensued as the Kurdish villagers had assumed that the Kurdish intruders had successfully killed Mr. Khoshaba in addition to his livestock. When they learned that 2 of the Kurdish intruders had died instead, the entire village mobilized to exact revenge. Mr. Khoshaba fled to an area controlled by his Assyrian compatriots. A standoff ensued for some time until Mr. Khoshaba’s parents (fearing a wholesale escalation in violence) convinced Mr. Khoshaba to turn himself in to the local authorities for an investigation and trial. Sadly the Kurdish authorities released Mr. Khoshaba to the relatives of the Kurdish intruders.
He was tied up in their village and eventually butchered into hundreds of pieces on March 6, 1995. Prior to his death, he was reportedly struck in the head repeatedly by an axe by one of the elder women of the village. NONE of his murderers have been brought to justice. There has been no investigation of these crimes. There has been no investigation of the authorities who evaded their responsibilities. The Kurdish leader who reportedly heads this village is Qaem Qam Farzanda Zbeer. Mr.Zbeer has now extended his threats, persecutions, and vast land expropriations to the Assyrian village of Hzarjat.
On April 27, 1997, an unarmed Assyrian from Shaqlawa, Mr. Sabri Odo Sowrish (58 years old) was assassinated while he worked in his store in Sedara, Arbil. He was struck by three bullets fired from a silencer. Shortly thereafter, another assassination attempt by means of a silencer was directed against another Assyrian from Ankawa while he was working in his store in the center of Arbil. The Assyrian defended himself and was lucky to survive the attack. The assailant escaped.
On 13/12/97 a group of militants belonging to the Kurdish Labour Party (PKK) attacked six Assyrians in the district of Mangeesh-Duhok, Northern Iraq. Two of the Assyrians were killed immediately and the others were wounded; the armed group killed the four wounded. Wardia Yousif, the wife of one of the victims, Naji Mikho, survived and was wounded in her leg. The victims were: Slewo Jumaa, Samir Esho, Majid Shimon, Arkhan Hermiz, Salam Yousif and Naji Mikho. Salam Yousif was a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM Bulletin, December 14, 1997).
On Wednesday, December 9th, 1998 Mrs. Nasreen Hana Shaba born in 1963 and her young daughter Larsa born in 1995 were killed when a bomb exploded in their home. The bomb was planted by unknown assailants in the home of Mr. Najat Toma, located in the district of Terawa in Arbil. Mrs. Nasreen Hana Shaba and her daughter Larsa were killed when they opened the door to their home, which triggered the bomb. Assyrians visiting from Iraq have reported that bombings of such technical sophistication must be engineered by these same major Kurdish organizations or the Iraqi regime. Since the Kurdish groups are in control of the area, have remained silent, and have refused to mount any investigation into the attacks, it is generally believed that these Kurdish groups are responsible for the attacks.
According to press releases by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) on 7 January 1999, the Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) on 9 January 1999, have documented an increasing spiral of violence directed at the Assyrian community in northern Iraq. According to the press releases and independent visitors from northern Iraq an explosion targeted an Assyrian convent in the Al Mal’ab district of Arbil in December 1998. The most recent explosion being on January 6 in the 7th of Nisan area of Arbil. This most recent bomb was planted at the front doorsteps of Fr. Zomaya Yousip. Fortunately, no casualties were reported but the home sustained extensive damage. In another incident, a Kurdish assailant using a shotgun shot Mr. Rimon Emmanuel in the back as he returned home from work in Bebad, Iraq. Mr. Emmanuel sustained several buckshot to his back and head but survived with severe injuries. Local Kurdish authorities dismissed the case against the assailant after “influential” Kurds in the area intimidated Mr. Emmanuel into dropping charges.
Early in June 1999, the body of Ms. Helena Aloun Sawa, an Assyrian woman, was found by a shepherd partially buried in a shallow grave in Dohuk province near Dohuk dam. Ms. Sawa was a twenty-one year old Assyrian from the village of Bash in the Nerwa o Rakan region of Dohuk province. Ms. Sawa was the daughter of Mr. Aloun Sawa, an Assyrian member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Mr. Sawa died in 1991 and was formally recognized by the KDP as a martyr and, as is customary for fallen fighters of the KDP, the party had promised a pension to the Sawa family in recognition of the sacrifice made by Mr. Sawa. After only two monthly stipends, however, the pension was inexplicably denied to the Sawa family while other Kurdish families continued to receive their pensions.
When the Sawa family appealed to the KDP for reinstatement of the pension, the KDP instead suggested that the Sawa’s turn over their young daughter Helena to work as a housekeeper for a senior KDP leader in order to continue the monthly payments. Thus, out of desperation the Sawa’s were obliged to ask their daughter to work for a pension that other Kurdish families were provided outright. Consequently, Ms. Sawa came to work in the home of Mr. Azet Al Din Al Barwari, a higher echelon KDP operative and a leading member of the political bureau of the KDP. Ms. Sawa lived and worked in the Al Barwari home and was allowed to return to her family’s home only once monthly. Most recently, Ms. Sawa was expected home for her monthly furlough from work on May 5, 1999. When she did not arrive at her family home, the concerned Sawa family inquired regarding Helena’s whereabouts.
