Where is Kurdistan exactly?
What is important about the history and culture of its people?
We gathered some information for you.
Where is Kurdistan?
This is answered in the first Kurdish chronicles, the „Sheref-Nameh“ the following: „You Kurd, do you know, where your tribes live? Listen, I desrcibe to you the home of your people.
From Taurus to Iskenderun, from the west to the Black Sea the northern border of your homeland follows the river Aras through Ardahan. Remember that the eastern border runs from Alwand-Mountain through Urmiyeh Lake and the southern border runs from Ahwaz and the Hamrain Mountain to Sandjar and Nassibain.
But those who cannot show Kurdistan on a map are not alone. It is no souvereign state, but for the Kurds- an ethnic group aproximately 30 to 35 million people belong to- it is more than a distant dream of self-determination.
The settlement area extending into the east of Turkey as well as the peripheral areas of Iran, Iraq and Syria, is one oft he most volatile regions of the world. Kurds are the biggest stateless ethnic group worldwide.
The history of the Kurds is marked by permanent resistance against foreign conquerors. The Kurdish area was raided by Sassanids, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Byzantines, the mongols and eventually the Osmans. During their reign from the 7th century to the 9th century the Arab invadors islamised Kurdistan under immense pressure. This is why Islam still is the predominant element for the Kurds when it comes to tradition and lifestyle.
Islam in Kurdistan is devided into Alevis and Sunnis. The Alevi denomination once close to the Persian shiism is predominant in the region bordering the settlement area of Sunni turks. The Sunni denomination on the other hand is predominant with Kurds, living in the neighbourhood of the Shiite persians.
This is no coincidence but rather a result of the distrust and distancing of Kurdish lords from their neighbours, who tried to expand repeatedly at the expense of Kurdish territory. That’s why a majority of Kurdish population professed to the denomination fought against by their direct neighbours.
Historic developments after the devision of Kurdistan
Kurdistan Turkey- North Kurdistan
After the First World War the capitulating Osman government of Kuridsh population in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) had to grant a partial autonomy, that should have been converted into independence in case of a referendum.
However, this promise was withdrawn three years later in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) and the Kurdish people are not even mentioned anymore. The newly founded Turkish Republic, based on the French model of state where state and nation are identical, did not allow national minorities. Laid down in the articles 39 to 45 of the Treaty of Lausanne Turkey commited to give minorities certain cultural rights, e.g. the right to use their own language or the possibility of publishing their own newspapers and magazines. Nevertheless, only non-muslims like Greeks or Armenians were seen as minorities but not the Kurds.
Participating in forming the Treaty of Lausanne were Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Romania, Greece and Yugoslavia. Minorities themsleves were excluded. The borders defined in the Treaty of Lausanne that devided Kurdistan between the newly formed states Iraq, Syria and Turkey, as well as the already existing Persia, were internationally recognised.
However, the representative of the Turkish delegation, Ismet Inönü, did say at the conference of Lausanne , that Turkey is the home of two totally equal nations, namely of the Kurds and the Turks. This statement is not really surprising, as the Turkish state did try to win the oil province of Kirkuk and Mossul, with the help and support of the Kurds. However, in the question of Mossul the British did not surrender. To strengthen their own position they agreed with the French and Amerikans on the participation in the oil business.
After conclusion of the Treaty of Lausanne the Turkish rulers under the leadership of General Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did no longer show any consideration towards Kurdish interests. In the current language calling the Kurds „Mointain Turks“ was customary. During the new elections for National Assembly in 1924 the former Kurdish parliamentarians and candidates were arrested. Numerous Kurdish representatives and leading personalities were murdered, Kurdish schools closed and magazines prohibited.
There had been a big rebellion against this brutal oppression in 1925 in the area of Diyarbakir under the leadership of the spiritual sheik Said. Rebellion spread fast and consisted of the Kurdish provinces in the north, Bitlis, Harput, Van and Erzurum. Turkish geovernment ordered a general mobilisation and fought the Kurdish freedom movement with 80 000 well-equipped soldiers. Despite the superiority of Turkish armee this rebellion could only be suppressed with the help of the French. France had provided the railway lines to the Turkish troops, whereby it became possible to attack the Kurds from two fronts. After a year of struggle the resistance broke down.
Turkish authorities implemented mass executions and ordered deportations for early solving the Kurdish issue. Between 1925 to 1928 about one million people were abducted to Western Turkey. This state brutality aroused Kurdish restistance again. Under the leadership of General Nur Ihsan Pascha, the local centre of this resistance movement was located around the region of Ararat. The fighting started in 1928 and continued until 1930. On the 12th July 1930 a decisive battle took place where the Kurds emerged as clear winners.
