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Expansion of Kurdistan and territorial claims in the course of history

Kurdistan ( Kurdish کوردستان Kurdistan ; Arabic كردستان, DMG Kurdistān ; Persian کردستان Kordestān ; Turkish Kurdistan ) is a not exactly delimited area in the Middle East that is considered a historical settlement area of ​​the Kurds . The states over which this area extends mostly avoid the term Kurdistan or even prohibit the use of the term. Its use, however, is promoted or demanded by broad sections of the Kurdish population. Depending on the definition, the entire Kurdish settlement area covers 440,000 to 530,000 km 2 and is divided between the states of Turkey , Iraq , Iran and Syria . In addition to Kurds, Arabs also live in these areas, Persians , Azerbaijanis , Turks , Turkmens , Armenians and Assyrians / Arameans .

On the history of the term Kurdistan

Kurdistan (here in the middle of the map as کردستان recognizable) on an Ottoman map from 1893

The name Kurdistan appears for the first time as a name for an area in the Armenian Chronicle of Matthias von Edessa . With K'rdstanac it denotes an area between Diyarbakır and Siverek . The chronicle describes the events of the years 952–1136 in three parts. As an administrative unit, Kurdistan emerged as a province of the Seljuq Empire at the time of Sultan Ahmad Sandschar (r. 1097–1157). It included the present-day Iranian areas of Hamadan , Kermanshah , Dinawar and Sanandajah . Hamdollah Mostowfi lists the 16 cantons of this province in his work Nuzhat al-ḳulūb from 1349.

In Scherefname also be Luren expected to Kurdistan. In the 4th volume of his Seyahatnâme , the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi lists nine vilayets that belonged to Kurdistan at the time: Erzurum , Van, Hakkari, Diyarbakir, Jazira (Cizre), ʿAmādiya , Mossul , Schahrazūr and Ardalan . The rivalry between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavids led to the partition of Kurdistan. In the 17th century, on the Ottoman side, only the districts of Dersim, Mus and Diyarbakir belonged to the Vilayet Kurdistan. In the 16th century, Kurdistan under the rule of the Safavids was limited administratively to the Ardalan region. Hamadan and Lorestan were separated.

In a letter from 1526 from the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman to the French King Franz I , Süleyman names Kurdistan as part of his domain.


Landscape in Eastern Kurdistan

The borders of Kurdistan cannot be precisely defined. On the one hand, apart from the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq and the Iranian province of Kordestān , there is no political territory and no Kurdistan administrative unit . To make matters worse, there is no ethnically homogeneous, compact settlement area for Kurds. The borders of Kurdistan are therefore very controversial.

Kurdistan is located between the 34th and 40th degree of latitude and the 38th and 48th degrees east longitude ( 37 °  N , 43 °  O coordinates: 37 °  N , 43 °  O ). It stretches across Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia - more precisely from İskenderun and the Taurus Mountains up to Ararat  - to Lake Urmia in Iran and includes the region of the Zagros Mountains , i.e. Northern Iraq and Western Iran , as well as parts of Northern Syria . Since the 1980s, Kurdish activists have increasingly used the terms East Kurdistan, North Kurdistan, South Kurdistan and West Kurdistan for the Kurdish areas belonging to Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The following is a characterization of the individual parts of Kurdistan according to the states to which the areas belong.

Turkish part

The Turkish part makes up approx. 25% of the national territory, depending on the definition. The focus extends geographically from the province of Gaziantep to Hakkâri and from Malatya to Kars . In addition, Kurds ( Central Anatolian Kurds ) have lived in Central Anatolia, such as around Lake Tuz , Konya , Aksaray , Ankara , etc., for several generations . In recent decades, many Kurds have moved to the big cities due to internal migration and flight. Kurds can now be found everywhere in Turkey.

The Turkish part is shaped by the Taurus Mountains. The two rivers Euphrates and Tigris run here . This region is used agriculturally for wheat, barley, wine, olive and pistachio cultivation. In addition to mountain ranges, the region east of the Euphrates is characterized by a high plateau. As part of the Southeast Anatolia project along the Euphrates and Tigris, over 22 dams are being built.