The Sawa family had already been deeply troubled about Helena’s well being since she had appeared agitated and distraught on her previous visits home. Mr. Al Barwari and the KDP denied any knowledge about Ms. Sawa’s whereabouts since she was alleged by the Kurds to have left the Al Barwari home on May 3. The KDP offered no assistance in searching for Ms. Sawa. Mr. Al Barwari has used his authority within the KDP to intimidate the Sawa family into not pursuing an investigation of the crime.
Once again, the KDP’s reluctance to launch an investigation and Mr. Al Barwari’s intimidation has led many Assyrians to suspect KDP and Al Barwari complicity in the murder of Ms. Sawa. More than four weeks after her disappearance, Ms. Sawa’s shallow grave was discovered by a shepherd tending his flock. The decomposed body was partially exposed and appeared to have been partially eaten by scavenging wild animals. The Sawa family was brought to the burial site in order to provide a positive identification of the remains of the body. Following identification, the body was exhumed and taken to a Dohuk hospital for examination.
Because of the mysterious circumstances of Ms. Sawa’s murder and the family’s belief that she may have been raped, an autopsy was requested. However, because of Kurdish intimidation, the final report has been delayed and is not expected to be scientifically objective or valid.
Kurds in Iraq
Most parts of the regions inhabited by the Kurds in northern and northeastern Iraq are involved in the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous region with the capital Erbil (Arbil). Iraqi Kurdistan (called by the Kurds “Southern Kurdistan”) is declared to be a parliamentary democracy with its own regional Parliament that consists of 111 seats.
According to the Iraqi constitution, Kurdistan has broad autonomy, but it isn’t an independent state. The Iraqi autonomy was established in 1970 due to an agreement between the Iraqi government and Kurdish opposition that was a result of long and bloody fights.
In 1973, the US made a secret agreement with the Shah of Iran to begin covertly funding Kurdish rebels against Bagdad through the Central Intelligence Agency and in collaboration with Mossad, both of which would be active in the country through the launch of the Iraqi invasion and into the present.[“A Chronology of U.S.-Kurdish History”, PBS. Retrieved 20 Aug 2011] By 1974, the Iraqi government retaliated with a new offensive against the Kurds and pushed them close to the border with Iran.
Iraq informed Tehran that it was willing to satisfy other Iranian demands in return for an end to its aid to the Kurds. With mediation by Algerian President Houari Boumediene, Iran and Iraq reached a comprehensive settlement in March 1975 known as the Algiers Pact.[“Page 9 – The Internally Displaced People of Iraq” (PDF). The Brookings Institution–SAIS Project. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 May 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2012 ]
The agreement left the Kurds helpless and Tehran cut supplies to the Kurdish movement. Barzani went to Iran with many of his supporters. Others surrendered en masse and the rebellion ended after a few days. As a result, the Iraqi government extended its control over the northern region after 15 years and in order to secure its influence, started an Arabization program by moving Arabs to the vicinity of oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly those around Kirkuk.[Harris, G. S. (1977). “Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 433 (1): 112–124 [p. 121]. doi:10.1177/000271627743300111]
The repressive measures carried out by the government against the Kurds after the Algiers agreement led to renewed clashes between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish guerrillas in 1977. In 1978 and 1979, 600 Kurdish villages were burned down and around 200,000 Kurds were deported to the other parts of the country.
Ethnic purifications of the Kurds occurred in the course of the Iran-Iraq war – the Iraqi government extensively used forbidden chemical weapon especially against the Kurdish population. This was followed by the operation “Anfal” which was an ethnic cleansing campaign planned beforehand and carried out by the Iraqi government. Almost 200.000 Kurds were massacred as a result of this, about 700.000 Kurds were banished, 4500 Kurdish villages out of 5000 were destroyed and the territory was artificially made uninhabitable due to explosions and other technical means.
After the war with Iran, Saddam Hussein started attacks on Peshmerga, the Kurdish military forces. As a result of these attacks, the Peshmerga was completely thrown out of the territory of Iraq in 1988.
But only three years later, a great rebellion against Saddam Hussein emerged among the Shias inhabiting the south of Iraq. The Kurds joined the rebellion. The Persian Gulf War started in the same year where Iraq was heavily defeated.
The Peshmerga squads not only returned to Iraq, but they also defeated and evicted the government troops from the north with the support of the USA. Iraq wasn’t able to continue military operations anymore and the Kurds gained actual autonomy in the north.
The USA played a key role in this: the biggest part of the foreign investments in education, military, infrastructure and economy belongs to the USA. As a result of the American invasion and the end of the Hussein regime in 2003, the force and political arrangement in the country greatly changed.
