Who are the Kurds?


Quick Answer

The Kurds are a group of ethnically Iranian people who live in the mountainous border region between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. They comprise the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East but have never had a nation of their own.

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Full Answer

The Kurds were originally nomadic tribesmen focused on sheep and goat herding. Their history reaches back at least to the early days of Islam, as they are mentioned in 7th-century Islamic literature. Different empires and countries have asserted rule over the Kurds throughout their history, but they have always maintained their ethnic distinctiveness. They are religiously diverse; a majority are Sunni Muslim but some Kurds are Christians, Yazidis and Zoroastrians among others. The Kurds also have a high level of gender equality, and even have female soldiers on the front lines.

In the 1880s, the first Kurdish nationalist movement attempted to claim independence from both Turkish and Persian rule, but the uprising was crushed. The Kurds fought against the Turks in World War I and had hopes that the conclusion of the war would bring them a measure of independence. Instead, the Allied Forces divided the Kurdish region into several pieces, bowing to Turkey's fears of having an independent Kurdistan on its borders. The Kurds were denied their own country repeatedly over the next century, but as of 2014 the Iraqi Kurds control a semi-autonomous region in the resource-rich northern portion of Iraq.

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