However, after this defeat of the Turkish military once again general mobilisation was announced. Kurdish civilians were coming under fire by planes and cannons as retaliation for the lost battle. In an agreement concluded by Turkey and Iran the Turkish army was allowed to use Iran grounds to besiege Ararat the headquarters of the Kurds. They were able to break the Kurdish resistance because of this cooperation between Turkey and Iran.
All appeals of Kurdish personalities to the League of Nations and western states did not attract any attention. Furthermore, to destroy Kurdish freedom movement the Turkish government continued using modern weapons of destruction. Kurdish villages were destroyed and citizens slaughtered. Those violent attacks and repressive measures by the Turkish state continued continually. That is why, on the 14th June 1934 a law had been passed and was published in the official journal containing the following words:
„For spreading Turkish culture the government will implement the above-mentioned law regarding certain points. Therefore, the Ministry oft he Interior devided Turkey into three areas:
- The areas were Turkish culture is already strongly anchored within its population;
- The areas were the population who needs to be turkizised should be settled (those are areas in the west, particularly in the mediterranean regions, the Aegean, the Sea of Marmara and Thrace);
- The areas that need to be depopulated because of reasons of health, economic, cultural, military and safety related reasons. Areas where no one is allowed to settle anymore ( those are Agri, Sason, Dersim, Van, Kars, the southern part of Diyarbakir, Bingöl, Bitis and Mus).“
To put those laws into practice the Dersim was besieged by the Turkish army. Dersim is a mountain terrain difficult to access, that could not be controlled by any foreign domination up to this point. Desim had successfully stayed out of the battles of the First World War and during the Armenian massacre granted assylum to 360.000 people.
That is why Dersim had been a thorn in the side of the Turkish ruler. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk said in the National Assembly in 1936 the following:
“The most important problem for our domestic politics is the Problem of Dersim. It would be neccessary to give the government absolute power, so it can uproot this ulceration which is an obstacle in our way and make it easier to make fast decisions.“
It goes without saying, what an ulceration for Mustafa Kemal is and which measures were linked with absolute power. In November 1937 the Kurds sent a memorandum to the League of Nations indicating the following:
Kurdish schools are closed, the Kurdish language is prohibited. The words Kurd and Kurdistan are banned from scientific books, every bestial way are applied to bring the kurds women and girls to Anatolia to forced labour. Kurds are resettled into Turkish areas, so that they do not comprise more than 5 % anywhere.
In 1937 battles took place again. For their victory the Turkish army had to suffer large losses and in order to compensate this they were taking revenge on the population. Caves where women and children had been soughted shelter were fumigated with poisonous gas and walled up. During the conflicts more than 50.000 Kurds were killed and the rest of Kurdish population (approximately 100.000) deported violently to Western Turkey.
After the bloody suppression of this last big rebellion a deathly silence existed in Turkey until 1960. Only after 1961, especially from 1974 to 1978, the Kurdish movement was able to reassemble in Turkey. As of 1974 Kurdish publications appeared and fort he first time since 1937 the “Kurdish issue“ was discussed again.
Nevertheless, all participating persons were in danger of prosecution measures. The state of emergency in 1979 and military coup of participating persons were in danger of prosecution measures. The state of emergency in 1979 and military coup of 1980 ended this period of “easing“. Even using Kurdish language in private life became an offence. During this time, thousands of kurds were arrested and tortured.0 ended this period of “easing“. Even using Kurdish language in private life became an offence. During this time, thousands of kurds were arrested and tortured.
Founding of the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in 1978 can be seen as a result of this events. From 1984 to the arrest of Abdullah Öcalan leader of PKK is 1998 in Rome a relentless war between PKK and the Turkish military took place. Tens of thousands of people on both sides lost their lives in this 14 years. Turkish leadership tried again and again to break ressistance with the help of increased repressions and the use of “village guards“, who were recruited or blackmailed to collaboration. Turkish military started major offensives with the aim to defeat the PKK.
At the same time it did not shy away from invading neighbouring countries like Iraq. In the passed years Turkish military invaded Iraq territory with 30.000 to 50.000 soldiers several times. More than 3.500 Kurdish villages were razed to the ground and millions of Kurds were not only forced to flee in metropols like Istanbul and Diyarbakir where they have to live in slums, but also, forced into exile in Europe.
All efforts to solve the “Problem of the Kurds“ peacefully and politically were destroyed by the Turkish government. For example, the pro-Kurdish democratic party DEP was prohibited and the elected members of parliament lost their immunity and got arrested. The state prosecutor at State Security Court demanded a death penalty for all oft hem, because they had shown Kurdish colours in public and supported a peacefull solution to the conflict.
