the Kurds ... who are they?

  • There are currently 25 million Kurds ... in Turkey (12 million), Iraq (3.5 million), Iran and Syria.
  • A non-Arabic people, they are largely Sunni Muslim, ethnically and linguistically close to the Iranians.
  • Said to be the world's largest ethnic group without a country of its own, the Kurds have a history that goes back more than 2,000 years.
  • The greatest Kurd in history, Saladin, destroyed the crusader states in the Holy Land (1187), unified Arabs, Turks, and Kurds, and paved the way for the Ottoman Empire's 500-year rule.
  • Saladin was born in Tikrit ... the hometown of Saddam Hussein!
  • The Kurds were conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century, by the Turks in the 11th, the Mongols from the 13th to 15th and eventually by the Ottoman (Turkey) empire.
  • Kurdish tribal lands (known as Kurdistan by the Kurds) were divided up by Great Britain and France, after World War I.
  • Treaty of Sèvres (1920) liquidated the Ottoman Empire and provided for the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state.
  • Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which superseded Sèvres, failed to mention the creation of a Kurdish nation. Revolts by the Kurds of Turkey in 1925 and 1930 were forcibly quelled.
  • The Kurds in Iran rebelled during the 1920s, and at the end of World War II, a Soviet-backed Kurdish “republic” existed briefly.
  • Agitation among Iraq's Kurds for a unified and autonomous Kurdistan led in the 1960s to prolonged warfare between Iraqi troops and the Kurds.
  • In 1970, Iraq finally promised local self-rule to the Kurds, with the city of Erbil as the capital of the Kurdish area.
  • The Kurds refused to accept the terms of the agreement, contending that the president of Iraq would retain authority and demanding that Kirkuk, an important oil center, be included in the autonomous Kurdish region.
  • After the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran (1979), that government launched a murderous campaign against its Kurdish inhabitants as well as a program to assassinate Kurdish leaders.
  • The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) culminated in poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages, execution of male Kurds, resulting in the killing of some 200,000.
  • With the end of the Persian Gulf War (1991), another Kurdish uprising against Iraqi rule was crushed by Iraqi forces; nearly 500,000 Kurds fled to the Iraq-Turkey border, and more than one million fled to Iran.
  • In 1992 the Kurds established an “autonomous region” in N Iraq and held a general election.
  • In 1992 the Turkish government mounted an attack on its Kurdish minority, killing more than 20,000 and creating two million refugees.
  • For the Kurds, Kirkuk is a citadel of Kurdish history, the revered "golden heart" of the yet-to-be-proclaimed Kurdish state.

  • The Shia declaration of faith states:
    "There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the Messenger of Alláh, Alí is the Friend of Alláh. The Successor of the Messenger of Alláh And his first Caliph."
  • The inclusion of Imam Ali, cousin of Muhammad, distinguishes Shia from Sunni muslims ... leading to the Sunni / Shia split after Muhammad's death in the year 632.
  • Iran is overwhelmingly Shia. Shias also form a majority of the population in Yemen and Azerbaijan and 40 to 50% of the population of Iraq. There are also sizeable Shia communities in Bahrain, the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in the Lebanon. The well known guerilla organization Hizbollah, which forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000, is Shia. Worldwide, Shias constitute ten to fifteen percent of the overall Muslim population.
  • Sunni muslims constitute the majority.
  • Sunni Islam is somewhat like Protestantism; there is no central religious authority.
  • Shi'ite Islam is more like Catholicism; the central religious figurehead is the Ayatollah.

Iraq is the modern Mesopotamia, the "cradle of civilization", the legendary locale of the Garden of Eden.
Ancient Babylon (or Babil or Babel, as in the Tower of Babel), the "birthplace of the modern world", is 50 km south of Baghdad.
Its "Hanging Gardens" are one-of-seven ancient wonders of the world.

Some references:
Washington Post
Shia / Sunni