What is the "Kurdish Problem"?


Quick Answer

The "Kurdish problem” refers to the conflict between the Kurdish people's nationalist movements and efforts toward achieving independence and the competing interests of the nations they inhabit. The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group of approximately 22 million people that constitute significant minorities in several countries of the Middle East.

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Full Answer

Kurdistan, the traditional homeland of the Kurds, lies within the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq as of 2015, where Kurds constitute up to 25 percent of the each country’s population. Because they exist as minorities within these countries, the Kurds are often marginalized and face ongoing discrimination and persecution. Kurdish efforts to obtain independence and re-establish a Kurdish state have historically been met with political and military responses ranging from punitive legislation to attempted genocide.

As a result, the Kurds remain economically and socially disenfranchised as a nation overlapping the geo-political borders of countries that are unwilling to give up territory or grant autonomy to minorities. Some see the establishment of a Kurdish state as a threat. Confounding the Kurdish problem, there is little political or cultural unity among the Kurds themselves after generations of confinement to the poorest and most isolated areas of their respective countries.

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