The Kurds comprise a population in the Middle East that is currently mostly dispersed throughout the outskirts and borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Having their own way in expression through arts and sociopolitical organization, they are characterized with their own culture and history (Levinson 175). In relation to the fact that they are dispersed along such locations, an implication arises that they currently do not belong to a country that unifies their race.
Hence, as a result, the Kurds have often been considered as the oppressed in the Middle East and selected against by the governments of the countries in which they reside. In some instances, the Kurds have even opted to engage in conflicts in order to preserve their history, culture, rights, and even their lives (Amnesty International 6). Through history, there have been several cases wherein the Kurds have been heavily violated. One significant proof of such was the event in 1965 where an Arab Cordon was decided to be made by the Syrian government.
The Kurds, during that time, were found to live in the borders of Turkey which is considered part of the Jazira region; however, upon the actualization of the Arab Cordon, the Kurds were displaced and were transferred into a desert area (Kurdish Canadian Congress [KCC]). This was significantly a breach upon the lives of the Kurds in the area since the place they considered as their home was suddenly stripped away. In fact, the Kurds already integrated their culture into what was originally their home.
In addition, even though they were originally from a desert area, relocating the Kurds to a desert area without further support posed several problems such as reestablishment. Additional aggravating details regarding the production of the Arab Cordon include the changes that they made in the location. Aside from simply taking away the homes of the Kurds, the Arabs also prevented any trace of the culture of the Kurds to remain in the area; in fact, they even opted to rename the villages to fit their own language (KCC).
As expected, such an event was not well-received by the Kurdish locals, and as a result, some refused to comply. Those who did not choose to be relocated were branded as outsiders by the Arabs and were not allowed to regain any type of settlement in the area (KKC). Understandably, due to the continuous oppression towards their kind, groups of Kurds that saw fighting as the only way to gain recognition started to appear throughout the Middle East.
In response to these resistance forces of the Kurds, the Iraqi government decided to mobilize an attack which would eliminate most Kurds in the Iraqi territory; the attack was referred to as Al-Anfal. Biological and chemical weapons were used against both Kurd resistance members and Kurd villagers alike; this resulted in the death of over 180,000 Kurds (O’Leary). Such an outright attack upon a large group of Kurds is considered as genocide. The reason behind the Al-Anfal, which was led by Ali Hasan Al-Majid, was to destroy and eliminate saboteurs (O’Leary).
Although it was more of a case of ethnic cleansing rather than just eliminating the threats or defeating the opposition, the occurrence of such attacks to the Iraqi Kurd population did not actually begin and end with the Al-Anfal. In fact, throughout the course of such violent attacks, over 300,000 Kurds have died (O’Leary). In contrast to the blatant attack of the Iraqi government towards the Kurds, in Turkey, they were considered as people that one should never speak of.
In fact, even though there were a considerable number of Kurds in Turkey, decades ago the Kurdish language was banned and was not to be used in Turkish regions in order to cause further cultural repression. In addition, public perception and knowledge towards the Kurds were maintained to a level wherein Kurds were thought of as mountain Turks (Bruno). As a result, several groups that were against such treatment, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), decided to fight for their beliefs and rights.
The original aim of the PKK was to acquire an independent state for Kurds and hence, be able to govern their own kind; the PKK was considerably stronger and more radical in their ways compared to previous resistance groups discussed, as they usually resorted to kidnapping and terrorism (Bruno). Even with such a difference in those aspects, the general aim of the resistance groups, and probably the whole Kurd population, is to be able to develop their own state or country where they may freely express their own culture and other aspects of their population without the fear of being selected against, discriminated, or oppressed.
The same trend can be observed in the history of Kurds in Iran. It is important to note that Iran played an important role in the destruction of the first step of the Kurds towards autonomy. In 1946, after gaining control of Mahabad, wherein the Kurds established the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, the Iran forces seized the area without giving much time for the republic to at least develop (Kweskin). Hence, the opportunity of the Kurds to experience autonomy was definitely cut short, and as a result, movements that aim to bring autonomy to their kind began anew.
In 1979, further cases of oppression towards Kurds were documented in Iran, one of this being the aggressive way of control towards the Kurd revolution initiated by the Ayatollah Khomeini, which was inducing revolutionary rule upon the area of Mahabad; the Ayatollah Khomeini branded the Kurds as atheists in order to explain their actions (Kweskin). The leader of the Kurds in Mahabad strictly denied any form of religion-based actions or motives. The leader exclaimed that the only thing they wanted to attain was for Kurds to achieve independence once more and again be able to rule themselves and let their own ways of living flourish (Kweskin).
In the current times, the treatment towards the Kurds has become better, as exemplified by the recent move of the Turkey government to allow Kurdish language to be used as well as several Kurdish media to be transmitted (Bruno). However, in general, the Kurds are still commonly associated with oppression and abuse. For example, in Iran, the oppression towards Kurdish individuals is still evident in the unequal treatment of the laws and government of Iran towards them; evident risks for Kurdish women causing illiteracy and deaths due to improper treatment were found as well (Amnesty International 14).
In addition to this, due to the formation of several Kurdish militant groups which aim to fight for their rights through force, the Kurds are becoming associated with terrorism as well; this is rather expected due to the fact that groups such as the PKK have conducted acts of violence in other parts of the world (Bruno). Given the current trend of the global community to prevent and extinguish any form of violence that arises from terrorist acts along with the fact that the masses have a tendency to generalize based on minimal facts, such activities definitely do not help in placing the Kurdish population in a positive light.
However, it must be considered that all of these are based on the goal of the Kurds to establish their own identity and to be able to express aspects of their culture, including language, music, arts, and history, without outside intervention. It must be understood that if only this was fulfilled, then it is probable that the unnecessary oppression, death, and violence associated with the Kurds may never have manifested. Given the chance to form their own government and parliament, as seen through the Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurds would be able to sustain themselves rather peacefully (O’Leary).
Therefore, after all the dreadful events that these people had to experience throughout history, the Kurds should not simply be given several areas within current countries in order to practice a sense of autonomy as this still enables the presence of events of oppression; it is undeniable that the Kurds are more than deserving to finally form a true Kurdistan, a whole country in the Middle East with a future that the Kurds themselves will have the power to decide.
Amnesty International. “IRAN: Human Rights Abuses against the Kurdish Minority. ” Amnesty International Online Library. 2008. 24 Apr. 2009 <http://www. amnesty. org/en/library/asset/MDE13/088/2008/en/d140767b-5e45-11dd-a592-c739f9b70de8/mde130882008eng. pdf>. Bruno, Greg. “Inside the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). ” Council on Foreign Relations. 19 Oct. 2007. 24 Apr. 2009 <http://www. cfr. org/publication/14576/>. Kweskin, Benjamin. “Kurdish Nationalism from World War I through 2007: An Incomplete
Historical Narrative. ” Kurdish Media – News about Kurds and Kurdistan. 4 Sept. 2008. 24 Apr. 2009 <http://www. kurdmedia. com/article. aspx? id=14721>. Levinson, David. Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume IX: Africa and the Middle East. New York: G. K. Hall & Company, 1995. O’Leary, Carole A. “The Kurds of Iraq: Recent History, Future Prospects. ” Middle East Review of International Affairs. Dec. 2002. 24 Apr. 2009 <http://meria. idc. ac. il/journal/2002/issue4/jv6n4a5. html>.
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