Kurdistan – literally the “The Land of the Kurds” – is the region in the Middle East that is considered the homeland of the Kurdish people.
After First World War, the Allies divided this region over current Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
In each of these countries the Kurdish population was subsequently heavily discriminated against.
The four parts of Kurdistan had many – and tragic – historical developments, with bloody repression and serious human rights violations as the main theme.
In addition, there are also Kurdish populations living in Armenia and Azerbaijan. And finally, there is an extensive Kurdish diaspora of about 1.5 million people, about half of whom live in Germany.
With an estimated 35 to 45 million people, the Kurds are one of the larger stateless peoples in the world with no nation.
Because of the oppression, the Kurdish language was never standardized. Today, several varieties of Kurdish are spoken, including Kurmancî, Soranî, Pehlawî, Hewramiî, Goranî and Zazakiî.
Kurdistan is – like the rest of the Middle East – a patchwork of various ethnic-religious groups.
Many other peoples live among the Kurds, including Arabs, Armenians, Aramaeans (Assyrian Christians), Turkmen, Turks, Azeri and lesser-known populations such as the Shabak.
Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but there are also Shia and Alevi Kurds, besides Christians, Jews and supporters of lesser-known religions such as Yezidism and Yarsanism.
Virtually all Kurdish political movements consider respect for this ethnic-religious diversity to be of paramount importance.
The Kurds name the four parts of their homeland after the four cardinal points: Bakur (north), Rojhilat (east), Başȗr (south) and Rojava (west).
Click on these regions to learn more about their histories!
Armenia en Azerbaijan
In addition to the four regions of Kurdistan, there are also smaller Kurdish population groups in Armenia and Azerbaijan.
... Tekst voor Interactieve Kaart Rojhilat ...
In het noordwesten van Iran ligt Rojhilat (‘oosten’).
... Tekst voor Interactieve Kaart Rojava ...
In het noorden van Syrië ligt Rojava (‘westen’).
Historyof a stateless nation
From finds in Jarmo (Iraq), it can be concluded that the area was already inhabited in the 7th millennium BC The first signs of a Kurdistan go back to about 3000 BC. It only got its current ethnic structure through the Persian raids of about 800 BC.
Over time, the Kurds were integrated into and conquered by many surrounding cultures, countries and empires. The area was divided in the 16th century between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire (an Azerbaijani dynasty that ruled Persia).
In the Ottoman era, most of the Kurds lived near Amed and guarded the outer borders of the Ottoman Empire, where in some provinces they gained far-reaching autonomy.
However, in the mid-19th century the Kurdish areas in the Ottoman Empire were brought under control of the central authority in Istanbul until the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.