History of Kurdistan

The history of Kurds is often compared with the history of the Polish nation under rules of Germany, Russia and Austria in 19th century.

The predecessors of the Kurds are Medes. To be more precise, the Kurds are kind of mixture between the Khurrites (Hurrians) who lived in Northern-Mesopotamia almost 5000 years ago and the Medes who conquered them.

In VII BC they have founded an Empire of Medes. In 612 BC they have conquered the powerful Assyria and spread their domination through the whole Iran as well as central Anatolia. 612 BC was the beginning of Kurdish written history, but they came to their lands long time before, during the migration of Medes, who arrived to the region about 1000 BC. Kurds are the oldest nation of the Near East and 612 BC is  considered as the beginning of the 1st Kurdish year; for them we are now in 2627!

In 550 BC Medes Empire were absorbed into Persian Empire. In the 6th century they were conquered by the Arabs and went through Islamization. This invasion destroyed Kurdistan a lot, broke its independence and put an end to the Sassanid’s Dynasty power.

The Turks had to react and conquered Kurdistan several centuries later.

In 1514, after the victorious battle of Sultan Semil Ithe Ottoman Empire,  over Iranian dynasty, most of the Kurds were living in the borders of Ottoman Empire. Sultan Semil promised them to keep independence. In this time, two enormous empires were fighting for supremacy – Ottoman Empire and Persian Empire. The Kurds did not have luck. They were between two lions. Their situation were similar to Polish. Poland was also situated between two biggest enemies – Germany and Russia.

Kurds were fighing for their rights, but Turks had a great plan. They massacred some Kurdish tribes from Anatolia to settle there other, less rebellious. They were resettling them mainly in the border of Persia – today’s Azerbaijan – and even further: to the current eastern Iran and Afghanistan. Kurds live there today, maintaining their language, identity and customs. The Turks also tried to resettle them to Europe. They even tried to separate the Kurdish tribes with other nations. They sent some Turks there, but these settlers quickly adopted Kurdish language and customs.

The Ottoman Empire 1683

Kurds from the very beginning of its existance had to fight. Greeks, Turks, Arabs and Persians tried to conquer them. Only a few people know that Kurds were the main force in Roman legions. They also fought for Turkish army. In XIX century some of them were enrolled in the Persian army and some were the personal guards for Turkish Sultan Abdullah II. We all know SALADIN. The greatest commander. Conqueror of the Crusaders. Winner of Jerusalem and the hero of Medieval Islam.  He was also THE KURD and he found the Ayyubid dynasty which was centered in Egypt in 12th century. 

Battle with Crusaders

Next years have brought battle after battle. War in Kurdistan continues without interruption since XVI century. The biggest uprisings erupted in 1640, 1655, 1830, 1834, 1843, 1850, 1852 and 1880. The Turks tried to stop Kurdish separatism by offering them prestigious positions in government. Main reason for doing this was to keep the loyalty of Kurds to the Turkish army during 1st World War.

Ottoman Empire had lost the 1st World War. Kurdistan were shared between Turkey, Iran, France (territory of Iraq), Great Britain (territory of Syria) and Russia. In 1920 Turkey has signed the Treaty of Servez, where it ensured the creation of Kurdish state in parts of the Turkish land. This promise never came truth. The Treaty of Lausanne, however, crushed their aspirations for independence. The representative of Turkey said then „The Turks and Kurds are brothers and partners”. Several years later, proved to be  so close brothers that have not considered any of their rights.

flag arrarat
Flag of Republic of Ararat

In 1927, the Kurds gained for a moment their independence. They created the Republic of Ararat. It was located in the northeasten part of modern Turkey. The Republic declared independence on October 28, 1927 during a wave of rebellion amongst the Kurds. The rebellion was led by General Ihsan Nuri Pasha. Village Kurd Ava was designated as the capital of Kurdistan. Xoybun Party made appeals to the Great Powers and the League of Nations, and also sent messages to other Kurds in Iraq and Syria to ask for co-operation. Unfortunately, the Turkish military crushed the Republic of Ararat in September 1930.

mount ararat
Mount Ararat

In 1937,  Turkish interior minister said ” From today there is no Kurdish problem and the injection of civilization was applied in every bandits, with force”. Turkey started to call Kurds „the mountain’s Turks”.

The Iraqi Kurds were also fighting for independence since the outbreak of World War I – but the British were opposed.  They were managing this area under the League of Nations mandate. Great Britain could not afford to lose control over the Kirkuk – region rich in rope. Aircraft bombed several villages and the base of the insurgents.


In 1917, Bolshevik Revolution broke out in Russia. It was like a new hope for the Kurds. They made an appeal to Moscow: „The whole population of Kurdistan considers the Russian nation as the liberator of the East and the Kurds are committed and prepared to link their fate with the fate of Russian people”.