The constitution adopted in 2005 verified the Kurdish autonomy existing since the 1990s. Kurdish was recognized as the state language of Iraq along with Arabic. Despite these successes, there are still a number of problems. Perhaps, the problem of regional conflicts is the primary issue. Since 2003, Kurds have taken under control the Kurdish-inhabited regions that are abundant in oil, especially Kirkuk, and that are situated south to the Kurdish autonomy. In July, 2014, the ISIS attackers occupied Kirkuk and its neighborhood, but some days later Peshmerga took it and gave back to Iraqi Kurdistan.
The history of Iraqi Kurdistan is also remarkable for being the home of the development of the whole Kurdish ethnicity to cover groups other than the Kurmanji majority. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish tribes historically separated from other Iranian and Median tribes. These territories always came under the control of different tribes and states: the Persians, Arabs, Ottomans, British, again Arabs. All these dominations were accompanied by oppressions of the Kurdish population. But it should be mentioned that the Kurds have almost always had certain degree of autonomy in northern Iraq.
The Iraqi Kurdish Civil War was a military conflict that took place between rival Kurdishfactions in Iraqi Kurdistan during the mid-1990s, most notably between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Over the course of the conflict, Kurdish factions from Iran and Turkey, as well as Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish forces were drawn into the fighting, with additional involvement from the American forces. Between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters and civilians were killed. According to some estimates however, upwards of 8,000 civilians alone could have been killed throughout the more than three years of warfare.
Autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan was originally established in 1970 as the Kurdish Autonomous Region following the agreement of an Autonomy Accord between the government of Iraq and leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish community. A Legislative Assembly was established in the city of Erbil with nominal authority over the Kurdish-populated governorates of Erbil, Dahukand As Sulaymaniyah. As various battles between separatist Kurds and Iraqi government forces continued until the 1991 uprisings in Iraq, the safety of Kurdish refugees led to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 which was used as a justification to implement Operation Provide Comfort, a multilateral military operation that ensured the security of the Iraqi Kurdish region through the use of air power while simultaneously providing humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing persecution.[L. Fawcett, Down but not out? The Kurds in International Politics, Reviews of International Studies, Vol.27, 2001 p.117] While the no-fly zone covered Dahuk and Erbil, it left out Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk. This led to a further series of bloody clashes between Iraqi forces and Kurdish troops. Shortly thereafter, an uneasy balance of power was reached, and Iraq withdrew its military and government officials from the region in October 1991. From that point on, Iraqi Kurdistan had achieved de facto independence under the leadership of two principal Kurdish parties – the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – free from the control of Baghdad. The region then adopted its own flag and national anthem.
Iraqi Kurdistan held parliamentary elections in 1992. The KDP gained an absolute majority of the votes in the governorates of Dohuk and Arbil, whereas the PUK garnered the broad support of the Sulaymaniyah governorate as well as the Kurdish portions of Diyala(specifically the Kifri and Khanaqin Districts). As a result of the election, the Kurdish parliament had been evenly split between Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party.[Politi, Daniel. “The Kurds – Slate Magazine”. Slate.com. Retrieved 28 January 2013]
After withdrawing its forces from Kurdistan in October 1991, the Iraqi government imposed an economic blockade over the region, restricting its oil and food supplies.[M. Leezenberg, Iraqi Kurdistan: contours of a post-civil war society, Third World Quarterly, Vol.26, No.4-5, June 2005, p.636] The United Nations embargo on Iraq also significantly affected the Kurdish economy, preventing trade between the Kurds and other nations. As such, all economic dealings between Iraqi Kurdistan and the outside world were done through the black market.
In September 1998, Barzani and Talabani signed the U.S.-mediated Washington Agreement establishing a formal peace treaty. In the agreement, the parties agreed to share revenue, share power, deny the use of northern Iraq to the PKK, and not allow Iraqi troops into the Kurdish regions. The United States pledged to use military force to protect the Kurds from possible aggression by Saddam Hussein. At the same time, implementation of the U.N. Oil-for-Food Programme brought revenue to northern Iraq, allowing for increased standards of living.[“Kurdish Agreement Signals New U.S. Commitment – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy”. Thewashingtoninstitute.org. 29 September 1998. Retrieved 28 January2013]
Iraqi Kurdistan became a relatively peaceful region, until the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam entered the area in December 2001, bringing renewed conflict.
Around a month later, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, providing for military assistance to Iraqi opposition groups, including the PUK and KDP. The KDP estimated that 58,000 of its supporters had been expelled from PUK-controlled regions from October 1996 to October 1997. The PUK says 49,000 of its supporters were expelled from KDP-controlled regions from August 1996 to December 1997.[John Pike. “Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)”. Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 28 January 2013.]