One of this DEP parliamentarians is Leyla Zana, who is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence. In the meantime, she was given several peace prizes and the Sacharow prize. However, these prizes did not cause her release from prison. Still, every statement on the situation of Kurds in Turkey is seen as offence and is firmly prosecuted with the charge of separatism.
Since the abduction of PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan a change has been notified in Turkey’s Kurdish policy. In which direction it is moving, no one can really predict. Certainly, there is a small progressive groupe who demands a peaceful solution in the context of a general democratisation of Turkey, but the recent electoral victory of the far-right nationalist party MHP points in opposing directions.
The Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire of the Safavids who dominated the Middle Eastern region since the 16th century, did always know how to use the argument of religious belonging when it comes to support from Kurds. For example, when the Ottoman Empire waged a battle agains the Empire oft he Safavids in the 16th century it was able to win the support of the large majority of Sunni-Kurdish lords against the Shiite Safavids.
Conversely the Alevi Majority of Kurdish population supported the Safavids. The battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Persia for the power over Kurdish grounds resulted in the division of Kurdish areas between both Empires.
Although the Kurdish principalities were able despite the foreign supremacy to preserve their inner autonomy for two centuries, they more and more fell victim to centralisation policy within both empires. In 1840 the last principality Botan was destroyed by the Ottoman. The fall of their principalities caused the Kurds to lose their autonomy, freedom and prosperity. Though resistance still continued none of the riots in the 19th century were successful.
In 1880 the first important political independence movement of the Kurds manifested itself in the riot of Ubeydulla, which is the last important Kurdish riot in the 19th century. However, this riot was suppressed.
After the rise of power of the Young Turks (1908) who were supported by Kurdish leaders for some time, committees of different ethnic groups were formed in many areas of the Ottoman Empire. In this relatively liberal climate also Kurdish personalities established the first associations for exampe the Association for Resurrection and Progress of Kurdistan (Taali ve Terakii Kurdistan). This Association published the first legal Kurdish newspaper. Although published in Turkish language, the newspaper was used as a discussion forum for language, culture and national Kurdish unity.
Another association who came up nearly at the same time was a Kurdish committee for national education including Kurdish interlectuals and patriots of various attitudes in emigrations. Some of the association’s most important actions were the foundation of the first Kurdish school and the publishing of a newspaper in Kurdish language , named “Hetawe Kurd“ (Kurdish sun).
First World War and the downfall of the Ottoman Empire
The outbreak of the First World War led to a change throughout the Middle East. With the downfall of the Ottoman Empire a political situation became apparent, which dominates the region on to this day and characterises the fate of the Kurdish people because it led to the founding of national states like Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Libanon. The ruins of the Ottoman Empire were administered by European powers.
Thus, Syria became French and Iraq British mandate. With this action, Great Britain brought Southern Kurdistan which was now Iraq area under control, so they would get the oil of Mossul and of Kirkuk. The Turks, however, tried to reconquer the area with Kurdish help. From this time originated the partly traced with a ruler borders in this area whereby ethnic composition was never taken into consideration.
Kurdistan Iraq-Eastern Kurdistan
During and after the Second World War democratic parties were formed in all parts of Kurdistan and fight for autonomy started again. There were favourable conditions after Second World War and with help of the Red Army it was possible to form the first Kurdish republic in history.
A significant event for the Kurdish people was the formation of the Republic Mahabad in Eastern Kurdistan, but could not last for very long. Despite the organisation of a guerilla armee this young republic was never able to protect itself against aggressors. As soon as the Soviet Army left the area, Iraq attacked and destroyed the Republic of Mahabad with the help of Great Britain and the USA. The leading figures of the Republic and the majority of its people were murdered. In the following years, a variety of riots took place but were all suppressed.
The overthrow of the shah Reza Pahlewi in 1979, too, brought a change fort he Kurds in their effort for recognition. Khomeini had promised the Kurdish people a right for cultural and political autonomy but broke this promise after the revolution. After the “Kurdish Spring“ a riot began under the leadership of Abdelrahman Ghassemlou and was bloodily suppressed by Khomeini in 1985. The first Gulf War from 1980 to 1988 taking place partly in the Kurdish area claimed tenthousands of victims, especially amongst the civil population. After the second Gulf War in 1991 numerous Kurds fled from Iraq to Iran. In contrast to Turkey, Iran opened its borders for refugees.
There was an Islamic regime, which did not give Kurds many scope for developing opportunities e.g. to use the Kurdish language or special cultural activities. In the political sphere the repressions ranged from secret service activities of Iran to the persecution of Kurds in exile. The “Mykonos-Prozess“ in 1997 in Berlin had shown, the murder of four Kurdish politicians in exile directly originated from Iran government.