During the Second World War, Soviet and British troops entered into Iran. The Kurds felt stronger. They removed the Iranian troops from Mahabad. It’s the northwestern part of Iran. 22.01.1946, in Mahabad was announced the creation of Kurdistan under a care of Stalin – Republic of Mahabad. Official language of Republic was Kurdish. For the first time this language was taught in schools. The first Kurdish theater was established. The Soviet Government has given the Kurds the printing equipment and radio stations.26.03.1946, the Soviet withdrew from Iran and in same time abolished the Republicof Mahabad.

republic of mahabad

In the second half of the 40s
Iran has liberalized its policy towards the Kurds. Iranian were supporting Kurdish national movement in Iraq. Of course their reason was not to protect Kurdish business, but to weaken the neighbor and regain lands that Iran considered to be Iranian. Through years the Kurds were fed with promises while each neighbour played them like a toy in political games. In 1975, Iran and Iraq have signed the Treaty of Algiers. Iraq has given  to Iran the river Shatt al Arab and Iran promised to not support Iraqi Kurds anymore.the flag of mahabad


Here hope came with the year of 1958. Iraqi monarch was overthrown. New leaders have offered the Kurds autonomy. On the Iraqi emblem appeared the Kurdish dagger. Unfortunately, with time, the promises were forgotten. Bombing raids have started. In 1963 Kurdish lands were invaded by Iraqi army. The UN estimates that between 1960 and 1970 were killed or wounded 60 000 of the Kurds. At that time, Iraqi Kurds split into two fractions. Some wanted to maintain good relations with the government. They hoped for autonomy, which Baghdad has promised to them, if they help fight against Iran.  Others, that Iran was supporting, were interested only in independence. In the 90’s this conflict turned into a bloody civil war.

Countries of this region were trying so hard to never let the Kurds, from different borders, feel the unity. In 1963 they created a plan to build a desert border line with a width of 30 km. The main reason was to separate Iraqi Kurds from foreign contacts. The project has started after 15 years. In this way, Saddam could easily manipulate the Kurds. He wanted to show them that there is nothing better than Saddam’s land. In the 70’s he began to build „modern villages” guarded by police. The Iraqi government led propaganda among the Kurds. They villages were, finally, electrified. In 1980, television showed President Saddam Hussein who gave the Kurds TV and fridges.

Turkey and Iraq were cooperating in case of the Kurds. Their armies could come 30 km inside Kurdish lands. In the years 1981 – 1986 Turkey bombed Iraqi Kurdistan many times.


Turkey and Syria took a dispute over boundaries, as well as the inflow of water from the Euphrates, where Turkey has built a dam. Kurdistan was a great pawn to play in order to get their benefits. Moreover, Turkey was a member of NATO and Syria was a member of opposite side – The Warsaw Pact. This is the reason why Syria gave a protection to Abdullah Öcalan, who was a Communist leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party – enemy number 1 for Turkish government. He set up training camps in Syria for his partisans – Guerilla. In 1991 he moved them to Iraq. From there he led the attacks on Turkish troops. In February 1999, Öcalan was captured from the Greek embassy in Kenya and flown to Turkey. He was sentenced to death, but after international protests the punishment was changed to life punishment. Right now he is the only prisoner on Turkish island in the Sea of Marmara.


For the first time Iraq has used chemical weapons against Kurds in 1963. These were napalm bombs. Napalm is a kind of a fire bomb. It is believed that it was formulated to burn at a specified rate and to adhere to surface to increase its stopping power. During combustion, Napalm rapidly deoxygenates the available air and generates large amounts of deadly carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It can cause severe burns, unconsciousness and death. It can create firestorms with self – perpetuating windstorms of up to 110 km/h. It easily sticks to human skin. First attacks were not noticed by the world opinion. This lack of response emboldened Saddam. He decided to punish the Iraqi Kurds for collaborating with Iran during Iran – Iraq war. On the 16th and 17 the March 1988, Iraqi aircraft have made a chemical attack on Halabdza. 5 thousand of the Kurds were killed. Over 100 thousand have left their houses to run away from death. This time the West also did not react at all. „Because of having no evidence” investigation against Hussein was interrupted by UN. When the Kurdish delegation  arrived in Kuwait to make a formal protest against terror, Kuwaiti diplomat said with irony „What do You expect? Spraying flower water ?”.

August 2nd 1990,  the Persian Gulf War broke out. Iraq began this conflict by invasion of Kuwait. Iraq had a big problem with a huge debt – over 80 billions dollars. Saddam wanted to conquer Kuwait because of its large deposits of oil. Iraq was defeated by the international coalition in the spring of 1991. United Nations issued an ultimatum to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait by 15 January 1991. Iraq did not react. The 17th of January Operation Desert Storm began. 34 nations led by the United States helped with action of attacks against Iraq. March 3rd Saddam Hussein accepted the armistice terms and sanctions imposed by the UN. This operation was a next hope for the Kurds. Kurdish uprising started. It was a response to the call of George Bush. The insurgents occupied a large area of ​​Kurdistan, but they did not get expected help from USA. In March 1991, Iraqi offensive began. Its aim was to create in the lands of the Kurds forbidden zones. Saddam has poisoned the water, plants were showered with chemicals. Saddam wanted  all kinds of life to disappear there. Two million Kurds ran into the mountains towards the Turkish and Iranian border. The official position of American diplomacy was: „The U.S. does not have a reason to feel guilty, because we never promised, despite what some say, that will help Kurdish insurgents.”


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