The PUK and KDP later co-operated with American forces during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, routing Iraqi forces with the help of American air power and overrunning much of northern Iraq including the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. After the invasion, Massoud Barzani was later elected president of Iraqi Kurdistan while Jalal Talabani was elected President of Iraq.
In September 2017 Masoud Barzani, with support by Israel, instigated a landmark referendum to pave the way to independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. “The parliament in Baghdad is not a federal parliament. It’s a chauvinistic, sectarian parliament. Trust is below zero with Baghdad,’ Barzani said. Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, says that if that happens, military intervention will follow. Ranged against the Barzani clan and supporters is the rest of Iraq, the US, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, the European Union and the Arab League. In favour is Israel, a declaration he could probably have done without.
At first sight, there is a mass of construction work in and around the the capital Erbil, which is home to 850,000 people. Up close however, the view is different: stalled construction, immobile cranes, the skeletons of half-finished skyscrapers sending out the message: no money. A debt of at least $20bn (£14.7bn) and fickle revenue stream add little comfort.
Washington released the latest of three increasingly strident statements condemning the poll. Iran and Turkey fear for regional stability and for how an almost certain win in Iraq would galvanise Kurdish minorities in their own countries, as well as Syria.
The multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, which has been fought over by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen throughout the ages, and controlled by the Kurdistan regional government for the past three years, has been included in the referendum. The move led Suleimani and Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Iraq’s Shia militia, to threaten military force to retake the city.
The Iraqi government continues with its message that the referendum is in breach of the constitution and a potential trigger for the breakdown of the country, which was declared independent in 1932 when the post-Ottoman British mandate officially ended. To that charge, Barzani argued Iraq was a consequence of the Sykes-Picot document of 1916, a secret British-French carve-up which delineated borders: “The work of officials with a pencil and map.”
Barzani … said the referendum was a means to an end “but not the end itself”, and that post-referendum negotiations with Baghdad and regional partners could start within the next two years. Asked what would be required for a postponement, Barzani said it would only be the offer of a UN mandated solution, with a prescribed agenda and timeline.
Barzani appeared in Sulaimaniya alongside Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the wife of Jalal Talabani, the stricken leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the second clan-based party in the Kurdish north, which, after some ambivalence, has fallen in behind the referendum. The appearance offers a rare moment of unity before the ballot.
But there are dark warnings from some long-time observers of the Kurds’ struggle towards statehood. “They want to become a second Israel,but they could become a second Palestine.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/22/masoud-barzani-on-the-kurdish-referendum-iraq-we-refuse-to-be-subordinates
Today about half of all Kurds live in Turkey. According to the CIA Factbook they account for 18 percent of the Turkish population. They are predominantly distributed in the southeastern corner of the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Kurds
The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK), also known as KADEK and Kongra-Gel is Kurdish militant organization which has waged an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds. From 1984 to 1999, the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans who they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state’s military operations. Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly destroyed houses and villages. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped off the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people.
Kurds make up around 17% of Iraq’s population. They are the majority in at least three provinces in Northern Iraq which are known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds also have a presence in Kirkuk, Mosul, Khanaqin, and Baghdad. There are around 300,000 Kurds living in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 50,000 in the city of Mosul and around 100,000 Kurds living elsewhere in Southern Iraq. During the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, the regime implemented anti-Kurdish policies and a de facto civil war broke out. Iraq was widely condemned by the international community, but was never seriously punished for oppressive measures such as the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the wholesale destruction of thousands of villages and the deportation of thousands of Kurds to southern and central Iraq. The campaign of Iraqi government against Kurds in 1988 was called Anfal (“Spoils of War”). The Anfal attacks led to destruction of two thousand villages and death of between fifty and one-hundred thousand Kurds.
Sarah Abed has written a three-part analysis on Kurdish separatism in Syria for MintPress News. In Part 1 [http://www.mintpressnews.com/the-kurds-washingtons-weapon-of-mass-destabilization-in-the-middle-east/229586/], and in Part II [http://www.mintpressnews.com/kurdish-connection-israel-isis-destabilize-iran/229745/] Abed examined the Syrian government’s attempts at keeping the country united by addressing and implementing constitutional changes that benefit the Kurds – attempts that have still failed to convince separatist Kurds to abandon their goal of Balkanizing and illegally confiscating parts of Syria at the cost of the people who reside there. The Kurdish link to Daesh (ISIS) is also covered, as a number of Kurds have chosen to fight on their side. Kurdish alliances with armed terrorist groups in Syria – particularly Daesh – are very telling signs as to what extremes Kurds will go to in order to bring their ideological manifestation of an independent, autonomous Kurdistan into existence. , Abed exposed the modern day Kurdish/Israeli alliance, as well as the U.S.’ use of Kurdish factions in destabilizing the Middle East. The Kurds have engaged in such relationships in part because of internal divisions and disunity, which have also made it difficult to fulfill their goal of establishing a fully autonomous Kurdistan spanning over the four countries they currently occupy.
