An overview of the kurd geography and history a nation without a state
Even as the Iraqi state became increasingly repressive and ethnicized under successive Arab Baathist regimes, it continued to give the Kurds semi-legitimate status. The Kurds also have a variety of cultural traits, not only because they are spread across multiple countries but also because the mountainous regions in which they most commonly live are often a barrier to national cohesion and communication.
Flora and fauna Kurdistan is one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a cold climate receiving annual precipitation adequate to sustain temperate forests and shrubs.
The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil. World attention to the authoritarianism of the Assad regime has raised concern for Syrian Kurds , while providing a larger political platform for Kurdish claims in Turkey and Iraq. This draconian break from the Ottoman past led to early violent nationalist revolts tied to Kurdish ethnicity and Islam. As early as , a Kurdish Sheikh named Mahmoud Barzinji was made governor of the Kurdish portion of Iraq, but instead of being just a governor, Sheikh Mahmoud declared himself king of the Kurds. Yet for all this attention and the tragedy of their modern history, there are barely eleven million Palestinians in the Middle East, whether in the West Bank, Gaza or Israel itself, or living in the states surrounding the Holy Land. The Kurds of northern Iraq showed both their strategic importance and their military capabilities in June last year, when the forces of the Islamic State, or IS, were seizing Mosul and other key areas of northern Iraq. Kurdish Iraq—based Mahir Aziz is rapidly establishing a reputation in the field as well. Additionally, most cater to particular localities or dialects within Iraqi Kurdistan that differentiate Kermanji- and Sorani-speaking communities, as well as particular regions. Kurdish ethnonationalism is also shaped — and limited — by political and geographical divisions, including the experiences of the Kurds under different governments that have shown varying degrees of tolerance for sub-national Kurdish identities or historical narratives. Kurds in Persia, which became Iran under Reza Shah, had even less hope of western support because Persia was not a part of the Ottoman Empire and did not participate in the war.
Despite the horrific slaughter by the Nazis, they numbered perhaps twelve million worldwide at the end of the second world war. The rise of IS and the conflict in Syria — where Kurdish groups have fought to protect their areas from Sunni extremists while also trying to push out the Assad regime — are only two very recent reminders of how central the Kurds often are to the dynamics of the Middle East.
This difference is due to a more inclusive political space that initially emphasized shared cultural ties between Kurds and Persians -- more than half of Iranian Kurds are Shiite -- and recognized a Kurdish ethnicity as part of Iranian identity, while repressing Kurdish nationalists and banning their organizations.
In fact, this alliance has become even more critical as the KRG -- and its leaders -- has made significant commercial investments and political alliances in the region. In contrast, Kurdish nationalism in Turkey evolved in a more clearly restrictive political space that did not recognize the existence of Kurdish ethnicity. The Kurds also have a variety of cultural traits, not only because they are spread across multiple countries but also because the mountainous regions in which they most commonly live are often a barrier to national cohesion and communication. The two Iraqi Kurdish parties also maintained offices in Damascus for decades with the tacit agreement of the Assad regime and its security apparatus. All of the Kurd minorities divided between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the other states total to around twenty-five million Kurds. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites. These transnational challenges also come at a time when the Kurdistan region of Iraq is itself at a crossroads. As early as , a Kurdish Sheikh named Mahmoud Barzinji was made governor of the Kurdish portion of Iraq, but instead of being just a governor, Sheikh Mahmoud declared himself king of the Kurds. Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia. The creation of a Kurdistan was temporarily considered by the western powers but was eventually abandoned, though the Kurds had deep historical evidence to legitimize a Kurdish state. The western powers decided to support the secular and modernizing Turkish and Iranian authoritarians, rather than destabilize the region by creating Kurdistan. For instance, from the outset of the state-building project in Iraq, the state elites recognized Kurdish ethnicity while co-opting and controlling Kurdish groups. Kurdish fighters in northern Syria entered into heavy fighting with ISIL and quickly proved to be some of the most effective ground forces against the group.
Operating mainly from eastern Anatolia, PKK fighters engaged in guerrilla operations against government installations and perpetrated frequent acts of terrorism. So what is the answer?
Kurdish ethnonationalism is also shaped — and limited — by political and geographical divisions, including the experiences of the Kurds under different governments that have shown varying degrees of tolerance for sub-national Kurdish identities or historical narratives.
This increasingly salient and complex Kurdish problem will continue to challenge governance within states, while serving as a wild card in shifting regional politics.
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