Places in World Most Likely to Secede Kurdistan Part 1

About Kurdistan a place in the world likely to secede from Russia, size, population, and history of conflict.



Size: Since its existence has never been formally recognized, the boundaries of Kurdistan are not precisely defined. Kurdish tribes have inhabited the mountainous areas of southern Soviet Azerbaijan, eastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Syria, and northeastern Iraq since at least the 2nd century B.C. In the period 1958-1975, the "liberated areas" under strictly Kurdish control consisted of roughly 13,500 sq. mi. (35,000 sq. km.) in northeastern Iraq.

Population: Estimates vary widely depending on the source. The governments concerned say there are about 7 million Kurds. Kurdish nationalists contend there are at least 13 million. The high-low estimates for each country are as follows: Turkey, 3.2-5 million; Iran, 1.8-4 million; Iraq, 1.5-2.5 million; Syria, 320,000-600,000; and the U.S.S.R., 80,000-150,000. The Kurds speak and write their own Indo-European language, akin to Persian with a large admixture of Arabic. They are devout Sunni Muslims.

Although the Kurds have tended herds and cultivated crops in their mountain valleys and nearby approaches for thousands of years, they have always been ruled by others in their own homelands. Persian shahs, Arab caliphs, Seljuk Turks, Mongol warlords, Ottoman emperors, Turkish nationalists, Arab nationalists, and the British Colonial Office have all at one time or another extended their authority over the Kurdish areas.

Having struggled for centuries to free themselves from Ottoman rule, the Kurds were encouraged by the Turkish defeat in W.W. I and President Wilson's plea for self-determination for non-Turkish nationalities in the empire. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres liquidating the Ottoman Empire might have served the Kurdish dream, for it contained an article in which the Ottoman sultan renounced all claims to non-Turkish territory. However, the strident Turkish nationalists under Kemal Ataturk, who succeeded the sultan, refused to recognize the treaty, and new terms in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne made no provision for Kurdish autonomy. The British proceeded to annex southern Kurdistan to the two provinces of Arab Iraq, thereby creating a puppet state through which, in the words of the colonial officers in charge, "London can hold the petroleum of Kurdistan and Mesopotamia."

Revolts by the Kurds of Turkey in 1925 and 1930 resulted in the massacre and deportation of thousands. In Iran, they endured a brief reign of terror after the collapse in 1946 of the Kurdish Mahabad "Republic," set up by the departing Russians. Since then, they have sought, often violently, to establish an autonomous region within the borders of Iraq. They have never succeeded.

The most recent, and possibly final, rebellion began in 1958 and lasted 17 years. It was led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, a venerable Kurdish chieftain who had fought against the British and the Turks in the 1920s and then led a group of 800 followers into exile in Soviet Armenia after the collapse of the Mahabad Republic. While the U.S. maintained close relations with the reactionary Hashimite monarchy in Baghdad, which pursued a policy of repressing the Kurds, a nationalist military coup in 1958 changed the situation. In the words of a former foreign service officer who was there at the time, "Suddenly, it suited U.S. policy makers to have insurgent Kurds harass the government in Baghdad." When it became clear that the Kurds would accept nothing less than complete autonomy, Kassem's regime reacted as all previous Iraqi regimes had done; it invaded Kurdish territory in late 1961. After nine years of inconclusive warfare, the new Ba'ath regime in Baghdad negotiated a cease-fire and promised the Kurds a substantial measure of autonomy in the northern areas. A detailed plan for autonomous regional government was drawn up and its implementation set for March, 1974.

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