Kurdistan Iraq-Southern Kurdistan
In a vote in 1925 Kurdish people declared themselves against the Treaty of Lausanne. However, the wish for independence was denied especially by the mandate power of this region, Great Britain, because they wanted to secure their access to oil deposits. As Iraq unlike turkey was under control of the League of Nations the Kurdish people got the right to speak their own language and to teach und publish in Kurdish.
Nevertheless, various riots Kurdish riots took place in the Kingdom of Iraq ( until 1958) as well as in the subsequent republic. This riots are seen as the most important ones in the Kurdish national movement. A central role played the leaders of the followers of Barzani, especially Mulla Mustafa Barzani, who was able to create a big aliance of tribes and formed the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP).
There were riots in the years of 1931/32, as well as 1943/45. In 1945 Barzani and his fighters had to flee to Iran, where he supported the government of the “Republic of Kurdistan“ in Mahabad as Minister of Defence. When in 1958 the monarchy of Iraq was overthrown and republic was declaired, the Kurdish population enjoyed cultural rights for a short period of time. Thereby fort he first time ever a state ruling over Kurdistan recognised Kurdish people as a independent ethnic group. However, soon the republic became a military dictatorship and granted rights were taken back. During the 1960’s (1961/62, 1963, 1965/66, 1969) it came to armed conlficts between the Kurdish population and the government of Bagdad.
This line of battles, marking one oft he most important stages of Kurdish national movement, tried to force an autonomy within the existing state borders. In 1970 the KDP and the Iraq Baath-Party signed a peace treaty; the Kurds got five ministerial posts and provided the governors of their own provinces. The autonomy for Kurdistan should came into force after a transition period of four years. However, the treaty soon was proven to be a farce: the ministers had no powers and the undemocratic and nationalist Baath-Party continued their Arabisation policy.
As happened in in the past an agreement failed. Iraq government was not really interested to share power with the Kurds and giving them the use of the oil of Kirkuk. Kurdish leadership, however, was not willing to demobilise its Peschmerga troops. The fifth war in 1974/75 had disastrous consequences for the Kurdish population: an economic blockade implemented by Sadam Hussein accelerated the Kurdish mass exodus. Iran and the US Secret Service CIA promised Barzani support in the war against Sadam Hussein, but after the Iran enforced their interest in the Treaty of Algier in march 1975 they let down their Kurdish allies.
In the following years the Kurdish resistance regenerated under the parties KDP led by Masud Barzani (son of Mustafa Barzani) and the newly formed PUK (Patriot Union of Kurdistan), led by Jalal Talabani. Both parties supported Iran in the first Gulf War, which was avenged by Iraq with a military offensive and massive use of toxic gases against Kurdish civil population in 1987/88.
Numerous Kurds fell victim to this attack. Thus, on the 16th March in 1988 the Kurdish city Halabdja, once inhabited by 70.000 people and was located only a few kilometres from the borders to Iran, was practically extinguished by Iraqi military. From planes three different kinds of poisonous gas were dropped. There were 5.000 dead and 7.000 injured, almost exclusively civilians, of whome three-quaters were women and children.
In March 1991 after the end of the second Gulf War there were spotaneous Kurdish riots encouraged by the US government, which broke down though at the beginning of April and led once again to an enormous refugee movement. Half a month later a no-fly zone was established in Northern Iraq, which should garantee the continued existence of Kurdish population.
In March 1992 the first free elections took place in this autonomous Region of Kurdistan. The PUK and the KDP received the same number of seats and tried at first to govern together. But this worked only for a short period of time. Inner struggles for power in both organisations broke out and are still used or economically and politically supported according to own interests by Iran, Iraq or Turkey. For Kurdish population this means war, flight and expulsion again.
Since the 4th July 1992 the autonomous Region of Kurdistan is a autonomous area of Iraq. The area has its own parliament located in Erbil (Hewlêr) and maintains own military units, the Peshmerga.
The official Region of Kurdistan consists of the Iraq governorates Dahuk, Erbil, as-Sulaimaniyya and Halabdscha. Furthermore, parts of contiguous governorates are claimed who are de facto controlled by the Kurdish regional government.
In the autonomous Region of Kurdistan had a total population of approximately 5.5 million people in 2015. Since the outbreak oft he Syrian civil war and the advance of the terrorist organisation Islamic State in Syria and Iraq it is also the home of over two million refugees. In the refugee camp Kawergosk in the province Erbil alone, around 10.000 people are accomodated in 2.000 tents.