Iranian part

The eastern part of Kurdistan largely coincides with the provinces of Kermanshah , Kordestan , Ilam and western Azerbaijan . The area is ruled by the Zāgros Mountains.

Syrian part

The Syrian part of Kurdistan is called Rojava (Western Kurdistan) by Kurdish activists. Due to the unnatural demarcation, the Kurdish settlement area does not form a coherent area here. It extends over the greater part of the al-Hasakah governorate . The largest cities in the region are Qamishli and al-Hasakah . The largest oil reserves in Syria are in the Kurdish-populated areas in the northeast of the Jazira region there, which is therefore of particular strategic relevance. The largest oil refineries in the country are located in the Rumelan region, east of Qamishli .

Another region with a significant Kurdish population is Ain al-Arab ( Kobanî ) in northern Syria near the city of Jarabulus and Kurd Dagh in the northwest, around the city of Afrin in Aleppo governorate . The Kurd Dagh region extends to the Turkish districts of İslahiye and Kırıkhan . Many Kurds also live in major cities such as Aleppo and Damascus . The Kurdish northern and northeastern parts of Syria are also called Kurdistana Binxetê ("Kurdistan under the border") in Kurdish .

Iraqi part

Aut. Reg. Kurdistan (control area not up to date)

The Iraqi part of Kurdistan largely coincides with the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan and overlaps with the Turkmeneli area . The Kurdistan Autonomous Region includes the provinces of Arbil , Dohuk , Halabdscha and Sulaimaniya and parts of the provinces of Diyala , Kirkuk and Ninawa .


Before the 10th century

Kurdistan is part of the fertile crescent region that has been settled by many cultures and empires of ancient times throughout history. The Hattier and the subsequent Hittites settled in the Bronze Age between 2500 BC. BC and 1200 BC The north-west of the Middle East and thus the western areas of today's Kurdistan.

Their empire ended in the context of the onset of the migration of peoples (see: Sea Peoples ). However, the Hittite culture survived until around 700 BC. In various small states in Eastern Anatolia, for example in Malatya , Zincirli , Karkemisch and Tabal .

After the destruction of the Hittite Empire, the Phrygians established an empire under their king Midas , which was established in the 9th and 8th centuries BC. BC Anatolia ruled. Since 850 BC The kingdom of Urartu existed at Lake Van . The Armenian kingdom gained in the first century BC Its greatest extent under King Tigran the Great .

From the 10th century to the present

Northern Kurdistan in the Ottoman Empire

Expansion of the Ottoman Empire 1481–1683, then Kurdistan west of Lake Van

The first division of Kurdistan between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire ( Persia ) was sealed by the Treaty of Qasr-e Shirin in 1639 . Most of the Kurdish princes came under Ottoman suzerainty. The division of that time is still visible today on the almost identical border between Turkey and Iran.

On December 13, 1847, the Ottoman Vilayet Kürdistan was founded. Initially it comprised the areas of Diyarbekir, the Sanjaks Van, Muş and Hakkâri and the Kazas (districts) Cizre, Botan and Mardin. The capital was Ahlat, later Van, Muş and Diyarbekir. In 1856 the vilayet was redefined and dissolved in 1864. The two vilayets Diyarbekir and Van emerged from the vilayet.

After the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious powers granted the Kurds the right to self-determination in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. The south-western areas of Kurdistan were added to the French League of Nations mandate for Syria and Lebanon . Great Britain became mandate power in the British mandate of Mesopotamia , to which the southeastern Kurdish parts of the country in what is now Iraq were assigned.

At the same time Mustafa Kemal Ataturk organized the resistance against the European occupying powers and Greece . The Kemalists propagated a government of both peoples (Kurds and Turks) and in this way tied the Kurdish tribal leaders and sheikhs into the Turkish national liberation struggle .

In the Treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923) the new balance of power between Turkey and the occupying powers Great Britain, France and Italy were contractually established. According to the Misak-ı Millî, Turkey was able to partially revise the provisions of Sèvres in the Treaty of Lausanne .