“Since at least the 1960s, Israel has provided intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds. This served mostly as an anti-Saddam play – keeping him distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors – but mutual understanding of their respective predicaments also bred an Israeli-Kurdish affinity. All signs point to this security cooperation continuing today. Israeli procurement of affordable Kurdish oil not only indicates a strengthening of economic ties, but also an Israeli lifeline to budget-starved Erbil that suggests a strategic bet on the Kurds in an evolving region… Every major Kurdish political group in the region has longstanding ties to Israel. It’s all linked to major ethnic violence against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians. From the PKK in Turkey to the PYD and YPG in Syria, PJAK in Iran to the most notorious of them all, the Barzani-Talabani mafia regime (KRG/Peshmerga) in northern Iraq.
Thus it should come as no surprise that Erbil supplied Daesh (ISIS) with weaponry to weaken the Iraqi government in Baghdad. On the level of economic strategy, Israel granted critical support to the KRG by buying Kurdish oil in 2015 when no other country was willing to do so because of Baghdad’s threat to sue. KRG Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami even admitted to the arrangement, saying that Kurdish oil was often funneled through Israel to avoid detection.
In January 2012 the French newspaper Le Figaro claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. A year later, the Washington Post disclosed that Turkey had revealed to Iranian intelligence a network of Israeli spies working in Iran, including ten people believed to be Kurds who reportedly met with Mossad members in Turkey. This precarious relationship between Israel and Turkey persists today. [http://www.mintpressnews.com/kurdish-connection-israel-isis-destabilize-iran/229745/]
Part III of Sarah Abed’s three-part analysis on Kurdish separatism in Syria [https://sarahabed.com/2017/08/12/a-history-of-violence-the-myth-of-the-moderate-kurdish-rebel/] addresses human rights violations, both past and present, that have been committed by the Kurds against Arabs and Christian minorities, and addresses misconceptions as to why the Kurds remain stateless. Abed’s three-part analysis is not meant to be understood as a sweeping generalization of the Kurdish ethnicity at large but is specifically in reference to the corrupt factions. The West has effectively preyed on the Kurds’ internal divisions and has used some factions to fulfill an imperialist goal of dividing and weakening the Near and Middle East. The Kurdish people are diverse, and in recent years, aspects of their culture and customs have been discussed in mainstream media. But the behavior of some of their more corrupt factions is not often addressed.
“Despite the oppression the Kurds have suffered at the hands of the Turks, they have not learned to be tolerant. In the Kurdish autonomous of North Iraq, The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are acting in the same way as the Turkish government has for 90 years against Kurds and Assyrians. Reports of systematic abuses against Assyrians within the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq are constantly increasing in number. There is organized harassment, sanctioned by the Kurdish authorities. The aim is obviously the same as that of the Turks, to assimilate or expel the Assyrian indigenous people who have lived in these parts of the country for more than 7,000 years.”
Augin Haninke wrote in her article The Kurds: Victims and Oppressors with Assyrian International News agency.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq claims that it is $25 billion dollars in debt, despite having negotiated its own oil deals and received significant amounts of foreign aid. One has to question how much corruption exists within the Kurdish administration for it to be in the financial situation it claims to be in. This has resulted in circumstances where small charity groups are left to facilitate and distribute aid to the Assyrians and Yazidis, who are supposed to be under the governorship of the KRG.
“Despite the oppression the Kurds have suffered at the hands of the Turks, they have not learned to be tolerant. In the Kurdish autonomous of North Iraq, The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are acting in the same way as the Turkish government has for 90 years against Kurds and Assyrians. Reports of systematic abuses against Assyrians within the Kurdish autonomy in Iraq are constantly increasing in number. There is organized harassment, sanctioned by the Kurdish authorities. The aim is obviously the same as that of the Turks, to assimilate or expel the Assyrian indigenous people who have lived in these parts of the country for more than 7,000 years.” Augin Haninke wrote in her article The Kurds: Victims and Oppressors with Assyrian International News agency.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq claims that it is $25 billion dollars in debt, despite having negotiated its own oil deals and received significant amounts of foreign aid. One has to question how much corruption exists within the Kurdish administration for it to be in the financial situation it claims to be in. This has resulted in circumstances where small charity groups are left to facilitate and distribute aid to the Assyrians and Yazidis, who are supposed to be under the governorship of the KRG.
In 2011, imams in Dohuk encouraged Sunni Kurds to destroy Christian churches and businesses. In response, shops were attacked and clubs were besieged by mobs of people numbering in the hundreds. Hotels and restaurants were attacked with small arms fire.
In recent years, Kurds have continued acting disingenuously towards Christian minorities, including Assyrians and even Yazidis. Their abuses have gone far beyond historical revisionism. This was seen when they took refuge in northern Syria in the early 19th century and proceeded to drive Arabs and Armenians out of numerous towns.