Kurdistan Syria- Western Kurdistan (Rojava)
Kurdish part of population in Syria is approximately 10% of total population. It lives their more or less scattered and not as in the other counries in a coherent area. By drawing the borders to Turkey three Kurdish enclaves occured: Djezireh, Kurd-Dagh and Ain al-Arab. Up tot he point of indepence of Syria (1946) Kurdish population did not get any rights as national minority, but were also not subject to repressive measures.
Up to 1958 there were a number of Kurdish newspapers, one Kurdish channel in Damaskus and various Kurdish associations. Thus, when in 1958 Kurdish riots started in the neighbouring Iraq and the Kurdish population of Syria wished for a recognition as ethnic group with an independent culture, they were accused of complicity and an anti-Arab attitude. Nearly 120.000 members oft he Kurdish population were stripped off their Kurdish citizenship and therefore lost all rights attached to it.
Time and again there were anti-Kurdish campaigns and there were expropriations, bureaucratic chicanery, raids, confiscations of Kurdish texts and so on. Still the situation of the Kurdish population is difficult, seen basically as opposition because of their ethnic belonging. This repressive policies means that Kurdish culture, lanuage is not repressented in media, that school lessons, as well as literature is not supported and that infrastructure in Kurdish areas is beeing neglected.
It was not because of a pro-Kurdish attitude that Syria supported the Kurdish worker’s party PKK for years. The PKK was a trump against Turkey and the fight over the province of Hatay, as well as the water of Euphrat. The Kurdish population in their own country was pacified, too. As soon, as the PKK was militarily weakened Syria withdrew its support and suggested PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan to find himself a place to stay elsewhere. This led to Öcalan’s odyssey through Europe and his subsequent abduction by the Turkish secret services.
On the 19th July 2012 the Revolution of Rojava started in Kobanî. On the initiative of the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (MGRK) the population chased the Syrian Baath regime away mostly without bloodshed. While the rest of Syria sank in civil war Rojava took a thirt part different to the Baath regime and the fostered opposition by the West, Turkey and the Gulf States.
As a result, the Kurdish freedom movement was challenged to built a basical demoratic, dynasty free and ecological project, unique in the Middle East. Through “ Democratic Autonomy“ the state became redundant and every form of nationalism rejected. Since then, the population organises itsself through a council system. The porject, however, is threatened by forces of reaction, like the terrorist organisation Islamic State.
In summary, that the politics oft he states over whome Kurdistan is devided is based on the aim to destroy autonomy of the Kurdish people and partly destroy Kurdish people itsself. The tools for this are: expulsion and destruction of villages, prohibition of the Kurdish language and culture, economic and administrative measures.
Ey Reqîb (deutsch Oh Feind) ist die offizielle Hymne der Autonomen Region Kurdistan und gilt als Nationalhymne aller Kurden.
Sie wird auch für die Autonome Region Nordsyrien (Rojava) verwendet. Der kurdische Dichter Dildar verfasste den Text der Hymne 1938 in Sorani, als er im Gefängnis saß. Ey Reqîb war die Nationalhymne der Republik Mahabad.
|Ey raqîb||Oh enemy|
|Ey raqîb her mawe crewmen kurd ziman,
Na şikênê danerî topî zeman.
Kes nelê kurd mirduwe; kurd zînduwe,
Zînduwe qet nanewê alakeman.Lawî kurd hestaye ser pê wek dilêr
Ta be xwên nexsîn deka tacî jiyan.
Kes nelê kurd mirduwe, kurd zînduwe,
Zînduwe qet nanewê alakeman.Ême roley Midya u Keyxusrewîn,
Dînman, ayînman her nishteman
Kes nelê kurd mirduwe, kurd zînduwe,
Zînduwe qet nanewê alakeman.Ême roley rengî sûr u şorişîn,
Seyrîke xwênawiya raburdûman.
Kes nelê kurd mirduwe, kurd zînduwe,
Zînduwe qet nanewê alakeman.Lawî kurdî hazir u amadeye,
Giyan fîdane, giyan fîda, her giyan fîda.
Kes nelê Kurd mirduwe, kurd zînduwe,
Zînduwe qet nanewê alakeman.