Northern Kurdistan in modern Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established a modern Turkish state from the remains of the Ottoman Empire . He asked the Kurdish tribal leaders for support and promised them a common state of all ethnicities in the area of ​​the national square .

During the consolidation of the new state, Mustafa Kemal did not turn away from the idea of ​​setting up a central state modeled on the French Republic, whereas Kurdish tribal leaders wanted to maintain their position of power and, under this aspect, accepted another military conflict. Ataturk enforced the politics of one state, one nation, one language, one identity . Kemalist nationalism envisaged the creation of a Turkish nation within the so-called national pact , the Misak-ı Millî , which would form an indivisible unit with its country. The various nationalities and minorities should merge in the Turkish nationalization process.

In the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, the victorious powers promised the Kurds autonomy. However, after winning the Turkish War of Liberation, Turkey was able to revise the treaty and sign the Treaty of Lausanne . What the Kurds had been promised by the victorious powers in Sèvres was canceled in Lausanne. On December 24, 1922, London had communicated to the League of Nations the text of a joint Anglo-Iraqi declaration with the following wording:

“Her British Majesty's Government and the Government of Iraq recognize the right of the Kurds living within Iraq's borders to establish a government within those borders. They hope that the various Kurdish elements will come to an agreement among themselves as soon as possible as to the form of government they want and the borders in which they want to live. They will send envoys to negotiate their economic and political relations with Her Majesty's government and the Iraqi government. "

Several limited uprisings such as the Sheikh Said Uprising in 1925 , the Ararat Uprising in 1930 and the Dersim Uprising in 1938 were put down by the superior Turkish army. The Turkey-PKK conflict has been going on since 1984 .

In 1945 the Kurdish national clothing , the Sal Sapik , was banned, as was the use of the language in public. In 1967 there was another official ban on the Kurdish language , Kurdish music , Kurdish literature and newspapers .

Dynasties in Eastern Kurdistan

A very early record of a conflict between the Kurds and the Sassanid Empire appears in the Book of Deeds by Ardashir, son of Babak . The book tells about the life of Ardaschir Papagan , the founder of the Sassanid dynasty . In this book the author reports on the battle of the Kurdish king Madig and Ardaschir.

In the 10th century to the 12th century, two Kurdish dynasties ruled this region, the Hasanwayhids (969-1015) and the Annazids (990-1117). The Ardalan State, founded in the 14th century, ruled the territories of Zardiawa (Karadagh), Xaneqîn , Kirkuk , Kifri and Hawraman . This dynasty lasted until 1867 when Nāser ad-Din Shah (1848-1896) broke their rule.

During the Safavid rule, the government tried to get a grip on the Kurdish-populated areas in western Iran. At that time there were semi-independent emirates of the Kurds, for example that of the Mukriyan ( Mahabad ), the Ardalan ( Sanandaj ) and the Shikak tribes around Lake Urmia. However, the Kurds resisted the government and tried to achieve a self-governing form. This led to bloody riots between the Kurds and the Safavids. The Kurds were finally defeated and as a result the Safavids, the rebellious Kurds, decided through forced displacement and deportations in the 15th and 16th. Punish Century. Between the years 1534 and 1535 Tahmasp I began the systematic destruction of the old Kurdish cities and landscapes. Many Kurds were deported to the Elbors Mountains and to Khorasan . During this time the last remnants of the ancient royal Hadhabâni tribe ( Adiabene ) were deported from central Kurdistan to Khorasan , where the tribes still settle. The battle of this tribe took place around the Dimdim fortress .

During the mid-18th century, the Kurdish tribe of Bajalan came into conflict with the Zand dynasty. When Karim Khan occupied the territory of Kermanshah , Abd-Allah Khan, the chief of the Bajalan, fought against the power of the Zand princes . The Kurdish tribe was defeated near Xaneqîn by Nazar Ali Khan Zand in 1775. Two thousand of their men were then executed.

In 1880 a Kurdish leader took part in a series of revolts against the Iranian government. These uprisings were successful from the Qajar suppressed -Königen. This victory was one of the few under the Qajar rule.