Modern day horrors as Kurds allow Daesh to murder Assyrians
In July 2014, as Daesh began its incursion into Iraqi territory, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) began its systematic disarmament of Assyrians and several other ethnic groups so that it could use their weapons in its own struggle.
Notices were circulated threatening severe punishment for noncompliance. Assurances were given that the Peshmerga would provide some degree of protection.
But as Daesh advanced, the Peshmerga took the weapons and fled, following the same example as the Iraqi Army.
This left the Assyrians and Yazidis with no means to resist or defend themselves against Daesh. Reports even surfaced of these same Peshmerga gunning down Yazidis who tried to prevent them from fleeing with all the weapons.
Haydar Shesho, a Yazidi commander who managed to procure weapons from the Iraqi government, was then arrested by KDP authorities for organizing an “illegal” militia.
This scene was repeated elsewhere throughout the country, as 150,000 Assyrians were forced to flee the Nineveh plains, their ancestral land.
These actions can only be seen as a deliberate ploy by the Kurdish leadership to allow foreign forces to violently cleanse these areas of all non-Kurdish residents and then, with the help of their U.S. allies, retake and “liberate their lands.”
On April 13, 2016, Kurdish security forces blocked hundreds of Assyrians from participating in a protest outside of the Kurdistan Regional Government Parliament building. The protest was planned in response to the ongoing confiscation of Assyrian land by Kurds in northern Iraq.
Many testimonies have surfaced, such as a statement given to the UK Parliament by Yazidi ex-captive Salwa Khalaf Rasho, in which it is said that the Peshmerga, eager to flee first ahead of Yazidi civilians, has refused requests to stay and protect Yazidis or at least leave them their weapons. They had even reassured the Yazidis that they should return to their homes, where they would be defended.
Some Peshmerga ultimately started firing on Yazidis when their protests grew forceful – killing some of them – in order to clear the way for their convoy of vehicles to pass unhindered. Yazda, an organization that campaigns for Yazidi genocide recognition, wrote in its last report in January 2016:
“Had they [Yazidis] been defended for one day, they could have been evacuated safely and the massacres and enslavement crisis could have been averted.”
A history of human rights abuses
In light of these horrors, it should easily be understood why the Kurds would have a vested interest in claiming Arab, Assyrian or Armenian history as their own. Failing in that endeavor, they often resort to destroying any relevant history altogether. In this aspect, they operate in a similar manner to Daesh.
Every time the Kurds failed in an attack against Turkey, they would migrate to Syria and try to claim Syrian land as their own. For instance, they tried to claim the Syrian city of Ayn al Arab, naming it “Kobani.” The origin of the name is the word “company,” a reference to a German railway company that built the Konya-Baghdad railway. The Kurds also claimed Al Qamishli, another Syrian city, as their illegal capital and renamed it Qamishlo.
It’s worth mentioning that the Kurds are not even a majority in the land they claim as theirs in northeast Syria. For example, in the governorate of Al Hasakah, they amount to about 30 to 40 percent of the population. That number has decreased since the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict, as many Kurds have left for European countries.
Most of them have fled to Germany, where their numbers are about 1.2 million, a little less than the number of Kurds living in Syria. However, they do not seem concerned about seeking autonomy there. They only seek it in the Middle Eastern countries that have provided them with refuge all of these years – these are the countries they want to stab in the back instead of thanking them for their hospitality.
Amnesty International’s many refutable allegations against the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army cannot be taken at face value in the absence of other corroborating reports. In some cases, however, they do report truthfully, such as when they released a report in 2015 accusing the YPG, the militia of Syria’s Kurdish population, of a range of human rights abuses.
“These abuses include forced displacement, demolition of homes, and the seizure and destruction of property,” the group wrote. “In some cases, entire villages have been demolished, apparently in retaliation for the perceived support of their Arab or Turkmen residents for the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) or other non-state armed groups.”
Amnesty International has also documented the use of child soldiers, according to Lama Fakih, a senior crisis advisor for the group.
The Kurds claim that their “Kurdistan” is “multicultural and multireligious,” which is disingenuous when you consider that those additional cultures consist of people now dwelling amongst a Kurdish majority in lands the Kurds took by force. These people will be faced with the prospect of casting meaningless votes on Kurdish independence since, even if they all voted “no,” they would nonetheless be outvoted by the Kurdish “yes” majority and as a result would still find themselves subject to a Kurdish government and agenda.
Why are they stateless?
The Sykes-Picot agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret 1916 agreement between the United Kingdom and France, to which the Russian Empire assented. It set the borders for countries like Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, but the Kurds held little or no influence. The main purpose of the agreement for the French and British was to bolster their own influence and power in the region. The Kurds have made the argument that they were promised land at the time, but were then cut out of the deal at the last minute.
Kurdish history in the 20th century is marked by a rising sense of Kurdish nationhood focused on the goal of establishing an independent Kurdistan in accordance with the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920. Countries like Armenia, Iraq, and Syria were able to achieve statehood, but the prospective Kurdistan was in the way of the newly founded state of Turkey, established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The state of Kurdistan has simply never existed.