|Oh enemy! The Kurds and their laguage are still alive! Not bombs of all time can destroy them. No one shall claim that the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive. They are alive- the flag will never fall. The Kurdish youth has risen like lions to adorn themselves with blood, with the crown of life. No one shall claim that the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive. They are alive- the flag will never fall. We are the children of the Meder and the Kyaxares. Our faith and our religion, is only the fatherland. No one shall claim that the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive. They are alive- the flag will never fall. We are the children of the red flag and of revolution. Look at our past, bloody it is. No one shall claim that the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive. They are alive- the flag will never fall. The Kurdish youth is always prepared to sacrifice their lives, to sacrifice their lives, sacrifice all their lives. No one shall claim that the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive. They are alive- the flag will never fall.|
Kurdish language belongs to the Wester-Iranian branch of the Indian-European linguistic family and therefore is in his basic structure very similar to the Persian language. Kurdish is spoken in different dialects. The most common dialect is Northern Kurdish or Kurmancî ( in Anatolia, in the Turkish-Iranian border region, in the Kaukasus, in Syria and in Northern Iraq-Kurdistan). The Middle Kurdish or Soranî is more common in the Southern part of Iraq-Kurdistan and Mukri- in the neighbouring Iranian-Kurdistan. There are similarities between Kurmancî and Soranî, however, they are so distant to each other that it is hard to communicate. Both developed their own alphabet. This basic groups consists of varius differentiations: Kirmanci (Zazaki) iss poken in special regions in Turkish-Kurdistan. Furthermore, in the most Southern parts of Kurdistan Goranî and various other dialects are spoken.
In almost every part in Kurdistan the Kurdish language is only allowed as everyday language. Kurdish population is forced to use the particular official language Arabic, Persian or Turkish.
The only exception is the Autonomous region Kurdistan-Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), here Kurdish is the official language and ist used intensively in media and as writing language. Arabic is formally also an official language but is used very rarely.
Kurdish language is written in different alphabets: Latin, Arabic and Cyrillic.
The division of Kurdistan after the First World war prevented besides its independence the development of a Kurdish high-level language. Exclusively in the former Soviet Union Kurdish language and culture enjoyed recognition and support. Here, a great number of publications in Kurdish language were released, using the common Cyrillic alphabet. After the downfall oft he Soviet Union scholars Kurdish language tended to the usage of the Latin alphabet.
Majority of Kurdish population confess tot he Sunnit branche of Islam and live after the tradition of Schafi, one of the four Islamic-Sunnit law schools. This is why, they differ from the likewise Sunnit majority of Turks, who belong to the Hanafi law school. In addition, there is also a small group of Shiite muslims of Iranian influence.
Next to both great faiths there are Kurdish groups with different faiths like e.g. the Alevis and Yezidis. So the syncretic religion of the exclusively Kurdish Yezidis has next to Islamic-Mystic (Sufi) also pre-Islamic, mostly old-Iranian, but also Manichean, Jewish and Christian elements. Because they are not recognised by the other relegions or faith groups their followers are up until today heavily persecuted.
Around two-third to three-quarter of Kurds, among them nearly all of Kurmancî and Soranî speaking Kurds, are Sunni muslims. Their doctrine is the Sunnah, which is based on the Koran and Mohammed’s doctrines and six books of religious tradition. The doctrine of the sunnis follows four equal law schools. In contrary to their Turkish neighbours the majority of Kurds are followers oft he Shafii law school. The Kurdish Sunnah has numerous mystic elements and is strongly attached to Orders (tariquat, e.g. the Qadiri and Naqisbandi).
Shiite kurds live in the Western and South Eastern Kurdish settlement area. The shiites follow the religious teaching of the first tradition of family and relationship after the death of Prophet Mohamed and the followers of Ali, the son in law of Prohet Mohamed.
In the Shiite teaching imams are mediators between god and the people. The heart of the Shiite teaching is based ,besides the Koran and the teachings of Mohamed, on the heritage of the twelve historic imams. The twelfth imam Mohammed Al’Madi vanished in 878. According to heritage the world only lost him temporary and will be back as Mahdi just a few days before Judgement Day.
“Alewits“ is a collective term for followers of different religious beliefs, partly influenced bei Shiite beliefs, which includes big Kurdish populations in Turkey. The followers oft he Order of Bektasi and the Nusayris, represented in Turkey under the Arabic minority of the province Hatay, are also counted among the alewits. The number of alewits among the Kurds in Turkey amounts to approximately 25 %. Alewite kurds primarily live in provinces like Maras, Malatya, Xarput and Dersim.
Alewits believe that God have created all and that he is part of all things and all beings, thus a part of all humans. They call God Hak. A principle in alevism is: “Do not search for God in the foreign! God lies within you when you have a pure heart“. Alwits do also believe that the soul is immortal and that humans can even reunite with God, if they become complete themselves. But this can only happen, if they always work on straightening things out and to reach an agreement with their fellow human beings in all things. Alewits believe in God helping them with this and giving them strength. However, that every human being is responsible his or her own actions.