The weakness of the Persian government during World War I encouraged some Kurdish leaders to take advantage of the chaotic situation. Ismael Agha (also known as Simko), leader of the Shikak , took control of the area west of Lake Urmia from 1918 to 1922. Simko was expelled from his region in autumn 1922 and spent eight years underground. As he persuaded the Iranian government to give up, he ran into an ambush and was at Ushno (1930 Oshnavieh killed). Reza Shah then followed a rude but effective course against the Kurds. Hundreds of Kurdish leaders were deported and driven into exile. Your land has been confiscated by the government.

Red Kurdistan

The Red Kurdistan was between the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian Syunik and was in the 18th century by nomadic Kurdish populated tribes. Eventually they became the majority in this area, especially around Laçın (Kurdish: Laçîn ), Kəlbəcər (Kurdish: Kelbajar ) and Qubadlı (Kurdish: Qûbadlî ).

In 1920 this region became a part of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic . On May 23, 1923, the area received the status of an autonomous province ( oblast ) within Azerbaijan and was named Red Kurdistan. However, other Kurdish areas were not given an oblast and were not allowed to join the Red Kurdistan. The official language of Red Kurdistan became Kurmanji and its administrative center Laçın. In 1929 the autonomous province was dissolved by a resolution of the 6th Azerbaijani Soviet Congress.

Republic of Ararat

The Republic of Ararat (named after Mount Ararat ) was proclaimed in 1927 during the Ararat uprising as a Kurdish state in the east of the recently established Turkish Republic . It was never recognized internationally, whether a state was actually founded is controversial. The area claimed by it has been under Turkish control since 1931 at the latest; it is located in the center of the Turkish province of Ağrı .

Republic of Mahabad

The Republic of Mahabad , also known as the Republic of Mahabad, Republic of Mahabad or People's Republic of Mahabad, was the only Kurdish nation-state. When Allied troops landed in Iran in September 1941, the Persian army was disbanded. Sons of Kurdish leaders seized the opportunity and fled their exile in Tehran . With the support of the Soviet Union , a Kurdish state was proclaimed in the city of Mahabad in 1946 by the Kurdish movement Komeley Jiyanewey Kurd under the leadership of Qazi Mohammed .

Since the small state only included the four cities of Mahabad, Bukan , Naqada and Oschnaviyeh on the Iranian western border around Lake Urmia , this state establishment was not supported by all Iranian Kurds. There were even Kurds who helped the Iranian army to conquer the Republic of Kurdistan . The republic lasted less than a year because, with the withdrawal of the Soviet forces after the end of the war, the central government in Tehran defeated the army of the republic and annexed the territory of the republic of Kurdistan to Iran.

Kurdistan Autonomous Region

The autonomous region of Kurdistan came into being in 1970 after a treaty between Saddam Hussein and the leaders of the Kurdish parties under Molla Mustafa Barzani . De jure, the Kurdistan region is an administrative unit of Iraq, with - especially as a result of the Gulf Wars - far-reaching autonomy guaranteed by the constitution of 2005, with its own constitution, government, parliament , capital ( Erbil ), administration, currency, official language, coat of arms, flag and national anthem, and own security forces. The current president is Masud Barzani , the prime minister is Nêçîrvan Barzanî .


Kordestān is one of the thirty provinces of Iran . It is part of the Kurdish settlement area and should not be confused with the larger geographic area of ​​Kurdistan. Kordestān is located in western Iran on the border with Iraq . 1,438,543 people live in the province (2006 census). The area of ​​the province extends to 29,137 square kilometers. The population density is 49 inhabitants per square kilometer. The capital of the province is Sanandaj with 316,862 inhabitants (2006 census).