The only areas in the Middle East where the Kurds were able to establish some semblance of legal autonomy are the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq – where minorities are well-protected under new laws– and Israel.
As a result of the disparity between areas of Kurdish settlement and the political and administrative boundaries of the region, a general agreement among Kurds could not be reached regarding borders. However, the Treaty of Sèvres was not implemented and was superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne. The current Iraq-Turkey border was agreed upon in July 1926. While Article 63 of the Treaty of Sevres explicitly granted full safeguards and protections to the Assyro-Chaldean minority, this reference was dropped in the Treaty of Lausanne.
It’s worth noting that the Iraqi Kurds are situated on the country’s oil-rich fields. Syria’s Hasakah province – which the Kurds are illegally claiming as their territory and which includes their self-appointed capital, Al Qamishli – also contains some of Syria’s most valuable oil fields. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the U.S. is putting its money on the Kurds.
Unethical and violent treatment of minorities, particularly Christians
According to Aina.org, in an article written in 2014, “Last year Ahmed Turk, a Kurdish politician in Turkey, declared that the Kurds have their share of ‘guilt in the genocide, too,’ and apologized to the Armenians. ‘Our fathers and grandfathers were used against Assyrians and Yazidis, as well as against Armenians. They persecuted these people; their hands are stained with blood. We as the descendants apologize,’ Turk said.”
The Kurds have a centuries-long history of persecuting minority groups, having committed genocide against them with alarming frequency. Historical accounts of acts of genocide by the Kurds from 1261 through 1999 are documented in. Genocides Against the Assyrian Nation
In A.D. 1261, in what was referred to as “the coming of the Kurds,” thousands of Assyrians fled the Nineveh plains villages of Bartillah, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Badna, Basihra and Karmlis, moving toward the citadel of Arbil to escape a substantial Kurdish emigration. King Salih Isma’il had ordered a great number of Kurds to move from the mountains of Turkey to the Nineveh plains. Assyrian villages on the plains were looted and the thousands of Assyrians who were not able to escape to Arbil were butchered by the Kurdish newcomers. A monastery for nuns in Bakhdida was invaded and its inhabitants brutally massacred.
Kurdish tribes in Turkey, Syria, and Iran conducted regular raids and even paramilitary assaults against their Christian neighbors during World War I. The Kurds, acting in accordance with a long-standing tradition of a perceived Kurdish right to pillage Christian villages, were responsible for many atrocities that were committed against Assyrian Christians. A Kurdish chieftain assassinated the patriarch of the Church of the Aast at a negotiation dinner in 1918, the aftermath of which led to the further decimation of the Christian population.
Kurdish complicity in Armenian genocide
The Armenian genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacres and subjection of army conscripts to forced labor, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre.
Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups, such as the Assyrians and the Ottoman Greeks, were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy that targeted the Armenians. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.
In the eastern provinces, the Armenians were subject to the whims of their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors, who would regularly overtax them, subject them to brigandage and kidnapping, force them to convert to Islam, and otherwise exploit them without interference from central or local authorities.
Egged on by their Ottoman rulers, Kurdish tribal chieftains raped, murdered and pillaged their way through the southeastern provinces where for centuries they had co-existed, if uneasily, with the Armenians and other non-Muslims. Henry Morgenthau, who served as U.S. Ambassador in Constantinople at the height of the bloodshed, described the Kurds’ complicity in his chilling 1918 memoir Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story:
“The Kurds would sweep down from their mountain homes. Rushing up to the young girls, they would lift their veils and carry the pretty ones off to the hills. They would steal such children as pleased their fancy and mercilessly rob all the rest of the throng…While they were committing these depredations, the Kurds would freely massacre, and the screams of women and old men would add to the general horror.”
Discrimination against Feyli Kurds in Iraq
It is important to reiterate that there are many Kurds to whom some of the characterizations presented in this analysis cannot and should not be applied. There are Kurds who have assimilated into their current cultural societies and reject the ideals of the separatist Kurds. Their concerns are mostly political in nature and specific to the nations in which they reside.
They are not interested in establishing a united Kurdish country in the four countries they occupy, through Balkanization, land theft, genocide or any of the other violations against humanity that have been addressed here. In fact, these Kurds have faced discrimination from the Kurdish community as a result of their unwillingness to support the establishment of a Kurdish state.
The Feyli Kurds in northern Iraq are a prime example. Many of them expressed opposition to a referendum on independence announced by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on June 7, 2017, as they feared it could lead to an escalation of the area’s ongoing crisis.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi laid out the Iraqi government’s official position on June 18, stating,
“The Kurdistan Regional referendum on secession is illegal, and the federal government will not support it, fund it or participate in it.”
The United States and Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey, Iran and Syria, oppose the country’s territorial division.