Yazidis or Êzîdis are an endogamous and mostly Kurmanji-speaking minority, indigenous to Upper Mesopotamia. The majority of Yazidis remaining in the Middle East today live in the disputed territories of Northern Iraq, Northern Syria and South East Turkey. The Êzîdis partly see themseslves as ethnic Kurds, partly as an ethnoreligious group. Currently, they are recognised as independent religious group in Iraq and Armenia. The Foreign Office describes the Yazidi as ethnic minority. Because of emigration, Êzîdis are spread in other countries today. With 200.000 members (2017) the biggest diaspora community of Êzîdis lives in Germany. The Êzîdis are also called Yazidi or Eziden.
Yazidis living in Germany mainly use the ethnonym “Eziden“ or “Êzîdis“ and avoid the appelations “Jesiden“, “Yeziden“, “Yazidis“ or “Yezidis“. Êzidis are a very old Kurdish denomination that has preserved its believe, its traditions and its customs of its history under Muslim majority. The origin of the name “Êzîdis“ is controversial: the Majority of historians derive the name Êzîdis from the old god Ezda and his Kurdish meaning “He, who has created me“. Êzîdis themselves trace their religion back to the old Zoroastrian religion, which says that both gods Ahoramezd and Ahriman fight for power as embodiment of evil.
The Yezidism is a monotheistic faith ( recognition of a total god). They believe in one god, the creator of universe, who is a source of goodness and joy. In Êzidi belief, God created the world in the shape of a white pearl. God lets the white pearl , which is a symbol of mental original state, and forms out of its debris the world’s elements. God creates out of his light (nûr) seven angels, who are commisioned with further creation and administration of the world. The seven angels are mediators between God and Êzidis. The leader of the devine “Siebenschaft“ is tawisî melek, the angel peacock, who is in particular sacrificed.
The origins of “Êzîdismus“ (Yezidism) is not known. It i soften described as a syncretistic religion, consisting of Zoroastrian, Manichean-Christian and Shamanistic elements.
The six gods seem to vanish and be replaced by the dualism god and Melek Taus, the angel peacock, in the actual religious teaching. God is only the shepperd, but not the preserver oft he world, too. He is not active and does not care fort he world. The active and executive organ of God’s will is Melek Taus. He is one with God and inseparably connected to him.
Therefore, the “Eesidismus“ (Yezidism) is monotheistical but devine and demigod beings, things between God and human beings, are opposing it. Melek Taus is a good God. At first he was regarded as an angel fallen from grace who was then taken back in by God out of grace because he had shown remorse. Êzîdis do not believe in any kind of hell or punishment, in no devil in our sense, who is the embodiment of evil. It is being denied. The view that there is no hell complies with the opinion of transmigration of soul, that is making possible a step by step purification through everlasting reincarnation.
Many Êzîdis left their homeland and tens of thousands were banished because of their belief. The religious community of the Êzîdis origins from Kurdistan but now nearly 90 percent of them lives in Europe.
Since the so called Iraq crisis in 2014 the rise of the terrorist group Islamic state in Northern Iraq led to an extensive flight especially of Êzîdis. They were seen as unbelievers and the terrorist group declared them to be a „religion of paganism from pre-Islamic times“. They persecuted and murdered them. Imprisoned women and girls were legally released for slavery. With Islamic law it seemed justified. The final aim of this was – and still is – the complete extinction of that religion.
The only escape for the Êzîdis seemed to be a conversion to Islam. Those who refused to do so, were shot on the spot. The reatction of the religious community was that all members who were forced to conversion were not expelled like during the massacres of the ottoman but the return to their faith was made possible. Following this massacres the Êzîdis also call the actions of IS organisation Farman (acts of violence against Êzîdis).
According to an UN commission in June 2016 the IS organisation commited „genocide“ on the Êzîdis. Through murders, rapings, enslavements and starving the IS militia tried to wipe out the Êzîdis completely. The leader of commission, the brasilian diplomat Paulo Pinheiro, appealed to the UN Security Council to turn to the International Criminal Court to commission the persecution of all responsible IS commanders.
Kurds do also celebrate Muslim festivities like Ramadan or the sugar feast but Newroz stands for Kurdish identity. For all kurds who fight for an independent state for decades Newroz is a special feast of resistance.
According to the United Nations (UN) Newroz is a feast „which is celebrated by more than 300 million people for over 3000 years on the Balkan peninsula, in the Black Sea region , in the Caucasus, in Central Asia and in the Middle East“. Since 2010 there is an UN-acknowledged International Newroz-Day on the 21st of March.
The Kurdish Newroz- Persian Nouruz- is seen as one of the oldest festivities of mankind. It is celebrated depending on the position of the sun on the 20st or the 21st of March and flags the beginning of spring.