Piranshahr, center of Mokrian


Settlement areas of the Kurds according to CIA 2002 (no distinction is made whether Kurds make up the majority of the population everywhere in the area of ​​distribution or are in places only a minority among others)

Today the Kurds represent the largest ethnic minority in Turkey with 20 to 25 percent of the total population (approx. 16 to 20 million) . In Iraq, too, the Kurds make up around 6 to 8 million, which is approx. 15 to 20% of those there Population equals, the largest ethnic minority. The Kurds in Iran make up around 10% of the population. The Kurds in Syria are the largest non-Arab minority there and make up between 2.5 and 5% of the population. The majority of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims. But there are also Alevis in Turkey and Yazidis in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

See also: Kurds

See also


  • Bawar Bammarny: The Legal Status of the Kurds in Iraq and Syria. In: Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam After the Arab Spring. Oxford University Press 2016, ISBN 978-0-19-062764-5 , pp. 475-495.
  • Martin van Bruinessen : Agha, Sheikh and State - Politics and Society of Kurdistan . Parabolis, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-88402-259-8 .
  • Martin Strohmeier, Lale Yalçin-Heckmann: The Kurds: History, Politics, Culture . Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-42129-6 .
  • Awat Asadi: The Kurdistan-Iraq Conflict. The road to autonomy since the First World War. Schiler, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-89930-023-8 (Aschot Manutscharjan: Anesen . In: Das Parlament. No. 28 (July 9), Berlin 2007 (review), ISSN  0031-2258 ).
  • Sardar Aziz: Re-conceptualizing Kurdistan as a Battlefield . In: Georg Grote , Hannes Obermair , Günther Rautz (eds.): “Un mondo senza stati è un mondo senza guerre”. Politically motivated violence in a regional context (=  Eurac book 60 ). Eurac.research , Bozen 2013, ISBN 978-88-88906-82-9 , pp. 45-61 .
  • Günther Deschner: The Kurds . Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7766-2358-6 .
Analysis / study

Web links

Commons : Kurdistan  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Kurdistan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Strohmeier, Lale Yalçin-Heckmann: The Kurds: History, Politics, Culture p. 20.
  2. Erhard Franz : Kurds and Kurdism - contemporary history of a people and its national movements . German Orient Institute, Hamburg 1986, p. 132 f.
  3. Uwe Rolf, Ekrem Yildiz: Future for Kurdistan: a contribution to the importance of sustainable development for Kurds . Osnabrück 2003, p. 16.
  4. Garnik Asatrian: The ethnogenesis of the Kurds and early Kurdish-Armenian contacts. published in Iran & the Caucasus , Vol. 5 (2001), pp. 41-74.
  5. Martin Strohmeier and Lale Yalçın-Heckmann: The Kurds. 2nd Edition. Munich 2003, p. 20.
  6. ^ Kurds, Kurdistan. In: Encyclopaedia of Islam . New Edition.
  7. Ben ki Sultan-ı selâtin ve burhalül havakin, Akdeniz'in ve Karadeniz'in ve Rumeli'nin ve Anadolu'nun ve Karaman'ın ve Rum'un ve Vilayet-i Dulkadriye'nin ve Diyarbekir'in ve Kürdistan'ın ve Azerbaycan'ın ve Acem'in ve Şam'ın ve Halep'in ve Musur'ın ve Mekke'nin ve Medine'nin ve Kudüs'ün ve külliyen diyar-ı Arab'ın ve Yemen'in ve daha nice memleketin sultanı ve pşah Sultan Beyazıt Hanoğlu Sultan Selim Hanoğlu, Sultan Süleyman Hanım. Sen ki Françe vilayetinin kralı Françeskosun. (From the Milliyet of October 15, 2006)
  8. Syria's Pipelineistan was . Al Jazeera, August 6, 2012.
  9. Girke Lege Becomes Sixth Kurdish City Liberated in Syria ( Memento of November 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ). Rudaw, July 24, 2012.
  10. a b Data on Syria from the CIA Factbook - Kurds, Armenians and other minorities together 9.7%
  11. Kürdistan Eyaleti Kuruldu ( Memento from February 26, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Naci Kutlay: 21. Yüzyila girerken Kürtler. P. 41.
  13. Awat Asadi: The Kurdistan-Iraq conflict . Berlin 2007, p. 104ff.
  14. City Population: Iran - Cities and Provinces
  15. Country information from the Federal Foreign Office on Syria: 0.5–1.0 million out of 20 million inhabitants