Fouad Ali Akbar, a Feyli member of the Baghdad provincial council, told Al-Monitor,
“They are Shiite Kurds…neither Shiites nor Kurds have done Feylis justice. Most Feylis are moderate and culturally diverse, and this has prevented them from earning the trust of Kurds and Shiites, who, for ethnic and sectarian reasons, have not wanted them to have a stable identity with normal rights like other Iraqi citizens.”
Feyli activist Hassan Abdali said,
“We, the Feyli Kurds, consider ourselves original Iraqis. We have deep historical and social roots in Iraq. We defended the country and its people in all the Iraqi liberation movements, in the Iraqi revolt against the British, and we took part in Kurdish movements and Shiite revolutions and also in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). And we faced persecution from Arab and Kurdish nationalist movements.”
Ali Akbar also told Al-Monitor,
“The majority of Feylis are voicing concerns about the potential displacement, killing, confiscation of funds and systematic looting that they might face in the event of the declaration of independence of Kurdistan as a result of the threats they receive whenever a dispute between the central government and the KRG erupts.”
Sarwa Abdel Wahid, head of a KRG parliamentary bloc in Gorran (an Iraqi Kurdish political party), said at a joint press conference with Feyli representatives, including legislators,
“The referendum to be held in September in Kurdistan is a partisan referendum that does not represent the ambition of all the Kurdish people, as it has failed to go through the legitimate national institutions.”
Kurdish racism against Arabs – especially Syrians
Finnish investigative journalist Bruno Jantti described his experience working in Iraqi Kurdistan while investigating Daesh:
“When working in Iraqi Kurdistan, I was struck by the prevalence of regressive attitudes, including racism and sexism. I returned recently from Iraqi Kurdistan where I spent a couple of weeks investigating the Islamic State (IS) group. Working mostly in the vicinity of Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk, I could not help but notice a great many societal and cultural characteristics that somewhat surprised me.
Considering what is happening right next door in Syria, the level of anti-Syrian racism did catch me off guard. I came across such prejudice almost daily. A taxi driver quipped in Sulaymaniyah: ‘These Syrians are ruining our country.’ Another taxi driver was quite upset at Syrian kids who were washing car windows and selling tack. ‘These are dirty kids.’ he said. It was all but unusual that internally displaced persons of Iraqi or Syrian Arab descent who had fled to Iraqi Kurdistan were discussed using such language.
It wasn’t just taxi drivers. In the Sulaymaniyah governorate building, an officer deemed it appropriate to prep us for our interviews in refugee camps in the area. She told me, verbatim, that Syrian refugees ‘complain about everything.’ In another city, a police chief was astonished and disappointed that my colleagues and myself were applying for a permit to work in a camp inhabiting Syrian refugees. The police chief stated: ‘But these are Syrian refugees!’ There was no shortage of contempt in his voice.
I had been fully aware that Kurdish nationalism flirts with highly questionable portrayals of Arabs, Persians and Turkish people. In Iraqi Kurdistan, I was surprised at how prevalent some of those attitudes seemed to be.”
A Well-Curated Myth as revolutionary, feminist, Marxist “freedom fighters”
The Kurds have gained popularity through effectively marketing themselves to Western audiences as revolutionary, feminist, Marxist “freedom fighters” who have a burning desire to create their version of a utopia where peace for all will reign — an image that Stephen Gowans recently critiqued in “The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence.”
What they actually seek to create is an illegal autonomous state carved out of existing sovereign countries. The freedom they seek is to be brought about by means of slaughtering natives in the countries that they want to Balkanize and divide on sectarian lines. They have set about vacating areas of indigenous people, utilizing fear and forceful tactics that are supported by their sponsors but that are in violation of globally accepted human rights. To agree with their cause is to agree with genocidal actions that, in essence, tear people away from their homes and lands while fitting conveniently into the imperial views of Western nations.
Up until recently, Kurds with separatist ambitions were seen in a positive light. But their hidden agenda has now been exposed and their true intentions revealed.Their past and present alliance with Israel and the United States is indicative of these intentions. This can not be dismissed or underappreciated, as it is the hidden foundation on which they have built their mission. The Greater Israel project is in full swing and needs to be halted before it makes any further headway.
To support the Kurds’ demands for autonomy, and the establishment of a federation at the expense of others in the region, is illegal, profoundly illogical, and a violation of human rights for all of the reasons that have been discussed here. And it bears remembering as well that one of the top leaders of Daesh was a Kurd. If the Kurds truly want to live in peace and coexist with others, they must end the excessive historical revisionism in which they incessantly partake; they must forgo alliances that threaten the stability of the countries in which they currently reside; and they must work together and unite with their brethren who share the same geographical land. Only then will the Kurds truly have friends other than the mountains. https://sarahabed.com/2017/08/12/a-history-of-violence-the-myth-of-the-moderate-kurdish-rebel/ (The article by Sarah Abed was originally published by The Rabbit Hole)