A few days before Newroz the whole family meets, to make wheatgerm germinate with whater on a plate. At the same time eggs are dyed. One part of the eggs are dyed with onion skin, another part of eggs is painted red with fingers after being cooked. Thereby, stripes and points are very popular. Two to three days the coloured eggs are carefully protected by all children of the family.
The last wednesday before the Newroz feast.
On the last wednesday in the old year all family members go outside and take and eat all kinds of green herbs, like spring onions and parsley and sing songs about fruitfulness. Presents of all adults are collected and distributed. In another region, on the last wednesday of the old year, all families go on their flat roof of their house and light a fire together. All family members jump over the fire, sing and call to the fire: „My paleness and my illness I give to you, your redness and your warmth you give to me“.
In another Kurdish region on the last wednesday before New Year’s in every apartment and in every house glas is being shattered with great tumult. With this tumult the sleeping spirits of the house shall be awakened. Doing this people sing and shout: „We know you spirits are here, you and our illnesses need to vanish and take, our sorrows, our arguments, war and other evils.“. After this all people need to leave their apartments and go into the garden or on a meadow. Every house needs tob e empty until nightfall, so the awakened spirits can leave and take all bad and evil with them.
While the people are outside together they symbolises their wishes for the new year in a number of ways. For example, those who do not have a house put pebbles under a rose bush. Other wishes are tied as fabric strips on the rose bush.
The 13th day after Newroz
The 13th day of the new year has again a special meaning. Noone are allowed to stay at home. Every family member goes outside and everyone has a picknick by a water point. Old and sick are taken, too. The water can be a stream, a river or a lake. The germinated wheat germs are put into the water. During that, all people sing in a choir: „Our misfortune, our burden, our grief, our dispute shall go with the water.“
After that all family members, old and young, men and women, take 13 stones into their hands and throw them in alternation over the right and the left shoulder into the water. While in some regions of Kurdistan people throw this stones behind them without further recognition in other regions they look after the stones and retrace their way in the water. Every stone is assigned a personal problem that needs to be taken away by the water. While the stones stand for all old, bad and burdens, the wheat germs stand for the awakening of nature, new feelings and life.
NEWROZ the Kurdish New Year
In German NEWROZ means „new day“. For the Kurds it ist he most important celebration, because they demonstrate their national identity and message of liberation from tyranny and oppression with it.
At this day the good chases away the bad, happiness chases away sadness, life chases away death and warmth chases away the cold. On the eve of 21st March fires are lit on the mountains, there is singing and dancing around the fire. People are celebrating under the open sky all day long. New Years at the 21st March symbolises the beginning of work and production. On the origin of NEWROZ feast different myth do exist. Here the most common version: Thousands of years ago there was a Kurdish ruler named Dahak.
He carried two snakes on his shoulders. The cruel Dahak fed his snakes with the brains of young men, because he was afraid that otherwise the snakes would eat his own brain. Everyday, two youn men of the people were killed to feed Dahak’s snakes. Everybody was afraid for their male offsprings. However, soon the people were no longer able to bear Dahak’s cruelty. Kawa the blacksmith called on the people for rebellion. On the 21st March the people marched under his leadership and with burning torches to the tyrant’s castle, destroyed it and killed Dahak and his snakes.
This day had been called NEWROZ from now on. NEWROZ feast means a lot to Kurdish families living in excile and is a cultural highlight every year where they can preserve their culture and community. On New Years eve two women or girls dress themselves up as an old and fragile married couple. This symbolises passed years. They present their frailty theatrically, support each other, speak in a shaky voice and demonstrate that they or rather the old year is coming to an end.
Dressed up like that, they go from house to house. They arouse pity and receive food as presents from ist inhabitants. For fun, the couple and therefore the old year are poured with water for banishing it. At the evening a feast is cooked by all the gathered food and eaten together outdoors. Fire are beeing lit and jumped over.
The Kurdish Êzîdis do also celebrate on the first wednesday in april the feast „Cejna Çarşembê Serê Nisanê“, when God gave the angel Taus (Melek Taus) the ordert o create earth and to make it habitable for living beings, animals, humans and plants. On the first wednesday in april – the Çarşembê sor (red wednesday) Êzîdis decorate their doorways with flowers. Chicken eggs are being coloured and red-yellow-white-green strips are being rolled up. People wear them as bracelets or hair ornaments. The colourful strips are also attached to animal horns and cereal plants.
The heavenly messengers of Melek Taus who is send to earth on that day is asked for assistance, protection and a high-yielding harvest. People moisten themselves with morning dew, which should rejuvenate them.
For the Êzîdis kurds april is a sacred month. During this month it is not allowed to build a house or celebrate a wedding. April is called „Buke Salê“ (bride of the year) in Kurdish.