A state for the Kurdish nation which has not yet been established. The Kurds inhabit the border region of Turkey (around eleven million people, or 20 per cent of the population), Iran (around four million people, or 8 per cent of the population), and Iraq (2.5 million people, 15 per cent). In addition, there are smaller Kurdish minorities in Syria (800,000 people, 8 per cent of the population) and Georgia (400,000 people, 8 per cent of the population). As elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, nationalism and a (vague) sense of common identity emerged in the late nineteenth century. The establishment of an independent Kurdistan was determined by the Treaty of Se`vres. However, this never materialized, as Mustafa Kemal's (Atatürk) victorious military campaigns forced the abrogation of the treaty by the Treaty of Lausanne. In addition, Britain was interested in the Kurdish oilfields of Mosul, which it incorporated into its League of Nations Mandate in Iraq.
On account of the rich oilfields of Iraqi Kurdistan, it is here that Kurdish demands for independence have been most forceful and, for that same reason, it is here that these have been most brutally repressed. The first intermittent revolt (1924–32) was triggered by the incorporation of the northern areas around Mosul and Kirkuk into the administrative structure of Iraq. A further prolonged, armed struggle (1958–74), which peaked with the 1962 rebellion, was caused by the 1958 revolution in Iraq and the challenge by the new government to Kurdish rights. It was ended by promises for a limited autonomy, but fighting broke out in 1975, after the deportation of the Kurdish leader Mustafa Bazarni. The Kurds in Iraq sought to profit from the Iran–Iraq War, when, supplied by Iran, they made considerable territorial gains against the Iraqi army. Ultimately, they were defeated, mainly through extensive use of gas warfare by the forces of Saddam Hussein. Lacking any protection after the end of the war, Kurdish leaders were brutally imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Renewed Kurdish resistance during the Gulf War was again brutally repressed.
After its defeat in the war, however, Iraq had to accept the UN's declaration of northern Iraq as a Kurdish ‘safe haven’, so that any Iraqi troops north of the 36th Parallel would be attacked by Nato aircraft stationed in Turkey. For the first time, the area thus gained effective autonomy (challenged by Iraq) that was outside the purview of Iraqi troops. Elections could thus be held in 1992 for a parliament, in which the Kurdish Patriotic Union (KPU) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) each gained fifty out of 115 seats. The presidential elections of that year were narrowly won by Dzalal Tabani of the KPU, though neither of the elections were recognized by Iraq. Following the Iraq War, the Kurdish part of Iraq achieved great levels of autonomy, which were enshrined in the 2005 Constitution. In 2006, a regional coalition government formed, in which the KDP and the KPU tried to overcome their differences. In contrast to central and southern Iraq, the Kurdish part of Iraq remained relatively peaceful.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).